Surprises after 40 Games — NL Version

Yesterday, we took a quick glance at some surprises in the American League through the season’s first two months.  Today, let’s have a look through the numbers in the Senior Circuit (offense here and pitching here):

(1)  The best hitting team in the National League?  Your SF Giants.  Admittedly I can be a little biased since I am writing this 3 blocks from AT&T Park, but I love seeing the Giants top the NL with a wRC+ of 105.  They’ve won 2 championships in 3 years based on pitching and defense, but this year, Hunter Pence, Marco Scutaro and (formerly all-glove, no hit) Brandon Crawford have joined mainstays Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval with wOBA above .340.  I am skeptical that those 3 can keep up their pace, but at the moment it’s good enough to carry an underperforming pitching staff into a 3 way battle atop the NL West.

(2)  Best Pitching HR rate?  The Colorado Rockies, at 8.4% HR/FB.  The Rockies feel like they’re getting by with smoke and mirrors, but if we look at their pitching staff, it has remained healthy thus far, with 5 starters getting all but 3 starts this season.  The SPs aren’t going deep into games, averaging 5-6 innings per start, but once they hand it over to the bullpen its lights out – the Rockies relievers sport a 4th best 2.85 ERA (and a league best 2.78 FIP).  The ‘pen is even stingier with taters, surrendering only 4.4% HR/FB – likely unsustainable over a full season at Coors, but nevertheless worth watching.

(3)  Power outage in DC.  The Nationals sport a robust 225/289/365 team hitting line thus far, good for a wRC+ of 79, exceeding only the AAA Marlins minus Giancarlo Stanton.   Bryce Harper might be the best player in baseball already, and Ryan Zimmerman’s defensive struggles haven’t affected him in the box, but everywhere else (particularly 1B, 2B and LF) the Nationals are in need of upgrades.   WAS is already 4.5 games behind the Braves in the NL East, and 5 out of the Wild Card thanks to a resurgent NL Central.

(4)  The 3 best teams in the NL all play in the NL Central.   The Cardinals 30-16 record surprises nobody, and they have reinforcements in the form of Oscar Taveras waiting in the wings.  Cincinnati is 29-18, also well positioned and expectedly so.  The NL’s 3rd best team however – the long suffering Pittsburgh Pirates, also at 29-18.   The Bucs team ERA is 2nd best in the league at 3.26 and their young talent seems to be arriving (with more to come, particularly on the pitching side).  The Pirates need to go 53-62 the rest of the way to break a two decade losing season streak, but I sense Pittsburgh is already looking for bigger things.

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About Bill Porter

Bill is an aspiring sportswriter (attorney by day) born in Washington DC, raised in New York, and currently living in San Francisco with his wife Kirsten and two spazzy labs, Fletch and Bear. Follow me on Twitter at @wfporter1972
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