Today, we break down the National League, or the “Quad A League,” if you are so inclined. For the last 15 years or so, the National League has proven itself inferior to its little brother. While the NL has faired decently in the World Series (6-9), they are 0-15 in All-Star games and 546-713 in Interleague Play. So, what are we to make of this? Other than the fact that the playoffs are a crapshoot, the National League has a ways to go. It would probably help if the Mets could find a way to efficiently spend money or if the Pirates were able to get over whatever has plagued them since 1992
, but, oh well. At this point, NL fans can only hope for Albert Pujols and Justin Upton to stay healthy as well as the quick ascension of Stephen Strasburg and Jason Heyward.
Unfortunately, we don’t have that long to wait. Onto the picks. Today, it’s all East to Least (*denotes Wild Card):
Heyward's early comparable: "Albert Pujols with an outfielder's glove." No pressure.
Total no-brainer. As good as everyone says the Braves look, they won’t be able to handle the Phillies. The Washington Post recently discussed how the Phillies have epitomized the concept of a “Modern Dynasty.” Tough to disagree with the author’s reasoning, but it was only up until a few years ago that the Braves and Yankees were winning division titles on a yearly basis. So, no, let’s not call them a “dynasty” just yet, but a third straight World Series appearance would help. With eight All-Stars in the lineup on Opening Day, that shouldn’t be too far-fetched. The Braves are more than a sentimental pick: their reliance on multiple veterans returning from injury notwithstanding, they have two of the game’s most important young players in Heyward and Tommy Hanson. If Atlanta’s vets fail to resemble their former selves, then the Marlins have a shot to swoop in. The Mets are in a slow, snake-bitten decline. If they can ever get healthy and some decent starting pitching, they might get back to .500. Here are the three times this season the Nationals will get any attention: 1) When Barry shows up; 2) When Strasburg pitches; and, 3) When they draft Bryce Harper (which probably won’t happen).
National League Central
- St. Louis Cardinals
- Chicago Cubs
- Cincinnati Reds
- Milwaukee Brewers
- Houston Astros
- Pittsburgh Pirates
Sure the Cardinals made waves with the pickup of Matt Holliday, but they also pulled off one of the most underrated moves of the off-season by snagging Felipe Lopez. The Cards come dangerously close to matching the Phillies in offensive firepower and top-flight arms. With a full season of Holliday and the maturation of Colby Rasmus, this team should be clinching in August. And we haven’t even mentioned the irreplaceable Albert Pujols. Speaking of windows, one is about to close in Chicago — Aramis Ramirez, Derrek Lee, and Alfonso Soriano have all seen better days. There’s not enough there to overtake the Cardinals. Charging into third, despite their manager’s best intentions, is Cincinnati. With a slew of promising young arms, Dusty will have his hands full. What? Corey Patterson’s available
? Well, pick him up
! Quick question: What do Milwaukee’s starting pitching and “Paranormal Activity” have in common? They both scare the bejesus out of me. Houston has a long way to go: weak farm system and tons of enormous salary commitments to players past their prime. It’d be great for Yinzers if the Pirates at least could get off to a good start before they settle into last place; if the Penguins fail to repeat and Big Ben goes to jail, the city might implode.
The Man himself. With a full year of Matt Holliday, Big Al has a shot at 50 HR.
National League West
- Colorado Rockies
- Los Angeles Dodgers
- San Francisco Giants
- Arizona Diamondbacks
- San Diego Padres
Here’s a division that promises to be exciting for most of the season. A few years ago, Arizona seemed primed with all of its young talent to take over the division for the next decade. Then, Colorado made the World Series. A Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain later, the Giants have one of the best 1-2 punches in baseball, as well as a promising young catcher who may already be the 2nd best hitter on the team. And in between all of this, the Godfather
comes to LA and manages the Dodgers back to the playoffs with a combination of insane veterans
and untested youngsters
. And while everyone thought San Diego was left for dead, they fought their way out of the cellar last season with Adrian Gonzalez and a bunch of guys who were basically non-tendered in 2009. So, what do we know? The Rockies are probably the most well-rounded team. The Dodgers have a better lineup but more questions about their starting pitching. The Giants have the best pitching, but can’t score runs. The Diamondbacks are a mess of inconsistent talent and consistent injury problems. San Diego has too many Hairstons and an Eckstein
on their team. No thanks.
Anyway, here’s how the playoffs shake out:
LDS: Yankees over Angels, Red Sox over Twins
ALCS: Red Sox over Yankees
NL: Phillies over Rockies, Cardinals over Braves
NLCS: Phillies over Cardinals
World Series: Red Sox over Phillies
Dramatic? Not really. Desired outcome? No way — who wouldn’t want to see Bobby Cox go out on top or Mark McGwire stick it to the media? But, the Phillies are an NL team with AL talent and the Red Sox have enough offense to make the playoffs. There, defense and pitching are of the utmost importance and the Red Sox have more of that than just about anyone. And whatever shortcomings they may have offensively, they’ve got the best front office in baseball to figure it out.