Knuckleballs

Unpredictable, rare, and occasionally effective…but always entertaining.

Previewing the 2010 National League East

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2009 Standings

Team W L PCT GB HOME ROAD RS RA DIFF
Philadelphia 93 69 0.574 45-36 48-33 820 709 111
Florida 87 75 0.537 6 43-38 44-37 772 766 6
Atlanta 86 76 0.531 7 40-41 46-35 735 641 94
NY Mets 70 92 0.432 23 41-40 29-52 671 757 -86
Washington 59 103 0.364 34 33-48 26-55 710 874 -164

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————

The Phillies made one of the offseason’s biggest splashes, trading for former Toronto ace Roy Halladay while moving Cliff Lee in the same deal.  They added Placido Polanco to give them some production at the spot formerly occupied by Pedro Feliz, and the remainder of the starting lineup remains in place for the back-to-back National League champs.  To do it again, they’ll need better work from their pitching staff, which is uncertain after Halladay and Cole Hamels.  The rest of the rotation is made up of J.A. Happ, attempting to prove he can repeat and build on his 2009, Joe Blanton, an innings-eating average pitcher, and either Jamie Moyer or Kyle Kendrick, neither of whom is very good.  Danys Baez replaces Chan Ho Park in the bullpen, which is important, because while this may seem strange, Park had pitched pretty well out of the Phillie bullpen.  They could also use a rebound year from Brad Lidge, who was lights-out dominant in 2008 and dreadful (because of an injury he (stupidly) tried to play through) in 2009.  His true value, if he’s healthy, lies closer to 2008 than 2009.  They still have the second best player in the National League, Chase Utley, a point I will randomly insert into posts and hammer home until other people realize it.  Seriously, this guy is awesome.

The Braves added Troy Glaus to play first and Melky Cabrera to play left, taking at-bats away from Casey Kotchman and the corpse of Garrett Anderson.  They traded Javier Vazquez to get Cabrera, but the rotation will still be pretty good if healthy.  They’re counting on Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson to repeat their 2009 performance; if either regresses, the Braves might be in trouble.  Behind them, Derek Lowe will be Derek Lowe, Tim Hudson will attempt to show he’s still Tim Hudson, and the Bullet Train, Kenshin Kawakami, is a perfectly serviceable fifth starter.  The Braves let go of Mike Gonzalez and traded Rafael Soriano, eliminating the effective two-headed closer they had last year.  In their places are Billy Wagner and Takashi Saito, both old but still effective.  The bullpen shouldn’t be an issue; staying healthy might be.  If the Braves can keep all of their best (and frail) players on the field (Chipper Jones, Brian McCann, Glaus, Hudson, Wagner), they’ll be in contention for a playoff berth at the end.  Yunel Escobar is a really good young shortstop, and Jason Heyward will replace as Matt Wieters as the prospect who can do no wrong.  He’ll probably start the season in Triple-A to keep his service time down, but he’ll be up, and contributing, to the Braves by June.

Florida might be good, or they might sell half of their team for prospects.  Hanley Ramirez is crazy-good, and still only 26.  Dan Uggla and Jorge Cantu are productive, and the Fish are giving all of Emilio Bonifacio’s at-bats to someone else (possibly Gaby Sanchez) this year, which will help.  The outfield is very young, with Cameron Maybin and Chris Coghlan entering their second years; they also have Cody Ross, who flies under the radar but can hit.  The lineup looks mostly like it did in 2009, and so does the pitching staff.  Josh Johnson emerged as a legitimate ace, and by the end of the season Ricky Nolasco had re-found his way.  They have a lot of arms to fill out the rotation and the bullpen, and will probably try most of them to see what sticks.  The Marlins were lucky to win 87 games last year, and they’ll need an equal amount of luck to finish near that total again.

The Mets are a disaster.  End.  Omar Minaya has traded everyone under 25 who might help, paid too much money to guys who are 35 and can’t help, and should lose his job when the Mets start 30-36.  They threw a ton of money at Jason Bay to help them score more runs, not considering the ramifications of having Jason Bay in a big outfield or paying him until he’s 36.  The left side of the infield is probably the second-best in the league and in New York City; both  Jose Reyes and David Wright are young and look to bounce back from down years.  Rod Barajas was added at catcher, but that won’t mean anything in terms of wins and losses.  Daniel Murphy takes over full-time at first base, and it remains to be seen if he can hit enough to warrant his spot.  Carlos Beltran is going to miss the first part of the season recovering from the knee injury that cost him so much of his 2009.  The Mets solution?  Take another overpaid, underproducing player (Gary Matthews Jr.) and plug him in.  Jeff Franceour is in right field for the full season in 2010, and hopefully, he’ll be a little more patient at the plate (138 walks in 706 career games).  The pitching staff doesn’t look much better, with Johan Santana leading the way as he attempts to return to form after an injury ended his 2009 prematurely.  Mike Pelfrey, John Maine, Oliver Perez, and Fernando Nieve make up the rest of the rotation, and collectively will probably be pretty bad.  The bullpen won’t be much better than they were in 2009, and neither will the Mets.

I have no idea why the Nationals do what they do.  In the past two seasons, they’ve signed Ivan Rodriguez, Adam Dunn, Adam Kennedy, Jason Marquis, and Matt Capps in free agency and given them all starting gigs.  All of that money would be much better spent in the draft and on international players that could actually contribute when this team is ready to be good.  The lineup is filled with guys past their primes; most of the veteran pitchers never had a prime.  They lost top pitching prospect Jordan Zimmermann to Tommy John surgery late in 2009, ending a promising rookie campaign and  keeping him out for all of 2010.  They do have some players though; Ryan Zimmerman is worth the price of admission, an excellent hitter who might be even better with the glove.  Nyjer Morgan was a nice addition last season and is one of the best defensive centerfielders in baseball.  They also drafted (and signed) the Great Hope, Stephen Strasburg, who has looked excellent in his first professional appearances in the Arizona Fall League and spring training.  I would bet he’s in the major by June/July, but probably be shut down at the end of August to keep his innings down.  All told, the Nationals offense isn’t half-bad, but the pitching staff is going to give up a lot of runs.  It’s going to be a long season in Washington, but things are beginning to brighten up.

2010 Projected Standings

Team W L PCT GB
Philadelphia 91 71 0.562
Atlanta 87 75 0.537 4* – WC
Florida 80 82 0.494 11
NY Mets 78 84 0.481 13
Washington 68 94 0.42 23
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Written by Dan Hennessey

March 25, 2010 at 10:30 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

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