Divisional Struggles Put NL East Up for Grabs

braves2Let’s face it, no one was very high on the Phillies entering the season. As far as pundits go, many had them below 80 wins; my colleague Corey Seidman attempted to paint the rosiest picture by predicting 85 wins. My official guess was 80-82. And my original thought was that it would take upwards of 90 to win the NL East. That wasn’t – and still isn’t – a given.

Look around the National League East and you’ll see teams with major flaws. Bright spots litter the division, but for the most part its clubs have a missing ingredient, or more.


Why they could win the NL East: Firsthand, we got a chance to see the Braves pitching staff in all its glory back in April. It’s very solid, albeit doomed for regression. Julio Teheran looks to be the real deal as the staff ace. Alex Wood could be a very good starter, but it’s too early to tell. Ervin Santana has pitched above his career norms. Mike Minor is finally healthy and is now settling into a starting role. Aaron Harang has been otherworldly since joining the Braves, his seventh team since 2010. Plus, they have Craig Kimbrel in the bullpen.

Why they won’t win the NL East:  They can’t hit a lick. Going into Monday’s game’s, the Braves had managed just 99 runs in 30 games. Any lineup with B.J. Upton and Dan Uggla is destined to be one that strikes out an exorbitant amount (as a unit, they’ve fanned on 24.1% of their at-bats). Justin Upton and Freddie Freeman can only do so much.


Why they could win the NL East:  Their bullpen went into Monday’s games with the third-best ERA in the National League at 1.98. The pitching staff is one that will help them stay in games, fronted by Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmerman, and Gio Gonzalez.

Why they won’t win the NL East: Missing both Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper for an extended stretch will obviously hurt the offense – they scored just two runs in the final two games of the series vs. the Phillies.

Over the weekend, the Phillies proved they could hang with the Nats.


Why they could win the NL East: They have pretty good arms in Dillon Gee, Jon Niese, and Zack Wheeler. They also have a very underrated second baseman, Daniel Murphy. He doesn’t get enough recognition. David Wright is also still at the top of his game, although he’s hit just one homer this season.

Why they won’t win the NL East: Not much else on their team is all that great. Bartolo Colon is like a hundred years old and overweights. Can he hold up? Their bullpen is sketchy and their offense is a question mark. Curtis Granderson, the big offseason signing, is hitting .185.


Why they could win the NL East: Basically, its Jose Fernandez and Giancarlo Stanton. It’s unlikely, but if they can go bonkers throughout the season, they could surprise some people. The issue is that they lean too heavily on those two players. DJ Ramos, Dan Jennings, and Steve Cishek are the key cogs of a talented, yet inconsistent bullpen.

Why they won’t win the NL East: They just don’t have enough to compete. Extremely reliant on two superstars and not much else might work for the Miami Heat. It won’t work for the Marlins. In a few years, they may have the pieces to contend. But for now, the Marlins are too thin.


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