Baseball Crank
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April 1, 2005
BASEBALL: 2005 NL Central EWSL Report

We come, at long last, to the sixth and final installment 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, the AL EWSL standings are here, the NL East EWSL report is here, and the NL West EWSL report is 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. Now that we have all the NL teams, I can run a similarly adjusted standings table soon.

St. Louis Cardinals

RAW EWSL: 261.83 (87 Wins)
Adj EWSL: 265.83 (89 Wins)
Age Adj EWSL: 252.72 (84 Wins)

PosAgePlayerRaw EWSLAdj EWSLAge-Adj EWSL
C22Yadier Molina*247
1B25Albert Pujols393953
2B35Mark Grudzielanek13138
SS30David Eckstein121211
3B30Scott Rolen323229
RF38Larry Walker171714
CF35Jim Edmonds303020
LF37Reggie Sanders161613
C232Einar Diaz333
INF25Hector Luna245
OF34John Mabry776
1235So Taguchi443
1330Roger Cedeno777
SP127Mark Mulder161617
SP230Chris Carpenter666
SP330Matt Morris998
SP430Jeff Suppan10109
SP526Jason Marquis888
CL32Jason Isringhausen11119
R232Julian Tavarez887
R331Ray King665
R437Cal Eldred443
R534Al Reyes221

My age adjustments, based on last year's experience across all major leaguers who were rated on EWSL entering 2004, project a 37% improvement for 25-year-old players. Of course, in last year's sample there weren't any 25-year-old hitters whose Established Performance Level was .337/.644/.420, leading to EWSL of 39. (This assumes the truth of Pujols' reported age, a subject I won't revisit here). However, if you look historically at Pujols' most-comparable players, you'll see that the guys at the top took a small step backwards at age 25 - DiMaggio, Foxx, Vlad Guerrero (Ted Williams was in the military). On the other hand, two of his ten comps, Foxx and Joe Medwick, won the Triple Crown at 25, Frank Robinson won the MVP, and Aaron and Joe D won the batting title, so I wouldn't be losing much sleep. Just saying that 53 Win Shares is a bit much of an improvement for a guy already performing at Pujols' elevated level.

(Of course, it's not just that DiMaggio is the most similar player to Pujols; what's more impressive is that for age 21-23, the most similar player to DiMaggio is Pujols. Think about that.)

Speaking of comparables, they also provide a caution on Jim Edmonds, who hits the magic 35 this year. I ran a quick weighted average, and Edmonds' comps, on average, aged OK at 35, sliding from .291/.537/386 to .287/.499/.365, about a net 7% dropoff, albeit with a severe drop in playing time, from 462 at bats to 310. But even the good performance is largely the doing of Ellis Burks batting .344 at 35; of the 8 usable comps (Wally Berger and Hack Wilson retired after age 34), three (Tim Salmon, Larry Doby and Mo Vaughn) wiped out completely, ending Doby's and Vaughn's careers and possibly Salmon's, two others (Fred Lynn and David Justice, both in some sense genuinely similar players) dropped off sharply, Lynn from .287/.499/.371 to .253/.487/.320, Justice from .286/.584/.377 to .241/.430/.333. I can't tell you what will happen with Edmonds, but he's part of a larger issue, masked to some extent in EWSL by Pujols, of age creeping up on the Cardinal lineup. (I guess if you're a fourth outfielder - or a fifth, or sixth - you have to be happy backing up a starting three of Edmonds, Walker and Sanders.)

Staying on the age thing, do we also need a new model for the aging process for .300 hitters with modest supporting skills? Grudzielanek, like Joe Randa and Mark Loretta, has aged surprisingly well. Then again, there's Jeff Cirillo.

Chicago Cubs

RAW EWSL: 231.17 (77 Wins)
Adj EWSL: 236.67 (79 Wins)
Age Adj EWSL: 234.26 (78 Wins)

PosAgePlayerRaw EWSLAdj EWSLAge-Adj EWSL
C28Michael Barrett121214
1B29Derek Lee232320
2B32Todd Walker161614
SS31Nomar Garciaparra191916
3B27Aramis Ramirez181819
RF36Jeromy Burnitz141412
CF25Corey Patterson151521
LF32Todd Hollandsworth776
C233Henry Blanco332
INF32Neifi Perez776
OF29Jerry Hairston887
1233Jose Macias443
1326Jason Dubois+166
SP124Carlos Zambrano161620
SP224Mark Prior121215
SP328Kerry Wood121214
SP439Greg Maddux131311
SP528Ryan Dempster111
CL32LaTroy Hawkins121211
R234Joe Borowski665
R339Mike Remlinger554
R434Chad Fox221
R530Glendon Rusch665

Obviously, Prior could easily surpass 15 Win Shares, but he could fall short as well; this is a fairly reasonable estimate in between. Zambrano, on the other hand, I suspect peaked last year, although if he can maintain something close to that peak for a few years, that's a heck of a pitcher.

Basically, the Cubs are behind the Cards because they lack depth - Dempster's got an ugly recent track record, the bullpen's a bit shallow, and there's really no competent left fielder on hand unless Dubois really seizes the job and cranks out 25-30 homers. The ifs can come true, there are just more of them than with St. Louis, where the ifs are all about avoiding declines rather than hoping things will happen that haven't happened before.

Houston Astros

RAW EWSL: 186.17 (62 Wins)
Adj EWSL: 217.00 (72 Wins)
Age Adj EWSL: 202.04 (67 Wins)

PosAgePlayerRaw EWSLAdj EWSLAge-Adj EWSL
C36Brad Ausmus997
1B37Jeff Bagwell232318
2B39Craig Biggio181815
SS28Adam Everett#101214
3B29Morgan Ensberg#101211
RF28Jason Lane*467
CF23Willy Taveras+0012
LF29Lance Berkman292926
C232Raul Chavez111
INF29Mike Lamb776
OF36Orlando Palmeiro554
1237Jose Vizcaino776
1325Chris Burke+006
SP127Roy Oswalt161616
SP242Roger Clemens171714
SP333Andy Pettitte10107
SP427Brandon Backe#334
SP525Ezequiel Astacio+004
CL28Brad Lidge#111316
R228Chad Harville#111
R328Mike Gallo#223
R427Dan Wheeler333
R525Carlos Hernandez111

The Astros are both overrated here (since I don't account for Berkman's knee injury at all) and underrated (since Lane, a solid-looking player, is valued as if he's a bench jockey). On the whole, I'd lean to the latter (I can't help but think they'll get more than 7 WS out of Pettitte), but this will nonetheless be a sad, sad season in Houston, as the aging of Bagwell and Biggio grows more urgent while the loss of Beltran, Kent and Wade Miller makes itself felt. By mid-season, it should be clear that an era has ended.

Yes, the Astros are reportedly moving Biggio back to second, although that doesn't affect the calculations here, since either way the alternative is a raw rookie, Taveras or Burke. In the abstract, the move makes sense if Biggio can presumably handle second no worse than his outfield play, which was poor in center, and his bat is better suited to the middle infield at this stage. In practice, though, all that matters is Taveras vs. Burke, since those are the options. Unless Biggio is being shopped to a contender later in the year, that is.

Cincinnati Reds

RAW EWSL: 195.00 (65 Wins)
Adj EWSL: 198.63 (66 Wins)
Age Adj EWSL: 193.66 (65 Wins)

PosAgePlayerRaw EWSLAdj EWSLAge-Adj EWSL
C31Jason LaRue131311
1B30Sean Casey222220
2B27D'Angelo Jimenez191920
SS33Rich Aurilia996
3B35Joe Randa13138
RF25Austin Kearns9913
CF35Ken Griffey11117
LF25Adam Dunn232332
C229Javier Valentin332
INF29Ryan Freel#101211
OF23Wily Mo Pena#8912
1225Felipe Lopez668
1332Jacob Cruz222
SP132Paul Wilson776
SP229Eric Milton665
SP332Ramon Ortiz887
SP427Aaron Harang333
SP526Brandon Claussen*000
CL31Danny Graves665
R222Ryan Wagner#224
R337Kent Mercker554
R435David Weathers664
R535Ben Weber443

Speaking of sad, what a collection of broken dreams and disappointments make up the Reds' starting rotation. . . When you build your offense around the longball and lard up your pitchint staff with guys who see more gophers than Bill Murray in Caddyshack, you've pretty much designed a team that's equally ill-suited to any ballpark.

Looking at Dunn, I wonder: would he, and other big NL sluggers, have lower WS totals if they played in the AL, even if they performed in the same way? The DH means more offense across lineups and thus reduces the value of any given hitter (i.e., the offensive pie is bigger when you replace Al Leiter with Frank Thomas, so each slice is smaller).

Pittsburgh Pirates

RAW EWSL: 172.17 (57 Wins)
Adj EWSL: 183.20 (61 Wins)
Age Adj EWSL: 184.20 (61 Wins)

PosAgePlayerRaw EWSLAdj EWSLAge-Adj EWSL
C40Benito Santiago887
1B28Craig Wilson141417
2B24Jose Castillo*4810
SS27Jack Wilson171718
3B27Ty Wigginton111111
RF33Matt Lawton12129
CF28Tike Redman9910
LF26Jason Bay#101213
C226Humberto Cota*111
INF29Rob Mackowiak121210
OF30Daryle Ward555
1227Bobby Hill333
1329Ben Grieve776
SP123Oliver Perez101012
SP228Kip Wells111112
SP331Mark Redman10108
SP428Josh Fogg778
SP526Dave Williams111
CL39Jose Mesa776
R227Mike Gonzalez488
R333Salomon Torres885
R429Brian Meadows444
R526John Grabow*111

The Buccos have the benefit of a stable starting rotation and a deep bullpen, which ought to count for something. Fifth place is what it counts for, when your most accomplished player is Jack Wilson. You gotta have stars, no matter what your depth and baalance is.

Yes, I know they sent Grieve down to AAA, but there wasn't another established player worth rating in his place. I do think he should be able to eke out a Dave Magadan-like second career as a pinch hitter who's a tough out, even absent power, speed or defensive abilities.

Milwaukee Brewers

RAW EWSL: 145.83 (49 Wins)
Adj EWSL: 164.63 (55 Wins)
Age Adj EWSL: 157.83 (53 Wins)

PosAgePlayerRaw EWSLAdj EWSLAge-Adj EWSL
C35Damian Miller13138
1B28Lyle Overbay#121417
2B30Junior Spivey10109
SS22JJ Hardy+0012
3B29Russ Branyan665
RF30Geoff Jenkins151513
CF32Brady Clark998
LF29Carlos Lee222219
C230Chad Moeller444
INF29Wes Helms776
OF28Chris Magruder111
1225Bill Hall668
1335Jeff Cirillo332
SP126Ben Sheets141415
SP229Doug Davis10109
SP326Chris Capuano#222
SP428Victor Santos222
SP528Gary Glover223
CL26Michael Adams+355
R235Ricky Bottalico332
R325Jeff Bennett*123
R429Matt Wise221
R528Wes Obermuller#334

The less said by me about this team the better; I want to believe the Brewers are turning things around, but clearly this roster does not yet contain personnel capable of doing that. I'd expect Sheets to do better than this, but the point here is that last year's performance is not yet his established level. And after Sheets, the deluge.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:24 AM | Baseball 2005 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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