They arrived a year earlier than expected and came within an out of the franchise's first-ever World Series appearance in 2012. That had many expecting even more from the Washington Nationals this season that opened with them picked to win the NL East and among the favorites to take home the pennant.
Instead, it has been a tough ride for Davey Johnson's troops through the first 12 weeks of the campaign, and the hunted have become the hunters in the chase to defend their division title and make it back to the postseason.
The 81-game mark of the 2013 campaign will arrive for most teams this week, and the true halfway point of the season seems as good a time as any to trot out an update on the MLB futures odds board. It should also be as good a time as any for the Nationals to turn their season around.
Washington trailed only the Dodgers on the NL pennant odds when the regular season schedule got underway in April. The Nats were 7/2 to take home their first National League title, just behind LA at 3/1. But as the middle of the slate arrives, Washington is trailing Atlanta by six full games in the NL East, and sporting a sub-.500 record to boot.
The latest NL win numbers now have St. Louis (3/1) leading the pack with the Braves close behind at 4/1. Washington is fourth on the list at 13/2 while the Phillies (18/1), Mets (100/1) and Marlins (2500/1) finish off the division and, in the case of Miami, bring up the rear of the MLB futures odds in the National League.
Nationals Only Challengers To Braves For Division Title
Injuries and an underachieving offense are behind Washington's stagnant showing to date. The Nationals, 8/1 choices to win the World Series, should get their young stud Bryce Harper back in the next week or so, and that could go a long way to rectifying the offensive shortcomings. Harper has missed the last month with a knee injury, yet remains tied for the club lead in homers. The Nats are averaging just 3.51 runs per game, a full run below their 2012 clip.
Atlanta (17/2 to win World Series) came out of the gate strong and has held the division lead since Day 1 despite injuries causing a huge turnover in the bullpen. That hot start has cooled off lately (12-11 in June), but nobody else in the division looks to be much of a challenger at this point and our MLB picks should reflect this. The Braves sport a powerful lineup -- 96 HR, tied with Colorado for the NL lead -- and also own the Senior Circuit's top ERA (3.21).
Pitching Plagues Phils, Hitting Hampers Mets, Offense Absent In Miami
Unless the Nationals start to come around, the Braves should go wire-to-wire for their first division title since 2005 as the rest of the NL East are also-rans for 2013. Philadelphia (40/1 to win WS) has flirted at times with mounting a challenge, but the Phillies just don't have enough pitching to be serious contenders. They rank last in the NL with a 4.26 ERA, and their bullpen brings up the rear of the majors with a 4.67 mark.
New York (250/1 to win WS) was never expected to be in the race, and the Mets have so far lived up to those expectations. Let's start with the fact that any club managed by Terry Collins is at a disadvantage to reach the playoffs, and any team as poor in the field as New York is also going to struggle. What the Mets do have going for them, however, are two of the brightest young arms in the game. Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler are the envy of many teams and could form an incredible 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation for years. Those two young hurlers might also play key roles in the Mets playing spoilers during the second half of the season.
Last and certainly least, Miami (5000/1 to win WS) is indeed the worst team in the majors with a 25-50 record and already 18 games out of the division race. The Marlins aren't terrible on the mound, but you could give them both Harvey and Wheeler and this offense still wouldn't be able to score enough runs to play .500 ball.
Check back all week as we continue to update MLB futures odds here at SBR. Next on the slate are the two Central Divisions this Wednesday.See the Pennant Odds for the AL East, right here!