Saturday, March 19, 2011

National League Preview

The Counselor is IN: 

(Original article posted in the March Edition of Sports Jabber Magazine)

Spring Training is in full swing.  The fans are optimistic about their teams since every team is undefeated.  The itch for green grass, cold beer, and the smell of hot dogs entangle the fans. Hope springs eternal during Spring Training.

It is also the time of the year where the prognosticators bring out their crystal balls in an attempt to clearly see October.  I will pretend I am Carnac the Magnificent and give my predictions.

NL East
1) Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies have the best rotation in baseball: Halladay; Lee; Hamels; Oswalt; and Blanton.  They won 97 games last season before adding Cliff Lee. At times last year, they struggled to score runs and having lost Jason Werth is not going to help.  They should have more than enough starting pitching to make up for it and to have the best record in the National League.

2) Atlanta Braves
The Braves are an up and coming team.  Too bad they are in the same division as the Phillies.  The team’s big names are Heyward, McCann, and Uggla. The pitching staff is lead by Tim Hudson, Derrek Lowe, and Jair Jurrjens. I expect the Braves to contend for the Wild Card.

3) Florida Marlins
The Marlins are a good team that could compete in most other divisions.  They have a good starting pitching staff: Johnson; Nolasco; and the inconsistent Javier Vazquez.  Hanley Ramirez is the star of this team as a Short Stop.  The Marlins can make some noise but it will be tough in this division.  

4) New York Mets
Just examine the big names (at least before they become Mets): Santana; Beltran; Wright; Reyes; Bay; and Rodriguez.  Every season, this team looks great on paper but they do not fulfill their potential.  I don’t think this season will be any different. It looks like the same old Mets to me.

5) Washington Nationals
I really like the Nationals in five years if they keep their young players and do not trade them away. They are building something special in Washington but they are not there yet.  They did bring in Jason Werth to add to the veteran presence of Livan Hernandez and Pudge Rodriguez.  This team will surprise some people but will not win more than 75 games.

NL Central
1) Milwaukee Brewers
This division is the hardest to judge. I could see any of the top four teams winning this division.  The addition of Zach Greinke tips the Brewers over the top for the division in my opinion.  Braun, Hart, and Fielder lead this team’s offense. The Brewers should win this division in a tight race.

2) Cincinnati Reds
The Reds won the division last season with 91 wins and will compete for it this season. The offense will be good with Votto, Bruce, and Rolen leading it.  The pitching staff should be decent but they do not have the one good Ace on their team.  They will be in the hunt for the NL Central and the Wild Card.

3) Chicago Cubs
The Cubs have a good rotation if they can stay healthy but their offense is not frightening too many people.  The addition of Garza to the rotation with Dempster and Zambrano should be formidable.  They will put pressure on the Brewers and Reds but in the end they will fall apart as usual.

4) St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals went from the top of the division for these rankings to the fourth when Adam Wainwright injury requring Tommy John elbow surgery.  He is done for the season.  The Cards still have their “Co-Ace” Carpenter but he will be 36 in April.  Albert is still a stud but will the non-contract extension lead to distractions later in the season.  The Cards could still win this division but I think the odds are becoming stacked against them.

5) Houston Astros
The Astros will miss Oswalt, who they traded last year at the trade deadline.  Wandy Rodriguez is close to becoming the Ace of this staff.  Brett Myers is a good pitcher.  This team looks like they have too little offense to make a run at the division title but they should be close to being a .500 team.

6) Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pirates lost 105 games last season.  It appears they will lose another 100+ games this season.  They have a few really good pieces like 3B Pedro Alverez  and OF Andrew McCutchen. But the Pirates do not have enough talent to be competitive.  

NL West
1) San Francisco Giants
The World Champs should win the NL West.  Their rotation is really good with Lincecum, Cain, and Sanchez leading the way.  In the Bullpen, Fear the Beard will continue to close games down.   Pablo Sandoval and Buster Posey are young cornerstone to the offense of this team.  The Giants will be hard pressed to win the series again but they should make the playoffs and anything can happen once you make the playoffs.

2) Colorado Rockies
The Rockies have a lineup of young position players who have a ton of upside. They will soon be a team to be feared with Ian Stewart, Carlos Gonzalez, Seth Smith, and of course SS Troy Tulowitzki. They have a decent pitching staff lead by Ace Ubaldo Jimenez and Closer Huston Street.  This team is good and could fight for the NL West and the NL Wild Card.

3) LA Dodgers
The Dodgers have a decent team with a good pitching staff. The rotation is solid with Kershaw, Billingsley, Lilly, and Kuroda. They have a couple of outfielders leading their offense in Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier.  They should be around .500 again this season.  They could get hot and contend but I would not count it.

4) San Diego Padres
The Padres overachieved last year when they won 90 games. I would not look for them to overachieve again. They will be lucky if they go .500 this season.  Mat Latos is a stud young pitcher who is developing into a true Ace.  The rest of the staff is decent but not good enough to content for the NL West this season.  

5) Arizona Diamondbacks
The Diamondbacks have a good offense.  They are going to need it if they are going to win games.  Justin Upton, Chris Young, Kelly Johnson are upper level players that have major upside.  Their pitching staff is below average.

NL Wild Card: Atlanta Braves
NL Champion:  Philadelphia Phillies
World Series Champ: Philadelphia Phillies

NL MVP: Ryan Braun
Runner Up: Albert Pujols

NL Cy Young: Roy Halladay
Runner Up: Zach Greinke

 The Counselor is OUT:

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