2012 MLB Predictions: NL East Outlook and Betting Odds
by Robert Ferringo - 3/23/2012
The 2012 NL East looks like it is shaping up as a contest between the old guard and the scrappy upstarts. Philadelphia and Atlanta have won the division title every year but one over the last 20 seasons. However, these aging organizations will be challenged by the young, up-and-coming rosters building in Miami and Washington, who are looking to overtake the men at the top and usher in a new reign in the East.
Oh, and the Mets – they still suck.
Here is Doc’s Sports 2012 National League East predictions with betting odds:
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2011 Record: 102-60 (+1275)
2012 Wins Over/Under: 93.5
Odds To Win 2012 NL East: 1-to-2
Odds To Win 2012 NL Pennant: 2-to-1
2012 Philadelphia Phillies Odds To Win World Series: 6-to-1
Outlook: Philadelphia’s season wins keep going one way while their playoff performance goes the other. Despite having the best record in baseball the Phillies were dismissed from the postseason one round earlier than the previous season for the third time in three years. But the way things are going this spring I think the Phils would be thrilled just to be playing in the postseason again this October.
Ryan Howard will be out until June, Chase Utley will be out until a time to be determined, and several other role players (Placido Polanco, Dominic Brown) have been dealing with issues already this year. This is nothing new – the Phils have had to deal with injuries to star players in each of the past two seasons – but I’m not sure Philadelphia will be able to overcome this season’s tribulations as easily.
Philadelphia does have the best bench in the division. And guys like Juan Pierre and Ty Wigginton will help hold down the fort. The pressure will also be on vets like Hunter Pence, Shane Victorino and Jimmy Rollins to carry the load until Utley and Howard return.
The Phillies will also be able to rely on their devastating rotation. Roy Halladay is the best in the business and Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels are as good as any lefties in the Majors. Vance Worley was a revelation last year and veterans Joe Blanton and Kyle Kendrick are solid at the back end.
I do have some concerns about new closer Jon Papelbon, who was beginning the sharp decline that can engulf relievers. His velocity is down and he isn’t nearly as overpowering as he was.
2011 Record: 89-73 (-200)
2012 Wins Over/Under: 87.5
Odds To Win 2012 NL East: 6-to-1
Odds To Win 2012 NL Pennant: 9-to-1
2012 Atlanta Braves Odds To Win World Series: 22-to-1
Outlook: With all of the locker room drama surrounding Boston’s epic collapse in the A.L. Central it is easy to forget that Atlanta also orchestrated one of the biggest September failures in baseball history. The Braves finished the year 10-20 and blew a nine-game Wild Card lead on the last day of the season. They will try to bounce back this year, but it won’t be as easy as it sounds.
Despite some big names – Chipper Jones, Jason Heyward, Dan Uggla, Freddie Freeman, and Brian McCann – the Braves were just No. 22 in scoring and No. 26 in hitting last year. This team was almost solely reliant on the home run to generate offense (they were No. 9 in the Majors) and if they don’t duplicate those numbers this year I anticipate more scoring problems.
Atlanta’s strength is in its starting pitching. Tim Hudson is still one of the most underrated aces in the game. Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson have had some down moments (mostly injury related) but are young studs. And the Braves have several other live young arms down to give innings to.
The Braves bullpen was among the best in baseball last year. However, they were No. 3 in relief innings pitched. And their pen – particularly Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel – was worn to the nub down the stretch last season. We will see if there is a carryover effect from that this season as well.
There is a lot of pressure on this team. There is some internal grumbling about the job of Fredi Gonzalez and it will be Jones’ last year. This team has had a tough spring following a horrific close to the year, and right now if any team in this division needs to get off to a solid start it is this one.
2011 Record: 80-81 (+1160)
2012 Wins Over/Under: 83.5
Odds To Win 2012 NL East: 8-to-1
Odds To Win 2012 NL Pennant: 15-to-1
2012 Washington Nationals Odds To Win World Series: 30-to-1
Outlook: Honestly, you had no idea that Washington won 80 games last year, did you? That turnaround came just one season after the Nationals won 59 games and this year they enter the season as a legitimate dark horse in the National League East.
Washington threatened .500 last year despite only getting 101 injury-riddled games out of its best player, hero third basemen Ryan Zimmerman, and getting next to nothing out of phenom Stephen Strasburg. Both players are back, along with other savvy pickups like Mark DeRosa, Gio Gonzalez and Edwin Jackson. Suddenly the Nationals have a legit rotation and a team that is hungry to take the next step.
Without Zimmerman, and with the team getting an absolutely horrid year out of overpaid Jayson Werth (.232-20-58), the Nationals struggled to score. They need those two to bounce back and have seasons more in line with their career averages. Michael Morse was a revelation and needs to stay healthy. Beyond that are a bunch of scrappy hitters that strike out way, way too much. If no one steps up this team will stay stuck in neutral.
Washington relied on one of the best bullpens in baseball last season. Their 3.20 ERA was No. 5 in the league and their 31 wins from relievers was tops in the leagues. The core of that group remains intact. But they should all benefit from betting starting pitching, as long as everyone stays healthy.
This is a good, up-and-coming team. They have made some strong moves and their season comes down to three things: their top hitters bouncing back and triggering an offensive improvement, their starters staying healthy, and their bullpen duplicating its effort. If those three things happen these guys are going to be a player. If not they will be the Nationals we have come to expect.
2011 Record: 72-90 (-1340)
2012 Wins Over/Under: 85.5
Odds To Win 2012 NL East: 6-to-1
Odds To Win 2012 NL Pennant: 9-to-1
2012 Miami Marlins Odds To Win World Series: 20-to-1
Outlook: There was a lot of bluster in Miami this offseason. This franchise has a new name, a new uniform, a new stadium, a new manager and a whole lot of new players. There was a lot of moving and shaking in South Beach, but at the end of the day I’m not so sure that this team is too much better this year than it was at this time last season.
New skipper Ozzie Guillen will bring his circus to Miami and will boast one of the best young left sides of the infield in baseball with new shortstop Jose Reyes and “new” third basemen Hanley Ramirez. They lead a lineup that is brimming with potential but, thus far, has been a little short on actual results. Giancarlo Stanton, Gaby Sanchez and Logan Morrison have had moments. But they need to have more of them if this lineup is going to click.
The key to this team will be the health of the top of their rotation. Josh Johnson is an absolute horse and can be one of the best pitchers in the game. But he is coming back from another surgery and they’ll need 25-30 starts out of him to compete with the big arms that Philly and Atlanta boast. Veteran Mark Buehrle will be switching leagues, and how quickly he adjusts will say a lot about this rotation. Ricky Nolasco and Anibal Sanchez are both hit-or-miss but, like the Miami hitters, shown flashes of greatness. Carlos Zambrano is a train wreck but is slotted No. 5.
The bullpen should be solid. And even though he may be on the downside of his career, Heath Bell should stabilize the pen as Miami’s new closer.
This team spent a lot of money to bring in some big names. But I don’t feel like they spent their money wisely at all and I thought that they could have assembled a much better squad this offseason. But for all the veteran flash this season will be about the continued development of the young talent in the field and on the mound. There is a lot of boom-or-bust potential with this squad.
New York Mets
2011 Record: 77-85 (-100)
2012 Wins Over/Under: 73.5
Odds To Win 2012 NL East: 50-to-1
Odds To Win 2012 NL Pennant: 40-to-1
2012 New York Mets Odds To Win World Series: 80-to-1
Outlook: Well, fellow Mets fans, look on the bright side: we’re all going to have a lot more free time this summer because we certainly aren’t going to waste a ton of time on this disaster of a team.
The last three years the Mets have won 70, 79 and 77 games. And those were better Mets teams in a division that was not nearly as competitive from the top down as this year’s.
The Mets lineup is still a disgusting mess of Triple-A talent and underachieving “stars”. The organization decided to move in the fences in the outfield during the offseason. But it’s going to take a lot more than that to jump-start an offense whose three best hitters are David Wright (.254-14-61), Jason Bay (.245-12-57) and Ike Davis (.302-7-25). This team is going to miss Jose Reyes in the worst way and this team is going to have to continue to attempt to manufacture runs by playing “small ball”.
New York might be able to get away with their lack of scoring punch by, say, adopting a style similar to San Francisco’s. But the Mets pitching staff is still a weak spot as well. Johan Santana is coming back from two lost seasons to injury and New York has to pray that they get 32 solid starts out of the lefty. Beyond that is shaky. R.A. Dickey is solid and Dillon Gee has shown signs of being a live, young arm. But Mike Pelfrey and Jon Niese are Triple-A-caliber arms and are penciled in as the No. 2 and No. 3 starters for this team.
There may be more scoring in Citi Field this year. But it probably won’t come from the Mets.
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