For the most part, baseball has resumed in the National League East, the hardest hit COVID division. Now, for the roundup over the last week.
Miami Marlins (6-1)
That’s right, the Marlins are still in first place. Going back before their shutdown, the team has won five straight ballgames. Of course, we should all be wary that these results will continue. At this point, Miami is filling out a roster with players they just called up or brought in.
To this point, Brian Anderson has been the most competent player on that roster. Through six games (26 plate appearances), Anderson has produced a 174 wRC+ for the Fish. Jesus Aguilar leads the team with three home runs.
At this stage of the season, it’s hard to point at stats for any player to really suggest how they’re performing, but that’s especially true for the Marlins, who are playing catch-up with much of the rest of the league. All that notwithstanding, Miami is in first place. They’ll be pulling up the rear by the end of the month, however.
The Marlins will be in New York to take on the Mets this weekend.
Atlanta Braves (9-5)
The Braves are the current challengers to the Marlins’ stake of first place. Atlanta holds the best run differential in the East, coming in at +21.
Marcell Ozuna is off to a strong start in the Georgia heat. Thus far, he’s claimed a 0.6 fWAR, which ties him for 10th in the National League. His three home runs lead the team, as well.
The troublesome news out of Atlanta is something that’s been sweeping through baseball: pitcher injuries. Mike Soroka went down during his August 3rd start against the Mets when he tore his achilles. That ends the young pitcher’s season.
The Braves will be in Philadelphia this weekend.
Washington Nationals (4-5)
For many, the Nationals and Braves were expected to compete for the division title this year. I still think that’ll be the case, but the Nationals have sputtered a bit out of the gate during their strange title defense season. Not all of that is their fault, like the Soto drama regarding COVID tests, but here we are, nonetheless.
Starlin Castro has gotten off to the quickest start by wRC+ (123), but it’s still Adam Eaton who’s worth the most by FanGraphs’ metrics. The 31-year-old is at 0.3 fWAR early on. On the surface, much of Eaton’s vitals don’t look promising (.257 average, .316 OBP), but other metrics suggest he might be able to sustain production over the long term. Unlike Castro, Eaton’s BABIP (.333) seems the most replicable output of anyone on the Nats’ roster. But the good news is: Juan Soto is back and so perhaps I won’t have to focus on Eaton so much in subsequent entries.
As for pitching, Tanner Rainey appears to be the real deal. His production could yield major opportunities for Rainey. Many of his metrics have improved this season from a year ago. Notably, his ERA is way down, if you’re into that sort of thing, clocking in at 1.59 early on. But other metrics point to improvements, as well. His FIP is down to 3.87 versus 4.37 a year ago. His 0.53 WHIP is promising, as is his 33.3 percent strikeout percentage.
Meanwhile, Sean Doolittle has struggled to recapture that which has made him effective in the past. Granted, he’s hardly gotten any time on the bump thus far, but his lack of production should be cause for some concern. Around the league, many pitchers have experienced a reduction in velocity, perhaps because of the strange layoff and then quick ramp-up (which is also likely the culprit for the increase in pitcher injuries), but Doolittle must be near the top of the list. For example, a year ago, according to FanGraphs’ PITCHf/x velocity tracker, Doolittle averaged 93.5 mph on his fastball. This year, that number is down to 90.7 – higher than his final exhibition appearance when it was around 89, but still quite a bit lower than what’s normal for him. We’ll see if he’s able to turn things around, but that significant of a drop in velocity is generally problematic.
The Nationals take on the Baltimore Orioles this weekend.
Philadelphia Phillies (3-4)
As mentioned everywhere else, the Phillies were the bystanders in the line of fire from the Marlins’ clubhouse COVID outbreak – Phillies’ veteran outfielder Andrew McCutchen let his feelings be known about the whole ordeal, expressing his frustration with the situation.
That said, Philadelphia is back on the field. After having a week of games postponed, the Phillies were greeted by the New York Yankees and ace Gerrit Cole. The Yanks took the contest 6-3. Cole gave up one run through six innings.
Through the same amount of plate appearances, Didi Gregorious and JT Realmuto had nearly identical numbers: two home runs each, a 9.1 percent walk rate, .300 average, .364 OBP, .600 SLG, .411 wOBA, 166 wRC+, and both were worth 0.3 fWAR before Thursday night’s game. They have some numbers that differ, but largely, they’ve been the same (good) player.
Aaron Nola is pitching to the tune of a 2.19 FIP, while amassing a 0.4 fWAR. His 45 percent strikeout percentage is laughably high through his first two starts (11.1 innings). His 3.97 ERA suggests his defense isn’t doing him too many favors.
The Phillies get the Braves at home this weekend.
New York Mets (5-8)
In short, Jacob deGrom has been awesome. The offense has not. deGrom is striking out over 35 percent of batters he faces, while touting a 2.12 ERA, with a 1.69 FIP. He’s currently worth 0.7 wins.
On the other hand, the Mets’ run differential is a startling -15, which puts them in the company of teams like the San Francisco Giants (-14), Texas Rangers (-16), and Pittsburgh Pirates (-20). Unsurprisingly, those teams, like the Mets, have losing records, as is generally the case for teams with negative run differentials. New York’s 3.92 runs per game is 19th in baseball, with teams like Baltimore and Detroit directly to their rear.
Perhaps home field doesn’t have as great of an effect with empty stadiums (although home field advantage in baseball was largely negligible, anyway), but the Mets are 1-4 at Citi Field. That’s not a good formula for a team. Get outscored and lose at home and you’ll find yourself at the bottom of the division.
Maybe good things are on the horizon, as the Marlins come to town. But maybe not.