Many clubs around baseball have hit the halfway mark of the season. In the east, only the Braves have eclipsed the midway point, but the other four are approaching it. Let’s dig into what’s going on around the east.
Atlanta Braves (18-12)
I hammer this stat every week, I know, but the Braves lead the way in run differential for another week. Atlanta is at +27, which stands in stark contrast to the rest of the division, all of whom run negative differentials.
That goes to show that other competitors in the East have the potential to make a run at the Braves and perhaps even make some noise, but until those other teams figure out their pitching, the Braves will likely continue the charge in the division.
Miami Marlins (14-12)
I think we all might be a bit surprised at the Marlins stability amidst so much instability this season. As you recall, Miami was the first club to really be affected by a COVID-19 clubhouse outbreak. Despite their hiccup to kick off the season, much of the Fish’s vitals suggest they’ll continue to be a .500 team this year.
Over their last 10 games — or 17 percent of the season — the team is 5-5. Over the course of the season, their run differential is -2, which is actually second best in the division. More than that, their team ERA (4.31) is bested only by the Braves in the East.
Meanwhile, however, their 94 wRC+ is last in the East. But with the makeup of the East, the Marlins might be able to finish second or third in the division. If that’s the case, I’ll be the first to admit how wrong I was. A few entries ago, I predicted Miami would be in last place in no time — by the end of the month, to be exact. They’ve continued to keep from sliding down the ranks, however.
Philadelphia Phillies (12-14)
The Phillies are four games back in the division and, as mentioned above, the offense hasn’t been the problem. Their 115 wRC+ is fourth in the National League and second in the East. That’s not surprising, given the bats they have on their team (see: Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto).
What we also know is where the trouble stems: The bullpen. The Phillies have had a historically bad bullpen for much of the season. It has improved since I mentioned it a week ago, but the pen’s ERA is still 7.52, which is nearly two runs worse than the next closest NL team (Cubs).
If Philadelphia can improve in the pitching department and the bullpen in particular, then they’ll be a formidable team. But I can’t see a path going forward where the pitching improves enough for it to really matter.
New York Mets (13-16)
The Mets and Phillies aren’t identical teams, but they might as well be. The two teams have similar records and share strengths and weaknesses. The Mets’ 120 wRC+ is second in all of baseball to only the White Sox. Their total amassed fWAR is seventh (5.0) and their .315 BABIP is also second in baseball.
But their 4.89 team ERA is 20th in baseball. Unlike the Phillies, the trouble comes marginally more from the starters, at least in terms of ERA (5.06). The relievers command a 4.67 ERA.
Washington Nationals (11-17)
The Nationals slip further and further behind in the east. They’re now six games back of the Braves and even though their -7 run differential suggests they should be a couple games better, things continue to look bleak in the nation’s capital.
The Nats’ 102 wRC+ is above average, if only slightly — it comes in at 14th in baseball. But they can’t seem to get the long ball going. The team’s 35 home runs are 23rd in baseball, right behind the Royals. Their 1.1 team fWAR is 27th in baseball.
The team’s 4.97 ERA is 21st in baseball with a FIP (4.70) that doesn’t depart much from the ERA. If you break it down by starters versus relievers, it’s much more of a starter problem. The starters command a 5.43 while the relievers command a 4.39 ERA. It certainly doesn’t help that Stephen Strasburg’s season is done.