Monday, March 12, 2007

WCT Baseball Preview of the Week

Baseball season is approaching fast, and we here at WCT can’t wait. In order to prepare for the upcoming season (and so that in October we can brag about how right we were in the spring) we will preview each division, and predict the order of finish of the teams.

Today: The surprisingly interesting National League East

New York Mets – We feel like this Mets team is going to be a lot like the Indians teams of the 90s that we watched as a kid. They have one of the best lineups in baseball, but very few sure-things in the way of starting pitching. Pedro Martinez is STILL rehabbing his shoulder after surgery LAST WINTER. Optimistically, he is expected to join the rotation in August.

(Quick aside here: Is it just us, or is Pedro Martinez the only pitcher in baseball history to take nearly a full calendar year to recover from shoulder surgery? How is this possible? We are not saying that he is a malingerer, but people like Kerry Wood get clowned for not being able to stay healthy, but a guy like Pedro gets off scot free when he has been as injury-prone as any player in baseball since like 2004. Did you know Pedro is only 35? Should a pitcher’s body be breaking down the way Pedro’s has over the last 3 seasons this early? When the Mets signed him as a free agent they pretty much knew that he probably would not see the end of the 4-year deal he signed, and he was 32 at the time. OK, back to the preview.)

The Mets will try to get by with Tom Glavine, who will turn 41 later this month, Orlando Hernandez, who has got to be damn near 50, and a bunch of young unproven kids. That being said, their lineup is stacked with three legitimate MVP candidates. Jose Reyes is quickly becoming one of the best all-around shortstops in baseball. David Wright is streaky, but when he is on, he is one of the best clutch hitters in the NL. And Carlos Beltran is coming off of a career year, and finally realizing the superstar potential that the Mets thought he had when they signed him. The Mets bullpen is also very deep. The Mets will have to try to win a lot of games 9-7 because the starting pitching will be so shaky. We see them winning the division solely based on their ability to out-bash people in high scoring games.

Philadelphia Phillies –Jimmy Rollins threw the gauntlet down a few weeks ago when he said that he thought that the Phillies were hands-down the best team in the NL East. We admire his optimism, but we don’t quite agree with him on that one. The Phillies are a solid team, and everyone is expecting Ryan Howard and Cole Hamels to emerge as superstars this season. They have a powerful lineup but we are not sure that it is strong enough to cover up some of their other weaknesses in the same way we think the Mets’ lineup will. They have the deepest starting staff in the division, but they can’t feel too comfortable with Tom Gordon closing and Antonio Alfonseca setting him up. We think that the starting pitching will keep this team in contention for the wild-card, but the shaky bullpen will end up being the difference between wild-card contention, and division contention.

Atlanta Braves – Did you know the Braves scored the second most runs in the National League last season? When we peruse their everyday lineup, we don’t see a whole lot of guys that make pitchers shake in their spikes, but somehow they actually outscored the Mets. We can’t see this repeating itself again this year. The Braves also lost the production Marcus Giles and Adam LaRoche in the off-season. The pitching took a step back last year without Leo Mazzone, and we don’t see it holding up this season. When is John Smoltz going to finally realize that he is not supposed to still be this good? Incidently, he turns 40 this May.

Florida Marlins – They fired the manager of the year. Simply amazing. This team is comprised mostly of kids, and will be very good very soon, but not yet.

Washington Nationals – what a joke. Looking over their roster, we will be shocked if they lose fewer than 105 games.

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