June 30, 2008

NL East: Best Division for Fans

The NL East may not feature any team with a fabulous record, but it certainly provides endless entertainment. Here are 10 reasons why the NL East is the most interesting division in baseball to watch and follow.

Jurrjens could be the NL RoY. (AP Photo: John Bazemore)

10. Great Pitching: The Braves feature the best ERA in the NL, and the Phillies are also in the top 3 in the NL in runs allowed. With only 7 career starts before this year, Jair Jurrjens is 5th in the NL in ERA. Cole Hamels and Johan Santana are two of the best young aces in baseball. On the other end of the age spectrum, future Hall members Smoltz, Glavine, and Pedro might all be pitching their last seasons.

9. Close Games: The Braves have already played (and lost) 16 one-run games on the road this year. The Phillies are one of the 4 teams in baseball with a winning road record this year.

8. Parity: The NL East has 4 teams within 4 games of the division lead. No other division has 3 teams within 4 games. In addition, how many other divisions had 3 teams on the preseason short list for a World Series appearance?

7. Newest Stadium: The Nats might suck on the field, but at least there's a field, right? The newest stadium in baseball looks nice on TV and makes it more official that baseball is back in the nation's capital. Featuring views of the Capitol and local food joints, the new stadium has been a hit. The Mets will have a new stadium next year, as well.

6. Comeback Stories: After tearing up his arm in his first start in the majors a couple years ago, Jorge Campillo has made his way back to the Bigs at 29, posting a 2.54 ERA in 67.1 IP. I'm sure there are others, but...

Chase Utley might make it 3 Phillies MVPs in a row with no duplicates.

5. Home Run Hitters: The NL East features the two sluggers tied for the lead in HRs, both of them second-basemen! When was the last time a 2B had the home run crown? Both are on pace to set the record for the most HRs by a 2B in a single season (currently 42). Uggla and Utley might be pursued by Teixeira or Howard later in the year. The NL East has 6 of the top 11 HR hitters in the NL.

4. Past MVPs: The NL East has 3 of the past 5 NL MVPs not named Barry Bonds (Rollins, Howard, Pujols, Kent, Chipper Jones), and they're all still in their prime. Chipper Jones is hitting .394 at the halfway point of the season and has been nothing short of incredible this year.

Tex will be major trade bait this summer.

3. Big Trades: Mark Teixeira will be the focus of lots of trade rumors this summer, while the Mets' deal for Santana was the biggest deal of the offseason. With so many stars in the division and the Marlins permanently poised for a fire sale, no division has more interesting trades.

2. Endless Managerial Entertainment: The Mets have been a circus this year, especially with the firing of Willie Randolph after his racial comments to the media. Jerry Manuel's success or failure will certainly bear watching the rest of the year, and Bobby Cox is the all-time ejections leader.

1. The Marlins: In any given year, out of nowhere, the Marlins are capable of winning it all. Consistently the best at acquiring and developing talent, is there any franchise more enjoyable to watch operate? This year, once again on a shoestring budget, the Marlins are only one game out. Can they go all the way again with a bunch of nobodies and a few blooming stars?

So there you have it, the most entertaining division in baseball. I just hope you're lucky enough to see their games and watch the goings-on.

3 Responses:

Jeremy said...

Agreed even though we Nats fans have to put up with Philly trash invading our ballpark nine times a year. It's exciting. When the Nats actually decide to ditch the dead-end players that are dragging them down (Nick Johnson, Felipe Lopez, Paul LoDuca, Dmitri Young, Willy Mo Pena) and get either young talent or just good talent with room to grow here, I have a lot of optimism about a more rapid playoff run than expected because of how unpredictable the division is.

J-Red said...

This goes along with good pitching and the Nats' general offensive ineptitude, but the Nats have 8 walk-off wins at home this year. One advantage of close, boring, low-scoring games is that you're more likely to see a walk-off.

J-Red said...

Jeremy, I think in the NL East of 2003-2008 that formula would work. Philly and the Mets look poised to become serious contenders and Atlanta will always be .500+. Florida puts together runs now and then.

So far from what we've seen of Nats management, I don't see them making their way to the front of that pack unless something seriously changes.

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