MLB Coverage: The NL East Race

TheSportsNotebook’s midseason statistical looks at each division shifts to the National League today. MLB coverage in the first part of this week covered the American League and concluded yesterday with the AL West. Today we shift leagues and coasts, by looking at the NL East.

We’ll summarize each team in the NL East by three categories on each “side of the ball”, so to speak. Runs scored, along with their component parts of on-base percentage and slugging percentage are the offensive numbers. Pitching will break down into separate ERA ranks for both starters and relievers, and then the team’s percentage at closing saves.

The rankings are just within the National League, and we conclude by citing a couple notable individual performances from each team, followed by some comments.

Atlanta Braves (52-39)
Offense: 3rd
OBP: 3rd
Slugging: 3rd
Starters’ ERA: 5th
Bullpen ERA: 1st
Save Chances: 25/33
Notable: Fredi Freeman has a  stat line of a .388 on-base percentage/.470 slugging and would be an eminently worthy choice if the fans choose him over Los Angeles Dodgers’ outfielder Yasiel Puig, the media favorite. Mike Minor’s ERA of 3.05 in 18 starts is a big reason why the starting pitching has done so well.

Comments: I like the Braves, but I haven’t been sold on them as the best team in the NL East all year. The bullpen is excellent, as it’s been for the past few years, but I question if a rotation with no clear ace can keep pitching like this.

Washington Nationals (47-44)
Offense: 14th
OBP: 14th
Slugging: 11th
Starters’ ERA: 6th
Bullpen ERA: 8th
Save Chances; 26/36
Notable: Jayson Werth is finally starting to produce in right field, with a .360/.468 stat line. Jordan Zimmerman has been the team’s best starting pitcher, at 12-3 with a 2.57 ERA. Stephen Strasburg is excellent, but it’s worth noting that Gio Gonzalez was better than him last year, and Zimmerman is this year.

Comments: Just reverse the Atlanta comments. I don’t really like this team and the hype that surrounds them, and the arrogance of shutting down Strasburg going into the playoffs last year. But the rotation is just so solid and it hasn’t even pitched to potential yet.

Philadelphia Phillies (45-47)
Offense: 9th
OBP: 8th
Slugging: 5th
Starters’ ERA: 10th
Bullpen ERA: 15th
Save Chances: 21/31
Notable: Say what you will about this team’s age—and you can say a lot in that regard—but if Cole Hamels weren’t 4-11 with a 4.17 ERA, the Phils would be a serious contender. While the offense has been disappointing, Domonic Brown has become a big-time power hitter with 23 home runs.

Comments: Ryan Howard just went on the disabled list, and that would seem to settle the big question all of baseball is wondering—are the Phils selling or not, as the July trade market heats up. They clearly need to be sellers—I’m not saying that means they must trade Cliff Lee or Jonathan Papelbon. There’s something to be said for building to next year, and each would be good for a 2-3 year window. But the Phils at least need to have the mindset of looking to get a significant haul of prospects, and Lee and Papelbon are clearly the trade chips that could do that.

New York Mets (40-48)
Offense: 6th
OBP: 12th
Slugging: 14th
Starters’ ERA: 8th
Bullpen ERA: 12th
Save Chances: 18/29
Notable: David Wright continues to churn out big numbers, with a .403/.517 stat line. And of course Matt Harvey is in position to win the NL Cy Young Award and make it two straight for the organization, following R.A. Dickey last year. But beware—Harvey came up with a blister on his right index finger. I know it doesn’t sound serious, but you clearly can’t pitch with that. And keep in mind that the early part of Josh Beckett’s career was marked by repeated blisters until his hands finally got stronger a few years in.

Comments: Take a look at that offensive ranking. Citi Field is very pitcher-friendly, and for the Mets to be outscoring the Phils—in spite of the fact that Philly’s park is the complete opposite—speaks very well to the quality of the Mets’ lineup this year. Now if they just got some pitching behind Harvey.

Miami Marlins (33-57)
Offense: 15th
OBP: 15th
Slugging: 15th
Starters’ ERA: 9th
Bullpen ERA: 11th
Save Chances: 18/27
Notable: No one expected anything from Miami this year, so I’m going to be nice and cite two positives in the pitching rotation—Jose Fernandez has a 2.83 ERA in 17 starts. Ricky Nolasco pitched well enough—3.85 ERA in 18 starts—that the Marlins were able to deal him to the Dodgers. And let’s a throw a third name in there—Nate Eovaldi, the pitcher they acquired from those very same Dodgers last year, has a 2.55 ERA in four starts.

Comments: I like the young pitching, but before we just say this is a young team that’s getting better, let’s bear in mind that not only is the offense absolutely hideous, there’s not much in the way of expected improvement as far as young players go.


Atlanta is the 4-9 favorite, which surprises me. Even though they’re up five games, Boston was 5-6 with a similar margin in the AL East. And given how much everyone seemed to like Washington at the start of the season, I guess I’m surprised that they’re not getting more love from the bookmakers just to erase that deficit with a healthy Bryce Harper in the lineup. The Nats are 8-5, and I would consider that a very solid bet. Philadelphia is 14-1, New York is 150-1 and Miami is 1,000-1.