Lineup Comparison: Phillies

Consider this: the “team to beat” is the Phillies, so the Mets’ focus should be on putting a team on the field that is better head-to-head. I don’t believe that the Mets’ pitching staff — even with the game shortened to seven innings — is head and shoulders above the Phillies’. Where the Mets have an advantage at the end of the game, the Phillies appear to be stronger through the first seven. So the separating factor between the two teams is more likely to come down to offense — an area where they were exact equals in 2008, tying for second in the NL with 799 runs apiece.

The question is, can each team score almost 800 runs again, and/or, will one team have an offensive edge?

Comparing the two lineups, it’s a close call. The Mets have Jose Reyes, David Wright, Carlos Beltran, and most likely Luis Castillo occupying the first four spots in the lineup. The Phillies counter with a top four of Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Chase Utley, and Ryan Howard. We can argue which team is stronger leadoff through cleanup, but I tend to think that — even if Dan Murphy is the Mets’ #2 hitter — the teams are pretty close to equal. Similarly, the bottom of the orders are comparable — right now it looks like the Brian Schneider / Ramon Castro platoon hitting eighth vs. the Chris Coste / Carlos Ruiz tandem.

Where the edge will come, then, is in batting spots 5 through 7. It’s my cockamamie theory that the team strongest 5-7 will be the NL East champions in 2009.

Take a look at the comparison side by side:

Raul Ibanez | Carlos Delgado
Jayson Werth / Geoff Jenkins | Ryan Church
Pedro Feliz / Gregg Dobbs | Fernando Tatis / Daniel Murphy

The order above is interchangeable, but what I tried to do was pair up the combinations that most closely matched. Ibanez and Delgado are similar in that they’re both entering the twilights of their careers, but had strong enough finishes to their ’08 campaigns to provide optimism for ’09. I think this comparison, like the first four hitters, is a wash. I expect a dropoff from Ibanez due to the change in leagues and aging process, but CBP may artificially soften that downward trend. Delgado will still hit more homeruns, but Ibanez will swat more doubles and hit 25-30 points higher. In the end their runs and RBI totals should be close.

Where the Phillies really had an advantage last year was in the #6 and #7 holes, which featured any combination of Jayson Werth, Pedro Feliz, Greg Dobbs, and Geoff Jenkins. The Werth / Jenkins tandem last year combined for .260 AVG. /33 HR/96 RBI production. Feliz had his typical injury-riddled year, dotted with hot streaks and cold streaks, and Dobbs might have hit a little over his head at .301. None of those players are guaranteed to repeat their performances, mind you, but all of them have enough history to lead you to believe they’ll come close.

That said, I’m not sure Church can approach the production of Werth / Jenkins (or Werth on his own, if that’s how it shakes out). Looking at each’s skillset, Church and Werth may well put up close to equal numbers. But that will only happen if Werth’s 2008 was his ceiling, AND Church can significantly increase his ability to divert pitches over the wall.

Just as concerning, I don’t know that the Tatis / Murphy experiment is going to be head and shoulders above the Pedro Feliz / Greg Dobbs combination. If Feliz can stay healthy — which is a big if — he’ll hit his typical .250, and probably hit 20-22 homers. Dobbs may not hit .300 again, but his 9 HRs and 40 RBI in 226 ABs were a followup to 10 HR and 55 RBI in 324 ABs in 2007. In other words, there’s a decent shot that the 30-year-old Dobbs provides similar numbers in ’09. If so, that gives the Phillies a combined #7 hitter with a line somewhere in the neighborhood of a .270 AVG., 30 HR, and 100 RBI. Can Tatis and Murphy match that? Again, there would have to be either a status quo or decline on the Phillies’ duo, and a trend upward for the Mets. Not impossible, but another case of hopes and wishes.

Of course, the Mets could remove all doubt by signing Manny Ramirez. However, all indications suggest that won’t happen. In fact, the Mets likely won’t sign either of the other two impact bats still available — Adam Dunn and Bobby Abreu. Beyond those three, there might be a few veteran hitters who, with a little luck, could tip the lineups into the Mets’ favor — someone like Andruw Jones, Kevin Millar, Garret Anderson, Jonny Gomes, or Ken Griffey. Millar, in particular, would seem to be a nice fit, as he could spell both Delgado and Church, and/or be the platoon partner for Murphy in left, and provide a solid RH bat off the bench. But, Millar could be looking for a regular job elsewhere, and even if he is interested in wearing the orange and blue, Tony Bernazard still holds a grudge against him for crossing the picket line in 1994 (Bernazard was an important pencil-pusher for the MLBPA back then).

But in the end, none of the free agents appear to be on the Mets’ radar, and it’s hard to see a situation where the Mets can import one via trade. Their top trading chips for an MLB position player are Murphy, Jon Niese, and Fernando Martinez, and they’d probably have to trade at least two of those three to get back an impact bat. The chance of that happening is about as likely as Eric Byrnes arriving in return for Luis Castillo — slim and none.

In short, the Mets and Phillies, as currently constituted, appear to be equal again offensively. The Phillies are probably done making offseason moves. So, if the Mets can acquire one more big bat, it would give them an edge — at least, offensively.

Unfortunately, the Mets still have to make three or four moves to improve the pitching staff, and their “one thing at a time” approach suggests that bat may not make it by spring training.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Micalpalyn January 16, 2009 at 4:50 pm
    My instinct is to rant,…..i really dont know what Omar is doing.

    Granted this yr shows how jacked up the player agreement is. Frankly the brews, Angels, Colorado have NO business getting 2 draft picks for players they really had no intention of resigning. My solution….if a player declines arbitration then the clubs have until Jan 15th to extend a contract offer/sign their player or lose that compensation. There is no market for Garland, Orlando Hudson, juan cruz because of the draft pick issue. I do expect more from Castillo, but frankly I am Not happy with the Castro/Schneider tandem, i dont think the BP is ready and LF is an issue.

    I am think the Braves hurt themslves by signing Lowe long term. However I’d rather have seen Omar respond with a snap offer to Ollie and Jon Garland/Freddy Garcia.

    I’d also consider Gomes on a minor league deal and a agree on the Andruw Jones idea.

  2. joe January 16, 2009 at 10:14 pm
    I also like Gomes on a minor league deal / ST invite, particularly since the Mets have absolutely nothing in terms of a power-hitting outfielder (or infielder, for that matter) above AA. No offense to Nick Evans, of course.

    I’d really like to see Pudge come in and platoon with Schneider, but the Mets won’t do that with Castro under contract. Since Gus Molina is now a Nat, I guess it’ll be another year of Robinson Cancel filling in those 3-4 months that Castro is out with an injury.

    Add Jason Varitek to the no market because of Type A issue.

    Be patient …. Omar and the Mets are smarter than everyone else. They’re going to sit back and let the market develop, and not rush into any knee-jerk, rash decisions. Ha.

  3. Micalpalyn January 17, 2009 at 12:24 pm
    From a poster over at Metsblog:

    I just thought I would throw another name out there….. How about Dontrelle Willis? He is 27 years old and signed to a 3-year, $29 million deal w/ Detroit. He won the rookie of the year award in 2003. 2005 runner up in the NL cy young voting. He has been to and won a world series with the 2003 Florida Marlins (who beat the yankees). And at one point was almost a lock for pitching 200 innings. Plus as a added bonus, he knows the National league east. He is competitive, a awesome athlete, and great with the bat. I know he had a terrible year with Detroit last year after being traded from the Marlins but maybe a return to the national league and playing for a contender will re-energize the guy. Most 2009 Depth charts are showing Dontrelle as a long reliever for the tigers so I take it Det maybe interested in moving him.

    Who knows, maybe we could get the tigers to take luis castillo of our hands (even though they don’t need him Polanco / Everett). Bad contract for bad contract…………………………….

    I kept wondering why Omar can be so cool. Atlanta saw their offseason erupting, especially with Smoltz bolting to Boston, so they jumped at Lowe probably overpaying by 20M. I am sure Omar has a back up plan in mind with JJ Putz who has LONG been in Detroit’s wish list. Then Omar simply picks up Juan Cruz (and Wil Ohman/Brandon Lyon).

  4. joe January 17, 2009 at 1:41 pm
    Mic, I’d take D-Train in a salary dump deal in a heartbeat. More arms the merrier.

    You are really, really stuck on Omar moving JJ Putz. It ain’t happening — at least, not until the end of July, when the Mets are 10 games back and raising the white flag. (Though, even then they’ll probably refuse to surrender)

    What you are missing is that Omar’s winter acquisitions were based on the public opinion that the bullpen needed an overhaul. So by getting Putz and K-Rod, he addressed the most important issue of the offseason on the minds of fans and media blowhards. Putz stays, so Minaya can say “well we addressed the bullpen, we assembled the strongest 1-2 punch in MLB”.

    If the Mets were interested in improving the team for a shot at the postseason, rather than merely selling tickets, this would have been a very different winter. Remember Omar is more of a brand manager than a general manager.

  5. Micalpalyn January 17, 2009 at 5:02 pm
    Joe. I know you and Dude are in the Rob Neyer/Rosenfeld realm and I agree too. I really like our 8th and 9th innings. BUT right now we have holes every 4th and 5th day and we know nothing about John Maine’s nor Johan’s recovery. THE ONLY healthy starters we have are Niese, Redding and Pelfrey. At this rate JJ and K-rod are not exactly going to get much action.

    Granted, as i can propose, debate even have seances but Omar is not going to divulge his courses of action. The blogger ton Metsblog also pointed out that the WC in any deal is Castillo. I would even go as far as to say that a potential deal hinges on Detroit just taking Castillo, and/or other players in the deal.

  6. Joe D. January 26, 2009 at 7:53 pm
    Nice post Joe!

    I haven’t visited your site in quite a while but I just finished reading your interview on Mikes Mets and I wanted to see how things were going. I gotta tell you the new look is fantastic.

    I was reading this particular post because I recently did a Phillies/Mets lineup comparison myself.

    I noticed that you compared batting order rather than a positional comparison.

    I did the same thing as you, but got so much flack for not doing it by position which would have put the Mets in a better light. Trying to explain why comparing batting orders to my readers instead of positions was like talking to a wall. So I was happy to see another level-headed Mets fan comparing the two teams in a way that truly reflects which team is more likely to produce more runs.

    Good luck in 2009 and continued success.

  7. joe January 27, 2009 at 12:30 am
    Goodness, Joe, how have you made it through the winter without checking MetsToday? 🙂

    Seriously, thanks for checking in and for the kind words. I missed your post, I apologize. In any case, I agree, you can’t necessarily compare position-to-position, because there are too many variables, and it’s not football or basketball, where one position competes head to head against the other.

    Thanks again, and good luck to you!