Keys To The NL Playoff Door

July 21, 2008 at 8:03 am 4 comments


With the second half of the season in full swing, it’s time to take a look at the key players who could be responsible for their team making or missing the playoffs this year.

Phillies : Brett Myers – One look at Myers stats, and it’s obvious that his biggest problem this year has been the alarming rate of homeruns he has surrendered. If he can keep the ball down, he’ll be able to keep the Phillies in games. The Phillies may move Myers back to the bullpen, but they need him as a successful starter if they are to make the playoffs.

Joe Blanton – Which Blanton are the Phillies getting…the 5-12 Blanton or the 14-10 Blanton of a year ago? If he even stays near a 4.50 ERA, the Phillies can win with their potent lineup. But pitching in Philly could prove to be a nightmare for Blanton. Then again…he could become a big time winner. It will be interesting to see how he performs in a weaker league, but pitches in a hitters ballpark.

Mets : Fernando Tatis – Who would have thought? But with Alou and Pagan out for the season, Easley settling in a second base, and very little bargaining chips to trade for a leftfielder, Tatis looks like the guy for the remainder of this season. It’s no wonder that the Mets began winning when Tatis began getting clutch hits. The Mets didn’t have any production from left field before Tatis arrived. Now it looks as though he’s one of the keys to the Mets success.

John Maine – If Maine can return to his 2007 form, the Mets will go a long way. Essentially, Maine and Pelfrey have swapped bodies, with Pelfrey looking like the old Maine, and Maine looking like the old Pelfrey. Now that Pelfrey is on track, having a successful Maine could be the difference between the playoffs and going home early again for the Mets.

Pedro Martinez – He needs to stay healthy, then start winning games. Asking both may be too much for an aging Martinez. He’s no longer counted on to be an ace, so his value is not what it once was, but if the Mets can get decent production out of the number five spot in the rotation, they’ll be a lock to beat out Philly.

Marlins : Scott Olsen – His homeruns allowed is up, his strikeout totals are down, yet he’s 6-4 and having his best season. That’s because his walks are down as well. If he can keep pitching as well as he has, the Marlins will win many games. He and Nolasco are shaping up to be a decent 1-2 in the rotation.

Dan Uggla – Uggla needs to put the All Star game behind him, stay healthy, and lead this team to the playoffs. He is becoming a top notch second baseman, and when hot, he can carry this team. His average is .281, and he needs to stay there for the Marlins to succeed. If he slumps, so will the Marlins.

Cubs : Carlos Marmol – It’s doubtful the Cubs will miss the playoffs, but they sure need a solid Carlos Marmol to get there without worrying about it. He’s coughed up too many leads of late. Piniella overused him for much of the first half, so he could just be tired. It was with the Marmol of old that made the Cubs so tough to beat in late innings. Without Marmol being his dominant self, the Cubs appear to be a bit vulnerable.

Brewers : Prince Fielder – After a slow start, Fielder has been hitting with authority. He needs to maintain his current hitting if the Brewers are to have a chance.

Ben Sheets – Plain and simple: He needs to stay healthy, and the Brewers have a decent chance of making the playoffs. Any injury to Sheets could be costly.

Manny Parra – Can Parra continue to win games at his current pace? Sabbathia and Sheets are proven winners, Parra is not. His control goes awry at times, so if that starts getting away from him, it could mean trouble for the Brewers. A solid Parra in the number three slot makes Milwaukee a team no one wants to play.

Cardinals : Ryan Franklin – He’s saving games, but he’s not a closer. He doesn’t throw heat by many hitters, which could be a problem with runners on base. If Franklin can hold on and be successful, the Cardinals have a shot. Isringhausen appears to be done as the closer.

Albert Pujols – This is stating the obvious, but no player in the NL can carry a team like Pujols. Luckily, the Cardinals have a few boppers this year, so Pujols won’t have to carry all of their load. A hot Pujols could lead them to the playoffs. Don’t overlook them, as they’re currently ahead of the Brewers in the standings.

Dodgers : Brad Penny – The Dodgers have no ace this season. Kuroda, Lowe, and Billingsley are all solid, but none is over .500 this season. Penny has been hurt, but was bad when healthy. For the Dodgers to beat Arizona, they need to start pitching like their starters, or it will be lights out for the Dodgers. When he returns, Penny needs to kick-start this team. If he can’t come back, they’ll miss the playoffs.

James Loney – His sweet swing has driven in 51 runs this season, but the sweet swing isn’t producing much power. No Dodger is hitting the long ball, and they need someone to step up. That would be James Loney, who showed last season that he is capable of hitting homeruns. Without that power, Loney’s .291 is looking like a “soft” .291 batting average. No one in this lineup is scaring opponents. They’re all dangerous, but none is tearing the ball off the cover. Loney has to be the leader by example, or the Dodgers won’t make the playoffs. The NL West will not produce the wildcard.

Diamondbacks : Randy Johnson – His strikeout total suggests he’s not finished just yet, but he’s giving up too many hits and homeruns, which is puzzling. He’s no longer the ace he was, but the D-Backs need him to be better than he’s been so far. Haren and Webb will win games, so if Johnson can win, no team in the NL can touch this rotation. If Johnson doesn’t improve upon his 5.23 ERA, the Diamondbacks won’t win. They don’t have the bats needed to overcome a mediocre back-end of the rotation.

-Daniel Marino, head writer for

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Phillies acquire Blanton from A’s Brewers Add Durham for Next to Nothing

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jonathan C. Mitchell  |  July 21, 2008 at 9:32 am

    Good article. I would also include Rickie Weeks. He is the X-factor in my opinion for that team. When he’s on they can beat any team. The Ray Durham addition will hopefully motivate him and hopefully he will play to like he did in the 2nd half last year.

  • 2. supremesportsjustice  |  July 21, 2008 at 9:39 am

    Funny you mention him Jonathan, because I went back and forth with Weeks whether to include him or not. I decided that with Durham’s addition, Weeks was less likely to have a big impact.

  • 3. Erik  |  July 21, 2008 at 10:27 am

    Ok Phillies are the team to beat in the NL east, but they are beatable this year. Utley has come down to earth after a monster first half, can he pick it up for the second half. Ryan Howard has hit HR’s but had a horrible average. Burrell (who should have been an allstar is having a terrific season as is Hamels. Their rotation is ok. Myers hopefully fixed what wasn’t working in his minor league stint and Lidge has been good.

    The Mets, need to get healthy fast. The lose of Alou is big since he was a run producer. Tatis who came out of nowhere has been good. Church needs to come back. As for the Rotation, Santana needs run support and not be as hittable, Maine needs to revert back to 2007, Oliver Perez needs to man up. Pelfrey has pitched surprisingly well since the change and Pedro needs to pitch better.

    Marlins I don’t think will remain in contention and I look for the Braves to overtake them… Yes even with their pitching staff hurt. I just think Chipper and the boys will play hard for Bobby Cox down the stretch and be the # 3 team in the NL East.

    The Cubs are still the team to beat in the NL Central. Marmol has been good but has Pinella used him too much in the first half? Fukudome has been in a major slump, and Soriano needs to come back from injury. The Rotation has upgraded with Harden, but will he break down as history dictates? Will Ryan Dempster continue his All Star numbers?

    Milwaukee has the win now philosophy. Getting Sabathia was huge and he’s been pitching like Cy Young himself now that he has a pitcher batting against him (I look for him to remain in the NL next year). Getting Durham from SF was good but that also means that Weeks has lost a lot of faith from the Brewers and for that matter so has Bill Hall. Unless weeks can learn other positions I look for him to be moved very soon.

    The Cardinals are a surpise. LaRussa and Duncan are magicians. Ludwick is having a break out year and makes alot of people think Colby Rasmus who? Ankiel has down well and Pujols even with injuries is still All Star material. Can their pitching hold up until Carpenter returns? Can the Closer by committee finally work or is Isringhausen waiting to return?

    NL West is up for grabs.

    Arizona has the arguably the top 2 starters in the Division with Haren and Webb. The loss of Eric Brynes is HUGE for them. Will Chris Young, Mark Reynolds, Orlando Hudson, Stephen Drew and Conor Jackson pick up the slack or do they make Micah Owings and everyday player to bolster the offense?

    Dodgers have a strong pitching history, but Penny has been ineffective. Lowe and Kuroda have been decent. But again injuries can be their downfall. Blake Dewitt has been a pleasant addition and Russell Martin, James Loney and Andre Either have been good.

    And I am shocked that even I am including them in the NL West but can’t ignore the SF Giants even with them trading away Durham. But with the big 3 in Lincecum, Cain and Sanchez they match up pretty well with the rest of the NL West. They have been hitting, Fred Lewis has done an amazing job and so has Rowand and Molina.

  • 4. Jake  |  July 23, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    The Dodgers have no ace this season? How about Chad Billingsley? He has a 133 ERA+, the best K/9 in the league (9.81), and opponents are hitting a paltry .235 against him. You kinda contradict yourself by saying “Penny was bad when healthy”, but if he doesn’t come back they “won’t make the playoffs.” If the Dodgers settled their rotation with Billingsley, Kuroda, Kershaw (despite his MLB inconsistencies, his Minor League numbers–1.91 ERA–suggest he’ll be very good)Lowe,and Kuo, they’d still have one of the best starting staffs in the league.

    What the Dodgers need right now is bullpen help. Even though they’ve been very strong out of the pen all season, the recent injury to Saito forces them to do some shuffling and it’s unclear if Broxton is quite ready for the closer role. They could use one more reliever to help solidify things until Saito returns.

    As bas as their offense has been, I really don’t think they need to worry a whole lot. All their problems can be fixed from within. Laroche should absolutely have the 3B starting job right now over the struggling Dewitt. Garciaparra solves the recent problem at short, being that he’s played very well since coming off the DL, both offensively and defensively. As long as the Dodgers find a way to keep Pierre out of the lineup (preferably by giving Delwyn Young more playing time, not Jones), then their offense is in pretty good shape.


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