Sunday, February 6, 2011

Philadephia Favorites: Phillies Primed for More Success

So, is there really any question about which team is the favorite in the National League East?  The Phillies signed Cliff Lee and now have the best rotation in baseball, not to mention a pretty good lineup.  The rest of the teams in the NL East?  Competing for second.

The Braves look like the clear favorite for second place in the NL East in 2011, and maybe they could even push the Phillies for the first.  The Braves have one of the best rotations in the National League (behind the Phillies and Giants, of course), with a solid group of Tim Hudson, Derek Lowe, Tommy Hanson, Jair Jurrjens, and Mike Minor.  If Chipper Jones can come back strong after missing 67 games last season, the middle of the Braves could be extremely good (they need to improve on their .258 average from last season), as it will include Jones, Jason Heyward, Brian McCann, and newcomer Dan Uggla.  While I think that it will still be almost impossible for any team to best the Phillies, the Braves have the best chance of the other four teams in the division.

The Marlins finished 2010 with a record of 80-82, and may be a bit better this upcoming season.  They have a solid rotation topped by Josh Johnson (11-6, 2.30 ERA) and newcomer Javier Vazquez pitched well last time he played in the NL East (with the Braves in 2009).  The lineup should be solid, as the Marlins have Hanley Ramirez manning shortstop and new star Mike Stanton in right field.  Newcomers Omar Infante (2B) and John Buck (catcher) offer upgrades at both positions.

What to say about the Mets?  They only won 79 games last season and might not win that many this season.  Their lineup has the parts to be good, but injuries and inconsistency are a concern.  Normally, a team with Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, David Wright, and Jason Bay would have high expectations.  However, a rotation where the best starters are Mike Pelfrey and R.A. Dickey offsets a lineup that may produce runs (especially when their rotation is the fourth or fifth best in their own division).  If you're a Mets fan, don't expect a playoff run.

Obviously, not having Stephen Strasburg is a major loss.  However, the Nationals have the pieces to win more than the 69 games they won last year.  They don't have any aces in their rotation, but they have solid pieces in Livan Hernandez, John Lannan, Tom Gorzelanny, Jason Marquis, and Jordan Zimmerman (hopefully Zimmerman will be back from injury).  The lineup will be anchored by Ryan Zimmerman and newcomer Jayson Werth.  Clearly, the Nationals can't compete with the top teams in the division, but they might not finish last either.

Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels.  Who cares who the Phillies fifth starter is, because they already have the best rotation in baseball in place (also, its one of the best of all-time, on paper).  Their offense isn't too shabby either.  With Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Placido Polanco, Raul Ibanez, Carlos Ruiz, and Dominic Brown starting, the Phillies should score more than enough run to win with the rotation they have.

1. Phillies
2. Braves
3. Marlins
4. Nationals
5. Mets

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