After the Mets dominated the Phillies in the first two games of a three-game series, every team in the NL East is above .500, and separated by only three games. So, with the recent resurgence of New York, the silent emergence of the Nationals (sans Stephen Strasburg), and the struggling Phillies, the question is worth asking: Is the NL East that good, or that bad?
Let’s break it down.
It’s hard to argue against it being a strong division when each team is above .500. This is not the NL West of recent memory where good money was on a team to win the division with a sub-.500 record, because the teams were beating each other up and losing to everyone else.
No, instead, you have a Mets team that has won four straight against Philly and the Yankees, a Braves team with one of the best pitching rotations in baseball (again), another young, upstart Marlins squad, and a Nationals club keeping its head above water until Sir Strasburg gets promoted.
Not to mention the Phillies, who have represented the National League in the World Series two years in a row.
Statistically speaking, four of the five teams have a positive run differential (Nats are minus-18 and are ranked in the top 13 in team ERA (Nats are No. 21). It’s certainly a difficult division, and should be a close race come September, but that’s simply because there are five talented teams in the East.
None of the five teams in the NL East are winning a pennant this season. There is simply not enough depth on any of these teams to compete against the likes of the Dodgers, Cardinals, and Giants —even the Padres have found talent somewhere.
The Phillies, for as good as their hitting is (and hasn’t been lately), have no pitching behind Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels, and no bullpen to speak of.
The Marlins live week-to-week on Josh Johnson’s starts and Dan Uggla’s surprisingly high batting average (a whopping .278).
The Mets are streaky, depending on where they play (18-9 at home, 6-15 on the road).
And the Nationals have been pretty bad statistically speaking, except for the fact they lead the NL in saves, proving they don’t blow leads.
There have certainly been a slew of factors as to why this division is so close (Marlins, Mets, and Nationals are all tied for third at 24-23), but perhaps it is because these teams will continue to beat each other up.
The Bottom Line
Sorry to fans of the NL East, but it appears to be a down year for the division as a whole. I have a hard time buying into streaky teams like the Phillies or Mets, or really young teams like Florida, Washington, and Atlanta.
With a lot of rising talent in the division (Jason Heyward, Tommy Hanson, Stephen Strasburg, Ike Davis…), I like the NL East being strong a few years down the line, but I’m not seeing it in 2010.
One of these teams will win the division, and earn a 25 percent chance to represent the National League in the World Series. Until October rolls around, we’ll have to settle for streaky play, with the Fish, Phills, Mets, Nats, and Braves beating each other up.