Predicting the National League

"Through the peephole of heaven's front door/a large, lumbering man grins like a thief" (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images, Lyrics by Bobb Dillon, well-known Dutch songwriter)

There's no sense breaking out a fancy spreadsheet of my predictions from last year; everyone remembers what I wrote.

The road to the championship runs through San Francisco. Bank on it. Andres Torres, who hasn't ever started more than 40 games in the majors, is one of the better leadoff hitters in the league, Aubrey Huff is one of the better cleanup hitters in the league, and if the Giants need more good hitters, other teams will just give them to us.

Turns out I was totally right. It was obvious when you thought about it. Just don't click on the link because I gave you the relevant portion. DON'T CLICK THAT. Just move on and click the "continue reading more" one....

 

NL East

Braves 93-69
Phillies 91-71
Marlins 81-81
Mets 77-85
Nationals 72-90

All offseason, I’ve been looking for a reason to pick the Braves over the Phillies. Oh, not because I dislike the Phillies or secretly follow the Braves, but because I think the Braves are one of the more well-rounded teams in the game. There isn’t a gaping hole in their lineup, rotation, or bullpen, and because they’re the Braves, they’ll be able to patch holes during the season with prospects pulled from their nether regions.

Then came the injuries for the Phillies. Chase Utley’s knee is filled with sea monkeys and graham crackers, and he hasn’t played a game yet this spring. Dominic Brown is out, and Placido Polanco is fighting an elbow problem. Everyone else is old or Ben Francisco. It’s still a very, very good team -- the rotation gets a lot of hype, but it’s entirely justified -- so maybe I’m overreacting. I’ve been predicting the Yankees’ oldpocalypse for a few years now without being right.

For the eighth year in a row, the Marlins are a decent sleeper team. If a few things break their way -- Javier Vasquez returning to form, Mike Stanton continuing to get those tough lefties out -- they could contend. Maybe even win the Wild Card, steam roll the Giants, and win a fluky World Series. Gee, that would be nostalgic.

Just as the Mariners can’t be as bad offensively this year, the Mets can’t be as hurt th...oh, Johan Santana is out. Err. If you squint, you can see where the Mets have the foundation of a good team, but that’s if you think Jose Reyes and David Wright can be top-ten talents again, which is possible but not probable. They have a rotation that ranges from iffy to competent, and I’m pretty sure Dillon Gee is a pseudonym for someone who killed a man in Schenectady just to watch him die.

Not sure why the Nationals would overpay for Jayson Werth only to ditch Josh Willingham, but I guess they fancy themselves contenders. They have Livan Hernandez at the top of the rotation, and it drops off from there. Copy and paste that sentence sixteen times if you’re feeling optimistic about the Nationals for whatever reason.

 

NL Central

Brewers 91-71
Cardinals 85-77
Reds 83-79
Cubs 81-81
Pirates 65-97
Astros 64-98

 

The moves to get Zack Greinke and Shawn Marcum were acknowledgments by the Brewers that the team’s window was closing. They could have traded Prince Fielder and Rickie Weeks, see if anyone would bite on a six-for-one deal for Ryan Braun, and slinked back into the bottom of the division. Instead, they recognized that they didn’t have much of a farm system, and they don’t have much of a chance to keep Fielder. Bold move, and even though Greinke injured himself during a rough game of HORSE -- I hear he jumped off a riding mower with his eyes closed, trying for a bank shot -- I think the Brewers will do well this year.

I don’t get the Reds love. Assuming that Scott Rolen won’t be as healthy/good, the lineup is pretty unremarkable after Votto and Bruce, and it’s not like the rotation is built to overcome that. Maybe all of the young arms click at once and stay healthy. That’s a sentence that breaks hearts every year, though, for several teams.

The Cubs were lower when I first put this together, but they actually have an interesting team. Aramis Ramirez, Carlos Pena, and Alfonso Soriano are all have a chance of going huff, and it’s a fairly deep rotation. With the Giants being pretty well set up, I find myself coveting young shortstops like Starlin Castro. They make me do untoward things, like go into Yahoo!-comments mode and start thinking about ways to trade Nate Schierholtz for them.

Last year, the Pirates were one of the worst teams of the past couple of decades. They were bad even by Pirates standards. They had the worst pitching staff in the league and the worst offense. That collection of non-skill takes skill to accumulate. But they have interesting young players all throughout the lineup, and James McDonald and Brad Lincoln could help the rotation be a little better. It’s not a good team, but they’re better than the Astros.

Brett Myers and Wandy Rodriguez are a good enough 1-2, but Hunter Pence/Carlos Lee/Other isn’t a good middle of the order. And if you think I’m being glib by saying "Other" will hit fifth, you haven’t looked at their depth chart in a while. There’s a pretty good chance Bill Hall will hit second and Clint Barmes will hit fifth. Good gravy.

 

NL West

Giants 92-70
Rockies 89-73
Dodgers 84-78
Padres 81-81
Diamondbacks 68-94

There’s no reason to rehash all of these teams on a point-by-point basis, and there really isn’t going to be a lot of variation on these picks. The Giants, for the first time in a loooong time, are pretty clear favorites. That’s not because they get magic championship points, but because they did a good job in the middle of last season of patching up a bad lineup. The Giants with an average-or-close lineup is a pretty danged good team. The Rockies are a really complete team, too, but I don’t like them. When I’m playing prognostication deity, I can take wins away at will just because. They were at 91 wins, but then I remembered Todd Helton’s stupid goatee.

If there’s any controversy with a prediction like this, it’s that it doesn’t give the Padres enough credit. Fair enough. I’m always wary of a team that takes away a 5- or 6-win player and tries to make up for it by sprinkling 1- and 2-win upgrades throughout the lineup. I’m also wary of teams that count on 49 different relievers having an ERA under 2.00 again, though I have a suspicion that the Padres will do it, if only to spite us. This is the year Scott Munter becomes the next Cla Meredith, just watch. Still, I don’t think it’s heresy to expect a surprise-90 win team to return to orbit a little bit after losing their best player.

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