NL East Roundup: The Mets Have Competition

Atlanta is giving New York a run for their money!

At the halfway point of the 2022 regular season, Atlanta is closing in on New York’s division lead. Philadelphia and Miami have both gained a few games, while Washington is trending downwards. Like I’ve done for previous division roundups, I’ll recap the latest developments for each team and touch on a surprise, disappointment, and recent injury news.

 

NL East Standings — July 7, 2022

 

 

New York Mets

 

Since our last division update, the New York Mets have squandered a bit of their division lead. They went 13-12 in June, going from 10.5 games up in the NL East on June 1 to up only 3.0 games coming into July. Of course, the Mets spent the month without Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer, while Tylor Megill has pitched in only four games since the start of May. To Taijuan Walker’s credit, he’s held down the rotation since Scherzer’s absence. In nine starts, he’s posted a 2.59 ERA with 49 strikeouts.

Biggest surprise: Max Scherzer is back. 

After nearly two months on the injured list with an oblique injury, Scherzer returned to the mound looking like his usual self. He tossed six scoreless innings in Cincinnati, allowing only two hits and striking out 11. Per Sarah Langs of MLB.com, Tuesday’s outing was Scherzer’s 107th career game with ten or more strikeouts. That’s fifth-most in MLB history, behind Nolan Ryan (215), Randy Johnson (212), Roger Clemens (110), and Pedro Martínez (108).

Biggest disappointment: The Mets offense. 

Over the last two weeks, the Mets offense has struggled to get going. Their 36 runs scored since June 21 is worst in baseball. Despite Scherzer going six shutout innings, the team failed to give their veteran pitcher any run support. The Reds would win in walk-off fashion, 1-0. Over the last two weeks, the Mets are 5-7 and saw their division lead cut from 5.5 to 2.5 games.

Injuries:

 

Atlanta Braves

 

After a 14-game win streak to start June, Atlanta finished the month with a 21-6 record. The offense was firing on all cylinders, leading the National League with 155 runs scored, 54 home runs, and a 125 wRC+. Shortstop Dansby Swanson led the way with a .330/.390/.563 slash line in June. On the other side of the ball, Max Fried, Kyle Wright, and Spencer Strider are all pitching great. The team’s starters combined for an MLB-best 10.38 strikeouts per nine innings in June. Additionally, the team just reinstated Eddie Rosario and Tyler Matzek from the injured list.

Biggest surprise: NL Rookie of the Month, Michael Harris II.

Outfielder Michael Harris II had a fantastic first full month in the big leagues, earning the NL Rookie of the Month nod for June. In 27 games, Harris slashed .347/.371/.574 with a 159 wRC+.

Biggest disappointment: Marcell Ozuna.

Marcell Ozuna has gone cold in June. The veteran outfielder slashed just .220/.301/.385 with a 90 wRC+ last month. 13 of his 20 hits were singles and he hit into three double plays. His expected statistics signal a bit of bad luck: xBA of .277 vs. actual BA of.226, along with an above-average hard hit rate last month. After hitting two home runs on July 3 and one last night, Ozuna might be breaking out of his slump.

Injuries: 

 

Philadelphia Phillies

 

Following the firing of then-manager Joe Girardi, Philadelphia had a fantastic month of their own. They entered June with a 21-29 record, 12.5 games back from the division-leading Mets. The Phillies won nine games to start the month, ending with a 19-8 record and 7.5 games back from the Mets. Despite an improved record and moving up the NL Wild Card standings, the Phillies entered July without their MVP Bryce Harper. Harper recently had surgery to repair a broken thumb and will be out for 6-8 weeks.

Biggest surprise: Kyle Schwarber.

With the turn of the calender, Schwarber flipped the switch. By the end of May, Schwarber’s slash line was a disappointing .185/.311/.410. He hit 11 home runs and posted a league-average 100 wRC+. But in June, he got hot and slashed .272/.385/.680 with 12 home runs and a 187 wRC+. He now leads the National League with 25 home runs.

Biggest disappointment: Nick Castellanos

Castellanos had a rough June, slashing .223/.270/.291 with a dismal 57 wRC+. He was also forced to slide into right field after Harper’s elbow injury relegated him to the designated hitter’s spot. Now that Harper is sidelined for the foreseeable future with a broken thumb, I’m surprised to see Castellanos still playing right field with the DH spot open. Wherever he’s playing though, the Phillies need him to get going and contribute to the offense in Harper’s absence.

Injuries: 

 

Miami Marlins

 

Miami entered Wednesday with a six game win streak, punctuated by a phenominal performance by starting pitcher Sandy Alcantara on Tuesday night. He secured his ninth win of the season, and lowered his ERA to 1.82. It was also Alcantara’s 11th consecutive start where he went at least seven innings. That hasn’t been done since Rick Porcello and Clayton Kershaw did so in 2016. The Marlins are currently two games under .500 and are set to play 12 of their 22 remaining July games against teams with a losing record. Those other games are against division rivals, three vs. the Phillies and seven vs. the Mets. If the Marlins want to make a playoff push, now is the time to step on the gas.

Biggest surprise: Jon Berti.

Berti has gotten the attention of fantasy baseball folks because he stole 18 bases in June! There are only four other players who have 18 or more stolen bases this season. He’s provided consistent production for the Marlins this season, filling in wherever he’s needed defensively because of the injury bug plauging the team. Berti slashed .297/.360/.376 in June, and now leads all of baseball with 25 stolen bases.

Biggest disappointment: Jesús Sánchez.

I’m a big believer in Sánchez and was really excited to see him get off to a hot start. He’s struggled lately though, slashing .214/.233/.471 with a 93 wRC+ in June. His plate discipline has not been good during this stretch. He has a 40.5% chase rate last month, way over the league average of 32.3%. When he makes contact, he does damage, but he’s got to clean up the plate discipline.

Injuries: 

 

Washington Nationals

 

The Nationals are continuing to struggle. They lost eight straight games in mid-June, and started July on a six game skid. Josh Bell is raking and Juan Soto posted a 118 wRC+ despite hitting .195 in June. Even despite the best efforts of Nelson Cruz, Lane Thomas, and Luis Garcia, Washington has the worst record in the National League.

Biggest surprise: Luis Garcia.

After short stretches of time in the big leagues in 2020 and 2021, Garcia has found his footing with the Nationals this season. In 32 games, he’s slashing .320/.328/.459 with a 116 wRC+. He’s super swing-happy, swinging 58.8% of the time. If he had enough plate appearances to qualify, only two batters — Luis Robert and Avisaíl García — swing more often. Additionally, Luis Garcia has walked just one time all season, giving him a 0.8% walk rate! Despite the lack of plate discipline, Garcia’s 18.4% strikeout rate is better than the league average.

Biggest disappointment: If the Nationals fail to extend Juan Soto.

Despite having a “down” year, Juan Soto is one of the best players in baseball. He’s the type of player every team wishes they had. Whispers of the Nationals potentially trading Juan Soto were publically shot down by general manager Mike Rizzo. More recently, Héctor Gómez reported that extension talks were intensifying between Soto and the Nationals. However, Nationals beat writer Jesse Dougherty and senior MLB writer Britt Ghiroli noted the reported contract figures were inaccurate. Whatever phase negotiations are currently in, it will be a catastrophic failure if the Nationals do not extend Juan Soto and decide to trade him at the deadline.

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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