Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
March 28, 2006
BASEBALL: 2006 AL West EWSL Report

The second of six division previews, using Established Win Shares Levels as a jumping-off point. EWSL is explained here, and you should read that link before commenting on the method; 2006 revisions to the age adjustment are discussed here. 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. Further disclaimers are in my AL East preview here.

Oakland A's

Raw EWSL: 229.33 (76 W)
Adjusted: 256.57 (86 W)
Age-Adj.: 267.34 (89 W)

C32Jason Kendall1916
1B26Dan Johnson*512
2B29Mark Ellis1412
SS26Bobby Crosby#1014
3B28Eric Chavez2122
RF28Milton Bradley1415
CF30Mark Kotsay1918
LF26Nick Swisher*614
DH38Frank Thomas98
C234Adam Melhuse44
INF26Antonio Perez66
OF29Bobby Kielty88
1333Jay Payton1412
SP128Barry Zito1415
SP224Rich Harden1113
SP325Danny Haren79
SP425Joe Blanton*716
SP534Esteban Loaiza128
RP122Huston Street*823
RP231Kiko Calero54
RP328Justin Duchscherer910
RP433Jay Witasick43
RP527Joe Kennedy76

EWSL is much kinder to the A's this year than last, now that the pitching rotation has some experience under its belt. What's debatable here is (1) whether Street's age adjustment is overprojecting him (he'd have to be Eric Gagne to earn 23 Win Shares as a closer) and (2) whether Haren is unfairly downgraded relative to Joe Blanton; both are the same age and earned 13 WS last year, but Haren is penalized for pitching poorly at the major league level for two years while Blanton was in the minors. I still think that fact gives Haren an advantage.

The A's are deep: besides the listed players they have a credible major league 2B at AAA (Keith Ginter), a decent backup 2B in Marco Scutaro, they just acquired Brad Halsey, who had appeared slated for the D-Backs' rotation, and they have Kirk Saarloos and Dan Meyer in reserve at AAA, though Meyer, like Juan Cruz, may turn out to be yet another proof of the dictum to beware pitchers the Braves give up on.

I'm not sure I see Oakland beating the Angels this year, but this is definitely a team that will make the race neck-and-neck, at least. Much will depend on the health of Milton Bradley and Frank Thomas and the sophomore progress of Haren, Blanton, Street, Nick Swisher and Dan Johnson.

Arte's Angels

Raw EWSL: 234.33 (78 W)
Adjusted: 253.60 (85 W)
Age-Adj.: 236.79 (79 W)

C23Jeff Mathis+012
1B23Casey Kotchman#34
2B30Adam Kennedy1515
SS31Orlando Cabrera1411
3B28Chone Figgins1921
RF30Vladimir Guerrero2625
CF32Darin Erstad1311
LF34Garret Anderson1716
DH27Juan Rivera1010
C231Jose Molina64
INF32Edgardo Alfonzo1211
OF29Robb Quinlan#44
1325Dallas McPherson*38
SP133Bartolo Colon1511
SP227John Lackey1312
SP329Jeff Weaver119
SP430Kelvim Escobar108
SP523Ervin Santana*36
RP124Francisco Rodriguez1415
RP230Scot Shields1210
RP334Brendan Donnelly75
RP430JC Romero65
RP528Kevin Gregg34

Anderson's health is in doubt - plantar fascitis is a nasty, nasty ailment (it cost Mark McGwire years of his prime), and at last check the Angels were even considering reviving Tim Salmon, who's been in camp. In his best years, I thought Anderson was underrated by some analysts who failed to account for his remarkable durability, but that asset is a thing of the past.

I like Juan Rivera, but I'm not convinced that Mike Scioscia does. Rivera could top that Win Shares total easily with a full season in the lineup, and Kotchman will obviously do the same if he stays in the lineup all year. Those two are among the main reasons why this race is tighter than EWSL makes it look, and would be tighter if I used a playing time-adjusted system, although I'm leery of adjusting too strictly for playing time because you then miss the value of durability and a sizeable established track record.

I listed Quinlan as an outfielder because I had to put him somewhere, but obviously he's mainly a first baseman. I'm listing McPherson here because I expect him to get significant playing time notwithstanding the fact that he's starting the season at AAA. He's not Troy Glaus, but he's still a solid bat. Macier Izturis should fill that roster slot for now, while Esteban Yan is the likely 11th pitcher. We're probably a year away from the DP combo of Howie Kendrick and Brandon Wood.

I drafted Lackey in my Roto league on Saturday (more on that later), but it's possible that, like Escobar's 2004, 2005 was Lackey's career year rather than the start of something bigger.

Texas Rangers

Raw EWSL: 210.67 (70 W)
Adjusted: 233.13 (78 W)
Age-Adj.: 226.06 (75 W)

C30Rod Barajas99
1B26Mark Teixera2731
2B24Ian Kinsler+012
SS29Michael Young2624
3B25Hank Blalock1923
RF28Kevin Mench1213
CF29Brad Wilkerson2018
LF32David Dellucci1210
DH35Phil Nevin139
C226Gerald Laird11
INF31Mark DeRosa43
OF25Laynce Nix57
1331Gary Matthews108
SP131Kevin Millwood108
SP228Vicente Padilla77
SP328Adamn Eaton66
SP424Kameron Loe*49
SP526Juan Dominguez*34
RP131Francisco Cordero1310
RP234Akinori Otsuka#65
RP321Fabio Castro+04
RP428Joaquin Benoit55
RP530Erasmo Ramirez20

Oh, the things that a ballpark can do; Blalock has been vastly overrated by this park, but he's still young and talented; Dellucci's the same useful role player he's always been, but last season he smacked 29 homers (ditto Barajas); people are expecting revivals from Wilkerson and Nevin and a solid rookie year from Kinsler based mainly on the park; Millwood and Padilla look like ticking time bombs in this place. An extreme hitters' park starts out fun but ends up as a house of mirrors, leading its inhabitants to question reality.

You can add Frank Francisco to the bullpen mix if he remains healthy and doesn't throw any more chairs . . . Francisco Cordero and Fabio Castro should not be confused with AL pitchers Fernando Cabrera, Fausto Carmona or Francisco Cruceta. Cordero has been a mild disappointment of late, although some of that is the park; Castro is a Rule 5 guy, so even if he doesn't pan out he'll probably be around all year.

The Rangers' bottom line: probably slightly improved pitching, but not enough of it, and the offense isn't quite as scary as it looks.

Seattle Mariners

Raw EWSL: 176.17 (59 W)
Adjusted: 200.80 (67 W)
Age-Adj.: 192.02 (64 W)

C30Kenji Johjima+012
1B31Richie Sexson1714
2B22Jose Lopez#410
SS24Yuniesky Betancourt*24
3B27Adrian Beltre2121
RF32Ichiro Suzuki2421
CF27Joe Borchard00
LF34Raul Ibanez1514
DH35Carl Everett118
C222Rene Rivera+16
INF28Willie Bloomquist44
OF34Matt Lawton1312
1325Jeremy Reed#68
SP120Felix Hernandez*411
SP231Jarrod Washburn119
SP343Jamie Moyer1110
SP427Joel Pineiro65
SP527Gil Meche65
RP135Eddie Guardado105
RP226Rafael Soriano22
RP328Julio Mateo66
RP429JJ Putz33
RP529George Sherrill#11

EWSL being a measure of established major league play, it is of limited use with a team like the Mariners except to point out that there isn't a lot of established major league talent here. If the imported catcher, Jumanji, lives up to predictions and doesn't turn into another Kaz Matsui (the Mariners, understandably, remain more bullish on Japanese imports than we Mets fans), and if the various rookies hold up, this still won't be a contender but it won't threaten 100 losses, either.

Borchard seems the logical replacement in center, if he can shake off his lifetime .191 batting average and reclaim his prospect status, for the injured Reed, who looks less like the new Tony Gwynn and more like the new Jeff Abbott. I remain somewhat upbeat about Reed, but the injury and the park are a bad combination for him.

I'd say time is due to catch up with some of the 40+ year old pitchers by now, but by all evidence it's already caught up with Moyer; the Mariners are just too pitching-poor to replace him. I do expect some great pitching from Soriano, if healthy.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:40 AM | Baseball 2006 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

I agree with everything you say about the Rangers & the influence of that batty ballpark. Reality is, indeed, obfuscated by everything that W touches.

Ok, cheap shot, I know. Now back to baseball.

You're probably right about the Rangers and their 80 or so wins. But there are enough of those "damn, if he can put it together this season . . ." players that they could really surprise. At least three guys on offense could throw a 1000+ OPS slugging year out there, and in Millwood & Padilla & Eaton they have three pitchers that could win a lot of games (by pitching well on the road, and by giving up fewer than 5 or 6 runs at home).

Posted by: Mike at March 28, 2006 9:08 AM

I don't know about Padilla and Eaton. Padilla's ERA has actually gone up each year he's been in the majors (though he did move from the Vet to a banbox), and Eaton's been unable to dip below a 4.00 pitching in Petco and in a league more favorable to pitching. I think the Rangers staff actually looks worse than it did a year ago.

I picked the division in the same exact order. The Angels have a nice lineup, but no pop. But it should come down to wire yet again.

Posted by: paul zummo at March 28, 2006 7:47 PM

How much do u think the A's will get out og Bradley and Big Hurt? From a cost standpoint its a good risk reward with a potential big ROI, but I wonder..based on their attitudes.


Posted by: That Dude at March 28, 2006 11:26 PM

Robb Quinlan has principally been used as a filler for whichever third baseman isn't available to play that day (2004: Troy Glaus; 2005: Chone Figgins, probably because he was in center). Otherwise I agree with the predictions more or less, with the caveat that I think the M's have more upside surprise possibilities because of Beltre returning to be something besides a one-year wonder, and because they have a very good bullpen and an adequate rotation.

For the Angels, the whole season really rests on the shoulders of the rookies and sophomores -- here I'm thinking of Casey Kotchman (who is raking in spring training), and possible callups like Kendry Morales, or even Tim Salmon. If Salmon's knees can be convinced to stay in the field for 80 games or so, and his bat comes around -- a pair of very iffy propositions -- the Halos have a decent shot at the division. All the same, the A's are really loaded this year.

Posted by: Rob McMillin at March 28, 2006 11:53 PM

frank thomas 8 mayby 28 and an mvp now that sounds more like it.

Posted by: bar35 at March 30, 2006 3:37 PM

I agree...Arte's Angels are going to be hard to beat. While I'm concerned about Salmon's health...I do think he'd be a good situational hitter.

On a side note, would you mind filling out my survey about fantasy sports. it's for a school project and will take less than a minute to fill out.


Posted by: Tom at March 30, 2006 7:34 PM
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