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NL East Roundup: The Mets Are Pulling Away

And the Braves, Phillies, and Marlins are bunched up in the middle.

We’re a quarter of the way through the 2022 season, so it’s time we take another look at the NL East. I’ll be recapping the latest developments for each team in the division, including a surprise, disappointment, and recent injury news.

 

NL East Standings — May 25, 2022

 

 

New York Mets

 

Despite losing Max Scherzer and Tylor Megill to injuries recently, the Mets maintain a healthy lead atop the NL East. Francisco Lindor, Pete Alonso, and Jeff McNeil have done nothing but mash in the past week. The three have combined to go 32-for-87 with 5 home runs and 29 RBIs in the last seven days.

The team has the second-best run differential in the National League, and they don’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. They’ll face division opponents in back-to-back series, playing the Phillies this weekend and the Nationals early next week. Depending on how those games play out, we might be talking about a stronger division lead for the Mets on our next NL East recap.

Biggest surprise: Pete Alonso.

Alonso has played in all 45 of the Mets’ games this season, has an NL-leading 41 RBI, and his 11 home runs puts him on pace for 40 in 2022. The slugger has a 14.1% barrel rate (league average is 7.6%) which is especially impressive considering he doesn’t swing-and-miss or strikeout more than the average hitter like we see many sluggers do.

Biggest disappointment: Two of the best pitchers in baseball are on the injured list.

Not being able to watch the best players in the sport is disappointing for baseball fans everywhere. Unfortunately for the Mets, two of those players don their uniform. Max Scherzer started off the year like the ace he is, striking out nearly a third of the batters he faced and supressing hard contact at the sixth-best rate in baseball. The Mets were rolling and I found myself fearing how much better they’d be when teams would have to face a one-two punch from Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer. But last week, Max Scherzer threw a pitch and signalled to the dugout that he could no longer continue the game. We all know how much of a bulldog Scherzer is, so watching him remove himself from the game is a really concerning thing. We later learned that he sustained a moderate to high-grade oblique strain which will keep him out for 6-8 weeks.

Injuries:

 

Atlanta Braves

 

We’re a quarter of the way into the 2022 season and the Braves’ offense is scuffling. Although they’ve found some recent production from shortstop Dansby Swanson and backup catcher William Contreras, the trio of Matt Olson, Travis d’Arnaud, and Austin Riley have gone cold over the past two weeks.

Biggest surprise & disappointment: Adam Duvall.

I mentioned Duvall’s slow start in my first division recap a few weeks ago. Since then, he has not looked any better. Through 42 games, Duvall is slashing .196/.262/.284 with an identical 56 wRC+. In recent seasons, the outfielder’s slugging ability helped us look past his low batting average. He was a productive part of the Braves’ and Marlins’ lineups in 2019-2021. Now, however, he’s whiffing at a career worst 31.4% of swings and striking out at an alarmingly high 31.7% rate. When he does make contact, Duvall pops the ball up over the infield 19.4% of the time. To put that in perspective, the league average infield fly ball rate is 9.1% of balls in play.

With the team limiting Ronald Acuña Jr.’s time on defense and an injury sidelining Eddie Rosario, Atlanta doesn’t have many other outfield options at this point. They’re already eight games back from the division-leading Mets. How much longer can they deal with the lack of production from Duvall?

Injuries:

 

Philadelphia Phillies

 

When an injection in his injured elbow forced Harper to the bench last week, the Phillies lost four of the five games that the 2021 MVP wasn’t in the lineup. The Phillies have the second-best slugging percentage, third-best batting average on balls in play, and have scored the sixth-most runs in the National League. When they’re on, they’re on. Philadelphia has won six games by five or more runs. When they’re slightly off, however, they can’t seem to put it all together. They’ve lost eight games by one run, more than every team except for the Marlins and Cubs.

On the pitching side, Aaron Nola has put together some good outings and has the 13th-best strikeout rate in baseball, but the Phillies have lost all of his starts except for the one on Opening Day. In relief, Jeurys Familia is giving up hard contact at an absurd (37.7%) rate which is 10th-worst among qualified relievers. He’s also struggling with command, walking 10.1% of batters faced.

Biggest surprise: Bryce Harper.

Harper has been phenomenal in 2022, but that’s not the thing I’m surprised about. Harper has a partially torn UCL in his elbow which has caused him to slide into the designated hitter’s role, but he hasn’t skipped a beat. When Phillies’ beat reporter Alex Coffey broke the specifics of Harper’s injury on May 12, he proceeded to homer in three consecutive games. He’s spent May casually slashing .364/.394/.803 with 7 home runs and 17 RBI. I feel like we aren’t appreciating Harper’s brilliance enough. Let’s change that.

Biggest disappointment: J.T. Realmuto.

The 2022 season has not been kind to the Phillies’ catcher. Realmuto is making a lot of soft contact, getting under pitches, and striking out a quarter of the time. Outside of Bryce Harper and checks notes Jean Segura, the Phillies’ lineup isn’t producing like I’m sure they had hoped. Realmuto, slashing .234/.301/.340 with an 83 wRC+, is one of those struggling hitters. Fresh faces Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos don’t look totally lost, but I don’t think it’s unrealistic to expect more than what they’ve shown so far.

Injuries:

 

Miami Marlins

 

The Marlins’ offense has been wildly inconsistent and largely disappointing. Jazz Chisholm Jr. is a can’t miss talent, but the rest of the lineup hasn’t lived up to expectations. The Marlins, however, have two of the best young starting pitchers in the game with Sandy Alcantara and Pablo López. They aren’t playing like contenders, but neither are the Braves or Phillies. One of these three teams has to get hot. Why can’t it be the Marlins?

Biggest surprise: Jazz Chisholm Jr.

I think we all knew Chisholm was an electrifying player, but he came into this season with a lot to prove. His aggressive plate discipline led to a lot of strikeouts and, although he’s hit some impressive tape measure shots, he wasn’t always making high-quality contact. In 2022, Chisholm looks more in control at the plate. He isn’t always trying to hit the ball 500 ft. and bad calls don’t seem to throw off his whole at-bat. These were things he’s worked on this off-season with the goal of being more consistent by doing the little things right. Although he’s still aggressive at the plate, Chisholm’s cut down on his strikeouts. He’s also slashed his ground ball rate from 51.5% to 39.8%. By hitting the ball hard and in the air, his barrel rate and xStats have skyrocketed. This big step forward could make him a legitimate 30/30 threat.

Biggest disappointment: Trevor Rogers.

After a second place 2021 NL Rookie of the Year finish, the southpaw didn’t have the strong start to 2022 that everyone expected. On the whole, his secondaries haven’t looked great. He’s struggled to get whiffs specifically on his changeup, going from 20.7% to 9.5% SwStr% between last year and this year. Rogers’ strikeout rate has also dipped from 28.5% to 20.9%. In 133 innings last year, he allowed just six home runs. He tied that total in his most recent start, but has pitched just 36.1 innings in 2022.

Injuries:

 

Washington Nationals

 

The Nationals sit at the bottom of the NL East and hold a record worse than every team besides the Cincinnati Reds. Josh Bell and Juan Soto have provided most of the team’s offense, but Soto’s bat has gone cold as of late. Things aren’t much better on the other side of the ball. The bullpen has been shaky and the rotation disastrous. Things aren’t looking good in D.C., but it’s a long season.

Biggest surprise: Juan Soto.

Soto doesn’t look like his usual self. In his last 10 days, he’s gone just 4-for-31 with 7 walks and 3 RBI. Below the surface, he’s chasing and bit more and making hard contact less often. His season numbers as a whole — .241/.381/.443, 136 wRC+ — aren’t terrible, but they aren’t what we’ve come to expect from the Nationals phenom.

Biggest disappointment: Starting pitching.

Besides youngsters Josiah Gray and Joan Adon, the Nationals round out their rotation with veterans Patrick Corbin, Aaron Sanchez, and Erick Fedde. No one expected Washington to be a contender in 2022, but their starting pitching has been really, really bad. They are 29th in walks, hits, and home runs per nine, as well as second-worst with a 5.92 ERA and  1.56 WHIP.

Injuries:

 

Artwork by Michael Packard (@CollectingPack on Twitter)

Nicole Cahill

Nicole Cahill is a freelance writer who focuses on mental health and sports. She recently founded a nonprofit that helps youth athletes living with mental health challenges. When she's not fighting stigma or exploring Baseball Savant visuals, you can find Nicole enjoying a cup of coffee and a good book. Portfolio: NicoleCahill.com.

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