With healthy expectations ahead, the Phillies will compete for the National League East crown, while the Braves will be defending their second consecutive pennant against the Fightins and two other formidable rivals.
Two years ago, the Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves were a season away from contention. But after Atlanta had surprised many by capturing 2018’s NL East, they then had better health than their three competitors and won another title. So, can they do a three-peat?
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National publications believe the NL East is the most competitive division, but their predictions based on 2019 mirror that finish: the Braves, Washington Nationals, New York Mets and Phils. But how much did health play a role in each organization’s outcome?
Although Atlanta had 97 triumphs to Philadelphia’s 81, 2020’s divisional race is not a foregone conclusion. Basically, the red pinstripes had eight relievers on the IL (injured list) and four outfielders missing big chunks of time, but the Braves were the healthiest of the four clubs. Yet the Phils won 10 of their 19 games.
Even though the Fightins are at $205 million AAV (average annual value), they like some franchises are willing to exceed the CBT (competitive-balance threshold). Translation: They will spend up to $228 million. But Atlanta could also allocate resources in July without surpassing the CBT to make a deep playoff run.
Presently, the Braves want more than an NLDS appearance. And they’ve indicated that by signing closer Will Smith, Cole Hamels and outfielder Marcell Ozuna to fill a need, replace an arm and a bat. As for the red pinstripes, they’ve inked Zack Wheeler and Didi Gregorius with a quality approach instead of quantity.
The divisional battle is a four-team race with good health playing the deciding role. Basically, 2019’s finish had the healthiest club winning the NL East, while the injury-plagued Phils were a distant fourth. And many expecting the same conclusion aren’t considering key pieces on the IL.
For the faithful supporters of both franchises, 2019’s finish is 2020’s forecast. And doing so guarantees excellent health for Atlanta on the way to a third straight divisional triumph and either injuries or poor performances for the hometown nine. But the baseball gods are frequently unpredictable.