2011 Previews: N.L. East

Let’s see if we can get through the rest of the divisions before the All-Star break…

Atlanta: I am not sold on the idea that Freddie Freeman is ready (yet), lord knows what they do when Chipper Jones breaks down, and I have some doubts about the set-up men in the bullpen. But the rest of this team is solid, The Ted has long been Dan Uggla’s favorite ballpark to hit in, and I like the starting depth with Mike Minor already pressed into service for the injured Jair Jurrjens. Hope if you play fantasy ball you were not misled by Fredi Gonzalez’s insistence he would be giving Jonny Venters a share of the closer’s job; Craig Kimbrel will soon be regarded as one of baseball’s bests. If you were to pick one team not widely believed to be a division winner to pick as a division winner, it’d be this one.

Florida: If Mike Stanton is healthy and the bullpen doesn’t fall apart, this is another contender. Power is down with the trade of Uggla, but up with the acquisition of John Buck and the maturation of Logan Morrison and Gaby Sanchez. The three younger players already mentioned, plus Chris Coghlan, join Hanley Ramirez as five of the highest-ceiling hitters in the league and there are scenarios in which they all reach their apogees simultaneously and the Marlins crush the division. I don’t think that’s likely and I don’t think a Leo Nunez/Clay Hensley/Mike Dunn bullpen is going to get them very far, but it might be enough to put them into Wild Card consideration.

New York: This might not be as bad as it seems, and Terry Collins might be just the right guy to get the maximum out of Jason Bay, Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, and David Wright, and the giant franchise disaster that is the Madoff Lawsuit might not distract from whatever is done on the field. But that’s a lot of mights – and we haven’t even gotten around to what might be the implications of having to play a Rule V draftee at second base, and having built a set-up staff exclusively out of guys released by other teams, and being stuck dragging around an injury-prone leftfielder for another three years whose fly ball arcs end at the warning track and was only signed because ownership insisted.

Philadelphia: If everybody had been healthy, they still would’ve been overrated. Win all the divisions you want – eventually an unreliable closer will cost you too much to survive it. Now he’s hurt, and his heir presumptive is so incapable of stepping up that his manager and general manager have publicly expressed their doubts about him. There’s the outfield, already a problem spot before Domonic Brown was hurt (Raul Ibanez is its power – he hit 16 homers last year). And most disastrous of all, deranging everything from the infield defense to the entire batting order, is the combination injury/enigma of Chase Utley. I’ll repeat what I wrote here in my Fantasy Notes last week: everything I heard from everybody I know connected to the Phillies says that Utley’s options are season-ending knee surgery, or virtually-season-ending rehab. Either way, offensively the Phillies are reduced to Ryan Howard with very little line-up protection, the hustle and skill of Shane Victorino, and lord-knows-what from Jimmy Rollins. The Phillies are not contenders. Oh yeah – nice rotation. Unfortunately it’s like living in a mansion with no furniture.

Washington: It is yet to be explained why this franchise yoked itself to Jayson Werth. He’s a fine component for a contending team. He is not a franchise player, and has been evidenced by where they’re hitting him, the Lerners inexplicably invested $126,000,000 in a number two hitter. Here’s a young team with exciting young players like Danny Espinosa and Ian Desmond (though they should switch defensive positions) and Jordan Zimmermann and Wilson Ramos (and maybe Drew Storen) – and even a young superstar in Ryan Zimmerman. Why not invest that money in Zimmerman? I know he’s locked up through 2013, but 2014 is when Bryce Harper is probably going to hit 67 homers while Stephen Strasburg wins 24 games. Or if you really feel like spending money on veterans, make them bargain buys like Adam LaRoche, or at least make them pitchers to relieve the despair created by some of those who will toe the slab in the Capitol this year.

Overview: I liked the Braves before Utley got hurt. I still do. I will take them: 1. Atlanta, 2. Florida, 3. Philadelphia, 4. New York, 5. Washington (Washington could vault into 4th if things go really sour in Queens). I think the Marlins and Phillies are Wild Card prospects but I’m not sure yet.

22 Comments

You know this is still mostly Greek to me…but what happened today in Wrigley field made the national news. Wrigley is the field I am using to study the diagram of a baseball park. The dimensions are good exercise for my head. Anyway, a flock of birds…seagulls…took over centerfield and a guy named BIRD, or could it be Byrd, caught the ball that ended the game. And you thought YESTERDAY was spooky! I saw one headline that said…”Birds flock to Wrigley, fans do not”…now I want some gum…Juicy Fruit!

I have a feeling that you like San Francisco and Colorado to make the playoffs. I think you are spot on with your predictions.

Hey, Maybe you should go back to working on MSNBC and talking about politics. Its fairly obvious that you don’t know much about baseball.

I don’t usually agree with Phillies fans, but in the vernacular of Ed McMahon, “You are correct, sir!” Well at least half right… He has no clue on politics either.

If Florida makes the playoffs watch out. History is they win the world series when they make the playoffs. They seem to do the most with the least. Dollar for dollar they have the best team in baseball. Therefore, just for fun, go Marlins.

So far the Phils havent’ missed Utley nor Lidge. The bats are working and the bullpen has been superb. The Phils will lead the East the whole season and win the pennant.

Why is it when anyone mentions a Rule V draftee (and they always mention that a player was one) they make it sound like the player has some sort of incurable disease?

The hardest thing about being a fan is being an objective fan and I spent most of my off season dreaming of a Broad Street parade based on our rotation. And I think our starting rotation puts up in the top three of the division without a lot of fuss. After that, like everyone else, it’s about health and production. And our bullpen, who I love like I love family — you don’t always like them, but they’re your family and you don’t get to pick them so you might as well get out there and support them when they need you. I think you’re hasty in counting the Phillies out, but only time is going to tell on that one :)

Keith, I sorely miss Countdown and I’m looking forward to your CurrenTV gig. I am a FOK. But I profusely and vehemently, yet respectfully, disagree with your assessment of the Phillies this year. You actually sound like the all-to-familiar pessimistic Philly fan. We all have at least one friend like that. While you pointed out every single flaw/injury/question mark, you barely gave one line to the starting rotation. It’s hard to imagine this team ever having an extended losing streak with aces taking the mound phour fifths of the time, pun intended. The still potent lineup and their good defense will keep them close in many more games than not. And their bullpen will rarely be taxed since the starters will eat a lot of innings. I just don’t see any team besides Atlanta coming close to the Phillies this year.

ridiculous keith. to say lidge’s injury is the biggest problem for the phils is a startling indicator of your propensity to pontificate whilst knowing little of the subject you are writing of. Utley’s injury is infinitely more problematic than losing Lidge. Now, if you had a chance to respond today, you would see that Contreras is out for now as well and this certainly hurts the effort of the bullpen, but Madson has turned in the last two seasons into a tremendously valuable asset – and to think that he is merely an 8th inning guy is to be mistaken. It’s early, but the Phils have the best record in baseball and almost all of the starting rotation (PLUS the bullpen!) has an .era of 2.00 or less. With those kind of numbers we can afford to count on Ryan Howard’s bat, and Victorino’s speed, and Rollins…wait a minute, I almost forgot, seeing how you failed to mention it, that Placido Polanco wears the red and white as well. Wait a second there, is he hitting .366 with an OBP of .429 – I’m not exactly sure but maybe you should look it up. Regardless, my point is that with even slightly above average offense (which is what, I admit, it is), The ability to only have to score 3 runs to win half of your games will certainly result in a successful season. Phils – 100+ wins – Braves – wild card – Florida – the realization that at least they are going home to nice weather come the fall.
ps. Utley’s absence, while hurting the Phils offensively, does little defensively when you look and see the agility of Valdez, despite his convincing at-the-plate imitation of Pedro Feliz…and Pedro has a ring.

Well said, JT! And, as of today Polanco is now batting .390 and has the most hits in all of MLB. Besides Valdez and his excellent fielding the Phillies have Orr who is also excellent at 2nd with awesome speed and a good bat. And, don’t forget the great bench the Phillies have, best in MLB right now. The Phils’ aren’t even hitting their stride yet and they are still winning. Lidge who?

I really miss countdown Keith!

Hey Keith – which horses should I bet on?

Keith – you’re an idiot.

hahahahha oh my god his predictions…

Nice predictions chief.

He wishes he could redo those predictions

Phillies still in first place in NL East. They have not relinquished their first place position, merely being in a tie with ATL for only 1 day. Now the Phillies have a 6 game lead over ATL. My prediction is still holding. Keith’s (as much as I love you) prediction is shot.

As a Phillies fan, I like our furniture just fine in our mansion. Underwhelming hitting until the All Star break, but picking it up as the nights get warmer. Utley has, to this point, been Utley, after returning from 70+ games on the DL. Every night, someone seems to step up. Balance throughout the lineup. Add Hunter Pence, who arguably has the oddest swing and gait in baseball, and you not only have furnished the mansion, you’ve tastefully furnished the guest house. Keith, you had it right with Atlanta; they’re a very good team, but you completely missed your Phillies prediction. Still love ya, man.

No wonder he’s out of sports.

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