— Where BTF's Members Investigate the Grand Old Game
Wednesday, April 23, 2003
Bi-Weekly Review: N.L. East
The N.L. East through April 20th.
National League East ? Through April 20, 2003
The NL East has really been upset. Montreal, who hasn?t played a game in Montreal yet, enjoyed their second home in Hiram Bithorn Stadium in Puerto Rico immensely.
The stadium itself was rather small for major league standards, but when the Mets were there, few home runs were hit. The Braves series saw a few more and the ball flew out of the park for the Reds series.
The Expos pitching staff has been excellent, with the top four starters posting ERAs at or below Javier Vazquez? 3.16. Zach Day, Tony Armas and Tomo Ohka have all been much better than “solid”, and Vazquez is posting an absurdly high K:BB ratio (37:4). The hitting has been Vidro, Schneider and Guerrero so far, with a huge hole at first base. Jeff Liefer and Wil Cordero aren?t cutting the mustard. I think Fran Robinson is a smart man and he may start playing Schneider at first when Barrett is catching.
The Phillies have been feast or famine offensively and are about to unload on someone after scoring: 4, 1, 3, 4, 4, 1 runs in the last 6 games. By the time you read this, they will have stuck a 12 on the Rockies. The pitching has been excellent in places. Padilla, Wolf and Brett Myers have been good, while Joe Roa and Kevin Millwood have not. Roa did come in behind Brandon Duckworth Sunday to pitch well. Roa is probably out of the rotation until someone gets hurt. The hitters are odd ? Jim Thome?s walk rate is way down. Abreu and Burrell are both struggling and lead ROY candidate Marlon Byrd has been non-existent at the plate.
The Braves have gone 6-1 in the last week (April 13-20). The pitching staff has been resurrected in quality, if not in name. Paul Byrd is lost for, expectedly, the season. Mike Hampton missed the first two weeks and was wild in his Brave debut. The success has all come from the bullpen ? the Braves? starters ERA is over 5, while the relievers are mowing the opposition down ? again. Greg Maddux does not look good. He had one good outing but still has an ERA of 7.52 and has surrendered 7 home runs. Those HRs are a reflection of poor pitching and Maddux better get that under control. The Braves? ?02 bullpen was dismantled, and Mazzone has reconstructed with Bong, King and Hernandez. Now they have picked up Shane Reynolds, who has thrown 12 innings of donuts. The hitting has been hot-and-cold and Chipper Jones is nursing a groin strain. Probably the best thing Bobby Cox has done this season is let Marcus Giles play. Giles is Pirate Brian Giles? younger brother. Marcus is small too, and has thus been overlooked (heh). Now he is getting his shot and is pounding the ball ? just like his MLEs said he would. Watch out, the smoke and mirrors are working well in Atlanta.
The Florida Marlins faced the Mets a bunch and ran around the bases like it was their own carousel. Derrek Lee has 7 stolen bases. It was ugly. Alex Gonzalez is in the top 5 in slugging. The Marlins have gotten two of their nine wins by getting two runs off the Mets? Armando Benitez in the 9th inning. The Fish are scoring plenty of runs, 6th in the league, but the pitching, even with those young arms, simply isn?t keeping the opponent from scoring. The runs number is amazing, with most of the Florida players performing above or well above their established levels. I mean, Alex Gonzalez is slugging 0.738. The pitching seems about right, though I expect it to get a little better. They are right on pace for a last place finish ? if the Mets will get out of the way.
The Mets would be in first place in the division if Armando Benitez did his stinking job. In spite of being last in BA/OBP and next to last in SLG, the Mets would be in first if their closer were converting saves at an acceptable rate. I had bad things to say about Benitez before the season, and as if I were clairvoyant, it has come up to laugh in my face.
Other than Benitez and David Cone, the pitching staff has been excellent. Glavine had a rough first start but has been very good since (ERA 3.14). Art Howe has not impressed me ? correction: I?m impressed at how poorly he handles something as simple as a double-switch. He is not a good tactical manager. Rey Sanchez has been terrible and Jose Reyes has been good at AAA at 19 ? that?s the best news for the Mets. The Mets? season thus far is best summed up like this: Rey Ordoñez would lead the Mets in home runs and RBIs.
The next two weeks, the East plays someone other than themselves. The Braves and Marlins are hosting St. Louis and Milwaukee, while traveling to Houston and a Johnson-less Arizona team. For those having trouble following, while Milwaukee is in Montreal, St. Louis is in Atlanta, etc. The Expos and Mets face the same four teams in the opposite fashion: hosting Arizona and Houston and visiting St. Louis and Milwaukee. The Phillies get the odd schedule, starting their West Coast schedule, hosting Colorado and San Francisco before going to LA and San Diego.