Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
March 25, 2010
BASEBALL: 2010 AL East EWSL Report
Part 2 of my preseason previews is the AL East; this is the second of six division previews, using Established Win Shares Levels as a jumping-off point. Notes and reference links on the EWSL method are below the fold; while EWSL is a simple enough method that will be familiar to long-time readers, it takes a little introductory explaining, so I'd suggest you check out the explanations first if you're new to these previews. I've also resurrected for this season the team ages, which are weighted by non-age-adjusted EWSL, so the best players count more towards determining the age of the roster.
Prior preview: the AL West.
Some players are rated based on less than three seasons or given a rookie rating. Key:
Boston Red Sox
Raw EWSL: 296.33 (112 W)
Subjective Adjustments: None, but bear in mind that EWSL is valuing Lowell, Varitek and Hermida based on being everyday players in 2009, Lowrie in light of extensive playing time in 2008. That's not irrational - teams with that kind of depth often end up needing it, especially Hermida when you consider the injury histories of Drew and Cameron. But in the end, there won't be at bats enough for all of them.
Also on Hand: Position players - Bill Hall (another recently deposed regular!), Josh Reddick, Tug Hulett.
Pitchers - Manny Delcarmen, Joe Nelson, Boof Bonser, Kason Gabbard, Dustin Richardson, Brian Shouse, Fabio Castro, Michael Bowden.
Analysis: This Red Sox team doesn't look offensively strong enough to me to be a real 100-win team, but they and the Yankees are doubtless the strongest teams in the game by a healthy margin, in Boston's case due to their depth, pitching and defense. The rotation has some question marks, especially Matsuzaka and the durability of Lackey, but as with the rest of the roster there are fallbacks. Maybe the biggest vulnerable keystone is Mike Cameron, the oldest guy in the starting lineup and a key to improving Boston's outfield defense; a Drew-Ellsbury-Hermida outfield is not nearly as solid afield.
EWSL recognizes that Lester is really the star of the pitching staff now, and without the tougher road of pitching in Fenway in the AL East, he might be right there with Lincecum, Greinke, King Felix, Santana and maybe Halladay and Sabathia as the game's very best pitchers; as it is, he's at least in the next tier with Verlander, Lee, Wainwright, Haren and Carpenter. But of course Beckett remains the big-game ace.
I remain...I think the proper word is incredulous, rather than skeptical, at Scutaro as a major league everyday shortstop at age 34, but he's built up to this gradually, he's a solid enough bat and defensively the Sawx have Beltre and Pedroia to help cover his sides.
The Defending World Champion Hated Yankees
Raw EWSL: 283.67 (108 W)
Subjective Adjustments: None. Winn has the same issue as some of the Red Sox bench, but he's sharing time with Gardner, and while 20 Win Shares seems optimistic for the pair, it's not crazy. Also, the Yankees will need bench depth (both Winn and Marcus Thames) with Nick Johnson in the starting lineup.
Also on Hand: Position players - Mike Rivera, Kevin Russo, Jamie Hoffman.
Pitchers - Jonathan Albaladejo, Chan Ho Park, Sergio Mitre, Kei Igawa, Boone Logan, Royce Ring. Chad Gaudin was released this morning.
Analysis: At every turn, the Yankees have a stronger offense and more impressive-looking frontline talent than the Sox, but they're also older (except in center field) and subject to more uncertainties.
Hughes was named the fifth starter today, sending Joba back to the bullpen. Your guess is as good as mine how long either of those assignments will last, although at some point the Yankees need to make a long-term commitment what they're doing with those two guys. I think the die has been cast now to try Hughes as far as he will go as a rotation starter, but Joba is more enigmatic. He may even need a change of scenery.
A-Rod's streak of consecutive 100-Run/100-RBI seasons ended last year at 11, second only to Lou Gehrig's 13. In 14 major league seasons, he's either driven in 100 runs, scored 100 runs, or (12 times) both, every year.
The re-signing of Joe Mauer in Minnesota, the aging and injuries to A-Rod, and the continuing uncertainty around Joba means that there remains no heir apparent to Rivera, Jeter or Posada. When those guys go, this may be a more different team than anyone now envisions.
Tampa Bay Rays
Raw EWSL: 227.83 (89 W)
Subjective Adjustments: None, but Matt Joyce and Wade Davis, if healthy all year, should well exceed their previously established major league performance.
Also on Hand: Position players - Perennial SS prospect Reid Brignac, Desmond Jennings (who is supposed to be Carl Crawford 2.0, although at the same age, Crawford was entering his fourth season as a major league regular), Sean Rodriguez.
Pitchers - Randy Choate, Joaquin Benoit, Lance Cormier, Winston Abreu, Dale Thayer. Abreu's an interesting "prospect" case: a 33-year-old Dominican who entered the Atlanta system in 1994 (before Chipper Jones' first season as a regular), he's crapped out in brief major league trials (7.31 ERA in 44.1 innings for four teams over three seasons), has pitched in Mexico and Japan - but since 2006, he's thrown 168.2 innings at AAA with a 1.93 ERA and eye-popping peripherals: 5.40 H/9, 0.54 HR/9, 3.00 BB/9, 12.68 K/9.
Analysis: The Brewers had a wonderful collection of talent in the 1978-83 period, but somehow they only put together the one magical pennant (plus a postseason appearance in the scrambled season of 1981). Somehow, they often ended up third. Will that be the fate of these Rays? The good news is, there still seems to be a fair amount of potential upside/bounce-back here. Their Win Shares age marks them as the youngest team in the division (if Baltimore is hoping to rebuild to where the Rays are now, they need to build back in time). BJ Upton, David Price, Pat Burrell, Dioner Navarro and Andy Sonnanstine could hardly have had more disappointing seasons in 2009, and James Shields was off his game as well; Price and Wade Davis could potentially arrive in a hurry. On the other hand, a Navarro-like dropoff could easily plague the three Rays who played massively above expectations last season: Ben Zobrist, Jason Bartlett and Jeff Neimann (Zobrist Win Shares the last three seasons: 1, 8, 27). Check out how Tampa's infield, powered by Zobrist and Bartlett, stacked up last season against their division rivals:
Average starting infielder, 2009:
(Poor Nick Green has the honor of dragging down the Red Sox. Note the low GIDP total for the Rays despite Longoria hitting into 27 despite batting third behind Crawford all year, mostly with Upton or Bartlett leading off - that high a total suggests that it's in the team's interests for Crawford in particular to run more ahead of him to avoid that this year, although as it is he ran 76 times last season). Niemann is perhaps unfairly lumped in that group, as he had a fine minor league record, and his signature skill (a low HR rate) has persisted at every level; if he can bump up his K rate even a little from 6.2 K/9 last season (it was 9.1 for his minor league career), he could be a star.
Boy, this division has some 24-year-old pitchers, doesn't it?
Navarro sounds as if he'll be reasonably ready to start the season despite a horrific spring training collision with Jacque Jones, who's fighting tooth and nail for a roster spot on the Twins.
Raw EWSL: 171.50 (70 W)
Subjective Adjustments: None.
Also on Hand: Position players - Jeff Salazar, Lou Montanez, Michael Aubrey.
Pitchers - Matt Albers, Dennis Sarfate, Alfredo Simon, Will Ohman.
Analysis: In another division, I'd be guardedly optimistic; the Orioles finally seem to be getting their rotation together, their outfield is reasonably young and talented, Wieters still looks like an eventual superstar if not the immediate one everybody predicted last season, and the infield and bullpen are at least anchored mostly by competent veterans (Gonzalez, like Soriano with the Rays, was heisted from a Braves franchise disproportionately disgusted with its bullpen help). Granted, there are trouble signs: Millwood has been terrible this spring, Markakis could just as easily turn into Ben Grieve rather than Carl Yastrzemski, Reimold may not repeat last season's pleasant surprise, and any of the trio of Matusz, Bergesen, and Tillman could easily go the way of so many promising young pitchers. But the main problem the Orioles face is 54 games on their schedule with the Beasts of the East.
I swear, I will spend the next several years muttering "e before i spells Greinke, i before e spells Wieters."
Tejada has averaged 27 GIDP per year the past four seasons, leading the league five times in six years; he hasn't yet cracked Jim Rice's surprisingly durable single-season record of 36.
Luke Scott's Win Shares the past three seasons: 11, 11, 11. That's an established performance level.
Toronto Blue Jays
Raw EWSL: 150.50 (63 W)
Subjective Adjustments: None. This is all there is, folks. But Snider should beat 8 WS if he's in the lineup all year.
Also on Hand: Position players - Raul Chavez, Joey Gathright, Jorge Padilla, Jarrett Hoffpauir.
Pitchers - Plenty of about the same quality as the guys listed above: Brian Tallet, Brett Cecil, Dana Eveland, David Purcey, Jesse Carlson, Dustin McGowan, Jesse Litsch.
Analysis: 2010 marketing slogan: "Hey, we already paid them." Marcum, who did not throw a pitch last season, has been named to start Opening Day, replacing the departed (liberated?) Roy Halladay. The Yankees, Sox and Rays may be tough places to break in as a young starting pitcher given the pressures, but Baltimore and Toronto are even less enviable, especially Toronto without Millwood: the youngsters (in Richmond's case, not even young) have to carry the front of the rotation on top of facing all those tough opponents.
The Jays aren't so desperately under-talented - there's at least a plausible gap-filler at most every position, and the bullpen's deep enough in decent arms that they should eventually be able to figure out which ones are going to pitch well this year - but in this division, with so little front-line talent and an unproven rotation, I'll be surprised if they avoid 100 losses.
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, 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. The line for each team's estimated 2010 W-L record adds EWSL plus 39.42 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 five seasons (it went up this season, as the average team's EWSL in 2009 undershot its final win total by 41.82 Win Shares).
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; in some cases I will list a guy who is starting the year on the DL or in the minors), but I take responsibility for any errors. It's still a fluid time for rosters.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:00 PM | Baseball 2010 | Baseball Studies | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)