Joe Sheehan posted his NL East preview today, in which he does the nearly unthinkable: picking the Mets to win the division, ahead of the Phillies, Marlins, and - wait for it - Braves. In that order.
"The additions of Carlos Beltran and Pedro Martinez are worth 10-12 wins to the team by themselves. Add in a full season of David Wright and any kind of bounceback from Mike Piazza, and the Mets will have a superstar core unrivaled in the division."
He goes on to predict, as many have, that Kaz Matsui will show improvement in his sophomore season, as did Hideki from the Bronx.
What still concerns me is that, for whatever reason, the Mets only won 71 games last year, meaning the 10-12 wins he figures the Big Two will add still only gets them back to .500. This leaves Wright, Matsui, and perhaps Benson/Zambrano/Ishii to make up the other 10 wins, over and above last year's production, that it will probably take to contend for the division.
Of all the pundits/analysts I've read, Sheehan is probably the staunchest supporter of the Mets' bullpen. Statheads are often accused of accentuating the negative aspects of popular players, but quantitative analysis is more productively used in identifying real talent in the sort of no-name pitchers which make up the bulk of the Mets' pen. In short, he believes we can expect perfectly decent innings from Bell, Fortunato, Koo and company, despite their near total anonymity.
As I've said before, the Phillies are the team that scares me. While their rotation is largely the same group which was so injury-ridden and ineffective last year, exchanging Milton for Lieber is a definite upgrade, and Lofton-Utley-Abreu-Thome-Burrell is no joke at all.
I didn't have the guts to pick the Braves 4th, but I'm glad someone did. Oh wouldn't it be lovely?
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