Saturday, July 27, 2013

2009 Braves : 2013 Nationals

The Nationals lost in the first game of a double-header against the Mets 11-0 on Friday.  The loss dropped them to 49-54.  Still, media types are curious when this Nationals ballclub will start making good on the promise that prompted many to slot them as the preseason favorite to win the NL East.  Recently, the Nationals tried to jump-start the team by firing their hitting coach, but it hasn't helped.

Very few current Braves can sympathize, but those members of the 2009 Braves seem to know what it's like to increase expectations and fail so spectacularly.  While the Nationals increased what everyone thought they were capable of with their 2012 division-winning campaign, in 2009, the Braves raised the expectations of fans and the media with an active winter that included the signings of Derek Lowe, Kenshin Kawakami, and the trade of Javier Vazquez to surround the young Jair Jurrjens.  They also added veteran Garret Anderson before spring training.  The Braves were considered challengers to the Phillies, who sought to defend their first World Series championship since 1993.

But things quickly derailed for the Braves.  The team lacked power, relying heavily on base hits and walks to overcome that power outage.  Brian McCann led the team with 21 homers, a total that doesn't seem likely to be in the top three on the current Braves.  Jeff Francoeur fell on his face and was replaced with the forgetful Ryan Church.  Kelly Johnson struggled and was replaced with Martin Prado.  Jordan Schafer excelled.  For a game before being replaced eventually by Nate McLouth.  Tom Glavine was supposed to be the fifth starter, but never got healthy and Tommy Hanson replaced him causing Glavine to be was released without making a start.

Atlanta fell to four games back on July 5th after a loss to the Nationals and just kinda floated between four games back and 8.5 games back, briefly falling to nine games back for one day.  They never threatened, never seemed to be awful.  After their 103rd game, comparable to the Nationals this season, Atlanta was 52-51, three games better than the Nats.  They would actually finish strong, 34-25, behind strong runs from Adam LaRoche and Lowe.  However, that helped them gain all of a game on the division-winning Phillies.

The Nationals have been four games back or worse since May 21st and coming into the Friday night game, they trailed Atlanta by 8.5 games.  A lot has made on twitter about what the Nationals would have to do to catch the Braves.  For instance, if the Braves played their final 60 games with a 30-30 record, to catch the Braves, the Nationals would have to go 38-21.  If the Braves go 35-25, the Nationals would have to go 43-16.  And so on and so on.

But to me, the Nationals are the 2009 Braves.  They're good.  That Braves team went on to win 86 games.  However, Washington is not a great team and have shown zero signs of turning it around and why should they?  It was unlikely Ross Detweiler was going to have another career year.  Seemed doubtful that LaRoche would go all super-LaRoche in a walk year again.  And why should anyone expect Denard Span to be tremendous when looking at his recent history?  And was grabbing Rafael Soriano, also a member of that '09 Braves team, supposed to be the finishing piece?

The Nationals can't hit.  They have been comically bad, scoring 379 runs in their first 103 games, an average of 3.68 R/G.  Their pitching has been good, but like the team overall, not great.  In fact, after the first game Friday, their run differential is -40.  The '09 Braves were actually a better team when compared to that.  But the '09 Phillies played better than the Braves so that evens out.

Over a full season, the Nationals will be in the running.  I imagine they will finish at .500 or better.  They might even have a couple of good weeks here and there.  But they no longer deserve the scoreboard watching Braves fans give them.  They weren't the team the media made them to be.

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