Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
April 5, 2007
BASEBALL: 2007 NL East EWSL Report
The fourth 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; 2007 revisions to the age adjustment discussed here and rookie adjustments 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 and 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 and explanations are in my AL East preview here; my AL Central preview is here, AL West is here.
New York Mets
Raw EWSL: 243 (81 W)
I've been super-conservative with the Mets projections, leaving Pedro Martinez, Duaner Sanchez, Guillermo Mota and Juan Padilla entirely out of the picture. Also on hand is sidearming rookie ROOGY Joe Smith to replace Chad Bradford, plus David Newhan, Anderson Hernandez and an unusual number of guys with major league track records or who are as major league ready as they will ever be in the wings: Jorge Sosa, Aaron Sele, Chan Ho Park, Jon Adkins, Dave Williams, Jason Vargas, Anderson Hernandez, and Ben Johnson (Alay Soler, who looked to be in the same boat, was cut in the spring and has been snapped up by the Pirates).
The Mets should justifiably be the favorites this year, despite the fact that numerous key players are unlikely to repeat last season (especially Lo Duca, Chavez, Valentin and Feliciano). They still have the young core of Wright and Reyes, they still have Beltran and Delgado, and the pitching staff, if healthy, should be adequate despite the palpable absence of a legitimate #1 starter.
Raw EWSL: 212 (71 W)
Also on hand on the pitching side: Fabio Castro, Clay Condrey, and at AAA Scott Mathieson.
It's worth noting here that Howard, Utley and Rollins, the Phillies' core offensive players, are (respectively) three, four and four years older than David Wright, Jose Reyes and Miguel Cabrera, who in turn are a year older than Brian McCann and Hanley Ramirez, who in turn are a year older than Ryan Zimmerman (Burrell is two years older than Utley and Rollins). Granted, the key pitchers (Hamels and Myers) are younger than that, but this is not an up-and-coming team relative to the rest of the division; their future is now.
That said, the present looks solid - Hamels and Myers give them the chance to have the best 1-2 pitching punch in the division, the talent on hand is mostly prime-age, and the rotation and lineup have soft spots but no glaring holes. The Phils would be division favorites but for the disastrous Bobby Abreu deal, which leaves them with a significantly weaker outfield than the Mets or Braves, both of whom have an anchoring superstar in center. Even without Abreu, they should give the Mets a serious rival.
Raw EWSL: 145 (48 W)
Also on hand: Cody Ross, Eric Reed, Reggie Abercrombie, Henry Owens, and Nate Field. Jorge Julio has solved the question of who would claim the Marlin closer job, but don't be surprised to see Owens grab a significant late-inning role - the Mets gave up on him due to a single bad outing last season, but Owens has some nasty stuff.
I'm applying the subjective adjustments here downward - Josh Johnson down to 9 WS to reflect his injury status, Ramirez to 27 and Uggla to 22 to reflect the problem I identified with Melky Cabrera in the Yankees comment of over-projecting improvement based upon one single season of play. In Uggla's case, I just don't think he can improve on last season; Ramirez may really be a 36-WS player someday but I don't see him taking that dramatic a step forward all at once. Without those adjustments, this would be listed as the first-place team.
Two main questions linger about the Marlins, those being the pitching staff and the outfield. On the former, Dontrelle Willis will be solid, but we don't know if he will return to his elite status from 2005, and almost everyone else in the rotation is still a seriously unknown quantity. As to the latter, Willingham is dependable but we don't know what direction the injured Jeremy Hermida will go in (Hermida has major offensive talent but hasn't hit the ball with authority in the bigs yet) or what to make of de Aza, the latest center field experiment (the presence of Alex Sanchez should tell you all you need to know about the Marlins' own uncertainty at that position).
My guess is that this is the year that Cabrera becomes a really big time 40+ home run hitter.
Raw EWSL: 182 (61 W)
Also on hand: Pete Orr, Kyle Davies, Mike Hampton (both injured), Chad Paronto, Tanyan Sturtze, Tyler Yates, and Peter Moylan. I used subjective adjustments to bump up both Thorman and Kelly Johnson to 8 WS to reflect the fact that their EWSL numbers reflect very little playing time; 8 is a conservative measure but I try to limit the size of the subjective adjustments when possible, since they are based on pure speculation (plus, Thorman will be platooned with Craig Wilson, while Johnson may well lose his job to Aybar once Aybar is healthy). Either way, Atlanta's offense will miss Marcus Giles and Adam LaRoche; I have trouble seeing this as an elite offensive team.
EWSL still projects Francouer, solely on the basis of his youth, to develop significantly; I think that's possible but his strike zone judgment is so terrible that I can easily see him playing his last season as an everyday player around age 25.
On the whole, last season has stripped the Braves of the air of invulnerability that says that we just know that everything will turn out better for them than it looks on paper. Hudson in particular is now just another pitcher trying to make ends meet, and if Smoltz goes down, things get grim indeed. Oddly, the bullpen, last year's Achilles heel, could be an elite pen this year with the addition of Gonzalez and Soriano.
Raw EWSL: 94 (31 W)
I cut down Zimmerman, the most egregious of the 1-year guys, from 54 (!) win shares to a still-optimistic 30, but didn't bother with other subjective tweaks even despite Nick Johnson's injury; basically, this team will have to manufacture wins ex nihilo, because there is nearly no talent on hand with any kind of established track record you could rely on. You have to work really hard to lose 115 or more games - the odds say the Nationals catch some breaks somewhere and end up closer to 108 losses - but the Law of Competitive Balance is pretty much the only reason to think they won't lose that many. This will very likely be the worst team in baseball; there is hope for at least modest improvement in Tampa, Kansas City and Pittsburgh, but not Washington.
The infield will be much better off if Cristian Guzman can reclaim his 2006 form as early in the season as possible, and he appears well on his way. The thumping the Nats took for the first two and a half games of their series with Florida is indicative of the pitching, especially if John Patterson - their one potential quality starter - doesn't have a full, healthy season. It's gonna be a long summer.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:13 AM | Baseball 2007 | Baseball Studies | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)