Mailbag: Who's the Phillies Biggest Threat?

In this post, I answered a question that was presented by Pat Gallen of Phillies Nation.

The Phillies play the Mets, Marlins, and Braves this week. The Braves were looked at as the 2nd best team in the NL East before the season started but haven't quite lived up to that hype. The Marlins are who they are. The Mets are the bottom feeder right now, but have had an up and down season. Who of these three teams do you believe will give the Phillies the closest race in the NL East and why?

This is a tough question. So far, the Phillies have been superior in most categories, but you can never count any team out. They can all be a threat.

Entering Sunday, the Marlins were 11th in baseball in overall ERA. However, they have a better rotation than the Mets and Braves. From Josh Johnson to Anibal Sanchez, all five guys in their rotation can get the job done. However, their bullpen is a little worrisome. Leo Nunez has been a solid closer, but they don't really have anybody other than him.

Hanley Ramirez and Dan Uggla can get the job done offensively. Even Cody Ross and Jorge Cantu have done well. Chris Coghlan hit a sophomore slump, and Cameron Maybin has yet to play to his potential, but you have to like the Florida offense. However, I think the Mets have more offensive potential than the Marlins.

The Mets are last of the four teams in runs scored, but with players like Jose Reyes, David Wright, and Jason Bay, you'd have to imagine that they will snap out of the funk.

The thing that will hold the Mets back is their pitching. Entering Sunday, the Mets were 8th in the majors in ERA, but they've had all kinds of problems, from injuries to moving Oliver Perez to the bullpen. Johan Santana hasn't been "the best pitcher in the NL East" as he proclaimed, but you'd have to figure he'll come around. Francisco Rodriguez can close the doors, but they have to get to him. Pitching is not something the Mets can rely on right now.

The Braves have yet to play to their expectations, but they still can't be counted out. Every pitcher hates facing Chipper Jones and Brian McCann, and Jason Heyward is finding his way onto that list.

The Braves have the better bullpen of all the teams in the National League, but other than Tommy Hanson, they haven't gotten much from their starting rotation.

Of course, there are the Nationals, who can't be counted out. They've been streaky, but I don't see them contending this year. Much improved? Absolutely. Stephen Strasburg is going to make his debut soon, but I still give them two more years, maybe when Bryce Harper is on the team.

So, after all this, I have yet to answer the question, but I really had to think it out, and break it down. I think I'm going to have to go with the Marlins, but it is very close. They have the NL East's best rotation, plus a solid offense.

Blog of Note: WhatIfSports put together an all budget team, comprised of the biggest bargains and revenue risks. They also interviewed general manager Jim Bowden about his thoughts on small market baseball.


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