Filed Under (NL East Chatter) by sbiase at 4:31 PM on 05-25-2012
Much like the rest of the MLB this year, the NL East has been rather unpredictable. With the Mets over achieving, the Nationals’ impeccable pitching and the Phillies’ lack luster start, there is a lot to think about after the first 40 plus games. Let’s run down the division and give a look at where the teams stand and where they might end up.
Atlanta Braves: The Braves started the season sluggishly. They began by getting swept by the Mets and finished the first week of the season 2-4. After that, they were able to rebound and work their way to 6 games over .500, where they currently sit one game in back of the division leading Nationals.
Pleasant Surprise: At age 40 and after announcing his plans to retire at the end of the season, the expectations for Chipper Jones were probably a little lower than they have been in the past. After 101 at bats Jones is the owner of a solid .307 BA with 5 HR and 24 RBIs. If he can keep this up all year there may not be a need to retire come seasons end.
Solid Starters: Brandon Beachy and Tommy Hanson both have five wins in the season’s early going. While the rest of the rotation has had its ups and downs Beachy and Hanson have been as good as advertised, between the two of them they have pitched 118.2 innings with a 2.42 ERA. Tim Hudson also deserves an honorable mention for his stellar start as well, garnering a 3-1 record with a 3.03 ERA.
Where they finish: As of right now I see the Braves ending the year at 84-78 and competing for the final NL Wildcard spot.
Miami Marlins: The Miami Marlins are a scrappy bunch with a new look, a new park, new stars and a new manager. The Marlins began with controversy over Ozzie Guillen’s pro-Castro comments, but have settled in and quietly earned a respectable 24-21 record.
Giancarlo Who?: Giancarlo Stanton is pretty good. He may no longer be Mike, but he is still one of the best offensive players on the team. With both Hanley Ramirez and Jose Reyes not meeting expectations, Stanton’s .287 BA and 10 HR have been a big help to the Marlin’s offense.
The New Zambrano: Carlos Zambrano has now pitched 60 innings and has an ERA under 3.00. Opposing hitters are only batting a mere .207 off of him. It’s still early in the year, but at the start of the season who would have thought that Big Z was going to look like an Ace 40 games in?
Where they Finish: At this point in time I can see the Marlins finishing at 81-83 in fourth place.
New York Mets: How the Mets have a record of 24-21, I have no idea. They shouldn’t. Between significant injuries and a lack of star power the team has played above expectations and shows no real signs of slowing down.
The Wright Touch: On a team full of kids who have spent years in the Mets’ farm system, David Wright has emerged as a leader. He has clearly become the one true offensive weapon on this team. Wright is the only Major Leaguer hitting above .400 and he has 5 HR and 28 RBIs. The rest of the offense that the Mets generate comes from players like Daniel Murphy, Lucas Duda, and Kirk Nieuwenhuis, but the nucleus is clearly David Wright.
Vote for Ike?: Ike Davis is clearly struggling this year. He is batting a measly .164 this season and rumors begun circulating about a possible demotion for the First Baseman. On Thursday, Ike received a vote of confidence when the Mets’ front office informed him he would work out his offensive issues on the big league level and he would not be demoted.
Where they finish: Despite the fun start this is not the Mets’ year. I expect them to finish at the bottom of the division, finishing 76-86. This is a good young group and I look for them to be contenders in the future.
Philadelphia Phillies: Have struggled this year, but still manage to be a .500 team with a record of 23-23. While Phillies teams of the past few years have dominated the division, it looks like this Phillies team will have to fight till the end just to secure a spot in the playoffs
Window Closing: With the core of both its pitching staff and offense aging, it may be about time to ask the question if the window is closing on this Phillies team. The teams Ace Roy Halladay, is not looking all that much like Halladay, Phillies’ fans have reason to be concerned. The team will most likely get better from here on out and younger players like Hunter Pence and Cole Hamels will take on bigger roles. As of now, Hamels looks like he is going to be the best free agent pitcher on the market in the off season, so the direction of the Phillies’ future may be determined by if the Phillies resign him.
Help Is On The Way: Much of the reason the Phillies offense isn’t performing up to the standard of previous years is because of the injuries to Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. With both of them due back soon it is safe to assume there will be an uptick in runs scored for the Phillies.
Where they Phinish: I think the Phillies still win 90 games and go 90-72.
Washington, D.C. Nationals: The Nationals are the real deal. This team is the product of good drafting and patience. A quarter of the way through the season the Nationals have control of the division lead and a record of 26-18.
Living Up to the Hype: Can’t miss prospects that get drafted number one over all aren’t always can’t miss. Sometimes they don’t ever make it to the bigs, sometimes they get hurt and never make it all the way back, so it is rare for a team to get the opportunity to hype one up and then showcase them at the big league level. The National’s have two of these can’t miss prospects and both are living up to the hype by contributing on the roster. Stephen Strasburg has a 2.21 ERA in his 53 innings as well as 64 Ks, while rookie Bryce Harper has a .267 average with 2 HR 3 triples and 6 doubles.
GIO: In the early going of the season the Cy Young race looks like it’s being led by Gio Gonzalez, he is 6-1 with a 1.98 era and 69 strike outs in 54.2 innings. That is very impressive, so far he looks like a great signing by the Nat’s front office.
Where they finish: So far the Nats have been able to withstand so many injuries to so many of their important star players with out slowing down, it looks like nothing is going to derail this team. If they can keep up this pace until players like Mike Morse, Brad Lidge, and Jayson Werth get back, then there will be no reason to think this team couldn’t win the division with a record of 94-68.