I’m back… MLB Second Half Predictions– NL

Posted: 07/20/2013 by levcohen in Baseball

I’m really sorry I didn’t blog about how I wouldn’t be able to post for the upcoming few weeks, but I’m sure that became apparent, quickly. Someone was supposed to blog for me while I was gone, but that didn’t quite work out as planned. Now, though, I’m back, and I’ll get back to blogging right away, starting with some second half predictions for the MLB.
Note: NL East records and stats are prior to Friday night’s games.

In the preseason, I had the Nationals winning the East, the Reds the Central, and the Diamonbacks the West. If you were to have asked me which I felt least confident about, I probably would have said the D-Backs, but of those three teams, only Arizona leads their division. At 50-46, they haven’t been terrific, but in a balanced division, 86 wins might be enough to win it.

Cincinnati, at 53-42, haven’t been bad, with the fourth best record in the National League, but they are in third in the NL Central, the toughest division in baseball this year. It will probably take at least 95 wins to take this division, and I don’t think Cincinnati will reach that number. A wildcard is easily in reach, though, especially with two up for grabs.

Washington, unlike Cincinnati, has been a pure disappointment. I expected them to be 20 games over .500 by the all-star break. Instead, they are 48-47. Washington is by no means out of the race, but at this point, it’s tough to expect them to make the playoffs. Their roster is still talented, but their offense hasn’t preformed and their starting pitching depth has evaporated.

Now, the sweet and sour for each NL team thus far, starting with the NL East.

Atlanta Braves:
Current Record: 54-41
Sweet: At 54-41, the Braves have the best record in the NL East, and it isn’t even close. Their six game lead isn’t just comfortable, it’s three and a half games bigger than any other division lead. The defense is terrific, and the pitching is also very good. Among individual players, Freddie Freeman, Brian McCann, Chris Johnson, Mike Minor, Julio Teheran, and Luis Avilan have all outperformed expectations.

Sour: The Braves are a good team, but they have the potential to be so much better. Each member of the much hyped outfield of Jason Heyward and the Upton brothers has disappointed. Even Justin Upton, who started the season off so strongly, has really disappointed of late.

Pre-season projection: 93-69
Current projection: 93-69
Ceiling: 98-64
Floor: 86-76

Washington Nationals:
Current Record: 48-47
Sweet: The core of five pitchers (three starters and two relievers) have gone 31-16 with 25 saves and have almost single-handedly kept the Nationals above .500. Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Jordan Zimermann are like a three-headed ace. Closer Rafael Soriano has a 2.25 ERA, and setup man Tyler Clippard’s earned run average is even lower.

Sour: Basically everything else. The offense, the rest of the pitching staff… It’s discouraging.

Pre-season projection: 96-66
Current projection: 84-78
Ceiling: 91-71
Floor: 79-83

Philadelphia Phillies:
Current Record: 48-48
Sweet: Domonic Brown, one of the young players Philadelphia is counting on to help the transition to the future, finally has broken out this year, to the tune of 23 home runs, a .856 OPS, and a 2.9 O-WAR, tops on the team by nearly a win. Cliff Lee has continued to be one of the best pitchers in baseball, and Chase Utley has rediscovered a lot of his sapped power.

Sour: This isn’t a playoff team; it’s a mediocre, .500 one. Ryan Howard, being paid 25 million dollars a year, has been a disappointment and is on the DL. Cole Hamels has taken a major step back, at a time where he should be in his prime. Jimmy Rollins, who is paid like a star, plays like a below average shortstop. And then there is Roy Halladay.

Preseason projection: 84-78
Current Projection: 81-81
Ceiling: 85-77
Floor: 75-87

New York Mets:
Current Record: 41-50
Sweet: David Wright is still a superstar, and Matt Harvey has been perhaps the best pitcher in baseball this season. Marlon Byrd seems rejuvenated. Waiver wire pickup Eric Young Jr. is hitting .308 with a .380 OBP and eight steals in 24 starts with the Mets. Overall, they’ve been slightly better than I expected, but not very much.

Sour: Ike Davis, supposed to be the first baseman of the future for the Mets, had a .505 OPS in 237 plate appearances and was in the minor leagues until recently getting recalled. The Mets have gotten Harvey only seven wins in his 19 starts, 15 of them quality. The rotation, outside of Harvey, isn’t promising.

Preseason projection: 72-90
Current Projection: 74-88
Ceiling: 78-84
Floor: 66-96

Miami Marlins:
Current Record: 35-58
Sweet: Offensively, nothing. They are last in every major offensive category. Their best player this year has been young sensation Jose Fernandez. Fernandez, who surprisingly opened the season in the Marlins rotation at the tender age of 20, has a 2.75 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP. It looks as if Miami has their ace of the future. They also have a decent bullpen, albeit one that has just 18 saves (an indictment of the offense).

Sour: The whole offense. Also, the fact that Giancarlo Stanton can’t stay healthy, and top prospect Christian Yelich is struggling a little bit. Being the second worst team in baseball is never a good thing.

Preseason projection: 64-98
Current projection: 60-102
Ceiling: 64-98
Floor: 55-107

NL Central:

St. Louis Cardinals:
Current Record: 58-36
Sweet: The Cardinals are the best team in baseball right now, both record-wise and personnel-wise. They have a top five offense, and a top five defense. Incredibly, they have four regulars hitting over .300, including three of the top four hitters batting average wise. Yadier Molina, terrific both offensively and defensively at catcher, is probably the lead MVP candidate. Allen Craig has been better with runners in scoring position than anyone on the planet. The Cardinals have a chance to have the MVP and the Cy Young winner, as Adam Wainwright may well be the favorite. He has 12 wins, a 2.45 ERA, and an incredible 130 to 15 strikeout to walk ratio. Shelby Miller may be the NL Rookie of the Year.

Sour: The back of the rotation and shortstop are really the two holes the Cardinals have, and they are two fairly easy holes to fill. They can easily get a shortstop, with Asdrubal Cabrera available and a lot of assets to work with. A lot of those assets are starting pitchers, with Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha, and others waiting in the wings and close to ready to fill in the 5th spot in the rotation.

Preseason projection: 92-70
Current projection: 98-64
Ceiling: 102-60
Floor: 92-70

Pittsburgh Pirates:
Current Record: 56-38
Sweet: The Pirates are going to break their long streak of losing records, and they are also likely to make the playoffs. Young stars Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte, and Pedro Alvarez have a combined 45 homers, 50 steals, and 55 doubles. Most of the team’s success has come on the other side of the ball. Even with Wandy Rodriguez on the DL, the Pirates have five starters who are excelling right now. Jeff Locke, Francisco Liriano, A.J. Burnett, Charlie Morton, and Gerrit  Cole have ERA’s between 2.15 and 3.89. The Pirates also have three bullpen members who are pitching historically well. Justin Wilson, Mark Melancon, and Jason Grilli have gone a combined 138 innings and given up just 24 earned runs. That is an ERA of 1.57!

Sour: Sorry Pirates fans, there are some warning signs. The offense, outside of the three mentioned above, has been mediocre. They need to add some hitters via trade. Also: What if one or two of the three relievers mentioned above gets injured? The Pirates have to be careful about overworking those players.

Preseason projection: 83-79
Current projection: 92-70
Ceiling: 98-64
Floor: 86-76

Cincinnati Reds:
Current Record: 54-42
Sweet: They have the 5th best run differential in the MLB. Offensively, they have two guys, Joey Votto and Shin-Soo Choo, who have been incredibly valuable offensively. Each have an O-WAR above 3.5. Jay Bruce has also been heating up. They also have a lot of guys, Sean Marshall, Johnny Cueto, Ryan Ludwick, who are nearing a return and should be very valuable. The pitching has been terrific, as they have the fourth best ERA and best WHIP in the MLB.

Sour: I thought they’d be the best team in the NL Central. Right now, they are third best. I’m mostly blaming that on the three injuries I mentioned before. Those three, all of whom are major contributors, have missed a substantial amount of time and have probably cost the Reds at least four wins. At 58-38, the Reds would be just one game behind the Cardinals.

Preseason projection: 94-68
Current Projection: 93-69
Ceiling: 97-65
Floor: 87-75

Chicago Cubs:
Current Record: 43-51
Sweet: The farm system has flourished. With Theo Epstein as GM, it has really turned around. As for the MLB talent, this team is better than it was last season, although there haven’t been many individual standouts.

Sour: Starlin Castro, supposedly the team’s star, has been horrible this season, taking a huge step back, as he has just a .625 OPS. Also, free agent acquisition Edwin Jackson has an ERA worse than 5.

Preseason projection: 68-94
Current projection: 72-90
Ceiling: 77-85
Floor: 66-96

Milwaukee Bucks:
Current Record: 39-56
Sweet: Nothing? Actually, they have two bright spots: Carlos Gomez and Jean Segura. Both are young, and both seem destined to become stars. Gomez has a 6 WAR, and Segura, at 23 years old, is one of the top three shortstops in the MLB.

Sour: There’s a lot, so let’s just list it:
Ryan Braun’s negative publicity
Yuniesky Betancourt’s sub .200 average
The poor farm system
The fourth worst record in the MLB
“Ace” Yovani Gallardo has a near 5 ERA

There is a lot more not to like, but those are the major things.

Preseason projection: 77-85
Current projection: 67-95
Ceiling: 73-89
Floor: 58-104

NL West:

Arizona Diamondbacks:
Current Record: 50-46
Sweet: Paul Goldschmidt has exploded, and looks to be a lead MVP candidate. He is one of the best hitters in the MLB, and that has happened because he is finally able to hit righties. Last year, he had a .738 OPS against right handers. This year, it is at .933. And he still crushes lefties. Patrick Corbin, with a 2.35 ERA and an 11-1 record, is now clearly one of the best pitchers in the National League, if not the MLB.

Sour: Overall, they haven’t preformed to expectations. Miguel Montero and Martin Prado have really struggled at the plate, and Ian Kennedy has regressed to a 5.29 ERA.

Preseason projection: 91-71
Current projection: 85-77
Ceiling: 89-73
Floor: 81-81

Los Angeles Dodgers:
Current Record: 48-47
Sweet: Hanley Ramirez! Yasiel Puig! Clayton Kershaw! Hyun-Jin Ryu! After a slow start, the Dodgers are streaking, having won 19 of their past 24 games.

Sour: Ramirez and Puig need help on offense, because their current stats are unsustainable. Mostly, Matt Kemp can make or break this team’s playoff chances. The Dodgers are solid at most positions, but they need another game changer offensively. Kemp has the talent (and the track record) to be that player, as long as he can stay healthy. Now Matt, please stay healthy for those of us who want to see the Dodgers and their stars in the playoffs.

Preseason projection: 86-76
Current projection: 86-76
Ceiling: 91-71
Floor: 78-84

Colorado Rockies:
Current Record: 46-51
Sweet: Overall, the Rockies have outperformed expectations. Their lineup has a huge amount of offensive firepower. Their 3-4-5 of Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki, and Michael Cuddyer have combined for 55 homers, 171 RBI, and a 9.3 O-WAR. Add in Dexter Fowler and Wilin Rosario, and this is a top 10 offense. Jorge De La Rosa and Jhoulys Chacin have reemerged as quality starters, which is very important for this team.

Sour: Outside of Tyler Chatwood, De La Rosa, and Chacin, pitchers who have started a game for Colorado have no better than a 4.89 ERA and have a combined 11-22 record. The awful back of the rotation is the sole reason that the Rockies are not in the playoff chase.

Preseason projection: 60-102
Current projection: 80-82
Ceiling: 86-76
Floor: 70-92

San Francisco Giants:
Current Record: 44-51
Sweet: Buster Posey is quietly having another MVP-type season, with a 4.7 WAR. Madison Bumgarner is still an ace, with an ERA at just about 3. Their bullpen is also very good, and Chad Gaudin has been terrific in his short stint as starter.

Sour: Pretty much everything else for the reigning World Series champs. Matt Cain is no longer an ace. In fact, his ERA is 5.06. The rest of the rotation has been lackluster, as well, as has the lineup. This looks like a fourth place team, not a champion one.

Preseason projection: 86-76
Current projection: 77-85
Ceiling: 84-78
Floor: 74-88

San Diego Padres:
Current Record: 42-55
Sweet: Everth Cabrera, PEDs or no PEDs, has broken out, with 34 stolen bases and a .373 OBP. Jedd Gyorko looks like a solid 2B of the future.

Sour: Pitching wise, this team has taken a step back, perhaps because of the changed stadium dimensions in PETCO park (see, moving in the fences isn’t always a profitable plan). Also, Chase Headley has taken the step back that many thought he would.

Preseason projection: 74-88
Current projection: 74-88
Ceiling: 79-83
Floor: 66-96

NL MVP update:
1. Yadier Molina
2. Paul Goldschmidt
3. Carlos Gonzalez
4. David Wright
5. Joey Votto

NL Cy Young update:
1. Clayton Kershaw
2. Matt Harvey
3. Adam Wainwright
4. Cliff Lee
5. Patrick Corbin

NL ROY update:
1. Jose Fernandez
2. Shelby Miller
3. Yasiel Puig
4. Hyun-Jin Ryu
5. Trevor Rosenthal

  1. philabundant says:

    Welcome back, 5tool. You were missed.

  2. quadrangular says:

    I’ll second that. Welcome back!

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