2018 MLB National League East Forecast

The Washington Nationals should be wide awake come October after they sleepwalk through this division.    Photo by Sharon Ward

1 Plenty of buzz about the Nats

First, Washington has one of the best group of starting pitchers in the bigs with Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasbourg, and Gio Gonzalez. The three could threaten the 60-win total. Second, this is an offense that can manufacture runs or overpower you and you have a team that should go deep in the postseason. Trea Turner and Michael Taylor could lead the return of the stolen base to the game that some stat-heads have long advocated against. And then you have Bryce Harper in right field —if he can stay healthy— followed by batting title contender Daniel Murphy —if he can come back in time from injury— and slugger Anthony Rendon and Ryan Zimmerman. That’s a hell of a one-through-six.

I wonder about Sean Doolittle as the closer. He was great for one year and injured the next. Ryon Madson could be pressed into service.

I also wonder about firing a manager who won 97 games last year. I’ve been critical of Dusty Baker in the past in this very space but he made the right moves last year in the playoffs. His players failed to do their jobs. Matt Williams got fired in 2015, the year after he was voted manager of the year. We’ll see how Dave Martinez does when he has to figure out when Strasburg is out of gas late in the game with a one-run lead…

Projection: 96 wins

2 Watch the Metropolitans or have three more metropolitans?

The answer lies in the Mets starting pitching. If Matt Harvey can return and stay healthy and the hair twins Jacob DeGrom and Noah Syndergaard can turn power into wins then Mets fans can unwrap their fingers from around the neck of the brandy bottle.

If not, then fans will have to depend on long stretches of Yoenis Cespedis carrying the team on his back at the plate and throwing out fools on the base paths. Infielder Asdrubal Cabrera could be ready to make the next step. And Jay Bruce might actually finish a season without a trade or trade rumor involving him. I’m not crazy about the rest of the staff or the lineup however. Can you add some triple sec to that please?

Projection: 85 wins

3 Welcome Back Phillies?

Ok, the new manager is Gabe Kaplan. The teacher in Welcome Back Kotter was Gabe Kaplan. Get it? Of course you do. Your average age is 53.

Do the other jokes that have been the Phillies in the past turn into witty prose this year, much like the previous paragraph? Maybe, but a lot of good writers will have to be employed.

There is some talent on this club. Maikel Franco can lead this team if he stops swinging at pitches he can get a piece of and wait for pitches he can drive. The guy hit 24 bombs last year and struck out less than 100 times. Impatience is how you do that and .230.

Rhys Hoskins strikeout-to-walk ratio was 4:3 and he has power. I think he can do better than the .259 he hit last year. And Cesar Hernandez and Odubel Herrera had solid years. If they can get some offense out of second baseman JP Crawford and catcher Jorge Alfaro, they could be a .500 club.

Iiiiiffffff, they can get some pitching help. Aaron Nola looked pretty good last year and they added Jake Arrieta. Even if Arrieta doesn’t rise much above .500, he can still help a young staff with his experience…if he wants to. Blake Lively was okay last year. You had a shot to win if you could put four on the board. You have to hope Vince Velasquez can put it together to be a reliable fourth starter, otherwise, they need to start calling guys up named Arnold and use Vinnie’s experience in the bullpen.

Prediction: 81 wins.

4 Hotlanta needs some heat on the mound

They have Freddie Freeman and he can carry them a ways and Ender Inciarte is a nice piece to have in center field. They lost Brandon Phillips, but get Ozzie Albies at second and he put up good numbers last year. Nick Markakis will be solid in right. So, their offense can hold its own…

But, that’s not enough. When the question is who might drop their ERA under four and lead this group, you have a bunch of answers I’m not crazy about. I’m not sold on Julian Tehran. They have Brandon McCarthy now and he’s fine, but he’s a third starter on most teams.

Projection: 74 wins

5. Someone lift the curse on Donny Baseball

Seriously, besides two trips to the mound in the same visit when he was skipper of the Dodgers, what has this guy done to deserve the Miami Marlins?

Cameron Maybin and Starlin Castro are the stars and Dan Straily is your best pitcher?

This could be the worst thing ever. Even worse than the old Astros.

Projection: 59 wins




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