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Divide and Conquer, NL East 

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July 6, 2011 9:00 am

Divide and Conquer, NL East: First-Half MVPs

15

Michael Jong

With the All-Star break approaching, it's time to see how teams are faring in a matchup of club WARP leaders versus salary leaders.

With the first half of the season winding down, it is time to award the NL East players their first-half MVP awards. But to make things more interesting, let’s see how these said first-half MVPs match up to their respective contracts and whether some of the higher-priced members of the division are living up their deals. For each organization, the team leader in WARP will be listed along with their WARP total and 2011 salary. The team's highest-paid player in 2011 will also be listed likewise.

Philadelphia Phillies
First-half MVP: Cliff Lee (3.5 WARP, $11 million)
Highest-paid: Roy Halladay (2.9 WARP, $20 million) / Ryan Howard (1.9 WARP, $20 million)



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June 29, 2011 9:00 am

Divide and Conquer, NL East: National Fever

4

Michael Jong

The Nationals have garnered headlines for their managerial situation lately, but the team deserves consideration as well.

Last week, we discussed the intriguing downfall of the Florida Marlins, but an equally intriguing upswing occurring this season is the rise of the Washington Nationals. Thanks to a stretch of 12 wins in 14 games and a 17-7 June record, they ascended from being declared playoff-dead a few weeks ago to a third-place standing in the National League East. The Nationals have not necessarily beaten the best competition during this time period; their recent hot streak has come at the expense of three of the worst teams in baseball in the San Diego Padres, Baltimore Orioles, and Seattle Mariners. Still, the story of a team that has occupied the cellar of the NL East in all but one season since its relocation succeeding at reaching a standard of decency not seen from the franchise since 2005 has had some odd twists and turns along the way.

The Nationals have come a long way since, well, being the Natinals and an NL laughingstock. Just two seasons ago, the team was coming off a second consecutive 100-plus loss season, but things were on the rise in Washington. Two consecutive first overall draft picks yielded two of the most-heralded prospects in Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper, and those two were supposed to join forces with Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth, and the rest of the roster to form a strong contender in 2013 or 2014. However, the core the Nationals currently have assembled is doing a decent job of carrying the team right now. The club currently has four players with over 2.0 WARP on the season, a claim only nine other teams can make as of Saturday evening. When stacking those players against the rest of the NL East, the Nationals rank appropriately.

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As bad as any team in more than half a century, that's how bad, and even Albus McKeon Dumbledore won't fix 'em.

The Marlins are in the midst of one of the worst months of baseball in more than a half-century. The team has won only three of its last 22 games, including only one win in the month of June. No Marlins team has ever finished with fewer than six wins in a month with at least 15 games. Even the terrible 1998 Marlins, the  stripped team that followed the first World Series in the franchise's history, never finished with fewer than seven wins in a single month.

The Fish are owners of what is currently the worst mark in any one calendar month by any one NL East team since 1950:

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Hamels' inconsistency has been greatly exaggerated, John Mallee suffers a fate he didn't deserve, and more.

The Philadelphia Phillies bounced back from a poor week two weeks ago, including a four-game losing streak to the likes of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Washington Nationals, to pick up five of seven games since last Sunday. This was partly due to the continued success of Cole Hamels, who has turned in one of his best seasons so far in 2011, recording a 2.58 ERA and winning eight games for the NL East leaders.

Of course, this has brought up conversation about Hamels once again regaining “consistency” or “growing up into a man,” the same sort of commentary people were making when he became the 2008 World Series MVP. Hamels’ consistency, or lack thereof, has always been a point of contention. If you look at his career in terms of ERA, it certainly does seem to have been a wild ride, but as Baseball Prospectus author and resident Philly Phanatic Bill Baer has repeated often, Hamels has been a very good pitcher with some varying streaks of luck over the last four seasons:

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The NL East's status as a debtor's haven hasn't stopped the Nats from coveting a certain Rays outfielder, plus other notes from teams that may have to apply for access to the TARP program.

This past week, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reported that nine MLB teams were in violation of MLB's debt service rules, which state that teams can not hold debt greater than 10 percent of their annual earnings. Four of those nine teams were residents of the NL East, including the Florida Marlins, New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies, and Washington Nationals. Maury Brown of The Biz of Baseball offered his explanations for eight of those teams here, with the one puzzling team missing being the Marlins. The Fish do not share the Phillies' large payroll, the Mets' significant financial liabilities, or the Nationals' payroll-to-attendance disparity. Of the four teams mentioned, you have to figure that the Mets are in the biggest trouble, which is part of the reason they might consider moving some of their star players.

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Michael Jong annexes the NL East in our newest edition to the "Divide and Conquer" series. This week: the mysterious Javier Vazquez and Jose Reyes vs. Carl Crawford.

Today we start the newest edition of Divide and Conquer, conquering the territory known as the National League East. As some of you may know, I happen to be a fairly vocal and enthusiastic fan of a certain fan-less NL East franchise, so I generally have my pulse on a lot of what else occurs around the division. Today's topic of discussion: disappointment, those who define it, those who express it, and those who overcome it.

Leaving the biggest Marlins disappointment aside (hint: his initials are “HR”), the Fish are dealing with two disappointing cases right now, though they are disappointments of different kinds. The Fish are apparently not expecting Josh Johnson to return when eligible on June 1 as initially planned. In fact, the team is expecting him to miss two more starts before returning on the following home stand around June 6. Corey Dawkins and Ben Lindbergh already covered his injury this past Monday on Collateral Damage, but this quote is worth revisiting:

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