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Comparing Phillies position players with rest of the NL East: 1st Base

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March has been brutally cold in Philadelphia.  Not merely the weather, which has been ridiculous, but the frost permeating our winter sports teams.  This winter has been long… too long. We need a burst of heat to be carried from Florida, melt the frost, and provide us an early summer reprieve. That white-red pinstriped heat could start blazing as early as the day after Easter; so let’s break out our sunglasses, throw on some shorts, and get the sunscreen ready with a position by position, side by side comparison of the NL East.  Ryan Howard

 

In this series of mini articles, over the next few days, I will break down each position, analyze the players’ past performance, add a pinch of speculation, and ultimately roll them, bake them, and rank each position to determine who will be the best - the Phillies vs. All (NL East competitors).  

 

Most preseason coverage focuses, rightly so, on the development of story lines internal to the Phillies; Is Roy Halladay done? Will Dom Brown continue his hot preseason up north? Can Chase Utley and Ryan Howard stay healthy?  

 

In this article we want to take a look at the Phillies’ biggest competition, namely the NL East.  How do the boys wearing P’s on their hats compare to the rest of the field.  If healthy, are the Phillies just as powerful as they were three years ago, or has the rest of the East surpassed them?  

 

In order to do this, I’ve gone to a lot of sources, compiled stats, and walked through storylines.  First, here is my preseason NL East Power Rankings. Presenting the teams from best (1) to worst (Miami Marlins) will help us formulate a complete picture of where the Phillies stand in the mix.  

 

1.  Washington Nationals, WN (Is this because of their hot bats or dominant pitching?) 

2.  Atlanta Braves, AB (Is this because of the Upton Brother’s Lumber Co. setting up shop in hot ‘lanta?) 

3.  Philadelphia Phillies, PP (Are the Phillies really a middling team, or do they have the horses to ride?) 

4.  NY Mets, NM (Are the Mets up-and-coming or just a bad organization)

5.  Miami Marlins, MM (A complete mess)

 

Now let’s turn our attention to positional matchups – who is better where and how do the Phillies match up?  We’ll kick it off with 1st Base.  Below is a chart with each team’s perspective starters and selected stats from 2012.  Note:  The players are listed below in order from best (top) to worst (Miami Marlins).

 

 

Table 1: **Player filling in for Logan Morrison (recovering from knee surgery)

 

Ryan Howard, Adam LaRoche, and Casey Kotchman are sustainment or backend players, meaning they have reached their peak, we know what they are and they are now sustaining that level or are at the brink of starting to regress. Ike Davis is entering his prime for the Mets and Freddie Freeman, based on age and his past performance, has a generous amount of upside.  There are a few things this group is obviously not good at.  First, none of them will be mistaken for track stars.  We can therefore throw out stolen bases and triples as meaningful stats.  The other noticeable weakness is batting average.  If we can agree that .264 BA is about the league average, than we can see that most of these guys don’t provide a decent average (LaRoche being the exception), while missing the ball on strike three at a high clip.  


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What this group is good at is power!  These guys are straight HR and RBI monsters!  Their role is to come to the park with the intent of alleviating the stadium of as many balls as possible while driving in as many runs as possible.  Beyond Kotchman, who is filling in for anticipated starter, Logan Morrison, this group will be batting in the four hole and counted on to drive their respective teammates around the bases.    

 

I made Adam LaRoche the top NL East first baseman because he can provide a decent batting average along with his power numbers.  He will also bat behind a stacked National’s lineup that features Denard Span, Bryce Harper, and Ryan Zimmerman.  Ryan Howard could outswing LaRoche, if he is fully healthy, returns to his 2011 form, and the Phillies table setters put together a spread.  His penchant for strikeouts and low batting average are definite inhibitors, but if the Phillies want to get anywhere this season they need him to haul them around.   

 

Freeman is the middle man in my rankings.  He also has the most potential and upside of the group. His numbers to date have been good and at 23, he could be ready to move up this ranking of NL East first basemen.  Freeman could conceivably add a few points to his batting average to come in closer to the league average, while tallying both runs scored as well as RBI totals above 100.  His home run prowess isn’t as flashy as the other big dogs, but he still provides plenty of pop.

 

The guy directly below Freeman, Ike Davis, is a nice player for the Mets. Daniel Murphy and David Wright should provide some runners on base for Davis to hit home but a stifling batting average and limited talent throughout the Mets lineup will keep him securely entrenched as the fourth best first baseman in the NL East.  Bringing up the rear is Casey Kotchman, who will be a nice early season replacement for the Marlins, a team that might lose every game in April (Just kidding – kind of).  He is basically a defensive stopper; his offense consists of limited ability and below average power.  His manager, Mike Redmond has put nearly his entire lineup in the four hole this spring looking for an early replacement for his normal cleanup hitter, Logan Morrison.  Morrison will most likely miss all of April while rehabbing from knee surgery.  His absence leaves Kotchman, slated to start the season for the Marlins at first, a potential candidate to hit behind the pride of Miami, Giancarlo Stanton.  

Be sure to read and react to all of the position primers.  Next up: second base.  

 

Let’s go Phils!

 

Chris Sweeney is a freelance writer and philly2philly.com contributor.  He grew up in Bucks County, played Division 2 basketball at East Stroudsburg University where he became interested in the media when he hosted a night time radio show.  He left ESU to join the Air Force, which he served in for five years (including 1 Middle Eastern Tour).  Chris was bred to be a passionate Philadelphia Sports fan and enjoys everything that the Philly sports scene has to offer (the competition, the news articles, the books, and talk radio).  He now resides in New Jersey with his wife and five children.

 You can reach him at christopher_sweeney_02@yahoo.com   

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