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Total WAR Project

Total WAR Project, Part X: Philadelphia Phillies

Posted by Michael Baumann, Sat, April 03, 2010 02:54 PM Comments: 17

The Total WAR Project is a series of posts that analyzes the closest competition facing the Phillies in 2010. The posts use Wins Above Replacement, a metric designed to use offensive and defensive production within a single stat. You can check out the rest of the teams in our series here.

All winter, we’ve been doing this Total WAR Project, and hearing a chorus of “We don’t care about the Cardinals, or Mariners, or Red Sox–what about the Phillies?”

Well, two days before the first pitch of the season, we can finally answer that question–what about the Phillies?–after the jump.

Continue reading Total WAR Project, Part X: Philadelphia Phillies

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Total WAR Project, Part IX: Boston Red Sox

Posted by Paul Boye, Thu, March 18, 2010 05:00 PM Comments: 55

The Total WAR Project is a series of posts that analyzes the closest competition facing the Phillies in 2010. The posts use Wins Above Replacement, a metric designed to use offensive and defensive production within a single stat. You can check out the rest of the teams in our series here.

Wednesday, I previewed the Red Sox as part of the A.L. East and league preview. Really, this is a team that would be the odds-on favorite to win any other division in the game. They have excellent pitching, a fan base that takes over nearly every visiting park and a patient offense that will put plenty of runners on base.

Ah, but they rue this day, for they must contend with those omnipotent Yankees not only 18 times a year, but in the race for a division title, as well. This is hardly an enviable position. Fortunately for Boston, the wild card provides a bit of a security blanket. Many would pencil the Red Sox in for a playoff spot right now, but with games to be played, all we can do is see just how good they might be, and wonder if they could truly contend for a seemingly locked-up division title.

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Total WAR Project VIII: New York Yankees

Posted by Michael Baumann, Thu, March 11, 2010 12:00 PM Comments: 15

The Total WAR Project is a series of posts that analyzes the closest competition facing the Phillies in 2010. The posts use Wins Above Replacement, a metric designed to use offensive and defensive production within a single stat.

So we’ve covered the six NL teams (Braves, the Mets, the Rockies, the Cardinals, the Dodgers, the Brewers), plus the Mariners. I honestly think that these Yankees are the team to be worried about. It goes against the pessimist in me, but short of Chase Utley and Roy Halladay engaging in and acting on a suicide pact over the All-Star break, I can’t see any way this team doesn’t get back to the Fall Classic.

They were the best team in baseball by a huge distance last year, and they got even better this offseason. They go legitimately 4-deep in the rotation, they have the best lineup in baseball, and they’re in the process of rotating older talent out of the lineup and inserting younger talent, but more on that later. In short, the best team in baseball continues to get better. More on this after the jump.

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The Total WAR Project, Part VII: Seattle Mariners

Posted by Michael Baumann, Wed, March 10, 2010 12:00 PM Comments: 7

The Total WAR Project is a series of posts that analyzes the closest competition facing the Phillies in 2010. The posts use Wins Above Replacement, a metric designed to use offensive and defensive production within a single stat.

In today’s Total WAR Project, we visit the famous story of the jilted ex-boyfriend. You know the feeling when, as Gloria Gaynor famously sang, “you see me with somebody new,” and your heart immediately falls into your colon? Well, it’s not exactly like that, but there will always be a sense of “what-could-have-been” for Phillies fans with Cliff Lee. Yes, the Phils dumped him for a stud, but the grass is always greener, etc. Sort of like when I broke off my torrid romance with Holly Hunter to be with Kate, my Long-Suffering Girlfriend. I’m happy now, but every time I watch Broadcast News, there’s that little twinge of regret. But I digress.

We have identified, studied, and otherwise examined the six teams that are most likely to deny the Phillies the pennant, either by preventing them from winning the division or Wild Card or by knocking them out in the NL playoffs: the Braves, the Mets, the Rockies, the Cardinals, the Dodgers, and the Brewers.

And so we journey to the mystic American League West to take a look at the first of three teams that could give the Fightins the most trouble in the World Series: The Seattle Mariners.

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The Total WAR Project, Part VI: Milwaukee Brewers

Posted by Paul Boye, Mon, March 08, 2010 03:00 PM Comments: 7

The Total WAR Project is a series of posts that analyzes the closest competition facing the Phillies in 2010. The posts use Wins Above Replacement, a metric designed to use offensive and defensive production within a single stat.

The latest in the series of Total WAR Posts has us examining the Milwaukee Brewers, a team that has risen from irrelevance to prominence in near-meteoric fashion. Behind a core of homegrown prospects (so many, in fact, that they were able to trade the excess for CC Sabathia in 2008), the Brew Crew has established itself as a legitimate contender in the N.L. Central.

That was, at least, until last year, when nearly every player not named Fielder, Braun, Hoffman or Gallardo struggled to produce in a positive way. The Brewers found themselves on the outside looking in during the October playoff stretch, something their fans were likely none too pleased to experience following 2008′s playoff berth.

Will their offseason moves bring them back into contention for the Wild Card, or even the N.L. Central? Let’s take a look.

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The Total WAR Project, Part V: Los Angeles Dodgers

Posted by Paul Boye, Fri, February 05, 2010 02:20 PM Comments: 15

The Total WAR Project is a series of posts Mike and I began back at The Phrontiersman. In each post, we take a look at the biggest competition the Phillies will likely face – within their division, the National League and the American League – and evaluate their offseasons. Have these teams improved? Have they weakened? How good are the Phillies, in terms of WAR, in relation to their closest competition? Well, that last one will be reserved for the final post in the series. For now, we’re setting our sights on our competitors.

We’re using WAR – Wins Above Replacement – exclusively here, as it contains both offensive and defensive evaluations combined into one single, easy-to-use statistic. There are a few iterations of WAR, none differing greatly, and we use the one supplied by Fangraphs for our numbers and projections.

Typically, these posts begin with some sort of allegorical war story to tie in with the team we’re about to evaluate. You want a war story? Go read some of the comments on the last entry in the series, posted by Mike on the Cardinals.

In this episode, we’ll be taking a look at the National League runners-up in two straight seasons, the Los Angeles Dodgers. Shall we?

Continue reading The Total WAR Project, Part V: Los Angeles Dodgers

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The Total WAR Project, Part IV: St. Louis Cardinals

Posted by Michael Baumann, Wed, January 27, 2010 07:00 AM Comments: 79

One sentence introducing you to this format. While at The Phrontiersman, I identified the ten teams that pose the greatest threat to the Phillies’ World Series run in 2010 and decided to see how they’re doing in relation to each other this offseason; the rules are here, and we’ve already covered the Braves, Mets, and Rockies. If something seems odd, or if you have questions about the methodology, odds are you’ll find it in one of those posts.

This isn’t really a war story, but I find it interesting. English singer-songwriter James Blunt was actually a Royal Army captain before making it big as a musician. While serving in an armored reconnaissance unit during the NATO peacekeeping mission in 1999, Blunt kept his guitar strapped to the outside of his tank and played in his free time. It was there that he began writing his album Back to Bedlam, which, of course, contained his international No. 1 hit, “You’re Beautiful.” But I hate that song, so I’m not going to link it here.

Interesting fact about the Cardinals: they’re not named after the bird. Nope—according to Bill James, St. Louis had three professional baseball teams in the late 19th century. The Cardinals were actually founded in 1882 as the Brown Stockings (later the Browns). In 1885, the St. Louis Maroons joined the National League from the Union Association before moving to Indianapolis. Finally, in 1900, the Browns, after a year as the St. Louis Perfectos (I’m sure whoever thought of that moniker lost his job immediately), the team decided to continue the city’s baseball tradition of adopting progressively lighter shades for its team names—cardinal refers to the color (much like Stanford University), not the bird.

Incidentally, in 1902, the American League set up shop in St. Louis with another team called the Browns. In 1954 they moved to Baltimore and became the Orioles. Don’t worry. They are named after the bird.

Total WAR continues after the jump. With some Madcon, for your listening pleasure.

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The Total WAR Project, Part III: The Colorado Rockies

Posted by Michael Baumann, Fri, January 15, 2010 01:09 PM Comments: 2

Around 60 or 61 A.D., the Romans were colonizing the British Isles, they encountered resistance from an indigenous tribe called the Iceni offered token resistance around modern-day Norfolk. Led by Boudica, the widow of a king who had made peace with the Romans, the Iceni forged local alliances to collect an army of around 230,000 to march on Londinium, routing a Roman legion and sacking a Roman colony along the way.

The Roman governor of Britain, Gaius Suetonius Paulinus, at the head of 10,000 men, met them at what is now known as the Battle of Watling Street. Paulinus assembled his men, equipped with superior spears and armor, in a V shape, effectively funneling the Iceni attackers into a wedge where they could be surrounded by the cavalry and systematically cut down.

The plan worked spectacularly. The Romans suffered only 400 casualties, while the Britons suffered more than 80,000 – 200 Iceni for every Roman.

Amazing what you can down when you’ve got a plan and your opponent doesn’t.

What I’ve always found interesting about the Rockies is that while Coors Field caters to power hitters, the Rockies tend to have speedy, slap-hitting center fielders, rather than power hitters. The only exception is Ellis Burks–otherwise, the Rockies’ history is littered with guys like Dexter Fowler, Juan Pierre, Willy Taveras, and Alex Cole (look him up, I dare you).

This is because the architects who built Coors Field knew that the thin air would result in the ball flying out of the park, so they built a massive outfield, which needed a speedy, slap-hitting center fielder patrolling it. Otherwise, just about everything hit in the air would drop for a hit. Offensively, even someone like Juan Pierre, who hasn’t hit a ball further than 300 feet since 2001, benefits because of that huge outfield. The deep fence means the opposing outfielders play farther back, which, in turn, means that lots of Texas Leaguers drop and lots of 180-foot doubles get hit.

Total WAR numbers for the Rockies after the jump.

2009 Roster

C1: Chris Iannetta (2.0 WAR)
C2: Yorvit Torrealba (0.8 WAR)

1B: Todd Helton (3.6 WAR)
2B: Clint Barmes (1.9 WAR)
3B: Garrett Atkins (-0.4 WAR)
SS: Troy Tulowitzki (5.4 WAR)
INF: Ian Stewart (1.2 WAR)

OF1: Brad Hawpe (1.3 WAR)
OF2: Dexter Fowler (0.7 WAR)
OF3: Seth Smith (2.7 WAR)
OF4: Carlos Gonzalez (2.4 WAR)
OF5: Ryan Spillborghs (0.3 WAR)

SP1: Ubaldo Jimenez (5.7 WAR)
SP2: Jorge de la Rosa (3.7 WAR)
SP3: Jason Marquis (3.8 WAR)
SP4: Jason Hammel (3.8 WAR)
SP5: Aaron Cook (1.9 WAR)

CL: Huston Street (1.5 WAR)
SU: Rafael Betancourt (1.0 WAR)
RP: Matt Daley (0.7 WAR)
RP: Franklin Morales (0.5 WAR)
RP: Manny Corpas (0.4 WAR)
RP: Josh Fogg (-0.1 WAR)
RP: Matt Belisle (0.0 WAR)
RP: Alan Embree (-0.1 WAR)

2009 Total WAR: 44.7

The more I look at the numbers, the more I like this team. You know how everyone was saying a while back how you can’t win with pitching and defense in Coors Field? Well FUCK ‘EM.

That rotation’s quite good, and still quite young (out of the 5 starters for the 2010 Rockies, every one has posted at least one season of 3.7 WAR or better, and their ages will be 25, 29, 27, 31, and 29).

When I was looking at how J.A. Happ was more lucky than good last year, and how Cole Hamels was more unlucky than bad last year, I kept running into Jason Hammel. His case was like Cole’s only worse. Ask a baseball fan to name 6 starting pitchers under contract with the Rockies in 2009, and I bet Hammel’s name doesn’t even come up. I get great enjoyment out of the fact that everyone acted like Jorge de la Rosa’s injury last year was as big a deal as the injury to Ben Sheets in the 2008 NLDS (the Phillies don’t get out of the first round in 2008 if Sheets is healthy), when Hammel, who had a slightly better season, was an afterthought.

You wouldn’t know it from these numbers, but the Rockies’ biggest problem last year was the platoon split. Brad Hawpe (someone at Deadspin called the 2007 World Series “Hawpe on Papi,” a pun that I’ve giggled at periodically ever since) has an enormous platoon split. Against righties, he’s essentially Chase Utley (about .300/.400/.550), but against lefties, he’s barely a major-league average hitter. Likewise Garrett Atkins. I’ll concede that Atkins’ biggest problem is not the platoon split – it’s the fact that since 2006, his OPS has dropped almost exactly 100 points a year like clockwork. But it is worth noting that he OPS’d almost 250 points higher against lefties than righties. Also, while I was on his splits page, I noticed that Atkins hit .350 or better facing a starting pitcher for the second or third time in a game, which was almost as high as his OPS against a starting pitcher in his first at-bat in the game. I’m not sure what can be done about this, but there must be something, because he sucked last year.

But Atkins is gone now, leaving only one bleeding, gangrenous pustule on the team’s otherwise impeccably maintained backside: the bullpen. In 2009, one would have been well-advised to heed the words of Captain Kirk on the Klingons and apply them to the Rockies relievers: “Don’t Trust Them.”

There’s a lot of potential in that bullpen, but not a single pitcher who can’t be touched. No one knows the perils of an unpredictable bullpen better than Phillies fans, and I know I can say that’s no way to go through a pennant race.

2010 Roster

C1: Chris Iannetta (3.0 WAR)
C2: Miguel Olivo (1.4 WAR)

1B: Todd Helton (3.0 WAR)
2B: Clint Barmes (1.9 WAR)
3B: Ian Stewart (3.0 WAR)
SS: Troy Tulowitzki (6.4 WAR)
INF: Eric Young (1.9 WAR)

OF1: Brad Hawpe (2.2 WAR)
OF2: Dexter Fowler (2.2 WAR)
OF3: Seth Smith (2.3 WAR)
OF4: Carlos Gonzalez (2.6 WAR)
OF5: Ryan Spillborghs (0.8 WAR)

SP1: Ubaldo Jimenez (5.1 WAR)*
SP2: Jorge de la Rosa (3.7 WAR) 4.07 FIP, 162 IP
SP3: Aaron Cook (1.9 WAR) 4.28 FIP, 172 IP
SP4: Jason Hammel (3.8 WAR) 4.32 FIP, 157 IP
SP5: Jeff Francis (1.6 WAR in 2008) 4.41 FIP, 157 IP (Bill James)

CL: Huston Street (1.5 WAR) 2.99 FIP, 55 IP
SU: Rafael Betancourt (1.4 WAR) 3.60, 63 IP
RP: Matt Daley (0.7 WAR) 3.98 FIP, 59 IP
RP: Franklin Morales (0.5 WAR) 5.10 FIP, 56 IP (Bill James)
RP: Manny Corpas (0.4 WAR) 3.87 FIP, 59 IP
RP: Taylor Buchholz (1.2 WAR in 2008) 4.32 FIP, 31 IP (Bill James)
RP: Matt Belisle (0.0 WAR) 4.02 FIP, 62 IP
RP: Esmil Rogers (0.1 WAR) 4.10 FIP, 62 IP (Marcel)

2010 Projected Total WAR: 52.6

Out: Atkins, Marquis, Torrealba, Embree, Fogg

In: Eric Young, Jr., Jeff Francis, Taylor Buchholz, Miguel Olivo, Esmil Rogers

Just as a note, I used the three Bill James projections and a Marcel projection because CHONE doesn’t recognize the existence of Jeff Francis or Taylor Buchholz, and they bumped Morales and Rogers up to the rotation.

Ah, a Taylor Buchholz sighting. I remember him being the onetime Phillies’ Closer of the Future—Now if that isn’t a death sentence I don’t know what is. Also, noted Phillies Killer Yorvit Torrealba has been kidnapped…no, that’s not right…released is the word I was looking for.

Anyhoo. Like the Braves with Hudson, the Rockies get a front-line starter back from injury, noted Canadian luminary Jeff Francis. I’ve been a Francis fan since I read a story on him in Baseball Weekly when he was in college. He didn’t want to leave Canada to go to college, so he went to the only Canadian school that plays NAIA baseball (for those of you unfamiliar with the NAIA, it’s the rung of American collegiate athletics below the NCAA, even Division III) even though he was a first-round talent. He wound up dominating and getting picked by the Rockies in the first round anyway, and I thought it was a cool story, so I’ve rooted for him ever since, except when he beat Cole Hamels in Game 1 of the 2007 NLDS.

So that covers the two Rockies pitchers who haven’t thrown a ball in over a year. Apart from that, it looks like we’re in for a little regression across the board from what was an outstanding and fun starting staff last year. However, the various projectors show the bullpen picking up the slack a little, which would offset the regression of pitching staff. There’s no reason Ubaldo Jimenez doesn’t continue to get better, and given that, if they have 4 other guys who go out there and pitch well on their turns, as all indications say they will, the Rockies ought to be in good shape.

The really exciting part comes from the continued progression of Troy Tulowitzki and Chris Iannetta, as well as the emergence of perhaps the most exciting pair of young outfielders in the game: Carlos Gonzalez and Dexter Fowler. Fowler was the Rockies’ starting center fielder from midseason last year. He’s one of the fastest players in the game, and while he only hit .266 last season, he hit 29 doubles and walked 67 times in 518 PA. The thing I like best about him is that he’s already got pretty good plate discipline for a 23-year-old with fewer than 500 major league at bats in his career. Plus he’s got that top-end speed you need to patrol center field in Coors.

He needs to improve on two things in order to take the leap to elite status. First, he needs to be more selective in his base-stealing. Fowler was 27-for 37 last year. With that speed, he can be absolute murder to opposing batteries if he gets better at reading pitchers and picking his spots.

The second, I’ll get back to in a moment. Carlos Gonzalez, who came to Colorado in the first Matt Holliday trade last season, is poised for a breakout year. I distinctly remember him hitting around .850 in last year’s playoffs. We just could not get this guy out. He’s almost like Fowler, a speed guy with an eye, except that he hits lefty (Fowler’s a switch hitter) and with a little higher average and a little more power.

Ok. Back to that second way Fowler can get better. Tony Gwynn told a story once that George Will recounted in his book Men at Work. In 1984, when the Padres went to the World Series, Gwynn credited the great season that he had to Padres shortstop Alan Wiggins. Wiggins got into drugs after that year and was never really the same; in 1987 he fell for the hidden ball trick twice in the same season and in 1991 he became (it is believed) the first major league ballplayer to die of complications from AIDS.

But in 1984, Wiggins stole 70 bases. Pitchers were so afraid of Wiggins on the bases that they faced Gwynn, who had almost Ichiro-like bat control, more fastballs than he had ever seen. The idea was that throwing fastballs would make it easier to catch Wiggins stealing. Never mind that it allowed Gwynn to sit on the heater and post what was to that point a career season. Gwynn tallied 213 hits and a .351 batting average, both league-leading totals, Wiggins scored 106 runs, and the Padres won the pennant.

Fowler and Gonzalez could be that kind of a 1-2 punch in front of Tulo and some combination of Helton, Seth Smith, Brad Hawpe, and Chris Iannetta if Fowler hadn’t struck out 116 times in 433 at bats in 2009. That’s an appalling rate, one that you can get away with if you’re Mark Reynolds, Ryan Howard, or Adam Dunn, but not if you’re a leadoff hitter who only hits 4 homers a year.

Particularly maddening is that Fowler’s BABIP was .355 last year, a mark that I suggest is 100 percent sustainable with his speed. If he ever cuts down on his strikeouts, he’ll be just incredible. Turning 10 percent of his strikeouts into walks and another 10 percent infield hits ups his OBP by 50 points.

I brought this up the other night with Paul, and he tells me that young players very seldom cut down their strikeout rates, but reducing his bat speed and concentrating more on contact might be the difference between Fowler being a good leadoff man and a great one. Either way, he’s a good player now, and is a couple tweaks in his game from being a great one. Even if he doesn’t cut down on his strikeouts, a little coaching could raise his stolen base percentage, and then you’ve got a .360 OBP leadoff hitter with blinding speed. I suppose you could do worse.

Fowler and Gonzalez are just two of five good outfielders on the Rockies. I think that’s going to be one of their greatest strengths: depth and flexibility. Apart from Tulowitzki, there isn’t a superstar on this team, but neither is there a position player on the roster who would be truly embarrassing to trot out there every day. The Rockies have managed to get 13 solid position players on the same roster, which is hard to do. The Phillies and Yankees didn’t manage that last year.

Between Smith, Hawpe, Gonzalez, Fowler, and Ryan Spillborghs, they have five quality outfielders, plus second baseman Eric Young, Jr., who can also play center. Starting second baseman Clint Barmes can also play short (and third in a pinch), and third baseman Ian Stewart can also play second. Should he so choose, manager Jim Tracy could rewrite his lineup every day, putting the best seven of his non-catcher position players out there in just about any combination. That kind of interchangeability can be invaluable to a manager, particularly when injuries strike. Tracy showed in 2009 that he was no problem shaking up the batting order, so expect more of the same in 2009.

The projections show the Rockies taking a big step forward, about 8 wins’ worth of WAR in total improvement. Of course, a lot of that is predicated on how well Jeff Francis and Taylor Buchholz bounce back from a year’s layoff, and how well players like Gonzalez and Stewart react to playing every day.

I’m really rooting for these Rockies–they’ve got a bunch of fun, likable young players, and with all due respect to the Cardinals, this team is one breakout season away from being the Phillies’ biggest competition for the NL pennant next year.

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The Total WAR Project, Part II: New York Mets

Posted by Paul Boye, Thu, January 14, 2010 12:04 PM Comments: 2

IMPORTANT: If you’re reading this post before the Total WAR introduction and Part I have been posted, you’re reading this in error.

I’m not the politic and history buff that Mike is, I won’t pretend to be, but it sure seems to me like the Mets are a lot like the war in Iraq; or, at least, like the two big views of it back here. Either you a) try to spend a whole lot more money and add more troops to try and overwhelm your opposition or b) finally admit it’s time to resign and pull back and let the system rebuild.

The Yankees finally perfected the art of option A last year, when three huge free agents propelled them to the title over the Phillies. The Mets, well, still seem to be stuck trying to master that art. After a lost season in which nearly every single starting position player and pitcher landed on the disabled list, the Mets are trying to get right back into the party in the National League East, not content to simply roll over and let the Phils take another division crown as they gather reinforcements.

Can the Mets’ returning starters – with a little help from some cavalry – actually make some noise and challenge the Phillies for the top spot in the East?

2009 Roster

C1: Omir Santos (1.0 WAR)
C2: Ramon Castro (0.9 WAR)

1B: Carlos Delgado (0.8 WAR)
2B: Luis Castillo (1.6 WAR)
3B: David Wright (3.4 WAR)
SS: Jose Reyes (0.7 WAR)
IF: Daniel Murphy (0.6 WAR)

OF1: Carlos Beltran (2.9 WAR)
OF2: Angel Pagan (2.9 WAR)
OF3: Ryan Church (0.4 WAR)
OF4: Jeff Francoeur (0.4 WAR)
OF5/UTIL: Fernando Tatis (1.5 WAR)

SP1: Johan Santana (2.8 WAR)
SP2: Mike Pelfrey (1.8 WAR)
SP3: Livan Hernandez (0.9 WAR)
SP4: John Maine (0.6 WAR)
SP5: Tim Redding (0.1 WAR)

CL: Francisco Rodriguez (0.3 WAR)
SU: Pedro Feliciano (0.6 WAR)
RP: Bobby Parnell (0.5 WAR)
RP: J.J. Putz (0.1 WAR)
RP: Sean Green (-0.1 WAR)
RP: Brian Stokes (-0.2 WAR)
RP: Elmer Dessens (-0.3 WAR)
P: Oliver Perez (-0.8 WAR)

2009 Total WAR: 23.4

That total is exactly half of what the regular Braves 25-man roster put up in 2009. Granted, this team was absolutely ravaged by injury, and the team leader in homers (Murphy) had just 12. Only six players appeared in 100 games or more. Jose Reyes and Carlos Delgado combined to play in just 62 games all year…you get the picture. The list of contributing players for this team is tall, but none cracked 3.5 WAR and 22 different players put up negatives. Twenty-two! The Mets needed to use practically an entire second roster to compensate for injuries.

(I wrote this up a few hours before the mess with Carlos Beltran surfaced. For pure irony’s sake, I’ll just leave it here untouched)

Barring another medicinal cataclysm not unlike the Andromeda Strain, this team will be better in 2010, if only because its regulars will actually take the field, well, regularly. The addition of Jason Bay helps, and makes an already talented lineup a little bit more fearsome. The real question surrounding the Mets, though, is this: who, besides Santana, can pitch the ball competently for anywhere close to 200 innings as a starter or 50 innings in relief? Even Francisco Rodriguez could only manage a measly 0.3 WAR for his $8.5M.

As an aside, did you know that K-Rod has a vesting option for 2012 at $17.5 million? That’s more than Mariano Rivera has made or will make in any year, and that includes the contract that will come after this current one expires after the 2010 season, and it vests with just some modest games finished totals and a clean bill of health. Lunacy, as someone would say.

Not content to just wait for healthy players, the Mets added Jason Bay to, essentially, replace what Carlos Delgado brought when healthy. How does the Metropolitans’ roster project right now?

2010 Roster

C1: Henry Blanco (1.0 WAR)
C2: Chris Coste (0.7 WAR)

1B: Daniel Murphy (0.7 WAR)
2B: Luis Castillo (1.3 WAR)
3B: David Wright (5.2 WAR)
SS: Jose Reyes (5.3 WAR)
INF: Alex Cora (0 WAR)

OF1: Carlos Beltran (4.7 WAR)
OF2: Jason Bay (4.0 WAR)
OF3: Angel Pagan (1.5 WAR)
OF4: Jeff Francoeur (1.1 WAR)
OF5: Fernando Martinez (0.1 WAR)

SP1: Johan Santana (4.7 WAR)*
SP2: Mike Pelfrey (3.6 WAR)*
SP3: Oliver Perez (1.3 WAR)*
SP4: John Maine (0.6 WAR)* 4.43 FIP, 123 IP
SP5: ?

CL: Francisco Rodriguez (0.9 WAR)*
SU: Pedro Feliciano (0.6 WAR) 3.75 FIP, 57 IP
RP: Kelvim Escobar (5.2 WAR as a starter) 3.15 FIP, 36 IP as a reliever
RP: Ryota Igarashi (Unknown WAR) 3.19 ERA, 52 IP
RP: Nelson Figueroa (0.6 WAR) 4.29 FIP, 156 IP as a starter
RP: Sean Green (-0.1 WAR) 3.93 FIP, 72 IP
RP: Brian Stokes (-0.2 WAR) 4.40 FIP, 69 IP
RP: Pat Misch (-0.3 WAR) 4.43 FIP, 67 IP

2010 Projected Total WAR: 37.3

Out: Delgado, Hernandez, Redding, Putz, Dessens

In: Bay, Escobar, Igarashi

Okay, now for the caveats. Escobar pitched just three innings in 2009, so 2008 numbers are listed for him. His career as a starter is over, and as I have no way to project what sort of value he could add as a relief pitcher, he did not factor into the total. Igarashi’s numbers are from his last season in NPB, and he, too, did not factor into the total.

The Mets need a fifth starter, and I’m not buying CHONE’s inclination that Figueroa will be used in the rotation long enough to rack up 156 combined starting and relief innings. I just don’t see him making the 10+ starts necessary to reach that mark, along with many multi-inning relief appearances. The bullpen is still a mess, the rotation is average, and the Mets will need to pummel people game after game to keep their head above water.

They’re still being linked to Bengie Molina, as well as Orlando Hudson, should Castillo be traded. Joel Pineiro has also grabbed their attention. Molina is a swing-at-everything catcher with a little pop who is projected to add just half a win over Blanco, but will likely cost a few million over two years. As Phillies fans, we want this. Hudson, a severely overrated fielder, looks to be about one full win better than Castillo for 2010, while Pineiro, a groundballing Dave Duncan reclamation project, will be overpaid but should put up average numbers. His 2009 WAR exceeded his combined total from the previous four seasons, but he did have some effective seasons in Seattle prior to that. He’d offer value simply be being able to competently throw a ball over the plate for 150 or so innings, something the Mets need desperately; far more than they need another slight offensive upgrade.

New York should be pesky as ever in 2010, but shouldn’t be considered a serious contender for the division as they are presently constituted. By adding some combination of Molina, Hudson and Pineiro, they bolster their chances for the wild card, but don’t approach 90 wins and probably finish behind Atlanta in the division.

Fernando Martinez was rushed to the Majors, and his numbers were awful in 100 plate appearances, but he is still regarded as a nice prospect and should see a bump in production. Heck, he won’t even turn 22 until the second week in October.

It can’t be stressed enough how hard this season rides upon the health of the Mets’ key players. Having Beltran and Reyes healthy automatically makes the Mets a team to take notice of, and David Wright should be his normal, really good self (whether the Powerful Wright or Contactful Wright shows up is a different issue). Really, though, this team’s fate lies in the hands of its pitching staff, which was not much improved this offseason. Right now, its highlights are composed of Johan Santana, fragments of Francisco Rodriguez and about 15 contenders for fourth starter and middle relief. Despite the offense, they might struggle to post a decent run differential.

Mark the Mets for 84-78, third place in the East for 2010.

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The Total WAR Project, Part I: Atlanta Braves

Posted by Michael Baumann, Wed, January 13, 2010 12:22 PM Comments: 3

One of the great 20th-century proponents of Total War, Curtis LeMay, advocated a nuclear version of total war (should it come to pass) called Mutually Assured Destruction. LeMay (the inspiration not only for General Buck Turgidson of Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb but for Burt Lancaster’s hawkish and treasonous General James Scott in Seven Days in May) thought that the best way to prevent war was to make the cost of waging it too high for a rational enemy (read: the Soviet Union) to want to wage it.

Khrushchev once said of LeMay’s vision, “The living would envy the dead.”

And so it came to pass that I discovered, after having promised the Total WAR project for all players, that FanGraphs’ CHONE projections don’t include predicted value numbers for pitchers. Therefore, where possible, I’ll be using the fan projections, which do. It’s far less scientific, I know, but for the purposes of keeping the numbers consistent, it seems to be the best option. If the fan numbers are completely f’d up the a, missing, or if only a few readers have projected stats, I’ll just repeat last year’s. This only seems to be happening with middle relievers and back-end starters, however. 2009 numbers will be italicized and followed by CHONE’s projected FIP and innings pitched, and fan predictions will be marked with an asterisk. It’s also worth noting that fan projections seem to be consistently optimistic, if only by a couple decimal points, because of the preponderance of, for instance, Braves fans projecting Braves players. Just bear that in mind when you’re reading.

So. On to the Braves.

In April 2006, I saw a Phillies-Braves game at Turner Field. The Phillies won behind early homers by Bobby Abreu, Chase Utley, and Ryan Howard, and Gavin Floyd got the win. In the later innings, the Braves fans (such as were left), started doing the tomahawk chop, and I almost caught myself joining in. It’s hypnotic. Far and away the best cheer in sports, racist though it may be. Total WAR begins after the jump.

2009 Roster

C1: Brian McCann (4.4 WAR)
C2: David Ross (1.7 WAR)

1B: Adam LaRoche (2.4 WAR)
2B: Kelly Johnson (0.7 WAR)
3B: Chipper Jones (2.8 WAR)
SS: Yunel Escobar (4.1 WAR)
INF: Martin Prado (2.8 WAR)

OF1: Nate McLouth (1.9 WAR)
OF2: Garret Anderson (-1.0 WAR)
OF3: Matt Diaz (2.5 WAR)
OF4: Ryan Church (0.5 WAR)
OF5: Omar Infante (1.1 WAR)

SP1: Javier Vazquez (6.6 WAR)
SP2: Jair Jurrjens (3.9 WAR)
SP3: Derek Lowe (2.7 WAR)
SP4: Tommy Hanson (2.6 WAR)
SP5: Kenshin Kawakami (1.7 WAR)

CL: Rafael Soriano (2.0 WAR)
SU: Peter Moylan (1.5 WAR)
RP: Mike Gonzalez (0.9 WAR)
RP: Kris Medlen (0.9 WAR)
RP: Eric O’Flaherty (0.7 WAR)
RP: Manny Acosta (0.0 WAR)
RP: Jeff Bennett (-0.1 WAR)
RP: Buddy Carlyle (-0.5 WAR)

2009 Total WAR: 46.8

Obviously, there were contributions by players not listed here, but while other bench players like Greg Norton and Diory Hernandez spent some time in the majors, they didn’t get enough playing time to make a huge impact. These are literally quad-A replacement players, the likes of whom the Braves will probably trot out from time to time this season as well, to similar effect.

If the name Diory Hernandez sounds familiar, it’s probably because you’ve read a Braves box score. I remember him because the only game I’ve ever live-blogged (an extra-inning Braves win in June) featured Uncle Cholly intentionally walking Hernandez twice when he (Diory, not Uncle Cholly) was hitting .128. Mystifying.

Anyway, lots of these replacement-level players (some of whom snuck into the back end of the bullpen anyway) put up negative WAR numbers anyway. You can find stats for everyone who put on a Braves uniform last year here and here.

2010 Roster

C1: Brian McCann (4.7 WAR)
C2: David Ross (2.5 WAR)

1B: Troy Glaus (1.7 WAR)
2B: Martin Prado (2.2 WAR)
3B: Chipper Jones (3.8 WAR)
SS: Yunel Escobar (4.7 WAR)
INF: Omar Infante (1.1 WAR)

OF1: Nate McLouth (2.5 WAR)
OF2: Matt Diaz (1.1 WAR)
OF3: Melky Cabrera (3.4 WAR)
OF4: Gregor Blanco (1.4 WAR)
OF5: Eric Hinske (0.7 WAR)

SP1: Jair Jurrjens (4.1 WAR)*
SP2: Tommy Hanson (4.6 WAR)*
SP3: Derek Lowe (4.0 WAR)*
SP4: Tim Hudson (3.4 WAR)*
SP5: Kenshin Kawakami (2.3 WAR)*

CL: Billy Wagner (1.1 WAR)*
SU: Peter Moylan (1.5 WAR) 3.67 FIP, 52 IP
RP: Eric O’Flaherty (0.7 WAR) 3.74 FIP, 48 IP
RP: Kris Medlen (0.9 WAR) 3.31 FIP, 57 IP
RP: Manny Acosta (0.0 WAR) 4.47 FIP, 57 IP
RP: Jo-Jo Reyes (0.1 WAR) 5.02 FIP, 127 IP as a starter
RP: James Parr (0.1 WAR) 4.86 FIP, 104 IP as a starter
RP: Luis Valdez (0.0 WAR) 4.33 FIP, 78 IP

2010 Projected Total WAR: 52.6

Out: Vazquez, Johnson, LaRoche, Church, Anderson, Soriano, Gonzalez

In: Glaus, Cabrera, Hinske, Blanco, Hudson, Wagner, Reyes, Parr, Valdez

Obviously, Blanco, Hudson, Reyes, Parr, and Valdez all played for the Braves last year, just not enough to make the cut for the 2009 Total WAR list.

Hudson, if he can bounce back from injury, will probably be huge, and the 3.4 WAR the fans have him putting up is not out of the question. Derek Lowe and Tommy Hanson, on the other hand, are a different story. If Hanson and Lowe both put up a 4-win seasons next year I’ll do the tomahawk chop in Love Park.

The biggest acquisition for the Braves, by far, is that of Eric Hinske. The 2002 AL Rookie of the Year has bounced around of late, playing for 3 teams in the past 3 years. However, each of those 3 teams has won the AL pennant. Therefore, I can predict with extreme confidence that the Atlanta Braves will be your 2010 American League Champion! Wait…that’s not right, is it….

Having a full season of Nate McLouth will help, and I personally think that CHONE has completely screwed both him and Matt Diaz. Both are slated for a drop-off of at least a win in value, a prediction that I honestly can’t find any reason to suspect.

The bad news for the Braves is that they’re still broke, they’ve only got three really good position players under 30, and they’ve just traded their best player last year (by almost two full wins) almost straight-up for a mediocre outfielder.

The good news is that they’ve got at least five quality starting pitchers, including a pair of twentysomethings who could be monsters coming through in the next couple years, a few nice young relievers, and quality depth at just about every position.

One unique condition for the Braves is that of Jason Heyward, one of the few young prospects who I think warrants special mention, so, with your indulgence, a few words on him before we finish.

Heyward is very young—he’ll only miss the distinction of “first major leaguer born after I was potty-trained” by only a couple months, but he’s a 6-foot-4, 220-pound man-child.

Heyward won’t turn 21 until after the all-star break next year, but Bill James has him getting 600 plate appearances in 2010 and hitting .300 with pretty good power and plate discipline. Last year, he started as a 19-year-old single-A outfielder and finished the year in AAA, having OPS’d (near as makes no difference) 1.000 between three levels of the minor leagues.

Essentially, all indications are that Heyward can step into a major league uniform before he can legally step into a bar and be a Jayson Werth-type player right off the proverbial bat.

CHONE only has him getting 300 or so at-bats next year, with all rate stats down about 50 points from James, but that’s still an age 20/21 season worth 1.4 wins.

I’m inclined to predict that Heyward will start the season at AAA Gwinnett, but will not stay there long. By the time Heyward turns 21, Atlanta will have liquidated one of Cabrera, Diaz, or Blanco, and installed Heyward in his place.

But I digress.

All told, Total WAR shows the Braves having improved by nearly six wins. I call bullshit on that, based on CHONE overrating Melky Cabrera and Gregor Blanco and the fans counting their starting pitching chickens before they hatch. If Cabrera and Blanco duplicate last year’s stats, they’ll combine for about 2 wins between the two of them. CHONE puts the two of them at close to 5 wins.

We’ll see throughout the rest of the project whether that’s a systematic thing or not. For now, you can lock in Atlanta’s delta-Total WAR: +5.7.

Next up in Part II: the New York Mets

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