In 1994, Commissioner Bud Selig realigned both the American and National Leagues by creating three divisions in each league. In doing so, the Atlanta Braves moved from the National League West to the newly aligned East division.
Excluding the strike-shortened season of 1994 and the blip on the radar screen that was the 2006 New York Mets, the National League East has been dominated by two clubs.
In 16 of the past 17 seasons, either the Braves or the Philadelphia Phillies have carried the banner of the NL East into the playoffs.
Just over a month into the 2012 season, a new kid has moved into the neighborhood, and the Washington Nationals are knocking on the door of the former champions apparently ready to play for keeps.
While the Phillies have struggled out of the gate due to injuries to key players, the Braves seem rejuvenated after a September collapse last year that caused them to miss the playoffs on the last day of the season.
Although there is an unwritten sentiment in baseball that we don’t know what a team is until the 50-game mark, it’s safe to say at this point that the Nationals and Braves will be in the race for the NL East crown throughout the season.
Both teams currently sit atop the division, yet they have gotten there by using contrasting styles.
Washington’s pitching staff leads the MLB with a 2.64 ERA and a .207 average against, along with being fourth in K/9 (8.09).
Meanwhile, Atlanta’s offense is among the best in baseball, ranking in the top five in runs scored (166), batting average (.269) and, surprisingly, stolen bases (24).
It goes without saying that these two rosters will look different in September than they do at this early stage in the schedule, but let’s take how both teams are currently assembled and see who might have an early edge head-to-head.