MLB Betting: 2010 NL East Preview
by Robert Ferringo - 3/8/2010
With the exception of the Philadelphia Phillies, the National League East may be the biggest “if” division in baseball:
“If the Mets ever get their stars back and healthy they could have a great year.”
“If the Braves can avoid the injury bug and keep their aging veterans on the field they could make a run at a Wild Card spot.”
“If the Mets and Braves fall apart the young core of the Marlins could springboard themselves to their first playoff appearance since 2003.”
“If the Nationals lose 100 games again it could be awesome for my bankroll.”
There are a lot more questions than there are answers in this division. Several teams have a chance, if everything breaks properly for them, to make a serious move at a postseason berth. However, that also means that there is some massive flameout potential. I wouldn’t be surprised if both the most profitable and the least profitable teams in the league come out of the East this year.
Here is Doc's Sports 2010 NL East preview:
2009 Record: 93-69
2010 Wins Over/Under: 92.5
Odds To Win 2010 NL East: 1/2
Odds To Win 2010 NL Pennant: 3/1
Odds To Win 2010 World Series: 6/1
The best just keep on getting better. Philadelphia is loaded and ready for a run at their third straight National League pennant. They have the best lineup in the NL and, oh by the way, just happened to add some guy named Roy Halladay to an excellent rotation.
The lineup has no real weakness. The Phillies were the highest scoring team in the league last year and from top to bottom there is nothing but tough outs. They were feast or famine last year, though, as it seemed like they would go out and pump in nine or 10 runs or they would score one or two. There didn’t seem to be much middle ground and their attack is streaky at times. That’s partially a result of their propensity to strike out at a high volume. But this is a bit nit-picky. In big games this group does work and because the core of this team has been together for so long and because they have all come into their primes together there’s a great clubhouse atmosphere and good chemistry.
Halladay is going to absolutely wreck people in the National League. I mean, it’s going to be funny what he does. But he can’t do it alone. Cole Hamels looked tired last season and will need a bounce back year. I’m not completely sold on J.A. Happ. He was so good in 2009 and so bad in 2008 that I’m taking a wait-and-see approach. Also, things are a bit clogged at the back end of the rotation. Kyle Kendrick and 87-year-old Jamie Moyer are fighting for the No. 5 spot but neither is much more than a filler.
Also, Brad Lidge was a train wreck last year with 11 blown saves and a 7.21 ERA. How he, and a new look middle relief corps, comes together is another question mark. But they have worked it out each of the past few years and I don’t see it weighing them down.
Barring a miracle the Phillies will be back in the postseason. And looking around the NL I don’t see anyone that I think has the stones to knock them off in a seven-game series.
2009 Record: 86-76
2010 Wins Over/Under: 86.5
Odds To Win 2010 NL East: 2/1
Odds To Win 2010 NL Pennant: 10/1
Odds To Win 2010 World Series: 23/1
It’s a swan song for Bobby Cox this year and emotions should be high in Atlanta. Well, as high as emotions can be for one of the most lackluster fan bases in sports. This team looks good enough to compete and make a run at the 87 wins that Cox would need to reach 2,500 for his career. But in the end this group is only built to compete and not built to win. The Braves have some real nice pieces and a solid looking 25-man roster. But when you actually get into the nitty-gritty of this team there are just too many injury issues and stopgaps and not enough overall talent and depth to realistically take on Philadelphia.
Chipper Jones will bring his A-game in Cox’s last year. But will that be enough? He hit just .264 and committed 22 errors last season and his bat looked slow by the end of the year. He’s at third and Troy Glaus, coming off a season in which injuries robbed him of all but 14 games in St. Louis last year, is supposed to hold up at first. Glaus has never been a regular first baseman and is a tremendous question mark for this club. Atlanta does have a lot of good young talent though. Brian McCann is an elite catcher, Nate McClouth should rebound from a dismal first year after getting out of Pittsburgh, and Jason Heyward is being touted as The Next Big Thing in the Majors. I think that their outfield is cluttered and that Atlanta has five pretty good guys but not enough top-level talent out there. Yunel Escobar is a guy I’m a fan of.
Atlanta was forced to make an absolutely ridiculous trade this offseason to dump payroll. They moved Javy Vasquez, who finished last year No. 4 in N.L. Cy Young voting, for mediocre Melky Cabrera. That is going to have a ripple effect on this pitching staff. Atlanta did have the No. 1 starter’s ERA in the league last year and enters this season with the best rotation in the division. But there are some issues with their arms that I think could really come back to haunt them. Derek Lowe is still a top-notch guy but isn’t a true ace. And Tim Hudson has only made seven starts since July of 2008. Tommy Hanson was brilliant last year but the Braves have to be careful not to overburden him, which they may have done with Jair Jurrjens, who came into this year with some shoulder issues. If any of Atlanta’s starters go down all of a sudden they don’t have the depth that they did last year because Vasquez’s rubber arm is gone.
The back end of the bullpen has been Cox’s Achilles heel for nearly 20 years. And it could again come back to bite him. Atlanta is relying on 38-year-old Billy Wagner and 40-year-old Tai Saito to hold down the back end. Both have battled injuries and ineffectiveness throughout the past two years and I don’t think either will hold up all season.
In the end, Atlanta’s owners won’t let them add payroll so I don’t think that this team can add what it needs to find that next level. Hudson, Wagner, Jones, Glaus and other key guys have had significant injury issues over the past few years and now are being heavily relied upon to elevate this team. That’s just a lot of pressure on guys that I don’t think can or will hold up.
2009 Record: 87-75
2010 Wins Over/Under: 81.5
Odds To Win 2010 NL East: 2/1
Odds To Win 2010 NL Pennant: 16/1
Odds To Win 2010 World Series: 40/1
Very quietly the Florida Marlins have become one of the more consistent franchises in the National League. They have won 83 or more in five of the past seven years and over the past two seasons have been one of the most profitable teams for bettors to back in the entire league. No matter who they lose to teams with larger payrolls – and this offseason the Marlins lost plenty – this group always finds young talent to step in and produce.
Hanley Ramirez finished second in MVP voting last year and is a proven stud. Jorge Cantu is quietly one of the toughest outs in the division and offers plenty of protection. Cody Ross is one of my favorite (and most clutch) players in baseball. And Rookie of the Year Chris Coghlan, Emilio Bonafacio and Cameron Maybin give the Fish an exceptional core of talented players under the age of 25. And if anyone doesn’t produce this team leans on a farm system that has produced three of the last seven ROY picks in the NL.
Josh Johnson finally got over the hump last year to become a dominating frontline starter. After that is nothing but question marks. Ricky Nolasco was extreme all season in 2009 (pathetic the first half, excellent the second). Sean West showed flashes but is inconsistent. Andrew Miller has been a bust and Anibal Sanchez not much better. Chris Volstad followed up a promising rookie year with a homer-happy sophomore campaign. Over the last three years the bullpen has quietly posted an excellent ERA while also blowing the seventh-most saves in the Majors.
The Marlins have quietly become one of the best bets in baseball because of the proper balance of talent and low expectations. However, several of the metrics that I use suggest that after an 87-win campaign last year that this team could fall back down to earth this season. They were 30-20 in one-run games, which likely won’t happen again, and they passed their Pythagorean wins, their PECOTA projections and their Vegas win total. On one hand they’ve proven that they are perpetually underrated. On the other I think that a lot of what happens to them this year is out of their control. If the injury issues don’t crop up on Atlanta and New York then Florida is in trouble. But if those teams start to fall apart with their older guys then it will keep the door open for the young bucks in Florida to have another surprising year.
New York Mets
2009 Record: 70-92
2010 Wins Over/Under: 82.5
Odds To Win 2010 NL East: 3/1
Odds To Win 2010 NL Pennant: 9/1
Odds To Win 2010 World Series: 18/1
I’ve been a Mets fan for about a quarter-century. That means I’ve seen some disasters of epic proportions. However, I have never seen anything like what befell the Mets in 2009. An incredible amount of injuries and bad luck took a team that many people thought were primed for a deep postseason run and turns them into a 70-win debacle.
But the thing is that while bad luck can be attributed to some of their woes, pathetic personnel decisions have put this team in a meat grinder and I don’t see them being that much better off this season. Carlos Delgado is washed up and won’t be back until June. Carlos Beltran is coming off offseason knee surgery. Jose Reyes’ hamstring has already been an issue. There is no depth on the bench and still plenty of questions in the outfield. In short: the Mets are picking right back up where they left off.
Perhaps the biggest thing that’s going to keep the Mets mediocre this year is their pitching staff. There is absolutely nothing behind stud Johan Santana. Mike Pelfrey is basically a No. 4 or No. 5 starter, yet is being relied upon in the No. 2 hole. After that it’s John Maine, whose has the trifecta of injury issues, slipping velocity and a flat fastball. Then there is Awful Olly, Oliver Perez. This guy is a joke. Finally there’s lefty Jon Niese, who has done nothing to this point to make me think he can pitch at this level. Other than that everything looks great.
This team is still in shambles. On the one hand, things can’t possibly be as bad as they were last year. On the other hand just crossing your fingers and hoping really hard isn’t exactly a sound strategy to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. No matter how they charge out of the gate I’m not counting on this team to hold up for 162 games. And considering that Florida and Atlanta are both still ahead of them in a lot of areas it could be another long season in oversized Citi Field.
2009 Record: 59-103
2010 Wins Over/Under: 70.5
Odds To Win 2010 NL East: 20/1
Odds To Win 2010 NL Pennant: 100/1
Odds To Win 2010 World Series: 1,000,000/1 (my line)
Here are the pitching numbers for Washington’s first four spring training games: 50 runs allowed on 67 hits and 10 home runs. That’s all you need to know about this Nats this year. They have lost 103 regular season games in each of the last two years and, to be honest, I don’t see it being much better this time around.
Besides Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn there is nothing but C-Level talent on this team. Nyjer Morgan is a guy that I love but the rest of the team is filled with awkward pieces – on the field and in the clubhouse – and guys that haven’t shown that they can play together as a team.
I think I’ve pretty much covered the pitching, but we’ll take a little closer look just because. John Lannan is a solid arm but would be a No. 4 starter on any good team. He’s the staff ace. Jason Marquis parlayed one strong season in Colorado into a nice free agent deal but I’m not buying into him as a guy that can turn the staff around. That “core” is followed by one of the absolute worst back ends of a rotation that I can remember. Scott Olsen is a head case with good stuff, a combination that does nothing but break hearts and bankrolls. He’s competing with Craig Stammen, Ross Detwiller, Shairon Martis and Garrett Mock for the 3-5 slots. Olsen (6.03), Stammen (5.11), Mock (5.62), Martis (5.25) and Detwiler (5.00) each posted ERA’s over 5.00 and combined to go 15-30.
Last year the Nationals were No. 30 in fielding, No. 28 in ERA and No. 24. So they can’t field, they can’t pitch and they can’t hit. Other than that everything’s cool with them. Stephen Strausburg will be a great fade when he arrives and when that is may be the only interesting thing in what should be another laughable Nats season.
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