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2015 National League Playoff Race – Part 2

Marte has the Pirates pointing towards the playoffs in 2015

Marte has the Pirates pointing towards the playoffs in 2015

In part 1 of this series, I looked at the teams that I felt were out of the race for a 2015 NL Playoff spot.  My assumption for the 2nd wild card spot is 89 wins, based on the past 10 years of win totals for the 5th best team in the NL.

The second part of the series will look at the teams realistically in the hunt, the record they need to reach 89 wins, how I thought they would do pre-season as either a pretender or contender, and what needs they may look to address at the trade deadline.



PRE-SEASON PREDICTION — Outside looking in

RECORD NEEDED TO GET 89 WINS — (47-32,  .595 win%)

NEEDS TO ADDRESS AT TRADE DEADLINE — The Mets have been exactly as I expected them to be in the pre-season writeup.  Their pitching is fantastic, even better than I anticipated with the arrival of Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard, and they actually do have too much good pitching.  Matt Harvey-Jacob deGrom- Bartolo Colon- Steven Matz – Noah Syndergaard is a great rotation, leaving Jon Niese on the outside looking in.

However, their offense is exactly as I predicted in the pre-season — anemic.  The Mets recently had a stretch of 15 games where they did not score more than 2 runs in 12 of them.  They only have three regulars with wRC+’s over league-average 100.  With David Wright and Travis d’Arnaud injured (surprise!), the Mets have had to scramble to fill the spots with depth they don’t have.  Aside from 1B (Lucas Duda), the Mets could use, literally, a bat at any position.  If there’s someone halfway decent at that position they upgrade, they could shift that player to cover another hole.  There is no team speed on the Mets, either.  Even with this rotation, it’s hard to see the Mets addressing all their needs on a limited potential payroll influx at the deadline; I think they are the most likely of the teams in this article to miss the playoffs.



PRE-SEASON PREDICTION — Playoff contender

RECORD NEEDED TO GET 89 WINS — (45-37,  .545 win%)

NEEDS TO ADDRESS AT TRADE DEADLINE — Man, the Cubs are going to no fun to play against in 2016.  I think their outstanding rookies and young players are going to hit a wall in mid-August and run out of gas, but look out next year, especially after another offseason of free agent acquisitions.  As it stands now, the Cubs are right in the mix and are a strong contender for a Wild Card.  Even though Chris Coghlan is having a solid season (.253 AVG/.353 OBP/.429 SLG, 113 wRC+), if the Cubs could get either a CF or LF, either Coghlan or Dexter Fowler could go to the bench or fill in RF for the injured Jorge Soler.

The front four of the Cubs’ rotation has been very good, but their 5th starter has been a work-in-progress all year.  I wouldn’t advocate going nuts for a SP, but if a solid, back-end SP like Aaron Harang was available, that would be an upgrade.  The bullpen isn’t really scaring anyone, so a closer and/or set-up guy would help lengthen the bullpen and give innings to a bunch of younger players in the pen.



PRE-SEASON PREDICTION — Playoff contender

RECORD NEEDED TO GET 89 WINS — (47-33,  .588 win%)

NEEDS TO ADDRESS AT TRADE DEADLINE — The Giants are gritting it out all over the baseball diamond.  The team defense on this team by UZR is fantastic and they’ve received surprising offensive performances from 2B Joe Panik and 3B Matt Duffy.  C Buster Posey has been fantastic, as usual, and SS Brandon Crawford (127 wRC+) has been far above-the-line.  It’s the Giants’ outfield that has been a mess.  Sure, Nori Aoki is doing Nori Aoki things (.317 AVG/.383 OBP/.385 SLG, 125 wRC+) with great defense, but the other two positions have been injury-plagued black holes.  Hunter Pence has had multiple injuries this year.  Angel Pagan is dealing with knee inflammation right now, but has been ineffective when in the lineup (.269 AVG/.305 OBP/.323 SLG, 80 wRC+).  The Giants could use a CF and a corner OF, which would allow Gregor Blanco to be the 4th OF.

The rotation has some holes, too.  Of course Madison Bumgarner is doing great, especially when you consider he’s probably just pacing himself for the post-season.  The Giants have received outstanding work from unheralded rookie Chris Heston (97 IP, 3.78 ERA/3.29 FIP), but after that it gets dicey.  Tim Lincecum is surviving on guile and deception.  Tim Hudson, who announced his probable retirement earlier this season, looks like a guy who announced his probable retirement earlier this season.  Ryan Vogelsong has been terrible, by and large.  The problem is that the Giants have so much money committed to recently-returned Jake Peavy and Matt Cain that it’s hard to envision them going out and getting another starting pitcher.  No one would be surprised if the Giants got a RP and no one would be surprised if that RP did well for them.



PRE-SEASON PREDICTION — Playoff contender

RECORD NEEDED TO GET 89 WINS — (42-39,  .519 win%)

NEEDS TO ADDRESS AT TRADE DEADLINE — A position thought to be a weak spot, catcher, has been a strength this year with Francisco Cervelli and (to a lesser extent) Chris Stewart providing solid offensive production and above-average defense.  However, Gregory Polanco has not taken off as hoped, so the Pirates could be in the market for a short-term contract to play RF.  Pedro Alvarez continues his trail of sadness through his team-controlled years, so the Pirates should be looking at 1B, too.  Adam Lind makes entirely way too much sense, so that means the Pirates won’t get him.

The Pirates front four of the rotation has been extremely strong this year with Cole-Burnett-Liriano-Morton all looking formidable at different parts of the season.  However, the 5th starter of Jeff Locke has been less-than-reliable.  Additionally, counting on a 38 year-old Burnett to continue to put up a 2.05 ERA is foolhardy.  With Charlie Morton you can only go start to start with him, in terms of confidence.  And Liriano has had injuries each of his first two years with the Pirates.  All that said, the Pirates should be in the market for a starting pitcher, either a front end guy with multiple years of control like Cole Hamels or a mid-rotation guy on a short deal like Scott Kazmir.  I’ve also contended that the Pirates shouldn’t pass up the chance to add a setup or closer, thus pushing everyone down one rung on the ladder and strengthening the bullpen.




RECORD NEEDED TO GET 89 WINS — (44-37,  .543 win%)

NEEDS TO ADDRESS AT TRADE DEADLINE — The Nationals are just now starting to break away from the pack in the NL East.  Injuries have hampered this team all year, but they’ve been kept buoyant by the otherworldly performances of SP Max Scherzer (118 IP, 1.82 ERA/1.94 FIP) and RF Bryce Harper (.344 AVG/.470 OBP/.719 SLG, 220 wRC+).  Even accounting for the aforementioned injuries, the Nationals offense has been pretty pedestrian all year.  SS Ian Desmond is putting up an awful free agent-to-be campaign, Ryan Zimmerman has forgotten how to hit a baseball, Anthony Rendon has zero homers and been injured most of the year, and OF Jayson Werth has been injured and awful.  The Nationals are getting mileage out of Yunel Escobar at 2B.  They could use a 1B, SS, and corner OF.

Surprisingly, the Nationals’ vaunted starting rotation has been mediocre, outside of the cyborg Max Scherzer.  Doug Fister is rapidly deteriorating and Stephen Strasburg has been wracked with an odd neck/back injury.  Jordan Zimmermann has been just OK and Gio Gonzalez’s peripherals don’t match his actual stats.  They’ve gotten good mileage out of rookie Joe Ross, but I have to believe they’ll be looking for a SP or two.  They could probably also use a RP or two to put between the starters and closer Drew Storen.




RECORD NEEDED TO GET 89 WINS — (43-36, .544 win%)

NEEDS TO ADDRESS AT TRADE DEADLINE — I guess a $271M payroll doesn’t stretch as far as it used to.  The offense has been electric, powered by super-rookie Joc Pederson, newcomer to the Dodgers Yasmani Grandal, and veteran Adrian Gonzalez.  The only hole is SS Jimmy Rollins (.208 AVG/.263 OBP/.322 SLG, 80 wRC+), who’s degrading at a rate faster than a vampire on the beach at high noon.

However, pitching is a different story.  Behind the phenomenal 1-2 punch of Clayton Kershaw and Zack Grienke, the remainder of the rotation could use a serious upgrade.  With Hyun-jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy both out, the rotation has relied on journeymen and rookies and injury risks (Brett Anderson) to hold them over.  It’s hard to believe the Dodgers, with their excellent farm system, aren’t in on one or two SP’s.  They could also use a RP or two to bridge the gap to outstanding closer Kenley Jansen.




RECORD NEEDED TO GET 89 WINS — (36-45,  .444 win%)

NEEDS TO ADDRESS AT TRADE DEADLINE — What do you get for a team that seemingly has everything?  Perhaps some more unicorn dust or sweet baby panda fur?

No ace of Adam Wainwright?  No problem.  No Matt Holliday or Matt Adams?  No problem.

This team is the prototypical ‘the sum is greater than its parts’ theory — one player has 10 or more HR’s (Jhonny Peralta) and no one has 10 SB.  I suppose you could say that the Cardinals could use a 1B, as the injured Matt Adams and perennially disappointing Mark Reynolds have combined to be sub-par.  Adam Lind would slot in very nicely for the Cardinals.

The Cardinals’ rotation has been beyond outstanding, even with the loss of Wainwright, but depending on pitchers with significant injury histories like Michael Wacha and Jaime Garcia, plus young pitchers like Carlos Martinez that don’t have a history of built-up inning totals, leads me to think that the Cards will be in on one or two SP’s to eat innings. The regression monster is ready to snatch up Trevor Rosenthal (0.70 ERA vs. 2.25 FIP, 95.9% strand rate, 2.3% HR rate) and the rest of the bullpen, as many have strand rates well above 90%.  They seem to grab one RP every deadline.

About Kevin Creagh (153 Articles)
Nerd engineer by day, nerd writer at night. Kevin is the co-founder of The Point of Pittsburgh. He is the author of Creating Christ, a sci-fi novel available on Amazon.

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