National League Outlook
As the changing of the guard in power and pitching has shifted to the National League, one can expect all three leagues to be very competitive in 2013. Starting in the East, many would say Nationals………………………… and no more explanation would be needed. Though the Nationals may be a lock to win the division again, the Chipperless Braves may stand in the way. In the National League especially, the additional wild card will push teams to fight for the division title putting a bulls eye on the division leader all year long. The Nationals have strong pitching behind their one and two, Strasburg and Gonzalez, but also have a strong offense led by phenom, Bryce Harper. If they give Strasburg the benefit of the doubt this year and don’t limit him on innings or at least spread it out more they could have a deep playoff run. The Braves, however, are even more loaded on offense than the Nationals with a power punch of four to five players that could hit twenty home runs. Their weakness, however, is their pitching. Known for producing great pitchers, this year’s team doesn’t quite have the same power that the Nationals will have. Beyond the Nationals and Braves, the East should be very quiet as the Phillies are getting old, the Mets need help, and the Marlins are now the Blue Jays, I mean….yeah you get the point.
The National League Central will probably be a lot like that of the East’s battle; two teams fighting for the division, hoping they don’t get left out in the wild card. The Reds and Cardinals, bitter rivals, will clash for the best record not only in the division but overall in Major League Baseball. They will be going about it in two very different ways though. Overall, the Reds look to have a tougher schedule while the Cardinals seems to be fairly easy schedule. However, at the end of the year when it counts most, the Cards have to face Washington in the last week whereas the Reds have to worry about the Pirates who depending on which Pirates team shows up, could be a big challenge for the Reds. As much as I would like to say hands down the Reds take the division I think it will come down to the last week or two of the season because they are very evenly matched offensively, defensively, and pitching wise. Furthermore, I would expect to see a number of records broken in Cincinnati this year as Chapman will be the full time closer. Just like in recent years, the Brewers and Pirates will battle for third with the edge probably going to the Pirates as they have a good balance between quality pitchers and hitters. With the Astros over in the American League, the Cubs will take over as the last place team in the Central until Epstein builds them into a strong powerhouse team in the next couple years.
Like the other two divisions, the National League West will come down to the final weeks of the season. The World Champion Giants will have to use the their strong pitching and big bats from last year to keep their hopes in check of winning a third title in four years as the new ownership in LA has different ideas for the west. According to SI.com, the Dodgers will pay out over $200 million in salaries this year with nearly $160 million in ten players alone. All of this to pay talents such as Zach Greinke, Ryu Hyun-Jin, Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp and Adrian Gonzalez to lead them to a world championship, something the Dodgers haven’t had since 1988. With the big bats and arms calling San Francisco and LA home, it’s a wonder if the other California team, the Padres, have even a remote chance to impress the baseball world. The Padres, who haven’t been much of a force in recent memory look to set on the outside looking in yet again. They need their pitching to step up in order to compete with the division, otherwise they will likely see worse numbers than last year in the win bracket. What happened to the Rockies? Since there last playoff run in 09’ they have won nearly ten less games each year. Sure their big arm got traded to Cleveland in Ubaldo Jimenez, but are they really hurting that bad? All I can say is I hope they have a turn around like that of the Diamondbacks, who after they won the World Series against the Yankees back in 2001, had a couple good years, hit rock bottom and then were back in the playoffs in 2011. Speaking of the Diamondbacks, I believe they have the chance to be the team that causes problems for those teams you expect to make the playoffs. The D-Backs are the Baltimore Orioles/ Oakland A’s of the National League. They have a lot of great talent in Cody Ross, Aaron Hill, Ian Kennedy, Wade Miley, Martin Prado, and more that could derail the Giants and Dodgers hopes of either making the playoffs or making it very far in the playoffs.
Overall, the National League will be very fun to watch this year as you have at least seven or eight teams that will be very competitive for the five spaces available for the playoffs and if you look back at the American League it is the same. So unofficially, I can say there will be over half the teams in baseball vying for ten spots and for my picks see part 3!