NL Season Preview
By: Greg Arnold
What are five things you need to win the World Series? Pitching, pitching, pitching, pitching and pitching. This saying took a back seat as steroids and homeruns took over baseball, but in the last few years pitching has become the top priority in off season moves. The San Francisco Giants, winners of the National League and eventually the 2010 World Series, ended last season ninth in runs scored of the 16 National League teams. They were, however, first in ERA and first in strikeouts. Other teams in the National League are trying the same strategy to pull ahead of the pack and win the pennant.
The Philadelphia Phillies are considered by most to be the favorite to win the NL, at least on paper. Their new starting pitching staff rivals that of the Braves in the early 90’s which is arguably considered to have been the best all-time. Even one of the stars of the Braves, John Smoltz, said the new Phillies rotation blows the rotation he was a part of out of the water. The questions going into the offseason for the Phillies were their bullpen and finding a right- handed bat to replace free agent Jayson Werth. Not only did they not answer those questions, they released Chad Durbin, who led the Phillies bullpen in innings last season.
The Giants went with the “if ain’t broke don’t fix it” approach to their season. Beside the switch of veteran shortstops Juan Uribe and Edgar Renteria for the also veteran shortstop Miguel Tejeda, the team will be a mirror image of itself from last season’s championship run. The Giants are looking to a full season with last year’s NL Rookie of the Year, Buster Posey. They also have a top prospect in Brandon Belt, looking to make a run at the same award in the upcoming season
The National League Central Division looks to be a bit of a toss-up, as it has been for years now. The Cincinnati Reds won the division last year by five games and have huge bats like reigning NL Most Valuable Player Joey Votto to power them through the season. They will also test the arm of Cuban native Aroldis Chapman, nicknamed the Cuban Missile because his pitches are often above 100 mph and have hit 105.
With the contract extension of Albert Pujols looming over the St. Louis Cardinals, one has to wonder if they will consider this a last chance to win another championship with him. Their starting rotation is stacked and with the resigning of Jake Westbrook does not appear to be slowing down any time soon.
Another team hoping to take the division will be the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brewers have been known for their big bats with Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun, but this year they have added 2009 AL Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke to their rotation. They also added Shaun Marcum to help fill in the rest of the rotation. With Fielder’s contract coming to an end this year, they also will have a sense of urgency when entering this season.
Of course nothing is certain in the 162 game season of baseball. With teams like the Atlanta Braves and Colorado Rockies, who seem to make a push for the playoffs no matter who is on their team, sitting in the shadows this season could come down to the wire as everyone waits to see who will represent them in the World Series. All the fans of baseball can do is sit and wait and enjoy.
(Photo by themegaworldnews.com)