Mar 20, 2019
Mar 20, 2019

MLB 2019: National League preview

MLB National League preview

National League East

National League Central

National League West

MLB 2019: National League preview

The 2019 MLB season is now upon us and while bettors will be thinking about the first game of the season, the World Series and everything in between, it’s important to have a measure of all the teams competing before placing. Read on for a team-by-team preview of the MLB National League.

This article contribution comes from Michael Rathburn (@FantasyRath).

When trying to evaluate a team’s Over/Under win totals and their chances of winning the division, pennant and World Series, it’s important to start with some basic questions.

  1. Did they over or under achieve last year?
  2. Did they have key injuries or no injuries?
  3. What did the team do in the offseason to improve or decline?
  4. What did the rest of the division do in the offseason?
  5. Are they going to be buyers or sellers come July?

In this article, I’ve answered the above five questions for each of the teams in the MLB National League to help get a better understanding of which Over/Under totals offer value and which teams might be in with a realistic chance of making it to the post season.

National League East

Philadelphia Phillies

2018 W-L record: 80-82

2018 O/U win total: 78.5

2019 O/U win total: 89.5

Key acquisitions: Bryce Harper, Jean Segura, JT Realmuto, David Robertson, Andrew McCutchen

Key losses: (None)

The 2018 Phillies slightly outperformed their season win total by 1.5 games, but the Pythagorean W-L (which is their expected win-loss record based on runs scored and allowed) had them at 76 wins. The Phillies won the MLB offseason with five player acquisitions that total 16.0 WAR (Wins Above Replacement), so now expectations are high.

This team is going to score runs in bunches, but when you look at their starting rotation versus the Washington Nationals (there biggest threat in the division), you’d have to say that Washington edges it. While Aaron Nola is now a full-fledged ace, the rest of the rotation still has some question marks.

The only reason I would fade the Phillies in 2019 is because they made so many changes that chemistry wise, it will take a full season for them to gel. It’s also worth noting that they are now a public team. It’ll be hard to predict what happens for the Phillies this season but it they will be a fun team to watch in a very competitive NL East.

Washington Nationals

2018 W-L record: 82-80

2018 O/U win total: 93.5

2019 O/U win total: 88.5

Key acquisitions: Patrick Corbin, Victor Robles. Brian Dozier, Trevor Rosenthal, Anibal Sanchez, Matt Adams

Key losses: Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy

The 2018 season for the Nationals was disappointing as they fell short of their projected win by 11.5 games and missed the NL playoffs. If you look closer at their Pythagorean Win-Loss, they should have won 90 games. This represents a slight buying opportunity as they are not the favorites in the division now that Bryce Harper landed in Philadelphia.

With the loss of Harper looming all offseason, the Nationals decided to sign free agent pitchers Patrick Corbin and Anibal Sanchez to solidify the starting rotation. The loss of Harper might not be as huge as it seems as the Nationals have top prospect Victor Robles to take his outfield spot and they added second baseman Brian Dozier.

The Nationals lineup is solid, and they have one of the best rotations in the NL. Plenty of bettors will be looking for the Nationals to bounce back and win the much improved and competitive NL East in 2019. They also look to have a decent chance of wining the NL Pennant.

Atlanta Braves

2018 W-L record: 90-72

2018 O/U win total: 75

2019 O/U win total: 86.5

Key acquisitions: Josh Donaldson

Key losses: Anibal Sanchez

The 2018 Braves exceeded expectations in a huge way (outperforming their 2018-win total by 15 games). It took career years from Nick Markakis along with breakouts from Ozzie Albies, Ronald Acuna, and Mike Foltynewicz. However, it will take even more than that in 2019 to keep up with a much-improved NL East.

The Braves went out and signed Josh Donaldson to plug their perceived biggest hole at their base, but would they have been better off playing Johan Carmargo there and signing a free agent pitcher? I would argue yes and that’s why I can see them finishing third in the division and most likely underperforming against their win total. 

While everything had to go right for the Braves in 2018, it would have to do the same in 2019 and it’s hard to see that happening. Foltynewicz is dealing with elbow tightness and will not be ready for Opening Day and the rest of the staff does not have the depth to compete in the division.

New York Mets

2018 W-L record: 77-85

2018 O/U win total: 82.5

2019 O/U win total: 85.5

Key acquisitions: Edwin Diaz, Robinson Cano, Jed Lowrie, Wilson Ramos

Key losses: Yoenis Cespedes (injured)

The 2018 Mets finished 5.5 games below their win total and made a big splash in the offseason with the Diaz/Cano trade, plus signing Lowrie and Ramos. But they grossly overpaid for Lowrie and would have been better off putting the money into a younger offensive player.

Their pitching staff when healthy is right there with the Nationals, but the Mets need huge offensive breakouts from Michael Conforto, Amed Rosario, Brandon Nimmo, and Peter Alonso to think about winning the NL East in 2019. Could it happen? Yes, but I think 2020 would be a year that the Mets make a move.

Miami Marlins

2018 W-L record: 63-98

2018 O/U win total: 63.5

2019 O/U win total: 63.5

Key acquisitions: Jorge Alfaro, Sixto Sanchez

Key losses: JT Realmuto 

Year One of the Derek Jeter regime saw the Marlins deal Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, and Christian Yelich without much to show for it. Year Two saw them deal JT Realmuto in the offseason and most likely more trades coming around July. One of the things to consider when looking at over/under win totals is – is this team going to be a buyer or a seller in July?

Clearly the Marlins are sellers and in a much-improved NL East, I can see them being the Orioles of 2019 and losing 110 games.

National League Central

Chicago Cubs

2018 W-L record: 95-68

2018 O/U win total: 93.5 

2019 O/U win total: 87.5

Key acquisitions: (None)

Key losses: Brandon Morrow (injured to start the season)

The Cubs won 95 games, had the second-best record in the National League and hit the over on their win total by 1.5 games. But they finished a game back of the Milwaukee Brewers and lost to the Rockies in the Wild Card round. It was a huge disappointment to what could have been a trip to the World Series. Yet, their win total for 2019 is just 87.5.

While Javy Baez broke out and flirted with NL MVP, Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant had terrible seasons and you must think they bounce back in 2019. This is still a veteran team led by Joe Madden and I think people are sleeping on them because other teams made huge offseason moves (Phillies, Cardinals). 

Strangely, the Cubs made no moves in the offseason while watching the Cardinals, Reds, and Brewers make improvements. I am still holding out optimism that they kick the tires on Dallas Keuchel and/or Craig Kimbrel. Both could be inclined to take a discount for a shot at a World Series. 

St. Louis Cardinals

2018 W-L record: 88-74

2018 O/U win total: 86

2019 O/U win total: 88.5

Key acquisitions: Paul Goldschmidt, Andrew Miller

Key losses: Luke Weaver, Carson Kelly, Carlos Martinez (injured)

The 2018 Cardinals were a strange bunch. They won 88 games but much like the Cubs it felt like a lost season. They had two months in which they played .600 ball, including a huge August (22-6), but they had a better record on the road versus home. With no major losses, and the acquisition of Goldschmidt and Miller, you would think 88.5 wins is within reach.

The Cardinals have a good lineup top to bottom, but the starting rotation leaves a lot of question marks once you get past Jack Flaherty and Miles Mikolas. A lot depends on Michael Wacha, Adam Wainwright, and Carlos Martinez who is already injured and looking like a reliever. Alex Reyes will be a key piece to the Cardinals season (whether in the rotation or the pen) if they are to win the National League Pennant.

Milwaukee Brewers

2018 W-L record: 96-67

2018 O/U win total: 83.5

2019 O/U win total: 86.5

Key acquisitions: Yasmani Grandal

Key losses: Jonathan Schoop, Wade Miley

The 2018 Brewers finished with the best record in the National League and the NL MVP Christian Yelich who went on a monster tear the second half of the season. They beat their Over/Under win total by 12.5 games and took the Dodgers to Game 7 of the NLCS. In looking at their Pythagorean W-L they should have finished with 91 wins.

Based on the 86.5 win total for 2019, you can see that the betting market expects some regression. In looking at the NL Central, I see the Cubs bouncing back and the Cardinals looking to improve. Also, the Pirates and Reds are no pushovers either. When I look at the month-to-month W-L record, outside of May and September this was a .500 team.

Their pitching staff is young and has potential, but I think it is asking a lot for all of them to step up in 2019. The lineup is solid up and down, so scoring runs will not be an issue, but much like the Braves I would have to agree with the market and expect some regression coming for the Brewers in 2019.

Cincinnati Reds

2018 W-L record: 67-95

2018 O/U win total: XX

2019 O/U win total: 78.5

Key acquisitions: Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, Sonny Gray, Tanner Roark, Alex Wood

Key losses: Billy Hamilton 

If you look at the 2018 Reds winning 67 games and look at the markets for this season and see that the 2019 Reds have an Over/Under of 78.5, it would leave you scratching your head. There were times last year when the Reds looked like the worst team in baseball.

The Reds were dead last in 1-run games (10-29) and that highlights how bad the bullpen has been in recent years. When your starting rotation gets blown out of the water early in games, your bullpen gets taxed and worn out. That is why the Reds went out and acquired several veteran starting pitchers to stop the bleeding.

I really like the potential of this Reds offence if Joey Votto can bounce back and Jesse Winker and Nick Senzel get a chance to play every day. The biggest issue with the Reds is going to be come July – are they going to be buyers or sellers? There’s a lot of uncertainty but 75-78 wins is possible, despite how unlikely it seems after last year’s performance. 

Pittsburgh Pirates

2018 W-L record: 82-79

2018 O/U win total: 74

2019 O/U win total: 77.5

Key acquisitions: Lonnie Chisenhall

Key losses: Josh Harrison, Jordy Mercer

The Pirates did well in beating their Over/Under win total last year by eight games, but they have done nothing in the offseason to improve while their divisional rivals have. I really like the top of the Pirates starting rotation with Chris Archer, Jameson Taillon, and Joe Musgrove, but offensively this team is going to be challenged.

I can see the Pirates coming in around 75-80 wins in 2019 but finishing at the bottom of the NL Central. There is also a scenario in which they could end up closer to 70-72 wins because the offence just cannot score runs.

National League West

Los Angeles Dodgers

2018 W-L record: 92-71

2018 O/U win total: 95.5

2019 O/U win total: 93.5

Key acquisitions: AJ Pollock

Key losses: Yasmani Grandal 

One of the reasons I look at the Pythagorean W-L record is to see what teams were unlucky versus lucky the previous year. The Dodgers won 92 games, but according to PT they should have won 102. This suggests there is value on the Over/Under win total in 2019, along with the NL West being down vs. a year ago. I also like to look at monthly W-L records and the Dodgers finished 65-41 (.610) after the start of June.

You can argue that the Dodgers are the deepest team in baseball when it comes to a 25-man roster, the problem is they always have a high number of injuries which limits them in the regular season This season is no different as we already see issues with Clayton Kershaw and Corey Seager.

Despite the team having a lot of fragility, their depth can overcome most issues. They have a legit Cy Young candidate in Walker Buehler and MVP candidate in Cody Bellinger. I like the Dodgers to flirt with 100 wins in the regular season, but it will still take some doing. 

Colorado Rockies

2018 W-L record: 91-72

2018 O/U win total: 81.5

2019 O/U win total: 84.5

Key acquisitions: Daniel Murphy

Key losses: Adam Ottavino, DJ LeMahieu

The Rockies had a fantastic 2018 season that saw them finish just one game back of the Dodgers in the NL West and defeat the Cubs in the NL playoff game. They then went down to the Brewers in the divisional playoffs and now have the expectations of last year on them.

The Rockies beat their Pythagorean W-L record by six games and their O/U win total by 9.5. With most of the team coming back in 2019 and adding Daniel Murphy they should be in line to compete in the division again. However, the Dodgers are by far the strongest team in this division and the loss of Adam Ottavino in the bullpen is key.

San Diego Padres

2018 W-L record: 66-96

2018 O/U win total: 72.5 

2019 O/U win total: 78.5

Key acquisitions: Manny Machado, Ian Kinsler, Fernando Tatis Jr

Key losses: (None) 

It is not very often you see a team that missed their win total by 5.5 games and then are expected to hit 11.5 more wins the following year. That is the 2019 Padres and outside of Manny Machado who is worth 5 wins, It’s hard to see how they get to 79 wins.

I like the Padres lineup and I think there is potential there especially once Fernando Tatis Jr is called up to play shortstop and Luis Urias moves to second base. Also, if Eric Hosmer can bounce back and Wil Myers can stay healthy things certainly look a lot more positive. 

The pitching staff is where the issues lie but Chris Paddack and Matt Strahm provide some hope for the future. The problem is the lack of depth in the rotation will be exposed as the season goes along. The Padres are desperate for front line starting pitching and would be best served to trade some prospects to help bolster it.

Arizona Diamondbacks

2018 W-L record: 82-80

2018 O/U win total: 85

2019 O/U win total: 75.5

Key acquisitions: Adam Jones, Wilmer Flores, Merrill Kelly, Luke Weaver

Key losses: Paul Goldschmidt, Patrick Corbin, AJ Pollock

The Diamondbacks spent 110 days in first place in the NL West in 2018 but collapsed in the second half finishing two games over .500 and under their win total which at one point looked certain to go over.

In the offseason they proceeded to trade away Paul Goldschmidt and let Patrick Corbin and AJ Pollock walk in free agency. The fire sale might not be done as they are probably going to be sellers come July making it very hard to like them over their win total of 75.5.

San Francisco Giants

2018 W-L record: 73-89

2018 O/U win total: 79.5

2019 O/U win total: 73.5

Key acquisitions: Drew Pomeranz

Key losses: Hunter Strickland

One of the things you can see about a lot of the lesser teams in baseball is how many of them have done absolutely nothing in the offseason. A lot of these same teams also have dreadful farm systems with no future in sight. The Giants are definitely one of those teams and they are leading the charge in what is broken with baseball.

The Giants have very few assets at the major league level and only a handful of prospects worth of talking about. They won 73 games last year and have a 73.5 win total this year. They were 5-21 in September and scored 69 runs (2.7 runs per game). This team is worse in 2019 and no end in sight.

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