After going into the American Leagues performance breakdown, it is time to dive into the National League. A league in which this year is dominated by the west in the first half. Much like the review for the American league which was posted on Friday, we will dive into each team and break down each organization with their record as of Sunday, July 11th.
Arizona Diamondbacks (26-65 5th place, in the NL West)
Starting off the National League break down with the worst team in baseball. There is no nice way to put this, the Diamondbacks stink. Now I will acknowledge the fact that they are in the same division as the Giants, Dodgers, and Padres. So seeing them on a more frequent schedule isn’t ideal when virtually nothing goes right for the organization. Their recent 22-1 loss to the Dodgers was the cherry on top of a devastating first half. It’s clearly time to sell to build for the future. Their pitching staff has been crippled by a ton of injuries, so not many pieces can move from that bullpen or starting rotation. Ketel Marte was scorching hot when he wasn’t on the IL, but hamstring injuries have caused a setback. Josh Reddick, Eduardo Escobar, and first baseman Pavin Smith can be decent additions to most ball clubs in the league. At this point, Diamondbacks management should put a for sale sign outside of Chase Field, cause they need to clear house.
Atlanta Braves (44-44 2nd place, in the NL East)
The Braves, much like other teams in the league, have been hurt badly with injuries. The latest to hit the IL, was Braves shining young star Ronald Acuña, who went down with an ACL tear that will keep him sidelined for 9 months. With Acuña out, there is only so much you can ask of Freddie Freeman and Ozzie Albies at the plate. Other guys are going to have to step up. Austin Riley has put together a nice season and is a versatile piece that can play wherever they need him. The Braves will need to start leaning on players like Dansby Swanson and Abraham Almonte for support in their lineup. Expectations for the Braves have now dropped significantly going into the All-Star break, as the door opens for the rest of the NL East.
Chicago Cubs (44-46 3rd, NL Central)
For a team that started hot out of the gate, the Cubs have fallen into a downhill spiral. 2-8 in their last ten games and a lineup that is batting .227 as a team. That is the 3rd worst batting average for a team in the league. Kris Bryant and Patrick Wisdom have carried the rest of the lineup on their back through the first half, while other veterans like Jason Heyward and Ian Happ have struggled. The Cubs are faced with a tough dilemma at this point as they are 8 games behind the Brewers in the Central. Do they trade around to build for next year, or do they try and push forward in hopes they get hot? The trade deadline will tell a lot about the future for the Cubs.
Cincinnati Reds (47-42 2nd, NL Central)
There are a lot of baseballs leaving the yard in Cincinnati this year. For a team that hasn’t been great the past few years, this team can play. Nick Castellanos and Jesse Winker are crushing opposing pitchers as the Reds remain in second place in the Central. The Cubs aren’t far behind, but the Brewers are starting to distance themselves. The reds have the pieces they need to get them to the playoffs. The NL Central will probably be the most interesting playoff race as we come down the final leg of the season. I wouldn’t be surprised if it is Cincy in the end that takes the division.
Colorado Rockies (40-51, 4th NL West)
A year without an Arenado. The landscape looks different in Colorado and it is evident. Trevor Story runs the show now. Unfortunately for the Rockies, they sit way down in a division stacked with heavyweights. The hosts of this year’s All-Star Game won’t have enough to get there this year. In a year full of disappointment for the Rockies, they should look to keep Story around for a while after letting another franchise player go in the offseason.
Los Angeles Dodgers (56-35, 2nd NL West)
At the start of the season, some claimed this team had the potential to be the best team to ever play on a baseball field. However, injuries to Cody Bellinger and a slow start for former MVP Mookie Betts have landed the preseason favorites in second place in the NL West. The Dodger’s potential is without question there. We will ask this question for the rest of the season for the NL West, who will outlast them all? Lineup and rotation-wise, that answer would most likely point to LA. The San Francisco Giants however continue to turn heads, as they lead all of baseball in wins. Can Dave Roberts pull his club up to the top? It will be a fun finish to watch.
Miami Marlins (39-50, 5th in the NL East)
From a season that brought them back to the playoffs for the first time in years, to the bottom of the division through the first half of this year, the Marlins are on a rollercoaster ride that you don’t want to be on. Their lineup and young talent is still the highlight of the first half of this year. This year they’re missing pitching, and pitching wins ball games. Jazz Chisholm is something special and will be the centerpiece for this team for as long as they need him. Back to the drawing board for Jeter and the Marlins.
Milwaukee Brewers (53-39, 1st in NL Central)
This year has been the year of the underdog for the national league. Much like the West, the leader in the division slid under the radar. The Brew Crew have put together a very solid year, especially on the mound. I would take this pitching rotation from top to bottom over any other rotation in the league. Even though he is having a solid year as is, I couldn’t imagine how good they would be if Yelich was in his former NL MVP form. If the Brewers keep pitching well, they will be in the postseason picture.
New York Mets (47-40, 1st NL East)
Start spreading the news! A New York team is in first place in baseball and it isn’t the Yankees. Led by quite possibly the best pitcher of our generation, Jacob deGrom is a force to be reckoned with. Hitters can’t seem to figure out anything that he throws. Not to mention the Mets are without Carrasco, Syndergaard, and Betances on the mound. The Mets, once healthy, easily have the East locked down. Fransisco Lindor was a smart acquisition for the Mets along with bullpen threat Trevor May. Things are going in the right direction in Citi Field, and they are moving into the second half of the season with confidence.
Philadelphia Phillies (44-44, 2nd in the NL East)
Every year before the season starts, I always tell myself this is going to be the Phillies year in the East. They are going to figure it out, and all their talent is going to be harmoniously on the same page. This year they are just out of first, but they haven’t played up to their potential. Harper and Hoskins can hit the ball no doubt, and their hitting statistics land them towards the top in the MLB. If Aaron Nola and the rest of the Phillies rotation can put together a strong rest of the season, the Phillies will be back in the playoffs. But if they continue to stay on the same pace and fall below their potential, I will be stuck telling myself in 2022 that perhaps this is their year.
Pittsburgh Pirates (34-56, 5th in the NL Central)
Despite landing two players in the All-Star starting lineup, the Pirates just still aren’t there. A common theme amongst a lot of these teams at the bottom of their division is pitching. The Pirates don’t have the arms to compete against these teams. It was an interesting move by the Pirates to pass up on Jack Leiter with the number 1 pick in this year’s MLB draft. Henry Davis out of Louisville can definitely hit and the league always needs catchers, so perhaps the Pirates are up to something I just can’t see.
San Diego Padres (53-40, 3rd in the NL West)
Out of any team in baseball, it seems the Padres are having the most fun of any team. How can you not have fun when you have Fernando Tatis Jr. on your team? The Padres will be a playoff team, but whether they are competing with one of their division counterparts for a wildcard spot, or take the division outright, the Padres will be electric in the postseason. The question is, can the starters like Darvish, Paddock, and Snell get the job done when it matters most? Snell will be out for playoff retribution after his early pull in the World Series in 2020.
San Francisco Giants: (57-32, 1st in the NL West)
Without a doubt, the biggest surprise of the year so far has been the Bay Area bashers. Brandon Crawford and Buster Posey are both having career years in comeback seasons, and they continue to play well against their division rivals. Experts around the game of baseball talk about how the Giants won’t be able to keep this up. What would be stopping them? Injuries can plague any team but nothing seems to be slowing down these guys. Young talent goes well with established veteran leadership and that’s what the Giants have. Let’s see if the experts are right, or if the Giants can quiet the haters.
St. Louis Cardinals (44-46, 4th Place in the NL Central)
The preseason pick for the NL Central has not lived up to expectation. The big offseason acquisition of 2020 has brought a star to command the hot corner for the Cards. But Nolan Arenado can’t do everything. The rest of the Cardinals lineup is poor. They rank in the bottom 5 of most offensive categories in all of baseball. They allowed the second-lowest number of home runs in baseball, but can’t get enough balls out of the yard to give themselves runs. A seriously disappointing start for the Cardinals, as they will likely look to move pieces around at the trade deadline.
Washington Nationals (42-47, 4th in the NL East)
The Nationals are an above-average team with a record that doesn’t do their play this year justice. They haven’t played bad baseball. In fact, some of their players are heating up at the right time. Kyle Schwarber has been hitting the cover off the ball over the last month and Juan Soto is starting to find his groove after an early-season injury. Trey Turner leads the team in average and continues to be the team’s rock. I am interested to see how long the Nationals last before they trade Max Scherzer or give up on Stephen Strasburg. One has to give before the other and after getting the nod to start the All-Star Game, I wouldn’t expect Scherzer to be going anywhere. We will see if the Nationals become buyers or sellers at the trade deadline.
Unfortunately, my Home Run Derby pick of Joey Gallo wasn’t on par as Pete Alonso goes back to back. With deGrom out of the ASG, the American League will continue their All-Star dominance in recent years. Stay tuned for the full season recap in September and Postseason predictions when the time comes.