I guess after my first set of previews I still have the job. The masses haven't gotten together with the pitchforks and burning brooms chasing me down, looking for justice. Maybe that's because I only gave one bad review so far or maybe it's because most of the owners didn't even care what I had to say. Really though, I think I did OK and I'm going to keep on putting them out until I get ousted.
The NL East has seen every team win the division at least once in 12 seasons. Not bad, and that shows that every team can do it. Not only that but there has only been 5 different owners in this division and the one extra came from season 1. So that means 4 of the same owners for now the 12th straight season. Jacksonville is the team that has had the most success, making it to the World Series three times and taking home a championship. Last season was their 7th division title, and the most wins in franchise history, but they were upset in their first series. New York put up a winning record for the eighth consecutive season but missed the playoffs for the second year in a row. They only have one losing season in their existence but have never made the NLCS. Kansas City just missed out on another winning season even though they have only been to the playoffs twice and won the division once. Then you have Cincinnati, who have finished 4th for six straight seasons now. But even they have one division title and have made the NLCS.
At 110-52 it's hard to call the season a disappointment, but when you don't make the LCS and you have the best record in the league it is just that. Just three seasons ago now this team was in the World Series and they really haven't let of the gas since. 97 wins then 110 wins the last two seasons have just led to heartbreak in the postseason for this team. They were close to the top of the league in every major category last season and really gave the fans a lot to be excited about. They were 3rd in the NL in batting average(275), 2nd in obp(351), 3rd in HR(243) and 1st in runs scored(926). Their weakness may have been defensively but even their they were 6th in fielding percentage(983), 7th in plus plays(42), and 4th in minus plays(44). Pitching was a major strength as the were 2nd in ERA(3.71), 2nd in opponents average(248), and 2nd in strike outs(1169). So how do you improve upon that? Do you demand to be #1 in every category? Well they are going to try. They brought up 2B Lefty Moehler traded for 2B Jeremy Stanley and signed C Brian Long, 3b Keith Sexson(resigned), and SS Kiki Duran, moves made to help the defense and offense. They extended the contracts of SP Robert Singleton and SP Jeffrey Rivera, both very talented young pitchers. They also accepted the option on very talented reliever Albie Johnson. They did lose aging reliever Raul Hernandez, C Dude McIntosh, SS Hector Cairo, and OF Lloyd Patrick. Those are some major losses. This is still a very talented team that has some young talent, but I'd be surprised to see them copy last seasons win total. A winning record is still a very safe bet but another season of having the top record in the NL isn't as likely.
New York Money Maker
Here is a team that has been very good for a long time, but just not good enough. They continually put out winning records to keep the fans happy, but just can't get over the top. Is this the season? Coming off a season that seen them go 82-80, dropping 8 victories from the previous seasons total, it has people wondering what direction this team is really going. Offensively they tied for 3rd in batting average(275), 6th in obp(338), 11th in hr(204), 9th in runs(774) and 3rd in steals(140). That is a bag of mixed tricks offensively. Defensively they finished 1st in fielding(988), 8th in plus plays(37) and 6th in minus plays(47). Defensively they were outstanding. Pitching they were 7th in ERA(4.37), 9th in opponents average(269), and converted 52 of 66 save opportunities. Theses numbers shows that this team was average among their peers. A team that has always been willing to spend money and normally have a pretty high payroll doesn't really want average. So, they lose to free agency, OF Vicente Gonzalez, and aging reliever Carlos Perez, neither were major losses. They promoted young and speedy OF/1b Mandy Whitfield and drafted in the Rule 5 draft SP Chris Shaw, both guys could help out the team in the proper roles. They signed the under performing SP Kenny Hogan hoping that a change of scenery will get him rolling. They have a mix of youth and experience among the top players on this team, but what worries me is the bottom of the roster. The will be asking a lot out of some average to below average players if they are going to make steps forward. It doesn't look like help is going to be on the way from within as well, as their best minor leaguers are not at the upper levels. I'm guessing this team will be close to where they were last season as far as the win total and maybe even a little less, but who am I to question a team that finds ways to win every season?
Kansas City Kardinals
After 5 straight winning seasons, this team took a little step backward last season by going 79-83. All those winning seasons and they never even sniffed the NLCS. They do have some good young talent entering their prime so this team could be close. Offensively they were 6th in hitting(270), 8th in obp(336), 5th in HR(220), and 8th in runs scored(786). Middle of the pack type numbers. When it came to fielding this team finished 9th(982), they were 12th in plus plays(33), and 8th in minus plays(56). Middle to low in fielding. They finished 6th in ERA(4.20), while being 4th in opponent average(259). So this team had some work to do in order to move that record north of 500 again. They do have some good young players C Chad Oliver, 2B Wally Spencer, OF Ichiro Pong, and SP Woody Parker and Alex Guerrero. The only real loss in free agency was aging SS Kiki Duran. They chose to stay quiet in free agency as they didn't see anyone that fit their plan. They also didn't make any trades as they chose to stay the course with what they have. This is another team that doesn't have much help coming from the upper minor league levels either. This is a pretty balanced team that I don't think are good enough to challenge for the division title and could be left out of the playoffs entirely. They really aren't too far off of being a good team but I just don't think this is the year. They could very well be back above 500 though.
This franchise has reeled off 5 straight losing seasons after the 73-89 showing last season and now 6 straight 4th place finishes in the division. Team owner jbburner says "After a few seasons of spinning the wheels, we have decided to make a move." He added "Anything short of making the playoffs this season will be a major disappointment." If they are going to make a move in this division, this is the season to get it done. A look back to last season, offensively this team finished 9th in average(268), 11th in obp(327), 15th in HR(171), 10th in runs(773) and 2nd in steals(181). They were 5th in fielding(984), 2nd in plus plays(82), 3rd in minus plays(33). The pitching department was 8th in ERA(4.42), 5th in opponent average(260), but only converted 42 of 70 save opportunities. Offensively this team needed a push, but the fielding was as solid as anyone with the pitching being good except for the low save percentage. So this team knew where it had to get better. They traded away one solid player that really contributed last season in 2B Jeremy Stanley, but got C Vic Diaz, SP Stevie Forbes, and SP Charlie Smith. They resigned RP Jorel Austin, who pitched good in 14 games with the club last season. They also signed a good player in 2B Dennis Nomura. Overall, Cincinnati's pitching staff isn't great but they do have some players in place that can help them. They have a lot of range and good gloves on defense that should help out the pitchers. The offense should be a little better than it was as well. I'm going to agree with management that this team should be better and I also think they could make a push for the post season as well. Will they? I'm not ready to say that, but it all depends on how the other teams in the NL shape up.
Overall, I'm not sold that this division as a whole is better than last season. I do think there will be some movement in the ranks but I think Jacksonville has a good hold on the top spot for this season too. The middle teams didn't move enough to match the top but the bottom moved enough to match them. Top to bottom it is a solid division that I don't think will produce a top 10 draft pick the following season unless things get started real bad for one of them and they decide to start rebuilding. This however may be the toughest division to predict after #1.
3.)New York Money Maker
4.)Kansas City Kardinals