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Around the NL East: Are the Mets falling back to earth?

May 5, 2015, 1:19 PM EDT

Photo by USA Today


The Braves have been scuffling of late, especially since last week’s meltdown against the Nationals. The Braves are 2-5 in their last seven games and have fallen to third place in the NL East at 12-14 (not that it matters this early in the season).

And even though the season’s barely a month old, one thing we’ve learned about Atlanta the past week is that it’s not afraid to give the young arms a shot if things aren’t going well. Case in point: The Braves called up 23-year-old minor league pitching prospect Mike Foltynewicz on April 30th to start after Trevor Cahill went 0-3 with a 8.03 ERA and was relegated to the bullpen. The club is hoping that a rotation including Foltynewicz, Alex Wood, Shelby Miller and Julio Teheran can develop as the year goes on and, if nothing else, lays down the foundation for a contender down the road.


They aren’t out of the woods just yet, but things are beginning to stabilize a bit for the Marlins. Without question, the reason why they are steadily climbing back into the division race is because of the improvement of the starting staff. After a horrid first few weeks, they suddenly have three members of their rotation with ERAs under 3.00 in David Phelps (1.88), Dan Haren (2.70) and Jared Cosart (2.97). That’s a welcome sight for a club that’s still waiting on former All-Star Henderson Alvarez and phenom Jose Fernandez to return from injury.

As for the offense, the Marlins are showing they’re more than just Giancarlo Stanton. Second baseman and leadoff man Dee Gordon leads all of baseball with a .433 average, and is second in the bigs in stolen bases with 12. Shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria is emerging, hitting .320 with 16 RBI. Heck, even Ichiro Suzuki is still posting a .282 mark at 41 years old. So make no mistake, this team may be slowly rounding into form and could very well pose a legitimate threat to the Nats as the season wears on.


You knew the Mets couldn’t stay hot forever. New York has finally hit its first rough patch of the season, dropping seven out of the last 10 to close their division lead to just 3 1/2 games. Naturally, baseball observers pundits around the country are looking this club and thinking it is finally coming back to Earth and will regress to where most expected it would be.

So, are the Mets’ struggles temporary or symptomatic of larger issues? It’s probably too early to tell, but the two biggest factors for their recent slide have been the relative lack of offense and the shoddy defense being played. New York has committed 10 errors over its last 10 games while scoring 3.6 runs per contest (compared to 5.2 in the previous 10 games). It’s not exactly disastrous, but it’s certainly not as good as things were to start the season. The good news is that the pitching, for the most part, has stayed relatively in tact as the the team ERA sits a 3.01 — third best in the majors. There have been some hiccups recently (Jacob deGrom’s rough outing against the Nats, for example), but if the Mets’ arms continue to hold things down they’ll probably hang around for a while.


We might as well just rename this section “Phillies Trade Watch”. Because with them having one of the worst records in the game at 10-17, it seems the only question revolving around this club is when GM Ruben Amaro Jr. will be able to unload high priced veterans Chase Utley, Jonathan Papelbon and Cole Hamels. Philly is reportedly “waiting with open arms” for a deal to get done, but is also trying to make sure to maximize what it could get in return. Though this process has probably gone on longer than Amaro would hope, the prudent approach would be to wait until a contending team gets desperate enough to offer a haul of top prospects. We probably won’t find out who that team will be until closer to the trade deadline.

[RELATED: A blast and a bloop keep red-hot Nats rolling]

  1. unterp - May 5, 2015 at 1:22 PM


  2. bowdenball - May 5, 2015 at 1:25 PM

    For what it’s worth the Marlins lead all of baseball with a .336 BABIP. The league high last season was the Rockies at .326, and the league high without the benefit of playing 81 games at Coors Field was the Tigers at .319. League average was around .298. I think they’re due for a bit of a correction.

    • nattyboh1 - May 5, 2015 at 2:46 PM

      I wonder does Marlins Park have a higher BABIP than average? That outfield is massive. Even so, you’re right it can’t be that high, they should regress.

      • bowdenball - May 5, 2015 at 2:56 PM

        Good point- and the speed they have at the top of their lineup could help some as well. But you’d still expect some regression- .336 is an incredibly high number. They were .316 in 2014 and .280 in 2013.

  3. drazthegr8 - May 5, 2015 at 1:30 PM

    The NL East is terrible. The Mets are the best, but not good. Once the Nats get on track, it will be smooth sailing to win the NL East. I’d be surprised if any of the other teams win more than 85 games.

    • drazthegr8 - May 5, 2015 at 1:30 PM

      Should have said the mets are the best *besides the nats* but not good.

      • jd - May 5, 2015 at 1:40 PM

        I Disagree with you. When the Mets get Wright and D’Arnaud back and given the quality of their starting rotation I think they will be a decent team , wiold card contenders. I doubt the Marlins are going anywhere with that starting rotation. When the get Fernandez and Alvarez back and if they regain their former forms they may be more competitive. I also think Gordon is hitting way over his head.

      • drazthegr8 - May 5, 2015 at 1:44 PM

        JD – Harvey and deGrom are really good, but Colon is going to turn into a pumpkin and Gee/Niese are meh. I think Thor and Matz are a year away. Hitting wise, there are a lot of streaky bats – I think Duda, Cuddyer, and Grandy are just ok, and Wright has been hurt. Besides Wright, they have no great hitters, and he’s been held up by injuries. A LOT would have to break right for the Mets to be real contenders, although if they beat the Phils, Braves, and Marlins at a 75% clip, maybe they’d have a chance at the wild card.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - May 5, 2015 at 2:13 PM

        Colon is 42, so yeah, someday he’ll get too old for this, and that may be tomorrow, or it may be next year. I wouldn’t sell him short. Along with Gee and Niese, if they are .500 pitchers more or less, and along with Harvey they can keep the Mets at or above .500 as a team for five months, then the Mets will be in the wild card discussion on Labor Day. Especially if they get some help on defense, which they will if and when Wright gets back, it won’t take much more than that and halfway decent luck.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - May 5, 2015 at 2:14 PM

        ** along with Harvey AND DEGROM.


      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 5, 2015 at 2:20 PM

        Niese was All Star quality in the first half last year. Don’t sell him short. His career numbers are not great but he developed his secondary pitches last year and could surprise, as he did over the weekend giving up 1 run.

      • nats128 - May 5, 2015 at 2:56 PM

        Indeed correct on Jon Niese last year: 1st Half 2.96 ERA 103.1 Innings. I see he went on the DL right before the All Star break last year and had a poor 2nd half. Hes been a #5 pitcher most of his career.

  4. homeparkdc - May 5, 2015 at 1:35 PM

    The Marlins’ stats in the article are correct except for David Phelps. After last night his ERA is 3.24.
    Latos is starting the night at 6.86. Hopefully the Nats will raise that number, too.

    • nats128 - May 5, 2015 at 2:23 PM

      +1 to Latos

  5. adcwonk - May 5, 2015 at 1:49 PM

    I notice in the Phillies section, moving Ryan Howard is not seen as an option. Perhaps an omission? Or, perhaps a realization that it will be impossible to move him — no team will take him because he’s owed $25M this year, $25M next, and a $10M buy-out option in 2017. Yowza!

    • Hiram Hover - May 5, 2015 at 2:30 PM

      Didn’t Howard just qualify for his 10-5 rights to block a trade? He wouldn’t have been easy to move before, and that makes it even harder.

    • jd - May 5, 2015 at 2:46 PM


      That’s the problem with the Phills. They won’t move players with big contracts. But the money is a sunk cost already. What they really need to do is move players like Howard, Utley and Paplebon and eat much of the money. This way they may get a couple of prospects and more importantly start building something new. When they moved Rollins I thought they were starting to get it but you can’t rebuild half way. They need to understand that this generation of players produced all it can as a group and there’s nothing left.

      Hammels is their biggest chip but theu are being greedy with him as well. They want to get multiple top prospects and rid themselves of his entire contract, it doesn’t work that way. They can get either or but not both.

  6. natsjackinfl - May 5, 2015 at 1:52 PM

    As for the Mets, as long as they keep running Flores, Murphy and Cuddyer out there, they will suffer the consequences of poor defense. That’s their Achilles heel.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 5, 2015 at 2:18 PM

      So true on their defense and while Cuddyer was the lucky squirrel getting his glove against the wall to catch a RZim HR, he was awful on routes and his speed. Bryce’s 3 RBI double had Cuddyer positioned perfectly and he still couldn’t go the 45 feet to get it.

      Flores singlehandedly lost the 1st game for them.

      Murphy surprisingly didn’t make any mistakes this series but he will because he’s got no glove.

      Duda couldn’t field RZim’s broken bat floater that was catchable but he took the long route. Other than Lagares, Mets D is bad overall.

      The Nats unfortunately have Werth playing awful defense and even with as few games he has played is a -4 in DSR. Just awful. I’m also not liking Danny’s D to his backhand. He makes all the routine plays but rarely makes the spectacular or the mildly difficult. I was hoping as we saw last night on the glove flip that he can turn that and that’s fine but he has to step it up.

      RZim is a huge upgrade at 1st and Bryce in RF and pitcher D all around has been excellent. Span is a welcome sight for sore eyes in CF.

      • nats128 - May 5, 2015 at 2:29 PM

        If errors are given for just complete screwups then Werth gets one for falling down on that misread with bases loaded in the Scherzer game and Michael Taylor probaly had a bunch just in the Boston series. Thats a hopeless feeling when your a outfielder and you screwup like that. All those runs generated were earned runs and just kill your pitchers ERAs. I think JZ was the pitcher in Boston in that Taylor game.

        Not sure how they calculate DSR but Werth let 3 runs score on that play on Friday and 1 yesterday. JZ had to labor thru that inning.

      • virginiascopist - May 5, 2015 at 2:33 PM

        Regarding Flores in game 1, yes, his error was costly, but more so in the sense that it rattled deGrom (sound familiar?)

        Not apropos of this particular post, but I’m wondering if Danny Espinosa has ever played in the outfield. Just trying to think ahead to roles when Rendon comes back.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 5, 2015 at 2:42 PM

        Thinking the same on Danny to become the full Zobrist. With his arm and speed, why not.

    • jd - May 5, 2015 at 2:49 PM

      That’s a good point Jack. None of these players produce enough offense to make up for their cruddy defense and that’s why they’ll probably top out at about 85 wins (just based on great starting pitching).

      • nats128 - May 5, 2015 at 3:01 PM

        Getting an aging Cuddyer and thinking he was McGwire (with the bat) was a big mistake becuz like you said his offense isnt good enough to make up for his poor defense. I thought Josh Willingham was slow until I saw Cuddyer.

        Murphy just is strruggling at the plate.

        There pitching has been great and if they dont fall apart they will stay near the top of the NL East.

  7. masterfishkeeper - May 5, 2015 at 2:50 PM

    Nats acquire an outfielder from the Phillies;

    Hard to believe, but I guess it says something about the outfield depth at Syracuse.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - May 5, 2015 at 3:00 PM

      but I guess it says something about the outfield depth at Syracuse.

      but not good news for (or about) Matt den Dekker.

      • scnatsfan - May 5, 2015 at 3:06 PM

        Agreed. You’d think for Blevins we would have got a decent 5th outfielder not a minor leaguer.

      • #4 - May 5, 2015 at 3:17 PM

        No. They just want a RH hitting CF to back up Span.

      • nats128 - May 5, 2015 at 3:19 PM

        What does that say for Nate Mclouth.

      • masterfishkeeper - May 5, 2015 at 3:20 PM

        Right. Den Dekker will be back in the majors somewhere, probably with the Nats. Think he just picked a bad time to have a slump.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - May 5, 2015 at 3:05 PM

      Makes me wonder if Rizzo is getting tired of watching Michael A run the bases.

      • scnatsfan - May 5, 2015 at 3:07 PM

        I don’t think so; I think its all about him play every day. With him TyMo is a lump on the bench and, barring injury, Taylor gets few ABs.

      • nats128 - May 5, 2015 at 3:22 PM

        On MAT, running the bases and playing defense has been Gulivers Travel. Luckily for him I dont think many of his mishaps make the stat sheets.

  8. nats128 - May 5, 2015 at 3:26 PM

    Good, Werth gets a rest day.

  9. coop202 - May 5, 2015 at 3:31 PM

    I don’t understand the Phillies. I know they’re not dumping Revere anytime soon but this guy seems like the type of player you’d want on the field while you rebuild. They must be super cash strapped to not pull an Atl and bite off a large chunk of their stud’s contracts to move these guys for prospects. I refuse to believe that a GM at this high of a level can be this oblivious for this long…

    • adcwonk - May 5, 2015 at 3:46 PM

      I refuse to believe that a GM at this high of a level can be this oblivious for this long…

      Ummm . . . 😉

      Amaro has been sitting on an aging team that has needed to be rebuilt for years. But in too many years they seemed “just good enough” to maybe do something the next (like, umm, that Washington pointy ball team), and they kept delaying the inevitable rebuilding process. Those are gift years to the rest of the Eastern Division!

      • coop202 - May 5, 2015 at 3:56 PM

        As a nats fan I love it, but as a baseball fan… oh well

  10. natfan33 - May 5, 2015 at 3:44 PM

    Totally off subject – Hoping some of you stats guys can tell me what Harpers batting average is with RISP. Even more important, what is his batting average in close games when he comes up, games that are tied or down one run. My guess he is batting .100 in these situations. Thank you if someone can figure this out.

    • adcwonk - May 5, 2015 at 3:48 PM

      For lifetime splits for Harper, it’s here:

    • Section 222 - May 5, 2015 at 4:19 PM

      Yes, you too can be a stat guy. Not only is his BA not .100 in close games, but this year, in games that are within one run (which I guess means games that we’re up by a run as well as tied by a run), his slashline is:

      .305/.455/.610 with all five of his five home runs coming in such games.

      It’s true that his slashline with RISP isn’t that great. But it’s not as bad as you think:

      .217/.457/.435 . He’s getting walked ALOT in those situations.

      • natfan33 - May 5, 2015 at 5:30 PM

        TY Section 222. What I meant to ask is what is his RISP batting average in close games, not what is his batting average in close games. Seems if the game is close with runners on, he just does not get it done. He had the bases clearing double the other day, but the score was 5-2, we were winning, at that point. I guess I’m just disappointed in what he has produced with runners on in a tie game or we are losing by one. Thanks

  11. Nats Fan Zee - May 5, 2015 at 4:28 PM

    I agree with your assessment Daniel. The Mets will take a run at a wild card this year and will be full blown contenders next year. Important to consider that they have improved their rotation and BP this year while adding offense. Yes, they have holes but it does look like they have been spending a bit more, trying to put a better product out there. Fair to say we are not going to go 28-10 again against the Mets & Marlins.

    On the bright side, I would much rather see a contest between the Nats and the Mets/Marlins rather than the Braves and the Phillies!!

  12. therealjohnc - May 5, 2015 at 5:03 PM

    File in the “what a difference a week makes” and “early season games matter” department. As most of you know, Fangraphs projects player and team performance for the season using a variety of methods. They update these daily to reflect actual results, player injuries/anticipated returns, etc. One month ago the Nats were prohibitive favorites to win the NL East (percentages are estimated chances of ultimately winning the division based on results at that point, with the expected total wins in parens). Fangraphs saw it this way:

    Opening Day:
    Nationals 86.4% (94.7)
    Mets 7.1% (81.8)
    Marlins 6.2% (81.0)
    Braves 0.3% (71.1)
    Phillies 0.1% (66.3)

    Then the season started, and the Nats commenced to digging a hole. One good way of measuring was that at the start of the season the expected win difference between the Nationals and Mets was essentially 13 games. That’s a bunch. But in 20 games, just 12% of the season (1/8), the Nationals’ poor play and injuries combined with the Mets’ strong start managed to punt away ten of those 13 games difference. The odds still were that the Nats would run the Mets down eventually, but the Mets had increased their odds of winning the division by 4.5x (from 7.1% to 32.7%). In other words, there were a lot more plausible scenarios that the Nationals would fail to win the Division, mostly involving the Mets. The Nats’ stumbles also left others with more hope. With the “Nats are a wire-to-wire 110+ win juggernaut” now seemingly off the table, even a lower expected win total for the Marlins put them in a better chance to win the Division. If the Nats were to totally implode then maybe 88 wins would be enough to win!

    April 26, 2015:
    Nationals 57.5% (88.5)
    Mets 32.7% (85.4)
    Marlins 8.2% (79.5)
    Braves 1.4% (73.7)
    Phillies 0.1% (66.2)

    In just over a week the Nats have righted their ship while the Mets and Braves have struggled. For now, the “Nats totally implode” scenario is at least pushed back to arm’s length. The Marlins expected win total actually ticked upwards, but with the Nats looking more like they were expected to look the Marlins’ playoffs odds actually dropped slightly even with the extra anticipated wins:

    May 4, 2015:
    Nationals 74.9% (91.4)
    Mets 18.0% (84.3)
    Marlins 6.7% (80.1)
    Braves 0.4% (72.4)
    Phillies 0.0% (65.3)

    So the week significantly pushed the odds around. But even with the excellent week that they had the Nationals have not (yet?) dug themselves out of the hole that they put themselves into. At 3.5 games off the pace they have a lot of time to catch the Mets. It’s likely that they ultimately succeed – about a three in four chance, according to FG. But that’s down from seven in eight chance just one month ago today.

    • ehay2k - May 5, 2015 at 5:24 PM

      JohnC, thanks for pulling that together. Looking forward to that clinch percentage rising and rising!






As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...

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