Wednesday, March 27, 2013

2013 National League Predictions: Please, Please, Please, Relegate The Marlins

All Of Their Fans Are Inside
When you start to get into the nuts and bolts of predicting the NL this year, you are struck by the parity in the league. By my count, well over half of the league has relatively realistic hopes of winning their divisions, and no team really projects as dominant. While the money spent on rosters is really disparate, many of the plus markets look to have done so poorly; there is no sense that there is a 100-win team lurking in the midst here, or that there's a team with a fan base that should start the year with their heads in the oven and eyeing up any and all assets for sale on the open market.

Except, of course, for the Marlins.

How bad are they going to be? Bad enough that they aren't going to score even four runs a game. Bad enough so that, if Colorado did not exist, they'd give up the most runs. Bad enough that the only thing that will keep them from finishing 30-40 games out of first is the fact that the upper reaches of the NL East are going to grind each other into .500. So bad that they are going to finish last in attendance, with a new ballpark, in a region where people like the sport so much, they showed up to watch the WBC.

Now that the Astros are in the American League and the Mets are actually on the verge of having good young pitching, the Perpetual Expos are doing what Jeffrey Loria's teams always do: swindle an ever-shrinking amount of the public with a raw avarice rarely seen outside of a Motown record label in the 1960s. There is no single better advertisement for a relegation system than Loria's existence, and the fact that one of his fetid piggy fingers has a World Series ring on it is one of those small moments that make you question whether there is a God, and if so, whether His intentions are honorable. The simple and brilliant move of adding relegation would mean that no one outside of the AA backwater that Loria would soon find himself in would have to care who was on his roster, and prevent any municipality from ever taking the blackmail pipe that got him his squalid and abandoned pleasure palace. The only real moment of suspense is who gets Giancarlo Stanton when the franchise inevitably sells him off, and whether he goes to a light tower with a rifle to make that happen faster.

I could go on, but thinking about Loria makes decent people spit.

So, with that... on to the predictions!

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NL East

1) Atlanta 91-71
2) Washington 87-74
3) Philadelphia 84-77
4) New York 80-82
5) Miami 62-100

Baseball's mot exciting division race is here, with the top three teams all more than capable of catching some breaks and winding with up to a 95-win team. Atlanta has the most margin for error, with an offense that looks downright frightening, especially in the outfield, and a pitching staff that has more than a few dominant arms, along with the best closer in baseball in Craig Kimbrel. I think they could easily have 100 HRs and 300 RBIs from the law firm of Upton, Upton and Hayward, along with best in class defense and upswing years from Freddie Freeman, Brian McCann and Dan Uggla. I'm seeing regression from some of the SPs, but at the end of the day, I don't think it will matter. This offense is just going to turn pitching staffs into hamburger.

The Nats might have baseball's best 1-2-3 SP slots filled, and even the 4 (Dan Haren) is pretty solid, especially if he can get a couple of MPH back on the fastball. I'm not as sold on the offense, mostly because I'm seeing the MI of Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa giving some of their 2012 numbers back, and Adam LaRoche just fills me with meh, but they could be status quo or better if OF wunderkind Bryce Harper has a breakout, or OF Jayson Werth could simply stay healthy. It's just less likely than Atlanta.

Third but not set in stone are the aging but dangerous Phillies, who really need Roy Halladay to not slow down, and for Chase Utley to stay healthy. OF Domonic Brown and 3B Michael Young are the biggest hopes for gains over 2012's average at best offensive numbers, while 1B Ryan Howard is a not very big secret as the world's most expensive platoon player. The bullpen looks better and Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee are studs, but they are living without a net, especially in comparison with Atlanta and Washington.

The Mets are going to have an outstanding season where they never contend. The rookie SPs are going to be great, they're going to find some things out with young players, and they could easily win as many games, on a third of the salary, as the cross-town rival Yankees. They're also going to provide exceptional misery for the three teams that are trying to win the division, and beat the Marlins like a drum. But it all adds up to just under .500, because where most teams have outfielders, the Mets have pencil shavings and balsa wood.

The Marlins are going to test the theory of how much MVP support can exist for a team with one player (Stanton, naturally) who belongs in the majors. Oh, and the pitching might be worse. Good seats still available!

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NL Central

1) Cincinnati 92-70
2) St. Louis 91-71
3) Pittsburgh 81-81
4) Milwaukee 73-89
5) Chicago 67-95

The league's best team might live in Cincy, where the Reds bring back a strong young rotation, the second best closer in baseball (Aroldis Chapman), my choice for NL MVP (Joey Votto) and an offense that should be ahead of 2012, just because they finally have a leadoff hitter, and Votto is healthy again. They won't completely capitalize on that promise, because it's just about time for Dusty Baker to start cracking those young arms like peanut brittle, but if anyone in the division can run off and hide, it's the Reds.

St. Louis contends every year, and 2013 will be no different. The conference's best organization is a little too brittle to pick first, but if SP Trevor Shelby Miller and OF Oscar Taveras make an early entrance and play to their potential, maybe the title that I'm predicting for them in 2014 comes early. In the interim, C Yadier Molina and OF Carlos Beltran give back some offense that new 2B Matt Carpenter can't recover, and 1B Matt Adams waits for his chance. It must be nice to be a Cardinals fan.

Pittsburgh has, for the past two years, flirted with .500 before falling apart late, and I think the flirtation gets a little more serious in 2012. OF Andrew McCutchen is worth the price of admission to one of the prettiest parks in the majors, and 3B Pedro Alvarez provides sneaky value when he isn't providing air conditioning. 2B Neil Walker is a plus player, C Russell Martin will also help, and there are some pitchers on the horizon that might actually make the Pirates a danger to someone other than their fans. But not quite in 2013.

The clown part of Comedy Central starts in Milwaukee, where even the late signing of SP Kyle Lohse isn't going to be enough to turn around a pitching staff that just isn't up to snuff, and an offense that's built around an OF and perpetual MVP candidate (Ryan Braun) that you half expect to get kneecapped by the umpire while the cameras suspiciously malfunction. Even if Braun can put up another year of Screw You, the bullpen is still a mess and the defense not much better. As for Chicago, GM Theo Epstein still hasn't found anyone who will give him anything for OF Alfonso Soriano or SP Matt Garza. SS Starlin Castro might be the best in in the NL at his position, but this franchise is so starved for wins that Cub Fan picks at his game anyway. At least 1B Anthony Rizzo looks for real.

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NL West

1) San Francisco 89-73
2) Los Angeles 88-72
3) Arizona 81-81
4) San Diego 77-85
5) Colorado 68-94

The defending World Series champions have a tough division to navigate, but full seasons from C Buster Posey and 1B Brandon Belt might keep the offense above water, especially if 3B Pablo Sandoval gives them a solid year, and if OF Hunter Pence has anything left in the tank. I'm not loving the chance of either of the latter, but there's still too much here in terms of pitching (Matt Cain and Ryan Vogelsong are the nuts, but Tim Lincecum is the lynchpin) and defense to pick someone else.

The Dodgers brought in a ton of talent, some of it actually good, but things begin and end with the best SP (Clayton Kershaw) and OF (Matt Kemp) in the league. If everyone were healthy, this team would be the class of the league, with SP Zack Greinke combining with Kershaw to give them the best 1-2 SP combo outside of Washington. But Greinke is never perfectly healthy, and SS Hanley Ramirez is already behind the eight ball, too. The potential for dominance is here, but so is the potential for over-ranking known talent that will never play up to its clippings.

Arizona is going to regret the Justin Upton deal, but that was always going to happen. The bigger issue is a SP class where Wade Miley and Ian Kennedy just can't compete with the top 2 for San Francisco and LA, and have to. They'll tread water with 2B Aaron Hill and 1B Paul Goldschmidt, and there is help on the way from the minors, but there just aren't enough horses here. San Diego's offense is a lot better than you think (Petco is bringing the fences in), but the injury to 3B Chase Headley is a major problem, and any offense that needs OF Carlos Quentin to stay healthy is an offense that's going to disappoint. I really like 2B Jedd Gyorko and OF Cameron Maybin, though... but the SPs just don't impress, especially when you get them away from home. When your Opening Day starter is Edinson Volquez, you aren't ready to play games of consequence. Colorado brings up the rear, and and they wish they had SPs as good as Volquez. They don't. Woof. OFs Carlos Gonzalez and Dexter Fowler, along with C Wilin Rosario and the eternal tease that is SS Troy Tulowitzki will keep them relevant to your fantasy team, but that ends the relevance.

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Tomorrow, before I hit the road for a much-needed vacation (I'm taking the family south to get the hell out of the endless gray Jersey winter), I'll go through award winners, playoff prediction and a few extras. I guarantee that it will be as useful as everything else I've been throwing your way, so come on back. And enjoy the upcoming NL season, because any year in which this many teams have hope from the start has got to be fun, really...


Anonymous said...

Who is Trevor Miller?

DMtShooter said...

A fungible left-handed reliever, and the focus of my typo. Now fixed to Shelby.

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