Thursday, March 22, 2007
1. Philadelphia Phillies
2. New York Mets
3. Atlanta Braves
4. Florida Marlins
5. Washington Nationals
N.L. East: Yes, I am predicting our own 2007 Philadelphia Phillies to win the N.L. East and make the playoffs for the first time since 1993. (see, my Season Preview for a more lengthy discussion on this topic.) Sure, the Phillies aren’t perfect, but they have an offense that is as good, and probably better, than the Mets. The 2006 Phillies scored 865 runs, a whopping 94 better than the N.L. average. They will have similar success in 2006 with the core of the Phillies batting order returning intact. Meanwhile, the Phillies upgraded their pitching staff, adding Freddy Garcia and Adam Eaton to a rotation that is already going to include Cole Hamels, Brett Myers and Jamie Moyer. The Phillies probably don’t have the best pitching staff in the N.L., but that is much better than what the Mets are going to field. If the Phillies play good defense like they’ve played over the last three or four seasons, they will be a tough team to beat, provided their bullpen doesn’t betray them. I think 95 or so wins is a definite possibility … Meanwhile, the New York Mets have a powerful offense and maybe the best all-around player in baseball in Carlos Beltran, but their pitching is going to be their Achilles Heel. (see, "Know Thy Enemy: the 2007 Mets") Their best pitcher is 41-year old Tom Glavine. Their #2 in 37-year old (?) Orlando Hernandez. They need a big season for John Maine or they are stuck. I bet the Mets offense will score lot of runs, probably more than the Phillies even, but they cannot match the Phillies pitching staff and that is the decisive edge that the Phillies have going into this season. Unless the Mets can swing a deal for a big-time starter, their pitching will doom them to a second-place finish … Will the Atlanta Braves return to 1991-2005 form next season? They had a remarkable run during that time period, but the sun as set on the mighty (bland) Braves empire. Their rotation is old and so is their lineup. (see, "Know Thy Enemy: the 2007 Braves".) Maybe John Schuerholz ought to concentrate on rebuilding his farm system when he isn’t writing self-congratulatory books about himself. I say third place … The Florida Marlins must really be a burr in the saddle of Major League baseball. Since they entered the league in 1993 they’ve gone out and won two World Series that generated absurdly low TV ratings. A collection of face-less guys who play in a city that could care less about baseball, this team is Major League Baseball’s worst nightmare, a team that makes October baseball a veritable sleeping pill for the American television viewing public. And guess what? I can see this team getting very good very quickly. I think they could contend in 2008 or 2009. The 2006 Marlins basically played a bunch of rookies at the same time and discovered that their farm system was doing a good job of developing talent. (see, "Know Thy Enemy: the 2007 Marlins".) This team had multiple candidates for Rookie of the Year! I can see the 2007 Marlins getting very good - provided there is no sophomore slump - and even making a run on the NL East once more. If Dontrelle Willis is available to anchor their rotation, expect the Marlins to do much better than their 78-84 season in 2006 … The 2005 Washington Nationals were a real surprise and a real pain for the Phillies to deal with. Instead of playing a team of push-overs who were fortunate to escape from Canada, the 2005 Nationals actually won baseball games, finishing with an 81-81 record. The ’06 version crashed to earth, going 71-91. I predict that the ’07 model will fall further, slipping to 65 or so wins. (see, "Know Thy Enemy: the 2007 Nationals".) This team cannot compete with the Braves, Phillies and Mets in terms of spending power and the Marlins have a keener eye for talent. They might score some runs, but they will miss Alfonso Soriano and their pitching staff needs help.
1. St. Louis Cardinals
2. Chicago Cubs
3. Houston Astros
4. Milwaukee Brewers
5. Cincinnati Reds
6. Pittsburgh Pirates
NL Central: Was there ever a weaker World Series champion than the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals? The ’04 team that got swept by the Red Sox at least won 105 regular season games, 22 more than this team did. They nearly blew a huge lead to the Houston Astros in the regular season. The Cardinals got lucky, plain and simple. Billy Beane was right: anything can happen in October, and it did to the Cardinals. I respect Tony LaRussa as a manager and I give him credit for getting this team to the top of the mountain, but 2007 will be harder. I still think that the Cardinals will win what is a very weak division, but anything can happen … Why can’t the Chicago Cubs win the NL Central in 2007? No reason, but I was burned too badly last year to call their number again. Perhaps Soriano isn’t the greatest player in baseball and the Cubs over-paid a little to get him. Perhaps the Cubs rotation looks battle-scarred and thin. Perhaps this team is cursed in a profound manner that even a Red Sox fan couldn’t comprehend. The Cubs have a lot of flaws, not the least of which is a so-so pitching staff that needs Ted Lilly to be big, but this division is weak enough that they could win it, even if they only win 85-87 games. I expect the Cubs to eschew the small ball tactics of Dusty Baker and rely on Soriano, Derek Lee and Aramis Ramirez to hammer the ball out of the park … Can the Houston Astros challenge the Cardinals in 2007? I doubt it. This is a team that will be weaker with their pitching staff depleted. Their offense will continue to muddle along – Carlos Lee is nobody’s savior – and they will play good defense, but this team is average in every way. I say .500: 81-81 … The Milwaukee Brewers were a team that I expected to play much, much better than they did last season. With a young pitching staff and some exciting players, I thought that the 2006 Brewers might be a dark horse, so I put them third. They finished fourth, which is where I see them this season. They made no major changes, so we shall see if they will jell as a team next year … The Cincinnati Reds were a team that played waaaaay over their heads in 2006. After starting the season 17-8 in April and briefly occupying first place in early June, the Reds collapsed and played their way out of the playoff picture, mostly thanks to a 2-8 road trip in August and September. Bronson Arroyo was very good in 2006, but the rest of the Reds pitching staff is suspect. Their #3 starter is Eric Milton! ERIC MILTON!* They have an offense that relies almost exclusively on hitting home runs: 36% of their total bases were off of home runs and their .244 batting average with runners in scoring position was worst in the N.L. I anticipate a pretty miserable season for the Reds in 2007 … The Pittsburgh Pirates are all excited about Adam LaRoche and Jason Bay playing on the same team. This is a step in the right direction, but hardly the magic bullet that Pirates fans are looking for. Their young pitching staff has to come together and they need to play better team defense before they can move up. Fourth is a possibility, fifth could happen, but sixth is the probability.
* for those new to A Citizen’s Blog, Eric Milton is a former Phillie whom I criticized unmercifully. Just plug in “Eric Milton” & “awful” and/or "terrible" and/or “sucks” into the Google search box at the bottom of this page and see how many hits you get.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
2. San Diego Padres
3. Colorado Rockies
4. San Francisco Giants
5. Arizona Diamondbacks
NL West: I don’t believe that small ball is a winning strategy in baseball. However, I do think the 2007 L.A. Dodgers will win the N.L. West despite their affinity for small ball and not because of it. The Dodgers hit-and-run, they bunt, and they steal bases. I hate that kind of baseball. But the Dodgers have something nobody else in the N.L. has: a dominating pitching staff, featuring Jason Schmidt, Randy Wolf, Derek Lowe and Brad Penny. This will be the best pitching staff in the National League and maybe the majors in 2007. For that reason I think that the Dodgers are going to win a lot of 2-1 games in 2007, even without Eric Gagne as their closer. They will survive their inconsistent offensive strategy and they will prosper because they have a pitching staff that will win them games and dominate teams in short series. This team reminds me of the 1960s Dodgers with Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale trying to win 1-0 games every night. The ‘60s Dodgers did it, so why can’t the ’07 Dodgers? … Right behind them are the San Diego Padres, a good and solid team built around pitching and defense. They will probably have a better offense than the Dodgers, but they don’t have the power from their staff that the Dodgers have. Sure, Greg Maddux will win games on guile and skill, and centerfielder Mike Cameron is one of the most under-rated players in baseball, but they’ll finish a little behind the Dodgers … The 2006 Colorado Rockies hit-and-ran, they bunted, and they stole bases whenever they could. Their pitching staff was better than average for probably the first time in baseball history. I was stunned by how the ’06 Rockies actually transformed themselves into a dangerous team that nearly got into the playoffs utilizing a small ball and pitching model. Will that be a winning strategy in 2007? I doubt it, but I am very impressed by how the Rockies improved themselves by leaps and bounds last year. I think they might surprise some people and might make a run on the playoffs … The San Francisco Giants will not make the playoffs. Their decision to bring back Barry Bonds has been a catastrophe. For the last decade Bonds has sucked the oxygen out of that team, making himself the sole story and drowning out whatever the Giants try and do on the field. Now the team needs to be finally ready to move beyond the Barry Bonds era and try to rebuild. The Giants are a fairly old team stocked with veterans, built to give Barry once last chance at the World Series he missed winning in 2002. The problem is that the Giants need to get younger and need to rid themselves of the concrete albatross that is Barry Bonds egomaniacal pursuit of Hank Aaron. It caused Bonds to destroy himself, taint his body with steroids, and figuratively sell his soul to Satan to build a legacy that lies in ruins today. Now the Giants have brought baseball’s freak show back to town. Good luck. Oh, and the team will come to rue their monster deal with Barry Zito … Meanwhile the Arizona Diamondbacks went back to the future with Randy Johnson returning to the desert to resurrect his career after his Yankees sojourn went so terribly, terribly wrong. With the Big Unit and Brandon Webb, the D-Backs might have a decent team in 2007, but they lack any sort of pop on offense. Maybe they can pass the Giants and Rockies, but the playoffs would be a stretch.
NLDS: Philadelphia Phillies over St. Louis Cardinals, 3-2; Los Angeles Dodgers over New York Mets, 3-0.
NLCS: Los Angeles Dodgers over Philadelphia Phillies, 4-2.
In a closely fought series the Phillies starting pitching overwhelms the Cardinals thin staff while Ryan Howard outplays Albert Pujols. The Dodgers, meanwhile, overwhelm the Mets, who snuck into the playoffs after a fierce wildcard race with the Padres, Cubs and Braves. The difference? The Dodgers rotation wears the Mets hitters down. In the NLCS the Phillies fall thanks to the Dodgers formidable rotation.
World Series: Minnesota Twins over Los Angeles Dodgers, 4-3.
In a battle between pitching oriented, small ball teams, the Twins emerge victorious thanks to gutty pitching from Johan Santana, who turns in a performance worthy of Sandy Koufax and wins the World Series MVP as well as the 2007 Cy Young Award and finishes high in the MVP voting.
N.L. Rookie of the Year: Angel Guzman, Cubs. Watch the talented Guzman make a splash with the Cubs.
N.L. Cy Young Award: Derek Lowe, Dodgers. Last year there was a real horse race for the N.L. Cy Young because the candidates were pretty ordinary. Why Lowe? I like how few home runs and walks he allows. 67% of the balls put into play off of his arm were grounders, an absurdly high percentage. If the Dodgers play good defense behind him, he could win 20-22 games in 2007.
N.L. MVP: Carlos Beltran, Mets. Beltran is an outstanding player who excels in every phase of the game: fielding, hitting for power, hitting for average, running the bases, etc. This guy is the complete package, and he plays in the media capital of America. How can he not win?
N.L. Manager of the Year: Willie Randolph, Mets. I give Willie Randolph the edge in the N.L. because I think he'll figure out a way to make the pitching-challenged Mets competitive in the N.L. East.
That's it for predictions. Bring on the baseball!
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Surely you can't be serious?? What do the Phillies have beyond their 1-4 hitters? And with Burrell putting up good numbers but still really streaky, you can't even count on that #4 hitter.
I do believe that the Phils are easily in the top half of the divison, but to say their offense is as good or better than Mets, is ludicrous!!
Dodgers is my best team in the MLB i wish i could go to watch all their games i found a good web site where you can compare your LosAngeles-Dodgers tickets an found cheap tickets
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go go Dodgers
The Florida Marlins both times....
The Cards have dominated the NL this century, and last year they were injury plagued...They have arguably the best pitcher and hitter in all of baseball. They just finally got everybody (Rolen, Eckstein, Edmonds, and Pujols) healthy again and did what they hav been capable of doing since the year 2000.