Nationals Baseball: Braves not done

Friday, July 07, 2017

Braves not done

At least not yet but they could be by the next time we get together in our little corner of the internet.

Unfortunately, losing your lead-off hitter and starting shortstop for a very long stretch changes things, and losing your streaking currently starting CF only adds to it. The Nats are now a different team from two weeks ago and thus they still have a division to win. But they could still do it relatively soon. Like this weekend.

Are the Braves a real threat? They do have a legitimite superstar in Freddie Freeman, a player good enough that they didn't dump him along with everyone else in their rebuilding effort a few years ago. He's back from injury and looks fine. Everything else though is a little suspect.

The next best bat in the lineup is Freddie's injury replacement Matt Adams, which is why Freddie is trying out 3B right now. Adams has been underrated in my opinion as a first baseman but his fatal flaw, that he can't hit lefties, can't be ignored. You can work around that somewhat but ideally he should be platooned. After that it's Matt Kemp who has been a solid hitter all his career. He should keep hitting, but he should also provide the Braves with a big sucking hole in the outfield. For whatever reason Tyler Flowers has blossomed in Atlanta and Kurt Suzuki is nothing if not a reliable back-up, making the bat at catcher an overall plus. You don't want to have to count on these guys to keep being above average but the Braves almost have to because this is the end of the above average bats on the team

Next come the average guys. The good news is that there is no reason to think these guys will falter in the 2nd half. The bad news is there is no reason to think they'll do better either. Phillips, Inciarte, and Markakis are all average bats who have been average bats for a while.

Who's left? The guy that's probably the key to the Braves 2nd half, Dansby Swanson.  He came out impressively last year putting up a line of .302 / .361 / .442  in his first 38 games but started amazingly bad in 2017.  He was hitting as low as .134 / .184 / .183  a month into the season and was still putting up an abysmal .193 / .276 / .301 line as late as June 6th.  If he hits like he did in June, which was a lot like his 2016, the Braves have a chance to be a decent offense. If not they'll struggle to be average.

Can then they be carried to something greater by their pitching?  It isn't likely. There was hope that if the Braves stabilized the back of the rotation with Dickey and Colon that Teheran and Garcia would provide a solid 1-2 and a young arm would emerge to round out the rotation. The only thing that worked out was Dickey being a stable #4 type. Colon was so bad he's already gone and Teheran and Garcia have both had major issues this year, especially recently. No young arm emerged as first choice Foltynewicz has been fair at best. That might be changing, he's had a better June, and Sean Newcomb looks ok, but the reality is that neither looks good enough to carry the team. The best case scenario looks to be a 1-5 that resembles a 3-3-3-3-3.

That leaves the bullpen to be the saving grace but again there isn't much to see here. Jim Johnson is the guy that proves the rule that Blake Treinen is an exception to. Anyone can go out and be a closer.  He's not great but he can get 3 outs more often than not. Jose Ramirez is their most effective arm but he's not special. Motte is a now a lighter version of Ramirez. There isn't any depth here as after that you get more and more blah arms that can't strike out anyone, walk too many, and unlike Motte and Ramirez, get hit all tht time. So they can hold onto a lead here and there, but the middle innings will suffer and they can't keep it going multiple games in a row.

Oh maybe defense then? Nah. Braves are good but not special. The infield defense is solid, which is why guys like Ramirez and Motte can succeed, but the OF defense can be pretty horrid as Markakis and Kemp have aged into the same territory Werth lives in.

The Nats may have suffered enough injury losses now to bring them back down to the rest of the NL East. I think it's fair to believe something like that. However they also have a huge lead so the rest of the NL East can't simply play as well as the Nats, they have to play much much better. Given their complete inability to keep their rotation healthy I can't see the Mets doing it. Can the Braves do it? I don't see that either. I suppose if Swanson is a 2nd half star and Teheran finds himself again then maybe. But they need both those things to happen.  AND they need to not let the division get away from them over the next three days. If they can take 2 of the next three I suppose it forces you to keep that eye on them 8.5 out, but only barely. If they can't do that then the Nats remain in cruise control. That is until the next handful of guys go down to injury.

14 comments:

elchupinazo said...

All I know is, they shouldn't keep trotting Rayburn out there. With Drew at SS and Difo (hopefully) playing competent LF, they might be able to hold out until someone (Werth?) can get off the DL.

G Cracka X said...

Harper, what do you think of the Fangraphs playoff odds? They have the Nats at 97.4%, with the Mets at 1.3%, the Marlins at .9% and the Braves only at .4%. The Braves number feels too low to me, but perhaps that is just my bias. Similarly, 538 has Nats at 94%, Mets and Marlins both at 2%, and Braves only at 1%.

Anonymous said...

One thing brought up on the BBTN podcast yesterday that I found interesting: the Dodgers projected playoff rotation is Kershaw, Wood, and Hill, all lefties. They suggested that some playoff teams, such as the D-backs, Rockies, and Nationals, might try to trade for a bench-type lefty killer for sole use during the postseason against the Dodgers. Do you see the Nationals making a trade for a guy like that with the potential playoff matchup with the Dodgers in mind? I think the Dodgers will get the 1 seed in the NL so the Nationals would match up against the Central winner (probably the Cubs, but the Brewers have been in first for far too long for me to justify continuing to overlook them) so I don't really see them sacrificing any decent level prospect for a bat that could potentially never get used (that's if the Dodgers lose in the first round, because OBVIOUSLY the Nationals will get past the first round...obviously...). It was an interesting suggestion though and I wanted to hear your thoughts on it Harper

NotBobby said...

Arodys Vizcaino is a good RP arm on the Braves, but i think he recently went on the DL. He could come back and solid the back part.

Fries said...

@GCX

I think that's related to the Braves schedule. If I remember correctly, their next month is BRUTAL. The models probably see them losing too much ground over that stretch. Keep in mind that the wild card is basically locked up barring one of the NL West teams (Rockies?) dropping off a cliff, so the Braves/Mets/Marlins would have to catch the Nats to make the playoffs

Rob Evans said...

I'm a little worried. Still think that the Nats win the division but it's smelling like another one and done in the post-season. With all the injuries and the bullpen need a complete makeover, I just don't see how the Nats make any real noise this year. Hope I'm wrong.

JE34 said...

@elchupinazo - Raburn is probably their best option at the moment in LF, which is scary. Heisey is being recalled, and he's been horrendous this year. We will probably see Lind in LF more, especially against righties.

Harper said...

elchupinazo - eh I like Rayburn as much as Difo. I'd be more for trying something entirely different if Werth is even slower to return.

GCX/Fries - also has to do with ATL being a little lucky this year based on RS/RA. They probably are worse than Mets/Marlins so far.

Anon - as a bench PH? Sure. Makes a lot of sense as long as fit isn't terrible. Lind might have a tough time being useful if that's a series. Not sure who that would be though. I'll take a look.

NotBobby - yeah, still that's not turning this into a 90+ win team

RobEvans - Look at it this way, you probably liked one of the other post-seasons and what did that get you? Get one good reliever and have Max and Stras on and it may not matter, at least for one series

BxJaycobb said...

The Braves are probably not going to survive the next month. It's absolute murder. After the Nats and the AS break they have the DBacks, the Cubs, the Dodgers, then the DBacks again, and then Dodgers again--with a Phillies respite thrown in there. If they can play something approaching .500 ball over that period, then they are an actual threat. But I expect them to not make it, and be 11-12 out by August.

Jay said...

Yesterday was somewhat discouraging. It seems like the Nats are full of excuses this year. They've played so many games in a row. They had a long rain delay. They're tired. The fact is they are 30-27 since May 6. I was wondering why I feel so blah about the year so far and that answered it for me. They were .500 for June 14-14. They're 4-3 in July. I know they have had injuries. I know their bullpen stinks like week-old fish. At some point don't they have to overcome that and play better? I think this is the disadvantage of bad division. LA has 60 wins - best record in baseball. I was hopeful they might catch LA. Now not so much. Plus, everyone and their grandmother could possibly make the playoffs in the AL. Don't look now, but there are only a handful of teams out of it and willing to trade bullpen help. The Lerner family may have really blown it this year by refusing to spend on bullpen help. Plus Wieters looks pretty awful right about now as well. Oh well. At least the Nats will get a nice break over the All Star break and feel more "rested" next week.

Zimmerman11 said...

Hallmark channel debuting 33 nee Christmas movies this year, Gordek. I expect full reviews and reccos.

Matt said...

^Plus, he still hasn't reviewed EITHER the Star Wars Holiday Special OR Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. It's almost like he does this for fun and not out of obligation/responsibility to his fans...

Harper said...

Z11. I saw. Gotta save up some PTO. Sneak preview : they don't get along at first but they end up together in the end

BxJaycobb said...

The reality is it doesn't matter how the Nats play until the playoffs, since the division is won (it is won, to be clear). The hope is that by October they will have Trea, Werth, and MAT back, and either Roark or Ross will be healthy and effective at the right moment, and we will pick up pen help. Then the playoffs are a crap shoot. The Nats went into playoffs multiple times playing incredible and being better teams than the ones they lost to. The Dodgers are clearly better than the Nats this year. Will it matter in the playoffs? Probably not. Because it's incredibly arbitrary who wins in such a tiny sample size. Re bullpen availability there are plenty of good to great arms available. It comes down to one question. Are the Lerners willing to add payroll? If they are they can add an established closer and a dominant lefty set up man (Robertson and Brad Hand) right now without giving away their very* best prospects. But the Lerners are the worst and are penny wise and pound foolish routinely.