Every year, I take the time to write a carefully thought-out and logical preview for each league. And every year, I'm generally wrong in just about every respect. I suppose, of course, that that is the beauty of writing a column. In the past, I was doing a Fantasy Baseball league and usually had the time to study up and figure out who was projected to do well, or even in some cases who was on each team. Well, I didn't do that this year. Despite the fact that I wholeheartedly admit to being much more NL-centric and glossed over my AL Preview last year, I'm afraid I'm going to have to do the same for both leagues this season. I just don't feel like I know very much about each team, short of the bits and pieces I've heard on TV and Radio, or wherever. But I think I know just enough to make some well-intentioned guesses about where everyone will finish. So, while this won't have quite the depth of past Season Previews, it should at least be good for a nice guffaw.
As always, records won't add up, you can consider the W-L totals as more or less +/- 5.
1) Philadelphia Phillies (92-70)
Though they lack the pitching depth that their closest competitor, the Mets, have, they've been down this road before and have more or less the same lineup that proves to be so difficult to get out down the stretch. Even if you're replacing Pat Burrell with Raul Ibanez.
2) New York Mets (90-72)
They need to figure out how to get out of their own way before they can realistically be considered the "Team to Beat." Clearly, the pieces are there, and a lot of people seem to believe in them. But I've written plenty about the makeup of this team already, and it seems to me like they're leaving an awful lot to chance on some pretty big question marks. They'll be good. I don't think they'll be quite good enough to pass Philly.
3) Atlanta Braves (83-79)
Rebuilt their pitching staff and brought in some names that kind of look nice on paper, but I think Vazquez and Lowe would have looked a lot better in their rotation were it 2004 and not 2009. Young guys like Jurrjens should be better with a year under their belts. I don't think, however, they'll be able to generate enough offense. Much of their lineup is contingent on Larry, and it's pretty clear that he can't stay healthy over a full season anymore.
4) Florida Marlins (77-85)
They're going to be the same damn annoying team that you can't seem to shake and you can't ever put away. Yes, they dealt away a lot of their punch in Willingham and Jacobs, but the pitching rotation is filled with young, talented guys who are about to find themselves (Johnson, Nolasco, Miller), their lineup is led by perhaps the game's most dynamic player, Hanley Ramirez, and Cameron Maybin appears ready to ascend and I think he's going to be a major star. But, I think they have too many holes in the bottom of their lineup and especially in their bullpen to realistically be considered a contender.
5) Washington Nationals (74-88)
I think they'll be a little better than they were last year, but then again, they amount to little more than a bunch of semi-talented headcases (Dukes, Milledge, Young, Olsen) who are more likely to eat each other alive than eat other teams.
1) Chicago Cubs (94-68)
It's more or less the same team with a few different pieces here and there that will probably mash their way to the NL Central without much drama and then lose in the first round once again.
2) St. Louis Cardinals (88-74)
I really have no idea how they'll do it, it's going to be another one of those stupid Tony LaRussa teams that wins games with tape and bubble gum and you have no idea how or why, but they'll be there at the end.
3) Milwaukee Brewers (85-77)
They still have a boatload of talent on offense, but considering that the major pieces of their drive to the Wildcard last season, Sabathia and Sheets, are both gone, leaving them with a pitching rotation that's headed by Jeff Suppan, well, you can draw your own conclusions there.
4) Cincinnati Reds (79-83)
A lot of people are, I believe, just a little too optimistic about the Reds this season. I know they haven't contended in forever and it's always easy to get crazy when a bad team suddenly looks a little better. They have the talent, certainly, and they'll look markedly better than they've looked in years. But let's be serious. The rotation is filled with middling guys with ERAs around 4.60. They're not there yet.
5) Houston Astros (77-85)
By July, mark my words, the Astros will be that team you end up forgetting about completely until the Mets mysteriously show up in Houston for a weekend series on July 24th.
6) Pittsburgh Pirates (70-92)
No hope in sight.
1) Arizona Diamondbacks (86-76)
I was wrong on this last year, but that doesn't deter me from trying it again. Through intermittent points last season, I felt that the Diamondbacks were the only good team in the NL West. They kind of fell apart late in the season, or was it that LA got hot, but I think they have the pitching and the offense to win this division.
2) San Francisco Giants (84-78)
This team has by far and away the best pitching rotation in the Major Leagues, and if they are somehow able to generate any offense from what appears to be a mostly punchless lineup, they will surprise a hell of a lot of people.
3) Los Angeles Dodgers (83-79)
I don't buy it. Their starting rotation is so spotty that Hiroki Kuroda, who completely lost his composure in a game at Shea last June, is their #1 pitcher. They're going to hit in bucketloads, but the dreck they're going to trot to the mound will amount to a number of frustrating 8-5, 9-7 losses where the pitching just can't stop the other team.
4) Colorado Rockies (74-88)
A far cry from the Miracle Rockies that went to the World Series a couple of years ago. Already, people seem to have forgotten that ever happened.
5) San Diego Padres (67-95)
San Diego fans will be praying for the health and speed of LaDainian Tomlinson by June 1st.
NL MVP: Chase Utley, PHI
NL Cy Young: Johan Santana, NYM
NL Rookie of the Year: Cameron Maybin, FLA
NLDS: New York over Chicago, Philadelphia over Arizona
NLCS: Heart Attack.
Hope this makes some degree of sense. AL Preview tomorrow.