2015 NL East Predictions with Odds and Expert MLB Betting Picks
by Robert Ferringo - 3/9/2015
The National League East is the Senior Circuit's construction zone. With four teams actively rebuilding, the division is a mess. Washington appears like a legitimate contender for the N.L. pennant, and no one in the East seems capable of derailing them during the regular season. In fact, the East is so one-sided the Nationals are the largest favorite to win their division in baseball, sitting at nearly 1-to-4 odds. This one appears to be just a formality.
Here is Doc's Sports 2015 National League East preview (with odds courtesy of Sportsbook.ag):
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2014 Record : 96-66 (+1060)
2015 Wins Over/Under: 94.0
Odds To Win 2015 NL East: -375
Odds To Win 2015 NL Pennant: +240
2015 Washington Nationals Odds To Win World Series: +550
Outlook: Apparently Max Scherzer is the second coming of Walter Johnson and Mohammed. Because for the second season in a row Scherzer is supposed to be part of The Greatest Rotation Of All Time Or At Least The Last Time Someone Had Five Good Starters. Last year the Tigers were supposed to boast an all-time great starting rotation. Instead they finished No. 10 in the Majors in starter ERA. This year the Nationals, with Scherzer, Steve Strasburg, Jordan Zimmerman, Doug Fister and Gio Gonzalez, are supposed to be The Next Great Rotation. But I'll believe it when I see it.
Look, that five-some is daunting. Each of those five starters is capable of posting All-Star numbers, and they are capable of dominating. They will also keep the pressure off a good-but-not-great bullpen by logging a ton of innings. But because of the names involved there will be almost zero value betting on the Nats, who will likely be at least a -165 favorite in every home game.
The Nationals have an erratic lineup. They've finished in the Top 10 in the league in scoring in two of the last three years, topping out at No. 9 last year. But they only scored 686 runs last season and just 656 the year before that. They've averaged a mere 672 runs per year the past five seasons. As recently as 2010 that would've been good enough for No. 21 in baseball, but in the post-steroid game it is apparently good enough.
Bryce Harper is good but not great. (And hasn't lived up to the hype yet.) Ryan Zimmerman can be a great hitter but can't stay healthy. And when shortstop Ian Desmond is your leading home-run hitter that's a sign that your lineup lacks pop. I'm a big fan of Jayson Werth, and Anthony Rendon was a revelation last year. But bench depth has been nonexistent. And with the number of injuries these guys suffer each year that's a big problem.
The biggest thing the Nats have going for them is the fact that they are in the East and the East is awful. Their pitching staff has the potential to be excellent. But it seems like every time a rotation enters the year with the hype of being an all-time great it manages to flop. These guys are going to win 90-plus games and they will make the playoffs. But unless they find a bench, some more electric relievers, and another bat or two they are going to be overvalued in the day-to-day as well as in terms of their championship potential.
New York Mets
2014 Record: 79-83 (+300)
2015 Wins Over/Under: 83.0
Odds To Win 2015 NL East: +700
Odds To Win 2015 NL Pennant: +1400
2015 New York Mets Odds To Win World Series: +2800
Outlook: Maybe its because I've seen it happen so many times but I refuse to believe that the Mets will be any good until I actually see it happen. This is a team with a lot of buzz heading into the season thanks to a dynamic pitching staff full of electric young arms. However, until the Mets prove that their popgun lineup is capable of banging out runs against quality pitching then this team is going to be condemned to a lot of frustrating 2-1, 3-1 losses.
The Mets haven't finished in the Top 20 in runs scored since 2011. Because of some financial constraints they weren't able to add much in free agency beyond perennially underrated - but aging - Mick Cuddyer. But given New York's track record with free agent signings (Curtis Granderson and Jason Bay being two recent examples of ineptitude) I wouldn't expect much from Cuddyer, who has hit over .330 each of the past two seasons. And that's the problem for New York: they need Cuddyer to do a lot because no one else can. David Wright has averaged just 15 home runs the past four years. Granderson stinks. They have had a massive void at first base the past five seasons. Overall, the lineup is uninspiring.
The rotation is plenty inspired. Matt Harvey looks fully recovered after losing two seasons to arm surgery. Zach Wheeler, Jacob deGrom, Jon Niese and Dillon Gee all have serious stuff and have proven themselves at the Major League level. And veteran toad impersonator Bartolo Colon continues to defy the odds while pitching effectively into his 40s. New York has six quality starters and their top prospect, Noah Syndergaard, waiting in the wings.
The Mets need to trade some of their pitching for hitting. They could potentially have the arm to keep up with the Nationals, but they don't have the bats. New York is relying on some aging or injury-prone guys in the heart of the order, and I just don't think they will be able to score enough runs to be a playoff threat. Also, this franchise rarely rises to the occasion and generally flops under the pressure of expectations.
2014 Record: 77-85 (0)
2015 Wins Over/Under: 83.0
Odds To Win 2015 NL East: +600
Odds To Win 2015 NL Pennant: +2000
2015 Miami Marlins Odds To Win World Series: +3500
Outlook: The Marlins failed to turn a profit for bettors last year despite an impressive 15-game improvement in the standings. This all-or-nothing franchise won its most games since 2010 last year and now they expect to take a leap forward similar to what they did during their title years of 1997 and 2003. If there is a team that seems capable of at least threatening the Nationals this year it should be the Marlins.
Miami was nosing around the Wild-Card race last year before Giancarlo Stanton took a fastball to the face and had his season end prematurely. Stanton signed an absurd $300-plus million contract this offseason and is one of the best hitters in the game. The Marlins made some moves to add veterans Martin Prado and Michael Morse as well. If Marcell Ozuna can match last year's numbers (.269, 23 HRs, 85 RBI) then the Marlins have the core of a decent lineup.
Every year the Marlins cobble together a mediocre starting staff, and 2015 is no exception. Stud Jose Fernandez won't be back until midseason - if he comes back at all - and that was a massive blow to this franchise. They key to this year's rotation is Mat Latos. Latos is a legit No. 1 starter and an innings eater. The Marlins are also holding their breath and hoping Tom Koehler and Henderson Alvarez both can build on last year's 10-win, sub-4.00 ERA seasons. They need to because there's nothing in the stable after that.
If the Marlins can figure out their starting pitching - or just get an unreal year out of their bullpen - then I think they are one of the few teams with enough offensive punch to be a factor in the East. This team made major strides, and if they can get Jose Fernandez back healthy midseason then it could give them a huge boost down the stretch. But be wary: I feel like the Marlins are a boom-or-bust team.
2014 Record: 79-83 (-1800)
2015 Wins Over/Under: 74.5
Odds To Win 2015 NL East : +3500
Odds To Win 2015 NL Pennant: +5000
2015 Atlanta Braves Odds To Win World Series: +10000
Outlook: Maybe it's because I've seen it happen so many times but I refuse to believe that the Braves will be a non-factor in the East until I actually see it happen. Doom and gloom seems to be the only forecast after the team gutted its roster in the offseason. They fired their general manager and overhauled the clubhouse after a disastrous 79-win campaign that was one of the organization's worst in the past 20 years. However, the fact is that Atlanta massively overachieved in 2013 and set expectations way too high. Some questionable personnel moves, injuries, and poor karma all conspired to sabotage Atlanta's summer.
However, I don't mind some of the moves that they made this offseason. These guys couldn't hit last year. At all. In any way. Their lineup was a bunch of streaky, all-or-nothing guys that hit .220 and struck out a lot. I thought Justin Upton and Jason Heyward were both massively overrated and Dan Uggla was a dud. Nick Markakis and Alberto Callaspo will more than make up for the loss of Heyward and Uggla. I also like the addition of catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who may be a prick but who has done nothing but win at every stop he's made.
I think Atlanta's lineup will be improved. But they still have major question marks in their pitching staff. Pitching coach Roger McDowell is a miracle worker and has been coaxing quality starts out of past-their-prime vets for years now. He will have his work cut out for him this year. Atlanta has one very good starter in Julio Teheran and then a steep drop-off. They are hoping that McDowell can work his magic with guys like Shelby Miller and Wandy Rodriguez to forge a competent staff.
People in and around the Braves organization are putting heat on Fredi Gonzalez. That's ridiculous to me. And Gonzalez is one of the reasons I think this team will be better than people expect. All Gonzalez did in Florida was exceed expectations with overmatched Marlins teams. He has done the same thing for three of four years in Atlanta. I'm not writing this team off just yet. They can't catch Washington, but I don't see this team tumbling into the abyss.
2014 Record: 73-89 (-460)
2015 Wins Over/Under: 68.5
Odds To Win 2015 NL East: +8500
Odds To Win 2015 NL Pennant: +15000
2015 Philadelphia Phillies Odds To Win World Series: +27500
Outlook: The Phillies are in the abyss. They should've cut bait on veterans like Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Cliff Lee and Jimmy Rollins years ago when they might've gotten something in return. Rollins was moved this offseason, but it was too little too late. Now this team is stuck with a way-past-its-prime core and a mediocre farm system. They've won just 73 games each of the past two seasons, and this year's group looks even worse.
There's just not much positive to say about the Phillies. They have two quality lefties in Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee. But Lee made just 13 starts last year and already has a sore elbow. And they are actively shopping Hamels, so don't be surprised if he gets moved this year as well. The rotation after that are retreads like Aaron Harang (a terrible fit in that ballpark), Jerome Williams (how much more do you need to see to know he can't pitch), and Chad Billingsley (hasn't been good since early 2012). The names are just familiar enough to be enticing, but the reality is this group is weak.
The lineup is more of the same: retreads. Retreads surrounded by underperforming young players like Ben Revere and Dominic Brown. They've finished 24 th and 27th in scoring the past two seasons, and there hasn't been any significant upgrade.
This is a bad team, and right now there's a dark cloud hanging over the organization. They had seven straight years under .500 in the mid- and late-90s. And the way the roster is shaped and the money currently dispersed, this franchise looks like it could be headed toward a similar valley.
2015 National League East Picks and Predictions: Predicted Order of Finish
1. Washington Nationals
2. Miami Marlins
3. New York Mets
4. Atlanta Braves
5. Philadelphia Phillies
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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