As most readers of this site know, I’m the eternal optimist. Until the Mets are mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, I still have hope—no matter how bad the team is playing.
But even I have to admit that this year, it will be tough for the Mets to finish higher than fifth place in the NL East. That’s based though more on the other teams in the division on paper than on the Mets.
Newsday’s Ken Davidoff released his National League outlook on Monday, in which he predicted the final outcome for each division.
The NL East looks like this: Phillies, Marlins, Nationals, Mets and Braves.
I have to say, this is a bold pick. While the Marlins and Nationals are the most improved teams in the division, the Braves cannot be counted out.
Here is Davidoff’s reasoning for this pick: “The Braves have a collapse to move past, thanks to their woeful September 2011 which knocked them out of the playoffs. As opposed to their AL counterparts in Boston, Atlanta opted to stay the course.”
Even so, wouldn’t everyone think that the Braves are eager to overcome their late season collapse by starting fast out of the gate? Some analysts believe that the Braves will even challenge the Phillies for the division title.
Injuries will be a concern for Atlanta. Tim Hudson will miss the start of the season following back surgery and so will Chipper Jones to surgery to repair a torn meniscus.
After a breakout rookie year in 2010, Jason Heyward experienced a sophomore slump last year. The team will hope he can rebound in 2012.
Despite some holes, the lineup combines speed and power when everyone is healthy. Expect a big year from Michael Bourn, who will be a free agent after this season. Dan Uggla and Brian McCann will certainly provide pop in the middle of the order. Also, Martin Prado is a solid all-around player.
Once Hudson returns, the Braves starting rotation can be scary good, with Hudson, Tommy Hanson, Jair Jurrjens and a few talented young starters. The bullpen in the late innings—Eric O’Flaherty, Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel—is arguably the best in the game.
As for the Mets, Davidoff said that the team will get the most out of what they have, though they don’t have much. He cites the team’s lack of depth as well.
With these factors, it’s very strange that the Braves were picked to finish behind the Mets. Like I always say though, you have to play the games. The two teams will get to prove Davidoff right or wrong early on as they open the season a week from today.