If baseball’s playoffs began today, here’s what would happen:
American League: Tampa Bay would host the Texas Rangers in the wild card game. The survivor would then fly to Boston to meet the Red Sox, while Detroit heads west to face the Oakland A’s. All of these teams have over 50 wins already, with three other clubs left out, despite also exceeding the half-century mark. The Yankees would miss out… in fourth place… but respectably so as one of those 50+ win teams.
National League: Pittsburgh would host the Cincinnati Reds in their wild card contest. The winner there would move on to face their divisional rival Cardinals. Meanwhile, the Braves would face the Diamondbacks in Atlanta for their half of the bracket. All of these teams also have fifty wins (barely, in the case of Arizona), though they are also the only clubs in the NL reaching that plateau.
What?! No big competition out of the East for the wild card spot? I thought the Nats were gonna win 100 this year… and win the World Series! There were even a few people that thought the Phillies were wild card worthy… but of course they work in Philadelphia.
There’s a reason: The National League’s Eastern Division is absolutely… eh, mediocre this year.
But why? How could this happen?
In a word: offense.
It’s bad in the East… and isn’t going to get better any time soon, either:
- The Braves can at least hope that some of their top four outfielders can return soon… but Justin Upton and Jason Heyward were not exactly models of consistent performance in the first half.
- You may as well stick a fork in the Phillies now that Ben Revere broke a foot and Ryan Howard – stop me if you’ve heard this before – is injur… oh, you have heard it before. That leaves only Domonic Brown and Chase Utley as offensive threats as they were the only members of the team with a WAR rating above 1.0. How bad is that? Our Gerald Laird has a WAR of 0.8 over a scant 26 games… and got thrown out of one of those after his first AB.
- The Nationals picked the wrong first baseman to sign. Adam LaRoche‘s 0.2 WAR is 9th on the team… but the tenth guy is pitcher Gio Gonzalez. 11th is Stephen Strasburg. Oh, and the total WAR generated by their outfield is… 1.1.
- Do I really have to pick out bad stats for the Marlins and Mets? Really?
Rankings That Are Offensive
- BRAVES: 5th in WAR, 10th in OPS
- NATS: 25th in WAR, 26th in OPS
- PHILS: 23rd in WAR, 15th in OPS
- METS: 21st in WAR, 28th in OPS
- FISH: 29th in WAR, 30th in OPS… and these guys have the best record in the division since June 1st. 20-17. Mediocrity.
The Braves are leading because of occasionally epic hitting and consistently very good pitching (2nd in majors in ERA). But it’s certainly also helped by virtue of the fact that their competition isn’t exactly pushing them. And given the schedule coming up… this race is probably over.
Maybe its no wonder that in the past 16 years, only 3 teams out of the NL East have won the World Series… and the Marlins got to hoist the trophy twice in that time. Mediocrity.