Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
April 3, 2006
BASEBALL: 2006 AL Central EWSL Report

The third 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.

(And yes, for reasons I've explained before and will elaborate on elsewhere, I'm way behind schedule this year, but I'll get to the NL as soon as I can).

World Champion Chicago White Sox

Raw EWSL: 224.67 (75 W)
Adjusted: 252.97 (84 W)
Age-Adj.: 238.09 (79 W)

C29AJ Pierzynski1412
1B30Paul Konerko1919
2B31Tadahito Iguchi*914
SS26Juan Uribe1618
3B28Joe Crede1314
RF32Jermaine Dye1312
CF24Brian Anderson+012
LF30Scott Podsednik1514
DH35Jim Thome1410
C235Chris Widger11
INF27Alex Cintron99
OF30Rob Mackowiak1212
1330Ross Gload#33
SP127Mark Buehrle2018
SP230Freddy Garcia1512
SP329Javier Vazquez1311
SP426Jon Garland1516
SP534Jose Contreras118
RP125Bobby Jenks*37
RP226Neal Cotts#56
RP332Cliff Politte21
RP429Matt Thornton#11
RP522Brandon McCarthy*37

The Sox have an impressive bench - Cintron and Mackowiak both play multiple positions and could play regularly without terrible results in a pinch. Pablo Ozuna is also on hand. I believe the White Sox also had Ben Grieve in camp, but that's just a sad story. On the pitching side, Dustin Hermanson's injuries have him contemplating retirement, so while he might be back, I wouldn't bank on him.

Like the 2002 Angels, the 2005 White Sox were a pretty good team that got nearly all the breaks; that won't happen again, and other than Brandon McCarthy and a full recovery by Thome there isn't a lot of room here for great leaps forward. Still, the rotation looks solid, and this team should be in the hunt all year, at least for the wild card. I'm comfortable listing them as the tentative favorite to win the division.

Minnesota Twins

Raw EWSL: 220.67 (74 W)
Adjusted: 234.73 (78 W)
Age-Adj.: 224.49 (75 W)

C23Joe Mauer#1322
1B25Justin Morneau#710
2B30Luis Castillo2019
SS26Jason Bartlett*37
3B32Tony Batista65
RF27Michael Cuddyer77
CF30Torii Hunter1313
LF32Shannon Stewart1311
DH34Rondell White1211
C235Mike Redmond54
INF34Juan Castro76
OF29Lew Ford1413
1340Ruben Sierra52
SP127Johan Santana2322
SP233Brad Radke1410
SP327Carlos Silva1312
SP427Kyle Lohse98
SP524Scott Baker*25
RP131Joe Nathan1612
RP224Jesse Crain#69
RP327Juan Rincon109
RP443Terry Mulholland43
RP522Francisco Liriano+04

Sierra's a bit player, but it was a little easier to get a fix on him here than list Jason Kubel, who promises to get serious playing time, especially with Cuddyer ailing in the early going. Nick Punto and Terry Tiffee are also part of the infield picture, and should only be moreso if Batista doesn't hit and Jason Bartlett continues to have problems staying healthy.

Batista gets a raw deal from EWSL because I don't really have a way to put any value on what he did in 2005. Then again, if he posts a .284 OBP, it's pretty much moot. When he was playing shortstop and keeping his OBP around .305-.310, Batista's combination of power and defense made him useful; as a third baseman who hasn't had a .280 OBP in the majors since 2002, he's unlikely to be useful.

Francisco Liriano should push someone out of the rotation by midsummer; Liriano struck out more than a batter an inning in each of his six appearances last year. But you don't need me to tell you that Mauer and Morneau (and to a lesser extent Bartlett) are the keys to this team; if the offense is totally punchless it will matter little how good the pitching is. On the other hand, I'm optimistic that a season as a DH might help Rondell White stay healthier.

Cleveland Indians

Raw EWSL: 209.50 (70 W)
Adjusted: 220.23 (73 W)
Age-Adj.: 212.02 (71 W)

C27Victor Martinez1818
1B29Ben Broussard1211
2B31Ron Belliard1713
SS24Jhonny Peralta1317
3B33Aaron Boone87
RF32Casey Blake1211
CF23Grady Sizemore#1423
LF30Jason Michaels1110
DH29Travis Hafner2119
C226Kelly Shoppach+06
INF29Ramon Vazquez32
OF33Todd Hollandsworth54
1336Eduardo Perez54
SP125CC Sabathia1215
SP227Cliff Lee99
SP328Jake Westbrook1112
SP435Paul Byrd95
SP532Jason Johnson85
RP137Bob Wickman65
RP232Guillermo Mota85
RP324Fernando Cabrera*25
RP431Rafael Betancourt65
RP534Scott Sauerbeck21

As was true last year, EWSL gives the Indians a poor grade. There are a couple of reasons for this, some more valid than others. Cleveland has a bunch of guys who went from seasons of 100-300 at bats, in some cases of so-so play, to full seasons of stardom but are still dragged down by the earlier years - thus, you had Grady Sizemore with 5 and 24 WS, Hafner with 7-21-26, Martinez with 3-20-22, Peralta with 4-0-25, Lee with 3-7-13. The nature of an established performance level evaluation is to use the old Chuck Dressen line: "I'd like to see him do it again." But the Indians probably are better than the total you see above; Hafner and Martinez and Sizemore are definitely for real, and Peralta and Lee probably are as well.

The second reason is the erosion around the edges; Broussard, Blake and Boone all fell off last season, especially in the OBP department, and their offensive struggles will eat away quietly at this team unless they turn things around (odds are, no more than one of the three will) or get replaced. Andy Marte and Jason Dubois are on hand - I'm not sure why Hollandsworth is on the roster ahead of Dubois - but better solutions may be needed at first base and in the outfield corners.

The third reason is, this team is young at the core, but older than you'd think all around the roster. There's an awful lot of guys here, even guys who still seem like they're just establishing themselves, who have already hit the wrong side of 30. That, too, will be a quiet drain on Cleveland. (And this is before CC Sabathia left last night's marathon opener with a strained abdominal muscle, which could put a crimp in what is already not the deepest starting rotation).

The Indians, in reality, are about even with or better than the Twins, and probably not much behind the champs. But the watchword for this franchise right now is "missed opportunity."

Detroit Tigers

Raw EWSL: 185.33 (62 W)
Adjusted: 200.03 (67 W)
Age-Adj.: 194.70 (65 W)

C34Ivan Rodriguez1615
1B26Chris Shelton*715
2B30Placido Polanco2019
SS30Carlos Guillen1413
3B29Brandon Inge1312
RF32Magglio Ordonez1210
CF25Curtis Granderson*38
LF29Craig Monroe1211
DH32Dmitri Young119
C233Vance Wilson44
INF24Omar Infante811
OF26Nook Logan#45
1329Marcus Thames#33
SP123Jeremy Bonderman88
SP241Kenny Rogers1413
SP328Mike Maroth910
SP428Nate Robertson67
SP523Justin Verlander+04
RP138Todd Jones108
RP229Fernando Rodney33
RP334Jamie Walker54
RP426Franklyn German22
RP529Chris Spurling33

I'm fairly high on the Tigers as a source of Rotisserie players - a lot of guys here who can hit some and are basically bolted into the lineup with the departure of Carlos Pena and the failures of Infante and Logan in everyday jobs. [UPDATE: I did the depth charts here before the weekend - I missed Logan getting sent to AAA] But in the real world, this team will only go as far as its biggest star . . . Placido Polanco? Polanco is suddenly getting noticed as an underrated star (see here for something I wrote in September), but expect a falloff after hitting .330 last year. Actually, Pudge is still the star, but he's way exceeded the manufacturer's warranty at this stage.

Bonderman should be better than 8 Win Shares if, unlike last year, he doesn't run out of gas down the stretch. But again, that's what EWSL is for: to remind us that Bonderman hasn't done it yet. To move this team forward, he needs to step up.

There is some pitching potential here with Bonderman, Verlander and Joel Zumaya, who's currently in the back of the bullpen. Also, it would not surprise me if Todd Jones doesn't get the closer job back from Fernando Rodney. I see the Tigers' upside as being a season like the Nationals had last year - i.e., turning this into a four-team race - but the team's broad foundation won't make up for its lack of star power.

Kansas City Royals

Raw EWSL: 157.50 (53 W)
Adjusted: 169.30 (56 W)
Age-Adj.: 163.20 (54 W)

C25John Buck#610
1B32Doug Mientkiwicz76
2B36Mark Grudzielanek1512
SS28Angel Berroa1213
3B24Mark Teahen*512
RF31Emil Brown97
CF26David DeJesus1113
LF38Reggie Sanders1411
DH32Mike Sweeney1513
C234Paul Bako22
INF34Tony Graffanino109
OF38Matt Stairs1310
1333Aaron Guiel33
SP122Zack Grienke#59
SP228Runelvys Hernandez33
SP332Mark Redman75
SP430Scott Elarton64
SP530Joe Mays11
RP129Mike MacDougal65
RP222Ambiorix Burgos*26
RP327Jeremy Affeldt44
RP425Denny Bautista*11
RP523Andrew Sisco35

OK, I cheated, but it was out of pity, pity and a little laziness; I couldn't bring myself to value the Royals absent Grienke, let alone striking guys like MacDougal, Hernandez and Redman whose health issues are more short-term. It would have been pointless to slot in so many zeroes. Suffice it to say that 55 wins may be the optimistic case for this team; the picture could hardly be bleaker, especially now that there are four respectable teams in the division.

Poor David DeJesus, like Lee Mazzilli in the late 70s, seems destined to be a good regular woefully miscast as a franchise player.

Affeldt and Bautista will be in the rotation for now, and while both have gotten rave reviews, well, we remember, among others, Dan Reichert, Glendon Rusch, Jeff Suppan, Chad Durbin, Chris George, Kris Wilson, Jimmy Gobble, Lance Carter, Orber Moreno, Brian Bevil, and Jim Pittsley, as well as some of the guys on the current staff. Not all of those guys were originally Royals prospects (eg, Suppan) and not all were total busts, either, but the gap between hype and major league performance is rarely larger than in KC, where so few pitchers ever seem to scale the heights of major league adequacy, let alone productivity or stardom.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:16 AM | Baseball 2006 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Affeldt is a head case, but Bautista is the real deal. He is a top of the rotation guy on the rise. His only issue is health and so far this year he looks good. The Royals will be much better this year. Just their improved defense will improve their record and believe it or not their starting pitching is better than last year. 75-87

Posted by: maddirishman at April 4, 2006 10:45 AM
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