MLB Mid-Season Discussion: National League

Hope I’m not stepping on any toes, RickJay, but breaking it up by division was gonna take forever, and the A.L. Central thread disappeared.

Divisional Leaders as of Wednesday, June 15:

East: Washington Nationals, 39-27, 3 game lead
Central: St. Louis Cardinals, 41-24, 6.5 game lead
West: San Diego Padres, 36-29, 2 game lead

The NL is kinda surprising so far. The Nationals are playing better baseball than the Expos did even before 1994, the Padres are looking like they’ve got Petco Park figured out and may be better than the NL pennant team from 1998, and the Cardinals… well, the Redbirds are the Redbirds.

The East is a lot tighter than it looks, with the Mets being in last place at only one game below .500, and every team looks like it’s about one piece away from being a contender. The Braves need a closer and for Chipper Jones to get healthy, the Nationals need a starter, the Phillies need a setup man for Billy Wagner, the Marlins just need to start winning again and the Mets are not nearly as broken down as usual.

The West is a weird division. You have to think that with Barry, the Giants would be leading. L.A. has been hurt by not having Gagne (who is back on the DL with the elbow), Colorado is a trainwreck, and Arizona’s rebuilding appears to be paying off. The Padres and D’Backs will be the frontrunners all season, but the Dodgers will mount a late run.

The Central is basically decided. The Cubs are good, don’t get me wrong, but I see no signs that they can keep Wood and Prior healthy through the long Chicago summer, not to mention that the Cub bullpen looks like the Indians circa Major League. The Brewers have been mediocre, Pittsburgh may finally be turning a corner (too bad McClendon won’t stick around to see it) and the Reds are a disaster of Biblical proportions. The Cards are a juggernaut, although the out-of-division record and Jeff Suppan’s W-L scare me.

My predictions:

  • Cards win the Central going 100-62. Walt Jocketty brings in yet another superstar at the deadline for a steal (see Rolen, Scott; McGwire, Mark; Walker, Larry; Clark, Will) who makes the team even better.

  • Padres, Dodgers and D’Backs go down to the last week before San Diego closes the deal by taking 2 of 3 from the Dodgers to end the season.

  • Nationals win the East by virtue of getting the Phils while Atlanta and Florida slug it out against each other in the last weekend, ending Atlanta’s run of 48,000 straight NL East titles.

*The wild card goes to those Braves, who run into the Cardinals in the NLDS AGAIN.

Wow, no one cares about the National League?

We have two: Ryan Madison who has been doing a fine job and Ugeth [sic] Urbina who sucked in his first outing, but has been fine since.

What’s happening in Washington? How are the Nats so good so fast? Will it last?

No. The Nationals have allowed more runs than they’ve scored. They have a good bullpen, but it’s not that good. Nationals will return to the middle of the pack sooner or later. And my faith in Nick Johnson staying healthy is not high.

I forgot they traded Polanco for Urbina. I was thinking more about Worrell being out.

Honestly, I think the Nats were always this good. They just didn’t have the motivation to play this hard for 3,000 people in Montreal, and San Juan wasn’t much better. If they can get Jose Vidro back, find another starter somewhere and keep hitting, they’re a definite contender.

Keep hitting? Only Seattle and Houston have worse offenses than Washington. They need to start hitting.

Vinny Castilla is quickly coming down to expectations after a hot start (hitting .189/.232/.302 in June). Brian Schneider has been execrable all season hitting .241/.312/.386. Christian Guzman is playing below even the pitiful expectations people had for him. Vidro is great, but injured - as usual. Nick Johnson is great, but he will soon be injured - as usual. Brad Wilkerson is great. Jose Guillen has been solid. That’s about it.

I’ve been a Cardinal fan since Lou Brock played for them in the 70’s, so I’m a pretty happy camper. I don’t follow baseball as much as some people, so I have to trust Walt Jocketty. He seems to be doing quite well, but I am disturbed about one thing. If the Cardinals had had an ace pitcher last year, they might have beaten the Red Sox. I would really like to see them sign an elite top notch pitcher for the upcoming postseason so I don’t have to worry about them trying to win games 7-5 all the time.

Some of them have been hitting. Nick Johnson’s probably gonna get hurt eventually, but they can work around that like they’ve dealt with Vidro. Guzman’s been slumping since last year, which tells me he’s either hurt or older than the 1978 birthdate he’s carrying.

In other team news, Scott Rolen is rejoining the Cardinals this weekend in Tampa and should be activated for the Reds series next week. This is good, because it gives the middle of the lineup more pop and means that Abraham Nunez and Scott Seabol can stop playing over their heads defensively at third.

By “last year” did you mean 2002? :slight_smile:

Nitpick: It’s Ugueth. His middle name is Urtain.

Go Nats!

Ehh, I got a passable half-season from him on my fantasy team in '03.

I actually liked the detailed version split up by division, but it doesn’t look like we made it past the AL Central!

I love the National League. Throw out the 4 bad teams in the NL Central (Pirates, Reds, Stros, and Brewers) and I think this league is much more fun than the AL, even with two extra teams. Maybe RickJay can give us a run down of Runs Scored v Runs Allowed ala Bill James’ formula for projected win %. If not, I’ll do it when I get home from work.

I think LA will somehow escape out of the west, and Bobby Cox alone will have ATL winning the East. Hopefully the rest of the East beats each other up enough that the Cubs can sneak in with the wild-card and a healthy rotation.

The Nats definitely need more hitting. Spivey is a good start, assuming that he’ll be the starter at short once Vidro is back, and Church has shown signs of promise, but they still have a ton of holes (see what Neurotik said, mostly). Cordero/Ayala/Majewski should probably be fine at the back of the bullpen, the rotation will be fine if not overwhelming, but the general luck (see RS/RA) isn’t going to continue so they really need to get at least one more bat (not including a healthy Vidro). Oh, since this is the NL, it’s worth mentioning that the lack of bench depth also has the potential to kill them from a lack-of-a-decent-PH point of view.

It’s amazing what Pedro can do to your pitching staff when he’s determined, isn’t it? Benson has quietly been pitching very well since he came back… if anything, the surprise of the staff has been how bad Glavine has been. The bullpen has been decent enough, though it could definitely use another quality arm - maybe Graves will be that arm, who knows. The hitters have also been performing about how you’d think, with the notable exception that Cliff Floyd has actually been healthy. The big problem with this team is the abysmal lack of production from infielders not named David Wright. Reyes has the steals, but he’s also a leadoff hitter with a .282 OBP - that is NOT going to cut it. Matsui has been even worse, and Mientkiewicz pretty much just as bad. They need a 1B and someone else hitting leadoff, since they probably aren’t going to change up at 2B or SS this year.

The Phillies need to get some consistent, quality starting pitching from someone other than Brett Myers. He’s the only starter with an ERA under 4, and while that offense is good (and will be better now that Thome is rounding into shape), you can’t expect them to put up six runs every game to have a chance to win. The staff is giving up TONS of HRs, and while you want to blame the field right off, the park factor data shows it as a HR-friendly park but not to the degree you’d think (1.134 on the year, if you’re into that sort of thing). If they can work the starters out everything else there will fall into place.

The Braves… look like they should be in trouble from all of the stats, but will probably end up winning the division anyways somehow, per usual. With Chipper injured, their offense is in huge trouble, as no one else is really hitting all that well (though Andruw has heated up lately). Hampton has been amazing, Smoltz has been maddeningly inconsistent between ace and shelled, and Hudson’s ERA hides a WHIP up over 1.5. Rietsma is doing what he always does, but he’s probably better suited to be the setup guy, and the rest of that bullpen is an absolute mess. On paper, this team looks worse off than anyone in the division other than maybe the Mets… but there’s no way I’m counting them out of it.

The Marlins probably have to be counted as the favorites, just because they have the pitching, they have the hitting, they have hitters who may well get better as the year goes on (Pierre especially would be a huge boost out of the leadoff spot), and they have a bullpen that’s missing probably only one piece. Beckett and his blisters has to be a huge worry, though - they can deal with Leiter pitching the way he has when they have four other guys throwing amazing, but if Beckett becomes a long term issue there’s a huge dropoff. Delgado and Cabrera have very quietly been one of the best 1-2 punches in the NL, though, and on paper this is the team with the least holes in this division.

My prediction has to be the Marlins to take the division, I think. I don’t know if Washington will be able to make the 2-3 more moves they probably need to make, I don’t think the Mets will be able to make the RIGHT 2-3 more moves they need to make, I don’t think the Phillies will be able to go and get the type of starter they need, and in the end I think the Braves might finally just have too many holes to fill for once. Of course, that just means that Andy Marte is going to be your second half MVP, and Mike Hampton will win the Cy Young :slight_smile:

Will do more divisions later when I have the time.

I started to do the Pythagorean records, but then I realized it was gonna take me an hour.

I can tell you that the Cardinals are right on track.

My Giants . . . meh. What the hell happened? Don’t tell me, I know what happened. I just didn’t think they’d be lose-15-out-of-18 bad, even without Bonds.

They already have me looking forward to 49er season . . .

(deep sigh)

Nationals and Diamondbacks are way above where they should be, Brewers are a good deal below, and everyone else is within a couple games in the NL, if I recall from the last time I saw them.

Surprising things:
The Nationals - Pre-season, most people would have said any of 4 teams could win the East. It’s pretty funny that the overlooked fifth team is the current leader. But, teams that get outscored just don’t tend to win. This is a team destined for the basement. If Nick Johnson or Livan Hernandez go down, mark your calendars and track the fall.

Chicago Cubs - If, during the season, you knew your team would have huge chunks of time lost to your All-Star shortstop, #1 and #3 starting pitchers, your closer, have your back-up closer meltdown, have emergency backup closer #3 go down with an injury in his first outing, and lose your starting 2nd baseman for the first half of the year all while recovering from trading your team’s poster boy for the past decade and you’re still 4 over .500 and in the heart of the wild card chase, you’d say no way. As a Cubs fan, I can’t even fathom how they aren’t 10 games under .500 and fading. I guess this is a brand new way to rip my heart out.

Houston - Boy, the bottom fell out of this offense in a hurry.

Atlanta Braves - Check out this boxscore from last night. They started 7 rookies. 7! Granted the East is turning into the division where someone back into the playoffs, but if they somehow win this division, Bobby Cox has to get manager of the year.

Ken Griffey, Jr. - Has played in 61 out of 65 games.

The NL West - With just a minor skid by the Padres, every single could be giving up more runs then they score.

Considering how flawed every NL East team is and how offensively challenged the NL West is, the Cardinals have to feel good about returning to the series. I think I am avoiding bias in saying this, but if the Cubs can hang close and get healthy, they’d likely be the 2nd most dangerous team to play.

Bottom of the page

This is the weird thing: usually, it’s pretty obvious by now which division the Wild Card will probably come from. This year, though, no division looks like it’s got two mortal lock playoff teams. The East has Atlanta, Florida and Philly who have playoff experience, and the West has three teams that all look like they can either win the division or collapse spectacularly. The Central is the usual two-team race, but there’s such a gap there that it’s not really a race.

I still think the Padres and Cards win their divisions, but I’m moving the East back into the undecided column. (God, I feel like a news director on Election Night 2000.)

Someone’s gonna come out of the ASB with a 10 game streak, I’m sure, but with the state of relief pitching across baseball this year, is anyone gonna have the pen they need to win all the close games?

Wow, I guess you really don’t follow baseball that much anymore. :wink:

The Cards did have an ace pitcher last year. Cris Carpenter. He got hurt right at the end of the year. We needed him dearly, but we did beat Houston without him to take the NLCS. I’m not sure what happened after that. Can’t remember. It’s all a blank. I think there was a strike and the season ended with the Pennant winners.

The Cards did trade for a top notch pitcher before this season - Mark Mulder. He’s pitching quite well, as is no-longer-hurt Carpenter.

As for the Nationals, did anyone see Chad Cordero take a face plant spill in the 9th? It was damn funny. Then he’s talking to his catcher and you could see him mouth “that’s fucking embarrassing” and start to laugh. Then he proceeded to get out of a bases loaded no-out jam to save a 1-run game. He’s one of the many impressive young players that are playing very well, and they have tremendous respect for Frank Robinson, as well they should, as does everyone in baseball.

Well, except Mike Scosia maybe.