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NL East preview


MVPosey
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Twelve. That?s how many consecutive years that the Braves have won the National League East. Will it continue? It won?t if the Phillies, who have an improved bullpen, or the defending champion Marlins, have anything to say about it.

 

 

 

Phillies- Yes, the Braves? run will be over. Over the last few seasons the weak spot was the bullpen. Now it may be the strong spot. With the additions of Billy Wagner and Tim Worrell, Admin Bowa no longer has to leave his pitchers in too long or have to take heart medication every time that he goes to the bullpen. They also have a great rotation, led by Kevin Millwood, Randy Wolf, and Vicente Padilla.

 

Not only that, but they have a great lineup. Mike Lieberthal and Jim Thome are top tier at their positions and Pat Burrell, Marlon Byrd and Bobby Abreu make up one of the best outfields in baseball. Placido Polanco is also a great guy to have playing second. This is more than enough to make up for the weak spots at short (Jimmy Rollins) and third (David Bell).

 

The X factor will be the new ballpark. Moving from an ugly cookie cutter in Veterans Stadium to beautiful new Citizens Bank Park (despite the lousy name) will increase attendance and fan support, giving them more of a home field advantage.

 

Look for them to win the division but they will have an early exit from the playoffs.

 

 

Braves- Sheffield is gone. Lopez is gone. Maddux is gone. And so will be their run of consecutive division titles. 2003 was the first year that they didn?t have a great rotation, but they made up for it with a great offense, however after losing the two best players from the lineup, they don?t even have that.

 

Not that it?s a bad lineup. They have the best offensive second baseman in the NL in Marcus Giles, and the second best shortstop in the NL in Rafael Furcal. If JD Drew can stay healthy then he along with Andrew Jones and Chipper Jones will make up one of the best outfields in baseball. After that, it?s pretty weak. C Johnny Estrada and 3B Mark DeRosa are both mediocre at best. And Adam Laroche, while promising, is still unproven.

 

The rotation is decent, but nothing special. Mike Hampton is a solid pitcher when he?s not with the Rockies, but he?s not ace material. Don?t let Russ Ortiz? record fool you. He?s an average pitcher at best, and if he had an average lineup in 2003, he would be a .500 pitcher at best. John Thomson is a very mediocre pitcher. Horacio Ramirez is very promising after a great rookie season, but expect a sophomore slump from him. Jaret Wright?s lifetime era is 5.68, and last year it was 7.35. Maybe he?ll do better as a starter, but I doubt it.

 

The Braves? run will be over in 2004.

 

 

Marlins- They are the defending champions. So, what?s the problem? They?re not as good this year. After losing their two best position players in Ivan Rodriguez and Derek Lee, the only top tier position player left is 3B Mike Lowell. Hee Seop Choi is unproven and probably will never amount to a decent player. Luis Castillo and Juan Pierre are two of the most highly overrated players in baseball and they are only average players. Miguel Cabrera is still unproven. Jeff Conine is a decent player, but when he?s the second best player in your lineup, there?s something wrong.

 

They have a really good rotation, which includes World Series MVP Josh Beckett, phenom Dontrelle Willis, Brad Penny, Carl Pavano, and Darren Oliver. But, in my opinion, with that weak offense and mediocre bullpen, they will be lucky to reach .500 this year.

 

 

Expos ? They lost Vladimir Guerrero, but that?s not what?s going to hurt them the most. They acquired a few good players to make up for the loss, including Carl Everett, Nick Johnson, and Tony Batista. What?s going to hurt them is losing ace Javier Vazquez.

 

Other than losing Guerrero, every offensive move has been an upgrade. Brian Schneider is better than Michael Barrett, Nick Johnson is better than Todd Zeile, and Tony Batista is better than Fernando Tatis. Even when you consider that they lost Guerrero and picked up Carl Everett, the lineup is still improved overall.

 

Pitching is another story. Livan Hernandez is their ace. Yes, he had a good year this year, but do you really expect him to pitch like that again? I don?t think so. Their other starting pitchers are Zach Day, Tomo Okha, Claudio Vargas, and Sun Woo-Kim. With a rotation like that, they have no hope.

 

I predict 75 wins, if they?re lucky.

 

 

Mets- They improved their lineup (Mike Cameron and Kazuo Matsui) and their bullpen (Braden Looper). In addition, Glavine will probably return to form. This team could surprise everyone and win the division or they could finish last. My bet is that they will wind up last, but a close last with less than 90 losses.

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