Tuesday, March 1, 2011

If you think that the Braves' pitching is almost as good as the Phillies', you're too drunk to drive

Today on Twitter there was a certain amount of murmuring - as far as I can tell, created by a Jayson Stark radio hit - regarding the notion that the Braves' pitching is actually pretty good (it is), maybe even nearly as good as the Phillies' rotation (fuck no it isn't).

For the purposes of my argument, I'm only going to look at the top 4 pitchers in each rotation. The fifth starter could conceivably change at any given moment. Based on Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA projections for 2011, the Braves' top 4 starters (Hudson, Lowe, Hanson, and Jurrjens) will be worth 9.8 wins above replacement (WAR). Philadelphia's? 17.2. That is not a typo. That's 7.4 wins better than the Braves' rotation. To put that in perspective, 7.4 WAR is roughly equivalent to a "down year" for Albert Pujols (that is, if you consider 2010 a down year).

The Phillies' rotation has the potential to be one of the greatest in recent memory, perhaps even of all time. Not unlike Charlie Sheen, this pitching staff has tiger blood coursing through its veins. 

Saying that this Braves staff is "almost as good" as a staff of that caliber is absolutely ridiculous.

Now maybe you're saying, "Why the hell should I care about a projection? PECOTA predicted that Matt Wieters would be a superstar." Fair enough. Let's only look at past performance.

Suppose for a moment that the each member of the Braves' rotation has a career best season in 2011. Below are career bests for each:

Tim Hudson: 5.3* (2007)
Tommy Hanson: 4.3 (2010)
Jair Jurrjens: 3.8 (2009)
Derek Lowe: 6.0 (2002)
Total WAR: 19.4

Now, let's look at Philly's staff last year:

Roy Halladay: 6.6 (his worst season in the past 3, in which he still won a Cy Young)
Total WAR: 22.2

So even if the Braves' top starters manage to have the best seasons of their careers, they will still fall short of the collective 2010 performance of the Phillies' rotation.

If you've read this and you still think that the Braves' rotation has a good chance of equalling the Phillies', driving is not recommended.

*Here, I switch to FanGraphs' WAR metric because Baseball Prospectus doesn't have WAR for past seasons.

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