Friday, April 2, 2010

Loose End and the Big Finish

We've addressed the players from whom I think we can reasonably expect "significant" (that is, double-digit VORP, or a whole win or more) improvement, and in the introduction, I touched on the fact that I didn't see a single player still on the roster whom I think will decrease by a significant amount. You can argue for Shin-Soo Choo or maybe a pitcher falling off a cliff, but generally speaking, I think:

a) Choo is a good bet to stay very valuable
b) Everyone else is "noise"

But let's address a few things explicitly:

1) Kerry Wood posted a 10 VORP last season. He starts the season on the DL and is a candidate to be dealt mid-season because of his salary and the potential emergence of Chris Perez. If Perez falls apart and Wood doesn't recover (or is dealt and THEN Perez falls apart), these 10 VORP don't "come back." However, I think he will contribute some value to the Indians, and thus do not include him in the calculation. Heck, 10 VORP isn't very much for a "closer," so he might pitch better as well. That's what I mean by "noise:" I think it's reasonable to chalk him up at about the same level as last season.

2) Aaron Laffey made 19 starts and contributed 10.9 VORP last season, while this season he finds himself the odd man out and goes to the 'pen. I think he can be an effective bullpen presence, and besides, when was the last time Cleveland got even 150 starts from its nominal "top five" starters? I expect Laffey to make some starts, and if he contributes fewer than 10.9 VORP, it won't be by a lot.

3) Jeremy Sowers contributed 8.1 VORP last season, largely on the strength of two outstanding long relief performances. He has been optioned to Columbus, but again, I wouldn't be surprised to see him in Cleveland this season. Even if I don't, surely other arms pitching in his role can contribute something close to this (especially Mitch Talbot, who I think has more "stuff" than Sowers). I could get cheesy and talk about Talbot being a big improvement, but I don't think he will be a BIG improvement, and I'll simply call Sowers a wash.

4) Kelly Shoppach put up 6.7 VORP in 327 PA. Sour Lou Marson put up 1.5 VORP in 52 PA. Carlos Santana is likely to play in Cleveland, and although I'd love to tell you that he will be fantabulous out of the box, I don't think that's a reasonable bet. Let's temper our collective enthusiasm and call Shoppach/Marson/et al a wash as well.

5) The difference between Mark Grudzielanek and Jamey Carroll is an exercise left to the reader.

Now, there are lots of things that can go wrong. There are a number of things that can go a lot more "right" than I've projected. That's why I've tried to be reasonably bright, but sober, about these projections. What do we get?

Sizemore: +42
Carmona +30
R. Perez (et al): +25
LaPorta: +17
Peralta: +16
Masterson: +15
Marte: +14
Huff: +13
Lee/Martinez offset by Westbrook and a lack of schmoes: 0
Everyone else is "noise:" 0
Not Eric Wedge: +4 wins

The players add up to +172, which is 17 wins. Manny Acta is 4 more wins. Let's subtract 1 win for the noise going the wrong way to offset any projection that was overly optimistic.

65 wins in 2009 + 17 + 4 - 1 = 85 wins.

Yeah, I was surprised, too. And you know what? This isn't THAT many more than PECOTA's projection of 79, and ...

... might actually win the AL Central.

This could be a horrible year.

But it could be a damned fun one, too.

See you Monday.

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