Every National League playoff contender's biggest weakness


The entire National League playoff field is relevant to the Phillies because they could realistically finish in any seed from 2 through 8.

The Dodgers, at 31-12 with the deepest roster in baseball, have an overwhelming chance to secure the top seed in the NL. As well as the 27-17 Padres have played, they are still 4½ games behind the Dodgers in the NL West. The teams have a pivotal three-game series in L.A. from September 14-16.

Every other spot is in play for the Phillies, who are 1½ games behind the Braves with 21 to play.

With that in mind, here is the biggest weakness for every NL team currently in the mix for the postseason:

1. Dodgers

None. Really, none. In years past, you could have said the bullpen in front of Kenley Jansen, but the Dodgers have gotten great work out of Blake Treinen, Dylan Floro, Caleb Ferguson and Jake McGee. That quartet has a combined 2.50 ERA carrying the ball from the starter to Jansen, who has 10 saves and a 1.96 ERA.

2. Braves

Starting pitching, no doubt about it. The Braves lost last year's ace Mike Soroka to a torn Achilles in July, then lost 2020 ace Max Fried to a back injury this week.

Atlanta is still without Cole Hamels and got nothing on their investment in Felix Hernandez when he opted out prior to the season.

Aside from rookie Ian Anderson, the Braves' rotation is full of No. 5 or 6 starters: Tommy Milone, Kyle Wright, Robbie Erlin and Josh Tomlin.


3. Cubs

Consistency in the middle of the order. Would you believe the Cubs are in first place with Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant hitting a combined .204 to this point?

The Cubs' two best offensive players have been Ian Happ and Jason Heyward.

The Cubs have hit .238 with runners in scoring position. Rizzo, Bryant and Javier Baez are 15 for 86 (.174).

4. Padres

San Diego's bullpen has a 4.88 ERA. Can recently acquired Trevor Rosenthal, only a year removed from that nightmare in Washington and later Detroit, be their late-inning right-hander in high-pressure spots?

Lefty Drew Pomeranz has been great with 13 scoreless innings and 18 K's. Lefty Matt Strahm has a 0.78 WHIP in 16 appearances.

It's an unproven bullpen without a lockdown closer that will have to pick up big outs in October. Kirby Yates was phenomenal the last two seasons with a 1.67 ERA in 125 games but is out for the year with an elbow injury.

5. Phillies

The answer is still obviously the bullpen, though lately, the Phillies' defense has been suspect as well.

David Phelps, Brandon Workman, Heath Hembree and David Hale have all had their stumbles since joining the Phils' bullpen. In 21⅓ innings, they have allowed 18 earned runs, 10 home runs and put 46 men on base.

That's a 7.59 ERA and 2.16 WHIP from the new guys.

6. Cardinals

The Cardinals have been a below-average offensive team. Their .384 slugging percentage ranks 24th in baseball. They are in the bottom-five in baseball in home run rate and extra-base hit rate.

Paul Goldschmidt has been really good in his second year with the Cardinals, hitting .330/.461/.500, but he hasn't had much help. 

Former Phillie Brad Miller has been huge for St. Louis, batting cleanup as the DH every day. Miller has hit .282/.404/.541 with five homers and 21 RBI in 104 plate appearances.

Phillies fans still ask why they didn't retain Miller after last season but the clear answer is they didn't have the playing time for him. They did not know the DH was coming to the NL in 2020 and could offer Miller nothing more than a first-man-off-the-bench role. He deserved more than that after his powerful second half last season and found a better opportunity elsewhere.

7. Marlins

The Phillies don't want to hear it, but it's offense. The Marlins have hit .237 as a team with a .315 on-base percentage. Their .690 OPS is 26th in the majors.

Miami added maybe the biggest impact player to change teams at the trade deadline in Starling Marte. He is a legit threat for doubles, homers and havoc on the basepaths. 

The Marlins have not gotten much out of 2019 Phillie Corey Dickerson. He's hit .232/.294/.416. He spent most of the first month batting 3, 4 or 5 but has been leading off since the acquisition of Marte.

Miami has scored three runs or fewer in 15 of its 37 games.

8. Giants


Surprisingly, San Francisco has been carried by its offense rather than its pitching. Brandon Belt, Mike Yastrzemski and Donovan Solano have hit all season. Darin Ruf has been a productive bat for them.

In the starting staff, it's a bunch of question marks. Johnny Cueto has a 4.56 ERA in nine starts. He's made five good ones and four bad ones.

Kevin Gausman has been their best with a 4.05 ERA and an attractive 62-to-12 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 46⅔ innings.

The top six seeds would all be able to trot out a better group of starting pitchers in the first-round Best of 3 playoff series.