Change-UpFebruary 27, 2009
National League East Division Preview (Featuring Kevin Kernan)
By Patrick Sullivan

It’s preview season, folks, and we're shifting gears for 2009. We are scrapping the Two on Two format we have run the past few years. It was fun, conversational and we had some talented guests. But they were looooong and light on numbers. We're changing it up this season.

Here’s the deal. For hitters we take PECOTA and the four projection systems on Fangraphs. Fangraphs, by the way, is awesome. They are doing terrific, differentiated, value-add work and if you are a regular reader of Baseball Prospectus and/or The Hardball Times, you should add Fangraphs to your favorites as well. Anyway, we average all five of these projection systems to give you a sense for how the number crunchers see the players performing this season.

For pitchers, in the interest of keeping things simple and consistent, we go with the three projection systems readily available on the Fangraphs player pages. No PECOTA because the data presentation was not as compatible with the numbers we wanted to display.

We went with depth charts from Some of the players penciled in below will not be starting, and some might not break camp. But we figured this was a pretty good way to go. As we draw closer to Opening Day with the other divisions, we will look to implement as accurate of an indication as possible with regard to who figures to start at each position.

You will then get brief commentary from me, from another Baseball Analysts contributor (today it’s Papa Bear, Rich) and then a member of the mainstream media. What’s a preview without someone who managed to emerge from their Mom’s basement?

Today we kick off with the NL East, and we are grateful to Kevin Kernan of the New York Post for participating.


                AVG   OBP   SLG
Ruiz, C.       .253  .332  .378
Schneider, B.  .249  .326  .368
Baker, J.      .259  .337  .394
McCann, B.     .296  .362  .506
Flores, J.     .249  .306  .408

Kevin: Mets have to get some offense from Brian Schneider, who insists he is better prepared for the challenge of playing in New York this year.

Sully: The 25-year old Brian McCann is the strongest of this bunch but I will be interested to see if John Baker can build on his .299/.392/.447 stint in the Big Leagues last season.

Rich: McCann, hands down. His 2008 season was about halfway between his 2006 and 2007 campaigns. I see no reason why he won't put up similar numbers this year. In the meantime, I've got the unders on Baker repeating those rate stats as a sophomore.

First Base

                AVG   OBP   SLG
Howard, R.     .271  .369  .562
Delgado, C.    .265  .350  .492
Cantu, J.      .270  .321  .455
Kotchman, C.   .281  .348  .431
Dunn, A.       .246  .378  .506

Rich: Ryan Howard is in the prime of his career and reportedly in great shape. What's not to like? I meant with respect to Howard, not Florida's and Atlanta's first basemen.

Kevin: Over a 23 day span in September the revitalized Carlos Delgado slugged seven home runs and drove in 19 runs. Over that same stretch Ryan Howard hit 11 home runs and drove in 31 runs. Enough said.

Sully: Some announcer is going to remark in September that Jorge Cantu, with 23 home runs and 89 RBI is having "another productive year". Take it to the bank.

Second Base

                AVG   OBP   SLG
Utley, C.      .295  .376  .515
Castillo, L.   .276  .354  .340
Uggla, D.      .259  .340  .477
Johnson, K.    .281  .362  .453
Hernandez, A.  .245  .295  .337

Sully: In a division loaded with individual stars, Chase Utley remains the very best. Now 30, it will be interesting to see how long he can keep up the HOF-caliber output (with the bat and glove) that we have seen from Utley since he burst onto the MLB scene in 2005. Four second basemen have had a better OPS+ in their 26-29 seasons: Rogers Hornsby, Nap Lajoie, Eddie Collins and Rod Carew. Not bad.

Rich: If Utley is healthy from the get go, he is the class of this group, followed by Dan Uggla, Kelly Johnson, and . . . yuck . . . I'll leave it at those three.

Kevin: Draw up a second baseman that is a winner and you have Chase Utley. Jerry Manuel is trying to pump new life in Luis Castillo, saying he could bat leadoff. Utley, who is always self-motivating, is coming back from hip surgery.

Third Base

                AVG   OBP   SLG
Feliz, P.      .251  .297  .417
Wright, D.     .307  .397  .536
McPherson, D.  .228  .310  .439
Jones, C.      .322  .420  .545
Zimmerman, R.  .288  .351  .472

Sully: When you factor durability, it's hard to take Chipper Jones over David Wright but my goodness, how good is Chipper? If he can muster another excellent full season or two and steer clear of too steep of a decline phase, he has an outside chance of finishing up as the finest third baseman ever to play. Go look for yourself. It's nuts.

Rich: It is nuts. Nobody is passing Mike Schmidt anytime soon. As close as Chipper and Michael Jack are offensively, don't forget defense. Jones is a no brainer Hall of Famer but Schmidt is the best third baseman in the history of baseball.

Kevin: Look for Wright to make big-time adjustment this season as Mets are working on hitting the ball the other way in special drills designed by Manuel. Chipper is the model third baseman.


                AVG   OBP   SLG
Rollins, J.    .281  .343  .454
Reyes, J.      .294  .355  .456
Ramirez, H.    .306  .383  .524
Escobar, Y.    .291  .362  .409
Guzman, C.     .298  .337  .423

Sully: Not a bad one in the group, but give me the perennial MVP candidate, defensive warts and all.

Rich: Now we're talking, Sully. I love Jose Reyes but Hanley Ramirez might be the most valuable property in the game.

Kevin: Numbers don’t tell the entire story of this position. Jimmy Rollins has an inner toughness that enables him to lift his game at the most vital times. This is the Division of Shortstops. Not a bad duo for Dominican team in WBC with Reyes and Ramirez.

Left Field

                 AVG   OBP   SLG
Ibanez, R.      .282  .346  .466
Murphy, D.      .281  .347  .438
Ross, C.        .264  .329  .483
Anderson, G.    .280  .319  .433
Willingham, J.  .264  .361  .466

Sully: Whereas the NL East is loaded with talent around the infield, it is much thinner in the outfield. I am unsure as to who the best left fielder in the division is, but I do not think that one of Raul Ibanez, Cody Ross or Josh Willingham should be the best at their position in any division! On a side note, isn't Matt Diaz better than Garret Anderson?

Rich: Aren't left fielders supposed to hit? I mean, really hit? Take the best batting, on-base, and slugging average and you only get .282/.361/.483. Yikes!

Kevin: Just think how much fun this division would be if Mets had signed Manny Ramirez. Look for Mets Daniel Murphy to establish himself this season.

Center Field

                 AVG   OBP   SLG
Victorino, S.   .284  .345  .429
Beltran, C.     .278  .366  .502
Maybin, C.      .268  .332  .427
Anderson, J.    .283  .329  .376
Milledge, L.    .277  .345  .433

Sully: It's rare that someone joins a big market team and then becomes underappreciated but is that what we are seeing with Carlos Beltran? After his ridiculous 2004 post-season, Beltran joined the Mets and save for a lackluster first season in Flushing, has been one of the best players in baseball. He's on a HOF track.

Rich: No contest here. Beltran is the man. He's the full package, a five-tool player capable of changing games with his bat, glove, arm, or legs.

Kevin: No one has more confidence than Shane Victorino and that cannot be undersold. Beltran says his knees are healthy again. For all the money the Mets spent on Beltran, they have one playoff appearance to show for it.

Right Field

                 AVG   OBP   SLG
Werth, J.       .272  .365  .468
Church, R.      .266  .345  .448
Hermida, J.     .271  .352  .447
Francoeur, J.   .271  .319  .433
Dukes, E.       .260  .366  .458

Sully: If Elijah Dukes can stay healthy and clean up his act, the sky's the limit. He's an excellent defender with a good handle on the strike zone and solid pop.

Rich: Wow, this division really is thin in the outfield. While there is some talent in this group, it's been more promise than production thus far.

Kevin: Jeff Francouer has made some big changes in his swing. If Ryan Church falters, Mets will go out and get big-time right-fielder at the trade deadline.

Starting Pitching

              W-L    K/9   BB/9   WHIP   ERA
Hamels, C.    14-8   8.42   2.35   1.13  3.36
Myers, B.     10-9   7.90   3.10   1.33  4.17
Blanton, J.   11-10  5.54   2.57   1.33  4.02
Moyer, J.     10-10  5.45   2.88   1.41  4.57
Kendrick, K.   8-8   4.44   2.87   1.45  4.81
New York
               W-L    K/9   BB/9   WHIP   ERA
Santana, J.   15-8   8.82   2.38   1.12  3.19
Maine, J.     10-10  7.78   3.81   1.34  3.99
Perez, O.     10-10  8.56   4.55   1.42  4.34
Pelfrey, M.   10-10  5.77   3.36   1.43  4.26
Garcia, F.     6-6   6.56   2.75   1.34  4.28
               W-L    K/9   BB/9   WHIP   ERA
Nolasco, R.   11-9   7.53   2.25   1.24   3.92
Johnson, J.    7-5   7.69   3.46   1.38   3.93
Volstad,C.     8-7   5.88   3.74   1.43   4.32
Sanchez, A.    6-6   7.29   4.04   1.43   4.32
Miller, A.     6-7   7.63   4.57   1.53   4.67
               W-L    K/9   BB/9   WHIP   ERA 
Lowe, D.      13-9   5.99   2.46   1.27   3.60
Vazquez, J.   13-10  8.54   2.45   1.22   3.75
Jurrjens, J.  10-8   6.73   3.28   1.36   3.93
Kawakami, K.  --------
Glavine, T.    6-6   4.94   3.62   1.51   4.81
               W-L    K/9   BB/9   WHIP   ERA
Olsen, S.     9-12   6.45   3.47   1.44   4.66
Cabrera, D.   8-10   6.83   4.63   1.52   4.81
Lannan, S.    8-11   5.68   3.63   1.40   4.27
Hill, S.       4-5   5.69   2.76   1.41   4.32
Balester, C.   6-8   6.45   3.31   1.43   4.80

Sully: Live arms and long games in Miami this season!

Rich: While the Phillies and Mets sport the two best pitchers in the division (if not the league), don't underestimate Atlanta's starters, especially if Kenshin Kawakami is as good as his breaking ball. Derek Lowe has been underrated for far too long and Javier Vazquez's outstanding peripherals are bound to result in a better ERA in the NL than the AL.

Kevin: Johan Santana and Cole Hamels will fight it out for Cy Young. Little known Hamels fact: A former Mets farmhand named Fred Westfall was Hamels first pitching coach when he was in the Carmel Mountain Ranch Little League in San Diego and was the first to begin to teach Hamels the changeup.


                 K/9    BB/9   WHIP   ERA
Lidge, B.      11.10    4.13   1.27   3.39
Madson, R.      7.22    2.92   1.33   4.00
Durbin, C.      6.48    3.42   1.37   4.15
New York
                 K/9    BB/9   WHIP   ERA
Rodriguez, F.  10.86    4.01   1.21   2.91
Putz, J.        9.89    3.21   1.19   3.21  
Sanchez, D.     6.94    3.51   1.35   3.94
                 K/9    BB/9   WHIP   ERA
Lindstrom, M.   7.64    3.85   1.43   4.00
Nunez, L.       7.05    2.95   1.29   3.81
Kensing, L.     8.66    4.68   1.42   4.20
                 K/9    BB/9   WHIP   ERA
Gonzalez, M.    9.41    3.91   1.28   3.43
Acosta. M.      7.07    4.97   1.48   4.26
Boyer, B.       7.85    3.89   1.45   4.49
                 K/9    BB/9   WHIP   ERA
Hanrahan, J.    8.74    4.19   1.43   4.10
Rivera, S.      6.73    3.85   1.44   3.98
Shell, S.       7.46    3.14   1.33   4.18

Sully: Philadelphia and New York are head and shoulders above the rest of the division, at least as we look at it at this point. Bullpens are tough to predict and maybe some arms will emerge for the other teams but for now, it is the bullpen that seems to represent the biggest area of separation between the class of the division and the also-rans.

Rich: Brad Lidge was 48-for-48 in save opportunities (including the postseason) and led all relievers in Win Probability Added last season. Get this, he has averaged 12.50 K/9 over the course of his six-year career. K-Rod and J.J. are upgrades for the Mets, at least versus the post-Billy Wagner days last season.

Kevin: K-Rod t-shirt ($28) is four dollars more than David Wright t-shirt. Omar has put his money in the bullpen to try to match up with Lidge after Mets blew 29 saves in 2008.


Sully: I like Philadelphia's bench. Ronny Paulino might help, and Geoff Jenkins could bounce back and once again pound on righties the way he had his whole career.

Rich: The benches don't look all that great to me. Look for a late free agent signing or a rookie (Jordan Schafer?) making the difference here.

Kevin: Phils seem to understand this concept better than most teams.

Who are the awards candidates from the NL East?

Kevin: The MVP and Cy Young will come out of this division, Hamels or Santana. Reyes will be in the MVP race.

Rich: Kevin may be right. The MVP and Cy Young winners could very well come from the NL East. I'd like to see Utley get his due, but I think the Mets third baseman has all the Wright stuff this year. If the Cy Young Award winner emerges from this division, look for Hamels to nab his first or Santana his third. However, Ricky Nolasco's K-BB-GB rates were just as good as those put up by Hamels and Santana last year, and there wasn't a better pitcher in the league from June 10 - through the end of the season.

Sully: There are some obvious ones in Philadelphia and New York but how about Hanley or Chipper? Hanley may need the fish to surprise to get any attention and Chipper will have to defy the medical odds but I think both are MVP caliber talents.

Any surprises this year?

Sully: Rich alluded to this above, but I think Atlanta's starting pitching allows them to hang around deep into the season.

Rich: Uggla gets traded in July and winds up in the postseason.

Kevin: Mets will not choke.


Rich: I will be shocked if the Phillies or Mets don't wind up on top this year. The club that finishes second will win the wild card. Let's say, Mets, Phillies, Braves, Marlins, and Nationals with Florida closer to third than fifth.

1. Mets
2. Phils (wild card winner)
3. Atlanta
4. Florida
5. Nationals

Sully: Well isn't this boring? I think I am with both of you guys here. That looks right to me.

Thanks, Rich and thanks especially to Kevin! Until next Friday...


I think you meant Rogers Hornsby not Honus Wagner in your list of second basemen. Wagner played all over the park, but rarely at 2B. Hornsby's OPS+ is much higher than Utley's for that age range and he played most of his games at 2B.

Shocked if the Braves win 89 games and the division? Really, Rich? PECOTA gives them a 1 in 4 chance. I think you're dead on about the rotation which doesn't have the star power of NY's or Philly's but is certainly the deepest.

And good calls on the OF depth. I used to think it was just the Braves, but it really is pathetic division-wide. Funny to think how much the Braves and Mets could've upgraded by spending a few more bucks in this market.

Inner toughness or not, there is no way anybody should prefer Jimmy Rollins to Hanley Ramirez.

Same idea applies to Victorino and this high confidence he apparently has. That's nice and all, but give me Beltran anyday over Shane.

William, thanks for pointing that out. Just a goof on my part.

Something is definitely amiss with Jimmy Rollin’s OBP. The guy has a career .333 OBP. Or is he projected to turn into Rickey Henderson at the plate? At the age of thirty? As a Mets fan, I sure hope not.

Fixed, Mitch...good catch.

mraver: Upon further reflection, maybe "shocked" is too strong of a word. "Surprised" would have been a better choice and more descriptive of my sentiments. In other words, I don't think I would be "shocked" if the Braves won the NL East, but I would be "surprised."

A few thoughts... (1) Have to agree with Sully on Cantu. His offensive production is underrated and Florida obviously thought well enough of him last year to keep 42 home runs sitting in Triple A! ---- (2) Can't argue with Mike Schmidt's 10 Gold Gloves, but Chipper Jones had to compete with the defense of Scott Rolen and Ken Caminiti. Who was Schmidt's big competition? ---- (3) Can Maybin live up to the hype? And would that hype have been there if fantasy baseball didn't exist? Hmm. ---- (4) Sully...Dukes over Frenchy? Please. My money's on a repeat of 2006 (not quite 2007). ---- - Matt

Well, I would be "shocked" if the Braves won the NL East. The only case I can make for them would involve the shaky rotations of the Mets and Phillies (after their aces) being exposed due to injury and/or regression. Javy Vazquez has had 1 good year in the past 5 seasons, plus what can be expected from Kawakami and Glavine? Perhaps Hanson could be a shot in the arm.

I love the Marlins' rotation and would pick them as a surprise if they didn't get cheap with the lineup.

Matthew: Sully was being facetious. Not that 23 HR and 89 RBI aren't "productive" numbers in and of themselves but if Cantu puts up these stats as a first baseman (rather than as a third baseman), then they need to be viewed in the proper context. Furthermore, Cantu does little else as he rarely walks and doesn't add a whole lot defensively or on the bases.

The fact that Schmidt was a better defensive player than Jones has little or nothing to do with how many Gold Gloves they won. Defensive prowess can be measured without resorting to such awards. The fact that "Jones had to compete with the defense of Scott Rolen and Ken Caminiti" is neither here nor there. Schmidt saved (many) more runs than Jones and was a (much) better defensive third baseman.

"Uggla gets traded in July and winds up in the postseason."

Interesting theory, Rich. Off the top of my head, potential postseason teams who could "use" Uggla's services are the Rays, Twins, Cubs, Cards, and D'Backs. Personally, I think Uggla's got a hole in his swing AND his glove, so I wouldn't worry too much if my team had to face him in October.

I know they are world series champs and all but I think Philly is getting too much credit here. Especially if Utley misses time I think they are in trouble with their staff. Good to see Kevin representing the grit party in the preview, don't want to leave that out.

Phils did alright last year when picked 2nd or 3rd here, and did OK when picked 1st the year before.

The Mets stink.