The Book of Mike

"This is no junior college. This is the notorious University of Miami.” -- Marlins starter Dontrelle Willis, after getting knocked around for six runs in 2 1/3 innings by the Canes.

Monday, March 28, 2005

TBOM's 2005 NL Predictions

The previous entry listed our forecast for the 2005 season in the AL. Here now is the same for the NL. If for nothing else, you might find the World Series prediction amusing.

NL East
1. Atlanta Braves
2. Florida Marlins
3. Philadelphia Phillies
4. New York Mets
5. Washington Nationals

Yes, the Braves. I’m picking the Braves every year until they finally fail to win the division.

Do you realize that there are young adults in Atlanta-area high schools this year that have never known a year in which the Braves didn’t win their division in their entire lives? This isn’t like with the Twins or even the Yankees where some youngsters can’t quite recall back to a year when their respective home team didn’t finish on top. Literally, there are many high schoolers in Atlanta who were born in 1991 who have only lived in years when the Braves won their division. They probably don’t remember all of those great titles, but they also don’t have any recollection of second place. I find that mind-numbing. Actually, I was in grade school the last time the Braves failed to win their division.

So, until they stop winning their division, I’m picking them. I don’t care what my head tells me. I don’t care what my heart tells me. I don’t care what the stats say.

That said, there are four legitimate contenders for the division crown this year. Obviously, the Braves are one of them. The Marlins are too. They’re improved from last season, notably with the addition of Carlos Delgado, but there are a number of questions – mainly the durability of their starting pitchers and also the depth and ability of their bullpen. The Phillies could win the division too; I suppose we’ll have to wait to see what type of an impact not having Larry Bowa in the dugout will have on the team. Many would guess that’s good for at least a handful of wins. The Mets, too, should contend. Well, either that or Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran will have their careers take the Shea Stadium induced nose-dive that Mo Vaughn and numerous other high-ticket free agents.

And at least there’s baseball again in the nation’s capital – even if it is of the glorified triple-A variety. And yes, I’ll still be wearing my Encore Baseball Montreal gear.

NL Central
1. St. Louis Cardinals
2. Chicago Cubs
3. Houston Astros
4. Cincinnati Reds
5. Milwaukee Brewers
6. Pittsburgh Pirates

The Cardinals are once again the class of the Central. It’s unlikely that they’ll win 105 games again, like last season, but that probably won’t be necessary.

If the Cubs health issues were more stable, they’d have to get serious consideration to win the division this year. The front four in the rotation are Kerry Wood, Mark Prior, Carlos Zambrano, and Greg Maddux. When your fourth starter has 300 career wins and seemingly is good for 15 wins (or more) automatically each year, you’re in pretty good shape. But Wood and Prior have been dogged by injuries in the past and this spring, so it might not be smooth sailing for the Cubs this year. Their season long availability is key to the Cubs chances this season.

After the top two, I’m not very confident it all in terms of how things will turn out. The Astros still have Roger Clemens and they should get a better year (i.e. healthy) out of Andy Pettitte. But the losses of Carlos Beltran and Jeff Kent are significant. As are the injury to Lance Berkman and the aging of Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell. They could surprise though and put together one last run. That’s why I have them third.

After that, it’s youngsters and potential. Who knows what will happen there?

NL West
1. San Diego Padres
2. San Francisco Giants
3. Los Angeles Dodgers
4. Arizona Diamondbacks
5. Colorado Rockies

With Barry Bonds out indefinitely, the dynamics of this division shift greatly. With Bonds in the lineup, the Giants are the favorites to win the division. Without him, they could arguably finish anywhere. Even with Bonds out, the Giants are a very old team and are at as much risk as any other team for a serious injury which could further debilitate the club’s chances of reaching the post-season.

Since Bonds’ return is in doubt, I’m going with the Padres and counting on Jake Peavy to have a great year. When he’s healthy, he’s amongst the best in the game.

If Todd Helton didn’t get to hit in Coors Field half the time, he’d have to feel like he was biding his time away in purgatory. 2005 could be a very long season for the Rockies. Jeff Francis and Helton should be fun to watch though.

Awards and Post-Season
MVP: Albert Pujols, Cardinals – if he can overcome his heel problems, this could be the year that Pujols finally takes home the hardware. It’s not like he’s ever disappointed in his career. It’s just that his great seasons have always come in just a tic below what Barry Bonds has accomplished. With Bonds out for at least part, if not all, of the season, this could be Albert’s year.

Cy Young: Having Randy Johnson move to the American League opens the door for the Cy Young to another deserving player much like having Bonds out due to injury opens the MVP door for Pujols. There’s not as clear-cut of a favorite though going into the year. Josh Beckett for the Marlins, Roy Oswalt for the Astros, and Jake Peavy for the Padres are darkhorse candidates. Each will probably need to catch some breaks along the way – one of them being healthy for the whole season, which each has struggled with so far in their career. So the pick here is Jason Schmidt of the Giants.

Wild Card: Again, this is another tough pick. 11 of the 16 National League teams enter the season with legitimate and fairly widespread post-season expectations (don’t tell a football fan that though, because as they’ll tell you there’s no competitive balance in baseball). However, only four of those teams will reach the playoffs. Since the candidates are so numerous, let’s try to whittle down the field.

I just don’t see the Wild Card coming out of the West. While the Giants, Padres, or Dodgers could take the division, I doubt the second place team will rack up enough wins to take home the wild card.

From the Central, the Cubs are definitely candidates and the Astros and Reds (at least if you’re from Cinci) are dark horses. In the East, the Marlins, Phillies, and Mets have high hopes.

This is a Marlins blog though, so we’re going to be homers and pick the Fish.

NL Champions: Well, the Marlins are undefeated in post-season series play. How can you pick against that?

World Series: Marlins over Red Sox. Two teams: one with relatively horrible regular season history and an unblemished post-season record up against the franchise with more heartbreak than anything else, recent results notwithstanding.

It would be nice to see the Marlins take on former owner John Henry’s club. Some Marlins’ fans would be sad to beat former Marlin Kevin Millar (who, speaking of which, has generated a lot of hits on this site recently for a post from last summer – which I’m not re-linking too – about his practice of taking batting practice in the nude; some of you have used very creative google searches to find that post – many of which are quite frightening).


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