Unconventional Wisdom: Final Forecast for the National League
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Yesterday, I forecast what would happen over the last 62 or so games of the season
The Mets were the best team at the start of the year, and they look like the best team now. Their recent run isn't about the managerial change at all; it's about having a five-man core of
The Phillies have overachieved to date on the backs of a bullpen that was way over its head for a few months. Getting starter
The Braves join the Indians as the two most frustrating teams in baseball, with positive run differentials and sub-.500 records. The Tribe punted its season when it traded
The Marlins took two of three from the Phillies this week, and every time it looks like Florida is going to fall back from the leaders, it wins a series. I don't see how the Marlins sustain this -- their pitching staff is pretty bad, and it puts a lot of balls in play in front of a lousy defense. I expect them to give up more than 300 runs the rest of the way, and their power, though impressive, won't be enough to overcome that, or their OBP issues. The Marlins will finish in fourth.
The Cubs are the best team in the league, and all the trade acquisitions in the world by the teams chasing them aren't going to change that. They won't be caught by anyone, leaving them only to manage their health and set their rotation for the start of the postseason. With as deep and balanced a roster as there is in the National League, the Cubs will be the favorites to reach their first World Series in 63 years.
The acquisition of Sabathia made clear what should have been before: the Brewers are better than the Cardinals, and will finish ahead of them in the Central. Whether that will be enough to reach the postseason -- the NL East features three teams as good as or better than the Brew Crew -- is an incredibly close call. It's not unreasonable to suggest that
The Cardinals have been a great story, as
I've largely focused on teams with a post-season shot in these previews, but I want to mention the Pirates here. With a lot of veteran talent having good years,
The division leaders are 48-50, and a team playing .430 baseball is just six games off of the pace, so it's fair to throw up your hands a bit here. The Diamondbacks and Dodgers both have strong core talent, but they either haven't been able to get it all on the field at once, or they've watched it disappoint terribly.
In the short term the Dodgers may be the better bet, thanks to the likelihood that Dodgers general manager
The Dodgers have more short-term upside even if they don't make any trades. It won't work out this way, but a rotation consisting of
That's not to neglect the D'backs, who run
I'll stick with my preseason pick of the Diamondbacks, although neither team will get to 88 wins, much less 90. The two teams are close enough that the relative health of each, plus the work each GM does over the next two weeks, could prove to be the difference between the two.
Now, careful readers will note that some of my conclusions -- like the Tigers winning the AL Central and the Braves coming back to take the NL wild card -- seem a bit forced, and they are. Unlike in past seasons, it was important to me that I not change my preseason predictions at midseason. This isn't just about ego; I've been arguing for some time that players and teams can fool us over broad swaths of a season, and even complete seasons. At the start of the year, I felt that over 162 games, the Red Sox, Tigers, Angels, Mets, Cubs, and Diamondbacks would win their divisions, with the Yankees and Braves the wild-card teams. Certainly we have more information now, and had I been a backer of the Indians I might have changed, but with all eight of those teams in contention, I'm sticking to my original picks, because I don't think 95 games of performance is convincing enough to change them.