It’s time for the predictions project to turn its steely gaze in the direction of the National League East. Before we get started, here’s a look at last season’s prediction for a division that should be renamed The Home of the Braves.
Now let’s get into it. In the order we predict they will finish, here is the NL East of 2014.
1. Atlanta Braves. For my money, there are two key factors working in the Braves’ favor. First, their own consistency and stability. Atlanta has a history of finding a groove — a line, if you will — and grinding away in it for five or ten years. Maybe that’s a screwy way to look at the individual season, but I just can’t bet against their momentum. Second, the rest of the division is just not that good. The Nationals are supposed to be the team of the decade, but so far they’ve struggled to put everything together consistently. And no one else is in any kind of position to even challenge Atlanta. Ultimately, the real question is not “can the Braves win the division” but rather “can the Braves hold off the Nationals?” Besides all of that, Atlanta has a solid team that’s identified a core of young players and moved to secure them for years to come. Expect their dominance to continue in 2014, if not by quite as wide a margin as in 2013.
2. Washington Nationals. Everyone knows the Nats have the talent to win, but getting them all to row together has proven a tougher task than initially expected. Half of Washington’s stars are only getting older, and the others, while good, are struggling to be quite as great as initially predicted. Their pitching is still spectacular, but as the Phillies discovered, a strong pitching staff and aging vets don’t always get the job done. Look for the Nationals to flash stretches of dominance, but sustained excellence throughout the season will elude them.
3. New York Mets. The Mets, once again, will benefit from the lack of quality competition in the East. With just enough pitching and barely enough offense, New York will easily avoid the cellar but do just enough to once again celebrate mediocrity. Ho-hum. Nothing special to see here.
4. Miami Marlins. Miami likely hit rock bottom in 2013 with their 100-loss season and mass exodus of marquee players. But this is 2014, and the Marlins are tired of being a joke. They still won’t seriously contend, but they should have enough young talent to climb out of last place. Look for Rafael Furcal to surprise many with a year that’s just good enough to somewhat balance an offensive attack poised to be the Marlins’ saving grace. Between Stanton anchoring the offense and Fernandez the rotation, Miami fans should at least get SOMETHING to watch while choking down their shame.
5. Philadelphia Phillies. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. The Phillies are only now realizing the folly of their ways. By relying on huge free agent pitcher signings and a ludicrous contract to the once-great Ryan Howard, Philadelphia set themselves up to win now and lose later. It’s now later. With the departure of Halladay and the injury struggles of Hamels, the Phillies find themselves turning to the likes of A.J. Burnett. Unfortunately, even if Burnett works out, the Phillies’ offense has seen better days. Howard appears to be flailing, Utley is aging, and even the future Phillies franchise leader in hits Jimmy Rollins is stirring up trouble. Perhaps the outfield could save the once-intimidating infield…except the outfielders in Philly have very little firepower with which to stage a rescue mission. It seems first-year manager Sandberg is going to show Philly fans just how rough a leadership transition can get in 2014.
That’ll do it for the East. To read other, likely more informed predictions by my fellow UCBers, CLICK HERE. And check back tomorrow for the NL West predictions here on Cards ‘N Stuff.