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NL East Roundup - Washington Nationals’ run has them 2nd in NL East

Catching up on all the action around the NL East.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Miami Marlins Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

A strong week catapults the Nationals into second place, the Mets tread water, and everybody else scuffles. Here’s what’s going on in the National League East.

New York Mets (40-32)

One big thing: Offense is lacking

Much like the rest of the East, offense has been a conundrum in New York, as well. Having been blanked 33 percent of the time over their last 12 games, the Mets offense has been looking for a boost. During that timeframe, the team went 5-7 (5-5 over their last 10), meaning the pitching has been on the lookout for them. Big shocker there, right?

Despite offensive woes and an injury-laden roster, the Mets still manage to churn out enough wins to remain at the top of the division. It certainly helps that the second place team in the division is below .500 on the year, but the East’s lack of overall competence has led to a preferable situation for New York. If they ever get fully healthy, the path to the division title should become that much easier. If they don’t get healthy, it looks like it might not matter.

Washington Nationals (36-38)

One big thing: .500!

Even though the Nationals have lost two consecutive games to the last place Marlins, Washington scratched and clawed its way back to .500 for the first time since May 2 when they were 12-12, thanks to their best month by record this year (15-9).

While it would’ve been good to win the Marlins series (now an impossibility), the Nationals have nonetheless made themselves relevant again. Recently, I wrote about how the next stretch of games leading up to the All-Star Break can make or break the Nats’ season. With teams like Tampa, Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco looming, it was important Washington got themselves into a more competitive position before that slate of games.

This feat has been performed, in part, because of Kyle Schwarber’s penchant for hitting home runs this June. As of today, Scwarber has 13 “Schwarbombs,” tops in baseball over that timeframe. While we’re still waiting for the Nationals to really figure things out (-16 run differential), it’s nice to see one of the offseason additions contributing in a way we hoped he would.

Atlanta Braves (36-40)

One big thing: No scoring

A barrage of run-scoring halted on June 20 for Atlanta. Since that day, the Braves have averaged exactly three runs per game which, extrapolated over the full season, would be the worst in baseball. While the Braves’ offense isn’t the worst in baseball, it does leave something to be desired.

Three of their wins over those nine games were the result of pitching blanking the opposition. The Cardinals on June 20 were shut out, then the Mets were shut out twice. But their pitching won’t be able to carry them forever, at least not if they’re only getting three runs per game.

Atlanta’s 101 wRC+ is 13th in baseball and nearly as average as one can get. Their .320 wOBA bodes well for them, placing them in the upper third of all teams, though only barely, at 10th. Their OPS (.740) is ninth in baseball and their home runs (107) are fourth. Their runs scored (348) are 12th.

One would expect something to give eventually. Even if the Braves aren’t contenders for the division this year, finishing below .500 seems unlikely given their talent and, particularly, when you take into consideration much of their output this year.

Philadelphia Phillies (35-39)

One big thing: Wow, that bullpen

In one of my recent editions of roundup, I wrote about how, while still not good, Philadelphia’s bullpen is performing better than it did a year ago — a year in which it was historically bad.

Despite having given up a pair of walk-offs to the Mets over their last three games, the Phillies’ bullpen has actually been one of the better set of arms during the month of June (by certain metrics). Their 3.51 ERA is ninth best in baseball, while their FIP (4.44) is 17th in baseball.

Where these two incompatibilities meet, something has to give. Over the long term, I’d favor FIP’s outlook, suggesting the bullpen should be behaving about where it did during the first couple months of the season. If only Philadelphia could string together a decent bullpen, maybe they’d be good enough to remain competitive in the division all year.

Miami Marlins (33-43)

One big thing: Run differential mystery

That’s right. Another week, another analysis of the Marlins’ run differential. As it currently sits, Miami has a +21 run differential, meaning their expected win-loss mark is eight — eight — games better than what it actually is. MLB’s x/W-L total has the Fish at 41-35, which would propel them into the first place spot in the division.

And yet, the Marlins are 33-43, last in the division. There is no other team with such an odd mix of run differential and win-loss outcomes. The only teams that bear mentioning are the Arizona Diamondbacks (-106, 22-56), whose differential puts them at 29-49, or seven games better; the other is the Toronto Blue Jays (+62, 39-36), whose run differential has them at 44-31, or five games better. The commonality in the latter case being that Toronto also carries a positive differential.