Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
April 29, 2012
BASEBALL: 2012 NL Central EWSL Report

Part 4 of my now very belated "preseason" previews is the NL Central; this is the fourth 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: AL Central, AL East, AL West.

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)

Cincinnati Reds

Raw EWSL: 210.83
Adjusted: 228.84
Age-Adj.: 218.03
WS Age: 29.1
2012 W-L: 86-76

C31Ryan Hanigan119
1B28Joey Votto3232
2B31Brandon Phillips2017
SS26Zack Cozart+111
3B37Scott Rolen117
RF25Jay Bruce1821
CF27Drew Stubbs1314
LF33Ryan Ludwick1513
C224Devin Mesoraco+14
INF34Wilson Valdez87
OF27Chris Heisey#57
1234Willie Harris55
1338Miguel Cairo64
SP135Bronson Arroyo87
SP226Johnny Cueto1112
SP324Mike Leake#79
SP426Homer Bailey56
SP524Mat Latos910
RP124Aroldis Chapman*35
RP229Sean Marshall108
RP329Bill Bray33
RP427Logan Ondusek#44
RP530Nick Masset65

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Paul Janish, Billy Hamilton.

Pitchers - Alfredo Simon, Jose Arredondo, Ryan Madson (out for the season).

Analysis: The NL Central often looks weaker before the season than it does as the year progresses, but times have changed; Tony LaRussa, Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder are all gone, leaving the division short on anchors. That gives the Reds, who unlike their rivals managed to retain star 1B Joey Votto, a competitive advantage. Add in a rotation that could be stable if Johnny Cueto stays healthy and the usual Reds young, athletic outfield, and this team should be in any mix that emerges in this division.

Hamilton thus far is batting .381/.470/.583 and has already stolen 28 bases in A ball, although his suspect defense may slow his ascent.

Milwaukee Brewers

Raw EWSL: 227.50
Adjusted: 232.08
Age-Adj.: 212.81
WS Age: 29.9
2012 W-L: 84-78

C26Jonathan Lucroy#912
1B26Mat Gamel11
2B29Rickie Weeks2019
SS35Alex Gonzalez1410
3B34Aramis Ramirez1917
RF30Corey Hart1816
CF31Nyjer Morgan1411
LF28Ryan Braun3333
C229George Kottaras43
INF28Travis Ishikawa33
OF26Carlos Gomez66
1230Norichika Aoki+01
1332Cesar Izturis43
SP126Yovanni Gallardo1213
SP228Zack Greinke1312
SP330Shawn Marcum119
SP435Randy Wolf119
SP530Chris Narveson65
RP129John Axford#1112
RP230Francisco Rodriguez109
RP330Kameron Loe44
RP429Manny Parra11
RP531Jose Veras43

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position Players - Brooks Conrad.

Pitchers - Marco Estrada, who is off to an excellent start; Tim Dillard.

Analysis: The whiz heard round the world: Ryan Braun missing 50 games would have been a really horrible blow to this team after losing Fielder. With him, the Brewers' rotation gives them a fighting chance. Note that an unbalanced schedule against this large, weak division, especially the Astros, should make the rest of the NL Central teams look deceptively stronger than they are.

World Champion St. Louis Cardinals

Raw EWSL: 208.67
Adjusted: 223.91
Age-Adj.: 199.17
WS Age: 31.0
2012 W-L: 80-82

C29Yadier Molina1817
1B36Lance Berkman2317
2B32Skip Schumaker1311
SS34Rafael Furcal1311
3B29David Freese99
RF35Carlos Beltran1813
CF27Jon Jay#912
LF32Matt Holliday2318
C225Tony Cruz*12
INF25Daniel Descalso*512
OF27Allen Craig#67
1228Tyler Greene22
1326Matt Carpenter+04
SP137Chris Carpenter1411
SP230Adam Wainwright109
SP325Jaime Garcia#810
SP434Jake Westbrook54
SP533Kyle Lohse54
RP130Jason Motte76
RP228Mitchell Boggs33
RP327Fernando Salas#67
RP428Kyle McClellan66
RP526Marc Rzepcynski44

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Shane Robinson, Erik Komatsu.

Pitchers - Lance Lynn (I have him here because this was his preseason slot; he's been a surprising early star in the rotation), JC Romero, Victor Marte, Scott Linebrink (injured).

Analysis: The hulking sinkerballer Lynn has really been a huge help in Carpenter's early absence and with Wainwright struggling (0-3, 7.32 ERA), and the team's 14-7 record (16-5 Pythagorean record) suggests that the Cards could yet again pull an upside surprise if the antique trio of Beltran, Furcal and Berkman can stay healthy (Berkman's already on the DL). Then again, history suggests that a 1.62 ERA from Lohse, a 1.30 ERA from Westbrook and a .620 slugging average from Yadier Molina may be a tall order to sustain.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Raw EWSL: 168.00
Adjusted: 185.37
Age-Adj.: 182.65
WS Age: 28.5
2012 W-L: 74-88

C36Rod Barajas108
1B31Garrett Jones1210
2B26Neil Walker#1520
SS33Clint Barmes119
3B29Casey McGehee1615
RF23Jose Tabata#913
CF25Andrew McCutchen2429
LF26Alex Presley*49
C227Michael McKendry*12
INF25Pedro Alvarez#69
OF30Nate McLouth98
1224Josh Harrison*37
1326Matt Hague+04
SP133Erik Bedard43
SP227James McDonald54
SP329Jeff Karstens65
SP428Charlie Morton54
SP531Kevin Corriea43
RP130Joel Hanrahan109
RP229Chris Resop32
RP329Evan Meek44
RP433Juan Cruz21
RP535AJ Burnett65

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Yamaico Navarro

Pitchers - Jason Grilli, Jared Hughes, Tony Watson, Daniel McCutchen, Doug Slaten.

Analysis: Things are looking up in Pittsburgh, for a certain value of "up" compared to 19 consecutive losing seasons. Sad as it sounds, the Pirates' 75 wins in 2003 was their only trip above 72 victories since 1999; this team has a fighting chance to top that. I would hesitate to project more.

Chicago Cubs

Raw EWSL: 156.00
Adjusted: 174.18
Age-Adj.: 175.23
SUbj. Adj.: 169.23
WS Age: 29.6
2012 W-L: 70-92

C29Geovany Soto1111
1B29Bryan LaHair+111
2B26Darwin Barney#710
SS22Starlin Castro#1735
3B27Ian Stewart55
RF32David DeJesus108
CF34Marlon Byrd1412
LF36Alfonso Soriano129
C226Steve Clevenger+04
INF31Jeff Baker43
OF35Reed Johnson64
1229Joe Mather11
1326Blake DeWitt88
SP128Matt Garza1010
SP235Ryan Dempster97
SP327Jeff Samardzjia43
SP425Chris Volstad44
SP530Paul Maholm65
RP129Carlos Marmol1110
RP235Kerry Wood44
RP336Shawn Camp55
RP426James Russell#11
RP529Randy Wells76

Subjective Adjustments: I cut Starlin Castro from 35 Win Shares to 29, for the usual reason that EWSL over-projects 22-year-old everyday shortstops whose value is heavily in their glove.

Also on Hand: Pitchers - Casey Coleman, Rodrigo Lopez, Rafael Davis, Lendy Castillo, Scott Maine.

Analysis: In the optimist's case, this is probably the season that provides the "how bad they were" backdrop for a later turnaround by Theo Epstein. I'd rather owe $54.5 million to Johan Santana than $54 million to Alfonso Soriano...the interesting question for an aggressive new GM is whether you could get a good package for Castro, or whether you retain him as the core building block. He's going to be one of the most valuable fantasy players in baseball over the next five years, but the debate is whether he's actually good enough defensively, and likely to survive his rough plate discipline, to match his perceived value. I don't know that I'd bet against a 22 year old shortstop with his gifts, though. He's batting .337 and leading the NL in steals at the moment.

Another guy who looks like he may finally be figuring things out is Jeff Samardzija, with a 25/8 K/BB ratio and just one HR allowed in 24 innings.

Houston Astros

Raw EWSL: 96.17
Adjusted: 113.76
Age-Adj.: 105.61
WS Age: 29.4
2012 W-L: 48-114

C25Jason Castro#12
1B36Carlos Lee1712
2B22Jose Altuve*14
SS28Jed Lowrie55
3B27Chris Johnson#911
RF28Brian Bogusevic*24
CF25Jordan Schafer45
LF24JD Martinez*38
C231Chris Snyder65
INF23Marwin Gonzalez+04
OF28Travis Buck22
1229Brian Bixler00
1328Justin Maxwell11
SP133Wandy Rodriguez118
SP227Bud Norris54
SP329JA Happ54
SP427Lucas Harrell#00
SP525Kyle Weiland+04
RP131Brett Myers97
RP228Wilton Lopez55
RP328Fernando Rodriguez*22
RP426David Carpenter*12
RP532Brandon Lyon75

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Brett Wallace, Landon Powell, Angel Sanchez.

Pitchers - Wesley Wright, Fernando Abad, Rhiner Cruz, Enerio del Rosario.

Analysis: No, that 48-114 record is not a typo; measured by ESWL, the Astros enter 2012 as the worst, or at least weakest, team since I started doing this in 2004.

The optimist's case is that the Astros are this weak, not because they have a collection of players who have proven they can't play in the majors, but mostly because they have a collection of players who haven't proven they can play in the majors. That can sometimes yield surprises; the diminutive (5'5") young (22) Jose Altuve, who hit .276 .297 .357 in Houston after hitting .408/.451/.606 in A ball and .361/.388/.569 in AA last season, is batting .359/.407/.551 so far; with his small stature, youth and compact swing, Altuve could well turn out to be a star, or he could be Jose Lopez, or he could be a little of both, like Carlos Baerga. Other youngsters could emerge as well, given enough playing time, although few of the others in the Houston lineup or rotation have an upside similar to Altuve's.

But this is guaranteed to be a terrible team, one that will likely get worse before it gets better if the team can find takers for even a portion of Brett Myers' and Carlos Lee's contracts (Myers has one more year remaining, Lee's done after this season).

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.

Prior NL Central roundups here: 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:00 PM | Baseball 2012-14 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Site Meter 250wde_2004WeblogAwards_BestSports.jpg