To help preview our upcoming series against the Braves, I sat down with Scott Coleman from one of the top Braves blogs on the net, Talking Chop, to discuss the Braves season so far. We also answered some questions for them, which we will post when they become available.
TNB: What has been the secret to the Braves success this year? Going into the season many considered the Braves a great empire on their way out, but at 57-41 the club is riding high.
Talking Chop: To be honest, they do a little bit of everything. The offense doesn't hit for much power, but they lead baseball in team OBP and walks. Guys like Eric Hinske, Omar Infante and Brooks Conrad have been huge for us at the plate and no one expect that. Martin Prado, who's been just incredible at the plate, and Jason Heyward form the best 1-2 combo in baseball and we've gotten solid production from Chipper, McCann and Glaus in the middle of our lineup.
Our pitching has also been very good. Our bullpen, up until the last week, has been lights out. Billy Wagner has been great in his final season and guys like Peter Moylan, Takashi Saito, Jonny Venters and Eric O'Flaherty have all been huge for us. Our rotation has been pretty consistent all season, and it got a big boost once Jair Jurrjens returned from the DL a few weeks ago. Guys like Kris Medlen and Jonny Venters are having incredible years and they've played huge roles for us so far.
TNB: How big of an impact has Chipper Jones had on the team this year, despite his diminished skills?
Talking Chop: This is Chipper's team, and he's the un-questioned leader in the clubhouse. He was pretty bad in April and May, but once retirement talk came up in June, he's really stepped it up. He still controls the strikezone better than most in baseball and continues to have a great OBP. My wish is to hit him 2nd and Heyward 3rd, but hey, I'm not Bobby Cox and don't have the 4th most wins in baseball history.
TNB: How good can Jason Heyward get?
While the nation watched Matt Garza throw a no-hitter on ESPN tonight, Washington Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann struggled for the first time in his rehab from Tommy John surgery. Ben Goessling reports:
"Not a good night for Zimmermann. He gave up seven runs, six of them earned, on seven hits over five innings. He gave up a couple homers, which accounted for most of the runs. Reader Riverdog, who was at the game in Hagerstown, said Zimmermann looked good at times, particularly in a five-pitch fourth inning, but didn't locate the ball well most of the night. But it's a rehab start, and the more important thing is whether ZImmermann comes out of it healthy."
Zimmermann had been dominant in his first four starts in his rehab assignment. In 13 innings pitched the 24-year-old had allowed no earned runs and struck out 13. The righty had been pitching so well that there was even talk of bringing the former top arm in the Nationals system to start in place of the injured J.D. Martin at the end of this week. With Zimmermann's poor performance, the Nats are likely to hold off on that prospect. They don't want to rush one of the most important arms in the system to help their future number two get a few more starts in the show in 2010.
This is likely just a hiccup, expect "Jay-Z" to return to form in his next start, and find his way up to Washington in August.
ESPN.COM's Jayson Stark reports that the Nationals are still working hard to sign Dunn to an extension, but if they can not sign him to a deal before the deadline, he will likely be shipped. He also reports that the club may be working on a three-way deal with the White Sox and the Diamondbacks which would bring starting pitcher Edwin Jackson to Washington:
"Rumblings continue to surface about a possible three-team deal involving the Nationals, White Sox and Diamondbacks that would send Edwin Jackson to Washington, Dunn to Chicago and a bunch of young pitchers to Arizona."
Jackson is 6-9 with a 5.01 ERA this season in 20 starts for Arizona, posting 101 strikeouts to 58 walks in 129 innings. The 26-year-old Jackson is coming off of a strong season with Detroit where he went 13-9 with a 3.62 ERA
Are Edwin Jackson's inconsistent and recently poor numbers worth the talent of an Adam Dunn?
Updated 4:45- Alex DiFilippo of MLB.COM wrote today that while Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski is interested in a deal for Adam Dunn, he is not looking to trade away major blue-chip prospects.
Dombrowski said: "Other clubs look at us and say, 'Well, they are desperate so maybe they will trade us Oliver and Turner. Well we aren't. I'm not meaning to say that anyone is untouchable. I'm not going to give away blue-chip young players for a guy for two months. It just doesn't make sense. Will we be active in talking to people? Yes. If there is a deal that we think can be made that can help us, will we? Yes. Are we going to mortgage our future? No."
4:26 - Bill Ladson of MLB.COM tweeted today that following the injury of Magglio Ordonez, the Detroit Tigers now have 'great interest' in Adam Dunn as a replacement middle of the order bat.
Ordonez had been a big part of the Tigers offense this season as the slugger was having a comeback year. The 36-year-old was batting .303/.378/.474 with 12 homers and 59 RBI on the season so far. Ordonez suffered a broken ankle and will be out 6-8 weeks for the Tigers who are currently in the playoff hunt in the American League Central.
Mike Rizzo has said over and over that the Nationals would need to be blown away by an offer in order to trade their top slugger. A team looking to improve, such as the White Sox, may not be willing to give up what it takes to "blow away" Rizzo, however a team looking to stay in the picture very well may trade away big pieces of their future just to save their season...
The combination of Miguel Cabrera and Adam Dunn could certainly not only save the Tigers season, who currently are 2.5 games out of first place in their division, but it could help push them over the top and make them a World Series contender. A combination of two hitters of that magnitude would certainly be a force to be reckoned with, especially since they both represent threats from opposite sides of the plate. It could also help Cabrera secure his first MVP award.
On top of what the move could do for the Tigers, the Detroit front office might be tempted to make it happen because it would stop the White Sox from acquiring Dunn themselves. Until now, Chicago had been making the strongest bid at the Nationals first baseman.
Hopefully, the sudden interest by the Tigers means the two clubs will get in a bidding war.
Rizzo has stated that he still puts a premium on young pitching, and the Tigers have four top pitching prospects in Jacob Turner, Casey Crosby, Andy Oliver, and Daniel Schlereth.
Uggla is without question one of the top hitting second basemen in the league, as for his fielding...thats another story. I have to disagree with Marlin Maniac when he says that "Dan Uggla cannot be considered a cornerstone of a franchise in the same lines as Hanley Ramirez and Josh Johnson." Sure he is not a player you would necessarily want to pick first in your fantasy draft but I would consider him a "core" player that you would want with your team for several years. He can still be a valuable asset for anyone for the next five seasons.
Mets Blog gives us the latest on the state of the franchise.
There is no doubt that this season has been up and down for the Mets and clearly, there in the midst of one of their down swings. Is it just me or have things just not felt right ever since the return of Carlos Beltran? I'm not trying to throw Beltran under the bus or anything, but is it possible that he ruined some of the chemistry this team once had? The Mets have now fell into third place behind the Braves and Phillies, and their record is creeping closer to .500 as they currently are at 50-47. The team can only hope to get someone before the deadline to give them a boost.
After a disappointing first half, the Phillies have fired their hitting coach, Milt Thompson.
Interesting move, but I can understand why they did it, that's just part of the game. The team hasn't been healthy all year but that shouldn't be an excuse for the poor performance. Jayson Werth started out as one of the hottest players in the league but is now on the trading block batting .280 with 13 home runs and 52 RBI, at that pace he will end up short of last years 36 homers and 99 RBI. Its amazing how their offense has fallen to one of the worst in the NL this season, the numbers don't lie, it was time to make a change.
Ben Goessling of MASN.com suggests that the Washington Nationals may recall 24-year-old Jordan Zimmermann to make an emergency start in place of recently injured J.D. Martin:
"The Nationals' rotation will get yet another new look later this week, this one coming in light of the strained lower back that will send JD Martin to the disabled list on Sunday. In the short term, Martin's injury means Collin Balester will stay in the majors for a few more days, at least until the Nationals need another starter.
That will likely come on Friday against the Phillies, when Martin would have been scheduled to pitch next. The Nationals could bump it back to Saturday, pitching Ross Detwiler on regular rest. But they're using him on short rest tomorrow, so it seems likely they'd give him an extra day to make up for this week's workload.
From what I can see now, there's one reason the Nationals could have Detwiler pitch on the 30th: so they could bring Jordan Zimmermann back on the 31st against the Phillies. Zimmermann has a rehab start at Single-A Hagerstown on Monday, so he could make the start on regular rest. But the Nationals likely will want to wait until early August to bring Zimmermann back, giving him a little extra time in his Tommy John surgery rehab."
Goessling goes on to suggest that Scott Olsen and Jason Marquis could be ready to make their return, but wont be available as they are scheduled to pitch Thursday and Friday respectively.
I tend to agree with Goessling here when he says that it might be a bit too early to bring back Zimmermann. Yes, he has been dominant in Potomac during his Thommy John rehab, posting 0.00 ERA and striking out 13 batters in 13 innings. However there is no reason to rush an arm that the organization which the franchise is counting on for the future.
Zimmermann has a long history of injuries, as well as a history of recovering from them quickly. Perhaps in this season which is turning out to be a wash, the Nationals should give him something he hasn't had in his young lift, a chance to fully recover.
I think the wiser choice is to have one of the minor leaguers skip a start in order to be at full rest for a major league call up next weekend. A good choice could be Matt Chico, who is scheduled to start on Tuesday for Triple-A Syracuse.
In 14 starts for Syracuse, Chico has a 5-4 record with a 3.58 ERA.
Bill Ladson is one of the top MLB.COM reporters around, and not to mention one of the nicest guys you'll meet. Out of all the Nationals beat reporters he does the best job of finding out the inside scoop, and breaking stories, despite being hired by the league to promote it in a positive light.
That being said, if he believes Rizzo will keep the core of the team together through next year, he is likely to know better than anyone.