NL East Predictions 2009

Utley for MVP in 2009?

Philadelphia Phillies (91-71) –> Division Champ
The rotation is somewhat suspect, but it’s better than everyone else’s but Atlanta and, possibly, Florida’s. I don’t expect Hamels to be out long, and it appears his start is only moved back. Behind him, Myers will need to his second-half self, Moyer has to repeat ’08 or get close, Blanton needs to be solid, and the fifth spot (owned by Park at the moment but probably Carrasco later) has to contribute. There are some question marks, but they look good. The bullpen once again looks terrific, and they shouldn’t miss Romero too much. Offensively, they should be just fine, and Ibañez isn’t much of a downgrade from Burrell. Defensively, this team should be really good as Werth will play more and Ibañez (no matter what you say) is better than Burrell.

Atlanta Braves (90-72) –> Wild Card
Yes, they are my team, but I’ve got a decent argument. A rotation of Lowe, Vazquez, Jurrjens, Kawakami, and eventually Hanson (I have the over/under on Glavine at 7 starts) could be the best in the division. Depth with Reyes and Medlen should help. In the bullpen, they have a fearsome back end of the bullpen with Gonzalez, Moylan, and Soriano, but they all have major injury issues. Can they stay healthy? Offensively, there isn’t a big hitter, but looking 1-8, there are not too many easy outs, and Francoeur has been much improved (watched him three games, and his leg no longer steps in the bucket and his head actually stays on the same plane; I love Rudy Jaramillo) this Spring, though his BA won’t be as great for the regular season. Defensively, this team is solid all the way around until you get to left field. Just please don’t get hurt. God, don’t get hurt for too long.

Florida Marlins (86-76)
The young guns in the rotation run into a serious collective slump at some point that costs them the division, though I don’t know when, but they are, otherwise, wonderful and the favorites for 2010. The bullpen has enough arms, but they need a healthy year from Lindstrom. Offensively, don’t worry. They still have Hanley, Uggla, Ross, and Cantu with other talents around them. Defensively, this team has serious issues all around the infield, and it will cost them, possibly causing above stated slump.

New York Mets (84-78)
A good team that just lacks the role guys stepping up. The rotation is Santana and a bunch of question marks. Which Ollie comes to the mound, and can he get any consistency? Can Pelfrey repeat, or will he follow Maine’s decline? Speaking of Maine, can he rebound? After that, they are depending on Livan, and when that fails, they lack any depth, which hurts over a long season. When the team doesn’t make the playoffs, it won’t be because the bullpen isn’t talented enough. More likely, a rough starting rotation will wear them down, but if they get enough innings from the rotation, this team won’t lose. Offensively, they have probably the best core of three players in Reyes, Wright, and Beltran, but I wonder if Delgado has another good season left, if Murphy can be what they need, and if Church will get over his concussion and second-half slide. Defensively, they are pretty solid all around. I just wonder about that rotation.

Washington Nationals (73-89)
I don’t know how to place this team wins-wise. They’re obviously the worst of these five, but will they be really bad or over-achieve? I split the difference. The rotation is a mess, but Lannan and Zimmerman could be a decent 1-2. The bullpen really doesn’t look much better, but Hanrahan and Beimel make it somewhat respectable. Offensively, they actually don’t look terrible. Dunn gives them a big guy to take the heat off Zimmerman (Ryan, this time). If Milledge and Dukes can improve and Johnson stays healthy, this team could win a few more games than I give them. But this team is just too bad and has too many holes to even consider them in another spot in the standings.

This is probably the second-best division in baseball. There are four quality teams, but none of them are spectacular. Major question marks exist for each team. But in the end, the Phillies look the best on paper, and they have decent depth in the farm system. The Braves have the most depth, and that’s why I give them the edge over the other teams for second place. Call me biased, but I do have a rational argument. Whether it works that way is a whole other story.

Note: The Braves-Phillies opener is Sunday Night Baseball this weekend. I will be doing a live-blog of the game, and you should stop by and harass me for how bad Lowe pitches and Francoeur swings.

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