This should be the last post from my preseason Established Win Shares (EWSL) division previews, and it’s one I have been meaning to do in past years: a look at the amount of roster turnover. Each year, I identify 23 players who are projected to play roles for their team – 13 non-pitchers and 10 pitchers. That’s not the whole Opening Day roster, but it pretty closely corresponds to the number of people who have something like a steady major league job, given the insecurity of life as a 12th pitcher or last man on the bench.
So, comparing the 2008 23-man rosters to the 2007 ones, how much turnover was there? 173 players were listed last season but not this year, an average of almost six per team. In percentage terms, 173 out of 690 – that’s a 25% attrition rate in a single year even for guys who had made it all the way up the professional pyramid and shimmied up the greasy pole at the top to have one of those scarce jobs playing major league baseball. I’m not making any excuses for anyone when I say that you should remember figures like that the next time you read about ballplayers taking steroids, lying about their ages, corking their bats, scuffing the baseball, concealing injuries, or whatever other edge they think they need to get a big league job and contract and cling to it.
Not all these guys dropped out of the big leagues – some just slid from 10th pitcher to 11th, some are on the DL but could well be major contributors again by midseason, some are youngsters who got sent back for a little more minor league seasoning, some were guys I was just mistaken in thinking last year they’d have jobs. Some, in fact, are already back in a regular job a month later. The under-30 crowd in particular is dominated by injured pitchers. That said, the bulk of this list is guys who fell victim to the dog-eat-dog competition for scarce Major League jobs, most of whom will not return to that perch, and others of whom face an uphill battle in reclaiming those jobs from eager youngsters. In the main, they are a reminder that many more Major League careers end with a whimper than a bang.
The average age of the dropouts? 31.8. Average Win Shares earned show a pattern: 5.8 in 2005, 5.4 in 2006, 2.5 in 2007, with an age-adjusted EWSL of 3.4.
Here’s the full list by age (sorted among age groups by declining EWSL) – each and every name on this list is a story of a guy who, at a minimum, started 2008 with less hope and optimism about his future than he did a year earlier: