Thursday, March 15, 2007

2007 Preview: NL East

The cream of the crop for the National League, it figures to be that way once again in 2007. The Mets tied the Yankees for best record in the majors. The Phillies just missed out on the wild card. The Braves look to bounce back from a rare below .500 year, and the young Marlins have some experience and could explode this year. The race for the division will be tight just like the Central's, except with actually good teams.

Atlanta Braves
The Braves missed the playoffs for the first time in 14 seasons, they look to start a new streak this year. Some things never change with Chipper and Andruw Jones in the field and John Smoltz on the mound. They are joined by young Brian McCann, Ryan Langerhans, and Jeff Francoeur as the catalysts of the offense. McCann, established himself as potent source from the catcher spot. If Francoeur and Langerhans can cut down on the K's and work on getting base a little more often, (Francoeur only had 23 walks and 132 K's playing in every game last year) they can overcome a very inexperienced right side of the infield. Other than Smoltz, the starters have questions. Mark Redman will do good in the 3 or 4th starter role, but Tim Hudson's health is a concern, and can Chuck James avoid a sophomore slump after his stellar year last season, and who's going to be the 5th starter? The one thing the Braves drastically improved is the bullpen. Joining Bob Wickman, is former closer Mike Gonzalez, and lethal set-up man Rafael Soriano. The Braves could be one arm away from the World Series.

Florida Marlins
The bargain basement bunch caught a lot of people by surprise with a hot August and finished just 3 games back of .500. It got Joe Girardi Manager of the Year honors for the NL. But because Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria is mentally retarded, Girardi was fired. Former Braves third base coach Fredi Gonzalez inherits a 5 good young starters (Dontrelle Willis, Anibel Sanchez, Scott Olsen, Ricky Nolasco and Josh Johnson when he returns from injury) and a great hitting line-up. The lone Achilles heel is the bullpen. Last year's closer Joe Borowski is in Cleveland, and in his place is anyone's guess. Listed as closer is Matt Lindstrom, who has yet to appear in a major league game. But the likes of Miguel Cabrera, Dan Uggla, Hanley Ramirez, Josh Willingham, and Jeremy Hermida can see to that the game will be out of reach by the late innings.

New York Mets
In addition to being Apu's favorite squadron , the NY Mets were the best team in the National League last year. But to stay on top of the NL East, did they do enough this offseason to stay ahead of the pack? The only main change to the line-up was Moises Alou in for Cliff Floyd. Alou finished better in every statistical category for 2006, so yes, that is a bit of an upgrade, even if he does that weird peeing on the hands thing. He joins a line-up where the only weakness is the pitchers spot. Reyes, Beltran, Delgado, Wright, Alou, LoDuca, Shawn Green, John Valentin (24 doubles, 18 HRs, .330 OBP. not bad for the 8 spot). Rod Allen might call this line-up "Durty". The pitchers are the young(John Maine, Mike Pelfrey), the old (Tom Glavine, Orlando Hernandez), and the broken (Pedro Martinez, Chan Ho Park). The bullpen will only be as good as Billy Wagner allows it to be. It can hand the game over to him, what he does with it is anyone's guess. Plus if the Mets need anything GM Omar Minaya will do what it takes to bring the missing pieces to the team.

Philadelphia Phillies
Many thought the Phillies were giving up on the season after dealing away Bobby Abreu to the Yankees, then a funny thing happened. They went out and tore it up in the second half of the season just missing out on the wild card. New arrival Freddy Garcia certainly should lighten the mood in the clubhouse, well light something in the clubhouse anyway. Garcia is one of six potential staring pitchers the Phillies can throw out. With the exception of Cole Hamels, none are that impressive, and actually can be confused for one another(Adam Eaton, Jon Lieber, Jaime Moyer). If the pitchers can leave the hits to the offense and away from their wives (Brett Myers), they could battle their way into the playoffs. But this is Philadelphia, anything less than world domination, and no number of outfielders running into walls can save this team from the boos of the Philly faithful.

Washington Nationals
Other than Ryan Zimmerman, the only reason I can name more than two players on this team is that: a) they are former Tigers (Dmeaty Young, Nook Logan, Robert Fick) and b) I used the Nationals as a team in MLB 06 last year. Even with that I still have no idea who Shawn Hill, and Tim O'Connor are. Supposedly the are starting pitchers, but just like the Loch Ness Monster, I'll have to see it to believe it. Plus they have Cristan Guzman at shortstop. Think Neifi Perez, only instead of being buried on the depth chart...he's a starter. At least they saved all that money not resigning Alfonso Soriano.

Final Standings
1) New York (94-68)
2)Philadelphia (90-72) *wild card*
3) Atlanta (88-74)
4) Florida (84-78)
5) Washington (66-96)

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