Author Topic: Paul Swydan Believes Braves Will Catch Nats [but who gives gives a rat's ...]  (Read 9190 times)

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Offline mimontero88

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Paul Swydan, a frequent contributor for Fangraphs, wrote the following article for ESPN Insider.

Quote from: Paul Swydan
The Atlanta Braves have been a top-15 team in the ESPN Power Rankings for most of the season, but lately they have cemented themselves in the top 10. This week marks their fourth straight in the top 10, and they have climbed into the top five for the first time since June 11. The Braves continue to overcome injuries to their pitching staff and are poised to leapfrog the Washington Nationals in the final two months of the season.

The Braves have had to scramble a bit in regard to their starting rotation. Brandon Beachy blowing out his arm wasn't part of the plan nor was Jair Jurrjens' continued regression into oblivion. Tommy Hanson's injury problems could have been foreseen, but certainly the Braves were hopeful that he would be healthy this season.

But each time someone falls, someone steps up.

Ben Sheets has a 1.46 ERA and 1.95 FIP in four starts for Atlanta. Sure, it's just four starts, but who thought Sheets had even one more major league start left in him? Newly acquired Paul Maholm should fit in nicely as a league-average innings muncher who the team can count on every five days.


Then there's Kris Medlen. After compiling a 2.72 FIP in 54 1/3 innings out of the bullpen, the righty stepped into the rotation this week for the first time in nearly two years and pitched effectively. He allowed just two runs in 10 1/3 innings and struck out nine. Time will tell if the 26-year-old Medlen needs to be a permanent part of the rotation mix -- much of that will depend on Hanson's health -- but he provides the Braves with a high-upside play in case Hanson misses extended time (as do Randall Delgado and Julio Teheran).

The Nationals, on the other hand, have no such depth. If Stephen Strasburg is shut down for the season, they will need to turn to John Lannan, an enormous downgrade by any metric. In addition, even with Drew Storen's return, the Nationals' bullpen has not been as invincible as it was early in the season.

After posting above-average numbers for the season's first three months, the bullpen posted a 4.66 ERA and 4.77 FIP in July, the latter of which was the third-worst in the game. The rotation has remained solid, but with Strasburg potentially being removed from the picture by the end of September's first week and the bullpen reeling a little bit, Washington may not finish the season with the same dominant pitching with which it started.

Aside from Chipper Jones and Jason Heyward, the Atlanta offense has gone in spurts. Early in the season, Michael Bourn, Martin Prado and Dan Uggla were hot while Freddie Freeman and Brian McCann started slowly. Recently, Freeman and McCann have come on as Bourn, Prado and Uggla have struggled. Pile up the whole season, though, and the Braves have a deep unit capable of supporting its pitching staff. Atlanta is tied for 10th in wRC+ this season, and it should be even better once Andrelton Simmons returns from his broken right pinkie finger. At the time of his injury, the rookie shortstop was pairing above-average contact skills and a decent batting eye with superb defense.

The Nationals should improve offensively once they get shortstop Ian Desmond back. This week saw Jayson Werth return to the Nats' outfield, and he shook off the rust quickly, notching at least one hit in each of his first four games. But even with Werth, Washington's outfield play leaves something to be desired. For the season, the Nationals' outfield has a minus-5.8 UZR. That should tick up slightly with Werth roaming the green pastures, but he is not the elite defender he used to be; in the past four seasons, his cumulative defensive value is in the red. Contrast that with Atlanta, whose outfield trio of Bourn, Heyward and Prado is by far the best defensive unit in the game. In fact, Atlanta's only below-replacement defensive starter has been Freeman, and at minus-0.8, he is barely so.

Catcher is another consideration that points heavily in Atlanta's favor. While the Braves have a great backup in David Ross (136 wRC+ in 116 PA) to pair with the increasingly hot McCann, the Nationals have struggled to find a catching solution in the wake of Wilson Ramos' injury. Jesus Flores has been awful, and Sandy Leon hasn't been much better. This week, the Nats brought in Kurt Suzuki in a trade with the Oakland Athletics. While he still plays good defense, it's hard to see him as an upgrade offensively. Only five players have a worse BB/K ratio than Suzuki this season (minimum 200 plate appearances), and his 44 wRC+ is even worse than Flores' 48.

The Braves have heated up in the second half and have won 10 of their past 12 games. When the first half ended, the Nationals seemed like clear front-runners in the National League East. Though they have maintained a slim lead, it may not last.

There are cracks in Washington's facade, which will widen once Strasburg is shut down. The Braves, meanwhile, have solidified their starting rotation, found hitters to carry the team for stretches and played great defense the entire season. Should the Nationals take their foot off the gas pedal, the Braves will be ready to speed past them.

Thoughts?

Offline Smithian

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Re: Paul Swydan Believes Braves Will Catch Nats
« Reply #1: August 08, 2012, 11:30:53 PM »
:lmao:

Offline Sharp

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Re: Paul Swydan Believes Braves Will Catch Nats
« Reply #2: August 08, 2012, 11:32:36 PM »
When the margin between the two teams is so thin, you can make a pretty good case for either team to end the season in first place.  Over a relatively short stretch like what we have until the end of the season, luck is a really big factor.  If the 2009 Nats can win seven games to end the season, surely the 2012 Nats could lose seven, and that would be more than enough if things stood as they do now.  The important thing is that it would take a truly monumental collapse for the Nats not to enter the postseason.  Everything else is just gravy.

Offline wpa2629

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Re: Paul Swydan Believes Braves Will Catch Nats
« Reply #3: August 08, 2012, 11:32:38 PM »
Holy hell at "great defense"

Offline Sharp

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Re: Paul Swydan Believes Braves Will Catch Nats
« Reply #4: August 08, 2012, 11:33:50 PM »
Holy hell at "great defense"

Atlanta does have really great outfield defense, except for the time Harper made Heyward look like an idiot...

Offline Count Walewski

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Re: Paul Swydan Believes Braves Will Catch Nats
« Reply #5: August 08, 2012, 11:34:15 PM »
The Braves have an excellent shot at winning the division, and they are playing some of the hottest baseball of any team in the Majors right now.

Nobody else is beating the Braves, the Nationals are going to either have to do it themselves or accept the wildcard.

Offline Smithian

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Re: Paul Swydan Believes Braves Will Catch Nats
« Reply #6: August 08, 2012, 11:34:55 PM »
The Braves have an excellent shot at winning the division, and they are playing some of the hottest baseball of any team in the Majors right now.

Nobody else is beating the Braves, the Nationals are going to either have to do it themselves or accept the wildcard.
Nats aren't exactly struggling at the moment.

Offline Count Walewski

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Re: Paul Swydan Believes Braves Will Catch Nats
« Reply #7: August 08, 2012, 11:35:02 PM »
The important thing is that it would take a truly monumental collapse for the Nats not to enter the postseason.  Everything else is just gravy.

Not really. The wildcard round is not really the postseason and it burns your #1 pitcher.

Offline Squab

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Re: Paul Swydan Believes Braves Will Catch Nats
« Reply #8: August 08, 2012, 11:36:17 PM »
He seems to think that Atlanta's rotation is massively deeper than the Nats', which looks like total BS to me.
It's entirely possible that the Braves catch the Nats, but it's just as possible that the Nats get out to an eight or ten game lead.

Offline cmdterps44

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Re: Paul Swydan Believes Braves Will Catch Nats
« Reply #9: August 08, 2012, 11:36:23 PM »
I didn't read (I will) but its possible. They're only 4 games behind.

Offline mimontero88

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Re: Paul Swydan Believes Braves Will Catch Nats
« Reply #10: August 08, 2012, 11:36:35 PM »
The Braves have an excellent shot at winning the division, and they are playing some of the hottest baseball of any team in the Majors right now.

Nobody else is beating the Braves, the Nationals are going to either have to do it themselves or accept the wildcard.
The Phillies and Astros have each beaten the Braves during our current 5-game winning streak.

Offline Count Walewski

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Re: Paul Swydan Believes Braves Will Catch Nats
« Reply #11: August 08, 2012, 11:37:22 PM »
The Phillies and Astros have each beaten the Braves during our current 5-game winning streak.


The Phillies beat us worse.

Nats stumbled out of the gate after the All-Star break. They need to play excellent ball against some really good teams to stay in this division race.

Offline Kentucky_National

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Re: Paul Swydan Believes Braves Will Catch Nats
« Reply #12: August 08, 2012, 11:37:45 PM »
Just not worried about the Braves. We own them head to head, and I just think we have a better team.

Offline DPMOmaha

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Re: Paul Swydan Believes Braves Will Catch Nats
« Reply #13: August 08, 2012, 11:37:55 PM »
Sounds like most Braves fans I've talked to.  Nats have answered ever challenge.  I don't expect that to stop.

Offline houston-nat

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Re: Paul Swydan Believes Braves Will Catch Nats
« Reply #14: August 08, 2012, 11:38:40 PM »
This is the same writer who recommended we trade Rendon, Meyer, Espinosa, and Leon for Cole Hamels.

Offline wpa2629

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Re: Paul Swydan Believes Braves Will Catch Nats
« Reply #15: August 08, 2012, 11:39:05 PM »
Atlanta does have really great outfield defense, except for the time Harper made Heyward look like an idiot...

Their infield defense is beyond awful. I find it hard to believe the guy who wrote that has actually watched them play. And no one in their right mind likes Atlanta's rotation more than Washington's.

Offline mimontero88

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Re: Paul Swydan Believes Braves Will Catch Nats
« Reply #16: August 08, 2012, 11:39:38 PM »
He seems to think that Atlanta's rotation is massively deeper than the Nats', which looks like total BS to me.
It's entirely possible that the Braves catch the Nats, but it's just as possible that the Nats get out to an eight or ten game lead.

Yeah I found that puzzling?  Does he really think Ben Sheets is going to be able to sustain a sub-2.00 ERA?  I will take our rotation without Strasburg over the Braves' rotation without Beachy any day.

Offline Squab

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Re: Paul Swydan Believes Braves Will Catch Nats
« Reply #17: August 08, 2012, 11:41:39 PM »
Yeah I found that puzzling?  Does he really think Ben Sheets is going to be able to sustain a sub-2.00 ERA?  I will take our rotation without Strasburg over the Braves' rotation without Beachy any day.

Yeah and Kris Medlen solidifies the rotation after two starts? I mean Craig Stammen could probably do the same thing.

Offline Lintyfresh85

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Re: Paul Swydan Believes Braves Will Catch Nats
« Reply #18: August 08, 2012, 11:42:21 PM »
If Stammen could make it as a starter, he already would have.

Offline wpa2629

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Re: Paul Swydan Believes Braves Will Catch Nats
« Reply #19: August 08, 2012, 11:43:18 PM »
The Phillies beat us worse.

Nats stumbled out of the gate after the All-Star break. They need to play excellent ball against some really good teams to stay in this division race.


Nats are 15-5 in their last 20 games.

And take a look at the games remaining, the overall win percentage for the rest of the competition is less than 500. The Nats schedule in June & July was brutal and they weathered it beautifully. We only play the braves 6 more times head to head. The rest is entirely up to the Nats.

http://espn.go.com/mlb/huntforoctober



Offline Lintyfresh85

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Re: Paul Swydan Believes Braves Will Catch Nats
« Reply #20: August 08, 2012, 11:44:33 PM »
Some people here have the thinest of skins when it comes to others not picking the Nats to win.

It's just an opinion. Who cares what he thinks about who will win. He doesn't change the outcomes of the game.

Offline Squab

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Re: Paul Swydan Believes Braves Will Catch Nats
« Reply #21: August 08, 2012, 11:44:44 PM »
If Stammen could make it as a starter, he already would have.

My point being that two starts doesn't mean Medlen doesn't exactly "provide a high-upside play in case Hanson misses extended time" like the writer says.

Some people here have the thinest of skins when it comes to others not picking the Nats to win.

It's just an opinion. Who cares what he thinks about who will win. He doesn't change the outcomes of the game.

You're right here of course.

Offline lastobjective

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Re: Paul Swydan Believes Braves Will Catch Nats
« Reply #22: August 08, 2012, 11:44:55 PM »
No depth in starting pitching? Have you seen our #2-5 pitchers? A couple of games with Lannan will not hurt us, and he's won the last two games we've asked him to play. Gio and Jordan are both poised to replace Strasberg as the ace once he's out for the season, and Edwin and Ross are having fantastic starts this year.

And when it comes to the bullpen - our starting pitchers haven't pitched too many innings this year, putting a lot more pressure on the bullpen, the starting pitching staff should (hopefully) be able to eat up a lot more innings down the road. We've also made improvements, mostly removing H-Rod and CMW.

Also, for what we're lacking in outfield (though Bernie will obviously give you a run for your money!) we are making up in infield D. Espinosa, Zim and LaRoche are great, and Lombo may not be as great at 2B as Espi but he's still good.

We're not infallible as a team (obviously) and the Braves are giving chase - but I promise you that the reason why the Nats are leading the NL East is NOT solely because Stras is pitching, as this article seems to imply. It's not all doom and gloom after he's shut down, we have a lot more depth than this writer thinks.

Those are my thoughts :) His article isn't completely wrong but he seems to be cherry-picking examples from both sides.

Offline mimontero88

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Re: Paul Swydan Believes Braves Will Catch Nats
« Reply #23: August 08, 2012, 11:45:37 PM »
I also think he seriously disrespected John Lannan in this article.  He refers to Kris Medlen, Julio Teheren, and Randall Delgado as great depth pieces but says the Nationals have no such depth because they would have to turn to John Lannan when all Lannan has done is put up a career 3.99 ERA in 764 IP.  He slight of hands this a bit by saying that Lannan is a massive downgrade from Strasburg.  Of course he is.  So is 95% of the other pitchers in the majors.  But to say Lannan doesn't represent any organizational depth for the rotation is just plain disrespectful.

Offline wpa2629

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Re: Paul Swydan Believes Braves Will Catch Nats
« Reply #24: August 08, 2012, 11:47:48 PM »
Some people here have the thinest of skins when it comes to others not picking the Nats to win.

It's just an opinion. Who cares what he thinks about who will win. He doesn't change the outcomes of the game.


People are simply pointing out the obvious flaws in some of the arguments in the article. There's nothing thin skinned about saying that Washington's rotation is in a better position overall than Atlanta's.