Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
March 16, 2005
BASEBALL: 2005 AL Central EWSL Report
Part Three of my 2005 EWSL review (Established Win Shares Levels are explained here, the AL East EWSL report is here, and the AL West EWSL report is here). Again, recall that the 23-man rosters used here will slightly depress the team win total.
RAW EWSL: 189.5 (63 Wins)
Yes, the team with the most youth-driven upside in the division is also the the three-time defending champs, as the Twins continually reinvent themselves. As with last year's Rangers, EWSL is almost certainly lowballing Mauer and Morneau by rating them on partial season totals, although in Mauer's case that could yet be all the Twins get if his knees won't hold up to catching every day. Obviously, getting more than 1 WS worth of production out of Joe Mays would be a big plus as well, but EWSL reminds us that this would require him to exceed what he's been able to give the Twins in recent years.
Juan Castro and a couple of other non-hitters are in the infield mix, with some sources giving the 33-year-old Castro the inside track at shortstop. I'm treating Restovich as a rookie since he's never had 60 at bats in a season.
Chicago White Sox
RAW EWSL: 215.5 (72 Wins)
The White Sox' primary problem, with the decline of Frank Thomas into an injury-prone .270 hitter, is a lack of star power - this is a fairly well-balanced roster, but teams with Mark Buehrle or Juan Uribe or Scott Podsednik as their best player do not win championships. Of course, like the rest of the division, these guys are built to take on the Twins, not the Yankees.
You tell me which one you would call the White Sox' third starter - but at least Garland is young and still could show the improvement EWSL projects . . . Willie Harris probably won't be the odd man out for too long, since he can play second and the outfield.
RAW EWSL: 174.33 (58 Wins)
The Indians are rated pretty weakly here, but that's a consequence of holes in the pitching staff and at shortstop (you could add 3 or 4 wins to the total by rating Alex Cora instead of Peralta). The outfield and middle infield mixes still look fluid, and also include Cora and Brandon Phillips on the infield side. The bullpen has a titular closer in Wickman, but I wouldn't bet on him holding the job, given his age, injuries, conditioning, recent performance and an abundance of qualified alternatives.
Gonzalez, of course, is ailing again, which is why it's futile to list him as the starter.
Before you give up on Sabathia, recall that he's two years younger than Ben Sheets, who just finally had his big breakthrough last year.
RAW EWSL: 193.83 (65 Wins)
The Tigers, like an undersea mountain, look like they are about to peak without ever breaking sea level. This should be around a .500 team, especially if Bonderman has the big breakout season a lot of people are expecting from him. They're also reportedly trying to deal Urbina for something of more immediate use than a second closer.
EWSL docks the Tigers one win for cutting Alex Sanchez, which tentatively replaces him on the roster with Nook Logan. While the move may turn out to be for the best - Sanchez wasn't really helping the cause, given his poor defense and atrocious percentage base thieving - it definitely makes the Tigers lineup, in which Logan and Chris Monroe are battling for the center field job, a little less of a proven commodity.
Kansas City Royals
RAW EWSL: 126.2 (42 Wins)
Gack. The Royals promise to make the mediocre teams that constitute the middle class of the AL Central look a whole lot better. What a dismal team, even compared to the hopes with which they entered 2004. 52 wins is not a fair projection, but then, EWSL recognizes that a lot of things have to go right for the first time just to get this team to 100 losses.
Then there's nearly the team's sole cause for optimism, Zack Greinke, who Jay Jaffe and Studes have identified as a guy who could take a step back this year because he was lucky on balls in play in 2004. I wouldn't go shining that Cy Young Award the Baseball Prospectus guys are hinting at just yet.
EWSL underrates John Buck, who gets credit for 4 Win Shares for 2004 based on about a half-season's worth of games; he should actually project out to about 10 or 12 EWSL, not 5 (a similar analysis could apply to Greinke). On the other hand, it seems strange after all these years to be rating Calvin Pickering as just a second-year player. . . I penciled in Teahen as the starting 3B when Chris Truby went down this week with a broken wrist. The Royals may say they don't intend to rush Teahen, but without Truby there isn't even another credible alternative at third, so why keep Teahen waiting? When you add in the rookie adjustment, EWSL actually adds four wins to the Royals' total when you swap an everyday rookie Teahen for scrub outfielder Abraham Nunez.