March 25, 2004

NL Predictions

I thought I'd try my hand at previewing MLB this year. Let's start with the National League

1-Philadelphia Phillies
The opening of Citizen's Bank Park (doesn't that roll off the tongue?) and a couple of key pickups should send Philly to at least the division title. Anything further than that will depend on Pat Burrell remembering how to hit, Chase Utley sending David Bell to the bench, and someone making sure Larry Bowa's head doesn't explode. It's worth remembering that the Phils are the only club in history to fire a manager while in 1st.

2-Florida Marlins
History will be made this year: The Marlins should finish with a winning record and NOT win the World Series. If I were a Red Sox or Cubs fan, the fact that this Team That Shouldn't Exist has won 2 titles would make me seriously doubt the existence of God. On the field they will miss I-Rod and Derrek Lee a lot, but it will be fun to see a full season of Miguel Cabrera.

3-Atlanta Braves
The Brave dynasty appears to be crumbling at this point. What was for a decade the most recognizable pitching staff in baseball now consists of Russ Ortiz, Mike Hampton, Horacio Ramirez, John Thomson, and Jaret Wright (Jaret Wright??). Unlike last year,Gary Sheffield won't be around to help bail them out, though any team with Chipper and Andruw Jones won't be totally helpless. A year free from Vinny Castilla will help too. New 1B Adam LaRoche reminds some of John Olerud. Then again, Lyle Overbay did too.

4-New York Mets
Hey look, the Mets might actually play some defense this year! The team that gave us Howard Johnson at short and Roger Cedeno in center looks pretty sweet up the middle. Mike Cameron will threaten Andruw Jones as the best defensive CF in the NL, and the Reyes-Matsui DP combination should do fine. Vance Wilson and Jason Phillips aren't great at catcher, but anything up to and including the remains of Bill Dickey would be better than Piazza behind the plate. This improved defense will be busy, since the Amazin's pitching consists of 2 39-year old lefties coming off crummy years, Steve Trachsel and... uhhh.. Yeah that's about it.

5-Montreal/San Juan/Washington/Portland/Las Vegas/ Expos
This, not Pete Rose or steroids or the labor agreement, this will be what Bud Selig will be remembered and reviled for. The idea that this mess could drag on for so long is all you need to know about the state of baseball. Who knows what will happen to this team in the long run? I still think that the DC/Northern Virginia area makes the most sense. Knowing baseball that will be opposite of what they choose. As for the team, the same thing that happened last year will happen again. The Expos will respond to Frank Robinson's old school ways, surprise some people early in the season, and then collapse. The question is now what will happen to Orlando Cabrera and Jose Vidro. Will MLB allow them to be traded? Will Omar Minaya be forced to trade them?

1-Chicago Cubs

The Cubs are favorites? Is that even allowed? Enough has been said about their pitching. The staff has the potential to be brilliant, and whatever stamina shortcomings Maddux has, its more than made up by his influence on the rest of the staff. The bullpen might be a bit short though, Joe Borowski certainly isn't your classic closer. Offensively, no one is quite sure what they'll get from Corey Patterson or Michael Barrett, and it's doubtful Moises Alou will stay healthy. Better news is that Derrek Lee could be a force in Wrigley, and should save Aramis Ramirez a few errors. The best news for Cubs fans is that GM Jim Hendry has plenty of prospects to deal at the deadline.

2-Houston Astros
Speaking of pitching, the Astros have some too. How much fun are series between these too going to be? Oswalt-Pettite-Clemens-Miller versus Prior-Wood-Maddux-Clement? Goodness.. The Astros bullpen seems a bit stronger than Chicago's, even with the trade of Billy Wagner. The Astros season will depend a lot on how well Octavio Dotel adapts to being the Man.
The Astros won't have any problems hitting, even with the black hole of Brad Ausmus behind the plate. The difference between Chicago and Houston might be at the trade deadline, where Houston has a lot less to work with, both in money and prospects.

3-St.Louis Cardinals
This team probably isn't as close to the previous two as they think. The Cardinals have huge holes in left, at second and all the starters not named Morris or Williams. The bullpen was dreadful last year, and hasn't improved much beyond Isringhausing supposedly being healthier. There is a lot to like though, especially Edmunds, Pujols and Renteria. Albert Pujols is quite simply the best righthanded hitter in the NL, and Edmonds is a hitter perfectly capable of taking a team on his back for month long stretches. Still, it won't be enough.

4-Cincinnati Reds
One place in the standing, a chasm in reality. The bottom half of this division is terrible, but the Reds are the least terrible. They will score runs, with or without Junior in the lineup, and the bullpen could be good. If he gets the opportunity, Ryan Wagner should contend for Rookie of the Year. The starters though, are awful. Cory Lidle would be adequate 4th starter on a good team, here he's the "ace".

5-Milwaukee Brewers
Despite what most people think, the Brewers have some very fine players. The problem is they play in Indianapolis and Hunstville. The future
is very bright in Milwaukee, GM Doug Melvin has rebuilt what was a moribund farm system. Rickie Weeks, Prince Fielder, JJ Hardy and several others are amongst the best prospects in baseball. All of which means nothing for the 2004 season. It was a rough offseason, with the club president resigning in a huff, the Selig family announcing the team was for sale, and the Wisconsin legislature threatening to audit the teams books. Again, the future looks good here, they just have to get there.

6-Pittsburgh Pirates
It must truly suck to be a Pirate fan. I'm sure they exist. This is one of the leagues oldest franchises, heck the Pirates played in the first
World Series. The current team plays in the beautiful PNC Park, they just don't play particularly well. Last year the Pirates traded Brian Giles, Kenny Lofton, Aramis Ramirez, Mike Williams, basically anybody any other team asked for. That will continue this year. Kris Benson is practically screaming to get out, Jason Kendall has been offered to both San Diego and Seattle, and the newly-signed Raul Mondesi should plan on renting month to month. There are glimmers of good news: Jason Bay looks like a player, there are some nice pitching prospects in the minors, and the horrific Kevin Young contract is finally done. The hole is deep though.

1-San Fransisco Giants

This team has come back to the division a bit. The loss of Rich Aurillia means even more at-bats for Neifi Perez, Michael Tucker and Jeffery Hammonds are platooning in right, and Marquis Grissom isn't getting any younger. We haven't even mentioned JT Snow yet. They still have Barry though. That makes up for a lot. AJ Pierzynski was a very nice pickup, a definite upgrade from Benito Santiago. The keys to this team are Robb Nenn and Jason Schmidt. Both need to stay healthy. Oh yeah, if that Bonds guy gets hurt the Giants are cheese on a stick.

2-San Diego Padres
For awhile I contemplated putting the Pads first. I think they are the most talented team in the division, but they need to win 17 more games to finish at .500. That is a far enough leap, though it wouldn't surprise me if they did more. The move to Petco Park will help, but more important is having Brian Giles for a full season, and a healthy Trevor Hoffman.

3-Arizona Diamondbacks
This team is in serious transition. The contract sins of the past are coming due. Arizona already lost Curt Schilling, and you wonder if other oldies will be next on the block if the team stumbles. Randy Johson should come back fine to lead what looks to be a mediocre rotation. Even if Brandon Webb can duplicate his 2003, that still leaves Elmer Dessens, Steve Sparks and Shane Reynolds at the back of the rotation. You also have to wonder what Roberto Alomar has left. A team on the decline.

4-Los Angeles Dodgers
For all the moaning from Dodger fans about the need for a bat, the pitching doesn't look that hot either. Nomo will be Nomo, 15 wins, 200 innings, but beyond that are question marks. Ishii is still very wild, Odalis Perez is up and down, and Jeff Weaver looks lost. The bullpen is fine, assuming Mota can move up into Paul Quantrill's old spot. The aforementioned moaning fans are correct though, the Dodger offense is putrid. They get zero production out of the middle infield, no one knows which Adrian Beltre will show up, and Juan Encarnacion is the biggest off season pickup. Paul DePodesta will right the ship, but it might take some time. Best move: Not trading Edwin Jackson or Greg Miller.

5-Colorado Rockies
Hey Vinny Castilla's back! That's about the best news for Rox fans, well other than the continued excellence of Todd Helton and the Coors-aided emergence of Preston Wilson. Larry Walker is a lock to miss anywhere from 40 to 70 games, and Charles Johnson's bat has slowed to near glacial levels. The pitching staff will be beaten down by the park, like always, but there is some talent there. Jason Jennings has had just about the same season the last 2 years, and Shawn Chacon seems to be taking to the closer spot. A sleeper is 27-year old rookie 2B Aaron Miles, a darkhorse for Rookie of the Year.

Division Series

Phillies over Astros
Cubs over Giants


Phillies over Cubs

Sometime later I'll hit the AL. Mrs Frinklin thinks I have way to much time on my hands. She's probably right.

Posted by Frinklin at March 25, 2004 05:59 PM
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