NL East: The Mets are a mess. I predicted them to pretty much run away with the Easy, and now they're barely .500. And really, there is no reason for this. Sure, Pedro is out, but Santana is gold, Maine is a rock, and Billy Wagner hasn't given up in this season. But right now, it seems as if the Mets are playing to get Willie Randolph fired before June 15th. I felt that the Braves could have a bounce back year, and so far, so good. Jair Jurrjens and Tim Hudson make up a great 1-2 punch in the rotation (the Braves have a 3.56 team ERA 2nd in the NL), while Chipper Jones and Brian McCann do the damage with the lumber (the Braves have a .281 team BA, 2nd in the NL). Problem is, Atlanta has a total of 7 saves—10 less than F-Rod on the Angels—and are 2-12 in one-run games. I predicted Chase Utley to be the NL MVP and so far, he's making me look smart—he's batting .306 and has hit 14 HRs. Pat Burrell and Ryan Howard have chipped in with 10 HRs apiece. But outside of Cole Hamels, the Phillies just don't have the pitching. The Nationals are right where we all thought they'd be, near the bottom of the NL. But the surprise of the NL East is the Marlins. Despite shaky fielding, average hitting and middle-of-the-pack pitching, the Marlins lead the I-don't-want-it, you-take-it "race" in the NL East. Dan Uggla and Hanley Ramirez are doing the damage with the bat and Scott Olsen, despite a Jamie Moyer-like fastball, leads the staff with a under 3.00 ERA.
Going Forward: A surprise...Smoltz gets healthy and helps the Braves surge past the freak show Mets and Marlins.
-------------------NL Central: Pretty much I was right with the first and last place teams in the NL Central. It's the middle that's all jumbled up. The Cubs lead this division, no surprise there. They have the bats (highest BA in the National League) and with Ted Lilly calming down his last few starts, the rotation seems to be solid enough (Carlos Sambrano and Ryan Dempster both being sub 2.5 ERA guys so far). The Cardinals however, have really surprised. Both their pitching and hitting (especially guys not named Albert Pujols) have been better than advertised. We'll see how long they can keep this up. The Astros, I said could be a surprise team, and so far, they are. Lance Berkman has been playing on another level and Miquel Tejada seems ecstatic to be out of Baltimore. Hunter Pence seems like a keeper, and Michael Bourne has contributed 18 steals to the Astros league-leading 48. Beyond them, Milwaukee has been a little disappointing. Ryan Braun has been super and Prince Fielder has been heating up, but Bill Hall, J.J. Hardy and Rickie Weeks have been sub par. And while yes, both Yovani Gallardo and Chris Capuano are out from the rotation from injuries, the rest of the staff not named Ben Sheets has let the team down. The Reds have been typically bipolar—which is what you'd expect from a bunch of kids playing next to aging veterans. The Reds have a chance to be good, just not this year. And Pittsburgh....sigh. Well, they haven't been as bad as they have been.
Going Forward: Nobody really chases the Cubs....they make it to the NL Championship.
-------------------NL West: Sick was how I described the D-Back rotation and sick is how they'd pitched. First in the NL for ERA with a ERA of 3.8 or less. And Doug Davis due to come back off the DL this Friday. Also, I wrote in March that "They need CF Chris Young (25), Justin Upton (20), Conor Jackson (25), Stephen Drew (25) and the other very young D’Backs to mature and gain more plate discipline." And for the most part, they have, which each betting their 2007 BA. Also playing up to their talent are the Dodgers. That is, except for Andruw Jones, who has been teh-rib-bull. Aside from him, Joe Torre hasn't been afraid to use youngsters like Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda, Delwyn Young among others...anything he has to do to get the win...which is a nice change in L.A. The other three teams have fallen way back already...which is no surprise for the Giants. They seemed like a terribly built team in the spring and they act like a terribly built team now. The less said about them, the better. Colorado has taken a giant step backwards this year—especially their hitting. With Troy Tulowitski out and Hawpe and Helton regressing a little, it's been up to Holliday and Atkins to provide the hitting. And while they have, it's not enough. But last year the Rockies didn't start rolling till late summer. Maybe they can right the ship by then. The same goes for the Padres...who can't seem to hit anything. Only 1 of their starters is batting above .300 (Brian Giles and only 2 others above .270. They have already let their main free agent go (Jim Edmonds), and with Jake Peavy injured and Chris Young nowhere near his 2007 numbers, it looks like it might be a long season at Petco Park.
Going Forward: Arizona is just too much for the division, though I think the Dodgers might make a run for the Wild Card.
No major changes to the big predictions...we've still got a lot of baseball left, people. Enjoy.