definitely… one maybe… one possibly… two also rans.
to the National League East.
Philadelphia is definitely a playoff-level team.
Atlanta may be capable of getting there.
Florida could be spoken of in September.
New York and Washington will be finished by August.
before we get to the teams… since this is division preview number
one… a bit of an introduction.
and foremost… the numbers add up.
least… I think they do.
as of right now, every team will play 162 games. And, in each
of those games, there will be a winner and a loser. You can’t
predict that all of the teams in baseball will have a winning
record. Someone has to lose if someone wins. And so… despite a
bit of an unbalanced edge to the American League that I don’t
honestly believe interleague play will truly account for (I have
the AL teams 28-games over .500, and that almost certainly isn’t
going to happen)… my records for all 30 teams do provide 2,430
wins and 2,430 losses.
cut me some slack.
know Jose Reyes is not a personnel change for the New York Mets.
You know he’s not a personnel change. But when you have a team
facing all sorts of financial problems that present an incredible
black cloud of doom just about over the edge of the stadium and
ready to wipeout the season at any moment, and there is nothing
above them (and even below them) in the division but teams with
better finances, minor league talent, and/or major league stars…
yeah, see, Jose Reyes and the 2011 season can become an interesting
personnel debate on several levels. I grant you it takes a certain
point of view. I’m going into this project assuming that you aren’t
looking for the standard viewpoints out of my articles.
let’s get to the divisions… and here the National League East…
and I’ll try to explain any funny scenarios when I put together
a seventh, general summary of the preseason, at the end of this.
What I expect in 2011: 94-68, World Series winner
they did in 2010: 97-65
personnel changes: Added Cliff Lee.
can try to give work out a paragraph on bringing in Luis Castillo
to try and manage second base during an injury. But really. No.
added Cliff Lee. I don’t care about losing Jayson Werth.
changes end there.
expectations: I’m predicting them to win it all for a
simple reason. Last year I predicted San Francisco would lose
the World Series and they won it all. So, this year I actually
expect Boston to take the title… so I’m picking Boston to make
it and lose. And I do think the Phillies will be there as the
National League representative in the end.
there are problems.
World Series predictions aside… if they are healthy and send this
rotation to the mound, Philly is capable of outclassing everyone
in the National League. Remember… this rotation I going to pitch
a ton of innings. The legendary four alone should chew up well
over 800 combined innings of the season. (In fact, Joe Blanton
is very capable of allowing the starting five to work more than
1,000 innings.) Most of the time they will finish at least seven.
You have alot of room and flexibility when you only need to get
two innings out of your bullpen against an opposition that was
only able to score one or two runs on the way to those last outs
of the game. And Philadelphia has some good arms in the bullpen,
providing several options, so things only improve when they are
rested in general and concentrated into a two or three inning
span instead of getting called on for three to five innings of
World Series predictions aside… and questions about contracts
of the future and contracts made in the past (seriously… Ryan
Howard… amazing)… if they are healthy the Phillies put together
a nice batting order and decent fielding unit. Howard isn’t worth
the length and dollars, but he’s still good. Add in players like
Chase Utley and Shane Victorino and you are looking at some of
the most solid offense or defense around. Not flashy. Certainly
not as flashy as the starting rotation. Solid.
it could all go wrong (or, I suppose, right): After that
brief run on expectations, and when factoring in all the hype
about the greatest starting pitching ever assembled, we get to
the segment where events may take place that might change my opinion.
And right off the bat, first preview column to be worked on and
the first team considered, this section turns out to be pretty
important… because those things that could go wrong and level
the season may already be taking place.
Utley… down. Brad Lidge… down. And while I may not be a huge Werth
supporter when it comes to expecting his continued production
or respecting his presence, let’s just agree that if you’re chasing
someone like Luis Castillo to replace Chase Utley, there likely
isn’t much depth at all on your current roster. (As a note, some
like the depth in Philly in certain areas. So be it. My problem
is that there is a significant drop between the regulars and the
bench players. Yeah… sure… that’s usually the case with any team,
or else those bench players would be starting. Trouble is… again…
Utley down, frantic scramble takes place, Castillo signed. Depth?
I rest my case. (Heck… it’s possible Castillo won’t even have
a roster spot by the time I post this.))
pitching rotation is, in a word, awesome. But as those San Francisco
Giants I mentioned proved (you know… champions), a combination
of Halladay, Oswalt and Hamels can be beaten… and, incidentally
proven thanks to the Giants and their 2010 efforts, so can Cliff
are going to win a ton of games… they are likely going to hit
August, perhaps not in control of the division (thanks to Atlanta
being a playoff threat), in control of a playoff spot… and should
be able to tinker with their roster instead of needing wholesale
me the emphasis… should be able.
there is some talent in the minors that I came across in doing
a bit of research, there isn’t much ready to contribute. As an
example… Boston will have a starting outfield in Pawtucket made
up of three players that all spent time playing for Boston in
2010. And two of those outfielders are considered solid pieces
of the future for the Red Sox. If something happens, and Boston
calls up an outfielder, there will be a drop… but not chaos. Boston
also has infield help in the minors that right now would excel
defensively on the major league level. Call up an infielder and
they might not get help in the batting order… but with their lineup
that isn’t likely to be the huge concern. Here in Philadelphia…
the story is much different.
I don’t believe finishing behind the Braves could prevent a playoff
spot, since I think the wild card is set to come from this division.
The postseason doesn’t concern me much.
if there is a concern… it is October where brilliant pitching
on paper was overcome last year. It could be this year as well.
What I expect in 2011: 89-73, wild card
they did in 2010: 91-71
personnel changes: Not a ton worth exploring.
Wagner is gone. (See what I mean? Not much to explore.)
ok… there is something.
Uggla. Has had his ups and downs with average, but overall will
deliver decent on-base numbers and some power. He’s a very good
addition to this club.
expectations: I’m dropping the Braves two wins from 2010
for a couple of reasons. First… I think the Nationals will play
better. And, much like my reasons for dropping the Phillies a
couple of games, the potential of a division that has an improving
basement should temper 95-plus-win predictions.
is… I also expect the entire National league to play a bit better.
The NL Central has three clubs that should finish with winning
records, and Chicago could make that four. The NL West could have
Colorado joining San Francisco in a run at the postseason.
the American League, the Yankees have made it an annual tradition…
at least they seem to… that beating up on the weaker starters
in a team’s rotation can add up to an awful lot of wins. I don’t
know if a National League club is dominant enough in any way that
they can be a solid favorite on most nights.
said… this is a good club that should have a steady and productive
season. They have a lineup that can score runs. Their rotation
ranks nicely against every NL team except the one they are likely
chasing in this division.
it could all go wrong (or, I suppose, right): How about
we change the pace and wonder what could go right.
a batting order that should end up including Heyward, Jones and
McCann being joined by new Brave Uggla, the eight regulars for
Atlanta actually look pretty good. Remove Utley from the lineup
for the Phillies, and you could make a strong (and probably very
correct), argument that the Braves have the best batting order
in the division.
let’s see… good pitching… good hitting… no pressure from media,
fans and even casual observers expecting a no-hitter every game…
and suddenly you have to like the Braves.
I like the depth in places. Is Tim Hudson or Derek Lowe one of
the top four or five pitchers in the division? Nope. But either
one could win 18 to 22 games, toss a gem on any given night, and
string together a series of starts that carries the team along.
keep in mind… this team is frighteningly young. Players like Tommy
Hanson, Jason Heyward and Brian McCann could be team leaders…
and I don’t believe any of them will be hitting free agency eligibility
(or the prime of their careers) for a couple of seasons. The Braves
are going to contend in the East for years to come.
What I expect in 2011: 84-78
they did in 2010: 80-82
personnel changes: Javier Vazquez. That excite you? How
about John Buck? I mean both are nice signings. I don’t think
either changes the NL East landscape much. And… as noted in Atlanta…
they sent Dan Uggla away.
expectations: They have a top notch starter in Josh Johnson.
have a certified star in Hanley Ramirez. That’s great too.
are also young and fast and talented.
and Buck could be valuable additions. These are players that have
seen what the rigors of media attention and pressure-filled divisions
can do. No, they aren’t facing the same in Florida, but…
in Bull Durham there’s a scene where Crash Davis is explaining
what it’s like in the show? He talks about white balls in batting
practice and the parks being cathedrals. Ok. When you talk about
intangibles, I absolutely agree that alot of it is overrated.
Get out there and play… results over potential. But I also believe
that there is something to be said about a team being a bit overmatched
already when they arrive at Fenway and half of the roster heads
out to left field with their cameras. To keep with the movie theme
and move to Catch Me If You Can… yes, the Yankees can win a game
before it starts because everyone is swept away by the awe of
and Buck have played in areas that involve the brutal AL East.
There is absolutely nothing they will see in Florida that should
scare them. And telling youngsters about cathedrals and looking
past the uniforms can be a positive thing.
where are we with the Marlins? I like the team in general. I think
they’ll be a pain to match up against… won’t be too far out of
it for most of the year, so people will keep talking about them…
and it always seems like they have some pitching surprises to
I don’t like is…
it could all go wrong (or, I suppose, right): …the same
things I like.
a reason Vazquez and Buck are in Florida, and it isn’t just that
the Marlins offered the most money or the best place to resuscitate
club reminds me alot of teams like Detroit and Texas and Tampa
Bay over say the past ten years… where you could see some talent,
but they got beat up alot before doing some winning. Detroit and
Houston eventually made it to the World Series and then fell apart.
Tampa Bay continues to hang around, and Texas looks set for a
good run in 2011.
Florida capable of transitioning from potential to results and
become a winner? …a playoff participant? Maybe. But my guess is
What I expect in 2011: 76-86
they did in 2010: 69-93
personnel changes: No doubt you heard how they paid way
too much to a career fourth outfielder named Jayson Werth. (Ok…
I’m being cruel. Seriously though. Seven years? And those dollars?
the Nationals were very busy. And while most of their moves… Adam
LaRoche is a lovely example… aren’t flashy individually (or even
likely to mean huge gains), when you start to add things up and
see what is being put into place there seems to be some positive
don’t expect miracles. It’s Jayson Werth, Adam LaRoche, and recently,
Oliver Perez. This still isn’t exactly a top tier club with free
agents begging to head their way. But this off-season may be the
point we remember as them turning a corner, where these specific
players don’t mean everything on a winning organization but it
marked where they began to be taken seriously as wanting to win.
expectations: The problem is they have virtually no pitching.
Oh sure… they have pitchers. But not one guy on this club can
go out take the ball after the club has lost two or three in a
row and pitch a complete game shutout.
Even the best of teams can lose an entire swing through the rotation.
As I write this though… Rick Ankiel may be the best pitcher on
their roster… and he is hoping to start in the outfield.
Zimmerman is a really, really good player. Like him alot. I’m
at a loss to find another starter on this roster that would be
in the top two at his position in the division.
it could all go wrong (or, I suppose, right): In this
case… I have things going right and 76 wins.
might be a tad high. (Jason Marquis as a reliable starter? Yeah…
that definitely could be too high.)
I definitely believe getting out of the basement is possible for
this club… and coming out of spring training, I believe it’s very
have some noteworthy young talent, especially if Strasberg recovers
his sparkling promise, that makes the future very interesting
get this… they may actually be the team in the NL East most capable
of spending money next off-season. (I know… kind of a crazy thought…
kind of a future and not 2011 season thought. But let’s do the
math. Philly is dead in the water thanks to investments such as
Ryan Howard and pitching. Atlanta and Florida have never been
able to join the big spenders. (Come on… name one signing by the
Braves or Marlins that even competes with Jayson Werth.) And New
York is almost certainly looking at cutting payroll and hoping
to survive a couple of seasons.)
What I expect in 2011: 71-91
they did in 2010: 79-83
personnel changes: If Jose Reyes doesn’t get hurt and
delivers excitement as he has at times in the past, there is a
good chance he won’t be with the Mets next year. He’s not a change…
but he’s back in 2011 because of a club option that they picked
up. After that the excitement in the big city is Chris Young.
That’s it. Chris Young.
expectations: I don’t think they’re going to win 71…
I think this club is set to implode and fall apart in a disorganized
mess of unbelievable stories and unpredictable events… but I have
to give them at least a nod.
so harsh? Ok…
ace is gone for months, and reading between the whispers allows
for the thoughts that some believe Johan Santana may be gone for
the full season. They have injury concerns and, potentially, a
financial interest in managing/limiting playing time of some.
I say injury concerns? Because folks, two-thirds of that brilliant
outfield… Beltran and Bay… may not be ready on Opening Day.
they trade Jose Reyes… and I believe they will, hence saying when…
they will have nothing else to trade this year, and the move likely
won’t bring back any player that will contribute in 2011. (And
arguably, the smarter move could end up being to keep him and
play for draft picks when he leaves.)
is a boat taking on water and it hasn’t left the dock… and it’s
a 162-game voyage ahead.
it could all go wrong (or, I suppose, right): It’s already
gone wrong here.
perform checklist of things to do before, during or after the
year for the Mets.
with Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo. Check… but they were so effective
in handling this that they released both, got nothing in return,
and will be responsible for roughly $18 million this season, depending
on whether or not other organizations pick the players up at bargain-basement
Carlos Beltran off the books. Want mixed messages? Ok, here we
go. The ever optimistic group will tell you that for the Mets
to succeed, Beltran needs to play a major role. Beltran has since
proven he can’t play center any more… likely won’t be able to
play without a day or two off each week… and is more likely right
now to be on the disabled list by June than a viable trade candidate
by July. So he has to succeed for the team to succeed… but realistically
the hope is that he succeeds so someone, anyone, might trade for
him… and most people are counting the days until he’s off the
team’s payroll. Oh yeah, that’s mixed. But it doesn’t end there…
use Francisco Rodriguez. He has an option that kicks in for next
year based on appearances or completing a game or whatever. Point
is… the Mets don’t want the big fish they landed a couple of years
ago, and are hoping they don’t need to use him. (Isn’t it lovely
when you’re roster has on it what you signed to be impact players,
you don’t want them on the field?)
I need to go on? Get players off the roster… clear up money… and
I really haven’t even mentioned the ownership’s financial mess,
which is so incredible that even as they drop massive amounts
of team payroll there is zero evidence they’ll be able to reinvest
those dollars in the next few years. Think about that… Reyes,
Beltran, Castillo, Perez, and Rodriguez all in other uniforms
this year or next… more than $40 million in salary wiped clean…
the team gets picks for offering Reyes arbitration… and then the
Mets decide to go into 2012 with the lower payroll and another
off season of no major acquisitions.