Since it's become fairly popular, I'll continue a series of comparing the Brewers to other top teams from around Major League Baseball. I've already looked at the other two top teams in the NL Central and the likely top team in the NL, the Phillies, so how about seeing how the Brewers appear next to last years World Series contenders. I'll do the Giants today and likely have the Rangers next weekend,.
Catcher: Buster Posey versus Jonathan Lucroy
Both players were rookies last season. One hit .305/.357/.505, won the rookie of the year award, and looks like he will be one of the next great hitting catchers. The other had a .281 wOBA. No offense to Lucroy, who I'm sure isn't going to have a .300 OBP his whole career, but Posey was the offensive leader for last years World Series winners. Posey was better than Lucroy last year, he was better in the minors, and he'll be better going forward.
Follow the jump for the rest.
1B: Aubrey Huff versus Prince Fielder
According to fWAR, Aubrey Huff was worth 1.6 wins more than Prince Fielder was last year. However, last year was easily the best of his career--prior to 2010 Huff had only one season with a higher fWAR than Fielders 4.1 last year. His walk rate was 12.4%, only one other year has he been over 8.5%. I've talked about Fielders every-other year pattern before, and he is in a contract year, whether that actually makes a difference in a players focus or not. Huff isn't going to be as bad as he was in 2009 when he hit .241/.310/.384 and for much of his career may have been fairly underrated, but the safe money is on Fielder being the better of the two.
2B: Freddy Sanchez versus Rickie Weeks
Freddy Sanchez is a mediocre hitter. He hits for a decent average (.293 and .292 the last two seasons), get on base OK (.326 and .342 OBPs) but has little power (.416 and .397 SLGs), all of which is good for slightly below average wOBAs of .322 and .327. He's only had a negative UZR once in his career, back in 2004 when he played just nine games. For his career, he has a 5.1 UZR at second base. Rickie Weeks rocks my socks. He is the masta of disasta, the grace of second base, the stunner homerunner, the great of walk rate. He hit .269/.366/.464 last year with 29 homeruns and with another healthy year will be better than Sanchez, no doubt. He's even playing around average defense, now!
SS: Miguel Tejada versus Yuniesky Betancourt
I'm surprised Tejada is still playing at all, even more so that he's starting, even more so that he's at shortstop, even more so that it's for a team that just won the World Series. Tejada hit .269/.312/.381 last year, for a .306 wOBA, hardly better than Yuni the Great's .300 wOBA. Tejada has never been a very good defensive player, either, and in 2009 in a full season at SS he had a -11.2 UZR. Both players will probably be really bad, and the only reason I'm picking Tejada over Yuni is because last year was the first time since 1998 that Tejada's wOBA was below Betancourt's career best.
3B: Pablo Sandoval versus Casey McGehee
Way back in 2009, the man Giants fans affectionately call Panda hit marvelously in his first full season with a slash line of .330/.387/.556 with 25 HR. That line would easily make him more valuable than McGehee. But then, in 2010, Sandoval came in overweight and out of shape and had a poor follow-up season with a .268/.323/.409 line along with just 13 homers. McGehee didn't have a bad 2009, himself, hitting .301/.360/.499 in just under 400 plate appearances. He followed that up by hitting .285/.337/.464 with 23 home runs. Both players are below average defensively. My opinion is that McGehee will remain about the same hitter as he was in 2010. So the question becomes do you think that Sandoval will come in to 2011 in better shape and hit like he did in 2009, or was that an anomaly and he's closer to his 2010 self? The claim is that Panda has lost 45 pounds over winter (after being told he would be sent to the minors if he wasn't in good enough shape) so I'll put my money on a bounceback year for Sandoval.
LF: Mark DeRosa versus Ryan Braun
For a baseball player to be considered better than Ryan Braun, they need to be a superstar; one of the best players in the game. I rated Matt Holliday ahead of Braun. Mark Derosa is a solid player and nothing more.
CF: Andres Torres versus Carlos Gomez
Torres was a 5th/6th/7th outfielder for the Twins and Rangers at the beginning of his career from 2002-2005. Then he spent 2006-2008 floating around the minors for the Twins, Cubs, and Giants. He got a chance to play in 75 games in 2009 with San Francisco and managed 2 fWAR. Then, in 2010, his age 32 season, Andres Torres hit .268/.343/.479 with 16 home runs, 26 stolen bases, and a 21.2 UZR playing all three outfield positions for the Giants. So after being a career role player/minor leaguer, Torres puts up 2 fWAR in just 170 plate appearances and then, the next year, registers 6.0 fWAR--tied for fifth among outfielders with Carlos Gonzalez, who was considered an MVP candidate. I just don't know what to think about that. Considering he seemingly just expanded on a limited 2009, I'm going to give the advantage to Torres since Gomez doesn't even have the advantage in UZR/150.
RF: Cody Ross versus Corey Hart
After the Giants acquired Ross from the Florida Marlins last season, he finished the year hitting .288/.354/.466 in 33 games with San Francisco. Overall, last season was a bit of a downyear for Ross, with his .324 wOBA being well below his career .340 wOBA. Ross will likely hit for 20-25 home runs, a .320 OBP and somewhere around a .460 SLG%. Hart hit .283/.340/.525 last year and has a career .348 wOBA. The two might end up being fairly similar next year, but if I had to choose, I would take Hart.
1SP: Tim Lincecum versus Zack Greinke
Tim Lincecum, on a down year in 2010, had a 3.43 ERA and an FIP of 3.15. Greinke, on a down year in 2010, had a 4.17 ERA and 3.34 FIP. Of course, Greinke has shown that he can have a better season than any other pitcher in the MLB right now, even "The Freak", after his magical 2009 season. That was actually also the best season of Lincecum's career thus far, when he had 8.2 fWAR, still over a full win less than Greinke's fWAR of 9.4 that year. In the last four years, since Lincecum first came into the league, he has 24 total fWAR and Greinke has 22 fWAR. I'll say the same thing I did when I compared Milwaukee to Philadelphia: Greinke certainly can have the better season, but I think the safer bet is on Lincecum.
2SP: Matt Cain versus Yovani Gallardo
In the last four seasons, Cain's FIP has varied from 3.65 to 3.91. The 3.65 was his FIP last year, the second time he has had 4 fWAR. That's the most he's ever put up in a full season; the lowest was 3.5. He's a very consistent, very good pitcher. It wouldn't shock me to see him be a little bit better next year. However, if Yovani Gallardo is even close to how he pitched last year, he is the better player of the two. Gallardo had the eighth best FIP in the majors last season--3.02--and had a 4.6 fWAR. I don't see him dropping off so much that he falls behind Cain next year.
3SP: Jonathan Sanchez versus Shaun Marcum
If I keep writing these, I'm going to start sounding like a broken record. In the tough AL East, Shaun Marcum had a 3.64 ERA and 3.74 FIP. If he pitches the same as last year, we could expect both those numbers to go down fairly significantly just due to the fact that he is no longer throwing against the Yankees, Rays and Red Sox frequently. Jonathan Sanchez was much better with his ERA--3.07, over a run better than his previous career best, set in 2009--but worse in FIP at 4.00. Only once has Sanchez broken the 4.00 FIP barrier, in 2008 with a 3.85. To be fair, Marcum only broke that barrier for the first time last season. Sanchez will strike out a high number of hitters (9.54 K/9) but gives up a lot of walks (4.47 BB/9). Marcum doesn't strike out as many (7.6 K/9), but walks a lot fewer batters as well (1.98 BB/9). Sanchez's home run rate has fluctuated greatly the past few years, so if we look at xFIP, he has been no lower than 4.11 and no higher than 4.19 over that span. Marcum has been mid to high fours until last year when he had a 3.90. It's a tough call; Sanchez has had the better track record but Marcum had the better year last season. I'm picking Marcum because Sanchez has had two years of really low BABIPs, and if that comes closer to normal, he would be hurt more than Marcum. Also, the whole AL>NL thing.
4SP: Madison Bumgarner versus Randy Wolf
After going into 2010 as one of the top pitching prospects in baseball, Bumgarner had a very good rookie season. In 18 starts and 111 innings, he had a 3.00 ERA and 3.66 FIP. He didn't walk or strikeout too many hitters, and didn't give up many home runs, either. If he even comes close to those numbers, Randy Wolf will need another resurgence season like he had in 2009 to compete.
5SP: Barry Zito versus Chris Narveson
I would love to see the Giants cut Barry Zito--a likely league average pitcher--and still have to pay him while putting Jeff Suppan in the starting rotation. But I'm going to operate off the assumption that San Francisco GM Brian Sabean isn't that stupid. Zito was really bad the first two seasons of tenure with the Giants, but the last two years has had FIPs of 4.31 and 4.25. Not bad at all. His ERAs have been even lower, hanging just over four. Narveson has been slightly better FIP wise (4.22 both years) though his ERA went from 3.83 to 4.99. Narveson had much better xFIPs than Zito along with better strikeout and walk rates. Despite the worse ERA last year, Narveson seems more likely to be the better pitcher.
Bench: Giants versus Brewers
The Giants backup outfielders will likely be Aaron Rowand and Pat Burrell, two aging players looking to recapture their glory years. Rowand is actually somehow a worse hitter than Mark Kotsay (.287 wOBA last year and is nowhere near the defensive fielder he used to be. After an awful 2009, Burrell had a hitting resurgence with San Francisco in 2010 with 20 HR and a .252/.348/.469 slash line. His defense can't be relied on anymore. By now, most people probably know my infatuation with Chris Dickerson, who has a career .267/.356/.403 line along with a 11.9 career UZR. If you took his career 527 plate appearances as one season, his fWAR would be better than Burrells from 2010. Burrell would have had around 100 less plate appearances, though. I'll begrudgingly give the edge to Burrell. Mike Fontenot and, I guess, Travis Ishikawa will be the bench infielders for the reigning champs. Fontenot has wOBAs of .296 and .307 the last two years and is only above average defensively at second base. Ishikawa hasn't been a much better hitter (.313 and .311 wOBAs) and can only play first base. The only Giants bench player I would take over their Brewer counterpart is Burrell.
Bullpen: Giants versus Brewers
Along with being one of the more interesting people in baseball, Brian Wilson was possibly the best reliever as well. He had a 1.81 ERA and 2.19 FIP. While it's very unlikely he repeats that performance, he should still be great--in 2009 he had a 2.74 and 2.50 FIP. Sergio Romo had a 2.18 ERA and 2.95 FIP last year, and was even better FIP-wise in 2008. Santiago Casilla had a 1.95 ERA and 3.15 FIP in 2010. I've talked about how much I love the Brewers bullpen in my previous posts, so if you want to read that you can go ahead and look at them, but I think the Giants bullpen will be even better next year.
Overall, that's eight advantages for the Brewers and seven for the Giants. The thing I like about writing these is when I actually look at the numbers and make a decision on different positions, I will often times see that I was originally wrong about just how much better a position or team or group of positions were than I thought. That happened to me with the starting rotations this time. After their vaunted rotation led the Giants to a World Series win, I just assumed that no other teams, bar the Phillies, could even compete with San Francisco in that regard. But I chose two of the top three on both staffs (and 3 out of five overall) in favor of the Brewers. Even though Sanchez and Marcum were close to a toss-up, Greinke could very well end up being better than Lincecum. I won't say that because of this I believe the Brewers have the better rotation, but it is very close--more so than I would have originally thought.
I was also surprised that I chose four Giants over their Brewers counterparts offensively. I knew that Posey would be, and thought I would pick one more, but Torres was clearly the better choice over Gomez and Sandoval and Tejada had enough potential that I had to take them over McGehee and Yuni.
Catcher, 1B, 2B, LF, 4SP and the Bench were the only positions I thought there was a clear advantage for one team in.