2019 MLB Preview: National League

nlpreviewIt has always been the more traditional of the leagues in baseball but that has come under fire in recent years.

Baseball has always been a slow game that emphasized skills over explosiveness and that doesn’t really fit in this new world.

Where sports like football and hockey highlight speed and strength while showcasing explosive athleticism baseball is about the finer details.

Hitting a ball going over 90 mph is one of the toughest things to do in all of sports but it requires more than just strength or athletic ability.

The precision it takes to hit a ball or to turn that ball just enough to cross a batter up is evident by the stats.

It has been said many times but it rings true that a batter who hits 3 out of every 10 pitches thrown his way in a career is a hall of famer.

When the standard is a 70% failure rate the sport is different than the rest and that is true of baseball.

A sport where you fail more than you succeed is a tough one to sell though and for a new generation, it is becoming tougher.

With games reaching a regular 3 hours in length and constant stoppages the new generation is not accepting baseball as their favourite sport like those in the past.

So there is a constant battle by baseball to get that back and one of those ways is to increase the offensive output.

Although the game is one of calculation and skill there are explosive plays and none get fans off of their feet more than a home run.

Those have been climbing in recent years and the attention on that power has grown each year.

To help grow that part of the game one of the least traditional baseball positions has become a topic of debate.

In the national league, pitchers have always been a part of the offence but it has always been an almost automatic out.

Only a handful of pitchers over the years have been a threat at the plate and for the MLB there is an opportunity.baseball-sidebar

They have been lobbying to bring the designated hitter into the National League providing a spot for a batter and more offence.

The NL has resisted this decision hoping to remain the traditional league out fo the two in the MLB.

They will remain that way for another season and they will go into the season as the league known for their pitching and defence.

They don’t have the offensive power that exists in the American League but they have plenty of talent.

After two straight years seeing the Los Angeles Dodgers fall short of taking home the title every team head into a new season looking to be the NL team who can make a difference.

Some teams in the NL have made some big moves to make their run at the title while others are rising through years of issues to try to make their own run.

As with any year, the start of the season brings possibilities for every team as everyone is 0-0 when the year starts.

Whether the moves made will come through or a surprise team will make a run it is all up in the air as teams begin their marathon towards October baseball.

NL East

The competition has already heated up in the East as teams have all shown that they are will to make a serious push to win the division and head to the postseason. There was a lot of spending in the east this offseason and although a massive chunk of it was on one player a lot of teams got better. The biggest question for the division though is going to be who is going to miss the postseason? When looking at the group it is hard to say who is nleast-factsthe team that will be out of the postseason this year with so much talent on almost every team. The only thing that might be a sure thing for the division is that the Miami Marlins are not going to be a part of that hunt. They sold all of their best talent before the 2018 season and are now in the midst of the rebuild looking to prospects to see what they truly have. It’s doubtful that those prospects will be able to make a difference this year so don’t expect many more wins from the Marlins this time around. A more surprising result could come from the title holders a year ago. The Atlanta Braves were good but with teams falling apart around them they didn’t have the biggest challenge in winning the division. The addition of Josh Donaldson could be good if he returns to form an alongside Ronald Acuna Jr. it could be a good pair. They lack the stars on the mound though and could fall back after an impressive year without the key additions that other teams made. The Mets did what the Mets do last year and fell far short of what the talent level says that they can do. When healthy the rotation is one of the best in the league but that is a struggle and with the addition of Robinson Cano there are only more questions. They can be great but they can also be one of the worst teams in the league, there is too much uncertainty to say anything for sure. The most interesting story will be between Philadelphia and Washington. After realizing that they were not going to be able to afford to keep superstar Bryce Harper the Nats went on a spending spree signing Jeremy Hellickson, Anibal Sanchez and Patrick Corbin. They are also in an interesting spot with Juan Soto coming through and Victor Robles looking like the next super rookie in their stable. That spending spree was needed because they will see their former star often this year after Harper signed a $310 million deal with the Phillies. Philadelphia is hoping that the promise that they showed at times last year is boosted by the addition of Harper along with J.T. Realmuto, Jean Segura and Andrew McCutcheon. That could be the battle for the division this year as the Phillies hope their big addition can make the difference while the Nats hope they can overcome the loss with other spending and prospects. It could be an interesting fight but with more questions in Philadelphia, the Nats could get the last laugh.

NL Central

At the same time, the Central in the National League has been one of the toughest and the easiest divisions in the league over the last few years. Teams have won this division with far less than 100 wins and at first glance that would make it seems like a pretty easy to win. The reality of it though is that there are a lot of teams that are tightly bunched together and they have fought it out in tight battles. They may not have been the most nlcentral-factsfeared teams in baseball but they are putting together fights that are better than most other divisions. That history seems to be ready to repeat itself as there are a number of teams that could take it home this year after big 2018 seasons and big offseasons. Last year the Milwaukee Brewers surprised everyone by rising up the ranks and taking the division title. Last year the signing of Christian Yelich turned out to be the best of the offseason as he led the team to the postseason and earned an MVP. This year he returns alongside new addition Yasmani Grandal but nobody truly knows if it is good enough to bring them back to the top. Meanwhile, the old guard is getting sick of sitting back as the once mighty system of the Cardinals has been sputtering. They looked to change that in the offseason going out to get Paul Goldschmidt and Andrew Miller to boost what is already a talented group. A wealth of starters will help them as they try to get back to their usual standing and they have the talent to get there. One of the teams that began to challenge the Cards for the top spot was the Pittsburgh Pirates who always did more with less. That has been both good and bad for them as they have talent but often not enough and this year it could be the same especially if Gregory Polanco can’t recover from shoulder surgery and Chris Archer can’t return to form. The Cubs themselves are looking to return to form as they were that team to watch after winning the World Series in 2016 but they haven’t met expectations since. With the amount of talent on the team only now coming into their prime they would need another bad year not to make it into the postseason. Although a few of these teams made some changes and others are relying on the talent already there it was the Reds who made the biggest splash. After years of sitting at the bottom, the Reds went after it in the offseason hoping to get out of the slump. Signing Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, Alex Wood and Sonny Gray has made the Reds a solid choice to make a real push. With the Cubs and Cards both having loads of talent, the Brewers proving they can compete and the Reds winning the offseason this battle could be a good one. It is going to be a fight but in the end, the Cards and the Cubs are the teams with proven talent to compete for the division.

NL West

The west has not been one of the most competitive divisions over the last few years as there has been one team to watch while the rest struggle to be relevant. The Los Angeles Dodgers are the kings of the west and of the entire National League making it to the World Series for two straight seasons. The real question for the west is whether or not they still have what it takes to win as that window has been shutting for a while. As the nlwest-factsseason gets started the fact is that the Dodgers can’t be the best team in the west forever and teams are looking to bring that challenge. The Rockies were the team to do it last season as they did everything they could to unseat the dominant team. They couldn’t get it done but they showed that they are a team to watch for as they head into the 2019 season. With Nolan Arenado leading the way and one of the best rotations the Rockies have ever had they are a team that can compete but with only one spot at the top it is not going to be easy. Another team that is hoping to quicken their rise is the Padres who went out and made one of the biggest signings of the year. San Diego landed Manny Machado for a massive deal and they hope he can help them develop into a contender alongside a load of prospects but it might be just too soon for them to really compete. The team that used to be the thorn in the side of the Dodgers was always the longtime rival Giants but the mighty franchise that won three titles in five years is a shell of its former self. Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey are the holdovers from that dynasty but they are about the only highlights of a franchise in need of a rebuild but seemingly unwilling to commit. The Diamondbacks are also a team struggling after looking like they were on their way to relevance. Losing their best player to the Cardinals is not going to help them compete and without the replacements, they likely can’t compete alongside a team like the Dodgers. Then there is the team that has taken the majority of division titles this decade in the Dodgers. They are an older team and the talent isn’t as great as it once was but they are still good enough to take the division. With Clayton Kershaw struggling in the spring and most of the big names not looking like themselves the time is running out for the Dodgers. It probably won’t be up just yet though as the talent is still there and they are still the best team in this division. Whether it will be enough to make three straight World Series might be the bigger question for the year in Los Angeles. Although some teams are looking better and making moves it seems less likely that something will change this time around.

 

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