Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Afterthoughts: McGowan, Snider, Lind, etc.

I almost titled this post "the last word" but that would have been ridiculously optimistic, right?

Anyway, there's enough Jays news in recent days that it's a dereliction of duty to not comment on it.

Item: Dustin McGowan nursing minor injury, signed to extension.
The easy to quantify is the injury story. Minor inflammation in his right foot will almost certainly keep him out of his next spring start which will almost certainly mean he won't be built up enough to open the season on the 25 man roster. This isn't a major deal, since the fifth turn only HAS to be employed once before April 21. McGowan, if he only missed one ST start (which would otherwise have fallen on Friday), could easily have time to take three turns in the Dunedin rotation and be on the right pace to start that 4/21 game. There's another scenario, which I'll get too in a second.

On the extension, there seems to have been a twitstorm on the subject with both sides arguing that it was a minor investment "but..." - to me there's hardly a reason for a but. It makes a lot of sense to me, one need only look back at Al Lieter (a much better comparison than Carpenter to me) to see what can happen when you patiently carry a pitcher through a long string of injuries and then he hits free agency. Do any of us want to see McGowan in pin stripes? Just remember, the amount of money they committed to McGowan is the same amount they spent on Jon Rauch. I know which deal makes more sense to me.

Item: Travis Snider to AAA
I'm not going to dissent, obviously, from the common meme that Snider has the higher ceiling than Thames, even though I love both guys. honestly, If I was in charge, I would seriously be mulling the idea of whether or not Bautista could be my 1B in coming years. I really would like to see Snider turned lose in the majors once and for all, but whatchagonnado? A couple of less often noted points: first, if Snider is down as much as a month (actually, past April 20) then the Blue Jays would be looking at the opportunity to add another year of control before he hits free agency (I don't think they are purposely manipulating that process but it's a nice bonus); second, as much as the common narrative is that the Jays are crashing Snider's trade value, I'm not certain that is true.
AA is not the only guy out there who knows how to fish for "distressed assets" and there are other smart GM's. That's not to say I'm jonesing for Snider to be dealt, particularly in that I don't see many areas of dramatic need, but I am saying that I would not begin to assume that if he decides to trade Snider (of which there's no indication) that he's going to get significantly less than full value.

Item: Adam Lind's back is barking.
I've kept the faith as much as anyone (short of AA) on Lind but i have to admit this worries me. I wonder if this won't lead to a lot more games at 1B for Encarnacion in order to gently handle Lind's back. If Lind can't go for an extended period (and as far as we know now that's not expected) then one option is David Cooper, the other is to bring back Snider and resign yourself to having Thames DH a good bit. I don't know if there's even one fan out there who would take Cooper over Snider, even though Tony LaCava spoke well of Cooper's continued improvement.

Item: Omar Vizquel is the 25th man
No one on the face of the planet is surprised.

Item: Everybody loves Kyle Drabek.
Drabek has done everything the Jays had asked of him this spring and, in my opinion, it would have sucked pretty hard for there to have been no room for him in the major league rotation. Enter Dusty's foot. Technically, Aaron Laffey was also in the running, and other than one start he's made a good case but Drabek is the future, not Laffey. More importantly, Laffey is not on the 40 man roster and the jays would have to risk losing a player they like if they tried to add him (or put Jesse Litsch on the 60 day DL which is not unthinkable). Still, when people ask AA or JF about the rotation, they don't say much of anything to make you think it won't be Drabek.

Here's where it gets even more interesting though. Brett Cecil, who was aces today in seven innings against a minor league squad, has had something of an uncertain spring. while people rave about everyone else the reviews on Cecil are more like "he was good" or "he's coming along" or some such. with McGowan mildly dinged and Drabek getting a chance to start in the majors, it sets up an interesting potential scenario, though to be clear i have no way of knowing if this is what the Jays will do.

Consider the April schedule and you will note without too much difficulty that the 5th starter is needed on April 11 and not again before April 21 - but if the 5th guy is Drabek, is there really any reason to skip him?

What if, in stead, they did it like this, never skipping any turn:

4/5 -- at Cleveland - Romero
4/6 -- off
4/7 -- at Cleveland - Morrow
4/8 -- at Cleveland - Cecil
4/9 -- Boston - Alvarez
4/10 - Boston - Drabek
4/11 - Boston - Romero
4/12 - off
4/13 - Baltimore - Morrow
4/14 - Baltimore - Cecil
4/15 - Baltimore - Alvarez
4/16 - off
4/17 - Tampa - Drabek
4/18 - Tampa - Romero
4/19 - Tampa - Morrow
4/20 - at KC - Cecil
4/21 - at KC - Alvarez
4/22 - at KC - Drabek
4/23 - at KC - Romero
4/24 - at Baltimore - Morrow
4/25 - at Baltimore - Cecil?
4/26 - at Baltimore - Alvarez
4/27 - Seattle - Drabek?
4/28 - Seattle - Romero
4/29 - Seattle - Morrow
4/30 - Texas - ??

Notice that if you were to assume that McGowan would return in the last third of the month at some point, doing it this way gives both Cecil and Drabek three turns in order to make their case for holding a spot in the rotation over the other. It might be that Cecil is locked in and the Jays are not considering demoting him at all, but such a trial is certainly a viable alternative choice.

Item: Blue Jays tied their Spring Training wins record.
With six games left on the major league ST schedule, the Blue Jays have equaled their all time high for spring wins with their 21st today. does that mean anything? Maybe just a little but winning is better than losing. The very good results from almost all the pitchers expected to go north is perhaps much more telling.

Item: Between this day, and the day Ricky Romero takes the mound in cleveland, their are seven other days.
Can't pass soon enough!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

What a difference a year makes!

While I'm on the theme of comparisons, how about a comparison between the April 2011 Blue Jays and the April 2012 Blue Jays?

I say "April" because all rosters change throughout the year, and a comparison between, say, the August 2011 Jays and the April 2011 jays would reveal many differences and we can take the April team and "this is what came after in 2011, and this is what projects to come after in 2012" Similarly, you can't just take the opening day roster because circumstances might have caused an odd arrangement in that one game - plus you can't talk about the whole pitching staff if you do that.


So, as always, position by position - taking at each the guy who got the bulk of playing time at that position in April 2011 and the guy who figures to do that in 2012, with notes on the rest of the year following.

The stat line at each position is the combined total of all players at that position in 2011. i recognize that this comparison won't include bench players (necessarily impossible) and so it's not entirely fair to compare the starter vs. the combined stats from last year, but it does provide a quick & dirty snapshot.

Catcher

JP Arencibia v. JP Arencibia - JP was an untested rookie last year who, frankly, provoked some angst in some quarters about how he'd translate to the majors. Initially that question was answered in the affirmative, as JP finished April with an .862 OPS. later in the season a hand injury would carve a big hole out of his stats (since he insisted on playing with pain which he now admits hampered him) - from June 1 to July 21 his OPS was .505 which made a dramatic difference in the final line. Before June, he hit .816, after he hit .779 - my guess is that he should end up with a 50 point jump in OPS this year. It seems pretty unlikely he will go down.

On balance, this is the one position where a prognosticator can confidently assume a significant number of at bats from the reserve player. In this case there's every reason to assume the reserve will contribute much less to the overall line than the previous guy (albeit, we said the same thing about Molina when he came to town and he'd never been considered a hitting prospect as Mathis once was). Still, it's best to be conservative and assume that the drop off from the reserve player will neatly cancel out much of JP's improvement.

.238 / .302 / .446 / .747
Prognosis: Up slightly.

First Base

Adam Lind v. Adam Lind - as has been oft-noted, Lind was good for much of the first half, but he was just ordinary for the month of April. His OPS at the end of that month was .742, but by June 18 it had climbed to 1.017 and he was on a pace that would have resulted in 53 homers over 162 games. but it was all down hill from there as lingering back pain (and Farrell's unwise insistence on playing him every day) led to a very unproductive rest of the season. you can't put too much stock in arbitrary end points (AEPs) unless you have a definitive marker - that is a reason why things were different before and after the AEP such as an injury. But it's hard to assume that there's no hint of that guy in the person who will take the field in 2012. We can only hope that the Good Adam emerges again this year and sticks around all year. Also, we can continue to assume good things from EE as a reserve so in theory ever how much Lind improves (if he does) is pretty much a net gain for the position overall.

.270 / .309 / .448 / .757
Prognosis: cautiously Up marginally.

Second Base

Aaron Hill v. Kelly Johnson - It is still incomprehensible to me how Aaron Hill got (and stayed) so VERY bad. Last year he was one of the worst qualifying hitters at any position in the majors. Johnson had an off year, to be sure, but his OPS+ as a Jay was almost TWICE Hill's. Further, Johnson's OPS in Toronto was right in line with his career figure, ditto for OPS+. It's true he's been inconsistent from year to year, but he's yet to have two consecutive down years.

.235 / .290 / .344 / .634
Prognosis: Way Up

Shortstop

Yunel Escobar v. Yunel Escobar - Very little to say here. Esco is probably at his peak, and barring an unpredictable outlier (either up or down) somewhere within 20 points +/- last year's OPS is a pretty solid prediction.

.279 / .355 / .389 / .744
Prognosis: Even

Third Base

Jayson Nix v. Brett Lawrie - In fairness, it was only the moving around of Encarnacion which allows this comparison, and I could easily list him here. But EE was the most regular DH over the course of the year and since he still has that job, it's much less complex to simply do the comparison for him there (plus it removes awkward glances at his defense). I don't think I need to say anything about the comparison here, it's difficult to imagine a bigger upgrade being possible at any position on any team. We do need to acknowledge that Lawrie got roughly 1/4 of the 3B starts last year, but that only slightly mitigates the potential impact. The stat line below includes not only Lawrie's contribution but Bautista's. But 60% of the at-bats at 3B last year went to someone else - and THOSE guys combined to put up THIS: .194/.263/.328/.591

.236 / .322 / .451 / .773
Prognosis: Way WAY Up.

Right Field

Jose Bautista v. Jose Bautista - Logically, given the heights he's been at the past two years, and the whole aging process, the logical thing here is to assume a mild regression at least. but that's what we said last year. That said, there were over 180 PA in RF by others last year, mainly Thames while Bautista was at 3B, and the extent to which those numbers depress what Bautista did last year (and presumably won't this year) mitigate some of that presumed regression.

.274 / .390 / .522 / .912
Prognosis: somewhat Down

Center Field

Corey Patterson v. Colby Rasmus - people that are worried about Rasmus might have something of a point. As much as I point to 2010, i cannot conclusively assert he WILL get back to that level (though I think it's safe to say he can't be as bad as he was in 2011). What those people forget, however, is that even as much as he fell off, his overall stats in 2011 were STILL better than the line Cory Patterson put up for the Jays - and that's before you consider Patterson's horrid defense and Rasmus' above average play in CF. And that's without mentioning hw badly Davis hit last year, since he might get some CF at-bats this year...maybe.

.213 / .255 / .341 / .596
Prognosis: Way Up

Left Field

Travis Snider v. Eric Thames - Okay, fine. It looks like I may be proven wrong on my long-held contention that somehow Snider would end up opening the year in LF. Whichever guy gets the most AB out there for the Blue Jays, they should easily do better than Snider did last year.

.244 / .295 / .382 / .677
Prognosis: Up

Designated Hitter

Edwin Encarnacion v. Edwin Encarnacion - I see no reason why he shouldn't do at least as well as he did in 2011, and the Blue Jays still believe there's yet more in there. if he ever breaks out and has a career year, he will be a huge asset, but we won't predict that here.

.262 / .338 / .432 / .770
Prognosis: Even

(Cheating here. Juan Rivera actually got more starts at DH in April 2011 than Encarnacion did, but EE eventually got the most DH at bats and since that's his presumed position in 2012, it just makes sense to work it this way)


Bench

Jose Molina v. Jeff Mathis - down
John McDonald v. Omar Vizquel - Even at least
Raji Davis v. Raji Davis - possibly up
Juan Rivera v. Ben Francisco - marginally up

TONS of reasons for optimism. Even if Rasmus and Lind don't come around, this will be a solid offense and if they do it could be as good as any in the league.


Starters

Ricky Romero v. Ricky Romero - It's difficult for me to assume that Ricky keeps trending upward, particularly when his supporting numbers last year imply a bit of luck (stats like xFIP imply he was actually pitching better in 2010) however, the continued improvement of the defense seems to have the potential to counter any regression in "luck" so I also don't expect him to be significantly worse.

Prognosis: Even

Brandon Morrow v. Brandon Morrow - Another cheat here - Morrow started the year on the DL and Jesse Litsch got four April starts (some for Morrow and some for Cecil) - but he was the presumptive opening day #2 so I'm going to roll with this because we don't want this to get too complex.

For the second straight year, the advanced metrics indicate Morrow should have had much better results in the old-school stats than he did. Virtually every observer believes Morrow still has another level to reach - management testified to their view with the contract extension - other than the odd outlier, which can happen to any player, there's little reason to assume he would get worse and every reason to assume he gets better results. Potentially a great deal better.

Prognosis: Up, potentially way up.

Brett Cecil v. Brett Cecil - So far this spring, while he's only gotten knocked around once, the vibe coming out of the spring has been subdued about Cecil's work, despite the high praise for his improved conditioning. He's had to make mechanical adjustments after the dramatic weight loss and the feel, from a distance, is that those are not entirely smoothed out yet. On top of that, there's the lingering uncertainty of whether his former velocity ever comes back - at least as a starter. This is a key year for Cecil because he needs to be impressive to hold off the charging herd of minor league starters.

Before today, I was beginning to suspect that there was a possibility Cecil would be optioned to continue refining his approach while Drabek got another chance in the major league rotation (with at least a non-zero possibility that he ends up relieving, long term, which was his role in college). But events can create a lot of moving parts and so we will go with the assumption that he does return to his spot in the major league rotation. I'll further presume that he will be mediocre early until he gets the kinks worked out and then he will either be better or be replaced, the ultimate combination of starts in this spot being similar to what happened last year (though closer to the xFIP than the actual ERA)

Prognosis: Even to slightly up

Jo-Jo Reyes v. Henderson Alvarez - I don't think I need to pound on this one. Barring injury, it's almost inconceivable Alvarez would not be much much better than Reyes was. He's been dominant this spring, and been the object of lavish praise from all in his presence - he might very well have as big a breakout as I've been projecting for Morrow, but certainly he can do well enough to win this battle easily.

Prognosis: Way up.

Kyle Drabek v. Dustin McGowan - Even if McGowan is only, say, 60% of what he was at his peak, he will deliver better results than Drabek's stumble last year. That's not to say that Drabek wouldn't as well, he's not at all as bad as he looked in 2011. If McGowan's body won't let him stay out there, Drabek v. 2012 will still deliver a considerable upgrade in this spot.

Prognosis: Up.

Jesse Litsch v. Kyle Drabek - Not to be harsh on Litsch but Drabek is simply a far more talented guy. There's no reason still to think that given an extended chance he won't eventually produce. of course he had a huge crash last year, but based on the spring results it doesn't seem to be an Ankiel moment. It's not impossible for a very good prospect to fail, of course, but it's far too early to EXPECT he will.

Prognosis - Marginally up.

One other note here - particularly in light of today's events:
If the need for a 6th guy is short term, then probably the Jays will use Aaron Laffey in that role. To use the obvious current example, Dustin McGowan left his start today in the second inning with plantar fascia. Alex Anthopoulos heavily downplayed the idea that it was a major injury or setback but given that such an injury is notorious for being a lingering recurring problem, it makes for a great example.
If McGowan is, indeed, sidelined for a very short time - say he misses one or two turns - then he will still have to rebuild his innings and the Blue jays would be foolish to not take their time with that. One can easily imagine him missing the first two major league turns through the rotation (which he would likely have only gotten one start anyway). in such a scenario, it will almost certainly be Laffey who picks up that start. If, on the other hand, the injury is chronic and ongoing, the scales shift to the guy who's an actual prospect. Drabek.

A similar logic applies with Cecil - if he were to be optioned out, the person who took his spot would tell you much about how long the Jays think he will be down there. Albeit if McGowan does his a few weeks, Cecil will almost certainly go north with the team.



Bullpen

(there's no way to do a one-to-one comparison here, except possibly for the closer and even there given that the Jays cycled through three guys during the first half of the season that too is a problem. So instead I'll look at the holdovers as a group, and the newcomers as a group)


newcomers-
Frank Francisco, Jon Rauch, Shawn Camp, Octavio Dotel and Marc Rzepcayinski
v.
Sergio Santos, Francisco Cordero, Darren Oliver, Luis Perez

Technically Perez is not a newcomer but in terms of his role, he goes from a sort of bit player for most of the season to an important core guy so I put him here. The consensus from all quarters is that the bullpen imports are remarkably better than those who departed. This post is long enough that i won't get tedious with a point by point breakdown - I'm just going to roll with the consensus here.

Holdovers-

Casey Janssen, Jason Frasor, Carlos Villianueva

Janssen has the potential for regression just because he was so damned good last year; Frasor is a rock (laying aside his first week or two in Chicago) and can be expected to hold steady; the question is Villianueva. Last year he had excellent results in relief, but actually improved in the rotation before running out of gas. If he can carry over the rates he had as a starter into his relief role this year, he should be very reliable.

There's also a solid contingent of guys who can step in iff any of these folks go down - Joel Carreno, Andrew Carpenter, Trystan Magnuson, Aaron Laffey, Chad Beck and others.

Other than the question of whether or not Cordero fades with age, there seems to be very little reason to worry here.


Overall, I continue to maintain that this team has every reason to expect to get considerably better. whatever you think of how they compare to the other contenders, I'm mystified by anyone who thinks this is still a .500ish team. That's not to say that almost any team can't collapse, but on paper there's a huge pile of reasons to expect that any movement would be in the upward direction.


And thus ends my comparison series - at last! I have one more sort of preview type post in my head, and then it's time to settle into the day-to-day business of the season. Can't come soon enough!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Read this post!!!



Taking a small break from the baseball discussion to call your attention to something of importance to me.

Yesterday, my first published work of fiction went "live" for sale on amazon, Smashwords, and Barnes & Noble.

the collection of three short stories was written while I was attending a Christian college and have a faith-friendly flavor to them, which will be less true of later works, but nevertheless, I have gotten a very positive reaction even from those who might not normally read that sort of work.

In the pipeline are a variety of other projects, the first of which will be another short story collection, this time with a more Sci-Fi style. Later on there will be book length works in a variety of genre. But whatever the genre, the heart of each story is the characters. Each story is a character study first and foremost.

I encourage you to consider purchasing, reading, reviewing, and recommending.


See the home-page with links to the market sites here.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

AL Contenders - the Fangraphs comp: Part 2

Continuing the previous discussion, this time concerning the pitching. I'm going to do this a bit differently than they did at Fangraphs since I had to split this into two posts anyway. Rather than list them by units, I want to compare them one at a time. For the most part I'll go with the order they used according to projected WAR but I will at times modify them in order to match similar guys (the more veteran guys, the lefties, the youngsters, the other guy, etc).

Also, as before, I reserve the right to modify something I think is glaringly wrong, but I will note where I make such a change.

Followed by a total for the starters and commentary, then I'll repeat the process for the bullpens.

The AL Average of IP by starters in 2011 was 982, however, the average for these seven teams was 995. and for the purpose of this exercise, I'll pro rate all these teams in order to get them to 1000 IP, +/-20.

ROTATION

Starter #1

DT - Verlander - 6.5
LAA - Weaver - 5.5
NYY - Sabathia - 5.5
TBR - Price - 4.5
BRS - Lester - 5.5
TR - Darvish - 4.0
TBJ - Romero - 3.5

Ricky's high value for WAR, as measured by Fangraphs, was actually in 2010 when it was 4.1 and, frankly, I think he's roughly as good as he's going to get. in any given year he might have a career year and spike up over 5, but most of the time that 4-4.5 range is probably what you can expect. In that sense, most of the guys here are clearly on a somewhat higher plane, though I think Lester might be a candidate to regress back away from the leaders a bit. Look for Price to be the candidate to jump to the top of this list by next year.

Starter #2

LAA - Haran - 5.0
TBR - Shields - 4.0
DT - Fister - 4.0
TBJ - Morrow - 3.5
NYY - Pineda - 3.5
TR - Harrison - 3.0
BRS - Beckett - 2.5

Sort of the reverse, here, in my mind. in that Morrow has a considerably higher ceiling than what the projection systems are able to identify. i'm not complaining about ZIPS here, it can only work with the actual events that are factored in, but Morrow could easily be at the top of this list by October. And in reality, a year from now he's more likely to be on the #1 list and Romero on this one which would be a much more even comparison. Shields and Fister are both candidates to drop a bit more than this too, IMO.

In order to properly compare these teams, let me add the results of the top two spots together as the "top tier" of the respective rotations:

LAA: 10.5
DT: 10.5 (I think this might be a bit high - I don't believe in Fister that much)
NYY: 9.0
TBR - 8.5
BRS: 8.0
TBJ: 7.0
TR: 7.0

I think, call me a homer, that it's easy to see another 2-3 WAR out of the Jays top 2. Admittedly if Price spikes as he very well might that still puts them on top of the division in this comparison but I think all four ALE teams are much more closely matched than the projections here reflect. All of them in the 8-10 WAR range.

Starter #3

LAA - Wilson - 5.0
DT - Scherzer - 3.5
TBR - Moore - 3.0
TR - Holland - 3.0
TBJ - Alvarez - 2.5 (pro-rated to 190 IP)
BRS - Buchholtz - 2.0 (only 140 IP)
NYY - Nova - 2.0

(Yes, I know that Cecil is nominally the #3 starter for now, but alvarez is better than hi in my view)

I worry that Moore might be even better than 3.0, but rookie pitchers don't always run wild so we'll have to see - but he's a candidate for better results than projected. With Alvarez, I just boosted up the IP a bit. You could potentially do the same with Buchholtz. Really, the AL East is pretty well matched up at this spot. Everyone sitting in the 2.5-3 range with Nova potentially a step behind.

Starter #4

LAA - Santana - 2.5
TBR - Hellickson - 2.5
DT - Porcello - 2.5
TR - Lewis - 2.5
NYY - Kuroda - 2.0
BRS - Bard - 2.0 (120 IP)
TBJ - Cecil - 1.0 (100 IP)

Cecil should go more than 100 IP, so he's rated lower in results than he should be. That and his weight-loss situation might lead to maybe twice the results projected here. I have no idea how they figure Bard doing that well. It's been a long time since he started and he wasn't very good when he did (in the low minors). I think one should be really cautious about presuming the transition will go smoothly. Bottom line is that the all the contenders here are in the 2-2.5 neighborhood in terms of projections and essentially this spot is a wash.

Starter #5

TBR - Neimann - 2.0 (130)
TR - Feliez - 2.0 (130)
TBJ - McGowan - 1.0 (100 - they had only 50)
NYY - Garcia - 1.0 (100)
DT - Turner - 1.0 (100)
BRS - Cook - 1.0 (100)
LAA - Williams -0.5 (75)

Some models suggest Wade Davis will be the Rays #5 but I used the guy with the best projection here. I'm torn regarding McGowan as I don't like to assume injury, but the more I increase his innings the more I impact Drabek and I have a strong feeling they will get a lot of major league quality out of Drabek this year. Garcia might now be supplanted by Petite but there's no projections for him. Turner is out indefinitely so Detroit will need to make an acquisition or patch over this spot.

The take-away for me here is that the only teams here with the chance to have the "#5" spot vault into a high WAR resource are Texas (Feliz being a complete wild card) and Toronto (either by a healthy vintage McGowan or a revived Drabek or some combination thereof.

At worst the Jays are on par with the others here, and could gain an advantage.

Starter #6

NYY - Hughes - 1.0
TBR - Davis - 1.0
TR - Feldman - 0.5
LAA - Mills - 0.5
BRS - Miller - 0.0
DT - Oliver - 0.0
TBJ - Drabek - (0.5)

Not that there's a big swing here between the top and bottom of this list, but there's no way Drabek is that bad again. the system simply doesn't have a metric which can measure changing circumstances. Davis is facing a crowded situation but even if he was a full timer, he's just ordinary; Hughes is in an even worse position now that Petite is back and will likely be relieving.

The Jays are better situated at the back of the rotation than any of these teams are, IMO.

Total:

LAA - 19.0
TBR - 17.0
DT - 17.0
TR - 15.0
NYY - 15.0
BRS - 12.0
TBJ - 11.0

That's there numbers. Here's mine.
*I think LA is about right.
*I think the Rays will get more from Price, and less from Shields and will see there run of good luck concerning rotation health maybe come to an end. But I still think they tic upward a bit.
*I think the Tigers lose some on Fister and maybe Scherzer.
*The Yankess might get another top-shelf season from Sabathia and a tic less from Pineda than projected but are in the right neighborhood.but
*Texas is reasonable given you can't rationally guess what Darvish will do.
*Boston will get less from Bard, more from Buchholtz, but overall are in the right area.
*Toronto will get much more from Morrow (at least 2 WAR if not more) and more like 2.5 out of McGowan/Drabek rather than 0.5

So make it more like this:

LAA - 19.0
TBR - 19.0
TBJ - 15.0
NYY - 15.0
DT - 15.0
TR - 15.0
BRS - 13.0

BULLPEN


Closer

NYY - Rivera - 1.5
TBJ - Santos - 1.0
LAA - Walden - 1.0
BRS - Bailey - 1.0
TBR - Farnsworth - 1.0
DT - Valverde - 0.5 (?)
TR - Nathan - 0.5

A WAR comparison is really insufficient to discuss the bullpen. I'm not sure anyone takes it at face value that Rivera is only worth 0.5 WAR more than Farnsworth, so I'll take more liberties here. Rivera is considerably better than everyone else here, even at his age. of the others, only Walden and Santos have any potential for upward mobility. The rest fall into the "they are what they are" category. At the moment, only NY has a significant edge.

Setup

NYY - Robertson - 1.5 (injury)
TR - Ogando - 1.5
TBJ - Oliver - 1.0
LAA - Downs - 1.0
BRS - Melancon - 1.0
DT - Benoit - 1.0
TBR - Peralta - 0.5

It jumps out a bit here to me that the Rays are a half-step behind, Peralta surely doesn't have the track record of some of the other guys here. But there's not much of a divide here, if any. the main thing to note is that Ogando would have the potential to break out and be dominante.

Setup

NYY - Soriano - 1.5
TR - Adams - 1.0
LAA - Takahashi - 1.0
BRS - Aceves - 1.0
TBR - McGee - 0.5
DT - Dotel - 0.5
TBJ - Cordero - 0.0

There was a time when Soriano was dominant, it's difficult to guess if he will be again. The system for some reason doesn't like Cordero here but I have a hard time believing a finding that he's less valuable than Dotel. McGee's the guy who might take a significant step forward here.

Middle

TR - Uehara - 1.0
TBJ - Janssen - 1.0
LAA - Thompson - 0.5
BRS - Albers - 0.5
NYY - Chamberlain - 0.5 (injury!)
DT - Coke - 0.5
TBR - Rodney - 0.0

Chamberlain is going to miss a big chunk of the season, which the system apparently didn't allow for, but I'm going to assume Hughes picks up that slack. I would thing the top two guys here bring more clear value to their teams than the others, and the difference is greater than 0.5 WAR regardless of what the system says.

Middle

NYY - Logan - 1.0
TBJ - Frasor - 0.5
TR - Tateyama - 0.5
LAA - Hawkins - 0.5
DT - Alburquerque - 0.0 (out til mid-season)
TBR -
BRS -

It says something when you get deep enough that some teams start running out of guys that have been projected. That's not to say they don't have candidates, but no reliable "likely" pitcher in that role. The marginal difference between Logan and Frasor here is real, but largely inconsequential.

Totals:

NYY - 6.0
TR - 4.5
LAA - 4.0
TBJ - 3.5
BRS - 3.5
DT - 2.5
TBR - 2.0

Might be a tad generous to the Yankees but that's balanced by the way the system doesn't reward Rivera so I'm ok with it.


Combined pitching totals:

LAA - 23.0
NYY - 21.0
DT - 19.5
TR - 19.5
TBR - 19.0
BRS - 15.5
TBJ - 14.5

To repeat, I am not taking issue with ZIPS but I fully expect Morrow, and McGowan/Drabek to significantly boost the Blue jays totals here putting them right in the same neighborhood as the Rays.


Team Grand Total:


NYY - 53.4
BRS - 51.1
TR - 50.9
LAA - 48.5
TBR - 46.7
DT - 42.5
TBJ - 41.8

So on (their) paper, the Blue Jays still have a 5 WAR gap between them and the Rays and Angels (and more than that between them and the Red sox but there's no way I buy Boston being that high).

To review, I see Morrow as +2 (at least), the #5 spot as +2 (at least); and LF at +! at least. There's also some potential for Lind, Johnson, Rasmus, Cecil, and Santos to do better than the WAR figures used in these calculations. Which is to say, within 5 is certainly striking distance, but I can't pretend that this system does not leave a greater gap to overcome than my predictions have.

Which is cool, there's only so far you can go with objective mathematical calculations.

But the Jays need to find 5 or more WAR somewhere. And I, for one, am confident they are there to be found in some combination.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

AL Contenders - the Fangraphs comp: Part 1

Over the previous week, Fangraphs posted a site-wide project which ranked every major league team by position. The master link is here, which also includes links to the Top 15 prospects for each team. It is my purpose in this post to compare the rankings for all the teams I consider to be contenders. This is primarily related to the teams who have the ability to keep the Blue Jays out of the playoffs, though I will include also the Detroit Tigers as the nominal AL Central winner. If you believe someone else will win that division, bully for you - but I don't think one observer in 10,000 thinks the wild card will come out of that division so I won't bother to comment on it, or to comment on the Tigers other than to simply include them in the stat sets.

My interest here is not simply comparing their rankings, you can do that easily enough, but to look into them a bit more intensely. There are some places where I will quibble with, even modify, the figures they use and when that happens I will explain what my reasoning was. Also, my primary focus will be on the starters, unless there's a clear specific reason to do otherwise (again, this will be covered in the comments). the reason for this is because one of the things I consistently question is the playing time assumptions which emerge from the ZIPS projections which served as the basis for their rankings. For the sake of length, I'll take the batters in this post and save the pitchers for part 2.

To be clear, these are their projections filtered through my opinions - just repeating their info is hardly worth the effort.

The format here is as follows:
Team - Starting Player (in most cases) - projected WAR (theirs modified at times by me) - note

Catcher (includes reserves):

TR - Napoli/Torrealba - 5.0 - we'll see if Napoli will ACTUALLY catches more
DT - Avila/Laird - 4.5 - personally I expect a bigger decline, too many PA
LAA - Iantetta/Wilson - 4.0 - a lot of folks still think Ianetta will make a big jump
NYY - Martin/Cervelli - 3.0 - Martin has a bit more health issues than he used to.
BRS - Saltalamacchia/Shoppach - 3.0 - they include 0.5 from rookie Ryan Lanaway.
TBJ - Arencibia/Mathis - 2.5 - they include 0.5 from d'Arnaud.
TBR - Molina/?? - 1.0 - this could get ugly.

With respect to the Ianetta believers, Arencibia is the one guy here who has some room to spike. But probably not by more than 1 WAR or less. On the other hand, I don't think Avila is that good (and both he and Iantettta are rated too many PA for my tastes) so in my mind everyone here except Napoli is pretty much on the same 3-4 WAR level. If he (Napoli) doesn't play more at catcher than last year, then no one has much of an edge here, but the Rays are well behind the pack.

First Base:

LAA - Pujols - 5.5 - Duh. could be higher of course, ZIPS is always conservative.
BRS - Gonzalez - 5.1 - Another guy who was higher than this in '11
NYY - Teixeira - 3.9 - Pretty solid projection IMO
DT - Fielder - 3.5 - overall it goes up a tic for the days Cabrera relieves Fielder
TBR - Pena - 2.2 - shouldn't be better, could easily be worse
TBJ - Lind - 1.3 - best year was 3.7, as a DH, they presume a small addition from EE
TR - Moreland - 0.9 - position tics up a bit for contribution from Napoli/Young

Any way you slice it, there are at least two tiers here. In a perfect revival of his former self, Lind could move into the 4-4.5 range, but if he reaches 3 Jays fans would have to be relieved.

BRS - Pedroia - 7.0 - seems very high to me
TR - Kinsler - 6.5 - another rosy projection, IMO.
TBR - Zobrist - 6.0 - if he stays at 2B; might be a bit rosy too
NYY - Cano - 5.5 - he's a bit more consistent
LAA - Kendrick - 3.0 - makes more sense
TBJ - Johnson - 2.5 - ZIPS hit him harder
DT - Raburn - 1.5 - might change in odd ways if Inge wins the job

Here's the strange thing. let's take each of these guys (save Raburn), and get the WAR per 150 games for the last five years of their career, the last 3, and add a column for last season, and compare that to the projection above.

Pedroia - 5.4 - 6.3 - 8.0
Kinsler - 5.4 - 5.9 - 7.7
Zobrist - 5.3 - 6.3 - 6.6 (not all at 2B)
Cano - 4.0 - 5.1 - 5.6
Kendrick - 3.7 - 4.2 - 5.8
Johnson - 3.2 - 3.3 - 2.2 (not all at 2B)

Now I admit I'm not mathematician and the calculations behind ZIPS are beyond my understanding. But it seems to me that in at least the top two guys there have a too-optimistic projection. And Kendrick and Johnson's is too pessimistic by a bit. Still, you can't really dispute that the latter two are on a lower tier.

Shortstop:

TBJ - Escobar - 4.5 - pleasantly surprised
TR - Andrus - 4.0 - the value of Defense
LAA - Aybar - 3.5 - a bit higher than I'd have guessed
NYY - Jeter - 2.5 - how the mighty have fallen
DT - Peralta - 2.0 - don't expect a repeat
TBR - Rodriguez - 2.0 - seems quite high to me, but it's not.
BRS - Aviles - 1.5 - they expect 1 from Punto as well.

The Red Sox are especially hard to project because who knows how the playing time will work out. Nice to see the Jays on top here.

Third Base::

TBR - Longoria - 7.0 - reasonable
DT - Cabrera - 5.5 - so much offense, D can't pull it down
TR - Beltre - 5.5 - so much defense it elevates the overall total
TBJ - Lawrie - 5.0 - no idea why the team rank was so low
BRS - Youklis - 5.0 - I think this is high
NYY - Rodriguez - 4.0 - health could spike this up
LAA - Trumbo - 1.5 - defensive projection is optimistic, IMO

Toronto was behind Boston for no reason i can discern on the list, but of the two, Lawrie has a vastly better chance of spiking than Youk does so I flipped them Brett could legitimately top this list by year's end. VERY easily be at least #2

Right Field:

TBJ - Bautista - 6.5 - Legit
TR - Cruz - 3.5 - some contributions from Murphy
NYY - Swisher - 3.5 - pretty consistent value
TBR - Joyce - 2.5 - if he figures out lefties this could improve
LAA - Hunter - 2.5 - age? slipage?
BRS - Sweeney/Ross - 2.0 I don't like listing platoons but that's the plan here
DT - Boesch - 1.5 - how long will he hold the job?

Nothing really to remark upon here.

Center Field:

BRS - Ellsbury - 7.0 - 9.4 in '11, previous high 4.3
NYY - Granderson - 5.5 - Was 7.0 in '11 a new level?
LAA - Bourjos - 4.5 - the power of great defense
TBR - Upton - 4.0 - rankings give too much credit to reserves
TBJ - Rasmus - 3.0 - see comments below
DT - Jackson - 3.0 - again mostly defense here
TR - Gentry/Borbon - 2.5 - not a platoon but they split the AB

The elephant in the room, for me, is how they figured Rasmus. The actual Fangraph's list has him at 1.5, but look at this:

500 PA / .250 - .322 - .454 - .776 / 0 (that's defense) = 1.5 war
550 PA / .264 - .360 - .418 - .778 / -2 = 3.0
400 PA / .270 - .331 - .435 - .766 / 0 = 3.0
600 PA / .278 - .322 - .447 - .769 / 2 = 3.0

Someone explain it to me: how does the top line rate out to half the WAR of the others? He beats out one of them on defense (with comparable offense), the next one on playing time (with comparable rates) so neither of those make a good argument against the third. If defense played such a huge role, how come the second guy - with fewer PA - rates exactly the same as the 4th guy? If it's playing time, how come #3 and #4 are the same?

I'm forced to conclude some sort of calculation error regarding Rasmus and have arbitrarily fixed it, pending someone explaining the difference. And oh by the way, Rasmus had a 4.3 in 2010 so he could flirt with third or even second on that list.

Left Field:

NYY - Gardner - 5.0 - ordinary bat, great wheels and insane glove
TR - Hamilton - 3.5 - if he can stay out there
BRS - Crawford - 3.0 - might assume too many PA
TBR - Jennings - 2.5 - potential to rise
DT - Young - 1.5 - might be someone else
TBJ - (Thames) - 1.0 - I think it will be Snider
LAA - Wells - 0.5 - how long until Trout forces their hand?

A few things - one is I don't buy this level of defensive value in Gardner, I think it's a weakness of the math. Second, Hamilton can go up with health, Crawford can go down if the hand bothers him. Watch for Jennings to go up.

My strongest view though is of course on the Jays LF situation. I think it's going to be Snider and I think the team always planned for it to be if he showed them what they wanted in the spring. The have to say nice things about Thames to respect his season last year, but Snider should be a special guy (as should Rasmus). And Snider, in basically half a season of PA in 2010 was at 1.2 and his defense has improved. so if he even just gets back to that level he's up to around 2.5 - and I'm expecting 3 or better this season.

DH:

BRS - Ortiz - 2.0 - DH values are suppressed of course by lack of defense
TBJ - Encarnacion - 1.0 - steady production assumed
LAA - Morales - 0.5 - if healthy . . .
TBR - Scott - 0.5 - might bounce back
TR - Young - 0 - they assume some value from Napoli
DT - Young - 0 - oddly they give him the most PA here too
NYY - Ibanez - (0.5) - this can't last?


If Ortiz is only at 2.0 (he was at 4.2 last year) then there's not really a lot of swing here. Morales was at 3.4 at his peak but that included defense.



Totals for the batters:

BRS - 35.6 (39% Pedroia and Ellsbury)
NYY - 32.4
TR - 31.4
TBR - 27.7
TBJ - 27.3
LAA - 25.5
DT - 23

I think the Jays have more potential to move up than down - Snider, Lawrie, Lind and maybe Johnson have upward potential - even Bautista might not regress as much as they think. I think this total could break 30. On the other hand, the Red Sox are over-rated by these projections IMO. Ellsbury has had one year at the elite level, Pedroia isn't regressed as much as seems logical, Youk is more likely to go down than up, Crawford has the injury issue, and the SS and RF situation could get ugly. Crawford may need the help of graduates of sports medicine schools. The Rays and Yanks seem less volatile, though I can see TB picking up another WAR or two from Jennings.
In my opinion, all four teams (and Texas) fall within a range of 29-33 WAR. the Angels are running behind but they will do much better on the SP and make up ground.

The pitching comparison and final totals are up next.