The first month of the MLB season is drawing to a close. But the NL East has already taught us so much:
Based on what has transpired after one month of baseball, here are the updated NL East final standings predictions.
Note: All statistics updated through April 30, courtesy of MLB.com unless noted otherwise.
At 7-19, the Miami Marlins have a .269 winning percentage, giving them the worst record in the NL East standings. And the National League standings, as well. And the MLB standings, for that matter.
That is "the bad." The Fish have also experienced "the ugly."
On opening night at Marlins Park, many Marlins fans came to the stadium just to protest the salary purge the team underwent during the offseason. Joe Capozzi of The Palm Beach Post reported that some fans were ejected from the stadium for "causing a disturbance."
Eric Adelson of Yahoo! Sports was there that night and noted that the actual attendance looked suspiciously lower than the announced attendance of 34,439. After the game, Adelson spoke to some Marlins players about the attendance that night. Miami stating pitcher Kevin Slowey said "the crowd was amazing, for all the turmoil. A lot of people love baseball here." Despite seemingly benign questions and equally benign answers, Adelson was escorted out of clubhouse by Marlins team officials before interviewing any more players.
But things took a turn for the surreal when owner Jeffrey Loria mandated a pitching lineup change on a recent doubleheader in Minnesota. According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports, sources said Loria wanted prized rookie Jose Fernandez to pitch in the warmer temperatures predicted during the day game. The pitching assignment for that game had originally been selected as veteran Ricky Nolasco, as is customary.
Here is Passan's analysis of the incident:
By overstepping boundaries no other owner in baseball would dare, Loria presented Redmond with a Catch-22: listen to the man who signs his paycheck and risk drawing the players' ire, or refuse to kowtow to Loria's requests and find himself at the mercy of the owner's short fuse.
"He was embarrassed," one source said of Redmond, who nonetheless claimed publicly the decision was an organizational choice. "He tried to fight it. He had nothing to do with it."
That bizarre episode undermined Redmond's authority and may have also been the final insult to Nolasco, the Marlins' best pitcher and an impending free agent. During the offseason, the 30-year-old asked to be traded by the Marlins, with whom he has spent his entire eight-year career. Nolasco will most likely ask to be traded again, this time by the July 31 deadline. If that happens, Marlins fans will be ready to look to next year. Or the year after that.
RESULT: First Pick in 2014 MLB draft
Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com conducted an extensive interview with Philadelphia Phillies' MVP and Gold Glove short stop Jimmy Rollins on February 19 regarding the upcoming 2013 MLB season. Among many interesting things Rollins said was that “if we play good baseball, we’ll win the division.”
So far this season, the Phillies are not playing good baseball. The Phillies are 12-14 and in third place in the NL East. However, the Phillies are 6-4 in their last 10 games, including a weekend sweep of the New York Mets.
But as Ted Williams of Yahoo! Sports recently illustrated, this Phillies team causes more questions to be asked than answered:
So what's the problem here? Is this team in trouble or is it just working itself into shape? We've heard since spring training about a reliance on aging stars who may have already seen their best days, about high expectations of key players returning from injuries. Are they over the hill or not? Is this a matter of just being patient until the mix begins to jell, or is what we're seeing now what we'll be getting all year?
Time will tell. But at the very least, the Phillies are still good enough to make the summer very interesting.
RESULT: Lose Wild Card No. 2
Matt Harvey has been most impressive thus far, compiling a 4-0 record and a 1.56 ERA with 46 strikeouts in 40.1 innings pitched over six starts. The 24 -year-old is already being compared to Tom Seaver, and could claim the Mets' second consecutive NL Cy Young.
Jon Niese has been good, too. Niese is 2-2 with a 3.31 ERA over 32.2 innings in his six starts so far this season. On the strength of these two young arms, the Mets are 10-14, in fourth place in the NL East standings.
But Charles Costello of Yahoo! Sports wrote on April 26 that the Mets need contributions from more than just Harvey and Niese:
Matt Harvey has been great...In games that he's started, the Mets are 5-0. In all other games, they're 5-10. Take away starts by Jonathon Niese and Harvey, that record falls to 3-9...With holes in the lineup, we knew from day one that a lot would fall on the starting pitching. As great as Harvey's been, and as confident as you feel when Niese takes the mound, the Mets still need to figure things out elsewhere.
New York won't be able to figure things out in time to make the playoffs this season, but the Metropolitans should have an entertaining Wild Card race with the Phillies, lasting at least through the first day of fall. This playoff push will be invaluable experience for next season.
RESULT: Lose Wild Card No. 2
During spring training, Davey Johnson told Kevin Kernan of The New York Post that the 2013 Washington Nationals can "go deep into the playoffs and got a good chance to win the prize.’’
Before that can happen, these Nationals must play better.
They are currently 13-13 and in second place in the NL East, 3.5 games behind the first-place Atlanta Braves, and the Nats have yet to beat those Braves in four meetings so far this season.
Moreover, there are some disturbing trends developing with the 2013 Nationals when compared to the 2012 team that finished 98-64 with the best record in baseball:
- Washington's bullpen ERA of 4.12 is 22nd in all of baseball. In 2012, Washington had the seventh-best bullpen ERA at 3.23.
- The Nationals' team batting average of .239 is 24th in the league. Last season, the Nats finished ninth at .261.
- The Nats are worst in MLB with 23 total errors committed, in stark contrast to 2012 when the Nats were 23rd in the league with only 94 errors.
Some of these trends may correct themselves, and some may not. It's too early to tell how the Nationals will execute specific aspects of the game throughout the course of the entire season. But one thing is for sure: the 2013 Nationals have less margin for error than in 2012.
RESULT: Win NL Wild Card No. 1
Some people who cover baseball for a living actually thought the division-leading Atlanta Braves would be good this season.
Anthony Witrado of Sporting News had the nerve to pick Atlanta as his World Series runner-up.
Yet when the Braves got off to a hot start—including a sweep of the Washington Nationals in DC—others seemed to forget those preseason expectations, while also forgetting to temper their excitement. On April 17, Bob Nightengale of USA Today wrote the following when the Braves had a 12-2 record:
Producing the greatest record in baseball has a way of making people notice. The scary part, at least for the rest of the National League, the Braves haven't come close to hitting their stride...We're not going to tell the Washington Nationals what to do, but they may want to rip down that plastic sheeting above their lockers, take the champagne out of the ice buckets, and brace themselves for a little humility. The Braves are going to have a lot to say this summer long before this NL East race is decided.
Thanks for the brilliant insight, Bob.
I'll do you one better: The Atlanta Braves will win the NL East.
It's long been said that pitching is a key to success in the big leagues. The Atlanta Braves have the former; therefore they will achieve the latter.
RESULT: Win NL East