need to change things around.
something a bit more fresh.
as the NFL season was wrapping up, I realized that at times there
really isn’t much of a difference between what I’m trying to do
for this web site and what you can access out there already. It’s
a problem I’ve run across at time before. There are some great
sources available to you, and unlike me many of these people writing
the material actually get to attend spring training, gather quotes
from the players, and seek out the opinions and expertise of coaches,
agents, and front office types.
that makes things difficult when I’m giving you observation and
works great when I bring the Dogs into the picture… it’s kind
of cute when Molly and Gus kick our butts making selections. Heck,
I even find myself enjoying it when they do really well.
the reality is that need to have some solid material involved,
and perhaps present it with a slightly off-center view of things.
Basically, give you a different look at things.
this year as baseball approaches… we’re going to try something
a bit different. It might work… it might not… and it probably
needs another year or two of work to sort out… but we’re going
to give it a try.
each team, I’m going to break things down into a before-and-after
segment. I’ll give last year’s record and what I expect for this
season along with changes in personnel. Then I’ll put together
best-case and worst-case opinions on each club.
don’t promise perfection. In some cases there’s only so much to
share, so forgive it if you have heard all there is to know about
the Colorado Rockies. On other cases there really isn’t much more
going on other than exactly what we already know. But I do think
this will ultimately allow me to improve upon an effort I enjoy
doing… and I just want to do it a bit better.
the National League East. Is it baseball’s best division?
New York – Boston – Tampa connection still makes the AL East tough
to top if not the one to top. Though I readily admit that with
Baltimore and Toronto set for interesting years, the AL East isn’t
such a clear-cut leader.
we’ll also note that out West Seattle – California – Texas make
an interesting combination.
without much debate, I wouldn’t place the NL East over either
of those divisions.
is this the best in the National League?
I have to say no.
may well be the best team in the National League… and they can
fight for the right to be called the best team in baseball. But
after that there are simply too many questions marks. Seriously…
Atlanta… Florida… New York… could any of those teams finish with
less than 80 wins? If you say no, you haven’t been watching the
past few seasons, especially 2009 for the Mets. And with what
we’re going to see chasing division titles in the Central and
the West, the National League East might very well be the weakest
division in the National League.
What I expect in 2010: 93-69, playoffs
they did in 2009: 93-69, lost World Series
personnel changes: Love the trade for Roy Halladay… sort
of. (More on that in a second.) Gave up Cliff Lee to get him.
(The reality of viewing this trade is very simple… as far as prospects
are concerned, never complain when a team with the ability to
win it now gives up a bit of the future to try and win it now.
The real thing here is Lee departing… Halladay should be an upgrade
over Lee, Philly puts a ribbon on the deal.) Danys Baez is a name
I’m intrigued by. He had a decent year for the Orioles in 2009
and at just 32 years old could be respectable in seventh or eighth
inning work. While he hasn’t shown it elsewhere, his closer efforts
in Tampa in 2004 and 2005 weren’t too bad either for a club looking
to stabilize a 2008 strength and 2009 weakness. It’s a good move
for Philly that could pay off much bigger than anyone is mentioning.
expectations: I absolutely do feel that Philly improved
the club in a few areas… most notably by bringing in Halladay
and also Baez (Remember… Lee was just a partial-season contributor
said… I’ll give them the same record because: (1) In my experience.
Philly has a history of underachieving. No… wait… that’s not right.
Wrong word. They have a history of settling. Well… maybe that’s
not right either. Ok… let’s try this… I often think they should
be playing even better than they actually are. In the past they
would win 7 out of 10 and seem great because of it. But if you
looked close, they probably should have won all 10. I do see the
best National League team here, and I don’t see a weakness heading
in to the playoffs. But I don’t know if they’ll be truly pushed
in the division… leading to some steady, so-so play in September.
And I do think that some of the tough games in the division will
lead to a reduced record. (In short… Florida and Atlanta are going
to be pains in Philadelphia’s rear.)
Philly has going for them is easy to see. Unlike the other clubs
in this division, the Phillies have multiple ways of winning over
extended periods of time. For instance… their offense could destroy
opponents, their defense could keep games close, and their pitching
could shut people down. The trick is… they may not be the best
at any of these in the division.
might have a better rotation… Mets might have a better offense…
and so on. But… those clubs just as easily might not be better.
The Mets, as an example, have all sorts of health concerns and
other questions. The Mets will be without Beltran to start the
year, have Reyes returning after effectively missing last season,
want Wright to look better in a power role than he did in 2009,
need to bring Bay on board… and so on. Does Reyes – Beltran –
Wright – Bay look good in some fashion as the content of a batting
order? Sure does. Given the past three seasons or so though… I
don’t think any part of that group frightens Philly.
I’m going with this… the Phillies might be the most balanced team
in baseball. If the Braves don’t have the best pitching in the
division, they will not win this division. If the Mets don’t stay
healthy, they will not win this division. If Jupiter and Saturn
don’t align during the full moon of August, the Marlins will not
win this division.
the Phillies could struggle with their rotation and still win
Phillies could struggle offensively and still win 90-plus.
Phillies could have problems on defense and still win 90-plus.
so… I expect the Phillies to play above average in pretty much
all aspects of the game and, you guessed it, win 90-plus.
don’t think they’ll win the division by running away with it,
but the reality is that the season run for the NL East crown won’t
be as close as the standings suggest.
it could all go wrong (or, I suppose, right): What you
don’t hear people talking much about is what happens if Halladay
and Hamels don’t deliver. And that could be their disaster.
Phillies have to be included in any conversation about the best
offense… the best defense… the best pitching in the league. Mentioned
that already, and gave them the division title because even if
they aren’t tops in any category just by being so high in all
areas they should be very successful. If Philadelphia doesn’t
make the playoffs, they have unexpected problems that few could
have predicted… simple as that.
we’re talking about a playoff meltdown as their problem.
haven’t seen Halladay pitch in the playoffs. Ever. Hamels is in
spring training right now as word spreads about how good he looks
and… hey, it’s spring time, and the days are getting longer, and
the weather is getting better, and the girls are looking prettier,
and every baseball player is in the best shape of his career heading
into a season filled with high expectations. Of course Hamels
the dynamic duo we’re talking about Blanton and Moyer and so on.
Capable guys when it comes to regular season pitching… also “I’m
not betting on them but not lost causes” when it comes to playoff
pitching… definitely not scaring anyone pitching.
don’t see any of the teams behind them catching the Phillies.
Could happen… not likely… would need lightning-in-a-bottle stuff
to happen. But this year I believe is going to see some of the
best starting pitching face off in the National League playoffs.
And in Philly, that lead dogs will need to deliver.
What I expect in 2010: 90-72, playoffs
they did in 2009: 86-76
personnel changes: Let Mike Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano
go (Soriano traded). Added Billy Wagner. Traded Javier Vazquez
for Melky Cabrera. Here’s the funny thing… they had a surplus
of pitching, wanted to get rid of someone like Vazquez, and even
though everyone knew it I believe they ended up trading him below
what his value should have been… the Yankees had a surplus of
outfielders, wanted to get rid of someone like Cabrera, and they
probably traded him for above his value. Sure… other players were
involved… but realistically, the Yankees won this one. The only
trick is going to be whether or not Cabrera is more effective
for the Braves than a pitcher they didn’t really want in the rotation
would have been. Unfortunately… the reality is that you can never
have too much starting pitching. I say this backfires on them.
Anyway… Eric Hinske. There’s a good luck signing. Troy Glaus…
well… now we’re digging.
expectations: There is a very good chance I have them
about 5 wins too high, and that my initial impressions of Tommy
Hanson along with my respect for Bobby Cox is leading to me setting
them up for a nice farewell in Cox’s last season that really won’t
develop this way.
matter… I can’t help it.
main part of this staff is actually Hudson and Lowe. I know… I
know… people are babbling on and on about Jurrjens and Hanson.
That’s fine. And the postseason possibilities for Atlanta will
likely be determined by the success of the two getting the attention.
But for the sake of argument, let’s meander out to LA where we
have Billingsley and Kershaw. Who is steadying the ship if those
two fail for the Dodgers? If those two lose, are there any guarantees
the Dodgers don’t lose five in a row? (Go ahead… this is your
chance to make a Vincente Padilla argument.) So if we can approach
this preview wishing the Braves health and expecting some inconsistent
starts from the inexperienced, then I think the advantage Atlanta
brings to the field over the Marlins and Mets and Nationals in
this division isn’t top of the rotation pitching, it’s the potential
of rock steady veterans in the middle of the rotation.
They have brilliant potential. They also, when healthy, have some
very strong depth.
another way of looking at it. If I told you Lowe and Hudson were
lined up against Halladay and Hamels during a weekend series…
would you be stunned if I claimed that the Braves would outpitch
the Phillies and win those games? Probably not. Lowe and Hudson
are quality guys. You could see that. Now take any two pitchers
from the Mets not named Santana and put them against Halladay
and Hamels. Yeah… if I tried to give the Mets those two games
you would be stunned.
will determine everything for Atlanta. Simple as that.
it could all go wrong (or, I suppose, right): Rafael
Soriano and Mike Gonzelez gone from the bullpen? Yeah… not liking
that. Sure, relief pitching can change from year to year. But
those are tough losses to recover from. Billy Wagner is nice,
but he wasn’t exactly out there all the time and piling up you-can-count-on-me
bonus points in recent years. There’s no net for this bullpen.
know they felt like their starting pitching was secure enough
to get rid of Javier Vazquez… and I would have traded him too…
but has a trade ever failed for both teams? If so… losing Vazquez
could be a bad thing for Atlanta’s staff, and adding Melky Cabrera
(who I’m not sold on… at all) might not get them much to offset
the loss. The Yankees can rebound from such mistakes… for the
Braves it could kill their playoff hopes. I think they could have
gotten more for him. (Maybe that’s just me.)
this club should surprise some people. Looking over the roster
I give them what I have learned to consider Texas-potential. I’ll
get to that full concept more when I review the Rangers, but the
general idea is that whenever you think about them, you are never
under the impression the Texas Rangers could possibly have a quality
batting order from top to bottom. Quick… pick a season and name
the best offenses. Chances are Texas never really comes to mind.
Then one day the Rangers arrive to play your favorite team, and
you settle in to watch the start of the game, and they flash those
stats on the screen and your jaw drops when all of the Texas hitters
appear to be batting around .310 with .395 on-base percentages.
in Atlanta we find that McCann, Prado and Jones may be joined
by the boy that wouldn’t leave, Jayson Heyward. And for all my
criticism, Melky always has moments when I’m kicking an ottoman
while watching him play because he’s contributed in some way…
this club depends on it’s pitching, but it’s not hideous in other
What I expect in 2010: 86-76
they did in 2009: 87-75
personnel changes: Nada. They did nothing. Oh… wait…
sent Jeremy Hermida to Boston, and I’m not even going to list
him as an addition for the Red Sox. So there you go.
expectations: What I do like about the Marlins is that
they don’t seem quite ready to break any of this apart. They may
have tried, and probably did try more than we know, but the team
is basically intact and ready to head out in 2010 to build on
Ramirez is still affordable, so he isn’t going without a ridiculous
haul being sent to Miami in return. Josh Johnson seems poised
for great things. And there is plenty of young talent on the roster
and in the system.
is going to expect 85 wins or so from this club, but chances are
you’ll know fewer of the names taking the field here in comparison
to any other team taking aim at a winning record.
it could all go wrong (or, I suppose, right): Wow… take
your pick on which way would be a surprise. Do you think 87 wins
is low and they could contend for the playoffs? Then the surprise
is where could it go right. Do you think I have them high already
and it is going to fall? Then let’s talk about what will go wrong.
very strange… but I think the Marlins are going to deliver a decent
season with few shocks. They’ll always be hovering right around
even, picking up perhaps a game or two each month on the way to
mid-80s for wins. But if they do surprise me… I look for it to
be by adding a player in an attempt to make the playoffs.
the funny thing is that this club could have a playoff run in
them, and they could fall apart… but I don’t see either taking
place unless something crazy, unpredictable, or just stupid happens.
consider San Diego for a second. See, they have Adrian Gonzalez
and Heath Bell. As we approach the end of June, chances are very
good the Padres will be staring at some 70-games played and a
losing record. For giggles, we’ll call it 32-38. It’s quite possible
that San Francisco and Los Angeles will both be at or over 40-wins
at that point, with Colorado ahead of the Padres in the standings,
and heck, maybe even Arizona will be ahead of them and San Diego
will be at the bottom of the division. And if that’s the case,
San Diego may be looking to make some trades. And the targets
of those trades for other teams are fairly obvious ones.
to Miami and the Marlins. I don’t see any clear and understandable
trades sitting here for Florida. In recent years, they’ve been
rumored to be discussing acquiring some names at the trade deadline.
(Go figure.) None of the contracts they have are of the must-move
variety… that comes later.
if they’re not playing well, I don’t expect a trade of Hanley
Ramirez. And if they are playing well, they could try to bring
in a player or two. Still, you can’t focus on the Marlins as a
team likely to make any changes at all.
I think I already have them maxed out. Three teams above 87 wins?
Not going to be easy in this division with the Mets likely to
improve (at least a little). And in 2010 I see the Braves as a
bit stronger than the Marlins.
What I expect in 2010: 83-79
they did in 2009: 70-92
personnel changes: For me, it’s not what they did… it’s
what they couldn’t do that matters. From November thru January
it sure looked to me like no one wanted to go to New York. Heck,
they added Jason Bay, and he dragged his heels along the way and
really appeared to only sign with them because he had no choice.
Took a chance on Gary Matthews… which will mean nothing because
the guy is worth nothing. It’s a mess. Josh Fogg? Fernando Tatis?
Kelvim Escobar? Basically this team had players on their roster
that might or might not work out. And they brought in other players
that aren’t any safer as risks. Since I liked Florida signing
Kiko Calero last year, I should probably at least mention his
expectations: They are going to have… what… eleven or
twelve pitchers on the roster?
they could have twenty on the roster by the time they get started…
I trust two. Santana (one starter) and Rodriguez (the closer).
And Rodriguez I don’t trust in the playoffs… only the regular
season… but cue the Jim Mora clip here, because it’s way too early
to be talking playoffs for the Mets.
playoff team I’m going to select this season has two potential
dynamite starters (except Minnesota… and the Twins don’t face
much division competition). San Francisco? Yup… two stars. St.
Louis? The top two were competing with the very best in the National
League last year. Atlanta has a deep, strong staff. Philly? Absolutely.
Seattle… Boston… New York… all have two (or more) stars.
Mets are crossing their fingers after Santana.
starting their season with a patchwork batting order, with Reyes
likely to drop in the order to cover for the missing Beltran.
team chemistry? Ok… get this one…
Mets acquired Gary Matthews, Jr. from the Angels, right? And Matthews
was basically mad about his playing time in California. Fair assessment?
(Sure it is.) So here we have Beltran out, and not a single person…
not one… zero people… nobody is mentioning Matthews taking over
centerfield until his return.
are just lovely here.
it could all go wrong (or, I suppose, right): Come on…
this is too easy. We’ll start with things going wrong… the more
likely of the two.
Beltran was part of an off-season soap opera, and won’t be ready
to start the year. In fact, it’s not so farfetched to say Memorial
Day is a generous expectation for his return. So right out of
the gate the idea of having Reyes, Beltran, Wright and Bay in
the lineup gets chucked to the side of the road. We could be more
than 40-games in before that happens. (In fact, I’ll make a prediction.
Beltran won’t play 100 games this season. And that means that
the power-packed options of the New York lineup will be limited
to roughly 60% of the season together… at best.)
Santana is great. Sure… it’s a definite plus. But with the Phillies
likely getting 65 or so starts from Halladay and Hamels, and the
Braves running Hanson out to the mound with their other young
and talented (and experienced, especially if healthy) rotation,
and Josh Johnson on the mound for Florida… well, what I’m getting
at is simply that the roughly 32 starts from Santana may not prove
to be a difference-maker for the Mets when other clubs are getting
32 starts from their quality guys. (And… note… most other clubs
in the National League that want to talk playoffs are getting
those 65 or so starts like the Phillies.) Santanat is great… but
not that great when the bullpen is weak and the other four starters
are all being looked at for improvement.
option number one… things go wrong and the Mets fall below .500.
but hold on. Because option number two, many things go right and
the Mets clear 85 wins and leave August looking at meaningful
I mean that. It is an option.)
I do like Oliver Perez. Probably too much… in fact I know too
much… but I always think that in the National League a guy that
has done it once could do it again. If you look at his career,
every time he’s approached 30 starts he’s cleared 10 wins with
a sub-4 ERA. (Yes… yes… I get it… it might not be injury. Poor
pitching performance, especially all those years over 5.5 (and
even well over 6) for his ERA don’t exactly earn you extra starts
during the season.) But with a 4.54 career ERA, a .242 career
batting average against, and a rough average of a strikeout per
inning pitched, there is something to be said for the 29-year
old lefty. (Of course, he walks everyone in the friggin’ park
every time he starts, including ushers, hot dog guys and the first
four rows of the home team side of box seats. I’m not telling
you to give him a long leash. I’m just saying don’t discount him
easily as the least likely guy to contribute something.)
we continue to build a case that I’m crazy… I believe a 3-4-5
of Reyes-Wright-Bay can win some games while waiting for Beltran
to return, provided they play up to their expectations and averages.
(I’m not even asking for them to wear capes and play amazing ball…
just that they play well. Heck… would you believe Luis Castillo
hit .302 with a .387 on-base last year? It’s true. And .295 and
.370 from him would not be a stretch considering his career numbers.
Yup… the Mets could be ok.)
this stuff happens… Perez winning more than he loses… a 3-4-5
delivering occasionally… the Mets can reach the mid-season at
an even record or better. From that point on, anything can happen.
let’s check something out here. In 2009 the Mets were being discussed
in the same breath as Philadelphia. Remember? Before falling apart,
the Mets were a possible division winner. What’s different between
then and now? Basically Carlos Delgado out and Jason Bay in. That’s
really about it.
let’s do something for fun. The following is never going to happen.
Never… never… never. Understand? Not going to happen. But let’s
kick it around.
Reyes has been labeled injury-prone. He certainly didn’t help
himself with that label in 2009. But reality has a funny way of
getting distorted, and the fact is that between 2005 and 2008
he played at least 153 games each year, had over 680 at bats three
times, and was showing solid development (especially getting to
a reasonable on-base percentage). According to what I have from
Cot’s, our man Jose is owed $9 million in 2010, with a not too
bad $11 million on the schedule for 2011 as an option with just
a half-million to buy it out. (If he’s going to get 1,300 at bats
between the two seasons, the salary for both years is probably
people are thinking Boston is worried about Josh Beckett’s long
term health… yes? His contract is about done. Well… what if… again,
never going to happen… what if we say Boston and New York are
talking on the phone late in June. We’re going to apply the hang
up theory to the call. Do you think one side would hang up if
Reyes for Beckett was brought up? Now remember… the Mets would
hang up if the Red Sox suggested Tim Wakefield for Reyes in a
one-for-one. And… the Red Sox would hang up if the Mets wanted
Beckett in an even trade for Oliver Perez. I’m not asking about
that. I’m not being insane. I’m asking if Reyes for Beckett was
raised, and Omar and Theo could talk about two or three other
names to include to balance things out in their minds… would that
suggestion cause one side to hang up?
say both sides are still listening.
everyone else in the Red Sox rotation would have to be pitching
great (with Wakefield healthy)… and Beltran would have to be back
and playing fine. But if the Mets need a pitcher (and we think
they do), they don’t have much to give up. And while it may not
be Beckett in the end… let’s talk Oswalt… Webb… I’m just kicking
the tires here… would Reyes get them a top pitcher to pair with
What I expect in 2010: 65-97
they did in 2009: 59-103
personnel changes: Chien-Ming Wang might be a solid addition…
but let’s face it, if he does well he likely will be traded. Still,
added with a surprisingly available-to-Washington Jason Marquis,
this club might have an ok rotation for 2010. Granted… it’s basically
all way too young or number four/five starters at best… but this
club could cause some real headaches in August and September based
on… yup… pitching.
expectations: Dead last and worst record in baseball.
it could all go wrong (or, I suppose, right): If you
don’t have a favorite team, and you want to climb on to one without
looking like you’re picking someone obvious, the Nationals do
have the makings of a decent, young team.
in Montreal, we had Guerrero, Martinez, and… well… you know the
drill. Every year they were trading away another chip and leaving
you shaking your head. How could the Expos keep giving up such
young talent and yet keep bringing up more? It was sad to watch
it fall apart.
to Washington. Where Ryan Zimmerman is playing third base and
being joined by young talent like Nyjer Morgan and Ian Desmond.
The much-hyped pitching sensation Stephen Strasburg may not be
they commit to being a good team, are willing to spend a bit of
money, and don’t let the front office screw it up… in 2012 this
club could challenge for an even record. I’d say next season is
possible with a few additions and free agent signings, but I don’t
think many free agents will be willing to head to Washington next
year without (a) being overpaid, or, (b) having no other alternatives.