Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
April 11, 2006
BASEBALL: 2006 NL East EWSL Report

The fourth of six division previews, using Established Win Shares Levels as a jumping-off point. And yes, I'm aware that I'm well behind schedule here, but it's been a crazy spring; I've been working on this post for the past week trying to get all the numbers up to speed before they are out of date.

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.

Atlanta Braves

Raw EWSL: 193.67 (65 W)
Adjusted: 222.20 (74 W)
Age-Adj.: 241.69 (81 W)

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C22Brian McCann*314
1B26Adam LaRoche#811
2B28Marcus Giles2224
SS30Edgar Renteria1717
3B34Chipper Jones2018
RF22Jeff Francouer*627
CF29Andruw Jones2119
LF26Ryan Langerhans*614
C239Todd Pratt54
INF25Wilson Betemit*49
OF24Kelly Johnson*512
1327Pete Orr*23
1439Brian Jordan43
SP130Tim Hudson1613
SP239John Smoltz1612
SP326Horacio Ramirez77
SP422Kyle Davies*26
SP529Jorge Sosa98
RP128Chris Reitsma89
RP224Oscar Villereal23
RP340Mike Remlinger32
RP425Lance Cormier#23
RP532John Thomson85

What, you expected someone else? Last year, I had the Braves in last place in a tight division; I had the tight division right, but I didn't account for the huge influx of rookies who saved Atlanta. This time, EWSL is overrating some of those rookies. Francouer, for example, is rated here as he should be, in one sense: the age adjustment compensates for the fact that he played only a half season last year. But in fact, he's probably a guy who had a well-timed hot streak rather than a genuinely great young talent who can cough up 27 Win Shares this year. But no matter: the Braves will get them from somewhere.

There will be few clearer tests of the Braves' ability to continue to defy the odds after the departure of Leo Mazzone than Jorge Sosa, whose dramatic improvement last season was almost entirely due to better luck on balls in play. On a non-Braves team, you'd look at that (and his 23.14 ERA thus far) and assume he would collapse, but the Braves are the Braves; even if he does, they will replace him.

Matt Diaz is currently playing in place of the injured Kelly Johnson, and Thomson is currently in the rotation in place of the injured Ramirez. Some rotoheads are excited by the idea that recent callup Joey Devine will stand next in line for the closer job, and while that may be true, Devine's high minor league walk rates suggest to me a guy who - at least if he wasn't on the Braves - would probably have a rocky ride his first time around the majors. Chuck James is in some ways a more interesting short-term prospect, but he's also a guy who is very unproven at this level.

New York Mets

Raw EWSL: 225.00 (75 W)
Adjusted: 249.90 (83 W)
Age-Adj.: 235.18 (78 W)

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C34Paul LoDuca1615
1B34Carlos Delgado2624
2B23Anderson Hernandez+012
SS23Jose Reyes1216
3B23David Wright#1627
RF27Xavier Nady66
CF29Carlos Beltran2623
LF33Cliff Floyd1917
C230Ramon Castro44
INF30Kaz Matsui#78
OF24Victor Diaz*49
1330Chris Woodward54
1447Julio Franco94
SP134Pedro Martinez1813
SP240Tom Glavine1313
SP335Steve Trachsel63
SP430Victor Zambrano87
SP525Brian Bannister+04
RP134Billy Wagner1511
RP227Aaron Heilman55
RP326Duaner Sanchez#67
RP427Jorge Julio33
RP531Chad Bradford43

The arbitrary award of 12 WS to a rookie with an everyday job is probably high for Hernandez; the 12 number is high in general because only the very best rookies tend to get everyday jobs out of spring training. This year, there are a number of players being forced into jobs either due to injuries (here, Matsui) or due to wholesale restructurings (see the Marlins below). I suspect that when I recalculate the rookie number after 2006 I will have to revise it downward.

Heilman's EWSL is low because it counts in 2003, when he was horrid, and 2004, when he hardly pitched. Note that he's 27; Heilman's future is now, and he ought not to be wasting it in the bullpen. Trachsel is also lowballed here because he missed almost all of last season after WS totals of 13 and 10, but in Trachsel's case that's a reasonable caution: he's 35 and coming off a bad back, so caution is wise. The Mets are also very heavily invested in 34-year-olds, which tells you that this team will need to be rebuilt soon whether they win this year or not. For the record, I do think there's a pretty good chance this team could go deep into the playoffs; there's a bunch of gambles here but if Pedro and Glavine hold up and Beltran bounces back, the Mets could really make some noise.

I'll be surprised if Julio lasts until the All-Star Break; I'd rather see him go the Felix Heredia route with the Mets than the Mel Rojas route.

Of course, as I've noted repeatedly, don't be fooled by the low win totals listed here - especially if the Nationals and Marlins struggle, the other three teams in the division should end up looking stronger as a result of getting some easy in-division games.

Philadelphia Phillies

Raw EWSL: 226.34 (75 W)
Adjusted: 237.83 (79 W)
Age-Adj.: 223.25 (74 W)

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C34Mike Lieberthal1110
1B26Ryan Howard*512
2B27Chase Utley1616
SS27Jimmy Rollins2222
3B33David Bell1210
RF32Bobby Abreu3026
CF28Aaron Rowand1719
LF29Pat Burrell1917
C234Sal Fasano21
INF30Abraham Nunez77
OF32David Dellucci1210
1333Alex Gonzalez87
1425Shane Victorino+16
SP125Brett Myers1012
SP236Jon Lieber108
SP334Cory Lidle75
SP425Ryan Madson#69
SP523Gavin Floyd*11
RP138Tom Gordon129
RP236Arthur Rhodes44
RP339Rheal Cormier54
RP432Aaron Fultz53
RP533Ryan Franklin75

Geoff Geary will undoubtedly pitch in higher-leverage relief situations than Franklin, but I'm sure Franklin will end up the year with more innings as he gets called upon to start, so I listed Franjlin. A healthy return by Randy Wolf would also boost this team's fortunes. One of the frustrations of getting delayed in launching the EWSL previews is that I sometimes end up rating the same guy twice - here, David Dellucci, who got traded from Texas. He won't find the playing time in Philly to match his 29 homers from 2005.

Needless to say, Howard should beat 12 Win Shares, but it is worth noting that he wasn't a young rookie last year; he's probably already pretty close to as good as he'll get. Utley should also clear 16 WS, since his EWSL reflects a two-year battle for playing time before his breakout 2005.

The Phillies are another of those teams that has age around the edges, although they do take a hit on some key guys entering their decline years (Abreu) or well into them (Gordon, Lieber, Bell, Lidle, Rhodes - the pitching staff after Myers has a lot of age on it). David Bell may well be finished, and there isn't really a good alternative reayd at this point. On the other hand, Madson could be a surprise success story in the rotation, and Floyd at least has an upside, though I doubt we'll see him do much but learn to survive in 2006. Basically, the Phillies are taking on all the classic hallmarks of a team in a good hitters' park: a deep, solid lineup (but one with a few weak links protected by the park) coupled with difficulty developing young pitchers and a corresponding tendency to rely on weak second-line free agent veteran arms.

Realistically, EWSL has it about right: the Phils are a weaker team than the Braves or Mets, mainly because of their pitching, but not by a lot, and in a world where it was possible for the Braves to lose they could still win the division.

Washington Nationals

Raw EWSL: 183.50 (61 W)
Adjusted: 209.20 (70 W)
Age-Adj.: 196.88 (66 W)

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C29Brian Schneider1614
1B27Nick Johnson1515
2B31Jose Vidro1210
SS36Royce Clayton108
3B21Ryan Zimmerman+112
RF30Jose Guillen1817
CF24Brad Watson+012
LF30Alfonso Soriano1817
C232Wiki Gonzalez11
INF28Cristian Guzman1011
OF28Marlon Byrd88
1330Matt LeCroy77
1432Marlon Anderson54
SP131Livan Hernandez1713
SP228John Patterson88
SP333Ramon Ortiz54
SP428Tony Armas jr22
SP530Ryan Drese75
RP124Chad Cordero#1115
RP226Gary Majewski#45
RP339Mike Stanton43
RP433Felix Rodriguez43
RP536Joey Eischen32

Yeah, I know, is Livan really 31? Not knowing the truth, I stick to the reported age. Nick Johnson is entering the "is that all there is" stage of his career, and I no longer expect sustained greatness, but it still would not surprise me to see him rip off one healthy year in the next year or two where he slugs .550 with a .450 OBP and drives in 110 runs. He and Patterson are the main guys on this team with real upsides from their EWSL figures, although a healthy Armas could still turn in a halfway-decent season. It's the back of the rotation after Patterson that's a particular concern for this team, plus Vidro's decline, plus the utter lack of a major league shortstop.

It's almost a pity Andy Marte left Atlanta - imagine a division with Zimmerman, Wright, Cabrera and Marte as third base rivals for the next decade (assuming Cabrera doesn't get moved again). If the Nationals get 11 Win Shares out of Cristian Guzman, I'll eat my hat.

Florida Marlins

Raw EWSL: 70.83 (24 W)
Adjusted: 157.53 (53 W)
Age-Adj.: 167.71 (56 W)

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C27Miguel Olivo66
1B25Mike Jacobs*36
2B26Dan Uggla+012
SS22Hanley Ramirez+012
3B23Miguel Cabrera2332
RF22Jeremy Hermida212
CF25Reggie Abercrombie+012
LF27Josh Willingham+012
C230Matt Treanor11
INF30Wes Helms66
OF25Eric Reed+06
1327Chris Aguila+06
1428Alfredo Amezaga11
SP124Dontrelle Willis1719
SP223Jason Vargas*24
SP334Brian Moehler32
SP425Sergio Mitre#11
SP522Scott Olsen+14
RP135Joe Borowski42
RP226Franklyn German22
RP336Matt Herges22
RP423Chris Resop+04
RP523Ricky Nolasco+04

That first number isn't a misprint: there are only 24 wins worth of established major league talent here. The rest will need to be made up with guys who have only been in the majors part of one season (Jacobs and Vargas) or two (Mitre) and raw rookies. Beyond that basic observation, EWSL is essentially useless to make sense of a team as reliant on un-established talent as the Hatchlings.

Note that Jacobs should easily surpass 6 WS, since he's rated here on barely more than a month's work, albeit a month he will probably never top; I continue to see him as the next Rico Brogna. My gut feeling is that the Marlins won't be terrible and could finish ahead of the Nationals, but then EWSL is assuming a solid 12-WS season from each of the rookie non-pitchers, and that's probably an unreasonably optimistic assumption, plus the pitching staff is awfully threadbare, and rookie pitchers - even in pitcher-friendly Miami - tend to struggle. Either way, this will not be a good team this season, and that changes the dynamics in this division rather dramatically.

Hermida might be a big slugger eventually, though I gather in the short term he should look comparable to Brad Wilkerson. There's been some talk of the Marlins moving Miguel Cabrera, but I chalk that up to paranoia - there's simply no possible way to benefit from trading a 23-year-old whose most similar players lists at baseball-reference.com and the Baseball Prospectus include Frank Robinson, Hank Aaron, Mickey Mantle, Ken Griffey jr., Joe Medwick and Vladimir Guerrero. Any prospects you get back for Cabrera wouldn't be much younger and would be hugely unlikely to match Cabrera's upside (if you can name one minor leaguer anywhere with his upside, you're ahead of me).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:15 PM | Baseball 2006 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

Of course, weve seen this act by the Marlins once before, and a young team like this wont grow into its potential for awhile. But I do agree with this;they would be insane to trade Miguel Cabrera. If he stays healthy, he should be headed for the Hall. No doubt that other G.M.s are gonna try to pry him away tho.

Posted by: bob k. at April 11, 2006 1:09 PM

Thanks for putting together this analysis Crank.

As a Braves fan, I was amused by the last place prediction last year but I think this year's projections look to be much closer to reality. I do think that Francouer is vastly overrated in this model and that there is a modest chance that he will see some time in AAA this year. I would probably credit Andruw Jones with a few more win shares, especially if he can keep his batting average closer to .300.

Posted by: Gratitude at April 12, 2006 1:09 PM
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