MLB Handicapping: Early Winners and Losers from the N.L.
by Robert Ferringo - 4/13/2010
Yesterday I laid out some random thoughts and general musings about what I learned about the American League through the first week of the season. Below are some observations I’ve had while watching the National League clubs at work through the first week or so of this Major League Baseball season:
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Philadelphia (6-1, +460; 5-2 vs. total)
There really isn’t much to say about these guys. They are the class of the National League, and have been for the last two years. And Roy Halladay, predictably, has dominated the Nationals and Astros. There is a good chance Halladay could get 10 complete games this year. And if he has an ERA higher than 2.50 and less than 20 wins I’ll be absolutely stunned. The 1-5 hitters in Philly are hitting, in order, .391, .484, .346, .375 and .357. I mean, good luck. Jimmy Rollins may be headed to the D.L. That’s a tough one because he was off to a smoking start. But it’s a blip on the radar for what should be another 90-win season.
Atlanta (3-4, -200; 4-2-1 vs. total)
Good but not good enough. That is going to be the theme for this team all season long. Chipper Jones is already ailing and this team has proven time and time again that they can’t win without him. I love the lineup, I love the rotation, the bullpen has gotten better and better each year. The pieces are there. But this isn’t – nor will it be – a dominant team this season. Jair Jurrjens got a little taste of regression on Monday. After a lot of BABIP luck last year he got dinked, dunked, blooped, and nicked to death by the Padres. He gave up eight runs on eight hits in just three innings, but I swear he only had three balls that were hit hard against him. I predicted a shaky year for Jurrjens and that’s what I think we’ll see. Tim Hudson has looked nasty. Derek Lowe is alright. This team needs to play Matt Diaz every day. He is too good of a bat to be on the bench and Melky Cabrera is hitting just .103 with a .212 OBP. You think they have any idea how awful that Vasquez-for-Cabrera trade was?
Florida (4-3, 70; 6-1 vs. total)
This is the same old Marlins team. And so far this season there has been plenty of drama. After getting rolled on Opening Day in New York they are 4-2 and one run has decided four of those six games. This group is going to feast on power arms and struggle against guys that throw a lot of off-speed stuff. But the reality is that the Marlins are still one of the best bets in baseball. They are a weak favorite, a strong underdog, and they aren’t afraid of anyone. Ricky Nolasco has had good stuff but they still need to pull a rabbit out of their hat with the back end of their rotation. Nate Robertson may be able to fool some guys that have never seen him. But his lack of talent will catch up to him.
New York Mets (2-4, -380; 3-3 vs. total)
Yeah, they stink. I’m not going to get too much into this because I’m working on a story about what a mess the Mets are. But let me just say that they didn’t play all that poorly last week and they went 2-4, at home, against the Marlins and Nationals. That’s bad news.
Washington (3-4, 80; 5-2 vs. total)
I have to say that I like how this team came out of the gates this year. They drew the short straw, having to open against the defending N.L. champs before a six-game trip to New York and to Philadelphia. And to go 3-4 so far is an accomplishment. But how long can it really last? They are hitting just .218 so far this year (No. 29) and are No. 25 in runs, No. 29 in ERA, No. 30 in WHIP, No. 25 in errors. So once again they aren’t hitting, pitching or fielding. And if you take away Josh Willingham’s start (.391, 2 HR, 8 RBI) then the rest of the team has batting average of .202 with 18 RBI. Not good. And the pitching is worse. Chalk up 95 losses for this team again this year.
St. Louis (5-2, 300; 3-4 vs. total)
They are obviously the class of this division and should run away with it. I really liked Brad Penny’s stuff in the opener. Remember: this guy was an ace, All-Star, No. 1 guy in Los Angeles. He could be a real difference maker and dominate as the No. 3 on this staff. I think the Cards – for all of the love that their offense gets – is still going to be a strong ‘under’ bet this year. They were just 68-86-8 against the total last year and are just 3-4 so far this season, and that is with Albert Pujols crushing everything that moves. If he goes cold they might not score at all. Look ‘under’ with this group.
Milwaukee (3-4, -120; 4-2-1 vs. total)
It has already been a pretty emotional week for the Brewers. They had a pair of comeback wins against Colorado. Then they played a tough series with the division frontrunners, St. Louis, which culminated in that wild Sunday night game in which they were up big, blew the lead, and then ended it with a walk-off homer. The next day? Opening afternoon in Wrigley. So this Brew Crew has been all over. They still can’t get anyone out though and that’s going to kill them again this year. They already have a 5.52 ERA and it’s only going to get worse. Yovani Gallardo is one of the most overrated and overpriced arms in the game. Whoever decided that this guy was worth of being considered an ace? Don’t believe me? He was a -150 favorite against the Cardinals. And got pounded for six runs in five innings in a loss. And Trevor Hoffman was done two years ago. You don’t think the Padres wanted him to retire in San Diego? So for them to cut him loose was a huge red flag. He’s not going to get any better this year.
Chicago Cubs (3-4, -50; 2-4-1 vs. total)
I’m not feeling this team at all. They aren’t going to the playoffs this year and I can see it being a long, frustrating summer in Wrigley. This team can only hit left-handed pitching and once Derek Lee or Aramis Ramirez gets hurt – as they invariably will – they will struggle there too. The starting rotation is still very good and will keep them from getting bombed this season. But they just have too many bit parts and not enough high-end talent to compete.
Cincinnati (4-3, 130; 3-3-1 vs. total)
If Cincinnati doesn’t make a major jump this year I think Dusty Baker needs to go. In fact, I think Baker could be a mid-season firing that jumpstarts a team going on a run, a la Colorado of 2009. Cincinnati’s pitching staff is solid from 1-5. Not spectacular, but I like their arms. And is there a more underrated closer than Francisco Cordero? I love the additions of Orlando Cabrera and Scott Rolen. Those guys are just winners and I’d say that the Reds, with Brandon Philips and Joey Votto, have the best infield in the Central. They need to get Jay Bruce going. Three-for-23 won’t cut it. Besides Baker, the biggest issue for this team is depth. I don’t really like their bench. But this team will be plucky.
Houston (0-7, -730; 2-4-1 vs. total)
This team is pathetic. And I know a lot of people want to point to Lance Berkman’s injury, but let’s not pretend that Berkman is an elite player anymore. Their pitching staff is pretty weak but that hasn’t been the problem so far this year. Their lineup is pathetic. This team has drawn just six walks to 50 strikeouts. Carlos Lee and Hunter Pence are hitting around .100. This team can’t touch power right-handed pitching. And it’s going to be a long, long season for rookie manager Brad Mills.
Pittsburgh (3-4, 100; 6-1 vs. total)
They have a little spunk and won’t be a pushover this year. But that said, they aren’t any good. I actually like their depth a little, as guys like Ryan Church, Bobby Crosby and Delwyn Young are nice guys to have coming off the bench. In fact, maybe they are better than some starters. They are hitting a combined 11-for-27. It was nice that Garrett Jones hit two home runs on Opening Day. But he’s 3-for-25 after that. See ya. I just can’t take seriously a team that trots out Chuckles Morton (21.60 ERA) and Daniel McCutchen (24.30 ERA) every fifth day. And when your “aces” are Zach Duke and Paul Maholm, that’s a problem. These guys still stink.
Colorado (3-3, -75; 2-3-1 vs. total)
This team lost some key players from last year but I still really like this team. They just look focused right now. And I love the fact that they have vets like Melvin Mora and Jason Giambi coming off the bench. Those are nice Getaway Day bats. The pitching has been good even without Jeff Francis. I still wonder if they are going to have as much pop as they have had in years past. But I like the maturation that we’re seeing from Carlos Gonzalez, who could be a top-end guy, and Dexter Fowler. They both just need to get more patient. I really like what I’ve seen of Franklin Morales. He’s aggressive. But if this team is going to take a step forward they need Aaron Cook to continue to step forward and become a go-to pitcher. And so far, so good for Jorge De La Rosa. Maybe the light switch has come on and stayed on for him.
San Francisco (6-1, 520; 4-1-2 vs. total)
Nothing like a season opened against the Astros and Pirates to boost your confidence. I think that the Giants are playing a bit above themselves right now and that they are going to price themselves out pretty soon. But when everyone in their lineup is hitting like they are right now (four regulars are hitting .320 or higher and three guys are at .400 or better) this team is tough. And Mark DeRosa (.217) hasn’t even gotten going. One of the big keys, so far, is that this team is finally showing some patience. They had by far the fewest walks in the Majors last year with just 392. So far this year they are on pace for 624, which would have been good enough for No. 5 in the Majors last year.
Los Angeles Dodgers (2-4, -290; 5-1 vs. total)
Just a weird start for the Dodgers this year. They were asleep for two-and-a-half games in Pittsburgh and then they were involved in three barnburners in Florida. But they fought through it and went 3-3. I love Reed Johnson. That guy is the man and just brings a ton of energy and attitude to a team. Russ Martin is off to a hot start. Which is nice to see since everyone was writing him off in Spring Training. Very quietly they are No. 2 in the league in hitting and No. 3 in scoring. I think the key guy for this team is Clayton Kershaw. Much like Gallardo, I think Kershaw is amazingly overpriced by the books. The Dodgers are just 14-18 in his last 32 starts. It’s obvious that Vinny Padilla is a clown and won’t last. So Kershaw needs to step up.
Arizona (4-2, 20; 4-2 vs. total)
Much like the Giants, let’s be a little cautious before we jump on the Diamondbacks bandwagon. After all, they played the Padres and Pirates to open the season. And they didn’t sweep either. I was excited for a big year out of Edwin Jackson. Not so much. He has been awful and he has looked even more disinterested than normal in his two starts. The lineup for this team is obviously better this year now that Connor Jackson is back and now that they have Adam LaRoche and Kelly Johnson producing from the left side. They were desperate for some lefty bats last year. However, Chris Young has been out of his mind so far. And when he goes cold – which he will – they lose a lot of pop. And now the Miguel Montero is going to miss at least two months that is some more pop that is gone. Arizona is No. 4 in runs scored right now. But 13 of their 41 runs came in one inning. Without that inning they would be No. 22. Ian Kennedy looked sharp. In one start. I am still not sold on the back end of their rotation. And right now it looks like they will be lucky to have Brandon Webb back by June.
San Diego (3-4, 0; 2-5 vs. total)
This team is the Oakland of the N.L. They aren’t that good, but they are good enough. And it looks like you can make money betting either on or against the Dads this year. What I mean by that is if you were to work a series chase either on or against the Padres this year I think you’ll make some nice coin. I don’t see them getting swept often and I don’t see them sweeping anyone. Before their 17-run outburst against Atlanta on Monday the Padres had gotten just five hits in 55 at-bats from their No. 1 and No. 2 hitters. Ouch. Clayton Richard was good in his first start and Mat Latos wasn’t. Those two really are the keys to whether or not this team is going to lose 90 games or 100 this year.
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