National League Preview

On to the National League. The American League was very chalky. Hopefully the NL is more interesting.

NL East – This is the toughest division in baseball this year. Three teams all have a good chance of winning it. Neither the Nationals nor the Marlins are among those teams, though.The Nationals are makingĀ  baby steps forward, upgradingĀ  their rotation and adding some power in Adam Dunn. They still have a long, long way to go, though. They will improve on the 102 loss season last year, but they still won’t be respectable. The Marlins are masters at developing young talent, and they are at it again. Their rotation is young and promising. I have high hopes for Andrew Miller in particular this year. They also have one of the better players in the game in Hanley Ramirez. They will be decent, but they just don’t have enough to compete with the big boys. I’m not sure the Braves do, either – especially at their 3/1 price. I like their starting rotation a fair bit, and am particularly high on Jair Jurrjens. I also expect them to get improved play from a couple of disappointments from last year – Jeff Francoeur and Casey Kotchman . They are contenders, but they would need to be at their best and have at least one team in front of them fall apart. That’s not worth betting on at the price. The Phllies are next at 9/5. The champs’ playoff run was obviously impressive, but I can’t help remembering how they barely made the playoffs in the first place. I also don’t think this team did enough to get better – Raul Ibanez replacing Pat Burrell is the only big change. I like a lot of the team, and really like Cole Hamels, but I don’t think they are good enough to beat the Mets this year. New York is at 7/5. Betting on the Mets is a risky proposition in recent years, but they have done what they needed to do to get better – namely, they have significantly improved their terrible bullpen. Now they have one of the best in the league on paper. I expect big things from Johan Santana and Mike Pelfrey, and I think this is a team on the rise. Of the four potential conference winners so far, the Mets offer the best value at their price.

NL Central – I’ll admit it, I hate the NL Central. I find the ball boring, and the teams not compelling. There are a few high points, but only a few. I also don’t think that it will be a particularly competitive division. The Cubs are at 5/9 to win it, and for good reason. They have the best rotation, the best hitting, and the best depth. They are also exceptionally well managed. It is unquestionably theirs to lose. Beyond them there are a few teams that show promise and which I expect to improve over last year, but not enough to win the group. Cincinnati has very good pitching and some young talent emerging, but they aren’t ready to contend yet. They might stick around the wild card picture for a while, but only if everything goes right for them. That being said, they are probably over priced at 10/1. The Brewers lost two huge pieces of their rotation, and they weren’t good enough with them there. They have lots of power, but just aren’t deep enough to merit consideration at 5/1. I like the Cardinals offensively, and I have high hopes for Khalil Greene with a change of scenery, but I don’t think they have the pitching to compete. Houston is an afterthought without the talent to be interesting. They should be interesting at 14/1 with a pitcher like Roy Oswalt anchoring the rotation, but they just aren’t. That leaves the Pirates – easily the worst franchise in baseball. They are so bad that their 40/1 price is an underlay.

NL West – The Padres are lousy, and I won’t waste any time on them. No hope. The Rockies are better, but things look bleak. They have lost Jeff Francis for the year, and that eaves a big hole in an already fragile rotation. No value at 6/1. That leaves three teams, and some uncertainty. The Dodgers are the favorites at 7/5. That is warranted on one condition – they get Manny Ramirez signed. With him they are right in the mix. Without him they lack depth and just aren’t dangerous enough. Arizona is next at 8/5. The top of their rotation is as good as it gets, but the back end is just plain scary. They don’t have a great bullpen, they lost a bunch of free agents and didn’t do much of a job of replacing them, and they lack power. People are high on this team, but I am not one of those people. That leaves the Giants. At 7/2 this is one place where I would take a shot at a bigger price. They have one of the best pitchers in baseball right now in Tim Lincecum, and early spring results make it look like he is picking right up where he left off last year. Behind hm they have lots of questions, but just as much potential. The bullpen is better. The offense if young but talented. They would need to catch some breaks to pull this off, but the division isn’t particularly strong, and I think their price comes closest to representing value.

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  1. I know you’re not a big Reds fan, and neither am I for that matter, but I think the Reds could be a decent team this year.

    They’ll always have the hitting and their pitching is solid from the rotation to the bullpen.

    As for the West, I don’t know if the Dodgers will win it – they should be in the mix, but I’ve noticed that some sportsbooks have yet to change the regular season win total for the Dodgers now that Manny signed.

    Sportsbooks are slow to move with this – I got good value with the New York Jets over 7 wins for the regular season roughly four days after they had acquire Favre. If it was me, I would increase the line. Dodgers are probably about a 90-win with him in the lineup.

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