Last year, the Washington Nationals began to put together a team of great-looking young talent. Late last season, over the offseason, and early this season, they made some key acquisitions, such as Adam LaRoche, Gio Gonzalez, and Kurt Suzuki. Powered by LaRoche, Jayson Werth, Ian Desmond, Mike Morse, and Ryan Zimmermman, and others, and with outstanding pitching from Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmerman, Tyler Clippard, and Gonzalez, the team had a remarkable season, basically going wire-to-wire as the National League’s best. However, with no Strasburg in the playoffs, and with that same lack of experience in post-season play as we described regarding the Orioles and A’s, they will not go far in the playoffs. For them, next year should be a hoot.
The other amazing season turned in by an NL team was in St. Louis. Not only did the Cardinals lose Luis Pujols to free agency, and enter the season with a rookie manager replacing the legendary Tony LaRussa, but they played the year without ace starter Chris Carpenter. Kyle Loshe, Adam Wainwright, Jake Westbrook, and the rest of the Cards’ starters did great all year, but without the big guy in the playoffs, they will also make a quick exit.
Atlanta is harder to get a grip on. They have had some hot hitting late in the season, and even hotter pitching, but Fredi Gonzalez has never impressed me as a great manager, and the team has last year’s amazing fade out still sitting at the back of their minds.
The NL pennant will come down to the two teams managed by the league’s two best managers, Dusty Baker in Cincinnati and Bruce Bochy in San Francisco, and the team with the best pitching, San Francisco, will get to the World Series.
The Reds have much more overall power than the Giants (they have out-homered SF 171 to 101 as of yesterday’s games), but their offensive leader, Joey Votto, comes in ice cold, having failed to hit a home run since his return from the DL Sept 5., driving in only seven runs in almost a month. The Giants, however, have out hit the Reds, .270 to .252, and despite the power shortage, have scored more runs over the course of the season. They also have one of the dominant offensive players in the NL over the last two months of the season in Buster Posey, who is our choice for MVP.
While the Reds come into the playoffs with three hot starters in Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, and No-Hit Homer Bailey, and with fire-balling Aroldis Chapman (121 Ks in 70 ip) in the bullpen, the Giants’ starters are deeper and more talented. 2012 ace Matt Cain is primed for the first game, and 16-11 Madison Baumgamer would likely not get the ball until game three. Two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum, who had the worst season of his career, is still the money guy, and I expect him to have a big post-season. I hate to say it, but trojan brain surgeon scum barry zeto has had his best year in a Giants’ uniform, and might even see action in the playoffs.
One additional factor to consider is the health of Dusty Baker. His recent hospital stay and serious health concerns could work to the Reds’ advantage on an emotional level, but if Dusty is not at his best in key situations, the Giants will have another big advantage.