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October 15, 2016
BASEBALL: The 2016 Cubs: One Of The Best Defensive Teams Since 1900

NRO: The 2016 Cubs: One Of The Best Defensive Teams Since 1900

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:21 PM | Baseball 2012-Present • | Baseball Studies • | Writings Elsewhere
October 16, 2013
BASEBALL: The 400 Win Club And Then Some

I have a new baseball essay over at The Federalist looking at baseball's winningest pitchers if you combine their Major League, postseason, Minor League, and in some cases Japanese and Negro League wins. I looked at every pitcher who won 150 or more games in the majors plus every known minor league 300 game winner, plus anybody else I ran across who made the list, so it's possible there's a few people here and there I missed but unlikely that any of them (aside from people who spent their whole careers in Japan or the Negro Leagues) would crack 300. All numbers are through the 2013 postseason (in which Bartolo Colon went 0-1 and Freddy Garcia pitched without a decision). The charts in the article go down through 250 wins, but since I have extra space here, I'll run the rest of what I have here:

The 225-249 Win Club

18831898Adonis Terry1971963449222492220.52927
19812003David Cone1941268347402491690.59680
19291950Tommy Bridges1941384150362481750.58673
19131932Lee Meadows1881800260562482380.51010
19591979Mickey Lolich2171913127442472360.51111
19952013Roy Halladay2031053241352471420.635105
19131928Urban Shocker1871170160282471460.628101
18891901Amos Rusie*2461742461740.58672
19141940Sad Sam Jones2292170216102452290.51716
19661988Joe Niekro2212040024172452210.52624
18911908Brickyard Kennedy1871590158492452090.54036
19301947Bill Lee (I)1691570276332451920.56153
19301951Harry Gumbert14311300101842441970.55347
19111935Dutch Ruether1379511106842441800.57564
19381959Virgil Trucks (2)1771351065402431750.58168
18841895Bob Caruthers218997817162421230.663119
19822008Kenny Rogers2191563319392411980.54943
19671986Vida Blue2091611531182411840.56757
18951909Jack Chesbro19813243342411660.59275
19111934Bob Shawkey1951501345502412030.54338
19571975Claude Osteen1961951243322402290.51211
19391954Allie Reynolds1821077251322401410.63099
19121930Jesse Barnes (1)1521502084582382080.53430
19751995Dave Stewart16812910659462371810.56756
18741885Tommy Bond234163212361640.59072
18771889Will White2291667132361790.56957
18951910Al Orth20418932192362080.53228
19451964Billy Pierce2111691122192341890.55345
18981923Wild Bill Donovan1851391448232341660.58568
18821892Charlie Buffinton*233152002331520.60581
19651979Catfish Hunter224166962331720.57561
19972013Tim Hudson2051111327132331270.647106
19281947Lefty Gomez1891026038302331320.638101
19121931Bullet Joe Bush1961842534212322100.52522
19031923Red Ames1831670149472322150.51917
19912013Derek Lowe1761575751472322110.52421
19211945Red Lucas15713575542321890.55143
19091925Fred Toney1391020093622321640.58668
19211938Pat Malone1349203981132322080.52724
19541969Don Drysdale2091663319162311850.55546
19681989Doyle Alexander1941740537382312170.51614
19832003John Burkett1661362163592311960.54135
19862005Kevin Brown2111445514232301720.57258
19071921Hippo Vaughn1781371251462301850.55445
19721998Dennis Eckersley1971711331162291900.54739
19651985Mike Torrez1851602142462292070.52522
19351957Dizzy Trout1701611258422292050.52824
19261948Willis Hudlin15815671492292050.52824
19261942Larry French (*3)1971710231362282090.52219
19942013Bartolo Colon1891282437142281460.61082
19601978Wilbur Wood16415664462282020.53026
19982013CC Sabathia2051159513132271330.63194
19822000Dwight Gooden1941120433132271290.63898
19221941Firpo Marberry148880178662261550.59371
19021920Ed Walsh1951262028132251390.61886
19281945Lon Warneke (2)1921212131362251580.58767

The 200-224 Win Club

19051922Slim Sallee1741431349322241780.55746
18901903Frank Killen16413160482241790.55645
19771994Bob Welch21114633962231550.59068
18941912Chick Fraser17521248532232650.457-42
19391955Hal Newhouser2071502113182221690.56853
18971911Sam Leever1941000228222221240.64298
19541972Mudcat Grant1451192175332221530.59269
18971911Deacon Phillippe1891093229302211410.61080
19481967Jack Sanford (1)1371011283742211770.55544
18871906Red Ehret1391672079902202570.461-37
19131929Art Nehf1841204431192191430.60576
19221937General Crowder1671151251382191550.58664
19321948Claude Passeau1621501056412191910.53428
18971911Jack Taylor15213967432191820.54637
19111927George Mogridge1321331086512191840.54335
19741994Rick Sutcliffe1711391145512171910.53226
19101929Bill Doak16915748512172080.5119
19311950Rip Sewell1439774852171820.54435
19151932Bill Sherdel1651460451352161850.53931
19101942Clarence Mitchell1251390091702162090.5087
19381956Sal Maglie (2)119621296812161450.59871
18871899Jack Stivetts20313220962141380.60876
19821998Jimmy Key1861175323162141360.61178
19611975Dave McNally1841197423242141470.59367
19811999Mark Langston1791580033222121800.54132
19181935Eddie Rommel1711191040322121510.58461
19701989Bob Forsch1681363441372121770.54535
19471967Bob Buhl (2)1661320146442121770.54535
19031915Howie Camnitz1331060179462121530.58159
19381958Bob Lemon (3)20712822262111360.60875
19501966Bob Friend1972300214132112450.463-34
19611974Mel Stottlemyre1641391146232111630.56448
19972013Roy Oswalt1631025243282111320.61579
19301947Dizzy Dean150832259292111140.64997
19721990Bob Knepper1461550165452112010.51210
19281945Johnny Allen142750069502111250.62886
19471967Curt Simmons (1)193183011762101900.52520
19141930Howard Ehmke (1)1661661043182101840.53326
19461961Don Newcombe (2)149900461262101200.63690
19421961Mike Garcia (3)142970168452101430.59567
19571973Milt Pappas20916400012091650.55944
19011917Doc White1891561119162091730.54736
19241936George Earnshaw127934378482091440.59265
19731993John Candelaria1771222229112081350.60673
19631982Rick Wise1881812017202072010.5076
19321951Schoolboy Rowe (2)1581012547202071260.62281
19852002Chuck Finley20017312522061770.53829
19932012Kevin Millwood1691523334352061900.52016
19902008Hideo Nomo1231090283522061630.55843
18861897Silver King*203152262051580.56547
19291950Bucky Walters19816022562051680.55037
19731992Mike Flanagan1671433235162051610.56044
19681984Paul Splitorff1661432037322051750.53930
19942011Javier Vazquez1651601139162051770.53728
19761998Danny Darwin17118233222042040.5000
19001910Addie Joss1609744342041310.60973
19191939George Uhle20016600342031700.54433
19992013Mark Buehrle186142211582031510.57352
18951909Bill Dinneen1701773130242032020.5011
19952013Freddy Garcia1561086341302031410.59062
18811890Jim Whitney19120411112022150.484-13
19962012Livan Hernandez*178177731692011890.51512
19781998Dave Stieb1761371324122011520.56949
19711989Ron Guidry170915226272011200.62681
19001914Earl Moore16315438292011830.52318
19872006Kevin Appier1691370231252001640.54936
19481966Bob Purkey (2)1291150171512001670.54533

Honorable Mention

19091920Tom Seaton9265108842001490.57351

The 150-199 Win Club

19231945Guy Bush1761361122111991480.57351
19361955Johnny Sain (3)1391162258411991590.55640
19021915Frank Smith13911160531991640.54835
19471965Harvey Haddix (1)1361132061331991460.57753
19791997Fernando Valenzuela*1731535120161981700.53828
19631983Rudy May1521560146291981860.51612
19791999Tom Candiotti1511640147401982050.491-7
19511971Camilo Pascual1741700123161971870.51310
19771994Bill Gullickson1621361234241971620.54935
19761994Bruce Hurst1451133249311971460.57451
19411962Gerry Staley (3)1341110163351971470.57350
18881899Frank Dwyer17715119161961670.54029
19031917Ed Reulbach*182106201051941110.63683
19441966Joe Nuxhall13511759671941840.51310
18931906Red Donahue16417528221921970.494-5
19831998Doug Drabek1551342534251911640.53827
19842005Al Leiter1621322326461901810.5129
18851896Ice Box Chamberlain1571202331281901510.55739
19181936Tom Zachary186191301891910.497-2
19811996Frank Viola1761503110111891620.53827
19992013Barry Zito165143631871891530.55336
19651979Ken Holtzman17415064831881570.54531
19711989Rick Rhoden1511250137341881600.54028
18831890Ed Morris1711221661871280.59459
19842000Tim Belcher1461404237351871770.51410
19832001Bret Saberhagen1671172417101861310.58755
19391956Howie Pollet (2)1311160155161861330.58353
19481967Vernon Law (2)1621472021201851670.52618
19331949Mort Cooper128752354551841330.58051
18911901Nig Cuppy162980121141831130.61870
19221937Rube Walberg (*1)1551411127271831690.52014
18861895Mark Baldwin*15416529251831900.491-7
19902010Mike Hampton1481152433251831440.56039
18921908Pink Hawley*16717915151821940.484-12
18801888Larry Corcoran*1778934180930.65987
19912006Brad Radke1481392330351801770.5043
19771996Scott Sanderson163143001681791510.54228
19912007Aaron Sele1481120631181791360.56843
19511969Johnny Podres1481164126161781330.57245
19261941Bump Hadley161165211471771730.5064
19942013Chris Carpenter1449410423411771390.56038
19501965Frank Lary (2)12811648261761420.55334
19281949Thornton Lee*11712459661761900.481-14
18821890Guy Hecker*1751461751460.54529
19811995Mike Moore161176431091751880.482-13
19711985Steve Rogers1581523114261751790.494-4
19641979Jim Lonborg1571372316121751520.53523
19691986Jim Slaton151158102381751660.5139
18891903Sadie McMahon*173127101741270.57847
18751889George Bradley*171151331741540.53020
19381954Preacher Roe127842144391731240.58249
18891902Jouett Meekin15213320241721570.52315
19411955Vic Raschi (3)13266533330170990.63271
19551966Sandy Koufax1658743169900.65379
19892002Andy Benes155139111261681460.53522
18841896Dave Foutz?1476636184168760.68992
18771894Monte Ward*164103001641030.61461
19311946Hal Schumaker (3)15812122421641250.56739
19711985Burt Hooton15113663741641430.53421
19061920Jack Coombs158110501631100.59753
19321955Spud Chandler* (2)10943224741158860.64872

Honorable Mention

19972013Hiroki Kuroda687022103891731610.51812
19992013Daisuke Matsuzaka534031117741731150.60158

The Rest

18711876Dick McBride14978149780.65671
18721877Candy Cummings*14594171461010.59145
19141935Babe Ruth944630229119550.68464
Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:05 PM | Baseball 2012-Present • | Baseball Studies | Comments (3)
June 13, 2013
BASEBALL: Matt Harvey: Man Without A Decision

After the Mets' 20-inning, 2-1 loss on Saturday to the mightless Marlins, Matt Harvey has 8 no-decisions in his last 9 starts. Harvey is now 5-0 in 13 starts; if he continued at his current season's pace, he would finish the season 14-0 with 22 no-decisions in 36 starts. That would set a major league record for no-decisions in a single season. How unusual a year is Harvey having?

Harvey opened 2013 as the one shining bright spot in a dismal Mets season, a season that got even more dismal with Monday's demotion to AAA of Ike Davis, who led the team in homers by a double-digit margin last season. The Mets' increasingly punchless offense (even with the stalwart presence of David Wright) is 11th in the NL in scoring and batting an anemic .226/.294/.369 entering Tuesday's action, and it has caught up to Harvey with a vengeance. After scoring 6 runs a game and going 5-0 in Harvey's first five starts, the Mets have scored just 2.75 runs a game in his last 8 starts, going 3-5.

Some of those no-decisions have been especially agonizing. On May 28, Harvey went 8 innings against the Yankees, allowed one run, struck out 10 and walked nobody. He threw 114 pitches and got a goose egg; the team ended up winning 2-1 for Scott Rice. On May 7, he went the full 9 innings against the White Sox, striking out 12, walking nobody and allowing only an infield single to Alex Rios in the seventh inning. The 10th inning win went to Bobby Parnell. Saturday, the Mets scored in the second inning and were blanked for the next 18 innings, Harvey leaving after 7 innings once again having struck out 6 and walked nobody, and complaining of a sore back to boot. (The game was the fifth 20-inning game in Mets history; only 42 other games that long have been played in MLB history without the Mets' involvement). Harvey has yet to allow more than 4 runs in a start this season, and has never gone less than 5 innings in a start in his brief Major League career.

Overall, over the last 9 starts, Harvey has a 2.66 ERA, has thrown 6.78 innings and 105 pitches per start, and has not allowed a single unearned run. In the 8 no-decisions, he has a 2.68 ERA, has cracked 100 pitches six times, and averaged 6.71 innings per start. This ought to be the stat line of a winning streak - good pitching, going deep into game after game - yet Harvey has come up empty. While this string of no-decisions is not totally historically unique, it is very unusual.

Bill James recently looked at the odds of a pitcher winning a game if you measure by "Game Score," his quick formula for measuring how well a pitcher pitched, taking account of things like walks and strikeouts as well as innings and runs. Looking at a sample of all starts between 1952 and 2011, he found that a Game Score of 51 or above is more likely to mean a win than a loss, and a pitcher with a Game Score of 66 or above will generally have a winning percentage of .800 or above in his decisions. James didn't separately break out rates of no-decision, but using his numbers, a pitcher is likely to get a decision 93% of the time with a Game Score over 80, 88% of the time with a Game Score over 68; Game Scores in the 50s yield a decision around two-thirds of the time. But not for Matt Harvey: he already has no-decisions this season with Game Scores of 97, 76, 67, 58, and 55.

According to the Play Index at Baseball-Reference.com - which currently only goes back to 1916, but no-decisions were rare before then - the Game Score of 97 on May 7 tied a record previously held by Randy Johnson (twice, in a 15-strikeout outing in 1992 and a 20-strikeout outing in 2001) for the highest ever in a 9-inning no-decision, although I would argue that perhaps the best 9-inning no-decision of all time was Francisco Cordova's 9 no-hit scoreless innings, 2 walks and 10 strikeouts in 1997, for a Game Score of 95). In fact, Baseball-Reference.com lists only 19 starts in baseball history where a pitcher posted a Game Score of 90 or better in 9 innings or less and got a no-decision (there are many no-decisions with Game Scores above 100, from the earlier years when starters would go deep into extra innings, the extreme example being Joe Oeschger and Leon Cadore on May 1, 1920 pitching to a 26-inning complete game 1-1 tie for Game Scores of 153 for Oeschger and 140 for Cadore. You think your team is having a rough patch? Following the 26-inning game, the Dodgers lost in 13 innings on May 2, lost in 19 innings on May 3, then went on in the succeeding weeks to lose in 11 innings on May 7, win in 10 on May 9, win in 14 on May 14, lose in 11 on May 27 and win the second game of a double-header - with Cadore going the distance again - in 10 on May 29. Somehow, they survived this to go on to win the NL Pennant).

Since 1916, the single-season record for no-decisions is 20, by Bert Blyleven for the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates. Blyleven is a particularly odd person to hold this particular record: he got a decision in 80% of his starts over the rest of his career, including a 4-year stretch from 1971-74 when he averaged 34 decisions and 5 no-decisions a year. (In 1973, Blyleven had 37 decisions in 40 starts, going 20-17 with a 2.52 ERA). As late as the 1985-86 seasons, he had 64 decisions and only 9 no-decisions, and in 1985 was the last pitcher to throw more than 20 complete games in a season. But in 1979, pitching for a World Championship team with a deep bullpen (Kent Tekulve, Enrique Romo and Grant Jackson between them averaged 83 appearances and 115 innings apiece and a 2.89 ERA), Blyleven was kept on a short leash by Chuck Tanner. In his 20 no-decisions that season, Blyleven averaged just 5.87 innings per start (going more than 7 innings only twice), posting a 4.76 ERA in those starts, in which the Pirates went 11-9. And he didn't pitch much differently in the ones they won - in the 11 no-decisions the Pirates won, Blyleven averaged 5.76 innings per start with a 4.69 ERA.

Only five other pitchers have managed as many as 17 no-decisions in a season, and only 15 in total have had 16 no-decisions; here's how they stack up to Harvey (I've listed Runs Allowed rather than ERA so you can see the full effect of Harvey not allowing any unearned runs):

2013Matt Harvey81361.5%2.686.7
1979Bert Blyleven203754.1%5.145.9
2004Odalis Perez183158.1%3.656.3
1986Andy Hawkins183551.4%5.695.4
1999Kenny Rogers173154.8%5.915.6
2008Oliver Perez173450.0%4.705.7
1987Mike Krukow172860.7%6.894.6
2009Randy Wolf163447.1%3.436.2
2009Roy Oswalt163053.3%4.485.4
1978John Montefusco163644.4%4.396.0
1999Eric Milton163447.1%6.145.5
1917Lee Meadows163644.4%5.064.7
1980Dennis Lamp163743.2%6.085.0
1979Randy Jones163941.0%4.196.3
1993Juan Guzman163348.5%5.726.0
2009Joba Chamberlain163151.6%6.204.4

As you can see - after we pause briefly while all the Mets fans still reading this stab their eyes out upon seeing Harvey on a chart next to Oliver Perez and Kenny Rogers - Harvey sticks out like a sore thumb on this list, both in terms of how well and how far he pitched into games and the high ratio of no-decisions to decisions. Many of these guys were beneficiaries of winning teams - Guzman went 14-3 for the World Champion 1993 Blue Jays, Krukow was bailed out in games the division champion Giants went on to win on 13 occasions (13 no-decisions in games his team won is the most on record, and he had a 6.51 ERA in those 13 starts). Maybe the most extreme example of a guy who got bailed out constantly by his offense was Dwight Gooden in 1999: Gooden, by then running on fumes, was 3-4 with 15 no-decisions in 22 starts and an 8.25 ERA in his no-decisions. The Indians went 12-3 in those starts anyway, and in the 12 the Indians won, Gooden had a 9.13 ERA and averaged 3.94 innings per start. But that Indians team scored over 1,000 runs; the Mets are on pace to score fewer than 650.

You have to get further down the list to find anybody who had a full season that looks like what Harvey has done so far:

-Cliff Lee in 2012: 3.21 ERA and 7.11 IP/start in 15 no-decisions (half of his 30 starts), going at least 6 innings every time.

-Brad Radke in 2004: 2.52 ERA and 6.66 IP/start in 15 no-decisions out of 34 starts; like Harvey, Radke threw at least 5 innings and allowed no more than 4 earned runs in any of his no-decisions. Amazingly, Radke voluntarily re-signed with the Twins after that season.

-Joey Hamilton in 1995: 2.87 ERA, 6.69 IP/start in 15 no-decisions out of 30 starts, going at least 5 innings every time. However, Hamilton allowed 9 unearned runs, so his Runs Allowed average was a less stellar 3.68.

-Jim Deshaeis in 1990: 2.32 ERA, 6.73 IP/start in 15 no-decisions out of 34 starts, going at least 5 innings each time and never allowing more than 4 runs.

-Pedro Astacio in 1996: 3.16 ERA, 6.64 IP/start in 15 no-decisions out of 32 starts. This 2011 SABR presentation argued that Astacio, followed by Deshaies and Montefusco, had the most effective no-decisions based on where they left their team when they exited the game: Astacio left with a lead 7 times and a tie 7 more, meaning he was bailed out when losing only once in his 15 no-decisions. In Harvey's case, he left two of his no-decisions with a lead (scores of 6-4 and 2-1), three tied (scores of 2-2, 1-1 and 1-1) and three trailing (by scores of 1-0, 3-2 and 3-2).

-Perhaps the best pitching in a significant number of no-decisions in one season (and a hopeful case for Harvey) was Clayton Kershaw in 2009. Kershaw got 14 no-decisions in 30 starts, and partly that was because he hadn't yet learned to imitate Greg Maddux's pitch efficiency: Kershaw averaged 5.9 innings per start in his no-decisions, and lasted a full 7 innings in only 5 of them. But his ERA in those starts was a measly 1.42; Kershaw's 10 no-decisions with a Game Score of 60 or better in a season is the most on record, edging out Tom Candiotti in 1993 and Roger Clemens in 2005.

-Candiotti in 1993 (yet another Dodger on this list, thank you Chavez Ravine): 14 no-decisions in 32 starts, a 1.97 ERA and 6.86 IP per no-decision.

The list of consecutive starts without a decision is even more dominated by pitchers who were not in Harvey's league: three pitchers went 10 straight starts without a decision, and they were all terrible over that stretch: Dick Stigman in 1965 (5.48 ERA, 4.26 IP/start), Randy Lerch in 1977 (6.70 ERA, 4.96 IP/start) and John D'Acquisto in 1977 (8.39 ERA, 2.46 IP/start, which makes you wonder why the Padres even bothered with a starting pitcher when it was D'Acquisto's turn). The longest stretch of pitching well without a decision is Al Downing in 8 spot starts from 1974-76, a 2.17 ERA in 6 innings a start for a Dodger team with tireless workhorses Mike Marshall and Charlie Hough in the bullpen.

Historically, the guys who got the most no-decisions, and most well-pitched no-decisions, in their careers were just the guys who started the most games. Tommy John leads the pack with 188 no-decisions followed by Don Sutton with 182, but John started 700 games, Sutton 756. The most no-decisions with a Game Score of 60 or better is Nolan Ryan with 41, followed by Roger Clemens (34), Greg Maddux (31) and Don Sutton (30), and all four of those guys won more than 320 games.

But in today's game, Harvey has something more like company. Among pitchers with 67 or more career no-decisions, three have career ERAs below 3.10 in their no-decisions: Felix Hernandez (2.76), Matt Cain (2.95) and Jake Peavy (3.01). (Greg Maddux had a 3.14 ERA in his 159 no-decisions, to go with a 1.83 ERA in his 355 career wins. The lesson, as always: Greg Maddux was awesome.).

The most logical conclusion from looking at history is that Harvey either won't keep pitching like this or will sooner or later start getting some wins again. Eventually, as Mets fans will remember, hard luck can turn. In 1987, pitching for the defending World Champion Mets (who would lead the league in runs scored), Ron Darling went an agonizing 14 starts without a win from April 26 to July 3 - 0-6 with 8 no-decisions - at a time when he was the team's only healthy starter. Darling's 4.76 ERA over that stretch attests that he was often ineffective, but he also had 5 starts in there with a Game Score of 60 or better; the Mets scored just 3.7 runs a game in those starts. But things turned around, Darling went 10-2 in his next 14 starts...until he tore his thumb diving for a bunt that broke up his no-hitter in the sixth inning on September 11, ending his season and leading to Terry Pendleton's famous home run to ice the division race later that night.

So yes, Mets fans. It will probably get better. But it can always get worse.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:05 PM | Baseball 2012-Present • | Baseball Studies | Comments (4)
November 26, 2012
BASEBALL: Has Mike Trout Peaked Already? Maybe.

David Schoenfield asks a provocative question: is Mike Trout's Rookie of the Year and MVP runner-up season in 2012 as good as he will get? After all, he's unlikely to improve much as a fielder or base thief. Schoenfield thinks Trout can still get better as a hitter - for most 20-year-olds, that's not even a question mark, but most have more room for improvement:

I think it's possible. He has a walk rate of 10.5 percent -- while above the AL average of 8.0 percent -- could improve, boosting his on-base percentages over .400, even if he's more .300 hitter than .330...

What about power? Trout wasn't projected as more of 20-homer guy coming up, so the 30 home runs was a big surprise, especially in a tough home run park. According to the ESPN Home Run Tracker, eight of Trout's 30 home runs were "just enough" -- a figure that wasn't near the league-leading figures of Miguel Cabrera (16) and Adrian Beltre (15). Trout's home run percentage on fly balls was 21.6 percent, which ranked 15th in the majors among those hitters with 300 plate appearances. Remember, as fast as is he, Trout isn't a small guy, at 6-1 and over 200 pounds. He's bigger than Mays or Hank Aaron.

Let's look at some history. Trout's headline-grabbing number is 10.7 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) at age 20. You can't really study a player like that systematically, because he's essentially a sample size of one. Counting only non-pitchers, only 2 other players have cleared 8 WAR at age 20 - Alex Rodriguez and Al Kaline, a list that grows to 5 if you include 21 year olds (Rogers Hornsby, Rickey Henderson, Eddie Mathews). If you compare Trout to players with 10-WAR seasons, the youngest comps are Ted Williams at age 22, and Willie Mays, Ty Cobb and Eddie Collins at age 23. Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Mickey Mantle and A-Rod all did it at 24, Hornsby and Babe Ruth at 25 (Ruth only really put in his first full-time season as an outfielder at 24). And of those, if you look at players with 10.5 or more WAR ate age 25 or younger, the only guys on the list with Trout are Mantle (twice) and Ruth, Gehrig, Cobb, and Hornsby once each, all of them at 24 or 25. Rare air to be listed with any of these guys, let alone atop a club exclusive to those names.

But to at least get some historical perspective, let's loosen the criteria.

Of the ten previous players to clear 10 WAR in a season for the first time by age 25, four never topped that season again, and three of those never topped 10 WAR again; only three (Ruth, Hornsby and Mays) cracked 10 WAR more than two more times (the "10+Yrs" column refers only to subsequent seasons):

PlayerAgeWARCareer HighAge10+ YrsdWARHoF?
Mike Trout**2010.7N/AN/AN/A2.1Active
Ted Williams#2210.110.7272-0.9YES
Willie Mays#2310.310.93452.0YES
Ty Cobb2310.111.13020.4YES
Eddie Collins2310.12302.8YES
Lou Gehrig2411.5241-0.2YES
Mickey Mantle2411.011.12520.5YES
Jimmie Foxx2410.2240-0.1YES
Alex Rodriguez**2410.12402.3Active
Babe Ruth2511.613.7287-0.5YES
Rogers Hornsby2510.612.02841.3YES

#-Lost seasons to military service

If you expand the field to players who reached 9 WAR for the first time by age 25, you get 19 players. 7 of the 19 never topped that season, although besides Arky Vaughan all of those were the 24 and 25 year olds. 9 of the 19 went on to have at least 3 more seasons of 9 or more WAR:

PlayerAgeWARCareer HighAge9+ YrsdWARHoF?
Mike Trout**2010.7N/AN/AN/A2.1Active
Alex Rodriguez**209.210.12431.7Active
Rogers Hornsby219.712.02873.5YES
Ted Williams2210.110.7276-0.9YES
Ty Cobb229.511.1304-0.7YES
Eddie Collins229.410.12321.3YES
Stan Musial*#229.310.82710.7YES
Willie Mays#2310.310.93462.0YES
Cal Ripken239.811.33013.5YES
Mickey Mantle239.211.12531.1YES
Arky Vaughan239.12300.6YES
Shoeless Joe Jackson$239.09.3241-0.1Ineligible
Lou Gehrig2411.5244-0.2YES
Jimmie Foxx2410.2241-0.1YES
Tris Speaker249.82410.4YES
Babe Ruth249.713.72890.2YES
Barry Bonds259.511.63652.5Not Yet
Adrian Beltre**259.32502.5Active
Terry Turner259.22505.4No

#-Lost seasons to military service
*-1st 9-WAR season vs war-depleted competition
$-Banned from baseball in mid-career

As you can see, I included here as well, under the heading dWAR, the player's defensive Wins Above Replacement, to see if players whose defensive value was a big part of scaling these heights were more or less likely to repeat. At the extreme end you have Terry Turner, who made this list on a fluke defensive season for the 1906 Indians (the defensive stats of Nap Lajoie's Indians are a whole separate historical controversy). That said, the guys with some significant defensive value, like Trout, do seem to have been more likely to re-appear on the list, even guys like Hornsby and Bonds who were no longer valuable defensive players by the time of their best offensive seasons.

Stretching this to players who reached 8 WAR before age 25, you get a total set of 40 players, and almost half of them never matched the first season when they reached that level:

PlayerAgeWARCareer HighAge8+ YrsdWARHoF?
Mike Trout**2010.7N/AN/AN/A2.1Active
Alex Rodriguez**209.210.12471.7Active
Al Kaline208.08.22610.4YES
Rogers Hornsby219.712.02883.5YES
Rickey Henderson218.79.82621.3YES
Eddie Mathews218.02110.3YES
Ted Williams2210.110.7277-0.9YES
Ty Cobb229.511.1305-0.7YES
Eddie Collins229.410.12351.3YES
Stan Musial*#229.310.82750.7YES
Dick Allen228.52210.3No
Cal Ripken228.011.33022.2YES
Joe DiMaggio#228.08.62610.4YES
Willie Mays#2310.310.934102.0YES
Mickey Mantle239.211.12541.1YES
Arky Vaughan239.12310.6YES
Shoeless Joe Jackson$239.09.3241-0.1Ineligible
Reggie Jackson238.82300.1YES
Ken Griffey jr.238.59.52620.9Not Yet
Albert Pujols**238.49.4296-0.8Active
Joe Cronin238.02302.7YES
Andruw Jones**238.02302.7Active
Lou Gehrig2411.5246-0.2YES
Jimmie Foxx2410.2243-0.1YES
Tris Speaker249.82450.4YES
Babe Ruth249.713.728100.2YES
Ron Santo248.69.62720.8YES
Johnny Bench248.52402.4YES
Willie Wilson248.32402.2No
Ralph Kiner248.1240-0.1YES
David Wright**248.12401.4Active
Bobby Grich248.02403.9No
Ryne Sandberg248.02402.0YES
Barry Bonds259.511.63682.5Not Yet
Adrian Beltre**259.32502.5Active
Terry Turner259.22505.4No
Will Clark258.5250-0.1No
Hank Aaron258.49.1275-1.1YES
Snuffy Stirnweiss*258.18.22612.5No
Joe Medwick258.1250-0.5YES

#-Lost seasons to military service
*-1st 9-WAR season vs war-depleted competition
$-Banned from baseball in mid-career

Stirnweiss was a dominant player in 1944-45 who was merely ordinary when the real ballplayers returned from the war. Grich and Andruw Jones, like lesser versions of Turner (though better players over their careers), were pushed to these heights by unusually valuable glovework.

Mike Trout is a highly unusual player; we just don't have much precedent for a guy this good, this young, with this broad a base of skills and some of them (like his defense and base stealing) so well-polished already. You can compare him to Mays, Mantle and Cobb, but almost by definition you can't project a player to have that kind of career. What we can say is that players who have MVP-caliber seasons at age 25 or younger (1) tend, more often than not, to go on to great careers but (2) tend, as often as not, to never have a better season simply because it's hard to put it all together like this at any age.

October 4, 2012
BASEBALL: Dickey Rises Above

RA Dickey this season finished 20-6 for a 74-88 team: 14 over .500 for a team that was 14 under. How unusual is that accomplishment? I ran through the past century looking for examples, focusing on pitchers who (1) won 15 or more games and (2) finished 5 or more games over .500 (3) for a team that was below .500 when they didn't pitch. I came up with 73 75 examples; I'm sure there are more I missed, but I think I got the major ones. The chart below is ranked by multiplying the pitcher's number of games above .500 by the team's number of games below .500 the rest of the time ("x"); the "TOT" column adds the two:

Read More »

September 19, 2012
BASEBALL: Mike Trout Scores

Mike Trout recently played his 162nd major league game, in which time he scored 136 runs. How unusual is that? Pretty unusual, at least in modern baseball. Baseball-Reference.com has game logs going back to 1918, and while I can't run a systematic search, I'm pretty sure this is a complete list of the players since 1918 to score 120 or more runs in their first 162 major league games - 8 Hall of Famers out of 26 (plus at least one, Ichiro, who is sure to be a 9th, plus others who still could and a handful of guys who would have made it if they'd stayed healthier or out of World War II). Ages and years are listed by the age the player was in the season when he played his 162nd game:

Joe DiMaggio154221937
Ted Williams146211940
Lloyd Waner142221928
Johnny Frederick142281930
Mike Trout136202012
Vada Pinson136201959
Barney McCoskey135231940
Roy Johnson133271930
Jackie Robinson132291948
Jim Gilliam132251954
Dom DiMaggio131241941
Ichiro Suzuki130282002
Kiki Cuyler130261925
Frank Robinson128211957
Charlie Keller127231940
Nomar Garciaparra126231997
Hanley Ramirez124232007
Bobby Bonds123231969
Pete Reiser123221941
Chuck Klein122241929
Hal Trosky121211934
Augie Galan121231935
Carlos Beltran120221999
Johnny Pesky120261946
Lou Boudreau120221940
George Watkins120311931

As you can see, the list includes a number of guys (Ichiro, Jackie Robinson, Johnny Frederick, Roy Johnson, George Watkins) who arrived in the majors as seasoned veterans in mid-career. (This is not the case for Johnny Pesky, who scored 105 runs in 147 games as a 23 year old rookie, then spent 3 years at war before scoring 115 runs in 1946 when he returned). It's also heavily dominated by the high-scoring 1925-41 period. The number of players who compiled a scoring record like Trout's at such a young age is short and dominated by immortals.

I won't chart them, but others of note: Lloyd Waner's better brother Paul 113, Roy Johnson's better brother Bob 118, Joe DiMaggio & Charlie Keller's outfield-mate Tommy Henrich 116 and their teammate Lyn Lary 116, Albert Pujols 115, A-Rod 117, Ryan Braun 116, Dick Allen 119, Frank Thomas 110, Julio Lugo 111, Denard Span 115, Terrence Long 115, Steve Henderson 112, Wally Moses 116, the ill-fated Len Koenecke 110, Earl Averill 111, Earle Combs 115, Vince Coleman 115, Minnie Minoso 117, Bobby Thomson 115, Dan Uggla 111, Gary Redus 112, Al Smith 112, Fred Lynn 108, Lu Blue 109, Jose Reyes 103, Adam Dunn 108, Richie Ashburn 107, Pee Wee Reese 107, Dan Gladden 108, Andrew McCutchen 108, Bob Meusel 101, Jim Bottomley 101, Walt Dropo 106, Chick Fullis 108, Juan Samuel 109.

You can go back and find a few more in the 1900-17 period - Federal League star Benny Kauff scored 124 runs in his first 159 games, Roy Thomas 137 runs in his first 150 games, Lefty Davis scored 150 runs in his first 171 games in 1901-02. The 19th century is different, of course - Willie Keeler scored 191 runs in his first 170 games, Billy Hamilton 165 runs in his first 172 games, Hugh Duffy 204 runs in his first 207 games, and going all the way back to the beginning in 1871, in the days before gloves, groundskeeping or even fixed fielding positions, Ross Barnes scored 272 runs in his first 136 National Association games and 197 runs in his first 165 National League games.

But if you have to go back that far, it should tell you what a special player Trout really is.

July 12, 2012
BASEBALL: 1968: Year of the Injured Hitter?

Why was 1968 the Year of the Pitcher? Let me present to you an unorthodox theory that has been percolating in my brain since I noticed a pattern leafing through the Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract a quarter century ago: the dominance of pitching that season was exacerbated by an unusual run of injuries to a number of the game's best hitters, combined to some extent with an unusual run of good health by the game's best pitchers.

Lest we get too carried away with the theory, let me step back a bit. The offensive/defensive conditions of the game change every year, sometimes due to years-long structural factors, sometimes due to weather, chance or other one-year factors. Scoring dropped throughout the 1960s due to a number of the former: a bigger strike zone, more pitcher-friendly parks, higher mounds, more night games, a reduction in the stigma against strikeouts without a corresponding emphasis on plate patience. Those factors affected the game from 1963-68, and some of them continued to linger into the late 1970s. 1968 was simply the most extreme example of its era. Scoring was down from 3.77 runs per team per game to 3.42 (a drop of almost 10%), rising back in 1969 to 4.07.

But I have wondered for years if there was something specific at work that made 1968 stand out from the years around it, and if you look one by one at the injuries to major offensive stars that season, a pattern suggests itself. I do not promise a systematic comparison of 1968 to other seasons in this regard, but take a look at the anecdotal evidence with me and see if you agree.

The Walking Wounded

Let's start with the core group of players, most of them major offensive stars, who were hampered by injury in 1968. I'll list each player's age as of 1968 in parentheses, and a chart showing each player's plate appearances and Offensive Wins Above Replacement (OWAR) for the 1967-1968-1969 seasons (source: baseball-reference.com).

Joe Morgan (24)


Morgan wasn't the biggest star KO'd by injury in 1968, but he was the most total loss. While he wasn't recognized as a major star until he escaped the Astrodome in 1972, Morgan had been second in the Rookie of the Year voting in 1965, an All-Star in 1966, batted .276/.385/.408 and averaged 20 steals a year from 1965-67, and .253/.366/.392 with 44 steals a year from 1969-71, plus another All-Star appearance in 1970. But 10 games into the 1968 season, with Morgan's OBP at .444, he tore up his knee when Tommie Agee ran into him at second base, ending his season.

Harmon Killebrew (32)


The biggest home run threat of the 1960s, Killebrew hit .266/.379/.546 from 1959-67, including 44 homers, 131 walks and a second-place MVP finish in 1967. He hit .267/.409/.534 from 1969-71, including 49 homers, 145 walks, 140 RBI and an MVP Award in 1969. In 1968, Killebrew was off his game but still productive (.210/.361/.420, OPS+ of 131); he was batting .204/.347/.392 when he tore a hamstring stretching for a throw in the All-Star Game, and didn't return until September, when he batted .257/.458/.629 but started only 10 games and managed just 48 plate appearances.

Roberto Clemente (33)


Clemente won the 1966 NL MVP and won his third batting title in four years in 1967, batting .357/.400/.554 and driving in 110 runs. Overall, he batted .332/.375/.503 from 1961-67, and .346/.395/.532 from 1969-71. But in 1968, Clemente was hampered by a nasty shoulder injury he suffered in the offseason at his home in Puerto Rico when a steel railing he was climbing on collapsed on his patio, sending him hurtling down a hill. Clemente tried to play through it, but later admitted that he should have at least skipped spring training; he hit .211/.237/.368 through May 24 before returning to something like his usual form, ending the season at .291/.355/.482.

Frank Robinson (32)


Robinson, the 1966 Triple Crown winner, was slowed slightly in 1967 by vision problems from a violent collision, which may have lingered the following year; in 1968 he added mumps and a sore arm. He batted .314/.407/.609 in 1966-67 and .299/.400/.524 in 1969-71, but missed 32 games and hit .268/.390/.444 in 1968.

Al Kaline (33)


Kaline batted .307/.385/.509 from 1955-67, and had arguably his best season as a hitter in 1967, batting .308/.411/.541 (OPS+ of 176). He was still a productive hitter in 1968, batting .287/.392/.428 (OPS+ of 146), and despite an off year in 1969, his batting line from 1969-72 was a robust .286/.378/.456. But Kaline missed six weeks in 1968 after his arm was broken when he was hit by a pitch from Lew Krausse on May 25.

Willie Stargell (28)


Stargell battled injuries in both 1967 and 1968 before getting healthy and returning to form in 1969:

Willie's production fell off in 1967. With Mota continuing to hit .300, Stargell found himself often benched against lefthanders. He suffered through injuries as well that year, crashing into the wall twice in a span of three days and experienced tendonitis in his shoulder. His weight remained and issue and inactivity did not help it. In 1968, Stargell first injured a knee and later suffered a concussion and face lacerations making a spectacular catch while crashing into the Forbes Field scoreboard and ended up hitting .237, the lowest of his career as a regular player as he battled headaches for the rest of the season.

On the whole, Stargell declined from .315/.381/.581 with 102 RBI in 1966 (his second straight 100 RBI year and third straight slugging .500) to .271/.365/.465 with 73 RBI in 1967 and .237/.315/.441 with 67 RBI in just 128 games in 1968. Stargell would bat .307/.382 /556 in 1969 and .289/.375/.555 from 1969-79.

Joe Torre (27)


If you're keeping score at home, that's six Hall of Fame hitters between the ages of 24 and 33. Torre might be a seventh, although he's likely to be inducted as a manager. Torre batted .301/.364/.487 from 1963-67 and .326/.394/.501 from 1969-71, but in 1968 he missed 47 games with injuries including a fractured cheekbone that caused him to miss a month after being beaned on April 18 by Chuck Hartenstein and a fractured hand in September, batting .271/.332/.377 on the season. As Torre describes the beaning these days:

Hank Aaron was on first base, trying to steal, and as Torre tried to sneak a peak back at the catcher and didn't pick up the pitch in time before it hit him. The pitch broke his palate, and Torre said the toughest part was staying in bed for a long period of time.

Tony Conigliaro (23)


I retold Tony C's familar and sad story recently; he was one of baseball's major rising star sluggers when he suffered a horrific beaning in August 1967, and missed the entire 1968 season.

Rico Carty (28)


A devastating hitter when healthy, Rico Carty batted .330/.388/.554 as a rookie in 1964, .324/.382/.505 from 1964-66 before struggling to hit .255/.329/.401 in 1967 while playing with a separated shoulder. Carty then missed the entire 1968 season with tuberculosis. He would return to bat .357/.434/.570 in 1969-70 before his next big injury, to his knee.

Rico Petrocelli (25)


Like a few others listed above, Petrocelli had injury problems in 1967 that worsened in 1968 before bouncing back healthy in 1969. In Petrocelli's case, it was a bad elbow that cost him 39 games. He had batted .259/.330/.420 as a 24 year old in 1967 (OPS+ of 113) and would enjoy a monster breakout 40-homer .297/.403/.589 season in 1969, hitting .269/.363/.506 from 1969-71 (OPS+ of 134). But hampered by the elbow injury, Petrocelli hit just .234/.292/.374 (OPS+ of 92) in 1968.

Don Mincher (30)


Yet another beaning victim. Mincher, a productive if unspectacular slugger, batted .255/.348/.488 (OPS+ 134) from 1962-67, including .273/.367/.487 (OPS+ 156) in 1967. He would go on to bat .257/.359/.448 (OPS+ 129) from 1969-71. But 1968 was a significant off year, as he batted .236/.312/.368 (OPS+ 111) and missed 42 games, including 10 games in April and the last 20 games of the season. The main cause was a horrific April 11 beaning by a 90+ mph Sam McDowell fastball to the jaw, which knocked out teeth and caused Mincher permanent hearing loss in one ear and "gave me equilibrium problems."

Tommie Agee (25)


The April collision with Morgan wasn't Agee's first bruising of 1968; he was hospitalized after being beaned by Bob Gibson on the first pitch of spring training, and things didn't get better from there: the 1966 AL Rookie of the Year had batted .256/.315/.412 (OPS+ 117) in 1966-67 and would bat .280/.348/.456 (OPS+ 121) from 1969-71, but in 1968 he was helpless, batting .217/.255/.307 (OPS+ 69) and doing even that well only with a strong September; Agee was hitting .109 in mid-May, .165 in mid-July and .181/.222/.265 on August 26 before regaining his bearings to hit .371/.397/.486 in his last 25 games.

Tony Oliva (29)


Another outstanding talent (he was feared enough to lead the AL in intentional walks in 1968) whose career was degraded by injuries, the 1964 Rookie of the Year and 1965 Al MVP runner-up batted .317/.363/.518 from 1964-66 (OPS+ 143), .322/.362/.517 (OPS+ 140) from 1969-71. He had had a mild off year (.289/.347/.463, OPS+ 129) in 1967, and in that context his 1968 season (.289/.357/.477, OPS+ 145) looks like the same old Oliva, just hitting under more difficult conditions. But Oliva averaged 664 plate appearances a year from 1964-67 and 683 a year in 1969-70, whereas he missed 34 games in 1968 including the entire month of September with a separated shoulder, and finished the season with just 68 RBI.

Dick Allen (26)


Allen, a better hitter than a good many Hall of Fame sluggers, was still a dangerous hitter in 1968 and had injury problems that season that were not unusual for him, but he may still deserve mention here; he suffered a groin injury and may have been suffering some aftereffects from the injury that ended his 1967 season (he tore up his hand pushing it through a car headlight on August 24); Allen started slowly, batting .257/.330/.396 through May 17, and while he caught fire after missing 8 games in early June, he ended up tailing off, batting .240/.334/.498 in the season's second half (this being Dick Allen, that could also have been the results of a bruised ego, as he was feuding with his manager at the time). On the whole, Allen hit .312/.400/.601 in 1966-67 (OPS +178) - only Frank Robinson was better over that period - and .297/.390/.557 from 1969-74 (OPS+ 166). In that context, 1968 counts as a mild off year for Allen, .263/.352/.520 (OPS+ 160) with a career-high 161 strikeouts.

Adding Up The Damage


I don't want to overstate the effect of this rash of injuries to productive hitters, but the numbers do suggest that injuries to these 14 hitters alone were enough to have some effect at the margins. Combined, they accounted for 6.4% of all Major League plate appearances in 1967, 4.3% in 1968, and - with expansion - 5.6% in 1969. But not just any plate appearances - almost all of these guys were stationed at the top or middle of their teams' batting orders, and the combined loss of 30-35 offensive WAR in a 24-team league is a lot of holes to fill.

In doing any sort of comparison, of course, we also have to consider that the 1969 bounce-back is inflated by expansion, which not only dilutes talent levels but tends to dilute them asymmetrically in favor of more scoring (marginal pitchers trapped in the minors are mostly there because they can't pitch, whereas many marginal non-pitchers are trapped in the minors because they can hit but can't field; adding more bad pitchers and a mix of bad hitters with good hitters who can't field will, on balance, bring more scoring).

More Off Years

Of course, those 14 hitters were not the only ones to have a tough time in 1968, even relative to the league. To complete the picture, I'll run here through a number of other players who had off years, some of them obviously not injury-related and others perhaps caused by unknown or minor injuries. But absent some reason to classify some of them as injury problems, I would not consider them as part of the analysis.

Carl Yastrzemski (28)


Yaz was healthy and one of the three best hitters in baseball in 1968, but his 1967 Triple Crown season was not something he could repeat. Nobody had a year like it in 1968.

Orlando Cepeda (30)


The unanimous 1967 NL MVP had back-to-back off years in 1968-69 (dropping from .314/.381/.500, OPS+ 148 to .252/.316/.402 OPS+ 108) before a big bounce back in 1970 (.305/.365/.543, OPS+ 136). I suspect his chronically bad knees may have had something to do with that, but that's just guesswork.

Tim McCarver (26)


Injuries for catchers can just accumulate. McCarver's reduced playing time and production suggest he was banged up.

Paul Blair (24)


I don't know of any injuries - Blair's famous beaning by Ken Tatum came in 1970 - but 1968 was a total loss for him with the bat, .211/.277/.318 (OPS+ 81), compared to .288/.338/.435 (OPS+ 126) in 1966-67 and .277/.335/.460 (OPS+ 119) in 1969-70.

Tommy Davis (29)


Again, I don't know of specific injuries, but Davis had many knee problems in his career and fell off dramatically relative to the league in 1968.

George Scott (24)


The Boomer had his usual spats with management over his weight, but seems to have just lost his batting eye in 1968, dropping from .303/.373/.465 to .171/.236/.237; he would go on to a long, productive career as a slugger.

Curt Blefary (24)


I'm not aware of any injury problems; the 1965 AL Rookie of the Year, who batted .252/.361/.447 (OPS+ 133) just fell apart, .200/.301/.322 (OPS+ 89) despite improving his K/BB ratio significantly. He would hit .253/.347/.393 (OPS+ 109) in the Astrodome the following year, his last as a productive hitter.

Rod Carew (22)


Carew was healthy and still just a young hitter coming into his own; his playing time was held back by his military commitments, which included 19 games away from the team in June 1968 to attend a summer training camp.

Tony Gonzalez (31)


Gonzalez, a good hitter earlier in the decade, had a fluke year in 1967, hitting .339/.396/.472, but was never really a major offensive threat after that.

Wes Parker (28)


Parker missed 3 weeks in August, but this doesn't seem all that unusual for him, and he was ordinarily not a major offensive star. But he did drop off from .250/.355/.367 (OPS+ 112) in 1966-67 and .301/.375/.444 (OPS+ 129) in 1969-70 to .239/.312/.314 (OPS+ 96) in 1968.

Jim Ray Hart (26)


A dangerous hitter from 1964-67 (.290/.352/.501, OPS+ 136) Hart's career was ended prematurely by injuries including shoulder problems, supposedly stemming from being hit in the shoulder by Bob Gibson. He batted .258/.323/.444 (OPS+128) in 1968 and missed 26 games, including a week in May and another in August, compared to the 664 plate appearances he averaged the prior four years, and never played a full season again. It appears that he was never hit by Gibson in a regular season game, so unless Gibson's just making up the story, it may have happened in a spring game, like Gibson's beaning of Agee, but the year would be unclear.

Ron Santo (28)


Yeah, I didn't realize Santo and Yaz were the same age, either, which is the main reason I bothered listing him here. He, too, was coming off a big 1967, and was healthy as a horse.

If you just include Parker, who was definitely injured, and Carew, who was definitely unavailable for reasons unrelated to the offensive conditions, the chart I ran above now looks like this:


If you then add in Cepeda, McCarver and Tommy Davis, you get this:


Without running the full numbers, there were a few other players who busted out of 2-3 year funks in 1969: Boog Powell (who'd been injured in 1966-67 but was healthy in 1968), Ron Fairly, Willie Davis (Bill James in the 1988 Abstract identified Davis as a guy who lost a lot to the expanded strike zone of 1963-68; he had no injury issues). Hank Aaron's OWAR for 1967-69 read 8.1-5.2-7.1, but he was healthy. 1968 also saw a couple of long-productive sluggers hit the wall with age: Bob Allison, Leon Wagner. Mickey Mantle was at the end, but was more productive than his numbers looked at first glance, and Mickey had been in gradual decline for a few years.

1969 also saw a bunch of guys bust out big compared to their 1967-68 OWAR. Some were productive hitters in 1968 who blossomed even further with expansion, better hitting conditions and marginally better health: Willie McCovey (who missed 14 games in 1968), Pete Rose (who uncharacteristically missed 2 weeks in July 1968 but still managed 692 plate appearances), Frank Howard, Jimmie Wynn, Reggie Smith, Rusty Staub, Cleon Jones, Tony Perez. There were also a crop of young players who established themselves offensive stars for the first time in 1969, in many cases 1968 rookies or guys who got their first full seasons in 1969: Reggie Jackson, Johnny Bench, Sal Bando, Bobby Bonds, Bobby Tolan, Alex Johnson, Mike Epstein. A passel of young talent can contribute to changing the balance of power between hitters and pitchers, but then 1968's crop of rookie pitchers included guys like Jerry Koosman and Stan Bahnsen who enjoyed immediate success; it's probably an effect rather than a cause of the offensive environment that many of the rookie hitters that season needed more time to adjust.

Finally, despite the offensive conditions or in some cases perhaps because of them, there were a handful of major hitters who had better years (measured by OWAR) in 1968 than in 1967 or 1969. Some just had career years (Willie Horton, Ken Harrelson) or at least happened to be right at their peak (Bill Freehan) or enjoying an up year in a series of ups and downs (Felipe Alou, Matty Alou, Roy White). Others just gave up less ground than the rest of the league (Willie Mays, Billy Williams, Lou Brock, Brooks Robinson, Ernie Banks).

The Pitchers

I have thus far addressed the hitters and their problems. But there's a dog that didn't bark much in 1968: pitching injuries, normally the bane of every baseball team. For example, contrasted to the number of injured, in-their-prime Hall of Fame hitters in 1968, there were 14 Hall of Fame pitchers active that season. Two were relievers: Hoyt Wilhelm made 72 appearances, Rollie Fingers was 21 and made his Major League debut on September 15. Of the 12 starters, 9 started at least 31 games and threw at least 232 innings, plus Don Sutton, who started 27 games and threw 207 innings, plus 21 year old rookie Nolan Ryan, who started 18 games. And that includes a number of guys who were right at the top of their game - Gibson, Marichal, Seaver, Drysdale, Jenkins. Only Jim Bunning was hurt: Bunning was perhaps the best pitcher in baseball in 1967, but he was 36 and broke down in 1968, starting 26 games and throwing 160 innings on the way to a 4-14 season. Of course, there were two other major injuries: Jim Palmer started only 9 games in 1967 and missed all of 1968 at age 22, and Sandy Koufax, still just 32, had retired after 1966 (Whitey Ford's career was also ended by injury in early 1967). The Hall of Famers hit 1968 like a bullseye: Bob Gibson, who had the great 1.12 ERA, had missed two months with a broken leg the year before, while Don Drysdale, who set the scoreless innings record that would stand for two decades, blew his arm out the next year. 1968 AL ERA champ Luis Tiant (1.60 ERA) would struggle in 1969 before missing large chunks of 1970-71 with arm woes, and 31 game winner Denny McLain would be effectively finished as a star by arm trouble in 1970, as would longtime AL star Dean Chance in 1969.

Looking more broadly around the league, there were a few other pitching injuries. Tommy John and of course Gary Nolan missed about 10 starts each. Jim Perry pitched well with a reduced workload, but it's not clear if he had arm trouble or was just in a 2-year state of exile as a swing man. Overall, 67 pitchers started 27 or more games, an average of 2.8 per team - not bad for a league that mostly used four-man rotations. 56 pitchers cleared 200 innings. These were not especially shocking figures for the era, but they do support the view that there were a lot of healthy arms around.

In short, there were a lot of reasons why 1968 became the Year of the Pitcher - but the fact that a lot of the game's elite hitters were hampered by significant injuries, while most of the game's best pitchers were healthy, surely had at least some role at the margins in tipping the scales towards the men on the mound.

June 23, 2012

In a 2-part study in 2011 here and here, I looked at the best and worst team defenses, measured by their Defensive Efficiency Rating (percentage of balls in play turned into outs) relative to the league average. (This is not a park-adjusted measurement, so park effects do play into this).

Let's look at this year's contenders, as well as updating the 2011 charts, which were based on early season results. As I explained in the longer article, it is extremely rare for teams to finish 5% or more above or below the league average - the 2007 Tampa Bay Devil Rays, at 95.32%, were the least effective defensive team in the postwar era (they led the AL the following year, which accounted for almost the entirety of their improvement to a pennant-winning team), while only three teams in that era cracked 105%: the 2001 Mariners (tops at 105.52%), 1999 Reds, and 1975 Dodgers (yes, that's two teams with Mike Cameron in center field). The last team below 95% was the epically awful 1930 Phillies, the last below 94% was the 1899 Cleveland Spiders, who finished 20-134. The 1930 Phillies were also the only team since 1915 to convert fewer than 65% of all balls in play into outs.

Here's the decade in progress, through June 22, 2012:

National League

BIP%NLHighDERHigh %LowDERLow %

A couple of things jump out when looking at the NL. First, balls in play are way down this year; the NL in 2010 was the first league ever below 70%, and this season's average would be a historic low. But team defense is also off from 2011.

As far as team defense, the Nationals' surge this year may owe a lot to the "K Street" pitching staff that is averaging 8.4 K/9, but the team has also featured the NL's best defense since the 1999 Reds, beating every NL defense of the past decade by a full percentage point (if they can sustain this pace). At the opposite end of the scale, the Rockies are currently threatening to be the first team since the 1899 Spiders to run below 94% of the league average and the first since the 1930 Phillies to post a DER below 650 (the team opposing batting average on balls in play - BABIP - is an eye-popping .343; there are a few accounting reasons, such as double plays, why DER and BABIP are not precise mirror images). Two of the team's top relievers, Esmil Rogers and Rex Brothers, have been pounded to the tune of BABIPs above .400, although Brothers has survived this by striking out 35 batters in 24 innings and allowing only one home run.

Regression to the mean is likely for both the Nats and the Rockies, and Colorado in particular is likely to tinker with its lineup to fix the problem (this is what the Astros did after a similarly horrific defensive start in 2011).

American League

BIP%ALHighDERHigh %LowDERLow %

In the AL, the league DER dropped off sharply from early June 2011 - when I wrote last year's post and the league average was 702 - to season's end at 694, leaving the Rays (who slightly improved their DER) with the best defense relative to the league (and in absolute terms) since 2001. Meanwhile, the Twins' defense collapsed, moving the White Sox out of last.

Turn to 2012, and the White Sox are now atop the AL, and Tampa at 696 is just a hair below the league average. But it's the Tigers who horrify, with an Opening Day infield of Prince Fielder at first, converted outfielder Ryan Raburn at second, lead-footed Jhonny Peralta at short and Miguel Cabrera - who is not significantly thinner than Fielder - at third. Even the spectacular center field defense of Austin Jackson can't salvage this D. Raburn, hitting just .165/.225/.245, has largely been supplanted now by Ramon Santiago, but Cabrera, Fielder and Peralta aren't going anywhere. This presents a real problem. The highest BABIP ever recorded (since such things have been tracked; at present the records go back to 1948) against a pitcher to qualify for the ERA title was .358 vs Kevin Millwood 2008 (four of the ten worst were Texas Rangers - besides (Millwood, you can find Kevin Brown, Aaron Sele, and John Burkett on the list). THis season, you have Max Scherzer at .383 BABIP, Josh Johnson of the Marlins at.365, and Rick Porcello at .350 (no Rockies qualify). Even with some expectation of a regression to the mean, the BABIP vs the whole Tigers staff is .318, so Scherzer and Porcello can expect to struggle with this all year. This is a major reason why Scherzer has a 5.17 ERA despite striking out 11.5 men per 9 innings and a K/BB ratio of 3.45 to 1 (Scherzer has also had home run problems), and Porcello a 4.95 ERA despite allowing just 2.3 walks and 0.9 HR/9 and a 2.3 to 1 K/BB ratio. The 1983 Phillies were the first team ever to finish in first place with the league's worst DER; it's been done twice again since (the 1998 Rangers and 2001 Indians), but for a team that was projected as the division leaders based on their offense (which, granted, is 7th in the league in runs) and pitching, that may prove too heavy a burden to carry.

May 4, 2012
BASEBALL: Doubled Up

Looking through the baseball-reference.com Play Indexes, which have this data back to 1948, yields some interesting nuggets.

Highest opposing BABIP, 100 or more innings: Glendon Rusch in 2003 (.381). You can beat the balls in play if you're good enough: BABIP vs Pedro Martinez in 1999: .325.

Most 2B allowed in a season since 1948: 68 by Rick Helling in 2001. Tied for second: 66 by Helling in 2000.

Most 3B allowed in a season since 1948 is a 4-way tie at 17, but Larry Christenson managed it in 1976 in just 168.2 IP. That 1976 Phillies team frequently had Greg Luzinski in LF, Ollie Brown or Jay Johnstone in RF, Garry Maddox in CF.

Most steals allowed in a season: 60 by Dwight Gooden in 1990. Tied for second: Gooden with 56 in 1988. Fewest: 200 innings in a season without allowing a steal has been done 10 times, four of them by Whitey Ford; Kenny Rogers in 2002 is the only one since 1968. Most career steals allowed: 757 off Nolan Ryan, and it's not even close, Greg Maddux is second at 547. Gooden allowed 452 steals in just 2800.2 innings.

Then there's the things besides steals that get buried in a pitcher's line, even looking at BABIP numbers, most of all double plays, doubles and triples. Tommy John induced 605 double plays in his career. Since 1948, Jim Kaat is second with 462, a huge gap. For the 61 pitchers to throw 3000 or more innings over that period - admittedly an elite group - I broke out their GIDP, steals, doubles, triples, and total bases allowed on doubles and triples (23B/9, counting triples twice) per 9 innings. The results are obviously heavily influenced by era and park and teammates, but interesting nonetheless - Tommy John and Dennis Eckersley are as dominant in the most- and least-DP business as Ryan and Whitey Ford are in allowing the most and least steals. I sorted the table by GIDP/9, so for the others:

SB/9: Most - Ryan, Tim Wakefield, Joe Niekro, Eckersley; Fewest - Ford, Billy Pierce, Warren Spahn, Rogers.

3B/9: Most - Robin Roberts, Bob Friend, Curt Simmons (Roberts' longtime teammate). Fewest - Chuck Finley, Randy Johnson, Jamie Moyer (Johnson's Seattle teammate).

23B/9 (largely the same list as 2B/9): Most - Rogers, David Wells, Livan Hernandez, Wakefield. Fewest - Juan Marichal, Ryan, Bob Gibson, Ford.

All of which went a long way to explaining to me why Whitey Ford was so successful in an era when the truly fielding-independent paths to success (K, BB, HR) were limited - few pitchers in the 50s had especially low BB/9, high K/9 or huge variances in HR/9. Not to say there was no variations, but not nearly enough for a pitcher to really distinguish himself (it's a study for another day to ask whether BABIP was as pitcher-independent in that era as today). But what's clear is that, with the help of a superior defense and possibly park effects (see here and here), Ford cut off the running game, induced a lot of double plays, and rarely allowed doubles or triples, which in addition to a fairly low HR rate explains how a guy with a 1.37 K/BB ratio from 1950-60 could be such a dominating pitcher year in and year out.

The table is below the fold.

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May 3, 2012
BASEBALL: 2012 NL West EWSL Report

Part 6 of my now very belated "preseason" previews is the NL West; this is the last 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, NL East.

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)

Arizona Diamondbacks

Raw EWSL: 236.50
Adjusted: 246.53
Age-Adj.: 239.48
WS Age: 28.9
2012 W-L: 93-69

C28Miguel Montero2020
1B24Paul Goldschmidt*38
2B30Aaron Hill1413
SS29Stephen Drew1414
3B31Ryan Roberts119
RF24Justin Upton2127
CF28Chris Young1818
LF30Jason Kubel1412
C240Henry Blanco42
INF34Willie Bloomquist65
OF25Gerardo Parra1316
1235Lyle Overbay107
1337John McDonald53
SP127Ian Kennedy1412
SP225Daniel Hudson#1115
SP324Trevor Cahill1112
SP431Joe Saunders108
SP526Josh Collmenter*511
RP135JJ Putz98
RP227David Hernandez87
RP332Brad Ziegler65
RP431Craig Breslow54
RP542Takashi Saito53

Subjective Adjustments: None, but I expect Goldschmidt to easily surpass 8 Win Shares if healthy.

Also on Hand: Position players - Geoff Blum, Cody Ransom (who has now played 10 years in the majors without once having 100 plate appearances), AJ Pollock.

Pitchers - Joe Paterson, who is off to about the worst possible start imaginable: Paterson allowed as many earned runs (11) in April as he did in 62 appearances all last year. In 2.2 innings he's faced 26 batters and allowed 18 baserunners (including 2 homers and 4 doubles), and he hasn't struck out a batter yet. Also Bryan Shaw, Jonathan Albaladejo, Wade Miley, Mike Zagurski, Joe Martinez, Patrick Corbin and Barry Enright.

Analysis: The D-Backs remain the class of this division based on established major league talent, and were the logical preseason favorites. Obviously, the Dodgers’ 4-game lead through May 2 could turn out to be decisive in the long run even if LA comes back to earth. Arizona has also been banged up early, including injuries to Hudson, Drew and Saito. Upton remains a very logical potential MVP candidate.

Henry Blanco is still playing at 40, Matt Treanor at 36, Brian Schneider at 35, Rod Barajas at 36, Dave Ross at 35, Jose Molina at 37. If you know young football players, advise them to consider catching as a career. A little talent, toughness and work ethic will give them a longer, happier career than a lot of NFL stars seem to have.

I haven't run the numbers, but the Diamondbacks have to have made the most trades involving the largest number of contributing major league players over the past 2 years or so.

San Francisco Giants

Raw EWSL: 209.00
Adjusted: 221.64
Age-Adj.: 213.06
WS Age: 28.9
2012 W-L: 84-78

C25Buster Posey#1116
1B24Brandon Belt*37
2B34Freddy Sanchez1110
SS25Brandon Crawford*36
3B25Pablo Sandoval1923
RF28Nate Schierholtz1010
CF30Angel Pagan1716
LF27Melky Cabrera1515
C222Hector Sanchez+04
INF35Aubrey Huff1712
OF28Gregor Blanco22
1232Ryan Theriot129
1327Emmanuel Burriss11
SP128Tim Lincecum1615
SP227Matt Cain1614
SP322Madison Bumgarner#914
SP434Barry Zito43
SP534Ryan Vogelsong76
RP130Brian Wilson1311
RP232Santiago Casilla75
RP333Jeremy Affeldt64
RP434Javier Lopez54
RP529Sergio Romo87

Subjective Adjustments: None, because I’m trying to avoid biasing the results with events since the season started, but clearly Brian Wilson will not be contributing to the Giants this season, and now Sandoval is out with a busted hand. Freddy Sanchez has also been hurt, and it’s not really clear whether he or Burriss ends up as the second baseman once Sanchez is healthy.

Also on Hand: Position players - Brett Pill, Joaquin Arias, Eli Whiteside.

Pitchers - Clay Hensley, Guillermo Mota, Dan Otero, Eric Hacker.

Analysis: As noted above, San Francisco's injuries make it a lot harder for the Giants to pick themselves off the mat. They have a lineup only Brian Sabean could love, despite the presence of three talented young bats (Sandoval, Posey and Belt). The outfield seems particularly symptomatic of a failure to learn anything from the Aaron Rowand signing. I needn't belabor the obvious point that Belt needs to be just stuck in the lineup until he figures things out; he batted .320/.461/.528 in the minors last season after .352/.455/.620 in 2010, but the Giants seem unwilling or unable to live with any growing pains.

As for the rotation, there's been a huge variation thus far in the batting average on balls in play vs various Giants pitchers, and their early successes and failures should seem a lot less dramatic as these even out over the course of the season; it's why I'm not so worried about Lincecum in particular, whose peripheral numbers are still solid:

Dan Otero0.452
Jeremy Affeldt0.417
Guillermo Mota0.367
Tim Lincecum0.351
Ryan Vogelsong0.292
Madison Bumgarner0.245
Santiago Casilla0.192
Clay Hensley0.188
Barry Zito0.188
Matt Cain0.158

Los Angeles Dodgers

Raw EWSL: 204.67
Adjusted: 215.23
Age-Adj.: 200.51
WS Age: 30.2
2012 W-L: 80-82

C31AJ Ellis#33
1B28James Loney1717
2B35Mark Ellis139
SS24Dee Gordon*68
3B32Juan Uribe97
RF30Andre Ethier2018
CF27Matt Kemp2829
LF29Tony Gwynn jr87
C236Matt Treanor43
INF36Adam Kennedy86
OF33Juan Rivera119
1236Jerry Hairston jr118
1326Justin Sellers*24
SP124Clayton Kershaw1921
SP227Chad Billingsley87
SP333Chris Capuano42
SP436Ted Lilly109
SP534Aaron Harang64
RP126Javy Guerra*49
RP224Kenley Jansen#57
RP337Jamey Wright54
RP435Mike MacDougal43
RP533Matt Guerrier64

Subjective Adjustments: None, but as with Goldschmidt, you can assume a pretty high likelihood that Dee Gordon beats 8 Win Shares if he stays healthy all year.

Also on Hand: Position players - Ivan De Jesus jr, the third of the Dodgers’ junior brigade, and Jerry Sands.

Pitchers - Todd Coffey, Blake Hawkesworth, Josh Lindblom, Scott Elbert, Rubby de la Rosa (on the DL) and Ronald Belisario (same).

Analysis: The frontline talent is strong and in its prime, but the rest of the team is ancient and creaky. Obviously, banking on Matt Kemp to hit .411/.500/.856 all year is not a wager I would take. Kemp has now raised his career April line to .343/.405/.618; his .297/.354/.526 line in June is the only one even close. Color me unpersuaded that this is really a 90+ win team unless significant help is added to the roster.

The Dodgers' long-term prognosis, of course, is vastly improved by the end of the McCourt Era, in which - ironically - Frank McCourt proved unable to competently manage even the one part of the team he had experience running (parking lots).

Colorado Rockies

Raw EWSL: 181.83
Adjusted: 193.87
Age-Adj.: 177.50
WS Age: 30.6
2012 W-L: 72-90

C36Ramon Hernandez118
1B38Todd Helton139
2B36Marco Scutaro1410
SS27Troy Tulowitzki2526
3B26Chris Nelson*12
RF33Michael Cuddyer1614
CF26Dexter Fowler1516
LF26Carlos Gonzalez2022
C223Wilin Rosario+14
INF27Jonathan Herrera#44
OF26Tyler Colvin#45
1227Eric Young33
1341Jason Giambi63
SP124Jhoulys Chacin#913
SP249Jamie Moyer21
SP325Juan Nicasio*24
SP433Jeremy Guthrie107
SP531Jorge de la Rosa75
RP137Rafael Betancourt97
RP232Matt Belisle76
RP327Matt Reynolds#22
RP429Josh Roenicke11
RP524Rex Brothers*25

Subjective Adjustments: None. Jorge de la Rosa is expected back in June and will be welcomed by a tattered rotation, but his numbers reflect his injury last season

Also on Hand: Position players - Jordan Pacheco, Eliezer Alfonzo, Hector Gomez.

Pitchers - Drew Pomeranz, who is presently the third or fourth starter pending the return of de la Rosa and Guthrie (also Chacin, just sent to AAA), Tyler Chatwood, Esmil Rogers, Guillermo Moscoso, Edgmer Escalona, Zach Putnam, Josh Outman.

Analysis: I've had a lot of fun on Twitter doing "how old is Jamie Moyer" facts (eg, he was the second-oldest player on the Mariners when he arrived in Seattle in August 1996), but the amazing thing is how dependent the Rockies have been on Moyer. His 3.14 ERA is deceptively low given the unearned runs he's allowed and a low BABIP, but he's basically the same old Moyer, which is a valuable thing on a team in Coors Field with terrible pitching.

A further retrospective on the careers of Moyer, Helton and Giambi is something I should return to later.

San Diego Padres

Raw EWSL: 159.67
Adjusted: 178.57
Age-Adj.: 172.33
WS Age: 28.7
2012 W-L: 71-91

C28Nick Hundley1111
1B25Yonder Alonso*25
2B34Orlando Hudson1513
SS32Jason Bartlett1512
3B28Chase Headley1616
RF29Will Venable1212
CF25Cameron Maybin1214
LF29Carlos Quentin1414
C231John Baker32
INF26Andy Parrino+04
OF28Jesus Guzman*713
1231Chris Denorfia76
1328Jeremy Hermida44
SP128Ednison Volquez11
SP228Clayton Richard65
SP327Cory Luebke*46
SP430Tim Stauffer76
SP524Anthony Bass*36
RP128Huston Street98
RP226Ernesto Frieri#34
RP328Luke Gregerson65
RP425Andrew Cashner#12
RP529Micah Owings43

Subjective Adjustments: None, but again, I expect Alonso to step up with full-time playing time.

Also on Hand: Position players - Kyle Blanks (now out for the season), Mark Kotsay, Blake Tekotte, Logan Forsythe.

Pitchers - Joe Thatcher, Joe Wieland (presently in the rotation), Josh Spence, Brad Brach, Dale Thayer, Jeff Suppan (recently exhumed from the minors - he's now in his 20th professional season. He's also 13 years younger than Moyer), Dustin Moseley (out for the season).

Analysis: What's worse - that the Padres are hitting .216/.302/.331 as a team, or that that doesn't even make them the lowest-scoring team in the league (the Pirates are scoring almost half a run per game less)? Yet, the lineup (partly due to a number of good glove men) isn't full of untalented guys, so much as it lacks anybody with star-level talent, plus the big bat (Quentin) hasn't played yet, with Guzman subbing for him. It's actually the rotation, which the park makes look respectable, that's really weak, and the bullpen is less impressive as well than it seems.

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May 1, 2012
BASEBALL: 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

C28Brian McCann2121
1B22Freddie Freeman*1034
2B32Dan Uggla2217
SS22Tyler Pastornicky+011
3B40Chipper Jones179
RF22Jason Heyward#1328
CF29Michael Bourn2020
LF28Martin Prado1515
C235Dave Ross75
INF34Jack Wilson65
OF34Matt Diaz65
1234Eric Hinske65
1328Jose Constanza*23
SP125Tommy Hanson1011
SP225Brandon Beachy*48
SP326Jair Jurrjens1011
SP436Tim Hudson1413
SP522Randall Delgado*13
RP124Craig Kimbrel#1013
RP227Johnny Venters#1111
RP327Eric O'Flaherty87
RP426Kris Medlen33
RP524Mike Minor#22

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

C33Carlos Ruiz1815
1B32Ryan Howard2217
2B33Chase Utley2319
SS33Jimmy Rollins2017
3B36Placido Polanco1612
RF29Hunter Pence2221
CF31Shane Victorino2319
LF34Juan Pierre1412
C235Brian Schneider32
INF34Ty Wigginton55
OF31Laynce Nix65
1228John Mayberry66
1341Jim Thome137
SP135Roy Halladay2319
SP233Cliff Lee1913
SP328Cole Hamels1615
SP424Vance Worley*612
SP531Joe Blanton43
RP131Jonathan Papelbon129
RP233Chad Qualls43
RP327Kyle Kendrick65
RP426Antonio Bastardo56
RP525Michael Stutes*36

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

C31John Buck1411
1B28Gaby Sanchez#1417
2B30Omar Infante1715
SS29Jose Reyes2019
3B28Hanley Ramirez1818
RF22Giancarlo Stanton#1430
CF27Emilio Bonifacio1314
LF24Logan Morrison#913
C228Brett Hayes#23
INF33Greg Dobbs44
OF27Chris Coghlan89
1229Donnie Murphy21
1332Austin Kearns43
SP128Josh Johnson1211
SP233Mark Buehrle1410
SP328Anibal Sanchez109
SP429Ricky Nolasco65
SP531Carlos Zambrano87
RP134Heath Bell1310
RP228Edward Mujica66
RP327Mike Dunn#33
RP426Ryan Webb44
RP526Steve Cishek*37

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

C24Wilson Ramos#812
1B32Adam LaRoche97
2B25Danny Espinosa#1218
SS26Ian Desmond#1215
3B27Ryan Zimmerman1920
RF33Jayson Werth2017
CF32Rick Ankiel65
LF33Xavier Nady43
C227Jesus Flores11
INF30Michael Morse1614
OF28Roger Bernadina#78
1237Mark DeRosa43
1332Chad Tracy11
SP123Stephen Strasburg#34
SP226Jordan Zimmermann67
SP328Edwin Jackson1211
SP426Gio Gonzalez1314
SP526Ross Detwiler23
RP135Brad Lidge43
RP225Henry Rodriguez#23
RP327Tyler Clippard109
RP424Drew Storen#912
RP529Sean Burnett65

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

C25Josh Thole#810
1B25Ike Davis#812
2B27Daniel Murphy99
SS22Ruben Tejada#613
3B29David Wright1818
RF26Lucas Duda*612
CF34Andres Torres1412
LF33Jason Bay1412
C229Mike Nickeas*11
INF27Justin Turner*816
OF32Scott Hairston64
1229Ronny Cedeno99
1324Kirk Nieuwenhuis+04
SP133Johan Santana75
SP237RA Dickey119
SP325Jonathan Niese#45
SP426Dillon Gee*46
SP528Mike Pelfrey66
RP132Frank Francisco75
RP227Bobby Parnell33
RP333Jon Rauch64
RP430Ramon Ramirez76
RP538Tim Byrdak32

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.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:15 PM | Baseball 2012-Present • | Baseball Studies | TrackBack (0)
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).

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:00 PM | Baseball 2012-Present • | Baseball Studies | TrackBack (0)
April 13, 2012
BASEBALL: 2012 AL West EWSL Report

Part 3 of my preseason previews is the AL West; this is the third 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.

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)

The Anaheim California-Based Los Angeles California Angels of Anaheim

Raw EWSL: 273.50
Adjusted: 285.03
Age-Adj.: 252.76
WS Age: 30.9
2012 W-L: 97-65

C29Chris Iannetta1110
1B32Albert Pujols3024
2B28Howie Kendrick1818
SS28Erick Aybar1616
3B29Alberto Callaspo1515
RF36Torii Hunter2014
CF25Peter Bourjous#913
LF33Vernon Wells1311
DH29Kendry Morales76
C229Bobby Wilson#22
INF26Mark Trumbo*715
OF38Bobby Abreu1812
1331Macier Izturis1210
SP129Jered Weaver2118
SP231Danny Haren1713
SP331CJ Wilson1713
SP429Ervin Santana1311
SP530Jerome Williams21
RP124Jordan Walden#68
RP236Scott Downs98
RP337Hisanori Takahashi75
RP439LaTroy Hawkins54
RP527Kevin Jepsen22

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Hank Conger, Alexi Amarista, Ryan Langerhans, and - arriving sooner or later, and off to a hot start in AAA - outfield super-prospect Mike Trout.

Pitchers - Jason Isringhausen, who despite not being listed here is more or less in the closer mix, given the wobbly Walden.

Analysis: This team is the very picture of depth and balance, with just two really major stars (Pujols and Weaver, although in truth Weaver is only slightly better than Haren) but almost no weaknesses and a mix of young players and seasoned vets jostling for playing time (Trumbo, for example, hit 29 home runs last season and is basically reduced to playing all-purpose backup to Pujols, Callaspo, Morales, Hunter and Wells, while fending off Abreu and Trout). The only two conspicuous weaknesses are Wells, who with any non-insane contract would have been cut by now (fun fact: Vernon Wells made as much money as Mitt Romney in 2009 and 2010), and the uncertain Jerome Williams as the fifth starter.

American League Champion Texas Rangers

Raw EWSL: 235.50
Adjusted: 250.96
Age-Adj.: 230.02
WS Age: 29.9
2012 W-L: 90-72

C30Mike Napoli1716
1B26Mitch Moreland#68
2B30Ian Kinsler1918
SS23Elvis Andrus1923
3B33Adrian Beltre1816
RF31Nelson Cruz1714
CF31Josh Hamilton1916
LF30David Murphy1110
DH35Michael Young2015
C233Yorvit Torrealba98
INF29Alberto Gonzalez43
OF28Craig Gentry#35
1325Brandon Snyder+04
SP132Colby Lewis#109
SP225Derek Holland89
SP325Yu Darvish+04
SP424Neftali Feliz1214
SP526Matt Harrison910
RP137Joe Nathan54
RP233Mike Adams107
RP328Alexi Ogando#910
RP437Koji Uehara86
RP529Mark Lowe33

Subjective Adjustments: None, although as I noted last year with Andrus, EWSL tends to overrate the growth potential of very young players whose value is disproportionately defensive. But by now, the more reasonable reading of the age adjustment is a built-in assumption of offensive improvement.

Also on Hand: Position players - Julio Borbon, Lonys Martin, shortstop prospect Jurickson Profar. I always read his name to myself using the Don Pardo voice: "Juuuuricksonn PrOWfarrr..." Try it once, I guarantee it will stick with you.

Pitchers - Scott Feldman, Robert Ross.

Analysis: It remains to be seen, but right now the difference in the AL West is CJ Wilson pitching for the Angels instead of the Rangers. we'll get a better fix now on exactly how well the Nolan Ryan-led organization's pitching strategies work with the move of Neftali Feliz to the rotation and Alexi Ogando back to the pen, as well as Yu Darvish's adjustment to the majors as the rare non-gimmicky Japanese power pitcher to enter a rotation (the example of the late Hideki Irabu was not encouraging, but Irabu had a variety of issues).

The Rangers lineup is older than you think it is. Guys like Hamilton and Cruz got late starts in the big leagues, so it's easy to forget they're on the wrong side of 30 now.

Seattle Mariners

Raw EWSL: 147.50
Adjusted: 186.06
Age-Adj.: 183.55
WS Age: 28.8
2012 W-L: 74-88

C33Miguel Olivo109
1B25Justin Smoak#711
2B24Dustin Ackley*718
SS30Brendan Ryan1210
3B24Kyle Seager*34
RF38Ichiro Suzuki2013
CF29Franklin Guitierrez1010
LF34Chone Figgins97
DH22Jesus Montero+111
C228John Jaso#89
INF26Mike Carp*48
OF25Michael Saunders34
1327Casper Wells#46
SP126Felix Hernandez2022
SP229Jason Vargas87
SP337Kevin Millwood65
SP423Blake Beavan*36
SP525Hector Noesi*12
RP129Brandon League98
RP228Tom Wilhelmsen*23
RP325Lucas Luetge+04
RP428Steve Delabar+14
RP535George Sherrill43

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Muenenori Kawasaki, who has been doing the bulk of the infield backup work, Alex Liddi, Trayvon Robinson.

Pitchers - Shawn Kelley, Erasmo Ramirez, Hisashi Iwakuma (an import who’s still looking to crack the rotation).

Analysis: The Mariners have clipped about 3 years off their WS average age since last season, albeit partly because some of the older guys like Figgins and Ichiro are coming off tough years. But the road back is long, long enough that in the absence of marketable veterans they had to part with Michael Pineda to get a young hitter in Montero (not a bad deal, but a costly one for a rebuilding team). It's hard to see the Mariners getting rebuilt before King Felix has either gotten injured or left town. This division remains stratified very sharply between the two strong and two weak teams.

Ichiro enters tonight's action with 2438 hits in the American League to go with 1287 in nine seasons in Japan, dating back to age 18, a total of 3725 hits. It's almost a certainty that he'd be on the doorstep of 4000 hits by now if he'd been in the majors that whole time: due to the shorter Japanese schedule, he made it to 200 hits only once in Japan, as a 20-year-old hitting .385 in 1994; from age 21-26, Ichiro batted .354 but averaged 172 hits in 486 at bats per season; in the majors from age 27-36, he batted .331 but averaged 224 hits in 678 at bats. Give him an extra 50 hits a year and he'd be over 4000 by now.

Oakland A's

Raw EWSL: 114.00
Adjusted: 169.35
Age-Adj.: 167.16
WS Age: 28.3
2012 W-L: 69-93

C28Kurt Suzuki1010
1B26Daric Barton1011
2B25Jemile Weeks*818
SS28Cliff Pennington1717
3B26Josh Donaldson+011
RF25Josh Reddick*48
CF26Yoenis Cedpedes+011
LF32Coco Crisp1310
DH31Jonny Gomes119
C228Anthony Recker+04
INF26Eric Sogard+04
OF29Seth Smith1211
1328Kila Kaiaihue#00
SP128Brandon McCarthy66
SP239Bartolo Colon54
SP325Tyson Ross#22
SP425Tom Milone+14
SP527Graham Godfrey+14
RP134Grant Balfour75
RP236Brian Fuentes76
RP328Jerry Blevins22
RP425Andrew Carignan+04
RP525Ryan Cook+04

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Adam Rosales, Brandon Allen, Jermaine Mitchell, Grant Green, Chris Carter.

Pitchers - Fautino de los Santos, Jordan Norberto, prospect Jarrod Parker and the injured duo of Brett Anderson and Dallas Braden, whose dual absence blows a huge hole in the Oakland rotation.

Analysis: Even for the annually reborn A's, who almost always exceed their EWSL due to overperforming young starting pitchers and a season-long influx of new discoveries, a non-age-adjusted total of 114 Established Win Shares (38 wins' worth) is a narrow base upon which to build. The Astros can't arrive in this division soon enough for Oakland.

You want good news? It's nice to have a guy who can throw like this.

Read More »

April 12, 2012
BASEBALL: 2012 AL East EWSL Report

Part 2 of my preseason previews is the AL East; this is the second 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.

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)

The Hated Yankees

Raw EWSL: 281.17
Adjusted: 288.33
Age-Adj.: 246.12
WS Age: 32.1
2012 W-L: 95-67

C29Russell Martin1312
1B32Mark Teixeira2319
2B29Robinson Cano2928
SS38Derek Jeter1812
3B36Alex Rodriguez1813
RF31Nick Swisher2016
CF31Curtis Granderson2218
LF28Brett Gardner1515
DH40Raul Ibanez158
C226Francisco Cervelli55
INF25Eduardo Nunez#57
OF35Andruw Jones86
1334Eric Chavez33
SP131CC Sabathia1915
SP223Michael Pineda*512
SP337Hiroki Kuroda118
SP425Ivan Nova#68
SP526Phil Hughes66
RP142Mariano Rivera1410
RP227David Robertson76
RP332Rafael Soriano97
RP429Cory Wade32
RP536Freddy Garcia98

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Chris Stewart, Chris Dickerson.

Pitchers - Boone Logan, Andy Pettitte, Clay Rapada, David Aardsma. Joba Chamberlain and Pedro Feliciano almost certainly won't pitch this year.

Analysis: Once again, the Hated Yankees are the class of the field - albeit not of the whole AL, compared to the Tigers - and once again, they are also (probably - I haven't finished running all the numbers) the oldest team in the league, maybe in MLB.

The Yankees' depth is not that impressive behind the front line, but of course the front line is very impressive, at least on offense and in the bullpen. It's the rotation that remains a big question mark after CC Sabathia (it's easy to forget that Kuroda is even older than Freddy Garcia). A lot will rest on Pineda.

One has to assume that by the trade deadline, the Yankees will find someone besides Ibanez and Andruw Jones to handle the DH and backup outfielder duties.

Boston Red Sox

Raw EWSL: 251.83
Adjusted: 252.87
Age-Adj.: 227.62
WS Age: 30.0
2012 W-L: 89-73

1B30Adrian Gonzalez3128
2B28Dustin Pedroia2222
SS31Mike Aviles65
3B33Kevin Youkilis2017
RF27Ryan Sweeney89
CF28Jacoby Ellsbury2121
LF30Carl Crawford1816
DH36David Ortiz1713
C232Kelly Shoppach54
INF34Nick Punto87
OF31Cody Ross1412
1333Darnell McDonald54
SP128Jon Lester1615
SP232Josh Beckett119
SP327Clay Buchholz109
SP427Daniel Bard87
SP524Felix Doubront#00
RP128Andrew Bailey109
RP229Alfredo Aceves87
RP327Mark Melancon66
RP434Vicente Padilla43
RP526Franklin Morales22

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Ryan Kalish, Ryan Lavarnaway. Pitchers - John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka, neither of whom is likely to pitch. Bobby Jenks, who's on the shelf for at least about half the season. Aaron Cook, Scott Atchison, Matt Albers, Justin Thomas, Ross Ohlendorf, Michael Bowden. Cook's the one most likely to have some impact in the near future.

Analysis: Bobby Valentine (who has done nothing so far to dispell my conclusion that he's the Newt Gingrich of baseball managers) has his work cut out for him - this is still a talented team, but the injuries have piled up (including Bailey being shelved yet again) and age has taken its toll, plus one has to wonder whether Carl Crawford can take over the inspirational leadership void left by JD Drew.

(...yeah, I'm trolling with that last point)

And perhaps worst of all, not only are the Sox likely competing less for the division than for the single-elimination Russian Roulette wild card, they're doing so in a viciously competitive division, as you can see from how the Rays and Jays rosters look. Maybe Crawford, Youkilis and Buchholz bounce back, but then Ortiz is 36 and there's nowhere to go but down for Ellsbury, Gonzalez, and Pedroia after 2011. The Sawx will be a good team, but they face a high likelihood of being an odd man out.

Tampa Bay Rays

Raw EWSL: 213.83
Adjusted: 230.16
Age-Adj.: 223.76
WS Age: 29.1
2012 W-L: 88-74

C37Jose Molina63
1B34Carlos Pena1715
2B32Jeff Keppinger1210
SS27Sean Rodriguez88
3B26Evan Longoria2628
RF27Matt Joyce1314
CF27BJ Upton1819
LF25Desmond Jennings*613
DH34Luke Scott97
C227Jose Lobaton+14
INF26Reid Brignac66
OF31Ben Zobrist2621
1328Elliott Johnson*12
SP126David Price1315
SP230James Shields1311
SP325Jeremy Hellickson#911
SP423Matt Moore+14
SP529Jeff Niemann87
RP136Kyle Farnsworth87
RP236Joel Peralta65
RP335Fernando Rodney43
RP425Jacob McGee*12
RP526Wade Davis67

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Stephen Vogt, Sam Fuld (who is injured).

Pitchers - JP Howell, Brandon Gomes, Josh Lueke, Burke Badenhop.

Analysis: The Rays have their usual assortment of young starting pitchers, prime-age position players, and aging relievers, with weak spots at catcher and much of the non-Longoria infield (depending where Zobrist is on a particular day, which thus far is more often in the outfield). It's always hard to guess how Hellickson, Moore and Davis (to the extent he gets another shot in the rotation) will progress down the path to David Pricedom.

Despite an early injury, I have a suspicion that his age 27 contract year will be good to BJ Upton, who has definitely followed the Adrian Beltre career path; Upton's five year average of .257/.346/.425 with 32 doubles, 17 HR, 37 SB & 71 BB is solid, but somehow his individual seasons don't quite match up to that package.

Toronto Blue Jays

Raw EWSL: 204.17
Adjusted: 227.16
Age-Adj.: 221.26
WS Age: 29.2
2012 W-L: 87-75

C26JP Arencibia*715
1B28Adam Lind1212
2B30Kelly Johnson1615
SS29Yunel Escobar1918
3B22Brett Lawrie*518
RF31Jose Bautista3025
CF25Colby Rasmus1316
LF25Eric Thames*48
DH29Edwin Encarnacion99
C229Jeff Mathis44
INF45Omar Vizquel42
OF31Rajai Davis108
1330Ben Francisco66
SP127Ricky Romero1614
SP227Brandon Morrow76
SP325Brett Cecil66
SP422Henderson Alvarez*25
SP525Joel Carreno+14
RP128Sergio Santos#89
RP237Francisco Cordero1210
RP341Darren Oliver75
RP427Luis Perez*12
RP534Jason Frasor65

Subjective Adjustments: None, but Brett Lawrie's EWSL may be somewhat enthusiastic here, as is sometimes the case for 22 year olds.

Also on Hand: Position players - Travis Snider.

Pitchers - Dustin McGowan (hurt again) and Jesse Litsch.

Analysis: What a difference a year makes for a team I has ranked last entering last season; EWSL has them effectively even with Boston and Tampa, even adjusting for Canadian exchange rates.

Colby Rasmus is to the Jays what Upton and Crawford are to Tampa and Boston, the lineup's pivotal enigma. The pitching staff is still a crapshoot beyond Romero, but there are a fair number of live arms here.

Baltimore Orioles

Raw EWSL: 176.00
Adjusted: 181.12
Age-Adj.: 176.99
WS Age: 28.6
2012 W-L: 72-90

C26Matt Wieters1719
1B26Chris Davis44
2B34Brian Roberts76
SS29JJ Hardy1515
3B28Mark Reynolds1717
RF28Nick Markakis2020
CF26Adam Jones1517
LF28Nolan Reimold77
DH30Wilson Betemit109
C231Ronny Paulino65
INF28Robert Andino66
OF34Endy Chavez43
1333Nick Johnson43
SP129Jason Hammell76
SP226Jake Arrieta#46
SP325Tommy Hunter67
SP426Wei-Yin Chen+04
SP525Brian Matusz44
RP129Jim Johnson87
RP232Matt Lindstrom43
RP334Kevin Gregg65
RP429Darren O'Day54
RP534Luis Ayala32

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Ryan Flaherty.

Pitchers - Pedro Strop, Troy Patton, Zach Britton, Tsuyoshi Wada, Brad Bergesen.

Analysis: The Orioles aren't terrible, but this division could easily leave a lot of their players look like Robert Andino.

Wieters, Davis and Jones have basically reached the put up or shut up stage for their hyped potential. Davis now has a career line of .322/.380/.645 in AA, .337/.397/.609 in AAA, but .252/.301/.448 in MLB. In MLB, he's averaged a .335 BABIP, 24 HR, 39 BB, and 189 K per 600 AB. Between AA and AAA: .395 BABIP, 41 HR, 58 BB, 156 K per 600 AB. In other words, it's not just the strikeouts, Davis has struggled across the board to translate his skills to the MLB level. He could hit 45 homers, he could hit .210; he could do both. If he and Jones both improve their strike zone judgment just a bit, this lineup looks a lot better. Then you have Hardy, who is liable to do anything in a given season (I sort of half expect him to hit 30 homers because having two good years in a row is the one thing he's never done), and Markakis, who is battling to avoid the Ben Grieve career path he's been on for the past few seasons, as well as Reynolds, who will be a terror if he plays every day and strikes out less than 200 times, but is more apt to terrorize his own pitching staff. If ever there was an offense designed for the outside possibility of making its batting coach look like a genius...Jim Presley has his work cut out for him.

We pass in silence and avert our eyes from Baltimore's pitching beyond noting that Jake Arrieta started Opening Day.

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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.

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March 30, 2012
BASEBALL: 2011 EWSL Wrapup By Team

The second piece of the puzzle (after the below) in preparing my annual Established Win Shares Levels previews is to review the prior year's team results. I'll present these without much comment for now; the teams are sorted by how their 2011 pre-season rosters stacked up against their EWSL, with the later columns showing how they plugged the gaps with guys not listed before the season. I'll go back and update this later with how this affects the cumulative team adjustments.

TeamEWSL2011 WSPlus/MinusWinsWSRest of TeamRest-W

UPDATE: As you can see from the above, MLB-wide, teams earned 1174 Win Shares, or 39.13 per team, from the rest of their rosters, the least since 2006. Results year-by-year since I started tracking results at a team level:

2005: 1067 (35.57)
2006: 1143 (38.10)
2007: 1260 (42.00)
2008: 1226 (40.87)
2009: 1221 (40.70)
2010: 1247 (41.57)
2011: 1174 (39.13)
Total: 8338 (39.70)

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:55 PM | Baseball 2012-Present • | Baseball Studies | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: EWSL 2012 Age and Rookie Baselines

It's that time of year again - it gets later every year - for my division previews powered by Established Win Shares Levels (originally explained here): before we get to rolling out the 2012 EWSLs, I have to update the age adjustments and rookie values I use each year. These are based on the data I have gathered over the past eight seasons, and so with each passing year, one would hope they become progressively more stable and useful in evaluating the established talent base on hand for each team entering each season. As a reminder: EWSL is not a prediction system. It's a way of assessing the resources on hand.

To my mind, the age data is actually some of the most interesting stuff from this whole project, arguably more useful than the annual team previews, because it's a mostly objective (albeit unscientific) dataset that gives us a different look at the aging curve from the perspective of the guys who look like they have roster spots in March and April of each year.

I'll skip some more of the usual preliminaries (see this post from 2010 explaining more) and get right to the charts:

Non-Pitchers 2011 and 2004-2011:

2011 NP04-11

The younger age cohorts, as usual, were volatile due to their small sample size. Among the 20somethings, the 28 year olds got hit the hardest (led by Joe Mauer, David Wright, Shin-Soo Choo, Kendry Morales, Casey McGeehee, Stephen Drew and Franklin Gutierrez), while the 26 year olds did the best (led by Matt Kemp, Matt Joyce, Emilio Bonifacio, and Melky Cabrera); the 31 year olds (led by Adam Dunn, Adam LaRoche, Felipe Lopez, Juan Uribe and Ryan Spilborghs) and 33 year olds (led by Chone Figgins, Marlon Byrd, Rafael Furcal, and Luke Scott) also took it on the chin, and as has been the pattern since the end of the steroid/Barry Bonds age, the over-35 crowd did more poorly than the overall results since 2004.

Pitchers 2011 and 2004-2011:

2011 P2011 Total

Besides the youngest arms, the 26 year olds (led by Ian Kennedy, Justin Masterson, Eric O'Flaherty, Fernando Salas and David Robertson) and 35 year olds (led by Kyle Farnsworth, Scott Downs, Freddy Garcia, and Joel Peralta) had the best 2011 showings; the 24 year olds (led by Tommy Hanson, Jaime Garcia, Tommy Hunter and Brian Matusz) and 27 year olds (led by Josh Johnson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Andrew Bailey, Joakim Soria, Jonathan Broxton, and Kevin Slowey) the worst aside from an overall decay above age 30.

We wrap up with the rookie adjustments:


Type of Player# in 2011WS in 2011# 2004-11WS 2004-11Rate
Everyday Players9827579310.57
Bench Players (Under 30)416702693.84
Bench Players (Age 30+)00430.75
Rotation Starters28341464.29
Relief Pitchers611241074.46
Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:50 PM | Baseball 2012-Present • | Baseball Studies | TrackBack (0)
March 1, 2012
BASEBALL: Pitchers At Their Peaks

Who was the best starting pitcher of all time, at his peak?

I've done a few different approaches to this question over the years, and still mean to do a more detailed and systematic look down the road when I have more time to devote to the issue. But here's one quick take. This is a list of all the starting pitchers I could find - I'm pretty sure I got everyone - to post an ERA+ of 150 or better over a period of 5 or more seasons. I found 25 of them (this excluded Jim Devlin, whose career ERA+ stood at 151 when he was banned from baseball in 1877 after 3 seasons for throwing games, and Al Maul, who posted a 155 ERA+ from 1895-99, but appeared in only 59 games over those 5 seasons and threw 140 innings in only one of them; I may have missed somebody else with a flukey pattern like Maul's. And I left off Hoyt Wilhelm, who was a full time starter for only a year and a half). ERA+, for those of you not familar with the concept, is baseball-reference.com's computation of how much better a pitcher's ERA was than the league average, after adjusting for park effects; a pitcher whose ERA is half the league average is twice as good as the league and thus has an ERA+ of 200. As you can see, an ERA+ that's 50% better than the league is a pretty hard thing to sustain over a 5 year stretch.

A more systematic approach would examine two additional questions I handle only anecdotally here. The major one is workloads - I've listed each pitcher's average innings per year here, but as you can see from my examination of pitcher workloads between 1920-2004, the average innings thrown by a #1 starter or by an average rotation starter has changed a lot over the years; the changes are even more dramatic as you go through the period from 1871-1910. The other item to consider is how much of pitcher ERAs even over an extended period can be attributable to defense, not only because different pitchers had better or worse defenses behind them but because the pitcher's share of the load has changed over time - as I demonstrated here and here, the percentage of plate appearances resulting in a ball in play has dropped from a high of 96.7% in the National Association in 1874 to a low of 69.7% in the National League in 2010. Clearly, the modern pitcher has far more responsibility for keeping runs off the board than his distant ancestors. (One could also examine changes in the quality of competition over time, but while I note a few guys here who cleaned up on war-weakened leagues, I generally ignore that issue in these kinds of studies; the best we can ask is who did the most with the competition of their day).

Here's the chart; as you can see, while for most of these guys the "peak" was easy to identify, in a few cases of guys who peaked over a long period or more than once (or in the case of Greg Marddux and Randy Johnson, were close enough to the top of the list to justify closer examination), I broke out their careers in more groups of seasons than one. QI/Yr is Quality Innings, a quick-and-dirty metric I use to multiply Innings Pitched by ERA+. Helps give some perspective to the quantity vs quality debate.

1Pedro Martinez25-317201213428131750.766
2Greg Maddux28-325228202460561760.731
3Walter Johnson22-2763531986989429130.685
G. Maddux26-327239191456491880.706
W. Johnson22-31103431846311226140.650
4Three Finger Brown29-335292182531442590.743
5Randy Johnson31-388220178391601860.765
6Grover Alexander26-3362961745150424100.691
L. Grove35-395229173396171780.669
7Lefty Grove28-325282172485042670.795
8Christy Mathewson27-3153201705440028100.730
R. Johnson29-3810219170372301860.751
9Sandy Koufax26-305275167459252270.766
10Kevin Brown31-355242165399301680.667
R. Clemens31-355210162340201480.648
11Cy Young34-3853601615796027130.678
12Hal Newhouser23-2752951614749524110.678
13Roger Clemens23-297257160411201990.683
14Ed Walsh26-3163751585925025160.604
L. Grove26-3914247158390262080.704
W. Johnson28-3252911574568720150.576
15Johan Santana25-295229157359531780.688
16Kid Nichols25-2953721565803228140.659
17Smokey Joe Wood20-256205156319801880.686
18Carl Hubbell29-3352931554541522110.677
R. Clemens23-3513234155362701790.654
19Spud Chandler34-396146155226301040.739
20Tom Seaver24-2852801544312021100.669
21Bob Gibson30-3452741534192220100.673
C. Mathewson22-32113241524924828110.716
22Addie Joss24-2962781524225620110.645
G. Maddux32-365230152349601890.669
23Roy Halladay28-347222152337441780.695
24Rube Waddell25-2953171514786722140.619
25Ed Reulbach22-265252151380521980.713

Some thoughts:

Pedro Martinez has clearly earned the distinction of the most effective starting pitcher of all time at his peak, swimming upstream against Fenway Park and an era of sluggers gone wild. Pedro didn't carry a heavy enough innings load to be considered quite the best ever, even adjusted for his era, but when he was on the hill, there's never been better. And moreso than anyone on this list except Randy Johnson, Pedro did most of it himself - fewer than 60% of plate appearances against Pedro in those years ended in a ball in play, compared to a little under 75% for Maddux, a little over 75% for Walter Johnson, 77% for Lefty Grove, and 82% for Three Finger Brown. (Randy Johnson was a little under 55%).

Greg Maddux just might be the best ever - he led the league in innings every year from age 25-29, finished second at age 30 and third at age 32. His innings total looks lower here than it might be because of the strike seasons right at his age 28-29 pinnacle. That said, he has to be knocked just a peg for the fact that we don't know if he would have ground down just a little if he'd had a full schedule to pitch those two years. But no matter how you slice it, Maddux was one of the very best.

Walter Johnson remains my choice for the best starting pitcher of all time, utterly dominating an entire decade from age 22-31, during which he led the AL in innings pitched five times (Johnson's 1918-19 seasons, age 30-31, were shortened slightly by World War I. One of my favorite factoids is that Johnson allowed just two home runs in 616.1 innings those two seasons, and both of them were hit by Babe Ruth. But he was at his very best in 1912-13, when he averaged 34-10 with an ERA+ of 250 and averaged 358 innings a year.) There's a significant dropoff after the top three to the next tier.

Three Finger Brown gets a little bit of short shrift in discussions of the very, very best pitchers, in part because his career started late, and he certainly had a lot of help from one of the two best defensive teams of all time. Pitchers in Brown's era didn't throw a ton of breaking balls - they had to conserve energy over the high innings workloads of the day, they could afford to save their best stuff for the 'pinch' in the absence of home runs (Mathewson supposedly threw his fadeaway only about 10 times a game) and sports medicine was nonexistent, so if you strained your elbow throwing curveballs, you just pitched through it or gave up. But Brown, being missing a chunk of his pitching hand, could throw a breaking ball with a fastball grip (no need to strain the wrist with an unnatural grip), and that made him deadly.

I also think we haven't fully absorbed the impact of Randy Johnson just yet. Johnson was a Paul Bunyanesque freak of nature and a generally crotchety guy, but in his prime was a super-elite pitcher.

I looked more at Grover Alexander in this 2003 column - Alexander's prime here includes the 1918 season, in which he appeared in just three games before going off to fight in World War I, and the 1919 season, which played a shortened schedule. That artificially conceals what an amazing workhorse Old Pete was - Alexander averaged 384 innings a year from 1915-17 (age 28-30), often leading the league by enormous margins. By 1920 he'd picked up another monstrous workload, clearing 355 innings for the sixth time in a decade, all of them league-leading totals. Alexander might well have won 400 games, and would have been very close, if not for the war (he won 45 in the minors in addition to 373 after arriving in the NL at age 24). Note that our top six here includes a guy with a mangled hand and three pitchers who regularly threw some sort of sidearm (the two Johnsons and Alexander).

Which brings us to Lefty Grove, who like Walter Johnson (and a young Satchel Paige) broke into the league throwing nearly nothing but fastballs before gradually expanding his repetoire. Grove's real peak was age 28-32, but his ERA+ is slightly better for his age 35-39 seasons with the Red Sox, when he was gradually scaling back to being a 'Sunday pitcher' and no longer doing double duty as his team's ace reliever. As Bill James has noted, Grove won 300 games in the majors after winning 111 games in the minors, 108 of them for the Baltimore Orioles of a highly competitive International League.

Christy Mathewson probably got more help from his offense than any other great pitcher, with the arguable exceptions of Grove, Kid Nichols and Warren Spahn. But Matty in his prime didn't really need all that much help. This includes his epic 1908 season, when a 27 year old Mathewson threw 390.2 innings in the heat of the legendary pennant race, only to lose to Brown (pitching in relief) and the Cubs in the replay of the Merkle game on the season's last day.

Sandy Koufax is considered the gold standard for guys who scaled a really dizzying peak, and he surely is among the best, but when you take the air of Dodger Stadium and the mid-60s out of his numbers, Koufax pulls up short of the guys at the very top. (Another reason Koufax stood out so much at the time: notice there's nobody on this list between Hal Newhouser in the mid-1940s and Koufax in the first half of the 1960s, Whitey Ford having just missed)

Kevin Brown is not a guy you expect to see quite this high up a list like this, but Brown at his best was really, really good. The last two years of Brown's peak include the first two of his famous contract; over the first five seasons of that contract, Brown's ERA+ was 148, although with injuries he averaged just 175 innings, and then he went to the Yankees and unraveled.

Cy Young was relentlessly good and consistent for a very long time - back when I was running translated pitching stats, I noticed that when you adjusted him for the league average, Young's rate of walks per 9 innings was nearly the same every year for two decades. As I demonstrated in my essay on Baseball's Most Impressive Records, there was a generational change from the guys in the 1880s-1890s who carried ridiculous 400+ inning a year workloads to pitchers who started having long careers in the 1900s, but Young was really the one and only guy to do both, which is why his career numbers have that oceanic vastness that defies analysis. Note that Young benefits a little from the fact that these were the American League's first five seasons, the first year or two of which featured a somewhat lower level of competition than the NL of the day.

Hal Newhouser had his best seasons against a war-depleted American League in 1944-45 and a lot of rusty returning veterans in 1946, so he's probably several notches higher here than he'd otherwise be, but he was a nasty power lefty who was a legitimately great pitcher for a few years.

"Peak value" isn't exactly the best way to measure Roger Clemens, who is ranked here on his 1986-92 peak with the Red Sox, although like Grove he had an even better ERA+ over his second peak, which spans the strike-shortened 1994-95 seasons and runs through his 1997-98 tenure with the Blue Jays. Clemens also posted an ERA+ of 180 in 180 innings a year from age 41-43 with the Astros (career ERA+ by team: 196 with the Jays, 180 with the Astros, 145 with the Red Sox, 114 with the Yankees). It's the cumulative effect of those multiple peaks that makes his career one of the inner-circle ones.

Ed Walsh, the big spitballer, threw a staggering 375 innings a year over his six-year prime (including a ridiculous even for the day 464 innings in 1908's equally insane American League pennant race, which the Tigers won at the expense of Walsh's White Sox), at the end of which his arm gave out.

I was there with my two older kids for the last game of Johan Santana's prime, the epic, arm-weary last win at Shea Stadium. I hope we see even a little of the old Santana again some day, but we've now had a few years' remove to reflect on how great he was in his two Cy Young, three ERA title prime.

Kid Nichols, a contemporary of Cy Young who also might have won 400 games if he hadn't spent two years in mid-career (age 32-33) as a pitcher-manager in the Western League (a 361 game winner in the majors, he won 47 games in those two seasons - among his 74 career minor league wins - and then picked up where he left off, going 21-13 with a 2.02 ERA at age 34). At his peak from 1895-99, Nichols was the ace of a Boston Braves juggernaut that repeatedly defeated the legendary Baltimore Orioles of the day.

The peak years here for Smokey Joe Wood include a litany of arm injuries following his monster season in 1912, when he went 34-5, threw 35 complete games and pitched 22 innings in the World Series at age 22; Wood averaged just 139 innings the next three seasons. Walter Johnson said it hurt his shoulder just watching Wood's straight overhand delivery. Then again, Wood had second and third careers as an outfielder and college baseball coach and lived to be 95.

Spud Chandler barely merits this list, as he appeared in just 5 games in 1944-45 and 17 at age 39 in 1947, his last season, and won his MVP award in 1943 against war-weakened competition. But when he was on the mound, he was outstanding.

The peak years for Tom Seaver run 1969-73, the two Mets miracle seasons, when he was truly The Franchise.

The last of these seasons for the great lefty screwballer Carl Hubbell is 1936, when he won his last 16 decisions before being beaten by the Yankees in the World Series, and don't include the following year when he won his first 8 on his way to a 22-8 season; his peak also includes the 1934 season when he staged his famous All-Star Game strikeout streak. Hubbell was another late starter, debuting at age 25 after an itinerant minor league career.

Bob Gibson is here for 1966-70; note that his ERA+ for 1966-67 was 132, and his ERA+ for 1969-70 was 146, but his 1968 season puts him over the top.

Addie Joss lost the pennant race in 1908 and was dead by April 1911, but for one glorious day in October 1908, the 28 year old Joss was perfect, beating Walsh in what has to be baseball's greatest pitching duel.

Roy Halladay's peak here runs through 2011. Appreciate this while it lasts, folks.

Rube Waddell from age 26-28 averaged 313 strikeouts in 345 innings a year, at the time an unheard-of strikeout rate; it may have helped Waddell a bit that batters were just getting acclimated to the new "foul ball counts as a strike" rule, but then again flamethrowing lefties were not that common in 1904; in fact, lefties were still something of a novelty at the time.

Ed Reulbach appears here for his first five seasons, 1905-09; his teammate Three Finger Brown appears for 1906-10. Other than Jim Palmer, there are probably few pitchers in the game's history who owe more to their defense than Reulbach, who like Brown got a lot of help from the team with the famous Tinker-Evers-Chance infield. Still, the only man ever to throw shutouts in both ends of a doubleheader could use to be remembered a little in his own right; an awful lot of pitchers in baseball history, and even in the Hall of Fame, didn't make this list.

PS - For obvious reasons, this list is limited to guys who pitched in the major leagues. But for what it's worth, Satchel Paige's ERA+ for his first two seasons in the American league was 146, and that's at age 41-42, albeit as a reliever and spot starter. It's pretty safe to say he'd have made this list in his prime.

January 9, 2012
BASEBALL: Hall of Fame 2012: My Ballot

The results of the BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot will be announced this afternoon at 2, and expectations are that Barry Larkin will be the sole candidate elected. There being no pitchers on this year's ballot worth discussing that I haven't beaten to death in years past (short summary: no on Jack Morris, no on Lee Smith), let us a take a look at the non-pitchers.

I've already laid out my case for Tim Raines by comparing him to the other tablesetters in my December 2007 Hardball Times column here and for Barry Larkin and against Alan Trammell in my January 2007 THT column on the middle infielders here. I touched on Javy Lopez, new to this year's ballot, in my January 2009 column on the catchers. In my first column in the series, in January 2006, I discussed the case for Fred McGriff and sort of for Bernie Williams, and against Tim Salmon, Dale Murphy, and Don Mattingly. To complete the picture you can check out my April 2010 column on the third basemen, which endorses the Veterans Committee's latest selection, Ron Santo.

Utiliizing the same methodology from those columns - that is, excerpting the "prime" seasons for each hitter and translating them into a common offensive context (you can get the details explained in the THT columns), let's put the whole lot of them in a chart with a number of of the other sluggers of the past 30 years (I included some but not all of the tablesetters, third basemen, middle infielders and catchers for additional context). They are sorted by the "Rate" metric (using the context-adjusted numbers, I multiplied SLG * OBP * Plate Appearances per 162 scheduled games) - obviously you then have to modify that with the things not included in the Rate (baserunning, double plays, fielding, and team/postseason successes) as well as bear in mind how many seasons each player is rated on and how many other more modestly productive years he had. It's a rough metric, but the basic concept of rating Hall of Famers mainly on their prime years is one I feel strongly about.

Frank Thomas10223-326840.3140.5730.4233217165.7Not Yet
Jeff Bagwell13023-356850.2940.5410.39616616146.8YES
Wade Boggs9325-337050.3380.4810.4252316144.1IN
Don Mattingly6123-286840.3290.5500.3721115140.2YES
Albert Belle9024-326740.2930.5730.36210420140.1Off
Edgar Martinez9432-406180.3130.5370.4223213139.9YES
Jim Thome10424-336310.2770.5560.397118139.3Not Yet
Todd Helton9125-336730.3030.5250.3914213138.2Not Yet
Manny Ramirez14223-366210.3020.5660.3922216137.8Not Yet
Jason Giambi9227-356130.2870.5400.4151111137.5Not Yet
Gary Sheffield10327-366320.2980.5370.40412512137.2Not Yet
Rafael Palmeiro12226-376980.2830.5320.3636212134.9YES
Fred McGriff9324-326580.2830.5440.3756315134.1YES
Sammy Sosa10125-346700.2820.5700.35114613134.0Not Yet
Ken Griffey jr11220-306430.2900.5670.36615511133.7Not Yet
Dale Murphy8024-316810.2760.5350.36117612131.7YES
Eddie Murray14121-346710.2960.5190.3746215130.0IN
Mark McGwire13023-355490.2660.6010.3891111128.3YES
Chipper Jones13324-366210.3030.5290.39010315128.1Not Yet
Mike Piazza10424-335900.3190.5720.3792218127.9Not Yet
Criag Biggio9425-337200.2990.4590.38534106127.3Not Yet
Jim Edmonds6430-355900.2850.5570.387647127.0Not Yet
Bernie Williams9125-336490.3090.5040.38813715126.8YES
Dwight Evans10528-376590.2740.5050.3774213125.4Off
John Olerud10324-336500.3010.4750.3991117123.2Off
Keith Hernandez11123-336660.3010.4730.3889512122.5Off
Paul Molitor10730-396670.3160.4840.37926612122.3IN
Kirby Puckett10025-346780.3170.5060.35610618122.2IN
Rickey Henderson14721-346210.2960.4760.41378178122.0IN
Jim Rice12022-336650.2940.5300.3455323121.4IN
Robin Yount10024-336580.3060.5070.36415412121.4IN
Tim Raines9621-296450.3040.4810.38967108120.9YES
Bobby Bonilla10125-346510.2850.5140.3593413120.2Off
Will Clark12223-346060.3020.5100.377537116.6Off
Tony Gwynn14224-376240.3420.4800.38922816116.2IN
Darryl Strawberry9021-295710.2670.5540.3602296114.0Off
Mark Grace11325-356670.3030.4500.3736415112.0Off
Tim Salmon11024-346140.2760.4890.372448111.7YES
Al Oliver11225-356260.3120.5030.3486515109.8Off
Juan Gonzalez11021-315860.2900.5590.3332215109.0YES
Larry Walker13024-365410.2940.5350.36916510106.9YES
Jack Clark14022-355340.2710.5220.3834412106.7Off
Andre Dawson11425-356070.2850.5300.33020612106.2IN
Dave Parker12224-355950.2950.5180.34212812105.3Off
Jorge Posada8328-355740.2750.4740.3772215102.5Not Yet
Barry Larkin9427-355670.2950.4730.37728511101.3YES
Alan Trammell11122-326130.2920.4510.358178999.1YES
Javy Lopez10124-334720.2820.4830.326121474.3YES

For most of these guys, picking the prime years is easy - in a few cases, like Palmeiro, Manny, and Sheffield, you could debate going a year or two more or less, but it doesn't affect the analysis much. But a couple of the candidates can be sliced in different ways. Raines and McGriff both had the same career pattern: a slightly shorter 8-9 year peak of superstardom, followed by a long tail of being a good but not great everyday player, followed in Raines' case by a 3-year coda with the Yankees as a successful and productive platoon/role player on a championship team. This has the unfortunate effect, especially since both players' latter years were much higher-scoring, of people forgetting how dominant they were at their peaks. Bagwell's career path is a better version of the same, with his best 8-year stretch being out of this world. Then there's Edgar, who was an absolute offensive monster for 7 years; the two years after that were good enough that I included them above, while the prior 5 included some great work (his 1991 batting title) but also a lot of time lost to injury. I include 3 different cuts on Edgar so you can judge for yourself.

Jeff Bagwell8526-356950.2970.5670.40919715161.1YES
Edgar Martinez7632-386500.3180.5500.4263214152.2YES
Fred McGriff7224-306500.2860.5670.3856313141.8YES
Edgar Martinez14027-405780.3110.5230.4123213124.4YES
Fred McGriff15024-386440.2810.5110.3675215120.8YES
Tim Raines15021-356310.2960.4560.38254108109.9YES
Fred McGriff8731-386400.2770.4680.3523216105.4YES
Tim Raines9930-385070.2850.4160.370256778.0YES

My short answer is that of the 14 or 15 serious candidates (I say 14, discounting Tim Salmon), there are 2 no-brainers: Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines. I realize Raines doesn't stick out as well on this chart as when you compare him to the other tablesetters, but when you roll in his very high-value base thievery, few GIDP and longetivity, I think he clears the bar easily. There's one more to me who is a fairly easy call: Fred McGriff. As I've said before, among the shortstops I go with Larkin and not Trammell, and among the pre-1994 sluggers I find Mattingly's and Murphy's prime years too short, and Dave Parker's numbers weighed down by the big performance-detracting drug phase in the middle of his prime (Edited: I forgot that Parker's off the ballot now). Javy Lopez had a season or two of genuine Hall-worthy production, but he doesn't make the cut; Jorge Posada, who retired this weekend, should but that's another year's debate.

Then you get to the PED-era sluggers. Realistically, there's actually not a huge gulf between a number of the guys on this ballot who make it, and those who don't. Some just were healthier, more durable, in circumstances more suited to their talents than others. And that's precisely why the PEDs are such a big issue.

A brief digression, since the issue is unavoidable. I'm sort of in the middle on a lot of steroids debates. I reject the simplistic argument that steroids are of no help to performance in baseball. I find something suspicious in, especially, the unique aging pattern of Barry Bonds, and there is no question that Mark McGwire in particular used PEDs to help him get healthy again in the second half of his career. And while I understand why people expect more of baseball players, I accept the argument that there's never been a true age of innocence in Major League Baseball. And I'm sick of the agendas on all sides of the debate. In the end, for a variety of reasons, I say we ignore PEDs, put in the guys who got the job done on the field, and let the arguments follow.

Setting that aside, I start with Palmeiro, who was a paragon of consistent productivity for 12-13 years. To me, the fact that his teams could bank on his performance is a huge factor.

At the other end you have Juan Gonzalez and Larry Walker, Gonzalez with Hall of Fame power, Walker with a more complete package of skills. But you see them even below the less glamorous Tim Salmon on the chart because neither had the in-season durability over their primes. So, an easy no on Gonzalez, Walker and Salmon.

That brings us to the three hard cases: McGwire, Edgar and Bernie. I do think setting them next to the other sluggers of that era is helpful - whether we know it or not, we're already setting the stage for what we will do when Thomas, Thome, Helton, Manny, Giambi, Sheffield, Sosa, Griffey and Edmonds get on the ballot. Poor Albert Belle already got stampeded off the ballot, despite the fact that his offensive prime tops any of those guys but Thomas and Bagwell by this measurement.

Bernie, like Griffey, gets a leg up for being a center fielder (a good one, albeit with a bad arm), and of course for being one of the core players on a legitimate dynasty. I'm inclined to vote yes on Bernie, even though that means a very crowded list of Yankees from that era (Jeter and Rivera will go in, Torre probably will, Raines, Posada and Mussina should, Sheffield should, Clemens and A-Rod will unless the writers are really ridiculous about PEDs, and that's before you get to Giambi and Pettitte, to say nothing of the not-so-far-off-the-pace guys like O'Neill, Ventura, Strawberry, Knoblauch, Gooden, Cone and Justice). But really all that is on 9 years' worth of prime production, not an especially long stretch for a guy who was never dominant.

I'm really conflicted on all three. McGwire strikes me as a Hall of Famer due to his amazing power numbers and great OBPs over a 13 year span, and gets some credit for playing for a team that won 3 straight pennants and a championship. But his injuries put him at the back of this pack, although by this measure he still stands ahead of Edgar over their 13/14 year primes.

Edgar is also a very tough call. Elite, Hall-quality hitter, no doubt. But even aside from the negatives we incorporate here (high-scoring offensive context, durability issues), Edgar has everything else going against him: zero defensive value, slow baserunner, played for teams that consistently underacheived despite an amazing talent core, a career mark of .156/.239/.234 in three ALCS (compared, to be fair, to .375/.481/.781 in four ALDS). I certainly would not be offended at including a guy of Edgar's elite status as a hitter, but the case for him seems much weaker to me than it seems to a lot of sabermetrically-inclined folks who tend to total up his career numbers and ignore the injury-driven holes in his playing time.

The thing that struck me the most is that when you set aside their mystiques and the offsetting virtues of Edgar's high batting averages vs Big Mac's homers, what you see is that their cases are quite similar. That doesn't mean you can't reach opposite conclusions based on the factors at the margins, as I do with Larkin and Trammell, but it does suggest that just writing one of the two in and the other one out should not be done without a thorough analysis. If forced to vote, I'd pull the lever today for Bernie and McGwire but not Edgar, but I could easily be persuaded to the contrary for any of the three. That leaves us:

Jeff Bagwell
Tim Raines
Fred McGriff
Rafael Palmeiro
Barry Larkin
Mark McGwire
Bernie Williams*

Edgar Martinez
Alan Trammell
Larry Walker
Jack Morris
Lee Smith
Don Mattingly
Dale Murphy
Juan Gonzalez
Tim Salmon*
Javy Lopez*

* - First time candidates. Also no on the rest of the first timers, of which the best is probably Ruben Sierra.

Finally, for what it's worth, below the fold is another quick set of metrics on the career numbers.

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December 6, 2011
BASEBALL: Quality and Quantity

One of my longstanding hobbyhorses in baseball analysis is two related points: (1) durability/quantity of playing time matters and (2) because baseball is played in seasons, it matters to study how much a player contributed by season. For example, one of my points of disagreement with Bill James' argument in his first Historical Abstract for Lefty Grove over Walter Johnson as the best pitcher in MLB history is the failure to adjust for the fact that Johnson was frequently at or around the league lead in innings; Grove carried a less demanding workload by the standards of his own time, and won two of his ERA titles late in his career (with the Red Sox) as effectively a Sunday pitcher, starting less than 24 games a year.

How often have pitchers been the best in the league (by ERA+, ERA adjusted for park and league) and led the league in innings in the same year? It's rarer than you might think - there are plenty of guys like Roy Halladay who have led the league in both, but never in the same year. Most likely because those last few innings can sometimes bring diminishing returns.

What's even more impressive is pulling the feat multiple times. As it turns out, only two pitchers have done it more than twice: Greg Maddux (four years running from 1992-95, including tying Denny Neagle for the league lead in innings in 1995) and Grover Alexander in 1915-16 and 1920 (interrupted by his service in World War I, which cost him most of 1918. I discussed the monumental nature of Alexander's peak and workload in this 2003 essay. Maddux got his just a bit cheaply (1994-95 were strike-shortened schedules, in which he led the league with just under 210 innings pitched each year), but it's still a staggering achievement when you consider how far he stood above the league.

Five other pitchers have managed the feat twice. One is Walter Johnson, who led the league in innings five times and ERA+ six times, and synced the two in 1913 (when he had a 1.14 ERA and 259 ERA+) and 1915. The others were Randy Johnson in 1999 & 2002, Roger Clemens in 1991 & 1997 (the latter an IP tie with Pat Hentgen), Steve Carlton in 1972 & 1980, and Bucky Walters in 1939-40. The rest to do it once are below the fold

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:05 PM | Baseball 2011 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
December 5, 2011
BASEBALL: How to Score Runs, Part II

I cut off my examination of runs scored per times on base at 1920 because of the many ways in which the early game was different. But let's complete the picture with guys who reached base 3500 or more times and were active before 1920 (I went through the end of their careers this time, so the numbers for Babe Ruth are a little different here; Frankie Frisch's totals are different but the percentages are the same). The #1 man here, of the 24 guys who qualified, sure does stick out. I ran the numbers both with and without including homers, and ranked by the latter:

Willie Keeler171935853347.9%47.5%
Roger Connor1620350813846.2%44.0%
Cap Anson199944519744.9%43.7%
Fred Clarke162237076743.8%42.7%
Jesse Burkett172039547543.5%42.4%
Bill Dahlen159036658443.4%42.1%
George Davis154536147342.8%41.6%
Jake Beckley160237338742.9%41.6%
Frankie Frisch1532363910542.1%40.4%
Sam Rice151437513440.4%39.8%
Max Carey154537827040.9%39.7%
Ty Cobb2246553211740.6%39.3%
Harry Hooper142936787538.9%37.6%
Nap Lajoie150438928238.6%37.3%
Honus Wagner1739450810138.6%37.2%
Lou Gehrig1771398346444.5%37.1%
Eddie Collins182148914737.2%36.6%
Tris Speaker1882499811737.7%36.2%
Sam Crawford139137449737.2%35.5%
Goose Goslin1477372224639.7%35.4%
Rogers Hornsby1579401930139.3%34.4%
Babe Ruth2174497871443.7%34.2%
Zack Wheat1289361113235.7%33.3%
Harry Heilmann1291355618336.3%32.8%

Just out of curiosity, I ran the same numbers over the whole 1871-2011 period for three groups of players with over 2000 plate appearances who seemed likely to score a lot: players who scored at least 60% of their times on base overall, players who scored at least 0.85 runs per game, and players who stole at least 30% as many bases as times on base. It will not surprise you that this list is dominated by guys from the game's very earliest days; Keeler sticks out a lot less on this list, when compared to contemporaries and teammates like Hamilton, Delahanty, McGraw, Thompson, Duffy and Brouthers. It's sort of disappointing that the all-time leader here is the obscure Ned Cuthbert, who retired in 1884 with a career .276 OBP, but the #2 man is the game's very first dominant superstar, and the #3 man one of the founding fathers of organized professional baseball:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:05 AM | Baseball 2011 • | Baseball Studies | TrackBack (0)
December 2, 2011
BASEBALL: How to Score Runs

What does it take to score runs? Well, getting on base is Job #1. But once you're on base, not everybody scores at the same rate. Among players who reached base (counting errors) at least 3500 times since the dawn of modern offenses in 1920, here's the 20 guys who scored most often:

Babe Ruth1972443844.4%
Lou Gehrig1888427444.2%
Charlie Gehringer1774407543.5%
Kenny Lofton1528352743.3%
Alex Rodriguez1824421843.2%
Jimmie Foxx1751411142.6%
Johnny Damon1643389142.2%
Al Simmons1507357242.2%
Frankie Frisch1511359242.1%
Sammy Sosa1475351242.0%
Rickey Henderson2295550341.7%
Willie Mays2062495941.6%
Steve Finley1443353540.8%
Lou Brock1610400140.2%
Hank Aaron2174540440.2%
Derek Jeter1769441640.1%
Mel Ott1859464840.0%
Goose Goslin1483373939.7%
Craig Biggio1844467939.4%
Mickey Mantle1676426839.3%

There's no single common thread here. Most of these guys played on good offenses and/or in good offensive times, in particular in lineups with a lot of high OBPs. Many of them were excellent at getting to scoring position on their own, whether by power (Ruth, Gehrig) or speed (Rickey, Brock). Others, like Mickey and A-Rod, had both great power and, in their younger years, excellent speed. (Obviously, you could re-run this with adjustments for HRs and the like to see who scores from where they start).

Now, the bottom ten:

Edgar Martinez1219369433.0%
Willie McCovey1229373532.9%
Buddy Bell1151351832.7%
Luke Appling1319406432.5%
Mark Grace1179365032.3%
Ron Santo1138353532.2%
Harold Baines1299404332.1%
Brooks Robinson1232391631.5%
John Olerud1139367931.0%
Rusty Staub1189416528.5%

No surprise here: Rusty is the slowest of a slow lot, and only McCovey - who played in a low-scoring era - had great power in this group. This is why Rusty is not in the Hall of Fame, despite being arguably a good enough hitter to be in there, compared to other guys with similar longetivity. Here's the rest of the list:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:29 PM | Baseball 2011 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
September 9, 2011
BASEBALL: A.J. The Wild Man

A.J. Burnett has thrown a league-leading 23 wild pitches this year in 172.1 innings pitched, one of the grislier stats in an increasingly ugly season. How historic is that?

Well, among pitchers who have qualified for the ERA title since 1893 (the dawn of something like modern pitching, when the mound was moved back to 60 feet 6 inches), Burnett's rate of one wild pitch per 7.493 innings pitched would be the highest by a fairly significant margin:

A.J. Burnett232011342929172.3781485.2776177.49333.087
Jack Hamilton221962234126182.01071015.0982058.27337.273
Juan Guzman261993263333221.01101943.9996338.50037.038
Red Ames301905223431262.71051982.74106438.75635.467
Matt Clement232000253434205.01251705.14940168.91340.870
Tim Leary231990323131208.0781384.1188179.04338.304
Nolan Ryan161981342121149.0681401.6960519.31337.813
Tony Cloninger271966253938257.71161784.12113269.54341.926
Jaime Navarro181998313727172.777716.3680279.59344.556
Ken Howell211989283332204.0861643.4482729.71439.381

Red Ames' 30 wild pitches qualifies as the post-1893 record. Needless to say, Nolan Ryan in 1981 is the only one of these guys to win the ERA title. (For curiosity - Sandy Koufax in 1958 would have made this list at #9 if he'd thrown just a few more innings). Among pitchers who threw at least 15 wild pitches but didn't qualify for the ERA title, here's the top 10; Burnett would rank 12th:

Stu Flythe1619362417339.3611413.0422932.45814.313
Scott Williamson212000244810112.0751363.2949535.33323.571
Dennis Higgins1519692955085.356713.4838335.68925.533
Hector Carrasco1519952564087.346644.1239125.82226.067
Jason Grimsley1620003263496.342535.0442856.02126.750
John Wetteland161989223112102.734963.7741106.41725.688
Bobby Witt221986223131157.71431745.4874137.16733.682
Bo Belinsky161967302718115.354804.6851087.20831.875
Johan Santana152002232714108.3491372.9945217.22230.133
Mac Suzuki162001263319118.373895.8654287.39633.875

As you might imagine, this was the only season of Stu Flythe's major league "pitching" career; he was not one of Connie Mack's finer discoveries. Bobby Witt's near-legendary rookie season missed by just a few innings topping Burnett.

It would not be useful to chart the guys with higher rates from the pre-1893 era, when you had guys with no catcher's mitts or shin guards catching pitches thrown from 50 feet, often from a standing position several feet behind the plate. A few high points: Mark Baldwin threw the MLB-record 83 wild pitches (in 513.2 innings, one per 6.19 innings pitched) in 1889; Jim McElroy in 1884 threw 46 wild pitches in 116 innings, one every 2.52 innings pitched, the worst rate for anybody with 100 or more innings. A 19-year-old pitcher named Dan Collins threw 12 wild pitches in 11 innings in 1884; the only other guy to match that in more than 3 innings pitched was Rich Rodas, who threw 5 wild pitches in 4.2 innings for the Dodgers in 1983.

PS - A look at wild pitches on a per-pitch basis here. Funny fact: I saw a tweet linking to that a few days ago, favorited it (I have trouble clicking through links when reading Twitter from my Blackberry so I tend to favorite things to read later) and completely forgot about it until after I wrote this post and started getting a nagging feeling I'd seen something about Burnett's historic wildness before.

UPDATED after the season: AJ improved just a bit to finish with 25 wild pitches in 190.1 IP, still easily the record (one every 7.61 IP, or every 33.48 batters faced). In the postseason he added 1 more in 5.2 innings, facing 24 batters.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:00 PM | Baseball 2011 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
June 7, 2011
BASEBALL: Citi Field Detailed Home/Road Splits

SNY's Ted Berg asked this question on Twitter, and it seemed worthy of a detailed response: "Is there any hard evidence that Citi Field plays as an extreme pitcher's park?"

Well, using the same method as in my "History of Defense" breakdowns, I combined the batting stats for all Mets games 2009-11 thru Sunday's action, both by and against the Mets. Here's the home/road splits:

Runs per game:

Home: 8.18
Road: 8.82

Batting Average on Balls in Play:

Home: .311
Road: .322

Doubles per 600 at bats:

Home: 38.72
Road: 41.25

Triples per 600 at bats:

Home: 5.68
Road: 4.21

Home Runs per 600 at bats:

Home: 16.93
Road: 19.41

Walks per 660 plate appearances (I used a PA metric rather than at bats for walks and strikeouts):

Home: 59.10
Road: 57.49

Strikeouts per 660 plate appearances:

Home: 113.53
Road: 110.81

Conclusion: From 2009-11, which now seems a large enough sample size to judge, Citi Field has played as a fairly extreme pitchers' park, drastically reducing scoring and home runs, depressing batting averages on balls in play, and slightly decreasing doubles and increasing strikeouts. It is, however, a great triples park, undoubtedly due to its spacious power alleys (and a few Mets hitters well-suited to exploit them), and has seen walks increase slightly at home.

UPDATE: So, if the Mets are looking down the road to what kinds of hitters prosper at Citi Field, who should they be looking at? Here's the 2009-11 home/road splits of Mets hitters with at least 200 plate appearances at Citi Field - home line on the left, road line on the right, and home OPS divided by road OPS in the H/R column:

Jose Reyes4940.3240.3780.5064590.2660.3050.3751.300
Jason Bay2290.2660.3570.4242530.2290.3170.3241.218
Luis Castillo3640.3130.4020.3543690.2470.3370.2851.215
Angel Pagan5440.3140.3540.4784870.2610.3210.3821.183
Daniel Murphy3470.3030.3410.4703390.2510.3130.3861.160
Fernando Tatis1940.2840.3580.4432110.2510.2940.4031.149
Ike Davis3170.2710.3660.4703350.2720.3480.4511.046
David Wright5980.2880.3820.4726700.2850.3530.4641.045
Josh Thole2080.2690.3350.3561840.2660.3440.3261.031
Alex Cora2150.2280.3050.2742250.2400.2930.3200.945
Jeff Francoeur3380.2540.2940.4143520.2810.3270.4320.933
Carlos Beltran3500.2940.3630.4663790.2900.3940.5010.926

I admit it's odd to see Bay (and Tatis) that high, but otherwise it's the people you'd expect: line-drive/gap hitters like Reyes, Castillo, Pagan and Murphy at the top, Beltran at the bottom (Wright hasn't suffered at Citi nearly as much as Beltran). Reyes this season is batting .395/.453/.645 with 10 triples in 29 games at home, .277/.315/.361 with zero triples on the road.

So, if the Mets go to the free agent market in 2011, they should be looking to sign a player as much like Jose Reyes as possible. Gee, if only such a player was going to be a free agent after this season...

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:44 AM | Baseball 2011 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
June 2, 2011
BASEBALL: A History of Team Defense (Part I of II)

Part II here.

Who are the best defensive teams of all time? Individual defensive statistics in baseball - as in other team sports - have been crudely kept and poorly understood for years, with the more sophisticated modern methods only being gathered for the past decade or two. As a result, even statistically-oriented baseball fans have tended to answer questions about defense as much by reputation and anecdote as anything. The lack of a statistical framework tends to make defense a bit invisible in our memories; even most knowledgeable fans have no more concrete sense of, say, Ty Cobb as a defensive player than they do of Turkey Stearnes as a hitter. My goal in this essay is to a little bit to remedy that on the team level.

We do have one measurement of team defense that endures over time and thus can be used as a baseline for measuring team defense: Defensive Efficiency Rating (DER). I'd like to walk you through the history of the best and worst teams in each league, and the league average, in DER from the dawn of organized league ball in 1871 down to this season. As usual, I'll try to explain here what I'm measuring in terms that make sense to readers who may not be all that familiar with the 'sabermetric' literature, although I make no claim to be current myself on every study out there, and welcome comments pointing to additional studies.

What is DER?

DER is, put simply, the percentage of balls in play against a team that are turned into outs. The exact formulas used to compute DER can vary a bit, and while Baseball-Reference.com - which I used for this study - computes DERs all the way back to the start of organized baseball in 1871, its description of the formula is a bit vague:

Percentage of balls in play converted into outs This is an estimate based on team defensive and pitching stats. We utilize two estimates of plays made. One using innings pitched, strikeouts, double plays and outfield assists. And the other with batters faced, strikeouts, hits allowed, walks allowed, hbp, and .71*errors committed (avg percent of errors that result in an ROE) Total plays available are plays made + hits allowed - home runs + error committed estimate.

All methods for computing DER look at the percentage of balls in play that become hits; it appears that Baseball-Reference.com's formula also counts the outs that result from double plays or outfield assists, both clear examples of outs created by good defense, as well as counting against the defense the one thing that fielding percentages always recorded - errors - but only where they put a man on base. From what I can tell, essentially the same formula is used over all of the site's historical DER data, so the data is generally consistent over time.

It's worth recalling that DER only measures outs vs. men reaching base - it doesn't deal with extra bases on doubles and triples, or stolen bases and caught stealing, or other baserunning issues. So, it's only one part of the picture just as on base percentage is just one part of the offensive picture. But like OBP, it's the single most important part.

What Goes Into Team DER?

One of Bill James' maxims throughout the 1980s was that "much of what we perceive to be pitching is in fact defense." As most of my readers will recall, Voros McCracken broke major ground in the field of baseball analysis of pitching and defense in 2001 with a study showing that Major League pitchers, over time, had no effect - or at least, there was no difference among Major League pitchers in the effect they had - on whether balls in play become outs. Strikeouts, walks and home runs (the so-called "Three True Outcomes") are the pitcher vs. the hitter, mano a mano, but on average, BABIP (batting average on balls in play, the flip side of DER) shows no tendency to be consistent year to year among individual pitchers; other statistical indicators also strongly suggest that a pitcher's BABIP tends to be mostly a combination of team defense and luck. The simple way of expressing McCracken's insight is that it's the defense rather than the pitcher that determines how many balls in play become outs.

As with most groundbreaking insights, further research has added some caveats to McCracken's theory. The first one, which he observed from the beginning, was that knuckleballers tend as a group to have lower than average BABIP, and thus are something of an exception to the rule. I haven't absorbed all the further studies, but there are reasons to suspect that other classes of pitchers may have a modest advantage in the battle against BABIP, including elite relievers (Troy Percival, Armando Benitez, Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman and Keith Foulke all seemed to have much lower career BABIP than their circumstances would suggest) and possibly pitchers who throw a huge number of breaking balls (we'll discuss Andy Messersmith a bit below).

Also, McCracken's research, and most of the following research, looked at the conditions of modern baseball (at the time, Retrosheet and Baseball Prospectus' database only went back to the mid-1950s). It's entirely possible that pitchers had greater influence on BABIP/DER in the era before 1920, or further back, when there were pitchers who had consistent success even in the era when most plate appearances resulted in a ball in play and thus the pitcher had little opportunity to set himself apart from his peers by success in the Three True Outcomes. As I explained in this 2001 essay, the playing conditions were greatly different in 19th century baseball in particular, and I'd be hesitant without data on that era to just assume that the pitcher's effect on balls in play was as minimal then as it is now.

Finally, of course, as with other statistical measures, there are park effects. We all know that different parks are more or less favorable for hitters, and of the components of that, park effects on home runs are significant, and parks can effect walks and strikeouts as well. (Less so for baserunning, in most cases). Balls in play are no exception, and I don't have data handy on how park effects specifically affect balls in play over time besides the ability to notice some trends (for example, the Polo Grounds for many years was a great home run park but not a great hitters' park; I assume DER there tended to be high) and a few specific examples where I dug into the numbers we have. So bear in mind that the numbers set out below are not park-adjusted.

Key to the Charts

BIP%: Percentage of plate appearances resulting in a ball in play (i.e.,Plate Appearances minus homers, walks and strikeouts). Since I used league batting rather than pitching data for this, there may be a slight discrepancy for the period since the start of interleague play in 1997.

NL/AL etc.: Under the league name I have the league's DER for that season.

High/Low: The team with the league's highest and lowest DERs. I used Baseball-Reference.com's team abbreviations.

DER: That team's DER

High%/Low%: Team DER divided by the league average. This is the key number I use to identify the best and worst defensive teams, so we can see who were the best and worst defensive teams relative to the league average. As usual, I'm not using any math here more complicated than simple arithmetic and basic algebra.

Also, where I compute "rough" estimates of BABIP for pre-1950 pitchers I used the basic formula of (H-HR)/((IP*3)+H-HR-K)

The 1870s

Talent levels in the 1870s were especially uneven, as the first organized league - the National Association - began play in 1871 just two years after the debut of the first-ever professional team. Schedules were short (20 games in 1871, in the 60s by decade's end), fielders didn't wear gloves, playing surfaces were ungroomed and in some cases effectively without fences, and with nine balls for a walk and longballs unheard of, nearly every plate appearance resulted in a ball in play - the 1872 season's 96.5% rate is the highest in the game's history, and 1879 was the last season above 90%.

As you can see, defenses improved dramatically over this period, in part no doubt as professional pitchers and fielders learned their craft and more of the nation's best ballplayers gathered into the National Association and later the NL. But errors were a big chunk of the poor defense of the era - in each of the NL’s first five seasons, there were more unearned runs than earned runs scored, and it wasn't until 1906 that the average number of unearned runs would drop below 1 per game.

The most successful defensive team of the era was the 1876 St. Louis "Brown Stockings" team (not precisely the same organization as the Cardinals), the only Major League team ever to be 10% better than its league in DER. Starting pitcher George "Grin" Bradley struck out 1.6 men per 9 innings but led the league with a 1.23 ERA (the team also allowed the league's fewest runs, although their 2.36 unearned runs per 9 innings was only third-best in the league) while throwing all but four of the team's innings. A rough estimate of the BABIP against Bradley is .258 in 1875, .224 in 1876, but .285 after he changed teams the next year, when his ERA nearly tripled, and .267 for his career. Which at least seems consistent with the notion that Bradley's defense was doing most of the work.

Note that the Philadelphia Athletics of 1873-74, featuring Cap Anson and Ezra Sutton in their infield, made the only repeat appearance on the decade's leaderboard (Anson, in his early 20s, played multiple positions including short and third, while Sutton was beginning a long career as a third baseman and shortstop).

The worst defensive team of all time? I hate to give you such an underwhelming answer, but by a wide margin it's the 1873 Baltimore Marylands, who folded after just 6 winless games and almost none of whose players appeared in the big leagues again. The hapless Marylands allowed 144 runs in 6 games (24 per game), only 48 of which were earned; in addition to hideous defense their pitchers didn't strike out a single batter. (The offense was no better, as a team batting average of .156 with only one extra base hit and no walks attest). When you think of the level of competition in those early years, think of the Marylands.

National Association-National League

BIP%NAHighDERHigh %LowDERLow %
BIP%NLHighDERHigh %LowDERLow %

The 1880s

The game gradually professionalized in the 1880s, but not without a great many bumps along the way. The Union Association of 1884 was only barely a major league (four teams, including Wilmington, folded after playing less than a quarter of the schedule), but diluted the talent level of the two major leagues. The 4-ball/three-strike count wasn't standardized until 1889, after a gradual decline in the number of balls for a walk and a one-year experiment in 1887 with four strikes for a strikeout; DERs rose sharply after the three-strike rule was restored. The schedule topped 100 games for the first time in 1884, and had reached 135 by 1888. The color line was established in the wake of the failure of Reconstruction (which effectively ended in 1877), after only a few black players had taken the field. The first gloves were becoming commonly used by decade's end.

Anson's 1882 White Stockings (now Cubs) and the 1882 Red Stockings (now Reds) became the first pennant-winning teams to lead the league in DER since the founding of the National League (in the NA, only the 1872 Boston team had done so); four teams would do so in each of the two leagues in ten years, plus the Union Association champs. Bid McPhee, enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 2000 largely for his defense, anchored the Red Stockings teams that led the league three times in their first six seasons in the league, and their 1882 and 1883 DERs were the most dominant of the decade outside the UA, but the mid-decade St. Louis Browns (now Cardinals) juggernaut also emerged as a defensive powerhouse. The woebegotten 1883 Philadelphia Quakers were the decade's worst defensive team. The NL's most successful defensive squad? The 1884 Providence Grays, much to the benefit of Old Hoss Radbourn, who had his famous 59-12, 1.38 ERA season. Radbourn also struck out 441 batters in 678.1 innings, so he did his share as well, and by a rough calculation the opposing BABIP of .242 - while a career best - wasn't hugely out of line with his career .271 mark. Lucky and good is a good combination.

National League

BIP%NLHighDERHigh %LowDERLow %

American Association

BIP%AAHighDERHigh %LowDERLow %

Union Association

BIP%UAHighDERHigh %LowDERLow %

The 1890s

The NL achieved dominance after the Players League war. The modern era of pitching arrived in 1893 when the mound was moved back from 50 feet to its current 60 feet 6 inches; the percentage of balls in play spiked as strikeouts became almost non-existent, while DERs plunged in 1894 and 1895, suggesting more hard-hit balls off pitchers struggling to adjust to the new distance. The 1890 Pirates were the decade's worst defensive team, the 1895 Baltimore Orioles (with extra balls hidden in the long grass of the outfield among their notorious tricks) the best, although the late-decade Beaneaters (now Braves, featuring Hall of Famers Hugh Duffy and Billy Hamilton in the outfield, Jimmy Collins at third, and Kid Nichols as the staff ace) were consistently dominant and would remain so through 1901. (Collins left in 1901, Duffy the previous year, but Nichols, Hamilton and infield anchors Herman Long, Bobby Lowe and Fred Tenney were there the whole time; Long and Nichols had also been on the 1891 team). Four teams had the NL's best record while leading the league in DER, three of them Beaneaters teams.

National League

BIP%NLHighDERHigh %LowDERLow %

American Association

BIP%AAHighDERHigh %LowDERLow %

Players League

BIP%PLHighDERHigh %LowDERLow %

The 1900s

The foul-strike rule, adopted in the NL in 1901 and the AL in 1903, brought back the strikeout and contributed, along with better gloves and more "small ball," to rising DERs, as the NL in 1907 became the first league ever to turn 70% of balls in play into outs, rising to 71.4% in 1908, a level that would not be matched again until 1942. Schedules also started to be standardized in 1904, settling around 154 games after a decade mostly in the high 120s.

Surprisingly, defense was not the essential element for many of the pennant winners of the Dead Ball Era's first decade - only one AL pennant winner (the 1903 Red Sox, featuring Jimmy Collins yet again) led the league, and only two NL pennant winners. That being said, the Cubs of the Tinker-Evers-Chance era have as good an argument as anyone to be the dominant defensive team of all time. They led the NL in DER eight times in nine years, as well as finishing a close second (at 726, 101.68% of the league) the ninth of those, and second again in 1912. In 1906, on the way to a 116-36 record, they became the first of five post-1900 teams to beat the league average by 5% or more, and their 736 DER bested the second-place Phillies by 29 points and would not be topped (in raw terms) for 62 years, by men using vastly superior equipment. It's possible there was a park factor at work, although Baseball-Reference.com lists West Side Park (where the Cubs played until Wrigley opened in 1916) as if anything a hitters park until late in the decade; in 1906, the Cubs combined to score and allow 7.24 runs per game at home, 7.03 on the road, with the defense in particular allowing 2.22 runs per game on the road compared to 2.78 at West Side Park. Was it the pitchers? By my rough estimate, the BABIPs against four or the five pitchers on that staff to throw 1000 or more innings as Cubs between 1903 and 1912 -Three Finger Brown, Carl Lundgren, Orval Overall, and Jack Pfiester - varied between .237 and .241 compared to a team average of .241 for all pitchers to throw at least 200 innings on the team over those years, with only one such pitcher above .254. Only Ed Reulbach, at .230, seems to have stood out a bit. That suggests that the team's defense was the predominant factor. The same BABIP figure for the rival Giants, a good but more normal defensive team, was .259 - the 19-point advantage on balls in play for Brown over Christy Mathewson is almost certainly the main explanation for why Brown's ERA was better (1.75 to 1.90) over those years, although of course Brown was nonetheless a great pitcher.

Best AL defensive team? The 1901 Red Sox, another Jimmy Collins squad. Worst team of the decade? The unraveling 1902 Baltimore Orioles, who were deserted by John McGraw in mid-season and relocated to New York (now the Yankees) the following spring (like the prior year's Milwaukee franchise - there's a long history of teams getting folded or moved after cellar-dwelling DERs, as terrible defense is often a byproduct of organizational failure).

Also, note the atrocious showings by the late-decade Washington Senators, the team on which Walter Johnson broke in, yet another way in which Johnson's early career was plagued by bad teams. Johnson would bear some closer study - a quick look suggests that his BABIPs may have been better than his teams' for much of his career, as if he needed more advantages on top of leading the AL in K/BB ratio nine times, K/9 seven times, fewest BB/9 twice and fewest HR/9 three times (a favorite stat: Johnson in 1918-19 threw 616.1 innings and allowed just two home runs, both of them by Babe Ruth). His BABIP seems to have hit a career low of .219 in 1913 at the same time as his career high 6.39 K/BB ratio, another example of perhaps being both lucky and good, or perhaps there being a correlation between the two.

National League

BIP%NLHighDERHigh %LowDERLow %

American League

BIP%ALHighDERHigh %LowDERLow %

The 1910s

Defense had the upper hand in the teens, with DERs regularly topping 70% leaguewide in the second half of the decade, especially in the NL. If top defensive teams winning the pennant were a rarity in the prior decade, they became routine in the teens - five times in the NL, five in the AL. The Red Sox were the decade's dominant team in the AL both defensively and overall, and continued to lead the league even after the departure in 1916 of Tris Speaker. (Oddly, the Red Sox went from the best DER in the AL in 1912 to the worst in 1913 and back to the best in 1914; more on that below.) Meanwhile, the NL's revolving door of pennant winners (and World Series doormats) from 1915-19 were generally whoever handled the balls in play best. Yet most of those NL teams didn't beat the league average by all that much, and the best single-season showing was the 1919 Yankees. The worst, unsurprisingly, was the post-fire-sale 1915 A's (with a fossilized 40-year-old Nap Lajoie at second and their best remaining player, catcher Wally Schang, playing out of position at third), although the doormat 1911 Braves weren't far behind.

The Cubs' defense stopped being dominant with the 1913 departure of Joe Tinker, who went on to anchor the Federal League's best defense, while Johnny Evers was part of lifting those Braves out of their 1911-12 defensive funk to a slightly above average defensive team in 1914 (they'd been below average in 1913 - that said, I'd expected the 1914 Miracle Braves to be one of the teams that had a huge year defensively, and even with Evers and Rabbit Maranville, they didn't).

National League

BIP%NLHighDERHigh %LowDERLow %

American League

BIP%ALHighDERHigh %LowDERLow %

Federal League

BIP%FLHighDERHigh %LowDERLow %

The 1920s

Lower strikeout rates with the lively ball's arrival were probably the largest factor in the sudden increase in scoring in the Twenties, as even the gradual arrival of home run hitters and a leaguewide rise in walks couldn't stop the upward march of the percentage of balls in play. But DERs dropped a good 15 points as well.

Defense was slightly more the hallmark of AL than NL pennant winners in the Twenties - six in the AL, four in the NL. Naturally the 1927 Yankees were the best in the league at this, too, their fifth league lead in nine years. And Walter Johnson finally got some real defensive support when the Senators won their two pennants in 1924-25, dropping Johnson's BABIP from .280 to .248 in 1924.

As discussed in the next decade, you have to figure a significant park effect was at work in the fact that the Phillies were dead last in the NL in DER 14 times in their last 17 full seasons in the Baker Bowl, including the NL's worst showing of the decade in 1926. Then again, nearly all of those Phillies teams were terrible teams, with a collective .383 winning percentage and only one winning record, in 1932 when their DER was 98.5% of the league average. And the Phillies had led the league in DER behind Grover Alexander in 1915.

National League

BIP%NLHighDERHigh %LowDERLow %

American League

BIP%ALHighDERHigh %LowDERLow %

The 1930s

1935 saw the arrival of night baseball, which would eventually be a factor in bringing back strikeout rates, as would the growth of relief pitching, still taking its first baby steps in the Thirties; between those factors and more home runs, the AL in 1937 became the first major league in which less than 80% of plate appearances resulted in a ball in play, after being above 83% in the AL and 84% in the NL for much of the Twenties. Six AL pennant winners had the league's best DER, compared to just two in the NL.

The 30s were the best and worst of times. The Phillies hit their nadir in 1930, at 631 the worst raw DER since 1900 (the 1911 Braves being the only other team since 1906 to finish below 650), the worst relative to the league since the ill-fated 1899 Cleveland Spiders and the only team lower than 95% of the league average since the 1915 A's. Not for nothing did they post a modern-record 6.71 team ERA, allow 7.69 runs per game, and lose nearly two-thirds of their games even with Lefty O'Doul batting .383/.453/.604 and scoring 122 runs and Chuck Klein (probably the most park-created of all Hall of Famers) batting .386/.436/.687 with 158 runs scored and 170 RBI. Then again, they also had the league's worst K/BB ratio and allowed the league's most homers, so it wasn't all the defense's fault. And the Phillies left the Baker Bowl for good at the end of June 1938, and still finished last in DER in 1938 and 1941 plus three more times in the mid-1940s.

In the AL, the late-30s St. Louis Browns, presumably despite Harlond Clift at third, were the league's worst, hitting bottom in 1939. Also in St. Louis, if you're curious, the 1934 "Gashouse Gang" Cardinals team was league-average.

On the positive end, we have the 1900s Cubs' top competition for the title of the best defensive team of all time, the 1939 Yankees, the team that Rob Neyer and Eddie Epstein (measuring by runs scored and allowed relative to the league) marked as the greatest team of all time in "Baseball Dynasties," noting that they led the league in runs scored and fewest runs allowed four years in a row. So it's not surprising to encounter them here. The Yankees' DER was the furthest above their league of any team since 1885, and their 730 DER led the league by 35 points. This was part of a string of six straight seasons and 12 in 13 years when they had the league's most successful defense, starting in Babe Ruth's last year two years before the arrival of Joe DiMaggio and running clear through World War II. While a number of players appeared on many of those teams (DiMaggio, Tommy Henrich, Frank Crosetti, Red Rolfe, Joe Gordon), the only constants were manager Joe McCarthy and catcher Bill Dickey. (Both had also been on the 1933 team that was last in the AL in DER before cutting back the Babe's playing time and putting Earle Combs and Joe Sewell, both 34, out to pasture). You have to give McCarthy some of the credit for the Yankees' consistent defensive excellence, if only in how he chose to distribute playing time.

That said, a significant park effect can't be discounted here. Yankee Stadium was always a pitcher's park, and seems to have been a particularly extreme one in 1939: unlike for the Cubs, we have home/road detailed splits for the 1939 Yankees, which show that Yankee hitters had a BABIP of .273 at home, .315 on the road, while Yankee opponents had a BABIP of .248 at home, .267 on the road - combined, .260 at home, .292 on the road. I haven't had time to run the splits for the Yankees' whole run in that period - this essay took up quite enough of my time, and it would be a worthwhile project for someone else to carry on further - but even on the basis of the huge split for 1939, as remarkable as the Yankees' defensive performance was in the McCarthy era, it has to be taken with the same grain of salt as the Baker Bowl era Phillies. (The 1930 Phillies' Home/Road BABIP splits were .352/.300 for their offense, .365/.341 for their pitching staff, and a combined line of .358/.321 - a 36-point spread)

Speaking of managers, Walter Johnson may not have had great defenses as a pitcher, but as a manager he did better, skippering the Senators to two league-best DERs in four years from 1929-32. And the 1938 Braves became the first Casey Stengel-managed team to lead the league in DER, albeit a squad he inherited from Bill McKechnie with the decade's best DER in the NL in 1937.

National League

BIP%NLHighDERHigh %LowDERLow %

American League

BIP%ALHighDERHigh %LowDERLow %

The 1940s

In the 1940s, change was in the winds. The war decimated MLB's talent level and introduced inferior baseballs (due to wartime shortages) that traveled poorly when hit. DERs rose back above 70% even before the war in the NL, and in 1942 in the AL. After the war, integration followed and the game was off to the races, while night baseball really came into its own.

In the NL, defense was king - seven pennant winners led the league in DER in nine years between 1939-47, plus the 104-win second-place 1942 Dodgers; four pennant winners led the AL, but three of those were the 1941-43 Yankees. The strongest defensive teams of the decade were McKechnie's 1940 Reds and Lou Boudreau's 1948 Indians (a team famous for its outstanding infield of Boudreau, Ken Keltner, Joe Gordon and Eddie Robinson), the weakest the 1940 Pirates and 1942 Senators (the difference between the Senators of the mid-40s and the Indians of the 50s explains a lot about Early Wynn's career). The chicken-egg question remains regarding good defenses and successful managers, as Leo Durocher's arrival in Brooklyn in 1939 and Billy Southworth's in St. Louis in 1940 were followed within a few years by the construction of superior defensive teams.

The 1947 Reds were the third and last team to go from first to last in the league in DER in a single season, after the 1913 Red Sox and 1880 Buffalo Bisons:

TeamYearsDER1DER2ChangeChange %

The Bisons and their ace pitcher, Hall of Famer Pud Galvin, hail from baseball's ancient past, and the Red Sox were a bit of a fluke, given the small size of their decline and their rapid rebound the following year. What of the 1947 Reds? 1946 was the last season of McKechnie's career, and McKechnie was notoriously defense-obsessed. The team gave a lot more playing time to 30-year-old shortstop Eddie Miller, outfielder Frank Baumholtz and noodle-armed 35-year-old left fielder Augie Galan. Sidearmer Ewell Blackwell had his big breakthrough season in 1947, improving his K/BB from 1.27 to a league-leading 2.03, but saw his ERA slip slightly from 2.45 to 2.47, while veterans Johnny Vander Meer and Bucky Walters got completely wiped out by the defensive collapse.

National League

BIP%NLHighDERHigh %LowDERLow %

American League

BIP%ALHighDERHigh %LowDERLow %

Part II here.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:00 PM | Baseball 2011 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: A History of Team Defense (Part II of II)

Part I here.

The 1950s

Baseball started moving west with the Braves' move to Milwaukee in 1953, and the resulting shakeup ended the stranglehold of old, mostly smaller ballparks in the East. High walk rates, more power hitters and a few more strikeouts meant that balls in play rates were dropping, while defenses got stingier - the 71.6% of balls in play turned into outs in the NL in 1956 remains the league record.

I've written before about the advantage Casey Stengel's Yankees got from their defense and how it played into the superior performance of pitchers in pinstripes. But it was the Indians who were the true defensive juggernaut of that era, leading the AL seven times in the decade between 1947-56. The AL was truly defensively stratified in those years, with the upper tier of the Yankees, Indians and White Sox at the top and weak sisters like the Browns, Senators, A's and Tigers at the bottom. Park effects were part of that picture for the Yankees - for example, in 1955 the Yankees and their opponents had a BABIP of .265 at home, .278 on the road, compared to .272 at home, .269 on the road for the 1954 Indians.

The 111-win Indians were the best defensive team of the decade (the 1909 Pirates, who finished one point behind the Cubs, are the only team to win 110 games in a season without leading the league in DER), Durocher's 1950 Giants the best NL team, the 1955 Pirates and 1950 Browns the worst; the Pirates were perennially hapless. Four pennant-winning teams in each league led the league in DER, although as I've noted the Yankees often finished second or third in DER while winning the pennant, and the 1953 Dodgers and 1957 Braves just narrrowly missed the league lead.

I'd expected the Ashburn-era Phillies to lead the league more than once; the strangest league leaders were the 1952 Cubs, an also-ran team that featured one of the more plodding sluggers (Hank Sauer) ever to win the MVP.

National League

BIP%NLHighDERHigh %LowDERLow %

American League

BIP%ALHighDERHigh %LowDERLow %

The 1960s

Rising strikeout rates, with the onset of expansion, new pitchers' parks in LA and Houston, and the expansion of the strike zone in 1963, are a major part of the story of pitching dominance in the Sixties; the AL in 1961, the year of Maris and Mantle, became the first league to see balls in play drop below 75% of plate appearances, and by 1964 it was down to 72.9%, the lowest it would be until 1987. Unsurprisingly, that started to loosen the relationship between defense and success - only three NL pennant winners led the league in DER, four in the AL, and the 1967 Twins came within a game of becoming the first team to finish first while being last in the league in DER.

Meanwhile, the story on balls in play showed a real split between the leagues: DERs actually declined in the NL, while reaching historic highs in the AL. The 724 DER in the AL in 1968 is the highest in Major League history, and the 743 figure by the 1969 Orioles is the highest ever recorded by a team. That Brooks Robinson-Mark Belanger-Davey Johnson infield and Paul Blair-led outfield really was impenetrable, and even adjusted for the league was the best of the decade, powering the O's to 109 wins. (Home/road split: .275 at home, .278 on the road).

The Dodgers of the Sixties did well on balls in play, even as they dominated the pitcher-controlled aspects of defense (if I recall correctly, the 1966 Dodgers still hold the team K/BB ratio record).

The 1962 Mets, surprisingly, did not have the league's worst DER (unlike the 1969 Seattle Pilots), finishing a point above the Astros; the 1969 Mets did lead the league (in fact, they led three years in a row from 1968-70), but other surprise teams of the decade did not - the 1967 Red Sox were just below the league average at 715, and the 1960 Pirates were also below average. Probably no team in this sample surprised me more with their poor defensive stats than the Pirates of the 1960s, finishing last in DER in 1961 and 1964 despite a lineup stocked with legendary defensive players like Bill Mazeroski, Roberto Clemente and Bill Virdon as well as other respected glove men like Dick Schofield Sr. The other surprise, more on which later, was the persistent poor performance of the Astros.

The Yankee dynasty's collapse was reflected defensively, as the Yankees were second in DER in 1964 (at 726), but ninth in 1965 at 707.

National League

BIP%NLHighDERHigh %LowDERLow %

American League

BIP%ALHighDERHigh %LowDERLow %

The 1970s

In the 1970s, even after the arrival of the DH, AL teams with top defenses tended to finish first in their divisions - 8 times in 11 years from 1969-79. In the NL, it was a different story, as teams like the Big Red Machine and the late-70s Pirates seemed often to lead the league in years other than the years those same teams finished first. The Dodgers led the league in DER four times between 1972 and 1978, and won the division the three years they didn't.

You've met two of the five teams since 1900 to better the league average in DER by 5% or more, the 1906 Cubs and 1939 Yankees, both great teams that left the rest of their league in the dust. But the third team was one left in the dust by another juggernaut: the 1975 Dodgers, who led the league in DER by 20 points over the 108-win Reds, while finishing 20 games behind them (it didn't help that the Dodgers underperformed their Pythagorean record by 7 games). Oddly, the very best Dodger defense came in a season when Bill Russell missed a good deal of time, but the then-youthful infield of Garvey, Lopes and Cey was otherwise tremendously durable, while 33-year-old Jimmie Wynn anchored the outfield defense (Wynn had also played on those late-60s Astros teams that perennially finished last in DER; go figure). Park effect? The Dodgers and their opponents combined for a .268 BABIP at home, .276 on the road, so the park seems to have had something to do with it. What about a pitching staff effect? Knuckleballer Charlie Hough had the team's lowest BABIP (.219), but Hough threw only 61 innings. 321 innings were thrown by curveballer Andy Messersmith, and there may be something to that - pitcher BABIP are available since 1950, and Messersmith has the lowest career BABIP of any pitcher with 2000 or more career innings at .243 (rounding out the top 10, he's followed by Catfish Hunter at .246, Hoyt Wilhelm at .250, Jim Palmer at .251, Hough at .253, Mudcat Grant at .258, Koufax at .259, Early Wynn at .260, and Tom Seaver and Warren Spahn at .262). The fact that that persisted across three teams (Angels, Dodgers and Braves) before he broke down in 1977 and that only Hunter's even close to him suggests that Messersmith may have had some ability in that area. On the other hand, you have knuckle-curve specialist Burt Hooton, making the case for it being the team: Hooton's BABIPs with the Cubs from 1972-94 were .278, .303 and .322, and .400 in the early going in 1975; after arriving with the Dodgers it dropped to .236, and was .253 over the next three seasons. Whether that's the defense or the park, it's evident that Hooton's sudden improvement was due to the environment he pitched in.

The best AL defense of the decade was the Orioles again in 1973 (featuring much of the same cast, but this time with Bobby Grich at second); Earl Weaver's defenses remained outstanding for years, as did Billy Martin's when he arrived in New York (and brought in Paul Blair, among others). The worst were the 1974 Cubs and 1970 White Sox. Those Cubs featured Bill Madlock at third, 31 year old Don Kessinger at short, and an outfield of three guys who later became professional pinch hitters (Rick Monday, Jose Cardenal and Jerry Morales) and a DH at first (Andre Thornton). That said, BABIPs were higher at home - .312 at home, .296 on the road - so even aside from the home run ball, the park likely exaggerated the Cubs's defensive failings in that era. Not for nothing did Rick Reuschel retire with a career BABIP of .294.

National League

BIP%NLHighDERHigh %LowDERLow %

American League

BIP%ALHighDERHigh %LowDERLow %

The 1980s

DERs in the AL finally dropped back in line with the NL by the late 70s, and the two leagues have mostly remained even since then. Balls in play percentages dropped in 1986, perhaps reflecting the rise in strikeouts occasioned by, among other things, the popularity of the split finger fastball and the increasing specialization of bullpens.

Best defensive team of the 80s: the Billyball A's of 1980. In the NL: the far less remembered 1982 Padres. Worst: the 1981 Indians and 1984 Giants. The Whitaker-Trammell-Chet Lemon Tigers also stand out, although they are not as remembered as a defensive unit (but see the career of Walt Terrell). Their DER was also 713 when they had their big year in 1984, 705 in 1987.

The 1980s might be the decade that defense mattered least. Only two teams, the 1985 Blue Jays and 1989 A's, finished first while leading the league in DER; the 1982 Giants came within two games of being the first team to finish first while being last in the league in DER, and a year later the "Wheeze Kids" Phillies turned the trick, remaining to this day the only team to be first in the standings and last in DER (the league hit .286 on BABIP against Cy Young winner John Denny, .329 against Steve Carlton). Those two teams had two things in common - an aging lineup (which for the Giants included Darrell Evans and Reggie Smith, the Phillies Pete Rose, Tony Perez, Gary Maddox, Mike Schmidt and Gary Matthews) and specifically, Joe Morgan at second base. I have to wonder about Morgan - it's not a surprise that he would be found on poor defensive teams as his bat kept a decaying glove in the lineup in his late 30s (don't forget, these were still good teams), but the Reds' only league lead in DER in the 70s was in 1971, the year before Morgan's arrival, and the Astros had routinely finished last during his years as their second baseman in the 60s. Could all be a coincidence, as Morgan's defensive stats seem to suggest he was a fine glove man in his prime, but it bears closer examination.

The 1989 Yankees became the first Yankees team to finish last in the league in DER since 1933. The Mets finished second in the NL in DER in 1985, third in 1986. The Red Sox at 686 were below average in 1986, but at least not in the cellar as they were in 1985 and 1987.

National League

BIP%NLHighDERHigh %LowDERLow %

American League

BIP%ALHighDERHigh %LowDERLow %

The 1990s

DERs dropped sharply in 1993, inaugurating the era of...well, the Steroids Era, if you prefer. Or in the NL, perhaps the Mile High/Coors era. There were also ever fewer balls in play, with more and more homers, strikeouts and walks. Four NL teams finished first in DER and first in their division, three AL teams including the 1998 Yankees (the only Jeter-era Yankees team to finish either first or last in DER).

The worst defensive teams of the decade were the 1999 Rockies and 1997 A's (the start of the "Moneyball" era - the A's often fielded Jason Giambi and Matt Stairs in the outfield corners - although the winning A's teams of a few years later would be above-average defensively, leading the AL in 2005). The Rockies' home/road splits were so vast - .374 at home, .306 on the road in 1999 - that it's almost impossible to evaluate their defense as such.

The 1990s also brought us the fourth of the five great defensive teams, the 1999 Reds, who led the league by a margin of 17 points over the Mets on the way to losing a one-game playoff for the wild card when their bats were stifled by Al Leiter. That Reds team is not recalled as widely as a great defense - it was the Mets that year who got the Sports Illustrated cover asking if they had the best infield ever - but with Barry Larkin, Mike Cameron and Pokey Reese, they had an outstanding defensive unit. Their home/road splits - .306 at home, .312 on the road - suggest that they did it without a huge amount of help from their home park.

National League

BIP%NLHighDERHigh %LowDERLow %

American League

BIP%ALHighDERHigh %LowDERLow %

The 2000s

Is defense the new market inefficiency? Maybe in the National League, as eight first-place teams led the league in DER between 2000 and 2010 compared to three in the AL (plus the 2002 Angels, who didn't finish first but did win 99 games and the World Series). Even with BIP percentages dropping, marginal advantages in defense can still help make a division winner.

Worst DERs of the decade: the 2007 Rays and Marlins, both scraping just above 650. Best in the NL: the 2009 Dodgers. And the fifth and final team to beat the league by 5% or more - indeed, second only to the 1939 Yankees at 105.52% - the 2001 Mariners, who tied the 1906 Cubs' record of 116 regular season wins. The Mariners featured Ichiro, John Olerud, Bret Boone, Carlos Guillen, and yes, Mike Cameron in center again. They got some help from Safeco (home/road split of .300/.322), where they led the AL again in 2003 (Cameron's last year there) and 2004.

Then there's the 2007-08 Rays. As I noted before the 2008 season, Baseball Prospectus' optimistic PECOTA projection for the Rays required them to massively improve on their MLB-worst team defense; as I noted that October, they did just that, to the point where nearly the entire turnaround to a pennant-winning team was a function of becoming the MLB's best defensive team in one year. This made them just the ninth team ever to go worst-to-first in their league in DER in one year (other unsurprising names on that list include the Billyball A's and the 1991 Braves), and aside from a team from 1878, Tampa's defensive improvement was the largest leap of any of those teams, a 56-point or 8.6% improvement, which made their pitching staff much better without changing its personnel. The Rays did this returning five regulars - Carl Crawford, BJ Upton, Akinori Iwamura, Carlos Pena and Dioner Navarro - although Upton in 2007 was still learning center field as a new position, and Iwamura moved from third to second in 2008. Adding Evan Longoria and Jason Bartlett, plus clearing out some less mobile players and letting the incumbents settle in, led to a historic turnaround:

TeamYearsDER1DER2ChangeChange %

National League

BIP%NLHighDERHigh %LowDERLow %

American League

BIP%ALHighDERHigh %LowDERLow %

The 2010s

History continues to march on: the NL in 2010 became the first league in baseball history to have less than 70% of all plate appearances result in a ball put in play.

2011 stats are through May 31, 2011. DERs can be volatile in-season; I noted a few weeks ago that the Astros were at 648, 633 around the beginning of May, which would have set them on pace as the first defensive team since the 1930 Phillies to finish below 650, but since replacing Angel Sanchez with Clint Barmes they've been on an upward trajectory, and are no longer even last in their division. As you can see, the Cubs are having a terrible defensive year, while the Braves and those Rays again (even sans Carl Crawford and Jason Bartlett) are flying high. The AL (unlike the NL) is above 700 this season, the first time either league has cracked 700 since 1992.

National League

BIP%NLHighDERHigh %LowDERLow %

American League

BIP%ALHighDERHigh %LowDERLow %

Part I here.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:00 PM | Baseball 2011 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
May 11, 2011
BASEBALL: 2011 NL Central EWSL Report

Part 6 of my very-belated preseason previews is the NL Central (last as always); this is the sixth and last 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 previews: the AL West, AL East, AL Central, NL West, NL East.

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)

Milwaukee Brewers

Raw EWSL: 220.00 (87 W)
Adjusted: 232.93 (91 W)
Age-Adj.: 223.33 (88 W)
WS Age: 28.94
2011 W-L: 88-74

C25Jonathan Lucroy*25
1B27Prince Fielder2728
2B28Rickie Weeks2020
SS29Yuniesky Betancourt1010
3B28Casey McGehee1721
RF29Corey Hart1514
CF25Carlos Gomez67
LF27Ryan Braun2829
C233Wil Nieves33
INF40Craig Counsell95
OF30Nyjer Morgan109
1235Mark Kotsay54
1330Jeremy Reed11
SP127Zack Greinke1715
SP225Yovanni Gallardo910
SP329Shaun Marcum98
SP434Randy Wolf108
SP529Chris Narveson#44
RP128John Axford*610
RP229Kameron Loe32
RP341Takashi Saito64
RP430Sergio Mitre21
RP523Zack Braddock*23

Subjective Adjustments: None. Greinke's missed some time, but then EWSL probably underrates Gallardo and Marcum due to injury risks.

Also on Hand: Position players - George Kottaras, Brandon Boggs, Erick Almonte.

Pitchers - Brandon Kintzler, Sean Green, Marco Estrada, Mitch Stetter, LaTroy Hawkins.

Analysis: Just look at the ages of the Brewers' starting lineup to see why EWSL rates them the class of the division - having a whole bunch of guys right in their prime is sometimes more important than having the most talent in the abstract.

Cincinnati Reds

Raw EWSL: 214.17 (85 W)
Adjusted: 230.53 (90 W)
Age-Adj.: 219.32 (86 W)
WS Age: 29.42
2011 W-L: 86-76

C35Ramon Hernandez129
1B27Joey Votto2829
2B30Brandon Phillips1917
SS28Paul Janish#67
3B36Scott Rolen1712
RF24Jay Bruce1216
CF26Drew Stubbs#1114
LF30Jonny Gomes1311
C230Ryan Hanigan109
INF37Miguel Cairo32
OF30Fred Lewis109
1235Edgar Renteria86
1327Jeremy Hermida88
SP134Bronson Arroyo1311
SP227Ednison Volquez54
SP325Johnny Cueto910
SP424Travis Wood*37
SP525Homer Bailey45
RP136Francisco Cordero1110
RP223Aroldis Chapman+15
RP326Logan Ondreysuk*35
RP429Nick Masset86
RP523Mike Leake*48

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Chris Heisey, Juan Francisco, Yonder Alonso, Chris Valaika.

Pitchers - Jordan Smith, Bill Bray, Matt Maloney, Carlos Fisher.

Analysis: The Reds' starting rotation remains unsettled, but there's definitely pitching talent there.

Francisco Cordero is now second on the active saves list - he's never really been a spectacular closer, but his low HR rate more than anything else, especially in the parks he's worked in, has kept him steady year in and year out.

St. Louis Cardinals

Raw EWSL: 224.33 (88 W)
Adjusted: 239.50 (93 W)
Age-Adj.: 217.52 (86 W)
WS Age: 30.70
2011 W-L: 86-76

C28Yadier Molina1818
1B31Albert Pujols3529
2B31Skip Schumaker1613
SS31Ryan Theriot1412
3B28David Freese#45
RF35Lance Berkman2015
CF24Colby Rasmus#1320
LF31Matt Holliday2421
C231Gerald Laird98
INF33Nick Punto87
OF26John Jay*49
1226Allen Craig*12
1327Tyler Greene#11
SP136Chris Carpenter1412
SP224Jaime Garcia*614
SP333Jake Westbrook54
SP432Kyle Lohse32
SP527Kyle McClellan76
RP127Mitchell Boggs32
RP229Jason Motte#44
RP326Fernando Salas*11
RP440Miguel Batista43
RP538Ryan Franklin119

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Daniel Descalso, Mark Hamilton.

Pitchers - Adam Wainwright (out for the season), Eduardo Sanchez, Brian Tallet, Bryan Augenstein.

Analysis: The current division leaders, still hoping they can outrun the loss of Wainwright. Pujols' slow start this season is yet another reminder of the pitiless march of age, but Tony LaRussa still always manages to find some veterans - so far, Lance Berkman - who buck that trend long enough to contribute. Meanwhile, Matt Holliday has been worth every penny of his enormous salary. I was high on David Freese before the season, but he's yet to prove he can make it through a full season.

The weak point, by EWSL, is the bullpen, so if LaRussa and Duncan can work some magic in getting more out of an unimpressive assortment, the Cards could continue overachieve.

Chicago Cubs

Raw EWSL: 204.50 (81 W)
Adjusted: 229.37 (90 W)
Age-Adj.: 213.68 (84 W)
WS Age: 29.91
2011 W-L: 84-78

C28Geovany Soto1414
1B33Carlos Pena1715
2B25Darwin Barney+111
SS21Starlin Castro*615
3B33Aramis Ramirez1614
RF34Kosuke Fukudome1513
CF33Marlon Byrd1816
LF35Alfonso Soriano1410
C230Jeff Baker65
INF25Blake DeWitt1012
OF34Reed Johnson54
1225Tyler Colvin*511
1332Koyie Hill43
SP134Ryan Dempster1311
SP227Matt Garza1110
SP330Carlos Zambrano1210
SP428Randy Wells#910
SP524Andrew Cashner*12
RP128Carlos Marmol1313
RP228Sean Marshall77
RP334Kerry Wood65
RP432John Grabow33
RP523Casey Coleman*23

Subjective Adjustments: None, although obviously the injuries to Wells and Cashner have been costly.

Also on Hand: Pitchers - Marcos Mateo, Jeff Samardzjia, James Russell, Justin Berg, Jeff Stevens.

Analysis: The Cubs are not a bad team, and they're good enough to swipe a title in a weak division with a few breaks (a harder thing to swing when the division has six teams) but - not to harp on age again here - they're a rebuilding team. Seriously: EWSL rates Marlon Byrd as their best player, once you apply the age adjustments. (Byrd may still be a solid glove but compared to the other center fielders in this division he's in awfully fast company).

Thus far, they've been laboring without Wells and Cashner, both injured.

Houston Astros

Raw EWSL: 172.00 (71 W)
Adjusted: 191.31 (77 W)
Age-Adj.: 172.28 (71 W)
WS Age: 30.10
2011 W-L: 71-91

C31Humberto Quintero54
1B24Brett Wallace*11
2B31Bill Hall87
SS27Angel Sanchez*47
3B26Chris Johnson*816
RF28Hunter Pence1920
CF28Michael Bourn1818
LF35Carlos Lee1713
C227JR Towles11
INF32Clint Barmes119
OF35Jason Michaels54
1231Jeff Keppinger1412
1333Joe Inglett54
SP130Brett Myers119
SP232Wandy Rodriguez1210
SP328JA Happ#89
SP426Bud Norris#33
SP537Nelson Figueroa65
RP131Brandon Lyon129
RP226Mark Melancon*12
RP331Jeff Fluchino#33
RP425Enerio Del Rosario+14
RP525Fernando Abad*12

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Jason Bourgeois, Matt Downs, Brian Bogusovic.

Pitchers - Aneury Rodriguez, Wilton Lopez, Jose Valdez.

Analysis: The Astros' Defensive Efficiency Rating, at this writing, is .648. No team has finished a full season below .650 since the 1930 Phillies (the 2007 Rays were the closest in recent decades, at .652 - which they followed with a historic one-season improvement to the best in MLB in 2008 - although the Cubs also had some appalling defenses in the 70s). Unless they can fix the infield (Johnson and Sanchez have been horribly error-prone, contributing to the low DER), it's gonna be a long season for the Houston pitching staff.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Raw EWSL: 136.83 (59 W)
Adjusted: 165.50 (68 W)
Age-Adj.: 181.48 (74 W)
Subj. Adj.: 176.48 (72 W)
WS Age: 27.75
2011 W-L: 72-90

C30Chris Snyder87
1B34Lyle Overbay1412
2B25Neil Walker*819
SS28Ronny Cedeno88
3B24Pedro Alvarez*718
RF30Garrett Jones#1011
CF24Andrew McCutchen#1726
LF22Jose Tabata*727
C230Ryan Doumit98
INF26Brandon Wood11
OF33Matt Diaz87
1228Steven Pearce22
1326Xavier Paul*00
SP130Kevin Corriea33
SP229Paul Maholm65
SP327Charlie Morton11
SP428Ross Ohlendorf65
SP528Jeff Karstens22
RP129Joel Hanrahan65
RP228Evan Meek#67
RP330Jose Veras43
RP434Joe Beimel54
RP528Daniel McCutchen#11

Subjective Adjustments: I cut Tabata from 27 to 22; the projected leap based solely on his age just looks too steep. Absent that, the Bucs would have ranked ahead of the Astros. No others, although Ohlendorf has been out of action for a while, with James McDonald filling his slot in the rotation.

Also on Hand: Position players - Jason Jaramillo, John Bowker, Josh Rodriguez.

Pitchers - James McDonald, Chris Resop, Michael Crotta, Garrett Olson, Danny Moskos.

Analysis: You know the perennial Pirates storylines; this year, it's back to letting the kids play and build on their good starts. Optimism will only set in when we see proof the kids will not just develop but develop in Pittsburgh.

And the pitching still stinks, so even a surprise by the offense won't deliver any glass slippers to PNC Park.

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:34 PM | Baseball 2011 • | Baseball Studies | TrackBack (0)
May 9, 2011

Jose Reyes has 11 doubles and 6 triples through 34 games this season - totals that, if he kept this pace all season, would leave him with 52 doubles and 29 triples. How unprecedented is that? One way to look at it is that nobody's ever hit 50 doubles and 25 triples in the same season. Another is that Reyes projects to get - even before you factor in steals (he's also on pace for 57 of those) - 110 extra bases just from doubles and triples. That would break the (admittedly obscure) record of 96 by Shoeless Joe Jackson going away; only 9 players have notched as many as 90 in a season, and only one of them (Stan Musial in 1946) in post-World War II era baseball. I included Curtis Granderson's 2007, the closest modern season, for comparison. Note that one of the guys on this list, Tip O'Neill of the old St. Louis Browns of the American Association, managed this in a 138-game schedule; he also batted .435. Relatedly, 1887 was the only year in the history of the majors when it took four strikes to notch a strikeout.

Jose Reyes (proj.)20115229772110
Shoeless Joe Jackson1912442665396
Kiki Cuyler1925432670095
Ty Cobb1911472465495
Adam Comorosky1930472368593
Ty Cobb1917442466992
Chief Wilson1912193664391
Stan Musial1946502070290
Joe Medwick1936641367790
Tip O'Neill1887521957290
Curtis Granderson2007382367684

Talk about your salary drives. Whatever other complaints Mets fans have this year, lack of a Grade A performance by Reyes hasn't been one of them.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:26 PM | Baseball 2011 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
May 5, 2011
BASEBALL: 2011 NL East EWSL Report

Part 5 of my 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 previews: the AL West, AL East, AL Central, NL 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)

Atlanta Braves

Raw EWSL: 190.33 (77 W)
Adjusted: 232.78 (91 W)
Age-Adj.: 224.45 (88 W)
Subj. Adj.: 221.45 (87 W)
WS Age: 29.18
2011 W-L: 87-75

C27Brian McCann1920
1B21Freddie Freeman+011
2B31Dan Uggla2219
SS34Alex Gonzalez1210
3B39Chipper Jones1713
RF21Jason Heyward*1228
CF29Nate McLouth1212
LF27Martin Prado1717
C234David Ross65
INF33Eric Hinske76
OF28Matt Young+04
1231Brooks Conrad*47
1328Joe Mather11
SP135Tim Hudson1310
SP224Tommy Hanson#913
SP325Jair Jurrjens1011
SP438Derek Lowe119
SP524Brandon Beachy04
RP123Craig Kimbrel*25
RP226Johnny Venters*510
RP326Eric O'Flaherty44
RP434Scott Linebrink33
RP534George Sherrill64

Subjective Adjustments: I docked Martin Prado 2 Win Shares (dropping him from 17 to 15), which is a very conservative estimate of his reduced defensive value on moving to left field - I'd have docked him further but his ability to slide back into the middle infield remains valuable and could yet be called upon by the Braves. Also docked Freddie Freeman 1 Win Share, as his youth, limited minor league track record and slow start raise at least some questions about his value. But I didn't want to tinker too much here.

Although Beachy looks for now like he should comfortably exceed 4 WS, you can never count your chickens with rookie starting pitchers.

Also on Hand: Position players - Brandon Hicks, JC Bosan, Jordan Schafer.

Pitchers - Peter Moylan, Kris Medlen, Rodrigo Lopez, Cristhian Martinez (I swear some of these guys' names are misspelled with malice aforethought), Cory Gearin, Jairo Asencio, Mike Minor.

Analysis: Yeah, I'm as surprised as you are that the Braves rate ahead of the Phillies, especially when you consider that EWSL has the Phillies as a 101-win team before applying the age adjustments. I take it with a grain of salt, though; the margin isn't large, and it's not hard to see how, say, Brooks Conrad could contribute less this year or Jason Heyward could fail to take The Leap (even the great ones don't always move in straight lines), in addition to the issues noted with Prado and Freeman. But as discussed below, the ranking says more about the Phillies than it does about the Braves.

Philadelphia Phillies

Raw EWSL: 264.17 (101 W)
Adjusted: 264.43 (101 W)
Age-Adj.: 215.86 (85 W)
WS Age: 32.48
2011 W-L: 85-77

C32Carlos Ruiz1512
1B31Ryan Howard2319
2B32Chase Utley2822
SS32Jimmy Rollins1714
3B35Placido Polanco1813
RF29Ben Francisco77
CF30Shane Victorino2220
LF39Raul Ibanez1914
C234Brian Schneider54
INF33Wilson Valdez54
OF35Ross Gload53
1232Pete Orr11
1327John Mayberry#11
SP134Roy Halladay2319
SP232Cliff Lee1814
SP333Roy Oswalt1510
SP427Cole Hamels1413
SP530Joe Blanton76
RP134Brad Lidge75
RP239Jose Contreras65
RP330Ryan Madson97
RP433Danys Baez21
RP527Antonio Bastardo#11

Subjective Adjustments: None. I might have had some issues regarding how to value Domonic Brown, but for now, since Brown has zero value based on his prior major league experience and isn't available to play right now, I'm just treating him like any other prospect not yet on the roster.

Also on Hand: Position players - Domonic Brown, Dane Sardinha, Josh Barfield, Brian Bocock.

Pitchers - JC Romero, Kyle Kendrick, David Herndon, Scott Mathieson, Michael Stutts, Mike Zajuski, Vance Worley. Note that the gap with the Braves disappears if you replace Bastardo on the 23-man roster with Romero.

Analysis: It's not quite "The Devil and Joe Morgan" - Bill James' memorable essay on how the 1983 "Wheeze Kids" Phillies confronted an aging roster not by rebuilding but by bringing in even more, even older players to squeeze out one last championship - as this Phillies team's key players aren't as old as, say, the Hated Yankees' and the main import, Cliff Lee, is hardly decrepit at 32. But age is everywhere up and down this roster, and its grim companion - injuries - has already taken a toll on Chase Utley and Brad Lidge. Meanwhile, ill fortune has struck in other ways - besides the injury to young Brown, Roy Oswalt has left the team for an indeterminate amount of time to deal with an undisclosed personal issue (which could be anything, whether it's an issue with Oswalt or his family - we just can't know how serious it is or how long he'll be away).

I still see the Phillies as the team to beat in this division, assuming Oswalt's not out for long; their starting pitching is fearsome, and the offense, if no longer terrifying, remains deep. But aging teams have a way sometimes of falling short of their name-brand value.

Florida Marlins

Raw EWSL: 170.67 (70 W)
Adjusted: 198.16 (79 W)
Age-Adj.: 195.68 (78 W)
WS Age: 27.47
2011 W-L: 78-84

C30John Buck1211
1B27Gaby Sanchez*918
2B29Omar Infante1313
SS27Hanley Ramirez2829
3B26Emilio Bonifacio56
RF21Mike Stanton*716
CF26Chris Coghlan1114
LF23Logan Morrison*511
C227Brett Hayes*12
INF32Greg Dobbs32
OF26Scott Cousins+14
1235Wes Helms64
1328Donnie Murphy22
SP127Josh Johnson1514
SP227Anibal Sanchez77
SP328Ricky Nolasco87
SP434Javier Vazquez108
SP524Chris Volstad66
RP127Leo Nunez98
RP231Clay Hensley64
RP327Edward Mujica33
RP425Ryan Webb#23
RP532Brian Sanches#55

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Osvaldo Martinez, Bryan Petersen, John Baker (injured).

Pitchers - Randy Choate, Michael Dunn, Burke Badenhop.

Analysis: The Marlins are off to an odd start, 19-10 entering today's action even with their star, Hanley Ramirez, off to his second straight terrible start, .198/.308/.277, and a few other early problems - Infante's not hitting, Morrison's on the DL, and perhaps more predictably, Vazquez and Volstad have been horrible. Does this bode well for them? Maybe. Certainly Josh Johnson just keeps getting better - he's now 36-12 with a 2.78 ERA since his return in 2008, and in his last 224.2 IP his line is awe-inspiring: 2.04 ERA, 6.9 H/9, 0.3 HR/9, 2.4 BB/9, 9.0 K/9. And the development of Sanchez and the young outfield is encouraging - Stanton now has 27 HR and a .511 career slugging average in 126 career games, Sanchez has a career line of .281/.350/.458, Morrison .291/.397/.482 as a doubles-and-walks machine after posting OBPs of .402, .408 and .424 from age 20-22 in the minors. But recent history suggests that this team may have trouble keeping the rotation healthy (and perhaps the outfield as well). That and their perennially questionable defense will be the main question marks.

New York Mets

Raw EWSL: 176.83 (72 W)
Adjusted: 198.93 (80 W)
Age-Adj.: 192.38 (77 W)
WS Age: 29.32
2011 W-L: 77-85

C24Josh Thole*510
1B24Ike Davis*821
2B26Daniel Murphy45
SS28Jose Reyes1516
3B28David Wright2324
RF34Carlos Beltran1412
CF29Angel Pagan1615
LF32Jason Bay1915
C228Mike Nickeas+04
INF26Justin Turner+04
OF31Scott Hairston97
1233Willie Harris76
1330Ronnie Paulino76
SP127Mike Pelfrey98
SP236RA Dickey98
SP324Jonathan Niese*37
SP432Chris Young32
SP532Chris Capuano21
RP129Francisco Rodriguez1210
RP226Bobby Parnell#23
RP329Taylor Buchholz22
RP434DJ Carrasco54
RP537Tim Byrdak43

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Jason Pridie, Lucas Duda, Chin-Lung Hu. Brad Emaus opened the season as the everyday 2B but, being a Rule V pick, left the organization when he was sent down.

Pitchers - Johan Santana, who is unlikely enough to return this season as to not be worth inclusion. Jason Isringhausen, Dillon Gee, Pedro Beato (one of the team's few effective relievers so far but currently disabled), Pat Misch, Ryota Igarashi.

I've rated Parnell with the big club, although after early struggles he got shipped back to AAA. I'll be surprised if he's not back soon.

Analysis: I could, and probably should soon separately, write a lot more about these Mets, but I'll try to be brief here in the interests of getting this post done. In addition to time constraints, one of the sad realities of my blogging life is the number of subjects I can't really write about due to possible overlaps with my job, and now that has even invaded the core of my baseball blogging, as the Mets' financial mess is too tied up with the world of Madoff and my practice specialty - securities litigation - for me to address freely except in the most general terms.

I've been saying all year that I think this is a .500 team, which in the context of the prevailing mood among Mets fans makes me decidedly bullish. The starting rotation has been the biggest threat to that so far (we already knew the bullpen would be a mess).

The biggest variable, in terms of both upside and downside, is the outfield, which now includes as well Angel Pagan, who got off to a terrible start before getting hurt. Here's Carlos Beltran, 2001-2010: .283/.366/.509 2011, entering today's action: .294/.379/.520 - he's the same hitter (his 148 OPS+ would be the second-best of his career after his 2006 season), just not the same fielder and baserunner he was before the knee injury. With his contract up at season's end, Beltran could be traded to a contender later in the season if he is willing to go. (Jose Reyes might too, but I can't really analyze the wisdom of that without getting into the team's finances).
As for Bay, the Mets spent half as much on him as the Cardinals spent on Matt Holliday, and right now would kill for half of Holliday's production; his .258/.344/.399 line with 7 homers in 445 plate appearances suggests more than just an adjustment period, after leaving Boston after his age 30 season. The most encouraging sign has been the development of Ike Davis into something like the kind of slugger you need at first base. Unless you count Rico Brogna, the only home-grown power-hitting first baseman in club history is John Milner.

Washington Nationals

Raw EWSL: 154.17 (65 W)
Adjusted: 166.37 (69 W)
Age-Adj.: 154.41 (65 W)
WS Age: 30.05
2011 W-L: 65-97

C23Wilson Ramos*24
1B31Adam LaRoche1614
2B24Danny Espinosa*25
SS25Ian Desmond*613
3B26Ryan Zimmerman2022
RF32Jayson Werth2318
CF31Rick Ankiel65
LF29Mike Morse55
C239Ivan Rodriguez86
INF35Jerry Hairston118
OF30Laynce Nix44
1243Matt Stairs42
1335Alex Cora43
SP136Livan Hernandez76
SP225Jordan Zimmerman#22
SP326John Lannan77
SP432Jason Marquis65
SP528Tom Gorzelanny44
RP123Drew Storen*36
RP226Tyler Clippard#68
RP328Sean Burnett65
RP431Doug Slaten21
RP530Todd Coffey33

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Jesus Flores (injured), Roger Bernadina, Brian Bixler.

Pitchers - Steven Strasburg (injured, as you know), Chien-Ming Wang, Chad Gaudin, Brian Broderick, Collin Balester, Henry Rodriguez, Yunieski Maya.

Analysis: If you can explain the Phillies' decisions as a desperate rage against the dying of the light and the Mets' as the external symptoms of the team's financial situation, the Nationals' behavior seems to manifest a sort of organization-wide post-traumatic stress disorder following Steven Strasburg's injury, as if the team just said "to hell with having a plan," let Adam Dunn walk, blew through some money on mid-career mid-market free agents (Adam LaRoche, Jayson Werth), patched holes with slapdash additions like Rick Ankiel and Tom Gorzelanny, and then sat back and declared, "ah, that'll do" and went out to go on a bender. Another way of putting it is that the Nationals figured there was really no plan that could get them to a successful 2011, and decided to just throw a coat of paint over the team to avoid looking like they were giving up completely. But the real rebuilding will be on hold until 2012.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:00 PM | Baseball 2011 • | Baseball Studies | TrackBack (0)
April 29, 2011
BASEBALL: 2011 NL West EWSL Report

Part 4 of my very-belated preseason previews is the NL West; 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 previews: the AL West, AL East & AL 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)

World Champion San Francisco Giants

Raw EWSL: 239.17 (96 W)
Adjusted: 264.00 (101 W)
Age-Adj.: 248.71 (96 W)
WS Age: 29.59
2011 W-L: 96-66

C24Buster Posey*1026
1B23Brandon Belt+011
2B33Freddy Sanchez1311
SS37Miguel Tejada1912
3B24Pablo Sandoval1519
RF34Aubrey Huff2017
CF33Aaron Rowand119
LF34Pat Burrell1211
C231Eli Whiteside#22
INF31Mike Fontenot87
OF33Andres Torres#1412
1227Nate Schierholtz66
1330Cody Ross1513
SP127Tim Lincecum1917
SP226Matt Cain1718
SP328Jonathan Sanchez1010
SP421Madison Bumgarner*410
SP533Barry Zito85
RP129Brian Wilson1513
RP228Sergio Romo66
RP337Guillermo Mota32
RP432Jeremy Affeldt65
RP529Ramon Ramirez87

Subjective Adjustments: None. I could downgrade Brandon Belt, who's already lost his job and been demoted, and/or cut the points the Giants get for having all those outfielder on the bench, but (1) I still expect Belt to return and contribute a good deal (he's a tremendous across-the-board talent) and (2) the early stumble of a highly talented rookie is why it comes in handy to have the depth to just slide Huff to first base and give more playing time to the outfielders.

Also on Hand: Position players - Mark DeRosa, Darren Ford.

Pitchers - Santiago Casilla, Javier Lopez, Dan Runzler.

Analysis: The Giants as always have an aging lineup, although if Belt returns and Sandoval continues his return to form, they actually for once could have a core of guys under 30 who can hit - and that, plus the sheer number of veterans with some gas left in the tank, makes them formidable. The pitching staff remains their strength.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Raw EWSL: 242.67 (94 W)
Adjusted: 246.93 (96 W)
Age-Adj.: 221.49 (87 W)
WS Age: 30.47
2011 W-L: 87-75

C35Rod Barajas129
1B27James Loney1718
2B31Juan Uribe1412
SS36Jamey Carroll118
3B37Casey Blake1610
RF29Andre Ethier2221
CF26Matt Kemp1921
LF28Tony Gwynn jr.77
C227Dioner Navarro66
INF34Aaron Miles43
OF34Marcus Thames65
1233Rafael Furcal1714
1323Jerry Sands+04
SP123Clayton Kershaw1214
SP226Chad Billingsley1112
SP336Hiroki Kuroda98
SP435Ted Lilly129
SP531Jon Garland119
RP127Jonathan Broxton109
RP232Matt Guerrier86
RP329Hong-Chih Kuo109
RP433Vicente Padilla75
RP528Blake Hawksworth#22

Subjective Adjustments: None. I don't really need a subjective adjustment to reflect the annual recurrence of Rafael Furcal getting hurt.

Also on Hand: Position players - Xavier Paul, AJ Ellis.

Pitchers - Mike MacDougal, who like Jeff Francouer has compiled quite a track record of using good first impressions to sucker a new employer; Kenley Jansen, Ramon Troncoso, Lance Cormier.

Analysis: Kemp (.378/.460/.612), Ethier (.380/.451/.560) and Blake (.321/.446/.509) have been off to a strong start - indeed, two days ago, Kemp & Ethier had identical batting and OBP lines - 108 PA, 95 AB, 36 H, 13 BB, .379/.454. Kemp has slowed a bit on the bases after stealing 8 bases in the season's first 13 games. And Kershaw has shown flashes of intense brilliance, albeit amidst some of his usual inconsistency, while the defense has been the majors' best (a .739 DER against balls in play, which is higher than sustainable for a full season). But the Dodgers have yet to pull much together around the front-line talent. Really, this team needs a bust-out year from Kershaw and Kemp supported by big years from Ethier and Billingsley to contend.

Colorado Rockies

Raw EWSL: 204.83 (82 W)
Adjusted: 215.33 (85 W)
Age-Adj.: 207.14 (82 W)
WS Age: 28.68
2011 W-L: 82-80

C28Chris Iannetta88
1B37Todd Helton138
2B26Jonathan Herrera*36
SS26Troy Tulowitzki2224
3B27Jose Lopez1111
RF28Seth Smith1010
CF25Dexter Fowler#1217
LF25Carlos Gonzalez1720
C228Jose Morales#22
INF33Ty Wigginton87
OF31Ryan Spilborghs87
1226Ian Stewart910
1340Jason Giambi84
SP127Ubaldo Jimenez1917
SP230Jorge De La Rosa97
SP328Jason Hammel87
SP423Jhoulys Chacin*511
SP532Aaron Cook86
RP127Huston Street1110
RP236Rafael Betancourt76
RP331Matt Belisle65
RP431Matt Lindstrom43
RP525Esmil Rogers*00

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Quite a lot of familiar faces hanging around for what could be a last chance - Alfredo Amezaga, Mike Jacobs, Willy Taveras, Josh Fields.

Pitchers - Franklin Morales, Matt Reynolds, Felipe Paulino, Matt Daley.

Analysis: Historically, as Troy Tulowitzki goes, so go the Rockies, and this season's been no exception - Carlos Gonzalez is hitting an anemic .214/.269/.286, Ubaldo Jimenez is winless and disabled with a 6.75 ERA, Cook hasn't pitched yet, and Jose Lopez has been the anti-Babe Ruth, batting .143/.169/.254 (OPS+ of 7, yet his OPS is double Ian Stewart's), the team batting average is .239, but backed by Tulo's blistering .326/.416/.674 start, the Rox are an MLB-leading 16-7. Obviously some good hitting from others in the lineup and some great bullpen help has helped. I'd bet on Colorado to exceed EWSL's 82-win estimate, but there are some real holes to be patched (especially third base and in the starting rotation) if this team is going to make a serious run at the Giants.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Raw EWSL: 164.33 (68 W)
Adjusted: 185.30 (75 W)
Age-Adj.: 181.35 (74 W)
WS Age: 28.82
2011 W-L: 74-88

C27Miguel Montero1010
1B28Juan Miranda+111
2B29Kelly Johnson1615
SS28Stephen Drew1919
3B30Ryan Roberts#33
RF23Justin Upton1518
CF27Chris Young1516
LF24Gerardo Parra#69
C239Henry Blanco43
INF39Melvin Mora107
OF35Russell Branyan107
1232Xavier Nady65
1333Willie Bloomquist54
SP130Joe Saunders108
SP224Daniel Hudson*510
SP326Ian Kennedy66
SP429Armando Galarraga65
SP525Barry Enright*37
RP134JJ Putz54
RP227Juan Gutierrez#44
RP332Aaron Heilman43
RP426David Hernandez#45
RP527Esmerling Vazquez#22

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Josh Wilson, Geoff Blum.

Pitchers - Zach Duke and the "no-names" bullpen - Joe Paterson, Sam Demel, Joshua Collmenter, Kameron Mickolio.

Analysis: I think I've internalized for too long the parity of the NL West, so it's hard to look at the poor condition of Arizona and San Diego without mentally downgrading the whole division. But it's normal for good divisions to have good teams and bad teams.

Arizona's hitters have been overrated for a while due to the ballpark, and its pitching has never really recovered from the collapse of Brandon Webb. The team is starting to rebuild a little better, but it may take some time.

This bench has quite a collection of guys you didn't think would still be playing at this age.

San Diego Padres

Raw EWSL: 189.83 (77 W)
Adjusted: 197.40 (79 W)
Age-Adj.: 181.00 (74 W)
WS Age: 29.49
2011 W-L: 74-88

C27Nick Hundley99
1B32Brad Hawpe129
2B33Orlando Hudson1714
SS31Jason Bartlett1815
3B27Chase Headley1414
RF28Will Venable1111
CF24Cameron Maybin#57
LF32Ryan Ludwick1915
C228Rob Johnson#56
INF29Jorge Cantu1313
OF30Chris Denorfia55
1224Kyle Blanks#34
1328Alberto Gonzalez33
SP127Clayton Richard87
SP223Matt Latos#79
SP333Aaron Harang43
SP429Tim Stauffer#66
SP529Dustin Moseley11
RP133Heath Bell139
RP227Luke Gregerson#67
RP332Mike Adams86
RP425Ernesto Frieri*24
RP532Chad Qualls54

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Eric Patterson, Cedric Hunter. I think it's safe by now to conclude that Patterson's .373 OBP in 2009 was a fluke.

Pitchers - Pat Neshek, Cory Luebke, Wade LeBlanc.

Analysis: Here we have a one-man team when the one man leaves. The Pads have stitched together some adequate veterans - the double-play combination should help the pitching staff. But there's no core here you can build anything around in the foreseeable future.

There's hardly a more under-heralded player in baseball right now than Ernesto Frieri, who has to make Heath Bell expendable, as good as Bell is. Between them, Bell, Frieri and Adams have a 1.78 ERA since 2009 - 2.24 if you include Gregerson, who has similar numbers except that he's more homer-prone than the other three. The overall line for the four since 2009: 6.18 H/9, 0.41 HR/9, 3.04 BB/9, and 10.40 K/9. Even considering the pitcher-friendly expanses of Pecto, that's something else. Frieri currently sports a ridiculous 1.50 career ERA and 11.4 career K/9, and in the early going thus far he's cut his walks in half from 2010.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:00 PM | Baseball 2011 • | Baseball Studies | TrackBack (0)
April 18, 2011
BASEBALL: 2011 AL Central EWSL Report

Part 3 of my preseason "previews" is the AL Central; this is the third 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. I've also resurrected for this season the team ages, which are weighted by non-age-adjusted EWSL, so the best players count more towards determining the age of the roster.

Prior previews: the AL West & AL East.

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)

Chicago White Sox

Raw EWSL: 238.17 (93 W)
Adjusted: 253.34 (98 W)
Age-Adj.: 230.98 (90 W)
WS Age: 30.05
2011 W-L: 90-72

C34AJ Pierzynski119
1B35Paul Konerko2216
2B24Gordon Beckham#1015
SS29Alexei Ramirez1817
3B24Brent Morel+011
RF28Carlos Quentin1414
CF30Alex Rios1614
LF33Juan Pierre1311
DH31Adam Dunn2117
C235Ramon Castro54
INF29Mark Teahen66
OF26Lastings Milledge89
1344Omar Vizquel63
SP126John Danks1617
SP232Mark Buehrle1411
SP328Gavin Floyd1312
SP427Edwin Jackson1211
SP530Jake Peavy76
RP134Matt Thornton129
RP222Chris Sale*36
RP329Jesse Crain54
RP429Tony Pena54
RP533Will Ohman32

Subjective Adjustments: None. As the minimal age adjustments indicate, this is the most established-talent, set-lineup team in the division. Milledge, however, is presently in AAA.

Also on Hand: Position players - Brent Lillibridge, Dayan Vicideo, Tyler Flowers.

Pitchers - Sergio Santos, Jeff Gray, Phil Humber, Gregory Infante.

Analysis: The White Sox are back again with a power-backed lineup and their characteristically stolid starting rotation. If the older guys in the lineup (Konerko, Pierzynski) don't break down, they should be in the hunt all year, but they're unlikely to blow the doors off the division.

Minnesota Twins

Raw EWSL: 216.17 (85 W)
Adjusted: 236.87 (92 W)
Age-Adj.: 222.85 (88 W)
Subj. Adj.: 219.85 (87 W)
WS Age: 29.13
2011 W-L: 87-75

C28Joe Mauer2930
1B30Justin Morneau1917
2B26Tsuyoshi Niskioka+011
SS26Alexi Casilla66
3B26Danny Valencia*613
RF29Jason Kubel1414
CF27Denard Span2020
LF25Delmon Young1619
DH40Jim Thome147
C227Drew Butera*23
INF29Matt Tolbert44
OF32Michael Cuddyer1411
1330Jason Repko11
SP127Francisco Liriano88
SP235Carl Pavano108
SP328Brian Duensing#910
SP429Scott Baker109
SP529Nick Blackburn76
RP136Joe Nathan87
RP227Matt Capps88
RP326Jose Mijares#45
RP427Kevin Slowey77
RP526Jeff Manship#11

Subjective Adjustments: I docked Nishioka 3 Win Shares for his early season leg fracture, cutting him down to 8.

Also on Hand: Position players - Ben Revere, Luke Hughes.

Pitchers - Glen Perkins, Anthony Slama, Dusty Hughes.

Analysis: Slowey, Baker and Blackurn have all seen their stock fall, and Liriano's off to a bad start. Morneau's healthy but not hitting yet, and Mauer's not healthy. And I didn't realize how old Nathan is. And can Thome repeat last year's rejuvenation? A lot of question marks here.

Detroit Tigers

Raw EWSL: 190.33 (77 W)
Adjusted: 222.86 (88 W)
Age-Adj.: 213.96 (85 W)
WS Age: 28.97
2011 W-L: 85-77

C24Alex Avila#57
1B28Miguel Cabrera2727
2B28Will Rhymes*36
SS29Jhonny Peralta1514
3B34Brandon Inge1311
RF37Magglio Ordonez138
CF24Austin Jackson*923
LF30Ryan Raburn98
DH32Victor Martinez1713
C226Casper Wells*24
INF31Don Kelly*34
OF26Brennan Boesch*612
1335Carlos Guillen75
SP128Justin Verlander1716
SP226Max Scherzer1011
SP322Rick Porcello#711
SP433Brad Penny43
SP528Phil Coke55
RP131Jose Valverde119
RP233Joaquin Benoit53
RP324Brayan Villereal+05
RP424Ryan Perry#45
RP533Brad Thomas*34

Subjective Adjustments: None, although Guillen seems unlikely to contribute much. Casper Wells is obviously not a backup catcher; that's Victor Martinez, so I just threw Wells into that roster slot. As did the Tigers.

Also on Hand: Position players - Scott Sizemore.

Pitchers - Joel Zumaya, who is facing the dreaded Dr. Andrews. Daniel Schlereth, Enrique Gonzalez.

Analysis: I'm not that high on the Tigers this season. Cabrera seems unlikely to repeat last year's trouble-free season, Peralta is a serious defensive question mark, and Porcello, the back of the rotation and the bullpen are wobbly. On the upside, maybe this will be the year Scherzer puts it all together.

Cleveland Indians

Raw EWSL: 136.50 (59 W)
Adjusted: 152.40 (64 W)
Age-Adj.: 152.39 (64 W)
WS Age: 28.20
2011 W-L: 64-98

C25Carlos Santana*48
1B26Matt LaPorta#45
2B36Orlando Cabrera129
SS25Asdrubal Cabrera1315
3B31Jack Hannahan22
RF28Shin-Soo Choo2424
CF28Grady Sizemore99
LF24Michael Brantley#45
DH34Travis Hafner97
C225Lou Marson*36
INF26Jason Donald*36
OF31Austin Kearns65
1331Shelley Duncan33
SP127Fausto Carmona76
SP226Justin Masterson56
SP324Carlos Carrasco#22
SP427Mitch Talbot*35
SP526Josh Tomlin*24
RP125Chris Perez89
RP227Tony Sipp#33
RP329Rafael Perez44
RP433Chad Durbin53
RP527Joe Smith33

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Travis Buck, Trevor Crowe (on the 60-day DL at present), Adam Everett, Lonnie Chisenhall, Jason Kipnis. Donald is also on the DL.

Pitchers - Vinnie Pestano, Justin Germano, Frank Herrmann, Alex White, Jeanmar Gomez.

Analysis: It's obviously easier to say this after their 11-4 start, but there are plenty of places for the Indians to improve on their EWSL, from a recovery by Sizemore (I'm skeptical, since he had the Carlos Beltran surgery, but he's younger than Beltran) to guys like Santana and LaPorta providing a full season's production to the young pitchers stepping up. But in the early season enthusiasm, don't lose sight of how far this team has to come from its proven, established major league performance levels if it's going to have a winning record.

Kansas City Royals

Raw EWSL: 129.83 (57 W)
Adjusted: 139.90 (60 W)
Age-Adj.: 139.02 (60 W)
Subj. Adj: 142.02 (61 W)
WS Age: 27.74
2011 W-L: 61-101

C37Jason Kendall106
1B27Kila Ka'aihue*11
2B27Chris Getz#57
SS24Alcides Escobar#711
3B29Wilson Betemit66
RF27Jeff Francouer78
CF26Melky Cabrera1010
LF27Alex Gordon55
DH25Billy Butler1721
C235Matt Treanor22
INF30Mike Aviles98
OF29Mitch Maier98
1329Brayan Pena33
SP127Kyle Davies54
SP230Jeff Francis32
SP327Luke Hochevar33
SP434Bruce Chen54
SP524Vin Mazzaro#34
RP127Joakim Soria1413
RP229Robinson Tejeda54
RP323Sean O'Sullivan#22
RP421Tim Collins+05
RP525Blake Wood*12

Subjective Adjustments: I marked up Kila Ka'aihue from 1 to 4 Win Shares, which is probably pretty conservative for a guy who failed miserably last year, but he should get a much longer audition this season.

Also on Hand: Position players - Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas - basically, the next generation of prospects.

Pitchers - Kanekoa Texeira, Jeremy Jeffress, Nathan Adcock, Jesse Chavez, Gregory Holland, Aaron Crow, Mike Montgomery.

Analysis: Like the Indians and the AL East's weak sisters, the Royals have started well, and combined with the good reputation of the prospects on the way, that suggests that this division may end up more compressed than the EWSL standings suggest. But there's no better antidote to optimism about the Royals than looking at the people they're actually counting on for at bats and innings. It's still a long way out of that hole.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:20 PM | Baseball 2011 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
April 14, 2011
BASEBALL: 2011 AL East EWSL Report

Part 2 of my preseason previews is the AL East; this is the second 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. I've also resurrected for this season the team ages, which are weighted by non-age-adjusted EWSL, so the best players count more towards determining the age of the roster.

Prior preview: 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)

Boston Red Sox

Raw EWSL: 278.00 (106 W)
Adjusted: 280.43 (107 W)
Age-Adj.: 246.27 (95 W)
WS Age: 30.60
2011 W-L: 95-67

1B29Adrian Gonzalez3332
2B27Dustin Pedroia1819
SS35Marco Scutaro1713
3B32Kevin Youkilis2319
RF35JD Drew1511
CF27Jacoby Ellsbury1011
LF29Carl Crawford2423
DH35David Ortiz1511
C239Jason Varitek54
INF27Jed Lowrie66
OF38Mike Cameron117
1332Darnell McDonald#55
SP127Jon Lester1716
SP226Clay Buchholz1112
SP331Josh Beckett86
SP432John Lackey129
SP530Daisuke Matsuzaka76
RP130Jon Papelbon1310
RP226Daniel Bard*79
RP333Dan Wheeler64
RP430Bobby Jenks87
RP528Alfredo Aceves44

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Pitchers - Tim Wakefield, Dennys Reyes, Matt Albers, Hideki Okajima.

Analysis: EWSL is not as insanely bullish on the Red Sox as last season, and there are some warning signs to be had in the number of 35-year-olds in the lineup. That said, I'm not about to hit the panic button on these guys just from a rough start.

The Hated Yankees

Raw EWSL: 263.83 (101 W)
Adjusted: 266.73 (102 W)
Age-Adj.: 233.73 (91 W)
WS Age: 31.55
2011 W-L: 91-71

C28Russell Martin1313
1B31Mark Teixeira2521
2B28Robinson Cano2525
SS37Derek Jeter2214
3B35Alex Rodriguez2216
RF30Nick Swisher1917
CF30Curtis Granderson1816
LF27Brett Gardner1212
DH39Jorge Posada129
C225Francisco Cervelli#57
INF33Eric Chavez10
OF34Andruw Jones76
1324Eduardo Nunez*13
SP130CC Sabathia1916
SP225Phil Hughes910
SP334AJ Burnett87
SP424Ivan Nova*12
SP535Freddy Garcia65
RP141Mariano Rivera1511
RP231Rafael Soriano119
RP326David Robertson34
RP425Joba Chamberlain67
RP526Boone Logan22

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Ramiro Pena, Jesus Montero, Gustavo Molina.

Pitchers - Pedro Feliciano, who I pulled out of the lineup at the last minute on the news that he may need surgery; Feliciano averaged 89 appearances a year the past three seasons, so it's not that shocking that he finally broke. Also Bartolo Colon, Luis Ayala, and David Phelps.

Analysis: Another mark of the AL East leaders' softening compared to the past few years, the Hated Yankees are sorely lacking in starting pitching depth (are we taking bets on when Joba ends up getting pressed into starting again?) and face the perennial problem of age at key spots in the lineup without real everyday options if the old guys break down (other than subbing Montero or Andruw Jones for Posada). Yet the poor starts by Boston and Tampa and an unaccustomed early awakening by Tex have things looking up for the Bombers. And of course, with the Hated Yankees what matters is frontline talent, because you can never rule out major in-season acquisitions to plug any holes.

Tampa Bay Rays

Raw EWSL: 185.50 (75 W)
Adjusted: 206.20 (82 W)
Age-Adj.: 202.95 (81 W)
WS Age: 28.30
2011 W-L: 81-81

C27John Jaso*817
1B31Dan Johnson22
2B30Ben Zobrist2119
SS25Reid Brignac#68
3B25Evan Longoria2531
RF26Matt Joyce67
CF26BJ Upton1718
LF37Johnny Damon1711
DH28Casey Kotchman99
C231Kelly Shoppach76
INF26Sean Rodriguez55
OF29Sam Fuld#22
1331Felipe Lopez1412
SP125David Price#1114
SP229James Shields87
SP328Jeff Niemann#88
SP425Wade Davis#56
SP524Jeremy Hellickson*23
RP135Kyle Farnsworth43
RP224Jacob McGee+05
RP335Joel Peralta32
RP428Andy Sonnanstine33
RP528JP Howell65

Subjective Adjustments: None, although I expect Johnson to contribute a good deal more than 2 WS.

Also on Hand: Position players - Elliott Johnson, Desmond Jennings (Kotchman has been called up in the short term to take Manny Ramirez' place, but expect Jennings later in the year), Robinson Chirinos.

Pitchers - Juan Cruz, Cesar Ramos, Adam Russell, Mike Ekstrom, Matt Moore.

Analysis: Having sprung directly from perennial doormat status to the heights of contention, mediocrity will be unaccustomed to Rays fans, but welcome to the 1970-72 Mets. I have faith that this organization will get more out of the bullpen than estimated here and make some useful adjustments on the fly, but their poor start and the loss of Manny underlines what already looked like a season of grappling with the loss of Carl Crawford and Matt Garza and figuring out how to get the next generation of youth to market. Alternatively, with both Toronto and Baltimore improved, it would not take a lot of additional bad breaks to drop them back to the cellar.

Hellickson's a great talent, but remember that Price took a while to develop and Davis is still working on it. Young pitchers will break your heart.

Baltimore Orioles

Raw EWSL: 197.00 (79 W)
Adjusted: 205.60 (82 W)
Age-Adj.: 195.24 (78 W)
WS Age: 29.79
2011 W-L: 78-84

C25Matt Wieters#913
1B35Derrek Lee1713
2B33Brian Roberts1412
SS28JJ Hardy1011
3B27Mark Reynolds1818
RF27Nick Markakis2021
CF25Adam Jones1316
LF33Luke Scott1311
DH36Vladimir Guerrero1511
C228Jake Fox#33
INF31Cesar Izturis76
OF26Felix Pie55
1327Robert Andino11
SP124Brian Matusz#68
SP232Jeremy Guthrie129
SP325Jake Arrieta*36
SP425Brad Bergesen#68
SP523Chris Tillman*12
RP133Kevin Gregg96
RP233Mike Gonzalez54
RP336Koji Uehara*66
RP429Jeremy Accardo11
RP528Jim Johnson55

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Nolan Reimold, Josh Bell, Craig Tatum.

Pitchers - Zachary Britton (currently subbing for Matusz in the rotation), Justin Duchscherer, Jason Berker, Josh Rupe.

Analysis: The Orioles, by contrast, seem to have picked themselves up off the floor, notwithstanding the fact that as of yet they still seem to be building a team that shoots for .500 rather than first place (a big leap forward by Wieters, Jones and/or the young pitchers could change that). Whether Markakis can restart his arc of improvement, Lee can keep up his late-season hitting for the Braves, Guerrero can squeeze out one more solid year and Reynolds can cut his whiffs down enough to hit .230 will be the short-term questions.

Toronto Blue Jays

Raw EWSL: 186.87 (75 W)
Adjusted: 205.91 (82 W)
Age-Adj.: 191.82 (77 W)
WS Age: 29.41
2011 W-L: 77-85

C25JP Arencibia+111
1B27Adam Lind1313
2B29Aaron Hill1515
SS28Yunel Escobar1717
3B28Edwin Encarnacion88
RF30Jose Bautista2018
CF30Rajai Davis1211
LF23Travis Snider#68
DH32Juan Rivera119
C236Jose Molina54
INF36John McDonald43
OF35Scott Podsednik139
1328Jayson Nix#56
SP126Ricky Romero#1013
SP226Brandon Morrow66
SP324Brett Cecil#68
SP423Kyle Drabek+04
SP526Jesse Litsch22
RP131Frank Francisco75
RP232Jon Rauch87
RP337Octavio Dotel65
RP433Jason Frasor64
RP535Shawn Camp64

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Corey Patterson, Brett Lawrie, Mike McCoy.

Pitchers - Carlos Villanueva, Jo-Jo Reyes (who's currently in Morrow's spot in the rotation), David Purcey, Marc Rzepcynski.

Analysis: If you were painting a portrait of a team that could potentially take a big leap forward, you'd get something like the Blue Jays: a couple of young-ish players coming off disappointing years (Lind, Hill, Snider, Escobar), a young, power-pitching rotation and a veteran bullpen. How far that takes them is another issue, since third place is usually the Jays' target at this point.

Through 12 games, Toronto's pitching staff is on pace for 1363 strikeouts even without having activated Morrow (who struck out 10.9 K/9 last year, better than MLB leader Tim Lincecum, and may be returning soon from an inflamed elbow), which would break the 2001 Yankees' AL record by a margin of almost 100.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:40 PM | Baseball 2011 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
April 12, 2011

Just some numbers for fun. Hall of Famer Hughie Jennings remains the all-time champion in getting hit by pitches - playing his whole career in the days before helmets, Jennings was hit by pitches in 5.1% of his plate appearances, accounting for 13.3% of his times on base (counting hits, walks and HBP). Burt Solomon, in his book Hit Em Where They Ain't (a good read about the 1890s Orioles) recounts that Jennings was actually terrified to crowd the plate, but trained in the offseason by having John McGraw throw balls at his head constantly until he was able to stand in without flinching.

Among players who lasted long enough to get drilled with 100 pittches, nobody else comes close to that 5.1% figure, but the 1890s were a violent time in the game. Counting only players since 1900 with 100 or more HBP, here's the top 15 measured by HBP as a percentage of times on base:

Jason LaRue (the modern champ at 11%)
Ron Hunt
Reed Johnson
Fernando Vina
Don Baylor
Jason Kendall
Aaron Rowand
Steve Evans
Chase Utley
Art Fletcher
David Eckstein
Jose Guillen
Frank Chance
Damion Easley
Minnie Minoso

Craig Biggio just misses the list, at #16. I was surprised to see Utley (at 7.6%) that high.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:37 PM | Baseball 2011 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
April 11, 2011
BASEBALL: 2011 AL West EWSL Report

So, my blogging time has been sorely constrained by family and other circumstances this year, but for the record I intend to get posted the numbers behind my annual divisional previews, even if the season's underway and I can't contribute the same level of analysis as usual.

So, Part 1 of my preseason previews is the AL West; 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. I've also resurrected for this season the team ages, which 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)

Texas Rangers
Raw EWSL: 226.17 (89 W)
Adjusted: 247.63 (96 W)
Age-Adj.: 248.05 (96 W)
Subj. Adj.: 240.05 (93 W)
WS Age: 29.27
2011 W-L: 93-63

C32Yorvit Torrealba108
1B25Mitch Moreland*37
2B29Ian Kinsler1918
SS22Elvis Andrus#1636
3B32Adrian Beltre1915
RF30Nelson Cruz1614
CF25Julio Borbon#710
LF30Josh Hamilton2321
DH34Michael Young1715
C229Mike Napoli1111
INF27Andres Blanco#33
OF29David Murphy1313
1325Chris Davis45
SP130CJ Wilson1210
SP231Colby Lewis*710
SP324Tommy Hunter#811
SP424Derek Holland#23
SP532Brandon Webb43
RP123Naftali Feliz#1013
RP227Alexi Ogando*35
RP328Darren O'Day87
RP441Arthur Rhodes75
RP540Darren Oliver85

Subjective Adjustments: As noted last season, primary reason why I added subjective adjustments was what I think of as the Khalil Greene problem, since he's one of the first (but not the last) second-year shortstops to exhibit it: EWSL assesses a very young hitter as having a lot of rapid room for growth, but as a result it tends to overvalue second- and even third-year hitters who are (1) under age 25 and (2) have a disproportionate amount of their value in their gloves. Nobody improves that much defensively from a good start in one year. Last year, EWSL had Elvis Andrus jumping up from 17 to 21 Win Shares, which I trimmed back to 19. He actually earned 20, so the slight adjustment sort of split the difference. This year, at age 22, EWSL assumes that he'll leap forward to 36 Win Shares, and while a significant improvement at the plate is indeed a real possibility for Andrus (who slugged .301 last year), that's just ridiculous, so I used the subjective adjustment to cut him back 8 to 28.

I rated Lewis as a rookie last season, since his pre-Japan stats no longer seem relevant to his current prospects.

Also on Hand: Position players - Craig Gentry. The Rangers have not used much depth thus far, playing only 12 non-pitchers.

Pitchers - Matt Harrison, Mark Lowe, Masin Tobin, Pedro Strop, Scott Feldman, David Bush, Michael Kirkman. Harrison's currently in the rotation subbing for Hunter, and Lowe has seen significant action in the pen.

Analysis: EWSL can be a leading indicator with the decay of old teams or the gradual growth of young lineups, but by definition it's a trailing indicator when a team has a bunch of people take big leaps forward, especially pitchers, and thus the Rangers appear a year later as a much stronger team. The Rangers have live arms and bullpen depth, and hope to replay last season's success in finding good roles for everyone on the staff. I join the general consensus that the future is much brighter for Derek Holland's power arm than Tommy Hunter, currently on the DL, despite Hunter's greater success last season.

The Angels

Raw EWSL: 217.33 (86 W)
Adjusted: 237.37 (92 W)
Age-Adj.: 211.48 (84 W)
WS Age: 30.43
2011 W-L: 84-78

C28Jeff Mathis44
1B25Mark Trumbo+011
2B27Howie Kendrick1718
SS27Erick Aybar1414
3B30Macier Izturis1110
RF35Torii Hunter2216
CF24Peter Bourjous*24
LF32Vernon Wells1612
DH37Bobby Abreu2114
C228Bobby Wilson*23
INF28Alberto Callaspo1212
OF30Reggie Willits22
1328Kendry Morales1212
SP128Jered Weaver1716
SP230Danny Haren1714
SP328Ervin Santana1211
SP432Joel Pineiro108
SP527Scott Kazmir44
RP123Jordan Walden*12
RP234Fernando Rodney76
RP335Scott Downs86
RP436Hisanori Takahashi*58
RP526Kevin Jepsen45

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Hank Conger is probably going to win a bigger share in the long run of the catching job than Wilson or possibly Mathis due to his bat, but for EWSL purposes it doesn't really matter. Brandon Wood, still struggling with the bat and currently subbing for the injured Aybar. Outfield prospect Mike Trout.

Pitchers - Jason Bulger, Rich Thompson, Michael Kohn, Matt Palmer, Tyler Chatwood.

Analysis: EWSL may overrate the Angels for having depth of everyday players like Morales and Callaspo, but Morales' 2010 pretty well illustrated why that depth is needed. This team is a classic Scioscia team, a lot of guys in their prime who play both sides of the ball soldily, not a real dominant hitter in the lineup.

For fantasy players, Rodney illustrates yet again why you don't draft bad pitchers just because they have closer jobs; they often lose them immediately as a result of being bad pitchers.

Oakland A's

Raw EWSL: 217.83 (86 W)
Adjusted: 225.97 (89 W)
Age-Adj.: 211.31 (84 W)
WS Age: 29.17
2011 W-L: 84-78

C27Kurt Suzuki1414
1B25Daric Barton1417
2B34Mark Ellis1513
SS27Cliff Pennington#1215
3B29Kevin Kouzmanoff1111
RF31David DeJesus1512
CF31Coco Crisp109
LF32Josh Willingham1310
DH37Hideki Matsui1811
C229Landon Powell#33
INF29Conor Jackson55
OF26Ryan Sweeney1011
1327Andy LaRoche56
SP123Brett Anderson#710
SP223Trevor Cahill#1014
SP327Dallas Braden98
SP425Gio Gonzalez89
SP527Brandon McCarthy22
RP127Andrew Bailey#1112
RP235Brian Fuentes107
RP333Grant Balfour75
RP431Brad Ziegler75
RP527Jerry Blevins22

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Chris Carter, Adam Rosales, Eric Sogard. Jackson's an outfielder now, but I listed him in infield.

Pitchers - Michael Wuertz, Rich Harden, Joey Devine, Craig Breslow, Tyson Ross, Josh Outman. It's a deep pen, like those of Texas and the Angels.

Analysis: Moneyball seems like a long time ago, doesn't it? A common theme on the West Coast: the Oakland Mausoleum is such a pitchers' park that it's tempting to overstate how promising the A's young pitchers are and how punchless their offense is, but this is a pitching and defense team no matter how you slice it.

Seattle Mariners

Raw EWSL: 181.33 (74 W)
Adjusted: 197.27 (79 W)
Age-Adj.: 178.64 (73 W)
WS Age: 30.29
2011 W-L: 73-89

C32Miguel Olivo108
1B24Justin Smoak*49
2B33Jack Wilson65
SS29Brendan Ryan99
3B33Chone Figgins1614
RF37Ichiro Suzuki2415
CF28Franklin Guitierrez1515
LF33Milton Bradley87
DH32Jack Cust1411
C227Adam Moore*23
INF35Adam Kennedy118
OF31Ryan Langerhans22
1324Michael Saunders#35
SP125Felix Hernandez2225
SP228Jason Vargas66
SP327Doug Fister#55
SP422Michael Pineda+04
SP532Erik Bedard43
RP129David Aardsma108
RP228Brandon League65
RP329Chris Ray32
RP436Jamey Wright33
RP526Joshua Lueke+05

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Luis Rodriguez, Josh Bard, Dustin Ackley, Mike Carp.

Pitchers - Manny Delcarmen, David Pauley, Cesar Jimenez, Nate Robertson.

Analysis: This is what it looks like when you bet the ranch on winning a weak division and you fail. The Mariners are stuck winding down a team that has little short-term upside (although Smoak and Pineda could still have real upside) and a bunch of veterans who never contributed much in Seattle and have minimal trade value. Watching Ichiro and King Felix will be the main source of entertainment in Seattle for a while.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:00 PM | Baseball 2011 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
March 29, 2011
BASEBALL: EWSL 2011 Age and Rookie Baselines

Here's the other necessary preliminary before launching my division previews powered by Established Win Shares Levels (originally explained here): before we get to rolling out the 2011 EWSLs, I have to update the age adjustments and rookie values I use each year. These are based on the data I have gathered over the past seven seasons, and so with each passing year, one would hope they become progressively more stable and useful in evaluating the established talent base on hand for each team entering each season. As a reminder: EWSL is not a prediction system. It's a way of assessing the resources on hand.

I'll skip some more of the usual preliminaries (see last year's post) and get right to the charts:

Non-Pitchers 2010 and 2004-2010:


Pitchers 2010 and 2004-2010:


A couple of the older-age cohorts did well, which of course is partly attributable to small sample sizes - the 33-year-old hitters had a great year, led by Aubrey Huff, Alex Gonzalez and Mark Ellis as well as better bounce-backs than projected from Travis Hafner, Troy Glaus and AJ Pierzynski. The 34-year-old pitchers were bouyed by Tim Hudson and Carl Pavano, the 35-year-olds by Hiroki Kuroda, Koji Uehara, Livan Hernandez (whose actual age remains indeterminate) and the healthy-again Chris Carpenter, and the 38 year old pitchers were carried single-handedly by Billy Wagner.

On the other hand, it was a brutally tough year for some of the age brackets here, especially the 35-and-over hitters. And as you can see, not every age cohort is uniform - the 35 year old hitters were a fairly weak group, compared to the star-studded 36-year-olds, but both lost a whole bunch of value.

The real patterns can be found in the multi-year results. What has interested me the past few years is whether there is an actual change in aging patterns since baseball started cracking down on steroids - suspensions (full list here) began in 2005 and enforcement began in earnest in 2006, but I didn't start noticing a change in the trends until after the 2008 season. So I gathered the 2004-07 results against the 2008-10 results...the comparison was somewhat inconclusive on its face, so I won't bother you with the numbers, but I noticed something that is - on reflection - not that surprising: when comparing the 2004-07 sample to the 2008-10 sample, the proportionally smaller (per-year) group tended to do better. In other words, for example, the 30-year-old hiters held 86.2% of their value in 2004-07 compared to 95.9% in 2008-10, but 30-year-olds made up 9.58% of the hitters in the earlier group and 7.53% in the later group.

When I backed the numbers out, I noticed that (excluding rookies), 23-28 year olds made up 36.88% of the hitters in my preseason depth charts in 2004-07, compared to 42.92% in 2008-10, while the proportion of 35-and-up hitters dropped off from 16.47% to 12.9%. Among the pitchers, the proportion of pitchers age 27 and under rose from 34.97% to 40.46% over the same period, while pitchers age 34 and up dropped from 19.59% to 16.46%. Put simply, as we move away from the steroid age, fewer older players are hanging on at the margins. The results are not so dramatic as to compel me to draw a conclusion, but they certainly suggest that if we're looking for a shift in aging patterns, it may crop up less in the arc of player performance than in what we don't see - more guys losing jobs or hanging it up, perhaps due to injury, who might have found ways before to prolong their productive years.

Anyway, we wrap up with the rookie adjustments, which don't really require much comment:


Type of Player# in 2010WS in 2010# 2004-10WS 2004-10Rate
Everyday Players8826671110.77
Bench Players (Under 30)42662533.83
Bench Players (Age 30+)00430.75
Rotation Starters425321384.31
Relief Pitchers31018965.33
Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:18 PM | Baseball 2011 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
March 28, 2011
BASEBALL: 2010 EWSL Wrapup By Team

My annual division roundups, using Established Win Shares Levels (explained at the beginning and end of this post), are disastrously overdue, part of the general fallout of difficult personal times - between wrapping up my brother's estate following his sudden death in November and my dad's severe (and not unrelated) decline in health since the end of 2010, I've been up to my eyeballs in everything but time to spend on my job, family and blogging. Naturally, my baseball blog posts take the brunt of that - it's one thing to write about politics or music, since most of the time that takes is the writing time, but most of my baseball stuff requires a lot more investment of time crunching numbers.

That said, in the next few weeks I intend to get the EWSL "previews" done, maybe more of them than usual after Opening Day, if for no other reason than continuity in what is now a long-running project - the 2010 numbers are all in the spreadsheets now. To kick that off, here is the annual chart breaking down how the 2010 EWSL previews compared to each team's actual results (see prior charts for 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006 and 2005).

Key for the chart, by columns:

EWSL: Each team's "projected" 2010 wins by EWSL.

Wins: Actual 2010 wins.

Team Age: Weighted average age of each team's preseason 23-man "roster" weighted by raw EWSL.

2010 WS: Win Shares earned in 2010 by those 23 players, expressed in Wins (WS/3).

W +/-: The number of wins by which 2010 WS exceeded - or fell short of - EWSL. Basically, if EWSL is the expected baseline for each player's performance, this column tells you which teams did better or worse than could be projected from the talent of the 23 players on hand that I included in the preview. Since the main purpose of this exercise is to evaluate how well EWSL fared as a predictor of team performance (as I've noted repeatedly, it's not actually a prediction system, just a fairly rough way of evaluating talent on hand), I've ranked the chart by this column.

Rest: The number of wins (WS/3) earned by players on that team who were not in the preseason previews. Basically, this column tells you how much each team got out of players who weren't on my preseason radar, either because I guessed wrong who would make up the depth chart or because they brought people in by trade, from the minors or elsewhere who ended up being significant contributors. My 2010 EWSL "wins" worked from an assumption that the average team would earn about 13 wins from the rest of the roster, so you have to bear that average in mind when comparing this column to expected results.

Here are the results:

TeamEWSLWinsTeam Age2010 WSW +/-Rest

A few notes:

-As usual, EWSL did about what you'd expect: it got half the teams within 5 wins of the results for their rosters, was way, way off on a handful at either end, and didn't really have any way of projecting what teams would add to their preseason depth charts.

-The Reds, Blue Jays, Padres and White Sox easily outstripped every other team in getting more from the players on their preseason depth charts than you'd expect. The Mariners and D-Backs fell the furthest short (EWSL had the Mariners as a first-place team, which is about the largest possible error, and Arizona as a strong second). The Mets, even with some fairly tempered expectations, also fell pretty far short, thanks to getting a lot less than projected from Beltran, Castillo, Francouer and (ugh) Mike Jacobs.

-The Mets were, however, second only to the Giants in finding help from unexpected quarters, in the Mets' case the youth movement led by Ike Davis and the scrap heap brigade led by RA Dickey. The Giants came in almost exactly where EWSL had the 23 guys on their depth chart; their surprising run to World Champions was driven by additions/promotions like Buster Posey, Pat Burrell, Madison Bumgarner, and Santiago Casilla). The A's, for once, were not leaders in getting extra help. The Cubs, White Sox, Yankees and D-Backs got almost nothing from anybody but the people on their preseason depth charts (other than Arizona, this was an unsurprising byproduct of having a roster already full of older established players with a firm grip on their jobs and a settled bench and bullpen - the three oldest teams, the Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies, all relied heavily on the people who started the season with a job).

-MLB-wide, teams earned 1247 Win Shares, or 41.57 per team, from the rest of their rosters. Results year-by-year since I started tracking results at a team level:

2005: 1067 (35.57)
2006: 1143 (38.10)
2007: 1260 (42.00)
2008: 1226 (40.87)
2009: 1221 (40.70)
2010: 1247 (41.57)
Total: 7164 (39.80)

That may partly reflect that I've gotten worse over the years at projecting teams' core rosters, but on the whole, it does indicate at least some sort of rising trend from 2007 on in teams getting slightly more from second-line players, prospects and trade acquisitions than from their Opening Day rosters.

August 20, 2010

It seems like the past year or two we suddenly have fewer guys having big years with the bat after age 35. How true is that?

Here's one back of the envelope look: players age 35 and up having an OPS+ of 140 or higher (minimum 300 plate appearances, which isn't that much). 140 is a pretty high bar to cover only really outstanding seasons, and of course it's not the same as looking at who improved after age 35, which I did in this post on Barry Bonds' unprecedented improvement after 35. But it's another cut on the data to add to the picture.

Let's look first by decade at the number of players having such seasons:

1870s: 1
1880s: 7
1890s: 4
1900s: 3

1885 is the only season in the first four decades with more than one player qualifying. Not surprising that it starts out low - seasons were shorter before the mid-1880s, life expectancies were much shorter, and since professional baseball only began in 1869, you'd expect there to be few guys in their late 30s in the 1870s but a few of the founding generation hanging on a decade later.

1910s: 8
1920s: 14

Bill James has noted the spike in veterans in the 1920s and early 1930s as a symptom of the game's upswing in prosperity motivating more guys to work harder at staying in the game longer. And so we see 3 in 1911, 2 in 1912, only two more in the 1913-21 period, but then 3 in 1923, 3 in 1924, and 5 in 1925 before guys like Cobb and Speaker got too old.

1930s: 10

2 each in 1930, 1931 & 1932. Babe Ruth turned 35 in 1930.

1940s: 11

The war: 3 in 1944, 2 in 1945, then 2 in 1948.

1950s: 15

A steady 2 a year in 1950, 1952, 1954, 1956, 1957, 1958. Ted Williams turned 35 in 1954, Stan Musial in 1956.

1960s: 6

You'd expect a bunch more than that with expansion, but the expanded strike zone among other things may have worked against older hitters. Only season with 2 was 1968 (Mays & Mantle).

1970s: 20

Boom. 2 in 1970, 6 in 1971, 2 in 1972, 3 in 1973, 2 each in 1974, 1975 & 1976, then just one between 1977-79. The 6 in 1971 remains the all-time high: Aaron, Mays, Frank Robinson, Clemente, Kaline and Norm Cash. Cash is the only one who looks out of place, but his career OPS+ was 139.

1980s: 16

None in the strike season, but 5 in 1982, 2 each in 1983, 1984, 1987 & 1988.

1990s: 13
2000s: 32

Just one between 1989-92, 5 between 1993 and 1996 (including 2 in 1995), but then we start to see the uptick: 3 in 1998, 4 in 1999, 5 in 2000, 4 in 2001, 3 in 2002, 4 in 2003, 5 in 2004, 1 in 2005, 3 in 2006, 4 in 2007, before petering out to 2 in 2008, 1 in 2009, and just one (Scott Rolen) at last check this year, although the season's not over yet (Jim Thome, who's already counted here for 2006 & 2007, is at a 160 OPS+ in 257 plate appearances and is playing pretty regularly).

Do we attribute all that to steroids? Certainly weight training and sports medicine are helping players age better, plus we had waves of expansion in 1993 and 1998, plus historically we seem to get more veteran hitters taking flight during good offensive times than bad. But the sharp uptick in the 1998-2007 period (35 guys in a decade) followed by the recent dropoff doesn't seem like it can be explained entirely by one or two outlying hitters or those other factors.

I'm not offering this as a systematic study of the issue, just another way of quantifying what we've all observed.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:09 AM | Baseball 2010 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0)
August 13, 2010
BASEBALL: High Quality Starts, Part II

Following up on my earlier post on High Quality Starts, here's the rest of the post: a look at HQS as a percentage of starts, as well as a percentage of wins (unsurprisingly, for good pitchers these constitute an outsize component of wins).

Now, read this chart with caution. First of all, guys who spent a lot of years in relief will have relief wins - Kenny Rogers is last on the list with HQS representing just 37.9% of his wins, and while that accurately reflects that Rogers generally needed help to win, it's a little exaggerated by his time as a reliever. Then again, Sandy Koufax tops the list with 73.3% of his wins being HQS, despite having worked heavily in relief for much of the late 1950s.

Second, here is where you really see the differences in era - Koufax and Rogers are pretty much at the far poles here, but there's a very large difference between the Sixties and the 00s, between Dodger Stadium and Arlington.

Third, bear in mind that some guys here - e.g., Pete Alexander - pitched parts of their careers before 1920 (1920 was the last year of Alexander's prime).

That said, I tip my hat to the guy who topped even Koufax for percentage of his starts that were HQS: Jim Palmer, who came the closest to notching a HQS in half his career starts. And the guy who was the first real surprise among the immortals atop the list, Mel Stottlemyre. Maddux rated lower than I'd expected, but he did start a huge number of games, many of them late in his career after he'd stopped really being Greg Maddux.

Note the list of 200-game winners who turned in a High Quality Start in less than a third of their career starts: Jamie Moyer, Jesse Haines, David Wells, Herb Pennock (not counting the 61 starts Pennock made before 1920), Bobo Newsom, Andy Pettitte, Red Ruffing, Mel Harder, Burleigh Grimes, Ted Lyons, Waite Hoyt, Charlie Hough, Charlie Root, Jim Kaat, Chuck Finley, Joe Niekro and Jerry Reuss. Mostly this is a list of bad Hall of Famers, but other than Kaat (who has no business in a Hall discussion despite a high career win total), Niekro and Reuss, they're also all from high-scoring eras. I'll have to revisit later the question of Pettitte as a deserving Hall of Famer.

(Tommy John and Bert Blyleven both come in the 36% area).

Chart below the fold.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:03 PM | Baseball 2010 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: High Quality Starts

We all know the definition of a "quality start": 6 or more innings, 3 earned runs or less. While the run scoring environments and expectations about pitcher workloads have changed over the years, a pitcher who throws a quality start - even the bare minimum 3-in-6 - at least has given his team, in most circumstances, a fighting chance to win.

Baseball-Reference.com now has pitcher-game data going back to 1920, and I thought it would be interesting to raise the bar to high quality starts: games where the starter had earned a win with ordinary offensive and bullpen support. I picked 7 innings, 2 runs (earned or otherwise) or less. Throughout the lively ball era, that's generally been a good day's work for a starter, and we assume that a starter who does that will almost always take home a W, or has been the victim of hard luck if he doesn't.

Through Wednesday's action, 188 pitchers have thrown 100 or more High Quality Starts since 1920; 22 of those have thrown 200 HQS, 10 have thrown 250, and only two have thrown as many as 300 High Quality Starts. A full chart is below the fold. Some of the breakdowns may surprise you. The two pitchers to throw 300 High Quality Starts? #2 is unsurprising, Roger Clemens with 308. #1? Don Sutton, 310 of them. Sure, he was never dominant, he pitched in an ideal pitcher's park in a great time for pitchers, and he had a cheesy perm, but 310 times he went to the hill and earned a win, more than any other modern pitcher. If that doesn't explain for you why he's in the Hall of Fame, I'm not sure what will.

Only three eligible pitchers have thrown 200 or more HQS and are not in the Hall of Fame: Tommy John (257), Bert Blyleven (248) and Frank Tanana (204); Clemens, Maddux, Randy Johnson, Glavine, and Mussina aren't eligible yet. Honestly, I had expected the breakdowns here to feature Blyleven more prominently as a hard-luck guy, but he doesn't especially stick out. Still, 248 HQS is a heckuva credential. I'm marginally more impressed with John's Hall of Fame case from looking at these breakdowns, but still not sold on him. Dizzy Dean, whose career is sort of the mile marker for the shortest career you can have as a Hall of Fame starting pitcher, notched exactly 100 HQS, winning 91 of them out of his 230 career starts and 150 career wins (12 of Dean's career wins were in relief).

The largest number of wins from HQS? Warren Spahn, 249. Spahn is, not coincidentally, the only man in that time period to throw 200 complete games in which he allowed 2 runs or less, a staggering 266 of them, in which he went 242-24. You hang on that long in a well-pitched game, sooner or later either Hank Aaron or Eddie Mathews is going to bail you out.

The pitcher with the largest number of High Quality Starts in which he didn't earn a win? Greg Maddux, with 92, followed by Sutton (89), Nolan Ryan (82), Tom Seaver (78), John (76), and Clemens (74). If you pencil in a W for each of the times Maddux threw a HQS and got jobbed, you get 447 career wins. (Clemens would sit at 428, Sutton at 413, Spahn and Ryan at 406 each. Walter Johnson would have 433 and Grover Alexander 399 just if you added their HQS without a win from 1920 on).

The most losses in HQS? Robin Roberts with 45, followed by Ryan (41), Seaver and Gaylord Perry (40 each).

The pitcher most likely to notch a W when throwing a HQS? Lefty Gomez (93.5%), which makes sense when you have Lou Gehrig, Bill Dickey and either Babe Ruth or Joe DiMaggio hitting behind you; most of the top 10 is from the 1930s. Least likely? Slow-working Steve Trachsel (60.8%), followed by Ron Darling. The average pitcher among this sample won 75.4% of his HQS.

Most likely to lose a HQS? Dolf Luque (28.2%; Luque, the pride of Havana and my high school Spanish teacher's favorite pitcher, was 76-31 with an 0.98 ERA in 110 HQS); least likely, Tim Hudson (2.8%). The average was 11.9%. Hudson's record in his HQS? 142 starts, 104 wins, 4 losses, 34 no decisions. Probably the biggest factor for Hudson was just that a lot of his HQS came in the really high scoring early part of the last decade, but also it may help that even at his best, Hudson - when he was surrounded by Zito & Mulder - was rarely a guy that either team would rejigger their rotation around, so I suspect he never faced a disproportionate number of aces the way a Maddux or a Randy Johnson or a Koufax or a Seaver or a Whitey Ford (especially Ford) did. Note that the top 10 least likely to lose a HQS include David Wells, Gomez, Ron Guidry, Mike Mussina, CC Sabathia, and Eddie Lopat. I think you can see a trend. But #3 is Mike Hampton.

Most likely to get a no decision? Darling (24.8%), who of course was famous for this with the Mets (that's how Roger McDowell won 14 games in 1986 and Jesse Orosco 8). Least likely? Bob Lemon (0.7%), followed by Gomez and his teammate Red Ruffing. Perhaps not coincidentally, Lemon and Ruffing were both excellent hitting pitchers. The average? 12.7%.

The average for the sample is 8.41 IP per HQS, and a complete game in 57.3% of those; the latter in particular has declined sharply over time. Four early pitchers (Bucky Walters, George Uhle, Lefty Grove and Ted Lyons) averaged over 9 innings per HQS, while Johan Santana at 7.49 is the only pitcher below 7.5, and he'd be at 7.5 if you included yesterday. Uhle, a 1920s workhorse, also tops the field by completing 98% of his HQS; Santana at 9% is the only guy below 14%.

The best ERA in his HQS? Juan Marichal, 0.87. Worst? Brad Radke, 1.46. I didn't run an average but it's probably around 1.10.

Seven pitchers have thrown 10 or more HQS in the postseason since 1903: John Smoltz (14), Tom Glavine (14), Curt Schilling (13), Greg Maddux (13), Andy Pettitte (12), Orel Hershiser (10), and Whitey Ford (10). It says something about the modern postseason that Smoltz, Glavine and Maddux each have just one World Series ring to show for all those outstanding postseason starts.

I'll have a followup post looking further at HQS numbers. The full chart is below the fold.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:24 AM | Baseball 2010 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
June 2, 2010
BASEBALL: Throwing Zeros

If the season ended today, Ubaldo Jimenez would qualify for the ERA title with an 0.78 ERA. Pitching in Coors Field. Only three men in baseball history have thrown more innings in a season than Jimenez has already thrown (80.1) and finished with an ERA below 1.00: Dutch Leonard (0.96 ERA in 224.2 IP in 1914), Hall of Famer Tim Keefe (0.86 ERA in 105 innings as a rookie in 1880), and the immortal Ferdie Schupp (0.90 ERA in 140.1 innings as a swing man in 1916; more on the 1916 Giants here).

That's impressive, even with the caveat that one bad outing could double his ERA in a hurry. But even more impressive is the fact that Jimenez hasn't allowed an unearned run this season. Which puts him on pace for an even more exclusive club: if the season ended today, he'd be the only man ever to qualify for an ERA title allowing less than 1 run per 9 innings. Indeed, Rob Murphy in 1986 (50.1 IP, 0.72 ERA, no unearned runs) holds the current record for most innings in a season with a RA (ERA, but including unearned runs) below 1.00.

Here's the complete list of guys who qualified for an ERA title with an RA below 2.00, including at present both Jimenez and Jaime Garcia:

Ubaldo Jimenez2010260.780.7880.
Dutch Leonard1914220.961.36224.75.570.122.407.05
Bob Gibson1968321.121.45304.75.850.321.837.92
Walter Johnson1913251.141.46346.
Dwight Gooden1985201.531.66276.76.440.422.248.72
Greg Maddux1995291.631.67209.76.310.340.997.77
Jaime Garcia2010231.321.7661.36.750.153.967.48
Dean Chance1964231.651.81278.
Mordecai Brown1906291.041.82277.36.430.031.984.67
Pedro Martinez2000281.741.82217.05.310.711.3311.78
Carl Lundgren1907271.171.83207.05.650.004.003.65
Smoky Joe Wood1915251.491.83157.36.860.062.523.60
Mordecai Brown1908311.471.84312.
Luis Tiant1968271.601.85258.35.300.562.549.20
Fred Toney1915261.581.86222.76.470.042.954.37
Christy Mathewson1909281.141.86275.
Jack Coombs1910271.301.89353.06.320.002.935.71
Tom Seaver1971261.761.92286.36.600.571.929.08
Doc White1906271.521.93219.36.570.081.563.90
Pete Alexander1919321.721.95235.06.890.111.464.63
Christy Mathewson1908271.431.96390.76.470.120.975.97
Walter Johnson1918301.271.96326.06.650.061.934.47
Greg Maddux1994281.561.96202.06.680.181.386.95
Sandy Koufax1963271.881.97311.06.190.521.688.86
Mordecai Brown1907301.391.97233.06.950.081.554.13
Eddie Cicotte1917331.531.97346.76.390.051.823.89
Sandy Koufax1964281.741.98223.06.220.522.149.00

When you look at the RA column, it really underlines how historically amazing Leonard, Gibson and Walter Johnson were in their peak seasons. (Henry Thomas, in his excellent bio of Johnson, notes that Johnson got beat up the last day of the season in what was then a common practice of playing essentially a 'joke' game with guys playing out of position and whatnot). Gooden and Maddux, too. And of course, Pedro in 2000 and Maddux in 1994-95 are especially impressive when you consider the context they pitched in. (Fun facts about Pedro in 2000: one, the league allowed 5.28 runs/game; two, he had an 0.99 ERA through June 14; three, he was only 6-5 at home despite a 1.84 home ERA; four, 23 of the 44 runs scored off him were on home runs - he allowed 9.95 runs/9 on homers and 0.87 runs/9 otherwise). But if by some stroke of good fortune Jimenez was able to keep this up all year, he'd go straight to the head of the class for the best-pitched season ever (setting aside the debate over how heavily to weight workloads compared to a guy like Johnson).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:53 PM | Baseball 2010 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
May 14, 2010
BASEBALL: The Vanishing 100-Inning Reliever

Tyler Clippard leads the major leagues in innings by a reliever with 25; he's on a pace to throw 115.2 innings this year, all in relief. Manuel Corpas is #2, and on pace for 111. In the AL, nobody is on pace to crack 100 innings solely in relief - Joel Zumaya is on pace for 98.2 innings in relief.

With deeper bullpens, even in the face of declining innings by starters, the 100-inning reliever has become an ever-rarer species. Looking decade-by-decade just at guys who cracked 100 innings without starting a single game (thus skipping over the guys who pass 100 relief innings plus a few starts), we see the rise and fall of the 100-inning reliever (and why Mike Marshall will almost certainly remain the only man to pass 200 innings in relief in a season):

1930s: 3
1940s: 8
1950s: 15
1960s: 67
1970s: 100
1980s: 115
1990s: 29
2000s: 6

The first guy to do it was Clint Brown in 1937, the last Scott Proctor in 2006 (what's with guys named Scott? The last before him was Scot Shields, and the last to do it more than once was Scott Sullivan in 1999, 2000 & 2001), so we've already passed three straight seasons without a 100-inning reliever. And the guys on pace in mid-May to just clear 100 are usually not great bets to keep that up all year.

As with many pitcher-usage issues, there are good reasons why innings have been declining (see my history of pitcher workloads), but no particular reason to think that managers are currently striking the right balance between avoiding injury risks and handing too many innings to second- and third-tier pitchers. Mariano Rivera and Derek Lowe both survived 100-inning relief seasons without doing any great damage to their arms. But the game continues to move in that direction regardless of whether anybody is analyzing whether it makes sense.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:18 AM | Baseball 2010 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
April 15, 2010
BASEBALL: Master Melvin, Home & Away

Speaking of the Baseball-Reference.com splits, one of the more interesting cases is Mel Ott. As is well-known, Ott has the biggest home-field advantage in the 500 home run club, having hit 323 of his career homers at home, just 188 on the road; the short porches in the Polo Grounds, especially in right field, were an inviting enough target to help convert the diminutive (5'9", 170-lb) Ott into the only man in the first 88 years of National League history to crack the 500 home run barrier (at his retirement, Ott was the NL home run king by a margin of 211 homers over Chuck Klein). But as Bill James has pointed out, while the Polo Grounds was a great home run park, it was actually not a hitter's park at all, so Ott's accomplishments aren't to be devalued by virtue of the park.

We now have the data to back that up, at least for 1926-39, covering Ott from age 17-30, including the bulk of his prime (Ott hit 30 homers in a season only once after age 30). Ott in those years hit 211 homers at the Polo Grounds, 158 on the road (this does mean the split got wider as he aged - 112 more homers at home to 30* on the road). But he batted .297/.418/.553 at home, compared to .331/.421/.563 on the road, thanks in good part to hitting nearly twice as many doubles in the more normal-shaped parks around the league (235 to 124). The extreme example is 1930-31, when Ott hit 41 homers and drew 108 walks at home, compared to 13 homers and 77 walks on the road; yet, his overall line was .297/.419/.588 with 116 Runs and 121 RBI at the Polo Grounds, .345/.422/.537 with 110 Runs and 113 RBI on the road - nearly the same player in terms of value, but a completely differently-shaped batting line.

Let me illustrate this with a chart showing Ott's percentages, batting average on balls in play, and doubles, triples, homers, walks, strikeouts, runs and RBI per 600 at bats at the Polo Grounds and in each of the other NL parks (I'm leaving out here Shibe Park, where the Phillies moved in 1938, presumably one of the causes for Ott's homers drying up on the road after age 30):

NYG-Polo Grounds3783.297.418.553.2722444112153124128
CIN-Crosley Fld571.307.364.458.3214689524674106
PIT-Forbes Fld606.323.434.549.3134382511337124141
STL-Sportsman Pk589.305.404.527.300286319564117118
CHC-Wrigley Fld572.345.423.621.341357397768119132
BRO-Ebbets Fld554.304.395.518.304446249155108101
PHI-Baker Bowl557.415.508.774.3884855210840181209
BSN-Braves Fld517.330.426.531.336461216964212886

As you can see, Ott was scarcely a home run hitter at all in Boston and Cincinnati, whereas his ability to get hits on balls in play was severely constrained at home. And, like Chuck Klein and pretty much everybody else, he was a holy terror at the Baker Bowl.

Here, just for comparison purposes, is how Ott hit team-by-team against each opponent when batting at home. As you can see, some 'park' effects could be the pitching staffs - for example, the Reds' control-oriented staff was less apt to walk Ott in either venue - while, say, Ott's home runs against the Braves and Pirates were clearly held down only by their home parks, his ability to get hits on balls in play was the same against the Pirates wherever he played:

Cincinnati Reds545.290.387.539.263205409650119134
Pittsburgh Pirates567.340.464.621.3102204913450141143
St. Louis Cardinals538.300.413.493.2861833111950109105
Chicago Cubs563.268.366.509.25326635946899108
Brooklyn Dodgers499.288.411.532.2683133712756132121
Philadelphia Phillies551.287.430.547.2572963914640130145
Boston Braves520.310.433.636.2672145513255143138

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:03 PM | Baseball 2010 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Lefty Splits, #42

Baseball-Reference.com has in recent months been expanding the years for which it has data, and I've been having some fun with the splits for older ballplayers - the breakdowns are now available for 1952-present and 1920-39. Here's a few fun ones.

Don't Get Jackie Mad

Today being Jackie Robinson Day, it's worth recalling that the Cardinals were tough on Jackie at the beginning of his career, being the most Southern team in the NL. From 1952-56 (the last five years of his career, the only ones for which we have data), Robinson hit .337/.424/.498 against the Cards.

On a related note, my dad dug up some newspaper accounts of the April 15, 1947 Boston Braves-Brooklyn Dodgers game at Ebbets Field that saw Robinson make his debut and score the winning run. The newspapers did not treat Jackie as the big news story, possibly out of a desire to keep his debut low-key, possibly because off-field controversies were not seen in those days as ideal fodder for beat writers, and in some cases possibly because the writers may not all have been on his side. The big story, as you can see from the box score, was a big game by the hoped-for star of that ultimately pennant-winning Dodgers team, Pete Reiser.

Reiser was the same age as Jackie Robinson (28), and both had missed prime years in the military service, but while Robinson was a rookie, Reiser's best years turned out to be already behind him. He'd hit OK in his return from the service in 1946, batting .277/.361/.428 (122 OPS+; it was a low-scoring season, with fresh pitching arms facing off against rusty hitters as everyone returned from multi-year layoffs and tried to get their timing back) and leading the league in steals with 34, but also missing 32 games and falling far short of his 1941-42 form (.328/.392/.513, 155 OPS+). Reiser ended up having his last really good year in 1947, batting .309/.415/.418 (the Dodgers had three players with OBPs between .414 and .415, and counting their top 3 bench players had 10 players slugging between .410 and Arky Vaughan's team-leading.444) but missing another 44 games.

Lefty Grove, Closer

I also used the splits to break down Lefty Grove's performance as a starter and as a reliever over the five years that both he and the A's were at their peak (1929-33, although there's some fun stuff in the game logs I could use to revisit my account of the 1928 pennant race, including Grove going 14-0 with a 1.43 ERA and 3 saves between June 29 and September 7, 1928 to get the A's caught up with the Yankees).

Anyway, here is Grove as a starter and a reliever, 1929-33:

Starter: 157 starts, 116 CG (102 of his 110 wins as a starter were CGs, and 14 of his 26 losses), 1268.1 IP (more than 8 IP/start), 110-26 W-L (.809; Grove won more than 70% of the games he started), 2.80 ERA, 8.7 H/9, 0.3 HR/9, 2.3 BB/9, 5.3 K/9.

Reliever: 65 G, 153.1 IP (2.35 IP/G in relief; these were not short outings), 18-7, 31 SV (86% of his relief appearances were a decision or a save), 1.70 ERA, 7.3 H/9, 0.2 HR/9, 2.8 BB/9, 6.8 K/9 (note - a trend I noticed with a number of pitchers of that era, unsurprisingly - a markedly higher K rate in relief. Besides night baseball, lighter bats, an increased focus on power hitting, reduced stigma from striking out, and an increase in the variety of breaking pitches, the increased use of relievers and fewer tired starters has definitely driven the rising K rates from the 1920s to today)

Chuck Klein, Home Boy

You probably knew that Chuck Klein benefitted from playing in the tiny Baker Bowl in his prime years. But how much? In his five full seasons in his first go-round with the Phillies (also 1929-33), Klein batted a ridiculous .424/.470/.772 at home, .294/.352/.501 on the road. His career line at the Baker Bowl: .395/.448/.705, compared to .253/.319/.386 at the Polo Grounds, .244/.294/.335 at Braves Field, .276/.316/.451 at Crosley Field and even .284/.354/.487 at Wrigley. Klein is perhaps more a creation of his home park even than Dante Bichette or Vinny Castilla.

The Babe's Hot Hand

We think of Babe Ruth as an immediate success with the Yankees, but he actually had quite a rough start in 1920, given the fanfare that accompanied his arrival, his breaking of the home run record the prior year and continuing controversy at the time over whether it was really advisable for him to stop pitching altogether to play every day. On May 9, 20 games into the season, Ruth was batting .210/.290/.371 with just 2 homers, 8 runs scored, 10 RBI and on a pace to strike out over 100 times, a then-unheard-of figure; the Yankees were 8-10 in games Ruth had appeared in. What followed, of course, was the 25-year-old Ruth putting on the most sustained, ridiculous hitting display in the game's history, batting .403/.564/.924 the rest of the way; in 124 games he scored 150 runs, hit 52 homers and drew 143 walks, and the Yankees went 80-44 in those games.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:38 PM | Baseball 2010 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
April 12, 2010
BASEBALL: 2010 NL Central EWSL Report

Part 6 of my preseason previews is the NL Central; this is the sixth and last of six division previews, using Established Win Shares Levels as a jumping-off point. (As usual, the large and depressing NL Central brings up the rear; I almost never seem to get to the NLC until after Opening Day). 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. I've also resurrected for this season the team ages, which are weighted by non-age-adjusted EWSL, so the best players count more towards determining the age of the roster.

Prior previews: the AL West, AL East, AL Central, NL West, NL East.

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)

St. Louis Cardinals

Raw EWSL: 214.50 (85 W)
Adjusted: 231.22 (90 W)
Age-Adj.: 212.35 (84 W)
WS Age: 29.79
2010 W-L: 84-78

C27Yadier Molina1718
1B30Albert Pujols3633
2B30Felipe Lopez1715
SS28Brendan Ryan99
3B27David Freese*11
RF31Ryan Ludwick1916
CF23Colby Rasmus*716
LF30Matt Holliday2422
C236Jason LaRue22
INF30Skip Schumaker1614
OF27Joe Mather#12
1225Allen Craig+04
1328Nick Stvinoha*11
SP128Adam Wainwright1616
SP235Chris Carpenter117
SP332Brad Penny75
SP431Kyle Lohse76
SP523Jaime Garcia+04
RP137Ryan Franklin119
RP237Trever Miller44
RP326Kyle McClellan#46
RP428Jason Motte*22
RP533Dennys Reyes43

Subjective Adjustments: None, but obviously Freese will either exceed 1 Win Share or lose his grip on anything like an everyday job. But bear in mind the eccentric nature of "everyday" under LaRussa, given the flexibility of Lopez and Shumaker in roaming the infield. Rasmus, by contrast, is appropriately projected to take a step forward this season.

Also on Hand: Position players - Tyler Greene.

Pitchers - The perennially rehabbing Rich Hill, Blake Hawksworth.

Analysis: By LaRussa standards, this is a youth movement, as the Cards are still breaking in Rasmus (career .277/.366/.485 in the minors, all at age 21 or younger), Freese (career .308/.384/.532 in the minors, including .304/.363/.542 in 735 plate appearances at AAA) and Craig (career .306/.366/.513 in the minors, including .322/.374/.547 last season in a full year at AAA), while deploying prime talents like Pujols, Holliday, Wainwright, Molina, and Lopez. The Cards remain the class of a weak division but potentially face competition from the Brewers and Cubs.

Pujols should be due for his first career off year somewhere between 2010 and 2012, but thus far this season he's at .375/.444/.875, so don't bet the ranch against him just yet.

Milwaukee Brewers

Raw EWSL: 199.83 (80 W)
Adjusted: 211.27 (84 W)
Age-Adj.: 203.30 (81 W)
WS Age: 30.00
2010 W-L: 81-81

C39 Gregg Zaun86
1B26Prince Fielder3034
2B27Rickie Weeks1112
SS23Alcides Escobar*25
3B27Casey McGeehee*918
RF40Jim Edmonds53
CF24Carlos Gomez810
LF26Ryan Braun2933
C227George Kottaros*11
INF39Craig Counsell118
OF28Corey Hart1314
1232Jody Gerut54
1332Joe Inglett54
SP124Yovanni Gallardo78
SP233Randy Wolf107
SP334Doug Davis97
SP430Dave Bush43
SP535Jeff Suppan43
RP142Trevor Hoffman107
RP229Todd Coffey43
RP337LaTroy Hawkins86
RP429Mitch Stetter#33
RP526Carlos Villanueva45

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Mat Gamel, Norris Hoppes, Luis Cruz.

Pitchers - David Riske (on the DL), Claudio Vargas, Manny Parra.

Analysis: As with so many teams, the pitching staff is the big question mark for the Brewers, who aside from Gallardo have largely loaded up with the sorts of veteran arms one settles for at small-market prices, which in turn puts a premium on their defense (most of the veteran arms throw a lot of strikes, but few are high-K pitchers), which in turn is one reason why they need Carlos Gomez and have to hope for good glovework from erratic-at-best fielders like Weeks, Braun and McGeehee. I'd be worried about Edmonds running into Gomez, though.

A big offensive key will be getting Hart to avoid a repeat of his underachieving 2009 while getting McGeehee, who had never hit well in the minors (.279/.332/.409 over six seasons and more than 2,800 plate appearances, including three full years trying to master AAA pitching), to repeat his seriously overachieving .301/.360/.499 line.

Alcides Escobar (I do love the Latin American guys with classical-allusion names like Escobar and Asdrubal Cabrera) has thus far lived up to his minor league rep as a high-average, little-else hitter, but he's young yet; he's still working on translating his minor league success as a base thief.

Chicago Cubs

Raw EWSL: 215.67 (85 W)
Adjusted: 234.51 (91 W)
Age-Adj.: 202.57 (81 W)
WS Age: 30.74
2010 W-L: 81-81

C27Geovany Soto#1214
1B34Derek Lee2118
2B30Mike Fontenot88
SS30Ryan Theriot1614
3B32Aramis Ramirez1915
RF33Kusuke Fukudome#1414
CF32Marlon Byrd1613
LF34Alfonso Soriano1412
C231Koyie Hill43
INF29Jeff Baker66
OF31Xavier Nady87
1230Chad Tracy43
1324Tyler Colvin+04
SP129Carlos Zambrano1311
SP233Ryan Dempster139
SP334Ted Lilly1410
SP427Tom Gorzelanny33
SP527Randy Wells*712
RP127Carlos Marmol1110
RP227Sean Marshall54
RP331John Grabow65
RP426Esmailin Caridad+26
RP531Carlos Silva22

Subjective Adjustments:

Also on Hand: Position players - Micah Hoffpauir.

Pitchers - Jeff Samardzjia, Justin Berg, James Russell. Angel Guzman is out for the season.

Analysis: The Cubs, as you can see, are functionally tied in the EWSL analysis with the Brewers. They're actually the strongest team in the division before applying the age adjustments, so expect people to want more from their roster "on paper" than they can deliver. Even some of the younger guys like Zambrano are showing their mileage. The great disappointment here is Soto, who is batting .091 and already at risk of losing playing time, having lost his power last season to shoulder troubles.

Using the age adjustments I had at the time, when the Cubs signed Soriano in November 2006 for 8 years and $136 million ($17 million/year), I rough-estimated that if he followed a predictable aging pattern, Soriano would be worth 13 Win Shares per year for the life of the deal, which obviously was a pretty grim assessment at the time. Three years in, he's averaged 15 WS per year so far and age-projects for 12 in 2010; looks like I may have been optimistic.

Wells was something of a low-key pleasant surprise last year, finishing with the 10th-best ERA in the league (6th best if you park-adjust), although he's had great control records and good K and HR numbers throghout the minors. I'm sure Toronto, which returned him to the Cubs after a Rule V claim in 2008, could use him back.

Houston Astros

Raw EWSL: 190.67 (77 W)
Adjusted: 206.51 (82 W)
Age-Adj.: 181.60 (74 W)
WS Age: 31.58
2010 W-L: 74-88

C26JR Towles11
1B34Lance Berkman2723
2B34Kaz Matsui1412
SS27Tommy Manzella+011
3B35Pedro Feliz1410
RF27Hunter Pence1819
CF27Michael Bourn1515
LF34Carlos Lee2017
C230Humberto Quintero33
INF30Jeff Keppinger77
OF34Jason Michaels54
1237Geoff Blum85
1330Cory Sullivan32
SP132Roy Oswalt1310
SP231Wandy Rodriguez1210
SP329Brett Myers55
SP425Bud Norris*23
SP526Felipe Paulino*00
RP130Matt Lindstrom43
RP230Brandon Lyon98
RP330Jeff Fulchino*46
RP436Tim Byrdak54
RP538Brian Moehler43

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Pitchers - Chris Sampson, Samuel Gervacio, Yorman Bazardo, Wilton Lopez.

Analysis: The Astros may not be as bad as their 0-6 record, but they're pretty bad. Adding insult to grinding mediocrity, they're the second-oldest team in the majors by weighted average EWSL, behind only the Yankees. And the Yankees have a reason to be old. In fact, four of the nine teams with an EWSL age of 30 or older are in the NL Central; no other division has more than two (the AL Central has none). If you're looking for a winning business model for fielding a quality team in small markets in hard times, this division is not where you shoud look. In Houston's case, the primary culprits are the team's dependence on Berkman, Lee and Oswalt; this team should probably tear it up, deal the three of them along with Matsui, Feliz, and spare parts like Moehler and Blum if they can (as they did in jettisoning Miguel Tejada), and start over. Older players are harder to keep healthy (Berkman hasn't played yet in 2010) and harder to keep motivated when they're playing pointless games. Jeff Bagwell's not walking through that door, Craig Biggio's not walking through that door, and if they did, they'd be old and gray.

Paulino earned his zero Win Shares last year by giving up 1.8 HR/9 and getting pounded for 11.6 Hits/9, but 3.4 BB/9 and 8/6 K/9 indicate a sign of a guy who might be able to contribute; he didn't have longball issues in the minors, but of course he wasn't pitching in Minute Maid to big-league hitters (then again, look at his home run log and you see a lot of guys like Jay Bruce and Corey Hart and Elvis Andrus, not Pujols and Braun).

It would be hard to fail more completely as a major league hitter than JR Towles, who has batted .299/.390/.473 in the minors and debuted with a 14-game, .375/.432/.575 cup of coffee in 2007, and then went on to faceplant to the tune of .144/.238/.268 in 283 plate appearances since 2008. The Astros, however, really have nothing better to do than wait and see if Towles can come around and recapture the brief glory days of Mitch Meluskey.

Cincinnati Reds

Raw EWSL: 174.00 (71 W)
Adjusted: 189.11 (76 W)
Age-Adj.: 173.02 (71 W)
WS Age: 30.12
2010 W-L: 71-91

C34Ramon Hernandez119
1B26Joey Votto1921
2B29Brandon Phillips1918
SS35Orlando Cabrera1813
3B35Scott Rolen1411
RF23Jay Bruce#710
CF25Drew Stubbs*36
LF29Jonny Gomes77
C229Ryan Hanigan#66
INF27Paul Janish*24
OF28Chris Dickerson#56
1229Laynce Nix33
1336Miguel Cairo22
SP132Aaron Harang86
SP233Bronson Arroyo128
SP324Johnny Cueto#67
SP424Homer Bailey33
SP522Mike Leake+04
RP135Francisco Cordero128
RP228Nick Masset66
RP325Danny Herrera*36
RP440Arthur Rhodes64
RP527Micah Owings54

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Wladimir Balentien, Aaron Miles.

Pitchers - Aroldis Chapman, the latest in a long list of hyped Reds prospects. Jared Burton, Mike Lincoln, Travis Wood. Also Jose Arredondo and Ednison Volquez, neither of whom is expected to pitch after Tommy John surgery.

Analysis: The Reds have a stable infield, but everything else is either a crapshoot or just crap. Stubbs seems like a Gary Pettis type player, but maybe with more power in this park. Leake recently became the rare first-round draft pick to debut directly in the majors without minor league seasoning; he had a great college career, but pitching in this bandbox has traumatized plenty of young pitchers. There's still hope that Cueto and Bailey could become a 1-2 punch, but progress has been slow.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Raw EWSL: 118.67 (53 W)
Adjusted: 144.49 (61 W)
Age-Adj.: 142.55 (61 W)
WS Age: 28.11
2010 W-L: 61-101

C29Ryan Doumit109
1B26Jeff Clement#11
2B31Akinori Iwamura1210
SS27Ronny Cedeno56
3B26Andy LaRoche78
RF29Garrett Jones*59
CF23Andrew McCutchen*922
LF25Lastings Milledge78
C227Jason Jaramillo*12
INF30Bobby Crosby55
OF31Ryan Church108
1228Delwyn Young#55
1326John Raynor+04
SP127Zach Duke77
SP228Paul Maholm87
SP327Ross Ohlendorf#66
SP426Charlie Morton#23
SP527Daniel McCutchen+14
RP136Octavio Dotel65
RP228Joel Hanrahan44
RP338Brendan Donnelly22
RP427Evan Meek*24
RP533DJ Carrasco53

Subjective Adjustments:

Also on Hand: Position players - Brandon Moss. The Padres didn't get equal value from Brian Giles when they traded Jason Bay to get him, but of the four teams to deal away Bay, they were the only ones who didn't get completely ripped off. The sad spectacle of Moss and Craig Hansen giving Pittsburgh essentially nothing from the deal that sent Bay to the Red Sox and Manny to LA has just been the icing on the cake for this franchise.

Pitchers - Hayden Penn, Javier Lopez, Jack Taschner, Hansen (on the DL).

Analysis: Not every major league franchise rates a profile in Failure Magazine, but the Pirates are unique; last season they displaced the 1933-48 Phillies' record for the most consecutive losing seasons in major professional team sports history by notching their 17th consecutive losing record. Indeed, only twice since Barry Bonds' departure as a free agent following NL East-winning seasons of 95, 98 and 96 wins in 1990-92 have the Bucs topped 75 wins in a season, topping out at 79 in 1997. Not coincidentally, in terms of both cause and effect, the Pirates' 11th place finish in the NL in attendance in 2001 - the year they opened PNC Park - is the only time in that period that they finished higher than 12th or drew 2 million fans. 1962, when they still played in Forbes Field, was the last time the Pirates finished in the top 4 in the league in attendance, and they've led the league only once, with the 1925 World Champions. Even the 1908 Pirates, finishing a game out of first place in the NL's most legendary pennant race and with Honus Wagner having his greatest season, finished fifth in attendance.

All of this is a way of saying that the monotony of the Pirates' condition is such that really any discussion of their present roster is almost pointless; it is long past time to move this franchise. I feel for the Pirates fans; this is a venerable franchise, tracing its Pittsburgh roots back to 1882 and having played continuously in the same city in the National League since 1891. And I don't buy the idea that the game's economic structure is fundamentally broken; the Pirates and Royals are the only two teams that plainly can't be saved. Nor is contraction the answer, since the union won't allow it and the owners would just turn around and re-expand at the next available opportunity. No, the Pirates have to move on to a better market, and bid a fond, wistful farewell to a city that hasn't been able to support them for a very long time.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:00 PM | Baseball 2010 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
April 8, 2010
BASEBALL: The Path to Cooperstown: Third Base

If you're wondering what I was working on lately besides the division previews, my fifth annual Hall of Fame column is up today at The Hardball Times, and it's on the third basemen.

UPDATE: I'll have to post the full tables here when I get a chance, the plate appearance figures are crucial to the column, and it looks like the editors at THT removed them to save space. They took out the steals, caught stealing and GIDP data, too. Urk.

Charts below the fold:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:15 AM | Baseball 2010 • | Baseball Columns • | Baseball Studies | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
April 5, 2010
BASEBALL: 2010 NL East EWSL Report

Just in time for Opening Day: Part 5 of my 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. I've also resurrected for this season the team ages, which are weighted by non-age-adjusted EWSL, so the best players count more towards determining the age of the roster.

Prior previews: the AL West, AL East, AL Central, NL 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)

National League Champion Philadelphia Phillies

Raw EWSL: 285.67 (108 W)
Adjusted: 293.93 (111 W)
Age-Adj.: 248.82 (96 W)
WS Age: 31.17
2010 W-L: 96-66

C31Carlos Ruiz119
1B30Ryan Howard2523
2B31Chase Utley3126
SS31Jimmy Rollins2219
3B34Placido Polanco2017
RF31Jayson Werth2118
CF29Shane Victorino2018
LF38Raul Ibanez1913
C233Brian Schneider76
INF31Greg Dobbs54
OF28Ben Francisco#810
1238Juan Castro21
1334Ross Gload54
SP133Roy Halladay2114
SP226Cole Hamels1415
SP329Joe Blanton109
SP427JA Happ*1514
SP547Jamie Moyer96
RP133Brad Lidge75
RP229Ryan Madson97
RP332Chad Durbin54
RP438Jose Contreras54
RP534JC Romero43

Subjective Adjustments: None. As has been the case for a few years now, the Phillies have few players whose value isn't established. That said, Joe Blanton being out 3-6 weeks and Brad Lidge and JC Romero opening the season on the DL mean that their EWSL may be slightly aggressive.

Also on Hand: Position players - None expected to contribute.

Pitchers - Danys Baez, who should sub early for Lidge and Romero; Antonio Bastardo and Kyle Kendrick.

Analysis: The Phillies, like the Tigers of the 80s, have a core (aside from Hamels) that's all around the same age, so as I've been noting for a few years now their window is limited - but there is a time when you have to take a team with two pennants and a World Championship, ride it as far as it will go and live with the downfall that follows. (Heck, the Yankees are still riding Jeter, Posada and Rivera, who apparently last night became the first trio of teammates in the history of the major pro sports to spend a 16th consecutive season together). For now, the team's good enough that there's no point in worrying about the core passing 30.

Aside from the freak abdominal injury, the Halladay for Lee deal remains controversial, but Halladay should benefit from coming to the NL, and he helps balance an overly lefty-heavy rotation. I would not bet against a big bounce-back year for Hamels.

New York Mets

Raw EWSL: 213.67 (84 W)
Adjusted: 230.07 (90 W)
Age-Adj.: 214.40 (85 W)
WS Age: 29.79
2010 W-L: 85-77

C34Rod Barajas108
1B25Daniel Murphy#710
2B34Luis Castillo1311
SS27Jose Reyes1617
3B27David Wright2526
RF26Jeff Francouer1011
CF33Carlos Beltran2118
LF31Jason Bay2521
C238Henry Blanco43
INF29Mike Jacobs88
OF28Angel Pagan88
1235Fernando Tatis86
1334Alex Cora54
SP131Johan Santana1714
SP226Mike Pelfrey67
SP329John Maine65
SP428Oliver Perez55
SP523Jonathon Niese+14
RP128Francisco Rodriguez1312
RP233Pedro Feliciano64
RP320Jennry Mejia+06
RP435Hisanori Takahashi+06
RP527Fernando Nieve22

Subjective Adjustments: None; I would have adjusted Beltran and Reyes downward for their injuries, but both are already valued on the basis of missing a huge amount of time last season, and Reyes is expected back early anyway. Murphy joins them on the DL to open the season.

Also on Hand: Position players - A cast of thousands, and they'll be needed. Gary Matthews jr., Frank Catalanotto, Ike Davis, Nick Evans, Omir Santos, Josh Thole, Ruben Tejada, Wilmer Flores, Fernando Martinez, Russ Adams.

Tejada's been rushed to the Opening Day roster, but he's a 20-year-old who hit .289/.351/.381 last year in AA; he's obviously not ready to hit major league pitching.

Pitchers - Kelvim Escobar, Bobby Parnell, Pat Misch, Sean Green, Kiko Calero, Nelson Figueroa.

Analysis: Mind you, I tried to play it conservative with the Mets, not listing established players like Matthews, Escobar, Calero, and Catalanotto (of whom Matthews and Catalanotto are on the roster, and Matthews in today's lineup), and they're still second. That's a testimony to how much established talent is still on hand here, even with all the injuries, as well as the mediocrity of the Phillies' competition.

EWSL's standard rookie-reliever adjustment could be optimistic about the two new guys. Jerry Manuel and Omar Minaya are definitely going out on a limb using untested pitchers like Mejia and Takahashi over Green, Parnell and Calero, but it's not as if Green and Parnell set the world on fire last season. Mejia's walked almost 4 men per 9 innings in the low minors, which makes me skeptical of him.

Pelfrey, Maine and Perez remain the biggest variables here. Pelfrey needs to have a little better luck on balls in play and keep his walk and homer rates low. Perez needs to get his velocity back. Maine is probably the best bet of the three for quality, but the most dubious in terms of durability; this may be his last chance to establish himself as being able to carry a full rotation starter's workload, especially given how many pitches he throws per inning.

Murphy's injury may not be a bad thing, with a Jacobs/Tatis platoon likely to produce some power, at least. Jacobs had a horrific year last season, but his career slugging percentage against right-handed pitching is .505; while that's the sum total of his value as a major leaguer, if he can put up those kinds of numbers that could be a productive platoon. Murphy, by contrast, has 14 homers and 56 walks in 707 career plate appearances; even with great doubles power (47 career doubles, 7 career triples), Murphy - like Rico Brogna before him - needs to hit over .300 to be of any use as a first baseman with those numbers and glovework that's not spectacular.

I'll reiterate quickly my views on the rest. Bay, of course, is a quality acquisition, assuming he has no concealed injury risks. Francouer, I still hope, can have a Joe Guillen-like prime in which he's briefly able to have his natural talent overcome his impatience for a couple years, but he's still basically a hacker whose only reliable skill is his throwing arm. Josh Thole should be the starting catcher, and hopefully will be once he establishes himself in AAA. Blanco and Barajas are both decent enough weak-hitting veteran backup catcher types, but combining the two doesn't accomplish much.

And hopefully, Wright's first-inning homer today is a good sign. I think he was pressing last year after Beltran went down, and don't see any reason why his power numbers should continue to lag.

Atlanta Braves

Raw EWSL: 202.67 (81 W)
Adjusted: 226.01 (88 W)
Age-Adj.: 213.89 (84 W)
WS Age: 29.89
2010 W-L: 84-78

C26Brian McCann1920
1B33Troy Glaus98
2B26Martin Prado910
SS27Yunel Escobar1819
3B38Chipper Jones2215
RF20Jason Heyward+011
CF28Nate McLouth1920
LF25Melky Cabrera1113
C233Dave Ross65
INF32Eric Hinske65
OF32Matt Diaz108
1228Omar Infante77
1330Joe Thurston*35
SP124Jair Jurrjens1314
SP237Derek Lowe119
SP323Tommy Hanson*511
SP434Tim Hudson86
SP534Kenshin Kawakami*45
RP138Billy Wagner65
RP240Takahasi Saito96
RP331Peter Moylan54
RP425Eric O'Flaherty33
RP524Kris Medlen*23

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Jordan Schafer, last year's failed rookie experiment.

Pitchers - Jo-Jo Reyes, Scott Proctor.

Analysis: 13 Hall of Fame outfielders have had 400 or more plate appearances as rookies at age 22 or younger; their average season was .302/.362/.467 with 85 Runs, 76 RBI, 14 homers and 10 steals. The best modern ones of the bunch - Ted Williams, Frank Robinson and Joe DiMaggio. Not included in that group - Mickey Mantle, who hit .267/.349/.443 in 386 plate appearances as a 19-year-old rookie, Barry Bonds (age 21, .223/.330/.416); Ken Griffey (age 19, .264/.329/.420); Manny Ramirez (age 22, .269/.357/.521 in a strike-shortened season). All of which is to say, keep your expectations in check for Jason Heyward - maybe he'll be as great at age 20 as Williams, Robinson, Ty Cobb, A-Rod, Mel Ott, Mantle, or Kaline, but Williams and Robinson are the only ones of those guys who were making their first trip around the league. More likely, even if he's Cooperstown-bound, is something more like Mantle at 19.

The Braves have a regular UN going - Saito and Kawakami from Japan, Jurrjens from Curacao, Moylan from Australia, Escobar from Cuba, Prado and Infante from Venezuela, Melky from the Dominican.

Undoubtedly, the biggest problem Atlanta faces, even with a possibly healthy Hudson, a full season from Hanson, and the veteran imports in the pen, is replacing the productivity of Javier Vazquez (219.1 IP, 2.87 ERA), Rafael Soriano (75.2 IP in 77 games, 2.97 ERA), and Mike Gonzalez (74.1 IP in 80 games, 2.42 ERA); over 369.1 IP those three combined to strike out 430 batters (10.48 per 9 IP), walk 104 (2.53 per 9), allow 33 homers (0.80 per 9) and surrender just 290 hits (7.07 per 9).

Florida Marlins

Raw EWSL: 170.33 (70 W)
Adjusted: 204.11 (81 W)
Age-Adj.: 209.92 (83 W)
WS Age: 27.35
2010 W-L: 83-79

C29John Baker#1011
1B26Gaby Sanchez+011
2B30Dan Uggla2018
SS26Hanley Ramirez3236
3B28Jorge Cantu1515
RF29Cody Ross1514
CF23Cameron Maybin*22
LF25Chris Coghlan*1126
C229Ronny Paulino76
INF25Emilio Bonifacio#46
OF29Brian Barden10
1234Wes Helms54
1327Brett Carroll*35
SP126Josh Johnson1212
SP226Anibal Sanchez33
SP327Ricky Nolasco 87
SP423Chris Volstad#46
SP532Nate Robertson32
RP126Leo Nunez77
RP227Reynel Pinto44
RP328Dan Meyer*36
RP431Brian Sanches*35
RP527Burke Badenhop#33

Subjective Adjustments: None, but I'd bet on Maybin to beat his EWSL, as well as Anibal Sanchez, if healthy. Brian Sanches starts the season on the DL with a hamstring issue.

Also on Hand: Position players - Mike Lamb

Pitchers - Clay Hensley, Rick Vanden Hurk, Andrew Miller, Jose Veras.

Analysis: The youngest team by Win Shares age in the five divisions I've reviewed so far, the Marlins are the Brazil of baseball: the team of the future and always will be. Well, except that they do have two World Championship flags with teams that acquired veterans in a timely fashion...but this is not such a team, unless they make some big strikes at the trade deadline - these Marlins are yet another young-talent outfit. And as per usual of late, recent pitching injuries are the main source of uncertainty.

As always, a downside to doing these previews in serial format is having at least one guy every year who shows up twice, in this case Nate Robertson, penciled out of the Detroit rotation and into Florida's.

Washington Nationals

Raw EWSL: 165.67 (68 W)
Adjusted: 179.84 (73 W)
Age-Adj.: 170.07 (70 W)
WS Age: 29.53
2010 W-L: 70-92

C38Ivan Rodriguez86
1B30Adam Dunn2220
2B34Adam Kennedy1210
SS24Ian Desmond+111
3B25Ryan Zimmerman1721
RF32Willie Harris97
CF29Nyjer Morgan99
LF31Josh Willingham1311
C225Jesus Flores67
INF32Cristian Guzman1210
OF28Willie Taveras66
1228Mike Morse11
1327Alberto Gonzalez#44
SP125John Lannan89
SP231Jason Marquis129
SP335Livan Hernandez43
SP426Craig Stammen*23
SP527Garrett Mock#11
RP126Matt Capps66
RP228Jason Bergmann32
RP325Tyler Clippard*36
RP428Brian Bruney44
RP539Miguel Batista54

Subjective Adjustments: None. I take no legal responsibility for the accuracy of Livan Hernandez' reported age.

Also on Hand: Position players - Justin Maxwell, Wil Nieves, Chris Coste, Eric Bruntlett.

Pitchers - As always, plenty of arms indistinguishable (at least) with the guys being trotted out. Stephen Strasburg is supposed to be the next Dwight Gooden if not the next Walter Johnson; I buy him as the next big thing, but as with Heyward the record of rookie pitchers gives some caution - Strasburg's unlikely to have a better career than Roger Clemens or Greg Maddux, who had rookie ERAs of 4.32 and 5.61, respectively. Also the rehabbing Jordan Zimmerman and Chien-Ming Wang, Scott Olsen, Tyler Walker, Sean Burnett, Doug Slaten, and Shairon Martis. Ron Villone was cut recently.

Analysis: For a team that's supposed to be rebuilding, there's a surprisingly small number of un-established players here until Strasburg descends from the clouds, although with the addition of veterans like Kennedy, the Nats should at least not match last season's 103-loss fiasco. How sad is the pitching staff? Aside from Strasburg, who will probably be mentioned in almost every sentence written about this team this year, Baseball Prospectus projects Jason Marquis to lead the staff with 90 strikeouts.

Aside from Strasburg, the other rookie on the radar here is Desmond, who looks like a prospect if you look at his 2009: he batted .306/.372/.494 in 189 plate appearances at AA, .354/.428/.461 in 205 PA at AAA, and .280/.318/.561 in 89 PA for the Nats. Unfortunately, even including those numbers, his career minor league line is .259/.326/.388.

As with Mark DeRosa in San Francisco, Willie Harris starting in an outfield corner is diagnostic. Strasburg can't arrive soon enough.

Ivan Rodriguez is fading fast; at age 38, he's clearly on hand mainly to provide a veteran to work with Strasburg. He's batted .278/.304/.418 the last five seasons, and the Nats will be thrilled if he can match even that after last year's .249/.280/.384. Even Pudge's legendary arm is not quite what it was; the past three years, he's caught 31%, 32% and 35% of opposing base thieves, allowing 47, 52 and 41 steals - still good numbers, but down from catching at least 48% of opposing baserunners 9 of the prior 12 years and the first time he'd allowed more than 40 steals in a season since 1996, when he caught a career-high 1223.1 innings. Can he keep an everyday job for three more years? He has 2,711 hits, and two more years of about a hundred hits a year (he's averaged 108 the past two) would get him close enough to possibly reach 3,000 by hanging on as a backup. How amazing would that be? Ted Simmons, with 2,472 hits, is a distant second among players to spend at least half their career games at catcher, but Pudge has caught 96% of his career games - Jason Kendall, with 2,084 hits, is the only other catcher with 2,000 hits to catch 90% of his career games.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:00 PM | Baseball 2010 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
April 1, 2010
BASEBALL: 2010 NL West EWSL Report

Part 4 of my preseason previews is the NL West; 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. I've also resurrected for this season the team ages, which are weighted by non-age-adjusted EWSL, so the best players count more towards determining the age of the roster.

Prior previews: the AL West, AL East, AL 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)

Los Angeles Dodgers

Raw EWSL: 242.67 (94 W)
Adjusted: 250.60 (97 W)
Age-Adj.: 230.19 (90 W)
WS Age: 30.48
2010 W-L: 90-72

C27Russell Martin1819
1B26James Loney1618
2B24Blake DeWitt#46
SS32Rafael Furcal1411
3B36Casey Blake1713
RF28Andre Ethier2021
CF25Matt Kemp2126
LF38Manny Ramirez2215
C241Brad Ausmus53
INF35Ronnie Belliard107
OF38Garret Anderson128
1233Reed Johnson65
1335Jamey Carroll86
SP125Chad Billingsley1213
SP222Clayton Kershaw#810
SP332Vicente Padilla75
SP435Hiroki Kuroda#75
SP537Ramon Ortiz00
RP126Jonathan Broxton1314
RP233George Sherrill107
RP327Ramon Trancoso#55
RP427Ronald Belisario*46
RP528Hong-Chih Kuo55

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Nick Green. Jason Repko was cut, and Brian Giles retired.

Pitchers - Charlie Haeger is in the long-term mix for fifth starter. Jeff Weaver appears to be on the Opening Day roster. Russ Ortiz joined Ramon in this spring's Night of the Living Ortiz spectacle. Also James McDonald, Carlos Montaserios, Justin Miller, Luis Ayala, Josh Towers and Cory Wade. Fifth starter candidate Eric Stults was sold to the Hiroshima Carp.

Analysis: The NL West is not baseball's strongest division, but it remains its most competitive, with no dominant team and four of five primed to battle for first place. That said, the Dodgers should still be the strongest of the five, with a talented outfield, two possible rotation anchors, a good bullpen and the steady leadership of Joe Torre.

Age keeps coming up here, age and what it does and doesn't mean. EWSL values three Dodgers (Martin, Loney and Billingsley) as improving young players, not the worn-down veterans or they looked to be at times last season. It's easy to forget that Martin's still just 27 and Billingsley only 25. Billingsley's probably the most crucial Dodger - Kershaw continues to improve but may not quite be ready for center stage and a full #1 workload at age 22, so keeping him as the #2 man will be valuable. Martin, by contrast, looks unlikely to recover his past offensive glories. Manny's age matters too, as he showed it at times last year, batting a most un-Manny-ish .251/.378/.431 from July 24 through the season's end. At 38, the end of his years as a dominating slugger may be at hand, although he's likely to remain a dangerous bat. Blake's age (36) suggests that he's unlikely to sustain last year's pace, although his big improvement was in walks, an area where older players tend to retain improvements. And the bench is geriatric even by the standards of Joe Torre benches (assuming Belliard doesn't end up as the starting 2B; that situation remains unstable).

Kuo starts the year on the DL. It's anybody's guess whether the fifth starter will end up being Ortiz, the other Ortiz, Weaver, Haeger, or somebody else (Kuo's probably not returning to starting).

UPDATE: Haeger wins the 5th starter job. If we add him in for Ortiz, it won't change the EWSL picture much; he's 25 but has been kicking around the majors for four years now in small doses. His control remains iffy.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Raw EWSL: 194.50 (78 W)
Adjusted: 212.27 (84 W)
Age-Adj.: 226.73 (89 W)
WS Age: 27.63
2010 W-L: 89-73

C26Miguel Montero89
1B30Adam LaRoche1715
2B28Kelly Johnson1313
SS27Stephen Drew1818
3B26Mark Reynolds1820
RF22Justin Upton#1229
CF26Chris Young1213
LF28Conor Jackson88
C229Chris Snyder99
INF29Ryan Roberts*48
OF23Gerardo Parra*511
1235Augie Ojeda54
1325Tony Abreu11
SP129Dan Haren1917
SP231Brandon Webb119
SP326Edwin Jackson1213
SP425Ian Kennedy00
SP526Billy Buckner11
RP131Chad Qualls98
RP226Juan Gutierrez*49
RP326Clay Zavada*24
RP426Esmerling Vasquez*23
RP536Bob Howry55

Subjective Adjustments: None - obviously Upton's age adjustment is fairly aggressive, but he batted .300/.366/.532 as a 21-year-old last season, and earned 19 Win Shares in 138 games; 29 this season is not an especially unusual target.

Also on Hand: Position players - Brandon Allen, Cole Gillespie, Drew Macias, Rusty Ryal.

Pitchers - Aaron Heilman, Kris Benson, Kevin Mulvey, as well as some non-ex-Mets: Rodrigo Lopez, Blaine Boyer, Leo Rosales.

Analysis: If Chad Billingsley is the most critical Dodger, Brandon Webb may be the most critical player in the whole NL West. A healthy Webb would give the D-Backs a formidable 1-2 punch, and combined with the solid Edwin Jackson as the third starter, give Arizona's offense a lot of chances to win. But as of now, Webb hasn't thrown since early March and is expected to miss at least the season's first month, which makes you wonder how long he'll be out and what he'll be like when he returns. That bumps Jackson to the #2 spot, and he's miscast as a #2 starter despite a good ERA last season in a less challenging ballpark (albeit in a tougher division), and after Jackson you have the deluge Arizona can't compete unless it gets at least half a season's worth of something resembling the old Brandon Webb. I have to figure that Webb's health was a driving force behind the otherwise inexplicable deal that brought in Jackson in exchange for Max Scherzer - Jackson doesn't have Scherzer's A-list talent (granted, that talent only got him a 9-15 career record in Arizona), but he's started 95 games and tossed 558.1 regular season innings the last three seasons, whereas Scherzer retains a reputation for being brittle. That may have been more risk than this staff could absorb. As for Jackson, his main risk is whether he can retain the improvements in his control that saw his walks per 9 innings drop from 4.9 to 3.8 to 2.9 the past three years.

Of course, a big part of last year's 92-loss fiasco was the offense managing to finish 8th in the NL in runs scored despite playing in a high-altitude bandbox that inflates everyone's offensive numbers. LaRoche and the continued development of Upton should help that (Arizona first basemen last year hit an appalling .229/.321/.398, to go with .219/.293/.379 from their center fielders, mainly Young; Upton was their only outfielder with any punch). They'll also need better years from Young and Drew and a return to the land of the living by Conor Jackson and Kelly Johnson; the latter steps in for Felipe Lopez, one of the team's few bright spots last year.

Mark Reynolds should be a steady power source after 2009's breakout, and could be devastating if he could cut his strikeouts to the 160-170 range some year; he's whiffed 427 times the past two seasons. I wouldn't hold my breath, but it's the sort of thing he could pull off once.

Colorado Rockies

Raw EWSL: 218.00 (86 W)
Adjusted: 231.77 (90 W)
Age-Adj.: 224.05 (88 W)
WS Age: 29.45
2010 W-L: 88-74

C27Chris Iannetta1212
1B36Todd Helton1813
2B31Clint Barmes119
SS25Troy Tulowitzki1924
3B25Ian Stewart#913
RF31Brad Hawpe1815
CF24Dexter Fowler*819
LF24Carlos Gonzalez#710
C231Miguel Olivo87
INF38Melvin Mora118
OF27Seth Smith#810
1239Jason Giambi97
1330Ryan Spilborghs87
SP126Ubaldo Jimenez1415
SP231Aaron Cook1210
SP329Jeff Francis43
SP429Jorge De La Rosa87
SP527Jason Hammel66
RP126Huston Street1313
RP235Rafael Betancourt85
RP328Matt Daley*24
RP424Franklin Morales33
RP533Joe Beimel54

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Eric Young and Omar Quintanilla compete with Mora for the reserve infield role.

Pitchers - Manuel Corpas and Taylor Buchholz still fighting to get all the way back. Greg Smith, Matt Belisle, Tim Redding, Randy Flores, Justin Speier.

Analysis: The Rox have their own returning-injured-ace issue with Jeff Francis. Jimenez seems to have taken the ace reins; although I remain skeptical of the long-term prospects of any starter who carries the burden of Coors, he did finish second in club history in ERA and strikeouts last year (his 198 Ks second only to 210 by Pedro Astacio in 1999), and set a club record for fewest hits/9. He's a quality starter.

I was baffled last season why so many outlets were prematurely burying Huston Street, who rebounded well in 2009 (including a 70/13 K/BB ratio and a 1.71 road ERA), but Street has been shut down repeatedly this spring with shoulder stiffness, which may unsettle the bullpen.

He may not be the question mark that Billingsley or Webb or Francis is, but how critical has Tulowitzki been to the Rockies over his career? Since his arrival in August 2006, Tulowitzki has had an OPS above 750 in a month 10 times, and below 750 (or didn't play) 10 times. The Rockies' record in the ten good months? 164-109 (.601), with a winning record in 9 of the 10 months. Their record in his ten bad months? 117-154 (.432), with a losing record in 8 of the 10 months. Last season, the Rockies caught fire on June 4, turning from a 20-32 record, 15 1/2 games out of first place, to go 52-36 and pulling within a game of the Dodgers through October 2 before dropping the last two to LA and settling for the wild card. Tulowitzki's season went the same way: batting an anemic .216/.306/.377 on June 6, he tore the league up to the tune of .336/.414/.637 with 27 homers in 101 games through October 2, before going 0-for-4 against Kershaw and the Dodgers bullpen on October 3 and sitting out the final game. Still only 25, he'll have a chance this season to add the missing consistency that is the only thing holding Colorado's indispenable man back from superstardom.

San Francisco Giants

Raw EWSL: 220.83 (87 W)
Adjusted: 226.57 (89 W)
Age-Adj.: 209.10 (83 W)
WS Age: 29.86
2010 W-L: 83-79

C35Ben Molina1511
1B33Aubrey Huff1311
2B32Freddy Sanchez1411
SS34Edgar Renteria1210
3B23Pablo Sandoval#1623
RF26Nate Schierholtz56
CF32Aaron Rowand1613
LF35Mark DeRosa1713
C230Eli Whiteside*23
INF30Juan Uribe1211
OF32Andres Torres43
1225Emmanuel Burriss#23
1329Fred Lewis98
SP126Tim Lincecum2122
SP225Matt Cain1718
SP332Barry Zito86
SP427Jonathan Sanchez65
SP531Todd Wellemeyer54
RP128Brian Wilson1111
RP231Jeremy Affeldt86
RP330Brandon Medders44
RP436Guillermo Mota43
RP527Sergio Romo#34

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Travis Ishikawa, Buster Posey, Eugenio Velez, John Bowker.

Pitchers - Alex Hinshaw, Danny Bautista, Kevin Cameron, Byung Hyun Kim (who came out of retirement), and Santiago Casilla, who's been approaching triple digits this spring.

Hot prospect Madison Bumgarner is one of the people on the cover of this year's Baseball Prospectus, asking if he's the next Lincecum. The book overall isn't quite as hyped on Bumgarner, but even so. Obviously Bumgarner's a talented guy, and at first glance his numbers are eye-popping: 27-5 with a 1.65 ERA in 283 professional innings, an ERA below 2.00 at each of his four stops, including 10 innings in the big leagues. His walk and home run rates are microscopic. You do that at any level as a teenager, you're a serious prospect. But I also know he's 20 years old and has pitched a grand total of 117 innings above A ball, in which he has struck out 79 batters, just over 6 per 9 innings. I'm guessing that a guy who's barely striking out 6 men per 9 in AA isn't quite ready to take the majors by storm in 2010 (his K/BB was 164/21 in 141.2 innings in the Sally League, so he's not a low-K pitcher). Adjust your short-term expectations accordingly.

Analysis: One of the joys of looking at your favorite team's roster before the season is imagining what the team will look like if everything breaks right, if the guys with injuries get healthy, the guys with potential put it all together, the guys who are inconsistent get in a groove. For most teams in a given season, that daydream falls apart once the harsh reality of the season sets in, but there are always a few teams for whom most of the pieces fall into place.

Giants fans can't do much of that with this team, especially the non-pitchers. What room for growth is there? Who's going to blossom on this team? Most of the lineup is old (seriously: a 35-year-old second baseman in left field?), the rest aside from Sandoval has little potential, and Sandoval was pretty close to maxed out in 2009. The pitching staff, while much more talented, has mostly put it all together (or in Zito's case come as far back as he's gonna come), the main exception being Sanchez, who has struck out more than a batter per inning for his career while allowing less than 1 homer per 9, but has been held back by consistently poor control.

All this is another way of saying that the Giants will be fortunate indeed to match the 88 wins of last season. Their pitching should keep them in the hunt, but they're the least likely of the four contenders to close the deal.

San Diego Padres

Raw EWSL: 160.50 (67 W)
Adjusted: 179.10 (73 W)
Age-Adj.: 171.49 (70 W)
WS Age: 29.14
2010 W-L: 70-92

C26Nick Hundley#68
1B28Adrian Gonzalez2930
2B35David Eckstein1310
SS23Everth Cabrera*717
3B26Chase Headley#913
RF27Will Venable#56
CF30Scott Hairston1110
LF23Kyle Blanks*36
C231Yorvit Torrealba76
INF32Oscar Salazar54
OF34Jerry Hairston jr.87
1227Tony Gwynn jr.77
1342Matt Stairs63
SP131Chris Young43
SP230Jon Garland109
SP329Kevin Correia55
SP426Clayton Richard#45
SP522Mat Latos*11
RP132Heath Bell108
RP226Luke Gregerson*35
RP331Mike Adams54
RP426Edward Mujica#23
RP528Joe Thatcher22

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Josh Barfield, Eric Munson, Aaron Cunningham.

Pitchers - Sean Gallagher, Adam Russell.

Analysis: The Padres don't have the Giants' problem, but they do have a fairly narrow foundation to rebuild upon, at least so far, and it will get a lot narrower if they deal Gonzalez or Bell. (I assume Young will be dealt if he's able to recapture his 2006-07 form)

The mountainous Kyle Blanks showed some real pop last season (.250/.355/.514 in 172 plate appearances at age 22 after a .304/.393/.505 minor league career); the Pads hope the outfielder, listed at 6'6" 285, isn't the next Ken Harvey.

Mike Adams, who basically disappeared off the map due to injuries and ineffectiveness after being penciled in as the Brewers closer entering 2005, throwing just 15.2 big league innings over a three-year stretch, has had an amazing revival in San Diego, a 1.85 ERA and 10.5 K/9 the past two seasons, including an 0.73 ERA and just one home run allowed last season.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:00 PM | Baseball 2010 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
March 26, 2010
BASEBALL: 2010 AL Central EWSL Report

Part 3 of my preseason previews is the AL Central; this is the third 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. I've also resurrected for this season the team ages, which are weighted by non-age-adjusted EWSL, so the best players count more towards determining the age of the roster.

Prior previews: the AL West & AL East.

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)

Minnesota Twins

Raw EWSL: 241.50 (94 W)
Adjusted: 252.03 (97 W)
Age-Adj.: 243.37 (94 W)
WS Age: 29.05
2010 W-L: 94-68

C27Joe Mauer3031
1B29Justin Morneau2120
2B32Orlando Hudson1915
SS27JJ Hardy1313
3B29Brendan Harris99
RF31Michael Cuddyer1411
CF26Denard Span#1621
LF24Delmon Young1114
DH28Jason Kubel1616
C227Jose Morales*24
INF32Nick Punto108
OF25Alexi Casilla56
1339Jim Thome1511
SP128Scott Baker1211
SP228Nick Blackburn#911
SP326Kevin Slowey67
SP426Francisco Liriano23
SP534Carl Pavano43
RP131Jon Rauch87
RP231Matt Guerrier86
RP325Jose Mijares*49
RP428Jesse Crain43
RP534Clay Condrey54

Subjective Adjustments: None, but given Justin Morneau's usual durability, unless Jason Kubel spends a good deal of time hurt or in the field, Jim Thome's not going to approach 11 Win Shares.

Also on Hand: Position players - Matt Tolbert, Jacque Jones, Ben Revere. Revere, a 22-year-old center fielder, may not make an appearance for a while, but he's a career .337/.396/.430 hitter in the minors, where he averaged 70 stolen bases per 162 games. That's all A ball and lower, so don't get too excited just yet, but a guy who can hit .379/.433/.497 and steal 44 bases in 83 games at age 20, as Revere did in Class A Beloit in 2008, is one to watch. Revere has hit .325 this spring in big league camp, but is headed for AA to work on his defense, which reading between the lines suggests that he'll end up as a left fielder.

Pitchers - Pat Neshek, Glen Perkins, Ron Mahay, Brian Duensing, Bobby Keppel, Anthony Swarzak, Rob Delaney. Also Joe Nathan, of course, but Nathan's having Tommy John surgery today, so Opening Day 2011 is an optimistic timetable.

Analysis: Despite the costly loss of Nathan, which likely leaves the closer job either in Rauch's hands or a combination of Rauch and Guerrier, the Twins remain the class of the field due mainly to Mauer and a solid infield. I already had Mauer approaching historic levels as a two-way catcher when I wrote my Hall of Fame catchers column in February 2009, and that was before he led the AL in batting, slugging and OBP. Fact: Mauer has now had 600 plate appearances in a season three times, and won the batting title all three. Fact: No other AL catcher has ever won a batting title; Mauer has as many as all NL catchers combined (Deacon White did win the 1875 National Association title as a catcher, and White and King Kelly won batting titles while doing some part-time catching in 1877, 1884 & 1886). But Mauer caught only 26% of opposing baserunners last season, by far a career low; like some of the other great catchers, he may end up with his best offensive and defensive seasons a little mismatched.

Delmon Young's progress remains agonizingly slow, but guys like him have been known to creep forward with little apparent improvement and then suddenly kick up to another level; he's still only 24, and I'd wait to see his 2010, 2011 and maybe 2012 before writing him off as a potential star. But the slow pace of Young's improvement, combined with Denard Span's success and Revere's potential, probably contributed to the decision to cut bait on also waiting for Carlos Gomez to progress, even if it meant losing the last tangible tie to the Santana trade. Anyway, adding Hudson and the offensively erratic Hardy should stabilize the infield.

The big question, as is so often true, is the rotation. Liriano has struggled badly enough that there's been talk of converting him to relief, and don't be surprised if that possibility is explored with Nathan out; Duensing could end up replacing him in the rotation. Assuming the old Liriano doesn't resurface, Baker and Slowey should be the anchors. Slowey posted a 5:1 K/BB ratio last season, but coughed up as many homers as walks, and was shut down after July 3 to have surgery on bone chips in his wrist; in Slowey's last two starts with the injury he surrendered 11 runs and 3 homers in 6 innings, ballooning his ERA from 4.04 to 4.86. Slowey's 0.56 spring ERA suggests he may be all the way back. Blackburn, like Baker and Slowey, has amazing control - the Twinkies and the Cardinals were the only major league teams to walk fewer than 3 men per 9 innings last year - but with his low K rate will depend more on the defense, and thus should benefit most from the arrival of the O-Dog.

Punto and Harris are still grappling over who gets to give away the third base job to the other; Casilla, who I have listed here as an outfielder solely because there was no room to list him as something else, is competing with Tolbert for the backup infield job.

Rauch currently holds the single-season record for most saves (18) by a pitcher who is taller than 6'10". Because you needed to know that.

Chicago White Sox

Raw EWSL: 213.17 (84 W)
Adjusted: 224.53 (88 W)
Age-Adj.: 204.31 (81 W)
WS Age: 29.95
2010 W-L: 81-81

C33AJ Pierzynski98
1B34Paul Konerko1513
2B23Gordon Beckham*615
SS28Alexei Ramirez#1417
3B28Mark Teahen1111
RF27Carlos Quentin1313
CF29Alex Rios1615
LF32Juan Pierre119
DH33Andruw Jones65
C234Ramon Castro54
INF43Omar Vizquel74
OF34Mark Kotsay65
1327Jayson Nix*36
SP129Jake Peavy119
SP231Mark Buehrle1613
SP325John Danks1416
SP427Gavin Floyd1211
SP534Freddy Garcia32
RP129Bobby Jenks1110
RP233Matt Thornton107
RP333Scott Linebrink43
RP428Tony Pena77
RP533JJ Putz64

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Brent Lillibridge, who had a horrible 2009. Alejandro de Aza. 24-year-old catcher Tyler Flowers, who improved his career minor league batting line to .293/.406/.495 last season, handled AAA pitching just fine, and got a quick cup of the big league coffee in September. Kenny Williams seems more concerned with Flowers batting .188 in that 10-game trial...I expect him to take over for Pierzynski at some point, but that could be next year unless Pierzynski gets dealt in July.

Pitchers - Sergio Santos, Greg Aquino, Randy Williams, Daniel Hudson, Carlos Torres, Freddy Dolsi, Scott Elarton.

Analysis: As has been the case for a few years now, I'm a little unclear on what the White Sox think they are doing, other than just muddling through in a weak division. On the upside, the double play combination is young and talented, the power hitters are still sort of in their prime other than Jones, the top 4 in their rotation should - if Peavy's healthy - stand up well to anybody but the Red Sox, the bullpen's fairly deep, and as noted there seems to be an orderly succession plan behind the plate. On the downside, Pierre is likely to return to being an offensive millstone and is ill-suited to a power park like whatever they're calling Comiskey these days, and there are serious perennial questions about the attitudes of Quentin, Rios and Jones - if you could give one of those guys Pierre's attitude, you'd be in much better shape (I'm not clear on why Rios is seen as the center fielder here over Pierre). The Jones signing is a gamble, but when you acquire a DH who is 33, overweight and has hit .207/.304/.393 the past three seasons, you need a better Plan B than ... Mark Kotsay? Please tell me they're never gonna wake up one morning with Vizquel as the starting DH.

On balance this looks like a team that can make a run at the division if the Twins stumble and things break well with the rotation (including Garcia, who has a lot to prove after three seasons lost to injury) and the outfield.

Detroit Tigers

Raw EWSL: 180.17 (73 W)
Adjusted: 213.91 (84 W)
Age-Adj.: 204.25 (81 W)
Subj. Adj.: 201.25 (80 W)
WS Age: 29.20
2010 W-L: 80-82

C30Gerald Laird1211
1B27Miguel Cabrera2425
2B25Scott Sizemore+011
SS33Adam Everett54
3B33Brandon Inge1210
RF36Magglio Ordonez1813
CF23Austin Jackson+011
LF36Johnny Damon2116
DH34Carlos Guillen119
C223Alex Avila*24
INF30Ramon Santiago65
OF29Ryan Raburn66
1326Clete Thomas#56
SP127Justin Verlander1615
SP221Rick Porcello*1321
SP325Max Scherzer#68
SP427Jeremy Bonderman32
SP532Nate Robertson32
RP130Jose Valverde1311
RP225Joel Zumaya22
RP332Bobby Seay54
RP428Zach Miner76
RP523Ryan Perry*24

Subjective Adjustments: The 1.581 multiplier for pitchers age 21 and under is based on a sample of 9 seasons, two of them Felix Hernandez and most of them guys who had not, as Rick Porcello did last year, started 31 games in the majors. Projecting him to leap to 21 Win Shares seemed unrealistic even for optimists about Porcello, who after all struck out only 89 batters last year. I trimmed him down -3 to 18.

Overall, the Tigers are heavily dependent on guys without an established profile; they're the only team in the AL starting two pure rookies (Scott Sizemore and Austin Jackson).

Also on Hand: Position players - Jeff Larish.

Pitchers - Dontrelle Willis, who's had a great spring and isn't out of contention for a rotation slot just yet. Armando Galarraga, deposed from the rotation but still hanging around. Fu-Te Ni, Phil Coke, Daniel Schlereth, Eddie Bonine.

Analysis: The Tigers' question marks start with replacing Curtis Granderson, especially defensively. Jackson is currently penciled in as the heir, although they could still go with Clete Thomas. Sizemore is actually the better hitter at this stage than Jackson (.308/.389/.500 between AA and AAA last season; Jackson's career slugging percentage in the minors is .410), but is two years older, and second basemen with questionable gloves are not always the most likely guys to develop as hitters.

Cabrera is reportedly sobered up and slimmed down; we'll see how much that matters and how long it lasts. My guess is that it's not going to affect his hitting much, but of course being in shape and not hung over is likely to help his baserunning, defense and long-term durability. In a way, it seems almost quaint to see a player whose issue is alcohol.

Much of the rest of the offense is creaky, nonexistent (Everett) and/or likely to struggle in Detroit (Damon).

The pitching staff could be impressive if Scherzer finally has a healthy season and Zumaya holds up. Bonderman's ceiling now looks a lot lower than it once did. And getting Dontrelle back on track could help.

Kansas City Royals

Raw EWSL: 179.00 (73 W)
Adjusted: 185.47 (75 W)
Age-Adj.: 182.74 (74 W)
WS Age: 28.74
2010 W-L: 74-88

C36Jason Kendall129
1B24Billy Butler1316
2B26Chris Getz*511
SS28Yuniesky Betancourt1010
3B26Alex Gordon89
RF30David DeJesus1816
CF30Rick Ankiel87
LF34Scott Podsednik87
DH34Jose Guillen87
C228Brayan Pena11
INF27Alberto Callaspo1111
OF27Josh Fields44
1329Mike Aviles#78
SP126Zack Greinke2021
SP231Gil Meche98
SP326Luke Hochevar#22
SP428Robinson Tejeda44
SP529Brian Bannister65
RP126Joakim Soria1415
RP231Juan Cruz43
RP334Kyle Farnsworth32
RP426Kyle Davies55
RP530Roman Colon21

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Mitch Maier, last year a frequent starter in the outfield. Wilson Betemit, Willie Bloomquist, Brian Anderson, Vance Wilson.

Pitchers - Where to begin? Bruce Chen (yes, that Bruce Chen), Jorge Campillo, Phil Humber, Brad Thompson, Victor Marte, Josh Rupe, Matt Herges, 37-year-old Yasuhiko Yabuta (who actually pitched much better in his second crack at American minor leaguers in 2009), Rule V pickup Edgar Osuna, Bryan Bullington.

Analysis: A little hope, but not much. Donald Zachary Greinke was so good in so many ways last year that he has to be considered an elite pitcher and not a one-year fluke, but even the elite don't repeat seasons like that. Gordon, once a hyped "next George Brett" by the same people who used the same tag on Hank Blalock, starts the season on the DL, which puts Callaspo at third. Butler is the trendy pick for a breakout, and for good reason: from June 10 to the end of the season he batted .312/.374/.526 with 34 doubles in 101 games, including a blistering stretch of .346/.418/.596 with 45 RBI in 53 games from August 4 to September 30. That may be partly a matter of being a second-half hittter, but it does seem that Butler's making real progress. He also had ridiculous home/road splits: .362/.415/.612 in KC, .240/.307/.372 on the road. Getz had a .324 OBP last year as a rookie, and should improve enough on that to actually be useful.

Then, there's the ugly side, the guys who have neither present nor future. The acquisition of Podsednik is like the White Sox acquisition of Pierre: cheered by Roto players but mostly an investment in a season that's unlikely to be repeated. Both guys remain useful fourth outfiielders miscast as starting corner outfielders. The Royals remain desperate enough for starting pitching that they've considered using Kyle Farnsworth in the rotation. Kendall is durable and ends their experiment with sub-.300 OBPs behind the plate, but he's old, slow, punchless and can't throw. Betancourt's only 27 and has been declining for two years now (from a peak when his OBP was .308). Guillen remains a 34-year-old headache who's been paid $24 million the past two years to bat .257/.305/.415 and block Butler from DHing. Expectations should be limited accordingly.

Maybe they should get Dontrelle; he could probably use some advice in coming back from anxiety problems from Greinke and Ankiel.

Cleveland Indians

Raw EWSL: 133.00 (57 W)
Adjusted: 153.64 (64 W)
Age-Adj.: 158.73 (66 W)
WS Age: 27.48
2010 W-L: 66-96

C24Lou Marson+111
1B34Russell Branyan108
2B24Luis Valbuena*38
SS24Asdrubal Cabrera1418
3B28Jhonny Peralta1515
RF27Shin-Soo Choo1718
CF27Grady Sizemore2021
LF23Michael Brantley*24
DH33Travis Hafner76
C239Mike Redmond33
INF25Matt LaPorta*24
OF26Trevor Crowe12
1326Andy Marte22
SP132Jake Westbrook32
SP226Fausto Carmona55
SP325Justin Masterson#56
SP425Aaron Laffey45
SP525David Huff*23
RP133Kerry Wood75
RP228Rafael Perez44
RP326Joe Smith44
RP426Tony Sipp*23
RP527Jeremy Sowers22

Subjective Adjustments: None, but Brantley and LaPorta should produce more than that with more playing time (LaPorta may be platooned with Branyan).

Also on Hand: Position players - Anderson Hernandez, Austin Kearns, Mark Grudzeilanek, Brian Bixler, Chris Gimenez, and smooth catching prospect Carlos Santana.

Pitchers - Chris Perez, Jensen Lewis, Scott Lewis, Anthony Reyes, Tom Mastny, Hector Rondon, Carlos Carrasco, Mitch Talbot. Carrasco and Talbot are seen as in the rotation mix not far down the road.

Analysis: I see Baseball Prospectus has the Indians at 79-83. I get where some of the difference comes from: BP, as it often is with unproven players, is bullish on Masterson and LaPorta and has Brantley, Hafner and Westbrook valued relatively more than EWSL does. I'm not going to argue methods here - EWSL isn't a fine-tuned system like PECOTA, but its blunter approach can be summarized as: show me. Because to meet their PECOTA projections, all of those guys will have to do more in the majors than they've established as a baseline the past three seasons in the majors.

On a gut level, I'm conflicted. On the one hand, most divisions end up with a doormat, and the Indians have the look of a team with a complete mess of a starting rotation and an uneven offense beyond Sizemore and Choo. On the other hand, this division isn't overflowing with the kind of tough competition that hangs a 3-15 record on a team in one or more of its head-to-head matchups. Consider: the Indians last year went 4-14 vs Detroit but 16-20 against the Twins and White Sox; the Royals were 6-12 last year against the Twins but 17-19 against the other two. By contrast, the Orioles last year were 15-39 against NY, Boston and Tampa (including 7-29 against the top two) and the Blue Jays were 17-37 against the trio. Cleveland must look at the Blue Jays and think, there but for the grace of God...speaking of which, one major similarity this team has to Toronto is the destructive effects of a huge contract for a declining player in a collapsing economy, although Hafner's deal is not nearly the long-term millstone that Vernon Wells' is.

POSTSCRIPT: If you're wondering, the AL records, with all adjustments factored in, add up to an average of 82 wins per team, which is actually fairly consistent with the AL's aggregate record in the age of interleague play.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:00 PM | Baseball 2010 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
March 25, 2010
BASEBALL: 2010 AL East EWSL Report

Part 2 of my preseason previews is the AL East; this is the second 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. I've also resurrected for this season the team ages, which are weighted by non-age-adjusted EWSL, so the best players count more towards determining the age of the roster.

Prior preview: the 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)

Boston Red Sox

Raw EWSL: 296.33 (112 W)
Adjusted: 298.90 (113 W)
Age-Adj.: 266.84 (102 W)
WS Age: 31.10
2010 W-L: 102-60

C31Victor Martinez1815
1B31Kevin Youkilis2622
2B26Dustin Pedroia2426
SS34Marco Scutaro1714
3B31Adrian Beltre1210
RF34JD Drew1614
CF37Mike Cameron1811
LF26Jacoby Ellsbury1719
DH34David Ortiz1513
C238Jason Varitek96
INF36Mike Lowell1411
OF26Jeremy Hermida1213
1326Jed Lowrie#34
SP130Josh Beckett1512
SP226Jon Lester1516
SP331John Lackey1411
SP425Clay Buchholz44
SP529Daisuke Matsuzaka87
RP129Jon Papelbon1513
RP234Hideki Okajima86
RP328Ramon Ramirez76
RP425Daniel Bard*24
RP543Tim Wakefield97

Subjective Adjustments: None, but bear in mind that EWSL is valuing Lowell, Varitek and Hermida based on being everyday players in 2009, Lowrie in light of extensive playing time in 2008. That's not irrational - teams with that kind of depth often end up needing it, especially Hermida when you consider the injury histories of Drew and Cameron. But in the end, there won't be at bats enough for all of them.

Also on Hand: Position players - Bill Hall (another recently deposed regular!), Josh Reddick, Tug Hulett.

Pitchers - Manny Delcarmen, Joe Nelson, Boof Bonser, Kason Gabbard, Dustin Richardson, Brian Shouse, Fabio Castro, Michael Bowden.

Analysis: This Red Sox team doesn't look offensively strong enough to me to be a real 100-win team, but they and the Yankees are doubtless the strongest teams in the game by a healthy margin, in Boston's case due to their depth, pitching and defense. The rotation has some question marks, especially Matsuzaka and the durability of Lackey, but as with the rest of the roster there are fallbacks. Maybe the biggest vulnerable keystone is Mike Cameron, the oldest guy in the starting lineup and a key to improving Boston's outfield defense; a Drew-Ellsbury-Hermida outfield is not nearly as solid afield.

EWSL recognizes that Lester is really the star of the pitching staff now, and without the tougher road of pitching in Fenway in the AL East, he might be right there with Lincecum, Greinke, King Felix, Santana and maybe Halladay and Sabathia as the game's very best pitchers; as it is, he's at least in the next tier with Verlander, Lee, Wainwright, Haren and Carpenter. But of course Beckett remains the big-game ace.

I remain...I think the proper word is incredulous, rather than skeptical, at Scutaro as a major league everyday shortstop at age 34, but he's built up to this gradually, he's a solid enough bat and defensively the Sawx have Beltre and Pedroia to help cover his sides.

The Defending World Champion Hated Yankees

Raw EWSL: 283.67 (108 W)
Adjusted: 289.60 (110 W)
Age-Adj.: 250.32 (97 W)
WS Age: 31.92
2010 W-L: 97-65

C38Jorge Posada1511
1B30Mark Teixeira2724
2B27Robinson Cano1717
SS36Derek Jeter2418
3B34Alex Rodriguez2522
RF29Nick Swisher1615
CF29Curtis Granderson2120
LF26Brett Gardner#67
DH31Nick Johnson109
C224Francisco Cervelli*24
INF24Ramiro Pena*25
OF36Randy Winn1713
1333Marcus Thames55
SP129CC Sabathia2118
SP233AJ Burnett139
SP338Andy Pettitte119
SP433Javier Vazquez1510
SP524Phil Hughes66
RP140Mariano Rivera1612
RP224Joba Chamberlain88
RP335Damaso Marte32
RP427Alfredo Aceves#55
RP525David Robertson#23

Subjective Adjustments: None. Winn has the same issue as some of the Red Sox bench, but he's sharing time with Gardner, and while 20 Win Shares seems optimistic for the pair, it's not crazy. Also, the Yankees will need bench depth (both Winn and Marcus Thames) with Nick Johnson in the starting lineup.

Also on Hand: Position players - Mike Rivera, Kevin Russo, Jamie Hoffman.

Pitchers - Jonathan Albaladejo, Chan Ho Park, Sergio Mitre, Kei Igawa, Boone Logan, Royce Ring. Chad Gaudin was released this morning.

Analysis: At every turn, the Yankees have a stronger offense and more impressive-looking frontline talent than the Sox, but they're also older (except in center field) and subject to more uncertainties.

Hughes was named the fifth starter today, sending Joba back to the bullpen. Your guess is as good as mine how long either of those assignments will last, although at some point the Yankees need to make a long-term commitment what they're doing with those two guys. I think the die has been cast now to try Hughes as far as he will go as a rotation starter, but Joba is more enigmatic. He may even need a change of scenery.

A-Rod's streak of consecutive 100-Run/100-RBI seasons ended last year at 11, second only to Lou Gehrig's 13. In 14 major league seasons, he's either driven in 100 runs, scored 100 runs, or (12 times) both, every year.

The re-signing of Joe Mauer in Minnesota, the aging and injuries to A-Rod, and the continuing uncertainty around Joba means that there remains no heir apparent to Rivera, Jeter or Posada. When those guys go, this may be a more different team than anyone now envisions.

Tampa Bay Rays

Raw EWSL: 227.83 (89 W)
Adjusted: 241.67 (94 W)
Age-Adj.: 238.37 (93 W)
WS Age: 28.31
2010 W-L: 93-69

C26Dioner Navarro910
1B32Carlos Pena2116
2B29Ben Zobrist1615
SS30Jason Bartlett1917
3B24Evan Longoria#1828
RF25Matt Joyce#34
CF25BJ Upton1822
LF28Carl Crawford1717
DH33Pat Burrell1311
C230Kelly Shoppach98
INF27Willy Aybar66
OF34Gabe Kapler54
1329Hank Blalock66
SP128James Shields1312
SP226Matt Garza1111
SP327Jeff Niemann*611
SP424David Price*37
SP524Wade Davis*12
RP130Rafael Soriano87
RP232Dan Wheeler86
RP327JP Howell98
RP432Grant Balfour65
RP527Andy Sonnanstine44

Subjective Adjustments: None, but Matt Joyce and Wade Davis, if healthy all year, should well exceed their previously established major league performance.

Also on Hand: Position players - Perennial SS prospect Reid Brignac, Desmond Jennings (who is supposed to be Carl Crawford 2.0, although at the same age, Crawford was entering his fourth season as a major league regular), Sean Rodriguez.

Pitchers - Randy Choate, Joaquin Benoit, Lance Cormier, Winston Abreu, Dale Thayer. Abreu's an interesting "prospect" case: a 33-year-old Dominican who entered the Atlanta system in 1994 (before Chipper Jones' first season as a regular), he's crapped out in brief major league trials (7.31 ERA in 44.1 innings for four teams over three seasons), has pitched in Mexico and Japan - but since 2006, he's thrown 168.2 innings at AAA with a 1.93 ERA and eye-popping peripherals: 5.40 H/9, 0.54 HR/9, 3.00 BB/9, 12.68 K/9.

Analysis: The Brewers had a wonderful collection of talent in the 1978-83 period, but somehow they only put together the one magical pennant (plus a postseason appearance in the scrambled season of 1981). Somehow, they often ended up third. Will that be the fate of these Rays? The good news is, there still seems to be a fair amount of potential upside/bounce-back here. Their Win Shares age marks them as the youngest team in the division (if Baltimore is hoping to rebuild to where the Rays are now, they need to build back in time). BJ Upton, David Price, Pat Burrell, Dioner Navarro and Andy Sonnanstine could hardly have had more disappointing seasons in 2009, and James Shields was off his game as well; Price and Wade Davis could potentially arrive in a hurry. On the other hand, a Navarro-like dropoff could easily plague the three Rays who played massively above expectations last season: Ben Zobrist, Jason Bartlett and Jeff Neimann (Zobrist Win Shares the last three seasons: 1, 8, 27). Check out how Tampa's infield, powered by Zobrist and Bartlett, stacked up last season against their division rivals:

Average starting infielder, 2009:


(Poor Nick Green has the honor of dragging down the Red Sox. Note the low GIDP total for the Rays despite Longoria hitting into 27 despite batting third behind Crawford all year, mostly with Upton or Bartlett leading off - that high a total suggests that it's in the team's interests for Crawford in particular to run more ahead of him to avoid that this year, although as it is he ran 76 times last season). Niemann is perhaps unfairly lumped in that group, as he had a fine minor league record, and his signature skill (a low HR rate) has persisted at every level; if he can bump up his K rate even a little from 6.2 K/9 last season (it was 9.1 for his minor league career), he could be a star.

Boy, this division has some 24-year-old pitchers, doesn't it?

Navarro sounds as if he'll be reasonably ready to start the season despite a horrific spring training collision with Jacque Jones, who's fighting tooth and nail for a roster spot on the Twins.

Baltimore Orioles

Raw EWSL: 171.50 (70 W)
Adjusted: 193.50 (78 W)
Age-Adj.: 181.93 (74 W)
WS Age: 29.61
2010 W-L: 74-88

C24Matt Wieters*511
1B30Garrett Atkins1110
2B32Brian Roberts2016
SS30Cesar Izturis87
3B36Miguel Tejada1814
RF26Nick Markakis1921
CF24Adam Jones#1015
LF26Nolan Reimold*511
DH32Luke Scott119
C235Chad Moeller21
INF32Ty Wigginton97
OF25Felix Pie45
1326Robert Andino#22
SP135Kevin Millwood107
SP231Jeremy Guthrie108
SP324Brad Bergesen*510
SP423Brian Matusz*23
SP522Chris Tillman*12
RP132Mike Gonzalez65
RP227Jim Johnson67
RP327Cla Meredith44
RP435Koji Uehara*23
RP536Mark Hendrickson54

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Jeff Salazar, Lou Montanez, Michael Aubrey.

Pitchers - Matt Albers, Dennis Sarfate, Alfredo Simon, Will Ohman.

Analysis: In another division, I'd be guardedly optimistic; the Orioles finally seem to be getting their rotation together, their outfield is reasonably young and talented, Wieters still looks like an eventual superstar if not the immediate one everybody predicted last season, and the infield and bullpen are at least anchored mostly by competent veterans (Gonzalez, like Soriano with the Rays, was heisted from a Braves franchise disproportionately disgusted with its bullpen help). Granted, there are trouble signs: Millwood has been terrible this spring, Markakis could just as easily turn into Ben Grieve rather than Carl Yastrzemski, Reimold may not repeat last season's pleasant surprise, and any of the trio of Matusz, Bergesen, and Tillman could easily go the way of so many promising young pitchers. But the main problem the Orioles face is 54 games on their schedule with the Beasts of the East.

I swear, I will spend the next several years muttering "e before i spells Greinke, i before e spells Wieters."

Tejada has averaged 27 GIDP per year the past four seasons, leading the league five times in six years; he hasn't yet cracked Jim Rice's surprisingly durable single-season record of 36.

Luke Scott's Win Shares the past three seasons: 11, 11, 11. That's an established performance level.

Toronto Blue Jays

Raw EWSL: 150.50 (63 W)
Adjusted: 160.50 (67 W)
Age-Adj.: 153.81 (64 W)
WS Age: 29.39
2010 W-L: 64-98

C29John Buck76
1B33Lyle Overbay1210
2B28Aaron Hill1818
SS33Alex Gonzalez65
3B27Edwin Encarnacion1011
RF29Jose Bautista87
CF31Vernon Wells1210
LF22Travis Snider*38
DH26Adam Lind1416
C235Jose Molina64
INF35John McDonald32
OF29Jeremy Reed22
1332Randy Ruiz*22
SP125Ricky Romero*511
SP228Shaun Marcum65
SP330Scott Richmond*23
SP425Brandon Morrow56
SP524Marc Rzepcynski*25
RP132Jason Frasor65
RP234Scott Downs86
RP328Jeremy Accardo33
RP432Kevin Gregg97
RP534Shawn Camp43

Subjective Adjustments: None. This is all there is, folks. But Snider should beat 8 WS if he's in the lineup all year.

Also on Hand: Position players - Raul Chavez, Joey Gathright, Jorge Padilla, Jarrett Hoffpauir.

Pitchers - Plenty of about the same quality as the guys listed above: Brian Tallet, Brett Cecil, Dana Eveland, David Purcey, Jesse Carlson, Dustin McGowan, Jesse Litsch.

Analysis: 2010 marketing slogan: "Hey, we already paid them." Marcum, who did not throw a pitch last season, has been named to start Opening Day, replacing the departed (liberated?) Roy Halladay. The Yankees, Sox and Rays may be tough places to break in as a young starting pitcher given the pressures, but Baltimore and Toronto are even less enviable, especially Toronto without Millwood: the youngsters (in Richmond's case, not even young) have to carry the front of the rotation on top of facing all those tough opponents.

The Jays aren't so desperately under-talented - there's at least a plausible gap-filler at most every position, and the bullpen's deep enough in decent arms that they should eventually be able to figure out which ones are going to pitch well this year - but in this division, with so little front-line talent and an unproven rotation, I'll be surprised if they avoid 100 losses.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:00 PM | Baseball 2010 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
March 24, 2010
BASEBALL: 2010 AL West EWSL Report

Part 1 of my preseason previews is the AL West; 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. I've also resurrected for this season the team ages, which 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)

Seattle Mariners

Raw EWSL: 225.00 (88 W)
Adjusted: 241.34 (94 W)
Age-Adj.: 218.33 (86 W)
Subj. Adj: 216.33 (85 W)
WS Age: 29.94
2010 W-L: 85-77

C26Adam Moore+111
1B27Casey Kotchman1213
2B26Jose Lopez1415
SS32Jack Wilson108
3B32Chone Figgins2116
RF36Ichiro Suzuki2619
CF27Franklin Gutierrez1314
LF32Milton Bradley1411
DH40Ken Griffey jr116
C227Rob Johnson*59
INF29Ryan Garko1312
OF30Ryan Langerhans33
1334Eric Byrnes65
SP124Felix Hernandez2022
SP231Cliff Lee1714
SP331Erik Bedard97
SP428Ian Snell55
SP527Ryan Rowland-Smith76
RP128David Aardsma98
RP227Mark Lowe44
RP329Sean White44
RP427Brandon League33
RP526Shawn Kelley*23

Subjective Adjustments: As I did last season, I'm trying to be very sparing with introducing purely subjective adjustments into what is intended to be an objective system, but sometimes you have to have a sanity check. I'm docking 2 Win Shares from Adam Moore, the Mariners' rookie catcher, because I can't quite value the combination of him and weak-hitting #2 catcher Rob Johnson as being cumulatively worth 20 Win Shares, and given the choice between the two, I prefer to dock the guy who is less proven. That said, Moore's career line in the minors is .301/.369/.483; even factoring in the very large adjustment from a Class A hitters' haven like High Desert to Safeco, that suggests a guy who will bring noticeably more pop than the punchless Johnson.

Also on Hand: Position players - Jack Hannahan, Matt Tuiasosopo, Corey Patterson, Mike Sweeney, Mike Carp, Josh Bard, Michael Saunders.

Pitchers - Luke French, Jason Vargas, Yusmiero Petit, Garrett Olson, Kanekoa Texeira, Randy Messenger, Ryan Feierabend. French appears to be the favorite to take Bedard's rotation slot until when and if Bedard is ever ready to pitch, and with Cliff Lee starting the season shelved with an abdominal strain, the staff may need to dig deeper than that. French put in three very undistinguished seasons in the Tigers' system before reeling off 13 excellent starts at AAA Toledo last year, posting a 2.98 ERA and improving his K/BB ratio to 3.6 from 1.47, earning him a promotion. He had a 3.38 ERA but weak peripherals with Detroit before arriving in Seattle, where he surrendered a ghastly 2.1 homers per 9 innings in 38 innings of work. So, French should be regarded as a work in progress.

Analysis: Probably no team moved as aggressively or with as clear a plan in mind in the offseason as the Mariners, a franchise adrift for much of the past 6 years despite occasional youth movements and spurts at overachieving contention-like records (last season's 85 wins exceeded their Pythagorean record - i.e., their record as predicted from runs scored and allowed - by 10 games). The reason was obvious: they saw an opportunity and a limited window to grab it. The opportunity came in the form of the Angels' free agency losses - John Lackey, Chone Figgins, Vlad Guerrero, on the heels of last year's losses of Francisco Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Jon Garland and Garret Anderson. It's cold comfort to Angels fans that many of those guys were declining commodities unlikely to match their prior production in Anaheim; the point was that that prior production will be hard to replace, leaving the team that dominated this division to the tune of five division titles in six years suddenly vulnerable. At the same time, with star Ichiro Suzuki now 36 and Felix Hernandez subject to the usual concerns about how long a very young pitcher can stay on top before he breaks down, the team had a sense of urgency about seizing this opportunity.

The Mariners' plan wasn't brilliant, but you can accomplish quite a lot just by knowing what you want to do and sticking with it. They snagged Figgins from the Angels, which killed two birds with one stone, depriving the Angels of his services and importing a slap hitter more suited to Safeco than departing underachieving slugger Adrian Beltre. Even if Figgins can't sustain his improvement in walks last season, he'll be a solid addition in the short run. Casey Kotchman was brought in to soften the blow of Russell Branyan's departure, and while Kotchman is a fairly punchless hitter, he's just hitting age 27 and he and Milton Bradley are both guys who similarly don't depend on the home run for their offensive value (Kotchman may end up platooned with Ryan Garko at first). Ditto for stretch-drive acquisition Jack Wilson at short and scrap heap claim Eric Byrnes.

On the pitching side, bringing in Cliff Lee was part of a larger project (along with last season's addition of Ian Snell) to prop up the Mariners' low team strikeout rate (only Felix Hernandez notched more than 90 Ks last season), rendering them less dependent on repeating last season's AL-best-by-a-wide-margin .712 Defensive Efficiency Rate, and enable the team to re-sign the rehabbing Erik Bedard without having to bank on him as the #2 starter.

Not everything fit the pattern, of course; the team re-upped 40-year-old Ken Griffey jr. to DH (assuming Bradley can play left), after Griffey hit .214, albeit with a really freaky home-road split in which he mauled opposing pitchers at Safeco but was utterly helpless on the road. But Griffey is apparently supposed to provide veteran leadership. If he falls on his face in a "Willie Mays, 1973" way, the Mariners don't have a ton of hitting depth to cover the LF/DH spots, especially if Bradley is, as usual, frequently unavailable. Griffey is the most extreme example of a division-wide trend: the average AL West DH is 36 years old this season.

Clearing 90 wins by more than a hair will be an uphill battle for Seattle unless Lee, Bedard, and Snell suddenly all get healthy and back to top form at once - like the rest of this division, the Mariners are out of the wild card race before the season starts, when you look at the AL East - but this team has definitely made the moves necessary to swipe a division title if one can be had in the high 80s.

The Angels

Raw EWSL: 221.17 (87 W)
Adjusted: 230.68 (90 W)
Age-Adj.: 210.64 (83 W)
WS Age: 30.12
2010 W-L: 83-79

C28Mike Napoli1011
1B27Kendry Morales1212
2B26Howie Kendrick1416
SS26Erick Aybar1517
3B25Brandon Wood#11
RF36Bobby Abreu2216
CF34Torii Hunter2118
LF31Juan Rivera108
DH36Hideki Matsui1511
C227Jeff Mathis55
INF29Macier Izturis1514
OF29Reggie Willits33
1327Freddy Sandoval+04
SP127Jered Weaver1413
SP226Scott Kazmir910
SP327Ervin Santana109
SP431Joel Pineiro87
SP529Joe Saunders1311
RP134Brian Fuentes108
RP233Fernando Rodney75
RP330Brian Stokes33
RP431Jason Bulger*46
RP525Kevin Jepsen*24

Subjective Adjustments: None, although I expect Brandon Wood to finally establish himself as a reputable major league hitter after cracking 160 home runs in a long minor league career that saw him bat .272/.338/.497, .296/.375/.595, and .293/.353/.557 over the past three full seasons at AAA. Also, one assumes that Kendry Morales will do better than 12 Win Shares, but I don't argue with EWSL's bias against guys like Wood and Morales whose recent history still includes flopping in extended trials against big-league competition.

Also on Hand: Position players - Robb Quinlan.

Pitchers - Scot Shields, Sean O'Sullivan. The stability of the Angels, even with all the free agent losses, is reflected in how few battles for roster spots and starting jobs they have this spring; if everybody's healthy, you'll know who their players are.

Analysis: Mike Scioscia also knows what he's doing, though I'm starting to worry he's suffering from Gene Mauch/Buck Rogers Syndrome, where the ownership assumes he can keep winning without having to supply him with quality players. Notice, as is often the case with the Angels, the focus on prime talent: the roster above includes two 25-year-olds, three 26-year-olds, five 27-year-olds, a 28-year-old, and three 29-year-olds - more than half the roster in that age cohort, and except for the outfield (where Abreu's age remains a concern) the age is mostly concentrated in the bullpen. That's a similar distribution to the one I noted in the 2002 World Champs.

That said, the Angels' fate will rest with the health of their starting rotation, especially the power pitchers. Kazmir needs to rebound, and recent reports are not optimistic about Ervin Santana. And I remain skeptical that Pineiro can keep his walk and home run rates sufficiently microscopic to survive his inability to strike anybody out. If Weaver and Saunders end up as this team's 1-2 starters, they're in trouble and could easily sink below .500.

Texas Rangers
Raw EWSL: 181.67 (74 W)
Adjusted: 203.30 (81 W)
Age-Adj.: 201.73 (80 W)
Subj. Adj.: 199.73 (80 W)
WS Age: 28.27
2010 W-L: 79-83

C25Jarrod Saltalamacchia67
1B24Chris Davis#69
2B28Ian Kinsler2323
SS21Elvis Andrus*921
3B33Michael Young1916
RF29Nelson Cruz1110
CF24Julio Borbon*36
LF29Josh Hamilton1615
DH35Vladimir Guerrero1612
C226Taylor Teagarden*33
INF25Joaquin Arias#11
OF28David Murphy1010
1332Endy Chavez33
SP127Scott Feldman98
SP228Rich Harden99
SP323Tommy Hunter*49
SP426Brandon McCarthy34
SP523Derek Holland*12
RP130Frank Francisco76
RP229CJ Wilson87
RP327Darren O'Day#56
RP439Darren Oliver87
RP522Naftali Feliz*37

Subjective Adjustments: A primary reason why I added subjective adjustments was what I think of as the Khalil Greene problem, since he's one of the first (but not the last) second-year shortstops to exhibit it: EWSL assesses a very young hitter as having a lot of rapid room for growth, but as a result it tends to overvalue second-year hitters who are (1) under age 25 and (2) have a disproportionate amount of their value in their gloves. Nobody improves that much defensively from a good start in one year. So, rather than 21 Win Shares, I've trimmed back Elvis Andrus by 2 Win Shares to 19, which is still +2 from last year's total of 17.

Also on Hand: Position players - Esteban German, Max Ramirez, Brandon Boggs, Toby Hall. Ramirez is the third of Texas' troika of hugely hyped young catchers, but he had a .234/.323/.336 train wreck of a season at AAA last year, and with Saltalamacchia and Teagarden scuffling at the major league level, suddenly nobody's talking about this as the second coming of the Giants' McCovey vs Cepeda problem.

Pitchers - Colby Lewis (who's been in Japan and may end up in the rotation), sometime closer Chris Ray, Edwar Ramirez, Matt Harrison, Dustin Nippert, Doug Mathis.

Analysis: The story has been the same for years: the sun is rise, the sun is set, and there's no pitching in Texas yet. Have we finally turned a corner? Certainly, this team's pitching doesn't present the ghastly hue that doomed past Rangers squads to the cellar. Last season's 4.57 team ERA was actually better than the league average, especially when adjusted for the park. Scott Feldman's one-season improvement suggests a guy who can serve as an innings-eater (though 0.9 HR, 3.1 BB & 5.4 K/9 are decent numbers, but don't foretell much more room for growth, esepcially after two seasons of being pounded). Whether he stays in middle relief or becomes a Joba Rules-style starter, Naftali Feliz has an enormous upside as a power pitcher. Young control/groundball starter Tommy Hunter had a good ERA last season, while Derek Holland, who struggled, struck out more than twice as many as he walked (7.0 K, 3.1 BB, but a frightening 1.7 HR/9) following a fairly spectacular tour through the minor leagues (career rates of 0.4 HR, 2.6 BB, 9.9 K, albeit mostly in A ball). Rich Harden - who's only a year older than Feldman - is on hand, bringing the same gambler's chance to Texas that Bedard and Snell bring to Seattle, Kazmir and Santana to Anaheim, and Ben Sheets and Justin Duchscherer to Oakland. For once, there's some hope. But in the short run, the pitching will have an uphill battle to match last season with the departure of staff ace Kevin Millwood, the dependence on young pitchers and potentially erratic setup men and the mercurial Harden.

(UPDATE: It currently looks like the Rangers will be trying CJ Wilson in the rotation and McCarthy in the bullpen, but we'll see how long that experiment lasts.)

The offense was more unreliable last season. Kinsler's 30-30 numbers made Roto fans happy, but a .253 batting average just isn't enough in a park like Texas. Andrus was adequate and promising, but still isn't an offensive plus. Davis needs to arrest his strike zone problems before his career vanishes. And one of the catchers needs to step up.

Vlad Guerrero was a good gamble - he fell off last season and could be almost done, but guys with his talent and track record have been known to bust out with one last gasp around this age, and it wouldn't surprise me in the least to see him notch a season like Andres Galarraga's first year in Atlanta, Juan Gonzalez' first year in Cleveland, Frank Thomas' first year in Oakland, or Gary Gaetti's 1995 with Kansas City.

Oakland A's

Raw EWSL: 168.67 (69 W)
Adjusted: 196.13 (79 W)
Age-Adj.: 196.19 (79 W)
WS Age: 27.90
2010 W-L: 79-83

C26Kurt Suzuki1517
1B24Daric Barton#79
2B33Mark Ellis1311
SS26Cliff Pennington*56
3B28Kevin Kouzmanoff1515
RF25Ryan Sweeney#1015
CF30Coco Crisp88
LF29Rajai Davis99
DH31Jack Cust1613
C228Landon Powell*35
INF27Jake Fox*36
OF30Gabe Gross87
1327Eric Patterson*23
SP131Ben Sheets76
SP232Justin Duchscherer53
SP322Brett Anderson*49
SP426Dallas Braden56
SP522Trevor Cahill*48
RP126Andrew Bailey*918
RP230Brad Ziegler#88
RP331Michael Wuertz76
RP429Craig Breslow54
RP526Joey Devine#34

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Position players - Travis Buck, a supposedly healthy Eric Chavez.

Pitchers - Gio Gonzalez, Vin Mazzaro, Lenny DiNardo, Brett Tomko, Jerry Blevins, Clayton Mortenson. Also Josh Outman, the obligatory Tommy John rehab case.

Analysis: Sure, Billy Beane's vaunted "Moneyball" savvy and bargain-hunting skills are widely revered. Sure, he's spun silk from a sow's ear repeatedly with Chad Bradford- and Scott Hatteberg-style scrap heap finds. Sure, every year when I do my post-season EWSL wrapups, the A's are at or near the top of the list of teams getting the most Win Shares from guys not even on their preseason 23-man lineup, attesting to Beane's ongoing ability to retool his teams on the fly.

But look back at the glory days of Beane's A's and you'll notice something else: Jason Giambi won the MVP Award in 2000 and was the runnerup the following year, batting .338/.476/.653 over those two seasons; Miguel Tejada won the award in 2002 and averaged 30 HR and 116 RBI from 2000-2003. Barry Zito won the Cy Young Award in 2002, going 23-5. Ben Grieve was Rookie of the Year in 1998, Bobby Crosby in 2004, Huston Street in 2005. Tim Hudson went 20-6 in 2000, and finished 2d, 4th and 6th in the Cy Young balloting over a four-year period. Mark Mulder had 21- and 19-win seasons back to back, finishing second in the Cy Young balloting in 2001. Eric Chavez averaged 100 RBI per year from 2001-2005. In short: the A's had stars, big ones, most of them homegrown along with star-level seasons from acquisitions like Jermaine Dye, Matt Stairs and John Jaha.

That's what's missing now from a team whose best everyday player is...Kevin Kouzmanoff? Kurt Suzuki? Ryan Sweeney? Rajai Davis? Ugh. You can hold together a battleship with duct tape, but you need a battleship first.

The A's have the usual array of young pitchers, granting that none of the starters are blazing from the minor league gate as Hudson and Zito did, and Sheets and Duchscherer are rolls of the dice. The bullpen could be outstanding, but beware of their various aches and pains: Bailey was a great surprise last season but spring soreness could portend a guy who takes a step back after flying too close to the sun for a year, and Breslow and Devine are also various shades of banged up. I expect Beane to press enough buttons to keep Oakland around .500, but for more than that, they need to wish upon a star.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:00 PM | Baseball 2010 • | Baseball Studies | TrackBack (0)
March 22, 2010
BASEBALL: The Top Ten (Twelve, Actually)

Continuing my warmup posts on Established Win Shares Levels, since I have kept you all waiting for the team previews, here's how the method, with the updated 2010 age adjustments, values the top 10 players (actually twelve, as I'm listing the guys who are essentially tied at 26 EWSL) in the game in terms of established performance level adjusted by age. EWSL is explained here. Chart below the fold.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:05 PM | Baseball 2010 • | Baseball Studies | TrackBack (0)
March 21, 2010
BASEBALL: EWSL 2010 Age and Rookie Baselines

It's time once again, however belatedly, for my annual division previews using Established Win Shares Levels, which are explained here. Before we get to rolling out the 2010 EWSLs, I have to update the age adjustments and rookie values I use each year. These are based on the data I have gathered over the past six seasons, and so with each passing year, one would hope they become progressively more stable and useful in evaluating the established talent base on hand for each team entering each season. As a reminder: EWSL is not a prediction system. It's a way of assessing the resources on hand. Time, chance, and mid-season replacements happen to all.

First up is the age adjustments; I've reformatted the table a bit from year to year. See my writeups on the age adjustments following the 2004 season - also here - 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008 seasons. Here's the 2009 age adjustments (i.e, how each age of non-pitcher or pitcher stacked up to their un-age-adjusted EWSL), and the totals for 2004-09 - in some ways, if you study these sorts of things, the numbers accumulated over this many seasons become interesting in themselves:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:02 PM | Baseball 2010 • | Baseball Studies | TrackBack (0)
March 11, 2010
BASEBALL: 2009 EWSL Wrapup By Team

Further to the process of looking back at 2009's Established Win Shares Levels reports in preparation for 2010, here's how the 2009 teams stacked up. The first column is the number of EWSL by team (recall that my preseason reports collect only 23 players, so I'm always going to be a little short); the second is the number of win shares earned by those 23 players in 2009 (whether on that team or not); the third is the difference between the two; fourth is team wins; fifth is the total number of WS for the team's players minus those earned by the 23 guys I identified before the season; the last column is total team WS minus EWSL.

TeamEWSL2009 WSDiffWinsRestWS-EWSL

Unsurprising that the Mets were the biggest underachievers. Also unsurprising that the A's were near the top, as happens nearly every year, in Win Shares earned by players not on the preseason depth chart, topped only by the Mariners.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:34 AM | Baseball 2010 • | Baseball Studies | TrackBack (0)
April 19, 2009
BASEBALL: 2009 NL Central EWSL Report

Part 6 of my preseason previews is the NL Central; this is the last 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. Prior previews: AL Central and AL West, AL East, NL East, NL West.

I'll be frank: as often happens, I'm a bit at the end of my tether and pushing to get done after the season starts when I get to the NL Central, baseball's largest division and the one with the most lost ships. The numbers are all here, but some of the commentary may be a bit abbreviated.

Key: + (Rookie) * (Based on one season) # (Based on two seasons)

Chicago Cubs

Raw EWSL: 226.00 (75 W)
Adjusted: 245.11 (82 W)
Age-Adj.: 217.59 (73 W)
2009 W-L: 85-77

C26Geovany Soto*1224
1B33Derrek Lee1613
2B29Mike Fontenot#87
SS29Ryan Theriot1312
3B31Aramis Ramirez2319
RF31Milton Bradley1513
CF32Kosuke Fukudome*812
LF33Alfonso Soriano1916
C230Koyie Hill00
INF32Aaron Miles108
OF32Reed Johnson108
1228Joey Gathright66
1329Micah Hoffpauir+24
SP128Carlos Zambrano1616
SP227Rich Harden99
SP333Ted Lilly139
SP432Ryan Dempster139
SP526Sean Marshall45
RP131Kevin Gregg108
RP226Carlos Marmol1011
RP329Neal Cotts21
RP434Luis Vizcaino43
RP530Aaron Heilman54

Subjective Adjustments: None.

Also on Hand: Non-Pitchers - So Taguchi. Esteban German was cut and headed for the Rangers.

Pitchers - Relievers Angel Guzman and David Patton, starting prospect Jeff Samardzija. Chad Gaudin was cut and has caught on with the Padres.

Analysis: The Cubs are the favorites in the NL Central; they're not any more an overpowering one than the Dodgers, but they're a good, solid team and nobody else in the division has a proven basis for being considered one. As usual, the health of Rich Harden will be a significant factor - Harden's still only 27, but has the medical history of a 37-year-old. Soto's recent banged-up status is also a concern; catchers have that and thus far it may just be routine, but he's such a valuable commodity the Cubs would be in trouble if he ends up with one of those lost seasons that happen to catchers sometimes.

Milwaukee Brewers

Raw EWSL: 205.00 (68 W)
Adjusted: 217.72 (73 W)
Age-Adj.: 212.57 (71 W)
2009 W-L: 84-78

C35Jason Kendall1611
1B25Prince Fielder2328
2B26Rickie Weeks1416
SS26JJ Hardy1719
3B29Bill Hall1110
RF27Corey Hart1617
CF36Mike Cameron1915
LF25Ryan Braun*1928
C232Mike Rivera32
INF38Craig Counsell75
OF29Chris Duffy32
1226Casey McGeehee04
1326Brad Nelson+04
SP123Yovanni Gallardo#45
SP234Jeff Suppan85
SP326Manny Parra#56
SP429David Bush87
SP534Braden Looper96
RP141Trevor Hoffman107
RP225Carlos Villanueva67
RP328Seth McClung44
RP428Todd Coffey22
RP530Jorge Julio43

Subjective Adjustments: None, but Gallardo is a heckuva pitcher and if healthy should blow by that EWSL. I didn't ding Hoffman, since his EWSL incorporates the injury woes of fortysomething pitchers.

Also on Hand: Non-Pitchers - Tony Gwynn jr.

Pitchers - David Riske, Mitch Stetter, Wes Littleton, Chris Capuano, and Chase Wright.

Analysis: The Brewers return the same lineup and should score runs in bunches with all that power, but the pitching staff has been decimated by the departure of Sheets and Sabathia and the failure of Capuano. Suppan's K rate was in decay last season, and through 2 starts so far he has 7 BB, 2 K and a 12.91 ERA in 7.2 IP. It's possible that a healthy Gallardo could be an ace, and it's possible that they'll find the money to bring Sheets back in midseason, but on the whole this team just doesn't have the arms.

When I mentioned the National League's oversupply of failed Mets relievers, I forgot to note the Brew Crew with Looper and Julio. They should make Willie Randolph feel right at home.

St. Louis Cardinals

Raw EWSL: 181.67 (61 W)
Adjusted: 201.84 (67 W)
Age-Adj.: 185.89 (62 W)
2009 W-L: 75-87

C26Yadier Molina1315
1B29Albert Pujols3432
2B29Skip Schumaker#1012
SS29Khalil Greene1110
3B26David Freese+04
RF30Ryan Ludwick1513
CF29Rick Ankiel#910
LF28Chris Duncan1010
C235Jason LaRue42
INF32Troy Glaus1714
OF22Colby Rasmus+04
1228Brian Barden#04
1327Brendan Ryan#33
SP127Adam Wainwright1111
SP230Kyle Lohse108
SP330Joel Pineiro33
SP430Todd Wellemeyer87
SP534Chris Carpenter42
RP127Jason Motte+16
RP227Brad Thompson43
RP336Ryan Franklin76
RP432Dennis Reyes54
RP536Trever Miller33

Subjective Adjustments: None. The 3B situation is in flux pending Glaus' return, which may take months; I have Freese listed as the starter but graded as a bench player rather than take the WS out of Glaus, and anyway Joe Thurston is battling Freese for the playing time. Carpenter's injury is in line with his recent history, so no adjustment needed.

Also on Hand: Non-Pitchers - Thurston, Joe Mather, Brian Barton. Mather and Rasmus are the team's outfielders of the future, but only if they can get rid of the current outfield.

Pitchers - Kyle McClellan, who's been perhaps their best reliever in the early going, Josh Kinney, and Royce Ring.

Analysis: The Cards have started hot, and this team often has people who surprise me - two of the three outfielders (Duncan and Ludwick) have picked up where Ankiel and Ludwick left off last year. I'd warn that Pujols is reaching the age where guys as good as him start to be less consistently awesome every single year, but he hasn't looked thus far like this will be the year he gets his first taste of kryptonite. He'll be the best player in the game until someone wrests the title from him (although EWSL does rate Hanley Ramirez above him due to his youth).

Greene is an offensive enigma. Entering last season, while his o