I've seen this mentioned numerous times, but I didn't see anyone apply numbers to what exactly this might entail. Where, exactly, do we need to be in order to be on the fringes of competitive? Personally, I think you're going to need a bare-minimun of 86 wins to contend for the division or WC..and quite possibly as many as 89. That's open for discussion, obviously, but I think it's hard to make a case that 85 wins will take this division (or the WC) next year.I am arguing that it was a reasonable risk to take to remain on the fringes of competitive for '08.
As this excellent, and very comprehensive, post points out...this team started the offseason in pretty darn bad shape. Before factoring in regressions to the mean and potential breakout performances, we were looking at a returning talent baseline in the neighborhood of a low 70s win team (our Pythag W-L last year was 70-92). So, in order for us to be on the fringes of competing, this team would have to find 13-18 wins worth of improvement this offseason.We won 78 games last year, have won at about a 70-win pace since around July of 2006, and had the worst run differential in the league last year. Our nominal two best starting pitchers both start the season on the DL. Our theoretical second and third best position players have been shown to have minimal trade value, one of whom was just traded for a prospect that requires a lot of rationalization in order to get around what usually is reasonably predictive of a cup of coffee career. We've added arguably the worst everyday player in baseball, and our most easily-defended move of the off-season so far involves Brain Barton. We've added marginal, "try to compete now" players like Piniero and Izturis, but traded a reasonable bounce-back candidate for . . . well, you know, and I'd hate to be repetitive.
Would I be out of line if I suggested it is a fact that we won 78 games, it is a fact that our run differential actually projects us to be worse than that, and it is a fact that we have not added players that would seem to suggest much improvement so far?
We'll start by assuming absolutely no regression among anyone who "overachieved" last year. If they did it last year, we'll just take the optimistic route and assume they can do it again. Wins gained = 0...but you're not losing any either.
Since we're being optimistic, we'll return Jimmy to an 845 OPS (roughly .282 EQA) for 140 games. That's ~75 EqRs compared to the 47 EqR he put up last year. We'll even toss in defense that's a net 7 runs better, just to assume some improvement there as well. So, optimistically, a 35 run improvement. Of course, you're giving some of those runs back in the decreased playing time of others...but, we'll just ignore that for simplicity.
Let's say, optimistically, that Rolen returns to 2006 form and plays 145 games. That's a 43 run improvement over last year...again, ignoring the ones we're giving back through decreased playing time for others.
Let's say, optimistically, that we retained Eckstein and he repeated his 2005 offensively and defensively...that's another 30-35 runs. Better yet, let's say we landed Tejada without giving up a single thing of significance on the roster and he repeats his 2006...now we're up in the neighborhood of 45 runs ignoring the ones we're giving back.
Heck, since we're being optimistic, we'll toss in a full year of Reyes performing at 2007 Wainwright level. That's almost another 50 runs in the coffer.
Pausing to take stock...35+43+45+50=173 runs...about 17 wins, and that's without giving back all those runs that we should be giving back through the decreased playing time of others, regressions to the mean,or before factoring in 300+ PAs from Izturis.
Are we starting to get a handle on the magnitude of what it would take to be "on the fringes of competition" in 2008? Did letting Edmonds go (especially once we were unable to land Tejada and decided not to bring back Eckstein) really affect our chances significantly? Was the whole notion of competing in 2008 just a pipe dream from the get-go? Just some food for thought...