Posts Tagged ‘Jonny Venters’

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The National League East was the most diverse division in all of baseball a year ago. It was home of the a Cy Young winner on a fourth place team, a former middle reliever that inspired a 23-game winning streak as a starter, the greatest teenage season in baseball history, the farewell of Chipper Jones, two different coming of age stores (that went in two different directions), as well as the most expensive collapse in all of baseball. Yes, the NL East was the scene of five very different stories that left the division looking unlike anything that could have been expected.

The newly minted Miami Marlins entered the year with all the expectations that a complete franchise facelift brings. However, by half way point of the first half, they’d begun to fold already, trading their long-time franchise player and languishing at the bottom of the division. Meanwhile in Philadelphia, the long-time division champs watched their age and injury come together in the worst possible way. Behind David Wright and RA Dickey, the Mets showed some promise, and the Braves continued to be the absolute best second place team imaginable. A place they inhabited because the Washington Nationals rose to power, and never gave it up.

2012 FINISH (*Wild Card winner)

  1. Washington Nationals (98-64)
  2. Atlanta Braves (94-68)*
  3. Philadelphia Phillies (81-81)
  4. New York Mets (74-88)
  5. Miami Marlins (69-93)

Fast forward to now, and things seem a bit more set than they did last summer. Behind a powerhouse lineup and pitching staff, the Nationals have gone from building to win-now status. But the Braves have had as aggressive of an offseason as they’ve had in years to make sure the DC rise isn’t unchallenged. The Phillies, on the other hand, have been in that same “win now” mode for three years, face perhaps the last season where they have a chance to do it. And new eras are coming into play with the Mets and Marlins, and pulling themselves up in a top heavy division will be a challenge of multiple types. But in a division with two teams easily able to represent the NL in October, is the upset even possible?

All Division Team

Catcher: Brian McCann, Braves

First Base: Adam LaRoche, Nationals

Second Base: Chase Utley, Phillies

Third Base: David Wright, Mets

Shortstop: Ian Desmond, Nationals

Left Field: Bryce Harper, Nationals

Center Field: BJ Upton, Braves

Right Field: Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins

Stanton's prodigous power -to-age ratio is the reason he's the last man standing in Miami.

Stanton’s prodigous power -to-age ratio (40 home run per year average at 23 years old) is the reason he’s the last man standing in Miami.

Starting Pitcher: Stephen Strasberg, Nationals

Starting Pitcher: Gio Gonzalez, Nationals

Starting Pitcher: Cole Hamels, Phillies

Starting Pitcher: Cliff Lee, Phillies

Righty Relief: Tyler Clippard, Nationals

Lefty Relief: Jonny Venters, Braves

Closer: Craig Kimbrel, Braves

Top 10

  1. Craig Kimbrel, Braves
  2. David Wright, Mets
  3. Stephen Strasberg, Nationals
  4. Cole Hamels, Phillies
  5. Cliff Lee, Phillies
  6. Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals
  7. Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins
  8. Gio Gonzalez, Nationals
  9. Bryce Harper, Nationals
  10. Justin Upton, Braves

Lineup

  1. Nationals
  2. Braves
  3. Phillies
  4. Mets
  5. Marlins

Top to bottom, there’s very few NL lineups that can swing with the Nationals. As you’ll see below, there’s no area they are weak in, but the strength is truly in the numbers. They finished in the top five in runs, total bases, team batting average and home runs in the NL. The Phillies haven’t been able to perform at maximum capacity for the past two years, but Ryan Howard and Chase Utley will both enter the season healthy for the first time in that span as well. Atlanta could very well carry six players that top 20 home runs, but could also lead the NL in strikeouts by a wide margin as well.

Wright carried a heavy load in the Mets lineup well a year ago, topping 40 doubles and driving in 93 runs.

Wright carried a heavy load in the Mets lineup well a year ago, topping 40 doubles and driving in 93 runs.

Heart of the Lineup

  1. Nationals (Harper/Zimmerman/LaRoche)
  2. Braves (Upton/Freeman/Upton)
  3. Phillies (Utley/Howard/Young)
  4. Mets (Wright/Davis/Duda)
  5. Marlins (Stanton/Brantly/Ruggiano)

The emergence of the Adam LaRoche (33 HRs/100 RBI) pushed the Nationals lineup to a new level last year. With Zimmerman and Harper, the Nats have a chance to get 75 homers from the middle of their lineup alone. The Braves revamped the team with the addition of the Uptons, and Freddie Freeman’s continue growth will make the heart of the ATL attack formidable for years to come.

Table Setters

  1. Nationals (Span/Werth)
  2. Braves (Simmons/Heyward)
  3. Phillies (Rollins/Revere)
  4. Marlins (Pierre/Polanco)
  5. Mets (Tejada/Murphy)

Denard Span is the table setter Washington has been after for the last few years, and when coupled with the do it all Harper, the Nats will jump on pitchers early and often. Ben Revere is the type of regular on-base threat the Phillies need. His .294 average was a 27 point increase from 2011. Juan Pierre is still a steady hitter at age 35 and his consistent effort will be helpful in the sparse Marlin lineup.

Bench

  1. Nationals
  2. Braves
  3. Phillies
  4. Marlins
  5. Mets

The Nationals have the best bench in baseball. Wilson Ramos, Roger Bernadina, Tyler Moore and Steve Lombardozzi start in a lot of other places. The mix of Delmon Young, Lee Mayberry and Freddy Galvis is a promising support group for Charlie Manuel in Philly, as long as they aren’t stretched too thin by being forced into the starting lineup too often due to injury.

Rotation

  1. Nationals
  2. Phillies
  3. Braves
  4. Mets
  5. Marlins

The best rotation in the NL got better when Dan Haren joined Strasburg, Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Ross Detwiler in DC. This group won a combined (…) games in 2012. Not to be outdone, the Phillies boast two legitimate aces in Lee and Hamels, but the health of Roy Halladay continues to be questionable. The Mets staff is still without Johan Santana, but has several quality young arms in Dillion Gee, Matt Harvey and Jonathan Niese.

1-2 Punch

  1. Nationals (Strasberg/Gonzalez)
  2. Phillies (Hamels/Lee)
  3. Braves (Hudson/Medlen)
  4. Mets (Santana/Niese)
  5. Marlins (Nolasco/LeBlanc)

Strasberg and Gonzalez could become the first teammates to both win 20 games in a season since 2002. In Atlanta, Kris Medlen was unbelievable down the stretch last season, with the Braves winning 23 of his starts, consecutively. Paired with the always reliable Tim Hudson, they have the firepower to match up with the more hallowed top of the line in-division arms.

With O'Flaherty, Kimbrel and Venters waiting in the wings, if the Braves aren't beat by the seventh, it's probably not happening.

With O’Flaherty, Kimbrel and Venters waiting in the wings, if the Braves aren’t beat by the seventh, it’s probably not happening.

Bullpen

  1. Braves
  2. Nationals
  3. Phillies
  4. Marlins
  5. Mets

There’s no better bullpen in baseball than Atlanta’s. The late inning gauntlet includes the often untouchable trio of Johnny Venters, Eric O’Flaherty and Craig Kimbrel, and added former All-Star Jordan Walden as well. The Nationals added Rafael Soriano to Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard to form a formidable late game trio of their own. Mike Adams, who has posted an ERA under 2.00 four of the last five years, was added bridge the gap to Jonathan Papelbon.

Defense

  1. Braves
  2. Nationals
  3. Mets
  4. Marlins
  5. Phillies

The addition of both Upton brothers to an outfield with Gold Glove winner Jason Heyward makes the Atlanta outfield the best in the game. The Mets infield is strong unit, led by Wright and Ruben Tejada, while Giancarlo Stanton’s bat gets the headlines, but his athleticism and arm both round him out as a one of the best overall players in the game as well.

Speed

  1. Braves
  2. Nationals
  3. Phillies
  4. Marlins
  5. Mets

Once again, it all starts with the outfield in the A. While Michael Bourn is gone, the Braves will get even quicker with the combined efforts of the Uptons (49 steals a year ago), as well as Andrelton Simmons. Revere adds 40 steal speed to the Philly attack, and Span has twice hit 10 triples in a season, as well as topped 20 steals.

Manuel has averaged 90 wins in his eight years in Philly, and his handling could be the x-factor in the Philly year.

Manuel has averaged 90 wins in his eight years in Philly, and his handling could be the x-factor in the Philly year.

Manager

  1. Davey Johnson, Nationals
  2. Charlie Manuel, Phillies
  3. Fredi Gonzalez, Braves
  4. Terry Collins, Mets
  5. Mike Redmond, Marlins

It is Johnson’s last go around in DC (he’s retiring after the season), and the 2012 NL Manager of the Year has the tools at his disposal to make it a memorable departure. Collins has kept the Mets surprisingly afloat the last few years despite the constant turmoil surrounding the Mets the last two years. Rookie manager Redmond will be tasked with a tough task pulling along the stripped down Marlins in his debut year.

Finances

  1. Phillies
  2. Braves
  3. Nationals
  4. Marlins
  5. Mets

The Phillies have the funds to make their usual aggressive additions if they find themselves in the chase late in the season. Despite having three four players due $20 million this season, GM Ruben Amaro has the green light to spend if needed. On the flipside, the Marlins and Mets are two of the biggest financial disasters in sports, despite the substantial $138 million commitment made to Wright this winter.

Impact Additions

  1. Justin Upton (Braves via D’Backs)
  2. BJ Upton (Braves via Rays)
  3. Dan Haren (Nationals via Angels)
  4. Rafael Soriano (Nationals via Yankees)
  5. Ben Revere (Phillies via Twins)

After years of being floated in Arizona, the Justin Upton finally was moved to a place where he can freely play with no rumors hanging off his every move. The Braves re-invented themselves by signing him and his older brother BJ. Meanwhile, the Nationals made several “finishing touch” type moves, highlighted picking up a potential steal in Haren, a 4-time All-Star workhorse who’s averaged 14 wins a season.

Leap Forward Candidates

  1. Bryce Harper, Nationals
  2. Matt Harvey, Mets
  3. Ike Davis, Mets
  4. Julio Teheran, Braves
  5. Ross Detwiler, Nationals

Harper is the easy call, but considering what could be on deck is one of the most exciting things to look forward to in the season. He hit 22 homers and stole 18 bases a year ago, and has a legitimate shot to become the youngest member of the 30 homer/30 steal club this time around. Harvey was at times completely overpowering as a rookie, averaging 10.5 strikeouts per nine innings over 10 starts.

Rookies/Prospects to Watch

  1. Zach Wheeler (Pitcher-Mets, AAA)
  2. Travis D’Arnaud (Catcher-Mets, AAA)
  3. Anthony Rendon (Third Base-Nationals, AA)
  4. Andrelton Simmons (Shortstop-Braves, MLB)
  5. Adeiny Hechavarria (Shortstop-Marlins, MLB)

The future looks good for the Mets, and it’s most promising of its entire stockpile of young arms. Wheeler has a triple digit fastball, and the stuff to go along with it. Pairing him with D’Arnaud, the former top prospect of the Blue Jays and main return piece for RA Dickey, ensure the Mets will return to relevancy soon enough.

2013 PREDICTIONS

  1. Nationals
  2. Braves
  3. Phillies
  4. Mets
  5. Marlins

Last season was the story of anybody having a chance out in the East, this time around will not be more of the same. The Nationals and Braves are both returning very strong team’s that didn’t lose much over the winter, yet made some substantial additions. On the other hand, the Phillies who have a solid core, made some additions as well, but simply can’t keep up with the younger and more well rounded Nationals and Braves. But they are a veteran laden club with more winning experience than any other team ahead of them and a very good manager, if any team in the NL is capable of spring a surprise heist of a Wild Card spot, it’s them.

The Mets are growing, and have made several moves that have put young talent in their system and Major League staff, but after Wright and Davis, there’s nothing else in their lineup and the East is the wrong division not be able to hit in. The Marlins, after their “everything not named Giancarlo must go” dump are more of a factor in the push for the number spot in the Draft than the division.

So this brings it all back to the same two postseason reps from a year ago. The Braves are getting better in a hurry, and with their entire core under 30, their best days are yet to come. A return to the playoffs should be expected, and not just a one and done this year either. But the Nationals better days are here now. The difference comes down the arms: the Braves have a very good pitching staff; the Nationals have a devastating staff, which has four Cy Young capable starters and three relievers with 30 save capability. Add on the prime of Zimmerman, LaRoche and Werth with the rise of Harper and Ian Desmond all happening at once, and the Nationals aren’t just the best in the East. They’re among the two or three best period.

For more on the upcoming MLB campaign along the East coast in real-time, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan

Sorry for the delay in the Power Poll this week, the NBA Finals took a bit of time to wrap up yesterday. However, around that whole mix and mayhem on the court, Baseball had a great week and a good launch into it’s solo spotlight part of the year.

The week started off with yet another statement series atop the A.L. East, and ownership atop it (and CSP’s Power Poll) changed again. The meteoric rise of power of baseball’s hottest team over the last month took them to the top of the N.L. Central and the first coaching change of the season was made to right the path of a one of the main contenders for the Wild Card in the A.L. coming into the season.

Ortiz's continued hot bat help to sink the Yanks and raise the Sox to the top of the East once again.

The times are already a-changin around the league, and also in the Poll again. Here’s how Volume 11 is breaking out…

1. Red Sox (5): With their third sweep of the Yankees under their belt (which ran their record for 2011 against their rivals to 8-1), followed by taking three from Toronto, the Sox rise to the top of the poll for the first time since the debut edition.

2. Phillies (2): Despite playing with their full expected lineup for under two weeks this season, the Phils have not lost a game where they scored at least 5 runs all season. There will be a lot more of those games coming now.

3. Yankees (1): The Yankees started the week by continuing their troubles against the Red Sox, getting swept at home. They finished the week with Joba Chamberlain and Bartolo Colon joining the growing number of their already limited pitching staff on the DL. On a brighter note, Derek Jeter will most likely get his 3,000th hit this week.

4. Brewers (8): The Brewers runaway train ride through the National League met the league’s winningest club, in the Cardinals, over the weekend…and took three games from them in route to taking over control of Central for the first time in two years.

5. Cardinals (3): The Cardinals ran into a brick wall located in Milwaukee over the weekend, and are now (0-6) on during weekend road series against second place N.L. Central clubs, having twice lost control of the division this year in this fashion.

6. Braves (13): They finally found an opening to make a move in the East by sweeping the slumping Marlins and moving into second place. Johnny Venters’ shutdown act (0.44 ERA) has finally been moved to the ninth inning, assuring that many more Braves games may only eight innings from here out.

The Braves have placed Venters at the end of games now, and have went on a run since the move.

7. Giants (7): The Giants traded wins and loses with the Reds and Nationals all week, but retained control of the West despite only managing to bring in over two runs once in the last seven games.

8. Rangers (4): The A.L. Central was not as kind to Texas as they were the week before, with Twins and Tigers combining to snatch 5 games combined, yet they held on to control of the West by a game and a half.

9. Indians (6): They have dropped nine of their last eleven contests and have watched the biggest lead in all of baseball dwindle to a tie in the A.L. Central. Josh Tomlin, Fausto Carmona and Mitch Talbot have all lost both of their last two starts in the process. They’ll look to take momentum from a shutout win in New York into Detroit to defend their place atop the Central.

10. Tigers (12): Austin Jackson is tearing the cover off the ball right now (.370 in June) and Magglio Ordonez is returning this week to put the Tigers at full strength for the first time nearly all year…and right as they have pulled to a tie atop the A.L. Central…and they host the Indians this week with the division up for the taking.

11. Rays (10): They remained a powerhouse on the road this past week, adding 5 wins to their A.L. leading 21 road wins on the season in L.A. and Baltimore.

12. D’Backs (9): They have cooled off from the tear that moved them to the top of the West for a week, but took three of four from the Marlins over the weekend, which puts them in position to move back to the top of the division as they host San Francisco this week.

13. Reds (14): The offense keeps slugging, and now the pitchers are getting in on their half of the bargain as well. After getting bashed around for the duration of May, they didn’t allow more than 2 runs in any game last week and finished the team’s first shutout in over month as well.

14. Mariners (15): Don’t look now, but the Mariners are in position to go for the top of the West and only play 3 road games for the rest of the month, starting with the Angels club they passed this past week.

15. Marlins (11): Things probably can’t get worse than are right now in Miami. They’ve dropped 10 of 11 contests to fall seven games back of the Phillies and still have no date for the return of Josh Johnson or Hanley Ramirez.

16. White Sox (19): After starting 0-8, John Danks won twice last week and surrendering 2 runs across 15 innings in the process.

17. Blue Jays (17): In the ever changing A.L. East, despite finding themselves in the best condition of any East club, are still just a half game out of last place all of a sudden after dropping three to the Red Sox over the weekend.

18. Mets (21): Even though their rotation is far from in the condition it projected as, over the last 17 games they have the lowest ERA of any team in baseball.

19. Pirates (20): Despite a growing Disabled List (which 2010 All-Star Evan Meek joined this past week as well), the Bucs are staying in the middle of the mix, thanks to the continued improvement of Andrew McCutchen.

McCutchen has put together another step forward season and is bringing the Bucs along with him.

20. Dodgers (18): Clayton Kershaw proved to be mortal briefly this past week, giving up as many runs (12) in his last two starts as he did in his previous seven combined.

21. Angels (16): The Angels offense is still stuck in it’s slump from last season (if that’s possible) and Vernon Wells’ return offers some hope for a turnaround, as they have fallen into the bottom three in the A.L. in runs scored.

22. Rockies (23): They had more success this past week than they have in a while, but despite scoring 30 runs over the weekend, they still split the series against the Dodgers and didn’t have a single game decided by more than four runs.

23. Nationals (26): Drew Storen’s first full season as a closer continues to be the highlight of the National’s season. He closed out three consecutive wins for the club over the weekend and is 15 for 16 overall in save situations this year.

24. Orioles (25): They showed some life during a a four game winning streak kicked off the week, before dropping an extra inning affair to the Rays on Saturday. They continue their all or nothing ways this season.

25. Royals (27): While their successes have continued to turn down, their prized prospects have continued to turn up. Most recently 2010 Minor League Player of the Year Mike Moustakas joined the mix in KC, and hit his first career homer in his second game up.

26. Padres (22): A sign of the difficulties in San Diego: Chase Headley’s homer on Thursday was the first out of the three slot in the lineup the entire season. The promotion of prized prospect Anthony Rizzo could help change things here by the end of the year.

27. Twins (29): Francisco Liriano returned from a brief stint on the DL, and the rest appears to have paid off. He has struck out 16 in 13.1 innings since in two starts: one being a 1-0 loss and the second being nearly his second no-hitter of the season in a win on Sunday.

28. A’s (24): Manager Bob Geren was fired after the club’s losing streak hit 9 games and Bob Melvin took his place for the remainder of the season…and has gone 1-4 since taking over.

29. Cubs (30): Teams are hitting .267 against the Cubs, 28th worse in baseball…which is a point higher than they are hitting as a club at .266 (third best in baseball). Pitching wins ballgames.

30. Astros (29): A rough week facing the Cardinals followed by the Braves was concluded by their best pitcher in Wandy Rodriguez landing on the DL. These are the breaks on this end of the poll.

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