— Where BTF's Members Investigate the Grand Old Game
Tuesday, April 29, 2003
Bi-Weekly Review: N.L. East
The N.L. East through April 27th.
A no-no, a 20-inning game, two potential All-Star second basemen, neither of which is Robbie Alomar, and in the background a little form begins to peak through the early season divisional clutter. Philadelphia and Atlanta get their sea legs under them while the Expos rabbit-out-of-the-gate comes back to the pack. Florida putters along aimlessly and the Mets still can?t score runs. Welcome to the NL East, week 3.
Philadelphia seems to be coming together offensively and they?re still waiting on Thome (125/385/375 for the week) and Burrell (250/333/458) to hit at established levels. They?re also still waiting for David Bell to hit at all (250/333/300). But they can afford to be patient with Bobby Abreu tearing the cover off the ball (455/556/864) and Rickey Ledee doing his best Willy Mays (minus the defense) impersonation (300/391/700) in CF. So long as Ledee hits like that Marlon Byrd will not be heard from for a while. The bench is even hitting well. Only the stars are slumping.
The Phils have been throwing the ball pretty well too. There was some brouhaha over Kevin Millwood?s last game. Reports have it that John Schuerholz could be heard all the way to North Carolina shouting "The economics stink! They just stink!" In the meantime the entire Phillie staff was dialed in all week. Well, not the entire staff, but everyone not named Terry Adams. Adams is the only one with an ERA over 3.00. The non-historic highlight might Brandon Duckworth?s bounce back in his second start of the year. Five innings of 1-run ball will go a long way to erasing his debut thrashing in Atlanta.
Jose Vidro continued to put up MVP numbers in Montreal. He raked a crisp 333/440/619 for the week, outperforming even The World?s Most Famous "Underrated" Superstar (278/423/500.) Endy Chavez (333/385/500) kept the offense at least tri-partite, but that?s all the ?Spos were getting offensively. Wil Cordero hit the ball hard on the rare occasion that he made contact and Brad Wilkerson continued to amaze in a circus-freak sort of way (154/450/231.) Still, one wonders how far a two or three man offense can carry this team. Fernando Tatis was terrible, which, is better than you can say for Orlando Cabrerra or Michael Barret. Barrett in particular is putting up a cosmically bad year (103/133/207) so far.
Montreal?s salvation thus far has been its starting rotation. The only member of the four top starters with an ERA over 3 is Tom Ohka (3.18.) The fifth starter has been mostly bleh, but that?s to be expected when that guy is Livan Hernandez more often than not. The bullpen has held, with Rocky Biddle sneaking into the Secret Closer Club when no one was looking.
Down in Atlanta, the world began slowly tilting back towards "right side up." Greg Maddux may or may not have feasted on a depleted Cardinals lineup, but he went seven and gave up none regardless. Russ Ortiz made a bid for the club?s first complete game (missing it by one out) and Mike Hampton looked somewhat better in his second outing of the season. Shane Reynolds, on the other hand, had all Holy Hell beat out of him, by the Brewers no less, bringing him crashing back to reality. In the pen Roberto Hernandez settled down a bit in the setup role with Ray King making a bid for the seventh inning slot. Jung Bong continued to stupefy batters when he got work. John Smoltz still has sportswriters everywhere looking high and low for synonyms for "filthy."
Offensively, Gary Sheffield cooled off a bit (227/308/545 for the week) but Chipper Jones (350/500/600) stepped up to fill the void. Meanwhile the division?s other early All-Star second sacker continued to rip anything thrown at him. Marcus Giles posted a 400/458/800 for the week, and pity the LHP that tried to pitch to him. The Ageless Wonder, filling in for injured Robert Fick, posted a 500/600/583 for good measure and even Johnny Estrada managed an OBP over .400. But the key to the Braves? surprising offense to date has probably been Rafeal Furcal, posting a 400/464/440 for the week and maintaining a respectable .371 OBP for the season.
Further south the Marlins? primary news of the week was the (shocking!) arm troubles of A. J. Burnett. Burnett headed to the DL and is unlikely to return from it soon. Gee, thanks Mr. Torborg! What good news there is to be had is mostly centered on Pudge Rodriguez. At 364/391/500 he was the only Fish hitting much of anything. The two outfield Juans were both atrocious, with identical 233/281 averages/OBPs. Encarnacion did manage to outslug Pierre .433 to .267. Ramon Castro continued to beg for a place to play, with little result.
Aside from Burnett?s last game before the DL the Fish?s rotation managed to keep the team in games. Complete games by Carl Pavano and Mark Redman steadied the ship (until they too get Torborged), which is good considering the fact that the Marlins? bullpen consists of Braden Looper and little else. Theoretical closer of the future Tim Spooneybarger was hammered in the two games he appeared.
Bringing up the rear is the Mets. Jeromy Burnitz went on the DL and that was a bad thing. That?s generally not a good sign, but there was silver behind some of the clouds. Mike Piazza started to wake up. That can only help. Tony Clark (444/444/889 for the week) continued to beg the question of Mo Vaughn?s existence and Raul Gonzalez (353/421/647) stepped up from AAA to replace Burnitz? offense in RF. And Roger Cedeno was finally benched. Timo Perez might not be an All-Star or anything, but he?s better than Roger Cedeno. Meanwhile Cliff Floyd is surprisingly enough on hobbled with nagging injuries, begging the question of how the team will actually field an outfield. Super Joe, this is your chance!
In the rotation David Cone hopped on board the DL fast track to re-retirement. Tom Glavine got hammered in his one start. Pedro Astacio was finally called up and turned in a solid game while Steve Trachsel continued his yeoman like work. Armando Benitez managed to convert all three of his save opportunities yet still posted an ERA above 8.00.
All in all, things are sorting themselves out according to plan.