Pretty much everybody awarded the 2011 National League East title to the Phillies when they landed Cliff Lee to go with Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt. Now Baseball Prospectus, the best of the many numbers-heavy baseball sites, joins the queue.
Writing for ESPN Insiders, Ben Lindbergh of BP projects the Philies to make it five division titles in a row. (Link requires registration.) Interestingly enough, Lindbergh doesn’t gush. Indeed, he and his numbers project 91 victories for a team that won 97 in 2010.
As for the Braves: Mr. Lindbergh has them finishing second in the East at 87-75, which would also mark a recession. (The Braves were 91-71 last season.) He forecasts that Dan Uggla will hit 29 home runs — nothing like being exact in a prediction, eh? — and thinks the Braves should outscore the Phillies. But here are Mr. Lindbergh’s quibbles regarding the Braves, and I quote it in its entirety because they’re also two of mine.
Uggla’s arrival isn’t all good news, as the slugger isn’t known for his leather (at least not in a good way). Between his presence at the keystone, Martin Prado’s forced relocation to left field and a heavier dose of Chipper Jones at third, the Braves stand to take a hit defensively. They also figure to lose ground in the bullpen, thanks to the departures of Billy Wagner and Takashi Saito, and expected regression from younger arms. Even if they don’t miss Bobby Cox, they will miss last year’s run prevention, since PECOTA [that's a Prospectus numerical projection thingy] expects them to allow more than 70 more runs than they did last season.
Mr. Lindbergh identifies starting pitcher Brandon Beachy as a Brave who could surprise and reliever Jonny Venters as one who could disappoint. (His reasoning on Venters: He doesn’t have a career history of striking out a lot of guys, although he struck out a lot of guys as a rookie.) And with that, I leave you to feel all glum as we await the first full-squad workout, which comes Saturday at Disney.
By Mark Bradley