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Friday, June 1, 2012

MLB - One Quarter Point - National League

Just before the Major League Baseball season was started in earnest, the Hat Trick ran a preview of the 2012 season, complete with my two cents. That two cents is worth a (rusty, chipped, beaten up) penny. My crystal ball, which doesn't exist, never said "expect the unexpected". Yet the first quarter of the MLB season has been filled with nothing but surprises.

My original comments are in black. The current 2012 record and my one-quarter mark comments are in blue. The American League to come on Monday. Enjoy!


N.L. East

Philadelphia Phillies (27-25, 5th place) – In 2010 and 2011, I said that MLB may as well skip to the World Series and hand the Phillies the National League pennant. Both years, the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants reminded me: THAT’S WHY THEY PLAY THE GAMES. The addition of closer Jonathan Papelbon did not encourage me to change my ways. Not having completely learned my lesson, I’ll modify that to say that MLB may as well skip the regular season hand the Phillies the N.L. East division title.

Let me modify my early season remarks to say that Philadelphia had better get its last place butt in gear. That said, they are only 3 games back, so I am sticking with my pre-season expectation that they will win the N.L. East.

Washington Nationals (29-21, 1st place) – With some big offseason moves the last two seasons and the return of a healthy Stephen Strasburg the Nationals are the Detroit Lions pre-season pick of Major League Baseball. If they stay healthy, I expect them to be second in the East and to be in the Wild Card race.

Many said the Nationals were a year away from making a serious run for the post season. Not I! Then again, even a broken clock is right twice per day.

Atlanta Braves (28-24, 4th place) – Top flight pitching and weak hitting equals a lot of regular season wins and no room for error in the playoffs.

Still waiting on that top flight pitching.... Braves Fan should send flowers and fruit baskets to Dan Uggla (.267, 8 HR, 31 RBI) and Martin Prado (.322, 3 HR, 22 RBI) for keeping the team within striking distance.

Miami Marlins(29-22, 2nd place) Ozzie and the Fish are going to experience growing pains. I expect a circus in year one, but not a train wreck.

And...the Ozzie Circus started (almost) with the opening pitch of the season. However, there is a reason GMs put up with Ozzie; he's that good. Miami is off to as good of a start through 40-plus games as they have been in years.

New York Mets(28-23, 3rd place) There’s the train wreck!

Or perhaps not.... The Mets have been the epitome of "dysfunction" over the previous five seasons. Yet disciplined batting, anchored by a rejuvenated third baseman David Wright (.365, 5 HR, 30 RBI), and a healthy Johan Santana (2-2, 2.75 ERA, 60 Ks) leading the pitching staff, have the Mets looking like a legitimate MLB team!

Ozzie Guillen's antics, like a fine wine, just get better with age. 2

N.L. Central

Cincinnati Reds(28-22, 1st place) The opposite of the Atlanta Braves. If they can just tighten up their pitching to the tune of 0.30 earned runs per game, I think they win the division. I love the promotion of Aroldis Chapman to the top of the starting rotation. Big risk…big reward? I like the Reds in the Central.

While Chapman (4-0, 0.00 ERA, 44 Ks, 26.0 IP) did not get the promotion I expected, he and the entire Reds' pitching staff have held their own. Joey Votto (.325, 8 HR, 29 RBI, 1.060 OBPS), so far, is earning his keep from his L..O..N..G (near) quarter-billion dollar contract extension.

St. Louis Cardinals(27-24, 2nd place) Adding Adam Wainwright minus Albert Pujols equals a net loss. The Redbirds snuck into the playoffs last year. Not happening in 2012….

Carlos Beltran (.294, 15 HR, 42 RBI) happens. Interpret that as you will.

Milwaukee Brewers (22-28, 5th place) – The pitching is still uninspired and now there is no Prince Fielder. BO-RING baseball and a boring season is upon the MLB fans of Wisconsin.

Performing as I expected. It's Ryan Braun (.309, 14 HR, 36 RBI) and eight guys whose names could be replaced with "Lorem Ispum" on the scorecard and nobody would be the wiser. Whatever magic they captured last year appears to be gone.

Pittsburgh Pirates (25-25, 3rd place) – I think the Pirates continue with the improvement they made last year. However, pitching is a massive liability. I think they don’t even sniff either of the NL Wild Card spots.

Did I say "pitching" was a massive liability? I meant "hitting". I whiffed on the means (much like the Pirates have in many of their at-bats this year), but not the ends. Respectable record...not on track to be in the playoff race. James McDonald (4-2, 2.20 ERA, 63 Ks) should be in the early National League Cy Young discussion and Andrew McCutchen (.331, 8 HR, 21 RBI) continues to be a shining star. It won't be enough.

Houston Astros(22-28, 4th place) MY TEAM! THE ASTROS!!! Gonna be another long year…. Gonna get even better when next year when they move into the same American League division as the two time A.L. champs. If I had an Astros crystal ball, I think I’d break it after looking into it.

The Astros are much improved over last year. They have a legitimate budding star in shortstop Jose Altuve (.309, 3 HR, 18 RBI) and a pitching staff that appears to be developing nicely. Keep an eye on this team. They could be next year's Washington Nationals.

Chicago Cubs(18-32, 6th place) They were bad last year. Their bats have gotten worse. Their sub standard pitching is about the same. Enjoy the cellar, Cubbies!

Stick a fork in 'em...again. They're done...again

♫ It's a good time...for the great flames...of McDonald! ♪♪

N.L. West

San Francisco Giants (27-24, 2nd place) – Buster Posey is back. Their pitchers are beastly. Arizona was a fluke last year.

Posey (.294, 6 HR, 27 RBI) looks great. Melky Cabrera (.373, 4 HR, 25 RBI) appears to be having a breakout season, in the 8th year of his career. The pitchers continue to be beastly except for the one person who one would expect to be a beast, Tim Lincecum (2-6, 5.82 ERA, 1.57 WHIP), who has been abysmal. They aren't turning hits into runs and it is weighing them down.

Los Angeles Dodgers (32-18, 1st place) – Magic Johnson and Don Mattingly – two sports icons of the 80s…both invested in the Dodgers’ fate…both may be looking for a window to jump out of by September. I have read a lot of speculation of how much better they are supposed to be, but I just don’t see it in their lineup. Both men had to leave their sports due to medical ailments that are aggravated by stress. WHY oh WHY did they get hooked up with the Dysfunctional Dodgers?

Donnie Baseball for Manager of the Year...Magic Johnson's group for Executive(s) of the Year, if there is such an award. This team finds a way to keep winning. There is no way I could run down all of the things this team is doing right in one paragraph. This is great for baseball and I couldn't be happier to be wrong.

Arizona Diamondbacks (23-28, 3rd place) – The irony is that the Snakes have the talent and the schedule to recapture the lighting in a bottle they caught in 2011. I am still a believer the lightning doesn’t strike in the same place twice.

No striking. In fact...not a lot of strikeouts from the pitching staff. Wade Miley (6-1, 2.41, 32 Ks) has been a pleasant exception to that trend.

Colorado Rockies – (20-29, 4th place) Decent bats plus suspect pitching plus high altitude equals shootouts which equals a worn out bullpen. That won’t fly in the West for 162 games.

They are pounding my Astros, en route to a four game sweep, as I write this, so perhaps I should temper my criticism. Or not.... 

They can bang out runs, especially at home, and especially when Carlos Gonzalez (.332, 14 HR, 44 RBI) is involved. They can't pitch their way out of a wet paper bag. When 49 year old Jamie Moyer (2-5, 5.70, 36 Ks) is second on your team in strikeouts and innings pitched, you've got problems!

San Diego Padres(17-35, 5th place) They have an outfielder named Blanks, which is what they can expect to be hung on the scoreboard after many of their halves of innings this year.

Endison Volquez (2-5, 3.46 ERA, 55 Ks) is having his best season in years...on the worst team one may ever witness. He must be missing Cincinnati.

It looks like the Magic is back in L.A.! 1

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