That’s how many wins the horrid Astros got the Cardinals last year. Under the new alignment and schedule interleague games will be more frequent. The Cardinals went basically .500 in interleague play last year (8-7) and the Astros are no longer in the division. Let’s just say those Astros wins gets replaced with interleague opponents and, just for fun, say the Cardinals go .500 again. That means the Cardinals now get only 6 victories from that spot. They finish 83-79 and don’t make the playoffs. That’s the serious difference we are looking at here under the new alignment.
What does this have to do with the NL East? The Astro sized punching bag has left the building, but taking a look over at the east coast and you’ll find TWO basement dwellers, the Mets and Marlins. The Mets might just be playing Lucas Duda, Collin Cowgill, and Marlon Byrd in their outfield. Johan Santana is gone for the year and they traded away R.A Dickey. The Loria Outhouse in Miami is even worse.It built up as fast as Loria could sign the checks and then promptly torn down after the fans got over the “awe” of the center field… ahem… “sculpture”.
The Nationals, Braves, and Phillies should feast on these sore spots and that means more victories for them. The Nationals are the real deal with Harper leading a bright future. The Braves have something special in that outfield and look for Justin Upton the return to MVP form. I still think he’s one of the best players in the game. Most people are writing off the Phillies, but I wouldn’t. Let’s remember they’ve still got Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee at the top of that rotation and that’s better than most teams. Will Roy Halladay ever be the same? Probably not but even a so-so Roy Halladay is more than a good enough No. 3 starter in my book. I understand they’re old, but they’re a winning team and I don’t think they’re ready to go into rebuild mode yet. I like Micheal Young at 3rd base and that bullpen is stacked at the back-end with Papelbon, Mike Adams and Bastardo. If they can stay healthy and Ryan Howard can provide some “pop” the Phillies have chance to win 86 games.
What does all this mean for the Cardinals? A lot actually. The NL East has gotten stronger at the top end and weaker at the bottom. It’s a very real possibility that 3 teams could make the playoffs out of this division and that means no wildcard spots for the Cardinals. I realize I’m ignoring the NL West, and I point your attention to the title of this article. It’s going to be much tougher in the NL Central. The Astros are gone and the Cubs have improved. They’ll steal some victories. The Pirates still have Andrew McCutchen and if that young pitching pans out to something great then they will be dangerous. I’ll break down my opinion on the NL Central at a later date. I think that the weakness of the bottom the of NL East will really help those top dogs get some victories and some wild card spots. It’s crowded at the top of the NL and a fun year is ahead of us.