NL East Preview For April 15-21
I'm not sure what happened in the NL East this week, but I will eat my crow-filled humble pie with pride. There isn't much to say here other than that I was wrong on a lot of levels, and that hopefully it won't happen again. Of course, half the joy of baseball is that at any point a team can get hot and sweep three consecutive series (I'm looking at you, Atlanta.). Even my Nationals proved to be a different team that previously thought, after an uninspired and utterly forgettable series.
The entire league was off the wall, what with Zack Greinke getting wrecked by the Incredulous Bulk known as Carlos Quentin, a sudden surge by the league's lowest paid team and the Cubs blowing a lead yet again.
But, onto other business as we look to the future. The Mets struck early and often, and short of a snow-out, probably would have been on the receiving end of a great week. The Phillies also had a great week, taking two of four from the Mets and Miami. And… Miami… I'll just let the 2-10 season speak for itself.
So, here we go into the wacky world of statistic wrangling and random guessing based off of personal preferences and disdain.
Current 2013: 11-1
Estimated 2013: 8-4
This Week: 5-1
Yeah, needless to say I don't pick sweeps all that often. Last week had the making of a good but not pair of match-ups. What we got was a straight sweep through Miami and Washington. The Upton brothers are a great addition to any team and with a pitching staff that has kept pace thus far in the season, look for them to keep their heads high and win their tenth and eleventh in a row against Kansas City. I don't care what anyone says, Kansas City is a fluke and will soon show that their hot spring training was a red herring and that the team is as awful as it was in 2012, 2011 and 2010.
Pittsburgh is also going to be a cakewalk, but since I'm not under the impression that Atlanta will win 15 straight games, they'll drop a game somewhere in this series. My guess is that no one is going to alter on the Braves' pitching staff, but someone has to drop and it might as well be Hudson. A 5-1 week is pretty good, but it won't be what it was last week.
Current 2013: 2-10
Estimated 2013: 3-9
This Week: 2-5
Call me an optimist, but I think Miami should be only slightly better than they currently are. The problem here is not the pitching, but rather the fact that there is not one on the team capable of hitting a baseball further than half way to first base. Placido Polanco is a good hitter, but behind him, you've still got Greg Dobbs pacing the team. Giancarlo Stanton? Non-existent. Juan Pierre? Strike two. The pitching staff is the only thing holding this rag-tag batch of benchwarmers together.
A three game set versus Washington will not work in the favor of the Marlin, who need a boost of confidence after starting this season with the worst standing in the league, right next to the Padres. They should be able to rely on their starters, especially LeBlanc and Nolasco, but there are still too many questions on the offensive side of the ball to place a dollar on the Marlins. They get swept by the Nats and we keep marching on.
The second battle this week is at Cincinnati. I see this coming out as a wash with each team taking two games. Why, you ask? Because I can and because the Reds can't stay hot forever. Their team of high-powered bats will tread lightly during this series, but not because of strikeouts. They'll just hit a lot of grounders and fall into a slump. Sure, Brandon Phillips will work his magic and Joey Votto will break out for a little streak, but overall, the Marlins will get lucky with a little help from Polanco and his first home run. Other than that, look for a couple low-scoring games and a good blowout.
New York Mets:
Current 2013: 7-4
Estimated 2013: 7-5
This Week: 3-4
I'm pretty proud to be this close on guessing a team. As always, the Mets mediocrity is something to both admire and forget. John Buck and Matt Harvey have been bright spots as one leads the team in home runs and RBI with 6 and 19, respectively, and the other with three wins, an ERA south of 1.00 and 25 strikeouts. Sadly, as is the Mets way, the team will run them into the ground like a train from Hell itself, leaving them shattered. I imagine this will be the equivalent of what they did to Jason Bay. Poor, poor Jason Bay.
The Mets travel to the Mile High City of Denver for their first four games this week against a beastly looking Colorado team. Dexter Fowler and Troy Tulowitzki are the anchors for the currently 8-4 Rockies, but should be knocked around a little bit. An even split between the Mets and the Rockies will happen, with Gee and Laffey getting their clocks cleaned. Hefner and Niese will contain their excitement and get a couple of wins.
Next up, we see a three game set at home with the Nats, who have been streaky if anything. Sweep a series, get swept. Win a game, lose two others and eat a pulled pork sandwich. Where the Mets are consistent, though, is their ability to hold it together for six innings, then fall all over themselves like a bunch of pre-teens at the eighth grade semi-formal. They'll lose the series, but still walk out with a win off the power of Buck and Co.
Current 2013: 6-6
Estimated 2013: 5-7
This Week: 4-3
I'm putting the Phillies in the same boat as the Mets this year. They're not good enough to take the division, but they aren't the hot mess that we've been counting on, either. They're distinctly average and without a lot of special standing. Michael Young is pretty good and Chase Utley is doing his usual business. Cliff Lee is also doing his part, racking up two wins and a near spotless ERA. If they can keep it together for a few more games (150), maybe there's a chance. But, probably not.
An early trip to Cincinnati is going to hurt, as the bats that Miami could slow down aren't part of the Phillies arsenal. They rely on wily veterans and John Lannan to do the work, and then push Utley and Young to do the dirty work. They'll take a win in the series from Leake, but Bailey and Arroyo can keep the damage minimal. Philly is losing the series, but that's OK.
A four-game set in St. Louis might be just what Philly needs. In recent years, Philly has had the Cardinals' number and call it every now and then. And like an estranged ex-girlfriend on a lonely Saturday night, they call back. This is going down as a good series for the Phillies, with Hamels and Halladay making their presence known. There's a lot of talent with these pitchers, they just need to get out their own heads for awhile and keep it in the game. Pitching doesn't stop once you give up a run, and these guys need to learn it.
Current 2013: 7-5
Estimated 2013: 8-4
This Week: 5-1
Please, for the love of baseball, let me be right this week. There is nothing sadder than watching a World Series contender last season topple over like Kim Kardashian with the wind at her back. The Nationals have the pieces in place and are a young team, but that might be their downfall. Young teams face growing pains and they will have their fair share. That's why this week may be a better test than last week.
A three game visit to Miami will be the litmus test for where this team stands. Anything less than a sweep will prove that there is something up with the hitting, since Miami's pitching isn't particularly lights out. If they win the series, then the hitting may not be the issue. I fully believe this will be Washington's series to lose, and anything less than a sweep is unacceptable.
The second series is, once again, a test of the Nationals' health, but this time with their starting pitching and bullpen. Strasburg and Gonzalez will be on the mound and thus far have not proven to be their former selves. There hasn't been the lights out behavior from either one, and Gonzalez got smoked in his last outing. If the Nats lose, it will be on the back of one of these two. If Miami strikes out in bunches, then we're good. If not, then there's the problem. It's a piece of cake once you think about it. I see them winning this series, but not sweeping.
There it is… another week, another series of hapless guesses and a dream of maybe getting it right this week. I've been close at some points, way off in others. But, in the words of Dale Jr… “we'll get 'em next week.”