Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
April 16, 2007
BASEBALL: 2007 NL West EWSL Report
The fifth 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, and NL East here.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Raw EWSL: 220 (73 W)
Also in the mix: Hong-chih Kuo, if he can get healthy, should be in there with Billingsley and the veteran Hendrickson to step into the rotation. Prospect Andy LaRoche is close to ready at 3B. Also Jason Repko, Yhency Brazoban, Tim Hamulack, and Ramon Martinez.
The Dodgers are unlikely to score as many runs as last season without JD Drew and Kenny Lofton's contributions (Gonzalez is nearing the end of the line, and Juan Pierre in his prime is still a poor offensive substitute for Lofton even at his advanced age, though he will compensate a bit with his glove for Lofton's terrible defense in CF), so much will ride on the health of veterans Garciaparra and Kent and the productivity of last year's booming rookie class (Ethier, Martin, Kemp, James Loney, as well as Billingsley, Kuo, Saito and Broxton on the pitching staff). On the other hand, the bench is deep. Dodgers are the clear though not heavy favorites in the West.
San Diego Padres
Raw EWSL: 198 (66 W)
The Padres have their own age issues with Brian Giles, Cameron, Maddux and Hoffman. Obviously the bullpen is deep and off to a flying start, as among other things we will see whether Heath Bell finally makes good on his abilities. I would expect Cruz to take Sledge's job at some point. The key guys on this team may be Marcus Giles and the slugging Kouzmanoff, who have the ability to create a powerful offensive infield, especially if San Diego can squeeze a little more out of the 27-year-old Greene. I expect Peavy to rebound strongly from 2006; nothing in his numbers last season reflected a real falloff in ability, just a failure to perform to standards.
Raw EWSL: 175 (58 W)
Also on hand: Cory Sullivan, Denny Bautista, Tom Martin, Taylor Buchholz. I suspect that Colorado will have no better luck with Affeldt and Bautista than the Royals did; those guys need to get attention from someplace that isn't one of the two worst franchises in baseball to pitch for.
No, I don't actually expect Colorado to finish ahead of Arizona, but if rookies Ianetta and Tulowitzki live up to their projections from minor league success, the Rockies will have a very deep lineup; playing in Colorado you really need to lead the league in runs scored to finish much above .500, but this team could do that. The only offensive holes should be Matsui (who is hurt already, what a surprise) and Taveras. The rotation is also not as bad as some Colorado staffs of the past, though there's nobody here you would be happy to start in a posteason game.
The deal that was built around Jason Jennings for Taveras is an interesting one, philosophically. Jennings was the Rockies' ace, and he's pitched well already with the Astros, but is also missing time this week with elbow tendinitis, lending credence to the idea that Coors ages pitchers in dog years. Taveras is basically a poor man's Juan Pierre, one of the fastest men in the game brought in almost solely for the value his glove will bring in Coors' cavernous center field. This deal could be a disaster, or it could work if you think that Jennings is damaged goods or that the value of good center field defense in Coors (given how many potential extra base hits are put into play) is a core survival issue for the team.
If you believe the latter, however, why would you employ a 42-year-old Steve Finley?
Raw EWSL: 146 (49 W)
Micah Owings has pitched well in the rotation so far, and also on hand are JD Durbin and Brian Barden. I gave subjective bumps up for Drew (from 8 to 11) and Hairston (from 1 to 9) to reflect increased playing time/opportunity.
EWSL punishes the D-Backs for the lack of star power in their lineup (my guess is that Chad Tracy has an up year this year with the bat, Hudson and Byrnes have down ones), a lack of depth in proven quality pitchers, and the heavy mileage on Johnson, Hernandez and Davis. Hairston is something of a wild card but once healthy, Quentin will get playing time from someone.
San Francisco Giants
Raw EWSL: 215 (72 W)
Tod Linden is also on hand at present, and star pitching prospect Tim Licencum should make his presence known later. The Giants' rebuilding/youth movement is well under way in their rotation - Cain, Lowry, and Licencum should provide plenty of upside in years to come, with Zito (still under 30 and signed for 7 years) anchoring the staff. I expect a good year from Zito, with the switch of leagues probably making 2007 the best season of his outrageous contract.
Beyond the rotation, evidence of the rest of the Giants' roster can be obtained from archaeologists - I mean, look at the age of their double play combination and their outfield. In fact, that age alone makes me more skeptical about Zito and the other starters (although last year's Giants barely missed second in the NL in defensive efficiency on balls in play, and thus far this season they are not too far from last year's pace, albeit well behind the league). There is simply no sign that San Francisco has even started the rebuilding job in the lineup, which is why it should be years before they can field a strong contender. The quality of their young pitchers contrasted with the deperate state of their lineup makes the decision to commit all those resoruces to Zito all the more bizarre.
The best they can hope for is a solid showing in a tight division where nobody wins 90 games. And, as usual in recent years, if Bonds goes down the Giants plunge deep into the cellar.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:15 PM | Baseball 2007 | Baseball Studies | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)