Monday, March 31, 2008

Your 2008 N.L. East Preview: Part Two

Today I attempt to answer the question: Who exactly is the team to beat?

When the Mets made the very un-Met-like move of acquiring Johan Santana for what many thought was less than market value, admit it ... you wanted to strip down to your underwear and run down the highway, right?

Well I lived that dream, my friend! (Which explains that week in late February that I wasn't blogging ... community service!)

But once the euphoria (and the drugs) wore off, I thought for a second. I mean, sure ... the Mets swung themselves an upgrade at the top of the rotation, one they so desperately needed. So one would think that that would make up the one game that the Mets lost the division by and then some, right? One would hope.

As you probably have figured out, I've got the Mets and the Phillies battling for the N.L. East in a two horse race (hell, the Braves are already in last place.) While the Mets seem to have the upper hand by a good margin, remember:
  • Pedro Martinez still has to show that he can stay healthy again for a full season, which he really hasn't done since '05.
  • Jose Reyes has to bounce back and become the Jose Reyes we all know and sing for.
  • Ryan Church is a disaster waiting to happen.
And that last one worries me, because what made the Mets so special in 2006 has a chance of totally evaporating for the 2008 season, and that's their lineup. In '06 they set records for having an A.L. type lineup. Now, they start the season with The Artist Formerly Known As Carlos Delgado hitting fifth, Angel Pagan hitting sixth, and Brian Schneider hitting eighth. This means that Church is going to have to live up to the expectations that Omar Minaya has set for him by trading what was once a major part of the Mets future for him and Schneider. And it also means that there's no room for error for the top of the lineup. Reyes, Luis Castillo, Carlos Beltran and David Wright have to deliver with runners on base, every single time!

The Phillies have no such problems with their lineup, as Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Shane Victorino, Pat Burrell, Geoff Jenkins, and maybe even Pedro Feliz and Carlos Ruiz are going to be murder on opposing pitching staffs ... especially in their Shoebox of a stadium.

But with Santana, John Maine, Oliver Perez, Martinez, and now Mike Pelfrey, the Mets potentially have a starting pitching staff that can be murder on opposing lineups ... and Santana is just the guy to neutralize big lefties like Howard and Utley. And dare I say it, their bullpen looked good in spring training (I know, spring training doesn't count, but the Mets did lead all teams in spring training ERA.) More importantly, Johan will supply the bullpen with some extra rest every fifth day, as he's sure to go seven innings in at least half his starts ... a foreign concept last season.

While the Mets' upgrade involves more of a sure thing, the Phillies' upgrade involves trading for closer Brad Lidge. Lidge is high risk, high reward. If he's healthy, and if he remains relatively implosion-free, the Phillies will be in good shape. But not only are those big ifs ... but if Lidge is a disaster, the Phillies will wind up depending on Flash Gordon to close. It's a scenario any Mets fan would find most appealing.

So as you can see, the Mets are in good shape. But considering the Mets haven't beaten the Phillies since World War II, the East is going to be a struggle. The Mets may be in a bad position in September, say ... seven games out with seventeen to play. But then ...

Mets: 94-68
Phillies: 93-69

But it solves nothing, as the Mets and the Phillies will meet in the 2008 NLCS (but I'm not ready to handicap that yet.)


katherine said...

Assuming that the pitchers, and Jose and David all have reasonably good years, it's going to come down to the two Carlos's- if they're both really on, we're unstoppable.

Unser said...

Totally agree with you on the Braves. They have a nice middle of the lineup, but their pitching and their table setters are not up to Met-Philly standards.

Ah, baseball is back . . . there IS something on TV to watch.

debmc said...

I agree with your analysis that the NL East is a two-horse race, and that it will be very close, indeed.

What is all this love for the Braves, anyway? I'm beginning to agree with our Site Saber Guru, Matt Himelfarb, that the mainstream media has pretty much lost its collective mind, and isn't in tune, in synch, or in touch with the church of what's happening now in baseball.

Laziness? Maybe a little. Using the safety net a little too much? Probably. Egos? Definitely. Ugh. Wake up and smell the lattes, boys and girls!

And speaking of lame, how about that lovely little "personal message" from Willie Randolph that was dumped into the collective inboxes of Mets fans who are registered on the Mets' "official site," huh? Check out what I have to say about this at Another unvaluable piece of crappy Mets propoganda.

Anonymous said...

you only have the phils playing 160 games

Metstradamus said...

Two games will be cancelled due to bonfires in the outfield due to "College Night"

Demitri said...

I think has totally crashed. cant get anything on whats going on...