After twelve games, a rocky start, and a hot streak, the Bravos are tied for second place in their division (Which is like kissing your second cousin? No?) Here’s how I feel about each NL team, listed by division standings as of this afternoon.
Washington: For some reason, I find it hard to take this team seriously. Maybe it’s because they’ve only been in the US for a few years, or maybe it’s because they once wore jerseys with their team name misspelled (“Natinals”). But I have to take notice this season, because it’s quite possible that the Nationals have never fielded a better squad. Carried by a formidable starting rotation, the Nats are off to league-leading start. Jayson Werth leads the club with a .362 average, and former Brave Adam LaRoche is third in the MLB with 13 RBIs. They’ve won every series thus far, but haven’t exactly faced the toughest opposition (Cubs, Astros, Reds, Mets). We’ll see what the Nationals (or the “Natinals”) are really made of when they end April with a west-coast road trip, then begin May with a couple home series against the Dbacks and Phillies.
Atlanta: Having won seven of our last eight, that grisly start is little more than a distant memory, albeit a painful one. Since Chipper’s return, our offense has been clicking on all cylinders. His presence has had an obvious positive effect on our club, but they’ve been able to win without Chip as well, getting great production from Michael Bourn, Uggla, and especially J-Hey. Freeman slumped, but now he’s got four hits in the last two games, including his first homerun. Juan Francisco even has back-to-back games with homers. At this point, there’s no bigger concern than our inefficient pitching. Starters and relievers alike have been throwing too many pitches in too few innings. I worry about our pitchers getting worn out, and I worry even more about consistently using on Durbin and Hernandez. Even using them to eat up innings in out-of-reach games makes me nervous. If we could have a couple games in which the starter completes seven innings, we could avoid overworking the bullpen while sticking with our best four guys: Medlen, O’Flaherty, Venters, and Kimbrel. Hopefully we can build on our momentum in our upcoming road games against Arizona and LA, and maybe even get a few deep starts our of our rotation.
New York: Even though they dominated us in the opening series (honestly, we kind of beat ourselves) nothing makes me think New York will be a true contender this year. Then again, maybe that’s just my anti-Mets bias showing, because David Wright is the hottest hitter on the planet, and the rest of their offense can get the job done as well. Their starters looked sharp the first time around, but in Atlanta they’ve been shaky at best (see Johan’s 1.1 inning start).
Miami: Between the preseason hype, the wacky new stadium (which looks more like a theme park than a ballpark), and Ozzie putting his foot in his mouth, the start of the Miami season has been a circus. But Hanley Ramirez is heating up, and our old friend Omar Infante is off to a great start (despite an unforgivable bases loaded error). If nothing else, they are fun to watch and make for good story lines. It’s just too bad that national sports media devotes more coverage to Miami’s controversy than the rest of the NL East combined.
Philadelphia: I can’t overstate how happy I am to see Philly at the bottom. For our chances at winning the division, it’s critical for them to lose as many games as possible early on, before Utley or Howard return (if they return this season). Halladay is going to get his wins; it’s inevitable. But the rest of their rotation has proved vulnerable, which is good news for opposition. I have complete faith in Atlanta’s ability to sweep Philly if we get matched up against their third through fifth starters. However, don’t get used to seeing them in the lower half of the standings. They’ll string together a winning streak sooner or later. I just hope they don’t get their act together by their first meeting with Atlanta on May 1st.
Follow me on Twitter @ThomasMDuncan, and go Braves!