Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
March 22, 2005
BASEBALL: NL East EWSL Report
Part Four of my 2005 EWSL review (Established Win Shares Levels are explained here, the AL East EWSL report is here, the AL West EWSL report is here, the AL Central EWSL report is here, and the AL EWSL standings are here). Again, recall that the 23-man rosters used here will slightly depress the team win totals: as I demonstrated with the AL standings, the total EWSL for the league requires rounding up by about 7-10 wins per team.
RAW EWSL: 241.17 (80 Wins)
Yeah, you could've knocked me over with a feather: the Marlins in first place? (Just wait until we get lower in the division). When you look at the roster, with solid players all over the lineup and good young starting pitching, it makes a lot more sense, especially when you remember that they are just a year removed from winning it all. Still, there may be a playing time glitch with the outfield - Conine and Aguila can't get that many Win Shares if Cabrera, Pierre and Encarnacion are playing that regularly, and Delgado's arrival means that Cabrera and Conine are done playing first base except in emergencies.
If you looked carefully at the AL, you'd see that the top age-adjusted EWSL for any player was 28 for A-Rod, Mark Teixeira and Adrian Beltre; the steep youth adjustment for a 22-year-old pushes Cabrera ahead of that, and he doesn't even rate as the top player in the NL East (and just wait until we get to Pujols and Bonds).
If you look at Defense Independent Pitching Stats for 2004, one pitcher towers above all others as far as his ERA overstating how well he actually pitched in 2004: Al Leiter, who has returned to the control issues of his youth (now more from excessive nibbling at the corners) while striking out fewer and fewer batters - K/BB of 117/97 last year in 173.2 IP. It's been inspirational watching Leiter squeeze the last drops out of his declining abilities, but the jig should be about up this season.
RAW EWSL: 261.67 (87 Wins)
Probably the real class of the division, and trailing the Marlins only by a hair when EWSL is adjusted for age. Removing Bowa from the picture should improve the Phillies' outlook, although the starting pitching is still highly suspect, and Citizens Bank Park doesn't help that. Seriously, late September, pennant race tied, key series between Florida and Philly - don't you have to pick the Marlins, with the starters they can throw out there?
Rany Jazayerli penned a nice tribute to Abreu on the Baseball Prospectus site (subscription only), although "A Star No One Sees" is a bit dramatic, as few BP readers are likely to be unaware that Abreu is a superstar. He pushed his value to new heights last season by improving the little things - 40 steals in 45 tries, career high in walks, just 5 GIDP in over 700 plate appearances (while batting with enough men on base to drive in 105 runs).
Kenny Lofton is likely to disappoint, so Byrd and Michaels will have opportunities to pick up playing time; Byrd, age 27 and stock at an all-time low, could be a sleeper in some NL fantasy leagues. Polanco has some of the same playing time issues as Conine with the Marlins, but (1) that offsets the fact that Utley is rated only on part-time play and (2) Polanco could get playing time at third if Bell struggles or gets hurt (or if Thome goes down, and Bell slides over to first). Doesn't "Chase Utley" sound like the snooty boyfriend in a John Hughes movie?
RAW EWSL: 206.50 (69 Wins)
Third place? Not likely, but EWSL sees this team as nearly even with the Mets and Braves. I'm not sure this lineup works defensively, but anything they can do to keep Chavez on the bench and Johnson in the lineup will help. Castilla is aging better than expected, although he's still not that good, even with all the RBI he had last year at Colorado. . . If Frank Howard can be the "Capitol Punisher," will Nick Johnson be "the Filibuster"?
New York Mets
RAW EWSL: 204.83 (68 Wins)
On the whole, it's not hard to see, looking player by player, why the Mets have the greatest upside and downside from these figures than any team in the division. The key to the team becoming a legitimate contender is Reyes and Matsui exceeding the numbers above, but they could just as easily be hurt again . . . you'd think Wright should do better, but the age 22 multiplier assumes that players his age are often transitioning from half- to full-season play; 16 Win Shares isn't an unfair expectation for a 22 year old in his first full season, no matter how talented . . . Pedro last year, even in an off year, had the second-highest strikeouts-per-inning of any 32-year-old pitcher in the game's history, higher than Clemens or Ryan at the same age (but behind Hideo Nomo, so maybe that doesn't mean so much).
The teams here are close enough that the Mets would be rated in third last week before downgrading from Trachsel and Phillips to Ishii and Castro, although they'd be behind Philly and Florida if you added two wins for the difference between Minky (10 WS) and Delgado (16). Or so I tell myself, but Delgado does seem a much better candidate to rebound to where he was two or three years ago than Minky.
Bear in mind once again that, where there are questions about players on the end of the bench/bullpen, I err on the side of the more established player; Victor Diaz will also be in the mix, and the bullpen's still unsettled.
RAW EWSL: 208.67 (70 Wins)
"You predicted the Braves to finish last?"
"Well, see, I have this system . . . "
"Must be something wrong with the system."
I should probably add an arbitrary adjustment that starts the Braves at 100 wins regardless of who the players are. But as long as I'm rating them by the same system as everyone else, last place it is, albeit by just a hair behind Washington and the Mets. Everyone gets bad breaks, but the Braves always seem to save theirs for October, so it's always a question of what can go right, not wrong. It's not hard to see how they beat these numbers: Marcus Giles, Hudson and Smoltz stay healthy for a full season. One or two of the bullpen castoffs has the usual 1.80 ERA. Mondesi and Jordan break down but get replaced by Langerhans and Chipper in the corners, and Andy Marte comes up to play third.
Or, they could be the 1965 Yankees.
I didn't realize until just now that Chipper's 33. Time does fly . . . I'll get to this another day, but someone should do a study now that we actually have a fairly large number of examples of starters who became closers and then went back to starting (Derek Lowe, Kelvim Escobar, etc.)