Mind over matters


At the end of the 2011 regular season, the Phillies won the National League Eastern Division, the Braves collapsed just as bad as the Red Sox, the Nationals were one game below .500, the Mets were 25 games back from the first place Phillies and the Marlins were in dead last.
Throughout the first 14 games of the 2012 season, the NL East could not have gone through any more twists and turns.
First, the Florida Marlins no longer exist and the Miami Marlins are attempting to reinvent themselves through a new stadium and players. They acquired former Mets All-Star José Reyes and White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen. Some things, however, do not change. Through 14 games the Marlins have gone 7-7, and currently sit in a tie for fourth place in the East. Their skipper has already been suspended for five games of the season due to his comments in favor of Cuban Dictator Fidel Castro.
Some things do change. Who are the Marlins tied with for fourth place? The Phillies. This is the same ball club who went 102-60 during the 2011 regular season. It could be argued that the Phillies even got better during the off-season, acquiring pitcher Jonathan Papelbon from the Red Sox. He already has five saves in 2012. Most of the Phillies troubles come from their aging lineup, as Ryan Howard and Chase Utley are both injured. So if the Phillies are in a tie for fourth place, who is leading the NL East?
Answer: the Nationals. Yes, you read that correctly. They are off to their best start (11-4) since they started 12-3 in 1981, when they were the Montréal Expos. This is due in large part to excellent pitching, including a healthy Stephen Strasburg. Strasburg has a 1.42 ERA and a 2-0 record through three starts. National pitchers have a combined 2.38 ERA, with only two of their four losses being attributed to their starting pitchers.
After losing Reyes to the Marlins, everyone wrote off the Mets for 2012. And the Mets took notice, opening the season 4-0 after sweeping the Atlanta Braves and taking the first game of the series against Washington. The Mets are combining both offense and defense, riding the shirttails of David Wright. Wright has an astounding .486 batting average, .556 on-base percentage and a whopping .676 slugging percentage. They have cooled off however, and are in third place with a 7-6 record.
Last but not least, who could be more up and down than the Atlanta Braves? After scoring a combined 10 runs in their 0-4 start, their bats have come alive and their pitching has all but silenced the opposition. They are 9-1 in their last 10 games, averaging 7.4 runs per game while giving up 3.8. Jason Heyward has been returning to his 2010 form as young pitchers Mike Minor, Brandon Beachy, and Randall Delgado have a combined 6-2 record. Beachy has an MLB-leading 0.47 ERA through three starts. Freedie Freeman has come alive as well, adding 10 hits, seven runs scored and 12 RBI in his last four games.
Well folks, looks like baseball season is back and in full swing.