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This Week in Baseball: NL Underdogs

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This week we are continuing to look at the division losers.  The NL will be in the spotlight so that means the Atlanta Braves, the Cincinnati Reds, and the San Diego Padres.  Why are they losing and do they have a chance at making a comeback, that is what we will be looking at this week in baseball.

As I did with the AL, I’m going to start with the team that is most likely to recover from their poor performance in the first half of the season and I’m thinking it’s the Padres.  Not only are in they what I see as the weakest division of the 3, but they have the most wins of the last place teams (33) and they have 2 solid starting pitchers that should be coming off the DL after the All Star break (Tyson Ross and Andrew Cashner).  

Ross was the Opening Day starter for the Padres and suffered his injury during that game.  The game was against the Los Angeles Dodgers and Ross racked up 7 earned runs but also logged 5 strike outs.  Although this is a very rough start for the ace, it was most likely attributed to the injury.  Ross has a 3.11 ERA for the last 3 seasons he has played for the Padres.  

This will be Cashner’s 5th season of being a middle reliever for Padres.  I know that may not sound like a rousing endorsement but there is something to be said for consistency.  Although Cashner had never been overly good, but he is rarely overly bad either.  For most of his outings he gets 3 runs or less scored on him, and for a percentage of the Padre’s outings, that was good enough for a win now that they have been hitting better.  Having Cashner back would add predictability and stability back to the rotation.  

As crazy as if my sound, I think the Braves are next on the list to make a comeback.  They are the worst team in the NL right now with only 26 wins, but more recently they seem to have been playing slightly better.  The main thing that stands out to me about this slightly better game play is that they swept the New York Mets earlier this month and one of those games was a shutout.  I know that doesn’t sound like much, but that was only their 2nd sweep of the season.  

There has been a lot of change in the Braves organization this season; players and the manager.  Even though they still have a DL that is 10 players deep, they may finally be finding their rhythm and may not finish last.  

Not to be a pessimist toward the Reds but I feel as if they have the longest row to hoe to get out of their deficit.  They are in the arguably the most competitive division in baseball and it doesn’t appear there is an end in site.  Like the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL, they have experienced an 11 game losing streak and are playing very inconsistent baseball.  One might blame part of the Reds problems on their DL and that 5 of the 7 players on it are pitchers, but the team isn’t hitting consistently either.  Even during games where they score a lot of runs, more often than not, the runs they score aren’t enough to win.

If there hope for Reds?  In this division, this season, not likely.  I hate to blame any team’s failure on their manager but it’s hard not to consider when looking at the current manager Bryan Price to previous manager (and current Washington National’s manager) Dusty Baker.  Baker had the helm from 2008 to 2013 and 3 of his 6 season he took the team to the playoffs (although never made it past a divisional series).  2016 will be Price’s 3rd season with the Reds and I realise that every division is going to have bottom team, but last season they finished 36 games back of to division winning Cardinals.  I know that 2 seasons is not long enough to truly see how well manager coaches and I also know that a manager can’t force their players to perform.  That said, a manager does play a very valuable role in the success of a team; one only has to look at the 2015 Chicago Cubs to see that in action.

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