A Division Review: NL East

A Division Review: NL East

Today I will tackle the National League East. It isn’t too competitive of a division, with only the 21-15 Phillies above .500. The Braves figure into the race going forward with every team besides the Marlins. The Braves currently sit a game under .500 at 18-19 and three-and-a-half games behind the Phillies. Then you have a Mets ball club who may turn things around eventually with the talent they entered the year with. You also have the Nationals and Marlins, two teams who may have dug themselves into a hole early on.

Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies are in first place as of right now, winning 9 of their last 13 games. The Phillies offense has hovered slightly better than the league-average this year. They rank 13th in wOBA, tied-15th in Isolated Power, and 13th in batting average. They rank near the bottom of the pack in starting pitching; 21st in K/9, 20th in HR/9, tied-21st in xFIP. They have a solid bullpen, as they boast the 3rd-lowest BB/9, 6th-highest GB%, and tied for 4th in SIERA. The Phillies boast one of the lesser defenses in Major League Baseball though as they rank 3rd-worst in DRS and 22nd in UZR.

Key Contributors

  • OF Bryce Harper (122 wRC+, 1.1 WAR in 36 games)
  • 1B Rhys Hoskins (178 wRC+, 1.5 WAR in 35 games)
  • SP Jerad Eickhoff (30 IP, 2.17 FIP, 1.0 WAR in 5 appearances)
Bryce Harper-Photo courtesy of Rob Tringali/PlayMakerHQ
Bryce Harper – Photo courtesy of Rob Tringali/PlayMakerHQ

Atlanta Braves

The Braves have been streaky so far and have not been able to get on a roll yet. They have had a solid offense, but an underwhelming pitching staff and defense. The offense has the 6th-best BB/K rate, showing good plate discipline as a team. They also rank 3rd in batting average, tied-4th in OBP, and 8th in wOBA. The Braves rotation have allowed the 5th-highest BB/9 in baseball, rank 20th in ERA, and are tied for 21st in xFIP. The Braves bullpen has allowed the highest walk rate in all of baseball, are 24th in FIP, and 20th in xFIP. The Braves defensively rank 14th in DRS and 23rd in UZR. All of this is to say that besides the offense, everywhere else needs work.

Key Contributors

  • 1B Freddie Freeman (146 wRC+, 1.2 WAR in 37 games)
  • OF Ronald Acuna Jr. (127 wRC+, 1.2 WAR in 36 games)
  • OF Nick Markakis (136 wRC+, 0.8 WAR in 37 games)
  • 3B Josh Donaldson (127 wRC+, 0.7 WAR in 34 games)
  • SP Mike Soroka (23.2 IP, 2.25 FIP, 0.8 WAR in 4 starts)
  • SP Max Fried (39.1 IP, 3.74 FIP, 0.6 WAR in 9 appearances)
Ronald Acuna Jr - CBS Sports
Ronald Acuna Jr – Photo courtesy of CBS Sports

New York Mets

A middling offense, a disappointing rotation (that at least looks likely to see some positive regression), a bad bullpen, and one of the worst defenses have conspired to bring down the Mets from what was perceived as a good ball club. However, right now, the offense ranks 20th in wOBA, 17th in wRC+, 16th in BB%, the 7th-highest K-rate in the league, tied-16th in batting average, 16th in OBP, and 23rd in Isolated Power; that screams out about as mediocre an offense as there can likely be. The Mets’ rotation currently is 19th in ERA in the league, but hear me out; they also rank 12th in FIP, 8th in xFIP, and 7th in SIERA which are much better future-predictive statistics than ERA is. The Mets’ rotation ERA has ballooned somewhat due to a BABIP that is 7th-highest in baseball and a strand-rate that is tied for the 9th-lowest in the league, both marks that stand worse than the league’s averages which should normalize and help shrink the 6th-largest gap between ERA and FIP in baseball. The bullpen; ouch. They rank 24th in ERA, tied-25th in xFIP, 22nd in SIERA, 24th in BAA, and tied-25th in WHIP. The defense has bailed none of their pitchers out with the 5th-worst DRS and UZR, and tied for the 4th-worst Fielding %.

Key Contributors

  • 1B Peter Alonso (151 wRC+, 1.3 WAR in 37 games)
  • INF Jeff McNeil (153 wRC+, 1.3 WAR in 36 games)
  • OF Michael Conforto (132 wRC+, 1.1 WAR in 37 games)
  • 3B J.D. Davis (122 wRC+, 0.3 WAR in 30 games)
  • SP Jacob deGrom (40 IP, 3.48 FIP, 0.9 WAR in 7 starts)
  • RP Robert Gsellman (25 IP, 2.85 FIP, 0.6 WAR in 17 appearances)
  • RP Seth Lugo (23 IP, 2.87 FIP, 0.5 WAR in 16 appearances)
Jeff McNeil - The Athletic
Jeff McNeil – Photo courtesy of The Athletic

Washington Nationals

The Nasty Nats are currently residing in fourth place, seven games out of first place. They have had a subpar offense (17th in wOBA, 20th in wRC+, 22nd in BB/K), but their rotation, just like the Mets, may be in for more good fortune in the future. They only rank 15th in ERA, but have the 3rd-lowest FIP and the 2nd-lowest xFIP and SIERA among rotations. Their 0.79 run differential between their ERA and FIP is second largest in baseball mostly because they have allowed the 3rd-highest BABIP and the 8th-worst strand rate around. If only the bullpen could hold such a potentially boisterous future; they rank 24th in ERA and BAA and 25th in xFIP and WHIP. Along with a bad bullpen, their defense can’t help matters either. They rank 26th in DRS and UZR, and tied for 27th in Fielding Percentage.

Key Contributors

  • 3B Anthony Rendon (180 wRC+, 1.3 WAR in 22 games)
  • INF Howie Kendrick (142 wRC+, 0.8 WAR in 28 games)
  • OF Juan Soto (124 wRC+, 0.1 WAR in 28 games)
  • SP Max Scherzer (52.1 IP, 1.95 FIP, 2.1 WAR in 8 starts)
  • SP Stephen Strasburg (51 IP, 2.88 FIP, 1.5 WAR in 8 starts)
  • SP Patrick Corbin (43.2 IP, 3.59 FIP, 0.9 WAR in 7 starts)
  • RP Sean Doolittle (15.2 IP, 2.49 FIP, 0.6 WAR in 15 appearances)
Howie Kendrick - Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY Sports
Howie Kendrick – Photo courtesy of Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY Sports

Miami Marlins

Boy, it must be hard being a fan of the Fish right now, and no I’m not talking about anything relating to Red Lobster. The Marlins are right now at 10-26, the worst record in baseball by two games over the 13-25 Royals. They have the worst offense in baseball (dead last in wRC+ and wOBA), one of the worst bullpens in baseball (3rd-worst ERA, 2nd-worst FIP), and their defense isn’t performing so well either (23rd in DRS, 24th in UZR, and 21st in Fielding Percentage). One bright spot resides within their starting rotation, as it ranks 11th in ERA and FIP and sport the 6th-lowest HR/9 in the league.

Key Contributors

  • 1B Neil Walker (124 wRC+, 0.3 WAR in 34 games)
  • SP Pablo Lopez (38 IP, 2.79 FIP, 1.1 WAR in 7 starts)
  • SP Caleb Smith (42.2 IP, 2.88 FIP, 1.2 WAR in 7 starts)
Neil Walker - John Minchillo/AP
Neil Walker – Photo courtesy of John Minchillo/AP

I think this division can start getting more competitive once the Mets start to catch on and the Nationals get back one of the better hitters in baseball in Anthony Rendon. The Braves are surely a team to look out for from here on out, considering they have a wealth of young prospects to ship for some big-time additions to their rotation, bullpen, and/or defense. If Harper can start hitting more consistently, watch out for Philly’s offense even more so. The Marlins, well we probably (as in the rest of the division) don’t have to worry about them for at least another three years, and even that may be putting it optimistically. But for now, the division is underwhelming us baseball fans.


Featured Photo Credit: NBC Sports Philadelphia

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