Wednesday, March 31, 2004
2004 NL Predictions:
New York Mets
Houston Astros (wildcard)
St. Louis Cardinals
San Francisco Giants
Los Angeles Dodgers
San Diego Padres
Chicago over Houston, 3-2
Philadelphia over San Francisco, 3-1
Chicago over Philadelphia, 4-3
Bottom-Line: In the NL East I think the Phillies are the best of the bunch. I know that people have been predicting the end of the Braves dynasty for years, but this finally feels like the year: new stadium, pitching upgrades, a Burrell rebound … this team is posed to do some damage. I just worry about Bowa will burn them out if they get into a pennant race in the fall. I think the Braves will be decent, but they feel like they’ve lost a step. This isn’t like the past: it doesn’t look like they’ve found players to replace Maddux and Sheffield and Lopez. (Although I worry that a healthy J.D. Drew could do some damage – the man’s career .377 OBP ain’t bad. Plus he has an axe to grind against the Phils.) The Marlins were an enigma in 2003. Were they really that good? I refuse to believe it. They strike me as a team that got hot at the right time, while the Phils imploded (I note that the fish's 2003 pythagorean won-loss record was just 87-75, behind the Phils pythagorean won-loss was 90-72.) The Mets are rebuilding, and the Expos haven’t a home.
The NL Central is probably the best division in the NL. This isn’t necessarily praise, mind you: the AL has the two best divisions (the West and East). They are the best because the Cubs are the best team in the NL. This team is good. They are stocked with pitching, hitting and look motivated to erase last year’s NLCS. This team is going to the World Series. I like the Astros too. In fact, they are probably the second-best team in the NL. In a seventh game or pennant race they’ll be tough with money pitchers like Clemens and Pettite on the mound. I like the St. Louis Cardinals personally: everyone says that St. Louis baseball fans are the best, the most knowledgeable, etc. I like them offensively, but they have no pitching. They need to win a lot of 10-8 games to stay in it. The Pirates are a special case for me because I actually live in Pittsburgh: I want them to succeed, but the Pirates management seems committed to not allowing that to happen. Honestly, this building a team by vets-on-the-cheap is ridiculous. Still, I think these guys have talent (or they will, until their annual fire-sale in July) and they can get to fourth because … The Reds have little talent (and might I just say: I think it is time to declare the Ken Griffey Jr. experiment a failure) … and the Brewers have none.
I don’t know what to make of the NL West. I still think the Giants are best of the bunch. The Diamondbacks are a close second though, even without Shilling. The Dodgers are better than they look, and the Padres are improving. The Rockies? I think they are perpetually befuddled by what to do about Coors Field. This race is wide-open.
That’s it: I see a World Series of the Damned between the Red Sox and Cubbies.
I’ll tell you who wins tomorrow.