After winning three consecutive National League East titles, the Atlanta Braves look like they are going to be hard-pressed to repeat as division champs. After a painfully slow start that has left the reigning champs one game under .500 heading into the second half of the season, Atlanta now has to overcome a massive injury loss to its best player.
As it stands right now, the New York Mets are atop the NL East standings. However, only six games separate the division leaders from the fourth-place Washington Nationals. Even cellar-dwelling Miami isn’t completely out of, lest anyone forget the young Marlins made some big noise in last year’s COVID-19 shortened campaign.
New York Mets
- 2021 Expected Wins: 90½
- Record (as of July 12): 47-40
The Mets entered the regular season with a projected 90.5 RSW (regular season win total). New York is 3.5 games up on Philadelphia, four games up on Atlanta and six ahead of Washington. At 47-40, the Mets are more than halfway toward topping its win total odds, but are still projected to finish with just 88.5 victories.
New York has struggled mightily when it comes to putting runs on the board this season. The Mets rank an uninspiring 29th in scoring (3.72 RPG), 24th in team batting average (.231), 25th in OPS (.683), 26th in home runs (88) and 27th in stolen bases (26).
No regular position player is batting at least .300 for the Mets. First baseman and Home Run Derby champ Pete Alonso has a team-high 49 RBIs, but is hitting just .250. Left fielder Dominic Smith has 37 RBIs but is hitting just .252. Shortstop Francisco Lindor is third with 36 RBIs but is hitting an uninspiring .227.
The good news is that New York has received some outstanding pitching, starting with superstar Jacob deGrom. The two-time NL Cy Young winner (2018, 2019) is 7-2 with a stunning 1.08 ERA at the break, all while battling minor injuries that have caused him to exit two games early and miss one start.
One revelation has been 28-year-old right-hander Taijuan Walker, who owns a 7-3 record and outstanding 2.50 ERA. While veteran right-hander Marcus Stroman has struggled to pick up victories (6-7), the former Blue Jays hurler has also compiled a fine 2.75 ERA at the break.
Defensively, the Mets rank fourth in team ERA (3.43), fifth in WHIP (1.17), 10th in strikeouts per game (8.51), 11th in quality starts (33) and ninth in fewest errors (47). New York is 28-14 at home and 19-26 on the road. The Mets went 6-4 over their final 10 games before the break. While this division is far from being wrapped up, things are looking up for one team in the Big Apple and it’s not the Yankees.
- 2021 Expected Wins: 80½
- Record (as of July 12): 44-44
Philadelphia had a preseason win total of 80.5, but has already recorded 44 victories entering the second half. Still, the Phillies are projected to finish with 80.1 wins, 0.4 wins under their RSW mark figure.
Offensively, Philadelphia is ranked in the middle third across the board offensively. The Phillies are 13th in scoring (4.57 RPG), 14th in team batting average (.240), 15th in OPS (.716), 19th in home runs (102) and eighth in stolen bases (52).
Shortstop Jean Segura (.322) is the only regular position player batting over .300. Third baseman Rhys Hoskins has 20 home runs while right fielders Bryce Harper and former NL MVP Andrew McCutchen (2013) both have 15 dingers. While Harper is batting a solid .278, McCutchen is hitting an ice-cold .228. The good news is that 10 players have recorded at least 20 RBIs while five players have at least 30.
Defensively, Philadelphia ranks 18th in team ERA (4.37), 15th in WHIP (1.30), 24th in strikeouts per game (9.39), 10th in quality starts (34) and 19th in fewest errors (54).
Staff ace Aaron Nola has been mediocre at best as he hits the break with a 6-5 record and relatively high 4.53 ERA. Fellow right-hander Zack Wheeler also has an identical 6-5 record, but the young hurler has a fine 2.26 ERA and has been victimized by a lack of run support. Unfortunately, starters Vince Velasquez (3-4, 5.35 ERA) and Matt Moore (0-1, 5.40 ERA) have underachieved in a big way and Philadelphia’s starting rotation needs a boost.
Reliever Ranger Suarez has been an absolute revelation as he hits the break with a 4-2 record and jaw-dropping 0.77 ERA in 18 appearances. Philadelphia is 24-16 at home and 20-28 on the road, but still has plenty of time to catch and possibly surpass New York for its first division title since winning five straight from 2007-2011. The Phillies won their last two games before the break to improve to 7-3 over its last 10 games.
- 2021 Expected Wins: 91½
- Record (as of July 12): 44-45
The Atlanta Braves entered the regular season with a 91.5 RSW, but have largely struggled over the first half. Offensively, Atlanta ranks 11th in scoring (4.72 RPG), 15th in team batting average (.238), ninth in OPS (.746), fifth in home runs (123) and 13th in stolen bases (42).
Reigning NL MVP Freddie Freeman is hitting .274 after an awful start, but the Braves suffered a massive loss when outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. suffered a season-ending torn ACL in his right knee on Saturday. The five-tool superstar landed awkwardly on the warning track while chasing a fly ball. Acuna vowed to get back to being arguably the best player in the game.
“The only thing I can say is that I’m obviously going to put maximum effort to come back stronger than ever,” Acuna said via Braves interpreter Franco Garcia during a Zoom call on Sunday. “If I was giving 500 percent before, I’m about to start giving 1,000 percent.”
Defensively, the Braves are ranked 17th in team ERA (4.24), 18th in WHIP (1.32), 23rd in strikeouts per game (9.38), eighth in quality starts (35) and sixth in fewest errors (44).
Veteran right-hander Charlie Morton is 8-3 with a 3.64 ERA in 18 starts while 32-year-old lefty Drew Smyly is 7-3 with a 4.48 ERA.
Left-hander Max Fried has mildly struggled by going 6-5 with a 4.71 ERA and so has right-hander Ian Anderson in going 5-5 with a 3.56 ERA. Left fielder Marcell Ozuna has disappointed immensely by hitting just seven home runs in 48 games before getting arrested for domestic violence in late May. Ozuna could face a long suspension by Major League Baseball, which plans to review the matter under the joint domestic violence policy. Ozuna was already on the injured list and expected to be out for more than a month after dislocating two fingers on his left hand while sliding during a game at Boston.
The Braves lost their last game before the break but have gone 6-4 over their last 10. While it’s totally not out of the realms of possibility that Atlanta could still make a run at winning the NL East, the Braves need to pick up the pace at the plate and clearly need better pitching from both their starters and bullpen.
- 2021 Expected Wins: 85½
- Record (as of July 12): 42-47
Washington entered the season with a RSW of 85.5. The Nationals are sitting on 42 wins heading into the second half but are projected to finish with 77.3 wins, 7.2 under their total figure.
Offensively, Washington Nationals ranks 19th in scoring (4.18 RPG), sixth in team batting average (.253), 11th in OPS (.731), 22nd in home runs (97) and 16th in stolen bases (39). Shortstop, center fielder and second baseman Trea Turner is batting a team-high .318 with 17 home runs and 42 RBIs. Left fielder Kyle Schwarber is batting .253 with 25 home runs and a team-high 53 RBIs while 22-year-old outfielder Juan Soto is hitting .283 with 11 homers. While only four players have recorded double digits in home runs for Washington, seven players have racked up at least 32 RBIs and six players have hit at least 11 doubles.
Defensively, the Nationals rank 15th in team ERA (4.17), 13th in WHIP (1.27), eighth in strikeouts per game (8.35), 15th in quality starts (31) and 10th in fewest errors (48). Reliever Daniel Hudson is 4-1 with a 2.39 ERA in 22 appearances and closer Brad Hand is 4-2 with a 2.43 ERA in 35 appearances.
Three-time Cy Young winner Max Scherzer (2013, 2016, 2017) is 7-4 with a fine 2.66 ERA in 17 starts while oft-injured right-hander Stephen Strasburg is 1-2 with a 4.57 ERA in only five starts. Right-hander Joe Ross is 5-8 with a 4.02 ERA in 16 starts. Washington has struggled on the road (18-25) but is 24-22 at home.
- 2021 Expected Wins: 71½
- Record (as of July 12): 39-50
The Marlins entered the 2021 campaign with a RSW of 71.5 and are projected to finish with 70 wins. Offensively, Miami ranks 28th in scoring (3.92 RPG), 20th in team batting average (.233), 28th in OPS (.674), 27th in home runs (88) and second in stolen bases (64).
Miami Marlins doesn’t have a regular position player batting .300, but first baseman and right fielder Garrett Cooper is hitting a team-high .291 with nine homers and 32 RBIs. Left fielder and first baseman Adam Duvall is tied for a team-high 62 RBI with 23-year-old first baseman and part-time pinch hitter Jesus Aguilar, who is batting .268.
Only three players have reached double figures in home runs with Duvall sitting on a team-high 19, Aguilar with 15 and exciting rookie second baseman Jazz Chisholm recording 11 homers, 11 stolen bases and 34 RBIs.
Third baseman Brian Anderson has been sidelined for at least several weeks with a partial shoulder dislocation and was put on the 60-day injured list in late May.
Miami has stayed within striking distance of the division-leading Mets by ranking fifth in team ERA (3.43), seventh in WHIP (1.19), 26th in strikeouts per game (9.62), ninth in quality starts (35) and 28th in fewest errors (61). Rookie southpaw starter Trevor Rogers is on pace to win the NL Rookie of the Year award as he enters the second half with a 7-6 record and stupendous 2.31 ERA in 18 starts. Reliever Richard Bleier is 2-0 with a 2.43 ERA in 37 appearances and 28-year-old right-hander John Curtiss is 3-1 with a 2.67 ERA in 29 appearances and one start.
Southpaw starter Pablo Lopez is 5-5 with a solid 3.03 ERA in 19 starts while 25-year-old right-hander Sandy Alcantara is 5-8 with a 3.09 ERA in 19 starts. Miami went 5-5 over its final 10 games and is 22-21 mark at home and 17-29 on the road.