The regular season begins this Sunday at 5:05PM PST when the Texas Rangers play the Houston Astros in that famous AL West rivalry, which means this week is all about previews, bold predictions, and message board put downs. I will say I am not good at predicting things, so let’s get that straight. Like everybody else though, I have an opinion on the matter of how events will play out. As I preview these divisions, I’ll tell you a little of what sport betting sites see, what computer simulations see, and what I see. The teams will be previewed in the reverse order I expect them to finish. Let us preview the NL East, where in my lifetime, I’ve really only seen the Braves (’94-’05) and Phillies (’07-’11) rule the NL East in its “new” format. Now, a new horse has arrived, it’s young, and it’s also got better competition this year.
5. Miami Marlins
Bovada’s odds to win the division, pennant, and World Series: 40/1, 75/1, 200/1
Stuart sees: a snake occupying the owner’s box, leaving a city the bill to a stadium with an eyesore out in left-center, along with a trade of major leaguers Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, and Emilio Bonifacio who were all sent north of the border because it just didn’t work out. Maybe you can find a little sympathy in your heart for that kind of business, I’m having trouble with it. The fish are left with Nolasco as their ace with not much behind him, and Stanton as the guy they’re supposedly building around. The bullpen might be the most well-rounded part of the team, but I wonder how this team scores its runs when Stanton’s not there. What lead will there be for the bullpen to hold? In case the only time you’ve seen Giancarlo is in the WBC, I’ve provided some memories from 2012 of the things he did. Worth your time.
4. New York Mets
Bovada’s odds to win the division, pennant, and World Series: 15/1, 40/1, 100/1
Stuart sees: a team that is getting ready to put its bullets into its Major League gun, and they are going to hit the mound and shut down the opposition. That may be seen even as early as June when Zack Wheeler will likely get the promotion to join former prospect Harvey on the hill. Marcum, like Johan Santana, is already injured, so it’s hard to see the Mets starting corps providing much for their team outside of Harvey. The offense will need to pick it up until their starters have their health back, and 2B Daniel Murphy is on the comeback trail to getting healthy again, and Ike Davis can supply some power for this squad. The outfield is kind of a nightmare, and with John Buck behind the plate, Mets fans are also counting down the days to when they see prospect Travis d’Arnaud come up in June so they can see part of the fruits of that trade for R.A. Dickey. If this team starts hot, they could be a very real threat for a wild card spot, but I’m talking 45-days hot, not 1-week hot.
3. Philadelphia Phillies
Bovada’s odds to win the division, pennant, and World Series: 3/1, 7/1, 16/1
Stuart sees: a walking AARP commercial unfolding in front of everybody’s eyes. Halladay is starting to show his age with decreasing velocity (although that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s done), and possibly being on the road to getting lit up more often. The acquisition of Michael Young seemed to be one built off of intangibles, and Delmon Young just plays like he’s old when he’s in the outfield. On the offensive side of things, this team should be fine, hitting some homers here and there, Philadelphia fans do have their reasons to believe in this team (not much of it on defense, though). I wonder how long the John Lannan experiment as the 5 will go, but the bullpen does have a decent 8th-9th inning set of arms in Mike Adams and Jonathan Papelbon (only to be used in save situations, of course!). It’s easy to not like this team because of the way their general manager, Ruben Amaro, Jr. built it, but they can provide some healthy, spirited, and most importantly competent competition for their NL East brethren.
2. Atlanta Braves
Bovada’s odds to win the division, pennant, and World Series: 9/4, 7/1, 16/1
Stuart sees: a team that could rule the division if not for another great team standing in their way. Those top three guys all reside in the outfield, and we haven’t even mentioned SS Andrelton Simmons and Brian McCann, whom is starting to feel better. Braves fans may not be confident of the platoon they have going at the hot corner with Juan Francisco and Chris Johnson, and it’s easy to be disappointed when you had a Hall of Famer in Chipper Jones manning the position there for as long as he did. My question mark on this team is how well does the starting pitching do this year, as I’m not worried about their bullpen holding leads or keeping things close. Does Tim Hudson stay healthy, can Mike Minor keep batters in the park and continue to lower his walk rate? What about Julio Teheran, how ready is he to reaching that ceiling of a #2-3 starter that’s been put on him? Watch this team at the plate for a series and you’ll understand the threat these guys pose, they are not just a force, they are a force. (oooOOOooohhhhh)
1. Washington Nationals
Bovada’s odds to win the division, pennant, and World Series: 10/11, 7/2, 7/1
Stuart sees: a team that you will be describing using any and every positive/fear-inducing adjective and profane word in the book. Now that this team has brought their town an NL East title in 2012, their extraordinarily powerful lineup, along with newly acquired speedster Denard Span, are going to put up some pretty good numbers (hint hint, fantasy baseball players) and work on creating that dynasty within the NL East. Bryce Harper just got done being nineteen (that’s 19, as in,
my college freshman+sophomore years you know what, I don’t wanna talk about it), Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann are also pretty stinkin’ good, and that bullpen added Rafael Soriano because I guess they wanted to make Drew Storen feel really bad. My question marks for this team are Dan Haren, who has been not been pitching as well as the years have gone by (getting old will do that… along with lower velocity), and the part of the bullpen that doesn’t involve Storen, Tyler Clippard, and Soriano. Outside of that, you can see why they’ve got the best odds to win everything. This team… I mean… Man. (how ’bout that analysis right there)
If there’s something not going for them though, it’s definitely this (couldn’t find a more out of control picture, I know it’s out there though):
Tell me how you think the NL East standings fall out in the comments below, and remember to play nice!