Adam Eaton Noah Syndergaard

MLB on Sling: NL East Race Unfazed By Huge Injuries to Eaton and Syndergaard

The Washington Nationals won the NL East by 8 games over the New York Mets, who made it to the Wild Card game, only to lose to the Giants. But both the Nats and the Mets came into 2017 with an eye on getting back to the playoffs. Over the previous 72 hours, the two teams faced each other three times, and the Nats lost a key player for the season, whole the Mets’ best pitcher endured the worst start of his career and has a date with a doctor on Monday.

If you’re wondering how the Washington Nationals are ever going to be able to overcome the loss of Adam Eaton, consider that two days after he went down for the season with a torn ACL — in a game they lost 7-5 — the Nats came back to destroy the Mets 23-5, riding an historic 6-for-6, 3-homer, 10-RBI night from Anthony Rendon. They’re gonna be fine, thank you very much.

The loss of Eaton hurts, for sure. Any time you lose you’re starting centerfielder, it’s gonna hurt. But the Nationals won the NL East last season despite Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper combing for fewer WAR (.5) than Milwaukee Brewers’ Kirk Nieuwenhuis. Heck, they did it with the worst everyday centerfielder in all of baseball, Ben Revere. Revere was so bad last season, that his -1.2 WAR was lower than the combined WAR of the next two CFs, Andrew McCutchen and Alejandro de Aza, who were good for -1.1 WAR.

Eaton was probably going to be good for about 5 WAR this season, so even if the Nats just replace him with a 0-WAR player, which is not hard to find, and Harper stays healthy, he alone should make up for Eaton’s loss. Add to that the resurgence of Zimmerman, and the Nats offense will be just fine. What they should worry about instead is the condition of their bullpen, which has an atrocious ERA of 5.70 and is responsible for 4 of the team’s 8 losses.

The Mets, on the other hand, could be doomed if Noah Syndergaard is dealing with anything more serious than muscle soreness. Syndergaard was scratched from his start last Thursday because he was so sore he couldn’t lift his pitching arm above his head. The Mets very sensibly suggested an MRI, which Syndergaard inexplicably declined, saying “I’m pretty in tune with my body. That’s exactly why I refused to take the MRI. I knew there was nothing happening in there.”

Two days later, Syndergaard started against the Nats,  and threw just 38 pitches, giving up 5 runs on 5 hits and 2 walks, while retiring just 4 batters, leaving the shortest outing of his career with a strained right lat. By the time you read this, Syndergaard will likely have had an MRI, as the team scheduled it for 7 a.m. Monday. Manager Terry Collins, seldom a cheery sort, was extra salty following the game.

And with good reason, The loss dropped the Mets to 10-14 and sole possession of last place, and put their run differential at -25. Other than Syndergaard, their only other starter with an ERA+ above 100 is Jacob deGrom, the bullpen has an ERA of 5.04, their winningest pitcher is reliever Hansel Robles with 4. The offense isn’t in much better shape, with a .686 OPS, third-lowest in the NL.

The Nationals will have no problem plugging the hole left by Eaton, but with the Mets already four games below .500, the loss of Syndergaard for any length of time will be devastating.

Monday on ESPN (out-of-market only)

Baltimore Orioles (Bundy 3-1, 1.65) vs Boston Red Sox (Porcello 1-3, 4.75) @ 7pm

Wednesday on ESPN

Toronto Blue Jays (Stroman 2-2, 2.97) vs New York Yankees (Sabathia 2-1, 4.34) @ 7pm

Saturday on FS1

Cleveland Indians (Bauer 2-2, 6.26) vs Kansas City Royals (Vargas 3-1, 1.40) @ 4:15pm

Saturday on FOX

New York Yankees (Montgomery 1-1, 3.78) vs Chicago Cubs (Anderson 2-0, 3.54) @ 7:15pm

Sunday on ESPN

New York Yankees (Severino 2-1, 3.00) vs Chicago Cubs (Lester 0-1, 3.68) @ 8pm

Watch Major League Baseball on FOX and FS1 by subscribing to Sling Blue, and on ESPN by subscribing to Sling Orange.

All stats courtesy ESPN and Baseball Reference.

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