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NEWS | April 9, 2010

National League 2010 Predictions

By Airman 1st Class Patrick McKenna 316th Wing Public Affairs

N.L. East

This division is definitely the National League's most talented and exciting. It's filled with well known superstars like Ryan Howard, Hanley Ramirez, David Wright and Ryan Zimmerman, but it also has some new arrivals that are sure to make some headlines. Guys like Roy Halladay and Jason Heyward are at opposite ends of their careers, but what they have in common is that they each will make a big impact with their respective team this season.

The Phillies have the best offense in the National League by a landslide. They have speed (Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino) to wreak havoc on the base paths and several power hitters (Chase Utley, Jason Werth, Raul Ibanez, Ryan Howard) to help drive in runs. Where they might run into trouble is their starting rotation after Halladay and their bullpen. Can Cole Hamels regain the form that helped the Phillies win the World Series two years ago? Will Brad Lidge continue to be unreliable in the ninth inning? The Phillies can score all the runs in the world, but if they want to win another championship, they need to be able to keep opposing teams from scoring runs. It remains to be seen if someone can step up to help Halladay.

This division is very similar to its American League counterpart in that while there is a clear favorite (Phillies) the division has solid teams from top to bottom (ok, maybe not the Nationals yet) and could very well be home to the eventual wild card winner as well.
Pick: Phillies

N.L. Central

A case could be made that this division is the least competitive in all of baseball. It's not that it lacks talent. It's just that the Cardinals are simply on another level compared to the other teams that make up this division. They have two great starting pitchers in Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright, a solid offense led by Albert Pujols, the best all around hitter in baseball, and an experienced manager in Tony La Russa who knows what it takes to win in October.
Pick: Cardinals

N.L. West
Out of all the divisions in baseball, this is the one where there is the least consensus as to whom the favorite should be. Last year's division champions, the Dodgers, are still a very good team. They have the best offense in the division thanks to a nice mix of young hitters (Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, James Loney) and veterans (Manny Ramirez, Rafael Furcal, Russell Martin) and a decent starting rotation led by Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley.

If the Dodgers want to repeat as division champions, they'll need Kershaw to take the next step in his progression. He has dynamic stuff, but if he doesn't improve his control, he's never going to be able to go late in games and thus, he'll overwork the bullpen whenever he starts.

The Dodgers main competition will most likely come from last year's wild card winning Rockies who are a trendy pick to take the division this year, but I simply don't see it. Yes, they have a nice young offense with Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez and Ian Stewart and an underrated starting rotation, but their bullpen isn't very good and that will be their downfall.

The division's other two decent teams (sorry Padres fans) are the Giants and Diamondbacks who each can be considered dark horses. The Giants have the best starting rotation one-two punch with Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain and they could be dangerous, but their offense is below average and it'll be tough to do anything but contend for the wild card. The Diamondbacks have a very solid offense and the second best pitcher in the division (Dan Haren), but they'll need Brandon Webb to come back healthy and that's not looking likely.
Pick: Dodgers

Wild Card
The great thing about the National League is its wild card race is always a lot more exciting than the American League and this year looks as if it will be no different. In the American League, the wild card winner is essentially guaranteed to be the A.L. East runner up, but in the National League, it's always a tossup. The main contenders for this year's wild card are the Rockies, Brewers, Braves, Marlins and Mets. So how will it shake out? The Brewers aren't likely to make the midseason moves necessary to get to the postseason. The Braves might be a little too old to last an entire season and Jason Heyward isn't quite ready to lead the team to the playoffs. The Mets have a lot of injury concerns and very poor starting pitching after Johan Santana. That leaves the Rockies and Marlins. The Marlins are a good team, but they have the unfortunate luck of playing in the N.L. East which means there are very few easy division games. Whereas, the Rockies are fortunate enough to be able to beat up on the Padres and Diamondbacks.
Pick: Rockies

N.L. Pennant - Philadelphia Phillies

MVP - Albert Pujols
He's the best pure hitter on the planet and is the only player who each year has a realistic shot of winning the Triple Crown.

Cy Young
- Roy Halladay
This guy should put on a clinic now that he's out of the A.L. East and facing weaker National League lineups.

Rookie of the Year - Jason Heyward
This guy is getting the same kind of hype Pujols got when he was a rookie and anyone that saw his first at bat knows why. This kid is a beast.