The MLB baseball season has officially surpassed the first Quarter mark. All 30 MLB teams have played at least 40 games. It is no longer “too early” to begin making judgments about teams and players. After a month and a half of baseball, teams are effectively who they are for the rest of the season. The Philadelphia Phillies sub .500 21-22 record is no longer just a slow start, and conversely the Los Angeles Dodgers MLB leading 29-13 record can’t be tossed aside as a fluke.
With that said, I don’t think that the Phillies will end the season with only 84 wins and the Dodgers will finish with close to 110. But the games at the beginning of the season matter just as much as those at the end and so far this year things have been shaken up a bit.
Here are my predictions for the NL’s three divisions going forward based on the current MLB standings.
Last year’s mediocre Dodgers have certainly been a surprise over on the West Coast so far in 2012 with the MLB’s best record. Should-have-been MVP Matt Kemp didn’t miss a beat starting off 2012 with more than 10 home runs in the first month of the season, but has since suffered a hamstring injury and finds himself on the DL. The Dodgers have won without him and largely due to good pitching. Offseason acquisition Chris Capuano has finally found his groove going 6-1 with a sub 2.5 ERA.
With the Giants struggling to find consistent pitching and their ever-anemic offense, The Dodgers biggest competition might be defending Division Champions, the Arizona D-Backs who have yet to put things together but are extremely dangerous.
Currently I have my eyes on the Cincinnati Reds. While the Defending World Series Champion Cardinals sit atop the division — by only half of a game. Their bullpen has been shoddy and their starting pitching up and down. Yes, their offense is one of the best in the league but without pitching it means nothing. The Reds on the other hand have an interesting mix of players that have the potential to really take off.
Former MVP Joey Votto has yet to really find his stroke while Jay Bruce continues to blast home runs like he knows how. Like the Cardinals, pitching is key for the Reds and if offseason acquisition, starter Mat Latos lives up to his ace potential I like the Reds a whole lot. Milwaukee always has a chance to make a run at things but it’s getting later and later and they don’t look poised to do much. This might be the year Cubs finish dead-last and the Pirates finally finish above .500.
The NL East looks to be the most competitive National League division this season with the defending division winning Phillies currently in last place. As a lifelong Braves fanatic, no one is happier to see the Braves sitting atop the NL East than me.
And unlike years past, I feel confident that things might stay this way. For the first time since the days of Gary Sheffield, Javy Lopez and Andruw Jones the Braves are an offensive force sitting a top the league in runs scored.
Sophomore starter Brandon Beachy is tops in the league with a 1.33 ERA while leadoff man Michael Bourn is sitting pretty with an average around .330 and 13 Stolen bases.
Meanwhile, both Martin Prado and Jason Heyward have rebounded from off seasons quite nicely. The bullpen has yet to give up a lead and the team seems to be firing on all cylinders. The Marlins have recovered from a terrifyingly bad start and the Nationals have played consistent ball all year led by Stephen Strasburg and sparked by rookie sensation Bryce Harper.
The Mets have surprised everyone by sweeping both the Phillies and the Braves already this season. The Phillies are sure to rebound with the best pitching in the league but it is worth noting that former Cy Young Cliff Lee is still looking for his first win of the season. They desperately need offense and are waiting for Ryan Howard and Chase Utley to return, however, it is uncertain how much of an impact these aging and injured veterans will provide given they come back.