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MLB National League Preview

idleguy.com breaks down teams vying for division titles and wild cards for the 2024 MLB season. Rankings are at the sole discretion of the publisher. Your evaluations may differ. That's fine.

NL East

Philadelphia Phillies

2023 Record: 90-72
Projected 2024 Record: 96-66

Blessed with great starting pitching (Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, Ranger Suarez) and some monsters at the plate. Their 4.02 team ERA was fourth in the National League, and the 220 long balls was third behind Atlanta and Los Angeles. The lineup is a murderers row, with Bryce Harper, Nick Castellanos, Kyle Schwarber, Alec Bohm, and J.T. Realmuto, all led by spark plug Trea Turner. The Phillies were one series away from the World Series, halted by Arizona in a seven-game NLCS. Philly will contend with the Braves and Marlins for the division and are an almost certain lock to make the post-season again and may dethrone the Braves in the division.

Miami Marlins

2023 Record: 84-78
Projected 2024 Record: 96-66

Luis Arraez’s .354 batting average was best in the majors in 2023. He leads the Marlins into the new season after making a post-season appearance last year, losing, 2-0, in the wild card to the Phillies. Miami’s strong finish capped off a regular season in which their pitching staff ERA (4.22) was in the middle of the league, but their .259 batting average was second only to the Braves in the NL. Fleet-footed CF Jazz Chisholm Jr. swiped 22 bases and socked 19 homers in just 97 games last year. Avisail Garcia played only 37 games in 2023, but he’s capable of 20 HRs and 75 RBI in the DH slot, if healthy.

Miami got to the playoffs last season and will look to go deeper in 2024. The pitching is solid and there is plenty of offense.

Atlanta Braves

2023 Record: 104-58
Projected 2024 Record: 94-68

Spencer Strider was the only 20-game winner in the majors last season. A repeat of 2023 puts Atlanta firmly in the hunt for another NL East title. Matt Olson led the majors in homers and RBI, and he’ll get support from Austin Riley, Adam Duvall, and others. Ronald Acuna Jr. might repeat as MVP if he maintains his 2023 stats: 217 hits, .337, 41 HR, 106 RBI, 73 steals.Adding Chris Sale to a staff that already includes Strider, Max Fried, and reliable Charlie Morton probably won’t hurt if Sale can stay healthy.

The Braves are loaded as usual and look to take the NL East for a seventh straight season.

New York Mets

2023 Record: 77-85
Projected 2024 Record: 70-92

Following a lost 2023 campaign, the Mets did the best they could to revamp their pitching staff, but the likes of Luis Severino, Jose Quintana, Sean Manaea, and Kodai Senga (12-7, 2.98 in his rookie season) probably aren’t adequate to cut it in the rugged NL East. The waters are simply too deep for the Mets to plumb and their .238 team batting average (second worst in the NL, ahead of only the Giants) from 2023 augers ill for the upcoming 162 games. Jeff NcNeil can hit for a high average and Pete Alonso will likely rock 40 homers, but for what purpose? They should be lucky to avoid last place.

Washington Nationals

2023 Record: 70-92
Projected 2024 Record: 62-100

For a team that not long ago had one of the best pitching staffs in the league, the Washington Nationals have fallen far from previous heights. Their team ERA of 5.02 was better than only Colorado in the league and Joey Gallo, Victor Robles, Joey Meneses, and the rest of the lineup isn’t going to scare many top-flight opposing pitchers. In a division that is wickedly tough, the Nats appear destined to repeat their last place finish from 2023.

NL Central

Chicago Cubs

2023 Record: 83-79
Projected 2024 Record: 90-72

Justin Steele emerged as the Cubs’ ace in 2023, going 16-5 with a 3.06 ERA and 176 Ks. Veterans Kyly Hendricks, Jameson Tailon, and Drew Smyly are projected - along with Shota Imanaga - to fill out the rotation.

The Cubs had better than average offense with a .254 BA and 196 dingers last year. Chicago surged late in 2023 to just miss the post-season. Cody Bellinger appears to enjoy the friendly confines of Wrigley Field, swatting 26 homers, driving in 97 and batting .306. Shortstop Dansby Swanson also performed well since his arrival from Atlanta. He had 22 taters and 80 RBI. Christopher Morel should have the DH job mailed down. He socked 26 homers and drove in 70 runs in 107 games last year. If the Cubs get good starting pitching, they should make a run for their first division title since 2020.

St. Louis Cardinals

2023 Record: 71-91
Projected 2024 Record: 85-77

Now that the agony of Adam Wainwright’s quest for his 200th win is over (21 starts, 5-11, 7.40 ERA) and oft-injured Jack Flaherty has departed, the Cardinals can put away the bitter memories of the lost 2023 season and get back to playing solid baseball. St. Louis’ 4.79 team ERA was better than only the Reds, Nationals, and Rockies in the NL. Starters Sonny Gray, Miles Mikols, Lance Lynn, and Kyle Gibson (from Baltimore) is serviceable, and Ryan Helsley has proven a reliable closer. The Cards have sufficient offense with Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado, Brendan Donovan, Willson Contreras, and others contributing. Outfielder Jordan Walker was impressive in the second half of 2023. Continued improvement could make the Cardinals a very dangerous squad in 2024.

Milwaukee Brewers

2023 Record: 92-70
Projected 2024 Record: 84-78

Milwaukee took the NL Central last season almost by default. The Cardinals, Cubs, and Reds chased them to the finish, but fell far short. A repeat by the Brewers seems unlikely, since those teams look to be improved coming into the regular season and Milwaukee’s .239 team BA was better than only the Pirates, Mets, and Giants. Milwaukee has won three of the last six division titles, but they were one and done in 2021 and 2023, losing to the Braves and Diamondbacks, respectively. Rhys Hoskins was acquired in the off-season from the Phillies. His 30 homers and 79 RBI from last year bode well for the Brewer offense. Christian Yellich had his best season since 2018, averaging .278 with 19 HR and 76 RBI.

Cincinnati Reds

2023 Record: 82-80
Projected 2024 Record: 84-78

Cincinnati has been on a bumpy ride the past three years, going 83-79 in 2021, slumping to 62-100 in 2022, but rebounding to 82-80 in 2023, just missing the playoffs. If the positive momentum from last season continues into 2024, the Reds will contend in the division and have a good chance of making the playoffs. Offensively, the Reds were middle of the road with a team BA of .249 and 198 home runs. Elly de la Cruz had a positive rookie season, with 13 HR and 44 RBI in 98 games. His 35 swipes were highlight reel stuff. Acquired in the off-season, Jeimer Candelario’s 20 HRs and 70 RBI from 2023 projects as a welcome offensive boost.

For the Reds to find success, the pitching staff needs to improve. Team ERA of 4.83 was better than only Washington and Colorado. Lots of things have to go their way in 2024, but the division is up for grabs.

Pittsburgh Pirates

2023 Record: 76-86
Projected 2024 Record: 73-89

The Pirates avoided last place in 2023 only because the Cardinals imploded, especially after the All-Star break. The Pirates have had a winning record justice just once in the past eight years (2018) and havn’t played in the post-season since 2015.Pittsburgh’s 2024 season shapes up to be another year of bitter disappointment in the former Steel City.

NL West

Los Angeles Dodgers

2023 Record: 100-62
Projected 2024 Record: 99-63

The Dodgers should do what they usually do in the NL West: build up a big lead and coast to another division title and probably a bye into the playoffs. Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman were 2nd and 3rd in MVP voting last season and the Dodgers acquired Shohei Otani in the off-season, probably the best player in either league and the reigning AL MVP. The only issue the Dodgers may have is finding enough playing time for their abundance of stars.

Arizona Diamondbacks

2023 Record: 84-78
Projected 2024 Record: 93-69

Arizona made it to the World Series last year with a combination of solid pitching and clutch hitting from a youthful offensive-minded squad. Ketel Marte (.276 25 82), Eugenio Suarez (.232 22 96), and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (.261 24 82) were major Diamondback contributors in 2023 and should return with more of the same in 2024. Improvement will be needed from the starters and bullpen, which combined for a 4.48 team ERA. The post-season experience should go a long way in terms of confidence in the new season. The Diamondbacks appear to be a team moving forward to challenge the Dodger dominance in the division.

San Diego Padres

2023 Record: 82-80
Projected 2024 Record: 88-74

San Diego’s 2023 season was a disappointment, as a September fade kept the Padres out of the playoffs. Despite finishing 82-80, the Dodgers were well clear of them and the Diamondbacks were simply better down the stretch. San Diego’s .244 team BA was the lowest in the division. Fernando Tatis Jr. (.257, 25 78), Manny Machado (.258 30 91), and Xander Bogaerts (.285 19 58) need support from the rest of the regulars.

There’s nothing wrong with the pitching. The team ERA of 3.73 was second best in the majors, behind Milwaukee. Starters You Darvish, Joe Musgrove, and Dylan Cease are solid. Closer Robert Suarez has secured the role of closer, but he needs to be more consistent. The Padres will contend, their rivalry with the Dodgers developing into an annual feud. September play will define their season.

San Francisco Giants

2023 Record: 79-83
Projected 2024 Record: 81-81

Other than Jorge Soler’s 36 bombs, the Giants were mediocre in 2023. They have the look of a .500 team in a division that requires much better. A team batting average of .235 was the worst in the league last year. Giants’ pitchers compiled an ERA of 4.02, but the lack of offense cost SF too many games. The Giants will be leaning heavily on starters Logan Webb, Blake Snell, Kyle Harrison, Robbie Ray, and closer Camilo Doval (39 saves in 47 opps.) The lack of consistent hitting puts them at a major disadvantage.

Colorado Rockies

2023 Record: 59-103
Projected 2024 Record: 57-105

Can the Rockies avoid another 100+ losses in 2024? Probably not. In a division that includes the Dodgers, Diamondbacks (World Series participants in 2023), and the reloaded Padres, they might find themselves completely out of contention by mid-June.

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Untitled FASTPAGES: 1. Cover \ 2. Prelude / Publisher's Desk \ 3. Contents /Credits \ 4. Calendar \ 5. Books \ 6. State of the World \ 7. NCAA Tournament Blog \ 8. MLB AL Preview \ 9. MLB NL Preview \ 10. Toast of the Town \ 11. Public Domain \ 12. Back Page \ Daily Idler \ Home \ | idleguy.com March 2024 | Page 9