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NL East Update: The one where the Phillies are the team to beat

The Philadelphia Phillies have done it again, winning their fourth consecutive division title.

Several people were anticipating a shootout between the Phillies and Atlanta Braves in the final month of the season to determine the division winner; unfortunately it was anything but that. What the Phillies accomplished the past month is what separates the great teams from the rest of the pack. For a majority of the season Philadelphia was plagued with injuries and was being written off by several people, including myself. Somehow, they did what they do best, and that is winning when it matters by grinding out victories at any cost. I would be shocked if the Phillies, with their starting rotation, finishes anywhere short of the World Series.

Just because the Braves won’t capture the division title doesn’t mean you should count them out of the post-season.

Its funny how Atlanta struggled at the worst time, ultimately costing them the division, but now they have caught fire at the perfect time by sweeping the Florida Marlins and winning 4 of their last 5 games. The Braves currently hold a 1.5 game lead over the San Diego Padres in the Wild Card and now face a tough test as they prepare for a three game set with the Phillies. The Padres will finish out the season against the Chicago Cubs and will have to at least sweep if they want any hope. If Atlanta does hold onto the Wild Card lead the question then becomes which Braves team will show up in October, will they be able to put their September struggles behind them and start out fresh or will they be a quick flame out?

Statistically, David Wright has had a bounce back year with his power numbers, but his strikeout rate is rising at an alarming rate.

It’s nice to see Wright become a home run threat again after a mysterious 2009 season in which he only hit ten long balls, but the strikeouts are beginning to make me a little nervous. We all know of Adam Dunn’s “all or nothing” approach at the plate, but I don’t think people realize how big of a liability a hitter with a high strikeout rate can be to a lineup. I do not believe Wright’s struggles are a direct result of hitting coach Howard Johnson, but you can bet that the two will be working on improving this during the off-season.

“When it rains, it pours.” This is a common saying in the state of Florida and accurately describes the Marlins recent injury woes.

Several members of the Marlins experienced some form of injury this season, but the article makes a good observation in that the team was already underperforming, raising the question of whether or not Florida would have been competitive had all their players been healthy. This is a big off-season for the fish with many questions surrounding the team like how many of their young players will they keep, will they address the Dan Uggla contract situation, and who will be their manager for 2011?

We already know Stephen Strasburg will be absent from the team in 2011 but what about the rest of the rotation?

Who wouldn’t like to see Washington sign a big name pitcher this off-season? This isn’t the same old Nationals team that will lose 100 games a year, but a team on the rise giving any potential free agent a chance to be a part of something special. I think Zack Grienke is an attractive option for the Nats as there is a slim chance the 2009 AL Cy Young winner returns to Kansas City. Jason Marquis has no future with the team and John Lannan, despite his promise since being recalled, is still a hit or miss. It is imperative that the Nationals pick up a ten to twelve game winner this off-season.

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