MLB 2009 - NL East betting preview
Baseball's most losing franchise the Philadelphia Phillies went all the way to a second World Championship after battling through a competitive NL East in 2008 but, with the New York Mets finally getting away from Shea Stadium, could they be set to dominate in 2009?
The second battle in as many years between the Mets and Phillies was just as exciting as the first and, after over a decade of Braves dominance, it seems the East can now be considered the division with most strength in depth in the National League.
The Braves' glory days are now officially over and the rebuilding process needs to start soon otherwise Bobby Cox may never see the post-season again.
Chipper Jones was superb last year and along with Brian McCann and Jeff Francoeur (who was awful in 08) they will need to play at their peak this year to realistically have any sort of chance. Garret Anderson was an interesting acquisition after coming off a decent season with the Angels but Atlanta may be better off relying on youth rather than old timers.
Some off-season moves that have bolstered the Braves are the pick-ups of Derek Lowe and Javier Vazquez, both of whom bring a more solid look about the rotation. Elsewhere, Jair Jurrjens is coming off a breakout season so it'll be worth keeping an eye on him, while Tom Glavine will be hoping for a swansong to his amazing career.
Key Player: Jeff Francoeur Prediction: 4th Odds to win NL East: 7/2
You would feel sorry for Marlins fans if they had any. However after years of seeing their best talent traded away they have actually kept hold of their major assets for this season and they should fare pretty well.
Hanley Ramirez is a superstar and even if he moves down to number three in the line-up you can still expect him to produce in terms of homers, runs and steals, while remaining a great fielding shortstop. His support is limited but in Cody Ross, Jeremy Hermida and Dan Uggla there are a few solid bats.
It's on the mound where the real problems start though. Ricky Nolasco had a great 2008 and Matt Lindstrom has a lot of potential but with no fully-fledged ace in the rotation or bullpen, it is hard to see who can lead the team or even get in the double digit wins column.
Key Player: Hanley Ramirez Prediction: 3rd Odds to win NL East: 10/1
New York Mets
It wasn't quite as spectacular as 2007 but the Mets were embarrassed for the second season straight by the Philadelphia Philles last year. Luckily for the now relocated Mets, GM Omar Minaya finally looks to have built a serious pennant contender.
Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado and Jose Reyes need to produce this time around following poor showings in 08, while David Wright will no doubt continue to show NL third basemen a level for everybody to aim at. Brian Schneider and Ryan Church can also be relied on to provide useful support.
In all fairness though, last season's failings were based purely on woeful pitching and this is an area that Jerry Manuel can look forward to seeing an improvement in given the influx of off-season acquisitions. Johan Santana was awesome last year but the Mets are no longer a one pitcher team now that other starters (John Maine, Oliver Perez and Mike Pelfrey) have JJ Putz and Francisco Rodriguez ready to help in the pen.
Key Player: Jose Reyes Prediction: 1st Odds to win NL East: 5/4
The 2008 World Champions have basically stuck with what brought the glory with the acquisition of Raul Ibanez the only arrival of real note.
It has been a glorious couple of years for the Phillies and it's not hard to see why when you're batting line-up includes Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, with a supporting cast of Jayson Werth, Shane Victorino and now Raul Ibanez. This is a team that will always be able to put runs on the board.
Pitching wise it has not always been so easy and, with Jamie Moyer getting close to the end of his career, I expect there may be a few issues this year. Joe Blanton was a great pick-up at the end of last season and Cole Hamels will keep getting better and better but after that the Phillies do look a bit thin.
Key Player: Chase Utley Prediction: 2nd Odds to win NL East: 17/10
It may be a little presumptuous but the only highlight for Nationals' fans this year is seeing how Barack Obama shapes up when throwing out the first pitch of the new season at Nationals Park.
The Nationals really are following in the footsteps of all the past useless Washington franchises and while fans in the early 1900s could boast about Walter Johnson, all fans today have is Ryan Zimmerman - and he isn't great. At least 'Big Donkey' Adam Dunn should add a bit of pop to an otherwise flat offence.
It's not looking promising on the pitching front either! Scott Olsen is solid; John Lannan and Matt Chico suggested they could be bottom of the rotation guys but there is really is nothing that hints at the Nationals challenging.
Key Player: Adam Dunn Prediction: 5th Odds to win NL East: 33/1