Saturday, April 19, 2008

NL East 2008 Predictions

New York Mets - 94 wins
Atlanta Braves - 89 wins
Philadelphia Phillies - 84 wins
Washington Nationals - 72 wins
Florida Marlins - 71 wins

NYM: I've heard some clamoring on New York sports talk radio that Ryan Church is a question mark in the outfield. I disagree, at least offensively (can't say he's Andruw Jones in the field). However, last year he posted a .281 EqA (equivalent average) and a .464 SLG (slugging percentage), to go along with 15 HR (home runs). I think in the National League, with a line-up including David Wright (.329 EqA, 30 HR), Jose Reyes (.278 EqA after a second half collapse) and Carlos Beltra (.299 EqA, 33 HR), you take that. The offense supports a not quite sterling, but still pretty good, pitching staff, including the centerpiece of Johan Santana (.273 OBPA - on base percentage against, 4.52 K/BB - strikeout to walk ratio). You also have Pedro Martinez (4.57 OBPA) [on the DL as of date of publication], John "It Must Be" Maine (.310 OBPA, 10.3 K/9 - strikeouts per nine innings), and Oliver Perez (8.8 K/9, 2.0 K/BB). Toss in Billy Wagner (10.5 K/9, 3.64 K/BB) and Aaron Heilman (.279 OBPA) to round out a quality club that will probably not collapse again.

ATL: Sneaky, sneaky, sneaky. Lest you forget about the Braves, they have put themselves into a position to grab the wild card, with Chipper Jones (.340 EqA, .425 OBP, .604 SLG), Matt Diaz (.295 EqA, .497 SLG), Mark Teixeira (.317 EqA, 30 HR), Yunel Escobar (.289 EqA, .385 OBP) and Crooooooow (R.I.P.)! In fact, the line-up is pretty much one solid punch the whole way through, with the only real question mark Mark Kotsay, who only played half a season last year, putting up a lowly 57 OPS+ (adjusted on base plus slugging), but still took his walks (.279 OBP over a .214 AVG). Where the Braves take their hit is with their rotation, which used to be their bread and butter. Obviously you expect John Smoltz (.293 OBPA, 4.19 K/BB) to do well, and there's an expectation Tim Hudson (.309 OBPA, 2.1 BB/9 - walks per nine innings) can do well, but after that, there's upside on guys like Tom Glavine (1.39 K/BB) and Chuck James (3.2 BB/9) is small. I'm not worried about Rafael Soriano as closer (4.67 K/BB), although how many times he gets the ball in a "save" situation should be interesting to follow.

PHI: Ah, the Phillies, fresh off a division win and already expected to finish third? Don't get me wrong, I love their offense. Pat Burrell (.303 EqA, .400 OBP, 30 HR, .502 SLG) is criminally underrated by the media and the fans, although on the flip side of that coin, Jimmy Rollins may be slightly overrated (.290 EqA, .344 OBP, 30 HR, .531 SLG in his best season ever). Nevertheless, you still have Ryan Howard (.315 EqA, .392 OBP, 47 HR, .584 SLG) and Chase Utley (.321 EqA, .410 OBP, 22 HR, .566 SLG). There are some holes, like Geoff Jenkins (101 OPS+) and Pedro Feliz (81 OPS+)...can the Phillies ever get a third baseman to replace the production they were getting from Scott Rolen six years ago? Anyway, there are some holes in their line-up, but their real problem is the pitching. I like Cole Hamels (.283 OBPA, 4.12 K/BB) and Brett Myers (107 ERA+ - adjusted earned run average - as a mixed starter and reliever), but Jamie Moyer (.342 OBPA) and Adam Eaton (.378 OBPA) are not going to give you good performances on a regular basis. I'm not that down on Brad Lidge (2.93 K/BB), but he's not the most reliable relief pitcher, and he's supposed to be the best in the bullpen.

WAS: Cristian Guzman (.297 EqA, .380 OBP in 46 games) is only projected by PECOTA to have a .309 OBP over a full season, which could certainly deflate the Nationals' run this year. Ryan Zimmerman (107 OPS+) is basically the offensive strength, and with good years from Lastings Milledge (105 OPS+) and Nick Johnson (149 OPS+ in 2006), Washington could have some potency. Not much, though. They're also going to give up a ton of runs. Shawn Hill (.292 OBPA, 6.0 K/BB in 97 1/3 IP) is pretty much the ace of the staff, but beware the output of Jason Bergman (2.05 K/BB) and John Patterson (.409 OBPA). Beware!

FLA: The Marlins have a nice top of the order, with Hanley Ramirez (.315 EqA, .386 OBP), Dan Uggla (.273 EqA, 31 HR), Jeremy Hermida (.292 EqA) and Josh Willingham (.285 EqA). Then there are a lot of young(er) guys who may or may not add much, depending on when and how they make the club, and if they have a permission slip signed by their parents. At 29, Willingham is the crusty old veteran. Florida does win the award, in my estimation, of having the worst pitching in the National League. Scott Olsen (.384 OBPA, 1.56 K/BB), Sergio Mitre (.352 OBPA, 1.95 K/BB), and Andrew Miller (.389 OBPA, 1.44 K/BB) all have the potential to relive Wild Thing Vaughn. I don't feel like talking about the bullpen, but they share a similar penchant for walks.

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