If you look at what the Philadelphia Phillies have done in the past 5 seasons, you might be tempted to think that they are a lock for a playoff spot. Starting in 2007, the Phillies won 89, 92, 93, 97, and 102 games. This year’s team is not any of those teams by any stretch of the imagination. The team has lost a lot of pop from the left side of the plate in the form of Ryan Howard (gruesome injury) and Raul Ibanez (gone to the dark side). The team has also lost one of its vaunted “4 Aces” in Roy Oswalt. So, what does all this mean for the Phils?
- Philadelphia Phillies (94-68). Same story, different year. The Phillies still have one of the best rotations in baseball, even with the loss of Oswalt. As a matter of fact, I would be willing to take Vance Worley‘s season over Oswalt’s season at this point. It would be hard for Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, and Cliff Lee to top last season, but they just might accomplish the same end goal on the strength of their 1-5 starters. The addition of Papelbon at the back end of the bullpen may be significant as well. He brings an attitude with him that seems more befitting of a closer these days, and that air of confidence could provide a boost to the relief corps this season. As for the loss of Howard and Ibanez, a full season of Hunter Pence should help compensate for the loss of Howard, and the 2011 version of Ibanez was not anything to write home about. The Phillies should be faster and more athletic this season, and their overall team defense may be better for it. I don’t give them a pass on reaching 100 wins, but 94-95 wins would not be unfathomable.
- Atlanta Braves (90-72). Again, it’s the same story and a different year. The Braves may finish the season looking up at the Phillies, but this team can hang in there for a good division race. The big wild card for the Braves might be Dan Uggla who could completely change the team’s season by getting off to a quick start. I still peg the Braves around 90 wins, but that does not reflect just the team’s ceiling. The division should be more competitive this year, and it is reasonable to expect the win ceiling for the top 2 teams to fall a bit.
- Washington Nationals (84-78). This could be the year that the franchise finally gets over the .500 hump as the Nationals. If you look at the roster, the names Edwin Jackson and Stephen Strasburg should stand out. With those two in the fold and healthy, the Nationals may have the most improved starting rotation in the NL. More importantly for Nats fans, the team is setting itself up to compete without jumping over the $100M payroll barrier. Something in the neighborhood of 83-84 wins would be enough of an improvement to consider the 2012 team a success in my book.
- Miami Marlins (80-82). This team is heavily reliant upon guys with colorful injury histories to get through a full season, and that should be a concern. Beyond Josh Johnson, the starting pitching should be good enough to keep them in a lot of games, and there will be times when this team scores runs in bunches. If this team does not self-destruct or become part of a reality show, they should do well. This bunch could end up winning anywhere between 78 and 84 games, but I’m leaning to the low side due to the potential of a key player being injured by catching site of the new Marlins jerseys in a fun house mirror. Also, the possibility that Logan Morrison will act pretty much exactly like Logan Morrison has me projecting the team to give away a few games due to sheer “duh” factor.
- New York Mets. The Mets are rebuilding. If they rebuild the right way, they are a few years from returning to past glory, and that’s alright. The team does have some young talent, and while it is sad to watch David Wright waste away on a bad team, it happens. The important thing here is that Mets fans appear to be fine with the rebuilding process, and that’s a breath of fresh air. It takes patience, but they could be rewarded down the road. Unfortunately, those same fans may have to suffer through a 90 loss season this year to get there.
Alright, that makes it Phillies, Braves, Nationals, Marlins, and Mets. I would stake my reputation to these predictions, but we all know that wouldn’t mean a thing. Just check back at the end of the season to potentially bonk me on the noggin for being a dunderhead about these picks.
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