It's time once again for me to capsule out how I think the National League is going to shape up for the 2010 season. If you didn't feel bad enough as Mets fans already, I don't think the upcoming season is going to bring much respite. Last year, I had a much more optimistic finish for the Mets in my head, or at least a much more exciting finish than the one we ended up with. Every year I've done this, I've picked the Mets to go to the postseason, and it really wasn't much of a stretch to think that the truth. But this year, it's a stretch. So much so that I'll save you the trouble right now and say that I'm not picking the Mets to make the postseason.
Here's what I am picking (As always, records are an approximation, give a +/-5 on the Ws and Ls):
1) Philadelphia Phillies (98-64)
There's nobody close to them in this division. Their closer situation is still somewhat of a liability, with Madson now taking the reins from Lidge, but whatever shortcomings they may have in their pitching staff (and replacing Cliff Lee with Roy Halladay isn't the dramatic upgrade everyone makes it out to be), they have the ability to outhit their mistakes. And, they're a battle-tested team that doesn't quit. Yes, I just threw up in my mouth a little bit.
2) Atlanta Braves (88-74)
It's fortunate that their young pitchers Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens really took major steps forward last season, because it's clear that Derek Lowe can't really cut it at the top of the rotation. On the other side, Jason Heyward is the talk of the league right now, the starting RF and probably leadoff hitter in this Atlanta lineup that features more tough outs than you might want to give them credit for.
3) New York Mets (83-79)
They'll be better than last year, they have to be, but they, unlike the Phillies, may continue to struggle to overcome their shortcomings in the pitching staff. There are far too many questions in the starting rotation for anyone to feel especially confident in their ability to contend all the way through the season. But I pick them 3rd because players like David Wright, Jeff Francoeur and Jason Bay are the kind of players that can on occasion will them to victory. Also, because I just feel that they are better put together than the Goddamn Florida Marlins.
4) Florida Marlins (82-80)
One game worse than the Mets. I'm sick of this group already. I don't like them, their Shortstop, their 2Bman or the fact that they take a little too much pleasure in beating the Mets. Sure. Continue to celebrate beating up on a .500 team and keep pretending it's 2007.
5) Washington Nationals (77-84)
They'll hit, that's for sure. Can they pitch is another matter altogether.
1) Milwaukee Brewers (89-73)
I really have no idea who comes out on top in the Central, so I go with the Brewers, who seem to me as good a choice as anyone. They have a ton of thunder in their lineup, and that's just looking at Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun alone, and some good young pitchers that appear ready to break out. So, why not the Brewers?
2) St. Louis Cardinals (87-75)
The Cardinals, I suppose, are everyone else's chic pick to win the Central, primarily because they have Big Al and retained Matt Holliday, and Carpenter returned to form and Wainwright emerged as a star. And for all I know, they may very well win the division again, but if you ask me, I think this whole group is getting to be a little stale.
3) Cincinnati Reds (83-79)
They may finally turn that corner that everyone seemed to think they would turn last season. They had a rash of injury problems and a lot of inconsistency out of guys like Jay Bruce who they felt would carry the load for them a bit. And I still don't trust their bullpen. But I think that they have the pieces there to make themselves respectable once again.
4) Chicago Cubs (80-82)
That's respectable, something I don't necessarily think the Cubs will be. Considering their ace, Carlos Zambrano, went from being considered one of the game's best to now someone barely hanging on, constantly thrown in trade talks, I think there's more than just a few problems going on in Cubsland. And guys like Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez seem to be major injury liabilities.
5) Pittsburgh Pirates (73-89)
It's one thing to have a small market team, constrained by budget concerns. It's another thing when that team is constantly run ass-backwards. The Minnesota Twins basically blow the Pirates shit out of the water every year because they're well-run and contend. The Pirates are just run like idiots. They make the Mets look good by comparison. So, here they are again. Some young guys who might perform (McCutchen), some retreads nobody wants (Church). They won't be good, again, but they won't finish last.
6) Houston Astros (68-94)
Ladies and Gentlemen, the winner of the Most Boring Team in the National League!
1) Los Angeles Dodgers (95-77)
Hard to pick against them with their lineup and pitching staff. And with guys like Loney, Kemp and Ethier still young, I don't think they're going to fade quite so soon. In fact, I think this may be the year they finally break through.
2) San Francisco Giants (89-73) (Wildcard)
Best pitching staff in the league, led by Tim Lincecum, followed up by Cain and Sanchez. Somehow, this group of pitchers led a mostly punchless offense to 88 wins and contended right down to the end. This year, with guys like Pablo Sandoval (you can't not have Sandoval, "Kung-Fu Panda" on the All-Ballclub Team) maturing, I think they'll be able to push themselves past the Rockies and into the Wildcard spot in the NL.
3) Colorado Rockies (88-74)
Sneaky Dangerous would be the best way to describe the Rockies. They don't jump out at you on paper, but they hang around the fringes, just enough so you forget they're there. Then, come September, they all seem to catch fire at once. 2 times in the last 3 seasons they seem to have done this. They're a bit of a chic pick to win the West, though I don't think they have the ability to outhit the Dodgers nor the ability to outpitch the Giants.
4) Arizona Diamondbacks (81-81)
They'll try hard to not be counted out, but they don't have the ability to contend with the thunder in this division.
5) San Diego Padres (69-93)
Only slightly more interesting than the Houston Astros.
NL MVP: Ryan Braun, MIL
NY CY YOUNG: Johan Santana, NYM (I'm going to keep picking him until he wins one)
NL ROY: Madison Bumgarner, SF
NLDS: Philadelphia over San Francisco, Los Angeles over Milwaukee
NLCS: Los Angeles over Philadelphia