The Great Debate: The NL East Second-Half Preview

Ryan SmithCorrespondent IJuly 13, 2009

MIAMI - JUNE 12:  Shortstop Jimmy Rollins #11 of the Philadelphia Phillies applies a late tag as Jeremy Hermida #27 of the Florida Marlins steals second base at Dolphin Stadium June 12, 2008 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

The MLB All-Star Game is one of the greatest games in sports. It is a time when both leagues put forth their best players and play to see who's better.

But most of all, it is a time to reflect on the first half of the season as well as look ahead to the second half.

In this "Great Debate", the top teams of the NL East have put forth their top writers to discuss what will happen in the second half of the season.

Mets top writer Richard Marsh and I have selected the participants.

For the Philadephia Phillies, we have Scott Eisenlohr and Cody Swartz.

For the New York Mets, we have John Fennelly and Lou Cappetta.

For the Atlanta Braves, we have Joel Barker and Cameron Britt.

And finally, for the Florida Marlins, we have Andrew Robeson and Leslie Monteiro.

(My dearest apologies to the Washington Nationals.)

(At least one writer from each team will answer the questions. For some, both will answer.)

1. What will be the most important part of the teams in the second half?

Cody: I think the second half will come down to pitching. The Phillies have managed to remain in the lead in the NL East, even though they are third-last in the the league in team ERA. The Mets and the Marlins both rank slightly below in pitching, with only the Braves better than average. I think the division will come down to whichever staff can perform better down the stretch, and I think it will be the Phillies.

John: Starting pitching. All four teams will improve in that area, but it will benefit the Phillies the most because of their ability to score. All they need to do is pitch better at home and they will coast into the playoffs.

Joel: For the Phillies it will be the rotation. This team is one starter short of being able to repeat as world champs. As currently constructed the Phils' can win the East, but probably not much more. That said, I would kill to have this offense. But we all know pitching wins championships. The Marlins need bullpen help. If they can get a reliever/closer they will be a force in the East and potentially the NL as a whole. The lineup is decent, but that young rotation has the capability of being really special. The Braves need a bat. That's it. One big bat. The team is fine elsewhere, but their offense is killing them. Their starting rotation is the best in the NL East, but it's being wasted due to an awful batting order. The Mets need to get healthy and stay that way. Plus, they need another starter. Without both things happening before August this team might be completely out of it soon.


Leslie: For the Phillies, starting pitching. For the Mets, Reyes and Beltran coming back from injuries. For the Marlins, strong bullpen. For the Braves, their hitting. Pitching will dictate whether the Phillies will get a chance to repeat as World Series Champs. The Mets have a good team,but they are struggling because of injuries, and it has showed in the last few weeks. The Marlins need strong relief from their relievers because their bullpen has been an issue at times this year, and we know relief pitching can make or break a team, which the Twins and the Mets can tell you last year. The Braves need to show consistency in winning games. The talent is there, but something is missing with that team.

2.     Who do you think will be the final contenders in the NL East?

Scott: The Phillies and the Braves. I don't think the Marlins are consistent enough, but will hang around. The Mets, who were supposed to battle it out with the Phillies for the NL East crown, are just too banged up to contend.

Lou: The division looks to be the Phillies to lose, however if they continue to have pitching problems down the stretch (especially in the bullpen, just ask the 2008 Mets) it could be another tight race. I think the braves may pose the biggest threat in the second half, although if the Mets get completely healthy, they could contend as well. But give the Mets struggles down the stretch the past two seasons, it may be a long shot.

Cameron: In the end, I think the teams with a well-rounded, well, everything will have the best chance at making the postseason. Provided that a few moves happen and no more injuries occur, the Mets, Braves, and Phillies will be in the thick of things come September. I am not trying to put down the Fish, but their lack of veteran leadership and innate ability to become "sellers" for no reason, I just cannot entrust my faith with them.

Andrew: The Marlins and Phillies, although it is hard to say that firmly before the trade deadline passes. As it currently stands, the Phillies have the best offense in the east and I still believe the Marlins have the best pitching staff in the east. As a result, I see these two teams battling it out down the stretch.

3. What NL East players do you think will have the best second half?




Cody: I think a handful of the NL East guys will have great second halves. Jimmy Rollins has been on fire since his batting average dropped to .210, and I expect an All-Star second half from him to push his season batting average up to near .260 by the time the year is over. Hanley Ramirez is arguably the most underrated player in baseball and I wouldn't argue if you said he is the most complete all-around player in the game today. He is already leading the league in hitting (.346), but I expect him to continue his stellar play. I wouldn't be surprised to see Ramirez end the year at 30 home runs, 30 steals, and a .340 batting average. I also expect a huge second half from David Wright. He is one of the best all-around players in the game today. Wright is enjoying his usual fine season thus far (.326 batting average, 20 steals, although just five HR). I think he will keep his average up, as he is a notoriously better hitter in the second half over his career. I also think we will see more power from Wright in the second half of the season, leading to another 20-20 season.

John: Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins will step it up, especially in games vs. the Mets. Johan Santana will have his usual stellar second half, but I’m a bit cautious that he’ll throw in the towel considering the sub-par team behind him.

Joel: Hanley Ramirez will make his case for MVP, but Pujols will win it going away. Jimmy Rollins will make up for his first half slump with a huge second half as well. Braves rookie Tommy Hanson will likely continue his quest for R.O.Y. with a dominant second-half.

Leslie: I say Hanley Ramirez and Ryan Howard. Ramirez is having a great year, and you get the sense this is his year to win the MVP and nothing is going to get in his way. You can count on a Phillie to get smokin' hot in the summer time, and the guess is it's going to be Ryan Howard.

4. Will there be any blockbuster trades involving the NL East before the trade deadline? If so, what teams will be involved?

Scott: The Braves, if they stay close, could trade for another starter. The Phillies would also like a front line pitcher, but will not make a big move. The Mets, if faltering, could be big sellers, trading names as big as Reyes, Church or Murphy.

Lou: I doubt we'll see any blockbuster trades at all this year. There is a slight chance the Phillies could make a play for Roy Halladay, but it's more likely they'll sign Pedro Martinez. The best any of these teams can hope for, is that the Nationals clean house, and trade some of their talent.

Cameron: There are two potential moves that could significantly shift power in this division: the Braves getting a bat and the Phillies getting an arm. If the Braves could get someone like Mark Teahen, Nelson Cruz, or Jermaine Dye in a trade to help out the starting staff, then this team would be nearly unstoppable. If the Phillies could get Pedro Martinez (who they are rumored to be looking at) through free agency, then they would also greatly improve their shot at the playoffs.

Andrew: Of course there will be. There is no way the Phillies and Mets will not make a move with the division so tight. The Braves and Marlins will also make moves, but its less likely the term “blockbuster’ will be used in those situations. I expect to see Roy Halladay in the NL East by July 31. And, there is also a possibility Adam Dunn will switch teams within the division.

5. Right now, the Phillies, Mets, Braves and Marlins are all close in the division. If one of the these teams run off with the division now, who will it be? Why?


Cody: I absolutely see the Phillies running away with the division. Not to be a homer, but I think this team is the best of the group. I can't see the Mets winning anything. Right now, they are playing like one of the worst teams in the league. It will be different when they get their key players back from the DL, I'm sure, but I still can't see that team overcoming the deficit in the NL East that seems to be getting larger every day. The Phillies have proven themselves to be a second-half team, and most of the team's players are second-half players. Raul Ibanez is coming back from the DL soon, Jimmy Rollins seems to have found his swing again, and the starting pitching seems to be more reliable than it was at the beginning of the year.

John: Philadelphia’s pitching will settle down. When that happens, start putting up those 'magic number’ counts….

Joel: The Phillies. Even with their lack of starting pitching depth they are the clear-cut most talented team in the division. Yes, they need a starter, but they could probably win the division without one. Just not much more than that.







Leslie: I would say the Marlins. I love their starting pitching, and they have good hitting. Plus, none of the three teams are not that good.

6. What do you think the NL East standings will look look at the end of the season? Give exact records please.

Cody: Phillies 90-72, Florida 86-76, N.Y. Mets 84-78, Atlanta 80-82, Nationals 66-95

Scott: Phillies 92-70. 2. Marlins 88-74. 3. Braves 87-75. 4. Mets 83-79. 5. Nationals 70-92

John: Phillies 94-68 Marlins 89-73 Braves 81-81 Mets 79-83 Nationals 54-108

Lou: Phillies 90-72 Braves 86-76 Mets 83-79 Marlins 79-82 Nationals 54-108

Joel: Phillies 90-72, Marlins 87-75, Braves 82-80, Mets 79-83, Nats 58-104

Cameron: Final Standings, provided that the said moved happen in number four- Atlanta Braves 86-76, Philadelphia Phillies 85-77, New York Mets 83-79, Florida Marlins 82-80, Washington Nationals 52-110 (keep in mind, I'm a Braves fan)

Leslie: Marlins 86-76, Phillies 84-78, Mets 81-81, Braves 79-83, Nationals 60-102

Andrew: Marlins 88-74 Phillies 86-76 Mets 81-81 Braves 74-88 Nationals 50-112


    Royals Mull Signing Felon Pitcher

    MLB logo

    Royals Mull Signing Felon Pitcher

    Adam Wells
    via Bleacher Report

    Realmuto Shines as Marlins Beat Rockies 6-2

    Miami Marlins logo
    Miami Marlins

    Realmuto Shines as Marlins Beat Rockies 6-2

    Marlin Maniac
    via Marlin Maniac

    Video: Ozzie Albies’ 4-Hit Day Not Enough for Braves in Loss

    Atlanta Braves logo
    Atlanta Braves

    Video: Ozzie Albies’ 4-Hit Day Not Enough for Braves in Loss

    Talking Chop
    via Talking Chop

    Jackson Joins Record-Tying 13th MLB Team

    MLB logo

    Jackson Joins Record-Tying 13th MLB Team

    Alec Nathan
    via Bleacher Report