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2012 MLB predictions Part 2 -- National LeaguePosted Wednesday, March 28, 2012, at 7:09 AM
By COREY NOLES
Welcome back! If you're reading this I assume yesterday's predictions didn't anger you enough not to return for more.
Yesterday I took a look at the American League and made my predictions on what I expect. Today, we're going to take a look at the National League. Don't forget to check back later in the week for my postseason and award predictions.
National League East
5. New York (Mets)
While the Phillies will have some struggles offensively, at least early in the season, when you factor in their rotation (Halladay, Lee, Hamels, Worley, Blanton) the team is still the clear favorite to win the east. However, this year will be more of a fight. Atlanta didn't make a lot of changes in the offseason, but , prior to their collapse they played great baseball. They're clearly hoping to call the past the past and move on forward. I struggled with the order of the Marlins and Nationals. While I think the Nationals are soon to be an awesome team with a ton of depth, I think that may still be a year or so out. The Marlins made changes, however, that help them immediately. The addition of Jose Reyes and Heath Bell along with incoming manager Ozzie Guillen could be just the shot in the arm this team needs. The Carlos Zambrano acquisition interests me, as well. If Guillen can keep him straightened out, he could be the pitcher he once was. The Mets, well, I don't look for much out of there this season. Losing Reyes hurt them bad offensively and defensively and I expect them to feel it all season.
National League Central
1. St. Louis
5. Chicago (Cubs)
Before anyone thinks it, my choice of the Cardinals to take the central has nothing to do with the fact that I write about them daily. The Cardinals are on top because, despite what they lost (Pujols, LaRussa, Duncan), they made the right acquisitions (Beltran, Furcal) and have Wainwright coming back. Even with Carpenter out for part of the season, I still expect them to put together a great team. The addition of Greene and new manager Mike Matheny's apparent interest on the running game should give the team strength in area's they have fallen short in the past. Deciding between Milwaukee and Miami was a tough decision. While Milwaukee lost Prince Fielder, they managed to not lose Braun after the great urine test fiasco of 2011. Braun's value can't be overstated, nor can their rotation with Gallardo and Greinke as anchors. I would have given second-place to Cincinnati, but the loss of Ryan Madson to Tommy John surgery may create more of a pickle for them than they can dig out of. While the closer isn't everything, effective closing of games was an issue for them in 2011 and they need to work something out to fix the gap. If they do, they may likely finish higher than I have them slotted for. Health will be an issue as well. They need Rolen to be healthy and do what he does, both offensively and defensively, for an entire season if they want to win. Pittsburgh is always kind of a sleeper team. They should be an improved team, but how improved is the question. I always like to think of them as the "thorn in the side" of team's like St. Louis and Milwaukee who stay in contention. The Cubs, well, are still the Cubs. Some front office changes and a few player moves will help them, but even management has made it clear they are in long-term rebuilding mode. I don't look for the Astros farewell tour of the National League to be a big show either. Luhnow could be a big help as the team makes the transition over to the American League.
National League West
1. San Francisco
3. Los Angeles (Dodgers)
5. San Diego
The Giants, 2010 World Series champs, had a rough 2011 in terms of injuries. The return of offensive cornerstones Freddy Sanchez and Buster Posey should be enough to push the Giants back on top. If not, maybe Melky Cabrera can. With Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, they should still be a threat to anyone they face. The Diamondbacks finished 2011 on a high note compared to where they started and I think they'll be able to put up another good showing. I just don't expect them to get past the Giants. While the Dodgers have been struggling for a couple of seasons, they locked up Kemp and will continue to be an impressive team. They stayed above .500 last year with utter chaos surrounding them and, with their world at least improving through the bidding war, I fully expect a better showing from them. Next year they may be a team to watch as whoever their new owner is begins looking for ways to win. The Rockies are a team that need everything to fall perfectly in place to make any kind of a push this year, especially in this division. The Padres, after trading away one of their best starters, will really need to score some runs this year if they don't want to be sitting at the bottom of their division.
I should remind everyone that my track record with predictions this season isn't too good, but after a ton of research, I feel pretty good about most of these. With that being said, baseball is a very dynamic sport that requires a level of marathon endurance and in a long marathon anything can happen. Baseball is certainly no exception and that's one of the many things I love about it.
Don't forget to check back later in the week as I will share my postseason and performance award predictions.
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Corey Noles, staff writer for The Daily Statesman and Editor of The North Stoddard Countian, is the author of a regular baseball/St. Louis Cardinals column and also uses his blog to sound off on various happenings in sports. He also operates a weekly baseball mailbag column.
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