By Patrick Brewer, Lead National League Writer
Over the last week or so the New York Mets have been the talk of baseball. First they were the butt of everyones’ jokes because of the debacle that was the Carlos Gomez trade that didn’t actually happen. The Mets quickly rebounded from that debacle by trading for Yoenis Cespedes. Since that trade the Mets have not lost. Over the weekend the Mets swept the Washington Nationals and found themselves tied atop the NL East. The following day the Mets beat the Marlins in a rout while the Nationals lost to the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Mets were in sole possession of first place in the National League East in August. The developments in the National League East over the last week beg the question; are the Washington Nationals in some serious trouble?
The Nationals were many sportswriters preseason picks to win the National League East and even win the World Series. With that vaunted rotation, how could anyone pick against them? Well it has not been smooth sailing for the Nationals this year to say the least. The Nationals struggled right out of the gate and lots of injuries held them back for the first two months of the season. The Nationals really weren’t able to find their groove as a team until late May/early June and went on quite a run until their recent struggles. With the Mets finally putting it together, and many new parts all contributing, the Nationals could find themselves in serious trouble in the NL East.
The New York Mets find themselves one game ahead of the Nationals with the easiest remaining schedule in all of baseball. Out of their final 55 games, the Mets play only fourteen of those against teams with records over .500 with only five of those games coming on the road. The Nationals on the other hand still have nineteen games against teams with records over .500 with thirteen of those games coming on the road. This is probably the worst time of the season for the Nationals to find themselves behind the Mets given the Mets easy schedule over the remainder of the season.
So the Nationals find themselves falling behind the New York Mets in the National League East and playing a tougher schedule over the remainder of the season than the Mets. The Nationals have struggled over the last month due to poor performance by their offense. For the month of July the Nationals found themselves in the bottom five of the league in almost every offensive category. They were second to last in wRC+, second to last in OBP, third to last in SLG, and dead last in batting average. For the month of July the Nationals finished with a record of 11-13 while the New York Mets finished 13-12. The Mets also have the benefit of having a strong record in April of 15-8 which could benefit the team in the last two months of the season.
The Nationals do have some hope given how much they have been negatively affected by injuries so far this year. They just recently got Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman, and Anthony Rendon back from injury and are expecting to get Denard Span back sometime in August as well. Should these guys produce at the level they are capable of this could be a big boost to the Nationals offense and help put them past the New York Mets in the NL East. The Nationals solidified the back-end of their bullpen by acquiring Jonathan Papelbon at the trade deadline but they may have not done enough to bolster their offense.
The Nationals were picked as the juggernaut of the National League East prior to the season but sit barely above .500 as the calendar turns to August. There is a great cause for concern in Washington given the Mets resurgence and easy remaining schedule. The Nationals are still in a good position to win the National League East or a National League Wild Card behind the strength of both Bryce Harper and Max Scherzer. With that being said, it is not going to be as easy for the Nationals to dominate the National League East as everyone thought.
Patrick Brewer is the Lead National League Writer for Call to the Bullpen. You can find Patrick on Twitter @PatrickBrewer93 or join in the discussion @CTBPod, in the comment section below or on our Facebook Page.