2008 MLB Preview: Top of the NL East

Ryan Howard, David Wright, John Smoltz

Explanation of ratings system and other team previews here

I decided to change it up a little bit for the last 3 teams of MLB Preview – The Mets, Braves and Phillies. Since this is a Philly blog, people are most interested in how these 3 teams stack up in what should be one of the closest division races in baseball. What I’m going to do is rank their players, not by position, but by “best hitter vs. best hitter,” “2nd best hitter vs. 2nd best hitter,” etc… Then, at the end, I plan to come to some sort of logical and meaningful conclusion.

Best Hitter

  1. Ryan Howard, Phillies
  2. David Wright, Mets
  3. Chipper Jones, Braves

Comment: Howard and Wright are neck and neck, but the way Howard has been hitting this spring, I expect we will see the 2006 version of Howard.

2nd Best

  1. Mark Teixeira, Braves
  2. Chase Utley, Phillies
  3. Carlos Beltran, Mets

Comment: How well did Teixeira play after coming over the Braves? Well, if he hits at the rate he did in his 56 games for the team, he will hit .317 with 51 HR and 168 RBI over a full season. Wow.

3rd Best

  1. Jimmy Rollins, Phillies
  2. Jose Reyes, Mets
  3. Jeff Francouer, Braves

Comment: I’m going to give the reigning NL MVP the benefit of the doubt, but I could see him having a slightly disappointing season this year.

4th Best

  1. Brian McCann, Braves
  2. Pat Burrell, Phillies
  3. Carlos Delgado, Mets

Comment: McCann is due for a breakout year, we know what we will get from Burrell (.270, 30 HR, 95 RBI) and Delgado has a lot of injuries to recover from before he’s going to be a productive hitter.

5th Best

  1. Ryan Church, Mets
  2. Matt Diaz, Braves
  3. Geoff Jenkins, Phillies

Comment: I actually like the acquisition of Church for the Mets (though they might regret losing Lastings Milledge in the long run). Church’s 43 doubles in 470 ABs last year is very impressive.

6th Best

  1. Kelly Johnson, Braves
  2. Shane Victorino, Phillies
  3. Moises Alou, Mets

Comment: Johnson was way under the radar with the season he had last year. He had a .832 OPS at second base, which is great for that position. Victorino and his SBs are not far behind him though and Alou might have been in first if I didn’t think he will be hurt all year.

7th Best

  1. Yunel Escobar, Braves
  2. Pedro Feliz, Phillies
  3. Luis Castillo, Mets

Comment: Escobar is good enough that the Braves had no problems giving up all-star shortstop Edgar Renteria in the offseason. He hit .326 in 319 ABs last year. He is not a power hitter, but could get 40+ doubles this year.

8th Best

  1. Carlos Ruiz, Phillies
  2. Mark Kotsay, Braves
  3. Brian Schneider, Mets

Comment: Ruiz is far and away the best of this bunch – it’ll be interesting to see what he will do this year with the starting spot all to himself.

Bench

  1. Phillies (Chris Coste, Greg Dobbs, Jayson Werth, So Taguchi)
  2. Mets (Ramon Castro, Marlon Anderson, Endy Chavez, Damion Easley)
  3. Braves (Ruben Gotay, Brayan Pena, Martin Prado, Gregor Blanco)

Comment: Both the Mets and Phillies have great benches – I give the edge to the Phillies because their 4 players drove in 156 runs last year, vs. 99 for the Mets guys.

1st Starter

  1. Johan Santana, Mets
  2. Brett Myers, Phillies
  3. John Smoltz, Braves

Comment: Santana is obvious – but I chose Myers over Smoltz because Smoltz is starting the year on the DL and at 40, he might be slowing down. Also, Myers has looked phenomenal in the spring.

2nd Starter

  1. Cole Hamels, Phillies
  2. Tim Hudson, Braves
  3. Pedro Martinez, Mets

Comment: Word is that Pedro has looked great this spring. Considering he’s pitched 160 innings total the last 2 years, I’ll believe it when I see it.

3rd Starter

  1. John Maine, Mets
  2. Tom Glavine, Braves
  3. Jamie Moyer, Phillies

Comment: There is a huge gap here between Maine and the two old lefties. As much as I love Jamie Moyer, I see him having another year flirting with a 5.00 ERA.

4th Starter

  1. Oliver Perez, Mets
  2. Jair Jurrjens, Braves
  3. Kyle Kendrick, Phillies

Comment: Phillies fans don’t think much of Perez because he was always wild when he pitched against us, but he actually finished the year 9th in the NL in ERA. As for Kendrick, I believe he will be in the minor leagues by mid-May.

5th Starter

  1. Orlando Hernandez, Mets
  2. Adam Eaton, Phillies
  3. Mike Hampton, Braves

Comment: I think Kris Benson will probably take this spot when he’s ready – but I have to think Eaton can’t be AS bad as he was last year. As for Hampton, I don’t think he’ll be able to stay healthy, hence his spot at the bottom.

Closer

  1. Billy Wagner, Mets
  2. Rafael Soriano, Braves
  3. Brad Lidge, Philies

Comment: I hate Billy Wagner. He’s a liar and a baby. That’s my comment.

Set-Up Man

  1. Peter Moylan, Braves
  2. Tom Gordon, Phillies
  3. Aaron Heilman, Mets

Comment: Peter who? Moylan had 1.80 ERA last year for the Braves over 90.1 IP, while Heilman had SEVEN losses, which is entirely too many for a reliever.

7th Inning Man

  1. J.C. Romero, Phillies
  2. Manny Acosta, Braves
  3. Pedro Feliciano, Mets

Comment: If Romero can keep his walks down, he can be dominant, as he showed down the stretch for the Phils last year. The Phillies bet $12 million in the offseason that he can.

Rest of Bullpen

  1. Mets (Joe Smith, Scott Schoenweis, Jorge Sosa)
  2. Phillies (Ryan Madson, Chad Durbin, Clay Condrey)
  3. Braves (Blaine Boyer, Chris Resop, Wil Ohman)

Comment: All three of these teams could use some improvement here. Ryan Madson has looked really good in the spring for the Phillies, and it would be a huge boost to the team if he can stay healthy and effective for the entire year.

OVERALL

Let’s go ahead and assign some arbitrary numbers to these rankings and see what we come up with. For the line-ups, bullpen and bench I’ll award 3 points for each 1st place, 2 for 2nd and 1 for 3rd. Since the starting rotation is only 5 players and is extremely important, we’ll award 6 points for each 1st, 4 for 2nd and 2 for 3rd. Here’s what we come up with for that.

Line-Up

T-1. Phillies, 18 points
T-1. Braves, 18 points
    3. Mets, 12 points

Starting Rotation

  1. Mets, 26 points
  2. Phillies, 18 points
  3. Braves, 16 points

Bullpen/Bench

  1. Phillies, 11 points
  2. Mets, 10 points
  3. Braves, 9 points

Overall

  1. Mets, 48 points
  2. Phillies, 47 points
  3. Braves, 43 points

MEANINGFUL CONCLUSIONS

Braves- 3rd Place. I don’t really understand the obsession with the Braves resurgence this year (most of the ESPN analysts have picked them 2nd). They will have an improved line-up even w/o Andruw Jones, and their starting rotation is full of some good names (Smoltz, Glavine, Hudson, Hampton) but Tom Glavine’s last appearance on the mound was the biggest choke of his career, Smoltz is already on the DL and Hampton hasn’t been healthy since 2005.

Phillies- 2nd Place. The Phils have the best offense in the National League and that alone will win them a lot of games. However, 3 through 5 in their rotation absolutely terrifies me. I still can’t understand how Kyle Lohse ended up with the Cardinals for 4.5 million and we couldn’t pony up 7-8 million for one season. A lot also hinges on Brad Lidge coming back healthy, which it looks like he will. Regardless of the question marks, the Phillies have no holes in their line-up and a deep bench in case anyone gets hurt. I think they will win the Wild Card this year.

Mets- 1st place. It’s hard to make an argument against a team that lost the division on the last day of the season and then went out and got the best pitcher in baseball. What sets the Mets apart from the Braves and Phillies is the the combination of a true ace at the top, and depth at the bottom of their rotation. Their offense isn’t quite as good, or deep, but Jose Reyes, David Wright and Carlos Beltran is nothing to scoff at.

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28 Responses

  1. […] tk added an interesting post today on 2008 MLB Preview: Top of the NL East […]

  2. Thank for for being one of the people that actually realize that the Braves have significant injury concerns, which have been overlooked by most…Besides Smoltz/Glavine/Hampton, Chipper also should be an injury concern as he has seen time on the DL each of the last few yrs. Should be a great race though.

  3. Pete,

    I like it. Since you left out your “players to keep an eye on,” I will include it.

    Mets: Pedro – If he remains healthy, the division belongs to the Mets no question.

    Phillies: Lidge, Gordon, Romero – The Phils are going to score runs but those backend starters are also going to give up a lot of them. The Phils don’t stand a chance unless their bullpen can protect a lead.

    Braves: Whoever their trainer is – It’s impossible not to like this team with all the hard core gamers they have (Smotlz, Glavine, Chipper), but there is no way in hell this team stays healthy. Seriously, who is stupid enough to put faith in Mike Hampton? Also, I think Matt Diaz could play a key role. He very quietly has a career BA of .320.

  4. Ravi-

    I agree – Jayson Stark, who is usually dead on, actually picked the Braves to win the Series. and I think Gammons may have had them winning the Pennant. Can’t say I really see it.

  5. Out of curiosity was your hitters rating based on Chipper’s recent injuries? Out of those hitters Chipper is the purest hitter. His K-BB ratio shows it. Just his hardcore playing has caught up to him in recent years. Also NO ONE is as good in the clutch as chipper is. David is very close, and a very fine hitter. Howard has more power and got more RBIs due to the lineup he had, but is not that amazing of a hitter. He k’s way too many times. If chipper can stay healthy now that he has Tex behind him instead of AJ k man he could have a remarkable year. (As testament to chipper being the better hitter …. his 99 MVP year ….. who on the team was a good hitter?) IF injuries are included in ratings I would say Wright howard chipper …. pure hitting injuries not withstanding I would have to give the nod to chipper. Heck he lost the Batting title due to the 163’d game? And he is a switch hitter … that is really remarkable for a power hitter to do that hitting switch.

  6. Dapole –

    Chipper is certainly no slouch, but I definetly played age in as a factor. My rankings are based on what I think will happen this year, not what happened last year (when Chipper was phenomenal) Both Wright and Howard are in prime years and I expect Howard, based on how he hitting the ball to opposite field again in spring training, to hit closer to the .313 he hit in 2006 than the .268 he hit last year. Wright on the other hand, was the NL MVP had the Mets not faltered down the stretch. He has improved his BA and SLG %each of his 3 years in the league (.306, .311, .326 for BA, .523, .531, .546 for SLG) and at 25, I see no reason why he won’t continue that this year. So I guess the rankings were indicative of me thinking Chipper would have a bad year, but more that I think Howard and Wright, at their ages, are going to have monster years.

  7. Cole Hamels is not better than Tim hudson. Smoltz is better than Myers. Put your injury considerations in your notes, do not let them affect the rankings. Anybody can get hurt at any time. Smoltz is starting in the 6th game of the year, hardly the DL.

  8. this.. is… complete…. CRAP.

    ok, FIRST of all, this is the dumbest way to rank teams or decide who will win a division title that i have ever had the misfortune of laying eyes on. that must be said first.

    SECOND… Howard AND Wright over Chipper? you’re insane! BRETT MYERS over JOHN SMOLTZ? hahahahaha, what are you smoking? Ryan Churhc over Matt Diaz???? i can ever say that you’re an idiot for taking mccann over delgado!

    do yourself a favor and stop writing about baseball until you do some research. the Braves will win the East by 2 games over the Mets, and the Phillies will hit the links in October.

  9. Cole Hamels is not better than Tim Hudson?

    By what measure? They had the same ERA last year and Hamels had a better WHIP and MUCH higher strike-out rate and is 8 years younger. Hudson has had a great career and is a good pitcher, but you’ve got back up a statement like that.

    Yes, anybody can get hurt at any time. However, 40 year olds are more likely to get hurt at any time. Regardless, you switch Myers and Smoltz and it still comes out Mets, Phillies, Braves

  10. haha, whatever. you’re quite obviously a homer and a braves hater. i don’t blame everyone for trying to dog the braves, the phils and mets should be shaking in their boots right about now.

    leave it to the pros… jayson stark got it right.

  11. out of morbid curiosity, why don’t you do me a favor and explain Church over Diaz, the same way you feebly attempted to explain Hamels over Hudson. (crap, by the way… does experience mean anything to you? a slightly lower WHIP and some more strikeouts in ONE season make you better than one of the most established, consistent big-game pitchers in the game?) ppppfft.

  12. Samuel –

    Gee, I wonder if you are a Braves fan. Way to stay objective in your analysis.

    Also, fantastic arguments like “you’re insane!” and “what are you smoking?” – really used that “research” you referenced to back up your statements. Also, what “research” allowed you to accurately predict the future and see that the Braves will win in NL East? Is there a type of research out there that negates the need to actually play out the season? They are called predictions for a reason.

    Let’s break down your incredible display of intellect for a moment:

    1. Ryan Howard has only had 2 full seasons in the major leagues. In those 2 seasons, he has more HR and RBI than any other player in the league. Chipper has played in the league 13 seasons, and has never come within 25 RBI of either of Howards first 2 seasons. Despite Howard having a down year, and Chipper having one of the best of his career last year, Chipper still finished behind Howard in the MVP voting – what INSANE MORONS those baseball writers must be! A bad Howard season is still better than a Jones good one! If only they knew what you know! You could certainly argue Jones over Wright, but considering Jones has averaged 433 ABs the last 4 years, or, about 150 less that a full season, I’ll take Wright for 600 ABs over Jones for 450.

    2. As I said, you could easily put Smoltz over Myers – but whenever a pitcher, ANY pitcher, starts the season on the DL, its cause for concern.

    3. Diaz could have easily been put over Church as well. Diaz hits for a better average, Church had 25 more RBI than Diaz last year (in 100 more AB). I took the run production over the raw numbers.

    4. I picked McCann over Delgado because Delgado sucked last year. He ranked 45th in the NL and 84th in the MLB in SLG% – he was also worse than McCann in EVERY category except OBP. McCann is on the way up in his career, Delgado is on the way down. This one isn’t even close.

    Diaz and Smoltz are valid arguments, you just chose not to make them intelligently. Delgado and Jones – do some “research”

  13. Yeah – Hudson is a huge big game pitcher. Really propelled the A’s and Braves to big time playoff wins. Also did a great job of leading the Braves to playoffs last year. That was awesome.

    He has 8 career playoff starts, and 1 career playoff win. That means, Samuel, your “big game pitcher” has as many playoff wins as Matt Herges! HE’S A STUD!

  14. as far as hammels and hudson, your one season comment is ludicrous. hammels one of the best young pitchers in the game and only going to get better, you cant argue that. they had the same era even though cbp is more hitter friendly then turner field.

    15 yrs of owning a division with 14 of them ultimately ending in failure sure makes some people bitter. sorry you guys missed your opportunity 14 times. thats almost as bad as all of philadelphia sports combined.

  15. Yes, Delgado did suck last year. It’s called an ‘off-year’. I don’t expect him to be anywhere near last year’s numbers, the same way I don’t expect Andruw Jones or Richie Sexson to be anywhere near their dismal numbers last year.

    It’s funny, you seem content to simply project last year’s numbers in some areas (aka Delgado will suck, Hamels will enjoy the same success as last season), but predict some pretty dramatic changes in others (Smoltz will be less valuable than Myers, Hudson less valuable than Hamels, and Hampton won’t be able to pitch a full season). I can see why you might think that, but it sure is a HUGE prediction to be made. Imagine he was our fourth starter and actually stayed healthy? It’s not exactly an OUTSIDE chance that the man doesn’t blow his elbow out… the Braves have been and will continue to be extremely vigilant of the situation.

    Diaz WAY over Church. You gotta be kidding me, right? He’ll play in 160 games this season and will be able to show why he’s got the third-highest batting avg in the majors over the last three seasons (behind a couple of guys named Jeter and Ichiro).

    I am, indeed a Braves fan who hates the Mets, dislikes the Phillies, and loathes bloggers who claim not to be partial to a particular team when they obviously are. Just admit it.

  16. God, it’s hilarious to listen to people try to find a way to badmouth the Braves’ unprecedented success over those 14 seasons.

    We were in the playoffs while your team was at home for FOURTEEN seasons. You think of it as ‘missing’ our opportunity, we think of it as ‘earning’ an opportunity. Losers sit back and try to badmouth winners to make themselves feel better. Winners are too busy playing in October to listen.

  17. i’m done with you.

    your blog sucks, by the way.

  18. admit that I am partial to a team? Did you see the header for this blog? do you understand that it is a Philly blog and is not hiding behind anything? Did you notice I worked for the Phillies? you really did some crack research to figure that out. did you also notice that I picked the METS, the team I hate most in the world, to win the divison? and that I pointed out that much of the Phillies rotation SUCKS and that I think Jimmy Rollins will have a down year?

    Matt Diaz had 803 plate appearances in the last 3 seasons (ichiro had 2,227 and Jeter had 2,181) – and he has not qualified for the batting title in any of the three. Also, Samuel the research expert, he actually has a better average than Jeter and Ichiro in that span, and is 3rd behind Pujols and Miguel Cabrera. If your prediction is that Matt Diaz is as good as Derek Jeter, Ichiro Suzuki, Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera, I’m not sure what to tell you.

  19. goodbye Samuel, we hardly knew ye’.

    by the way, in all your ramblings, the only thing you said that was originally researched and not just telling me I am wrong without anything to back yourself up was that Matt Diaz was 3rd behind Ichiro and Jeter – and it was wrong. Excellent debate work.

  20. My biggest argument with this analysis is in how you determined who were the best hitters on every team, especially the Braves because that is the team I follow the most. I ( and I dont think I am alone in this)fully expect Tex to have a better offensive year than Chipper. He is younger, generally healthier and also is in a Boras contract year (although that didnt work out so well for Andruw).
    Also if Escobar has the seventh best offensive year on the team then the Braves should break some records. He is a young player, but he is a very complete hitter (i believe hitting over .400 in the Spring). He can be a little wild in the field, but he is going to hit .320 and more have double than Marcus Giles when he was roiding. He could easily have a better offensive year than McCann.
    Diaz is a much better hitter than Church, but so are Victorino and Alou with Victorino being the best fielder of the group by a large margin.
    I disagree with a few things in your pitching ranking like the Myers over Smoltz (Smoltzie may get hurt but you never know when Myers may decide to slap his wife around and get suspended for a few weeks) and Hamels over Hudson (Hudson has a more established track record and less injury risk). I think you didnt really take depth fully into account. As Stark pointed out in his article, the Braves have tremendous depth in their starting pitching. Meaning that while Smoltz and certainly Mike “Dont Swing too Hard” Hampton may be hurt and miss a start or ten there are several guys that could fill in for a while like a Jeff Bennett, JoJo Reyes or Chuck James. I dont see the same type of players filling in for the Mets or Phillies during the inevitable Pedro and old man Moyer breakdowns. I can see why you say that the top five starting pitchers for the Mets and Phillies are stronger than the Braves, but I think 1-8 in starting pitchers for the Braves are definitely stronger and I think in such a long season that could be especially important. Also that depth gives them valuable trade pieces at the end of July.
    On another note are the Mets bottom four really going to be Church-Alou-Castillo-Schneider? How could this be half of a pennant winning lineup? The Marlins might get more production from the bottom of their lineup.
    Overall good analysis but I think both of us are a little bias. Should be a great race to the finish. May take 95 wins to take home the division crown.

  21. “God, it’s hilarious to listen to people try to find a way to badmouth the Braves’ unprecedented success over those 14 seasons.

    We were in the playoffs while your team was at home for FOURTEEN seasons. You think of it as ‘missing’ our opportunity, we think of it as ‘earning’ an opportunity. Losers sit back and try to badmouth winners to make themselves feel better. Winners are too busy playing in October to listen.”

    actually we were not at home for 14 seasons, we were at home for 13. and by your definition of winners and losers, we currently are the only winners in the division.

    lighten up loser!

  22. Sam Howe,

    You’re right about everything.

    Diaz will get 200 hits. I’d be surprised if he didn’t win the MVP. It will go nice with Mike Hampton’s Cy Young. And one World Series over the last 50 years is absolutely tremendous. I know it’s less titles than proud mega-market teams like the Marlins, Blue Jays, Twins, Pirates, Reds, Orioles, A’s, and Tigers, but the Braves “earned more oppurtunities” to at least play hard and try to win and get juice boxes when they lose. Also, Jayson Stark’s prediction will undoubtedly come true even though he has never been right on one of those predictions. Every year he wrote such a prediction, he was just having an “off year.” But now that he is as old as Smoltz as Glavine, he’s ready for his prime. So again, I couldn’t agree more with you Sam.

  23. Another Sam-

    Thank you for bringing some sanity back to braves contingent.

    points are well taken. If one of those young pitchers you mentioned can come up and have the same impact as Ubaldo Jimenez had for the Rockies last year they can certainly win the division because I think they have a top-5 offense.

  24. Baseball is one of the greatest sports i know

  25. I was a bit disapointed in how you underrated victorino, this will be a breakout year for him.

  26. Very biased opinions. Especially at pitching though, Cole Hammels is the Phillies number one starter over Brett Myers any day of the week. I can see that you didn’t want to lose points for your Fightin (and losing) Phils’ put come on make it a little less obvious. Other than that good job.

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