The trade deadline was yesterday at 4 P.M., so now it’s time to look at what lies ahead. In case you missed out on all the action, read the recap. As expected, it was eventful, but not the huge deal that all the media outlets make it out to be, so I’d rather discuss something else (although I will look at the Braves’ deals later today). I made some preseason predictions in April, so let’s see just how far off I was, and then we’ll gaze into the future.
This is the cliffs notes version from my April 2 post:
NL East: Braves, Phillies (WC), Mets, Marlins, Nationals
NL Central: Cardinals, Astros, Brewers, Cubs, Reds, Pirates
NL West: Giants, Dodgers, Padres, Rockies, D-Backs
Braves over Giants
Phillies over Cardinals
League Championship Series:
Braves over Phillies
NL MVP: Albert Pujols
NL Cy Young: Roy Oswalt
NL Rookie: Ryan Zimmerman
AL MVP: Alex Rodriguez
AL Cy Young: Rich Harden
AL Rookie: Justin Verlander
Now for the analysis (stats and standings references through Thursday’s games):
NL East: I’m not sure why I was so high on the Braves, aside from being a Braves fan. I guess I thought Smoltz and Hudson would be dual aces, and the rest of the rotation and the bullpen wouldn’t suck. I guess that was too much to ask for, and now the Braves have built quite a large deficit. The Phillies’ pitching has been even worse than the Braves, and Bobby Abreu has taken a nose-dive to account for their fourth-place standing. Obviously he won’t be nose-diving anymore in Philly, but they’d be better off on the field if they still had him. As for the league-leading Mets, I wasn’t buying the hype in April, but now I would agree that they are the best team in the NL. Beltran and Wright have been spectacular, and Glavine has mostly been the Glavine of old. The Marlins were almost universally picked last, but I thought their young talent would keep them afloat. That has basically happened – in fact, they’ve been quite a good team since their terrible start. The Nationals, despite Alfonso Soriano’s best efforts, have predictably struggled.
Coolstandings, which has an interesting way of predicting the standings, pegs the Mets at 97 wins for the best record in the NL, with the Phillies and Braves at 78 (and out of the playoffs), the Marlins 77, and the Natspos (to borrow from Mac) 73.
NL Central: The Cardinals have predictably been the best team in this division, but their injuries have allowed everyone else to remain close. The Reds are a big surprise to me, with both Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo stepping up as good starters. Their lineup has always been good, but I fear the Kearns/Lopez trade will hinder their chances for this year. The Astros and Cubs haven’t hit, though for the Cubs, injuries have been a bigger factor in their demise. They simply can’t count on Wood and Prior as top starters in the long run. The Brewers haven’t been as good as I thought they’d be, but it’s been no fault of the rookies. Ben Sheets’ injury can’t have helped things, either, and the trade of Carlos Lee seemed to signal that they’re playing for 2007, which is probably smart (The David Bell acquisition, on the other hand, surprised me). I thought the Pirates would be better (I had them at 71 wins), but their young pitching has only been so-so, and they’ve made some bonehead moves both on the field and in the front office.
Coolstandings predicts: Cardinals win 89, Reds 84 (and the wild card winner at just 3 games over .500), Astros 77, Brewers 75, Cubs 68, Pirates 67.
NL West: Where would the Padres be with the 2005 Jake Peavy? They’re 6 games over .500 and leading the division right now, and they seem like a safe bet to pull away if Peavy can even begin to turn things around. The D-Backs have pitched better than I thought they would (Brandon Webb has been spectacular), and they’re in second. The Giants are hovering around .500, and I think they’ll end up second. In April, I said they’d win 84 games, which isn’t out of the question, since they didn’t trade Jason Schmidt. The Dodgers have been trying (and failing) to avoid the injury bug for two years now, and they’ll probably fall short yet again, even with Greg Maddux. What I didn’t see coming at all was the Rockies’ pitching resurgence. Coors Field has played like a neutral park this year, and if that’s the beginning of a trend, the Rockies might be able to consistently compete. They also made what I thought was one of yesterday’s better deals, getting rid of ready-but-blocked 1B Ryan Shealy for more pitching.
Coolstandings predicts: Padres win 84, D-Backs 83, Rockies and Giants 80, Dodgers 78.
NL Playoffs: I think the Braves, Marlins, Reds, and Giants could all compete for the wild card berth, but if I had to guess today, I’d say that the Reds will just barely hold on. I guess that means I think the Braves won’t be winning the NL, so here’s my revised prediction: Mets over Reds, Cardinals over Padres, Mets over Cardinals.
NL Awards: Pujols is in strong position to win the MVP, though he’ll have to hold off Beltran and Wright. Brandon Webb should be the frontrunner for the Cy Young, but if I had to guess who wins right now, I’d say Carpenter wins it. Zimmerman’s been great, but I think Uggla probably wins the NL ROY by a nose (though Zim clearly has better long-term star potential).