Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
March 9, 2005
BASEBALL: 2005 AL East EWSL Report
Time to kick off the 2005 division-by-division EWSL reports (Established Win Shares Levels are explained here). And where else could we start but the home of the reigning World Champeeen Boston Red Sox?
The Hated Yankees
RAW EWSL: 325.2 (108 Wins)
Every time I think the age adjustments are just too brutal on veteran players, I remind myself that they are based on my actual results from last season. Of course, more years' data will help, but the fact is, we generally underestimate how consistently the aging process erodes players' productivity. What you see above is right on the two big things: (1) the Yankees would win close to 110 games if everyone performs to their recent levels of established success; and (2) given the advanced age of the roster and the declines already underway, that's not gonna happen. Is 90 wins (tweaked upward a bit by the contributions from those last few roster spots) too few? We'll see.
I prefer to err on the side of the more established player, here by listing Damian Rolls here instead of Bubba Crosby . . . typically, the Yankees have a large number of other familiar faces in camp besides these guys. Steve Karsay may also have a key role in the bullpen if he can get up to 100% at some point and stay there.
World Champion Boston Red Sox
RAW EWSL: 295.66 (99 Wins)
Yes, Number Two is back in its old familiar preseason slot, ring or no ring; either way, Yanks-Sox remains a tight race. You can clearly see that Damon merits his spot as one of the three real stars of this team along with Manny and Schilling. The Sox get a boost from a deep bench, which they could need - bet on seeing Payton in for Nixon and Youkilis in for Mueller, and not only by choice.
Obviously, Wakefield may end up in the starting rotation, and John Halama and Byung Hyun Kim could play major roles (although the Sox would probably trade Kim if he shows signs of being able to pitch), but this is what I expect the Sox staff to look like if healthy, and Mantei seems to be further along to being counted on than Karsay with the Yanks.
Injury-wise, other than the strength of Schilling's ankle, Wade Miller is the big wild card here; he's the rare pitcher whose numbers will benefit from moving to Fenway, if he's able to stay in the rotation.
RAW EWSL: 224.17 (75 Wins)
I believe it was George Bernard Shaw who, in reviewing a book, remarked that the book was both good and original, but that unfortunately the parts that were good were not original, and the parts that were original were not good. So it is with the Orioles, who are both young and talented, but for the most part, the guys who are young are not talented, and the guys who are talented are not young. If the O's hope to break the chains of mediocrity and finish single digits out of the Wild Card, they need some real development from the back end of their starting rotation. Bedard looks promising, and Chen put up good numbers last year at AAA, but lesser men have gone to their graves waiting for Bruce Chen. On the other hand, I continue to be skeptical of "Melvin Mora, superstar," and Sosa and Palmeiro are riding powerful waves of downward momentum.
It remains to be seen if Ryan can finally wrest the closer's job from Julio now that Ryan has finally lived up to the hype that surrounded him five years ago, but if Julio is adequate, the O's may benefit from having the monster in the bullpen handle the 7th/8th inning crises rather than the ninth. Ryan's comparables at the same age include a number of guys like Stanton, Cadaret and Assenmacher who pitched forever.
If you're wondering, Kurt Ainsworth's season last year brought his raw EWSL down to zero (of the players I rated last year, only one entered 2005 with a negative raw EWSL: Tyler Yates of the Mets, who followed that performance by blowing his arm out).
Toronto Blue Jays
RAW EWSL: 181.66 (61 Wins)
Youth: the great leveler, bringing up the Jays as it brings down their top three division rivals. Not that they will catch anybody but Tampa, and Tampa is young as well. Toronto still has a nice core with Wells, Halladay, Hudson and Lilly, plus Koskie's not a bad short-term guy to have, plus the bullpen makes up in depth for what it lacks in front-line quality. But there are way too many stopgap solutions here, with the outfield corners iffy and the left end of the defensive spectrum filled by guys who have no business DHing, like Hillenbrand, Johnson and Hinske. These are solvable problems, but no solutions are yet on the horizon.
The catching situation is unsettled, with Quiroz needing to prove himself to unseat two older guys who have never had full-time gigs, although Zaun has actually had some decent years with the bat. The third catcher, Greg Myers - who had a career year of his own in 2003 - is so old he came up with the Blue Jays before Pat Borders. I guess Ernie Whitt wasn't available . . .
Tampa Bay Devil Rays
RAW EWSL: 162.5 (54 Wins)
Welcome home to the basement? This team, like last year's Rangers, is almost impossible to rate on EWSL because so many guys are rated on a partial season's worth of playing time. Unlike last year's Rangers, though, there's nobody here likely to bust out with Teixera or Blalock type power. I cheated a bit here in listing Baldelli, who may be out for as much as half the season, and Upton, who will probably start the year in the minors, although I expect Upton to get in excess of 400 plate appearances when all is said and done, and Upton actually gets the shaft here because I rated him on his actual 2004 major league performance, in just 159 at bats. He'll almost certainly contribute double-figure Win Shares unless he gets buried in Durham. I listed Cantu because he's the only one of the reserve infielders he's battling for playing time who batted above .212 last season, and given Alomar's recent history, don't be surprised if Cantu takes his job.
Obviously, Lee will beat 6 WS if he stays healthy; he put up 12 in 2002 and 13 in 2003, still poor numbers for an everyday 1B but at least reflective of an everyday player.
Kazmir also gets the short end, but as with Upton I tried whenever possible to use actual performance numbers. You look at this rotation and tell me how Kazmir isn't going to be the staff ace by the middle of May. . . successful teams just don't start a season with guys like Rob Bell in the rotation . . . measured by Win Shares Above Average, there were three pitchers in baseball at -9 or -10; two of them (Fossum and Hideo Nomo) are in camp competing for jobs with the Rays.