It’s time for our first National League East divisional roundup of the regular season. Let’s get started and examine “one big thing” for each team.
Philadelphia Phillies (5-3)
One big thing: The bullpen is average. With a 3.91 ERA, the Phillies’ bullpen is ranked exactly middle-of-the-pack in all of baseball. For many teams, this might not be huge news. But for a team with a historically bad bullpen a year ago, this improvement might just be enough to make the Phillies legitimate competitors in the division. Last season, the Phillies boasted a 109 wRC+ as an offensive unit; this year it’s under 100. If the club can get back to “above average,” then Philadelphia might insert itself into the conversation as truly worthy of chasing the division crown.
Atlanta Braves (4-4)
One big thing: Win streak. The Braves started the season 0-4, a mark that nobody expected them to reach. While it doesn’t matter all that much at this point in the season, the Braves are expected to be locked and loaded in pursuit of the division once again. The Phillies did all they good to delay that train to begin the season. But, the Braves are back on track with a series of consecutive wins. We all knew it was a matter of time before Atlanta found its footing — that being a consequence of its stars starting to hit the ball. With homers on consecutive nights, Freddie Freeman might be working his way back into MVP-competition shape.
New York Mets (2-3)
One big thing: Jacob deGrom. I feel like this has been the case for years. As the ace of the staff, deGrom continues to impress, just as he’s done season after season. On Saturday, deGrom pitched eight innings, allowed five hits, didn’t walk a batter, gave up one run, and struck out 14. He lost. We’ve seen this over and over and over again. The similar refrain is that the Mets simply can’t score runs for deGrom, and it appears nothing’s changed, even after an offseason in which the organization made headlines for all of the moves and fanfare surrounding a new owner and free agent additions. The curse of the Mets might be real after all. lolMets.
Miami Marlins (2-6)
One big thing: Middle-third or bottom-third? The Marlins rank in the middle-third in many pitching categories, like ERA (19th). In offensive categories, they rank almost exclusively in the bottom-third of the league, like in wRC+ (24th). Those outputs have resulted in a -8 run differential early on, which is why Miami has the losing record that it has thus far. All indications to this point suggest that the Marlins’ ascent into the playoffs a year ago was truly an aberration and a product of a strange and shortened season in conjunction with an expanded playoff. Don’t expect them to hang around the division leaders very much this year.
Washington Nationals (1-4)
One big thing: The season has finally begun. With the first series delayed — as well as the first game against the Braves — the Nationals were finally able to take the field. Although it hasn’t been the start fans envisioned, it’s nice to see the club actually able to take the field. But it’s clear this first stretch of games isn’t very forgiving, beginning with one of the top competitors in the division, the Braves. Washington then headed west for a weekend series against perhaps the best team in all of baseball, the Los Angeles Dodgers. Things might slow down for a bit over the next week-and-a-half, however, with a stop in St. Louis before heading home for the second series in DC when the Arizona Diamondbacks come to visit before those same Cardinals head to the nation’s capital the Monday of the following week.