In a six-month season, there's never just one cause, just one answer, just one explanation. Success or failure, a great deal goes into it.But that doesn't mean a single number, name or story can't be emblematic or explanatory. So MLB.com is taking a look at one number for each Major
In a six-month season, there's never just one cause, just one answer, just one explanation. Success or failure, a great deal goes into it.
But that doesn't mean a single number, name or story can't be emblematic or explanatory. So MLB.com is taking a look at one number for each Major League team that helps explain where they are with just over two weeks remaining in the season.
Here's a look at a number that stands out for each club in the National League East:
The number: 13
What it means: There's a lot that's gone right for the Braves this year. Mike Foltynewicz emerged as a No. 1 starter. Freddie Freeman is in the NL MVP Award conversation. Nick Markakis turned the clock back. Sean Newcomb broke out. But if you're telling the story of the Braves in 2018, it starts with No. 13.
That's Ronald Acuna Jr.'s uniform number. The 20-year-old phenom emerged as a fully-formed star, transforming Atlanta's lineup. He leads the team with 25 homers, has a .290/.368/.575 line with 14 steals in 19 attempts, and he's basically done it all. Would the Braves be in first without Acuna? Maybe. But they certainly wouldn't be the same team.
The number: 63
What it means: This season was never about the present for the Marlins, and that's been especially clear on the pitching side. They've given 63 starts to rookies this year, led by Trevor Richards and the unfortunately injured Caleb Smith. They've seen encouraging signs in particular from Sandy Alcantara, and in total eight rookies have started at least one game.
Miami has gone with experience a bit more on the offensive side, though rookie Brian Anderson has had a nice year. But this is a rebuilding project, and the goal is the long term.
The number: 38
What it means: The conventional wisdom on the Mets coming into the year was that, again, they'd go as far as their rotation took them. Well, the rotation was pretty good. And by its standards, fairly healthy. Jacob deGrom is the NL Cy Young Award favorite. Zack Wheeler broke out.
The problem was that the Mets didn't hit. And nothing played a bigger role in that than injuries to Yoenis Cespedes. The slugger played 38 games all year, getting 157 plate appearances, and he made just one appearance after May 13. New York went 20-16 in games Cespedes started, and it is 46-62 in all other games. Cespedes is a game-changer, and he missed three-fourths of the season.
The number: 4.59
What it means: Look at injuries, look at an inconsistent Bryce Harper season, look at questions in the bullpen. But if you want to know why the Nats aren't a serious contender this year, start by looking at the rotation. Max Scherzer has been his usual brilliant self, but beyond Scherzer, it's been rough. The ERA by all starters other than Scherzer is 4.59.
Even with Scherzer, the group ranks 11th in the NL with a 4.04 ERA. But ineffectiveness by Tanner Roark and Giovany Gonzalez, an inability early in the year to find a fifth starter, and more injury woes for Stephen Strasburg added up to a tough time when Max didn't take the mound.
The number: .237
What it means: It's been a good news/bad news year for the Phillies. They've taken a big step forward, regardless of how much of a run they end up making at a division title. Philadelphia has done some things well, like starting pitching, and done some things poorly, like defense.
Then there's the Phils' offense, which captures both sides -- some very encouraging developments, and some frustrating. They're sixth in the NL in homers, fifth in walks. But they're tied for 13th in batting average at .237, and the lack of singles and doubles has held down an offense that does some other things very well.
The primary example, of course, is Carlos Santana, but he's not the only one. Philadelphia took a step forward on the pitching side in 2018, and the power and patience mean its offense can be dangerous. This season on the whole has to be considered a success. But there are still improvements that need to be made for the Phillies to take the next step.
Matthew Leach is the National League executive editor for MLB.com.