Beasts and Leasts of the NL East

Six weeks into 2011, the National League East has shown us some competitive baseball. Arguably baseball’s toughest division, certain players within the division are giving reason to support that claim, while critics could point to the players who aren’t filling the bill going into mid-May. To that note, here is our first installment of the Beasts and the Leasts of the NL East by position.

Beasts of the NL East:

Josh Johnson -- best of the beasts in the NL East. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

SP1: Josh Johnson: He’s the best pitcher in baseball to this point. A 1.63 ERA and a 0.90 WHIP lead all of MLB, as well as having allowed only 10 earned runs. The Marlins will be a factor all season with him leading their staff.

SP2: Roy Halladay: As with Johnson, the Phillies won’t have long losing streaks with Halladay leading the rotation. The second winningest active pitcher in the major leagues has a 25-3 record as a Phillie in 28 starts when given the lead. Just a few more seasons in a row like his last few will put him in the Hall of Fame.

SP3: Jair Jurrjens: Jurrjens wasn’t expected to have this good of a start this season after an injury-plagued 2010. However, he has allowed the fewest earned runs in the majors, so far (8), and is second only to Johnson in ERA (1.66 to 1.63). He’s a big reason the Braves’ rotation is the best top to bottom in the division.

SP4: Tommy Hanson: A little inconsistent, but even then, Hanson is number seven in the NL in ERA and number six in BAA. Once he irons out the inconsistencies, he’ll be the new ace of the Braves’ staff.

SP5: Anibal Sanchez: Sanchez has quietly emerged as the Marlins’ second-best pitcher, tossing two near no-hitters through the season’s first six weeks. In his last two starts, he hasn’t allowed a run in 15 innings and has struck out 20. He and Johnson provide the Marlins with a formidable top-two in their starting rotation.

1B: Gaby Sanchez: After his first full season with the Marlins, Sanchez hasn’t suffered a sophomore slump from his rookie season. If anything, he has progressed better than fellow 2010 ROY candidates Jason Heyward and Buster Posey. His .331 batting average ranks ninth in the NL.

2B: None: As hard as I tried to pick just one 2B, I couldn’t do it. The highest batting average belongs to Omar Infante of the Marlins, who’s batting a cool .230 — almost 100 points below his All-Star season of a year ago. No beasts at second for now.

3B: Placido Polanco: An elite hitter who seems to fly under the radar, Polanco is a career .304 hitter in 12 major league seasons. He set the Phillies’ record last month for most hits in April with 41.

SS: Jose Reyes: After two injury-filled seasons, a healthy Reyes is once again showing his potential. He’s the best player on a team full of disappointments.

LF: Martin Prado: Along the lines of Polanco, Prado is another quiet star who continues to produce. He is a clutch hitter and an above-average defender at a new position. The Braves go as he goes.

CF: Shane Victorino: One of the best center fielders in all of baseball, Victorino is a huge part of the offensive success of recent years for the Phillies. This year is no exception, as he leads all NL CFers in fielding percentage, while batting .284.

RF: Carlos Beltran: As with his teammate Jose Reyes, a healthier Beltran is showing signs of his old form. Eight home runs and a .285 batting average is a huge improvement from his last few years.

C: Brian McCann: The best catcher in the National League and perennial All-Star, McCann has continued his success this year and has emerged as a team leader.

Honorable mentions: Tim Hudson, Ike Davis

Leasts of the NL East:

SP1: Javier Vazquez: A league-worst 7.55 ERA and more walks than strikeouts isn’t what the Fish expected from a pitcher just two years removed from a very good season.

SP2: R.A. Dickey: 1-5 with a 5.08 ERA is a significant drop off from last year’s solid performance.

SP3: Chris Volstad: A 5.77 ERA is a full run above his career ERA.

SP4: Mike Pelfrey: Good at home, Pelfrey is terrible on the road, going 0-5 with an ERA near 9.00 since last August.

SP5: Jonathon Niese: A 5.07 ERA is a tough start from a decent 2010.

1B: Adam LaRoche: A .188 batting average and .286 slugging percentage can’t be overlooked, no matter how well he plays defensively.

2B: Dan Uggla: A .200 batting average isn’t acceptable for the free agent who was supposed to stabilize the Braves’ below-average offense.

3B: David Wright: A career .302 hitter, Wright is batting .226 and is near the top of the NL in strikeouts with 43.

SS: Hanley Ramirez: As with David Wright, Ramirez’ career .309 batting average is nearly 100 points higher than this year’s .213. Six fielding errors put him near the top of the NL in that category.

LF: Raul Ibanez: Despite recent success, an 0-for-35 slump that included 13 strikeouts has dropped Ibanez’s batting average to .230.

CF: Nate McLouth: Even after having success after being dropped to the eighth spot in the lineup, McLouth continues to be a below-average hitter and defender.

RF: Jason Heyward: Like his teammate Uggla, Heyward’s season is starting off poorly. A .220 batting average (.186 at home) constitutes a sophomore slump.

C: Carlos Ruiz: As with Nate McLouth in 2008, Ruiz had a career year in 2010. The 2011 season hasn’t been so kind to Ruiz, who is batting only .218.

Dishonorable mentions: Jayson Werth, Danny Espinosa, Ian Desmond

Since only a quarter of the season has passed, players certainly have time to improve. If each of the “Leasts” starts could turn things around to match 2010’s performances, the National League East could easily be the most competitive division in baseball.

Welcome aboard, Chris!

Grew up outside of Danbury, CT, so I grew up watching the Yankees during the ’70s and ’80s. Tough go right now, but they will turn it around as they always do. As Jamie promised, attached is a copy of the Style Guide for the TTFB site. It’s not a long read, but it’s one that will help you help us make the site consistent and efficient.

I’m sure you have one for SB Nation, too, so hopefully our style requirements don’t vary too much. That being said, I want to repeat one particular passage from the guide to make sure you’re on the mark with your posts right from the start:

TTFB was not created to compete with the ESPNs of the world; therefore, it’s not a news site. News
sites use wire feeds to provide game recaps within minutes of a game’s completion, and fans know
where to find play-by-play recaps. That’s not us. Our content should not include recaps of games …
unless you are offering a unique perspective and the article is written and posted within a few hours
of the game’s completion. Posting summaries 24-48 hours after a game is ancient history in the
electronic media age.

We want you to write what you’re passionate about – whether it’s as a fan of a specific team, fantasy
leagues, sabermetric analysis, the history of the game, etc. What’s most important is your
perspective and your unique way of sharing it. Let it all hang out so readers can see the real “you.”

To get an idea of the passionate and personal writing we’re talking about, take some time and look at content on the site. A majority has a fan perspective, and that’s what we want from you. If you’re thrilled about Yankees (not right now, I’m sure), let it come screaming through in your copy. If you’re pissed (the Zoo is hoppin’!), say so. The best content will be posts that include analysis and statistics, as well as commentary delivered through your unique POV.

As I review copy, I’ll provide feedback, too. And don’t ever hesitate to bounce ideas off any of us. We’re here to help.

Not knowing your level of experience with WordPress, here are a few things to help you get started:

1. Write your post in a word processor and not directly into the WordPress admin site. Finish it, proof it, spell check it, proof it and then copy and paste into WordPress. Then proof it again. The spell check in WordPress is the red squiggly line under a word. If you see red squigglies, double-check spelling …

2. … especially with player names. As much as you know and love your favorites, you’d be surprised by how many misspelled names make it through to the review. Double and triple check. If you don’t, I have to. And if it becomes a habit, I’ll let you know. 🙂

3. Once you copy and paste, you’ll probably notice that WordPress has double spaced your paragraphs. Since most of us hit enter twice after completing a paragraph, we’re technically entering two paragraph marks and WordPress interprets it literally. You’ll have to remove the extra spaces after you copy and paste so it’s neat and tidy.

4. Select a photo to be included in your post. We prefer to only use photos that are credited to photographers or news agencies, so please don’t submit ones that are not credited. From time to time we will use non-credited photos, but those are usually archival images, team marketing photos or the absolutely perfect photo for the content. So, we do make exceptions from time to time. The fastest way to find photos, I think, is through Yahoo Sports. Many to choose from and all have credits.

5. The photo upload process in the guide is an aspirational process right now (which means it doesn’t work). The best way to submit the photo for your article is to send me an email with a link to the photo, the photo credit and, if you’d like, a suggested caption. I’ll take it from there.

6. You may also notice that all of the site content has player links to We have a nifty tool that automates the links, so you don’t have to worry about that.

Finally, take the quality of your writing seriously and try to submit the best possible content you can. That means on-style, error-free and dripping with your unique voice.

That’s about it. Oh, and if you are an English major or have a journalist background and would eventually like to step up to an editor role, let me know. As more writers join, we’ll need more editors. So, if that’s you, we want to know. Or, if you know someone who might be interested, let us know that, too.

Don’t hesitate to call or email me if you have any questions.

Jon Sumple

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