Greetings to all those readers who still have power (I don’t; I’m writing this from the library). In keeping with some of my last posts, I’m going to throw a small bit of limelight onto some players outside the Yankee scope of things. I’ve covered the NL West and NL Central, so now I’ll turn my attention to a division a bit closer to home, the NL East.
There are two players we should watch out for, one on each side of the ball, in Philadelphia. The first is Jayson Werth, whom I’ve recently discussed. Werth is in the final year of his contract and will likely be looking for a big pay day post 2010. Werth’s posted three straight years of 120+ OPS+ marks, but is on the wrong side of thirty. We’ll have to watch this year to see if his late blooming continues or if he declines a bit.
On the mound, there’s one of my favorite players in baseball: Cole Hamels. 2009 was an odd year for Cole. He started just one fewer game, 32, than he did in 2008. His peripherals were almost all exactly the same as 2008. However, his ERA jumped from a stellar 3.09 to 4.32. The only thing I can see is that more hits started falling. His BABIP jumped from .270 to .325 (BAA went from .231 to .274) so either he was giving up harder contact or the hits just fell. According to StatCorner’s tRA+, Cole was still solid at 122 (same scale as ERA+) so it would appear Hamels was not giving up much hard contact. I think 2010 will be a bounce back year for him in a big way.
Florida’s Ricky Nolasco is another player similar to Hamels. Despite similar peripherals to his 2008 season, Nolasco struggled in 2009. The first two months of the season (.895 and 1.095 OPS against marks) basically sunk Ricky’s season. His 5.01 ERA is ugly to look at, but almost everything else was just as good as that number was bad. He struck out 9.5 (6th in the NL) batters per nine innings while only walking 2.1 (10th in the NL). His K/BB was a ridiculous 4.43 (third in the NL). Like Hamels, I expect Nolasco’s ERA to catch up to his outstanding peripherals.
For the Braves, I’m going the sentimental route: Melky Cabrera (the non-sentimental route is uber-prospect Jason Heyward). We all know Melky’s history, so I won’t rehash it. It will be interesting to see if a move to the “lesser” league will help Melky reach the potential that seems to have escaped him in his Yankee career. Maybe I’m not holding my breath for it to happen, but I wouldn’t be shocked if Melky turned into a better-than-decent regular with the Braves.
There really isn’t much to watch in Queens is there? Carlos Beltran will miss time, as will Jose Reyes. The only constant seems to be Johan Santana who’s a bit of a question mark after elbow surgery (but, really, we all know he’ll be just fine). The only player to watch here is David Wright. Wright didn’t have a bad season, but his 123 OPS+ was the lowest since his first time in the bigs (2004, 118). His power dropped off like crazy; he went from a .534 SLG to a .447; he hit only 10 homers (33 in ’08); his IsoP dipped from a robust .232 to a measly .140. Was this all from the new Citi Field? Not exactly. His power numbers on the road, .458 SLG, .144 IsoP, were not strong either. We’ll have to watch closely if 2009 was an aberration (likely) or if it’s the beginning of a downward trend in power for the Mets’ man at the hot corner.
As there with the Mets, there is little to look at in Washington. Stephen Strasburg is on the way, so that will be a beacon of hope for the struggling Nats. Instead of him, though, I’m going to focus on third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. After three years of just-above-average production at the plate, Zimmerman broke out in 2009, posting a 133 OPS+ and belting 33 home runs. Those are star numbers. We’ll have to watch closely to see if Zimmerman continues down this path. I’ve got a good feeling that he will, and in time, the Nationals will have something to look forward to.