It has been an entertaining first half in the division at the All-Star Break, with the Braves’ offseason moves paying dividends with a six game lead–even as they have not run away with the division. The Nationals suffered through an injury-plagued first half, the Phillies have been injured as well, and the Mets and Marlins have shown flashes of brilliance in disappointing seasons. Let’s review the progress of each team.
Atlanta Braves: 54-41, first place
This is the only team in the division that has outscored its opponents, scoring the most runs in the division (415) and allowing the fewest (337). Their offense has been second-best in the NL, despite a high number of strikeouts. Their pitching is the second best as well, allowing a stingy 3.29 ERA with a batting average allowed of .245. There are no real weaknesses here, and one suspects they will stand pat at the trade deadline with no real weaknesses.
Washington Nationals: 48-47, 6 games back
What a disappointing season for the Nationals. After a dominant 2012 which saw them with the best record in the NL, they have sustained injuries to Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, Ross Detwiler, Stephen Strasburg, Jayson Werth, Danny Espinosa, and Wilson Ramos. Even still, their pitching has been good: 5th best in the NL, 3.58 ERA, .250 batting average allowed. The starting pitching figures to stabilize given health. The hitting however has been horrific: 3rd worst in baseball in on-base percentage (.301); 5th worst in runs scored; fourth worst in batting average, .241. Without much young talent to trade, they will need to hope their bats come together, get healthy and go on a hot streak to get back in contention.
Philadelphia Phillies: 48-48, 6 ½ games back
What to make of the Phillies? They have allowed the most runs in the division, with a 4.03 ERA and .260 batting average allowed. Yet there are first in baseball in quality starts, 62. The bats have been very pedestrian , with an on base percentage of only .312 and in the bottom third in baseball in runs scored, 371. While the old guys on the roster have been hurt of less productive, the younger guys- Kyle Kendrick, Ben Revere, and Domonic Brown- have been great. Revere leads the team in batting average (.305), and Domonic Brown has been deadly, hitting 23 homers with 67 RBI. The Phillies should sell their older players and go full youth movement; if they do, they may well find themselves in contention in September.
New York Mets: 41-50, 11 games back
The Mets have floundered this year, though some of it has been bad luck: they have only been outscored by 27 this year, less than the Phillies. They have scored the second most runs in the division, despite unproductive players like Ike Davis, who was sent to the minors for hitting adjustments. This output took place despite the third lowest batting average in baseball (.235) and fourth lowest slugging percentage (.376). that said, when Marlon Byrd leads your team with 15 home runs and 51 RBI, there is plenty of room for improvement. The pitching has been mediocre as well. They should look to trade their best players and go with a full blown youth movement, like the Phillies, and ride some of their real up and comers like Matt Harvey to a new golden era.
Miami Marlins: 35-58, 18 games back
They may have the worst record in the National League and statistically the worst offense- dead last in runs, batting average, on base percentage and slugging percentage- in the league, but there is hope in Miami. They had the best record in baseball in June, their pitching isn’t horrible and they have some potential stars, including Ruggiano, Fernandez, Stanton and closer Steve Cishek. They should consider trading their older players- including Placido Polanco and Juan Pierre- and just keep this group together and watch them bloom in the South Florida heat.