Last season was no different than seasons past. I, once again, wrote a prediction piece and I, once again, was wrong across the board. There’s nothing wrong with that, as someone has to be wrong – why not me? I’ll look at this again prior to Opening Day of 2018, realizing how silly I was, likely predicting another Manager of the Year who will be the first to lose his job, just like last year. Anyway…here goes nothing!
Boston Red Sox
Toronto Blue Jays
Tampa Bay Rays
New York Yankees
Kansas City Royals
Chicago White Sox
Los Angeles Angels
AL Wild Cards
New York Mets
St. Louis Cardinals
Los Angeles Dodgers
San Francisco Giants
San Diego Padres
NL Wild Cards
New York Mets
San Francisco Giants
World Series Prediction
Cleveland Indians over Chicago Cubs in seven – redemption.
So close last season, Tito has a roster that is improved with the addition of Edwin Encarnacion. In addition to that, you’ll see a healthy Michael Brantley. With a roster and lineup as loaded as the Tribe’s, why does he deserve this award, do you ask? Francona will maneuver all of those pieces in ways that make him look like a master, including the usage of Cody Allen and Andrew Miller as situational closers, changing the way that the league will use the bullpen for years to come.
Roberts, like Francona, has a lot of talent; however, Roberts doesn’t have the pitching depth that Cleveland has. He finds ways to win games, just like he found ways to be such a useful player during his career. He’ll find a way to help Yasiel Puig find success, and he rides Clayton Kershaw and Julio Urias‘ breakout to a division title. Young players like Cody Bellinger and Urias are the difference in the Dodgers’ success, and Roberts plays a major role in their ascension to success.
Edwin Encarnacion, 1B/DH, Cleveland Indians
The contract will look even more brilliant when “Edwing” lead Cleveland to a title. The right-handed pop in between Brantley, Jason Kipnis, and fellow Dominican masher, switch-hitting Carlos Santana, makes the Indians’ offense one for the ages, in a season for the ages from the 34-year-old slugger.
Certainly, it may be challenging to find a Most Valuable Player on a team that wins over 100 games, especially one with reigning MVP Kris Bryant, but Rizzo has even more support around him in 2017. Another impressive season from Bryant will be enhanced by further gains from Addison Russell and Javier Baez, while Jason Heyward finds his groove again. In the midst of all of that mashing is Rizzo, who will reach career-highs in home runs, RBI, runs, and OPS, leading the Cubs back to the World Series.
Perhaps he is a darkhorse with Corey Kluber still around, but this is the year that it all comes together for this guy. Carrasco will reach 200 innings, eclipse 220 strikeouts, and continue to show overpowering stuff that he has mastered to control. Counting on more than 30 starts from Carrasco may be the new version of counting on ten starts from Brett Anderson, but…he will be part of the Indians domination over the AL.
NL Cy Young
Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
Since 2009, Kershaw has a 2.24 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP over 1,652.1 innings. While he has to share the spotlight with the likes of Max Scherzer, Madison Bumgarner, Jon Lester, and Johnny Cueto in the NL, a healthy Kershaw is by far the best pitcher in the world…and certainly the NL. Bank on his healthy back and another Cy Young award in 2017, his 4th prior to turning 30.
This seems like an easy one. Benintendi will be capable of spraying the ball all over the field, while his muscle growth over the winter seems to be the key in some of those balls flying out of the park in 2017. The 7th overall pick in the 2015 draft, he is already well-known, while his results and rapid arrival to the Red Sox have led to lofty expectations…expectations that he will reach in his first full season.
Swanson was taken with the 1st pick overall in the 2015 draft, several picks before Benintendi. He, also, rose quickly, reaching the A-T-L and playing in 38 games last season. He just fell short of losing his rookie status, which will allow him to run away with the award in 2017. He is one of the fresh faces of the Braves’ youth movement as they open a new stadium this year, beginning a new foundation of talent for the former perennial powerhouse of the NL East. It won’t be long, thanks to players like Swanson, until the Braves are relevant again.
It is that time of year again – when I make a fool out of myself by guessing who will end up as the 2016 MVPs, Cy Young Winners, Manager and Rookie of the Year winners, and name some sleepers. Last season, I boldly guessed that Mike Redmond would win the NL Manager of the Year award…but he was fired on May 19 after starting 16-22. So much for that. I did have some decent predictions, like Nolan Arenado breaking out and…well, that’s about it. It wasn’t a great year for inferences for me.
However, 2016 is going to be very different! Without further ado…
1. Toronto Blue Jays
2. Baltimore Orioles
3. Tampa Bay Rays
4. New York Yankees
5. Boston Red Sox
1. Cleveland Indians
2. Kansas City Royals
3. Chicago White Sox
4. Detroit Tigers
5. Minnesota Twins
1. Houston Astros
2. Texas Rangers
3. Los Angeles Angels
4. Seattle Mariners
5. Oakland Athletics
AL Wild Cards
Kansas City Royals
1. Washington Nationals
2. New York Mets
3. Miami Marlins
4. Atlanta Braves
5. Philadelphia Phillies
1. Chicago Cubs
2. Pittsburgh Pirates
3. St. Louis Cardinals
4. Milwaukee Brewers
5. Cincinnati Reds
1. San Francisco Giants
2. Arizona Diamondbacks
3. Los Angeles Dodgers
4. Colorado Rockies
5. San Diego Padres
NL Wild Cards
New York Mets
World Series Prediction
Washington Nationals over Toronto Blue Jays in six games
This HAS to be the year for Toronto. Why? Because both Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion are free agents after the 2016 season, and early negotiations didn’t appear to go well, with rumors of “Joey Bats” wanting $30 million per year in his age 35 to age 40 seasons. Ask Nelson Cruz about being an aging slugger in the open market- how’d that go for him when he *settled* for a one-year deal for $8 million following the 2013 season? Still, Gibbons has a lot of talent to work with right now. With reigning AL MVP Josh Donaldson, a full season (maybe – pending health) from Troy Tulowitzki, and the two mashing free-agents-to-be, the Jays will have the power and offense to outscore anyone, which is just what they’ll have to do with their patchwork pitching staff. Gibbons will work some magic there, however, and lead Toronto back to the ALCS and an eventual World Series appearance.
NL Manager of the Year:Chip Hale, Arizona Diamondbacks
Dave Stewart and Company have done some really wacky things since taking control of the Arizona front office; however, they have a really interesting team, quietly building around superstar Paul Goldschmidt with pieces and parts that could be All-Star caliber producers. After signing Zack Greinke and acquiring Shelby Miller, having Goldschmidt with A.J. Pollock and David Peralta provide punch in the lineup, along with a returning Patrick Corbin in the rotation, could lead to a sneaky breakout by the Snakes in a wide-open NL West. Hale, who has had success managing throughout the minors and led the Diamondbacks to a 16-game improvement from 2014 to 2015 in his first season. Arizona may miss the playoffs, but they’ll certainly be a thorn in the side of the league in 2016 thanks to talent and Hale’s management of the club.
Machado doesn’t turn 24 until July, but it seems like he has been around for a while already. Most of that time, he has been compared to the great Alex Rodriguez, and he proved that comparison was legitimate last season. Machado improved his strikeout and walk rates dramatically last season, while his hard contact rate also jumped – which was behind his 35 home runs – a whopping 21 more than his previous career-high (2013) – while he also stole 20 bases! More of the same should be expected, as Machado continues to fill out his body and fill up box scores. He’ll lead Baltimore to the postseason in 2016, with a bat that is as valuable as his glove, making him one of the most dominant players in the game.
Harper won the NL MVP in 2015 after posting a 9.5 WAR in his age-22 season. He put it all together, blasting 42 home runs and leading MLB with a 1.109 OPS and 197 wRC+. He’s going to be better in 2016. The only thing that would prevent that from happening would be an intensity that makes injury-risk a possibility for Harper on every play…or getting walked like Barry Bonds. The sky is still the limit for this young man, and he continue his ascension to greatness in 2016.
AL Cy Young: Chris Sale, LHP, Chicago White Sox
After leading the AL in strikeouts and FIP on his way to setting career-bests in strikeout and walk rates, Sale could improve his overall numbers in 2016. The four-time All-Star will finally get the award that he has earned by posting a 2.95 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, and 10.3 K:9 over the last four seasons for Chicago. He’ll continue to look like he could be blown away due to his frame, while dominating the opposition on his way to his finest season yet. Perhaps he will even win this one for Drake LaRoche.
Kershaw disappointed in 2015, seeing his ERA balloon to 2.13 on his way to a 3rd place finish for the NL Cy Young. That is, of course, sarcasm, as Kershaw led the league in complete games, shutouts, innings, strikeouts, and FIP. He will lead a depleted Dodgers rotation, taking on the innings that they won’t get from the other rotation members, as he continue being the Sandy Koufax of our generation. Enjoy it while it lasts!
For purposes likely tied to free agency control, the Twins didn’t give Berrios a look at all in 2015, even though he could have been the club’s best starting pitcher the moment that he joined the rotation. He has tremendous command of his stuff, and he continues to improve as he rises up through the system, which is an excellent sign for the pitching-starved Twins. The knock on Berrios is his height, but after watching Johnny Cueto, Yordano Ventura, Marcus Stroman, and Tim Lincecum (not as much recently) over the last several years, no one will be looking down on this young man when he can pitch the way that he can.
NL Rookie of the Year: Corey Seager, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers
Seager was the No.1 prospect on my prospect list this winter, after the 21-year-old followed up a roasting of the minors with 98 at-bat barrage on Major League pitching, posting a .337/.425/.561 triple-slash in his cup of coffee. He looks like the Dodgers’ Opening Day shortstop (pending injury news) and he could thrive in a lineup with so many other talented players around him. He could easily become one of the top two players offensively for this club immediately, especially with the questions surrounding Yasiel Puig after his down 2015 season. While he may not fit at shortstop for his entire career, Seager is capable of a 20/20 season at short in his first full season.
10 BOLD Predictions
Jeff Samardzija rebounds in AT&T Park and the spacious parks out west to become a top 20 starting pitcher. He strikes out over 200 and logs 200 innings, becoming a tremendous compliment to Madison Bumgarner in the San Francisco rotation.
Byron Buxton steals 40 bases and shows glimpses of power, topping out at 15 home runs, while showcasing elite-level defense. The Twins finish in last place in the AL Central, but Buxton and Miguel Sano are All-Stars.
Joey Votto walks 130 times. There is no reason to pitch to him with the rest of the Reds lineup as incapable of producing as an army of ants.
Starlin Castro becomes an All-Star at second base for the New York Yankees, leading the American League in hits. The change of scenery was necessary and helped him find his groove.
Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco become as dominant together as Kershaw and Greinke were in Los Angeles in 2015…with slightly higher ERAs. They win 35 or more games, log 450 or more innings, and strike out 470 or more batters combined.
Jabari Blash is the best Rule 5 pick since Johan Santana, as he becomes the Padres best position player in 2016. The Mariners weep as Nori Aoki starts 155 games in left with less than Blash-y production.
Mike Trout finishes outside of the top 3 in AL MVP voting because his WAR declines due to Jared Weaver giving up 85 home runs in 115 innings, not allowing Trout to flash his glove, range, and UZR skills.
Billy Hamilton loses the center field job to Phillip Ervin in June. Ervin starts hitting how he did at Samford and soars through Double-A and Triple-A. Hamilton is recalled in September to be a pinch-runner, stealing 25 bases in one month and winning fantasy leagues for those who stashed him.
Pablo Sandoval goes on a hunger strike until he is given the third base job over Travis Shaw. He is never seen again. The Red Sox eat his contract and release him, which is funny because he ate his own contract and couldn’t let go of food. Irony.
Lorenzo Cain is a top 5 WAR position player due to his great defense and his continued breakout. Cain finishes with 20 HR/30 SB and 100 runs scored.
10 BOLD Sleepers
Patrick Corbin, LHP, Arizona Diamondbacks: This guy is two years removed from Tommy John surgery, and he is throwing harder than he ever did before. Keep in mind, he won 14 games, struck out 178, and had a 3.41 ERA over 208.1 innings in 2013, his last full season, before looking very good over 16 starts last season.
Carlos Rodon, LHP, Chicago White Sox: Rodon will either look as dominant as Sale or look like he hasn’t been on a mound before in his life. The stuff is there to be elite, but it is so strong that he has to figure out how to harness it still. This is the year that he does.
Gregory Polanco, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates: Polanco had a slight bump in ISO last year, but that slight bump should be a significant bump in his 2016 season. At the age of 24, Polanco will change some of those 35 doubles into home runs in 2016, as that long, lanky body begins to fill out. Look for 15 to 20 bombs in 2016 with a slight drop in his 27 steals – since he’ll be busier rounding the bases in a trot.
Justin Verlander, RHP, Detroit Tigers: A six-time All-Star and one-time Cy Young winner isn’t typically a sleeper, but Verlander sort of returned to form in the second half of last season, posting a 2.80 ERA over 103 innings and 15 starts. While the 8.30 K:9 over those starts isn’t his elite level, it also was much higher than his down 2014. Over 20 starts, Verlander had a 3.38 ERA and 3.49 FIP, while he is still below the league average in HR/FB%. If you can get him late, Verlander is worth a look in fantasy. If you don’t play fantasy, his girlfriend is worth a look in your own fantasy.
Ian Kennedy, RHP, Kansas City Royals: After finishing 9-15 with a 4.28 ERA while pitching half of his games in San Diego, it seemed rather shocking that the Royals would give up a draft pick and pay $70 million over five years for Kennedy; however, Dave Eiland has worked miracles before, and Kennedy looked a bit more like himself in the second half, when he posted a 10.5 K:9. He can’t do any worse than Cueto did after K.C. acquired him from the Reds in the middle of the 2015 season. Count on Eiland, Kennedy, and an impressive defense to get his numbers back to respectability.
Eduardo Escobar, SS, Minnesota Twins: Danny Santana had the Twins shortstop job going into 2015 after a breakout 2014. Then, he lost the job and Escobar ran away with it, ripping 31 doubles and 12 home runs over 127 games and 446 at-bats. While he isn’t going to do a whole lot more than that (he doesn’t run), he could, in his age-27 season, see those numbers improve over a full season where he isn’t sharing the job.
Jonathan Schoop, 2B, Baltimore Orioles: I’ve been a Schoop fan for about four and a half years now. He has power and he has absolutely no plate discipline, as evidenced by his career 203:23 K:BB over 817 plate appearances. But we are in an offense-starved era, and the Orioles have other players with similar profiles who have developed into solid producers (see Jones, Adam). Schoop had 32 extra-base hits (including 15 homers) in just 86 games and 321 plate appearances. He’s capable of 25 home runs and 30 doubles…possibly even 15 walks…over 550 plate appearances. He turned 24 in October and is primed for further opportunities and a potential breakout.
Trevor Story, SS, Colorado Rockies: Imagine a place with a high altitude where balls travel far. Now…imagine a shortstop who had 70 extra-base hits (20 HR) and 22 stolen bases between Double-A and Triple-A. That would be this 23-year-old, who, with Jose Reyes‘…ahem…issues, should be in line for plenty of playing time for the Rockies to start the season. He and Nolan Arenado could provide some pretty impressive numbers on the left side of the infield.
Joe Ross, RHP, Washington Nationals: The younger brother of Padres pitcher Tyson Ross, Joe Ross is in a great situation in Washington. At 22, he seems unlikely to be bumped from the rotation when Lucas Giolito is ready – that is likely going to be Tanner Roark, who pitched out of the bullpen most of the 2015 season. Ross did a really nice job in his 76.2 innings last year, posting an 8.1 K:9 and walking just 2.5 per nine. It is quite possible that he outperforms Gio Gonzalez in the Nationals’ rotation in 2016.
Colin Rea, RHP, San Diego Padres: Rea had eye-popping numbers in Double-A last year (1.08 ERA, .185 BAA in 75 innings), which promptly elevated once promoted to El Paso (a hitter’s paradise). He held his own in his taste of the majors last season, posting a 4.26 ERA and holding opponents to a .246 average. Now, he’ll have an improved defense behind him, Rea, 25, is ready to take his fastball that can touch 95 to a pitcher’s paradise. Let’s hope he can do better than Ian Kennedy did last year. He is capable of Kennedy’s production – minus the strikeouts.
It’s that time of year! Teams are reporting for Spring Training, and baseball is alive and well, taking its rightful place from February through October, developing excitement for those with the creative, poetic minds necessary to appreciate it. With that being said, there are also many who like to lay down their cash and try to win their fantasy leagues. While fantasy baseball will never be as popular as the once-per-week lineup construction for fantasy football, it still has its place. For those who love it, here is this season’s Top 300:
Over the next several weeks, The Baseball Haven will be creating season previews for all 30 MLB teams. You’ll find their projected records (based on PECOTA records from Baseball Prospectus, as of 2/15/2015), each team’s top three players (based on Steamer WAR projections from FanGraphs), and some valuable notes on each team, including likely bounce-back candidates, potential breakout players or fantasy sleepers, as well as a look back at offseason transactions which led to each team’s projections. Stop back frequently to see where your favorite team ranks!
Los Angeles Dodgers
2015 Projected Record: 97-65 (1st in NL West, 1st in MLB)
Manager: Don Mattingly (354-293 in four seasons with the Dodgers)
Despite making all of 62 appearances (51 starts) since the start of the 2010 season, Anderson was able to secure a one-year, $10 million deal from the Dodgers. It speaks volumes to how much talent Los Angeles still feels the 27-year-old left-hander possesses. Anderson did have Tommy John surgery back in 2011, but all of his injuries since then have been back, ankle, or finger related (broken right ankle and a finger broken by a pitch). The injuries and recovery times have been enormous, but he showed in Colorado last season (2.91 ERA in his 43.1), though it was just eight starts, that he still has something, and Dodger Stadium could be friendly to him. He just needs to stay on the mound, which has been the same response on Anderson for years.
Pederson was an offensive monster in the minors, but he struggled in his brief trial in 2014, posting a .143/.351/.143 line in 38 plate appearances. He has shown this spring, however, the same type of ability he showed in the minors, posting a .367/.397/.750 line over 63 plate appearances, including six bombs. After dealing Matt Kemp, Pederson appears to have very little competition in center, as Andre Ethier and Chris Heisey are the players who could push him back to the minors if he struggles. Pederson, however, doesn’t look like he is going to. Even in his brief trial last season, Pederson wasn’t overmatched, as his plate discipline will allow him to be a difficult out. With the offensive force around him in the order, Pederson can ease into the production that he is going to be capable of in the future, but he’ll still be quite productive in 2015. Expect a .270/.340/.475 line from the Rookie of the Year favorite.
Offseason Overview: The Dodgers may have lost SS Hanley Ramirez to the Red Sox, but they quickly found a replacement by acquiring Jimmy Rollins from the Phillies for a couple of pitching prospects. Dee Gordon was moved to Miami for Andrew Heaney, who didn’t have time to put on a Dodger cap before he was flipped to the Angels for Gordon’s replacement, Howie Kendrick. They also added Joel Peralta from Tampa Bay to strengthen the bullpen. The Dodgers didn’t just make trades, as they opened up their endless bank account to sign RHP Brandon McCarthy (four-years, $48 million), Anderson (one-year, $10 million), and Tommy John rehabbing RHP Brandon Beachy (one-year, $2.75 million, $3 million 2016 team option with incentives). The Dodgers continue to reload and spend money, putting out the best team that money can buy, stealing that title from the New York Yankees, who used to take so much more heat for the same type of activity.
The Verdict: The Dodgers are a fantastic group. They have the best pitcher of our generation, Clayton Kershaw, with the best number two pitcher in baseball, Zack Greinke. They have a top ten talent, Yasiel Puig, who has become a superstar and one of the faces of the sport that so desperately needed one. Adrian Gonzalez continues to quietly produce Hall of Fame numbers, while the team has a budding young star in Pederson. If they get production out of OF Carl Crawford and SS Jimmy Rollins as they continue to get older, this team would be the best team in baseball, and that’s with the issues that they have in their rotation. I love Brandon McCarthy, but – can he stay healthy? Hyun-jin Ryu is on the shelf with shoulder soreness already, so Juan Nicasio appears to be filling the No.5 spot in the rotation, which is horrifying considering that he was just as awful away from Colorado as he was in Coors Field. With McCarthy, Anderson, and Ryu’s reliability in question and Nicasio being Nicasio, the rotation is only guaranteed to be strong two out of every five days. With the offense behind them, can anyone be plugged in and allow the Dodgers to be successful? Maybe. I still think the Dodgers will win 90 games, but they aren’t the top overall team in baseball.
I was lucky enough to earn a chance to join the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America this year, joining a group of internet bloggers and several other overqualified folks who aren’t members of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Those of us who love baseball enough to write about it, most of the time for free, have found the IBWAA to be a blessing, as we have an opportunity to vote for the Hall of Fame and yearly awards without having the all encompassing vendetta that so many of the national writers take with them to their ballots, whether its a poor relationship or experience with a team or player, or the constant hatred of those who have used performance-enhancing drugs.
This is my first ballot, so I figured that I would publish it. Take a look and let me know what you think. NOTE: There is some sort of formatting issue with the last cell on the American League, as that should be for the AL Reliever of the Year.
Last year, I went with Toronto, which was an absolute nightmare. They still have a lot of offensive talent, but they don’t have the rotation depth (even with Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez knocking on the door) to compete in this division. I really like the Orioles and I even think that Ubaldo Jimenez can make it work in Baltimore, but I’m hesitant to expect a repeat from Chris Davis in 2014 and we still don’t know the second base situation will work out or when Manny Machado will be full strength. The top three in the East are nearly replaceable parts, as you could put them in any order and look like a genius. For me, Boston doesn’t have the goods this year, having not replaced Jacoby Ellsbury with a legitimate part (Grady Sizemore and Jackie Bradley, Jr.) and a veteran team another year older screams regression. The Yankees are a mess at second after losing Robinson Cano to the Seattle Mariners, but they added enough parts to look like a team on the rise. The Rays nearly stood pat, but I think that will work for them. A full season from Wil Myers and the tremendous arms in David Price, Matt Moore, and Alex Cobb make them a force. While re-signing James Loney was the highlight of their offseason, the Rays are still strong enough defensively and in the rotation to win this division. The only worry is injuries, as their minor league system hasn’t produced many stars as they’ve moved to the back-end of drafts due to their major league success.
American League Central
1st: Detroit Tigers
2nd: Cleveland Indians
3rd: Kansas City Royals
4th: Chicago White Sox
5th: Minnesota Twins
The Central was quite competitive in 2013, as the Tribe and Royals finally pushed the Tigers and made the division look respectable once again, though Chicago and Minnesota were two of the worst teams in all of baseball. Things still look bleak for the latter two teams, as they are both slowly rebuilding by developing their own talent or acquiring talent in trades. The Twins will be a force to be reckoned with within the next couple of seasons when Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano (who will miss all of 2014 after undergoing Tommy John surgery), Alex Meyer, and others begin reaching Target Field, and the White Sox will be better with solid, young, major league-ready talent in Avisail Garcia, Matt Davidson, and Jose Abreu being acquired or signed within the last year. Regardless, this division will be a three-way battle in 2014. The Royals will come up a bit short after losing Ervin Santana‘s production to free agency. While Santana struggled to find consistency throughout his career, Yordano Ventura, no matter how good he may be in his rookie season, likely won’t be able to repeat Santana’s 3.24 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, and 211 innings in his age-23 season in the No.5 starter role. I’m expecting huge things from Eric Hosmer and tremendous improvements out of Mike Moustakas and his new swing, but the rotation isn’t strong enough to contend with the other offenses in this division. The Indians may not win 92 games again this year, but the have the offensive firepower to be a contender. Even with lackluster seasons from Asdrubal Cabrera, Michael Bourn, and Nick Swisher in 2013, Cleveland rocked. They’ll struggle due to rotation losses, much like the Royals, needing to replace both Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir‘s innings, but Danny Salazar should continue to establish himself as an electric arm, albeit with around a 170 to 180 innings limit. The Tigers will remain the class of the AL Central due to their rotation. Even after trading Doug Fister, the Tigers were able to replace him with the young lefty Drew Smyly, and the Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, and Anibal Sanchez trio should be good for over 600 innings and 600 strikeouts in 2014. Rick Porcello‘s drastic improvements last year leave him heading towards his free agency after the 2015 season, so if he is determined to strike it rich, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him be the 2nd best pitcher on the staff this season. Miguel Cabrera may be all that they need, but rookie Nick Castellanos can swing it, Austin Jackson is looking at a breakout season, and Ian Kinsler, even if he is just mediocre away from Arlington, is more than capable of devastating opposing pitchers. The Tigers may be a 100-win team in 2014.
American League West
1st: Los Angeles Angels
2nd: Oakland Athletics
3rd: Texas Rangers
4th: Seattle Mariners
5th: Houston Astros
Houston is brutal, but you have to trust in the processes that GM Jeff Luhnow brought with him from the St. Louis Cardinals. He has quickly turned the minor league system around for the Astros and there is tremendous talent on the way up, but Houston looks like a 95 to 100 loss team once again in 2014, though there are some pieces who will show themselves useful to the organization in Jason Castro, Dexter Fowler (likely trade bait), Brad Peacock, and Jonathan Villar (a poor man’s Everth Cabrera). Seattle improved tremendously and will field a winning team, but they don’t have the talent to overcome the class of the division. The Mariners have plenty of young talent in Taijuan Walker, Mike Zunino, James Paxton, Brad Miller, and Dustin Ackley who will be valuable, but they also have glaring weaknesses in Justin Smoak and Michael Saunders locked into starting roles. If Seattle continues to add pieces over the next couple of seasons to their strong, young core, they’ll get there. The Rangers have been very good for quite some time, and they made the Kinsler trade with Detroit to bring back the big bopper that they lost when Josh Hamilton left for Los Angeles. Prince Fielder should be tremendous in Texas, likely rebounding to the 35 to 40 home run power that we used to see in Milwaukee, while the trade opened up a spot for Jurickson Profar at second. With Adrian Beltre and Alex Rios still around and the additon of Shin-Soo Choo, the Rangers should be very tough to keep off of the scoreboard, but with injuries to Derek Holland and Matt Harrison (whose back still isn’t right), the Rangers will heavily lean on Yu Darvish and youngster Martin Perez. They’ll need a lot of help from Colby Lewis (who missed all of 2013) and Tommy Hanson (a shoulder injury away from being out of the league) to be competitive. The A’s have lost A.J. Griffin and Jarrod Parker to injuries (Parker is out for the season) already this spring, but they still have solid depth in their rotation with Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir, Dan Straily, Tommy Milone, and Jesse Chavez to be solid in the rotation, especially with their spacious home field. Yoenis Cespedes should provide a full season with 30/30 potential, Josh Donaldson can really hit a baseball and pick it in the field nearly as beautifully, and Josh Reddick has a healthy wrist and will want to prove that he is more the 2012 version (32 HR/85 RBI) than last year’s version (12 HR/56 RBI). The A’s are dangerous, and while they don’t look like much offensively in parts of the order, Billy Beane continues to do quite a bit with the talent that he and his operations staff are able to find and get the most out of. The Angels have had a rough go of things in the Albert Pujols era. Mike Trout is now the centerpiece of the team, but the club has continued to put pieces around him, adding David Freese at third, and a couple of solid young arms to a depleted rotation in Tyler Skaggs and Hector Santiago. The minor league system is still a hot mess, but the Halos have quite a bit of talent that, if healthy, will allow them to be a dominant team once again. I’m betting on Pujols, Trout, Josh Hamilton, Jered Weaver, and C.J. Wilson in carrying this team back to the top of the West in 2014.
American League Wild Cards
New York Yankees and Oakland Athletics
National League East
1st: Washington Nationals
2nd: Atlanta Braves
3rd: Miami Marlins
4th: Philadelphia Phillies
5th: New York Mets
I may be a bit of an optimist when it comes to the NL East, but I’m seeing things a bit differently than most. The Mets offense is horrendous and they haven’t had a full season of David Wright in two of the last three seasons – plus, Wright’s now on the wrong side of 30. The outfield is a cluster of mediocrity, featuring an aging Curtis Granderson and Chris Young, while the club seems to think that Eric Young, Jr. is an everyday corner outfielder. The rotation is also ugly after losing Matt Harvey late last year. Zack Wheeler is still a work in progress, but a team in need of a rebuild signed Bartolo Colon and Daisuke Matsuzaka to fill their rotation voids. I don’t see it working. The Phillies also feature aging players, and it’s hard to see full seasons out of Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, and Chase Utley again in 2014. The rotation is hurting a bit with Cole Hamels having shoulder issues and Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez looking like garbage after signing out of Cuba, but Cliff Lee and A.J. Burnett should continue to be productive. I’d like to see Domonic Brown have another season like 2013 to make Ruben Amaro, Jr. look worse than he already makes himself look with his horrific contracts and clueless way of running the team, after letting Brown waste away for so long in the Phillies’ minor league system. I like the Marlins this year. The rotation is very good: Jose Fernandez is an ace; Henderson Alvarez may not strikeout a ton of guys, but he keeps the ball down and pounds the strike zone; Nathan Eovaldi has an upper-90’s fastball and looks promising; Jacob Turner is up and down like most young starters, but he was once a future No.1 or No.2; A.J. Ramos and Steve Cishek are good at the back-end of the bullpen, and you can’t not like Giancarlo Stanton mashing in the middle of the order. The club will get some offensive help with Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Garrett Jones (only against RHP) in the lineup. They won’t be above .500, but they should be better than the Mets and Phillies in 2014. The Braves are hurting in the rotation after losing Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen to Tommy John surgeries in the last few weeks; however, they still have Julio Teheran, Mike Minor (when he’s over his injury around the second week of April), and Alex Wood, with Gavin Floyd coming back from Tommy John surgery by mid-May. They just need to make it through the first month, and they have enough offense to do that. Jason Heyward is a monster who has struggled, but I’m expecting huge things out of him this season after injuries limited him to 104 games last season. Justin Upton and B.J. Upton will likely rebound, as well, and Freddie Freeman looks to be an MVP candidate after having a breakout season at the age of 23 in 2013. Andrelton Simmons could only build on his breakout 2013, and Atlanta is either going to get a rebound from Dan Uggla or production out of his eventual replacement, Tommy La Stella, at second. The Braves will be great, but not was good as the Nationals. This team is setup to win games and win lots of them. Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, and Doug Fister present a top four of a rotation that can’t be matched by another club in Major League Baseball. Bryce Harper is jacked and looks primed to reach 30-plus home runs at the age of 21 and Jayson Werth will team with him in the middle of the order to cripple opposing pitchers. Ian Desmond is one of the top offensive shortstops in baseball and Anthony Rendon should establish himself as an All-Star level producer at second this season. Ryan Zimmerman is still a defensive wizard, and, if he can stay on the field, he can come close to 30 home runs and 90 RBI at the hot corner. The Nationals, like the Tigers, are capable or exceeding 100 wins.
National League Central
1st: St. Louis Cardinals
2nd: Cincinnati Reds
3rd: Pittsburgh Pirates
4th: Milwaukee Brewers
5th: Chicago Cubs
The Cubs will be difficult to deal with in 2015, when Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Mike Olt, and Arismendy Alcantara are officially within their everyday lineup; however, in 2014, Chicago will, once again, be the red-headed stepchild of the NL Central, taken out back and beaten in the wood house, or any other form of describing a team that will be laughably bad. If Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo bounce back, they could win 65 to 70 games, but if they’re both as bad as they were in 2013, this is a 100 loss team. The Brewers will be better in 2014. Management has spent money and, while the minor league system rivals the atrociousness of the Angels’ system, Milwaukee has Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez, Jonathan Lucroy, Carlos Gomez, Jean Segura, and Khris Davis in the lineup to be productive offensively. Wily Peralta should build on his late season success from 2013, and the veteran leadership in the rotation from Yovani Gallardo, Kyle Lohse, and Matt Garza should lead to an above .500 season. The Brewers just don’t have the depth to overcome injuries to the rotation or the everyday lineup, so they’ll likely run into some trouble in 2014, especially if they’re counting on 200 innings from Garza. The Pirates surprised everyone by winning 94 games in 2013, but they aren’t going to stop there. Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez, and Gerrit Cole look like the core of a franchise that will be capable of winning several divisions in a row in coming seasons. With Jameson Taillon, Josh Bell, and Gregory Polanco on the way, this club should only get better. Unfortunately, the loss of A.J. Burnett could take its toll on the rotation. Cole and Charlie Morton are effective, Francisco Liriano and Wandy Rodriguez, however, haven’t shown much consistency for health or production over their careers. If things break right, the Pirates could be right where they left off, but that’s a big “if”. The Reds lost a lot of production when Shin-Soo Choo signed with Texas. Billy Hamilton will utilize his thoroughbred-like speed to steal bases and score runs, but he doesn’t have the power or on-base skills that Choo brought to the club. With Joey Votto and Jay Bruce in the middle of the order, the Reds have plenty of pop, and if Brandon Phillips rebounds a bit (hard to say with 100-plus RBI, but the average and on-base numbers were rough), the offense should still be in good shape, especially with production from Devin Mesoraco and Todd Frazier. The rotation is still solid. A healthy Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Homer Bailey, Mike Leake, and Tony Cingrani will battle the Washington Nationals for a starting staff ERA title. The scary injury to Aroldis Chapman hurts the bullpen for the next six to eight weeks (his real-life health is more important considering what happened), but J.J. Hoover, Sean Marshall, and Jonathan Broxton have each closed games before. The window is closing in Cincinnati quickly, though, so they could make some moves to make a late season push. St. Louis and the “Cardinal way” is frustrating to watch as a lifelong Cincinnati native and Reds fan, but you have to appreciate their success. The team is setup to be dominant once again. Strong offensive output from Matt Holliday, Allen Craig, Matt Carpenter, Yadier Molina, and Matt Adams will carry the team, while Jhonny Peralta, Peter Bourjos, and Kolten Wong make adjustments to new leagues or life in the majors. The club has a .300 hitting, 30 home run talent waiting in the wings in Oscar Taveras if an injury strikes in the outfield or an infield corner, but the rotation depth is what makes them unbelievably good. Joe Kelly, who had a 2.28 ERA over 15 starts in 2013, may not even be in the rotation. Adam Wainwright could be joined by Michael Wacha, Shelby Miller, Lance Lynn, and Carlos Martinez. Any other team would likely be starting Trevor Rosenthal, but the Cards can let him close thanks to their rotation depth, which hasn’t even included Jaime Garcia, who is, once again, battling shoulder woes…but he could be ready to pitch again soon. The Cardinals are a tremendous example of a team that can compete while consistently drafting in the last half of each round, while not having an unreasonable payroll number. They should be envied by fans and replicated by other organizations.
National League West
1st: Los Angeles Dodgers
2nd: San Francisco Giants
3rd: Arizona Diamondbacks
4th: Colorado Rockies
5th: San Diego Padres
The Padres are a solid team with a lot of good talent, but the NL West is quite competitive, and the Padres home park may continue to be their own worst enemy. They’ll have an advantage for their pitchers, but they just don’t have enough offensive talent to overcome Petco’s offensive squashing ways. Chase Headley quickly returned to form in 2013 after a breakout 2012 and Carlos Quentin, once again, showed that he is productive and very, very fragile. The Friars will have full seasons out of Yonder Alonso and Everth Cabrera, with some power production from young second baseman Jedd Gyorko, but Andrew Cashner, Ian Kennedy, and Tyson Ross will struggle to win games due to the rest of the talent, or lack thereof, around them. The Rockies may finally have an appropriate way to attack their own offensive environment in Coor’s field, finding and developing pitchers who can pound the bottom half of the strike zone, drafting and developing pitchers like Jonathan Gray and Eddie Butler in the minor league system, but they’re still a year or two away from overcoming the pitching talent that they currently are rostering at the major league level. Still, they’ll win games thanks to Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, Michael Cuddyer, Wilin Rosario, and Nolan Arenado powering home runs. The Diamondbacks continue to deal away tremendous young talent to compete at the major league level, acquiring Mark Trumbo from the Angels this winter. Trumbo will add great power to a lineup already featuring NL MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt, and with Martin Prado and Miguel Montero in the lineup, the D’backs should score plenty of runs. The rotation lost Patrick Corbin to Tommy John surgery, but they had Randall Delgado out of options to step into the rotation, with Archie Bradley near-ready in Triple-A. Wade Miley, Bronson Arroyo, and Trevor Cahill should provide solid innings, while Brandon McCarthy could be the wild card in the teams success due to his dominance when healthy, though he can’t always be counted on. The bullpen in Arizona is dynamite, featuring Addison Reed at closer, with J.J. Putz, Oliver Perez, and David Hernandez as setup men. The Giants have pitching for days, but still have trouble finding offense. Pablo Sandoval will be a free agent after this season and utilized that motivation to finally show up to spring training in shape. Brandon Belt, Buster Posey, and Hunter Pence should continue to produce, while they are hoping that Mike Morse can return to his powerful 2012 form rather than whatever it was that showed up last season. Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain could be Cy Young candidates, while the Giants will hope that Tim Hudson and Tim Lincecum can return to their former Cy Young candidacy days. The Dodgers…do they ever have a loaded roster! All-Stars all over the field: Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez, Carl Crawford, Yasiel Puig, Andre Ethier, and Matt Kemp will lead the club offensively, while manager Don Mattingly finds a creative way to rotate four very good outfielders between three spots, with a fifth, Joc Pederson, nearly ready to produce when called up from the minors. The rotation is very deep and the bullpen is the deepest in baseball. Clayton Kershaw needs no explanation, and Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dan Haren, and Paul Maholm should be very productive in a forgiving home ballpark with an electric offense supporting them. Five pitchers with closing experience in the bullpen make it nearly a guarantee for success. A payroll with no end makes the Dodgers capable of adding pieces if a need were to arise, as well.
National League Wild Cards
Atlanta Braves and Cincinnati Reds
World Series Prediction
Washington Nationals over the Detroit Tigers in six games
He’ll finally do enough to get the votes that went to Miguel Cabrera the last two years. He has easily been the best all-around player in the game since the start of the 2012 season. At just 22, it’s scary to think of what he will become in his prime if he, fingers crossed, stays healthy.
There’s just something about a guy coming off of any injury plagued season who didn’t live up to expectations that makes me want to go with him here. He’s not Joey Votto, Bryce Harper, or Andrew McCutchen, but Heyward will be doing a lot of the things that made Shin-Soo Choo so valuable for the Reds in 2013: getting on base as the leadoff hitter, hitting for power, and stealing bases. I could see Heyward posting a 30/30 season out of the leadoff spot in Atlanta while driving in close to 90 runs and scoring over 100. The numbers will add up to make him one of the top players in baseball, leading Atlanta to an NL playoff matchup with the Nationals.
Yu Darvish will be your trendy pick because of all of those strikeouts, but Verlander has shown that he still has something left, striking out nearly 11 per nine over his final six starts before striking out over 12 per nine over his three playoff starts. With negotiations with Max Scherzer being completely thrown out, Verlander is the man in Detroit, and he is going to show why once again.
Kershaw, like Darvish, would be the easy pick. I picked Bumgarner last year, and one of these years, I’m going to look smart for sticking with him. Bumgarner’s hits per nine (6.5) was the lowest of his career last year, and that number continues to fall each season, while his strikeout rate continues to increase, while he reached 8.9 in 2013. He’s just 24 and he has the home ballpark and the stuff to continue to improve his already impressive numbers.
Bogaerts showed that he is advanced beyond his years in the playoffs last season, helping Boston win another World Series with his impressive play. He hasn’t shown the power yet, but Bogaerts could be a 25 to 30 home run hitter in coming seasons, and his youth is a welcome addition to the aging Red Sox roster.
Vince Coleman once stole 100 bases with a .581 OPS. If Billy Hamilton is on base enough to steal 100 bases, he’s going to score enough runs to create value for himself and the Cincinnati Reds. I’ve seen him run in person and it doesn’t seem real. He’ll have more infield hits than some teams will combine for. Even if he isn’t successful, Hamilton doesn’t have any true competition for at-bats beyond Chris Heisey (who likely can’t handle center field) and Roger Bernadina (who hasn’t been able to handle a job). He’ll maintain the job and be quite productive due to his speed, but if he ever gets a leg injury and loses that tool, he has no role and no business in baseball.
Random Bold Predictions
1. Bryce Harper will hit more home runs than Miguel Cabrera.
4. Grant Balfour will have more saves than whoever closes for Baltimore, and the Orioles will look even more ridiculous for backing out of the contract that they signed with him than they already do.
5. Drew Smyly will win more games in Detroit than Doug Fister wins in Washington.
6. B.J. Upton will hit over .260 and will hit at least 15 home runs while stealing 25 or more bases.
7. Devin Mesoraco will provide more value offensively than Ryan Hanigan and Jose Molina provide offensively AND defensively in Tampa…which will show just how bad Dusty Baker messed with the former top prospect in Cincinnati by not playing him daily.
8. Hector Santiago will win 14 or more games to solidify an iffy Angels rotation.
9. Yoenis Cespedes will post an OPS over .920 and will be a top 5 AL MVP candidate at seasons end.
This has nothing to do with my Top 100 list, but you will find some familiar names and others that will be players to keep an eye on, especially if they’re on your favorite team or if you’re in a keeper fantasy baseball league.
I bought in. I did research. I studied numbers and related them to the players, while developing a deeper understanding of the game. All of the random numbers that took the place of a batting average, home runs, RBI, ERA, and wins in the evaluation in baseball stole my heart. Sabermetrics gave creative, number-crunching baseball fans a means to display defensive values, base running values, and even what a pitcher could do without that guy with stone hands playing shortstop. They even provided a way to determine how Roberto Clemente matches up to Vladimir Guerrero thanks to ballpark adjustments, allowing statistics to see what a player from the past could do today.
All of that is great. Fine. Dandy, as my late grandpa would say. However, for every xFIP, FIP, wRC+, and OPS+, there is WAR – Wins Above Replacement. What is WAR exactly? Well, it’s funny that I ask myself such a question and then provide the answer.
Offensive players – Take wRAA, UBR & wSB, and UZR (which express offensive, base running, and defensive value in runs above average) and add them together. Add in a positional adjustment, since some positions are tougher to play than others, and then convert the numbers so that they’re not based on league average, but on replacement level (which is the value a team would lose if they had to replace that player with a “replacement” player – a minor leaguer or someone from the waiver wire). Convert the run value to wins (10 runs = 1 win) and voila, finished!
Pitchers – Where offensive WAR used wRAA and UZR, pitching WAR uses FIP. Based on how many innings a pitcher threw, FIP is turned into runs form, converted to represent value above replacement level, and is then converted from runs to wins.
Runs added or lost due to Grounding into Double Plays in DP situations
Positional Adjustment Runs
Replacement level Runs (based on playing time)
The first five measurements are all compared against league average, so a value of zero will equate to a league average player. Less than zero means worse than average and greater than zero better than average. These five correspond to the first half of our equation above (Player_runs - AvgPlayer_runs). The sixth factor is the second half of the equation (AvgPlayer_runs - ReplPlayer_runs).
They also have an explanation for pitchers at Baseball Reference, starting with a basic idea:
At its most basic level, our pitching WAR calculation requires only overall Runs Allowed (both earned and unearned) and Innings Pitched. Since we are trying to measure the value of the pitcher’s performance to his team, we start with this runs allowed and then from there adjust that number to put the runs into a more accurate context.
Wins Above Replacement Player is Prospectus’ attempt at capturing a player’ total value. This means considering playing time, position, batting, baserunning, and defense for batters, and role, innings pitched, and quality of performance for pitchers.
Perhaps no sabermetric theory is more abstract than that of the replacement-level player. Essentially, replacement-level players are of a caliber so low that they are always available in the minor leagues because the players are well below major-league average. Prospectus’ definition of replacement level contends that a team full of such players would win a little over 50 games. This is a notable increase in replacement level from previous editions of Wins Above Replacement Player.
Here is an example of the Wins Above Replacement Player spectrum based on the 2011 season:
With so many different versions of player value calculations, how do you determine which one is most appropriate in truly determining player values?
Even if you have a preference of which WAR or WARP system to use for your ranking or player value thought processing, why are you using it, but most importantly, why would a Major League Baseball team consider using WAR when discussing player contracts – now or in the future?
Teams are getting surplus value out of the pre-arbitration and arbitration years of their team-controlled talent, prior to the players cashing in with the exorbitant figures that seem to be getting thrown around on the free agent or long-term extension markets. Clayton Kershaw‘s seven-year, $210 million deal was likely the stepping stone to several future $30 million or more average annual value (AAV) deals in the near future. Based on Kershaw’s 18.5 WAR (FanGraphs) over the last three seasons, he is the epitome of excellence on the mound – a modern day Sandy Koufax in the familiar Dodgers uniform…without the ice baths and elbow pains. You could assume that no pitcher currently in MLB is worth more than Kershaw due to his prolonged dominance, age, and market value , as the Dodgers seem to have an unlimited budget thanks to their TV deal, which allowed for such a record-breaking deal. With Kershaw locked up, the next generational talent name likely to receive an in-house extension within a major market would be Los Angeles Angels’ outfielder Mike Trout.
Trout has posted back-to-back 10-plus WAR seasons to start his career. After earning $500,000 in 2013, the Halos are about to reach arbitration figures that have never been seen before. ESPN’s Dan Szymborski wrote an interesting piece on Wednesday detailing the possible long-term contract that Trout could earn due to his production:
Assuming Trout receives league-minimum salary for 2014 and arbitration awards of roughly 25 percent, 45 percent and 70 percent of his open market value from 2015-17 (superstars tend not to do as well on a percentage basis in arbitration as typical players do), ZiPS estimates $69 million as a fair offer to get Trout through his arbitration years. Then the fun begins.
Even at 7.7 WAR (his 2018 projection as of now), if the value of one WAR increases at 5 percent from the $5.45 million I estimate that teams are paying for this in 2014, that’s enough to get Trout past the $50 million mark per season. So if we are estimating a 10-year deal, that gives us $69 million for his next four years, plus $312 million for the following six seasons (2018-23), for a total of $381 million over 10 years.
Szymborski detailed how it wouldn’t be wise for the Angels to wait much longer on a potential long-term contract, adding:
If Trout plays up to his elite level this season, the cost of signing him for 2018 through 2023 goes up substantially. While we originally calculated that time period to cost $312 million, it goes up to $335 million if he meets his 2014 projection.
If he hits his new 2015 projection, that goes up again to $362 million before 2016. And if he continues to hit his mean projection for the 2017 season, that goes up to $395 million. In other words, if the Angels continued to go year-to-year with Trout and nothing terrible happens in the interim, the price to sign him just for 2018-2023 pops up by more than $80 million.
The Angels could really use Mike Trout for the next decade, especially after locking up Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton to long-term, lucrative deals, only to see them fail to live up to projections and expectations, but isn’t that the problem with projections?
Teams may have access to unlimited amounts of data, the eyes of scouts, and brilliant baseball minds, but you can’t project injuries; otherwise, Chris Sale‘s left arm would have had a surgery or two on it by now, right? You can’t predict when a player declines a bit too early, as Prince Fielder proved at the age of 29, when he posted an .819 OPS in 2013, the lowest of his professional career, despite Miguel Cabrera‘s continued dominance around him in the Detroit Tigers lineup.
However, teams have long gambled on the skills of players in major sports. It’s why Kwame Brown was employed by seven NBA teams by the age of 30, and why Mark Mulder received a spring training invite after not throwing a pitch in MLB since 2008.
Regardless, sabermetrics continue to influence the front offices across Major League Baseball, as teams continue to use data to develop a better understanding of player values. A lot of times, it seems that those player values, particularly within free agency, are founded upon those educated guesses that I consider gambles. Obviously, the general manager is spending someone else’s money so liberally in these situations, and the incoming revenues lead to a heavy squashing of a lot of the risks involved, but are players truly worth their WAR value?
Lewie Pollis wrote an article at Beyond the Boxscore which detailed the cost of a win via free agency, finding that wins aren’t worth $5 million, as Szymborski stated and what FanGraphs’ Dave Cameron discussed several years ago. Instead, Pollis found data which details a more dramatic cost to improve a club:
So if you’re the owner of an MLB franchise and you want to make your team one win better, you should expect to have to pay $7 million. Planning to bring in a league-average player? That’ll be $14 million. And if you’re willing to splurge to move up 10 games in the standings, you’d better be prepared to open your wallet to the tune of $70 million.
Pollis’ research is much more thorough and includes a lot more information than previous win-value research, but if teams are actually spending $7 million per win from season to season, and that number is only going to increase with the infusion of more money through various media revenue streams, how will “small-market” teams improve or compete in the next few years if they are unable to sign a league-average player for less than $14 million per season?
If projections are essentially educated guesses or hypothesis, then how about this:
Suppose Josh Donaldson was a free agent after the 2013 season. He signs with the Houston Astros, replacing Matt Dominguez (who was worth 1.0 WAR in 2013), which would improve the Astros by approximately six wins, as Donaldson was a 7.7 WAR player in 2013. Based on the cost per win, it would take nearly $42 million per season to sign Donaldson, while improving the Astros from a horrific 51 win team to a horrific 57 win team. Meanwhile, Donaldson, who just turned 28 in December and has all of 996 plate appearances in the majors, becomes the highest paid player in baseball.
Sure, this scenario isn’t playing out this winter because Donaldson isn’t and won’t be a free agent until 2019, but what is the value of win-values when you consider that teams aren’t going to pay players like Donaldson, coming off of a career season after spending five and a half years in the minors, like a superstar? Certainly, clubs bask in the glory of receiving superstar production from their players while they are being underpaid as pre-arbitration or arbitration-eligible major league roster-worthy talent, but is it fair to expect or anticipate clubs spending money based on their value when compared to replacement level talent?
Not everyone in Major League Baseball is replacement level and the fact that WAR is a comparison of an average minor league player with major league talent seems insane. Of course Mike Trout has a 10 WAR when he has had two incredible seasons when compared to your average player – that number should be gigantic when compared to someone who loiters within the minor leagues for several years; however, saying that Josh Donaldson and his 7.7 WAR from 2013, was only worth 2.7 fewer wins than Trout seems kind of insane, as well. Defense and offensive numbers aside, how about a dose of reality?
I love number crunching as much as the next guy, I even spent quite a bit of time trying to create my own value system over the winter, but the idea that WAR is tied to wins and those wins should be tied to free agent contracts, at least in the eyes of sabermetric gurus, seems horribly wrong. While the money may appear endless with all of the new media deals, there will come a point down the road that your mediocre, utility player could be earning $10 million per season – just because the money is there to warrant the contract. Is that good for baseball? Then, when baseball fails because it has become too big for its own britches, what will the gurus crunch for enjoyment?
WAR is great and fun, and it is very creative…but it is flawed. Why else would there be three different theories that provide the same type of data, thanks to Baseball Reference, Baseball Prospectus, and FanGraphs? If the value of a player is based upon a statistic that can be skewed, molded, or shaped based on the philosophy of its creator, is it fair to use that statistic to determine the finances of the game?
I don’t think so. Sabermetrics are great and they allow for a lot of debate, but a lot of that information has become just that…information. Data that can be manipulated like any other form of a statistic.