10 Ways a Tough NL East Could Help the Phillies in 2012

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10 Ways a Tough NL East Could Help the Phillies in 2012
Greg Fiume/Getty Images

In 2011, the Phillies finished 30 games ahead of the Marlins.  

Now, in a new stadium in Miami, the Marlins enter 2012 with a new manager (Ozzie Guillen); some new all-stars (Jose Reyes and Heath Bell); another solid veteran starter (Mark Buehrle); and the personality to be one of the most entertaining teams—on and off the field—in all of baseball.

In 2011, the Phillies finished 21.5 games ahead of the Nationals.  

No longer expected to be a doormat in the NL East, the Nationals shored up their bullpen by signing former Phillies Brad Lidge and Chad Durbin in the offseason. They also brought in starters Gio Gonzalez and Edwin Jackson.  

With a full season from Stephen Strasburg, a healthy Ryan Zimmerman, a possible cameo from uber-prospect Bryce Harper, and Jayson Werth looking to rebound from a disappointing 2011, the Nationals have their eyes on a surprise playoff appearance in 2012.

In 2011, the Phillies finished 13 games ahead of the Braves.  

Though Atlanta collapsed at the end of last season, they return a very good team with young players, such as Jason Heyward, Jair Jurrjens and Craig Kimbrel. They are looking to prove that the future of the previously 14-time defending NL East champions is in good hands.

In 2011 the Phillies finished 25 games ahead of the Mets.  

That...well, that actually could happen again in 2012.

The point is, the NL East should be very competitive this year.  And while that is definitely going to make things tougher for the Phillies in their quest for a third World Series title, there are some silver linings to playing in a more difficult division.

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