julien's baseball blog

Some moves are slightly good. Some moves are slightly bad. I tell you about them.
Friday, December 01, 2006
 
mets or braves?
rotoworld says that the mets have a better chance of reaching the playoffs next year than the braves. murray chass implies the same in today's new york times.

both claims are unsupported. worse, both claims are wrong. i'm used to irresponsible journalism, but it still frustrates me.

have people forgotten that the braves won 14 consecutive division titles? after one off year, have they forgotten how to win?

the answer to the first question is i don't know. the answer to the second question is no. as long as bobby cox and john schuerholz are running things, the braves will be contenders. unless they get senile.

but that's a long way away. the mets got ridiculously lucky last year, the braves ridiculously unlucky. let's go through a position-by-position analysis:

catcher
mets: paul lo duca
braves: brian mccann

brian mccann is the best catcher in the major leagues. joe mauer would also have been an acceptable answer. mauer has better patience and better contact, but mccann has much better power. and defense i gotta give to mccann.

victor martinez is also good. but this is about lo duca. he makes great contact, but he doesn't walk and has no power. he's good at handling a pitching staff. whatever. big edge to the braves.

first base
mets: carlos delgado
braves: adam laroche

delgado gets the edge here, but it's not as big as you might think. in 524 at-bats, carlos had 70 extra-base hits, 74 walks, and 120 strikeouts. laroche, in 492 at-bats, had 71 extra-base hits, 55 walks, and 128 strikeouts. those numbers are very comparable. also, delgado is in the decline phase of his career, while laroche is on the way up, so the braves could get the edge at any time.

second base
mets: who knows?
braves: marcus giles

big edge to the braves. marcus has struggled since he broke his collarbone in 2004. his power has been down, and he's swinging too much. but his power could come back, and when he's patient, he's successful. more importantly, the mets got nobody.

marcus is apparently a trade possibility, but so what, the mets still got nobody.

shortstop
mets: the outlaw jose reyes
braves: edgar renteria

renteria is a solid defender and quality hitter, but jose reyes is the most valuable player in the national league. ryan howard? give me a break. pujols, you could argue for. but it's reyes. he plays shortstop. he hit 30 doubles, 17 triples, and 19 home runs. he plays shortstop. he stole 64 bases. he plays shortstop. he also walked 53 times, and struck out only 81 times. the mvp vote has become the rbi award, and it's ridiculous. big edge to the mets.

that triples number is retarded.

third base
mets: david wright
braves: chipper jones

it's the mets here again, but the edge is not that big. a lot depends on chipper's health. when he plays, he's one of the most dangerous hitters alive. but he doesn't always play. wright, of course, is one of the best young players in the game. this is a position of strength for both teams. even when chipper is hurt, the braves have wily aybar, who is vastly underrated. i'm tired of wily aybar not getting any respect.

lets do the outfield. andruw jones is still the best centerfielder in the game. carlos beltran is a truly great hitter, and also a very good fielder. after that, the braves have jeff francoeur, who is the next vladimir guerrero, matt diaz, a capable hitter, and kelly johnson and ryan langerhans, young players who could break out. the mets have moises alou and shawn green, who are old, endy chavez, who is mediocre, and lastings milledge, who is talented but has to go through an adjustment period.

put it all together and its a moderate edge for the braves.

what about the lineups in general? the braves have the outfield, brian mccann, and marcus giles. the mets have jose reyes and david wright. the difference here is jose reyes. the mets have what the braves lack: a leadoff hitter. who just happens to be the best player in the league.

but i think we can all agree the difference is not that great. mets fans may not agree. but my arguments are sound. either way, it doesn't matter, because the difference is the pitching.

the braves have john smoltz. john smoltz is still one of the best starting pitchers in the league. carpenter, webb, smoltz, oswalt. harang is in there too. peavy when he's healthy. zambrano. those are the guys.

who'd i leave out? pedro. pedro is obviously one of the great talents of his generation. but he's injured for most of the season. you never know if he'll pitch. you never know what he'll have.

after pedro, what do the mets have? nothing. seriously, they got nothing. john maine had some success, but he has yet to pitch a full season. orlando hernandez is good sometimes, but you can hardly count on him. steve trachsel is a guy. oliver perez is terrible. it's a mess.

the braves, on the other hand, have tim hudson, who is good. he had a nightmare season in 2006, but his talent will carry him through. they also have chuck james, who is a strong young talent. the rest is kind of a grab-bag: mike hampton, horacio ramirez, kyle davies, others. but it doesn't matter. the difference is smoltz. the team that has smoltz has a much better staff.

in relief, the addition of billy wagner was a big boost for the mets. but the braves have bob wickman, who is a quality reliever. and the rest of the bullpen will come together. it will not be the mess it was in 2006.

put it all together: the mets have a better lineup, but the braves have much better pitching. and it all comes down to one guy: john smoltz.

so if you see murray chass, tell him to stick it.

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