Last week ESPN’s David Schoenfield released his breakdown of the NL East for the 2012 season position by position. He ranked each teams position players, starting rotation, closers, bullpen, and the intangibles. In the end he tallied it all up and the Mets finished in last with 29 points. They were 19 points behind the Nationals, 20 behind the Marlins, 27 behind the Braves, and 29 behind the Phillies. So the way Mr. Schoenfield sees it; the Phillies and Braves are the top two teams, the Marlins and Nationals are close in talent and will battle for third, and the Mets are way, way, way, down at the bottom, and are by far the worst team in the division. I’d like to say he is wrong, but looking at his rankings I agree with him, for the most part.
He ranked David Wright second, behind Ryan Zimmerman which is debatable, but Zimmerman is a great player. I was happy to see him put Ruben Tejada third at short, which shows that he is making an impression on the rest of the league. He put Andres Torres fourth, which after the season he just had you can’t blame him, but by the end of the year I think he’ll jump up one spot. Lucas Duda (ranked last for right fielders) is one of the most interesting players coming into the 2012. He’s defense will have to improve if he wants to stay there at Citi Field, but offensively I feel he has the potential to keep up with Hunter Pence, Jason Heyward, and Jayson Werth. However, Mike Stanton is in a class of his own.
Now onto the starters, where again I agree with him on almost everything. Right off the bat, it is startling to see Johan Santana as the worst ace in the NL East. This is the only ranking where I avidly disagree with Mr. Schoenfield. The reason Santana would be ranked this low is because of his injury. Now, if you are going to rank a player lower because of an injury and you are uncertain about his recovery, I understand that. But he goes ahead puts Josh Johnson number two and Stephan Strasburg number three, who are both coming off major surgeries as well. Looking at the potential 2012 season alone, my ranking would go: Roy Halladay, Johnson, Santana, Tim Hudson, and Strasburg. He also puts R.A. Dickey last for number two starters, but he mentions that the NL East has some of the best number two starters in baseball. It’s hard to put Dickey ahead of names like Mark Buehrle and Tommy Hanson. The rest I agree with; Mike Pelfrey the worst number three, Jonathan Niese fourth number four (could be third, but it’s close), and Dillion Gee the third number five.
Then he goes into bullpen, starting with the closer which he says the Mets have the worst. No argument here. While I think Frank Francisco was a good signing and he will do well here, the rest of the division is loaded with great closers. Now the bullpen as a whole he ranks last, which I disagree with. I think if the Mets bullpen stays healthy they are the third best in the division. I think the Phillies is garbage, and once you get past Tyler Clippard the rest of the Nationals bullpen is very unimpressive.
As far as intangibles go, the Mets deserve to be last and the Marlins deserve to be first. The Mets have absolutely no excitement going into the 2012 season. They lost their best player to a division rival, and they cut payroll by more than $50M. They signed some new faces for the team, but not enough to bring the fans flocking to the park. I mean, I’m excited for the season and I’ll go to plenty of games, but I’m a crazy fan.
When I saw Mr. Schoenfield rank intangibles as a category then leave off manager and bench I was kind of surprised. So I’ll go ahead and do that for him.
It’s hard to go against Manuel, who has led the Phillies to five straight NL East division titles. Again they will be touted as the best team in the National League, but can he bring the Phillies back to the World Series?
Collins showed that he can take a group of below-average players and keep them in the playoff hunt… at least for the first half of the season. He works great with young players, and the Mets certainly have a lot of those this year.
As I see it, Guillen could be the best manager for the Marlins or the worst. There are a lot of new personalities on that team, combined with youth, so a fiery manager with a temper might not be the best thing to bring them all together… or it maybe it is.
The faith for Gonzalez as the manager of the Braves took a major hit after they collapsed last year and missed the playoffs on the final game of the season. He has to work very hard to get the disappointing taste of the 2011 season out of his team’s mouth.
It’s hard to put Johnson last on this list but I have to. While Johnson is a great manager, I feel like he is the wrong manager for this young energetic team.
1. Philadelphia Phillies
2. Atlanta Braves
3. Miami Marlins
4. New York Mets
5. Washington Nationals
The Phillies have Dominic Brown, Ty Wiggington, and (after Ryan Howard makes his return) Jim Thome coming off the bench. That’s hard to beat.
The Braves have Matt Diaz and Eric Hinske, which is a nice right/left combination.
Chris Coghlan is on the bench right now for the Marlins, so I think that speaks volumes about the talent on this team.
The Mets have Justin Turner, and all he seems to do is get big hits. It’s going to be great to have him pinch hitting late in games.
Mark DeRosa is a nice bat off the bench for the Nationals, but they need some more help in the outfield.
Still, and it’s hard to say this, but the Mets are the worst the team in the NL East, at least on paper. It doesn’t mean the Mets will finish last in 2012. Baseball is a game played on the field and anything can happen. The Mets could have some magic and actually make a run at the playoffs. It’s not very likely, but anything is possible.