Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
April 5, 2010
BASEBALL: 2010 NL East EWSL Report
Just in time for Opening Day: Part 5 of my preseason previews is the NL East; this is the fifth 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.
Some players are rated based on less than three seasons or given a rookie rating. Key:
National League Champion Philadelphia Phillies
Raw EWSL: 285.67 (108 W)
Subjective Adjustments: None. As has been the case for a few years now, the Phillies have few players whose value isn't established. That said, Joe Blanton being out 3-6 weeks and Brad Lidge and JC Romero opening the season on the DL mean that their EWSL may be slightly aggressive.
Also on Hand: Position players - None expected to contribute.
Pitchers - Danys Baez, who should sub early for Lidge and Romero; Antonio Bastardo and Kyle Kendrick.
Analysis: The Phillies, like the Tigers of the 80s, have a core (aside from Hamels) that's all around the same age, so as I've been noting for a few years now their window is limited - but there is a time when you have to take a team with two pennants and a World Championship, ride it as far as it will go and live with the downfall that follows. (Heck, the Yankees are still riding Jeter, Posada and Rivera, who apparently last night became the first trio of teammates in the history of the major pro sports to spend a 16th consecutive season together). For now, the team's good enough that there's no point in worrying about the core passing 30.
Aside from the freak abdominal injury, the Halladay for Lee deal remains controversial, but Halladay should benefit from coming to the NL, and he helps balance an overly lefty-heavy rotation. I would not bet against a big bounce-back year for Hamels.
New York Mets
Raw EWSL: 213.67 (84 W)
Subjective Adjustments: None; I would have adjusted Beltran and Reyes downward for their injuries, but both are already valued on the basis of missing a huge amount of time last season, and Reyes is expected back early anyway. Murphy joins them on the DL to open the season.
Also on Hand: Position players - A cast of thousands, and they'll be needed. Gary Matthews jr., Frank Catalanotto, Ike Davis, Nick Evans, Omir Santos, Josh Thole, Ruben Tejada, Wilmer Flores, Fernando Martinez, Russ Adams.
Tejada's been rushed to the Opening Day roster, but he's a 20-year-old who hit .289/.351/.381 last year in AA; he's obviously not ready to hit major league pitching.
Pitchers - Kelvim Escobar, Bobby Parnell, Pat Misch, Sean Green, Kiko Calero, Nelson Figueroa.
Analysis: Mind you, I tried to play it conservative with the Mets, not listing established players like Matthews, Escobar, Calero, and Catalanotto (of whom Matthews and Catalanotto are on the roster, and Matthews in today's lineup), and they're still second. That's a testimony to how much established talent is still on hand here, even with all the injuries, as well as the mediocrity of the Phillies' competition.
EWSL's standard rookie-reliever adjustment could be optimistic about the two new guys. Jerry Manuel and Omar Minaya are definitely going out on a limb using untested pitchers like Mejia and Takahashi over Green, Parnell and Calero, but it's not as if Green and Parnell set the world on fire last season. Mejia's walked almost 4 men per 9 innings in the low minors, which makes me skeptical of him.
Pelfrey, Maine and Perez remain the biggest variables here. Pelfrey needs to have a little better luck on balls in play and keep his walk and homer rates low. Perez needs to get his velocity back. Maine is probably the best bet of the three for quality, but the most dubious in terms of durability; this may be his last chance to establish himself as being able to carry a full rotation starter's workload, especially given how many pitches he throws per inning.
Murphy's injury may not be a bad thing, with a Jacobs/Tatis platoon likely to produce some power, at least. Jacobs had a horrific year last season, but his career slugging percentage against right-handed pitching is .505; while that's the sum total of his value as a major leaguer, if he can put up those kinds of numbers that could be a productive platoon. Murphy, by contrast, has 14 homers and 56 walks in 707 career plate appearances; even with great doubles power (47 career doubles, 7 career triples), Murphy - like Rico Brogna before him - needs to hit over .300 to be of any use as a first baseman with those numbers and glovework that's not spectacular.
I'll reiterate quickly my views on the rest. Bay, of course, is a quality acquisition, assuming he has no concealed injury risks. Francouer, I still hope, can have a Joe Guillen-like prime in which he's briefly able to have his natural talent overcome his impatience for a couple years, but he's still basically a hacker whose only reliable skill is his throwing arm. Josh Thole should be the starting catcher, and hopefully will be once he establishes himself in AAA. Blanco and Barajas are both decent enough weak-hitting veteran backup catcher types, but combining the two doesn't accomplish much.
And hopefully, Wright's first-inning homer today is a good sign. I think he was pressing last year after Beltran went down, and don't see any reason why his power numbers should continue to lag.
Raw EWSL: 202.67 (81 W)
Subjective Adjustments: None.
Also on Hand: Position players - Jordan Schafer, last year's failed rookie experiment.
Pitchers - Jo-Jo Reyes, Scott Proctor.
Analysis: 13 Hall of Fame outfielders have had 400 or more plate appearances as rookies at age 22 or younger; their average season was .302/.362/.467 with 85 Runs, 76 RBI, 14 homers and 10 steals. The best modern ones of the bunch - Ted Williams, Frank Robinson and Joe DiMaggio. Not included in that group - Mickey Mantle, who hit .267/.349/.443 in 386 plate appearances as a 19-year-old rookie, Barry Bonds (age 21, .223/.330/.416); Ken Griffey (age 19, .264/.329/.420); Manny Ramirez (age 22, .269/.357/.521 in a strike-shortened season). All of which is to say, keep your expectations in check for Jason Heyward - maybe he'll be as great at age 20 as Williams, Robinson, Ty Cobb, A-Rod, Mel Ott, Mantle, or Kaline, but Williams and Robinson are the only ones of those guys who were making their first trip around the league. More likely, even if he's Cooperstown-bound, is something more like Mantle at 19.
The Braves have a regular UN going - Saito and Kawakami from Japan, Jurrjens from Curacao, Moylan from Australia, Escobar from Cuba, Prado and Infante from Venezuela, Melky from the Dominican.
Undoubtedly, the biggest problem Atlanta faces, even with a possibly healthy Hudson, a full season from Hanson, and the veteran imports in the pen, is replacing the productivity of Javier Vazquez (219.1 IP, 2.87 ERA), Rafael Soriano (75.2 IP in 77 games, 2.97 ERA), and Mike Gonzalez (74.1 IP in 80 games, 2.42 ERA); over 369.1 IP those three combined to strike out 430 batters (10.48 per 9 IP), walk 104 (2.53 per 9), allow 33 homers (0.80 per 9) and surrender just 290 hits (7.07 per 9).
Raw EWSL: 170.33 (70 W)
Subjective Adjustments: None, but I'd bet on Maybin to beat his EWSL, as well as Anibal Sanchez, if healthy. Brian Sanches starts the season on the DL with a hamstring issue.
Also on Hand: Position players - Mike Lamb
Pitchers - Clay Hensley, Rick Vanden Hurk, Andrew Miller, Jose Veras.
Analysis: The youngest team by Win Shares age in the five divisions I've reviewed so far, the Marlins are the Brazil of baseball: the team of the future and always will be. Well, except that they do have two World Championship flags with teams that acquired veterans in a timely fashion...but this is not such a team, unless they make some big strikes at the trade deadline - these Marlins are yet another young-talent outfit. And as per usual of late, recent pitching injuries are the main source of uncertainty.
As always, a downside to doing these previews in serial format is having at least one guy every year who shows up twice, in this case Nate Robertson, penciled out of the Detroit rotation and into Florida's.
Raw EWSL: 165.67 (68 W)
Subjective Adjustments: None. I take no legal responsibility for the accuracy of Livan Hernandez' reported age.
Also on Hand: Position players - Justin Maxwell, Wil Nieves, Chris Coste, Eric Bruntlett.
Pitchers - As always, plenty of arms indistinguishable (at least) with the guys being trotted out. Stephen Strasburg is supposed to be the next Dwight Gooden if not the next Walter Johnson; I buy him as the next big thing, but as with Heyward the record of rookie pitchers gives some caution - Strasburg's unlikely to have a better career than Roger Clemens or Greg Maddux, who had rookie ERAs of 4.32 and 5.61, respectively. Also the rehabbing Jordan Zimmerman and Chien-Ming Wang, Scott Olsen, Tyler Walker, Sean Burnett, Doug Slaten, and Shairon Martis. Ron Villone was cut recently.
Analysis: For a team that's supposed to be rebuilding, there's a surprisingly small number of un-established players here until Strasburg descends from the clouds, although with the addition of veterans like Kennedy, the Nats should at least not match last season's 103-loss fiasco. How sad is the pitching staff? Aside from Strasburg, who will probably be mentioned in almost every sentence written about this team this year, Baseball Prospectus projects Jason Marquis to lead the staff with 90 strikeouts.
Aside from Strasburg, the other rookie on the radar here is Desmond, who looks like a prospect if you look at his 2009: he batted .306/.372/.494 in 189 plate appearances at AA, .354/.428/.461 in 205 PA at AAA, and .280/.318/.561 in 89 PA for the Nats. Unfortunately, even including those numbers, his career minor league line is .259/.326/.388.
As with Mark DeRosa in San Francisco, Willie Harris starting in an outfield corner is diagnostic. Strasburg can't arrive soon enough.
Ivan Rodriguez is fading fast; at age 38, he's clearly on hand mainly to provide a veteran to work with Strasburg. He's batted .278/.304/.418 the last five seasons, and the Nats will be thrilled if he can match even that after last year's .249/.280/.384. Even Pudge's legendary arm is not quite what it was; the past three years, he's caught 31%, 32% and 35% of opposing base thieves, allowing 47, 52 and 41 steals - still good numbers, but down from catching at least 48% of opposing baserunners 9 of the prior 12 years and the first time he'd allowed more than 40 steals in a season since 1996, when he caught a career-high 1223.1 innings. Can he keep an everyday job for three more years? He has 2,711 hits, and two more years of about a hundred hits a year (he's averaged 108 the past two) would get him close enough to possibly reach 3,000 by hanging on as a backup. How amazing would that be? Ted Simmons, with 2,472 hits, is a distant second among players to spend at least half their career games at catcher, but Pudge has caught 96% of his career games - Jason Kendall, with 2,084 hits, is the only other catcher with 2,000 hits to catch 90% of his career games.
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 3:00 PM | Baseball 2010 | Baseball Studies | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)