Every season, it would appear that most teams play average baseball, and that the “average” of teams would be somewhere within the range of the .500 mark. This year in the National League, the vast majority of clubs are struggling to even muster a .500 record
Outside of the 39-21 San Francisco Giants, the rest of the National League sees its’ struggles. The NL East, originally thought to be one of the toughest in baseball, has a 31-27 Atlanta Braves team in 1st place. The defending NL Champions, the St. Louis Cardinals, are just 31-30. Oh, and the Los Angeles Dodgers, who are supposed to compete for a title? Just 31-30, 8.5 games out of first place.
The National League’s perennial contenders are simply not finding ways to win games in the same fashion that they did in years’ past. A few teams or a division being weak is very conceivable, yet for an entire half of the league to display inconsistency and lack of success across the board, is truly not all that common.
This poor performance has done nothing but shorten the gap between the leaders of the Wild Card race, and the perennial cellar dwellers. Is it strange to think that the Chicago Cubs, who are in the cellar of the NL Wild Card race, are only a very reachable 6.5 games out of leading it? Is it strange to think that an entire league is subject to average-below average play?
There’s reasons for the struggles that these expected contenders are facing. The two very good NL teams now, being the Giants and the first place Milwaukee Brewers on the other hand, were not widely expected to compete and storm out of the gate with commanding leads in their respective divisions. Yet with teams like the Washington Nationals battling injuries, namely to their young star Bryce Harper, the same battle that one would expect the rising Nationals to put up, is simply not there.
Or it could be the fact that the St. Louis Cardinals have lost consistency in their hitting. That the breakout seasons from Allen Craig and Matt Carpenter that they reaped the benefits of last season, are no longer in existence. And even on the west coast the problems continue, where the Los Angeles Dodgers, despite a very strong rotation and substantial lineup, have let many games get away from them, and have performed drastically below expectations.
So what does this mean for the National League exactly?
This is an explicit reminder that through June, any one of these 15 teams can represent the NL in the World Series. There’s no team too strong, and not enough teams are too weak to not be capable of success in 2014. With being around 30-35% through the season, a lot of things will change in the upcoming months. Yet with such a small distance between the best and worst in the National League, one bad stretch or perhaps one hot stretch can leave a very large mark on the implications of the Wild Card race.
Or perhaps the Dodgers, Cardinals and Nationals will all wake up, and perform at their expectations. If they don’t, it’s anyone’s guess on what NL team will be playing in late October.