NL East Preview/Win Total Predictions

Reno

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Atlanta Braves Under 88 Regular Season Wins –The Braves lost several players in the offseason, much of it salary related. Rafael Furcal, Johnny Estrada and Kyle Farnsworth all left for financial reasons. The only significant addition was Edgar Renteria and I believe he is on the downside of his career. Perhaps the biggest loss will be off the field as Leo Mazzone has left the bench after many years tutoring the Braves pitchers. The starting staff is surely decent with Tim Hudson and John Smoltz at the front end, and I even like Jorge Sosa as the 5th man. The question marks for me are in Horatio Ramirez and rookie Kyle Davies as they have left me unimpressed. On the offensive side, Andruw Jones hit a monsterous 51 homers, however, no other Brave broke 25 homers which leaves this team a non-existent longball threat. Chipper Jones is aging but can still hit and Adam Laroche needs to hit versus Lefties to solidify the infield. Chris Reitsma has been handed the closer’s job even though he blew 9 out of 24 save chances last year. The Braves strike me as a .500 team and I am calling for a 82-86 win season.


Florida Marlins Under 65 Regular Season Wins – If you read the classified ads at all this winter, chances are you saw a Marlin for sale at some point. In one of the great sell offs of all time, the Marlins decided to ship out Carlos DelGado, Luis Castillo, Paul LoDuca, Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell, AJ Burnett, Juan Pierre and Juan Encarnacion. In other words, if you make more than minimum wage, expect to be dealt. The effects these moves will have should devestate the Marlins record. After winning 83 games last year, the Marlins will be lucky to not lose 100 games. The fish are relying on newcomers like Jeremy Hermidia, Mike Jacobs and Hanibel Ramirez along with their two returning stars Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera. The only reason I believe they were not dealt is either they were not arbitration eligible, they have low $ contracts or they must be blackmailing the owner. This season will be a trying one for fans in South Florida and I don’t expect their to be many fans in the stands or wins in the standings. Florida should get 59-63 wins in 2006.



New York Mets Over 91 Regular Season Wins – The Mets favored to win the division over the hated Braves? Hard to believe. Of course when Fred Wilpon starts spending like his cross town rival, anything is possible. The Mets added Carlos DelGado to plug a big hole at 1st base. Additionally Mike Piazza leaves for San Diego and is replaced by a much more pitcher friendly Paul LoDuca. Their defense is different too, as Piazza could not throw out his grandmother, unless she fell, while LoDuca should be able to nail some runners occasionally. The disasterous bullpen that plagued New York last year has been revitalized with Billy Wagner, Duaner Sanchez, Jorge Julio and Chad Bradford. The starting staff was 3rd in the NL in ERA last year and Pedro Martinez and Tom Glavine should help them stay there. Youngster Brian Bannister impressed enough in the spring to nail down the number 5 spot, so the Mets just need Steve Traschel and Victor Zambrano to stay healthy, which has not been easy in the past. The two spots in the field that were question marks are 2nd and RF with Anderson Hernandez winning the former and Xavier Nady the latter. David Wright will hit and Carlos Beltran should have the new team jitters out of his system. The Mets won 83 games last year but they look ready to make the quantum leap. A total of 93-97 wins is likely for this squad.


Philadelphia Phillies Under 82½ Regular Season Wins – Last year 88 wins were a surprise to a lot of people. The offseason acquisition of Aaron Rowand will surely help the defense, but at the cost of Jim Thome’s potent bat. The Phillies were 8th in the NL in homers last season and Rowand only had 13, so they will need his glove to save them some runs on defense. Pat Burrell and Bobby Abreu are the only veteran sources of power left, and there is hope Ryan Howard will fill Thome’s shoes. The Phillies also acquired David Dellucci to back up Burrell and give them a solid bat off the bench. The pitching staff is interesting with Jon Lieber, Bret Myers and Cory Lidle returning to join with good young arms Gavin Floyd and Ryan Madson. There will be growing pains in that ball park as the ball flies out in the summer months. Randy Wolf is still on the DL and won’t return to help until midseason at the earliest. Tom Gordon is the new closer after several years as the Yankees setup man, returning to a role he played earlier in his career. The Phillies bullpen blew 23 saves in 2005 and had a 4.24 ERA while allowing 62 homers. Moving Ryan Madson into the rotation is fixing one hole while creating another. The defense is not great either while just adds to the Phillies woes. Its bad enough when your opponents out homer you in your own hitter friendly ballpark, then the fielders make it worse by not making plays. The Phils would be extremely luck to get to .500, I am betting that they don’t get there and end up with a 76-80 win season.


BEST BET -
Washington Nationals Over 75 Regular Season Wins – Their first season in Washington has to be viewed as a success. The team won 81 games and looked great in the first half. While its true their second half was not good, this team has the players to do well in 2006. Now that Alfonso Soriano has finally agreed to move to left field, most of the distractions for this team should be gone. In the offseason, they added Ramon Ortiz and Brian Lawrence to an already solid staff. Unfortunately Lawrence has injury issues and won’t play in 2006. Ortiz may find RFK is just the tonic to his longball woes. This ballpark was quite pitcher friendly and the ball just seemed to die in the outfield. John Patterson and Livian Hernandez are quite solid and always give a good effort. Pedro Astacio and Tony Armas have never lived up to their potential but will get another shot in DC. Chad Cordero will close again after a season in which he was almost unhittable. On the offensive side, Jose Guillen cracked 24 homers and hit .283 and the Nats will look for him to repeat that performance. Jose Vidro is still a good two way player, Royce Clayton is a nice defensive player who can hit a little and Nick Johnson gets on base and can hit. The real question for this team is “how good will Ryan Zimmerman be?” The Nats rookie 3rd baseman, Zimmerman has torn his way through the minors and hit .397 in 58 Abs with the big club last year. I am not sure why Vegas put such a low total on this one, but I think it’s a bad number. This team has a big advantage in this park and I am calling for 80-84 wins.
 
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