August 2012

Some thoughts on the Nationals and Braves

This has been fun, setting up shop for a full series, watching two good teams play, actually getting to know the clubs a little bit. Here are a few thoughts and observations that haven’t made it into what I’ve written for the site.

* I really like the Braves lineup, but it’s somewhat susceptible to being shut down by good left-handed pitching. It’s a heavily lefty lineup, though Freddie Freeman for one has been solid lefty-on-lefty.

What will be interesting to see, as they go down the stretch and if they make it to October, is how Fredi Gonzalez handles the tactical pieces he has on his bench. Atlanta has two very nice lefty-killers in reserve: David Ross and Reed Johnson. And that’s convenient, since Jason Heyward and Brian McCann have been the two most problematic players against lefties for Atlanta this year.

By contrast, the Nationals have very little platoon split, and they go left-right-left-right all the way through the lineup. They have dangerous hitters from both sides of the plate. The reason I wasn’t as optimistic about Washington as a lot of people were back in March was that I wasn’t sure they’d score enough runs. But with Jayson Werth’s bounceback, Mike Morse repeating what he’s done and Adam LaRoche having his best year since ’09, this is a strong offense.

* Davey Johnson seemed to let slip the target date for Stephen Strasburg’s shutdown today. He said they would need two or possibly three starts from whoever steps in, indicating that Strasburg will pitch until about the last 10-15 games of the year.

Washington ends the season with 16 games in 16 days, so it sounds like Strasburg make his last start sometime in the Nats’ last full-week homestand, quite possibly against the Dodgers between Sept. 18-20.

It sounds like there’s still a little bit of wiggle room based on changing circumstances, but the way Johnson phrased it today made it pretty clear that they have a date. They just haven’t made it public.

* The Braves’ schedule is intriguing. They’ve got a rough go right now, with a trip to San Francisco immediately following tonight’s game and no off day in between. But after that, it really eases up. They have exactly the schedule you want if you’re leading a race (and they are, leading the Wild Card by three games over Pittsburgh and 3 1/2 by the first team not in playoff position, St. Louis).

They not only see mostly non-contending teams (with the exception of those games against the Giants and one more series with Washington), which is of course nice. But more important, the teams that are chasing them have almost no chances to gain ground directly. After this weekend, Atlanta has one more series in 2012 against another team in the Wild Card race — they end the year with a series in Pittsburgh.

And, finally, the playlist is an assortment of stuff from some of my favorite albums so far in 2012:

Japandroids, “Younger Us”
Bruce Springsteen, “Rocky Ground”
Cloud Nothings, “Stay Useless”
Justin Townes Earle, “Am I That Lonely Tonight?”
Jack White, “Love Interruption”

-M.

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