By Andy Harris, WSOE Sports
NL East, preseason prediction:
1.) Philadelphia Phillies
2.) Los New York Metros
3.) Miami Marlins presented by Landshark
4.) Atlanta Politically Correct Native-American Mascots
5.) There’s a baseball team in Washington?
NL East, Current Standings
1.) Philadelphia Phillies
2.) Atlanta Tomahawk Chops
3.) Miami Marlins
4.) Los New York Metros
5.) That baseball team that apparently plays in Washington
What I did right:
-Claim that the Phillies would be even better this year, despite coming off a World Series Title. Thus far, I’ve been right- despite the overall struggles of the pitching staff. So how do they have the second best record in the NL? Hitting. They’re averaging 5.3 runs a game, best in the NL, and up one-third of a run per game from this time last year. They’re fourth in the NL in On-Base percentage, first in slugging and homers, as well as leading the way in OPS. Any lineup anchored by Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and RAULLLLLLLLLLLLLLL can carry a team. Last year they sat at 53-44, .546. This year they sit at 52-38, .578. So yeah, I was right, they’re better this year than last. But until Hamels and Lidge turn it around, I can’t get too worked up for October.
–Predict the Marlins would have a terrific 1-2 punch. Okay, give me a mulligan on Ricky Nolasco. He was plagued by an awful BABIP early on and has turned it around since. What I’ve come to you to brag about is my prediction that Joshua Johnson would be great this year. I even told fantasy owners to get him on your team, because you’ll want him. I even took my advice! All he’s done? Post an ERA of 2.74, a WHIP of 1.13, with 109 strikeouts through 128 innings. In other words, the dude’s a legitimate ace.
What I got Wrong:
Overestimated the Phillies pitching. All offseason long I heard grumblings that, “The Phillies just got lucky,” and, “Their pitching is gonna be exposed this year.” My beloved World Champions were getting no respect! I was pretty confident in this staff, and Chad Durbin and Jamie Moyer were the only ones I found to be due for regression. I laughed at those fools who thought that Cole Hamels, coming off a 90-inning increase in 2008, would struggle. I mocked those who thought that an agonizingly inconsistent Brett Myers and a 79-year-old Jamie Moyer would have bad years. I smirked at the imbeciles who though that Brad Lidge was a headcase who would revert to his post-Pujols years in Houston. And how did this staff repay me for my confidence? They currently sit 11th in runs against, having fallen from 4th a year ago. The culprit has been their starting pitching, where they rank 13th in ERA through the season’s first half. To put it in perspective, the ERA of Philadelphia starters is .01 better than the Washington Nationals. Yikes. They’ve shown signs of turning it around, and J.A. Happ has been a revelation, but without Roy Halladay and/or a rebound from Hamels, I’m not sure how high this team’s October aspirations should be.
Apparently I didn’t see that the baseball gods hate the Mets? Seriously I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a team so decimated by injuries. To be fair though, some of this does fall on Omar Minaya. They were relying on a 37 year old first basemen who looked done 14 months ago. Their best player was an early-30s latino centerfielder- they tend to fall apart faster than a Ford once the warranty expires. Their all-star shortstop has a history of hamstring problems, and any middle infielder is an injury risk. Gary Sheffield is forty. Also, two of the pitchers whom they were relying heavily on, J.J. Putz and John Maine, were both coming off shoulder surgery. I mean, that’s just asking for trouble. Regardless, they’ve had more than their share of bad luck, but it would have been optimistic to think a team this fragile would avoid the wrath of the injury bug.
I also assumed that this would easily be the best division in the NL. I saw a Phillies squad coming off a World Series Championship, a Mets squad that improved their biggest flaw (bullpen), a Braves team that retooled their pitching staff, a Marlins squad that finally got the bulk of their starting rotation healthy, and a Nationals team that looked primed for a title. I mean, they traded for Scott Olsen! Alas, it wasn’t to be. The Phillies have been about what I expected, although with even an average pitching staff they’d be duking it out with L.A. for the top seed. New York has drowned in their injuries and just hasn’t had the manpower to keep the pace. Atlanta really has no offense…no, really, their starters seriously have to allow negative runs for the Braves to win. And the Marlins can’t catch, or close out games. On top of that, the Dodgers exceeded my lofty expectations, the Giants have become a legitimate playoff force, and the Rockies are in the middle of filming Rocktober II: This Time It Counts. The East just hasn’t lived up to it’s potential. It’s the Delmon Young of divisions. Only the Phillies have scored more runs than they’ve allowed, and it’s clearly the worst division in the NL, if not baseball. But hey, if it makes it easier for the Phillies to return to October, then I guess I can’t complain.