Sunday, January 22, 2006

Red Sox Update

The Red Sox have their CF in Coco Crisp. Reports say they are signing Sea Bass Gonzalez to play SS as well. Willie Harris is in as a utilityman. I've updated my projection, replacing Brandon Moss and Chris Durbin (replacement level outfielders) and Dustin Pedroia (a pretty good middle infielder. Dustin may spend the year in AAA with a late season callup. I don't think they'll use him as a backup if it will accelerate his service time. His future is probably at 2B, and if Mark Loretta gets hurt he could easily step in without the big league team losing anything, but that probably won't happen either. Graffanino, Cora, and Harris are all around.

Fans of Pedroia will have to be content with calculating some really cool MLE's this summer.

Gonzalez is a hacker, but he improves the defense. The combined moves knock 10 points off each pitcher's ERA. Crisp was a great defensive LF. His defense in CF in the past, though, wasn't so great. He's played about an equal amount in each spot.

By zone rating, he was -8 career in CF, + 13 career in left. That's a much bigger split than normal, and Coco is fast, there's no reason to think his specific skill set prevents him from playing CF. I applied an adjustement to his left field stats from looking at all players who've played both positions in the last decade or so, combined it with his CF stats, and regressed to the mean.

Coco projects as a +1 centerfielder. The Red Sox score almost 20 more runs than I had them before, and allow 15 fewer. Total RS = 852 RA = 793, record = 87-75.

Now one game behind the Yankees, and they've probably sentenced the Jays to another 3rd place finish, AJ, BJ, and Troy notwithstanding.

Monday, January 16, 2006



Yankees 88-74
Red Sox 84-78
Blue Jays 83-79
D-Rays 75-87
Orioles 75-87


Twins 87-75
Indians 86-76
Wt Sox 83-79
Tigers 81-81
Royald 67-95


A's 90-72
Angels 84-78
Mariners 77-85
Rangers 77-85

No comments this time, I spent 1.5 hours on AL East comments but found out that blogger's "check spelling" button actually means "Destroy my work and make sure no trace is left in all of cyberspace".

Friday, January 13, 2006

Best Center Fielder

I'll continue with the AL prediction next week.

For now, I've been pondering who are the best center fielders, defensively, that I've ever seen. The cutoff point is 1980, I don't remember too much before that. I'm thinking about how good the player was at his best, so I'll include Andruw Jones. I'm thinking of how good he was the first 2-3 years he played, instead of the so-so fielder he's been since then.

In no particular order:

Devon White
Darin Erstad
Mike Cameron
Andruw Jones
Torii Hunter
Aaron Rowand
Gary Pettis
Willie Wilson
Willie McGee
Eric Davis

I have defensive metrics for these guys. Zone rating from 1989 and 92 on, though the earlier years are less reliable. I have a somewhat decent estimation for years prior to that, sort of an adjusted zone rating that factors in a team's estimate flyball propensity and how many balls in play allowed. The error range of these methods are bigger the farther back in time I go, and are bigger than the measured differences in the players.

I'll say this, Devon White has the best ZR seasons, 1989, and the best estimated seasons, 1988 - which has only been matched by Gary Pettis 1986 of the guys I've calculated.

Going by numbers alone, White has the slight edge, but my opinion has him at #2. I don't think anyone can match Eric Davis, for the few times he was healthy in the mid to late 80's. White had more defensive value - he was an everyday defensive superstar from 1987 to 1993 before he lost a small step - and then was merely very good until the last day of his career. Davis, though, was superhuman for a few brief moments. He can't be matched for being spectacular.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

National League West

First things first, Bruce Sutter made the hall. Why anyone would vote him over Gossage I don't know, but there are plenty of articles out asking that question, so I won't bother.

Dodgers 80-82
Padres 80-82
Giants 79-83
D-Backs 78-84
Rockies 71-91

What an ugly division. Due to the unbalanced schedule, one of these teams will crack .500 like the Padres last year, though I have no idea which one. Dodgers probably have the most upside. I have Drew and Nomar both around 360 at bats. One of them will get lucky and stay healthy. Its an old team, with Mueller, Kent, and Lofton all 35+. Only Furcal and the young catchers are south of 30. The defense is mediocre, as is the starting rotation of Lowe, Penny, Perez, Seo, and Tomko.

Padres have a good 1-2 punch with Peavy (3.09 ERA) and Chris "Cy" Young (3.59), who will love his new ballpark. Lawrence, Williams, and estes round out the rotation, none are very good. The bullpen is very good with Hoffman back, Linebrink a setup man once again (damn those Padres, I picked up Linebrink for $1 the last week of 2005 in a fantasy keeper league). Steve Andrade finally gets his shot, and averages a strikeout per inning. The Angel's bullpen welfare program continues around the majors. The defense is a bit above average, led by Mike Cameron, and the Padres allow fewer runs than all but the Cardinals.

Their offense is very weak, however. Like last year, nobody cracks 20 homers. Castilla and Mirabelli are black holes. Bellhorn/Barfield at 2B don't hit much, Klesko is done, Cameron hits .239 with 14 HR, Dave Roberts declines a bit from 2005. Only Giles and Greene are even average offensive players, until Adrian Gonzalez wins the 1B job from Klesko midway through the year.

I understand the Padres are moving the fences in a bit. I haven't accounted for that, I'm using the old park factors. If there's a difference, they score a few more runs. Somebody hits 20 homers. They also give up a few more. Record stays the same. Ballparks don't win games, players do.

Jason Schmidt is back. He follows up an injury plagued year with a 3.42 ERA. Lowry and Morris are solid, and Matt Cain shows flashes of brilliance, though 85 walks in 159 innings keep his ERA at 4.24. The pitching is solid.

The offense isn't good enough. The average age of the starting lineup is 36. Durham, Alou, and Vizquel are shells of their former selves. Matheny was never that good in the first place. Feliz at 3B swings at everything, and Mark Sweeney, getting the majority of 1B time, is overexposed. Only Randy Winn among the mortals plays well, hitting .290 with 38 doubles and 14 homers plus good CF defense.

For the immortals, Barry Bonds is projected at 336 at bats. He hits .290 with 21 homers.

When some of the older players need a day off, the Giants can always play Steve Finley. That'll be fun.

Diamond backs have one reliable, durable starter in Brandon Webb. There's Miguel Batista, who's 35, was not a good starter in 2004, and attempts to return after a year in the pen. There's El Duque, who began his Cuban career pitching under a different Batista. I'll be surprised if he can make 20 starts. Brad Halsey and Dustin Nippert round out the rotation. Nippert has potential but is still an inknown. My conservative projection is a 4.61 ERA.

Overall, the D-Backs allow 781 runs, 70 fewer than in 2005 but still 3rd worst in the league.

The offense is medicore considering the park. Conor Jackson hits .275 with 20 homers. Chad Tracy drops to 17, I'm not sure his power boost of 2005 is for real. Green and Gonzalez are another year older. Eric Byrnes hits .264 with 15 homers and often dives the wrong way for baseballs. If they contend its only because nobody in the division is any good. Most likely they fall out of the race, and in the second half of the year their fans will be treated to the future, as Carlos Quentin, Steven Drew, and Chris Young are worked into the lineup. (Though none of those players are worked into my projections yet.)

The Rockies do about the same as they did last year. They score a lot of runs, though only Helton is an outstanding hitter. (Atkins, Holliday, and Hawpe are decent) They haven't added anyone good in the offseason. The young players are mostly second rate prospects with limited celings. The real good ones, like Tulowitzki and Stewart, are at least a year away.

Outfield defense is a problem. Holliday and the Hawpe/Shealy platoon are butchers in the corners. They don't have a legit CF. Cory Sullivan is probably the starter.

Forcing a pitcher to throw in this environment should be considered cruel and unusual punishment. They only have one, maybe 2 good pitchers to start with. Jeff Francis is one of the best young pitchers in baseball, and its to his credit that he keeps his ERA under 5 (4.92) in this environment. He also gives them a 152-61 K-W ratio. Jason Jennings is second with a 5.61 ERA, though he could give somebody a Chacon like performance if he's traded. Brian Fuentes is a pretty good closer, but if anything happens to him they'll likely go to Jose Mesa as a closer, for the comic relief.

Overall, the Rockies give up 923 runs and finish in last place.

Monday, January 09, 2006

National League Central

Cards 93-69
Cubs 86-76
Brew 86-76
Pirates 81-81
Astros 76-86
Reds 72-90

The Cardinals are the best team in baseball. They can attribute this honor to one man above all others - MGL. Just kidding. While a top notch sabrmetrician who probably has a hand in a lot of their low cost but effective fill in players, none can deny the identity of the true king.

King Albert may he live forever. Pujols claimed his first MVP in his first season out of the shadow of emporer Bonds. Derrek Lee had ever so slightly better numbers, yes, but Lee was having a career year. Pujols was just being himself. A big slugger playing 1B, Pujols even led the team with 16 steals, while only being caught twice. There's nothing he can't do.

The offense depends on King Albert, Scott Rolen, and Jim Edmonds. While Edmonds will turn 36 and can't last forever, the Cardinals got very little from the injured Rolen. Any kind of comeback for him should make up for a possible decline by Edmonds. David Eckstein remains one of my favorite players to watch. He's not likely to play as well as last year but gives you decent offense for a shortstop and enough walks + HBP to be useful setting the table. The rest of the lineup doesn't make much money. The strategy seems to be just find guys who don't totally suck. Average performance is to be celebrated, as average performance for everyone else + Pujols will still be one of the best offenses in the league.

The Cardinals play some great defense as well. The best are Yadier Molina, who totally shuts down the running game and picks off a few people who don't want to run as well, and Scott Rolen, provided the shoulder injury doesn't ruin his defense. ( I believe its the non-throwing shoulder). The defense makes the pitching look better than they are, and Carpenter is pretty good anyway. Mulder is an average pitcher now, but is on the perfect team to disguise that. Anthony Reyes, if he gets a chance, could be outstanding. I don't project a role for Sidney Ponson, but this team can probably even make him look useful.

86 wins is probably more than most Cub fans expect. Derrek Lee is not going to repeat his near MVP season. Aramis Ramirez provides a big bat and subpar glove. Matt Murton hits .279 with 21 homers. Ronny Cedeno .273 with 13 HR, though you never know what Dusty Baker will do if either struggles. The team projection improves if I take time away from Neifi and give it to Hairston, but we all know that isn't going to happen. Juan Pierre isn't great, I don't think he'll be better than Corey Patterson in 2006, but Pierre is a huge improvement over Patterson 2005, and is much better suited to the leadoff role. Pierre rebounds somewhat, hitting .295 with 55 steals and 103 runs. The defense overall is slightly below average, with Lee the best and Ramirez the worst (relative to position).

Zambrano and Prior don't need great defense, they strike out too many hitters. They lead a solid pitching staff. I'm projecting a half season for Kerry Wood.

The Brewers have developed some great young talent, and this is the year they put it all together. They're not quite ready to overtake St Louis.

The Brewers had 3 good starters last year (Sheets, Davis, Capuano) and will add a 4th in David Bush (projected ERA: 3.93). The bullpen probably overachieved last year, and they may have some problems late in games this year. The defense is a little below average, mostly due to Weeks, who was terrible last year.

The offense has power in the middle (Jenkins, Fielder, Lee) but I don't see enough high on base averages. They'll be in the middle of the pack in runs scored. To build a top notch offense, they'll need middle infielders Weeks and Hardy to develop into offensive forces. I think they will, just not yet. Brewers will contend in 2006 for the first time since forever, and possibly become an elite team in 2007.

Pirates winning 81 games? What the hell? Chone, its time to turn in your blog credentials.

A full year out of Zach Duke, a better year out of super talented Oliver Perez, some more good looking young pitchers (Snell, Maholm) and the riddance of Jose Mesa give them a decent staff.

Sean Casey helps out tremendously, as he replaces useless Darryl Ward. Randa and Burnitz are so-so, I don't think they add anything the Pirates didn't have. Paulino and Doumit give them 2 options for playing a good hitting catcher.

About half the improvement is offensive and half defensive, though I'll really have to see it to believe it. Its just what the computer says.

This is the year the Astros collapse. Clemens does not figure into the projection, I have no idea if he'll return in may. Biggio finally gets old. The defense is weak, outside of Adam Everett. If Tavaras plays CF, Berkman plays either corner or 1B. Between Jason Lane, Jeff Bagwell, and Preston Wilson, one isn't going to play very much. It doesn't make a big difference who, their projections are all similar.

Oswalt, Pettite, and Lidge are outstanding. Lack of pitching depth hurts, and the Astros give up a lot of runs.

Reds are in the cellar. They score a lot of runs, with Dunn hitting 40 and Wily Mo getting 32 as a starter. Griffey plays half the season before getting hurt, playing horrible defense in the process. The whole team is -36 runs defensively. Add that to a homeriffic ballpark, and mediocre at best pitching, and the Reds give up over 850 runs, worst outside of Colorado. The scary thing is that its an improvement over 2005 for them.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

National League East

Mets 91-71
Phils 90-72
Braves 88-74
Fish 75-87
Nats 71-91

Mets should be good, they've spent the money and brought in the names. Beltran improves, Floyd is solid but not as good as last year. Wright and Delgado rake. Bret Boone wins 2B over Matsui and provides 15 homers with a .257 average. Victor Diaz wins RF, surpassing 20 HR and 80 RBI, with Nady getting time in a utility role.

The defense is overall below average, but not horrible. Wright and Reyes are a little below average by ZR. Maybe they improve (I think their reputations are good) but I'm not going to predict it. Delgado, Boone, and Diaz are below average. Floyd was surprisingly very good in 2005 but average for 2006. Beltran is the only standout defender on the team.

The pitching really depends on Pedro. I project him at over 200 innings with a 3.04 ERA. I hope his toe is fine. A significant injury to Pedro could sink this team, as the other starters (glaving, Benson, Zambrano, Trachsel) project for around a 4.35 ERA as a group.

Mets projection is the second best record in the NL, tops in the East, and I expect them to contend for the wild card (reasons below).

Phillies also have a good shot at the WC. Pat Gillick is a really good GM at putting together winning teams. Phillies won't be so good when he leaves, around 2009-2010, as the Orioles, Mariners, and Blue Jays show. Gillick will win now and get out before the whole sh*thouse goes up in flames.

The Phillies have assembled a really good defense. Utley was outstanding last year, both Bell and Nunez are good defenders at 3rd, Rollins is average or better, and even Burrell has been average the last few years by ZR - he was Luzinski-like when MGL first gave us UZR ratings for 2000.
Aaron Rowand is a defensive superstar, he's a great offseason pickup and projected at +15 runs on defense. The pitching will be good as long as they keep the ball in play, easier said than done in this ballpark.

Howard, Utley, Burrell, and Abreau give them an impressive lineup. Rowand should add 20 HR or so at the bottom of the lineup. The rotation of Myers, Leiber, Wolf, Lidle, and Franklin doesn't walk too many. If they can avoid too many HR they'll win games with solid run support and a good defense behind them.

The Braves project at 88-74, third overall. I don't buy it. One of my rules is always pick the Braves. I'll keep doing it until they prove me wrong. They will win this division.

Andruw Jones won't hit 50 homers, but if he returns to the mid 30's he's still a good player. Larry Jones will still hit, though he gets injured more frequently these years. Francoeur hit like a monster in the majors after doing little in AA. Add it all together, consider he's only 22 and he projects for a .270 average and 27 homers. OBA is not much, but he provides good defense. Braves all around a a good, but not spectacular defensive team. The weakest like is either Renteria or Andruw. Renteria does more of the same, his 2005 season was no different than 2004 on offense, but the Red Sox acted surprised anyway. He's not likely to hit .330, but is a solid SS.

Smoltz, Hudson, and Thomson have 3 of the rotation spots. Horacio Ramirez probably has another, though he's not one of their best options. I'm projecting Chuck James to take a rotation spot, because I think he's really good. Jorge Sosa was probably a massive fluke last year, though he might be the answer as a closer. Right now the Braves don't have an obvious closer. Chris Reitsma, maybe. Kyle Davies could also be converted. One way or another, the Braves will solve this and go on winning.

Marlins have 100 loss potential despite the optimistic 75 win forecast. I rate the defense as average, not because I know it, but because I have no clue. I don't know who's in the outfield besides Jeremy Hermida. Pokey Reese could play 2B, if he's healthy enough to play. He'll provide a good glove and no bat. SS Hanley Ramirez will probably be terrible. He may be a decent player in the future, but he's done nothing to show he's even close to ready. I have a method to evaluate minor league defense for infielders. I'm not claiming its a good method, but its something. Ramirez projects a little below average with the glove as well. Alfredo Amezaga might win the SS job with Ramirez in AAA. If so, he's not going to hit either.

Miguel Cabrera is an awesome hitter. I think he can even be an average 3B, despite being a poor defensive OF. His skill set (good reactions, arm, slow of foot) fits better at 3B than the OF.

Josh Willingham can hit as well, he might be their catcher, or he might be in left field. He's probably terrible defensively, but should be a good fantasy pickup, especially if he catches.

The only known on the pitching staff is Willis. Otherwise, they have a great group of young arms. I have no idea which ones will pan out and which won't, but they have so many numbers that one or 2 will probably be really good. Take a ballpark made for power pitchers and a defense that should be OK, and the Marlins just might get enough pitching to meet my forecast of 75 wins and stay out of the cellar.

The Nationals don't look very good. Beyond Livan and Patterson, the pitching staff is weak. The ballpark makes them look better, but the defense this lineup provides doesn't help, and some of these guys (ex. Ramon Ortiz) just aren't very good pitchers.

On defense, I like the infield corners, with Nick Johnson and Ryan Zimmerman. Guzman, though, is possibly the worst player in the game. Not only can't he hit, butover the last 4 years, his zone rating has been between .804 and .809 every year, with average being around .835. That's 10 runs below average. Vidro's not a very good defender either, with age and injuries taking their toll. He might be traded so a certain prima donna can keep his normal position, but Soriano's a crappy defender too. There is no obvious center fielder on this roster.

Soriano will probably be a disaster in every way. His bat will suffer in this park, his defense is bad, and his attitude sukks. I'll miss Brad Wilkerson, he's a much better player. Soriano hits for a better average, Wilkerson a better on base average. The difference in power between them is not as great as it was in 2005, if there's even a difference. And when the team needs Wilkerson to play a new position, he just does it without complaint. None of this "I'm not going to move to the OF" out of him.

Nationals will score the fewest runs in the league, partly due to the ballpark. A below average pitching staff will look OK, again thanks to RFK. Jim Bowden will have no clue how to properly evaluate the team's weaknesses, and the team will finish in last place.

Team Projections

I've finished up my player projections, at least for now. Almost all the good players have been signed. There will be a few more trades, but for most teams I can make a reasonable guess as to what the lineup and roations will look like.

Hitting projections come from the Rally Monkey Projection system. I sum up the major players, and assign a replacement level for the extra outs a team has available. I make sure the playing time is reasonable, in other words Andy Marte and Mike Lowell can't both have 500+ at bats, at least as long as David Ortiz is the DH and 1B time is assigned to Youkilis and Snow.

If I have the lineups, I can also project the defense for all players, using 4 year ZR data with a regression and aging component. That tells how many runs the team will be above or below average, and I use this figure, along with ballpark data, to predict what adjustments to make to each pitchers batting average allowed on balls in play.

My rules for pitching projections is I take the 5 most likely starters and 6 most likely relievers. They aren't allowed to total more than 1425 innings, and if they are under 1425 I assign the extra innings to replacement level pitching. The replacement level differs for each team, it depends on defense, ballpark, and league. Most young starting pitchers have projections for 125-150 innings, while a durable vet is more like 175-200. A team like the White Sox therefore gets more innings assign to starters and less to replacement level pitching. I like this feature.

Once you have runs scored and allowed you can get a team record through the pythagorean formula. I had to adjust runs scored to equal runs allowed, but it was a minor adjustment, my runs scored and allowed, on a league level, were within 4% of each other. I think that's pretty close since they are calculated separately.

I'll post one division at a time.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Casey at bat and other stuff

New projection for Casey Kotchman. I've made some changes to the projection system, including a weight factor. Casey's a big guy, so he should hit more homers. The regression part of the system regresses Casey's HR to a higher than league average level, Figgins to a lower one, and someone like Robb Quinlan to the average. Before, all players were regressed to league average.

Its not a huge deal, but it makes Casey's projection a little better. .269, 16 HR, .339 OBA, .424 SLG. Now hopefully he'll do that while playing 1B, instead of platooning as a DH, and Erstad will be in center field or the bench.

Wonder if the Red Sox would take Erstad, Cabrera, and Juan Rivera for ManRam?

Probably not, but it would fill 3 holes where the Red Sox need players most, and the Angels wouldn't miss any of the above. No prospects involved, Red Sox don't deserve prospects from such a deal unless they pay a huge chunk of ManRam's salary.