MLB 2008: Sure-To-Be-Wrong NL Predictions
Come out of the West and take the NL regular season crown.
Furcal is still one of the top lead-off hitters in the league and can create runs. Martin is probably the best hitting catcher in the NL and knows how to handle a staff. The big question offensively is can Andruw Jones hit above .250 with more than 30 homeruns? If so, they have a legit middle of the line-up guy, if not then they are where they were last year hoping for stars who are well past their primes to shine.
Their pitching staff is as good as any in the NL with Penny and Lowe leading the way. Loaiza and Billingsley will give you a fighting chance at best. Saito has been great so far in his career and the bullpen is solid. The big question for the pitching staff is, is Hiroki Kuroda a resemblance of Dice-K/ Hideo Nomo or Kei Igawa/ Hideki Irabu? If he is the latter, then Torre may never have a Japanese starting pitcher on his team again.
Another year under their belts may give them just enough experience to take the division from the self-emploding Cubs.
Their line-up is one of the best in baseball, headlined by Prince Fielder (playing for a contract by the way). Prince, Hardy, Hart and Braun supply the power, to go with tons of speed with Gwynn Jr. and Weeks, not to mention they also have Bill Hall and Jason Kendall who are solid every year. The big question offensively is who wins in the father/son game (Prince's Father Cecil played 13 seasons in the bigs and made 3 all-star teams, and of course Tony Gwynn Jr.'s father needs no introduction)?
The pitching staff is shaky up and down. The starting five are solid, but have many questions surrounding them (Sheets health, Suppan's age, can the other three be effective this year). The bullpen is spotty at best. Eric Gagne as the closer? Just look up game two of the '07 ALCS; enough said. Turnbow lost the closer job two years ago and hasn't been the same since and the rest are journeymen (or soon to be). The big quetion for the staff is whether or not Salomon Torres becomes the closer by July? If he is, then this prediction is shot, if he is not Gagne is getting the job done and so are the Brew Crew.
I originally had the Phillies winning the East again, but then my friend Slowsky reminded me of the fact that a team from Philadelphia would have to win the division two straight years, and lets be real, that is never going to happen. The Mets already have too many injuries to go here, so that rules them out. The Braves line-up is strong throughout, and you have to love the fact that the three and four spot are both switch hitters.
The lineup has a good mix of righties and lefties, power and speed, and youth and experience. The big question remains, is Mark Kotsay fully recovered? If so, he gives them a great defensive outfielder that can track down almost anything hit out there. If not, he will look a lot like Andruw Jones last season.
The rotation is old, and will hopefully hold to be effective. In 2000 people would be slobbering over this rotation (Hudson 20-6 4.14, Glavine 21-9 3.40, Hampton 15-10 3.14, Smoltz did not pitch he was recovering from Tommy John Surgery). The bullpen is horrible from top to bottom. Soriano is great for the 7th, solid in the 8th, but in the 9th? He is 13 for 22 in his career saving games, that is just bad. The big question for the pitching staff is whether or not they could stay healthy? And yes I mean all of them.
The 'Stro's take the wildcard and my sleeper pick award for the NL (I picked Arizona last year and no one else did, so maybe I know what I am talking about).
The lineup is good with Lee, Tejada, and Berkman in the middle and with Wiggintion, Pence and Lorretta helping out. The big question for the line up is, does the Tejada from the Home Run Derby a couple years ago return? If he does, it could be scary, if not the 'Stro's are going to want Luke Scott and Co. back.
The pitching staff is bad after Valverde. The big question is whether or not Oswalt's fastball returns? If so it will take pressure off of everyone else, if not Oswalt is going to lose the number one spot in the rotation to Shawn Chacon.
Rookie of the Year
Lastings Milledge, new scenery and new team, got him fired up for the season. Hopefully.
Roy Oswalt, pending on his fastball, if he doesn't have it I think it is Zambrano's to lose.
Prince Fielder, everyone plays better for the money.
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