Big League Blurbs 2011: NL Update #1

NL East

  1. Philadelphia Phillies(14-6): The Phils have yet to miss Chase Utley in the middle of their lineup, rocking the best record in the major leagues. Utley still has no timetable for his return from a knee injury. In the meantime the offense has been carried by Ryan Howard’s power and Placido Polanco’s stick. The monster rotation we have all heard so much about has yet to disappoint.
  2. Florida Marlins(12-7): Its too bad that Javier Vazquez and Chris Volstad are bringing this rotation down because Josh Johnson, Anibal Sanchez and Ricky Nolasco have all been extremely impressive. Johnson is looking like the Cy Young candidate we all know he can be; he has a 1.00 ERA and has only allowed 10 hits in his 27 innings of work. Logan Morrison was off to a hot start for Florida(.327 average and 4 homers) but has just landed on the disabled list.
  3. Washington Nationals(9-10): The Nats are a team that may be the definition of extreme mediocrity. They have no one in their batting lineup that has raised any eyebrows to this point. Free agent signing Jayson Werth has gotten off to a slow start with a .214 average and only 3 long balls. He must be missing Citizens Bank Park in Philly. The entire rotation has been extremely pedestrian and Riggleman continues not to commit to a single closer; Burnett and Storen are still splitting save opps.
  4. Atlanta Braves(10-12): I love this team on paper and they are much better than a 10-12 team. They have pitched well but the offensive game has been anemic. Young stud Jason Heyward has struggled big time and Freddie Freeman is still adjusting to major league pitching. As a whole the rotation has impressed and the Venters/Kimbrel duo at the backend of games has been dominant. They should turn it around quickly.
  5. New York Mets(8-13): What is there to say about this walking disaster. They looked in far worse shape earlier in the week when I planned to write this update but they are still a mess. The infusion of Jason Bay into the lineup has seemed to give them a shot of life. The fact of the matter is the Mets will be flirting with the basement of this division all year and should start selling off players when they feel the price is right. Expect Reyes, Beltran and KRod to be gone.

NL Central

  1. Cincinnati Reds(11-10): If the Reds continue to get pitching this poor they will not hang around in first place too much longer. The entire rotation has an ERA over 4.15 yet the starters have combined for a total of 8 wins. They can not continue to out slug everybody; mainly behind the bat of Joey Votto(.392/.505/.649.) Of course, they will continue to battle for this division all year long.
  2. St. Louis Cardinals(11-10): The big story out of St. Louis in the early goings is none other than Albert Pujols. Phat Albert got off to as slow of a start as we have seen him get off to in his entire career. He has pulled his average up to .250 but that is still not very Pujolsesque. However, it must be noted that he has jacked 7 home runs which currently leads the league. They have been very impressive all around. In the next update we will check out if starters like Jamie Garcia continue to dominate.
  3. Chicago Cubs(10-10): Many believe that the Cubs are the dark horse in this division and they have not done anything particularly spectacular in the early going this year. Dempster and Zambrano, who are supposed to head this rotation, have been pretty awful. I would like to note that Starlin Castro looks like he is going to be a star(.391 batting average.) All he does is hit hard line drives; what a stud.
  4. Milwaukee Brewers(10-10): Zack Greinke is going to be returning for the Brew Crew very soon and he will be what puts this team over top. They are sitting at .500 right now without their ace and have been getting incredible production out of Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder. Chris Narveson has been a wonderful surprise for Milwaukee so far. I never thought too much of him but his breaking stuff is nasty.
  5. Pittsburgh Pirates(9-11): Everyone knows the Pirates are an utter joke but they are making it very hard on us to be able to get a good read on them after the first 10th of the season. The pirates are a mere 2 games under .500 and not even in last place in the division(which we may not be too surprised about given the poll results from the 1st WTP Poll – check out the WTP Polls page.) The struggle with consistency at the plate and James McDonald has been quite the let down on the hill with the 10.13 ERA in 4 starts. He was on my radar as a major 2011 sleeper but he has been dreadful.
  6. Houston Astros(8-13): The Astros continue to prove why the poll voters believe that Pitt will finish in front of these guys this season. Wandy Rodriguez is off to his typical slow start. He seems to be like the Mark Teixeira of pitchers. He starts out the season dreadful but then finds a way to get it together for an incredible 2nd half. The have actually hit the ball a little bit but Hunter Pence is still the only one I would trust for any kind of consistency. He is batting .286 with 3 home runs and 17 RBIs over the first 21 games.
NL West
  1. Colorado Rockies(14-6): No one should be surprised that the Rox have gotten off to such a strong start. They are just oozing with talent. I could not bring myself to pick them as a playoff team because i did not see it on the pitching side of the ball but they have impressed me, can’t deny it. Troy Tulowitzki is an absolute monster and if I could go back and change my NL MVP pick now I would change it from Pujols to Troy with no question. He currently has an OPS of 1.154 and wOBA of .478. Absurdly incredible. It is scary to think of how good they are going to be when Ubaldo Jimenez is fully healthy and comes around. Watch out for the Rox.
  2. Los Angeles Dodgers(11-11): I have a feeling that a Dodgers blog post is going to be coming up soon addressing their current situation. Major League Baseball and Bud Selig have taken over the major operations of the team from owner Frank McCourt. McCourt was an awful owner and I have plenty to say about him but this blurb is about the actual team’s play. Stay tuned for more about McCourt. Andre Ethier has a MLB leading 20 game hitting streak. Could he make a push for the last magic number in sports; 56? Matt Kemp appears to have returned to his 2009 form, and may be even better now. He is currently batting .402 with 5 home runs, 17 RBIs and 8 stolen bases. 
  3. San Francisco Giants(10-10): The Giants broke my heart by sending down ROY candidate Brandon Belt but he could use more minor league seasoning. My other favorite Giant bat is none other than the Kung Fu Panda, Pablo Sandoval. The slimmer, but not quite slim, Sandoval is rebounding nicely from a poor 2010 campaign. He has busted out of the gate batting .308 with 5 home runs. If I were the Giants I may start worrying that the Verducci Effect may be hitting Madison Bumgarner hard(0-3 with 7.79 ERA over first 4 starts.)
  4. Arizona Diamondbacks(8-11): No surprises here that the Dbacks are on their way to another poor season. The pitching has been extremely bad to this point in the young season. The starting rotation does not have a starter with an ERA under 4.98, that simply will not get the job done. I do not expect much out of this rotation but Daniel Hudson is still on my radar to potentially break out this year. Ryan Roberts, a 31 year old career minor leaguer/journeyman, has taken over at 3rd for Arizona and banged the ball around. Jury is still out on whether he is the real deal. 
  5. San Diego Padres(8-13): Last season many, including myself, were shocked and awed by the fact that the Pads were able to win 90 games. Outside of Adrian Gonzalez(5.7 oWAR & 6.3 WAR) they had no offensive presence. Now that he is gone, we see what this offense is really all about. The Friars will be in a battle with the Dbacks all year for last place in this division. No reason to expect them to compete with the atrocious offense and lack of pitching. Mat Latos is another starter who could get bitten by the Verducci Effect bug and the likes of Aaron Harang and Dustin Mosley are pitching well above their pay grade, so they can be expected to come back to Earth.
Happy Easter everybody! Hope you enjoyed the 1st installment of Big League Blurbs. Stay tuned for more about the Dodgers situation and my thoughts on Barry Bonds/Manny/the steroid and Hall debate. 
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About jacarfagno

Live, Breathe, and Bleed Baseball
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