Well, the Braves are still holding on to first place in the NL East…barely! The New York Mets are hot on their tail and have been for the entire month. They have been one of the hottest teams in the league in recent days, and if it weren’t for the Braves’ great home record, the standings would not look so close. I say this because I don’t believe this is the REAL Mets team. I am much more worried about the Phillies, sitting 2.5 GB, than I am about the Amazin’s.
Let’s look at the reason the Mets are playing so well…Their starting pitching has been fantastic lately. After Oliver Perez and Jon Maine have been on the DL they have had two guys come out of nowhere and pitch like Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden…OK so maybe not that good, but they have been stellar. Hisanori Takahashi has gone 6-3 3.78 ERA and the knuckleballer R.A. Dickey is undefeated at 6-0 2.33 ERA.
The 35-year-old Takahashi has baffled hitters with his start-and-stop pitching delivery and good off-speed pitches while Dickey has looked like an old Tim Wakefield, floating his knuckler past batters. Here’s the thing—they aren’t going to keep this up all year. R.A. Dickey is not going to end the season 17-0; it just won’t happen. Johann Santana and Mike Pelfrey are really good pitchers (Johann not as good as he once was) and their fifth starter, John Niese, has been solid like the others, but still has a 4+ ERA. They just aren’t this good. I’m not saying this to take a shot at the Mets; I really don’t have anything against their players (just their fans). I’m simply pointing out that the team in the NL East we have to really worry about is playing at Citizen’s Bank Park, not Citi Field.
It was only last week when the Phillies’ slump had pushed them 5.5 games behind the Braves and into third place in the NL East. A week later, they are starting to play like they (and I) expect to and are now only 2.5 GB. It should come to no surprise that getting Jimmy Rollins off the DL has sparked the Phillies lineup and, I must admit, am little worried. I am NOT saying the Braves are not playing as well, or suggesting that they are not as good as the Phillies, but when you have the likes of Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Roy Halladay leading a team, it has to scare you a little bit.
I just want to mention a couple young pitchers the Braves have in their minor league system. The Braves have been known for developing great young pitching and if things keep going the way they are, they are going to have a gold-mine. Take a look at these stats:
Randall Delgado 2-5 (don’t worry about the record) 2.41 ERA 93 K 89.2 IP .99 WHIP
Arodys Vizcaino 9-3 2.34 ERA 66 K 69.1 IP 1.00 WHIP
Julio Teheran 5-3 1.27 ERA 83 K 78.1 IP .86 WHIP
Though only in A-ball, these three hard-throwing right-handers have been absolutely dominating hitters for the first half of the 2010 season. And if you want to add the Braves 1st round pick from 2009, Mike Minor, into the equation the Braves are really have a bright future in terms of quality young pitching arms. Minor, who completes what has been dubbed the Braves’ “Big-Four” pitching prospects, has had some rough outings that have pushed his ERA over 4, but Minor has led the league in strikeouts most of the year, with 109 Ks in 87 IP.
Finally, I’ve got to mention that the best pitcher ever, Stephen Strasburg, is set to pitch against the Braves on Monday at Turner Field. I’m just a little worried about what is going to happen when Jason Heyward steps to the plate against Strasburg. I know Atlanta is not known for earthquakes, but I’m not sure the Earth can absorb the shock it is going to take if Heyward makes contact with a Strasburg pitch. I’m expecting some sort on lightning bolt to shoot out of the bat and the skies to darken, as in one of those disaster movies that are pumped out one after another.. I’m not saying that the world will come to an end or anything like that, but just be prepared. And it may be wise to watch the game in a tornado shelter…just a suggestion.
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Until Next time….I just hope there will be a next time…Go Braves!