When we last left our heros, we were taking a look at the NL East position players, giving out 5 points for the best player at each position, 1 point for the worst. The Nats finished up the position player round well ahead of most of the competition. Here’s where we stand coming into the pitching round of the competition:
SCORE: DC (35), NY (25), MIA (24), PHI (19), ATL (17)
This whole ranking is far from hard science, but it gets even worse when trying to figure out who slots in to what starter role. Who is the Nats #1 starter? #2? I put it in order that made sense to me, so back off! What is the accepted order of the other teams in the division? I did my best to keep it to what I think is the most likely rotation for each team, and if the order changes, it will affect the points given. But such is life, we forge ahead.
1. Nationals – Max Scherzer
2. Phillies – Cole Hamels
3. Marlins – Mat Latos
4. Mets – Matt Harvey
5. Braves – Julio Teheran
I put Scherzer 1 for the Nats because, you know, he won a Cy Young two seasons ago and finished top 5 last year, and he’s the opening day guy. He goes above Hamels because while Hamels was great last year, Scherzer was great the last two seasons. Better FIP, moving leagues, all that stuff makes him the leader here. Call him the $210M man, but if we’re going by strikeouts, two seasons makes him Max 500. Whatever else you call him, you’d be pretty safe calling him the best pitcher int he NL East. Mat Latos is a really great pitcher, too, but he was not completely healthy last season so it’s hard to put him above the top guys. Harvey is great but his innings are probably going to be limited next season coming off surgery, so his overall value won’t be there this year. Teheran is a good young pitcher, but I don’t think he’s quite the class of the rest of this group.
SCORE: DC (40), NY (27), MIA (27), PHI (23), ATL (18)
1. Nationals – Stephen Strasburg
2. Marlins – Henderson Alvarez
3. Mets – Jacob DeGrom
4. Phillies – Cliff Lee
5. Braves – Mike Minor
Thanks to recent developments, Strasburg isn’t too tough of a choice here. Before Lee’s injury, it was close between the two.. Over the last two seasons, Lee’s ERA+ is 121, Strasburg’s is 122. Over the last three they’re both at 124. But Lee is 36 years old and either needs a few months of rest, with a possibility of just retiring. Henderson Alvarez had a very good year last year, and DeGrom will probably be better than him, just maybe not this year. Both are strong, but would I rather have Strasburg? Hell Yes. A healthy Lee is probably an easy #2 choice, but that’s not the situation anymore. Any chance of him coming back keeps him off the bottom of the list. Mike Minor is not horrible, but he’s not as good as these guys.
SCORE: DC (45), MIA (31), NY (30), PHI (25), ATL (19)
1. Nationals – Jordan Zimmermann
2. Marlins – Jose Fernandez
3. Braves – Shelby Miller
4. Mets –
Zack Wheeler Dillon Gee
5. Phillies – Aaron Harang
You could make the argument that Jordan Zimmermann is the Nats number one (and many people on twitter did just that when I asked). I think that he’s number three here and nobody will legitimately think that’s insane shows just how good this rotation is. If looks anything like he did last year, he’ll get to run off and be a Gold Digger (well, he’ll get a ton of money), and the man will deserve it. Fernandez might only start half the season, so I didn’t feel like I could place him higher than this spot in the rotation. But he so good, I can’t stick him at the back end. And yeah, Miller is a decent pitcher, but I’d take a half year of Fernandez over him. Wheeler basically had a league average ERA last year in his first full season edit: But in between writing and publishing this, he hit the DL and will be getting TJ surgery. I threw in his replacement Dillon Gee, who really belongs in the #4 or 5 spot depending on how much you ignore Bartolo Colon’s numbers in favor of his entertainment value. Harang was bad from April 30 on last year (4.07 ERA).
SCORE: DC (50), MIA (35), NY (32), PHI (26), ATL (22)
1. Nationals – Doug Fister
2. Braves – Alex Wood
3. Mets – Jon Niese
4. Marlins – Dan Haren
5. Phillies – Jerome Williams
In the end, it doesn’t matter which National is the #4 and which is the #5, because they’d both top each grouping. I went with Fister here because I asked my Twitter friends, and they demanded it. Alex Wood is young and he was really good last season, if things go right for him, he might Wake Up next season as the Braves #2 man. Niese is nothing special, but he’s not bad. You know what Haren does, the good and the bad, and some of you might remember what Jerome Williams does and doesn’t do.
SCORE: DC (55), MIA (37), NY (35), PHI (27), ATL (26)
1. Nationals – Gio Gonzalez
2. Marlins – Jarrod Cosart/Tom Koehler
3. Mets – Bartolo Colon
4. Phillies – Chad Billingsley/David Buchanan
5. Braves – Mike Foltynewicz
Gio should get bonus points for how much better he’ll be than everyone else. His only problem in the past has been walks, so as long as he doesn’t Lose Control, he’s a top tier starter and a Cy Young candidate at his very best. Cosart is a young pitcher with good stuff but control problems of his own, and Koehler had a good year last year. The two will start while baseball waits for Jose Fernandez to come back. Billingsley, if healthy, will be ok, nothing special. But Buchanan isn’t good, and he’ll probably have to pitch quite a bit for Billingsley. And Foltynewicz is worse.
SCORE: DC (60), MIA (41), NY (38), PHI (29), ATL (27)
1. Braves – Craig Kimbrel
2. Phillies – Jonathan Papelbon
3. Nationals – Drew Storen
4. Marlins – Steve Cishek
5. Mets – Jenrry Mejia
Kimbrel is the best closer in the game, and Papelbon was spectacular last season. The Storen that reappeared last season was also great, and certainly isn’t far behind Papelbon. Of course, when he appears in the postseason it may give some Nats fans a Panic Attack, but he’s a very good pitcher. Cishek is also very good, although in 2014 he was as dominant as he had been in the past. Mejia was not particularly good last season, but he’s young and should be a strong closer at some point.
FINAL SCORE: DC (63), MIA (43), NY (39), PHI (33), ATL (32)
Some final thoughts on each team, and how they should fare this season:
Nationals – 63 Points (The New Pornographers)
No surprise that the Nats top the list, but the distance that they’ve left the others behind is impressive. It’s not close – if you put a couple of their guys down a slot or two, they’re still running away with this. Their lineup is strong enough to put them ahead of everyone in the first part of this assessment, their pitching staff might be unprecedented. A clean sweep among the starting pitcher ranking certainly is unprecedented. They have the shortest odds to win the World Series in Vegas right now, they have the best opportunity to win, and they have to Use It, because opportunities like this don’t come along every year.
Marlins – 43 Points (Panic! At the Disco)
I picked the Marlins to finish dead last in 2014, and they surprised me by finishing second-to-last, and managing 77 wins. They got better in the offseason, but other than the addition of Mat Latos, I think they basically got league average players (or slightly worse) to replace guys that were essentially replacement level. I’m not going to write that they’re going to be a disaster, I Write Sins Not Tragedies, after all. This team has been a tragedy for so many seasons – they won’t be that this year, but that lineup and rotation has too many sins to make them a real threat to the division title.
Mets – 39 Points (A Perfect Circle)
Despite signing Cuddyer, the Mets were too Passive offseason to make a big difference in their fortunes. The Mets and the Marlins are, however, pretty close, and I could see the Mets being the better team. Baseball Prospectus’s PECOTA actually has them as a win above the Marlins, and only one win behind the 2nd Wild Card spot. While I might pick them to beat the Marlins, and I could see them being in the race for that spot, I don’t think they’ll really be in the race that late in the season. If they are, people in DC might be interested to see what they do with Matt Harvey late in the season.
Phillies – 33 Points (Green Day)
This is going to be a bad team. Their saving grace that kept them off the bottom of the pile is a few exceptional players that topped lists at Catcher, 2B, and pitcher. But since over half their points come from just four guys, it indicates just how bad the rest of the team is. And believe me, it’s gonna be bad. Their fans will be saying Wake Me Up When September Ends.
Atlanta – 32 Points (Mike Doughty)
Are the Braves really going to be worse than the Phillies? I’m not sure, I think the Phillies might end up as the worst team in baseball. But the Braves are gonna be bad, too. They have some interesting young pitching, but most of those guys don’t have the ceiling of, say, the young pitching in New York. And with almost no offense to speak of, they’re going to be looking up at the rest of the league, feeling like they’re Looking at the World from the Bottom of a Well.