• Exclusives

    Braves vs Phillies: Whose lineup is stronger?

    As we look ahead to the battle for supremacy in the NL East, we’re taking a look at how the Braves stack up against the competition. Like many other analysts, the view of all here at BravesWire has been that the division will eventually turn into a two-team (Braves/Nats) fight to the finish. Therefore, when we took a recent look at the Atlanta Braves’ likely starting lineup, we compared it only to that of the Washington Nationals, who many feel remain the favorites in the East.

    On Tuesday, however, our assumptions were indirectly challenged when Fox’s John Paul Morosi stated via Twitter his belief that the Phillies will trump the Braves in 2013.

    Since Mr. Morosi has shown the courage to step out a limb by predicting a bounce back year for the Fightin’ Phils, we will no longer assume a two-team race. We will include the Phillies in our upcoming comparisons of the pitching staffs of NL East contenders. What’s more, below is the Braves/Phillies lineup comparison that was absent from our last evaluation.

    First, we’ll glance at the 2012 performance of each member of the two lineups. Then, as with our Braves/Nats analysis, we’ll look at what baseball statistician Bill James predicts.

    2012 performance of current Braves lineup:

      AB AVG HR RBI 2B/3B OBP SB OPS
    Simmons 166 .289 3 19 10 .335 1 .751
    Heyward 587 .269 27 82 36 .335 21 .814
    J.Upton 554 .280 17 63 28 .355 18 .785
    Freeman 540 .259 23 94 35 .340 2 .796
    B.Upton 573 .246 28 78 32 .298 31 .752
    McCann 439 .230 20 67 14 .300 3 .698
    Uggla 523 .220 19 78 29 .348 4 .732
    Francisco* 192 .234 9 32 11 .278 1 .710
    C.Johnson* 488 .281 15 76 33 .326 5 .777

    **Either Francisco or Johnson could be the starting third baseman in 2013 or both could share the position in a platoon scenario.

    2012 performance of current Phillies lineup:

      AB AVG HR RBI 2B/3B OBP SB OPS
    Rollins 632 .250 23 68 38 .316 30 .743
    Revere 511 .294 0 32 19 .333 40 .675
    Utley 301 .256 11 45 17 .365 11 .793
    Howard 260 .219 14 56 11 .295 0 .718
    M.Young 611 .277 8 67 30 .312 2 .682
    D.Young 574 .267 18 74 28 .296 0 .707
    Brown 187 .235 5 26 13 .316 0 .712
    Kratz* 141 .248 9 26 9 .306 0 .809
    Ruiz* 372 .325 16 56 32 .394 4 .935

    *Erik Kratz will likely start in the place of Carlos Ruiz as he serves a 25-game suspension.

    It is the worst kept secret in baseball that the Phillies are aging ballclub. Therefore, while health is a critical factor for every team, that holds especially true for the Phillies. While several bats were added to their arsenal over the winter, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard still represent the heart of this lineup.

    Last season Utley and Howard combined for just 561 at-bats. This year, the Phillies are banking on 500 at-bats from each of the former All-Stars. If the Phils stay healthy, not just in their lineup but their pitching staff as well, they will have a good chance to compete for a postseason berth.

    Here again is what James predicts for the Braves lineup this season:

      AVG OBP HR RBI 2B/3B SB OPS
    Simmons .289 .351 10 62 31 18 .767
    Heyward .272 .360 26 92 37 20 .843
    J.Upton .289 .372 25 86 39 19 .864
    Freeman .282 .358 24 85 37 3 .839
    B.Upton .248 .329 23 75 37 35 .765
    McCann .266 .347 23 58 29 3 .814
    Uggla .238 .341 28 92 33 3 .780
    **Fransisco/Johnson .276 .316 23 78 39 6 .787
    TOTAL .270 .347 182 628 282 106 .807
    AVERAGE .270 .347 23 79 35 13 .807


    And here is what James predicts for the Phillies lineup:

      AVG OBP HR RBI 2B/3B SB OPS
    Revere .288 .331 0 33 17 40 .662
    Rollins .253 .317 18 63 36 25 .728
    Utley .274 .372 19 77 29 13 .835
    Howard .251 .344 36 82 29 1 .838
    M.Young .294 .343 12 77 35 3 .759
    D.Young .279 .315 17 63 32 3 .757
    Brown .274 .347 17 77 36 12 .792
    Ruiz/Kratz** .274 .350 19 78 40 4 .794
                   
    TOTAL .273 .340 138 550 258 101 .771
    AVERAGE .273 .340 17 69 32 13 .771

    Clearly the Braves have the edge over the Phils, offensively. And as we’ve pointed out before, beyond the reasonable expectations outlined above, Atlanta’s lineup has significantly more upside than that of the Phillies. That is to say, they have a greater capacity to exceed (already lofty) expectations.

    A healthy 2013 from catcher Brian McCann could provide a big lift to the Braves’ offense. 

    There are, in our view, five Braves hitters with the ability to hit 30+ homeruns in a season: Dan Uggla, Justin Upton, BJ Upton, Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman.

    And in J.Upton, Heyward and Freeman, the Braves have three potential superstar talents who are 25 years of age or younger. The projections above are reasonable estimations of 2013 performance, but it would surprise almost no one if any of the three turned in a breakout season this year.

    The health of Brian McCann, the performance of Dan Uggla (who struggled in 2012) and the development of Atlanta’s young budding superstars will determine whether this Braves lineup is merely good or something special. And those factors, along with the health of Utley and Howard, will determine how much ground the Phillies must make up in the pitching department to atone for their offensive deficit as compared to the Braves.

    Before you go, check out the Lineup Card on the BravesWire homepage with headlines from over a dozen Braves news/opinion sources.