The NL East looks tough so far

Before the start of the current season, the realistic Mets fan probably thought the best chance for the Mets to make the postseason would be via the wild card route, as Washington was a strong favorite to win the division. One factor that would have been expected to aid any wild card drive for the Mets would be that the Mets would playing 19 games against each of the other N. L. East teams, and all but the Nats had finished below .500 for the 2017 season. Thus the reasoning would have been that the Mets play relatively more games against presumably weaker teams than some of the other wild card contenders.

So far, in 2018, that scenario is not playing out. The N.L. East is actually the strongest division in the league, at least to this point of the season. Through the weekend, the East has six more wins than losses. The N.L Central has two more losses than wins, and the West has broken even so far. This also shows that the N. L., in aggregate, has won four more of the interleague games than the A.L. has.

Won-loss records are the best way of judging team performances, but run differential is also a good tool. The leading team in run differential in the league is Atlanta, with a plus 34 figure, and right on their tail are the surprising Phillies at plus 33, second in the league. The Mets, first in the standings in the East, are sixth in run differential for the league at plus 16. The Nats are tenth with a minus seven, and the woeful Marlins are last in the league (and all of MLB) with a minus 58 run differential. Please note all stats for this article are through Sunday, April 22.

Going forward, the Braves look like the real deal. They have a solid lineup lead by Dansby Swanson and Ender Inciarte, and Ryan Flaherty is leading the N. L. in batting, yet he was hitting eighth in the order against the Mets. The pitching staff looks good, Julio Teheran is pitching like the ace he is, hard throwing young lefty Sean Newcomb is improving. Matt Wisler was pulled out of AAA to start against the Mets, and he looked like the second coming of Greg Maddux.

The Phillies have had to overcome some notable rookie mistakes by their rookie manager, but they are on a roll now having swept a good Pirate team. Rhys Hoskins has an OPS of 1.098, and Aaron Nola may not throw 100 mph fastballs, but he is effective.

The Nats have underperformed so far, despite great starts for both Bryce Harper and Max Scherzer. Star third baseman Anthony Rendon has missed a lot of time due injury, and Mets killer Daniel Murphy has yet to play while recovering from 2017 surgery. The team is likely to be much better as the season moves along.

The Marlins are destined for the bottom of the division, having shed stars like Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton in the offseason, mainly getting prospects and salary relief in return.

The Mets have played very well so far, but winning the division, or even finishing second, will not be a cakewalk.

9 comments for “The NL East looks tough so far

  1. Name
    April 24, 2018 at 9:24 am

    The game-wide tanking attitude is real and parity is not the name of the game this year. There are 5 teams that are currently below .300 compared to just 1 at this time last year.

    That means win totals will be inflated for the winning teams. The second wild card could require 92 wins.

    The NL east is 18-12 against the central, 4-8 against the west, and 4-3 interleague. The Phillies are leading the way with 10-0 against non-east opponents. The Mets have had only 6 non-east games and are 4-2

    • April 24, 2018 at 10:56 am

      I wouldn’t worry too much about tanking making the second NL Wild Card needing 92 wins.

      Last year there were 6 teams in the NL that finished with 90 or more losses and the second WC team needed 87 wins. Only three of those six teams are on pace to repeat this year and I wouldn’t wager on the Padres doing it. Their schedule has been tough, with 20 of the 24 games they’ve played being against teams that won 86 or more games last year.

      Only the Marlins and Reds are actively trying not to win in the NL. Will both of those teams finish with 100 losses? It’s possible but it’s only been done once in the NL this Century – in 2012 when the Cubs lost 101 and the Astros lost 107. That year also saw the Rockies lose 98 and the Marlins lose 93. The second Wild Card team that year had 88 wins.

      If the Reds and Marlins combine for the same 208 losses that the ’12 Astros and Cubs did – that’s 29 more losses than they had last year. But I would argue those wins are likely to be grabbed by teams moving up in the standings and still missing the playoffs in all three divisions than the WC teams (whoever they end up being) padding their win totals over a season ago.

      Edit – Only two (not 3) of the six teams that lost 90 last year are on pace to do it this year. The Marlins are on pace but only lost 85 last season. The Nats are also on pace to lose 90 games but I don’t imagine they will lose quite that many.

      • Name
        April 24, 2018 at 1:06 pm

        You might be right for the NL 92 is what i would be shooting for the AL though.

        The 5 teams that currently <30% wins. To avoid 100 losses:
        Baltimore : 57-82 (.410)
        White Sox: 58-85 (.406)
        KC: 58-84 (.408)
        Marlins: 58-82 (.414)
        Cincy: 59-81 (.421)

        The hole that these teams have dug themselves into is so deep that it's really hard to put money on any of them climbing out. If i had to put money on one it’s got to be the Royals or White Sox because they are the only ones that are in the same division which means they’ll get 19 games against each other so one team has a chance to pile on the other. But this could be the year where history is made and 5+ teams (Texas is at .333 and needs to play .399 to avoid 100 as well) finish with 100+ losses.

        • April 24, 2018 at 2:02 pm

          I would still take the under on 92 for the 2nd AL WC.

          I don’t think BAL is that bad – like the Padres they’ve had a tough slate of games to open the season. I see the AL this year as a lot like last year’s NL, with a half dozen teams losing 90 games and 3 teams battling for the 2 WC spots. I don’t believe the Angles are really a threat to win 92 games. They’re the opposite of SD and BAL – they’ve played mostly a weak schedule — 7 vs OAK, 3 vs TEX and 3 vs KC and they’re 11-2 in those games. In 3 games at home against the Red Sox, they were outscored 27-3.

          My belief is that the Red Sox are a really good team, likely to win 95 or more games. Can three teams from the same division all win 92+ games? It feels unlikely, unless BAL really is that bad and TB is, too. If we say the Sox win the division and the Yankees take the first WC, then either TOR, ANA or MIN has to win 92 games and I just don’t see it.

          • Name
            April 24, 2018 at 3:07 pm

            We shall see.

            My thought process: More than a few teams are going to lose 100 games and someone – most likely the playoff teams – has to be on the other side of those losses.

            Your thought process: Historically, winning 92 games is hard and requires a good team and it’s unlikely that 5 teams have good enough teams to get to that mark.

            • April 24, 2018 at 4:37 pm

              I just don’t believe we’re at the level of stratification/inequality that you think we are.

              In the AL in 1954 there were 8 teams. The top 3 teams won 94, 103 and 111 games. And this was in a 154-game season. The bottom 5 did not have a team reach 70 wins. I think here in 2018 we’re going to have too many teams with win totals in the 70s and 80s to see five teams in a league with 92 or more wins or more than two in a league with 100 or more losses.

              FWIW, it wouldn’t surprise me if both CIN and MIA lost 100 games in the NL. And it wouldn’t surprise me if not one team reached that level in the AL.

              Since I know you love the FG projections, here are their predictions thru games of 4/23 for the four worst teams:

              94.5 – Royals
              98.0 – White Sox
              98.2 – Reds
              99.9 – Marlins

  2. MattyMets
    April 25, 2018 at 7:53 am

    John, I totally agree. Other than the Marlins, this is looking like a tougher division than we thought. The Phillies and Braves have young players emerging, like Rhys Hoskins and Ozzie Albies. I still think they each need another offseason to add a few pieces, but they’ll be pesky and flirt with .500 this year and by next year they should be right there battling with us and the Nationals.

    Regarding the tank teams, let’s not forget that these teams will unload talent in July and typically have dreadful Augusts and Septembers. The Reds (Duvall, Schebler, Gennett, Hamilton, Bailey), Marlins (Castro, Ziegler, Prado, Bour, Realmuto, Straily), Royals (Duffy, Duda, Moustakas, Hererra), Rays (Archer, Gomez) and possibly the Orioles and Rangers too, will be dumping veterans for prospects.They may be playing .400 in July, but could easily go .300 the rest of the way.

  3. MattyMets
    April 25, 2018 at 11:25 am

    Most of the tanking teams are in the AL. As of right now the only obvious July sellers in the NL will be the Marlins and Reds. But depending on injuries and performance I suppose the Pirates could unload a few more vets. It’s anyone’s guess what the plan is in San Diego.

  4. OldBackstop
    April 25, 2018 at 11:59 am

    Where the tanking issue is really going to explode is at the trading deadlines, where even more teams throw their cards in and put their high-priced talent on the block. Then the rich get richer.

    It seems like the traditional cycle, that it takes X years to build a championship team, has been chipped away by various factors like foreign players, and now the free and easy way teams will dump their vets (see the Mets in mid-2017) compresses it further.

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