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February 19, 2010 12:56 pm

Division Preview: NL Central

12

John Perrotto

The Cardinals ran away with the division last year and will do the same this year.

The St. Louis Cardinals coasted to the National League Central title last year, finishing a full seven games in front of the Chicago Cubs, who were considered the heavy favorite to three-peat as the division champs coming into last spring. The Cardinals will have an even easier time of winning the division this season, according to PECOTA. If the system is right, the Cardinals will be the only NL Central team to even have a winning record.

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February 19, 2010 12:34 pm

Division Preview: AL Central

30

Christina Kahrl

PECOTA sees a three-team race with no winners.

Last year's projections suggested that the division would be as tight as ever, but if truth seems to keep upping the ante on fiction, leave it to PECOTA to try to trump that by delivering what would be a logistical disaster for the postseason: a three-way tie between the likely contenders, with the Chicago White Sox, Minnesota Twins, and Detroit Tigers all initially being projected for 80-82 records. It's a long way until Opening Day, so that's not quite the same thing as saying that we predict the division will be won with an under-.500 record, but all these teams have problems, and if the 1973 New York Mets (82-79) or the 2005 Padres (82-80) are worried about their status as history's most feeble division winners, that's understandable.

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February 18, 2010 7:00 pm

Division Preview: NL West

9

Jay Jaffe

Colorado looks like the class of a tightly packed race.

The National League West is coming off a relatively strong year; its five teams collectively posted the league's top winning percentage (.519) of any of the three NL divisions. The Los Angeles Dodgers (who won the division), Colorado Rockies (who advanced to the playoffs as the wild card) and San Francisco Giants all won at least 88 games. As 2010 dawns, the division finds itself in relatively tight economic straits, with none of its teams making much of a splash in the winter free-agent market. That's really nothing new; these teams feature relatively strong player-development systems and a host of talented young players, which enabled them to do as well as they did with the lowest average payroll of any division at an average of $86 million. Depending upon how various personnel decisions shake out as the spring continues-including late signings-any of the top four teams might challenge for the title.

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February 18, 2010 11:58 am

Division Preview: AL West

36

John Perrotto

A changing of the guard sees the Angels drop to the bottom behind a Rangers/Mariners battle.

Baseball's smallest division figures to be one of its most interesting in 2010. The Los Angeles Angels have won three straight American League West titles, and five of the past six. However, they appear vulnerable after losing ace pitcher John Lackey to the Boston Red Sox as a free agent, third baseman/leadoff hitter/defensive whiz Chone Figgins to the division rival Seattle Mariners as a free agent, and designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero to another division rival, the Texas Rangers.

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February 17, 2010 12:46 pm

Division Preview: NL East

11

Kevin Goldstein

PECOTA projects the Phillies for their fourth in a row, but the Braves are close. The Mets aren't.

The Philadelphia Phillies dominated the National League East at the end of the past decade-winning three straight division titles (aided in 2007 and 2008 by the New York Mets collapsing in the season's final weeks) and advancing to the last two World Series as the NL rep.

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February 17, 2010 12:15 pm

Division Preview: AL East

21

Tommy Bennett

It's Boston over New York, but Tampa Bay, and, yes, Baltimore are rising.

The American League East has produced the eventual AL pennant winner in each of the last three seasons and seven of the last 10. In the 2000s, AL East teams (well, the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, really) won four World Series. In six of the last seven years, the AL East has also produced the wild-card team. Almost without question, the AL East is the toughest division to win in baseball.

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