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spring; I've been working on this post for the past week trying to get all the numbers up to speed before they are out of date.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.
Raw EWSL: 193.67 (65 W)
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)
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.
Raw EWSL: 226.34 (75 W)
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.
Raw EWSL: 183.50 (61 W)
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.
Raw EWSL: 70.83 (24 W)
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)