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NL East Recap - What’s up with the Washington Nationals’ divisional rivals?

Let’s take a dive into the Nationals’ divisional rivals...

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MLB: Washington Nationals at Miami Marlins Rhona Wise-USA TODAY Sports

Hello, folks. It’s time for another installment of what’s going on around the National League East. After last week’s iteration, I started thinking about ways the article should evolve to fit the needs of Spring Training. As such, I’m not going to give the typical recap like I would during the regular season. Instead, I’m going to try to focus on “one big thing” from each of the squads in the division. As always, teams will be sorted by standings.

Miami Marlins (5-1)

One big thing: Pitching

We’re about halfway through Spring Training games and the Fish are flexing some muscle in the pitching department. Currently, the club leads all of baseball by ERA (2.76), while the second place Dodgers trail at a 3.03 mark. Of course, this isn’t necessarily indicative of what we’ll see out of Miami once real games begin (after all, the Pirates have the third best ERA in baseball), but it’s something to watch out for, nonetheless.

Last season, the Marlins finished with a 4.86 ERA. If you’d like to read more about the Marlins pitching success thus far this spring, check out Fish Stripes’ breakdown.

Washington Nationals (4-3)

One big thing: Patrick Corbin’s pitching

According to a Maria Torres article at The Athletic, Patrick Corbin has seen a three mile per hour upgrade to his fastball over last season. He’s also increased his changeup usage by 13 percent. Oh, and he’s added a cutter, apparently thanks to the help of rotation-mate Max Scherzer.

Adding a new pitch to his repertoire obviously adds a new dimension to the lefty Corbin.

Increasing his changeup usage in conjunction with a faster fastball will likely yield more swings and misses. Corbin should be fun to watch come regular season.

New York Mets (5-4)

One big thing: Joey Lucchesi

Like Corbin, Lucchesi has something up his sleeve to try to be formidable against the competition this season. According to New York Post article, the former Padres’ pitcher is in a competition for the fifth starter spot in a stacked Mets’ rotation, attempting to beat out David Peterson and Jordan Yamamoto.

Lucchesi throws what is apparently known as a “churve,” a speciality pitch of his, and one which the Post calls his “trademark off-speed pitch.”

Lucchesi only made two starts in 2020. In 2019, he finished with a 4.17 FIP, 2.1 fWAR, and a 98 ERA-.

Atlanta Braves (6-5)

One big thing: Nick Markakis

Although Markakis is likely more widely known as an Oriole, the six-year Brave decided to hang ‘em up earlier this week after accumulating 14 years of service time.

His best season in Atlanta was likely the 2018 campaign, in which he was worth 2.6 fWAR, had a 114 wRC+, and a .345 wOBA. It was that year which most closely matched his output in Baltimore.

I always appreciated Markakis. He seemed to quietly go about his business in a no-nonsense way. I’m sure Baltimore and Atlanta thank him for that.

Philadelphia Phillies (5-6)

One big thing: Bryce Harper

Seeing as how he has some relevancy around here, I thought I should note: Harper isn’t having a great spring. It’s true that he hasn’t gotten much time on the field yet, registering only 11 at-bats as of this writing, but he’s hitting .182. Like I’ve said, sometimes these types of performances — particularly early ones — in Spring Training don’t really matter. But for Phillies’ fans, who expect to watch Harper for years and years and years to come, everything he does might be under a microscope.

Harper’s had a few middling springs, but nothing like what we’ve seen thus far. It’s certainly not an indictment on his ability, nor is it amateur forecasting of what type of season he’ll have, but in his age 28 campaign, with the slugger locked up through 2031, worried minds might start to wonder what his production will be like in the imminent future.