Saturday, March 19, 2011

2011 MLB Final Standings Predictions: NL EAST

Philadelphia Phillies 93 - 69
Why is this team interesting?

This Philles' rotation should be the best in baseball and maybe even one of the best in history.  But the 4 aces aren't the only reasons to watch the Phillies.

The Phils have won the NL East 4 years in a row and this should be the 5th.  They've been to the World Series twice and won it once.  This is a good team.  But the cracks are starting to show.  It was big offense that has driven the Phillies' ship the last 4 years.  But Jayson Werth is in Washington now (and $126 million richer).  Ryan Howard's home runs have gone from 58 to 47 to 48 to 45 to 31 in 2010.  Chase Utley only played in 115 games last season and will likely miss the beginning of this year with what could be a chronic knee injury.  The Phillies are aging.  But, there are reinforcements, like Domonic Brown.  But he's out with a broken hand.

This is the best team in the NL East but that doesn't mean that they are invincible.

Atlanta Braves 85 - 77
Why is this team interesting?  They should give the Philles a run for their money.  Young stud Jason Heyward had a phenomenal year last year, and should get better.  And Braves fans will look forward to a similar bursting upon the scene by Freddie Freeman (they'll be disappointed though.  Freeman is a good player while Heyward could be a super-duper star).  This could be the Chipper Jones farewell tour; following up the Bobby Cox 2010 Farwell Tour.  The lineup has added Dan Uggla from Florida.  Nate McLouth and Martin Prado could give them an actual outfield instead of the dreck they ran out there last year.  Tommy Hanson will allow Braves fans to reminisce about the Maddux, Smoltz, Glavine rotations of the '90's-though Hanson is no Maddux and Hudson, Jurrjens and Lowe aren't Smoltz, Glavine nor Steve Avery.

But three of the Braves' most interesting players are in the bullpen: Craig Kimbrel, Johnny Venters and Peter Moylan.  Closer Billy Wagner and set up man Takashi Saito are no longer with the team but Kimbrel made an impression last season by striking out almost 2 batters per inning in his 20 inning debut.  If he can drop his walks from the 5 per 9 he's averaged, he could be nearly impossible to score on.  Venters was almost as good striking out 10 per 9.  Yet he also walked more than 4 per 9.  It's like Mitch Williams AND Rickey Vaughn in the bullpen.  Still, when the Braves have a late lead expect a lot of #winning.

Florida Marlins 82 - 80
Why is this team interesting?  The Marlins have a good mix of established stars and future stars.  Everyone knows about Hanley Ramirez-since Hanley has entered the league (2006) only 2 players have compiled more WAR (Albert Pujols and Chase Utley).  They also have Josh Johnson who is in the top 20 of all players in WAR over the last 2 seasons.

The Marlins' young players include Mike Stanton who isn't Jayson Heyward but he did bash 22 home runs in 100 games last year.  Matt Dominguez might win the 3B job big the club out of spring training.   Dominguez by all accounts has an exceptional glove at 3B.  That alone might be enough to make him a productive big leaguer but in 2010 he started to show a bit of power with 34 double a doubles.  Gabby Sanchez and Logan Morrison are both young players who have shown they can play at the big league level and are now trying to show that they can do more than just play.  Anibal Sanchez, Ricky Nolasco and Chris Volstad are all young pitchers who have pitched will in the bigs and may be have even more than they have shown.

The Marlins are likely the 3rd best team in the division, but with a talented group of youngsters they may surprise the Braves and if things go badly enough in Philadelphia, even the Phillies.

New York Mets 78 - 84
Why is this team interesting?  Omar Minaya, Jerry Manuel, Fred Wilpon, K-Rod, Luis Castillo, Oliver Perez, Tony Bernazard, Bernie Madoff, etc...

Minaya and Manuel are gone, replaced by Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins.  Bernarzard is gone.  Madoff is gone.  Wilpon, Castillo, and Perez might be gone soon.  K-Rod looks to at least be here for the season though.

On the field, the Mets...have a bunch of question marks.  Who's the second baseman?  Will Luis Castillo be released?  Is David Wright really the 2007-2008 version or the 2009-2010 version?  Can Jose Reyes go back to his 2006-2008 incarnation?  Can Jason Bay hit home runs?   Can Carlos Beltran look anything like his pre-injury self?  Is Angel Pagan as good as he has looked the last 2 years?

Can Johan Santana come back and stay healthy?  If he can is he the pre-2006 version (doubtful)?  Is he the 2007-2008 version (more likely)?  Or does he finish out his big contract Pedro Martinez style?  Has R.A. Dickey harnessed the awesome power of the knuckleball?  Will Chris Young and Chris Capuano spend more time on the mound than they will under the knife?

If all these questions are answered in the Mets' favor, they could win the division.  But the chances of that happening are [insert small probability joke here]

Washington Nationals 75 - 87
Why is this team interesting?  Because in 2012 Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper could both be on the field for the Nats.  So what's interesting about the Nats in 2011?

Ryan Zimmerman is the best third baseman in baseball and would have gotten my MVP vote last year.  He has certainly passed David Wright as best in the NL and only Evan Longoria could be considered alongside Zimmerman.  Zimmerman's defesne has always been outstanding but in the last 2 years his offense has caught up as he posted wOBA's of .377 and .389 (for reference that's more offense that Ryan Howard and A-Rod and roughly equal to Mark Texiera and Adam Dunn).

Also interesting, but not to be confused is Jordan Zimmermann.  Zimmerman impressed in 2009 before going under the knife.  He came back late in 2010 and put up decent numbers.  An extra 6 months of rehab should allow him to approach his 2009 numbers (over a K per inning for an example).

Jayson Werth has $126 million bucks and a lot a few eyes in Washington watching his performance.  Livan Hernandez came out of nowhere to have a 3 WAR season last year.  It'll be interesting to see if he can repeat that (I'm saying no).  It'll be interesting to see if Jason Marquis can come back from his injury and have a productive season.  It'll be interesting to see if Ian Desmond can cut down on his 34 errors from last year or if the Nats will move Danny Espinosa (and his strong glove) from 2B to SS.  The possibility of a  Rick Ankiel/Mike Morse platoon could be interesting-at least the Mike Morse half of it; until Roger Bernadina shows Jim Riggleman that he's better than Ankiel.  It'll be interesting to see if Nyjer Morgan is closer to his 2009 or 2010 self.  I also feel like I should mention Drew Storen and Craig Stammen...they are mentioned.

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