In coming weeks, you will have innumerable opportunities to read previews of the upcoming season. I dug through last year's results and came up with items for each team that you probably won't see in the previews but that I thought were interesting.
I started with the NL West and Central. Now, the NL East.
Atlanta Braves, 96-66: So that's why they're giving Craig Kimbrel all that money...Relief pitchers, as a group, are not terribly consistent. A good bullpen one year can be lousy the next. The Brewers were fifth in the NL in reliever ERA in 2011, last in 2012, and third last year. The Dodgers were 14th in 2011, third in 2012, 9th last year. You get the picture. They bounce around. Except the Braves. The Braves have been first, second, and first in reliever ERA the past three seasons. That's amazing consistency. And Kimbrel, who's led the league in saves each of the past three years, has a career 1.39 ERA. You know how many pitchers have an ERA that low through their first four seasons, minimum 200 IP? One guy: Craig Kimbrel.
Washington Nationals, 86-76: The Nats were a team of extremes last year. They had a 24-41 record against teams that finished at .500 or better. No team had fewer wins against such teams. They also had a 62-35 record against teams with losing records. Nobody had more. Part of this was because they play in the NL East, where they were one of only two teams with a winning record, but that was true in the NL West too, and neither the Diamondbacks nor the Dodgers matched the Nationals' dominance of bad teams or inability to beat good ones.
New York Mets, 74-88: The Mets were a losing team last year, but they were the fourth-best road team in the NL last year, one of only four to finish above .500 on the road (41-40). That, of course, meant that they had a losing record at home. Only the Mets and Cubs lost were worse at home than on the road. The Mets were the fourth-best team in the NL on the road and the second-worst at home. Mets fans who wanted to see their team win had to travel.
Philadelphia Phillies, 73-89: The Phillies scored the third fewest runs in the league last year, 610, which is bad enough, but that figure is inflated by the games they play at home at Citizens Bank Park, a hitters' park, where their 344 runs scored ranked fifth in the league. Which means that on the road...Yeah. Awful. Scored 266 runs; only the Marlins were worse. Fewest road home runs in the league. Second-fewest doubles. This was a terrible offense, masked by the home ballpark.
Miami Marlins, 62-100: The Marlins finished last in the National League East. They had the worst record in the league. They were really bad. So, given my west-to-east order of presentation, they're the last NL team I'll hit. So it's by coincidence, not design, that I saved the best for last: This is the most amazing tidbit I found. THE MIAMI MARLINS HAD THE BEST WINNING PERCENTAGE IN THE NATIONAL LEAGUE WHEN LEADING A GAME AFTER SEVEN INNINGS. I'm serious. Quick, who was their closer? (Steve Cishek, 34 saves) Who were their setup guys? (Mike Dunn, Chad Qualls, A.J. Ramos) How in the world did they win more of the games that they led after seven (41-2, .953 winning percentage) than the Dodgers (71-4, .947), Braves (72-6, .923), Cardinals (86-6, .935), and Pirates 74-5, .937), other than that they played a lot fewer of them? I don't know either. But they did.