Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Is There Any Real Competition in the NL East?

Baseball season is right around the corner and TheWizWit [dot] com is here to get you prepared with more Phillies knowledge than your tiny little brain can handle. Over the next few weeks we're going to answer a multitude of questions facing our 2010 Fightin' Phils, all leading up to the ultimate question: Will the Phillies win the World Series? [The answer, yes.]

Is There Any Real Competition in the NL East?

Yes, there is a real threat and a familiar one at that: The Atlanta Braves. Now before you start having nightmares of 1995-2005, where the Braves won the NL East EVERY SINGLE YEAR, relax. The Phillies are still the better team and should win the division this year with plenty of room to spare. However, the Braves are a good team and if a few breaks go there way (and go against the Phils) then this could be a closer division race then we'd like to see.

Before we get to the Braves, lets run down the rest of the division. The Marlins are good but I don't think they have the pitching staff to compete all year. Headlined by Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco, the Marlins boast a young 1-2 punch that is enviable by most teams in this league. It's after that where it gets tricky. Anibal Sanchez still has a lot to prove and the rest of the rotation...well...don't worry about them. Hanley Ramirez is a tremendous player, but he's really the only true All-Star in their lineup. If centerfielder Cameron Maybin breaks out and leftfielder Chris Coghlan repeats his great rookie season, they could challenge for a wild card berth. But, ultimately, they don't have the overall talent yet to push the Phillies for the division.

The Mets, well, are still the Mets. After Johan Santana (who is no sure thing after his offseason elbow surgery) the rotation is question mark after question mark. David Wright has to prove his power didn't magically evaporate, Jose Reyes has to prove his thyroid isn't overactive and Carlos Beltran needs to prove he still has a knee. So, unless everything goes right for the Mets they probably aren't getting within 10 games of the Phillies.

The Nationals...yea, ok.

So, as you can clearly see, the biggest challenge this season is likely to come from the Braves. They have very good pitching in phenom Tommy Hanson, underrated Jair Jurrjens, veterans Tim Hudson and Derek Lowe and Japanese dude Kenshin Kawakami. Thankfully, they traded Javier Vazquez so they actually made their staff worse, but overall they still have good arms one through five. Where they still lag behind the Phillies is with the bats, but that may change this year with the arrival of super-duper-everyone-sucks-my-ball-damn-i'm-good prospect Jason Heyward. He's only 20 and hasn't had a big league at-bat yet but every scout from here to Russia jerks his weiner to this guy. He's apparently a black Paul Bunyan (or a normal John Henry) with cheetah speed sent from god to destroy the Phillies mini-dynasty. Well, we have our own black Paul Bunyan that says that shit ain't going down.

Either way, catcher Brian McCann and third baseman Larry Jones are the only other truly scary hitters (while shortstop Yunel Escobar and centerfielder Nate McLouth are good, they ain't scary) and nobody knows how much longer Larry's body is going to hold up. Throw in a good bullpen, highlighted by jerky jerkface Billy Wagner, and you have a pretty good team. How good? I say 90 wins and the wild card.

The Phillies though? 96 wins and first place. Again.


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