Friday, January 29, 2010

Central Regression

Coming into the 2010 season, the Milwaukee Brewers return with similar talent. Sure the names and faces have changed, but it's a good debate if this team has actually improved. Even with some holes on their roster, the Brewers could still make the playoffs in 2010. Arguably all of the top tier teams in the NL Central have gotten worse this offseason. I know it's said frequently, but this division is up for grabs.

After each team profile, I will post the projected record of each team based on the newly released projected standings on Each players WAR (Wins above replacement level) for the 2009 season are posted in the parentheses.

Chicago Cubs

Additions- Marlon Byrd (2.4), Xavier Nady (-0.1), Chad Tracy (-0.6) and Carlos Silva (-0.1)

Total WAR 1.6

Departures- Milton Bradley (1.0), Jake Fox (-0.1), Aaron Miles (-1.3), Aaron Heilman (0.2), Rich Harden (1.8), Reed Johnson (0.4), Kevin Gregg (-0.3)

Total WAR 1.7

While their WAR +/- is only a -0.1, the Cubs talent level has severely dropped this offseason. Although Milton Bradley is a troubled player, he is also very talented. Trading him for Carlos Silva made no sense at all. Not only is that a huge downgrade in talent, but the Cubs already had a better option for the rotation in 2010. If Silva pitches over Tom Gorzelanny next season, the Cubs might have made one of the worst trades in recent history.

BP record projection: 77-85

St. Louis Cardinals

Additions- Brad Penny (2.5) and Rich Hill (0.4)

Total WAR 2.9

Departures- Brad Thompson (0), Rick Ankiel (0.1), Troy Glaus (-0.2), Mark Derosa (1.7), Khalil Greene (-0.8), Joel Pineiro (4.8), John Smoltz (1.1) and Todd Wellemeyer (-0.3)

Total WAR 6.4

While I did like the Penny and Hill additions, I still think the Cardinals should have retained Pineiro and Smoltz. Too much emphasis what put on locking up Matt Holliday. Losing a 4.8 WAR player like Joel Pineiro is a huge blow to this team. If Smoltz is not retained, the Cardinals rotation has taken a huge step back. Everybody points to the Matt Holliday trade for why the Cardinals ran away with the division last year, but what about the pitching? Having a starting rotation combine for 17 WAR is just incredible. Even with the losses, the Cardinals have to be the favorite to keep the division crown in 2010.

BP record projection: 89-73

Houston Astros

Additions- Brett Myers (-0.5), Cory Sullivan (0.1), Kevin Cash (0), Matt Lindstrom (0) and Brandon Lyon (0.7)

Total WAR 0.3

Departures- Jose Valverde (0.7), Miguel Tejada (2.6), LaTroy Hawkins (0.3), Mike Hampton (0.9) and Darin Erstad (-0.9)

Total WAR 3.6

No real explanation needed here. The Houston Astros are the Houston Astros. I am constantly questioning where this franchise is going. They spent 3yrs/$15 million on Brandon Lyon after a 0.7 WAR season. There's a short list of relievers who should garner that kind of money and Brandon Lyon's name is not on it. Ed Wade's transactions since taking over as GM have been really confusing. Maybe that's the reason he and Shawn Chacon don't see eye to eye.

Cincinnati Reds

Additions- Chris Burke (-0.2), Aroldis Chapman (-), Josh Anderson (-0.3) and Miguel Cairo (0.2)

Total WAR -0.3 (Obviously not including Chapman as he did not pitch in MLB in 2009)

Departures- Kip Wells (0.1), Jonny Gomes (0.6) and Edinson Volquez (0.3)

Total WAR 1.0

I really have no idea what to expect out of Aroldis Chapman. I guess the only certainty will be Dusty Baker logging unnecessary innings on his arm late in the year. Sure the Reds have some young talent coming back, but they just have too many holes. Anytime Willy Taveras gets playing time in CF, there's a problem.

BP record prjection: 82-80

Pittsburgh Pirates

Additions- Ryan Church (1.0), Jack Taschner (-0.2), Octavio Dotel (0.8), D.J. Carrasco (1.3), Brandon Jones (0), Brenden Donnelly (0.6), Vinnie Chulk (-0.2), Bobby Crosby (-0.7), Javier Lopez (-0.1), Akinori Iwamura (1.3) and Brian Bass (-0.3)

Total WAR 3.5

Departures- Matt Capps (-0.4), Brain Bixler (-0.1), Luis Cruz (-0.2), Phil Dumatrait (-0.7) and Jesse Chavez (-0.4)

Total WAR -1.8

I really liked a lot of the things Neal Huntington did this offseason. The Octavio Dotel signing (1yr/$3 mil) was one of the best in baseball this offseason. Also, by signing D.J. Carrasco and Brenden Donnelly, the Pirates can now use them as great trade bait for a team seeking bullpen help at the deadline. I also thought they got the better end of the Akinori Iwamura trade. However, the Matt Capps decision one of the worst moves of the offseason in baseball. Although Capps posted an unlucky 5.80 ERA in 2009, he is still one of the best relievers in baseball, and he's still only 26. In 2009, Capps struck out 46 batters, while walking 17. The Pirates easily should have considered 2009 a fluke. Capps' BABIP last season was a ridiculous .370. He was just one season removed from a 2008 campaign where he walked just five batters all year. Those are numbers teams would love at the back of their bullpen. Projected 2010 Standings for the NL Central

St. Louis 89-73
Cincinnati 82-80
Chicago 77-85
Milwaukee 75-87
Houston 75-87
Pittsburgh 70-92

While these standing are interesting to look at, I don't see Milwaukee winning just 75 games in a weak NL Central next season. Check back soon, I'll have my 2010 NL Central breakdown posted.


Michael said...

BP pretty much sucks now. They have the Brewers giving up like 80 more runs than they did last year and scoring like 40 more runs than they did last year.

I think the Brewers are a little better than last year, but probably not enough to win the Central without an injury to the Cardinals or a breakout year from Parra and Bush.

G.J. Waala said...

Credit Doug Melvin for stabilizing the rotation (Wolf & Davis) & adding farmhand reinforcements (Halama, Loe, possibly Mulder, etc.) in spite of $24 million in bad contracts (Soup, Riske, Hall).

The lineup & bullpen are such that a simply average rotation is enough to keep them in the playoff run. Now we have some true inning eaters with some talent in the middle of the rotation that can help minimize the burnout that plagued a talented 2009 bullpen.

If the Brewers stay mostly healthy, Macha abandons the station-to-station approach & lets the speedsters burn up the basepaths AND every hitter besides Braun & Fielder focuses more on contact & getting on base (Ryan & Prince are ahead of the game regarding that), then this team should win 85-88 games. If they roar on all cylinders I see them topping out at 90 wins.

Jonathan Ede said...


I completely agree with your statement on BP. I really don't see how we could give up more runs and score fewer. The offense has clearly regressed, while the pitching has improved. You nailed the key to the season, Parra and Bush. If both pitchers can pitch up to their abilities, the Brewers' playoff chances substantially increase.

G.J. Waala,

After last season, the rotation was going to be addressed. While bad contracts have really hindered the Brewers, getting Wolf/Davis had more to do with the Hardy trade/letting Cameron go. I'm not arguing the pitching needed to be address, obviously it did, what I'm worried about is if the offense surrendered to accomplish this? The difference between Cameron and Gomez is so large it could end up costing the Brewers 2-3 valuable wins next season. With the margin for error so small, losing those wins could be the difference.

Also, I saw you Mentioned the Halama and Loe signings this offseason. If either player make an appearance for the Brewers next season, it could be a long year.


G.J. Waala said...

First, keep up the great work with the blog, Jon.

I'm quite aware that we sacrificed offense for starting pitching. And you could very well be right about the Cam-to-GoGo transition costing us 2-3 wins per season simply because of GoGo's offensive woes. I'm curious how many theoretical wins we pick up by stabilizing our rotation & keeping our BP fresh & more effective, per consequence. Also HR notwithstanding, I think Esco will give us more on both sides of the plate than Hardy.

We need to also factor in the extra theoretical wins we'd nab with Weeks healthy all season, plus the positive impact that McGehee's healthy knee will have on his defensive game.

What do you feel would be the overall net effect of all these factors?

G.J. Waala said...

Also my point with bringing up guys like Halama & Loe is that unlike last season, we have more reinforcements at Nashville & they should be better overall than our options last season. I agree that having to rely on our farmhand hurlers for more than the occasional spot start would be a reason to worry but I feel better about Halama/Loe/Cappy/Waters/possibly Mulder than I did about Burns & McClung. Also whoever doesn't make the rotation (Soup?) could do spot starts out of the BP.

G.J. Waala said...

My bad ... by "both sides of the plate" I meant at the plate & on the field.

Jonathan Ede said...

G.J. Waala,

Thanks for the positive feedback on the blog. The Brewers' rotation/bullpen is set up much better this season. How many wins is creates is up for debate, but it's surly an upgrade.

Regarding the whole Escobar/Hardy debate, I think many Brewers fans are underestimating the abilities of J.J. Hardy. In the past three seasons combined, Hardy has averaged a UZR/150 of 11.3, while playing SS. Those kind of numbers are incredible. Every time I discuss Alcides Escobar with someone, they seem to think he is a better defender than Hardy. In short, he's not. That's not a knock on Escobar's game, but a testament to just how good Hardy is in the field. If Hardy posts similar batting numbers than his 2009 (I think he will rebound), than Escobar might produce a better batting line, but defense is another story.

I understood what you were saying regarding the backups Melvin has acquired for the pitching rotation. I really don't know what we can get out of Capuano/Mulder (maybe). Sure they could come in and produce, but they could also never pitch in Milwaukee. I think I speak for Brewers nation when I say I'd be disappointed to say the least if a starter next season was named Waters/Halama/Loe. Even if an injury occurs, those players really don't belong in the major leagues.

You're right, with Weeks coming back, the Brewers have reason to be excited. The reason I kind of put it to the side and didn't talk about a huge upgrade from last year was the play of Felipe Lopez. Lopez was incredible in his brief stint in Milwaukee. In just three months as a Brewer, Lopez racked up a 2.6 WAR. Sure having Weeks last season would have been nice, but Lopez filled in perfectly.


Michael said...

I don't think comparing what JJ did in 2007, 2008, and what he may do next season has any relevance in this discussion. We are comparing the differences between the 2009 team and the 2010 team and in 2009 Hardy had a poor offensive season. I don't think it would be a stretch at all to say that in 2010 Escobar will eclipse the total production the Brewers got out the SS position in 2009.

When evaluating the pitching staff the most important thing is subtracting Suppan and Looper from the rotation (and Burns and McClung for that matter would be another 1.5 wins if they're replaced with replacement level talent). Those two alone combined for about 1.5 wins below replacement level. If Davis and Wolf are merely league average pitchers (about 2 wins each) that would increase their win total by about 5.5. I think we can also expect better seasons from Bush, Parra, and Gallardo. On a conservative prediction I would put that at about a +2.5 wins from those three.

If Gomez is played every day in CF he probably comes in right at about a 2 win player, a more conservative prediction would be 1.5 wins. That is about a 3 win difference between he and Cameron.

There could be slight win gains in RF, Catcher, and thrid base as well, but we can conservatively estimate them at about the same as 2009. Fielder will probably regress a little and Braun will probably remain about the same.

When I look at all of my personal predictions I see this team as about an 83-85 win team without any injuries or other roster moves. That will probably be good enough to be in contention in the NLC, but not good enough to win it.

G.J. Waala said...

There's no doubt that Hardy is a good defender but Escobar also has great range, a spectacular arm & I've heard that he could very well develop into a better defender than Hardy eventually. You said that in short Esco isn't a better defender than Hardy but then didn't explain why. Here's a ratio that stands out: [5.87/4.36/3.95] The first is Escobar's Range Factor, the second is Hardy's RF & the third is the league average at shortstop. These were numbers from last season but I doubt Hardy has made up a ton of ground since. Also Esco's arm has been rated the best infield arm among Brewers prospects & even the slap hitting Esco could pass Hardy's Kendallesque .659 OPS from last season. Sure Hardy is bound to do better this season but what I'm trying to say is that Hardy's offensive game won't be missed & the only reason his defense seems better than Esco's at this point is because the former has more experience.

Also I agree that Flip did some amazing things for us last season but he definitely overachieved. His 2009 stat line seems a little out of place compared to his career stats & he has a reputation of not always playing hard. If Weeks were still hurt now or just became a FA this winter then maybe a two year deal to Flip would've been OK. I know O-Dog's still out there too but his durability is always an issue.

Michael said...

I was drinking the Lopez Kool-aid during the season because he was playing very well, but I still wouldn't want him on a multi year deal. His babip was .37 higher than his career average.

His defense isn't spectacular and he's basically a singles hitter who can't/doesn't steal bases any more.

If Weeks can stay healthy, he should definitely put up a 3-4 win season.