Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
January 27, 2004
BASEBALL: AL West Established Win Shares Report

In this post, I introduced Established Win Shares Levels, a combination of two Bill James stats, to rank the top players in baseball based on a weighted average of their accomplishments for the last three years. But EWSLs have another use: you can add up the totals on a team's roster to get a fix on how much talent (or at least, how much established major league talent) a team has, and thus an early read on comparing the strength of teams as they enter the season. Lots of cautions apply here, as you'll see as I walk through my method; this is more art than science, although I do try to make my methods as transparent as I can for purposes of allowing people to analyze and critique them.

I'm starting with the AL West, which is the smallest division, and in theory at least I'd like to find the time to get through all six (we shall see; I reserve the right to switch to doing 1 team at a time if it's easier to swallow). Here are the basics of the method:

*23 players from each team, 9 starters, 4 bench players (8 and 5 for NL teams), 10 pitchers.

*For players who only played one or two years, I used those years if the player was playing regularly in the minors or overseas the other year (except veterans who had been sent back to the minors due to poor play). This was a judgment call, but let's face it: it doesn't make sense to project Hideki Matsui by slicing his 2003 numbers in half. I didn't adjust for guys like Gil Meche who missed two years with injuries. I've indicated the players who got 2-year credit with a # and 1-year credit with a *, so you can back out the numbers if you like.

*For rookie non-pitchers with everyday jobs, I've arbitrarily pencilled in 10 Win Shares (indicated with +), which may sound optimistic, but 10 WS for an everyday player is pretty poor, and it helps counteract the bias in the system towards established veteran talent. I'll use 7 WS for rookie pitchers with rotation slots, 3 for bench players and 2 for relievers.

*I'm listing each team's unadjusted and adjusted numbers, to show the effects of the two adjustments listed above.

*I fiddled with having an age adjustment, but it got too complicated and arbitrary. Instead, I'm listing side-by-side each team's weighted average 2004 age (weighted by adjusted EWSLs). This takes studies like Avkash's recent look at average age by playing time to the next level, focusing on which teams' talent is aging (after all, if you're the Giants, it's Barry Bonds' age that matters most).

*I used WS figures from the new Bill James Handbook, so there could be slight discrepancies with online WS numbers, including the ones I used for my earlier EWSL post.

*Team EWSL totals, adjusted and unadjusted, are done from the un-rounded numbers, but I report the rounded-off totals by individual player. Don't be thrown by the fact that the "best" team in the AL West comes in at 93 wins; the way the system is structured and the fact that I'm limiting myself to 23 men per roster means we'll come in a bit below enough wins to bring the whole league home at .500.

Without further ado, in declining order of Adjusted EWSL, your American League West:

Seattle Mariners

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

PosPlayerEWSLAge
CDWilson1035
1BJOlerud2035
2BBBoone2935
SSRAurilia1732
3BSSpiezio1331
RFISuzuki2630
CFRWinn2030
LFRIbanez1332
DHEMartinez1941
C2BDavis927
INFRSantiago#424
OFQMcCracken634
13WBloomquist#326
SP1JMoyer1741
SP2JPineiro1225
SP3FGarcia1128
SP4RFranklin1331
SP5GMeche425
CLEGuardado1433
R2SHasegawa1035
R3RSoriano#524
R4JMateo#526
R5KJarvis234

Immediately, you see the problem with the method: the Mariners are stuffed to the gills with established players, but they are nearly all aging players, as the team's weighted average age of nearly 33 tells you; there's nearly nobody here with an upside outside of the setup men. On paper, before you take their age into account, I can see the M's as favorites. After you consider the age factor, though, I'd have to go with:

Anaheim Angels

Adjusted EWSL: 273.5 (91 wins)
Unadjusted EWSL: 257 (86 wins)
Weighted Age: 29.714

PosPlayerEWSLAge
CBMolina1229
1BDErstad1030
2BAKennedy1428
SSDEckstein1429
3BTGlaus1527
RFVGuerrero2328
CFGAnderson2332
LFJGuillen1128
DHTSalmon1835
C2JMolina229
INFCFiggins*826
OFJDaVanon*1230
13SHalter634
SP1BColon1831
SP2JWashburn1429
SP3KEscobar1128
SP4ROrtiz931
SP5JLackey#825
CLTPercival1134
R2BWeber934
R3BDonnelly#1032
R4FRodriguez*926
R5SShields828

This is a strong team; you can see the additions of Guerrero and Colon bringing them to the lead. I may have overvalued DaVanon by rating him on 2003 alone, but he'd never gotten a shot at the major league level before.

UPDATE: Due to a typo, I'd listed the wrong tenth pitcher. This didn't affect the team calculations. It's fixed now.

Oakland A's

Adjusted EWSL: 257.7 (86 wins)
Unadjusted EWSL: 233.8 (78 wins)
Weighted Age: 28.875

PosPlayerEWSLAge
CDMiller1034
1BSHatteberg1334
2BMEllis#1627
SSBCrosby+1024
3BEChavez2526
RFJDye830
CFMKotsay1728
LFBKielty1127
DHEDurazo1330
C2AMelhuse*432
INFFMenechino533
OFEByrnes*1628
13BMcMillon332
SP1THudson2228
SP2BZito2026
SP3MMulder1826
SP4MRedman930
SP5RHarden*422
CLARhodes834
R2CBradford829
R3JMecir434
R4RRincon634
R5CHammond838

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

Texas Rangers

Adjusted EWSL: 176.3 (59 wins)
Unadjusted EWSL: 161.5 (54 wins)
Weighted Age: 29.761

PosPlayerEWSLAge
CEDiaz631
1BMTeixera*724
2BMYoung1527
SSARodriguez3428
3BHBlalock#923
RFBJordan1337
CFLNix*423
LFKMench#526
DHBFullmer1029
C2GLaird*124
INFEYoung1037
OFDDelucci530
13HPerry434
SP1KRogers1139
SP2CPark431
SP3CLewis#124
SP4RRodriguez#126
SP5JBenoit#526
CLFCordero929
R2JZimmerman231
R3JNelson637
R4JPowell332
R5ERamirez*228

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

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:35 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (8) | TrackBack (3)
Comments

Nice job again, Crank. I've looked at the Bill James Win Shares numbers, and didn't find any discrepancies from our numbers at baseballgraphs. But I'll admit that I didn't do a thorough review.

Also, I did run an Win Shares age analysis for each team earlier this offseason. Here's the link:

http://www.baseballgraphs.com/blog/comments.php?id=A9_0_1_0_C

Posted by: studes at January 27, 2004 02:25 PM

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

Posted by: Rob at January 27, 2004 02:34 PM

I agree, Rob. Projecting Win Shares for relievers is practically meaningless, because their values are largely a factor of how they're used.

Also, predictive Win Shares don't work well for players whose value lies largely in their fielding Win Shares, because those are also context dependent. For instance, fielders behind high strikeout staffs won't get as many chances, or Win Shares, as those behind low strikeout staffs.

Posted by: studes at January 27, 2004 02:46 PM

Rob - That's a valid point about relievers. Again, this is rough-estimate stuff, and it was the best way I could find to roll up the concepts of (1) taking account of more than just 2003 with (2) being able to easily compare hitters and pitchers. I also think the Angels get a bit too much credit for outfielders when there won't be enough at bats to go around.

The problem with dealing Erstad is his contract, but on baseball grounds it would make sense to eat some of that and deal him to a team that could use a good glove man in the outfield and wants to take a flier on him having another flukey year some time.

Posted by: The Crank at January 27, 2004 03:48 PM

Garrett Anderson has the same win shares as Vlad Guerrero. Are you kidding?

Posted by: Gabe Kristal at January 27, 2004 05:19 PM

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

Posted by: studes at January 28, 2004 09:21 AM

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

Posted by: The Crank at January 28, 2004 10:12 AM

Everyone keeps saying how bad the Rangers are going to be in '04 but it's not quite as bleak as everyone is saying. A-Rod & MYoung are on the doorsteps of their primes (and will get even )better in the next couple of years. I don't know of two hitters in baseball under 24 years of age that I'd rather have than Blalock & Tex and their upsides should be dramatic. The Rangers have the best infield in baseball.

The key is just "decent" starting pitching (cumulative ERA right around 5.00) and better production from LF & CF which should happen because Mench & Nix (both kids) should be major upgrades.

Texas was 42-43 in their last 85 games and the biggest subtractions were Thomson & Palmeiro from that team. With continued improvement from the kids, they should be expected to win 75-85 games in '04.

Posted by: Josey Wales at January 28, 2004 10:40 AM
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