Originally written on Taking Bad Schotz  |  Last updated 11/14/14
Nationals-pitcher-stephen

With the entirety of the NL East over .500 and within 4 games of 1st Place at the quarter pole, who will have the biggest effect on this division’s playoff picture?

Washington Nationals : Stephen Strasburg’s 160 innings limit is going to draw a lot of heat if the Nats can stay on their division-leading pace. With Michael Morse returning in the next two weeks, the suddenly hot bat of Ian Desmond (.298/.318/.652 in May) and the always exciting Bryce Harper (.300/.375/.540 the last two weeks) the Nats offense looks to finally be living up to their dominant pitching counterparts’ performance. Mike Rizzo has been adamant about this 160 inning limit for Strasburg following his Tommy John surgery, but will he really be willing to shut him down in the middle of a pennant race? Look for Ross Detweiler (just replaced by Chien-Ming Wang as the #5 starter) and Tom Gorzellany to compete for that additional spot in the rotation if Strasburg really does sit out the playoff push.

New York Mets: The financial state of the Mets ownership may undermine their ballclub’s surprising start. Widely picked to finish deep in the cellar, they have exceeded expectations in staying over .500 thus far. However, paying back Madoff trustees can make it difficult to keep expensive contracts. An aggressive, financially strong organization may look at this as an opportunity to bring in “the last piece” and make a move for the starting pitcher they so desperately need. Instead, we are more likely to see David Wright being sold high to a contender who could use the revitalized right-handed bat.

Miami Marlins: Giancarlo Stanton is the Blake Griffin of the MLB. He deserves his own article. He isn’t all that great at baseball but he is such a physical specimen and hits the ball so absurdly hard that I can’t stop watching him.

Like this: http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=21721741&c_id=mlb

Or this: http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=21638519&c_id=mlb

Frankly, Stanton is not even the most important hitter on his own team- the Marlins will go as Jose Reyes goes- but his at-bats are just must-see TV. Too bad everyone in Miami is too busy watching the NBA’s LeBron and Wade vs. 5 tourney.

Atlanta Braves: Seemingly the most complete team in the division, the Braves still occasionally seem to be hung over from last fall’s collapse. Of course health has something to do with that, Brian McCann, Chipper Jones and Freddie Freeman all missed games in the series against the Nationals over the weekend. However, once everyone is back from injury the Braves will still have to find a way to finish the season strong, something they were unable to do last year. Count on Fredi Gonzalez to keep his team focused and driven to avoid another empty October.

Philadelphia Phillies: What is wrong with Roy Halladay? Their dominant rotation was the key to their 102-win season 2011 campaign, but 35-year old Doc does not look like the Cy Young candidate of years past. His 4-4 record, coupled with some uncharacteristically average advanced numbers (107 ERA+ most notably) has the Phils Phanatics worried. While it’s too early to count the 5-time defending division champs out, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley will have to return mashing to keep their team on top of this division.

-Goldfarb

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