Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Welcome to spring!/NL East predictions

Last year I had the order in the NL East exactly right in my March prognostications: Phillies-Braves-Marlins-Mets-Nationals.

While it may be a bit much to get things spot on two years in a row, I'm going to try again.

I basically see the East as running pretty much as it did last year, with the Nationals as the only team with a big change in its talent (major improvement). The Phils will miss (the Nats') Jason Werth, obviously, but I expect several players to have improved offensive years-Utley, Rollins, Howard-to make up for much of the loss. The Phils 'pen looks shallow as hell (beyond Ryan Madson, the setup guy but really the team's elite reliever, and closer Brad Lidge), but club GM Reuben Amaro (MLB's first really great Jewish/Hispanic executive!) has made a change or two in the rotation that you may've heard about recently, so bullpen depth won't be a huge issue, likely.

The Mets are still the Mets, a study in high-priced mediocrity, and, possibly, criminal malfeasance-team ownership is mixed up in the Bernie Madoff mess. The Marlins are finally behaving like a small-market team-I guess conserving cash till they finally get their new park built-so they don't figure to make much of an impact in '11.

The team to talk about in the East is the Braves-the Heyward-Freeman-Prado-Chipper-Hudson juggernaut. The Braves may well be good enough to knock the Fightins off their NL East perch. Consider that Jason Heyward will only get better-he was actually too patient a hitter last year, if you can believe that from a rookie-and arguably should've won the ROY. Freddie Freeman, the team's smokin' new first baseman, may win the ROY this year.

Craig Kimbrel (sounds like a late night talk show guy, doesn't he?) is the new closer, replacing the now-retired (and much-loathed in Philly) Billy Wagner (pronounced Vagner). Kimbrel pitched a bit last year in The Show, and you wouldn't exactly say he failed to impress-he struck out 40 in 20 IP. Still, not to sound excessively old school, you do have to wonder at trusting the closer job to a rookie, no matter how talented.

Anyway, I see the Phils just barely hangin' on to the East, very possibly for the last year in this cycle:

Phils 95-67

Braves 94-68

Mets 83-79

Nationals 75-87

Marlins 74-88


Baseball Prospectus has the division Phils (91 w), Braves (87), Marlins (84), Mets (79), Nats (69). I'll add those projections to the sidebar.

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