Thursday, March 24, 2011

Off Base NL East Preview

Offbase editors Derwood Morris and MTD haven't had much luck previewing things lately-MTD incorrectly predicted Gary Discarcina would come out of retirement to help the Angels win the 2009 World Series and Derwood thought Teen Wolf 3 would be the 2010 summer blockbuster. But here are division previews anyway.

We start with the NL East, home of the reigning champion Phillies, wild card Braves, and the other three teams.

Philadelphia (2010: 97-65)
The Phils, who lost in the NLCS to the eventual champion Giants, already had Roy Halliday, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels, but they added some bum named Cliff Lee and now everyone from Jim down the street to that other guy are predicting Philly to go 161-1 (September loss to the Astros in a classic trap game). Oh, and they also have Joe Blanton in the rotation. You know the old saying: if Joe Blanton is your No. 5 starter, you'd better have four good pitchers in front of him. The Phillies do. And despite the knee problems for MTD's boyfriend Chase Utley, they should have enough offense with Ryan Howard, whose averaged 46 HR the past five seasons despite a down 2010 season, and....ummm, Raul Ibanez? OK, so maybe they won't have enough offense, but with that pitching it may not matter.

Atlanta (91-71)

There's a new era in Atlanta. No, the Hawks didn't go through with John Koncak Bobblehead Night after all. The Braves are going into a season with someone other than Bobby Cox as manager for the first time since 1989. The Wobbly One retired after taking Atlanta to the playoffs 15 times in 20 seasons. Big adult diapers to fill for Fredi Gonzalez, who used to be a Braves coach and recently was fired as Marlins manager by shortstop Hanley Ramirez. If it wasn't for the Phils rotation, we'd be talking about Atlanta's being the best in the East with Tommy Hanson, Tim Hudson, Jair Jurrjens and Derek Lowe forming a solid quartet. Atlanta has always moved top-Minor League talent to the majors whenever it is ready and 2010 NL ROY runner-up Jason Heyward will be joined this season by top prospect Freddie Freeman, a 2007 second-round draft pick who will play first base. The Braves also added second baseman Dan Uggla (hit at least 31 HR in four straight seasons) from the Marlins in a November trade, and the latest out of spring camp reported Chipper Jones will be brought to home plate in 2011 by-wheelbarrow.

Florida (80-82)
The Marlins unofficially played in front of a total of 440 fans last season, but this isn't about making fun of Marlins' crowds. We'll save that for our daily coverage during the season. This is about a blog writer admittedly knowing very little about a baseball team and trying to fake it in a season preview. Here goes:

* Hanley!
* Josh Johnson!
* Wes Helms!
* Will Javy Vazquez, formerly a terrible pitcher (again) with the Yankees, return to his I Only Pitch Well In The NL form? Does anyone even care?

New York (79-83)

Everyone likes to pick on the Mets because they aren't the Yankees and because they're terrible every year, but have they really been that bad? 2009 was a disaster (70-92), but last season they only finished four games under .500 and they had a winning record in every season from 2005-2008. So what are the reasons for all the pointing and laughing? Oh, wait, I know the reasons:

1. Up until Monday they still employed Oliver Perez and gave him $24 million the last two seasons while he was arguably the worst pitcher in baseball. They'll give him $12 million this season to work at the Chevron down the street from my apartment (speculation).
2. They gave Luis Castillo (career OPS+ of 92) nearly $19 million from '08-'10 and will give him $6 million this season to play for the Phillies.
3. Francisco Rodriguez
4. Omar Minaya
5. Wally Backman
6. They let Jeff Francoeur and his .293 on-base percentage come to the plate 447 times last season.
7. Lenny Dykstra

Washington (69-93)
No Stephen Strasburg. No Bryce Harper. But wait just a minute: the Nats signed Oliver Perez to a minor league contract! While Strasburg recovers from Tommy John and Harper bides his time in the minors (Offbase predicts a September call up), the Nats will hope their offense, led by Ryan Zimmerman (5.2 and 5.3 WAR the last two seasons) and new signee Jason Werth (7 years, $122 million!) can score enough runs to stay out of the cellar. Washington will also have to replace Adam Dunn, who hit 76 home runs and walked 193 times in two seasons in the nation's capital. And don't forget Roger Bernadina. He's on the roster too.

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