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MLB End-of-June Check-in: NL East

The triumph of the Braves and the tragedy of the Mets are the stories of the NL East.

Minnesota Twins v Atlanta Braves Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

Every day, Pinstripe Alley offers updates on what the Yankees’ top American League opponents are up to through the Rivalry Roundup. The AL East is well-trodden ground there, but with the month of June coming to a close, we’re going to take a peak around MLB as a whole and check in with each of the other five divisions. Who’s surprising? Who’s underwhelming? Who’s simply mediocre at the moment? Read on and find out.

First Place: Atlanta Braves (53-27)

Top Position Player: Ronald Acuña Jr. (4.3 fWAR)
Top Pitcher: Spencer Strider (2.2 fWAR)

Not much has changed for the Atlanta Braves since the last time we checked in on the National League East at the end of last month. They’re still leading the division, and have only lost five games across the month of June to this point. They continue to be one of the most impressive teams in baseball on both sides of the ball.

Ronald Acuña Jr. has taken the team lead in fWAR, leaving Sean Murphy behind, even though the latter’s total is still fantastic at 3.1. Acuña has 19 home runs and an absurd 35 stolen bases to this point in the season along with a 164 wRC+. As of now, Michael Harris II is still looking to get things back into gear, but he has improved his numbers from last month. He’s now sitting at 1.2 fWAR and a 98 wRC+ (the only player with at least 20 games played and below a 100 wRC+ on the roster), and considering what we’ve seen from him before, the more he plays, the more likely he is to break out of these below average numbers.

As for the pitching side of things, Spencer Strider remains one of the best pitchers in baseball. Although he didn’t have an extraordinary month, he’s still consistently a scary pitcher for opposing lineups to face. Bryce Elder and Charlie Morton are the other two pitchers with at least 1.0 fWAR. Max Fried is still on the injured list, which continues to hamper the rotation’s depth, but with the kind of lineup production the team is getting, they can survive just fine.

Second Place: Miami Marlins (47-34)

Top Position Player: Luis Arraez (2.8 fWAR)
Top Pitcher: Sandy Alcantara/Jesús Luzardo (1.9 fWAR)

Yes, the Marlins are still in second place in the NL East, and yes, we’re still getting used to it over here. Luis Arraez has been the driver of the entire offense, as he’s having a season for the ages, slashing .399/.450/.495 with a wRC+ of 161. His chase for a .400 batting average has been well-documented over the last month, and if he continues to keep this up, he could very well get there. Jorge Soler has also been a big factor in the Marlins’ success this season, sitting second on the team in fWAR and having a 136 wRC+.

The real reason for the team’s success though has been their pitching. The Marlins rank 19th in MLB in hitting fWAR, but on the other hand, the pitching sits fourth. Jesús Luzardo was the staff’s leader last month, and Sandy Alcantara has found his way back after an odd slump. The Marlins have a total of five pitchers on the roster with at least 1.0 fWAR.

If other teams can’t score runs off the Marlins' pitching, there’s no need for the Marlins' hitters to be exceptional. Did anyone expect the Marlins to be this high in the standings at this point? Probably not. But they’re here.

Third Place: Philadelphia Phillies (42-37)

Top Position Player: Brandon Marsh (2.0 fWAR)
Top Pitcher: Zack Wheeler (3.2 fWAR)

The Phillies just cannot seem to get into stride so far this season. They were able to jump the Mets this month and go five games over .500, but they’re still not able to get their foot fully on the gas and make a big move forward with consistency.

Brandon Marsh is still leading the hitters in fWAR at 2.0 for another month. He’s also second on the roster in wRC+ with 124, behind Nick Castellanos at 127. The Phillies hitters rank 20th in the league in fWAR, and if they were able to get things going, they would really be able to take over second place from the Marlins and separate themselves in the race while competing with the Braves.

I say all of that because the Phillies' pitching has been excellent. Their staff ranks first in fWAR with Zack Wheeler leading the way, and they have the fifth-lowest xFIP of any staff, too. If the Phillies' star players were able to truly figure things out and the pitching staff continues to do what it does best, there could be a very good chance we see them move up the standings. However, that’s a big ‘if’ considering what has transpired so far during 2023.

Fourth Place: New York Mets (36-44)

Top Position Player: Francisco Lindor (2.4 fWAR)
Top Pitcher: Max Scherzer (1.1 fWAR)

The New York Mets continue to be one of the most disappointing teams in MLB. They are now sitting eight games below .500 with hitting that has been pretty mediocre and pitching that has been abysmal.

Francisco Lindor and Brandon Nimmo are the two hitters on the team that are pretty much carrying the workload in Queens. Both have over a 2.0 fWAR, and while Pete Alonso hasn’t gotten to that mark yet, he sits at 24 home runs, which is the third-highest total in the league behind Shohei Ohtani (28) and Matt Olson (26). But outside of those three, the lineup has been uninspiring.

As for the pitching, if you want to talk about an uninspiring piece of a baseball team, this is it. The two pitchers that the team is paying $43 million a year for the rest of this season and the next do not have xFIP numbers below 3.95, and Justin Verlander hasn’t even hit the 1.0 fWAR mark. With the downfall of two of the best pitchers we have seen in this generation, the onus has been on Kodai Senga to help pick up the strength, and he hasn’t been able to do that either with a 3.52 ERA and a 4.04 xFIP.

There’s lots happening with the Mets as of now, and someone needs to figure out what the problem is and how to address it if they want to make that payroll look anything like it belongs being put on an MLB field.

Last Place: Washington Nationals (32-48)

Top Position Player: Jeimer Candelario (2.3 fWAR)
Top Pitcher: MacKenzie Gore (1.5 fWAR)

The Washington Nationals are, well, the Washington Nationals. They aren’t completely awful, beating out teams like the Oakland Athletics at the very bottom, but they’re hanging around Colorado Rockies land, which is not the land anyone wants to be in.

There aren’t any stats that might inspire you if you’re a fan of the Nationals. Their hitters rank 25th in fWAR with a 94 wRC+, a little higher than I might have expected at first. And their pitching isn’t any better, sitting at 28th overall in xFIP and moving up only one spot in fWAR.

The Nats are a young team that are really just waiting for this season to be over. They’re going through some troubled times, and even though they have some very fun young players, they’re going to need quite a bit of time to truly take a step forward.