Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
May 11, 2011
BASEBALL: 2011 NL Central EWSL Report

Part 6 of my very-belated preseason previews is the NL Central (last as always); this is the sixth and last 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. Team ages are weighted by non-age-adjusted EWSL, so the best players count more towards determining the age of the roster.

Prior previews: the AL West, AL East, AL Central, NL West, NL East.

Some players are rated based on less than three seasons or given a rookie rating. Key:
+ (Rookie)
* (Based on one season)
# (Based on two seasons)

Milwaukee Brewers

Raw EWSL: 220.00 (87 W)
Adjusted: 232.93 (91 W)
Age-Adj.: 223.33 (88 W)
WS Age: 28.94
2011 W-L: 88-74

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C25Jonathan Lucroy*25
1B27Prince Fielder2728
2B28Rickie Weeks2020
SS29Yuniesky Betancourt1010
3B28Casey McGehee1721
RF29Corey Hart1514
CF25Carlos Gomez67
LF27Ryan Braun2829
C233Wil Nieves33
INF40Craig Counsell95
OF30Nyjer Morgan109
1235Mark Kotsay54
1330Jeremy Reed11
SP127Zack Greinke1715
SP225Yovanni Gallardo910
SP329Shaun Marcum98
SP434Randy Wolf108
SP529Chris Narveson#44
RP128John Axford*610
RP229Kameron Loe32
RP341Takashi Saito64
RP430Sergio Mitre21
RP523Zack Braddock*23

Subjective Adjustments: None. Greinke's missed some time, but then EWSL probably underrates Gallardo and Marcum due to injury risks.

Also on Hand: Position players - George Kottaras, Brandon Boggs, Erick Almonte.

Pitchers - Brandon Kintzler, Sean Green, Marco Estrada, Mitch Stetter, LaTroy Hawkins.

Analysis: Just look at the ages of the Brewers' starting lineup to see why EWSL rates them the class of the division - having a whole bunch of guys right in their prime is sometimes more important than having the most talent in the abstract.

Cincinnati Reds

Raw EWSL: 214.17 (85 W)
Adjusted: 230.53 (90 W)
Age-Adj.: 219.32 (86 W)
WS Age: 29.42
2011 W-L: 86-76

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C35Ramon Hernandez129
1B27Joey Votto2829
2B30Brandon Phillips1917
SS28Paul Janish#67
3B36Scott Rolen1712
RF24Jay Bruce1216
CF26Drew Stubbs#1114
LF30Jonny Gomes1311
C230Ryan Hanigan109
INF37Miguel Cairo32
OF30Fred Lewis109
1235Edgar Renteria86
1327Jeremy Hermida88
SP134Bronson Arroyo1311
SP227Ednison Volquez54
SP325Johnny Cueto910
SP424Travis Wood*37
SP525Homer Bailey45
RP136Francisco Cordero1110
RP223Aroldis Chapman+15
RP326Logan Ondreysuk*35
RP429Nick Masset86
RP523Mike Leake*48

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Chris Heisey, Juan Francisco, Yonder Alonso, Chris Valaika.

Pitchers - Jordan Smith, Bill Bray, Matt Maloney, Carlos Fisher.

Analysis: The Reds' starting rotation remains unsettled, but there's definitely pitching talent there.

Francisco Cordero is now second on the active saves list - he's never really been a spectacular closer, but his low HR rate more than anything else, especially in the parks he's worked in, has kept him steady year in and year out.

St. Louis Cardinals

Raw EWSL: 224.33 (88 W)
Adjusted: 239.50 (93 W)
Age-Adj.: 217.52 (86 W)
WS Age: 30.70
2011 W-L: 86-76

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C28Yadier Molina1818
1B31Albert Pujols3529
2B31Skip Schumaker1613
SS31Ryan Theriot1412
3B28David Freese#45
RF35Lance Berkman2015
CF24Colby Rasmus#1320
LF31Matt Holliday2421
C231Gerald Laird98
INF33Nick Punto87
OF26John Jay*49
1226Allen Craig*12
1327Tyler Greene#11
SP136Chris Carpenter1412
SP224Jaime Garcia*614
SP333Jake Westbrook54
SP432Kyle Lohse32
SP527Kyle McClellan76
RP127Mitchell Boggs32
RP229Jason Motte#44
RP326Fernando Salas*11
RP440Miguel Batista43
RP538Ryan Franklin119

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Daniel Descalso, Mark Hamilton.

Pitchers - Adam Wainwright (out for the season), Eduardo Sanchez, Brian Tallet, Bryan Augenstein.

Analysis: The current division leaders, still hoping they can outrun the loss of Wainwright. Pujols' slow start this season is yet another reminder of the pitiless march of age, but Tony LaRussa still always manages to find some veterans - so far, Lance Berkman - who buck that trend long enough to contribute. Meanwhile, Matt Holliday has been worth every penny of his enormous salary. I was high on David Freese before the season, but he's yet to prove he can make it through a full season.

The weak point, by EWSL, is the bullpen, so if LaRussa and Duncan can work some magic in getting more out of an unimpressive assortment, the Cards could continue overachieve.

Chicago Cubs

Raw EWSL: 204.50 (81 W)
Adjusted: 229.37 (90 W)
Age-Adj.: 213.68 (84 W)
WS Age: 29.91
2011 W-L: 84-78

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C28Geovany Soto1414
1B33Carlos Pena1715
2B25Darwin Barney+111
SS21Starlin Castro*615
3B33Aramis Ramirez1614
RF34Kosuke Fukudome1513
CF33Marlon Byrd1816
LF35Alfonso Soriano1410
C230Jeff Baker65
INF25Blake DeWitt1012
OF34Reed Johnson54
1225Tyler Colvin*511
1332Koyie Hill43
SP134Ryan Dempster1311
SP227Matt Garza1110
SP330Carlos Zambrano1210
SP428Randy Wells#910
SP524Andrew Cashner*12
RP128Carlos Marmol1313
RP228Sean Marshall77
RP334Kerry Wood65
RP432John Grabow33
RP523Casey Coleman*23

Subjective Adjustments: None, although obviously the injuries to Wells and Cashner have been costly.

Also on Hand: Pitchers - Marcos Mateo, Jeff Samardzjia, James Russell, Justin Berg, Jeff Stevens.

Analysis: The Cubs are not a bad team, and they're good enough to swipe a title in a weak division with a few breaks (a harder thing to swing when the division has six teams) but - not to harp on age again here - they're a rebuilding team. Seriously: EWSL rates Marlon Byrd as their best player, once you apply the age adjustments. (Byrd may still be a solid glove but compared to the other center fielders in this division he's in awfully fast company).

Thus far, they've been laboring without Wells and Cashner, both injured.

Houston Astros

Raw EWSL: 172.00 (71 W)
Adjusted: 191.31 (77 W)
Age-Adj.: 172.28 (71 W)
WS Age: 30.10
2011 W-L: 71-91

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C31Humberto Quintero54
1B24Brett Wallace*11
2B31Bill Hall87
SS27Angel Sanchez*47
3B26Chris Johnson*816
RF28Hunter Pence1920
CF28Michael Bourn1818
LF35Carlos Lee1713
C227JR Towles11
INF32Clint Barmes119
OF35Jason Michaels54
1231Jeff Keppinger1412
1333Joe Inglett54
SP130Brett Myers119
SP232Wandy Rodriguez1210
SP328JA Happ#89
SP426Bud Norris#33
SP537Nelson Figueroa65
RP131Brandon Lyon129
RP226Mark Melancon*12
RP331Jeff Fluchino#33
RP425Enerio Del Rosario+14
RP525Fernando Abad*12

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Jason Bourgeois, Matt Downs, Brian Bogusovic.

Pitchers - Aneury Rodriguez, Wilton Lopez, Jose Valdez.

Analysis: The Astros' Defensive Efficiency Rating, at this writing, is .648. No team has finished a full season below .650 since the 1930 Phillies (the 2007 Rays were the closest in recent decades, at .652 - which they followed with a historic one-season improvement to the best in MLB in 2008 - although the Cubs also had some appalling defenses in the 70s). Unless they can fix the infield (Johnson and Sanchez have been horribly error-prone, contributing to the low DER), it's gonna be a long season for the Houston pitching staff.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Raw EWSL: 136.83 (59 W)
Adjusted: 165.50 (68 W)
Age-Adj.: 181.48 (74 W)
Subj. Adj.: 176.48 (72 W)
WS Age: 27.75
2011 W-L: 72-90

POSAgePLAYERRaw EWSLAge Adj
C30Chris Snyder87
1B34Lyle Overbay1412
2B25Neil Walker*819
SS28Ronny Cedeno88
3B24Pedro Alvarez*718
RF30Garrett Jones#1011
CF24Andrew McCutchen#1726
LF22Jose Tabata*727
C230Ryan Doumit98
INF26Brandon Wood11
OF33Matt Diaz87
1228Steven Pearce22
1326Xavier Paul*00
SP130Kevin Corriea33
SP229Paul Maholm65
SP327Charlie Morton11
SP428Ross Ohlendorf65
SP528Jeff Karstens22
RP129Joel Hanrahan65
RP228Evan Meek#67
RP330Jose Veras43
RP434Joe Beimel54
RP528Daniel McCutchen#11

Subjective Adjustments: I cut Tabata from 27 to 22; the projected leap based solely on his age just looks too steep. Absent that, the Bucs would have ranked ahead of the Astros. No others, although Ohlendorf has been out of action for a while, with James McDonald filling his slot in the rotation.

Also on Hand: Position players - Jason Jaramillo, John Bowker, Josh Rodriguez.

Pitchers - James McDonald, Chris Resop, Michael Crotta, Garrett Olson, Danny Moskos.

Analysis: You know the perennial Pirates storylines; this year, it's back to letting the kids play and build on their good starts. Optimism will only set in when we see proof the kids will not just develop but develop in Pittsburgh.

And the pitching still stinks, so even a surprise by the offense won't deliver any glass slippers to PNC Park.

The Method

For those of you who are unfamiliar, EWSL is explained here, and you should read that link before commenting on the method; 2011 revisions to the age and rookie adjustments 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, 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 2011 W-L record adds EWSL plus 39.8 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 explained here).

As always, the depth charts here are drawn from multiple sources (my starting point was the depth charts at Baseball Prospectus.com, as well as USA Today's Baseball Weekly, and I've also worked from the actual playing time thus far in April, all modified by press reports and my own assessments) to list the guys who will end up doing the work. I take responsibility for any errors.

Prior NL Central roundups here: 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:34 PM | Baseball 2011 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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