Here's how I predict the NL east will go down in 2009...
1. Philadelphia Phillies (93-69)
It's hard to enough to go into the year and try to repeat as World Champs, but to do it in this division is even harder.
I still have them winning the division, but because of the division they play in it will be very hard, and it will be fought down to the end.
Not only do they have the face the offenses the likes of the Mets and Marlins, but they also have the Braves and Nats to worry about, as they've both improved and will be big spoilers.
After Hamels (who I'm definitely worried about injury wise) in the rotation, I'm not confident in anybody else in that rotation.
Blanton should be a solid innings-eater, but what can we expect from Moyer? It's not impossible, but I don't see him continuing to put up these insane numbers at his age.
Brett Myers is simply not good. The fifth starter situation is also looking a bit shaky.
Their bullpen was good last season, but can guys like Durbin repeat such fantastic years?
I can definitely see a regression from some of those pitchers, though I do believe in Brad Lidge.
I don't worry about the offense at all. I'm a bigger Howard fan than most, and I believe Rollins will bounce back.
I'm not a Werth fan, but he should still be a nice bat in that lineup, in addition to the always solid Victorino, Utley, and Ibanez.
My main issue with them is their pitching, and I don't know if it's enough. I could be wrong, but I still have them winning the division for the third straight year.
2. New York Mets (91-71, WC winner)
It's going to be a tight race all the way until the end in this division, but I believe the Mets will fall just short of the division and settle for the Wild Card.
The bullpen was obviously a big issue for the Mets last season, and they definitely addressed it by picking up K-rod and Putz, which is probably the best one-two punch in all of baseball.
Their 'pen also took a hit by losing Schoeneweis, but they should definitely be able to make up for it.
Their offense, once again, will be solid. I don't put too much stock into Delgado's slow start last season. At the end of the year, he's going to be good for 30/100, so it's nothing to worry about.
They do have questions at catcher and second, but I doubt that'll be a big hindrance.
Their rotation will be good, with Santana, Maine (a breakout candidate), Perez (underrated), Pelfrey (great year last season, is solid), and one weak spot with Livan Hernandez at the fifth spot.
But, the No. 5 starter is relatively unimportant, and I expect Tim Redding to eventually take over and be solid anyway.
I also don't put any stock into the Mets choking down the stretch the past couple years.
They don't have the bullpen to blow it for them anymore, and I believe they're out to prove all the naysayers wrong. And they will.
I don't have them winning the division, but I have them going into the playoffs as the WC winner.
3. Florida Marlins (89-73)
The Marlins are going to surprise alot of people. This may be seen as a bit of a reach by some, but in that division, the Marlins have the best combination of starting pitching, relief pitching, and offense.
They are the only team that is potentially five-deep in the rotation (Nolasco, Johnson, Volstad, Sanchez, Miller). All of those guys are bound to improve in 2009, as long as they stay healthy.
They've got a great 'pen, with three great arms at the back in Pinto, Nunez, (this trade was a great one for them) and the 100 mph fireballer Matt Lindstrom closing things down.
They've got a very potent offense, with a good mix of power hitters (Uggla, Cantu, Ross, Ramirez), contact hitters (Sanchez, Baker, Ramirez), and speed (Maybin, Ramirez, as well as Bonifacio and Amezaga off the bench).
The aforementioned Maybin has loads of potential, and I still believe in Jeremy Hermida and definitely think he can turn things around this season.
The only real problem for them will be staying healthy. As long as those young starters can do that, they will be very successful, and in my opinion, will compete for a playoff spot until the end.
4. Atlanta Braves (81-81)
Let's face it, the Braves have really screwed up the past couple years.
Both trades of Teixeira (trading for him and tradng him away) have been awful.
Their outfield is a mess. Their bullpen is a mess. Their rotation is suspect.
Even so, I do have them at .500 and playing spoiler down the stretch, but I can't see anything more than that this season.
They have a couple of young players I like, however. Yunel Escobar and Casey Kotchman are both breakout candidates for me, and center field prospect Jordan Schafer should be up sometime this season and I like his potential.
The Braves have a fantastic farm system and will return to the top of the division, but it won't be this year.
5. Washington Nationals (73-89)
Is there any need for explanation?
The Nats will, once again, bring up the rear in this division per usual.
I like a couple of pitchers in their rotation in Zimmermann and Lannan, but the rest of it is awful.
Don't see Balester being productive this season, and the Daniel Cabrera project won't work out.
Scott Olsen will probably once again be below average.
Their bullpen is awful.
Hanrahan might surprise some people at the back end, and Beimel is a solid addition, but other than that, it's a lost cause.
I do, however, like their offense.
Dunn is a big pickup, I think Zimmerman will put it all together, and assuming they get the at-bats, so will Milledge and Dukes. Willingham is very underrated, and also one of my favorite players in MLB.
I actually like their offensive potential. It has a chance to be pretty potent. It will consistently be held back by their poor pitching though, and when you combine that with the fact that they play in the NL East, they've got no chance.