Every two weeks, our baseball writers will check in with their respective divisions to see where things stand. In a shortened season, everything seems to be on the table, and baseball is not disappointing with a lack of crazy games and wild standings. Let’s take a look at the National League East.
1. Atlanta Braves (16-12, .571)
Hitting stud: Freddie Freeman
Freddie Freeman has an impressive .490 OBP thanks to 11 walks in the last two weeks. Couple that with his four doubles and one home run and he produced a 1.016 OPS. He’s leading the Braves offense while it waits for Ronald Acuna Jr. to return.
Hitting dud: Ender Inciarte
Inciarte was pretty terrible over the last two weeks. From August 10-18, he was 5-for-27 with two runs and a single RBI. Injuries have allowed him to stay in the lineup, but that won’t last long once his teammates return to full health.
Pitching stud: Max Fried
A lot of people had Mike Soroka on their sleeper Cy Young list this preseason, but it looks like they chose the wrong Atlanta pitcher. Fried has twirled 11.1 innings in his last two starts and given up one earned run with 12 strikeouts as he becomes the ace in the Braves’ rotation.
Pitching dud: Sean Newcomb
The day after the previous NL East recap was posted, Newcomb gave up eight earned runs in 1.1 innings against the Phillies. He was optioned to the Braves’ alternate site and hasn’t made an appearance for the team since August 11th.
Atlanta welcomes the Yankees for two games before six-straight road games against the Philadelphia Phillies and Boston Red Sox. A home series with the Washington Nationals will end the two weeks where Atlanta should only increase their division lead.
2. Miami Marlins (11-11, .500, 2 GB)
Hitting stud: Francisco Cervelli
Cervelli has produced a .886 OPS in the last two weeks with a home run, a stolen base, and three RBI. He’s walked six times and gotten on base in 15 of his 34 plate appearances.
Hitting dud: Logan Forsythe
He’s only appeared in six games and collected one single base hit. A .053/.143/.053 slash line is miserable, and it’s baffling how the Marlins don’t have someone else in their organization to give these valuable at-bats.
Pitching stud: Elieser Hernandez
Three starts with at least five innings of work in the last two weeks will garner the 25-year-old some attention in baseball circles. Hernandez struck out 20 batters in those 15.1 innings and owns a 2.29 ERA and 0.76 WHIP for the season.
Pitching dud: Jordan Yamamoto
Yamamoto made two starts last week but gave up seven earned runs in 4.2 innings. That cost him a trip to the marlins alternate site after his disappointing results so far. The sophomore pitcher has an 11.43 ERA and 2.423 WHIP in 2020, which is a far cry from his encouraging 2019, where he put up a 4.46 ERA and 1.144 WHIP in 78.2 innings.
The Marlins play their in-state rival, the Tampa Bay Rays, six times in the next two weeks. Series against the Mets and Blue Jays are wedged in around the Battle for Florida. They are still above .500, but it’s tough to see that being true after this next batch of games.
3. New York Mets (12-14, .462, 3 GB)
Hitting stud: Dominic Smith
The only thing slowing Dominic Smith down was a positive COVID-19 case on the Mets. Before that setback, Smith crushed four home runs with 13 RBI in nine games. The former top prospect was showing the baseball world what he was capable of, and hopefully, it continues once the Mets return to the diamond.
Hitting dud: Wilson Ramos
If Smith is crushing the baseball, the Ramos was doing the exact opposite. He appeared in seven of a possible 11 games, and Ramos only garnered three hits and one RBI.
Pitching stud: Edwin Diaz
On the season, Diaz has a 2.53 ERA with 24 strikeouts in 10.2 innings. Seth Lugo is rumored to be moving to the rotation, and that leaves a hole to fill in the Mets’ bullpen.
Pitching dud: Steven Matz
I remember July 25 like it was yesterday. Matz pitched six innings of one-run baseball against the Atlanta Braves with seven strikeouts. All the fantasy baseball managers that bought back in were so happy. Fast forward to today, and Matz has a 9.00 ERA, 1.57 WHIP, with an 0-4 record and has been moved to the bullpen. The southpaw gave up 14 runs in 8.2 innings over his last two starts. The move to the bullpen is well deserved.
The Mets start the next two weeks with a chance to pass the Miami Marlins for second place in the division. Then a tough test against the Yankees awaits them. In week two, they will welcome the Orioles before visiting the Phillies to cap off the 14 days.
4. Washington Nationals (11-14, .440, 3.5 GB)
Hitting stud: Juan Soto
People need to start asking what will happen to baseball if Juan Soto never stops getting better. The 21-year-old is destroying the baseball right now even after his positive COVID-19 test to begin the year. Since August 10, the World Series Champion has six home runs, 14 RBI, and slashing .370/.473/.804 in 55 plate appearances. Soto is going to slug his way into the MVP discussion if he isn’t already a part of it.
Hitting dud: Eric Thames
Eric Thames started eight games over the past two weeks, which is equal to the number of times he has struck out. Couple that with one extra-base hit and two walks, and it’s no wonder that he owns a 63 OPS+ on the 2020 season.
Pitching stud: Tanner Rainey
Tanner Rainey was the pitching stud for the Nationals two weeks ago but is aging like a fine wine. Rainey pitched 5.1 innings without giving up an earned run. The third-year reliever struck out nine batters in those 5.1 innings and recorded four holds for his team. It only seems like a matter of time until he becomes the closer in the nation’s capital.
Pitching dud: Stephen Strasburg
The 2019 World Series MVP is done for the season. Strasburg had the beginning of his 2020 season delayed due to a nerve issue in his hand but finally made his debut on August 9. He was roughed up in that start versus the Orioles and then made it 16 pitches in his next start before being removed and eventually figuring out the cause of his nerve issues. We’re on to 2021.
Seven games against the Phillies, three games versus the Red Sox, and four games in Atlanta give the defending champions an excellent opportunity to get their season back on track. Nine or 10 wins in those 14 games would do a world of good for the injury-riddled Nationals.
5. Philadelphia Phillies (10-14, .417, 4 GB)
Hitting stud: Bryce Harper
So that’s why Philadelphia gave him all that money. Harper smashed five home runs, drove in 14 runs, and snagged three bases over the last two weeks. A 1.242 OPS has launched him into the MVP race. If only the rest of his team could hit and get the Phillies back in the playoff race.
Hitting dud: Scott Kingery
Harper hit five home runs in the last 14 days. Kingery has four hits, and the third-year player is really struggling in 2020. The Phillies infield is beginning to get crowded with Alec Bohm getting the call to the majors. Kingery needs to turn it around or could find himself on the outside looking in soon enough.
Pitching stud: Aaron Nola
Despite his dud against the Braves on Friday, Aaron Nola still earns top marks among the Philadelphia pitchers. Before his Friday start, the 27-year-old pitched 15 innings against the Mets and Braves while allowing one earned run and striking out 18 opponents.
Pitching dud: Deolis Guerra
The Philadelphia bullpen has been a disaster for the entire first half of the 2020 season. Unfortunately for Guerra, it looks like he has become the scapegoat. After pitching to the tune of an 8.59 ERA and 1.64 WHIP, the Phillies designated him for assignment to make room for their newly acquired bullpen arms in a trade with the Boston Red Sox.
They have 13 consecutive division games in the next 14 days. That means it is put up or shut up time for the Phillies in 2020. Anything short of a winning record in this stretch likely spells the end for their playoff hopes in Harper’s second year with the organization.
Player stats are through Sunday.
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