It's just about the midway point in baseball's marathon season and it's time to reflect on the first 80 or so games of 2014 and cast some predictions for how the rest will shape up.
I'll publish articles that will round out every division in baseball as well as the MVP and Cy Young races in either league. Today, one of the divisions I'll look at is the National League East.
Here's how they will finish...
1) Washington Nationals
After a red-hot start from the Atlanta Braves, the Washington Nationals have overcome some major injuries to regain the lead in the NL East. And I don't think they'll give it up in the second half.
The Nats have played with their entire starting lineup intact for just seven innings all year. Ryan Zimmerman is back; and now Matt Williams' team is just waiting on their phenom Bryce Harper to fully recover from his thumb injury that he suffered back in April sliding head-first into a base. Harper should be back sometime in July - sooner rather than later at least - which could begin the process of Washington separating itself from the rest of the pack. Washington must be the favorite in the NL East.
2) Atlanta Braves
Despite five teams within five games of the division lead at the moment, the Braves were expected to be the only team that would actually challenge the Nationals this season. Atlanta came out roaring with lots of production from their super outfield and a pitching staff that the front office seemingly threw together at the end of the off-season. Ervin Santana, Gavin Floyd and Aaron Harang got off to fantastic starts. Santana and Harang have since slowed. And Floyd has gone down with a devastating elbow (bone) injury.
Atlanta always seems to find a way to surprise us, but I don't think it comes in the form of a division crown this year. Too much to overcome with a high-quality team ahead of them. The Braves will finish number two this year.
3) Miami Marlins
The third spot is a toss-up between the Mets and Marlins. With their youth and slight lead at this point, I'll go with Miami. It's been a great season in South Beach, all things considered.
4) New York Mets
Once this team adds a bat (or two) to the middle of that lineup, it could really do some things next year with the return of Matt Harvey and the potential arrival of more than one worthy prospect.
5) Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies might give it one more run and retain their veterans. Or they could sell at the deadline and probably dig themselves into an ever-so slightly deeper rebuilding hole. Not sure what's the better call, but I'm going to say they finish in the cellar. Not only might a fire sale happen, but they aren't particularly great, as is.