Elmhurst Pub Roundtable

Where the beer is cold and the conversation loud...

Friday, March 31, 2006

NL Preview

With the AL Preview complete, here's my look at the NL:

NL East

Seems to mirror the AL East, two really good teams, one average team, and a couple bottom feeders. The Braves, regardless of what anyone says, will find a way to compete. They still have the pitching with Smoltz and Hudson at the front of the rotation. The bullpen is shaky at the end and will rely on a lot of rookies to get the job done. The closer job right now is in the hands of Chris Reitsma. Not the guy you really want to bet the house on, but adequate anyway. Offensively, Jones, Jones, Francouer and company will be fine. Giles at second has been solid for several years now. The team added Renteria, who despite 30 errors last season still hit .270 with 8 homeruns and 70 rbi. The Mets spent money like it was going out of style...again. They have a giant offensive hole at second with Kaz Matsui, but the rest of the infield are all-star caliber (Reyes, Delgado, Wright). Adding LoDuca behind the plate can't be worse than Piazza and they added one of the premier closers. The Phillies are screwed. Abreu, Utley, and Howard are nice, but their ace is Jon Lieber and Gordon is the closer. I like Florida. Young, but have talent. Losing Burnett and Beckett will KILL them this season, but they'll be in fine position over the next couple. The problem for them is outside of Willis, they have no starting pitching. Outside of Cabrera, they have no offense. Washington is an interesting case. Last year, they spent most of the season in the Wild Card hunt. I don't think they necessarily improved, the players they traded for Soriano were better than what they got with him. And Bowden is the GM. All this guy does is make trades. I like the pitching and the closer, which in the end wins the games. Prediction: Braves, Mets, Nationals, Phillies, Marlins.

NL Central

Weird division. If Prior and Wood are healthy, the Cubs should run away with this division. Zambrano and Maddux are great, and when you can call Maddux your number 4 guy in the playoffs that says a lot. Add to that, they have multiple 5 spot candidates with Williams and Rusch. Great rotation top to bottom. The bullpen is good. Dempster still makes you nervous as a closer, but they have some good set up guys. The offense will be fine with Lee and Ramirez at the corners, the addition of Jacque Jones, and the emergence of Matt Murton this season. But if Wood and Prior get injured....Then you look at St. Louis who seemed to do nothing to improve. Trusting Bennett and Molina behind the plate could be fatal. They added Aruban Knight Sidney Ponson as the huge acquisition. Their rotation is still top heavy with Carpenter and Mulder then a bunch of beatable pitchers. Izzy is fantastic at the end of the pen and they have good middle relief. Rolen needs to stay healthy for them this season though. Edmonds is getting older. Still tough outs. Houston will need Clemens in order to contend. Still love the offense with Berkman and Ensberg as the anchors, but Pettitte hasn't been the same since he left NY. Cincinnati and Pittsburgh suck - Moving on. Then their is the most interesting team in the division, the Brewers. Pitching they have - Sheets, Capuano, Davis all could win 18 games. Bullpen they have, with a 40 save guy in Turnbow and a setup guy with Kolb. Offense, they're young. Fielder and Weeks will be in their first true full seasons, but have incredible potential. Lee and Clark in the outfield give some solid power and they have a Chone Figgins guy with Bill Hall...or a third basemen for when Koskie gets hurt. Prediction: St. Louis, Milwaukee, Houston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh.

NL West

Weak division, probably the worst in baseball again. Colorado will not contend, so let's skip them. The Dodgers have a great bullpen that could shorten games to 6 innings. Carter, Baez, Brazelbon, and Gagne (if healthy) are lights out at the end of the pen. The rotation is ok - Lowe could be good, Seo is alright, Penny is oft injured, and Perez has had Cy Young type years. Offense is ok - Furcal, Mueller, and Garciaparra are great additions. The outfield has some power too. They have the tools to win it, but they have Grady Little on the bench. San Diego I don't think has the pitching outside of Peavy. Park, Estes, Williams, and Young don't exactly strike fear into the hearts of men. Barfield could be rookie of the year at second base, and they have good power with Gonzalez, Greene, and Blum. Good at the top of the order too, with Roberts leading off. The Giants are old. They play 30 day games after night games and that could take a toll on them. Especially if the strongest stuff they can use is advil. Good starting pitching though with Schmidt, Lowry, and Cain. Bullpen is alright, without Benitez (if injured), they will struggle closing out games. But check this out - 41, 41, 39, 38, 36, 34, and 35. The ages of Bonds, Finley, Alou, Vizquel, Vizcaino, Sweeney, Durham, and Matheny. Winn is still young, but their backups aren't exactly 24-28 year old guys either. The Diamondbacks have talent, I like the pitching staff and this kid Conor Jackson who WILL be the starting first basemen by the All-Star break. Losing Glaus hurt, but he'll soften the blow. Prediction: Padres, Dodgers, Giants, Diamondbacks, Rockies

NL East: Braves
NL Central: Cardinals
NL West: Padres
Wildcard: Brewers
NL Champion: Cardinals

MVP: Pujols
Cy Young: Ben Sheets
Rookie of the Year: Josh Barfield
Manager of the Year: Ned Yost

World Series: Oakland over St. Louis


Blogger John Kruk said...

The current over / under on Uncle Charlie Manuel being fired is Memorial Day. It is the opening week of baseball season and the NFL Schedule coming out makes the front page of the paper, while baseball does not. Such is life when you make the playoffs once in the last 23 years. Calgary Flames - 2006 Stanley Cup Champions.

10:08 AM  

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