From Last Night:
- Harvey and Kuroda deliver a classic duel in NY
- Lee dominates the Red Sox, wins 3-1
- Rays walk off against the Marlins
- McCann homers in the 10th to lift the Braves over the Jays
What I’m Watching Today:
- Zimmermann faces the Orioles in Baltimore (7p Eastern)
- McCarthy looks to stay hot against the Rangers (8p Eastern)
- Weaver returns to action against the Dodgers (10p Eastern)
The Big Question:
- How do you like some of these home and home series in MLB?
Cliff Lee in 2013: 7.03 K/9, 1.45 BB/9, 0.56 HR/9, 39.1 GB% 2.34 ERA, 2.84 FIP, 3.63 xFIP, 2.0 WAR
Rick Porcello in 2013: 7.06 K/9, 1.76 BB/9, 1.24 HR/9, 55.7 GB%, 5.29 ERA, 3.93 ERA, 3.15 xFIP, 0.7 WAR
Once their HR/FB rates normalize (5.5% to 19.4%), they’re basically the same pitcher with Porcello getting the ball on the ground more often. I’m not saying Porcello is going to be Cliff Lee, but so far, it’s not such a crazy thought. (Innings aside)
From Last Night:
- Matt Joyce walks-off in an 8-7 win over the Orioles
- Joey Votto, not to be outdone, hits a walk-off single not ten minutes later in a 5-4 win over the Halos
- Ervin Santana allows 3 HR in his Royals debut, loses to the White Sox
- Matt Harvey tosses 7 1-hit innings and fans 10 Padres in an 8-4 win
- Halladay strikes out 9, walks 3, and allows 5 runs in 3 1/3 innings in a loss to the Braves
What I’m Watching Today:
- Cliff Lee and Kris Medlen face off in Atlanta in the only premier pitching matchup of the day (7p Eastern)
The Big Question:
- Which #3/4 starters will give their teams a boost in the first week?
The early season is a great time for hilarious quirks of small sample sizes. Those of you who follow me on Twitter know that yesterday I was abuzz about Yu Darvish’s -0.27 FIP. In other words, FIP thinks his strikeout rate, walk rate, homerun rate, and IFFB rate should yield outcomes that literally take runs away from the opposing team. That is quite impressive. Another sample size issue I’m tracking is which player is the first past 1.0 WAR. As I write this, Darvish’s 0.6 is the closest, but on average we wouldn’t expect to see it happen until we were about 10-20 games into the season. I think my money will be on Harper. Much of what happened last night can be encapsulated in the lines above, but yesterday was the first day in which all 30 teams were in action and the benefits of that were reaped by those of us watching around 10pm. I really missed watching MLB Network go back and forth as so many games went down to the wire. Man, baseball is great and I’m never sleeping again.
Over the last nine weeks, we’ve chronicled the best players at each field position and the best starters the AL has to offer. Here, we’ll wrap up this particular run with the National League’s best starters.
I’ve often commented on the level of difficulty each list gave me during its construction, and this one, like the AL list, gave me trouble because there were a good number of candidates for the back half of the list. I feel strongly about the top five, but I think 6-15 could go in a lot of directions.
I hope you’ve enjoyed these rankings as a topic of debate and a way to preview the 2013 season. We’ll pick up next Saturday with other types The Nine lists, but we’ll revisit these lists throughout the season to see how well they prepared us for the future.
9. Johnny Cueto (Reds)
Cueto has pretty consistently outperformed his peripherals in the past and finally had a top shelf season this year in Cincinnati. Cueto remains in his prime and pitches in front of a pretty complete team. I thought about some other guys for this spot, and it killed me to leave Halladay off this list, but this one feels right.
8. Zach Greinke (Dodgers)
Greinke is now a very wealthy man and has a friendly home ballpark. He’s got great stuff but is susceptible to blow up innings. If there wasn’t a bit of a question about his elbow for the start of the season, he’d be a bit higher. Greinke is as talented as almost anyone on the list, but he tends to underperform his peripherals and his health is a bit uncertain.
7. Matt Cain (Giants)
Cain is an absolute workhouse with great control whose WAR undervalues him because it doesn’t appreciate his apparent ability to limit BABIP. He’s never missed a start in seven seasons, clearly has no-hit stuff and is very reliable. The ace of the world champs belongs on any list of this kind, and his contract looks incredible compared to some of the big signings of late.
6. Gio Gonzalez (Nationals)
Gio is a bit wild, but the strikeout rate and the walk rate are trending in the right direction. I’m not his biggest fan and there will certainly be steroid talk this season, but the numbers are telling me he’s a top six starter for next season. I’d rather have Cain or Greinke on my club, but if we’re going to try to be objective about next year, we probably have to give the edge to Gio.
5. Adam Wainwright (Cardinals)
Wainwright had two Cy Young type seasons in 2009 and 2010 before missing all of 2011 after having Tommy John’s Surgery. It took him a few months to return to form, and looks locked in and ready to go. He’s one of the best pitchers in the game when he’s healthy and all signs point to a big season from the 31 year old ace of the Cardinals.
4. Cliff Lee (Phillies)
Lee is coming off five excellent seasons in which he threw 211 innings or more. He has amazing control and a fine strikeout rate. He only has one Cy Young on his shelf, but this lefty ace could easily have a couple more. He is, without a doubt, owner of the best 6-9 season in baseball history and shows no sign of slowing down.
3. Cole Hamels (Phillies)
Everything about Cole Hamels’ game is awesome. Strikeouts, few walks, durability. He doesn’t quite have the ceiling of the others, but he’s consistency keeps him at the top of this list. The changeup is one of the best in the game and he remains the youngest of the Phillies aces heading into 2013.
2. Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers)
Kershaw is awesome. I don’t think I have to say anything else. He’s 25, has a Cy Young and a couple of near misses. He’s the best left handed pitcher in the game and should be for years to come. The only question about Kershaw is if he or Verlander will break the $200 million barrier for starters.
1. Stephen Strasburg (Nationals)
Last season was all about the innings limit. When he’s allowed to pitch, he is off the charts incredible. His career strikeout rate is 11.21 with a 2.71 BB/9. If he can hold up and stay healthy, he’s the best pitcher in the league. His stuff is amazing to watch. Is he Justin Verlander? Maybe not. Is he as close as any right hander in the game, you bet. Stephen Strasburg is the real deal.
What do you think? Kershaw or Strasburg? Or, someone else?
81-81, 3rd in the NL East
After years atop the NL East, the Phillies stubbed their toe in 2012. Picked by many to head back to the playoffs, they finished the season .500 and failed to make the playoffs for the first time in six seasons.
The disappointment comes in two phases. The offense problems were predictable. Carlos Ruiz (5.5 WAR) had a very strong season behind the plate before his offseason suspension and Jimmy Rollins (4.4) provided a lot of value at short. Chase Utley (3.2) was very good, but only played half a season. Shane Victorino’s 2.2 WAR in 101 games was also a good showing, even if he isn’t the player he used to be.
Other than that, the Phillies didn’t get a lot of great offensive contributions and were very average as a team.
Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels had down-ballot Cy Young Type seasons, but Roy Halladay had an injury plagued campaign. Halladay was a solid starter in 2012, but that’s a far cry from his “best in the game” credentials. Vance Worley, Kyle Kendrick, and Joe Blanton combined to fill out the remaining rotation spots and did a respectable job doing so.
Jonathan Papelbon had a good season in the first year of his too-big contract, but the rest of the bullpen struggled. The rotation was top ten, but the bullpen was mediocre.
Collectively, the Phillies were just an average team in a tough division. They played better later on in the season and got some top flight performances from their stars, but not enough to live up to their high expectations.
The rotation is still great heading into 2013 and Ben Revere in center and the-maybe-upgrade of Michael Young at third should give them a boost. Ryan Howard is still a serious problem at first. The corner outfield is still up in the air.
The Phillies should be better in 2013, but they played below their potential in 2012.
2012 Grade: C
Early 2013 Projection: 85-77