Mets and Braves Find Themselves Competing on Several Levels This Season
Copyright 2010 by Evan Pritchard for Amazine
The Mets’ and Braves’ rivalries are as old as the Civil War; Atlanta never forgot what happened during Sherman’s March and New Yorkers can’t forget that day a southerner killed Lincoln. At the end of the 1990s, as you no doubt recall, the rivalry was red hot, and into 2001 it was a matter of daily concern to citizens of both cities. But after that blown save by Armando Benitez against the Braves in 2001, the Mets went quietly and the rivalry subsided for just a bit. 2006 was all Mets, and in fact the Phillies eclipsed the Braves as Mets’ rivals for two or three years. Earlier this year it was the furthest thing from my mind, and probably yours as the Braves wallowed in a miserable last place. But now the Braves are in first again, with the Mets in hot pursuit, just like old times.
In fact, there are several intriguing subplots here that may have escaped your Wayne Hagan/Gary Cohen-like attention to detail.
First of all there is a hot contest for Rookie of the Year between the Braves’ Jason Heyward and the Mets’ Ike Davis. Then there is a hot contest for the NL Batting Crown between the Braves’ Martin Prado and the Mets’ David Wright, with possible challenges to both from Braves’ Omar Infante and Mets’ Angel Pagan. Then there is a tied contest between David Wright and Troy Glaus for the top ten in the NL home run champion. Then there is a somewhat heated contest for RBI champ between Troy Glaus and David Wright. Then there is an interesting comparison between catcher Rod Barajas of the Mets (plus his subbies) and catcher Brian McCann of the Braves. Then there is a rivalry for All Star Ace between the Braves Tim Hudson and the Mets’ Johann Santana. Then there is a rivalry for All Star Closer between the Braves’ Billy Wagner and “K-Rod” Francisco Rodriguez of the Mets. Then there is a rivalry between number two starters; Derek Lowe of the Braves and Mike Pelfrey of the Mets, who have similar numbers. Then there is a rivalry between Japanese number-four pitchers; Kawakami of the Braves and Takahashi of the Mets, who have similar enough numbers to make a comparison. One could also imagine a rivalry between the set-up relief pitchers, T. Saito of the Braves and Pedro Feliciano of the Mets, who have similar numbers. Each of these contests are fun to watch separately, but the accumulative effect promises to keep the baseball hotdogs hot all summer long.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
The Braves’ star rookie Jason Heyward is getting a lot of votes for Rookie of the Year, with his 45 ribbies, five stolen bases, 13 doubles, 3 triples, and 11 home runs. In 255 at bats, he is hitting .251 and has walked 42 times and has 64 hits and 41 runs. The Mets’ star rookie Ike (Isaac Benjamin) Davis is doing equally well. The slick fielding Ike Davis, in 275 at bats (20 more than you know who) has scored 43 runs (2 more) on 71 hits (7 more) with 16 doubles (3 more) 0 triples (3 less) and the same amount of homers, 11. Davis has 40 ribbies, (5 less) and is currently batting .258, 7 points higher than Heyward. Davis has 4 less stolen bases and has walked ten less times. So what? A pretty close contest between the Braves’ outfielder and the Mets’ first baseman, but Heyward has been picked for the All Star game and Davis has not. Both players bat and throw left; Both players are youngsters: Heyward was born 8/9/89 while Davis was born 3/22/87. Heyward hit a homer in his first at bat, which was against the Cubs, and Davis went 2 for 4 in his first game, which was also against the Cubs. Davis’ first home run was off the Braves, ironically, on April 23rd, only his fifth game. Davis’ first homer traveled 450 feet, which is 36 feet longer than Jason Heyward’s first homer, which was also a mighty blast.
NATIONAL LEAGUE BATTING CROWN
Who is going to have the highest batting average at the end of the season in the NL? Will it be All Star David Wright, who is now at .314? Or the Braves’ Martin Prado who is now at .325? Will it be the Mets’ Angel Pagan, who is batting .315? Or the Braves’ All Star Omar Infante who is batting .332 in only 193 at bats, not enough yet to qualify for the batting crown
listings? Only time will tell. If Wright can keep up his recent .400 pace he will pass these other players in three weeks, providing the others don’t improve on their stats in the mean time. Prado will start at second base on the All Star Team, but in 2009 he played 41 games at third base, Wright’s position as a starter on the All Star team. Prado hit a grand slam on May 10th of this year, while Wright has yet to hit one this year. Wright was born December 20th ,1982, while Prado was born October 27th, 1983, less than a year later. So far this year, Prado has 372 at bats with 61 runs and 121 hits (!!!) including 25 doubles, 2 triples and 10 homers. He has 39 ribbies, 4 stolen bases, and 26 walks, with a .325 batting average, although he peaked at .340. David Wright, his elder by ten months, has had 325 at bats (47 less) with 52 runs scored (9 less) 102 hits (19 less) including 25 doubles (they are in a dead heat for doubles, both leading the league), and 2 triples each. David has 14 homers, leading Martin by 4. Wright has 65 ribbies, leading the league, while Prado has 39 (26 less). Wright is batting .314 (11 less points) and has 15 stolen bases to Prado’s 4. Wright has walked 45 times while Prado has only 26 walks.
HOME RUN CHAMPION/RBI CHAMPION
Wright is leading the Mets in homers, and is in the running for the home run crown, although at a distance. Wright has 14 homers, and has had for a while, unfortunately. Troy Glaus, first baseman for the Braves has 14 homers as well, a dead heat. Both players would have to go on a power surge to take the league lead, but are still in range to possibly seize the crown by the end of the year. David Wright is leading the league in ribbies with 65, while Glaus is only 7 behind with 58. Troy Glaus has 295 at bats, 30 less than Wright, with 43 runs scored (9 less than Wright), 75 hits (27 less) 13 doubles (12 less) no triples, and 49 walks (4 more than Wright), and is batting .254 (60 less than Wright).
Brian McCann, the Braves’ All Star catcher, has had 255 at bats, scoring 40 runs on 68 hits, 16 of which were doubles, none of which were triples, and 10 of which were home runs. He has 37 rbi’s and his batting .267 with 3 stolen bases and 42 bases on balls. Rod Barajas is only slightly less impressive: He has 227 at bats (28 less), scoring 29 runs (11 less) on 54 hits (14 less), 11 of which were doubles. Both have no triples, but Barajas has one more home run than McCann this year, 11.
Barajas has 32 ribbies (6 less) and is batting .238 (29 points lower) with 8 walks. McCann is a better hitter on most accounts, but it’s pretty close, considering the 28 less at bats. The Mets also have Thole and Blanco as regular catchers, and Thole added to Barajas is just slightly better than McCann. Add Thole’s 17 at bats to Barajas and you get 254 at bats, one less than McCann. Add his 9 hits to Barajas’ 54 hits and you get 63 hits to McCann’s 68 (five less) Add Thole’s 5 rbi’s to Barajas’ 32 and you get 37, (tying McCann); calculate Thole/Barajas batting average combined and you get .248, only 19 points lower than McCann. Now add Blanco’s 74 at bats and 21 hits and the Mets’ battery team is batting .256 on the year, only 11 points behind. This would also give the Mets’ catchers 13 homers (leading McCann by 3) and a total of 44 rbi’s, (leading McCann by 8.)
ALL STAR PITCHING ACE
Perhaps the most obvious player to player rivalry is in the category of All Star Pitching Ace. The Mets have Johan Santana, who has really shown his stuff the last three outings, and Tim Hudson, the Braves All Star Ace. Johan Santana lowered his ERA today to 2.98. He has a record of 7-5 with one complete game and one shutout. In 127 innings he has struck out 83 batters and given up only 8 homers and 41 walks.
Tim Hudson has pitched well so far. He has an ERA of 2.30 (.68 lower) with a record of 9-4 (2 more wins to one less loss) with also one complete game, same as Santana. In 121 innings (6 less) he has struck out 61 batters (22 less!!) and has given up only 9 homers (1 more) and 43 walks (2 more). Sanatana has been a hard luck pitcher this year, hence the low wins, but Mets fans would say Johan’s lead in strikeouts is equal to Hudson’s lead in the ERA department, so they’re even. Why is Tim Hudson on the All Star team and not Santana?
ALL STAR CLOSER
Former Met star Billy Wagner is now an All Star for the Braves, boo hoo. But we have K-Rod, who has the better rep. But which is better this year? Wagner, unfortunately. Wagner in 37.1 innings, has an ERA of 1.21, with a 5-0 record, and 20 saves. He has 56 strikeouts to only 12 walks and has given up only 3 dingers. Francisco Rodriguez has been having an off year by comparison. K-Rod in 44 innings (6.2 more) has a 2-2 record, with 53 strikeouts (3 less) to only 17 walks (5
more) and has given up only 3 dingers, same as Billy. K-rod has 21 saves, one more than Billy.
Derek Lowe and Mike Pelfrey are both number two starters for the two rival teams and they are quite similar. Pelfrey was born 1/14/84 and is 6’7″ and 230 lbs. He bats and throws right. His ERA is currently up to 3.58 but was at one time the lowest in the NL. He is now at 10-4 with one save. He had pitched 113 innings with 69 strikeouts and 42 base on balls. He has given up 7 homers. Derek Lowe is only one inch shorter than Pelfry, at 6’6″, at 230 pounds, just like Pelfry, and bats and
throws right, exactly like Pelfry! Lowe has an
ERA of 4.35 (77 points higher) with a 9-8 record (one less win but 4 more losses). In 113.2 innings (same number!) he has thrown 70 strikeouts (1 more!) and 44 base on balls (2 more!). He has given up two more homers than Pelf with 9. Lowe is much older than Pelf, born in 1973, 11 years earlier. Some of the similarities between these two pitchers is striking, but Pelfry is the better pitcher this year.
JAPANESE NUMBER-FOUR PITCHERS
The Braves and Mets both have Japanese number-four starters, and their numbers are remarkably similar. The Braves’ Kawakami is 1-9 with an ERA of 4.48 in 82.1 innings. He has given up 9 homers, and 28 walks, while ringing up 57 strikeouts, a strong K number. The Mets’ Takahashi is 7-3 (clearly much better) with an ERA of 4.15 (.33 better) in 78 innings (4 less) . He too has given up the same number of
homers, 9, and has given up 31 walks (3 more) while ringing up 72 strikeouts (clearly better in this department, with 15 more K’s.)
While we’re at it we can compare Braves’ starter Hanson to Mets’ Dickey. Hanson is 8-5 with a 4.13 ERA in 102.1 innings. He has 104 strikeouts while giving up 7 homers, and allowing 23 bases on balls. While no pitcher on either team comes close to Hanson’s 104 strikeouts, he matches evenly against Dickey, the knuckleballer, who has a similar 6-2 record and an ERA of 2.77 (1.36 less).
Dickey has only 65 innings pitched (37 less) and has given up 4 homers (3 less) and 19 walks (4 less) while striking out 48 men (56 less). Mets fans will eagerly point out the ERA versus strikeouts is a good tradeoff.
Both teams have similar middle relief men. The Braves have T. Saito, who has a 1-3 record with an ERA of 3.71 in 34 innings. He has given up 3 homers in that stretch, and 12 walks, while striking out 41 opposing batters. The Mets have Pedro Feliciano, who has a 2-4 record with an ERA of 2.34 in 34.2 innings (almost the same number of innings, but a much better ERA, 1.35 lower). He has given up 1 homer during that stretch (2 less) and 17 walks (5 more) while striking out 33 batters. (8 less). Saito’s better strikeouts to walks ratio balances out his much higher ERA in comparison to Feliciano, but Pedro’s low homers and strong winning record gives him the edge.
Escobar is no match for Reyes but take a look at Atlanta third baseman Chipper Jones’ numbers this year compared to New York’s All Star Jose Reyes. They are in a close contest as all around hitters and players. Chipper (Daryll!!!) Jones in 242 at bats has scored 33 runs on 61 hits and 16 doubles with no triples. He has 6 homers on the year, with 33 RBI’s and has 5 stolen bases. He has earned 50 walks and is batting .252 this year. Reyes, in 324 at bats has scored 52 runs (19 more!), 89 hits (28 more), 15 doubles (1 less!), and 6 triples (6 better than nothing), with 6 homers (exactly the same), with 33 RBI’s (the same!) and 19 walks (Jones gets the edge on this one). Reyes leads the league in stolen bases with 19,(14 more than Chipper) and is batting .275 (23 points higher than Jones). Reyes is clearly ahead of Jones.
One might argue that Jeff Francoeur is a close match at the plate with Chipper Jones. Frenchy, in comparison to Chipper, has 51 more at bats, one more run scored, 13 more hits, 1 less double, 1 more triple, 2 more homers, 9 more RBI’s, 31 less walks, 2 more stolen bases, and is batting .253, 1 point more than Jones. Except for walks, that’s a pretty close match! But the two have opposite personalities; Jeff is a clowner while Chipper Jones hardly cracks a smile. I’d rather have a Pooh than an Eyore on my team.
Another interesting comparison is between the Braves’ Prado, who will be allowed to play with the other All Stars on Tuesday, and Angel Pagan, who will not even be allowed into the parking lot at Anaheim. Yes, Pagan has 74 less at bats, and has scored 25 less runs with 27 less hits, 8 less doubles, and 4 less homers, but he has 4 more triples than that Prado. He has one more RBI than Prado and is batting only .10 points lower. He has 15 more stolen bases than Prado and two more walks. (Prado is injured and will not be playing)
So as you watch the Mets during the second half of the season as they try to pick up games on the Braves in the obvious rivalry that everyone knows about, also keep track of the deeper rivalries that are invisible to the uninitiated.