Alright, today we get baseball's most drama-filled, and most overrated division, the NL East.
1. Mets - I tend to root against the New York teams. I guess it's a midwestern thing. Last year, however, I couldn't help but feel a little sympathy for the Mets. If one team in baseball had a bullpen that was as bad or worse than the Cardinals, it was the Mets. It was tough in the late innings for them the whole year, but once Billy Wagner went down, taking a lead into the late innings seemed to be a detriment to them instead of a positive. That's why you really have to call them the hands-down big winners of this past offseason. They added K-Rod AND JJ Putz, two of the best late-inning guys in baseball, arguably turning a major weakness into a strength. Not only do these guys have great stuff, but more importantly, they seem to have the personalty and make-up to thrive in New York. There are some questions at the back-end of the rotation for this team, but overall, I like them to finally get over the hump (and the arch nemesis the Phillies) and win this division again.
2. Phillies - No question, this team is still one of the favorites not only in their own division, but in the entire national league. They only made one major change from last year, letting Burrell go and signing Ibanez, opting to sign their own guys to extensions to keep this World Series winner intact. The problem I have with this team is that they rely too much on Hammels and their bullpen. The rest of the rotation is suspect and now Hammels won't be ready for the start of the season. The bullpen, you have to think, can't keep up their run of near perfection for another entire year. I could be wrong, but I think they will falter just enough to let the Mets through the door.
3. Braves - If Tim Hudson were healthy, I'd really like this team's chances. As it is, they did a great job of rebuilding the rotation in the offseason and have some other good young arms on the way. Unfortunately, I just don't think the depth is there on the pitching staff for this year at least and their line-up is no where near what the Phillies and Mets have. Still, they are a team that could DECIDE the division (or the wild card for that matter) because they can certainly beat anyone on a given day, so you don't want to be playing important games against them in September.
4. Marlins - This team seems to always be better than people expect. They are right up there with the likes of the Brewers, Rangers, and Twins when it comes to good young talent. Unfortunately, they always have to trade away their best guys eventually because they draw no fans and have no money. Fortunately, both those things should change in the near future. They have a new stadium deal in place finally and I think it will be ready in 2011. They also wisely have locked down Hanely Rameriz, the best young player in baseball, so he'll still be there when they open their new digs. They probably won't contend until then, but at least the future looks much brighter for them.
5. Nationals - It will be interesting to see who is worse, them or the Padres. Their rotation should easily be the worst in baseball at the very least. They have some decent position players lead by Adam Dunn, but not much else to hang their hat on. I'm sure the other teams in the division are glad to have the Nationals around, because the other four are pretty tough to play against.
Tomorrow's the big one: NL Central. Tune back in and keep on eye on the rest of the UCB's predictions as well!