Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
April 21, 2006
BASEBALL: 2006 NL Central EWSL Report

Yes, as always, the six-team NL Central is last in line in my division-by-division previews using Established Win Shares Levels; having just put the finishing touches on this one, I should finally have a little more flexibility back in the blog.

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.

St. Louis Cardinals

Raw EWSL: 239.67 (80 W)
Adjusted: 254.53 (85 W)
Age-Adj.: 237.00 (79 W)

C23Yadier Molina#814
1B26Albert Pujols3743
2B29Aaron Miles#89
SS31David Eckstein1814
3B31Scott Rolen1915
RF30Juan Encarnacion1615
CF36Jim Edmonds2822
LF36So Taguchi97
C234Gary Bennett44
INF26Hector Luna#45
OF26Skip Schumaker+06
1233Scott Speizio33
1328John Rodriguez*35
SP131Chris Carpenter1411
SP228Mark Mulder1416
SP327Jason Marquis1110
SP431Jeff Suppan119
SP529Sidney Ponson54
RP133Jason Isringhausen118
RP231Braden Looper87
RP336Ricardo Rincon33
RP430Randy Flores22
RP524Brad Thompson*36

Larry Bigbie, originally part of the outfield mix, is still injured. Overall, the Cards are a lot less fearsome than they were a year or two ago, with holes having sprung in the lineup at several points (outfield corners, second base, catcher) and continuing question marks on the health of Scott Rolen (who looks 100% so far this year, in which case he'll easily bypass his EWSL of 15) and the age of Jim Edmonds. Chris Carpenter, like Rolen, will likely exceed his established level if he breaks with his history and manages another full healthy season. Pujols remains this team's backbone, but the more the Cards are Pujols rather than Pujols-Edmonds-Rolen, the more trouble they'll be in.

One of the imponderables in St. Louis, though more as an analytical and Roto issue than as an effect on the W/L column, is how friendly or unfriendly the new ballpark will be to hitters over a full season.

Chicago Cubs

Raw EWSL: 219.17 (73 W)
Adjusted: 240.17 (80 W)
Age-Adj.: 236.80 (79 W)

C29Michael Barrett1514
1B30Derrek Lee2827
2B33Todd Walker1412
SS23Ronny Cedeno+112
3B28Aramis Ramirez2021
RF31Jacque Jones1411
CF28Juan Pierre1820
LF24Matt Murton*25
C234Henry Blanco54
INF30Jerry Hairston88
OF35John Mabry53
1233Neifi Perez108
1326Freddy Bynum+06
SP125Carlos Zambrano1823
SP240Greg Maddux1111
SP331Glendon Rusch65
SP425Mark Prior1215
SP524Jerome Williams77
RP129Ryan Dempster76
RP232Bobby Howry75
RP328Will Ohman*24
RP430Scott Williamson32
RP529Kerry Wood87

I was frankly stunned that the Cubs rate just a hair behind the Cardinals. Of course, that's ranking Prior and Wood as if they will be at least as healthy as in the last three seasons, when they haven't pitched yet, and Derrek Lee going down for six weeks puts them in a big hole. Also, I suspect that, as was true in Colorado, Juan Pierre will be less valuable in a park where the home run ball plays a bigger role and runs are not as scarce as in Florida. On the other hand, Matt Murton gets short changed here, and there's always the possibility that a healthy Wade Miller could be useful. Right now, Sean Marshall is holding down the other rotation spot. I'm not sure what options the Cubs have at first in Lee's absence - playing Mabry every day can't be pretty, but I'm not sure if there's someone else who can move over there to get Hairston in the lineup. Maybe Michael Restovich can play first?

Milwaukee Brewers

Raw EWSL: 177.33 (59 W)
Adjusted: 207.13 (69 W)
Age-Adj.: 199.47 (66 W)

C36Damian Miller118
1B22Prince Fielder+112
2B23Rickie Weeks*513
SS23JJ Hardy*615
3B33Corey Koskie1110
RF31Geoff Jenkins1814
CF33Brady Clark1714
LF30Carlos Lee2221
C231Chad Moeller32
INF26Bill Hall1214
OF26Gabe Gross#22
1236Jeff Cirillo43
1324Corey Hart+06
SP127Ben Sheets1413
SP230Doug Davis129
SP327Chris Capuano87
SP430Tomo Ohka87
SP526David Bush#67
RP128Derrick Turnbow910
RP230Matt Wise54
RP331Danny Kolb54
RP428Justin Lehr#22
RP525Jorge de la Rosa*12

Ex-closer Mike Adams and the injured Rick Helling are also in the pitching mix. I expect more than 25 Win Shares from Fielder and Weeks, although my enthusiasm has been tempered somewhat whenever I watch Weeks attempt to play second base. Anyway, if those guys are undervalued a bit here, it's offset by Bill Hall being valued as if he was playing everyday.

The future for Ben Sheets is now, but can he get healthy and back up to full strength? Actually, Sheets is an oddity on this team - along with Lee - being in his prime. The Brewers are mainly built on two groups of players - the very young infielders and a bunch of late bloomer scrap-heap pickups (Turnbow, Davis, Capuano, Wise, Clark, Ohka). The downside is that, like the Cooper/Oglivie/Thomas Brewers, these guys will get old far faster than you expect, so Milwaukee's window of opportunity may be narrower than it looks. I expect the Brewers to stay in contention all year, despite their early struggles scoring runs.

Houston Astros

Raw EWSL: 205.83 (69 W)
Adjusted: 217.97 (73 W)
Age-Adj.: 196.82 (66 W)

C37Brad Ausmus128
1B30Lance Berkman2524
2B40Craig Biggio188
SS29Adam Everett1312
3B30Morgan Ensberg1919
RF29Jason Lane#910
CF24Willy Taveras*717
LF31Preston Wilson119
C228Eric Munson45
INF26Chris Burke*37
OF37Orlando Palmeiro54
1230Mike Lamb77
1328Eric Bruntlett23
SP128Roy Oswalt1820
SP234Andy Pettitte1511
SP328Brandon Backe56
SP427Wandy Rodriguez*12
SP526Ezequiel Astacio*00
RP129Brad Lidge1513
RP228Dan Wheeler77
RP329Mike Gallo22
RP427Chad Qualls54
RP533Trever Miller32

Yes, I realize that Astacio isn't starting at the moment, as two guys named Taylor Buchholz and Fernando Nieve have taken their cracks at the fifth starter's job. Regardless of who is starting there, this rotation is just crying out for Roger Clemens, including the fact that Backe is really better suited as a #4 than a #3.

I thought last season that the loss of Beltran, Kent, and Miller was a lot for Houston to absorb, and if Bagwell and Clemens are really gone, that's a lot to add to what they overcame last season. Plus, Biggio is due to be next - man, there are a lot of old guys playing up-the-middle positions these days.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Raw EWSL: 172.17 (57 W)
Adjusted: 193.37 (64 W)
Age-Adj.: 184.22 (61 W)

C25Ryan Doumit*38
1B31Sean Casey1915
2B25Jose Castillo#711
SS28Jack Wilson1718
3B36Joe Randa1411
RF37Jeromy Burnitz1611
CF26Chris Duffy*36
LF27Jason Bay2222
C227Humberto Cota33
INF28Freddy Sanchez*613
OF29Craig Wilson109
1236Jose Hernandez54
1324Nate McLouth11
SP123Zach Duke*510
SP224Oliver Perez78
SP324Paul Maholm*25
SP424Ian Snell11
SP529Victor Santos32
RP128Mike Gonzalez66
RP241Roberto Hernandez66
RP331Damaso Marte86
RP427John Grabow#12
RP534Salomon Torres107

The Pirates have to be downgraded from these numbers depending upon the severity of Sean Casey's injury, which I gather is pretty grim. (Doumit is also hurt at present). On the other hand, that's one reason I don't downgrade bench players who are rated based on being regulars in the recent past - Craig Wilson, who was probably going to play a lot anyway, can now be valued as a regular.

I suspect the Pirates will actually finish last (the early standings certainly bear this out), but much depends on their young and young-ish pitchers - whether Perez' 2004 season was a fluke year (his control's been bad in the early going), whether Maholm and Snell can contribute in a serious way. If the youngsters (or, more likely, Victor Santos) falter, Kip Wells should be back later in the season.

Cincinnati Reds

Raw EWSL: 183.33 (61 W)
Adjusted: 188.80 (63 W)
Age-Adj.: 182.16 (61 W)

C32Jason LaRue1513
1B36Scott Hatteberg129
2B30Ryan Freel1212
SS26Felipe Lopez1416
3B23Edwin Encarnacion*26
RF26Austin Kearns910
CF36Ken Griffey1612
LF26Adam Dunn2529
C230Javier Valentin77
INF36Tony Womack86
OF35Quinton McCracken21
1234Rich Aurilia1211
1325Brandon Phillips11
SP128Aaron Harang78
SP227Brandon Claussen#44
SP329Bronson Arroyo#99
SP430Eric Milton32
SP527Dave Williams43
RP136David Weathers76
RP238Kent Mercker64
RP340Chris Hammond55
RP437Rick White43
RP525Todd Coffey*24

"Hey, I remember that guy - he's still pitching?" should be the motto of the Reds' bullpen. Also in the pen mix are younger arms like Matt Belisle and Mike Burns, plus when he returns from injury Paul "Mr. February" Wilson may get a crack at the rotation, depending on which parts of it are in disarray at that juncture. I expect Ryan Wagner as well to get some serious time in this bullpen.

I gather that Womack may get cut when Griffey comes back, but I'm keeping him on the list of talent on hand until then.

Griffey seems to be reaching the point where it's no longer credible to pretend you can stick him in center and play him every day; between the injuries and the deterioration of his defense, he's probably most effective platooning in a corner outfield slot or becoming a DH. And honestly, the Reds should just move on - if Griffey was gone, maybe we wouldn't see a bad team fielding a roster with a 34-year-old, a 35-year-old, and seven guys 36 or older.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:00 PM | Baseball 2006 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

It's pretty scary that the age-adjustment for Pujols is still in the upwards direction.

Posted by: Jerry at April 21, 2006 2:32 PM

Backe is out for 6 weeks - maybe the season - with elbow trouble, there was talk of Tommy John surgery in the paper this week.

More problematic for the Astros than the starting rotation is relief. The bullpen has looked awful so far this year. To my eye something is off with Brad Lidge. He's pitching and getting outs, but few strikeouts and people are hitting the ball hard. I'm not sure what's up there.

Offensively they look better. Wilson (when he isn't striking out) looks like a good signing. Ensberg has been hitting the ball hard. Berkman has been huge so far, and his defense at first is pretty darn impressive too.

I'm still thinking Clemens will come back to the Astros in May. I'm less sure than I was a month or so ago though because there is very little buzz about it.

Always remember when you laugh at me over that; Kobe Clemens is in the Astros farm system and eligible for September call up. Imagine a Clemens start in September with Kobe Clemens playing third. Absolutely pure Americana, baseball at its best.

Although I'd hate to be the opposing pitcher. What do you do, throw inside to Roger Clemens' son? 8^)

....oh, uh....if Clemens comes back, they have a shot at the post season. If not, I'm thinking they're out of it this year. Too many kids on the mound pitching too many innings.

Posted by: Dwilkers at April 21, 2006 3:43 PM

Has Bagwell given up the ghost yet ? I would think if his paychecks continue to come from the 'stros rather than the insurance company, they probably can't afford Clemens.

Posted by: Jerry at April 21, 2006 3:58 PM

Bagwell is out, but he's paid by the Astros. They're going to do battle in court over the insurance money. My guess is an out of court settlement for some portion of it.

As far as the money Clemens gets, it really doesn't matter much. People come to the game just to see him pitch - he puts about 5-10k fannies in the seats for every start, fannies that wouldn't be there if it was someone else. He makes money for the team. Plus Drayton has always ponied up the cash if they have a shot.

If he'll pitch for them, they'll find a way.

Posted by: NotEvenRelatedToDwilkers at April 21, 2006 4:39 PM


Maybe my name change will take this time.

Posted by: Dwilkers at April 21, 2006 5:28 PM

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I linked your site to mine, at .

Would you be able to do the same for me?

Hope all is well, have a great weekend.

Take care,

Posted by: J. Mark English at April 21, 2006 11:16 PM
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