BLOG #1: NL Projections 2021

Nervous. That is probably the best way to describe how I feel before embarking on this journey of blogging. I have never really been one to resort to social media or the internet to express my thoughts, but of course it is baseball that forces me to break old habits and try something new. From a young age I played all the sports an average athlete would play (barring football because my mom felt it was too dangerous), but from a young age I always knew something about baseball was different. Maybe it was the smell of hot dogs during a beautiful 1:20 start at Wrigley, or the handful of teammates who shared this same feeling over baseball that I had met over the years – or maybe the simplest explanation of them all – because it was the sport that I was best at. Don’t worry, I won’t bore you with my playing career and all the unforgettable moments I made on and off the field while playing baseball (at least not in my first blog). All you need to know is that baseball changed my life in more ways than one, and I cannot be more excited to come back and try and pursue a career in something that I am truly passionate about.

For me, the thing that makes me the most nervous about my aspiring career is struggling to be great at the coding and analytics part of being a data analyst. Sure, I can argue my knowledge and experience playing baseball might have a step up on those who excel in the aspects of the aforementioned tasks of a data analyst, but at the end of the day the real work lies in the collection of data and (most importantly) the interpretation of said data. MLB teams such as my Chicago Cubs and others like the Rays, Red Sox, and Athletics really pushed the notion years back of just how important the analytical side of baseball can be – and of course its contribution to success. Fast forward to 2021, it seems like analysts are creating new measurements by the month. Obviously a guy like me is not complaining by any means – the more important analytics become, the more employment opportunities that come with it. I am just interested to see where this industry goes once I graduate from school and am one of these said analysts searching for work.

Because this blog will consist of tons of information regarding the past, present, and future of the MLB, I figured my first post should at least include a little bit of baseball talk in it, so lets dig into the N.L. I will stay away from discussing the Yu Darvish trade because I am still a little disappointed in the return the Cubs received from San Diego, but you can expect a post discussing the future of the Cubs at some point in the near future. In terms of roster moves (or in this free agency’s case the lack thereof), it is very hard to not sit back and just drool over the two trades San Diego has made so far. Adding Snell and Darvish to a rotation that already has Lamet and Clevinger is astonishing. While I am extremely curious to see what the rest of the N.L. does to try and compete with Slam Diego, I know at the very least the Dodgers won’t sit back and let the Padres easily win the division. Whether they go after someone like D.J. LeMahieu or make a trade for an arm like Luis Castillo, the Dodgers will find a way to compete for the pennant like they do every year. However, keep in mind players like Corey Seager, Clayton Kershaw, Kenley Jansen, and Chris Taylor are up for free agency in 2022. Despite this upcoming season being a battle between the Padres and Dodgers, I am interested to see what the Giants do in free agency and see if they can sneak into a wild card, but with the strength of the East this year that will be hard to do. Arizona and Colorado will fight for fourth place in the division, and may even go on some hot streaks and win some big games, but there is too much talent in California for the two of those teams to make 2021 a season to remember. My pick for a division winner? I will be bold and pick San Diego, although I have an awful gut feeling the Dodgers will have something to say about it.

On a side note, the N.L. Central is no longer the powerhouse it once was. I know they haven’t been all that good as of recent but 2020 was proof of just how much better the N.L. East and West really is. Maybe I am always hopeful that the Cubs will be better than projected each year, but I really do not see anything promising from any of the five teams as of now (pending free agency moves). I won’t even bother talking about Pittsburgh who is still rebuilding from 2015, and the Brewers, Reds, and Cubs can fight to see who finishes in second. While the Cubs still have a decently solid team in my opinion, with reports and headlines screaming “Sell off” and “Rebuild” it is very hard for me to have any idea what exactly they intend to do next season. The Brewers can celebrate having Christian Yelich, Keston Huira, and Brandon Woodruff, but that is not enough. Maybe they can hope Hader either gets some value back to Milwaukee or can return to his 2019 form and try and steal a division that is the most up for grabs in the league. While St. Louis seems like the clear favorite, I still think they are a quality arm in the rotation and bullpen away from being considered “good”. Maybe add in a quality bat in the lineup and they win 88 games, which I am sorry Cardinals fans but a division title in 2021 won’t do much once you get to the postseason. I guess you can at least celebrate making it there.

The N.L. East is easily the biggest question mark of them all. While I believe the N.L. West has the better teams with the Dodgers and Padres, it is no question the East has the most depth. Obviously Mets fans in 2021 are as hopeful as they’ll ever be – and with a seemingly promising rumor that Springer can happen I think they have every right to be. You also cannot count out the Braves who have an unbelievable staff and a strong lineup led by Freeman, Acuna, Swanson, and d’Arnaud. Adding Morton is good depth for the rotation and while 2021 looks bright the front office might need to see about extending Freeman who is set to be a free agent in 2022. While I liked what the Marlins did in 2020 I do not see Don Mattingly and the gang making it to October once again. The team really benefitted from a shortened season and I do not see them replicating their success in the long run. The Phillies and Nationals had very underwhelming 2020’s but unlike the Marlins, the shortened season and its injuries made it tough to compete. I see the Braves as the favorite for now, but if the Mets spend like their fans expect them to, they can also once again be atop the N.L. East in 2021.

Anyway, I look forward to those of you that follow my blog and keep up to date with MLB news as the 2021 free agency eventually gets under way, even if we have to wait another week or so. Feel free to leave any questions, comments, or topics that you would like to hear discussed in future posts. Since this post was more N.L. heavy I will look into getting a post going on the A.L. within the next day or so. Happy New Year everyone!

– JET

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