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who's got the best starting eight?

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friday discussion: which national league team has the best starting eight?

the mets have an excellent case: three mvp-caliber players (beltran, reyes, and wright), a masher at first, an oldie but goodie in left field (alou), and a catcher who can hit. shawn green is their 7th-best hitter; they're strong up the middle defensively. that's a pretty good lineup.

the braves also have an argument. they return four guys who posted OPSs of .894 or better last season (mccann, laroche, and the joneses), and the guy who became their more-or-less-everyday left fielder after august 1st, matt diaz, had an .839 OPS. jeff francouer, who hit 29 homers, is only the braves' 6th or 7th-best hitter. they finished 2d in the nl in runs in 2006.

the rockies have an interesting club: four returnees at .880 or better (helton hawpe holliday and atkins), plus a new, useful bat in centerfield. they also have a young shortstop with loads of potential (tulowitzki), but the kid's only 22 and has just 517 minor-league at-bats; by the time he's really good, hawpe and holliday will be playing for anaheim or whatever. they could be a surprise team --- by pythagorean records, they were only 5 games worse than the nl west leaders in 2006, and only a game worse than the cardinals.

both florida and milwaukee have very talented young lineups that could gell; the dbacks are a step or two behind them, having moved four prospects into place (drew, jackson, quentin, tracey) with a 5th, chris young, on the cusp.

philadelphia's lineup is a lot like the cardinals': three great hitters (howard utley and burrell), some useful ones (rollins, rowand, helms), and some garbage. ditto the cubs, who drop off steeply after lee ramirez and soriano. the astros might score some runs if luke scott is for real and morgan ensberg bounces back, but lord that defense . . . .

the cardinals? they're no better than 3d, imho --- both the mets and braves are clearly superior. if both edmonds and duncan can slug over .500, i'd put the cardinals just below those two teams, but clear of the rest of the field. should either of the left-handed power hitters fail to produce, however, the cards fall back into a crowded pack.

i'm back home saturday, will have a new year's day post and resume a reg'r posting load. have a safe holiday ev'yone.