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)
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.
Raw EWSL: 220.67 (74 W)
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.
Raw EWSL: 209.50 (70 W)
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."
Raw EWSL: 185.33 (62 W)
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)
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)