The National League East has been quite the anomaly as we get ready to wrap up the first half to the 2014 MLB season. Not one team has taken full control or fallen all the way out of the race with only 5.5 games separating first and last place. Lets take a look at each team and try to figure out who has the best chance to win this division at the end of September
The Nationals are currently in first place and have being playing better baseball as of late. Pitching has carried them for most of the season ranking 1st in the NL with a 3.07 ERA. At the same time the offense has held them back, ranking 10th in the NL in batting average at .244. The return of long-time National Ryan Zimmerman has helped with their struggling offense but has not been enough to catapult them into an elongated stretch of winning games.
Young stud Bryce Harper has missed all of May and June and the Nationals are hoping he returns sometime in July. However, Harper returning may cause some problems because Zimmerman has been playing left field as the Nationals are concerned with his throwing problems and Anthony Rendon has been having a break-out season. First year Manager Matt Williams will have to get creative with his daily lineups. The Nationals should be considered the favorite the rest of the season because their bullpen and starting pitching lead by Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann has been stellar.
The Braves have been the model of consistency in the National League having won 90 games 3 of the past 4 seasons, winning a measly 89 games in 2011. Last year the Braves shocked many by dominating in the fashion they did, lead by power hitting and good starting pitching. However this year had been very up and down for them. The home runs have been less frequent and they are 12th in the NL with a .240 batting average. Having to pencil B.J. Upton, .204 batting average, into the lineup everyday has not helped their offense combined with the benching of Dan Uggla who is hitting .163 on the year.
Similar to the Nationals the Braves have been carried by starting pitching and their bullpen, who own a 3.34 ERA good for 4th in the NL. The Braves only sit a game behind the Nationals and are expected to make some moves before the trade deadline. Judging by the past you can never fully count out the Braves no matter how far back they are in the standings.
Lead by outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, who is having an MVP season, the Marlins have been the surprise of the National League hovering around .500 for most of the year. With one of the most promising outfields in the MLB with Stanton, Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich the Marlins could possibly hang around for the rest of the season. Losing ace Jose Fernandez for the season hurt their chances of being a contender this year but the Marlins have a strong chance to compete in years to come. The emergence of Henderson Alvarez and Nathan Eovaldi along with prospect Andrew Heaney are the building blocks for one of the best rotations in baseball. If the Marlins finished at .500 for the year it would be a huge accomplishment for a franchise and owner that fans do not think highly of.
The second half of the season for the Phillies will not be about how many games they win but rather who is staying on the team. With a lot of valuable trade assets such as Jimmy Rollins, Cliff Lee, Jonathan Papelbon and Chase Utley, to name a few, the rebuilding process for a once dominant franchise may be faster then most. The Phillies are currently 6 games under .500 which is impressive considering the offensive and pitching stats are not. If Phillies General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. was smart he would make everyone available and see what type of haul he could get back to set his organization up for success in the future.
New York Mets
The Mets have done a great job in assembling a young and promising farm system but that so far has not related to wins for the major league team. A 2014 season with a finish near .500 would be a success for a team that has not been good since they left the “friendly” confines of Shea Stadium in 2008. Recentyl General Manger told the media the Mets will not be sellers at the deadline which to most would not make much sense. Bartolo Colon has been like an ace for them the previous 2 months and could get back a return of a top prospect. Daniel Murphy is one of the best offensive second basemen in the NL and is sure to gain some interest as the deadline approaches. The Mets have too many holes to be competitive this season but do have a promising future.