How Do the Braves Match Up Against the Phillies Now? Better Than You Think.

Written by Kent on December 15, 2010 – 1:08 pm

The addition of Cliff Lee definitely helps the Phillies’ chances. There’s no denying that fact. And I must tip my cap to the Philly front office for pulling a rabbit out of the proverbial hat by swiping Lee away from the Rangers and Yanks. BUT… many fans are vastly underselling an Atlanta rotation, which will STILL stand up respectably next to any other starting staff in baseball.  And when bullpens are factored into the pitching equation, barring substantial misfortune, the Braves pitching simply will not be outclassed to any significant degree by ANYONE in 2011.

Today, we size up the two beasts of the NL East… and I’ll give you a few things to chew on that should make you feel better, if you’re a Braves fan.

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I generally make my official season projections late in the spring. But if I had to guess right now, here the numbers I would project for both the Atlanta and Philly starting staffs. Rationale for these expectations explained in audio blog above.


T.Hudson 3.03 224
T.Hanson 2.90 220
Jurrjens 3.15 216
Lowe 3.69 214
Beachy/Minor 4.00 175


R.Halladay 2.52 236
C.Hamels 2.98 212
R.Oswalt 3.24 217
C.Lee 3.12 214
J.Blanton 4.37 180

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Posted in Pitching | 18 Comments »

18 Responses to “How Do the Braves Match Up Against the Phillies Now? Better Than You Think.”

  1. By KentCovington on Dec 15, 2010 | Reply

    Sounds like the Phillies might be trying to deal Blanton… so it may be Kendrick instead of Blanton. That would be a bit of a step down.

    And to clarify, when I say "…the gap, if there is one at all…" I say that only because I think the Braves could have a substantial edge in the 5th starter slot. 1-4, I do think the Phillies have an edge… just not nearly as great an edge as many believe.

  2. By Braves66 on Dec 15, 2010 | Reply

    It is a good sign we are talking Braves this early and look forward to your audio blog about the Braves offense.

  3. By KentCovington on Dec 15, 2010 | Reply

    Thank you sir!

  4. By JustSaying on Dec 15, 2010 | Reply


  5. By Ryan Pye on Dec 16, 2010 | Reply

    Hamels has over half a point lower in xFIP than Hanson, Oswalt's is over a full point lower than Jurrjens, and Lee's is over half a point lower than Lowe. Blanton has a 4.06 xFIP (better than Hanson and Jurrjens). There is a substantial difference between the two staffs. Roughly an average of .5 runs less/9 IP.
    I am not sure how you could assume the Braves have a better bullpen. They lost their closer and a premier set-up man. Don't get me wrong, I am not a fan of Lidge or Madsen, but they are probably the better bet to have better numbers next year than Venters and company (and I love Venters).
    So, statistically, there is gap. The question is whether the Braves' offense will close the gap.

    Ps-If you don't think the "numbers" mean anything, ask any GM which staff he'd rather have to win a series with this year. It would be unanimous.

  6. By KentCovington on Dec 16, 2010 | Reply

    I'm not a fan of FIP. That is the practice of trying to take fielding out of the equation. You simply can't. Many pitchers pitch with the entire goal in mind of TRYING to get the batter to hit it to someone behind them…pitching to contact. So we're going to throw out everything that happens when they succeed in their goal?

    Makes no sense to me. Besides, the logic behind it is the notion that everything that happens behind you, as a pitcher, is luck. Not so. Any fielder will tell you that pitchers who work more quickly get better results from their fielders. And a pitcher's ability to command the ball and get the hitter to hit into the defensive scheme also affects defensive efficiency.

    Pitching and fielding are symbiotic and cannot be meaningfully separated. As evidenced by the fact that, according to FIP… there were 60 starters better than Tim Hudson this year. And more than 30 starters better than Chris Carpenter and Cole Hamels. I reject the stat.

    That said, even if we look at more conventional stats, looking at LAST year's stats… yes, the Phillies look significantly better.

    I freely stipulate that my assertion that the Braves rotation can hang with the Phillies' is dependent upon Jurrjens and Lowe pitching as they're capable. For JJ, that means something a little closer to '09 production. For Lowe, that simply means carrying his late season momentum forward to '11… and performing as he did in the second half of '10.

    If JJ and Lowe pitch as capable, there won't be a big gap between the two rotations.. Those are IF's, I'll grant you that… though I feel pretty good about both JJ & Lowe. There is more certainty with Oswalt and Hamels than with JJ & Lowe heading into the season… so I too would take Philly's 4. But my point is, if everyone does their job in ATL's rotation, they'll hang right in there with Philly.

    And I'm firmly convinced that ATL's 'pen numbers will be better than Philly's.

  7. By KentCovington on Dec 16, 2010 | Reply

    Thank you for that thoughtful rebuttal!

  8. By JayConnelly on Dec 16, 2010 | Reply

    Great Blog! Im not as depressed anymore..People also forget that when you have to face a line-up 18 times like..oh, shall we say..Prado, Heyward, Jones, McCann, Uggla, Gonzalez, Freeman, McClouth(2009 version haha).. Even the greatest pitchers will have a few off days.

  9. By Ryan on Dec 17, 2010 | Reply

    I didn't use FIP but rather xFIP but I'd assume you wouldn't be a fan of that stat either. While I agree you hear people say that people pitch to contact and that working quickly "helps" the defense but I think you would be hard pressed to prove that. Take Derek Lowe. His whole career has been based on his sinker, so he "pitches to contact" and he works decently quickly. His carer xFIP is BETTER than his career ERA and many years, it is not even close. That would seem to be completely counter to your idea of those two factors being "helpful" for a pitcher when comparing xFIP and ERA. While I agree xFIP isn't a perfect stat, it is a far better predictor of future performance than ERA (which is park and defense and LUCK dependent).

    While I agree with the basic premise of your thesis, ignoring xFIP for the reasons you list is a bit foolish and I think the Lowe example hints at that. The Braves will have a great staff next year but it won't approach what the Phillies do. It will probably be the 3rd or 4th best staff in the NL next year but a good bit separate from the top 2.

  10. By Rebel Brave on Dec 17, 2010 | Reply

    If my numbers are right… We match up better than many think! The winning % for the last couple of years of Hudson, Lowe, Hanson and JJ is better than Halladay, Oswalt, Lee and Hamels. Our guys record was 92W-63L for .594%, their big four had 107W-83L for .563 and if you look at the total games they started our guys started 217 games for a record of 92W and team went on to have 125L for .424% while they started 255 games for 107W and team had 148L for a .420%. So the difference maker were Kawakami and Blanton! Go Braves!

  11. By Chris on Dec 17, 2010 | Reply

    One thing that you are not considering is that Lee will be back in the National League this year which will improve his numbers even more. I know that the Phillies park is not a great pitchers park, but neither was Texas. The advantage will be that he will be facing National League lineups, and that will improve his numbers significantly. Your argument is based on a lot of IF's, and I just don't think they will happen. A lot of staffs would have a great year IF they live up to their potential.
    Don't get me wrong, Atlanta has a very good staff, I'm not arguing that. In most years, it would have a chance of being the best in the league, but not this year. The Phillies and Giants will have better staffs this year. But the Phillies staff will be the absolute best in baseball.

  12. By Rebel Brave on Dec 17, 2010 | Reply

    But I like our "IFs" better, if JJ has a better year which he should unless injured again, if Hanson has a better year, if Hudson does better two years away from surgery, if Lowe picks up where he left off last year we should have a better year and if our fifth starter does better than Kawakami, which he should. How can we not be better than last year? As for their ifs, their rotation is "getting older" which they should start declining in performance, a big IF, but it is more likely. I know, I am getting older…

  13. By Chris on Dec 17, 2010 | Reply

    And the Braves rotation is not getting older? Hudson is 35 and Lowe is 37, those two are older than any of the Phillies starters. Halladay and Oswalt are both 33 and Lee is 32. Hamels will soon be 27. There's not a lot of difference in the ages of the pitchers. I am not completely sold on the fact that Jurrjens can stay healthy, and that's a biggie for Atlanta. I hope I'm wrong but I believe there is plenty of distance between the staffs. We'll see soon enough.

  14. By Ryan Pye on Dec 17, 2010 | Reply

    Winning percentage is a horrible indicator of future success. Even if it has the slightest bit of predictive value, that is lost because you are basing Halladay, Oswalt, and Lee's records off when they played on some mediocre to poor teams. Halladay's Blue Jays weren't great, Oswalt's Astros were among the bottom 5 teams in baseball, and Lee's M's were brutal (though the Rangers were good).
    Winning percentage is a team stat, not one that says much about a pitcher. Philadelphia's rotation is HANDS DOWN better and when people try and argue it isn't it just makes your other points seem to biased as well. All in all, I think this site puts out great information but to say the Atlanta and Philly rotation are "close" is just silly.

  15. By Ryan (LightSABRs) on Dec 17, 2010 | Reply

    Also if we look at WAR for the last two years it shows how great this disparity is.
    Hudson 2.7 & 2.4 (in 2008 since he was hurt all 2009) = 5.1
    Hanson 4* (it was really 2.6 but I adjusted it to account for a full season) & 4.3 = 8.3
    Lowe 2.6 & 2.7 = 5.3
    Jurrjens 3.8 + 1.2 = 5
    Team Total = 23.7 (or about 12 WAR a year)

    Halladay 6.6 & 7.3 = 13.9
    Lee 7.1 & 6.6 = 13.7
    Oswalt 4.7 & 3 = 7.7
    Hamels 3.8 & 3.6 = 7.4
    Team Total = 42.7 (or ~21.5 WAR a year)

    That is almost 10 games PER YEAR over replacement. That is HUGE. Now you may try and say the 5th starter spot will make up for it but Blanton has about a 2 WAR/year average, which is really good for a 5th starter, so the Braves won't make up much/any ground there. The bullpen just won't have enough innings to make a major difference (though I do think the Braves may have a 1 WAR or so edge here).

    Once again, the Braves have a nice staff but it isn't close to what Philly is running out there.

  16. By doug on Jan 4, 2011 | Reply

    we have three levels of pitching some older vets for leadership some seasoned youth in hanson jurrjens and some youth which is very important. we hated seeing waggs go but we have some strong young pitching that benefited from Wagner last year. we made some good moves by adding sherrill and linebrink. we added uggla they lost werth. i like the potential mathers brings. i like our chances. go braves!!!!

  17. By doug on Jan 4, 2011 | Reply

    good to see braves blast up and going again love it guys

  18. By Keith on Feb 12, 2011 | Reply

    This will be an exicting race between the Phillies and the Braves. Ask any GMand they will all take the Phillies starting staff although, the Braves are no that far behind provided JJ returns to old form and Lowe continues pitching the way he did the last few month in 2010. The Braves pen is better than the Phillies and that could make up the difference. I believe the offense will decide the division. Will the old men from the Phillies stay healthly and put up numbers from years past? Will the young tandem of Heyward and Freeman perform as expected? Does Chipper make a comeback? Will Prado return to form at his new position? Can Alex hit for power as he did in Toronto? Will someone please standup and earn the centerfield position? Yes to these offensive questions and it will one fun season. If the Phillies hit like they did last year, it doesn't matter who is on the mound. There was a two month peroid they couldn't hit a beach ball. is not affiliated with or sponsored by the Atlanta Braves organization. Views expressed on this site do not reflect the views of the Atlanta Braves organization.