Last Updated: 2019-03-05
What we lack in terms of drama in the American League division races, we get it in spades for the National League East and the National League Central. The East Division race got a lot more interesting with the February 28 signing of Bryce Harper to play for the next 13 years in Philadelphia. That shook up the futures board quite substantially and has given us a lot to talk about here.
This is a four-team race. The Marlins aren’t even priced accurately at +5000. They’re more like +50000. The Phillies, Washington Nationals, New York Mets, and Atlanta Braves all have a path to win the division, though the Braves, who won this at +1400 last season, had a much less exciting offseason than the other three contenders.
The Phillies signed Harper, David Robertson, Jean Segura, Andrew McCutchen, and traded for arguably the best catcher in baseball in JT Realmuto. The Nationals signed Patrick Corbin and have a ton of in-house talent with youngsters like Juan Soto and Victor Robles. They also bolstered the pitching staff with Anibal Sanchez, Kyle Barraclough, and Trevor Rosenthal.
The Mets traded for Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz to fill holes on their roster and will also look to a much improved rotation under manager Mickey Callaway with the resurgences of Zack Wheeler and Jason Vargas and the dominance of Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard. The Braves will rely on youngsters Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuna, as well as perennial MVP candidate Freddie Freeman. They’ll hope for the best with Josh Donaldson.
Here are the odds for the NL East as of March 5 from BetOnline Sportsbook:
Philadelphia Phillies +175
Washington Nationals +275
Atlanta Braves +300
New York Mets +350
Miami Marlins LOL
As we look at this division, it is important to remember that the Phillies and Nationals were on equal footing from a betting odds standpoint until the Bryce Harper news came across the wire. At that point, Philadelphia’s season win total line spiked by three wins and the Nationals fell to the second favorite in the division.
That seems like an overreaction. While Harper has the potential to be an exception player, the total package for the Nationals looks to be the strongest in this division. Last year’s Nationals were a huge disappointment at 82-80, but the Nationals were 90-72 per Pythagorean Win-Loss and 89-73 per BaseRuns, a standings metric based on run differential in a context-neutral environment. That was second to the Braves across the board.
On the other hand, the Phillies were in position to make a serious postseason run before finishing the season with an 8-20 record in the month of September. Overall, the Phillies were 21-34 in their last 55 games to turn what looked like a major step in the right direction into a disappointment.
For my money, the Nationals stand out at +275. The starting rotation is just about on par with the Mets and the lineup is solid as well. The bullpen could potentially be the best in the division if everybody stays healthy. With a little less than a 3/1 return, there is enough profit potential here to take a stab on the Nationals.
The Mets have some questions on the offensive side of the ledger that make them a tough sell at +350. The price on the Phillies has no value left on it and that is the problem for me. The line has come down too far with the Harper signing.
This is also a division where you can probably wait until the All-Star Break and see how things set up before making an investment. The three top teams should be in it for the long haul.
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