NL East Season Preview (2019)

After writing my recent article about Bryce Harper’s signing with the Phillies, I started getting really excited about the return of baseball! With Spring Training in full swing and most free agents signed and with their teams, we can start to look at how each team projects to perform in the 2019 season. As a big Washington Nationals fan, my attention naturally gravitated to the NL East. Take a look below to see how each team in the division projects to stack up!

Comparing Position Groups

NL East WAR by Position

To view the relative rankings of each team’s position groups, I put together the radar chart above using Ricardo Bion’s excellent ggradar extension. I like this chart because it’s easy to peek at and get a sense of which areas of the team each team is particularly strong or weak in. My quick takeaways from this data:

  • Catcher is a weak position across the division - the Phillies’ trade for J.T. Realmuto gives them by far the best option at the position
  • Boy, the Marlins are going to have a tough year. Except for third base (shout-out Brian Anderson), the Marlins have the worst group of players at each position in the division
  • The Nationals boast the most well-rounded lineup in the division, with strong performers at nearly every position, and the best group at four different positions
  • The Mets’ competitive advantage comes largely from their pitching, with the second-best starting rotation and second-best relief corps in the division
  • The Phillies’ acquisition of Harper really boosts their outfield play, which was not projected to be very strong, and gives them the best players at three different position groups
  • The Braves are led by their infield, which now boasts three presumptive All Stars in Freddie Freeman, Ozzie Albies, and the newly-signed Josh Donaldson. With Ronald Acuña Jr in center field, the Braves have the best players at three position groups

Projected Starting Lineups

NL East Starting Lineups

I had a lot of fun integrating Ben Dilday’s MLB stadium geometries into the charts, which plot each team’s projected Opening Day lineups in their home park.

Pitching

NL East Pitching Rotations

Looking at projected pitching production for each team shows a few main things. First, the top of the Mets’ and Nats’ rotations are going to be extremely strong, with the Mets featuring two legitimate aces and the Nats with the best pitcher in baseball (Scherzer) and two extremely strong #2s in Strasburg and Corbin.

Secondly, the Phillies’ rotation, while lacking the top-end talent of the Mets and Nats, is actually quite deep, with the #4 and #5 starters projected to put up over 3 combined WAR. This might not matter as much in the playoffs, but will certainly give them an advantage every fifth game when the #5 starters match up.

Finally, the Braves’ pitching does not project as particularly strong this season, in contrast to their offense. While the Mets and Nats figure to frequently hold teams to 2 or 3 runs per game, it’s possible that the Braves will have to have to win on the strength of their bats, not their arms.

NL East Team Pitching WAR

To build the chart above (something that’s easy to do in Tableau and other interactive visualization tools, but hard to do in ggplot) I used the packcircles library to generate the circle geometries and shapes in concert with my pitching WAR data.