The 10th Inning – Week 1

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2009 National League Preview and Predictions ]]> include($base_url . “/includes/header.htm”); ?>

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By Mike Ivcic

The baseball season is now eight days old, meaning there’s not a whole lot that’s really been proven one way or another for any team or player. Despite that, here are a few things that are pretty much guarantees, even after only a handful of games.

1) The AL East will likely be the best division, top-to-bottom, for the entire season
This one is one of the more difficult to predict only one week in, but when the two teams from last year’s ALCS are 4th and 5th in the standings, the division is in pretty good shape. Baltimore and Toronto will still likely fall off, but at least they’ve shown that they’ll be competitive, meaning no division games will be gimmes.

2) The defending champions could really struggle
The rotation was already a bit thin at the outset, and now Brett Myers rediscovered the art of throwing hittable pitches and Cole Hamels looks tired after only one start. Despite the win on Sunday, Chan Ho Park didn’t look strong, giving up 5 runs in the first two innings. With the Braves improved rotation, the Mets improved bullpen, and the Marlins continued maturity, it could be a long season if the rest of the rotation doesn’t pick up the slack.

3) The winless Nationals are that bad
The reason why the Marlins and Braves are atop the NL East is more a result of having 3 games against the lowly Nationals than it is taking two of three from the Mets and Phillies, respectively. Just watch this week when the Phillies get to play Washington. With that pitching staff, the Nationals really could threaten the ’62 Mets and the ’03 Tigers for futility.

4) San Diego can still pitch
So the Padres’ lineup might not outslug some Little League teams, but a rotation with a top two of Jake Peavy and Chris Young will at least cause opposing teams some sleepless nights. It’s not likely that this team will stay atop the NL West, but at least for now that’s where they reside, and they’ll ride their two horses as far as they’ll go.

5) Regardless of personal affiliation, everyone is an Angels fan now
There’s no bigger – or sadder – story through the first week of ’09 than the tragic death of Nick Adenhart. On the field, it is an event that can either galvanize a team or sink it completely. For LA, chances are more likely it will be the former, though it’s still too early to tell. Off the field, though, there’s nothing that takes the place of a friend, a teammate, and most especially, a son. It’s an awful situation, and one that no one, baseball fan or not, should soon forget.

This week, watch for…
1) Home opener for Citi Field (4/13) and new Yankee Stadium (4/16)
2) Jackie Robinson Day, Wednesday April 15
3) First installment of Cubs-Cardinals rivalry (4/16-19)

Look for my column, “The Tenth Inning,” every Monday for the Ultimate Capper

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