Saturday, March 28, 2009

First to Third: NL East Preview

The First to Third MLB divisional preview continue today with the National League East, home of the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies. Can the Phightin' Phils repeat?

Fresh Meat - You can't mention newcomers to this division without bringing up Francisco Rodriguez, the new Met closer, who helps strengthen the back of the Met bullpen, but what about JJ Putz? Putz (pictured) will likely man the 8th inning for the Mets and if he can return to 2007 form (1.38 ERA, 82 strikeouts in 71.2 innings), Met starters can comfortably turn over the game and head to the locker room knowing their win can be preserved.

Dearly Deported - The Marlins typically trade their entire team each off-season, but one impact player to leave the NL East not from the Fish is Pat Burrell, who leaves with a ring, although one can argue he didn't contribute much to it. Burrell went 1-for-14 in the World Series and leaves Philadelphia a career .257 hitter with 1273 strikeouts in 9 seasons, but Pat the Bat did hit 251 home runs in those 9 seasons. The Phillies think they upgraded with the addition of Raul Ibanez, who is a much better fielder than Burrell, but time will tell if Ibanez can replace Burrell's career average of 31 home runs and 103 RBI per season.

How They'll Finish:
  1. Phillies - The champs are the favorite in the NL East with the best infield in the majors as three players (Utley, Howard, Rollins) are arguably the best at their position. The outfield leaves a lot to be desired as Ibanez isn't a sure bet in left, but their pitching should be consistent if everyone stays healthy. Watch for Cole Hamels to follow up his stellar postseason with a Cy Young type year.
  2. Mets - Pitching wins championships and that's why the Mets still finish second in the division. Sure, they helped their bullpen out a lot, but after Johan Santana, can you really count on Mike Pelfrey, Oliver Perez, John Maine, and Livan Hernandez to carry you to the World Series? I don't think so. Perez is inconsistent at best, Pelfrey had one good year and should continue to develop. Maine is a question mark and what does Livan have left in the tank? The Mets hope he has a lot. There's also no way Carlos Delgado duplicates his 2008 season at age 37.
  3. Marlins - They have a new stadium coming and every six years or so, the Fish win the World Series. I think the Marlins are still a couple pieces short of the postseason in 2009, but don't count the future Miami Marlins out entirely in the NL East race - they'll stay in the race for a while and could win the division in 2010.
  4. Braves - The Braves are a team in decline and the Derek Lowe signing doesn't do them any favors in the rebuilding process. After a nice long run in the 1990s, the Braves need to strip their team and completely rebuild, an unenviable task for any GM.
  5. Nationals - The addition of Adam Dunn gives the Nats a player that baseball fans have actually heard of. They chased Mark Teixeira who chose pinstripes instead of the nation's capitol and did so because of the chance to win. It will be a long time before the Nats flirt with .500.

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Kevin Fenstermacher said...

Burrell's hit was the game winning run in the World Series. I will consider that contributing enough when you dominate and win in 5 games.

Ibanez has 162 game avg. of 21 HR and 93 RBI so he can hold his own in left. The thing is he isn't really that good of a fielder (obviously better than no knees Burrell), but at least the other two in the OF (Victorino and Werth) are.

Rob Burckhard said...

According to The Fielding Bible, Burrell is atrocious on balls hit over his head but pretty good at getting to balls in front of him whereas Ibanez is a little below average at both. If you look at Bill James' Runs Created metric, Ibanez is a bit better than Burrell. Regardless, I'd still call Ibanez a slight upgrade.

Kevin Fenstermacher said...

Ibanez is definitely an upgrade. It's just people need to realize that Ibanez isn't a very good fielder either. The only thing Burrell has at this point in his career is a good arm. That's all. Ibanez will be able to get to many balls Burrell wouldn't have, but he will benefit from the ground Victorino can cover.