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March, 2010

The biggest change in the St. Louis Cardinals this offseason included replacing a 15-game winner who had an ERA of 3.49 with an 11-game winner who had an ERA of 4.88. Nevertheless, the Cardinals are as near of an unanimous pick to win their division as you'll find in all of Major League Baseball.

How exactly does this work? Obviously, part of the reason is that any team with Albert Pujols on it has a great chance to succeed. But there is a more pertinent reason that the Cardinals can replace a seemingly successful pitcher with a seemingly unsuccessful one and still come out ahead.

The Pittsburgh Pirates have not been a winning team in 17 years and the Washington Nationals haven't fielded a winning team in their five-year history. Last year did not provide any relief, as these two teams finished with the two worst records in Major League Baseball.

Both franchises seem to understand that building their roster with young, homegrown talent is a better model for success than trying to add overpriced free agents to a thin major league roster. Because of this, both teams do finally have some hope for the near future.

Washington Nationals Team Preview
Pittsburgh Pirates Team Preview

Coming off consecutive World Series appearances, the 2010 Philadelphia Phillies arguably added the best pitcher in baseball to their roster. This is a team in its prime, looking to extend its dominance for a few more years. Given the weaknesses of the NL East, it is difficult to see how the Phillies could possibly avoid another appearance in the post-season. Are they the team to beat this year?

This new decade will be one of significant transition for the Braves. Bobby Cox has already announced that 2010 will be his final year with the Braves, bringing to an end one of the great runs by a manager in major league history. Chipper Jones has made no such announcement, but the writing is on the wall for one of the greatest third basemen of all time; Chipper hasn�t played over 150 games since 2003, and last season was one of the two or three worst of his career. But it will also be the beginning of a new era in Atlanta Braves baseball, and the franchise appears to be pretty well stocked as it heads into this new era.

In fact, if you are looking for a surprise team in 2010, you may be well-advised to look no further than the Atlanta Braves.

When we write team previews at Baseball Evolution, we really get into it. While contemplating the San Diego Padres, we dress up in brown robes, shave the tops of our heads, and take vows of silence.

In this case, the vows of silence prevented Asher and Keith from communicating to each other that they were working on a San Diego preview. The result is your gain, as you get to read two in-depth pieces on the Friars:

San Diego Padres Team Preview (Asher's Take)
San Diego Adrians Team Preview (Keith's Take)

In 2010 and beyond, the Brewers will go as far as their pitching staff can take them. The offensive talent for the Brewers is present and proven, as Milwaukee features two of major league baseball�s elite hitters, Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, as well as a relatively strong supporting cast. The pitching talent has been, to this point, just that � talent. The Brewers regularly sport five seemingly qualified pitchers who, nevertheless, can�t seem to get to the point where they can produce consistent quality starts.

If this is the year that the Brewers' pitching can finally come around, Milwaukee should have more than enough offense to make a run in the NL Central and, perhaps, advance to the NLCS for only the second time in their history.

3/21/10: It's Official - Joe Nathan will miss the entire 2010 season following Tommy John surgery. While certainly a blow to the Twins' playoff hopes, the loss of Nathan may not be as bad as all that. In-house replacements Jon Rauch, Jose Mijares, and Pat Neshek have each posted sub-3.00 earned run averages and managed around a strikeout per inning in the past. Furthermore, this prevents Nathan from trying to pitch at less-than-100 percent and holding the Twins back himself.   --KG

In 2009, the Oakland A's won 75 games, exceeding Richard's expectations for them by a modest three wins. He had expected their talented young guns to propel them to a fast start, only to see them to fade down the stretch due to their collective inexperience. Instead, the A�s struggled early and finished strong, playing .500 ball (38-38) in the second half of the season, including a 17-10 mark in September.

Overall, the A's pitching staff finished the year tied for the league's third lowest ERA (4.29) and their offense really picked up the pace after the break, batting .280 as a team with a .768 OPS. Can the A's parlay that second half achievement into more success this season?

The Seattle Mariners began the past decade tying the major league record of 116 wins in 2001 despite losing three of the biggest stars in the history of baseball. They also enjoyed the services of one of the most interesting (and profitable) talents ever to play the game. But the last decade has been defined by several mistakes, miscues, and miscalculations. The Seattle front office spent absurd amounts of money on Adrian Beltre and Richie Sexson, they saw a manager retire out of the blue while the team was 12 games over .500 in 2007, and the team failed to make the playoffs for the last eight years, a period which included four last-place finishes.

Of all the teams in major league baseball, the Seattle Mariners are the team that most represent starting fresh in a new decade. With a new General Manager, a relatively new manager, and a host of new players, the Mariners look to break the trend of the last decade and start the 20-teens in winning fashion.

The Boston Red Sox have had an interesting offseason, to say the least.  They lost perhaps their best hitter to free agency only to sign the best starting pitcher on the market.  That pitcher happened to be the longtime ace of the Sox' recent postseason nemesis, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.  The Sox defeated the Angels in three ALDS between 2004 and 2008 before the Angels struck back in 2009, with Lackey throwing 7.1 shutout innings in Game One.  In perhaps their best Yankee imitation to date, Boston found a good player who gave them trouble and solved the problem by throwing money at him.

The difference is that the Yankees are generally able to acquire top free agents without losing any of their own stars.  In Jason Bay, the Red Sox lost their leader in home runs, RBI, and walks from a year ago.  Can the Bayless BoSox score enough runs for the acquisition of Lackey to matter?

3/11/10: Helton Seeks One-Teamer Status - It has become rare for a baseball player to stay with one major league team for his entire career and even rarer for him to turn down money, but it appears that Todd Helton has done both. In signing a two-year, $9.9 million contract for the 2012 and 2013 seasons, Helton has taken the high road. His option buyout alone in 2012 would have been $4.6 million; even making the major league minimum with another team would have put Helton over the $4.9 million he is now scheduled to make that year. Helton has also deferred a significant portion of the money he would have made in 2010 and 2011.

Four more guaranteed seasons with the Rockies makes Helton a serious threat for 3,000 hits, 400 homers, 1,500 runs and RBI, and 650 doubles. The deferred money makes him a serious threat to win his first World Series ring sometime in the next four years. --KG

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