2012 Predictions: National League East
Winners of the last two World Series have come from the National League, defeating the same American League opponents in the Texas Rangers. Last year’s champions, the St Louis Cardinals, are the most successful National League team in World Series history. In fact, three of the top four most successful franchises hail from the National League, topped only by the New York Yankees. Great names like Sparky Anderson, Jim Leyland and Tony La Russa all managed to success with National League teams. Who will take their team to the Fall Classic this year?
National League East
Nothing exceeds like excess – Elvira Hancock on the new look Miami Marlins
Ozzie Guillen and the Marlins have an excess of infielders which forced the shift of Hanley Ramirez, their disappointing in 2011 but still talismanic shortstop, to third base. Hanley rated as the 10th best SS in the NL in 2011 using UZR, just one place below… Jose Reyes. Of course most of their talent is in their hitting and running ability, although how long Hanley remains at third depends on how long Reyes can stay healthy. The newly christened Giancarlo “Light-Tower Power” Stanton has enough gigawatts in his swing to send baseballs back in time and it appears he will need all of that power in the new Marlins ballpark. He showed his adaptability over the course of last season and could bat .275 this year with 45 home runs. The big questions are; will Lomo have more hits in the field than on his twitter account? And will the PETA brick have an effect on fishing in Florida?
Davey Johnson has enough quality in his pitching staff to enjoy a good season. Mike Rizzo has done a good job bringing the likes of Brad Lidge and Edwin Jackson in during the off season, look for them to have a meaningful contribution this year. The newest inductee to the $100 million club, Ryan Zimmerman, will crush 30 homers again this year (unless every game is played at a windy Wrigley Field) and the Nats will have an over .500 season for the first time in their history. Bryce Harper is already starting to make his case for an early call up.
Charlie Manuel and his Philadelphia Phillies will make it six straight division titles but it will be closer than last year. They are finding it tough to stay healthy and there are rumours Freddy Galvis has been asked to donate his knees to Chase Utley. Sometimes, you have to take one for the team. As we know this team is all about pitching and with Halladay, Lee and Hamels now backed up by World Series closing closer Jonathan “I love you
Boston Philadelphia” Papelbon they look as formidable as ever. They may have overpaid for Papelbon but Rubin Amaro Jr is certainly glad he didn’t stick out negotiations with Ryan Madson, sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.
Fredi González remains at the helm of the Atlanta Braves after Mark Wren and John Schuerholz took a different view to Larry Lucchino and John Henry on historic September collapses. Jayson Heyward will hit fewer groundballs in 2012 and Robert Fish and Brandon Beachy will give me more than enough scope for seaside puns. Pier-ing into the future I’ll predict Dan Uggla hits 39 home runs but with an average closer to .300 than .230. The Braves are the biggest challengers to the Phillies, it’s a solid lineup if Heyward and Prado return to form. And if Craig Kimbrel’s arm doesn’t flail into the crowd in July, they will be right there in second at the end of the season, certainly in contention for a wildcard slot.
What can you say about Terry Collins and the Mets? Not much. They won’t win half their games but do welcome back Johan Santana into the five man rotation of himself and R.A. Dickey. I have no doubt R.A. Dickey could pitch on one days rest but it might be asking too much of Johan. Look out for Mike Pelfrey to have at least one game where I can make a joke about “Bats in the Pelfrey”. Ike Davis has Valley fever, like totally. Still, they have Mr Met, the first ‘live’ mascot in baseball and with the Madoff Scandal seemingly behind them, things should start to look up. There will be other positives this year, Lucas Duda will be a bright spot and David Wright will play in 160 games for the first time since 2008.
Next time: Predictions continue with a look at the NL Central.