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  1. Hurrcules? (sorry for nitpicking, good article)

    Comment by juan pierre's mustache — June 20, 2011 @ 2:42 pm

  2. Not sure this argument has been fleshed out properly? It seems like you are saying the NL East will soon show the same intra-divisional issues that the AL East has – two financially loaded & successful clubs, with mid- to small-markets trying to catch up? I don’t see that being the focus of your supporting argument though. You are saying, and I agree, that the NL East will soon be a very deep division, regardless of financial strength. Perhaps you mean to infer that it will be tough for these .500+ teams to all make the playoff when they will be contenders? I can see the logic there, but I’m not sure you laid that thought out clearly. Although I can see, with the right ownership and management decision making in the future, the setup can be similar: The Phillies & Mets matching the Yankees & Red Sox in spending and success, while the Nationals (matching with Toronto, as up-and-coming teams with wealthy owners), Marlins (Tampa – small-market, youth-driven) and Braves (mid-market match for Orioles) try to keep pace with less resources.

    Comment by DD — June 20, 2011 @ 2:45 pm

  3. It looks like the Phillies are the weakest of the five teams moving forward, with the Nationals and the Braves looking like the strongest.

    Comment by JT Grace — June 20, 2011 @ 2:50 pm

  4. Here’s something I don’t understand about this whole realignment diatribe. Why are we suggesting to change/restructure/realign the entire league around for two teams? Doesn’t it seem like it would make sense to enact something to limit the actions or abilities of the very few rather than make sweeping changes to the majority?

    Comment by King John II — June 20, 2011 @ 2:53 pm

  5. Wait, are you saying that the Mets match the Yankees and Red Sox in terms of spending and success? They do neither.

    Please don’t compare the Braves with the Orioles either. These two franchises have nothing in common.

    Comment by JT Grace — June 20, 2011 @ 2:54 pm

  6. I do mean discussion, not diatribe. English fail.

    Comment by King John II — June 20, 2011 @ 2:57 pm

  7. No, it doesnt look that way at all.

    Comment by Nik — June 20, 2011 @ 3:04 pm

  8. Chris Dominguez plays in the SF Giants organization, not the Marlins. He’s currently in Double-A Richmond. How is he “poised” to be the Marlins third baseman?

    Comment by Max — June 20, 2011 @ 3:09 pm

  9. The Nats are easily the most interesting team in baseball over the next 2-3 years. As you mentioned, Zimmerman, Stras, Harper and Rendon could pack a huge punch. However, I think you glossed over two very important players for the Nats future: Danny Espinosa and Jordan Zimmermann.

    In his first season, Espinosa is already the 5th best 2B in the majors. He displays plus, plus defense, and has a ridiculous .233 ISO, better than the likes of Youkilis, J. Upton, Pujols and Tulo. Factor in his unlucky BABIP (.257), and you’re looking at a FANTASTIC ballplayer. And he’s only 24 years old! Easily projectable to put up 5+ WAR per season.

    Jordan Zimmermann (two NN’s, FYI, might want to edit the article) is another gem. It looks like he’s recovered quickly from TJ in late 2009. His control is great, and is he can boost his strikeouts back to his 2009 numbers, you’re looking at ace material, and he only just turned 25.

    Just between those two players, you’re looking at 10 WAR. Factor in Zimmerman, Harper and Strasburg and you have a core group of players, who might only be rivaled by the Sox (AGon, Pedroia, Crawford, Beckett, Lester).

    Then don’t forget about Jayson Werth and Michael Where-did-he-come-from Morse. Over the past two seasons with 500+ PAs, Morse has a wOBA of .382. That’s 18th best in the majors. Better than guys like Teixeira, Werth and Berkman. He also seems to have found his true position: 1B. He never looked comfortable in the OF, and his SSS defensive metrics (and my eye-witness account) indicate he’s a plus defender at first. His BABIP will likely bring his numbers down some, but he’ll still be vastly above average, and a huge steal from Jack Z and the M’s.

    Comment by Will — June 20, 2011 @ 3:11 pm

  10. Please reread my sentence – “Although I can see, with the right ownership and management decision making IN THE FUTURE, the setup can be similar”. I’m not saying it’s the same right now, just like the author isn’t saying that. The Mets will have to improve many things to match the Yankees, Red Sox, and Phillies success over the last several years. I understand the Braves-Orioles is not a perfect comparison either – obviously the Braves are set up for more immediate success and have had better management. Just trying to show that the two divisions have the potential for contention top to bottom in the next few years – certainly more has to go right for the Orioles for that to work.

    Comment by DD — June 20, 2011 @ 3:13 pm

  11. Matt*

    Comment by Reed MacPhail — June 20, 2011 @ 3:13 pm

  12. He clearly means Matt Dominguez.

    Comment by NM — June 20, 2011 @ 3:14 pm

  13. I love Espinosa as much as the next guy, but a .257 BABIP is not unlucky if you’re hitting line drives at an 11.8% clip. He’s a .250 hitter AT BEST right now.

    Comment by Bryan — June 20, 2011 @ 3:18 pm

  14. Only in terms of near ML ready prospects. They actually have a healthier farm than the Marlins by all accounts. The Mets seem heavy in role player talent and the Nationals farm is extremely top heavy with little depth.

    In any case, their revenue stream is worth a hell of a lot more than a few farm players. If I were to grade long term health right now, I’d rank Braves – Phillies – Nationals – Mets – Marlins. And it’s close. That’s the point of the article.

    Comment by Brad Johnson — June 20, 2011 @ 3:18 pm

  15. Two reasons, revenue and the player’s union. If you can come up with a way to put the financial giants of the game on the same footing as the halflings without reducing revenues or upsetting the MLBPA, then you desire a Nobel Prize.

    Comment by Brad Johnson — June 20, 2011 @ 3:21 pm

  16. It’s more complicated than helping out the Jays and O’s. In fact, I’d say these talks have largely nothing to do with either club.

    Currently the playoff situations works this way:
    AL- 4 playoff spots for 14 teams.
    NL- 4 playoff spots for 16 teams.

    Those 16 NL teams have a significantly lesser chance of making the playoffs. Also consider that the NL Central, with 6 teams and only 1 guaranteed playoff spot, is also where Bud Selig’s Brewers are situated. He previously had a minority ownership of the club, and his daughter was CEO of the club for 6 years. Given that Selig plans to retire in 2012, it makes a lot of sense for him to give Milwaukee a better bargain while he still can.

    Either way, since Interleague play seems to be here for the long run, it makes little sense any more to keep an even number of teams in each league, at the detriment to the majority of clubs.

    Comment by Will — June 20, 2011 @ 3:21 pm

  17. Not to mention, Espinosa is so good at 2B defense because he’s really a shortstop blocked by Desmond. Really the team needs to bring in a 2B with a decent bat (Kelly Johnson might be cheap this offseason), move Espinosa to SS, make Desmond a super utility guy. That will noticeably improve the defense and offense.

    Comment by DD — June 20, 2011 @ 3:25 pm

  18. I agree that the Nats are going to be one of the more exciting teams to watch. But Espinosa’s BABIP isn’t particularly flukey (I think his xBABIP is in the .260’s if I recall). I don’t think his batted ball profile is particularly flukey either, but that’s just my intuition – I have no evidence in support of that.

    His ISO is propped up by a bunch of “Just Enough” home runs. Were I to guess, I’d say we should expect an ISO in the .160-.175 range going forward.

    That said, he can certainly improve his contact skills going forward. He should be a fun 2b to watch regardless.

    Comment by Brad Johnson — June 20, 2011 @ 3:26 pm

  19. While Will is overly optimistic here, I must emphasize his hidden point–Morse for Langerhans has already paid off zillionfold.

    Re: Espinosa – Will goes overboard again, but the replies here somewhat miss the point. I’m still new at this thing, but even if you end up with a ~.330 wOBA and great defense at second, that’s what, a 4 WAR player or so depending on the definition of “great defense”?

    Comment by Person — June 20, 2011 @ 3:42 pm

  20. Well, one of his hidden points. Additionally, yes, “zillionfold” is a technical term.

    Comment by Person — June 20, 2011 @ 3:45 pm

  21. Ok that makes sense…I started to think Chris Dominguez got traded.

    Comment by Max — June 20, 2011 @ 3:55 pm

  22. @NM – He linked to Chris Dominguez’s fangraph page, so how does reader know that he “clearly means” Matt. Getting peoples names wrong or misspelling them is the fastest way to lose credibility.

    Comment by Max — June 20, 2011 @ 3:55 pm

  23. Maybe I wasn’t clear. I was talking about JZimm and Espinosa going forward.

    Even so, I’m not sure how I’m going overboard, when you yourself concede that Espinosa is a 4 WAR-type player at age 24. Of course, you expect him to improve in the next 4-5 years. 4 WAR in an age 24 season equates to a 5+ WAR age 27-31 seasons. The same can be said about Jordan Zimmermann.

    I’m still very skeptical about Morse. I don’t think he can sustain his current level of play with the bat, even though he’s done it now for 2 half seasons. However, whatever value he loses from his bat is instantly recouped from his switch to a position he’s more capable at playing.
    For example, he’s been awful in the corner OF positions (career -14.3 and -12.6 UZR/150 in LF and RF, respectively), but consistently above average at first. These are all small sample sizes, but first-hand experience of watching him play indicates that the stats aren’t too far off.

    Comment by Will — June 20, 2011 @ 4:00 pm

  24. No need for Kelly Johnson, when you have Anthony Rendon waiting in the wings (granted he can play solid defense at 2B).

    Comment by Will — June 20, 2011 @ 4:01 pm

  25. My point on Morse was basically, even if his career ended today, his production to date has led to a clear win in that trade.

    I think you’re generally right that Espinosa will be a darn good player going forward. But comparing his power to Pujols using 350 PA of ISO, for instance… ‘overboard’ is probably a decent description.

    Comment by Person — June 20, 2011 @ 4:16 pm

  26. No guarantee Rendon plays 2B, he’s a 3B at this point and we’ll see where he ends up. If he does prove to be the 2B of the future, they can sign Johnson to a 2 yr deal with an option (or 3 yrs if they are bold) and hope he has some trade value when the deal has a year or less left and Rendon is ready. Considering Johnson is having a down year compared to last year, that type of contract should be doable. Say 2 yrs 11 mil, option for 6.5 mil/buyout for 1 mil? He would be another in a long line of former Braves to play in DC.

    Comment by DD — June 20, 2011 @ 4:18 pm

  27. yea JT Grace!!!!! I am cheering your view!!!!

    Comment by kick me in the GO NATS — June 20, 2011 @ 4:32 pm

  28. Why use a long-term solution to a short-term problem?

    Comment by Epee9 — June 20, 2011 @ 4:39 pm

  29. So far this season Desmond is a plus defender at SS. He made a ton of errors last season but his range factor was one of the better in the game and errors can be reduced with experience. He is still young and capable of much more improvement. So, I think your desire to move him off SS is far to hasty. He is the 16th best in the game this season via WAR and could easily be an average to maybe better all round starting SS for years at this rate without much improvement. I do not in any way see the hall of fame in his future right now, but an average to slightly above average SS for 5-7 years does not strike me as any stretch of my imagination, and clearly more upside exist.

    Comment by kick me in the GO NATS — June 20, 2011 @ 4:53 pm

  30. Also, just because Espinosa is a great 2B by no means guarantees he would be as good at SS. A player capable of being an All star at any position should not be moved off that position unless another All star is replacing him and in my mind Espinosa plays an all star quality second base already and will get better.

    Lastly, Rendon is no sure thing. His college career injurywise looks allot like Nick Johnson’s as a pro. Lots of talent there, but he may struggle to stay on the field until his body gives out. Secondbase looks even more unlikely since it is a more physically demanding position than most others. Rendon was in my mind a pick based on talent, but we have no sure place to play him at all. That is unless the NL adopts the DH.

    Comment by kick me in the GO NATS — June 20, 2011 @ 5:12 pm

  31. If anyone is interested, I have a more radical realignment plan that addresses some of these issues and perhaps caters to the FanGraphs (thinking fans) audience:

    I’ll be posting updates the rest of the week fleshing out some of those ideas.

    Comment by jfwiii — June 20, 2011 @ 5:12 pm

  32. I am mildly bullish on Morse. Based on his inability to walk, this could be a career year, but I am hoping it isn’t. I watch nearly ever game the NATs play and he does appear to be the real deal defensively at 1B (Nick J in 2005 good)

    Comment by kick me in the GO NATS — June 20, 2011 @ 5:16 pm

  33. “And it’s close. That’s the point of the article.”

    So you’re saying the competitive balance is secure in this division. But why would any of those team have the same dire need for realignment than the O’s, Jays and Rays?

    Comment by Mowses — June 20, 2011 @ 5:54 pm

  34. Speaking of the NL and the DH. And forgive me if someone posted this above, I have just a few minutes to type…. But if realignment forces more common interleague games, why not go to a 10man batting order? you have a DH to make up for the poor hitting pitcher, yet the pitcher still bats?

    I bet the first “not a good idea” reply goes with the 9 players, 9 innings, 3 outs, 27 outs total

    Comment by jake — June 20, 2011 @ 7:19 pm

  35. There are only two reasons why the owners want to restructure the playoffs. One, to ensure that both the Red Sox and Yankees make the playoffs every single year. Playoff ratings are drastically lower when one of those two teams are not contending, so MLB is trying appease its broadcast partners for ratings. Those postseason television contracts are where the real money is at in baseball. Secondly, to give the other teams in the AL East at least a shot at making the playoffs without having to beat either the Yankees or Red Sox in the regular season. Do not believe the other reasons that MLB is publicly using for this push.

    Comment by Phantom Stranger — June 20, 2011 @ 7:48 pm

  36. I think most baseball fans would start rioting if MLB seriously tried using 10-men batting orders. They might as well switch to unlimited substitutions and emulate the NFL at that point.

    Comment by Phantom Stranger — June 20, 2011 @ 7:51 pm

  37. Philly has the perfect storm right now of a great park, a great team, great front office management of resources, a great farm system, and great fans who support the entire thing. Who knows what will happen in the future, but for now I don’t see us falling off the map any time soon. The FO in Philly studied the Red Sox method of creating a sustainable competitive advantage, and given the support in the comminity remains unbelievably strong, they’ll continue to ride the waive for a long time to come.

    Comment by Dan in Philly — June 21, 2011 @ 9:35 am

  38. Not a fan of this argument at all. The complaints coming from Toronto, Baltimore and Tampa are not that the division is too strong overall (it may be, but that’s not the complaint), or that there are too many good teams in the division, as you suggest could be the case in the NL East in a few years. Instead, their complaint is that there is a LACK of parity in the division since two of the teams have a significant enough edge in financial resources to simply outspend the other three.

    I have noticed that this has been a point of confusion for others as well. Simply having a bunch of good teams in a division is not a systemic problem, its a temporary issue. Having two financial behemoths in a single division is a systemic problem, since it all but excludes the other teams (in a 1 wildcard system) from the postseason in most years. This problem is not driven by talent level, but market size, and is therefore a much more stable condition than short term talent parity.

    To compare this situation to the NL East by saying that all 5 teams look to have bright futures in terms of on field talent is ridiculous. Unless you are somehow making the argument that two of the teams are going to dramatically increase their market size in coming years, and start outspending the rest of the division this is not a comparable situation.

    Since I hate using single year payroll as evidence (prone to yearly fluctuations), take this into consideration. Since 2000, the Yankees opening day payrolls have been almost as high as Toronto, Baltimore and Tampa COMBINED ($2,072,637,911 to $2,196,416,669), While Boston’s $1,485,699,170
    is nearly double what Toronto and Baltimore have spent over that period, and three times as much as the Rays. This situation simply is not mimicked in any other division in baseball, NL East or otherwise.

    Comment by James Lewis — June 21, 2011 @ 9:46 am

  39. It’s not a dire need at all. The division looks like it should be well balanced going forward. It also looks like it could have 3-4 of the top 7 NL teams in a given year. The proposed realignment would let those teams in if they are in fact better than anything the Central or West has to offer.

    Comment by Brad Johnson — June 21, 2011 @ 10:23 am

  40. This is nonsense. Desmond is firmly entrenched at SS for the near future. The only scenario they would move Espinosa to SS is because they had to trade Desmond as part of a package to land an elite SP or 1b in a trade.

    Comment by Brad Johnson — June 21, 2011 @ 10:31 am

  41. I can think of any number of schemes that make more sense than 2 leagues with 5 playoff teams from each, while reducing travel costs, keeping traditional rivalries in place, more frequent play against any given team, and giving 3rd-place teams in a division a shot at the playoffs.
    I won’t bore y’all with the details, since I’m sure most of you have your own.

    Comment by GiantHusker — June 21, 2011 @ 12:49 pm

  42. Congratulations on a plan that combines the worst aspects of DH and non-DH.

    Comment by GiantHusker — June 21, 2011 @ 12:51 pm

  43. Extremely well-explained.

    Comment by GiantHusker — June 21, 2011 @ 12:53 pm

  44. Payroll isn’t just a function of market size, it is also significantly affected by the performance on the field. It’s not a coincidence that the Phillies payroll increase substantially once they started winning. It won’t be a coincidence when, maybe in 5 years, if the Mets are just as successful on the field, that they are then spending over $150 mil a year. The comparison should be on the bandwidth the teams have on payroll – for example, no matter how good the team is on the field, it is unlikely that the Rays spend more than, say, $60 mil on payroll. They have a much more limited ceiling than do the large market teams, who can afford a $100 mil payroll in sub .500 seasons. I do like your other points, as they more eloquently mirror my thoughts in the second comment at the top.

    Comment by DD — June 21, 2011 @ 1:42 pm

  45. Of course I agree that payroll is not a perfectly analogous representation of market size and is dependent on many factors, including winning, (hence why I’m not a fan of looking at and individual year for payrolls), however trends in payroll over the period of a decade tend to do a fairly good job of teasing that out.

    While the Phillies payroll is high now, their overall spending from 2000-2011 does not particularly stand out due to a period of lower spending from 2000-2003 when the team was not as competitive. Basically, I agree with your point that the big difference is that large market teams show a greater ability to carry a higher payroll throughout the decade regardless of competitiveness (recognizing that this increased payroll plays a part in making them competitive).

    Comment by James Lewis — June 21, 2011 @ 3:10 pm

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