Baseball Crank
"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
March 31, 2008
BASEBALL: 2008 NL Central EWSL Report

The last of six division previews, using Established Win Shares Levels as a jumping-off point. Today: the NL Central. Notes on the EWSL method are below the fold. Amazingly, for once I have finished all six divisions before the season is underway in earnest.

Key: + (Rookie) * (Based on one season) # (Based on two seasons)

Milwaukee Brewers

Raw EWSL: 195.83 (65 W)
Adjusted: 220.43 (73 W)
Age-Adj.: 224.43 (75 W)
2008 W-L: 88-74

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C34Jason Kendall1412
1B24Prince Fielder#1929
2B25Rickie Weeks1215
SS25JJ Hardy1216
3B28Bill Hall1515
RF26Corey Hart#1217
CF35Mike Cameron2014
LF24Ryan Braun*1128
C231Mike Rivera11
INF37Craig Counsell106
OF25Tony Gwynn jr.*24
1228Gabe Gross66
1332Gabe Kapler11
SP129Ben Sheets98
SP222Yovanni Gallardo*511
SP333Jeff Suppan118
SP428David Bush88
SP524Carlos Villanueva#56
RP132Eric Gagne43
RP230Derrick Turnbow76
RP331David Riske65
RP436Salomon Torres66
RP525Manny Parra* 12

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Non-Pitchers - Eric Munson lost the initial backup catcher battle to Rivera, but may be back. OF Laynce Nix and Russell Branyan were in camp, as were 3B Abraham Nunez and young 2B Joe Dillon. Pitchers - Chris Capuano, who had hoped to see if better defense could help him recover from last year's catastrophic falloff, faces an uncertain prognosis and may yet need Tommy John surgery. Don't bank on him. The Brew Crew has also been sentenced, like Sysiphus, to the potential of Seth McClung and Guillermo Mota. Chris Spurling and 39-year-old Brian Shouse are other relief options.

Analysis: The status of preseason favorite in the NL Central is a desirable one but by no means prestigious. The Brewers won 83 games last year, a bunch of their key guys are young, they brought in some veterans like Cameron (once his suspension is up), Riske and Torres...they will compete, and somebody's gotta win this division.

The rotation is far from imposing in the absence of Capuano, who has to be a longshot to reclaim his old form even if he is able to muddle through. If Sheets somehow stays healthy and Gallardo makes no return trips to the DL (he's on it now, recovering from offseason knee surgery), they could have a good 1-2, but the rest aspires merely to adequacy. The guys with real upside here are Weeks and Braun, if they can somehow avoid wrecking the defense again, and also the potential for a revival by Hall and Gagne.

88 wins sounds about right. That could be enough.

Houston Astros

Raw EWSL: 202.17 (67 W)
Adjusted: 223.93 (75 W)
Age-Adj.: 198.61 (66 W)
2008 W-L: 79-83

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C24JR Towles+212
1B32Lance Berkman2622
2B32Kaz Matsui109
SS32Miguel Tejada1916
3B30Ty Wigginton119
RF25Hunter Pence*920
CF25Michael Bourn*25
LF32Carlos Lee2118
C239Brad Ausmus87
INF36Mark Loretta1410
OF34Darin Erstad55
1234Jose Cruz jr.65
1335Geoff Blum85
SP130Roy Oswalt1916
SP230Brandon Backe43
SP329Wandy Rodriguez54
SP430Shawn Chacon54
SP530Chris Sampson#44
RP128Jose Valverde1111
RP226Oscar Villarreal44
RP341Doug Brocail43
RP431Geoff Geary54
RP536Brian Moehler22

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Non-Pitchers - C Humberto Quintero, who had a good spring and presumably would step in if the Astros finally realize that Ausmus is finished; Tomas Perez, David Newhan, Reggie Abrecrombie, Victor Diaz. Pitchers - Wesley Wright, a wild young lefty with good K numbers but little experience above AA, made the roster; Mark McLemore, with similar numbers last year in Houston, didn't. Dave Borkowski, Chad Paronto and Mike DeJean are also around; Woody Williams was a late cut (a terrible spring at 41 after posting a 5.27 ERA will do that; Williams can still throw strikes but I suspect he just has nothing left).

Analysis: For the second year in a row, EWSL seems unaccountably optimistic about the Astros, but I suppose optimistic is a relative term, when a lineup with this many quality veterans, a solid closer and a major ace pitcher is still projected to finish below .500. The new but not improved rotation seems unlikely to be competitive beyond Oswalt, but you never know; maybe this will be the year Backe is finally healthy. The bullpen is totally rebuilt, but in some cases with less than the most consistent relievers. Valverde is solid, but the Win Shares system may overrate him just a bit because of the extreme number of close games the D-Backs led in last season (not that he doesn't deservie his share of the credit for that).

Geoff Blum is ailing, and it's not like he's Mike Schmidt when he is healthy. Matsui is too, but we won't get into that. Ausmus is the emergency infielder, and that about says it all.

Chicago Cubs

Raw EWSL: 185.83 (62 W)
Adjusted: 216.63 (72 W)
Age-Adj.: 196.25 (65 W)
2008 W-L: 78-84

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C25Geovany Soto+212
1B32Derrek Lee1715
2B33Mark DeRosa1312
SS28Ryan Theriot#89
3B30Aramis Ramirez2118
RF31Kosuke Fukudome+012
CF23Felix Pie*37
LF32Alfonso Soriano1514
C236Henry Blanco32
INF25Ronny Cedeno33
OF31Reed Johnson97
1233Daryle Ward54
1328Mike Fontenot*35
SP127Carlos Zambrano1716
SP228Rich Hill#810
SP332Ted Lilly128
SP429Jason Marquis76
SP531Ryan Dempster87
RP131Kerry Wood22
RP225Carlos Marmol#68
RP334Bobby Howry107
RP429Michael Wuertz55
RP536Scott Eyre54

Subjective Adjustments: None. Felix Pie hit too poorly last season to deserve any sort of bump until he proves himself.

Also on Hand: Non-Pitchers - Alex Cintron lost out on the middle infield reserve job. Matt Murton will almost certainly be traded unless there's an injury that presses him into service very soon. 2B Eric Patterson is also on hand. Pitchers - The Cubs have them in reserve if needed - Neal Cotts, Jon Lieber, Sean Marshall and Carmen Pignatiello.

Analysis: Why is EWSL so down on the Cubs, when everyone else in the universe seems to have ceded them this division? Age is a big factor: the age adjustments take a big bite out of 30-and-up players like Lee, Ramirez, Soriano, Howry, and Lilly, and those add up. Nobody on the team rates more than 18 EWSL; Arizona, Toronto and the White Sox are the only other teams with pretensions at contending that don't have a 20 EWSL player, and the D-Backs are deep in young talent and pitching, in ways the Cubs aren't, while I'm less than impressed with the other two. Some guys may be underrated here; Marmol, like Fausto Carmona, is rated in part on his dismal 2006, since I can't and won't just make it magically vanish, but Marmol in particular seems likely to come closer to last year's 11 WS than to the projected 8, just as Derrek Lee does seem likely to stay healthy enough to turn out 20 WS, as his 2006 injury was a fluke. The main upside here is in players who are unproven or a crapshoot - Wood, Soto, Pie and Fukudome. But EWSL is designed to deliver the bad news: by banking on each of them, the Cubs are banking on hope of something that has not happened at the Major League level before. I can see expecting the Cubs to outpace their EWSL record by several game; I can't see projecting this team as likely to cruise to 90+ wins, even with a boatload of games within a dreadful division.

I don't know any more about Fukudome than you do. He's listed at 6'0" and 190, so he doesn't quite have Hideki Matsui's size, and thus may be less reliable in preserving his HR power (and Matsui himself lost quite a few homers in translation). Fukudome's had great OBPs in Japan, it remains to be seen whether pitchers will work around him as much if he hits for less power here.

Cincinnati Reds

Raw EWSL: 192.00 (64 W)
Adjusted: 211.53 (71 W)
Age-Adj.: 193.18 (64 W)
2008 W-L: 77-85

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C31Dave Ross87
1B24Joey Votto+212
2B27Brandon Phillips1314
SS31Alex Gonzalez119
3B25Edwin Encarnacion1317
RF38Ken Griffey jr.1310
CF28Corey Patterson99
LF28Adam Dunn1920
C232Javier Valentin65
INF28Jeff Keppinger55
OF32Ryan Freel86
1229Norris Hopper*47
1338Scott Hatteberg118
SP130Aaron Harang1614
SP231Bronson Arroyo1411
SP322Johnny Cueto+04
SP431Josh Fogg64
SP524Ednison Volquez#11
RP133Francisco Cordero129
RP238David Weathers119
RP329Jeremy Affeldt43
RP427Todd Coffey44
RP527Jared Burton*35

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Non-Pitchers - Jay Bruce, of course, is the elephant in the AAA outfield. Juan Castro is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery (how many times have I written that in these previews this year?) Also OF DeWayne Wise, C Paul Bako and INF Jolbert Cabrera. Pitchers - Homer Bailey got passed on the way up by Cueto; Bailey still has great stuff but has apparently not proven all that swift a learner. Kent Mercker is on the roster; Mike Stanton got cut, and Greg McMichael was not in camp. Matt Belisle is expected to have a job when he is ready. Others include Bill Bray, Gary Majewski, Jon Coutlangus, snf Bobby Livingston.

Analysis: How many stories can Dusty Baker jump out of and still land on his feet? Perricone thinks the answer is "none, unless Barry Bonds is involved." The decision to bring in Corey Patterson and make him the CF/leadoff man has been hashed out by others, but I wonder if it's really just a smike screen for the same thing Tampa is doing, and keeping Bruce in the minors until the first time Griffey gets eaten by wolverines (15-day DL) so they can keep Bruce's service time down. Or, Dusty could just be an idiot.

The Reds are unlikely to be terrible, and that alone will make Baker look fine. There's not a ton of talent here unless the real youngsters (Bruce, Votto, Cueto, Bailey) go nuts, but there's enough to hang around .500.

I confess I had no idea Cordero was 33 already; as I noted in November, while he's not a great pickup he does have a pretty good record at avoiding the longball, which is key in this park.

Is it just me or does Ednison Volquez change the spelling of his name every year?

Pittsburgh Pirates

Raw EWSL: 179.67 (60 W)
Adjusted: 188.57 (63 W)
Age-Adj.: 180.17 (60 W)
2008 W-L: 73-89

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C27Ronny Paulino#1012
1B28Adam LaRoche1516
2B30Freddy Sanchez2017
SS30Jack Wilson1614
3B27Jose Bautista#911
RF29Xavier Nady109
CF26Nate McLouth67
LF29Jason Bay1817
C227Ryan Doumit55
INF37Chris Gomez43
OF27Njyer Morgan*24
1234Doug Mientkiewicz55
1328Chris Duffy56
SP126Ian Snell89
SP225Tom Gorzelanny#79
SP333Matt Morris86
SP426Paul Maholm66
SP525Zach Duke67
RP124Matt Capps#911
RP233Damaso Marte53
RP329John Grabow43
RP430Tyler Yates22
RP526Franquelis Osoria11

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Non-Pitchers - Matt Kata, Luis Rivas. Pitchers - Evan Meek, Phil Dumatrait, Sean Burnett, John Van Berschoten; Jonah Bayliss was also in camp but seems to have been let go.

Analysis: Maybe this is unfair to some of these guys, but when I was doing the depth charts, anytime I came across some guy who is miserable, washed up or otherwise down on his luck, and I was wondering where he ended up? Pirates camp.

Doug Mientkiewicz? Check.
Jaret Wright? Check.
Casey Fossum? Check.
Matt Morris? Check.
Luis Rivas? Check.
Chris Gomez? Check.
Byun-Hyung Kim? Check.
Elmer Dessens? Check.

They cut Kim, Dessens, Fossum and Wright, but then they traded for Tyler Yates, and gave a bullpen slot to Evan Meek, who has a career minor league ERA of 5.14, has never pitched above AA and has walked 198 batters in 287 career innings. Maybe this isn't satire.

David Wright, David Ortiz, Jack Wilson, Magglio Ordonez, Todd Helton, Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols, Carlos Pena, Jorge Posada...one of these things is not like the others. That's the Major League OBP leaders for last August 1 through the end of the year, all of whom slugged above .560 with an OBP of at least .444 for that stretch. Wilson, who hit .409/.467/.697 down the last two months, had batted just .252/.303/.342 before that. (Actually, the whole Pirate offense had a torrid run to the finish line.) It was a bizarre hot streak, but don't expect a repeat. I do think LaRoche will turn in a better year, but Fredy Sanchez's early injuries worry me (Duffy is also hurt).

St. Louis Cardinals

Raw EWSL: 174.33 (58 W)
Adjusted: 191.10 (64 W)
Age-Adj.: 179.90 (60 W)
2008 W-L: 73-89

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C25Yadier Molina1114
1B28Albert Pujols3435
2B32Adam Kennedy97
SS28Cesar Izturis55
3B31Troy Glaus1614
RF28Skip Schumaker*47
CF28Rick Ankiel*48
LF27Chris Duncan#1215
C234Jason LaRue65
INF31Aaron Miles108
OF26Brian Barton+04
1229Ryan Ludwick55
1330Rico Washington+01
SP126Adam Wainwright#1013
SP229Kyle Lohse86
SP329Todd Wellemeyer33
SP433Braden Looper75
SP526Brad Thompson55
RP135Jason Isringhausen117
RP239Russ Springer65
RP335Ryan Franklin64
RP432Randy Flores22
RP529Joel Pineiro33

Subjective Adjustments: None. I could have bumped up Ankiel, but who knows what to expect from him? I at least rated him as a rookie last year, since he's not the same player he was in 1999.

Also on Hand: Non-Pitchers - Juan Gonzalez is, unsurprisingly, hurt, much to Ryan Ludwick's relief; Juan Encarnacion is out quite a while. Brendan Ryan is hurt. D'Angelo Jimenez is on hand. Scott Speizio is not, having been cut in late February after an ugly DWI incident. Yes, the Cards have a Brian Barton and a Brian Barden. Colby Rasmus and Joe Mather are the soon-to-arrive power-hitting OF prospects. Pitchers - Much will turn on the impossible-to-predict returns of Chris Carpenter, Mark Mulder, and Matt Clement from injury; Tyler Johnson is also hurt. Anthony Reyes is at the back of the bullpen but remains a promising rotation prospect. Others on hand incluyde Ron Villone, Kelvin JImenez and Kyle McClellan.

Analysis: There are many storylines around the Cardinals this spring, and few happy ones - bad elbows and bad shoulders, steroids and HGH, lawsuits and demon alcohol. Minor league old soldier Rico Washington getting a major league job is one of the nicer ones, but inconsequential in analytical terms. From Pujols' could-blow-anytime arm on down, it's a fool's errand to predict anything of this team, but they won't be real good, that much is clear.

Pineiro will take one of the rotation spots, probably Thompson (the 5th starter) or Looper (who had a crummy spring) when he returns in a few weeks. LaRussa and Dave Duncan will be called on yet again to work their magic with Lohse, a classic guy nearing 30 with a live arm and not much to show for it, exactly their type.

If you were picking a guy to lose nearly 50 points off his batting average in 2007, you would not have selected LaRue, who had batted .194 the prior year.

Given that Molina is only 25, it may turn out that he will hit some after all; his brother Bengie didn't hit until he was 28.

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:01 AM | Baseball 2008 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
March 28, 2008
BASEBALL: Meet The Fifth Starter

If it wasn't already obvious, you have to assume that today's game clinched the Mets' fifth starter job for El Duque.

UPDATE: Cerrone notes that the Braves have claimed Ruben Gotay off waivers, and the Rockies have reclaimed Steve Register. The Braves don't have an everyday job for Gotay either, but I share Cerrone's apprehension that the Braves must be able to get more out of his talent than the Mets.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:10 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: 2008 NL East EWSL Report

The fifth of six division previews, using Established Win Shares Levels as a jumping-off point. Today: The NL East. Notes on the EWSL method are below the fold.

Key: + (Rookie) * (Based on one season) # (Based on two seasons)

New York Mets

Raw EWSL: 268.00 (89 W)
Adjusted: 268.70 (90 W)
Age-Adj.: 248.56 (83 W)
2008 W-L: 96-66

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C31Brian Schneider119
1B36Carlos Delgado1914
2B32Luis Castillo1714
SS25Jose Reyes2431
3B25David Wright3140
RF29Ryan Church1211
CF31Carlos Beltran2723
LF41Moises Alou148
C232Ramon Castro54
INF38Damion Easley75
OF30Endy Chavez76
1234Marlon Anderson55
1326Angel Pagan#45
SP129Johan Santana2017
SP236Pedro Martinez66
SP327John Maine87
SP426Oliver Perez56
SP542Orlando Hernandez86
RP136Billy Wagner1412
RP229Aaron Heilman87
RP331Pedro Feliciano65
RP432Matt Wise53
RP531Jorge Sosa65

Subjective Adjustments: None. Indeed, Angel Pagan is the only guy listed here on less than three years' big-league experience. Pagan, Pelfrey, and relievers Joe Smith and Steve Register are basically the only non-established players who are likely to be a factor this year for the Mets, barring a meteoric rise by OF prospect Fernando Martinez.

Also on Hand: Non-Pitchers - Jose Valentin is still around and his knees are recovered, but has hinted at retirement if things don't improve with the pinched nerve in his neck; for now he will start the season on injury rehab. Ruben Gotay may be done with the Mets, having been placed on waivers, which is a shame because Gotay can hit, but he's just not that good a fielder and his chance at winning the everyday job in the near future was iced by the 4-year, $25 million contract for Castillo. If neither of them stays with the team, weak-hitting glove wizard Anderson Hernandez moves up the depth chart behind Easley (Marlon Anderson made just one appearance at 2B last year but can presumably still handle the position in a pinch). Brady Clark leads the pack of reserve outfielders, followed by Fernando Tatis, now in a second career as a utilityman, and Ben Johnson. Raul Casanova is the third catching option. Olmedo Saenz was also contemplating retirement; he's been sent to the minors. Pitchers - Sosa, who I had hoped never to see again, may get some starts early in the year, but Mike Pelfrey will be the main option for a #6 starter, which between El Duque and Pedro the team will inevitably need. It occurs to me that Pelfrey is basically the ideal situation for a pitching coach. Think about it: as a pitching coach you want four things:

1. A currently unsuccessful pitcher (you get no credit for working with Johan Santana),
2. Who has the talent to succeed if he plays his cards right,
3. Who has no obvious obstacle to succeeding, and
4. Who will listen to you.

Pelfrey scores on all four. On #1, his career major league ERA is 5.55. On #2, Pelfrey is tall (6'7"), throws very hard (mid-90s), and has great sinking movement on his fastball (0.67 HR/9 in the majors, 0.77 at AAA, 0.27 at AA). On #3, Pelfrey's never had a significant injury, he has command issues around the plate but has never had really serious control problems, he's still just 24, and he has had enough success at lower levels (including success following prior failures in college) that he won't have his confidence shattered. On #4, he seems to be regarded as a fairly intelligent, coachable guy, even adjusting for the tendency of white players to get a better reputation on that score. Rick Peterson has had many more successes than failures (Maine and Perez being great successes last season for which Peterson deserves some of the credit), and working with Pelfrey to figure out what second pitch he can best develop without hurting his arm and how to improve his command will be a real opportunity for Peterson. The downside is that it may take so much time that Pelfrey ends up getting traded for peanuts and not hitting it big until later on for someone else - I was discussing the other day with my older brother whether Pelfrey is more reminiscent of a young Kevin Brown or a young Mike Scott, and neither parallel suggests a short path to success.

Other starting options on hand include Jason Vargas, who has been suffering from a torn labrum in his hip, Tony Armas jr., Clint Nagoette, and blast-from-the-past ex-prospect Nelson Figueroa.

In the bullpen, Duaner Sanchez will sooner or later play a significant role but it's not quite clear yet what his status will be to open the year. Sidewinder Joe Smith will make the roster, and of course Scott Schoenweis is still around as a situational lefty. Others in the bullpen mix include Ruddy Lugo, Brian Stokes, and Rule 5 righthander Steve Register (the Mets are trying to work out a trade so they can keep Register without having him on the major league roster all year). Ambiorix Burgos is still rehabbing from surgery and unlikely to pitch this season, and the perpetually injured Juan Padilla has been sent down.

Analysis: EWSL rates David Wright as the best player in baseball. 40 Win Shares seems optimistic (EWSL has Wright and Reyes worth 24 wins all by themselves), but I can't disagree with the assessment that Wright is the player most likely to be the best in the game this season, even ahead of Pujols (whose elbow could go at any time), A-Rod, Miguel Cabrera or Grady Sizemore. Of course, the team's extreme dependence on four players (those two, Beltran and Santana) just underlines the risks that the Mets face if one of them gets injured (or, in Beltran's case, has his skills degraded by nagging injuries).

The Mets don't have a powerhouse offense (unless Delgado finds one last Delgado year in his bat), but the starting rotation could be tremendous (EWSL is properly cautious about guys who have not repeated success or are coming off large amounts of time missed to injury, plus it recognizes the extent to which Mets starters benefit from good defense and a favorable park, but I still expect a good deal more than 19 Win Shares from Pedro, Maine and Perez combined) and the defense should hopefully recover from last year's late-season defensive meltdown; the Mets should score enough to win a lot of games if they prevent as many runs as I expect. Of course, the bullpen hasn't really done much to address the horrors of 2007 other than shipping Guillermo Mota out of town, but Wise and Sanchez could take some pressure off the rest of the staff (I've been a Wise fan for years), and I'm hopeful that Smith can be more effective.

Ryan Church is one guy who, while he is unlikely to have a glorious career with the Mets, I am optimistic that he can have a big year in his first season away from RFK. EWSL rates Church as a downgrade from where Shawn Green was at this point last season, but there is upside potential here in the short run.

Philadelphia Phillies

Raw EWSL: 232.17 (77 W)
Adjusted: 247.13 (82 W)
Age-Adj.: 223.76 (75 W)
2008 W-L: 87-75

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C29Carlos Ruiz*712
1B28Ryan Howard2425
2B29Chase Utley2725
SS29Jimmy Rollins2624
3B33Pedro Feliz1210
RF33Geoff Jenkins1412
CF27Shane Victorino#911
LF31Pat Burrell1916
C235Chris Coste#54
INF29Greg Dobbs44
OF29Jayson Werth87
1232Wes Helms54
1330Eric Bruntlett43
SP124Cole Hamels#1012
SP227Brett Myers1111
SP323Kyle Kendrick59
SP445Jamie Moyer97
SP530Adam Eaton33
RP131Brad Lidge108
RP240Tom Gordon75
RP327Ryan Madson55
RP432JC Romero53
RP530Chad Durbin33

Subjective Adjustments: None. Kendrick might exceed that 9 Win Shares if he holds up over a full season, but I am pretty much out of the business of projecting rookie pitchers to do that.

Also on Hand: Non-Pitchers - Chris Snelling, healthy for once and trying to break into the OF picture, So Taguchi, and 1B Pete LaForest. Pitchers - Kris Benson and relievers Vic Darensbourg, Travis Blackley, Clay Condrey, JD Durbin, and Fabio Castro.

Analysis: The Phillies remain a contending team loaded with players in their prime, but to understand why they aren't really quite as impressive as they first appear, you have to remember that all that offensive talent - like the Mets pitchers - benefits significantly from Citizens Bank Park; take a look at the career home-road splits during the years they played for the Phils since the park opened in 2004) of the incumbent regulars:

PlayerAvg-HOBP-HSlg-HAvg-ROBP-RSlg-R
Howard.285.395.613.296.398.607
Utley.317.387.557.284.362.490
Rollins.300.353.505.277.329.447
Burrell.284.400.539.244.362.447
Victorino.264.333.397.301.352.447
Ruiz.263.347.424.256.323.377

These are all fine players, other than Ruiz; they just aren't quite as great as they look. Note that while there are, as you would expect, some variations in the home-field advantage, the most pronounced effects show up in the guys with the largest sample of at bats to work with (Rollins, Utley, Burrell). Also, ironically, while Rollins rolls up a lot of Win Shares by his durability, it also means that there is nothing left for the bench to contribute at his position. That's a good problem to have - I've long argued that durability is a vastly underrated skill - it's just another way you have to avoid letting the statistics deceive you.

On the whole, I expect to see Rollins come back to earth a bit this year from last year's record-setting season (Rany Jazayerli has a fine look at the historic nature of Rollins' records for at bats and plate appearances), and Burrell to be off a little as well, but balanced off by better or healthier seasons from Utley and Howard and the removal of the sinkhole of Abraham Nunez at 3B. But as always, much will turn on the pitching staff, and the question of whether Hamels and Myers can each kick in 200+ innings of the kind of work they are capable of. My guess, again, is that the two of them will step forward but the back end of the rotation will falter again; Eaton still stinks, Moyer is 45 and has to run out of tricks eventually, and Kendrick won't have another ERA in the threes by striking out less than 4 men per 9 innings while pitching in a bandbox. In the bullpen, I suppose the theory is that Lidge (who is injured already) won't have a repeat of his mental struggles in Houston, in that the always-supportive Phillies fans and genial Philadephia media won't turn on him when he hits the first bump in the road.

To sum up, the Phillies are the same sort of adversary for the Mets that they were in 2007: available if given the opportunity, but fundamentally beatable if the Mets take care of their own business. And, of course, there's no particular reason, especially with Santana and a hopefully healthy Pedro in the rotation and the addition of a catcher who can throw, why the Mets should repeat their head-to-head problems beating these guys.

Atlanta Braves

Raw EWSL: 193.67 (65 W)
Adjusted: 207.73 (69 W)
Age-Adj.: 204.88 (68 W)
2008 W-L: 81-81

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C24Brian McCann1620
1B28Mark Teixeira2526
2B26Kelly Johnson1113
SS25Yuniel Escobar*615
3B36Chipper Jones2317
RF24Jeff Francouer1722
CF32Mark Kotsay87
LF30Matt Diaz87
C226Brayan Pena*00
INF26Omar Infante56
OF25Josh Anderson*24
1226Scott Thorman#22
1324Martin Prado#12
SP141John Smoltz1512
SP232Tim Hudson139
SP342Tom Glavine129
SP435Mike Hampton11
SP522Jair Jurrjens*12
RP128Rafael Soriano77
RP230Mike Gonzalez65
RP329Peter Moylan*58
RP430Will Ohman33
RP526Chuck James#79

Subjective Adjustments: None. I suppose I could have added two Win Shares to bump up Jurrjens to equivalent to a pure rookie starter, but he did start 7 games last year, and frankly that was balanced out by rating Moylan only on 2007, not 2006. I could also arguably have given a bump to Escobar, but the age adjustment adequately compensated him and 15 Win Shares seems pretty close to a fair target for him.

I included Mike Gonzalez, who says he will be back from Tommy John surgery by May, as well as DL-bound John Smoltz and Omar Infante. None of them are particularly unreasonable bets to match their EWSL despite the injuries, especially since Gonzalez' numbers include the 2007 season that was interrupted by injury in the first place.

Also on Hand: Non-Pitchers - Perennial disappointment Joe Borchard's presence suggests how thin the Braves are in the outfield. Top prospect Brent Lillibridge, acquired from Pittsburgh in the Adam LaRoche-for-Mike Gonzalez deal, is seen as a possible replacement if Johnson, Escobar or Chipper gets hurt, or if Escobar's 2007 proves a fluke. Pitchers - Buddy Carlyle and Jo-Jo Reyes are the next starters in line after Jones to step in if Smoltz or Hampton gets hurt (Smoltz is ailing already, and Hampton, well, you know that story) or Glavine reaches the end of the road, or rather returns from the end of the road where he was at the end of last season. The relief corps also includes Royce Ring, Jeff Ridgway, Manny Acosta, and Blaine Boyer.

Analysis: Last season was the first time since the divisional alignment that the Braves entered a season as not the team to beat. Mazzone is gone, Schuerholz is semi-retired and many of his key deputies are gone, Bobby Cox may be on his way towards retirement, the team's finances remain cloudy (Mark Teixeira remains unsigned after this season and is represented by Scott Boras), Andruw Jones is gone after a terrible year, and even John Smoltz won't last forever. The Braves, at last, are just another team.

They still could make some noise with full seasons from Teixeira and Yuniel Escobar, a bounce-back from still-young Brian McCann, a solid bullpen and continued development from Francouer, who - as I have said repeatedly - is a better long-term than short-term bet when you weigh his ability to drive the ball at such a young age against his appalling plate discipline. Francouer may finally be ready in 2008 to have some business batting in the middle of a contending team's order.

But there are problems, too. I really am convinced that Glavine is just done, and who knows what they will get from Hampton. I'm gunshy about saying this after EWSL picked them to finish last in 2005 in part because their starting outfield included Brian Jordan and Raul Mondesi and they won the division anyway, coming up with Francouer and Ryan Langerhans, but Atlanta really doesn't have much of an outfield besides Francouer and not much help on the way. Kotsay's just a stopgap at this stage (OPS+ below 100 three of the last four years), Diaz can mash but he's a platoon player, Josh Anderson had a nice debut with the Astros last year, but the man has a career line of .296/.339/.370 in the Texas League (AA) and .273/.325/.341 in the Pacific Coast League (AAA), both hitters' paradises; he projects as a poor man's Scott Podsednik, and Heaven help them if they need to rely on Borchard.

UPDATE: Mac Thomason emails that I'm overlooking the fact that if Diaz can't handle an everyday job, there's also Brandon Jones, who is 24 and batted .295/.367/.490 between AA and AAA last season. With the Braves, there does always seem to be another guy. Also, he notes that Gregor Blanco, a highly similar player but with more patience, may take Anderson's slot.

Washington Nationals

Raw EWSL: 175.00 (58 W)
Adjusted: 184.50 (62 W)
Age-Adj.: 186.88 (62 W)
2008 W-L: 75-67

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C36Paul Lo Duca129
1B29Nick Johnson1211
2B33Ron Belliard1412
SS30Cristian Guzman54
3B23Ryan Zimmerman#1830
RF28Austin Kearns1718
CF23Lastings Milledge#47
LF24Elijah Dukes*13
C232Johnny Estrada98
INF28Felipe Lopez1415
OF28Ryan Langerhans77
1234Dmitri Young109
1326Wily Mo Pena67
SP127Shawn Hill#34
SP231Odalis Perez32
SP325Matt Chico*36
SP426Jason Bergmann#33
SP530Tim Redding32
RP126Chad Cordero1213
RP229Jon Rauch87
RP330Luis Ayala33
RP430Saul Rivera#55
RP530Jesus Colome32

Subjective Adjustments: None. Zimmerman may look a little high but it's not an unreasonable assessment of his age and talent. Dukes and Milledge may be low, but the point here, as always, is that neither has established himself as a Major League regular.

Also on Hand: Non-Pitchers - Oddly, there's a ton of depth here in terms of guys who you could slot in for the people in the lineup above and not alter the team's EWSL. Jesus Flores is the eventual starting catcher down the road, and might be the #1 catcher today due to Lo Duca's and Estrada's injuries, but in the intermediate term he will be headed for AAA. Utilitymen Rob Mackowiak and Willie Harris are battling for end-of-the-bench slots, along with 29-year-old perpetual OF prospect Alex Escobar. Aaron and Bret Boone are on hand, and probably both headed for the minors, along with OF Kory Casto and Michael Restovich and fourth C Humberto Cota. I forgot to mention in the NL West roundup that Nook Logan has left DC for the Dodgers. Pitchers - John Lannan is the sixth starter, and LOOGY Ray King will inhabit the back of the bullpen. Reliever Ryan Wagner will probably have a job waiting for him when he returns from injury, despite the crowded Nationals pen; starter Jason Simontacchi may not, despite the chaotic Nationals rotation.

Analysis: The Nationals are almost a mirror image of the Mets: they are deep in position players but lack stars (other than Zimmerman), they have a logjam at first base (last year's MVP Dmitri Young reported out of shape and let Nick Johnson get ahead of him), their bullpen is deep, stable and productive, and they are almost wholly lacking in established starting pitchers. Of course, given the choice I would always rather have one star than three guys who are just above replacement level; Washington's challenge is figuring out what to do with the pieces they have as they enter a new ballpark.

Milledge still looks like a coming offensive star, but color me skeptical that the man is or ever will be a major league center fielder, given the troubles he had handling right field with the Mets. I suppose the Nats were unimpressed with Dukes' contributions in center last season to the game's worst defensive team. That said, the outfield will be the fun part of this team, as both of them try to tap their talents (recall that Dukes last year averaged 33 homers and 108 walks per 600 at bats, but did absolutely zero else, batting .190 with 3 doubles and 2 steals in 184 AB). Wily Mo Pena, who finished last season with such a rush, now says he will have a much quicker than expected recovery from an oblique injury, but we shall see how that goes. #1 starter Shawn Hill is also ailing early.

The rotation remains a complete crapshoot, and without the crutch of pitcher-friendly RFK, though we have not seen how the new stadium will play. I was once an Odalis Perez fan, but his numbers for the last two seasons are ghastly: 5.87 ERA, and 4.95 K per 9. His HR and walk numbers aren't as bad (1.09 HR, 2.76 BB per 9), but they aren't the sort of excellence in those categories you need to survive that plunging K rate.

Florida Marlins

Raw EWSL: 137.17 (46 W)
Adjusted: 161.43 (54 W)
Age-Adj.: 160.64 (54 W)
2008 W-L: 66-96

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C32Matt Treanor54
1B27Mike Jacobs89
2B28Dan Uggla#1620
SS24Hanley Ramirez#2233
3B26Jorge Cantu56
RF24Jeremy Hermida#913
CF22Alejandro de Aza*11
LF29Josh Willingham#1416
C228Mike Rabelo12
INF30Alfredo Amezaga44
OF27Cody Ross#79
1240Luis Gonzalez138
1338Jason Wood*22
SP134Mark Hendrickson53
SP223Rick VandenHurk*00
SP323Andrew Miller*12
SP424Scott Olsen#44
SP525Ricky Nolasco#22
RP130Kevin Gregg76
RP233Lee Gardner*45
RP328Matt Lindstrom*35
RP425Taylor Tankersley#35
RP530Justin Miller32

Subjective Adjustments: None, but obviously I will be surprised if they don't get more than 2 Win Shares from Andrew Miller and Rick VandenHurk.

Also on Hand: Non-Pitchers - Future roto stud Cameron Maybin has been sent back to AA, and with just 69 career at bats above A ball and 181 K per 600 at bats as a pro, he probably just isn't ready to take his game to the big show yet. 3B Dallas McPherson is back at AAA hoping to keep his balky back healthy long enough to challenge for the 3B job if Cantu falters. Middle infielder Robert Andino is on hand, as is 1B prospect Tagg Boziel. Offseason acquisition Jose Castillo was cut and ended up with the Giants. Pitchers - The walking wounded include Anibal Sanchez, Josh Johnson, Henry Owens, Sergio Mitre and Harvey Garcia, none of whom is expected back at a reliable enough date in the near future to be worth including in the EWSL tables; the rotation listed above appears to be set. Swingman Wes Obermuller, reliever Reynel Pinto and starting prospect Burke Badenhop appear to be the main next options, as well as starter Christopher Volstad Act and reliever Logan Kensing.

Analysis: There's no particularly good reason why baseball should not succeed in South Florida, but yet again the Marlins are doing their best to suck the joy out of what had not long ago been a talented young team, while tantalizing fans with newly acquired young talents who will, in their turn, move on as well. They may legitimately have needed to move Cabrera to do something about their terrible defense and his disinclination, in Florida, to stay in shape, but they still have to figure out if a new 3B can cover more of Ramirez' ground. Fredi Gonzalez does, however, deserve credit for putting together a bullpen that was one of the team's strengths last season amidst the collapse of the rotation.

Cantu has had a bizarre odyssey - debuting as a professional as a 17-year-old, he was basically a slap hitter for years until he hit AAA in 2004, where his slugging average shot up 200 points in a year, resulting in a major league trial where he batted .301 and smacked 20 doubles in 50 games. The following year, as a 23-year-old second baseman, he cracked 69 extra base hits and drove in 117 runs, batting .325/.361/.601 with men in scoring position. But he's been in reverse gear ever since, with terrible plate discipline and who knows what else affecting him. This may be his last chance to show he can hold an everyday job. The yoga better work.

Rabelo may end up as the starting catcher but he's been hampered by spring injuries, so Treanor is the guy for now. Hermida will open the year on the DL, which is too bad - the guy whose talents he most resembles is JD Drew (he batted .340/.401/.555 in the second half last year, although his top 5 statistical comps are Shawn Green, Billy Conigliaro, Bernie Carbo, Mel Hall and Vernon Wells), but you'd like to see him avoid Drew's fragility.

They still don't have a center fielder; the departure of Juan Pierre just hasn't worked out for anyone.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:00 PM | Baseball 2008 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
March 26, 2008
BASEBALL: 2008 NL West EWSL Report

The fourth of six division previews, using Established Win Shares Levels as a jumping-off point. Today: The NL West. Notes on the EWSL method are below the fold.

Key: + (Rookie) * (Based on one season) # (Based on two seasons)

Arizona Diamondbacks

Raw EWSL: 199.17 (66 W)
Adjusted: 238.10 (79 W)
Age-Adj.: 238.71 (80 W)
2008 W-L: 92-70

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C27Chris Snyder1111
1B26Conor Jackson#1114
2B30Orlando Hudson2017
SS25Stephen Drew#1015
3B24Mark Reynolds718
RF20Justin Upton+112
CF24Chris Young*818
LF32Eric Byrnes1815
C224Miguel Montero*24
INF28Chad Tracy1111
OF34Trot Nixon87
1233Augie Ojeda22
1327Jeff Salazar*34
SP129Brandon Webb2117
SP227Danny Haren1515
SP332Doug Davis107
SP444Randy Johnson76
SP525Micah Owings*715
RP128Brandon Lyon88
RP226Tony Pena#68
RP329Chad Qualls97
RP429Juan Cruz54
RP525Edgar Gonzalez44

Subjective Adjustments: None, but as I have generally been doing I rated Justin Upton as a straight rookie, rather than using the lower rating that would come from his 140 mediocre at bats as a teenager last season. Upton probably isn't 100% ready to make full use of his prodigious talents (.309/.399/.556 in a half season at AA last year) at the big league level, but for this year he may be roughly equivalent in value to an older, more polished and less talented rookie. Think Ken Griffey Jr, who as a 19-year-old rookie batted .264/.329/.420.

Also on Hand: Non-Pitchers - Longtime Astro Chris Burke, finally freed of being assigned to play wherever Craig Biggio isn't, and third catcher Robby Hammock. Pitchers - Brandon Medders, LOOGY Doug Slaten, and Dustin Nippert are the main ones who will get lots of major league usage. Prospect Billy Buckner is on hand as well. Yusmeiro "Big Y" Petit, still just 23 years old, remains a tantalizing prospect, but he's posted a 4.99 ERA in 288.2 career innings between AAA and the majors in large part because he's allowed a staggering 1.53 HR/9 IP, 2.05 if you look only at the majors. 321 times in major league history a pitcher has allowed 1.5 or more homers per 9 in a season of 100 innings or more; only 47 of those managed an ERA below 4.50, only 16 managed an ERA below 4.00, and only one (Dave Boswell, 3.40 ERA in 1965) got below 3.58. Eddie Guardado in 2000 is the only major league pitcher ever to have an ERA below 4.25 while allowing more than 2 homers per 9. Petit's K/BB numbers haven't been bad (2.84 BB, 6.30 K over those same 288.2 IP), but not spectacular as they were at lower levels and as they need to be to offset the longballs. Arizona may not be the ideal place for him.

Analysis: The Diamondbacks hugely overperformed their EWSL last season and, not coincidentally, outdid their Pythagorean record by 11 games, advancing to the LCS despite allowing 20 more runs than they scored. Now, ordinarily a team that wins that many games and exceeds its Pythagorean projections by that much would be close to a mathematical certainty to decline in the following year, as nobody stays that lucky (or that "clutch") for that long, especially when the team's most significant offseason departure is the guy who saved 47 games last year.

But the Diamondbacks are more reminiscent of another team that won 90 games while being outscored by 24 runs, besting its Pythagorean record by 12 games: the 1984 Mets, who went on to improve their real record by 8 games in 1985 and 10 more in 1986, and improve their Pythagorean record by 18 games in 1985 and 7 in 1986. Like those Mets, this team is just stacked with young, in many cases very young, talent, although configured a bit differently - Arizona's pitchers are mostly in or near their prime, while the hitters include a number of people who are still 2-3 years away (Young, Reynolds, Drew) and one (Upton) who is probably 5-6 years from his prime. Aside from Eric Byrnes and a few of the bullpen guys, almost nobody here really had a career year in 2007, and only Byrnes and Randy Johnson are really on the downside of the age mountain. While there's no guarantee that they won't backslide this year if the young hitters take a year before striding forward and the bullpen unravels, it's not at all difficult to envision Arizona winning 100 games in 2008, 2009 or 2010, and maybe more than once.

What that presages for the future of this division is a fascinating question. The NL West looked just a year ago like a weak division, but Colorado and probably the Dodgers will be competitive for the next several years - and they will likely be chasing the Diamondbacks.

In the rotation, of course, we have Randy Johnson, who I expect will be effective when available (even last year, his rates were 1.11 HR, 2.06 BB and 11.44 K per 9), and Edgar Gonzalez is expected to sub for him in the meantime. Bill James likes Micah Owings (of course I remember when he liked Jimmy Haynes), and Owings finished the season strong, with a 3.02 ERA in his last ten starts (1.36 HR, 1.96 BB and 6.79 K per 9 in that stretch - much will depend, as with Petit and new arrival Danny Haren, on keeping the ball inside the friendly confines of Chase Field, f/k/a the BOB).

National League Champion Colorado Rockies

Raw EWSL: 191.17 (64 W)
Adjusted: 224.00 (75 W)
Age-Adj.: 226.36 (75 W)
Subj. Adj.: 221.36 (74 W)
2008 W-L: 87-75

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C29Yorvit Torrealba65
1B34Todd Helton2220
2B25Jayson Nix012
SS23Troy Tulowitzki*1228
3B28Garrett Atkins1920
RF29Brad Hawpe1615
CF26Willy Taveras1214
LF28Matt Holliday2324
C225Chris Iannetta*36
INF29Clint Barmes43
OF28Ryan Spilborghs#67
1232Scott Podsednik65
1327Jeff Baker#22
SP127Jeff Francis1212
SP229Aaron Cook108
SP324Ubaldo Jimenez*24
SP422Franklin Morales*25
SP534Mark Redman43
RP125Manny Corpas#911
RP232Brain Fuentes118
RP338Matt Herges43
RP433Luis Vizcaino65
RP526Taylor Buchholz#34

Subjective Adjustments: Troy Tulowitzki -5 (from 33 to 28). I've seen this repeatedly before (Khalil Greene and Bobby Crosby come to mind): EWSL over-projects the growth potential of a second-year shortstop whose rookie value consisted very heavily of his defense. Sorry, Tulowitzki just doesn't have that kind of room to improve with the glove. 28 Win Shares is +4 from last season, when he was effectively the leader of a pennant-winning team; if he does that, Rockies fans will be thrilled. You will notice, however, that the subjective adjustment for Tulowitzki, small though it is, comes very close to tipping the microscopic balance of power between the Rockies and the Dodgers.

Also on Hand: Non-Pitchers - Marcus Giles was brought in to replace the departed-to-Houston Kaz Matsui, but Giles has apparently played his way out of a job and, at age 30, seems destined for the Brent Gates Hall of Second Base Careers That Never Quite Happened (he's being shopped to the Dodgers and Orioles). Omar Quintanilla is the next infielder in line, and Ian Stewart and Seth Smith are the remaining OF options. Pitchers - Jason Hirsh remains talented and a good bet to end up in the starting rotation at some point once he gets healthy again; Hirsh is still just 26. Veteran starters Kip Wells and Josh Towers are also on hand, as are relievers Micah Bowie, Jose Capellan (who had a busy winter), and Ramon Ramirez.

Analysis: My gut tells me that this team's future may already be behind it - 2007 will be a tough act to follow. And the whole back end of the bullpen, so effective last season, is gone - Hawkins, Affeldt, Julio (not that any of those guys is likely to repeat 2007 anyway). That said, Helton, Fuentes and Herges are the only significant players past 30, and even in a rough division, Colorado should be a force to contend with for the next few years. But Helton was third in the majors in OBP last season; if he takes a nosedive, it will be a big gap in the offense. Moving Corpas to the closer role may end up being counterproductive to the extent that it takes him out of the setup role where he was so crucial last season - but there's no money in being a setup man, and you have to keep your best players happy.

Like KC with Angel Berroa, the Rockies remain haunted by the Ghost of Shortstop Past in Clint Barmes, who may make the team as an older and wiser bench player.

The big question as always is pitching. I noticed when checking the Rays stuff that Baseball Prospectus projects the Rox to allow the most runs in the NL, always a hard fate to avoid in Coors (humidor or no) but a dubious distinction they have evaded the past three seasons. The Win Shares totals suggest what you already know: even on an effective staff, the park just doesn't let any one pitcher shine as they could elsewhere. Jeff Francis may be harder to replace than most teams' aces, but he still will never contribute as much positively to the Rockies as a guy in another park who can throw 20 more innings and exert more influence on the game. And three years from now he could look like Jason Jennings.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Raw EWSL: 211.17 (70 W)
Adjusted: 236.84 (79 W)
Age-Adj.: 220.33 (73 W)
2008 W-L: 86-76

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C25Russell Martin#1624
1B24James Loney*920
2B40Jeff Kent1911
SS30Rafael Furcal2118
3B34Nomar Garciaparra1211
RF23Matt Kemp#610
CF31Andruw Jones1815
LF30Juan Pierre1311
C236Gary Bennett32
INF23Tony Abreu#26
OF26Andre Ethier#1014
1238Mark Sweeney43
1326Jason Repko22
SP130Brad Penny1513
SP235Derek Lowe128
SP323Chad Billingsley#89
SP433Hiroki Kuroda+04
SP536Esteban Loaiza45
RP138Takashi Saito#1514
RP224Jonathan Broxton#89
RP331Joe Beimel64
RP431Scott Proctor65
RP526Hong-Chih Kuo*11

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Non-Pitchers - Top prospect Andy LaRoche was supposed to challenge for the 3B job, but is injured and may not end up getting his opportunity for some months. Delwyn Young appears to have made the team as a reserve infielder (more on the latest roster doings here). Infielder Ramon Martinez is also in camp but may go elsewhere if not on the Opening Day roster. Pitchers - Jason Schmidt will be trying to pitch through pain in his shoulder, but his recovery is going slowly and he may not pitch until May or June. Either Schmidt or the talented but frustrating Kuo, who has made the team as a reliever, could be a valuable addition to the rotation if needed, assuming Schmidt still has something left. Fireballing lefty phenom Clayton Kershaw has impressed everyone this spring, and may also step in but despite his enormous talent, he's likely to have the same control issues as Kuo (0.66 HR, 4.94 BB and 12.02 K between A and AA last season). If the Dodgers need a ninth starter - and I can't say they won't - the glass case containing Chan Ho Park is near at hand. Reliever Yhency Brazoban is in extended spring training after labrum surgery, and ancient LOOGY Mike Myers is on the same bubble as Martinez. Rudy Seanez was a late cut.

Analysis: As I have noted before, Joe Torre has spent 31 seasons in the National League as a player and/or manager and only been to the postseason once; it remains to be seen whether Torre can build a winner without Rivera, Jeter & co. The team he inherits has talent, including a fair distribution of young talent - but it also has a bunch of age, injury and contract questions: Kent is 40, missed a lot of time last year and may not be ready for Opening Day this season, Juan Pierre can't hit nearly enough to play a corner and makes too much money to trade, Nomar is of questionable value at this point and is already injured, Saito has been ailing this spring, and Derek Lowe is reaching a dangerous age. Can Torre work the young core of Martin, Loney, Kemp, Eithier, LaRoche, Billingsley, Broxton, Kuo and Kershaw into regular slots the way he did once upon a time with Jeter, Rivera, Posada and Pettitte, and more recently with Melky and Cano? Or will he stay too long with the broken-down or breaking-down veterans as he did with Bernie? This team has the potential for a lot of frustrating second and third place finishes over the next few years if the management, including Torre, lacks the will and judgment to limit the playing time of veterans to those who are really still contributing. Which is not to say this team should strip down and rebuild, but rather that they can't contend on the cheap - they need to get the higher-ceiling kids broken in and use their financial resources to surround them with quality veterans, not just keep holes plugged with declining players who are merely adequate, as the Padres are doing.

The 33-year-old Kuroda seems to be, quality-wise, in the Masato Yoshii model (career 0.96 HR, 2.36 BB and 6.65 K per 9 in Japan).

San Diego Padres

Raw EWSL: 195.67 (65 W)
Adjusted: 211.60 (71 W)
Age-Adj.: 192.29 (64 W)
2008 W-L: 77-85

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C30Josh Bard1210
1B26Adrian Gonzalez1821
2B33Tadahito Iguchi1715
SS28Khalil Greene1717
3B26Kevin Kouzmanoff*817
RF37Brian Giles2113
CF38Jim Edmonds129
LF28Scott Hairston44
C231Michael Barrett97
INF25Callix Crabbe+04
OF30Jody Gerut10
1227Paul McAnulty*00
1336Tony Clark54
SP127Jake Peavy1717
SP229Chris Young1210
SP342Greg Maddux108
SP431Randy Wolf43
SP527Wil Ledezma22
RP140Trevor Hoffman129
RP230Heath Bell76
RP325Cla Meredith#67
RP428Kevin Cameron*24
RP525Justin Germano*24

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Non-Pitchers - The Padres had a fair amount of outfield chaos in camp (more on which below), ending by the decision that hot hitting prospect Chase Headley really needed to go back to the minors despite a great camp following a bust-out year in AA, despite a better minor league record than Paul McAnulty; Headley hasn't played at AAA and is being converted to the outfield from 3B (which is blocked by Kouzmanoff), and the Padres want him to get his feet under him on both counts before making the jump to the majors. (More here). Chip Ambres is in camp as well; Jeff DaVanon and Robert Fick were late roster cuts. Matt Antonelli is the heir apparent at 2B (his minor league numbers are solid, esp. that career .406 OBP, but at 23 Antonelli has yet to face AAA pitching himself), and Oscar Robles and Luis Rodriguez are on hand as well. Pitchers - In the short run, Ledezma's competition for the last rotation slot is Germano and the revived Glendon Rusch (returned after retiring due to blood clots), as well as Shawn Estes. Longer term, the Padres are taking a savvy but possibly fruitless flier on the oft-injured Mark Prior, the Brigadoon of starting pitchers, though he's been missing almost as long as D.B. Cooper and might take longer to return. Other arms on hand: Justin Hampson, Joe Thatcher, Enrique Gonzalez, Adam Bass and Aaron Rakers (probably the most likely to contribute at the back of the pen).

Analysis: Pity the poor Padres, still working off a 2004-07 blueprint for winning the NL West - over the past 4 years, the division winner has averaged 88 wins a year. This roster might, if things break right, be up to the task of winning in the high 80s against weak intra-division competition - but against a deep and talented trio of opponents, the Pads are just outclassed, and should be officially in rebuilding mode by midsummer, looking to shop Giles, Maddux, Iguchi, and possibly Clark and Edmonds (Hoffman, I assume, will remain a Padre to the bitter end).

Raise your hand if you didn't see this coming: Jim Edmonds is hurt and not ready for the season's opener (it was past time for the Cardinals to be rid of the frustration of Edmonds and Rolen). That likely leaves Hairston in center and Jody Gerut, who has missed two full seasons with a major knee injury, starting in left (more here - the Pads may end up needing another CF).

In the infield, I expect Kouzmanoff to pick up where he left off, batting .310/.364/.514 after May 14 following a horrible beginning to the season that saw his average drop as low as .108. The utilityman role has been given to speedy Callix Crabbe, acquired from JK Rowling in the Rule 5 draft and who stuck with the Pads due to his versatility.

Kevin Cameron had a ludicrous 0.80 ERA through mid-August but got torched to a 9.69 mark the rest of the way; his second tour around the league will tell whether he can find a workable medium. He still has not allowed a home run.

San Francisco Giants

Raw EWSL: 170.33 (57 W)
Adjusted: 186.30 (62 W)
Age-Adj.: 161.47 (54 W)
Subj. Adj. 164.47 (55 W)
2008 W-L: 68-94

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C33Ben Molina1311
1B27Dan Ortmeier*26
2B36Ray Durham129
SS41Omar Vizquel169
3B36Rich Aurilia107
RF34Randy Winn1614
CF30Aaron Rowand1614
LF36Dave Roberts1410
C229Eliezer Alfonzo#44
INF23Brian Bocock+04
OF27Rajai Davis*35
1226Kevin Frandsen#23
1327Fred Lewis*35
SP123Matt Cain1110
SP224Tim Lincecum*48
SP330Barry Zito1210
SP427Noah Lowry1010
SP527Kevin Corriea66
RP126Brian Wilson#34
RP228Brad Hennessey88
RP332Tyler Walker43
RP429Vinnie Chulk43
RP525Jonathan Sanchez#11

Subjective Adjustments: Dan Ortmeier (+3 from 3 to 6); I was tempted to bump up Ortmeier further but remembered the Ryan Shealy fiasco from last season. +3 is a conservative adjustment for the fact that Ortmeier, who isn't really a great prospect, should play a lot more this year and is rated on one partial season. On the other hand, Brian Bocock's inexperience and weak minor league batting line, combined with the likelihood of Omar Vizquel's return, prevented me from giving Bocock any more Win Shares to reflect the fact that he is temporarily the everyday SS in Vizquel's absence.

Also on Hand: Non-Pitchers - Catcher Guillermo Rodriguez, OF Nate Shierholtz, SS Eugenio Velez. Pitchers - Mostly veteran releivers - Steve Kline, Randy Messenger, Scott Atchison, Patrick Misch.

Analysis: The Giants are slowly, slowly easing out the ancient veterans, but the guys who are taking their place in the lineup are not that young and already close to their ceilings. Rarely have I seen such a desperate, terrible lineup supporting such a deep and talented pitching staff as these Giants last season and this. Rowand should give good defensive backing, as will the old and young shortstops, but Durham is awfully creaky this spring. And of course, you need to score the occasional run to win games.

While Cain and Lincecum should exceed those WS numbers, Lowry is out until late April at least due to forearm surgery, and Sanchez will replace him in the rotation in the interim.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:35 PM | Baseball 2008 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
March 24, 2008
BASEBALL: Travels With Rowland-Smith

Cool Sydney Morning Herald profile of Ryan Rowland-Smith and how he worked out as a starter in Venezuela this winter. Favorite quote from the Aussie hurler with the "150kmh fastball," on facing Ken Griffey jr. in his first major league appearance:

"I thought that it was pretty cool, because even my mates back in Australia would know who he was because he was on The Simpsons"

Read the whole thing.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:04 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Shea Stadium, October 1973

A classic trip down memory lane:

Via our old friend Art Martone. Sadly, Lindsey Nelson's jacket in this one is quite subdued. Note that in the joint interview with Seaver in the second clip, Catfish is unusually blunt in criticizing Charlie Finley on live television (Reggie too, in the first clip), and both Catfish and Seaver are remarkably cliche-free in discussing their status as undisputed staff aces (I would have expected a few more nods to the idea that it's not such a bad thing for the teams to start Koosman or Matlack or Blue or Holtzman in a big game).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:55 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Nathan's Rich (and Famous)

I'm kinda surprised that the Twins re-signed Joe Nathan after being too poor for the much more valuable Johan Santana, but I suppose Nathan's price tag is smaller. Which is kinda sad, since dollar for dollar the investment in Santana is a much better one.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:50 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Happy Blogoversary David Pinto

Keep up the good work.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:47 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Picture of the Day

You never know when you might need Manny to play second base:

mannyturnstwo.jpg

Via Allan Wood.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:44 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Reed Johnson For Hire

I would hope the Mets take a look at the newly-unemployed Reed Johnson, cut yesterday by the Blue Jays; the righthanded-hitting Johnson is no star and no power hitter and at 31 is coming off a horrible year after a career year in 2006, but he's a career .308/.371/.462 hitter against lefthanded pitching. That's a free talent who could be useful. Downside is that most of his career power output, such as it is, has come at hitter-friendly SkyDome.

UPDATE (3/25): The Cubs have signed Johnson. The lesson is one any Roto GM knows: when free talent is scarce it goes fast, even when the player involved is nothing special.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:33 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Cliff Is Back

Cliff Lee has landed the #5 starter job for the Indians. Personally I thought it was way premature to write off Lee after last season, and figured he'd be back in the Cleveland rotation sooner or later.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:09 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
March 20, 2008
BASEBALL: 2008 AL East EWSL Report

The third of six division previews, using Established Win Shares Levels as a jumping-off point. Today: The AL East. Notes on the EWSL method are below the fold.

Key: + (Rookie) * (Based on one season) # (Based on two seasons)

The Hated Yankees

Raw EWSL: 277.17 (92 W)
Adjusted: 289.23 (96 W)
Age-Adj.: 265.51 (89 W)
2008 W-L: 101-61

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C36Jorge Posada2317
1B37Jason Giambi149
2B25Robinson Cano1823
SS34Derek Jeter2724
3B32Alex Rodriguez3327
RF34Bobby Abreu2220
CF23Melky Cabrera#1017
LF34Hideki Matsui1413
DH34Johnny Damon1917
C233Jose Molina54
INF32Morgan Ensberg1311
OF28Shelley Duncan*24
1326Wilson Betemit89
SP128Chien-Ming Wang1414
SP236Andy Pettitte1413
SP339Mike Mussina98
SP422Philip Hughes*25
SP523Ian Kennedy+14
RP138Mariano Rivera1512
RP222Joba Chamberlain*36
RP332Kyle Farnsworth64
RP435LaTroy Hawkins53
RP526Brian Bruney22

Subjective Adjustments: None. But certainly Joba Chamberlain is likely to contribute more than 24 innings of work. I did not want to rate him higher than a rookie, though, whereas I used the rookie adjustment for Ian Kennedy, who would otherwise have had 2 WS.

Also on Hand: Non-Pitchers - Alberto Gonzalez, catcher Wil Nieves. Pitchers - Failed/injured starters Kei Igawa and Carl Pavano, young starters Jeff Karstens, Matt DeSalvo, Darrell Rasner and Ross Ohlendorf, and relievers Chris Britton, Edwar Ramirez, and the unfortunate Sean Henn. I gather that Igawa will pitch out of the bullpen; Pavano will pitch if mutually convenient dates can be arranged.

Analysis: The Hated Yankees have run off the road in October seven years running now, but the regular season juggernaut shows no sign of stopping. A lineup with four 34-year-olds, a 36-year-old and a 37-year-old could change that in a hurry - consider even how much the Yankees lose if A-Rod drops back to .290 and 40 HR - but there's a lot of quality bats here and the Yanks' bench, while not great, is not quite as bare as it was for much of the late Torre years. 2008 is an exciting year for purist Yankee fans who have waited a long, long time to see the team break in a significant amount of young talent (Melky getting an everyday job, two rookie starters and maybe three if Joba slots in for Mussina), but it's also a year of risk. In a sense - and this was reflected in the desultory pursuit of Johan Santana - the Yankees and Red Sox almost seem to have entered into an unspoken detente this season, both deciding simultaneously to take a breather from big-ticket acquisitions, prepare for the decline in earnest of their aging stars, and start working more youth into their rotations and lineups - a Melky for an Ellsbury, a Hughes for a Buchholz, a Kennedy for a Lester, a Mussina for a Schilling, a Giambi for a Manny (both of whose contracts finally end in 2008). If there was a serious threat to their two-superpower system this would be risky, but as of now there still isn't.

The notoriously indestructible Matsui's numbers are still dragged down by his 2006 injury, although of course at 34, he may be more susceptible to injuries anyway. Jeter, by contrast, seems on the path of slow, gradual decline, with age starting to eat away around the corners of several of his assets, breaking down his weak defense and stripping some of his speed and power. I expect Jeter to continue to be productive into his late 30s, like similar hitters like Paul Molitor and Pete Rose; just a little less like the Jeter of old.

I can't add much to the Joba saga except to note the obvious that his future path will probably be determined less by his own performance than by Mussina's and by Mariano's health.

World Champion Boston Red Sox

Raw EWSL: 216.17 (72 W)
Adjusted: 240.37 (80 W)
Age-Adj.: 221.03 (74 W)
Subj. Adj.: 226.03 (75 W)
2008 W-L: 88-74

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C36Jason Varitek129
1B29Kevin Youkilis1816
2B24Dustin Pedroia*1023
SS32Julio Lugo1412
3B34Mike Lowell1816
RF32JD Drew1412
CF24Jacoby Ellsbury*313
LF36Manny Ramirez2216
DH32David Ortiz2823
C230Kevin Cash00
INF32Alex Cora54
OF28Coco Crisp1415
1331Bobby Kielty54
SP128Josh Beckett1515
SP227Daisuke Matsuzaka*612
SP341Tim Wakefield108
SP423Clay Buchholz+24
SP524Jon Lester#44
RP127Jon Papelbon1515
RP232Hideki Okajima*69
RP342Mike Timlin75
RP430Javier Lopez32
RP526Manny Delcarmen#45

Subjective Adjustments: Jacoby Ellsbury (+5 from 8 to 13, to place him just ahead of the typical rookie). Buchholz I just rated as a rookie. Obviously, there's some significant upside to both Buchholz and Lester, but young pitchers are also a risk. Ellsbury will probably clear 13 WS, but if he does, Crisp won't approach 15 in a Sox uniform this year, so I didn't want to get carried away.

Also on Hand: Non-Pitchers - Sean Casey, onetime big league regular Keith Ginter, SS Jed Lowrie, OF Brandon Moss, catcher Dusty Brown. Pitchers - The injured Curt Schilling, Bartolo Colon, relievers Julian Tavarez, Devern Hansack, Kyle Snyder, David Aardsma, and Bryan Corey.

Analysis: I can't quite put my finger on one single reason why the defending champs are not rated higher by EWSL, other than the loss of Curt Schilling. The rest is little things - the mid-30s wearing-down of Manny, Lowell and Varitek, the uncertainty of two rookies in the rotation, the relative lack of solid relievers after Papelbon and Okajima, the difficulty of projecting health and productivity from the erratic backgrounds of Beckett and Drew, even the decision to carry a backup catcher with a remarkable facility for accruing service time without accumulating even a single Win Share (Cash has notched zero Win Shares in four of his five big-league seasons). Other than the rookies, Matsuzaka (who I expect to do better this season) and who-knows with Drew, about the only upside here is possibly a slight recovery for Julio Lugo, who was sapped by an intestinal parasite last season.

End of an era: Manny doesn't expect the Sawx to pick up his $20 million options for 2009 & 2010, and is arming for war with the hiring of Scott Boras.

Toronto Blue Jays

Raw EWSL: 237.50 (79 W)
Adjusted: 242.70 (81 W)
Age-Adj.: 209.93 (70 W)
2008 W-L: 83-79

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C37Gregg Zaun106
1B31Lyle Overbay1210
2B26Aaron Hill1619
SS33David Eckstein1513
3B33Scott Rolen1312
RF27Alex Rios1919
CF29Vernon Wells1917
LF31Reed Johnson97
DH40Frank Thomas169
C232Rod Barajas65
INF32Marco Scutaro108
OF40Matt Stairs109
1334Shannon Stewart116
SP131Roy Halladay1714
SP231AJ Burnett108
SP326Dustin McGowan66
SP426Shaun Marcum#68
SP523Jesse Litsch*47
RP132BJ Ryan96
RP226Jeremy Accardo910
RP332Scott Downs75
RP430Jason Frasor43
RP530Brian Tallet#33

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Non-Pitchers - Russ Adams, John McDonald and Hector Luna are all in the middle infield mix. Adam Lind has fallen out of favor but remains a top prospect, and it's not hard to see him reclaiming a corner outfield or DH slot if the logjam of veterans ahead of him break down. Young Curtis Thigpen and old Sal Fasano are on hand to back up Zaun and Barajas. Pitchers - Starter Gustavo Chacin is still trying to get healthy enough to get back to where he was in 2005. Brandon League will be in the bullpen mix, as will Brian Wolfe and perhaps the recently acquired Armando Benitez. Casey Janssen is out for the year, which is a shame given his talent - I was wondering why I thought Janssen had been kicking around Toronto's system for a long time and then I realized I was thinking of Marty Janzen.

Analysis: I admit that I have tended to discount Toronto this offseason in thinking about the AL East...there's definitely upside here - if healthy that rotation could be quite good (you never know with Burnett and Halladay; McGowan's numbers here are suppressed by including his 2005-06 struggles), and BJ Ryan might come around to his old form. But only 3 non-pitchers are under 31, and one of those is Vernon Wells, whose power may well be permanently degraded as a result of his bum shoulder (Will Carroll seems pessimistic). David Eckstein is not likely to age well. Frank Thomas has been old for a very long time. And life is too short to discuss here all of Scott Rolen's health woes.

Tampa Bay Rays

Raw EWSL: 147.17 (49 W)
Adjusted: 172.30 (57 W)
Age-Adj.: 175.50 (59 W)
2008 W-L: 71-91

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C24Dioner Navarro57
1B30Carlos Pena1513
2B29Akinori Iwamura*713
SS28Jason Bartlett1314
3B22Evan Longoria+012
RF35Cliff Floyd118
CF23BJ Upton#1219
LF26Carl Crawford2124
DH27Johnny Gomes89
C233Josh Paul22
INF25Willy Aybar34
OF30Eric Hinske65
1327Ben Zobrist#11
SP124Scott Kazmir1312
SP226James Shields#811
SP324Matt Garza#23
SP425Andy Sonnanstine*23
SP524Edwin Jackson11
RP138Troy Percival22
RP237Al Reyes54
RP330Dan Wheeler87
RP431Gary Glover22
RP529Juan Salas*12

Subjective Adjustments: None, but see below re: Garza and Sonnanstine. I suppose I could have rated Upton on a 3-year basis, since he was really a rookie in 2004, or a 1-year basis; this was a reasonable compromise. By contrast, Pena is rated here on a 3-year basis since he's 30 years old and has been a regular in the past; ditto for Percival.

Also on Hand: Non-Pitchers - Rocco Baldelli is probably done for his career due to his bizarre mitochondrial illness, which is a terrible shame for such a young and talented man who never really got to find out whether he had what it takes to turn a promising debut into major league stardom. Shawn Riggans and the undead Mike DiFelice are the catching backups. Hot SS prospect Reid Brignac, OF Justin Ruggiano and INF Joel Guzman. Pitchers - A bunch of relievers will round out the bullpen options - Trever Miller, Grant Balfour, Chad Orvella, JP Howell, and Kurt Birkins. Jason Hammel is on hand as a starter, followed by waves of highly touted youngsters who don't appear to be likely contributors in 2008 (first round draft pick David Price is the biggest name but hasn't pitched in the pros yet).

Analysis: Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA system has projected the Rays to win 88 or 89 games this season, a prediction Nate Silver has confidently touted. Allow me to say: this is nuts.

Last season, Tampa allowed 944 runs (5.83 per game), the highest in the majors by a margin of more than 50 runs. This season, BP is projecting them to allow 713 runs (4.40 per game), the lowest in the AL, third-lowest in the majors (behind the Mets and Padres), and a 32% reduction from last season. This for a team that returns 4 of last year's top 5 starting pitchers, last season's closer as a setup man for a 38-year-old who just came out of retirement in the middle of last year, and six members of last season's starting lineup, one of whom is learning to play second base at the major league level after not having played it since junior high. I have not done a study to see how many teams have (absent a radical change in the league scoring environment) cut their runs allowed by a third in one season or shot in the space of a year from the worst to the best pitching/defense team in the league, but it's an incredibly ambitious goal - the 2006 Tigers cut their runs allowed by 17%, the 1991 Braves by 27%. And remember: like EWSL but with more science behind it and more ambitions to be an actual prediction system, PECOTA is supposed to predict, not what might or will happen, but what is most likely to happen. Until I saw BP's prediction, I considered myself quite bullish about Tampa; they could, if everything breaks right, win in the high 80s even in this division, and they seem likely to get up around or maybe a little over .500, which would be a historic achievement for this franchise and a great foundation for the future of a young team. 81 wins would require them to exceed their EWSL by 10 games - and note that at least measured by the 23-man rosters, only 5 teams in the past three years have cleared their EWSL by 30 or more. BP has put itself way out there on a limb on this one.

All of that said, let me give my own reasons, not so dissimilar from BP's, why I am optimistic about this team. As I have explained before, there has been a fair amount of deadwood pruned from the pitching staff, and the arrival of Jason Bartlett, if he stays healthy, should do wonders for the majors' worst defense in 2007, thus lifting a big load off the shoulders of the pitching staff. The rotation could be quite good, as Kazmir and Shields are solid and still improving, and Edwin Jackson's improved K rate suggests a guy who is gradually learning to harness his long-heralded natural talent, although I would not expect dramatic improvement given the problems he still has with walks and homers. The key to the rotation will be Garza and Sonnanstine. Garza has front-of-the-rotation talent and had a good 3.69 ERA last year; he could put it all together, but young pitchers are young pitchers. Sonnanstine got shellacked last season to the tune of a 5.85 ERA, but his main rate stats (1.24 HR, 1.79 BB and 6.68 K/9) suggest a guy who should be a solid big leaguer and could be a good one if he can get the homers down; in 257 innings at AA and AAA, those rates were 0.81, 1.65 and 7.67. Again: reasons to like Sonnanstine. Not reasons to bet the ranch on a guy with a 5.85 big league ERA.

The lineup is another story - the Rays desperately need more than last season's .227/.286/.356 Avg/OBP/Slg from Dioner Navarro, and don't really have a workable Plan B if they don't. The outfield looks good, but the departure of Baldelli, Delmon Young and Elijah Dukes means that the problem of too many talented young outfielders has now been replaced with hoping that Cliff Floyd can hold up as a regular again at age 35. Longoria could be a big star right away, but even if he's going to be one eventually, he could be Alex Gordon's 2007. Tampa's 1324 strikeouts (on offense) set an AL record, and other than Delmon Young, all the major offenders are still here.

Carl Crawford's slugging percentage dropped 16 points last season, and in 2005 his OBP stayed steady from 2004. I mention these two examples because they are the only exceptions - otherwise, Crawford has increased his average and his slugging percentage and his OBP each of his six seasons in the majors, a record of steady growth that makes up for not having taken the explosive leaps forward of similar hitters like Hanley Ramirez and Jose Reyes. Still, one more significant improvement is needed if he's going to be the cornerstone of a contending team.

There's a good reason why Baseball-Reference.com and Baseball Prospectus both identify one of the most similar players to Carlos Pena as Jim Gentile.

Trivia - Did you know that Cliff Floyd's real first name is Cornelius?

Baltimore Orioles

Raw EWSL: 155.00 (52 W)
Adjusted: 189.80 (63 W)
Age-Adj.: 166.92 (56 W)
2008 W-L: 68-94

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C32Ramon Hernandez1412
1B36Kevin Millar129
2B30Brian Roberts2017
SS24Luis Hernandez+110
3B36Melvin Mora1411
RF24Nick Markakis#1421
CF22Adam Jones+012
LF30Luke Scott#99
DH31Aubrey Huff1110
C226Guillermo Quiroz11
INF27Brandon Fahey#22
OF35Jay Payton117
1331Jay Gibbons65
SP129Jeremy Guthrie*610
SP224Adam Loewen#23
SP327Daniel Cabrera76
SP437Steve Trachsel66
SP524Garrett Olson*00
RP131George Sherrill54
RP233Chad Bradford64
RP336Jamie Walker66
RP425Matt Albers*00
RP527Brian Burres*23

Subjective Adjustments: Luis Hernandez (-2 from 11.5 to 9.5). Hernandez is just such a horrible hitter (.296 career OBP in the minors) that I couldn't seriously assign him the standard rookie EWSL.

Also on Hand: Non-Pitchers - Freddy Bynum, whose knee injury took him out of the infield picture for now; Tike Redman, and Adam Stern. Pitchers - Chris Ray and Danys Baez are among the scores of pitchers rehabbing from Tommy John surgery this spring. Hayden Penn, Greg Aquino and Fernando Cabrera are on hand; Aquino is sometimes a useful pitcher.

Analysis: Another year, another roster full of short-term thinking. I don't envy new pitching coach Rick Kranitz, trying to see if he can do a better job with this staff than did Cooperstown-bound pitching guru Leo Mazzone, and without the team's ace, Erik Bedard, and its top 2 relief arms. Let's put it this way: they are contemplating starting Steve Trachsel on Opening Day. More here on the remaining rotation battles. Guthrie and Loewen should contribute solid full seasons, but they can't fill the void left by Bedard.

Whether the lineup will be weak or horrendous depends on who else gets shipped out of town to start yet another half-hearted rebuilding process (Brian Roberts is supposed to head the list). Pity poor Nick Markakis, who will be stuck in this mess for years to come.

Luke Scott's comps have some interesting names, the most encouraging of which are Mike Easler and Matt Stairs.

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:00 PM | Baseball 2008 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)
March 19, 2008
BASEBALL: Fantasy Baseball - New Team Needed

As happens from time to time, my Roto league is short a team (we go with 12 teams, now have 11). League (which I have been in since 1994) is an AL-only traditional Roto league. Auction-style draft is this Saturday in Manhattan at 10:30am, usually lasts about 8 hours. Email me if you are interested.

I've bumped this back to the top - still looking.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:33 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
LAW/POLITICS: Disassociation

Yesterday's Supreme Court decision in Washington State Grange v. Washington State Republican Party is interesting on a couple of levels. Coupled with the Court's January decision in the case involving New York's system for nominating candidates to run for judicial elections, the Court seems to be signalling pretty clearly that it's not eager to get into overturning state primary election procedures - a signal the national Democrats are hopefully receiving, not that there's been any move just yet for the loser to follow the Al Gore plan.

Anyway, the short summary is that the Court ruled 7-2 to uphold a state open election system that allowed candidates from all parties to run in an initial election with their chosen party listed, without having been nominated by the party, followed by a runoff for the top two candidates; the major parties challenged the constitutionality of this procedure under a 2000 decision invalidating California's "blanket primary" under the First Amendment's right to freedom of association. The crux of the Washington case was whether the parties have a right to prevent candidates who have not been nominated by the party from using the party label on a ballot open to the general public.

Justice Thomas, writing for the Court, said no:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:04 PM | Law 2006-08 • | Politics 2008 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
March 18, 2008
BASEBALL: Hope Springs Eternal

First Strawberry, then Gooden. I still wish Gooden well, but he's long passed into "show me, don't tell me" territory.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:32 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Curtains Approach

Jose Valentin may be at the end of the line due to a pinched nerve in his neck.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:32 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: 2008 AL West EWSL Report

The second of six division previews, using Established Win Shares Levels as a jumping-off point. Today: The AL West. Notes on the EWSL method are below the fold. One new development: I've added a line for each team's estimated 2008 W-L record, to reflect EWSL plus 38.57 Win Shares, which is the average number of Win Shares by the rest of the team's roster (i.e., the players other than the 23 listed before the season) over the teams I have tracked the past three seasons. I'll go back and add that in to the AL Central report in a little while.

Key: + (Rookie) * (Based on one season) # (Based on two seasons)

The Angels

Raw EWSL: 253.67 (85 W)
Adjusted: 267.07 (89 W)
Age-Adj.: 250.31 (83 W)
2008 W-L: 96-66

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C26Mike Napoli#910
1B25Casey Kotchman810
2B24Howie Kendrick#710
SS24Erick Aybar*13
3B30Chone Figgins2017
RF33Gary Matthews1614
CF32Torii Hunter1916
LF36Garret Anderson1410
DH32Vladimir Guerrero2723
C225Jeff Mathis#12
INF27Macier Izturis1314
OF29Juan Rivera87
1327Reggie Willits*715
SP129John Lackey1916
SP225Jered Weaver#1114
SP332Kelvim Escobar1410
SP428Jon Garland1515
SP527Joe Saunders#56
RP126Francisco Rodriguez1617
RP232Scot Shields107
RP334Justin Speier75
RP437Darren Oliver54
RP525Ervin Santana77

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Robb Quinlan, who is actually a more established player than Willits, but is possibly the odd man out for this team, Kendry Morales, and Brandon Wood. Pitchers - Chris Bootcheck (who has been banged up this spring), Dustin Moseley, Jason Bulger. The 26-year-old Moseley is apparently going to open the year in the rotation, but on a temporary basis; he pitched fairly well in 92 big-league innings last season (0.68 HR, 2.64 BB and 4.89 K/9 - he can succeed in the majors if he bumps up that K rate a bit), but mixing him in the chart wouldn't change the numbers much (age-adjusted EWSL of 6.5).

Analysis: The Angels are not a superpower like the Yankees and Red Sox of recent years, but they are a team with an embarrassment of riches in terms of depth, and they stand astride the AL West in a forbidding pose. An awful lot needs to go right for the Mariners, their only real competition, to dethrone the Angels.

Right, and/or wrong - while the Angels have Ervin Santana and Moseley on hand in case anything happens to the starting rotation, the health of that rotation remains the biggest concern, as a strained triceps for John Lackey and a bum shoulder for Kelvim Escobar seems likely to keep both sidelined into May, leading some Mariners scribes to label them the faves. Which is another reason why the acquisition of Jon Garland made so much sense - Garland is unlikely to be much more than a league-average starter (his already-low K rate dropped perilously last season) but he specializes in eating innings, having made 32 or 33 starts each of the past six years.

In all likelihood - and the issues with Lackey and Escobar only make this more likely - the outfield/corner logjam will be busted by a deal at some point, as (1) the Angels don't really have room for Rivera, Willits and Quinlan and (2) they are overpaying two guys for their center field defense (Hunter and Matthews) while there are teams out there starting the likes of Nick Swisher in center field.

Given their performance last season, 2008 is about the point for the Angels to stop regarding Kendrick and Kotchman as gravy and start really being able to depend on them as regulars.

Seattle Mariners

Raw EWSL: 235.00 (78 W)
Adjusted: 244.17 (81 W)
Age-Adj.: 220.97 (74 W)
2008 W-L: 87-75

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C32Kenji Johjima#1515
1B33Richie Sexson1412
2B24Jose Lopez1114
SS26Yuniesky Betancourt1416
3B29Adrian Beltre1615
RF31Brad Wilkerson109
CF34Ichiro Suzuki2825
LF36Raul Ibanez2317
DH33Jose Vidro1412
C236Jamie Burke32
INF30Willie Bloomquist33
OF27Jeremy Reed22
1326Mike Morse33
SP129Erik Bedard1412
SP222Felix Hernandez1113
SP329Carlos Silva97
SP437Miguel Batista1110
SP533Jarrod Washburn107
RP131JJ Putz1713
RP229Sean Green#33
RP323Eric O'Flaherty*24
RP423Brendan Morrow*35
RP525Ryan Rowland-Smith*12

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Catcher Jeff Clement, the ubiquitous Miguel Cairo, Greg Norton, outfielders Wladimir Balentien and Charlton Jimerson. Balentien and Jimerson both strike out a ton and neither walks much (Jimerson doesn't at all), and while both have a little pop, once you take out the Pacific Coast League inflation factor there isn't much reason why either would threaten Jose Vidro's job as DH, or any of the starting outfelders. Pitchers - Oh, there are lots of them...rehab cases Arthur Rhodes (Tommy John surgery) and Chris Reitsma, relievers Sean White, Jake Woods, RA Dickey, Jon Huber, and Cesar Jimenez, and starters Ryan Fierabend and Cha Seung Baek.

Analysis: The Mariners are unlikely to be bad, but a lot of things need to go right for them to unseat the Angels - basically most of the things that went right last year plus the things that didn't. They need Lopez in particular to step forward as he gets older, while Ichiro, Ibanez, Johjima and Vidro hold to their 2007 performance against the tides of age. They really, really need more from Sexson than .205/.295/.399. They can't afford a big falloff from Putz, although even a good year could see him add a run to his 2007 ERA.

How desperate is Jose Lopez' need for plate discipline? Last season he batted .240/.297/.392 after getting ahead 1-0 in the count. Lopez batted .362/.361/.594 when swinging at the first pitch, and .320/.338/.373 when putting the ball in play 0-1, but almost any hitter in baseball will improve dramatically when spotted the first pitch. But pitchers could afford to waste one to avoid Lopez' first-pitch proclivities, and he still didn't make them pay for it.

A major challenge for John McLaren is digging through the pile of mostly young bullpen arms to decide who can really get the job done behind Putz, especially with George Sherrill gone to Baltimore. Rowland-Smith had probably the best peripheral numbers (0.93 HR, 3.49 BB and 9.78 K per 9, with minor league totals of 0.48, 4.00 and 8.79 in 204.2 innings at AA and AAA) of any of the rest of the relievers, whose 2007 numbers are otherwise a blur. Rowland-Smith also had the least-worst stretch run of the bunch - take a look at how the young relievers ran off the road after August 1:

PERA thru 7/31ERA from 8/1
Sean Green2.665.60
Eric O'Flaherty3.287.02
Brendan Morrow3.166.10
Ryan Rowland-Smith3.683.96

The team ERA as a whole was 5.12 in August and 5.20 in Sept/Oct.

And, of course, the biggest question mark of all is whether they can get 60-66 starts from Bedard and King Felix, which would cover an awful lot of sins. Those two should be the equal of any 1-2 punch in the game, even Santana and Pedro. But I continue to have little faith in Washburn and Batista.

Texas Rangers
Raw EWSL: 158.00 (53 W)
Adjusted: 171.10 (57 W)
Age-Adj.: 162.51 (54 W)
2008 W-L: 67-95

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C28Gerald Laird77
1B31Ben Broussard87
2B26Ian Kinsler#1317
SS31Michael Young2521
3B27Hank Blalock1111
RF34Frank Catalanotto1211
CF27Josh Hamilton*611
LF30Marlon Byrd87
DH30Milton Bradley1210
C223Jarrod Saltalamacchia*37
INF31Ramon Vazquez43
OF27Nelson Cruz#34
1327Jason Botts*12
SP133Kevin Millwood97
SP230Vicente Padilla65
SP329Jason Jennings65
SP426Kason Gabbard#34
SP526Kameron Loe44
RP131CJ Wilson65
RP237Eddie Guardado32
RP330Joaquin Benoit76
RP428Frank Francisco22
RP525Wes Littleton#45

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - David Murphy, Kevin Mench, Chris Shelton, Joaquin Arias, Miguel Ojeda, the injured Travis Metcalf, and slugging catching prospect Max Ramirez. Pitchers - Brandon McCarthy, who had been projected to be in the Rangers' rotation before injuries claimed him for a minimum of 4-6 weeks; Jamey Wright, now settled in the bullpen; 31-year-old Japanese closer Kazuo Fukumori, who sports career averages of 0.76 HR, 3.30 BB and 6.25 K in Japan; starters Robinson Tejeda, Ezequiel Astacio, Sidney Ponson, Luis Mendoza, Eric Hurley and John Rheinecker (Rheinecker is supposed to be out until the All-Star Break); relievers Franklyn German and Scott Feldman. Akinori Otsuka is supposed to miss the whole season with Tommy John surgery.

Analysis: Basically all of the Rangers' pitchers are hurt, and most of them aren't that good when they are healthy. How screwed up is Texas' pitching? They had to absorb multiple pitching injuries before realizing there was something wrong with the mound at their spring facility. I can't even begin to assess this pitching staff except to say that we have seen many such staffs over the years with the Rangers, and few of them ended well. I have been doing EWSL for five years, and in those five years the Rangers have had a pitcher with 10 EWSL only four times (Francisco Cordero twice and Kenny Rogers twice).

Experience tells us that the Law of Competitive Balance should narrow the gap between the top and bottom two teams in the AL West a little from what EWSL projects... I realize that Catalanotto may be slotted at DH, but that assumes that Bradley is healthy enough to play the field, which he's not at present, and I don't like projecting Milton Bradley to get healthier. Catalanotto is starting to show his age, and Byrd seems likely to disappoint after last year's bravura performance; this lineup will have its share of holes. The Rangers are headed nowhere in particular; I'd suggest that they deal Michael Young, as that would at least formalize a rebuilding posture.

Oakland A's

Raw EWSL: 139.17 (46 W)
Adjusted: 164.43 (55 W)
Age-Adj.: 161.69 (54 W)
2008 W-L: 67-95

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C24Kurt Suzuki*49
1B22Daric Barton+212
2B31Mark Ellis1815
SS28Bobby Crosby77
3B30Eric Chavez1210
RF24Travis Buck*513
CF27Chris Denorfia#11
LF33Emil Brown1110
DH29Jack Cust109
C227Rob Bowen#34
INF28Jack Hannahan*35
OF28Dan Johnson89
1325Donnie Murphy*24
SP126Rich Harden45
SP227Joe Blanton1212
SP325Chad Gaudin78
SP430Justin Duchscherer65
SP528Lenny DiNardo33
RP124Huston Street1212
RP233Kiko Calero43
RP338Alan Embree64
RP428Santiago Casilla*24
SP524Dallas Braden00

Subjective Adjustments: I didn't add a subjective adjustment to Jack Cust, but counting him based on three years rather than one, while consistent with my policy of not treating guys as rookies if they have had numerous if short-lived major league opportunities, does short-change him somewhat (he had 19 WS in 124 games last year), and even a few extra Win Shares would push Oakland ahead of Texas. So apply whatever grain of salt you feel appropriate. Also, bear in mind that Beane teams traditionally finish near the top when I do the postseason wrapup of who got the most Win Shares from players not on the 23-man preseason roster (an average of 53 per year compared to 39 across the majors).

Also on Hand: Position players - Mike Sweeney, fighting Dan Johnson for the backup 1B job; Matt LeCroy (who has been sent down). Jeremy Brown is not on hand, having retired this spring at age 28 without ever really getting more than a cup of coffee in the majors. Brown sported a .268/.367/.439 line in six minor league seasons, so while he never did make it as a big leaguer it's hard to say he didn't cut it as a pro; many are drafted, few become big league regulars. Pitchers - Once-hot prospect Dan Meyer and starting prospects Dana Eveland (whose minor league numbers and good spring are competing with his 7.55 career ERA in the majors), Greg Smith and Gio Gonzalez; relievers Fernando Hernandez, Joey Devine, Jay Marshall, Andrew Brown and, back from the dead, Keith Foulke; Brad Halsey is in extended spring training after shoulder surgery. Kirk Saarloos is back in the minors for the A's.

Analysis: The House of Beane started teetering last year, and the GM decided to scrap it and go back to the drawing board, with what will undoubtedly be ugly short-term results. One of the wild cards of projecting fantasy baseball this season is the possibility that two top-shelf closers, Huston Street and Joe Nathan, could get dealt in midseason. Blanton remains actively on the block; while Street might get traded, Blanton being dealt is only a matter of time.

Harden, naturally, will be worth more than 5 WS if healthy, but his injury record has historically been nothing if not consistent. And poor Dan Johnson's woes just never cease:

A recent bout of sinusitis turned so severe, Johnson revealed Monday, that he had to spend eight days in the hospital late last month - and he nearly had to have a hole drilled into his forehead....Johnson already had had viral meningitis in the winter (a four-day stay in the hospital) and altogether, he lost 30 pounds....Johnson's variety of maladies is remarkable. Along with this winter's meningitis and sinusitis, he had vertigo his first month in the big leagues (and wound up not playing at all), then he developed double vision after sunscreen was sprayed in his eyes during spring training in 2006, a problem that wasn't correctly diagnosed until after the 2006 season. Last spring, he tore hip cartilage, but he avoided surgery and successfully rehabbed the injury instead.

Of course, each of these setbacks has eaten into what could have been productive seasons with the bat. Johnson's value to the A's, as well as his market value, would be greater if he was a plausible outfielder - I'd rather have him than Emil Brown - but as is, he would seem likely to be dealt once Barton gets settled in. Barton, once heralded as a power prospect, seems for now at least to be more of a Mark Grace type, but that will do if he can provide good defense.

Hannahan's .422 OBP at AAA Toledo - not a hitters' haven - last season, combined with his major league numbers in 2007 (.278/.369/.424), suggests to me that he may be ready to take on an everyday job ain a modestly productive and low-cost capacity. At 28, the future is now, but of course that assumes the A's could move Chavez, which seems unlikely.

Rob Bowen drew 10 walks in 54 plate appearances in Oakland last season, giving him a .415 OBP, but nothing in the rest of his major league or minor league records suggests a repeat of that performance.

Donnie Murphy is the sixth Murphy to wear an A's uniform, and three of them (Danny, Eddie and Dwayne) had multi-year tenures in the A's lineup.

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:04 PM | Baseball 2008 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
March 17, 2008
BASEBALL: More Than You Wanted To Know About Kaz Matsui

The phrase "anal fissure" is involved.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:35 AM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
March 14, 2008
POLITICS: You Say Quid, I Say Quo

So what would you say if I told you that a Congressional Republican had quietly procured an earmark funnelling $1 million in taxpayer money to his wife's employer, a year after that employer had followed his election by giving her a raise that more than doubled her income? You might think of the various Republicans who were hounded from office for such behavior - or less - or even those like Duke Cunnigham who went to prison for it.

So what would you say to this?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:02 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (48) | TrackBack (0)
March 12, 2008
BASEBALL: 2008 AL Central EWSL Report

This year, I'm starting my preseason previews with the AL Central; this is the first of six division previews, using Established Win Shares Levels as a jumping-off point.

The Method

For those of you who are unfamiliar, EWSL is explained here, and you should read that link before commenting on the method; 2008 revisions to the age adjustment are discussed here, rookie adjustments here, and subjective adjustments for players with less than three seasons' track record are discussed here.

Bear in mind as always that (1) EWSL is a record of past performance, adjusted by age to give a probabalistic assessment of the available talent on hand; it is not an individualized projection system - EWSL tells you what you should reasonably expect to happen this year if there are no surprises, rather than shedding light on how to spot the surprises before they happen; (2) individual EWSL are rounded off but team totals are compiled from the unrounded figures; and (3) as demonstrated here, 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. (I'm not convinced going to 24 or 25 would make the system more useful, since it would tend to overrate teams that stuff their back bench slots with aging ex-regulars). That said, I also don't adjust for available playing time, since as a general rule, teams that have excess depth of players with established track records are better off than those that are stretching to cover their whole roster with guys who have proven they can do the job.

As always, the depth charts here are drawn from multiple sources (my starting points are the depth charts at Baseball Prospectus.com and RotoTimes, modified by press reports and my own assessments) to list the guys who will do the work (e.g., if there are two guys battling for a fifth starter spot I'll often list one of them with the relievers if I think they'll both end up pitching), but I take responsibility for any errors. It's still a fluid time for rosters.

Key: + (Rookie) * (Based on one season) # (Based on two seasons)

Detroit Tigers

Raw EWSL: 279.33 (93 W)
Adjusted: 284.70 (95 W)
Age-Adj.: 267.18 (89 W)
2008 W-L: 102-60

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C36Ivan Rodriguez1612
1B32Carlos Guillen1916
2B32Placido Polanco2017
SS32Edgar Renteria1815
3B25Miguel Cabrera3038
RF34Magglio Ordonez2522
CF27Curtis Granderson#2021
LF33Jacque Jones1412
DH39Gary Sheffield1512
C231Brandon Inge1512
INF28Ramon Santiago11
OF31Marcus Thames76
1327Ryan Raburn*24
SP125Justin Verlander#1318
SP225Jeremy Bonderman910
SP330Nate Robertson109
SP426Dontrelle Willis1213
SP543Kenny Rogers97
RP140Todd Jones107
RP231Fernando Rodney54
RP330Bobby Seay33
RP431Jason Grilli43
RP526Zach Miner#45

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Vance Wilson (who is supposed to be the backup catcher but is slow coming back from Tommy John surgery), Brent Clevlen, the speedy Freddy Guzman, Timo Perez (who caught that old lightning in a bottle for a few weeks last fall), and Mike Hessman (who has excellent minor league power numbers, but he should, as he's 30 years old and has spent 5 full seasons in AAA). Pitchers: Joel Zumaya (whose shoulder injury, suffered moving boxes during the California wildfires, is sufficiently serious that you can't factor him in any preseason assessment of the Tigers - he'll be out at least until mid-season and possibly the year, although his prognosis doesn't sound as grim now as it did initially), Tim Byrdak, Francisco Cruceta, Macay McBride, the perenially tantalizing Denny Bautista, Yorman Bazardo and Jordan Tata.

cabreraslim.jpg

Analysis: The Tigers are loaded with prime and veteran talent, but also have more question marks than the Riddler. The 260-pound question is the conditioning of Miguel Cabrera, but for now at least, Cabrera looks slimmed-down and ready to go - proof, perhaps, that a change of scenery and the prospect of working with quality veterans on a contending team was the motivation Cabrera needed to keep his appetite from swamping his prodigious talents (his career numbers remain nearly identical to Hank Aaron's at the same age). The Tigers also seem to have gambled wisely by not rushing to ink Cabrera to a gigantic long-term deal before seeing how he showed up in camp.

The Tigers' non-pitchers may be slightly overrated by EWSL for at least two structural reasons. First, Carlos Guillen's established value is based in good part on his defense at short, and it's questionable whether he can improve his offensive output enough at first to cover the switch. Second, Brandon Inge is precisely the sort of out-munching player whose Win Shares totals derive much more heavily from his playing time than from his actual productivity (yes, this is the point where someone tells me to switch to a Win Shares Above Replacement or similar metric); while Inge is more valuable than your usual supersub on account of being in his prime and only recently stripped of a starting job, he's unlikely to match 12 Win Shares unless some of the regulars fall short of their EWSL figures due to injury. More broadly, Inge is well-served if he takes advantage of Wilson's injury to re-establish himself as a catcher, as some reports have suggested he is hesitant to do; the man is past 30 and a lifetime .241/.304/.394 hitter who batted .236/.312/.376 last year, so his chances of getting another everyday job are pretty slim; but as a backup catcher who can play multiple positions, he could last another decade.

Looking at Jacque Jones in left (who at best needs a right-handed platoon partner and at worst may not make it as a regular anymore now that his power has evaporated), and the aging Gary Sheffield's health at DH (he's rehabbing from a torn labrum), it's hard to see why the Tigers would deal Marcus Thames.

But the pitching staff is where the real questions are. Verlander is the rock of this staff, and the rise in his strikeout rate last season resolves the tension in his rookie season between his talent and ERA, on the one hand, and his unimpressive peripheral stats, on the other. He should be one of the AL's elite starters as long as he remains healthy. An interesting note: Verlander threw 17 wild pitches last year and hit 19 batters, leading the league in both and belying his relatively low walk totals. Gradual refinements in his command should lead him to further improvements, although the HBP is also a reflection of his combination of tremendous velocity and a willingness to work the inside part of the plate.

Beyond Verlander, things get sticky. Bonderman is just as talented as Verlander but until he gets over his late season fades he will never be an ace. Dontrelle Willis has escaped the Marlins' woeful defense (well, except for Cabrera) that contributed to a terrible .682 DER last year, but defense alone didn't drive up Willis' rates of homers, walks and line drives allowed (his HR rate nearly tripled since 2005), nor the decline in his K rate. This season will tell us a lot about whether Willis is healthy or not - if he is, he seems a good turnaround candidate, but the markers pointing to latent arm injuries have been flashing red for a while.

Then, there's the bullpen, in 2007 a shell of the unit that was one of this team's signatures in 2006's run to the World Series, headed by the perenially embattled veteran closer Todd Jones. Rodney might be the logical successor to Jones with Zumaya out, but Rodney's had his own shoulder troubles this spring. And yes, if you are wondering, Bobby Seay really is just 30, even though he seems like a figure from the long-forgotten past for the headlines he made in 1996 when his agent, Scott Boras, found a loophole to get him out of his draft status with the White Sox, leading to a $3 million signing bonus with the the yet-to-field-a-team Devil Rays organization.

Cleveland Indians

Raw EWSL: 233.00 (78 W)
Adjusted: 249.87 (83 W)
Age-Adj.: 255.44 (85 W)
2008 W-L: 98-64

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C29Victor Martinez2422
1B27Ryan Garko#810
2B22Asdrubal Cabrera*414
SS26Jhonny Peralta2023
3B34Casey Blake1110
RF25Franklin Guitierrez#35
CF25Grady Sizemore2734
LF34David Dellucci66
DH31Travis Hafner2017
C227Kelly Shoppach#56
INF25Josh Barfield#1015
OF33Jason Michaels97
1324Andy Marte#12
SP127CC Sabathia1919
SP224Fausto Carmona#1113
SP330Jake Westbrook109
SP437Paul Byrd109
SP523Aaron Laffey*23
RP137Joe Borowski87
RP233Rafael Betancourt118
RP326Rafael Perez*510
RP434Aaron Fultz53
RP529Cliff Lee65

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Ben Francisco (who appears to be roughly the next Ben Broussard), Shin-Soo Choo (who is due back in May from Tommy John surgery), Jamey Carroll and Jason Tyner. Pitchers - A truckload of arms - Jensen Lewis, Japanese import Masahide Kobayashi (Kobayashi has a career record in Japan of 0.62 HR, 2.64 BB and 7.18 K/9 - quite good but not spectacular numbers, so he will need to avoid a big dropoff in translation to the U.S. if he wants to be effective in the U.S.), Tom Mastny, injury-prone prospect Adam "not to be confused with Andrew" Miller (who's been battling blisters this spring), Jeremy Sowers, Jorge Julio, Brendan Donnelly (another Tommy John rehab case) and, yes, Scott Elarton.

Analysis: The Indians remain a solid team and a serious postseason contender; nearly nobody in baseball did less this offseason to change their roster, the departure of Trot Nixon (last sighted in Arizona) being nearly the only significant move. They're not old, either; if everyone on the roster over age 31 collapsed completely, Betancourt is the only one they would really have a hard time replacing. And there's a fair amount of upside here, if Hafner bounces back, if Cabrera and Guitierrez can perform over a full season in line with 2007, if Sizemore takes a big step forward to claim the MVP that's clearly in his future (Sizemore's career tracks that of Duke Snider fairly closely, but he's still a year from the age at which Snider really exploded on the league.) The downside, of course, is the unlikelihood of a full reprise of 2007 by Betancourt, Perez and Carmona. I'm less certain about Aaron Laffey, whose minor league record suggests more and maybe slightly better of what we have seen in the majors: excellent control and very, very few homers.

I'm not ready to give up long term on Josh Barfield, who batted .280/.318/.423 as a 23-year-old regular in the toughest pitcher's park in baseball and batted .300/.351/.445 in his minor league career; Barfield's plate discipline skidded badly last season leading to the loss of his job, but he's still pretty young. And John Sickels has it about right on Andy Marte: he "still has a reasonable shot to develop into a useful, productive slugger . . . But his chance to be a star is gone". The Indians are fortunate to have both around; if even one of them rights the ship, they will have a real surplus to work with, most likely to replace Casey Blake or to make a trade.

Uneasy lies the head of Joe Borowski, whose position as closer is considerably more tenuous than Todd Jones; there's every indication that the Indians will be headed to a committee bullpen, and if a regular closer re-emerges from that mess it seems unlikely to be Borowksi.

Minnesota Twins

Raw EWSL: 191.00 (64 W)
Adjusted: 212.50 (71 W)
Age-Adj.: 221.73 (74 W)
Subjective Adj.: 211.73 (71 W)
2008 W-L: 83-79

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C25Joe Mauer2431
1B27Justin Morneau1920
2B27Brendan Harris*713
SS31Adam Everett97
3B32Mike Lamb98
RF22Delmon Young*925
CF22Carlos Gomez*14
LF29Michael Cuddyer1715
DH26Jason Kubel#69
C237Mike Redmond95
INF30Nick Punto86
OF31Craig Monroe87
1323Alexi Casilla*11
SP124Francisco Liriano56
SP226Boof Bonser#45
SP333Livan Hernandez118
SP426Scott Baker55
SP524Kevin Slowey*23
RP133Joe Nathan1813
RP227Pat Neshek#67
RP329Matt Guerrier76
RP429Juan Rincon55
RP531Dennys Reyes43

Subjective Adjustments: Delmon Young (-10 from 35 to 25). As we have seen repeatedly, the age adjustment goes a bit haywire on guys who put in a solid full season as 21-year-old rookies; Young might well be a 35-Win Share player someday, but if he gets to 25 this year, the Twins will be very happy. A slightly larger adjustment might even have been in order but 25 is not an unreasonable assessment of his value.

Also on Hand: Position players - Jason Pridie and Denard Span, both competing with Gomez for the CF job; neither seems to have a real impressive minor league record, although Pridie had an excellent year in 2007. Brian Buscher, a third baseman who likewise broke out with a good year between AA and AAA at age 26 last season. Pitchers - In the bullpen, Jesse Crain, who is rehabbing from shoulder surgery, and lefties Glen Perkins and Carmen Cali (with Santana's departure, either of them would join Reyes and Liriano as the only lefties on the staff); for the rotation, Nick Blackburn, Philip Humber and Kevin Mulvey (more on the latter two here).

Analysis: The Twinkies still have too much talent to be awful, although if Liriano doesn't give them 180+ quality innings and they deal Nathan, they could go down pretty badly, and of course they remain at the mercy of Joe Mauer's knees. The infield other than Morneau is a wreck (Everett can't hit, and Harris and Lamb aren't much with the glove, while Nick Punto was the worst everyday player in the game last season). They had mused about using Cuddyer in center, which is a true desperation ploy if none of the kids are ready. I can't see Gomez contributing nearly enough with the bat yet, especially after his injury, to be a useful everyday player. That said, I expect better from Bonser and Baker - the rotation has some potential - and a solid bullpen handled by Gardenhire, even if Nathan is dealt.

Chicago White Sox

Raw EWSL: 218.50 (73 W)
Adjusted: 230.33 (77 W)
Age-Adj.: 207.91 (69 W)
2008 W-L: 82-80

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C31AJ Pierzynski119
1B32Paul Konerko1916
2B28Juan Uribe1313
SS33Orlando Cabrera2118
3B30Joe Crede119
RF34Jermaine Dye1715
CF27Nick Swisher1818
LF25Carlos Quentin#55
DH37Jim Thome2012
C232Toby Hall32
INF25Josh Fields*615
OF27Jerry Owens*36
1333Pablo Ozuna32
SP129Mark Buehrle1513
SP231Javier Vazquez1512
SP336Jose Contreras109
SP423John Danks*24
SP525Gavin Floyd11
RP127Bobby Jenks1313
RP234Octavio Dotel21
RP331Scott Linebrink76
RP431Matt Thornton54
RP531Mike MacDougal32

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Danny Richar, who is part of a 3-way fight with Uribe and Ozuna for the second base job, Luis Terrero, fallen center field prospect Brian Anderson, and Cuban import Alexei Ramirez, a third baseman who is apparently working out at multiple positions. Pitchers - Boone Logan, one of the offenders from last year's ghastly pen after being rushed to the majors, the towering and talented but aimless lefthander Andy Sisco, and Lance Broadway, who far exceeded his minor league attainments with a hot streak at the big league level last fall.

Analysis: Saying goodbye to a contending team is never an easy thing to do, and so I present to you the 2008 Chicago White Sox. True, they should be better than they were last season, with a revamped bullpen, a solid 27-year-old bat in Nick Swisher and a better glove at short. And true, if the division leaders stumble these guys could back their way into a postseason berth with 86 wins or something, but this is a team whose best players are on the downside of their careers, and the injection of Swisher (out of position in center), Josh Fields (who is probably going to take over Crede's job again as soon as the Sox can deal Crede) and Quentin (looking to recover from a horrible 2007) isn't enough to turn that around. Realistically, they probably end up 2 games over .500 in July looking to deal Thome, Dye and Konerko and go back to the drawing board. It's a pity for them that the Mets are too tapped out to pursue any of those guys. If they try to squeeze one more run out of this roster, they are probably headed the way of the Orioles of the past decade or so.

Linebrink, by the way, was a guy I had wished the Mets could get, but over the past four seasons his HR/BB/K per 9 have gone from 0.86--2.79--8.89 to 0.49--2.81--8.55 to 1.07--2.62--8.09 to 1.54--3.20--6.40. Those are not encouraging trends.

Kansas City Royals

Raw EWSL: 159.00 (53 W)
Adjusted: 181.97 (61 W)
Age-Adj.: 182.53 (61 W)
2008 W-L: 74-88

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C27John Buck88
1B32Ross Gload54
2B38Mark Grudzielanek1310
SS27Tony F. Pena*611
3B24Alex Gordon*615
RF32Jose Guillen1311
CF28David DeJesus1515
LF26Mark Teahen1517
DH22Billy Butler*414
C229Miguel Olivo98
INF28Ryan Shealy#33
OF27Joey Gathright66
1330Esteban German87
SP129Gil Meche108
SP227Brian Bannister#78
SP324Zack Grienke55
SP427Jorge De La Rosa32
SP535Brett Tomko42
RP124Joakim Soria*712
RP232Joel Peralta54
RP326Jimmy Gobble44
RP424Leo Nunez22
RP537Ron Mahay54

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Alberto Callaspo, former Rookie of the Year Angel Berroa (who appears to have no chance to return to the big leagues at this stage but the Royals still owe him money), Shane Costa and Justin Huber. Pitchers - 35-year-old Japanese import Yasuhiko Yabuta's career numbers in Japan are less impressive than Kobayashi's - 1.1 HR, 3.28 BB, and 5.99 K/9, but that includes early years as a starter; he's been an effective setup man the past four years, for which period those numbers are 0.68, 2.98 and 7.83. Also on hand are Kyle Davies, working to reclaim a spot in the rotation after two consecutive horrible years (and his rookie year wasn't that great either), and hot starting prospect Luke Hochevar, as well as relievers Brandon Duckworth, John Bale, Roman Colon (obtained from the Tigers) and Ryan Braun (The One Who Pitches).

Analysis: If the White Sox are facing a long, slow decline, the Royals face the opposite, a painfully slow climb up from the depths after a season in which they avoided 100 losses for the first time since 2003 and won 69 games, only the second time they have notched that many wins since 2000. KC has had a winning record just once since 1993 and hasn't won 85 games in a season since 1989.

Looking at the current roster, there are, yes, pockets of hope - Gordon and Butler should contribute a lot more this season, Greinke (who posted a 2.42 ERA in the second half) might finally get back to where he was going as a starter, Shealy should put a nightmarish 2007 behind him. But hope requires not looking too closely at the holes. The rotation is thin on accomplishments and long on failures. Buck had what looked like a career year last year with an early season power surge, and he still batted .222. Pena is never going to hit, and there's no future in Guillen and Grudzielanek. DeJesus is solid but he is what he is; he's not going to get better. Aside from Greinke, probably the key guy if you expect this team to take major strides forward is Teahen, as he tries to replicate the magic of the second half of 2006.

One of the underreported stories of 2007 is how well Kansas City's bullpen pitched, after years of having no relief at all. Look it up if you don't believe me - 6 relievers with ERAs 20% or more below the league. That can be hard to replicate, especially with David Riske gone and Greinke back in the rotation, but the personnel who remain should keep that a strength. I've always liked Ron Mahay, who has had a strange but often productive career. Gobble is another guy who is younger than he seems, having flamed out as a touted young starter in 2003-04.

Check out prior years' AL Central reports for 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:06 PM | Baseball 2008 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
March 11, 2008
WAR: True Chuck Norris Fact

This story about Chuck Norris' cult following among U.S. troops in Iraq is pretty amusing, but he is apparently popular with the locals as well:

Norris' appeal is not restricted to U.S. troops either. At an Iraqi police graduation ceremony in Fallujah, graduates called out for their "Chuck Norris" to pose with them for photos.

"Truthfully, I didn't know who he was. I asked the Americans, and they said he was a great fighter, and that's why they named me after him. They showed me a video, and it's true, he's a great fighter" said police trainer Mohammed Rasheed.

With his handle-bar moustache, Rasheed has a vague resemblance to Norris.

Another police trainer said Chuck Norris was a role model for the police in Fallujah, which until 2007 was an al-Qaida stronghold and the scene of fierce battles with security forces.

"I've seen his videos, he's a hero. He saves the city, he protects women and children and he fights crime wherever it is. We should all be like Chuck Norris," Khaled Hussein said.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:04 PM | Pop Culture • | War 2007-12 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
March 10, 2008
POLITICS: Dude

After about the third time watching it, I realized this is just too slick not to link to:

H/T

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:58 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: News To Me

Brad Komminsk, once the poster boy for minor league sluggers who couldn't make the leap to the majors, is working as a AA manager in Baltimore's system.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:21 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Spitzer Nailed

I picked a bad week to stop sniffing glue.

UPDATE: Really the wrong week.

SECOND UPDATE: File this under "counting one's chickens before they are hatched."

THIRD UPDATE: Public Official A, meet Client-9. Deval Patrick's just happy to have his guy out of the headlines.

I wish I had thought to call this "Spitzmas."

Background on Spitzer's Lieutenant Gov.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:26 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (16) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: It's That Time of Year

Over the last several weeks I've been dividing my blogging time largely between writing about the presidential election and crunching numbers and getting up to speed behind the scenes to prepare for my annual division previews. Now, with the season starting in earnest March 31 (leaving aside the March 25 Japanese opener between the Red Sox and the A's) and 6 divisions to cover, ideally before that date, I really need to put my back into getting my preseason division previews in shape. As a result, expect the site to go to a more sporadic publication schedule as I roll out the divisional previews. I may not go completely dark on politics - there's just so much material out there - but just about anything worth saying today about the elections will be equally worth saying in April.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:02 PM | Blog 2006-13 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
March 8, 2008
BASEBALL: EWSL Rookie Adjustments, 2004-07

Last brief installment of my wrapup on Established Win Shares Levels (EWSL, explained here), this time the rookies. Rookies - players with no significant major league track record - present a unique challenge for what is intended as a system for objectively evaluating players' major league track records. As I've noted before, EWSL uses a standard arbitrary figure for all rookies. As with last season I intend to use, but sparingly, a subjective adjustment for some players, including for the occasional rookie (usually imports from Japan) in the absence of a way to apply the EWSL method to some sort of Major League Equivalency Win Shares (I don't believe they exist anywhere). Of course, the one subjective element already built into EWSL is my evaluation each spring of who looks like they have a job nailed down.

Anyway, part of the quest to make EWSL more empirical and less guesswork is that the adjustments - both the age adjustment and the rookie adjustment - get tweaked every year based on the accumulated data I have from, now, four years' worth of results. Let's look at the 2007 and cumulative results:

Type of Player# in 2007WS in 2007# 2004-07WS 2004-07Rate
Everyday Players91194248111.45
Bench Players (Under 30)1562401553.88
Bench Players (Age 30+)00221.00
Rotation Starters51914614.36
Relief Pitchers0011655.91
TOTAL292001097647.01

After 2004, I had split off the rookie bench players by age because guys who break in as bench players in their 30s generally lack upside (the same isn't true of starters, since rookie everyday players age 30 and up tend to be Japanese imports). Of course, 2007 had no rookie relievers or older rookie bench players on anyone's preseason 23-man roster anyway.

You can see that the rookie everyday players had a fine year in 2007, dragging up the average, while the starting pitchers had a bad one (and would have been a total loss without Matsuzaka).

I'll be using these figures, rounded off for this year's adjustments, but it makes sense to split the difference for the everyday players - so, 11.5 for everyday players, 4 and 1 for bench players under and over 30, 4 for starting pitchers, 6 for relievers.

Now, we'll be ready in another few days to launch the team previews.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:12 PM | Baseball 2008 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
March 7, 2008
POLITICS: McCain 5, Elisabeth Bumiller 0

We've had a bunch of people weigh in on this around the blogosphere, and I don't have much to add except to say that if you actually watch the video of Senator McCain's exchange with NY Times reporter Elisabeth Bumiller it's pretty clear that McCain is doing exactly what he should be doing when confronted with a "gotcha" question about an old story on which there are no new facts and the reporter is just trying to pick a fight:

The Times and Ms. Bumiller are not on John McCain's side, and there's every indication by this point that he is well aware of that fact, and is now dealing with them accordingly. (Unlike the Obama camp, McCain is no stranger to the national spotlight - he was quoted on the front page of the Times as far back as 1967). Not to point out the obvious, but John McCain has been tested by strains far worse than Ms. Bumiller's questioning here. Sure, it's well-known that the man has a temper. Many successful presidents have. But there's a time and a place for getting your Irish up - righteous indignation is no sin - and this seems like one of them. I can't even imagine a single voter who would watch this video and be somehow distressed by the man's judgment.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:33 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Where Did That Come From?

I really miss referrers.net and its code that used to run on this site giving me an instant look, not just for the front page but every page on the blog, at how many visitors were entering a particular page from a particular site. Among other things it was a much more reliable guide than anything else I have both to who was linking to me and how many eyeballs they were sending my way.

Today, this post from nearly 8 years ago has drawn, estimating from SiteMeter, hundreds of people to this site. And I have no idea from where. I'd be willing to pay to get a service like that back, as I was paying before; but it just does not seem to exist, or if it does I can't find it.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:39 PM | Blog 2006-13 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Walking The Plank From The Good Ship Obama

Well, that didn't take long - Obama senior foreign policy advisor Samantha Power has resigned after making front-page news by calling Hillary Clinton a "monster". But not before she appears to have repeated Obama economic advisor Austin Goolsbee's shtick of helpfully explaining to a foreign audience that Obama doesn't actually mean to follow through on what he says on the campaign trail, thus confirming Megan McArdle's observation that Obama's advisers have a tendency to "spend far too much time saying 'Don't listen to him--listen to us!.'" Consider Power's remarks to the BBC:

She was challenged on Obama's Iraq plan, as it appears on his website, which says that Obama "will remove one to two combat brigades each month, and have all of our combat brigades out of Iraq within 16 months."

"What he's actually said, after meting with the generals and meeting with intelligence professionals, is that you - at best case scenario - will be able to withdraw one to two combat brigades each month. That's what they're telling him. He will revisit it when he becomes president," Power says.

The host, Stephen Sackur, challenged her: "So what the American public thinks is a commitment to get combat forces out in 16 months isn't a commitment isn't it?"

"You can't make a commitment in March 2008 about what circumstances will be like in January of 2009," she said. "He will, of course, not rely on some plan that he's crafted as a presidential candidate or a U.S. Senator. He will rely upon a plan - an operational plan - that he pulls together in consultation with people who are on the ground to whom he doesn't have daily access now, as a result of not being the president. So to think - it would be the height of ideology to sort of say, 'Well, I said it, therefore I'm going to impose it on whatever reality greets me.'"

"It's a best-case scenario," she said again.

H/T. To refresh your recollection, Obama's "responsible, yet effective" plan (he was so impressed at the time that a plan could be both!) would have committed the nation to "phased redeployment of U.S. troops out of Iraq not later than May 1, 2007, with the goal that all combat brigades redeploy from Iraq by March 31, 2008." In other words, even with the war underway Obama wanted at the time to head in the exact opposite direction from the advice the military brass, led by Gen. Petraeus, was actually giving, to implement a stepped-up counterinsurgency strategy including a troop "surge". Now that the surge has proven to be a successful strategy, Obama's still running on his opposition to it, while his adviser was out there telling an international audience that yes, in office he would actually consider doing something different if he got military advice (technically, Obama is a member of the U.S. Senate, but I suppose they don't forward his mail on this whole war business to the campaign trail).

No wonder he fired her. Can't let the cat out of the bag while there are still anti-war activists to separate from their wallets.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:10 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Power and Paranoia

Some of you may be getting your first exposure to Obama senior foreign policy adviser Samantha Power through her her foolish and intemperate insults to Ohio and Hillary Clinton on an overseas book tour:

Earlier, clearly rattled by the Ohio defeat, Ms Power told The Scotsman Mrs Clinton was stopping at nothing to try to seize the lead from her candidate.

"We f***** up in Ohio," she admitted. "In Ohio, they are obsessed and Hillary is going to town on it, because she knows Ohio's the only place they can win.

"She is a monster, too - that is off the record - she is stooping to anything," Ms Power said, hastily trying to withdraw her remark.

Ms Power said of the Clinton campaign: "Here, it looks like desperation. I hope it looks like desperation there, too."

MsPower.JPGOf course, you would think that foreign policy people are supposed to know better than to let their guard down when traveling, but at any rate, if you want to catch up on Ms. Power's background, Paul Mirengoff at Powerline has been on the case for months. Mirengoff has laid out his case that Power - to an even greater extent than some of Obama's other key advisers - is anti-Israel and buys into the Walt-Mearsheimer line that U.S. policy in general, and Iraq policy in particular, is under the nefarious influence of "special interests," mainly the Israel lobby, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. Key quote from Power:

Another longstanding foreign policy flaw is the degree to which special interests dictate the way in which the "national interest" as a whole is defined and pursued. Look at the degree to which Halliburton and several of the private security and contracting firms invested in the 2004 political campaigns and received very lucrative contracts in the aftermath of the U.S. takeover of Iraq. Also, America's important historic relationship with Israel has often led foreign policy decision-makers to defer reflexively to Israeli security assessments, and to replicate Israeli tactics, which, as the war in Lebanon last summer demonstrated, can turn out to be counter-productive.

So greater regard for international institutions along with less automatic deference to special interests - especially when it comes to matters of life and death and war and peace - seem to be two take-aways from the war in Iraq.

Of course, this sort of paranoia should not surprise observers of Obama, given where Obama himself, in his celebrated 2002 war speech, placed the blame for the decision to go to war:

What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other arm-chair, weekend warriors in this Administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne.

What I am opposed to is the attempt by political hacks like Karl Rove to distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in the median income - to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone through the worst month since the Great Depression.

That's what I'm opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics.

Gee, why specifically Perle and Wolfowitz, and not, say, Cheney and Rumsfeld? I think I know, and I think you do too. Obama knew his audience that day. But in fairness to Obama, he did argue that the Iraq War wasn't just a conspiracy of Jews, but also a political plot by Karl Rove to distract us from the Great Depression of 2002. That's a theme Obama has echoed elsewhere, albeit cannily shifting the blame for this sort of rhetoric to his constituents:

"Blacks are not willing to feel obliged to support the president's agenda," explains Illinois state Sen. Barack Obama. "They are much more likely to feel that (Bush) is engaging in disruptive policies at home and using the war as a means of shielding himself from criticism on his domestic agenda."

But never fear. Barack Obama isn't divisive; just ask him. Barack Obama doesn't demonize his opponents; just ask him. Barack Obama doesn't feed resentment and paranoia; just ask him. But don't listen too closely to him or his advisers.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:07 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Who Ya Gonna Call?

As Michael Kinsley once said, a gaffe is when a politician accidentally tells the truth. Witness this totally unsurprising (except for the source) admission by one of Barack Obama's foreign policy advisers, responding to Walter Mondale's Hillary Clinton's now famous "3 a.m." ad asking which candidate you want answering the White House phone at 3 a.m. to deal with a national security crisis:

"[Hillary] Clinton hasn't had to answer the phone at three o'clock in the morning and yet she attacked Barack Obama for not being ready," Ms. Rice said. "They're both not ready to have that 3 a.m. phone call."

True enough. But then, they're not the only ones running for President, are they? (See, the silly mistakes you make when you get primary-season tunnel vision). Even the lefty bloggers can pick up on the obvious (this from a conference call with the Hillary camp):

Blogger Jane Hamsher gets on and asks whether the 3 a.m. ad is reinforcing a Republican message - "isn't McCain ultimately the winner in that tactic"?

Yeah, sorry Jane, I know it's terribly unfair for anyone to consider national security when they vote for the presidency. It's like Swift-boating! Rice's admission came as part of the Obama camp's effort to push back at Hillary on the grounds that she, like Obama, lacks John McCain's qualifications for the job:

"It's important to examine that claim and not just allow her to assert it, which I think has been going on for quite some time," Mr. Obama said. "What exactly is this foreign experience that she's claiming? I know she talks about visiting 80 countries. It is not clear, was she negotiating treaties or agreements, or was she handling crises during this period of time? My sense is the answer's no. I have not seen any evidence that she is better equipped to handle a crisis. If the only criteria is longevity in Washington, than she's certainly not going to compete with John McCain on that."

McCain, of course, has been on the Senate Armed Services Committee for 21 years - longer than Obama has been out of law school. And before that, a quarter century in the U.S. Navy.

Hillary feels the same way about the contrast between McCain and Obama:

"I think that since we now know Sen. (John) McCain will be the nominee for the Republican Party, national security will be front and center in this election. . . it's imperative that each of us be able to demonstrate we can cross the commander-in-chief threshold," . . .

"I believe that I've done that. Certainly, Sen. McCain has done that and you'll have to ask Sen. Obama with respect to his candidacy," she said.

Calling McCain, the presumptive GOP nominee a good friend and a 'distinguished man with a great history of service to our country," Clinton said, "Both of us will be on that stage having crossed that threshold. That is a critical criterion for the next Democratic nominee to deal with." . . .

She said she and McCain had traveled to Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan together as she repeated a line that surfaced from the campaign trail. She and McCain "bring a lifetime of experience to the campaign, Clinton said, while "Sen. Obama will bring a speech he gave in 2002," stating his opposition to the Iraq war as an Illinois state senator.

thehemofhisgarment.jpgIn Obama's case, he is lashing out now because he thinks he got thumped in Ohio and lost in Texas, leading to howls of despair at his party's lack of an exit strategy from the primaries and speculation about the party's descent into a spiral of self-destructive attacks, all because Hillary did a better job of whining to reporters than he did:

"There's no doubt that Senator Clinton went very negative over the last week," Obama said. He said the Clinton campaign's multiple attacks "had some impact" on the election results "particularly in the context where many of you in the press corps had been persuaded that you had been too hard on her and too soft on me."

"Complaining about the refs apparently worked a little bit this week," he said, equating members of the news media with referees in a sporting event.

"So hopefully in addition to my call to Lorne Michaels, hopefully now people feel like everything's evened out and we can start actually covering the campaign properly," he said.

Obama spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the reference to Michaels, producer of the television comedy show "Saturday Night Live," was a joke.

Don't worry, Obama can't handle Lorne Michaels but he's quite sure he can handle Vladimir Putin, Hugo Chavez and Mahmoud Ahmadenijad.

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:54 AM | Politics 2008 • | War 2007-12 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
March 6, 2008
BASEBALL: Limping To The Starting Line

A lot of the rash of Mets' spring injuries don't concern me - stiffness and tightness and the like is par for the course for early spring. Ryan Church's concussion should be fine long before it matters. And while Ruben Gotay's busted ankle is too bad, the Mets have four other options at second (Castillo, Valentin, Easley and Anderson Hernandez) and were probably going to have some time-sharing there anyway, mainly between Castillo and Valentin.

But the injury to Moises Alou (hernia) combined with the recurrence of Carlos Delgado's hip troubles is a real problem. It raises again the issue of the Mets' outfield depth and their possible dependence on filling the corners with slap hitters like Endy Chavez, Brady Clark, and Angel Pagan. (By the way, I somehow goofed in composing that last post when I checked to see if Clark was right or lefthanded; Clark's a righty, which makes his presence in camp much more sensible to provide some balance off the bench. But playing him regularly for any stretch is a bad idea). Granted, Alou always misses a lot of time, and he's 41, so this can't be a big shock. But if the Mets don't get some real power production from him and Delgado they will have real problems scoring runs even with the Big 3 of Wright, Beltran and Reyes.

The good news is that 1B/corner outfield slots are the easiest to fill off the scrap heap, but if it comes to that, it will take some real effort for Omar Minaya to come up with people who can hit for a cheap price. The names being thrown around by the News aren't great:

The Mets had targeted Tigers outfielder Marcus Thames over the winter, but the price of acquiring the former Yankee would likely rise in light of Alou's situation. Scouts identified the Cubs' Matt Murton, Pittsburgh's Xavier Nady, San Diego's Scott Hairston, Oakland's Emil Brown and Texas' Nelson Cruz as righty-hitting outfielders who could be available.

Thames has great power (35 doubles, 42 HR in 617 AB the past two years), but doesn't do a lot else and batted just .209/.249/.456 against righthanded pitching last season. So I'd take him, but in a happier world you would use him as a platoon guy. One consideration should be trying to find someone who can play both first and the OF, if possible; Thames has played first, but I don't know how well.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:14 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Great Moments In Manual Writing

Actual sentence from troubleshooting section of iPod player manual, suggesting possible cause of problems: "There has case by switching between standard and extended most, iPod backlight is out of control."

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:10 PM | Blog 2006-13 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Love and Marriage

This may seem odd to the single men out there, but it will come as no surprise whatsoever to anyone who has been married for any appreciable amount of time.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:21 PM | Blog 2006-13 | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
March 5, 2008
BASEBALL: Eye of the Needle

Bill James (subscription required) points out a typical Jamesian observation, typical in that it's obvious yet something I had not really focused on: that the Hall of Fame's standards will inevitably rise over time because expansion has created a larger pool of players who rack up the kind of accomplishments the Hall traditionally rewards, yet the writers are not responding by electing a larger number of Hall of Famers per year:

In order to carry the same standard forward, the Hall of Fame would have to start inducting twice as many people, or it's not going to get around to Damon and Bernie. My opinion is that there will not be sufficient pressure to open the doors wider, because

1) Most of the public doesn't really understand what the historic standard has been, and

2) Those people who do understand it by and large don't like it.

Absent a massive adjustment by the selection process, which I don't think will happen, there is going to be a very significant shift in the standards for selection to the Hall of Fame.

Anyway, if you are a subscriber the whole thing is worth reading, including his evaluations of a preposterously comprehensive list of individual candidates now playing (among other things, I think he's way optimistic to give a 25% chance to Garrett Anderson and a 70% chance to Carlos Beltran).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:33 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Geldof on Bush

You really should read Bob Geldof's first-person account of traveling Africa with President Bush. It's a fine and unpretentious first-person account from a guy who clearly likes Bush and thinks he's gotten a raw deal for all he has done for Africa, but who also disagrees with basically the entire rest of Bush's foreign policy.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:20 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Patty Hearst is Back

And her little dog, too.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:14 PM | Blog 2006-13 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Cooler Than Cool

Matt Cerrone gets Johan Santana to teach him how to throw a circle change-up:

[T]he way he does it, the seams rotate in the same direction as his fastball, deceiving the batters even more, because, as he put, "These hitters are not stupid."...the funny thing is, i think that grip is fairly standard...it's just, he is so disciplined in his delivery, that when coupled with the consistent rotation, it's just impossible to pick up which pitch he is throwing because initially they all look exactly the same...

"This is why I focus so much on my release point, because that's what makes my change-up better," he explained to me. "I want to make sure all of my pitches look the same, and so I get the same release point and same arm speed every pitch. And that takes time. That's what I work on. Not just the grip, but everything from head to toe so that everything can look the same. We worked on all of that until we got it right. That's how I approach my games, my batting practices, my bullpen sessions. I am very serious when I throw my bullpen. I'm not just throwing. I want to make sure that everything is in place, from location to mechanics to delivery to release point. Everything. It's not just the grip. There are a lot of things involved in throwing a change-up."

...in fact, the reason he likes the pitch so much is because it does not involve any twisting of his elbow, saying, "It does not put any pressure on the elbow, and it keeps it loose."

Read the whole thing. OK, everything else I have done in my blogging career now feels small.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:05 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Straws of Spring

Like the swallows returning to San Juan Capistrano, there is no more reliable sign that spring training is upon us than the appearance of the new, mature Darryl Strawberry.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:02 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
March 4, 2008
POLITICS: They Only Know One Tune

The Obama camp throws out the same racially-tinged Election-Day charges against Hillary that the Democrats traditionally use against Republicans:

Our campaign's goal today is to ensure that any registered voter in the state of Ohio can go to the polls and cast their ballot for their candidate of choice without interference. We understand that the Clinton campaign may want to depress turnout because Barack Obama has closed a 20-point gap over the course of this month as voters across the state got to know him.

It has been the hallmark of the Democratic party to educate and protect the rights of voters. If the Clinton campaign disagrees with that principle, they should say so today.

We have received reports from around the state of independents and Republicans who chose to vote in the Democratic primary receiving issue only or Republican ballots instead of the Democratic ballot they were entitled to. We have also had reports that the voter ID requirements have been misstated at various locations, causing some voters to be turned away.

We will take action when necessary to ensure that all eligible voters are able to cast their votes and to have their votes counted.

We will continue to monitor the polls to ensure that all Ohioans who choose to participate in today's election are able to do so regardless of who they choose to vote for.

Of course, there are less-than-respectable reasons why Democrats traditionally fume about things like voter-ID requirements on Election Day. But either way, the important thing is that the "vote suppression" charge is being leveled in an election where Republicans aren't even involved.

UPDATE: Texas too!

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:45 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: 30-30 Vision

Rotogod has a roundup, for those of you prepping fantasy drafts, of the top 30-30 candidates. As a roto veteran since 1994, I'd agree that you are, in theory, better off with complete players if you can afford them (in 1998 I had A-Rod when he went 40-40 with over 200 hits as an everyday SS - possibly the greatest Roto season ever). I'm not sure I agree with the rankings, as they seem to overrate the base-thieving of veterans like A-Rod, Sheffield and Beltran, underrate Chris Young, and include relatively few surprises, but it's a worthwhile list.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:28 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Hoisting, Petards, And Regulatory Loopholes

One thing I have little patience for, but which we will undoubtedly be treated to at length if we get a McCain-Obama matchup - since both have made this a key theme of their legislative careers - is sanctimony and proposals for regulation about campaign speech, campaign contributions, etc. But every time we get efforts to regulate these sorts of things, even by private agreements, we see that the very people doing the regulating want loopholes for themselves, raising a point I have made in the past:

Back in the 90s, both Newt Gingrich and Al Gore (and they weren't the only ones, witness Tom DeLay's legal difficulties) got in trouble for rather technical campaign finance violations. In both cases their supporters argued that (1) such technical violations couldn't possibly be grounds for prosecuting such important elected officials, (2) they could not have known they were breaking the rule, there was no controlling legal authority, and (3) those laws hadn't been enforced in that way in the past (in Gore's case an 1886 statute nobody'd ever been prosecuted under). Regardless of the merits of the two cases, it seemed to me then and still does that if the laws are vague or technical enough, or the penalties disproportionate enough, that you would blanch at throwing an important person you support in the slammer for breaking them, then they have no business on the books.

Exhibits A&B: McCain's battle with the FEC over whether he is taking federal matching funds, and Obama's corresponding efforts to use the filibuster to prevent the seating of a Republican FEC Commissioner.

Exhibit C: Obama's efforts to weasel out of an agreement he made with McCain on spending caps.

Exhibit D: Obama getting his church into hot water with the IRS by giving a campaign speech from the pulpit, violating a rule originally passed by LBJ to silence his critics.

Exhibit E: Eliot Spitzer trumpeting his self-imposed limits on donations - then directing his big-dollar donors (I love that the wealthy donor named in this story is "Richard Richman," could you make that up?) to the state party...whose funds are under Spitzer's control.

As long as there is politics in money, there will be money in politics. Stop insulting our intelligence, let the money flow, let the politicians - and everyone else - speak where they want, and just disclose your donors and let the voters decide.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:43 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
March 3, 2008
POLITICS: Gods Don't Answer Press Conferences, Either

8 questions and a snit. Compared to 36 and an offer to answer more by McCain. Don't the media understand? He's not supposed to have to answer questions!

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:24 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (33) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Age and EWSL, 2004-07

I'm almost done with the retrospective on Established Win Shares Levels (EWSL, explained here), before I kick into the preseason previews, and in so doing, I'm looking again at the age adjustments. (I've looked at these previously here, here after 2004, and here after 2005, and here after 2006).

The great thing about doing something like EWSL as an ongoing project is that the data becomes progressively more stable over time: I now have four years of results to work from in evaluating how players tend to perform at each age relative to their adjusted Established Win Shares Levels, and thus can have progressively more confidence in the age adjustments I use going forward. For example, the more years of data I have, the less influenced it will be by a single generation of exceptional players born in a particular year.

Let's start with the 4-year results for the non-pitchers:

Non-Pitchers 2004-07:

Age#WSEWSL%
21-43334.0000.878
2220332161.8702.051
2335502362.5031.385
2460776611.3061.269
2588977768.4001.271
2611813001135.6701.145
2712414391388.8331.036
2813716921630.5321.038
2913115321671.4700.917
3014615921847.1690.862
3112813781634.0360.843
3210911101316.8330.843
339510231178.7730.868
3478790884.3330.893
3584631920.6700.685
3652462627.8330.736
3741318507.3260.627
3826231315.4960.732
3924260324.8330.800
40+24192334.6600.574

As I have noted in previous reviews, the rapid rise of young players and their gradual fall from age 29 on is a powerful pattern in the data, and one that grows smoother with each year's additional data - on average, players lose more than 10% of their established value each year from age 30-34, and more than 25% each year from 35-38, and nearly half every year from 40 on - and that's just the people who hang onto their jobs. After age 32, the number of players holding jobs at all entering a season really starts to drop off. As I've explained before, the nature of any established performance level will exaggerate the upward and downward trajectory of player aging, since a 25-year-old is still being partly compared to his 22-year-old self, while a 35-year-old is still being partly compared to his 32-year-old self - but the pattern as a whole is still unmistakable.

Here's this year's data on its own:

Non-Pitchers (2007):

Age#WSEWSL%
21-000
2257045.671.533
2311147115.171.276
2417286223.771.278
2524269203.501.322
2625235200.901.170
2735411424.870.967
2823276280.630.983
2928311331.100.939
3034263402.330.654
3144520620.000.839
3220208249.600.833
3326315360.670.873
341181111.330.728
3524220327.500.672
361183122.500.678
371179116.830.676
3843041.670.720
39885102.330.831
40+872111.830.644

Rob McMillin notes a "Lake Woebegone effect" in this year's data, in that EWSL underestimated a lot of teams' performances overall - that's a bit of a misunderstanding of the team data, as actually more teams' 23-man rosters under-performed than over-performed, the difference being made up by guys who were not in my EWSL calculations before the season. But there's a larger point here: in fact, 2007 seems to have been an unusually tough year for non-pitchers trying to match their established performance levels. You can speculate why by looking at the age distributions or the possibility that players were being weaned off performance enhancing drugs, but the effect is there in the data - while small sample sizes and the other issues with very young players may be the culprits for less dramatic improvements by the age 22-23 crowd, the declines began at age 27 this season rather than the traditional 29, and the 30-year-olds in particular had a horrendous year, with large declines in particular by Ben Broussard, Travis Hafner, Lyle Overbay, Robb Quinlan, Craig Wilson, Michael Barrett, AJ Pierzynski, Jay Gibbons, Reed Johnson, Andruw Jones, Craig Monroe, and Adam Everett all playing a role. The 34-year-olds also had a rough year, headed by Jay Payton, Cliff Floyd, Brady Clark, Vance Wilson, and Chris Coste, but this looks more like a small-sample-size issue than anything.

Now, the pitchers:

Pitchers (2004-07):

Age#WSEWSL%
21-85638.0001.474
2220155131.6001.178
2337269273.7600.983
2458343361.3700.949
2585602535.4001.124
26104717652.2001.099
27102705719.5600.980
28123870844.3001.030
29107655776.3060.844
3098591679.4000.870
3184534661.4700.807
3269401563.4600.712
3357304422.3000.720
3450248354.6320.699
3538171275.1660.621
3630169186.1700.908
3725192213.3290.900
3828189237.9960.794
3919141162.3330.869
40+42330420.3360.785

In general, the rule still holds that the pitchers as a group start to fall off earlier than the hitters. The age 21 and under cohort continues to be dominated by the career of Felix Hernandez, so it's not terribly predictive - of course, guys who open a season in a rotation at that age tend to be pretty much unique anyway. By contrast, you can see if you follow these things from year to year that the performance of the over-40 crowd has been declining for a couple of years, mainly because it's the same handful of guys who have pitched well into their 40s now and are reaching the end of the line. That will continue in 2008, as there were no 39-year-old pitchers in the sample in 2007. In general, you can see that there are a lot of young (age 23-26 in 2007) pitchers in the game today, with a huge dropoff between 31 and 33. As a whole the results for the late 30s are still influenced by a small sample size. The 2007 data:

Pitchers (2007):

Age#WSEWSL%
21-1148.001.750
2232726.601.015
231492101.530.906
241877104.500.737
2528160158.601.009
2628243188.401.290
2715113102.001.108
2831253247.501.022
2928156199.770.781
3029168181.000.928
3121118154.300.765
3214109137.830.791
3382939.000.744
34114381.670.527
3595380.830.656
3674638.501.195
3754559.670.754
3862833.000.848
39000
40+1698151.000.649

The 23 and 24 year olds had a bad year as a group, the kind of bad year you would not see for a group of hitters that age. Among the 23 year olds, the Marlins were almost wholly responsible (Josh Johnson, Scott Olsen, Anibal Sanchez). Zach Duke and Ervin Santana were the worst offenders in the age 24 group, with the rest being mainly low-level pitchers zeroing out. The 34 year olds had a horrible year for the same reason 34 year old pitchers usually do - Bartolo Colon, Jason Schmidt, Armando Benitez. The 36 year olds had a big year just due to a small sample size - Al Reyes, Paul Byrd and Miguel Batista were the big movers.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:25 PM | Baseball 2008 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Made, Not Born

More from the Obamafiles: Pejman rounds up reports on Barack Obama's legislative career, notably how Illinois legislative leaders decided to make him a somebody.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:44 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)