Baseball's senior circuit lost some star power in free agency when Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols jumped to the American league, but they remain pitching rich. There are fewer runs scored and subsequently defense and strategy are more important. The National league has won consecutive World Series titles so the formula is effective. As you know I always start the season giving the trophy to the Yankees until somebody proves me wrong, but the NL has some teams that pose a threat to my theory. Here is how the National league will shake out.
NL East champs: Philadelphia Phillies.
The Phillies don't have as much pitching depth as in years past and Ryan Howard is coming off of ankle surgery, but the other teams aren't ready to take advantage of the situation. The Miami Marlins have a new stadium, new manager (Ozzie Guillen), and a new superstar (Jose Reyes) so they can make things interesting. If Atlanta can shake off last season's collapse down the stretch they might be a factor as well. New York and Washington have no shot.
NL Central champs: Milwaukee Brewers.
The Brewers lost Prince Fielder in the off season, but their rivals the St. Louis Cardinals lost their best player (Albert Pujols) and their manager (Tony LaRussa). We will not see them hoist the trophy this October. The Cincinnati Reds could make some noise with Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto, but I don't think their pitching will hold up. Houston and Pittsburgh have no chance.
NL West champs: San Francisco Giants.
Aside from the AL East the NL West is the most competitive division in baseball. This is by no means a runaway for the Giants. They have superior pitching (Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Brian Wilson) but the Dodgers are rejuvenated after restoring stability and credibility with their ownership. Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw provide a nice foundation for the future. That being said Arizona won the division last year and can't be overlooked. Colorado is a scrappy ball club and San Diego generally finds a way to stay competitive. Everyone in this division has a chance, but I give a slight edge to San Fran.