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July 15, 2010

Mid-season Prescriptions

NL East

by Ben Lindbergh

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A nine-game losing streak made Atlanta the division’s lone sub-.500 team in April, but a strong pitching staff featuring the league’s best bullpen east of Petco Park has helped the Braves check into a room with a five-game view atop the NL East. Theirs is a well-rounded roster with no systemic weaknesses, but the Braves can’t afford to be completely complacent if they hope to extend Eric Hinske’s World Series appearance streak to four. The absence of Nate McLouth and Jason Heyward has led to entirely too much Melky Cabrera, who too often puts the “out” into “outfielder” at the plate. The return of the once and future right fielder Heyward would send most of the riffraff to the bench where it belongs, but further room for improvement remains. Signing Willy Taveras to a minor-league is merely a cry for additional help, and if the Braves aren’t believers in a McLouth revival, David DeJesus would make an attractive target to play center field. Even if Atlanta is content to risk letting center field lie fallow, acquiring a right-handed corner bat—Josh Willingham or Cody Ross would do nicely, if one could be pried away from a division rival—might improve the fortunes of a team that has often looked lost against lefties, though Atlanta could also choose to obtain a slugging southpaw (like Luke Scott) to complement Matt Diaz’s talents in the platoon department.


A pair of eight-game winning streaks has catapulted the Mets to within two games of the wild-card-leading Rockies, but there’s reason to expect some regression unless improvements are made. The Amazins’ pitching staff is more pedestrian than it appears, sporting a SIERA almost half a run higher than its 3.81 ERA; rumored trade target Ted Lilly seems to have left his strikeout rate in 2009, but his fly-ball-oriented approach would suit Citi Field nicely, as would Octavio Dotel’s. At anything close to 100 percent, Carlos Beltran could be the most important acquisition any team makes during the remainder of this month, but his impact would be blunted if Jerry Manuel chooses to play out whisperer Jeff Francoeur in right field over Angel Pagan, who’s been the most valuable Met not named David Wright. Pagan and Jose Reyes have sped their way to nearly a win on the basepaths, and their successful rushing has helped the team from Flushing lead the majors in EqBRR.


The Phillies haven’t looked like defending NL champions, but they remain within striking distance of the division lead, as well as a wild-card berth. In the absence of Chase Utley and Placido Polanco, the likes of Greg Dobbs, Juan Castro, and Wilson Valdez are vying to become replacement-level killers, so the Phillies should consider pursuing a Kelly Johnson or Ty Wigginton type to thwart that trio’s dark designs. Starting pitchers have accounted for 72.4 percent of the Phillies' innings, the highest ratio in the majors, but considering the cast of characters composing the rotation behind Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels, that’s not necessarily an achievement of which to be proud. Ruben Amaro Jr. can do more than cry over spilt Lee; with Domonic Brown (perhaps baseball’s best prospect) tearing up Triple-A, the GM could afford to dangle impending free agent Jayson Werth for an acceptable return in starting pitching. Even if the Phillies decide that their right fielder is Werth more to them where he is, they should consider putting Brown into motion in place of the sunk cost represented by left fielder Raul Ibanez.


If some divine watchmaker polices baseball’s won-loss records, ensuring that the luck of the league balances out in the long run, then perhaps the Marlins have underperformed their third-order record (running up the NL’s second-worst record in one-run games) in order that the Mets might exceed theirs. Our Adjusted Standings Report places the Fish in theoretical third, but the 11-game deficit they face in the real NL East suggests that it’s high time to cut bait. Cutting bats might be even wiser, and Florida should seek to move any in the vicinity of age 30, including those belonging to Dan Uggla, Ross, and Jorge Cantu. The low-budget Marlins must keep the conga line moving in order to ball on a budget, so they should also attempt to move any fungible bullpen parts experiencing career-best success, such as Leo Nunez and Clay Hensley.


Headed for their third straight season in the NL East cellar, the Nationals may be on life support, but Stephen Strasburg’s presence should keep the patient alert and responsive until the end arrives. The afterlife holds promise, and the club could hasten its budding rebuilding movement by casting off some pieces that won’t be part of its first division winner in Washington. The Nats should capitalize on career-best performances from free-agents-to-be Adam Dunn and Willingham (as well as Matt Capps, who’s signed for 2011) while they’re still theirs to parlay into prospects, and persuade Cristian Guzman to waive his no-trade rights for a trip to a contender. GM Mike Rizzo has plenty of rotation help on the way, and would be well-served by sweet-talking an overly trusting team into taking on Livan Hernandez’s deceptively diminutive ERA.

A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider Insider.

Ben Lindbergh is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Ben's other articles. You can contact Ben by clicking here

15 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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The Braves are four games up, not five.

Jul 15, 2010 05:26 AM
rating: 0

Add to that - "GM Frank Wren should also resist the temptation to sell low on Yunel Escobar, from whom he can expect better things in the second half."

This article was posted 7/15. The Braves traded Escobar 7/14. Editor anyone?

(And I'll ignore the premise that the Braves should have "expected" anything from a GB and pop-up machine with no speed, an unexplained complete loss of power, and who has suffered from too frequent mental lapses his entire career).

Jul 15, 2010 05:57 AM
rating: 0

While I agree that that part could/should have been edited out, I think these are the types of things we concede in order to have the articles up early in the morning.

Jul 15, 2010 06:18 AM
rating: 0
Matthew Avery

I think it may also have to do with the fact that this article was published over at ESPN prior to the trade. Not sure what the deal is and whether they're allowed to edit between publishing over there and publishing over here, but that could be restrictive.

Jul 15, 2010 06:21 AM
rating: 0

Well, if that's the case, it's a broken arrangement. I pay for content at BP, not ESPN.

Jul 15, 2010 07:13 AM
rating: 0
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

That's right, Matt--this was turned over just before the final game of the first half. I'm not sure how the editing process on ESPN pieces works, but I'll see what can be done.

Jul 15, 2010 07:20 AM

To me, the issue is not so much whether obviously outdated material can be edited, but that BP subscribers are regularly presented with outdated material posing as current.

This is a complaint against BP, not directed at Ben.

Jul 15, 2010 07:56 AM
rating: 0
Matthew Avery

Don't forget that they need to add a RH corner bat.... Or a LH corner bat to pair with the RH corner bat they already have. Wait, what?

Jul 15, 2010 06:20 AM
rating: 0

Another factor that occurs me with this new Braves lineup ---
with the injury histories of Chipper, Glauys and A. Gonzalez, what's the Braves' over-under on days-lost-to-injury down the stretch?

Jul 15, 2010 12:45 PM
rating: 0

The Braves went into this season with several known injury risks- Chipper, Glaus, Hudson, Wagner, etc. So far, only Chipper's lost time.

Gotta be good and lucky to win. So far Braves have (and the Philles haven't had the health luck they had the past 2 years)

Jul 18, 2010 20:13 PM
rating: 0

Do you believe that any team will be willing to part with sufficient prospects to make up for the production + compensatory draft picks the Nats would receive upon losing Dunn, Hammer, etc?

Jul 15, 2010 12:56 PM
rating: 0

Hammer's still under club control for another year, his last for arbitration.

Jul 17, 2010 15:15 PM
rating: 0

Surprised Bay was not mentioned in the Mets part. Any explanations for his absolute lack of power, other than ballpark?

Jul 15, 2010 13:52 PM
rating: 0

Bay's 2010 is like Wrights 2009, IMO

Jul 18, 2010 20:11 PM
rating: 0

I think that the Nats will be in the Wild Card race-no trades needed.

Ron of NJ

Jul 15, 2010 18:21 PM
rating: 0
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