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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, April 1, 2010

MLB: NL preview capsules


By Rick Hummel
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Teams are listed in predicted order of finish, with a coaching theme.

NL CENTRAL DIVISION

St. Louis Cardinals

2009 record 91-71 (first)

2010 outlook Very few additions (Brad Penny, Felipe Lopez) to the team that finished last year as the division champion. Veteran depth, especially in the outfield, could be an issue.

Coaching fast fact Most home runs combined by hitting coach and pitching coach: 692 (583 by Mark McGwire, 109 by Dave Duncan).

Chicago Cubs

2009 record 83-78 (second)

2010 outlook New owner (Tom Ricketts), new centerfielder (Marlon Byrd), same goal (first World Series title since 1908). Pitching will be short until Ted Lilly returns from shoulder surgery and knee problems.

Coaching fast fact Two former managers are on Lou Piniella's staff in pitching coach Larry Rothschild (Tampa Bay) and bench coach Alan Trammell (Detroit).

Milwaukee Brewers

2009 record 80-82 (third)

2010 outlook Horrid starting pitching should get a boost with signing of lefthander Randy Wolf and return of lefthander Doug Davis. Can closer Trevor Hoffman be as good at age 42 as he was at 41 (37 saves, 1.83 ERA)?

Coaching fast fact Hitting coach Dale Sveum is the only Brewers manager to win a playoff game (he managed the team in 2008) since 1982, when Brewers lost World Series in seven games to Cardinals.

Cincinnati Reds

2009 record 78-84 (fourth)

2010 outlook How are you going to keep him down on the farm? Not long if at all if Cuban lefthander Aroldis Chapman can throw strikes at 100 mph. Not much power in Reds' lineup (Joey Votto was high at 25 homers) in ballpark built for home runs.

Coaching fast fact Hitting coach Brook Jacoby had only 69 RBI to go with 32 homers in 1987 with Cleveland. Twenty-seven of the homers came with nobody on.

Houston Astros

2009 record 74-88 (fifth)

2010 outlook New manager Brad Mills has good 1-2 punch in Carlos Lee and Lance Berkman, although Berkman will miss start of season after knee surgery. Shaky starting pitching behind Roy Oswalt and Wandy Rodriguez. Astros' farm system won't offer much help this year.

Coaching fast fact Third-base coach Dave Clark was the Astros' previous manager, finishing up September for deposed Cecil Cooper in 2009.

Pittsburgh Pirates

2009 record 62-99 (sixth)

2010 outlook Almost no chance to avoid 18th straight losing record. Pirates already have the major-league record at 17, but their influx of young talent suggests that 2011 could be a .500 or better year. CF Andrew McCutchen could reach star status this season.

Coaching fast fact Pitching coach Joe Kerrigan is coaching for his fifth big-league team. He also has managed one (Boston, 43 games in 2001) but was fired in spring training of 2002.

NL EAST DIVISION

Philadelphia Phillies

2009 record 93-69 (National League champion)

2010 outlook The Phillies traded their No. 1 starter, Cliff Lee, to Seattle. And they got a better one in Roy Halladay from Toronto. Could be first three-peater in NL since 1942-43-44 Cardinals.

Coaching fast fact Hitting coach Milt Thompson, who played four years with the Cardinals, hit 47 homers for his career. The Phils' Ryan Howard has clubbed that many or more in three of the last four years, "slipping" to 45 last year.

Atlanta Braves

2009 record 86-76 (third)

2010 outlook The Braves, punchless for several years, have perhaps the best power-hitting prospect in baseball in outfielder Jason Heyward. But how much does Chipper Jones have left? He hit only .236 in the second half of the season and his average for the year dropped exactly 100 points (.364 to .264) from 2009.

Coaching fast fact Strange bedfellows: Hitting coach Terry Pendleton and pitching coach Roger McDowell are on the same staff. It was Cardinals third baseman Pendleton's dramatic ninth-inning homer off New York Mets reliever McDowell that propelled the Cardinals to the 1987 division championship.

Florida Marlins

2009 record 87-75 (second)

2010 outlook The Marlins made no significant changes from their runner-up team last season. Fredi Gonzalez, a good manager, has all but been put on notice that anything short of the playoffs won't save his job.

Coaching fast fact First base/outfield coach Dave Collins stole 79 bases for Cincinnati in 1980 and 60 for Toronto in 1984. He swiped just seven at age 37 when he finished his playing career with the Cardinals in 1990.

New York Mets

2009 record 70-92 (fourth)

2010 outlook Jerry Manuel could be the first manager canned and general manager Omar Minaya may not be too far behind unless the Mets show marked improvement. They had too many injuries last year, and already centerfielder Carlos Beltran and shortstop Jose Reyes will miss the start of the season.

Coaching fast fact Hitting coach Howard Johnson played on world champion teams in both leagues (1984 Detroit Tigers and 1986 Mets). Considered a power hitter, he had 228 home runs but, surprisingly, 231 stolen bases.

Washington Nationals

2009 record 59-103 (fifth)

2010 outlook Not much until righthander Stephen Strasburg arrives. The Nationals will try to be patient with the No. 1 pick of last year, but they probably will need that shot in the arm for what could be another decline in attendance.

Coaching fast fact First-base coach Dan Radison has coached under Nationals manager Jim Riggleman before in San Diego (1993-94) and Chicago (1995-99). Both played, managed and instructed in the Cardinals' system.

NL WEST DIVISION

San Francisco Giants

2009 record 88-74 (third)

2010 outlook Nobody wants to see righthanders Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain in the same series, and now along comes lefthander Madison Bumgarner, who tore up the minors last season. Not much pop to go with Pablo Sandoval, although plenty of complementary bats such as Mark DeRosa, Aaron Rowand and Freddy Sanchez.

Coaching fast fact Pitching coach Dave Righetti threw a no-hitter for the Yankees on July 4, 1983, fanning Boston Hall of Famer Wade Boggs for the final out. John Tudor, later a Cardinals star, was the losing pitcher.

Colorado Rockies

2009 record 92-70 (second, wild card)

2010 outlook Rockies awfully lefthanded in their order, with only Troy Tulowitzki as a consistent righthanded power source. If former ace lefthander Jeff Francis returns, Rockies' starting staff is formidable, although closer Huston Street had trouble in 2009 playoffs and had some arm issues this spring.

Coaching fast fact Hitting coach Don Baylor was the Rockies' first manager in 1993.

Los Angeles Dodgers

2009 record 95-67 (first)

2010 outlook Starting pitching not deep unless Chad Billingsley, ignored in last year's playoffs, bounces back. The Dodgers should have Manny Ramirez, suspended for 50 games last year, for the whole season, but can he be anything close to the run producer he was before? He hit .255 after the All-Star break compared to .355 before.

Coaching fast fact Hitting coach Don Mattingly had 238 hits for the 1986 Yankees, 53 of them doubles.

San Diego Padres

2009 record 75-87 (fourth)

2010 outlook Without Jake Peavy now, Padres' rotation doesn't have an ace although there are good young arms in lefthander Clayton Richard and righthanders Mat Latos and Wade LeBlanc. How long will first baseman Adrian Gonzalez (40 homers) be with the Padres before he is dealt?

Coaching fast fact Bench coach Ted Simmons, a former Cardinals catcher, hit better than .300 six times for the Cardinals and once for Milwaukee.

Arizona Diamondbacks

2009 record 70-92 (fifth)

2010 outlook Former Cy Young winner Brandon Webb hasn't made it back to form from shoulder problems that knocked him out after his first start last year. Third baseman Mark Reynolds is baseball's strangest offensive player (44 homers, 223 strikeouts, 24 stolen bases).

Coaching fast fact Coaches Matt Williams and Kirk Gibson both had .268 career averages but had more than 600 homers between them (Williams 378, Gibson 255).