July 13, 2007


No Sure Thing in the NL This Year (CLAY DAVENPORT, July 13, 2007, NY Sun)

The Mets' recent tailspin might give fans in Flushing some trepidation, but despite a strong pair of challengers in the NL East, they're still basically in the same boat as the Central-leading Brewers. That's because both teams — and the Padres and Dodgers in the NL West — seem to be knotted up as far as the quality of their teams and of their performances. All four teams generate nearly identical forecasts of roughly 90 wins apiece, but where the possibilities of a stretch swoon may well kill off the Mets or Brewers entirely, the Padres and Dodgers have the benefit of scenarios where not winning the division doesn't necessarily mean falling so low that they blow their shots at the wild card. What does that mean? To put it more plainly, the Mets or Brewers would really have to slump to be overtaken by the Braves or Cubs — which is pretty possible, happening about a quarter of the time in the simulated million completed seasons we run — and would almost necessarily slump so badly that it would create an opening for both of the leaders out in the West to make it into post-season play.

That's the math of it, but the picture is muddied still further by the fact that none of the teams in NL East really have problem-free rosters. The Mets, Braves, and Phillies all have rotations that are a bit of a jumble, and while Omar Minaya and company are anticipating Pedro Martinez's rehab as a potential cure for what ails them, the Braves have been fruitlessly shopping for a veteran starter for weeks, and that was before John Smoltz's latest breakdown. What the Braves have that the Mets may well lack is flexibility: Their not having an established first baseman probably frees up John Schuerholz to go shopping, where the Mets simply have to hope that Carlos Delgado's recent modest hot streak can build into something hot enough to help power a lineup that has seen its outfielders breaking down with the alarming regularity of Spinal Tap's drummers. If the Braves add an Adam Dunn or a productive veteran first baseman, let alone that starter they need to help them skip guys like Buddy Carlyle and Kyle Davies, and things could get very uncomfortable for the Mets.

In the Central, the division is the Brewers' to win or lose, but they seem to have already sorted out a number of roster kinks. [...]

Out West, the proposition is much more simple. It's another Padres-Dodgers death match, the same as last year, but with the Snakes and Rockies both assembling solid ballclubs, and the Giants at least dangerous as spoilers with a heavily veteran rotation and the Bonds show, it's one with a relatively combustible set of possibilities.

Remarkably, the good AL teams are even better this year and the best NL teams worse.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 13, 2007 6:43 AM

...and yet despite all of last year's AL hype (particularly by ESPN) the NL team won the series...

Posted by: Bartman at July 14, 2007 6:58 AM

The Tigers were too good for their own good--the long layoff was deadly and allowed a vastly inferior team to sneak through. Stuff happens..

Posted by: oj at July 14, 2007 7:42 AM