Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
April 9, 2012
BASEBALL: 2012 AL Central EWSL Report

Long-time readers know that the timing of my annual division previews has gotten more erratic over the years, but since this is a multi-year project, I can't drop the ball even if I'm late, late enough that the season's already underway before the first one. So here we go.

Part 1 of my preseason previews is the AL Central; this is the first 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.

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)

Detroit Tigers

Raw EWSL: 250.83
Adjusted: 262.49
Age-Adj.: 254.41
WS Age: 28.5
2012 W-L: 98-64

C25Alex Avila1620
1B28Prince Fielder3030
2B31Ryan Raburn108
SS30Jhonny Peralta1816
3B29Miguel Cabrera3332
RF27Brennan Boesch#1012
CF25Austin Jackson#1319
LF26Delmon Young1415
DH26Andy Dirks*37
C232Gerald Laird65
INF32Ramon Santiago75
OF32Don Kelly#44
1326Danny Worth#11
SP129Justin Verlander2320
SP227Max Scherzer1110
SP328Doug Fister1211
SP423Rick Porcello88
SP523Drew Smyly+04
RP132Jose Valverde1310
RP234Joaquin Benoit76
RP338Octavio Dotel64
RP429Phil Coke54
RP526Daniel Schlereth33

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Clete Thomas, the Ghost of Brandon Inge, the injured and almost certainly out for the season Victor Martinez.

Pitchers - Charlie Furbush, Al Albuquerque (who's injured), Duane Below, Andrew Oliver, Collin Balester, Brayan Villarreal.

Analysis: As befits a team that went to the ALCS last year and then added Prince Fielder, EWSL rates the Tigers as fairly overwhelming favorites to win the AL Central going away. Verlander's continuing health and durability is the key assumption there. So far, the Tigers have played as a caricature of themselves, scoring nearly 9 runs per game but with an appalling .654 Defensive Efficiency Rating - that infield's not going to be pretty. Also, the Tigers' depth in their everyday lineup is not great, if they have injuries. But these are mostly nits.

As you may have heard, Octavio Dotel has set the all-time record for most teams played for, 13 in 14 seasons. Smyly had a good pro debut last season - 2.07 ERA, 9.3 K, 2.6 BB, 0.1 HR/9 (just 2 homers in 126 IP) - and got stronger in the last third of the season when he moved up to AA, but will be making a big leap to the big leagues.

Cleveland Indians

Raw EWSL: 181.17
Adjusted: 193.77
Age-Adj.: 188.33
WS Age: 28.4
2012 W-L: 76-86

C26Carlos Santana#1317
1B29Casey Kotchman1212
2B25Jason Kipnis*37
SS26Asdrubal Cabrera1920
3B32Jack Hannahan86
RF29Shin-Soo Choo1716
CF25Michael Brantley89
LF26Aaron Cunningham#22
DH35Travis Hafner139
C226Lou Marson#45
INF27Jason Donald#45
OF32Shelley Duncan75
1329Grady Sizemore55
SP127Justin Masterson109
SP228Ubaldo Jimenez1413
SP327Josh Tomlin#66
SP439Derek Lowe65
SP528Kevin Slowey43
RP126Chris Perez1011
RP228Tony Sipp55
RP328Joe Smith55
RP427Vinnie Pestano*47
RP530Rafael Perez54

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Lonnie Chisenhall, who may end up the third baseman at some point; Ryan Spilborghs.

Pitchers - Chris Ray.

Analysis: The Indians have the air of optimism about them, but Cabrera will have a hard time topping last season, as will Masterson (I'd bet on Masterson, of the two). There's room for growth from Santana and a rebound by Choo - and you never know with Sizemore, although he's on the 60-day DL at this writing - but it's hard to look up and down this roster and see where they make up the gap to catch the Tigers.

A full season of Ubaldo Jimenez should help stabilize the rotation, but as of now he looks like another data point for the idea that guys who pitch well in Coors end up old before their time from the strain.

Kansas City Royals

Raw EWSL: 135.33
Adjusted: 154.33
Age-Adj.: 166.17
WS Age: 27.3
2012 W-L: 69-93

C30Brayan Pena44
1B22Eric Hosmer*723
2B30Yuniesky Betancourt1110
SS25Alcides Escobar910
3B23Mike Moustakas*25
RF28Jeff Francouer1212
CF26Lorenzo Cain#23
LF28Alex Gordon1313
DH26Billy Butler1820
C232Humberto Quintero33
INF28Chris Getz77
OF30Mitch Maier76
1330Jason Bourgeois33
SP135Bruce Chen86
SP228Luke Hochevar55
SP329Jonathan Sanchez76
SP428Felipe Paulino33
SP523Danny Duffy*11
RP128Jonathan Broxton54
RP226Greg Holland*510
RP325Aaron Crow*36
RP422Tim Collins*25
RP528Luis Mendoza11

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Johnny Giovatella, like Getz, will sooner or later challenge again for the second base job.

Pitchers - Joakim Soria, who won't pitch; Blake Wood.

Analysis: The Royals are back in that familiar position of having optimism derived from young talent in the lineup, but - as of yet - nothing comparable in the rotation. Duffy has the minor league record of a high-end prospect, but he got cuffed around last season and has much to prove to show he's turned that corner. And of course, this team is still held together by too many players of the Francouer, Chen, Betancourt ilk. The Royals could well post a winning record if Moustakas and Duffy blossom and more help arrives from the minors, but it's hard to see them actually contending yet.

Minnesota Twins

Raw EWSL: 169.33
Adjusted: 189.37
Age-Adj.: 175.41
WS Age: 29.7
2012 W-L: 72-90

C29Joe Mauer1919
1B24Chris Parmelee+311
2B27Alexi Casilla67
SS37Jamey Carroll138
3B27Danny Valencia911
RF24Ben Revere*512
CF28Denard Span1313
LF33Josh Willingham1613
DH31Justin Morneau119
C231Ryan Doumit87
INF26Trevor Plouffe*37
OF27Luke Hughes*36
1331Sean Burroughs10
SP136Carl Pavano1110
SP230Scott Baker109
SP328Francisco Liriano77
SP430Nick Blackburn65
SP533Jason Marquis64
RP128Matt Capps88
RP229Glen Perkins44
RP329Brian Duensing76
RP424Alex Burnett#11
RP531Jared Burton11

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position Players - Tsuyoshi Nishioka. Pitchers - Jeff Gray.

Analysis: Few teams have fallen as far as fast as these Twins, with the unraveling of Mauer, Morneau and Liriano dashing any hopes the team could have had of fixing the problems further down the roster (a lesser storyline being the disappointment of Scott Baker and the now-departed Kevin Slowey). 72-90, reflecting some of the residual strength of the fallen stars, may actually be optimistic.

Chicago White Sox

Raw EWSL: 178.50
Adjusted: 195.73
Age-Adj.: 174.21
WS Age: 30.2
2012 W-L: 71-91

C35AJ Pierzynski118
1B36Paul Konerko2518
2B25Gordon Beckham1315
SS30Alexi Ramirez1917
3B25Brent Morel#23
RF31Alex Rios108
CF28Alejandro de Aza55
LF23Dayan Viciedo#23
DH32Adam Dunn118
C226Tyler Flowers*23
INF28Brent Lillibridge44
OF35Kosuke Fukudome1410
1323Eduardo Escobar+04
SP127John Danks1211
SP229Gavin Floyd1210
SP331Jake Peavy64
SP429Phil Humber#66
SP523Chris Sale#710
RP124Hector Santiago+14
RP235Matt Thornton97
RP323Addison Reed+04
RP430Jesse Crain86
RP534Will Ohman32

Subjective Adjustments: None. Santiago has been announced as the closer, but I still expect Reed to take the job by season's end.

Also on Hand: Position players - Conor Jackson, Osvaldo Martinez.

Pitchers - Zack Stewart.

Analysis: Can these guys really be worse than the hapless Twins? I admit some skepticism, but despite a lot of good arms, this team's best everyday players have a lot of years on them. It's more likely that the Twins underperform their EWSL than the White Sox significantly overperform, although of course another about-face by Dunn and Rios would help.

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, 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 2012 W-L record adds EWSL plus 39.7 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 six seasons (2011 team results are rounded up here).

As always, the depth charts here are drawn from multiple sources, including early-season box scores and the depth charts at Baseball, all modified by press reports and my own assessments. I take responsibility for any errors; a lot can still change.

You can compare the prior AL Central roundups for 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 2010 and 2011.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:00 PM | Baseball 2012-14 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Crank, it has been a while since you have ranked my Royals this high, but I think they will pass the Indians too. As always everything depends on players staying healthy and the youngsters playing to their ability.

While I think they are the class of the division, I am not real high on the Tigers either. Their rotation after Verlander is solid, but not special. Also, other than the two big bats in the middle of the order, I don't think their everyday lineup is all that good. There defense will cost them a lot of games too.

Posted by: maddirishman at April 9, 2012 10:16 PM
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