Last season, the Washington Nationals emerged as the top team in the National League East. The Philadelphia Phillies had their turn between 2007 and 2011. The New York Mets also spent a season at the top in 2006. And, of course, Atlanta dominated the division for the previous eleven seasons.
But who has the power to win the division title this season? Hopefully, this piece clears that question up just a little bit.
Washington Nationals Last season: 98-64 (.605), 1st in NLE; Season result: Lost in NLDS (STL); Player to watch: Ryan Zimmerman is coming off a decent 2012 season. The Nats' third baseman, through 145 games, tallied a .282 batting average; Zimmerman also drove in 95 runs and lifted 25 homeruns. These numbers are middle-of-the-road at best for a former all-star. In order for the Nationals to continue their success in 2013, Zimmerman will have to return to the way he was in 2010, when he hit .307 and had an on-base percentage of .388. Of course, phenom pitcher Stephen Strasburg is coming off his best year in the big leagues. Strasburg went 15-6 last season with a 3.16 ERA. The all-star struck out 197 batters in just 159.1 innings before being shut down at the start of the playoffs. A large portion of Washington's success lies within the hands of these two players.
Atlanta Braves Last season: 94-68 (.580), 2nd in NLE; Season result: Lost in one-game Wild Card series (STL); Player to watch: Jason Heyward is coming off his best season in the big leagues. The former all-star, who is just 22 years old, hit .269 with 27 homeruns and 82 RBIs in 158 games in 2012. Heyward is going to prove big for the Braves this season, their first without Chipper Jones. Chipper was the backbone of the organization for many years; Heyward is young and has the ability to step into the leadership role. Of course, Heyward will have the company of the Upton brothers in the outfield this year. Justin and BJ Upton combined for 45 homeruns, 145 RBIs, and 186 runs in 2012. Atlanta's outfielders will have a big impact on their potential success in the upcoming season.
Philadelphia Phillies Last season: 81-81 (.500), 3rd in NLE; Season result: Missed playoffs; Player to watch: The biggest part of the Phils' success is, without a doubt, Roy Halladay. The five-time all-star and two-time Cy Young winner is an ace that has to make other teams envious of Philadelphia. Doc's numbers have declined over the past three years, but that's not to say he is not one of the best pitches in Major League Baseball. Doc's best season in a Phillies' uniform came in 2010; he posted a 21-10 record, a 2.44 ERA, 9 complete games, and just 74 runs allowed in 250.2 innings pitched. Halladay's season was shortened in 2012 due to some personal issues, but he still managed an 11-8 record, a 4.49 ERA, and 156.1 innings. It's simple: Halladay success = Phillies success. Roy has to produce on the mound for the Phils to have a chance at the playoffs--the Phillies' offense was ranked 19th in the league last year and they have not done much in the offseason to improve upon that.
New York Mets Last season: 74-88 (.457), 4th in NLE; Season result: Missed playoffs; Player to watch: The typical response to this question is David Wright or Johan Santana, but I've already done articles on each. I want to take a look at Ike Davis and just how much he can impact this Mets' offense. New York really missed Ike in 2011 when an ankle injury allowed him only 36 games. Last year, though, the first-baseman played in 156 games and hit 32 homeruns. Ike drove in 90 runs and hit .227. He is solid on defense, as well, committing only 8 errors in 2012. A large portion of the Mets' power comes from Davis' bat and his glove is definitely an asset. I like Ike, as do many Mets fans, and he is going to have to help this team out in 2013 in order to make things interesting.
Miami Marlins Last season: 69-93 (.426), 5th in NLE; Season result: Missed playoffs; Player to watch: The Marlins' made a big move after the 2011 season by signing former Mets' shortstop Jose Reyes. However, the acquisition proved to have little effect on the 2012 season in Miami. Reyes won the batting title as a Met in '11 with a .337 batting average. Last season's numbers weren't quite as impressive. Jose hit .287 last year and drove in 57 runs out of the lead-off spot. Reyes' 12 triples and 37 doubles were standard when compared to his career totals. Reyes' defense, though, was not always top-of-the-line. He committed 18 errors in 2012, tying a career-high. In November, Reyes was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays. Who will step up this season and fill the role that Reyes was supposed to play?
With all of that said, where do the teams stack up in 2013? I like the Nationals to win the division again; they have emerged from a developing team to one of the better, young teams in baseball.
Projected Standings Washington Nationals; Atlanta Braves; New York Mets; Philadelphia Phillies; Miami Marlins;
I think the Braves have a real good chance at proving me wrong. Their potent offense will definitely carry them in 2013. They finished just four games behind the Nats last season and can certainly give Washington a run for their money in 2013.
I am constantly sharing my opinions on everything sports-related on twitter, so be sure to give me a follow. Next week, I will take a look at each team's 2013 Spring Training results thus far and determine who's hot and who's not.