Prior to the start of the 2018 season, Underthought made some predictions about the 2018 season. Now, at the mid-season point, Underthought re-examines the teams and updates predicted win totals for the National League.
Washington: pre-season projected wins 93 mid-season projected wins 89
Atlanta: pre-season projection 78 mid-season 88
Philly: pre-season projection 83 mid-season 86
NY Mets: pre-season projection 79 mid-season 66
Miami: pre-season projection 59 mid-season 61
In a nutshell: Atlanta’s youth movement has earned high marks in the first half. Coupled with production from the veterans like Markakis and Freeman, this team looks like they are for real. Although almost all of the starting pitching is average to slightly below average, their bullpen has the ability to keep them in close games. Atlanta has a great farm system and may need to make a move for more reliable starting pitching if it wants to secure itself a post-season birth.
The Phillies on the other hand have a great young core of starting pitchers (and veteran Arrieta). It’s their bullpen that is a glaring weakness. Dominguez appears to be able to handle high leverage and/or closing duties but Neris and company are suspect at best. The line up has a lot of developing talent and it is foreseeable that this team can keep itself in the playoff hunt for the rest of the year if they can sure up their pen issues.
The Nationals have had a very uneven season and are significantly under-performing expectations. Harper has hit for power and taken walks but has not done much else. Turner and Taylor are both great on the base paths and have a high stolen base success rate, however, they both need to get on base more (especially Taylor) to have a significant impact for the team. Injuries to Eaton, Rendon, and Strasburg have had a negative effect and the under-performance of all the starters besides Scherzer has the team on the outside of the playoffs looking in. The Nats love acquiring closers from other teams and adding Herrera was a solid move (especially based on what they gave up for him), however, this team has more pressing needs than adding to a solid, but unspectacular pen. The Nats need to get healthy and right the ship before 2018 becomes a lost year.
The Mets continue to rely on their starting pitching to make them a contender and the starters continue to get hurt at an alarming rate. The offense is not immune to the injury bug as well. There is now talk of the Mets dealing deGrom and/or Syndergaard which would push the Mets into complete rebuild mode. It would be tough to move either of these young stars but as the team circles the toilet bowl once again the organization has to at least listen to offers.
The Marlins look bad. Outside of Realmuto, only one other regular has an OPS over .800. (two have OPS below.550). Their bullpen has some nice power arms in Barraclough, Steckenrider, and Guerrero but the starters look miserable and are averaging less than a strikeout per inning which is awful given the way the game is currently being played. Jeter and company will continue to trade any asset not nailed down so things will probably get even worse for the fish before season’s end.
Chicago Cubs: pre-season projected wins 93 mid-season projected wins 93
Mill Brewers: pre-season projection 84 mid-season projected wins 92
St. Louis: pre-season projection 84 mid-season projected wins 84
Pittsburg: pre-season projection 76 mid-season projected wins 74
Cinn Reds: pre-season projection 71 mid-season projected wins 73 wins
In a nutshell: The Cubs let Arrieta walk and the new faces have not worked out due to injury and ineffectiveness. Outside of Lester, there are just a series of question marks in the rotation. The offense stumbled out of the gate with a lack of power from Rizzo, Bryant, and Contreras. Luckily for the Cubs, Baez has taken a big step forward and younger players like Almora, Happ, and Schwarber have contributed. The Cubs need to start firing on all cylinders because the NL Central is going to be a dog fight. Sleep walking through the second half will likely end with the Cubs missing the post season. Luckily, they have Joe Maddon at the helm so that is less likely to occur.
There’s a great disparity between the Cardinals offense and pitching. Wong and Fowler are hitting under .200 and Pham has slumped. Injuries to Molina and DeJong have hurt as well. Luckily, Martinez has looked great with the bat, Ozuna is heating up, and Carpenter has recently broken out after a brutal start to the season. Pitching has been the main ingredient to the Cardinals success. Only one of their 5 starters has an ERA above 3.20 and their core relief arms are solid, if not spectacular. If Reyes didn’t get hurt again, I would have more faith in this team to make a significant run at the post season. They’ve played themselves into position but it will be tough for them in the second half.
The Brewers went all in on the 2018 season and so far it is paying off. The addition of Yelich and Cain has helped the team tremendously and where Arcia has underachieved, Aguilar has more than made up for the difference in offense. The starting rotation is a little suspect but the elite arms of Knebel, Hader, and Jeffress cover the high leverage work in the pen. They are going to need more out of the starters to hold off all challengers but banking 47 wins in the first half gives them a little wiggle room.
After trading away Cole and McCutchen, the Pirates have been more competitive than was expected. Dickerson started hot but has cooled while Meadows has played nicely in his 30 plus games since being called up. These guys are not playoff bound but have the potential to finish around .500 which is not bad during a season of transition.
The Reds started 3 and 18 which led to their manager being fired. Their play has improved since but they still find themselves in the cellar of the high powered NL Central. Gennett has put up a strong season as has Suarez. Votto also looks solid although his power has been absent. It’s too bad top prospect Senzel recently hurt himself and will be out of the remainder of the year. It would have been nice to see him get a call up in September. Although Castillo was picked by many to be a break out candidate in 2018, he has had an uneven season. The Iglesias, Garrett, Lorenzen, Hernandez, and Hughes combination in the bullpen gives the team a solid back end. If the Reds can get a little more from their starters (especially if DeSclafani can stay healthy), the team might get out of last place or at least give the fans of the Reds something to dream on for 2019.
L.A. Dodgers: pre-season projected wins 96 mid-season projected wins 96
Arizona: pre-season projection 87 mid-season projection 91
San Francisco: pre-season projection 82 mid-season projected wins 87
Colorado: pre-season projection 82 mid-season projected wins 82
San Diego: pre-season projection 70 mid-season projected wins 71
The Dodgers were projected to be a big winner heading into 2018 but injuries wrecked their first half of the season. Seager went out for the year just as Turner was returning and the pitching staff has been sent through a wood chipper. The good news is whatever was wrong with Jansen at the start the year is a distant memory, the starters are slowly healing and returning, Kemp has rediscovered his hit and fielding tools, Muncy has come out of nowhere to produce at the plate, and Bellinger is getting hot after a slow start. With health, the Dodgers will overtake their NL West rivals easily however there are a lot of injured players that need to get back on the field and be productive. I think they win the West but it’s no slam dunk.
The D Backs surprised in 2017 but their success now comes with expectations for 2018. They had a solid first half thanks to Pollock carrying the offense early and Goldschmidt taking over since Pollock’s injury. The strength of the D Backs is their pitching and they are going to need to continue getting above average production from Corbin, Godley, and the recently activated Ray. The bull pen has a lot of solid arms where roles can be interchanged and multi-innings can be covered. I can see the D Backs getting enough wins for a wild card but some of the hitters are going to have to step up in the second half to lock in a return to the post season.
After a dismal 2017, and an uneven first half of 2018, the Giants are climbing into the hunt for the playoffs. Bumgarner is finally back which helps compensate for the loss of Cueto and Samardzija. Losing Strickland to a self-inflicted hand injury is big as the pen was a strength for the team. There are still many capable arms there but roles are now in flux. The offense was retooled with a focus on trying to improve the outfield. McCutchen has been OK but Pence is a disaster. Belt and Crawford are having great years which helps mitigate the non-producers in the line-up. This team looks like it can push for a wild card spot but without their key starters it’s likely that they fall short.
Everything broke right for the Rockies in 2017 but this is not the case in 2018. Arenado, Blackmon, and Story are the only hitters producing and the pitching staff that once looked ready to take a big leap forward has regressed as a unit. The pen is also inconsistent making the money the team spent on Davis seem wasted (especially with the reemergence of Ottavino). 2018 is not going to be the Rockies’ year.
Only 1 regular/semi-regular player on the Padres has an OPS over .800 so is it any wonder that they reside in last place? Hosmer, their big ticket free agent, has been solid but not spectacular. His supporting cast has been inured (Myers and Renfroe) or ineffective (Margot). Ross, the only decent starter, is destined to be traded to a contender and the solid bullpen, led by Hand, will also likely be raided by teams in the playoff hunt. It’s not pretty in San Diego.
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