2012 NL East EWSL Report

Part 5 of my now very belated “preseason” previews is the NL East; this is the fifth 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, NL Central.
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)

Atlanta Braves
Raw EWSL: 215.17
Adjusted: 248.24
Age-Adj.: 260.94
Subj. Adj.: 257.94
WS Age: 28.6
2012 W-L: 99-63

C 28 Brian McCann 21 21
1B 22 Freddie Freeman* 10 34
2B 32 Dan Uggla 22 17
SS 22 Tyler Pastornicky+ 0 11
3B 40 Chipper Jones 17 9
RF 22 Jason Heyward# 13 28
CF 29 Michael Bourn 20 20
LF 28 Martin Prado 15 15
C2 35 Dave Ross 7 5
INF 34 Jack Wilson 6 5
OF 34 Matt Diaz 6 5
12 34 Eric Hinske 6 5
13 28 Jose Constanza* 2 3
SP1 25 Tommy Hanson 10 11
SP2 25 Brandon Beachy* 4 8
SP3 26 Jair Jurrjens 10 11
SP4 36 Tim Hudson 14 13
SP5 22 Randall Delgado* 1 3
RP1 24 Craig Kimbrel# 10 13
RP2 27 Johnny Venters# 11 11
RP3 27 Eric O’Flaherty 8 7
RP4 26 Kris Medlen 3 3
RP5 24 Mike Minor# 2 2

Subjective Adjustments: I docked Freddie Freeman 3 Win Shares, down from 34 to 31, and that still seems conservative. Is Freddie Freeman really a reasonable bet to be better than Joey Votto in 2012? That’s where EWSL has him, on grounds of being 22 and coming off a 19 Win Shares season. You have to admit, Freeman’s batting line looks a lot more impressive when you account for his age…but still. Really?
On the other hand, I refuse to adjust Jason Heyward, the team’s other 22-year-old regular, downwards from 28 Win Shares. I can totally see that happening.
Also on Hand: Position players – Juan Francisco, who subbed as the everyday 3B until Chipper was ready to go, and likely will again the next time Chipper gets chipped.
Pitchers – Chad Durbin, Livan Hernandez, and two injured pitchers, Robert Fish and Arodys Vizcaino.
Analysis: EWSL is out on a limb here because 22 year old hitters are its weakness, but the Braves are potentially loaded. They fit the classic profile of a team ready to rip the ears off the division, like the 1986 Mets or the 1984 Tigers: a young team with a few key veretans that had a couple of tough endings and is starting to get written off, but could suddenly gel and hit the stratosphere. The tough part is how cutthroat this division is, but maybe no moreso than the AL East in 1984.
Note that this is the second year in a row that EWSL had the Braves winning the division.
Philadelphia Phillies
Raw EWSL: 285.67
Adjusted: 293.00
Age-Adj.: 247.33
WS Age: 32.0
2012 W-L: 96-66

C 33 Carlos Ruiz 18 15
1B 32 Ryan Howard 22 17
2B 33 Chase Utley 23 19
SS 33 Jimmy Rollins 20 17
3B 36 Placido Polanco 16 12
RF 29 Hunter Pence 22 21
CF 31 Shane Victorino 23 19
LF 34 Juan Pierre 14 12
C2 35 Brian Schneider 3 2
INF 34 Ty Wigginton 5 5
OF 31 Laynce Nix 6 5
12 28 John Mayberry 6 6
13 41 Jim Thome 13 7
SP1 35 Roy Halladay 23 19
SP2 33 Cliff Lee 19 13
SP3 28 Cole Hamels 16 15
SP4 24 Vance Worley* 6 12
SP5 31 Joe Blanton 4 3
RP1 31 Jonathan Papelbon 12 9
RP2 33 Chad Qualls 4 3
RP3 27 Kyle Kendrick 6 5
RP4 26 Antonio Bastardo 5 6
RP5 25 Michael Stutes* 3 6

Subjective Adjustments: None.
Also on Hand: Position players – Pete Orr, Freddy Galvis.
Pitchers – Joe Savery, Jose Contreras, Brian Sanches, David Herndon, Michael Schwimer.
Analysis: After threatening for years, the piper has come to Philadelphia, and he will be paid. 32 year old Ryan Howard, 33 year old Chase Utley, and 33 year old Cliff Lee are all on the DL. Almost as old as the Yankees, this team is: outside of Worley and the bullpen, the “kids” are 28 year old Cole Hamels and 29 year old Hunter Pence. For all of that, this team won’t go down easy: before the age adjustments, this is a 111-win team, so even when you discount them for age, they are still knocking on the door of triple digits. And if you draw a healthy Halladay, Lee and Hamels in a short series, you’re still in deep yogurt; there has maybe never been a more skillful pitching staff assembled.
Miami Marlins
Raw EWSL: 215.50
Adjusted: 226.27
Age-Adj.: 227.44
WS Age: 28.6
2012 W-L: 89-73

C 31 John Buck 14 11
1B 28 Gaby Sanchez# 14 17
2B 30 Omar Infante 17 15
SS 29 Jose Reyes 20 19
3B 28 Hanley Ramirez 18 18
RF 22 Giancarlo Stanton# 14 30
CF 27 Emilio Bonifacio 13 14
LF 24 Logan Morrison# 9 13
C2 28 Brett Hayes# 2 3
INF 33 Greg Dobbs 4 4
OF 27 Chris Coghlan 8 9
12 29 Donnie Murphy 2 1
13 32 Austin Kearns 4 3
SP1 28 Josh Johnson 12 11
SP2 33 Mark Buehrle 14 10
SP3 28 Anibal Sanchez 10 9
SP4 29 Ricky Nolasco 6 5
SP5 31 Carlos Zambrano 8 7
RP1 34 Heath Bell 13 10
RP2 28 Edward Mujica 6 6
RP3 27 Mike Dunn# 3 3
RP4 26 Ryan Webb 4 4
RP5 26 Steve Cishek* 3 7

Subjective Adjustments: None; I haven’t downgraded Stanton for the same reason as Heyward. This season has a bumper crop of 22-year-olds who will put EWSL’s age adjustment to the test: Heyward, Stanton, Freeman, Eric Hosmer, Brett Lawrie, Starlin Castro, Ruben Tejada, and Jose Altuve. Note that, as usual, that group is split between guys whose playing time is stepping up to full time (Lawrie, Hosmer, Altuve, Tejada) and those who were already everyday for a full season (Heyward, Castro, Stanton, Freeman). It’s the inevitable growth of the former group that tends to artificially over-project the latter. The effect is most pronounced on 22 year olds because guys who are playing everyday at 21 or 22 tend to be really good.
Also on Hand: Position players – Scott Cousins.
Pitchers – Randy Choate, Chad Gaudin, the potentially ineligible Juan Oviedo (f/k/a Leo Nunez), the injured Jose Ceda.
Analysis: If you can buy this as a third-place team, you see how deep this division is now.
Jose Reyes gets more attention, as does the Miami Medusa in center field that goes off when the Marlins hit a home run:

But the most interesting issue to watch is whether Hanley Ramirez, now batting .236/.330/.381 since the start of 2011, can bounce back. Also, whether Giancarlo (don’t call me Mike) Stanton’s prodigious power will be held back by the new stadium’s cavernous dimensions. So far, so good from the team’s perspective – the Marlins have hit 9 homers at home, 9 on the road, compared to allowing 4 at home and 12 on the road, and Stanton’s lone longball this season came at home – but he’s started slowly overall.
Washington Nationals
Raw EWSL: 185.17
Adjusted: 195.33
Age-Adj.: 195.34
WS Age: 28.2
2012 W-L: 78-84

C 24 Wilson Ramos# 8 12
1B 32 Adam LaRoche 9 7
2B 25 Danny Espinosa# 12 18
SS 26 Ian Desmond# 12 15
3B 27 Ryan Zimmerman 19 20
RF 33 Jayson Werth 20 17
CF 32 Rick Ankiel 6 5
LF 33 Xavier Nady 4 3
C2 27 Jesus Flores 1 1
INF 30 Michael Morse 16 14
OF 28 Roger Bernadina# 7 8
12 37 Mark DeRosa 4 3
13 32 Chad Tracy 1 1
SP1 23 Stephen Strasburg# 3 4
SP2 26 Jordan Zimmermann 6 7
SP3 28 Edwin Jackson 12 11
SP4 26 Gio Gonzalez 13 14
SP5 26 Ross Detwiler 2 3
RP1 35 Brad Lidge 4 3
RP2 25 Henry Rodriguez# 2 3
RP3 27 Tyler Clippard 10 9
RP4 24 Drew Storen# 9 12
RP5 29 Sean Burnett 6 5

Subjective Adjustments: None.
Also on Hand: Position players – Wunderkind Bryce Harper, Mark Teahen, Brett Carroll, Steve Lombardozzi (the younger one), Tyler Moore.
Pitchers – Tom Gorzelanny, Craig Stammen, Ryan Mattheus, Chien-Ming Wang.
Analysis: The “K Street” Nationals’ hot start has brought back memories of Davey Johnson teams of yore; four starters have ERAs in the ones, three relievers have ERAs ranging from 0.00 to 2.00, and the team is averaging 8.7 K/9. And they’re not really kids, either – Strasburg is already a Tommy John surgery veteran, and he and Henry Rodriguez are the only guys on the staff under 26. For a team that in its seven prior years in DC finished 16th in the NL in pitcher strikeouts twice, 15th three times, 13th once and as high as 10th only in its inaugural season, this is revolutionary. For the first time, it will actually be the offense that has to carry the ball.
Bryce Harper may well be a superstar in the making, but he’s closer in age to Justin Bieber than he is to Strasburg. Harper was 8 years old on 9/11. When he was born, Jamie Moyer was mulling a coaching job offer from the Cubs, his MLB pitching career widely considered over. In other words: don’t expect too much too soon. Harper reached the majors without slugging over .400 above A ball. There are 72 players (including a few pitchers and managers) in the Hall of Fame who had 200 or more plate appearances their first season in the majors; only 18 of those 72 slugged above .450, and only 11 of those were 22 or younger, the youngest being age 20; the highest among the teenagers was Mickey Mantle at .443 (Mel Ott is the only Hall of Famer to slug .450 as a teenager – .524 as a 19 year old in 1928 – and Ott wasn’t a rookie, having 241 plate appearances over the prior two seasons). Barry Bonds hit .223/.330/.416 as a rookie.
New York Mets
Raw EWSL: 162.50
Adjusted: 185.94
Age-Adj.: 183.04
WS Age: 29.3
2012 W-L: 74-88

C 25 Josh Thole# 8 10
1B 25 Ike Davis# 8 12
2B 27 Daniel Murphy 9 9
SS 22 Ruben Tejada# 6 13
3B 29 David Wright 18 18
RF 26 Lucas Duda* 6 12
CF 34 Andres Torres 14 12
LF 33 Jason Bay 14 12
C2 29 Mike Nickeas* 1 1
INF 27 Justin Turner* 8 16
OF 32 Scott Hairston 6 4
12 29 Ronny Cedeno 9 9
13 24 Kirk Nieuwenhuis+ 0 4
SP1 33 Johan Santana 7 5
SP2 37 RA Dickey 11 9
SP3 25 Jonathan Niese# 4 5
SP4 26 Dillon Gee* 4 6
SP5 28 Mike Pelfrey 6 6
RP1 32 Frank Francisco 7 5
RP2 27 Bobby Parnell 3 3
RP3 33 Jon Rauch 6 4
RP4 30 Ramon Ramirez 7 6
RP5 38 Tim Byrdak 3 2

Subjective Adjustments: None; I’m trying to keep these limited to preseason rankings, so I did not dock Mike Pelfrey.
Also on Hand: Position players – Mike Baxter (I could have rated him in the same place as Niewenhuis, but Niewenhuis is likely the guy I’ll be rating down the road), Zach Lutz, Jordany Valdespin, Brad Emaus, Freddie Lewis.
Pitchers – Miguel Batista, Manny Acosta, Pedro Beato, DJ Carrasco, Chris Schwinden, Jeremy Hefner.
Analysis: The Mets, realistically, are not aiming for a first place finish this season, but for .500 and respectability. And maybe not last place, which will require one of the other competitors here to have a very disappointing year. The main thing that needs to happen, for that to occur, is to keep the front four of the rotation healthy (Mike Pelfrey is headed for season-ending Tommy John surgery today), as well as Wright and Davis; some of the youngsters also need to step up, as Tejada, Thole and Nieuwenhuis have so far (I admit, I never expected Tejada to be a major league hitter). Santana, of course, has been miraculous, averaging over 10 K/9 for the first time since his first Cy Young season in 2004 and not having yet allowed a home run. The lesson is never bet against great pitchers – but also, be cautious, as I can recall Dwight Gooden having some outstanding stretches in the years after shoulder surgery, but never again sustaining it over a full 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 Prospectus.com, all modified by press reports and my own assessments. I take responsibility for any errors; a lot can still change.
Prior NL East previews here: 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011.