Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
May 3, 2004
BASEBALL: 2004 NL East Established Win Shares Report
In the grand tradition of half-finished serieses on this website, I am at long last returning to the next installment of my division-by-division walk around the major leagues by Established Win Shares Levels. It's still early enough that it feels worthwhile to cover the NL East, although we'll see how long the last division (NL Central) takes; I may resort to running one team at a time. (Now that I have the routine down pat, I'll try to get them all done before the season next year). Here's my previous efforts:
A few recurring notes on the method: Recall that the projected win totals below are probably a bit on the low side, in part because I only list 23 players, and that these aren't really projections at all, so much as estimates of how much established major league talent is on each roster. Also, as before, I've indicated the players who are ranked only on 2002-03 with a #, players ranked only on 2003 with a *, and rookies with a +. For rookie non-pitchers with everyday jobs, I've arbitrarily pencilled in 10 Win Shares , 5 WS for rookie pitchers with rotation slots, 3 for bench players and 2 for relievers. So, with the defending champion Marlins off and running, how does the EWSL method stack up the division?
Adjusted EWSL: 265.8 (87 wins)
Unfortunately for the Phillies, it looks like you can add Marlon Byrd to the list of baseball's perennial slowest starters, about half of whom are already on this roster (although Thome's bucking the trend this year; beware of injury when a slow starter starts that quickly!) . . . the Phillies really are and should be the division favorites, regardless of the inertia of success in Atlanta, regardless of the flag flying in Miami, and yes, regardless of their 11-12 start. They've wisely loaded up with usable veterans (you will note that the Phils needed almost no adjustments for players with less than 3 years of big league experience), because this is a team whose moment is now.
New York Mets
Adjusted EWSL: 217.3 (72 wins)
Before you jump on me for the Mets' high ranking here, notice the "wins" figure - EWSL just figures them to be the best of a crappy bunch trailing the Phillies. Of course, the odds on us seeing the entire Mets lineup on the field at once are pretty long. It's tough to be rebuilding and still have, by a goodly margin, the oldest team in the division. It's just tough to be optimistic about the Mets given Reyes' injury problems and the organization's history over the past decade and a half of churning out young players who can't stay healthy long enough to develop their talents.
Adjusted EWSL: 209.2 (70 wins)
Bill James, 1988 Abstract:
I suspect . . . that Whitey is . . . reaching the end of his effectiveness in St. Louis. It's been a long run, but people have begun to think that Herzog is magic, that he can solve all the problems of this team just by sending the baserunners and pulling all the right levers. That's a dangerous sign, I think, a sign that Herzog's run is about over; whenever largue numbers of people start saying that you're a genius, you're about to have problems.
I couldn't put my hands on the reference, but I believe James made a similar point about Buck Rogers in Montreal: once the management decides that you are such a brilliant manager that they don't have to pay decent players to play for you, you have problems. Hence, your 2004 Atlanta Braves, the last remnants of a dying order. There are just a few too many holes in the lineup here to win with the kind of pitching the Braves have now.
Defending World Champion Florida Marlins
Adjusted EWSL: 192 (64 wins)
On the one hand, the Marlins are the very picture of the kind of team the EWSL method underrates, since they are heavily reliant on talented young pitchers and hitters (Cabrera, Choi) who have yet to get a full season's at bats. If he's healthy, you expect more than 8 Win Shares from Josh Beckett, for example. On the other hand, that has to be a reminder that these guys are still loaded with risky, unproven players, and no matter how high your confidence in youth, those players can fail. Choi looks great so far, although Derrek Lee left big shoes to fill (23 EWSL); they miss Pudge (18 EWSL) even more, given the shaky solutions left behind. . . . without casting aspersions on his birthdate, it still amazes me that Wil Cordero is only 32. Seems like he's been hanging on forever . . . Dontrelle Willis' slugging average is now down to 1.000 on the year.
Montreal/San Juan Expos
Adjusted EWSL: 190.4 (63 wins)
Hamlet II would have brought back more returning talent than these Expos, notwithstanding one of baseball's best double play combinations. Last season, when Guerrero and Vazquez were on hand, was the time to sell the team.