2014 NL East Picks with MLB Betting Odds and Predictions
by Robert Ferringo - 3/11/2014
The Dodgers will dominate the National League West. The Cardinals will control the National League Central. But as the Major League season readies itself for launch, one of the biggest questions in the Senior Circuit is which team is the front-runner in the National League East?
The easy answer would be Atlanta. The Braves are the defending division champions and have won 194 games the past two years. But Washington won the crown in 2012 and Philadelphia was tops in 2011, and both have the pitching and power to overtake Atlanta this summer.
Looking deeper, this season seems to be a two-horse race between the Braves and Nationals. But there is no way of knowing what to expect from either the Phillies or the New York Mets. While those two franchises are still in the throes of a rebuilding period, I think that both will have a say in which team represents the East in October.
Here is Doc's Sports 2014 NL East picks and preview (with odds courtesy of Sportsbook.ag):
2013 Record : 86-76 (-700)
2014 Wins Over/Under: 89.5
Odds To Win 2014 NL East: -130
Odds To Win 2014 NL Pennant: +600
2014 Washington Nationals Odds To Win World Series: +1200
Outlook: After a magical 2012, the Nationals did not answer the bell in 2013. They fell well short to the lofty expectations hoisted on them by fans, the media and even their own manager, whose "World Series or bust" approach was an anchor around this team's neck all year.
Now Davey Johnson is out, new manager Matt Williams is in, and we're going to find out if 2012's breakout was a one-year aberration or if this upgraded Nationals team is ready to plant its flag at the summit of the East.
It all starts with pitching for the Nationals. Their starting rotation is on the short list for the best in baseball. With Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmerman, the staff boasts three guys with "ace" stuff. New addition Doug Fister will adjust nicely after years in the American League. And gamblers will have to pay a premium to back anyone from that quartet because the oddsmakers have so much respect for their stuff.
The bullpen is shaky and underperformed last season. Some of the arms they'll rely on have logged a lot of innings the past three years, and this group will be a key to Washington's season.
In my opinion the lineup really comes down to two guys. Ryan Zimmerman needs to stay healthy and finally play up to his MVP potential. He's been a bit of a disappointment and needs things to come together. And Jayson Werth needs to provide the protection for Zimmerman and the clutch hits he was known for in Philadelphia. This team will never score a lot of runs. And with that pitching they won't have to. But they need Zimmerman and Werth to be consistent forces from April to September, and that hasn't happened yet.
Washington has produced back-to-back solid seasons. But there have been more excuses than achievements in both 2012 and 2013. The path is clear for them to take over the East. If they aren't up to it then this will be a team to avoid betting on or against through most of the summer.
2013 Record: 96-66 (+1000)
2014 Wins Over/Under: 88.0
Odds To Win 2014 NL East : +130
Odds To Win 2014 NL Pennant: +800
2014 Atlanta Braves Odds To Win World Series: +1800
Outlook: Atlanta was a dominating force in the National League right out of the gate last season. They won 12 of their first 13 games and never looked back, essentially clinching the division in July and coasting into the postseason. Of course, once they got to the playoffs the Braves did what the Braves do - fail - but after another year of 90-plus wins, there is nothing but optimism in this franchise.
However, I can't help but feel like the Braves overachieved last year. They routinely sported a lineup with four guys - Dan Uggla, B.J. Upton, Jason Heyward, and the pitcher - hitting at or below .200. They made up for it with the best pitching staff in the majors and a shutdown bullpen that shortened games. Atlanta also hit the fifth-most home runs in baseball to mask their .249 team average.
Atlanta spent the offseason signing its young talent to long-term deals. They also let veterans like Brian McCann and Tim Hudson walk, putting even more distance between the Chipper-Cox Era and the Fredi-Freddie Era.
Atlanta is hoping for a regression back to the mean for guys like Uggla and Upton, whose careers have gone off cliffs. They're also banking on some better injury luck after a challenging 2013. But the Braves could also experience a regression from guys like Chris Johnson and the pitching staff. And they already have three starters (Kris Medlen, Mike Minor and Brandon Beachy) battling health issues in training camp.
I am skeptical. There are some potential chemistry issues in this clubhouse if the veterans get benched. And we'll see how hungry some of the young guys are now that they got paid. Fredi Gonzalez has a fantastic track record of success that's tough to ignore. But I'm just not as smitten with this team as a lot of people. They still have enough talent to win the division. But I am expecting a less impressive season on the whole. They are one pitching injury away from this house of cards falling apart.
2013 Record: 73-89 (-2100)
2014 Wins Over/Under: 75.5
Odds To Win 2014 NL East: +1500
Odds To Win 2014 NL Pennant: +3500
2014 Philadelphia Phillies Odds To Win World Series: +8000
Outlook: Going to Citizens Bank Ballpark these days must feel like a trip to the Roman ruins for Phillies fans. It was not long ago that Philadelphia dominated the N.L. East, winning five straight division titles (2007-2011) and the 2008 and 2009 N.L. pennants. But this year's Phillies are the broken shell of those teams, still desperately clinging to that faded glory.
The names are recognizable: Rollins, Utley and Howard. But this is no longer the triumvirate that tore through the aughts as perennial MVP candidates. Fellow vets Marlon Byrd and Carlos Ruiz are still productive but past-their-prime players at the heart of this team.
In 2013 Philadelphia scored its fewest runs in 25 years and hit its fewest home runs since moving into Citizens Bank. They are waiting for youngsters like Ben Revere and Domonic Brown to take a leap forward. But the last two seasons the Phils farm system has produced more duds than diamonds.
Cliff Lee is aging but is still disgustingly good. He and Cole Hamels form a pair of filthy lefties that combined for a 2.97 ERA after the all-star break. Even so, the Phils went 25-41 after the break, and their staff ERA of 4.32 was No. 27 in the league. They added A.J. Burnett this offseason, and he is looking to build on the career resurgence he experienced in Pittsburgh. But Cuban defector Miguel Gonzalez has been awful so far this spring, and it looks like Philly will be forced to go with overmatched arms in the No. 4 and No. 5 slots.
The bullpen looks to be a major strength, though, with veterans Jon Papelbon, Antonio Bastardo and Mike Adams leading a well-rounded group.
Philadelphia is caught in between its veteran core and a full-blown youth movement. They need to rebuild. But they also can't force out the guys that have been pillars of the franchise for the past decade. Philadelphia will fight. But this is not a good team. And unless their aging stars channel 2008, it will be another sad summer around the park.
New York Mets
2013 Record: 74-88 (-400)
2014 Wins Over/Under: 74.5
Odds To Win 2014 NL East: +2500
Odds To Win 2014 NL Pennant: +5000
2014 New York Mets Odds To Win World Series: +10000
Outlook: Any time you're being lumped in with the Houston Astros, it's not a good sign. And when the category is, "Which MLB teams have the longest streak of consecutive losing seasons?" it is really not a good sign. But that's where New York begins this season after a fifth straight year below .500 in 2013.
How did the Mets address their gaping issues in the lineup this offseason? How did they bolster a group that finished No. 29 in batting, No. 23 in runs and No. 25 in homers? Did they sign Justin Morneau, Nelson Cruz or Michael Morse to cost-effective short-term contracts to shore up glaring offensive needs? Of course not. These are the Mets, after all. Instead they threw big money on a 190-pound "power hitter" and grabbed reclamation project Chris Young off the scrap heap.
The Mets lineup was pathetic last year. They played a lot of young guys, but the results don't inspire a lot of confidence in A) the Mets farm system and B) the Mets ability to fill a 25-man roster with 25 MLB-caliber players. Sandy Alderson and the front office are taking a patient approach. But New York's lack of activity in a tepid, value-rich free agent class was puzzling.
New York did go out and grab Bartolo Colon, however. The svelte Colon had two outstanding years with the A's, including last year's 18-6, 2.65 ERA effort that left him sixth in Cy Young voting. He will join young fireballer Zach Wheeler, lefty Jon Niese and promising Dillon Gee to give the Mets a respectable rotation.
Only three teams in the N.L. had a worse bullpen ERA than New York. Closer Bobby Parnell and a couple of the setup men seem like keepers. But this group is a work in progress and - stop me if you've heard this one - if the Mets can't find actual MLB-capable players to fill out the bullpen they suffer another summer of demoralizing late inning losses.
I think the Mets might be a bit undervalued. I've watched worse Met teams than this one threaten .500. And the general weakness of the East could create an opportunity for them. But until New York stocks up on capable pro players they will still be lagging behind.
2013 Record: 62-100 (-1400)
2014 Wins Over/Under: 69.5
Odds To Win 2014 NL East: +5000
Odds To Win 2014 NL Pennant: +5500
2014 Miami Marlins Odds To Win World Series: +12500
Outlook: I'm not going to waste much time with this waste pile. Miami is a joke, with a sociopathic owner that is laughing his way to the bank cashing checks on his publicly-financed stadium while his team looks like a bunch of high schoolers flailing through the East.
Miami has just two starters back from its Opening Day group in 2013. But it doesn't matter. They didn't really upgrade as much as they went to a garage sale, bought some junk, and then brought it home to put it next to the junk they're already selling in their garage sale. Rafael Furcal is way past his prime, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Garrett Jones are guys who will probably never have a prime. Those were their big moves.
Young right-hander Jose Fernandez is incredible, though, and worth a viewing. In fact, the Marlins starting rotation was better than it appeared last year. The Marlins lost 46 games in which their pitcher produced a quality start. That is a byproduct of a thin bullpen and zero run support.
Bet against these Fish, early and often.
2014 NL East Picks and Predictions: Predicted Order of Finish
1. Washington Nationals
2. Atlanta Braves
3. Philadelphia Phillies
4. New York Mets
5. Miami Marlins
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Robert Ferringo is a professional sports handicapper for Doc's Sports. He is considered one of the top MLB cappers in the country and has turned a profit in five of the last seven years on the diamond with his baseball picks. He closed 2012 with an amazing $11,700 in earnings over the last four months and this summer will try for three straight profitable years. He is looking forward to a great upcoming season against the MLB odds. Click here for more information on his MLB picks.
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