On The Edge Blog

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Don't crown the Mets just yet

I hope you have February 14 circled on your calendars, because it is one of the most important days of the year.
No, not Valentine’s Day! Although, happy Valentine’s Day, Ashley! (That’s how you score major relationship points.) I’m talking about the day that Phillies pitchers and catchers report to Clearwater, Fla., for spring training!
And the biggest story line of the Phillies spring training is how are they possibly going to topple the juggernaut New York Mets and their left-handed savior Johan Santana, despite being the actual defending National League East champions.
Now I’d be stupid to say that the Mets didn’t improve by trading for Santana, but they didn’t jump the Phillies in talent like some members of the New York-centric media would have you believe. In fact, Santana wasn’t even the best pitcher to change teams this off-season. That title belongs to Dan Haren, who was traded from the A’s to the Diamondbacks.
Santana, while great in the past, was quite average last year, going 15-13 with a 3.33 ERA. In comparison, the Phillies ace, Cole Hamels, went 15-5 with a 3.39 ERA, while playing in the beer league softball field known as Citizens Bank Park.
What makes me so confident that Santana is on his way down, and that the Mets just paid more than $150 million for a pitcher whose best years are behind him? Look at the more “statistical” numbers. Wins and losses are about the team more than anything the pitcher does (remember Eric Milton’s 14-6 record with the Phillies in 2004?). But stats like K/BB, batting average against, slugging percentage against, and on-base percentage against are where you find out the true value of a pitcher.
Each year since Santana’s lights-out 2004 season, his batting average against, slugging percentage against and on-base percentage against have gotten worse. His K/BB numbers have gotten worse each of the last two seasons, as well.
So what does this all mean? This means that hitters are starting to figure out Santana, and that his fastball/change-up combination isn’t as devastating as it once was.
More importantly, when the Phillies traded two spare parts and a never-will-be for Brad Lidge, the Phillies made the better move to bolster their starting rotation.
Santana is replacing Tom Glavine in the Mets rotation, while making Brett Myers a starter means that guys like J.D. Durbin, J.A. Happ, and Fabio Castro won’t make starts for the Phillies. That’s a big difference. While Glavine is well past the prime of his career, the difference between Santana and Glavine is smaller than the difference between Myers and those random guys the Phillies threw out there every fifth day. I’m not saying that Myers is better than Santana, but it is more of an upgrade for the Phillies.
In 2008, Hamels and Myers should out-perform Santana and an aging Pedro Martinez. The rest of the starting rotations are a toss-up, as neither team knows what it will get from the likes of Kyle Kendrick, Jamie Moyer, Orlando Hernandez, John Maine, Adam Eaton, and Oliver Perez. I’d give the edge to the Mets on the back-end of the rotation, so that makes the two teams pretty even in starting pitching.
You know what? While I’m in the comparing mood, let’s look at the rest of the rosters!
On quick glance, Chase Utley, the Phillies second baseman, and David Wright, the Mets third baseman, cancel each other out. Both players are perennial MVP candidates and produce similar numbers. (This means I’ll compare Pedro Feliz to Luis Castillo in the breakdown.)
First base: Ryan Howard vs. Carlos Delgado
I have to give a big edge to the 2006 National League MVP. On a down year, RyHo smacked 47 homers and drove in 136 runs. In comparison, Delgado hit just 24 homers and drove in 87 runs. Our big fella even batted 10 points higher, and was 59 points better in on-base percentage.
Shortstop: Jimmy Rollins vs. Jose Reyes
How could I possibly go against the reigning National League MVP? Both players are lead-off hitters, and the only category that J-Roll doesn’t dominate Reyes is stolen bases (78 for Reyes, 41 for Rollins). The rest of the categories fall in J-Roll’s column. Rollins hit for a higher average, had 18 more homers, 47 more RBIs, 20 more runs scored, 8 more triples, and won a Gold Glove Award!
Second/Third base: Pedro Feliz vs. Luis Castillo
This one is a toss-up. The Phillies’ new third baseman hit 22 homers last year. In comparison, the Mets’ second baseman hit a total of just 25 extra-base hits, but Castillo makes up for that with a consistent .300 batting average. Both are considered to be top players defensively at their respective positions. Castillo has won three Gold Gloves since 2003, and Feliz led all third basemen in the NL in fielding percentage last year.
Catcher: Carlos Ruiz vs. Brian Schneider
This one is a complete toss-up. Neither player could break a piñata with a Louisville Slugger, let alone carry a baseball team offensively, and last year, each player hit just six homers and drove in 54 runs. Ruiz batted 24 points higher, but Schneider is a career .252 hitter, so one season with a higher batting average isn’t enough to give the edge to Ruiz offensively. Schneider is considered to be the better defensive catcher, but both players threw out 31 percent of base-stealers last year, so it’s another statistical tie. Let’s just say that if either player is being mentioned in September as carrying their team, neither squad is headed for the playoffs.
Center field: Shane Victorino vs. Carlos Beltran
Big edge to the Mets here. Carlos Beltran is one of the best center fielders in the game. Victorino gets the edge in stolen bases, but that’s about it. Beltran is good for 30-40 homers per year, more than 100 RBIs, and is a true five-tool player.
Left field: Pat Burrell vs. Moises Alou
If Alou was five years younger, this would be Alou in a landslide, but he’ll turn 42 this year, and hasn’t played more than 100 games in a season since 2004. Pat Burrell, who frequently hears the boos from the Philly faithful, has hit 91 homers and driven in 310 runs in the last three seasons. As much as we may not like him, he gets on base and brings guys home when there are ducks on the pond. I can only count five other left fielders that I would choose over Burrell: Manny Ramirez, Matt Holliday, Carlos Lee, Barry Bonds (yep, if it meant a championship, I’d take Bonds on my team), and Alfonso Soriano. If Alou plays a full season, the edge goes to Alou, but if he can’t reach triple digits in games played, the edge goes to Pat the Bat.
Right field: Geoff Jenkins vs. Ryan Church
Jenkins is a proven right fielder who will give the Phillies 25 homers and 80 RBIs in 2008. The Mets are hoping that Ryan Church can turn into an everyday player and give them 15-20 homers after they let Shawn Green walk and traded Lastings Milledge. Edge to Jenkins.
Bullpen: Brad Lidge, Tom Gordon, J.C. Romero, Ryan Madson vs. Billy Wagner, Aaron Heilman, Duaner Sanchez
After watching the first five months of last season, it’s hard to believe it, but the Phillies actually have a solid bullpen! Tom Gordon and J.C. Romero were unbelievable last September, but Gordon is 40 years old, so it’s hard to say for certain what he’ll do this year. Brad Lidge should step comfortably into the closer role for the Phillies, and Ryan Madson was having an excellent season, with a 3.05 ERA, before ending the year on the disabled list. For the Mets, Billy “the Rat” Wagner is still one of the best closers in the game, but it is pretty shaky in front of him. Other than Heilman, who is essentially a healthier version of Madson, there isn’t much there to bridge the gap between the five-inning starts of Pedro and El Duque to Wagner. Edge to the Phillies...slightly.
So what did we find out? The Phils are better at first, second, shortstop, left field, right field, and in the bullpen. The Mets come out on top at third and center field. It’s a toss-up at catcher and in the starting rotation. The overall edge goes to the Phightins!
Most importantly, the Phillies are the defending champions, so it’s still on the shoulders of the Mets to erase last year’s epic collapse and overtake the Phillies. And as the great Ric Flair always says, “To be the man, you gotta beat the man,” and right now the Mets couldn’t beat any man wearing a Phillies jersey, let alone the National League East champion Phillies.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ahh, drinking the Philly Kool-Aid. Enjoy Brad Lidge in that sandbox, you fucking idiot.

February 17, 2008 7:16 PM  
Blogger Matthew Fleishman, Yardley News Editor said...

That Kool-aid tastes delicious...I believe the flavor is National League East CHAMPION red.

And Brad Lidge happened to play in Houston's Corporate Scandal Orange Juice Park, which is pretty small as well, especially considering Craig Biggio became a power hitter in that park.

...by the way, let's be adults here...no cursing necessary

February 17, 2008 11:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please don't correlate the words Philadelphia and champion. That's embarrassing.
You ask us to be adults when you're using catch phrases from Ric Flair? Interesting.

February 18, 2008 5:30 PM  
Blogger James said...

obviously you are a moron to let someones opinion on Philadelphia sports teams to upset you to the point to go to cursing and name calling. You are obviously not a mature adult in any sense, so, go to some other random blog where you can go give comments that have no point or discussion value.

February 22, 2008 6:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aww, it's always nice when friends stick up for each other.

February 23, 2008 6:33 PM  

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