Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
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)
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.
RAW EWSL: 231.17 (77 Wins)
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.
RAW EWSL: 186.17 (62 Wins)
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.
RAW EWSL: 195.00 (65 Wins)
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).
RAW EWSL: 172.17 (57 Wins)
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.
RAW EWSL: 145.83 (49 Wins)
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)