NL East Preview.
Of course the bottom teams in the division are extremely flawed.
But the top teams all have things that make you say they just aren’t good enough to make it to the postseason, too.
The AL East has three teams that may have flaws when compared to each other. But their flaws really aren’t much compared to the other quality teams in the game.
Let us get on to the predictions…projected win total included.
New York Mets: 89-73: Because of these aforementioned “flaws,” I choose not to project anyone to win 90 games in this division. The Mets of course have their four great players returning: Jose Reyes, David Wright, Carlos Beltran, and Johan Santana. And they addressed their bullpen woes with the likes of; JJ Putz, KRod, and Sean Green, giving them what should be at worst, an above average pen.
There are definite questions about their rotation. John Maine needs to come around for their rotation to be solid. They of course have their anchor, who also happens to be the best pitcher in baseball, in the form of Santana. And they re-signed Oliver Perez, who is really a number 3 starter, penciled in right now as a number two. Now, Perez could still potentially be better than a 3, and most likely will not be any worse, but I just can’t say he will be any better than that until he proves us otherwise. The back end of the rotation has some options, none very compelling, but options nonetheless. So the rotation won’t be terrible, but it probably won’t be at the top either.
The offense has a few issues. Will Daniel Murphy be able to field second well enough? If so, then it will work out very well. But if he doesn’t end up being good enough on defense, he will have to shift back to the outfield, making him less valuable. The catcher is an albatross in the lineup, so that is another vulnerable spot for the Mets, another “flaw.”
But even with a few offensive weaknesses, a percieved lack of “mental toughness” and a questionable back end of the rotation, they do have star players that they can basically pencil in to do great things. And holding leads once they are gained isn’t such a bad thing either.
Philadelphia Phillies: 88-74: The reigning champs will stay competitive throughout, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they won the division again. But they downgraded in left field (although that may not be too significant an issue this season as Ibanez should still be a solid player in 2009). Cole Hamels has had a few issues, and it isn’t unlikely that his value is less than it was in 2008. Jaime Moyer should come back down to Earth. Blanton can serve a decent role, but may get hit around in Philly, something that was less likely to happen in Oakland. At this point, Brett Myers’ performance is difficult to project. And as Baseball Prospectus stated, Brad Lidge will blow at least a few saves this year, that is almost a certainty.
The offense of course consists of Chase Utley, one of the five best players in baseball. The overrated, but still good Ryan Howard. Jimmy Rollins. And a few other solid or above average hitters. There are a few weak links in the lineup, catcher and first base. But the team will be above average offensively I would think anyway.
The Phillies are capable of winning this division again. But I think they fall just short of the Mets. However, either team could win.
Atlanta Braves: 84-78: The Braves rotation is solid. Solid…but far from spectacular. Javier Vazquez, Derek Lowe, and Jair Jurrjens gives them a solid 1-2-3 punch. And the somewhat unknown Kawakami may give them a solid 1-2-3-4. But we don’t know exactly how good Kenshin will be. Glavine may not have much left, but everything points to an above average rotation if health is on their side.
For some reason, I think Garrett Anderson has a solid season. I don’t know if it is just the weaker NL or what. But I think that he is at least better than he was last season. Chipper should play 120 games while putting up really good numbers, although probably not as good as last year. I am not a fan of Casey Kotchman, but it could be worse, and at least he is just entering his prime, which should be a good thing.
The team definitely has some weaknesses. No ace. A powerless first baseman. But they have some strength in the Minors, and have a couple solid “innings eaters” at the top of their rotation.
Florida Marlins: 81-81: Sure there is plenty of room for growth when there are so many young players. But maybe the pieces don’t come together just yet. It is difficult to project this team since they seem to surprise so often. I heard PECOTA didn’t like them, but they seem to be at least a little better than that. And since they seem to come out of nowhere at times, right now seems like one of those times. There are too many question marks to put them higher, for me at least, and not enough deficiencies to put them much lower. But how well will Cameron Maybin perform? How will Anibel “no-hit” Sanchez come back from surgery? How good are some of these young pitchers to begin with? They are an intriguing case no doubt. But I can’t project them any higher with so many unknowns. Although, I may be a bit more optimistic on them then some of the other projections.
Washington Nationals: 75-87: This Nationals offense, as Rob Neyer pointed out, has some potential. But to project this team any higher would mean that I would have to have faith in hitters such as Lastings Milledge, Elijah Dukes, and Nick Johnson. And also have faith in a pitching staff that right now does not warrant any faith. A definite lack of faith in some of this teams integral parts
Now, I could talk myself into a few of those pitchers doing better than we’d expect; Cabrera, Zimmerman, Olson. But Cabrera has always had trouble with his control, so expecting him to “get it together” isn’t logical. And Scotty Olsen has some makeup issues as well. Zimmerman is very young, and young pitchers are, well, see: Clay Buccholz, Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy, Homer Bailey, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc…etc.
The franchise is heading in a better direction, which was really the only place that they could go, unless Matt Millen took over the daily operations. But they still are too far away from making any real noise.