AL West Established Win Shares Report

In this post, I introduced Established Win Shares Levels, a combination of two Bill James stats, to rank the top players in baseball based on a weighted average of their accomplishments for the last three years. But EWSLs have another use: you can add up the totals on a team’s roster to get a fix on how much talent (or at least, how much established major league talent) a team has, and thus an early read on comparing the strength of teams as they enter the season. Lots of cautions apply here, as you’ll see as I walk through my method; this is more art than science, although I do try to make my methods as transparent as I can for purposes of allowing people to analyze and critique them.
I’m starting with the AL West, which is the smallest division, and in theory at least I’d like to find the time to get through all six (we shall see; I reserve the right to switch to doing 1 team at a time if it’s easier to swallow). Here are the basics of the method:
*23 players from each team, 9 starters, 4 bench players (8 and 5 for NL teams), 10 pitchers.
*For players who only played one or two years, I used those years if the player was playing regularly in the minors or overseas the other year (except veterans who had been sent back to the minors due to poor play). This was a judgment call, but let’s face it: it doesn’t make sense to project Hideki Matsui by slicing his 2003 numbers in half. I didn’t adjust for guys like Gil Meche who missed two years with injuries. I’ve indicated the players who got 2-year credit with a # and 1-year credit with a *, so you can back out the numbers if you like.
*For rookie non-pitchers with everyday jobs, I’ve arbitrarily pencilled in 10 Win Shares (indicated with +), which may sound optimistic, but 10 WS for an everyday player is pretty poor, and it helps counteract the bias in the system towards established veteran talent. I’ll use 7 WS for rookie pitchers with rotation slots, 3 for bench players and 2 for relievers.
*I’m listing each team’s unadjusted and adjusted numbers, to show the effects of the two adjustments listed above.
*I fiddled with having an age adjustment, but it got too complicated and arbitrary. Instead, I’m listing side-by-side each team’s weighted average 2004 age (weighted by adjusted EWSLs). This takes studies like Avkash’s recent look at average age by playing time to the next level, focusing on which teams’ talent is aging (after all, if you’re the Giants, it’s Barry Bonds’ age that matters most).
*I used WS figures from the new Bill James Handbook, so there could be slight discrepancies with online WS numbers, including the ones I used for my earlier EWSL post.
*Team EWSL totals, adjusted and unadjusted, are done from the un-rounded numbers, but I report the rounded-off totals by individual player. Don’t be thrown by the fact that the “best” team in the AL West comes in at 93 wins; the way the system is structured and the fact that I’m limiting myself to 23 men per roster means we’ll come in a bit below enough wins to bring the whole league home at .500.
Without further ado, in declining order of Adjusted EWSL, your American League West:

Seattle Mariners
Adjusted EWSL: 279.3 (93 wins)
Unadjusted EWSL: 276.5 (92 wins)
Weighted Age: 32.396

Pos Player EWSL Age
C DWilson 10 35
1B JOlerud 20 35
2B BBoone 29 35
SS RAurilia 17 32
3B SSpiezio 13 31
RF ISuzuki 26 30
CF RWinn 20 30
LF RIbanez 13 32
DH EMartinez 19 41
C2 BDavis 9 27
INF RSantiago# 4 24
OF QMcCracken 6 34
13 WBloomquist# 3 26
SP1 JMoyer 17 41
SP2 JPineiro 12 25
SP3 FGarcia 11 28
SP4 RFranklin 13 31
SP5 GMeche 4 25
CL EGuardado 14 33
R2 SHasegawa 10 35
R3 RSoriano# 5 24
R4 JMateo# 5 26
R5 KJarvis 2 34

Immediately, you see the problem with the method: the Mariners are stuffed to the gills with established players, but they are nearly all aging players, as the team’s weighted average age of nearly 33 tells you; there’s nearly nobody here with an upside outside of the setup men. On paper, before you take their age into account, I can see the M’s as favorites. After you consider the age factor, though, I’d have to go with:
Anaheim Angels
Adjusted EWSL: 273.5 (91 wins)
Unadjusted EWSL: 257 (86 wins)
Weighted Age: 29.714

Pos Player EWSL Age
C BMolina 12 29
1B DErstad 10 30
2B AKennedy 14 28
SS DEckstein 14 29
3B TGlaus 15 27
RF VGuerrero 23 28
CF GAnderson 23 32
LF JGuillen 11 28
DH TSalmon 18 35
C2 JMolina 2 29
INF CFiggins* 8 26
OF JDaVanon* 12 30
13 SHalter 6 34
SP1 BColon 18 31
SP2 JWashburn 14 29
SP3 KEscobar 11 28
SP4 ROrtiz 9 31
SP5 JLackey# 8 25
CL TPercival 11 34
R2 BWeber 9 34
R3 BDonnelly# 10 32
R4 FRodriguez* 9 26
R5 SShields 8 28

This is a strong team; you can see the additions of Guerrero and Colon bringing them to the lead. I may have overvalued DaVanon by rating him on 2003 alone, but he’d never gotten a shot at the major league level before.
UPDATE: Due to a typo, I’d listed the wrong tenth pitcher. This didn’t affect the team calculations. It’s fixed now.
Oakland A’s
Adjusted EWSL: 257.7 (86 wins)
Unadjusted EWSL: 233.8 (78 wins)
Weighted Age: 28.875

Pos Player EWSL Age
C DMiller 10 34
1B SHatteberg 13 34
2B MEllis# 16 27
SS BCrosby+ 10 24
3B EChavez 25 26
RF JDye 8 30
CF MKotsay 17 28
LF BKielty 11 27
DH EDurazo 13 30
C2 AMelhuse* 4 32
INF FMenechino 5 33
OF EByrnes* 16 28
13 BMcMillon 3 32
SP1 THudson 22 28
SP2 BZito 20 26
SP3 MMulder 18 26
SP4 MRedman 9 30
SP5 RHarden* 4 22
CL ARhodes 8 34
R2 CBradford 8 29
R3 JMecir 4 34
R4 RRincon 6 34
R5 CHammond 8 38

At first glance it seems surprising to see the A’s this far back, but then we all know they’ve been hemmorhaging talent, and it’s no surprise that Billy Beane has invested in a lot of guys like Kielty and Byrnes who haven’t really gotten a full season of at bats, or injury risks like Dye. That’s who comes on the cheap. You can see how dependent the A’s are on their Big Three, which will be more apparent still if Mulder hasn’t made a full recovery by the spring. As usual, of course, don’t bet against Beane improving this roster in mid-season.
Texas Rangers
Adjusted EWSL: 176.3 (59 wins)
Unadjusted EWSL: 161.5 (54 wins)
Weighted Age: 29.761

Pos Player EWSL Age
C EDiaz 6 31
1B MTeixera* 7 24
2B MYoung 15 27
SS ARodriguez 34 28
3B HBlalock# 9 23
RF BJordan 13 37
CF LNix* 4 23
LF KMench# 5 26
DH BFullmer 10 29
C2 GLaird* 1 24
INF EYoung 10 37
OF DDelucci 5 30
13 HPerry 4 34
SP1 KRogers 11 39
SP2 CPark 4 31
SP3 CLewis# 1 24
SP4 RRodriguez# 1 26
SP5 JBenoit# 5 26
CL FCordero 9 29
R2 JZimmerman 2 31
R3 JNelson 6 37
R4 JPowell 3 32
R5 ERamirez* 2 28

Ugh. Can you say, “long summer in Texas”? I know, I know, the Rangers are at the opposite end of the methodological pole from the Mariners: lots of guys with upside, some of it (Blalock and Teixera) all but certain, and the team age is a lot younger than it looks, since the young guys are so lacking in established credentials that people like Eric Young and Brian Jordan (neither of whom I’d even noticed signing with the Rangers) skew the average. But any way you slice it, the point here is that an awful lot of things that haven’t happened in the past have to happen just for the Rangers to be in the same area code as the other three teams in their division.

11 thoughts on “AL West Established Win Shares Report”

  1. Research Today

    Jay Jaffe at Futility Infielder was nice enough to calcuate DIPS for 2003. The Baseball Crank continues his research on win shares with a look at the established win share levels of players in the AL West….

  2. Interesting look. Maybe DaVanon is overrated, but Guillen is underrated so it evens out. Can’t the Angles trade Erstad to the WSox now. Weren’t they trying that for the last couple years. I think the A’s get gypped a little cuz none of their relievers were closers last year. If Rhodes pitches at the same level as last year, but in a closer role, he should get lotsa saves and increase his win-shares, right?

  3. I agree, Rob. Projecting Win Shares for relievers is practically meaningless, because their values are largely a factor of how they’re used.
    Also, predictive Win Shares don’t work well for players whose value lies largely in their fielding Win Shares, because those are also context dependent. For instance, fielders behind high strikeout staffs won’t get as many chances, or Win Shares, as those behind low strikeout staffs.

  4. Rob – That’s a valid point about relievers. Again, this is rough-estimate stuff, and it was the best way I could find to roll up the concepts of (1) taking account of more than just 2003 with (2) being able to easily compare hitters and pitchers. I also think the Angels get a bit too much credit for outfielders when there won’t be enough at bats to go around.
    The problem with dealing Erstad is his contract, but on baseball grounds it would make sense to eat some of that and deal him to a team that could use a good glove man in the outfield and wants to take a flier on him having another flukey year some time.

  5. Well, the Anderson and Guerrero comparison actually makes sense. Between Guerrero’s lost time and Anderson’s last two very good seasons, they’ve been about even in Win Shares. They’re comparable in other measures too.

  6. What I’m Working On

    I’m currently working on two things: (1) 2003 Minor League Runs Created for the A’s See similar analysis on No Pepper, the raindrops, and RedsFaithful’s Baseball Blog. (2) 2004 MLB Predictions based on 2003 Win Shares and player movement. Check…

  7. Anderson also has some hidden advantages – he doesn’t lose nearly as many outs on the bases to GIDP and caught stealings as Guerrero, and he doesn’t make a ton of errors (unlike Guerrero). But the main difference is Guerrero’s injury in 2003.

  8. Everyone keeps saying how bad the Rangers are going to be in ’04 but it’s not quite as bleak as everyone is saying. A-Rod & MYoung are on the doorsteps of their primes (and will get even )better in the next couple of years. I don’t know of two hitters in baseball under 24 years of age that I’d rather have than Blalock & Tex and their upsides should be dramatic. The Rangers have the best infield in baseball.
    The key is just “decent” starting pitching (cumulative ERA right around 5.00) and better production from LF & CF which should happen because Mench & Nix (both kids) should be major upgrades.
    Texas was 42-43 in their last 85 games and the biggest subtractions were Thomson & Palmeiro from that team. With continued improvement from the kids, they should be expected to win 75-85 games in ’04.

  9. 2004 American League Predictions

    My 2004 American League Predictions – Based on 2003 Win Shares (as of 2/20/2004) With Spring Training right around the corner, 2004 Predictions are starting to fly. Baseball Crank (AL West and AL East) and Phil Rogers are two who…

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