Monday, February 08, 2010

Atlanta Braves ZiPS Projections 2010: More Trouble

It really just has not been a good off-season for us Mets fans. From the fact that we had very little money to spend, to the fact that the money we DID spend we spent stupidly, things have been difficult. Just when you think matters cannot get worse, the Atlanta Braves ZiPS projections were released on Friday and, well, they look dangerous.

Once again, a huge thanks to Dan Szymborski for putting all the work into this. If you follow the link above to Baseball Think Factory, there is a link you can click to donate via Paypal and help support all of those great projects.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrapped up my three part review of the Mets ZiPS projections and concluded:
As currently constituted, the Mets would need a LOT of luck to compete this season. At a minimum, we need Reyes to remain healthy, Beltran to come back soon and healthy, for one of Pelfrey/Maine/Perez to really take a leap forward, and for Francisco Rodriguez to halt his slide.
This was based on a number of factors - but the primary reason was the apparent weakness of our starting rotation. Here is a look again at how our current top five project by ERA+:
1. Santana, 133 ERA+
2. Pelfrey, 89 ERA+
3. Maine, 103 ERA+
4. Perez, 88 ERA+
5. Niese, 95 ERA+

Beyond that, our reserve starters include luminaries such as Nelson Figueroa (5.06), Fernando Nieve (5.19), Tobi Stoner (5.58) and I literally do not know who else. In comparison, the Phillies have TEN pitchers projected to have an ERA better than 5.00 (incl. Moyer, Pedro, and even Rodrigo Lopez). Even the Nationals have a better projected rotation than this, even with the loss of Jordan Zimmermann to surgery. By adding Jason Marquis to Stephen Strasburg and John Lannan, they have a formidable trio up top.
Obviously, this is not good. Well, time to pile on. The Braves projections, particularly in the starting rotation, look fantastic:

Tommy Hanson: 136 ERA+
Jair Jurrjens: 125 ERA+
Tim Hudson: 115 ERA+ (19 starts)
Kenshin Kawakami: 110 ERA+
Derek Lowe: 107 ERA+

Following them are some youngsters I do not know much about in Jose Ortegano (4.90 ERA) and Scott Diamond (5.09 ERA) with Jo Jo Reyes being the next familiar option at an 87 ERA+. You read this all correctly: with the exception of Santana, the Braves have FIVE starters projected better than our #2 starter, the oft-injured John Maine.

You can poke holes in the projections all that you want[1], but this is going to be a team that can throw the ball pretty well. The top duo of Hanson and Jurrjens, in particular, looks to be fearsome. Add to that the fact that they are 23 and 24 years old respectively, and we have a big time (and cost-controlled) headache on our hands.

Of course, the Braves are very thin on the offensive side of the ball beyond Chipper Jones, and their bullpen is leaning heavily on two recently-injured relievers over the age of 38 (Takashi Saito and Billy Wagner). It is obvious that they need some luck with injuries and age in order to be able to compete. However, but this is a team that projects strongly and looks to get better before they get worse.

With a competent supporting cast on offense (nine Atlanta batters project to have an OPS+ of 100 or better), and the specter of SUPER prospect Jason Heyward on the horizon, the Braves could be trouble for a while.

[1] For what it is worth, I think there is a great deal more reason to be optimistic about the Mets' projections than the Braves projections.

Hanson would have to be truly great to be that good that soon, Jurrjens seems to have benefited a little bit from luck in the last two seasons, Hudson is an injury risk, and Derek Lowe appears to be nearing the end of his career with rapid speed.

On the other side, Pelfrey can only get better, and there is no reason why Oliver Perez won't be able to bounce back if healthy and post useful numbers.

That said, I think looking at the cold hard numbers is instructive. And these ones simply do not like us.

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