Wednesday, April 04, 2007

 

Opening Day Part 2

The National League is clearly the weak sister in the major leagues. It's very wide open because a .500 record might be good enough to make the playoffs in one or more divisions.

NL East

This is the only division where there's a clear favorite, that being the NY Mets. New York will be without injured Pedro Martinez for a while to start the season, but the rest of the staff is capable of picking up the slack. A star-studded roster with the likes of David Wright, and Carlos' Delgado and Beltran, the Mets should top the NL.

The Phillies will hope to push the Mets and return to the playoffs for the first time in over a decade. They will be without two of their top pitchers to start the season with Freddie Garcia and Jon Leiber both injured, so the hitters, led by MVP Ryan Howard will need to come through early on to keep them in contention.

The Braves should be in the mix as well with pitchers John Smoltz and Tim Hudson leading the way. They missed the playoffs for the first time in 15 years last season, but should at least have a chance at getting back to the dance this year.

The Florida Marlins stunned everyone last year by nearly making the playoffs after being pegged to lose over 100 games. They have not made any upgrades, and for some bizarre reason saw fit to fire their manager. They have a solid young duo of Dontrelle Willis and Annibal Sanchez on the mound, but it's doubtful they will over-achieve twice in a row.

The Washington Nationals looked bound for the basement with a no-name pitching rotation for the moment and nobody resembling an all-star out in the field. To top it off, injuries have already hit them fairly hard. The former Expos are definately contenders for the worst team in baseball right now.

AL Central

The Cardinals are coming off an unlikely World Series championship, and few are picking them for a repeat. They will still be favored in the Central with no other teams clearly ahead of them. Chris Carpenter leads the pitching staff, but it gets thin in a hurry after him. Jim Edmonds, Scott Rolen, and Albert Pujols will need big years to keep the Cards in the post-season.

If anybody can unseat the Cardinals, it's likely the Milwaukee Brewers. They boast a solid pitching rotation with Ben Sheets, Chris Capuano, and World Series MVP Jeff Suppan that should be able to win low scoring games. That will have to be the case since the Brew Crew is a little lacking in the hitting department.

The Astros look destined to slip back into mediocrity after losing Andy Pettitte to the Yankees and Roger Clemens to retirement (unless he comes back again in mid season). Still, their staff is good enough to win some ball games, especially with power hitters Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee in the line-up.

The beloved losers of Chicago, the Cubs, come into the season hoping to avoid the distinction of being the first major North American professional sports team to go 100 years without a championship, a record that the Toronto Maple Leafs are still 60 years away from breaking. Derrick Lee and Alfonso Soriano will give them the ability to score runs, but the pitching staff is once again shorthanded due to annual injuries to Kerry Wood and Mark Prior. History is in the making here.

The Cincinnati Reds surprised last year by nearly making the playoffs. In the wide-open central it may be possible to do so again, but they will need all hands on deck. Adam Dunn can belt the ball, and a healthy Ken Griffey Jr. would be a nice surprise. Pitchers Bronson Arroyo and Aaron Harang need to repeat strong seasons of last year.

The Pirates are hoping to avoid extending a horredndous 14-year streak of losing seasons. They will be hard-pressed to do so, but the outlook is a little better than in previous years. Jason Bay and Freddy Sanchez will need to repeat strong 2006 campaigns.

NL West

The Dodgers will be favoured ot prevail out west. Their pitching rotation as well as the batting order are both deep, even though they lack star power. Scoring by commitee and consistency from their hurlers could make them into NL pennant contenders.

The Padres have made the playoffs the past two seasons, but they have also been in baseball's weakest division. San Diego will rely heavily on their solid pitching staff, because their batting order isn't inspiring fear into enemy pitchers.

Randy Johnson returns to the desert of Arizona after a largely unsuccesful stint with the Yankees. He will compliment Brandon Webb and Livan Hernandez to form a pitching staff that will give the D-Backs a chance.

The Colorado Rockies might finally have a pitching rotation good enough to bring them back to respecability. Aaron Cook and Jeff Francis will give them a chance to win every time out, so as long as they continue to find offensive at the launch pad that is Coors Field, they could surprise a few people.

In following with the division trend, the San Fransico Giants also boast a deep pitching staff, headlined by free agent Barry Zito. Scoring runs might get a little problematic if oposing pitchers continue to work their way around Barry Bonds, however. Here's hoping that for baseball's sake the Giants flounder and Bonds suffers a career-ending injury.

NL Prediction:

New York, Milwaukee, Los Angeles, St. Louis with the wild card.

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