Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
March 24, 2006
BASEBALL: 2006 AL East EWSL Report

Once more into the breach of my annual division-by-division roundups, powered by Established Win Shares Levels (EWSL is explained here, and you should read that link before commenting on the method; 2006 revisions to the age adjustment discussed here). Due to time constraints, and for ease in reading the charts, I'm leaving off the intermediate adjustment column, and just listing each player's raw EWSL and the age-adjusted number. Bear in mind as always that (1) EWSL is a record of past performance, adjusted by age to give an assessment of the available talent on hand; it is not an individualized projection system; (2) individual EWSL are rounded off but team totals are compiled from the unrounded figures; and (3) as demonstrated here in some detail, nearly all teams will win more games than their EWSL total because I'm only rating 23 players per team (and I considered going to 24, but I'm not convinced it would make the system more useful, since it would tend to overrate teams that stuff their back bench slots with aging ex-regulars). As always, the depth charts here are drawn from a number of sources and modified to list the guys who will do the work (e.g., if there are two guys battling for a fifth starter spot I'll often list one of them with the relievers if I think they'll both end up pitching), but I take responsibility for any errors. It's still a fluid time for rosters.

One final methodological note: Dave Studeman and others have suggested that a better method would look at WSAB, which measures marginal contributions and thus better adjusts for playing time. The short answer is that I fiddled a bit with WSAB but just didn't have the time this year to incorporate it in the system. Next year I may try something new in that regard.

Without further ado, we start with the AL East, where time and chance happeneth to no one; the race is always to the swift, the battle always to the strong.

The Hated Yankees

Raw EWSL: 297.00 (99 W)
Adjusted: 317.17 (106 W)
Age-Adj.: 280.18 (93 W)

C34Jorge Posada2119
1B35Jason Giambi1914
2B23Robinson Cano*617
SS32Derek Jeter2522
3B30Alex Rodriguez3231
RF37Gary Sheffield3222
CF32Johnny Damon2421
LF32Hideki Matsui2522
DH37Bernie Williams139
C236Kelly Stinnett21
INF32Miguel Cairo76
OF29Bubba Crosby+16
1329Andy Phillips+06
SP142Randy Johnson1716
SP237Mike Mussina1211
SP330Carl Pavano108
SP426Chien-Ming Wang47
SP528Shawn Chacon78
RP136Mariano Rivera1815
RP230Kyle Farnsworth97
RP336Ron Villone65
RP434Aaron Small43
RP530Jaret Wright54

Other pitchers we are likely to see include Tanyan Sturtze and, if he gets healthy enough to pitch this season, Octavio Dotel. Carl Pavano is clearly the key guy on this team; a solid year from Pavano gives them three dependable starters, with a chance for 4 if Wang holds up (no, I don't expect the fairy godmother to give Chacon and Small a new set of ball gowns this season), and could take the pressure off a bullpen that yet again is shaky behind the sandman. On offense, the Yanks are 8 men and out once again, with the decrepit Bernie eating up at bats and minimal help from the bench. And, of course, this is an old, old team.

With Bonds ailing last season and Palmeiro having hung it up, we haven't yet had a test of a guy with the kind of steroids bullseye Sheffield now has painted on him; 2006 will be that test, and we'll see if Sheff proves that he's still impervious both to age and to the media. Long term, of course, if it turns out that a lot of the performances by mid/late-30s slugging of the past decade have been steroids-driven, and those performances don't hold up in the future under the new testing regimes (two big ifs), that could adversely impact Steinbrenner's business model of buying established over-30 veterans.

I'm not optimistic about Cano, who came into camp out of shape and isn't the most disciplined player to start with.

Boston Red Sox

Raw EWSL: 289.17 (96 W)
Adjusted: 292.00 (97 W)
Age-Adj.: 269.77 (90 W)

C34Jason Varitek1817
1B27Kevin Youkilis#45
2B34Mark Loretta2321
SS29Alex Gonzalez1514
3B32Mike Lowell1715
RF32Trot Nixon1211
CF26Coco Crisp1619
LF34Manny Ramirez3128
DH30David Ortiz2625
C228Josh Bard33
INF38JT Snow1411
OF24Wily Mo Pena810
1330Alex Cora1010
SP139Curt Schilling129
SP226Josh Beckett1111
SP331Matt Clement118
SP443David Wells1111
SP539Tim Wakefield129
RP133Keith Foulke108
RP240Mike Timlin1010
RP329David Riske76
RP425Jon Papelbon*25
RP533Julian Tavarez76

I could easily have listed Willie Harris or Tony Graffanino instead of Cora, but the results would be similar. Ditto for whether you consider Youkilis or Snow as the #1 guy at first. I imagine that the Pena deal squeezes Dustan Mohr out of the picture.

Will Loretta still be this good? Coming back from injuries gets harder at his age, but a full recovery to 20+ Win Share territory would be a big help for this team. And for those of you who haven't followed the offseason moves that carefully, that's the Florida Alex Gonzalez, not the one who used to play for the Blue Jays.

This is an even older pitching staff than the Yankees, and with even more question marks, but the Sox may have more alternatives to fall back on. I'll be surprised if we don't see Craig Hansen pitching important innings by July, and Papelbon in the rotation at some point.

Toronto Blue Jays

Raw EWSL: 222.50 (74 W)
Adjusted: 238.00 (79 W)
Age-Adj.: 224.76 (75 W)

C31Ben Molina1411
1B29Lyle Overbay1615
2B24Aaron Hill*512
SS25Russ Adams#69
3B29Troy Glaus1615
RF28Eric Hinske1011
CF27Vernon Wells1919
LF32Frank Catalanotto1211
DH30Shea Hillenbrand1413
C235Gregg Zaun118
INF31John McDonald32
OF25Alexis Rios#710
1329Reed Johnson109
SP129Roy Halladay1513
SP229AJ Burnett87
SP325Gustavo Chacin*717
SP429Josh Towers98
SP530Ted Lilly97
RP130BJ Ryan129
RP232Justin Speier75
RP328Jason Frasor#57
RP432Scott Schoenweis53
RP527Vinny Chulk#44

Though the Jays are now making happy noises about Eric Hinske beating out Rios and Johnson, your guess is as good as mine as to who will end up with the playing time. The Jays and their fans may talk themselves into thinking this is a credible contender, but all you need to do is look at the DH and outfield corner slots to see why this is still a second-rate team; none of those guys is a championship-caliber regular.

One of the drawbacks of EWSL is the mechanical nature of the age adjustments; I don't seriously expect Gustavo Chacin to take that big a step forward in 2006 (he's probably less than a 50/50 bet to tread water). But even if that is balanced by what I regard as lowball figures for Halladay, Burnett and especially Ryan, it is a useful reminder that the Jays will need those guys to step up from what they've done thus far, at least in terms of Halladay and Burnett's durability.

Baltimore Orioles

Raw EWSL: 229.83 (77 W)
Adjusted: 235.33 (78 W)
Age-Adj.: 211.61 (70 W)

C30Ramon Hernandez1312
1B40Jeff Conine146
2B28Brian Roberts2223
SS30Miguel Tejada2726
3B34Melvin Mora2119
RF29Jay Gibbons1211
CF26Corey Patterson1112
LF27Luis Matos99
DH35Javy Lopez1713
C230Geronimo Gil11
INF35Chris Gomez54
OF34Kevin Millar1413
1332David Newhan#56
SP125Daniel Cabrera#69
SP229Bruce Chen87
SP330Rodrigo Lopez97
SP427Erik Bedard#67
SP531Kris Benson87
RP124Chris Ray*25
RP233LaTroy Hawkins97
RP334John Halama32
RP435Todd Williams52
RP528John Parrish34

Parrish and Williams are hurt; I should go back and fix the numbers to replace Parrish with Eric DuBose, but that will have to wait until I have a free minute, and it only makes a slight difference in the bottom line.

As with Loretta, I'm skeptical that Roberts will match his EWSL, especially given the severity of Roberts' injury. And as with the Jays, even if Corey Patterson comes up with a good year, the 1B/LF situation in Baltimore is pretty desperate. Who expected Jeff Conine to still be a regular or semi-regular at 40?

Cabrera, Bedard and Chen should be a good test case for Leo Mazzone.

Tampa Bay Devil Rays

Raw EWSL: 152.33 (51 W)
Adjusted: 169.80 (57 W)
Age-Adj.: 181.17 (60 W)

C30Toby Hall1010
1B31Travis Lee76
2B24Jorge Cantu#1116
SS30Julio Lugo2120
3B29Aubrey Huff1716
RF25Johnny Gomes*718
CF25Joey Gathright*25
LF24Carl Crawford2026
DH24Rocco Baldelli79
C231Josh Paul11
INF28Ty Wigginton89
OF32Damon Hollins*46
1330Russ Branyan77
SP122Scott Kazmir#59
SP232Mark Hendrickson54
SP328Casey Fossum33
SP425Doug Waechter23
SP525Seth McClung00
RP125Chad Orvella*24
RP228Jesus Colome34
RP330Travis Harper43
RP435Dan Miceli42
RP530Shawn Camp#11

A good roundup of what's happening with Tampa's roster battles can be found here. I probably should have listed Nick Green instead of Branyan. On the other hand, the EWSL totals would be higher if I listed Sean Burroughs, who is apparently on the verge of getting cut.

Other than Travis Lee, the Devil Rays lineup and bench don't look that terrible, especially when you project out more playing time for Baldelli, Gomes and possibly Gathright and add in BJ Upton - who may already be their best hitter but still lacks a fixed position unless he can redeem himself at shortstop in AAA - and, by season's end, possibly even Delmon Young in place of Gathright.

But beyond Scott (gag, cough, retch) Kazmir, the pitching to carry the AL East's long-time doormats to adequacy just isn't here.

You can compare the prior AL East roundups for 2004 here and 2005 here.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:25 AM | Baseball 2006 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)

Interesting. I was going to start my division previews today, and was thinking I'd put TB fourth. But looking at that rotation more closely - that's just awful. Throw in the fact that Kazmir (gag, cough, retch indeed) has been rocky this spring, and they almost look worse than ever, even with a pretty good lineup.

I'm also with you on Toronto. We're both Met fans, and we have a little experience with teams who spend a lot of money in the off season. It'll still be the same two at the top as it always has been.


Posted by: paul zummo at March 24, 2006 12:23 PM

The Yankee offense is good but I really do not see it producing 106 wins. It is just too hard to win that many 10-7 games. I think their pitching could be a train wreck. Johnson is not the guy he used to be, Mussina just got killed in his last outing and was only average last year. They are relying on Small, Chacon, Wang to repeat performances that were wildly unexpected or hope that Wright and/or Pavano live up to their contracts (which they really haven't shown any signs that they will). They are still probably the top of the heap in the division but 106 wins would put them in a pretty exclusive 105+ win club. I think 95-97 wins is a lot more reasonable.

Posted by: jim at March 24, 2006 1:47 PM

I'm struggling to see how the Red Sox staff is older then the Yankees??

Posted by: Steve at March 24, 2006 3:31 PM

Jim - The 106 win number is the Yanks before you apply the age adjustment, which in their case is pretty stiff. But their adjusted number ends up pointing to a win total in the high 90s.

Steve - Schilling, Wells, Wakefield and Timlin are ancient, and Foulke isn't young. Like the Yanks, a lot of the age is on key guys. But yes, at least the Sox have Beckett and Clement, who are younger.

I see someone on the Sam Horn thread (I'm not a member so I'll reply here) questioned the age adjustments for Timlin vs. Wakefield - all I can say is, (1) the age adjustments are based on actual results but (2) of course, they may be overstated for a knuckleballer. Also, yes, I do expect Youkilis and Papelbon to provide more value than they have in the past. EWSL, however, is based on established performance - the point is simply that, for the Sox to get major results from those two guys, they will have to do more than they have yet proven at the major league level. But the ability to adjust for quality young players without large quantity track records is part of the system that needs work.

Posted by: The Crank at March 24, 2006 3:51 PM

Also, as to people commenting here and elsewhere about who has done what this spring: it's spring training. Don't put much stock in it.

Posted by: The Crank at March 24, 2006 3:52 PM

I think the Yankees will come into the year relying more heavily on older pitching than the Red Sox and a couple of the Sox older pitchers probably are not as age-sensitive (Wakefield who had his 2nd or 3rd best year ever and Wells who is essentially a fat Jamie Moyer with a sneakier fastball) as the Yanks (Mussina is 37 and has had his worst 2 years of his career the last 2 years and Johnson who is, what?, 41, 42, 43 (?) and simply isn't the dominant guy of the past.

I think the Red Sox are relying on a couple of shaky things. Matt Clement was 10-1, got hit in the head with a line drive and was terrible after that point. He has also never been as good in the second half as the first. I have no idea what he will be like. Foulke, who knows? His knee has been operated on and he's younger than Rivera so theoretically he could pitch and pitch effectively. He could be done, too, though. I like Hansen and Papelbon and I think either one could inherit the job.

I would take Timlin over Farnsworth in a heartbeat and I think Beckett and Schilling will be very solid. They both will make moves for pitching mid-season and that could be the difference in the division. I still think the Jays are dangerous, at least more so than the Orioles.

Posted by: jim at March 24, 2006 4:57 PM

I think you can expect Nick Markakis to be the regular LF in Baltimore. Relegating Conine to the bench, where he belongs. Millar will DH. Matos and Patterson will be platooning in CF.

Posted by: Tito Landrum at March 25, 2006 3:37 AM

Now you have to re-do it all. With the addition of Hee Seop Choi the Sox take on a new dimension. Shifts the balance of power. He had 40 HRs, 120 RBIs and 141 BB...oh wait, that's for his career.

Posted by: jim at March 25, 2006 11:59 AM

Apropos of nothing in this thread but did you notice that Holy Cross beat Minnesota last night in the first round of the NCAA hockey tournament...and with BC losing to Villanova, well - yesterday was a very good day!

Posted by: Maryland Conservatarian at March 25, 2006 1:24 PM

At first I was surprised that you had the Jays pegged to win but 75 games, but then I saw last year's prediction of 68 wins in a year when they managed to win 80 while underperforming in relation to their Pythagorean projection, and I wonder if their might be a flaw in the system. Perhaps it doesn't convert to metric, or the loonie?

Posted by: mathesond at March 26, 2006 12:36 AM
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