Michael/Male/26-30. Lives in United States/Pennsylvania/Wexford/Christopher Wren, speaks English. Spends 20% of daytime online. Uses a Fast (128k-512k) connection. And likes baseball /politics.
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Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Don't look now ... 

Don't look now, but guess what team is pitching (nearly) as well as the vaunted Atlanta Braves? The Phillies are trailing the Braves in ERA (3.32 to 4.03), but there is little difference between the two teams in FIP ERA:

NL East (ERA / FIP)
Marlins: 1.79 / 3.49
Braves: 3.32 / 4.27
Phillies: 4.03 / 4.39
Nationals: 5.32 / 4.54
Mets: 3.98 / 3.79

Here's what DIPS says (according to ESPN.com)
Florida: 3.64
Mets: 3.93
Braves: 4.29
Phillies: 4.43
Nationals: 4.51

(Mind you, these numbers don't include last night's game.) Again, not much of a varience. The Phillies have had some strong pitching from Jon Lieber, Brett Myers and Randy Wolf so far this season. The bullpen hasn't pitched well, and Floyd had a bad start, but the Phillies look much stronger on the mound than they did in 2004.

Generally speaking there is pretty good pitching in the NL East this year: three teams (Marlins, Braves and Mets) are doing better than the league average in FIP (4.29), and the Phillies and Nats aren't that far off the pace.

Pretty good defense too: four teams are doing the league average (the Phillies) in DER (.697) or are exceeding it (Braves, Mets and the Marlins). The Nats, the sole team behind the curve, aren't doing badly (.695) ... It is a testament to the quality of the division that all of these teams are so strong on pitching and defense. We really could see a four or even a five-way race for the division title.

Despite the fact that the Phillies are just 7-7, this year feels much different than 2003 or 2004. We all knew that Pat Burrell and David Bell's struggles doomed the team in '03. The pitching staff's collapse doomed the team in '04. This year feels different. The team feels very different this year. They've had trouble with the bullpen and David Bell is struggling again, but otherwise the Phillies are fine: Pat Burrell is on fire and the starting rotation of Wolf, Lieber and Myers are hurling well. Thome, Abreu and the rest of the lineup will start to hit with the summer coming up. This team will get stronger as the year gets on.

I can just imagine how good Paul DePodesta feels these days: mocked for his deals at the deadline last year, and the Dodgers still made the playoffs. Assailed for replacing Adrian Beltre and Shawn Green with Jeff Kent and J.D. Drew, the Dodgers are 10-2 and off to their best start since '81. All that hand-wringing about the loss of offense and the team is leading the NL in runs scored, ISO, GPA, OBP and slugging percentage. Guess who's laughing now?

Oh, and the Moneyball crowd that Joe Morgan, et al., so distains is laughing too because the Dodgers are so associated with sabremetrics. The Red Sox winning the World Series, the A's success, the Dodgers defying expectations ... I think Moneyball critics are having difficulty making out their case these days.

I must confess that my initial skepticism towards the New York Mets is softening a bit. Their deals may come back to bite them in the long-term (especially when Pedro's arm collapses), but they are playing better than I anticipated, especially after their 0-5 start. Maybe my friend and colleague Jason Weitzel had a better idea about the 'Amazin Mets than I did.

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