It is many sports fans’ favorite time of the year – baseball season has finally returned. After a long winter, it is time to reignite rivalries and bring out the memes of trash talking. Spring training wins and performances built up the hype toward the regular season, and the words “play ball” will be said again.
The National League is filled with teams hoping to get a shot at the World Series and have the bragging rights for the year. They are not so much different from last year, but the expectations for the teams have changed.
The West Division will remain fairly close, but the Los Angeles Dodgers will have the upper hand and take the top spot over the Giants, who will come in a close second. Yes, as we all know it is an even year, and we know how big of a deal it is for Giants fans. They will come back seeking redemption from a disappointing odd year in 2015 but the Giants’ pitching depth has not improved this offseason and their outfield is beginning to lose the fight to father time.
The Dodgers have already made a statement in their first three games against the San Diego Padres with a shutout sweep in the season opener at Petco Park. It is also no surprise Clayton Kershaw leads the rotation, and with Justin Turner and Adrian Gonzalez swinging strong, offense will be plentiful. They are the team to beat, and as three-time NL West Champions, that should be no surprise.
The Arizona Diamondbacks, with the addition of Zack Greinke – despite struggling on Opening Day – are a top-heavy team and will finish ahead of the Padres and Colorado Rockies. Despite two aces in their pitching rotation and major pickups in the offseason, including Alexei Ramirez from the Chicago White Sox, the Padres are still struggling but they have time to come back. However, they are the only team left still to score a run this season. The Rockies will have to adjust, especially with the loss of Troy Tulowitzki, who was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays last season, and so far has been just solid in the American League.
In the Central Division the team to look out for is the Chicago Cubs. Reigning Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta leads the rotation and the lineup is stacked from top to bottom. The bullpen may not be as strong, but the power from Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber will be enough to push the Cubs to the top of the division. And with the addition of second baseman Ben Zobrist from the Royals, they will surely be a threat.
The Pittsburgh Pirates, who are slowly but surely improving, will follow closely behind them, and will earn the wildcard berth, and go head-to-head against the Washington Nationals. The St. Louis Cardinals will fall short of the playoffs behind the Pirates, then the Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers.
In the NL East, the New York Mets, and to many, the “better New York baseball team,” which I beg to differ, and reigning National League champions, will seek have back-to-back wins. The Mets have one of the league’s best rotations with Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard. Their hitting will have to stay consistent if they want to lead their division.
The Nationals added outfielder Ben Revere to their lineup, hoping the lead off spot will help hitters after him. They will battle in the wildcard with the Pirates, and come out victorious, to move forward in the postseason. The Miami Marlins, Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies will finish in the remaining spots.
Teams will fight to earn those spots throughout the season, and when it comes down to the wire, everyone will be on edge to see if their team will make it through.
As a Yankees fan, I will be waiting to see which teams will be stopping them from their quest in the chase for 28.