As a baseball fan/analyst, the NY Mets frustrate me. (Full Disclosure: As a Phillies fan, I have no issues whatsoever with how the Mets ownership operates its franchise.) I’m sure die-hard fans of the Mets feel so habitually tortured and humiliated that a written, comprehensive study of the fan base should be titled Fifty Shades of Shea. (Now that it appears clear that I won’t be appearing on The Daily Show to promote my book, I’m going to empty out all the imagined banter I’d prepared for Jon Stewart. Ball jokes to follow.)
B.J. Upton played centerfield for the Tampa Bay Rays for six full seasons and only once was his performance even low enough to be called league-average (2009). In every other year he’s consistently been an above average player, flirting with All-Star level performance in 2008. He’s pretty established, at age 28, as a very consistent, 4 WAR player. Justin Upton, his younger brother by three years, has a little more volatility and therefore a little more upside as well. In 2011, Justin garnered well deserved MVP support and finished fourth in the balloting. He returned to a roughly league-average level last year and apparently a conflict with Arizona management led to his trade. It was a great pick-up for the Braves as he is signed to a very reasonable contract through 2015. If the Upton brothers each match the best season of their entire career, they will produce 11.4 wins in 2013 – a one game drop compared to the men they are replacing. And, of course, a projection system does not call for them both to have career years in the same season.
I think I can sum up the impression of the team held by many baseball fans. “The Phillies are a collection of broken-down, overpaid players who all got old at the same time last year – just like the Yankees this year. They won’t be a factor again for years.” As I said, on the surface that’s understandable because after winning the NL East five straight times, Philadelphia did crash and burn last year struggling to play .500 baseball, never factoring in the NL East race, and finishing 17 games out of first place. Let’s look beneath the surface, however.
A year ago, it wasn’t too hard to see that the Washington Nationals had a bright future. Despite the fact that the franchise had never had a winning record since moving from Montreal to Washington D.C. before the 2005 season, all those losing records and last place finishes had started to pay off in the form of talented draft picks. Washington had a bevy of young players that seemed certain to challenge for NL East supremacy . . . eventually. But last year?
In 2012, the Twins staff only struck out 15.2% of the batters they faced. The next worse team was the Indians at 17.3%, a huge 2.1% gap. (The gap between those two teams (30th and 29th) was larger than the gap between 29th and 18th in the league.) As a result, the Twins gave up the second most runs in the American League, and when you adjust for park effects (Target Field suppresses runs) it was the worst. So the Twins clearly need to find a way to improve its pitching staff and find hurlers who can strike out more batters.