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2010 MLB Preview: CHONE's WAR Gives Hope to Cleveland Indians For Winning Season

CHICAGO - AUGUST 09:  Outfielder Shin-Soo Choo #17 of the Cleveland Indians celebrates with Asdrubal Cabrera #13 after winning the game against the Chicago White Sox on August 9, 2009 at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Illinois. The Indians defeated the White Sox 8-4. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
KankaSenior Analyst IFebruary 24, 2010

The Cleveland Indians may be rebuilding again, but it's hard not to be optimistic when CHONE predicts the team to win at least 81 games and finish second in the division.

Let's take a closer look at those projections, using WAR—Wins Above Replacement.

For those unfamiliar with the stat, WAR compares a given player to a replacement player—basically, any random guy you'd pull out of AAA. WAR is nice because it takes into account defense and position difficulty—it's harder to play shortstop than left field—in addition to offense.

It's said that a team of nothing but replacement players will win 47 games. So let's start with that as our baseline.

First, we'll look at the position players. FanGraphs includes this year's CHONE projections, and even gives a WAR number. So that makes things easy. Here are the position players on the 40-man roster.

Player WAR
Grady Sizemore5
Shin-Soo Choo3.1
Asdrubal Cabrera2.8
Jhonny Peralta2.2
Luis Valbuena1.5
Matt LaPorta1.3
Louis Marson1.2
Travis Hafner1.2
Brian Bixler1
Michael Brantley1
Mike Redmond0.8
Trevor Crowe0.8
Wyatt Toregas0.8
Jordan Brown0.6
Carlos Santana0.4
Andy Marte0.3
Nick Weglarz-0.1
Chris Gimenez-0.5
Jason Donald-1
Wes Hodges-1.1
Carlos Rivero-1.3

 

Sizemore and Choo are really good, but you already knew that.

Next, the Non-Roster Invitees.

Player WAR
Shelley Duncan1.5
Russell Branyan1.2
Brian Buscher1
Austin Kearns0.7
Luis Rodriguez0
Mark Grudzielanek-0.3
Damaso Espino-0.7
Niuman Romero-1.1
Beau Mills-1.2
Lonnie Chisenhall-1.8

 

Assuming we assemble a 25-man roster with 13 position players and 12 pitchers, here are the best possible position players we could take.

Player WAR
Grady Sizemore5
Shin-Soo Choo3.1
Asdrubal Cabrera2.8
Jhonny Peralta2.2
Luis Valbuena1.5
Shelley Duncan1.5
Matt LaPorta1.3
Louis Marson1.2
Travis Hafner1.2
Russell Branyan1.2
Brian Bixler1
Michael Brantley1
Brian Buscher1

 

OK, so we're short a catcher—that won't work.

Now, here's my best guess at what the actual opening day lineup will look like.

Player WAR
Louis Marson1.2
Matt LaPorta1.3
Luis Valbuena1.5
Jhonny Peralta2.2
Asdrubal Cabrera2.8
Michael Brantley1
Grady Sizemore5
Shin-Soo Choo3.1
Travis Hafner1.2
Mike Redmond0.8
Brian Bixler1
Andy Marte0.3
Russell Branyan1.2

 

The realistic lineup gives us 22.6 WAR, and the best-case gives us 24. Add that to our baseline of 47 wins, and we're already on pace to win 69-71 games.

Now, the pitchers.

CHONE's website itself lists Runs Versus Replacement for pitchers, which is nice.

The common standard is that ten runs is equal to one win, so we'll divide the RVR by ten to get each player's WAR. Here are the pitchers on the 40-man.

Player WAR
Justin Masterson2.7
Fausto Carmona2
Aaron Laffey1.9
Jeremy Sowers1.5
David Huff1.4
Hector Rondon1
Jake Westbrook1
Hector Ambriz0.8
Carlos Carrasco0.6
Kerry Wood0.6
Mitch Talbot0.6
Rafael Perez0.6
Chris Perez0.5
Jensen Lewis0.5
Jess Todd0.4
Tony Sipp0.4
Joe Smith0.3
Jeanmar Gomez-0.8

 

CHONE didn't have a projection for Kelvin De La Cruz. But boy, it sure is high on Justin Masterson, isn't it? The non-roster invitees.

Player WAR
Anthony Reyes0.9
Jason Grilli0.6
Mike Gosling0.2
Saul Rivera0.2
Frank Herrmann-0.1
Josh Judy-0.1
Zach Putnam-0.3

 

Alex White and Yohan Pino didn't get CHONE projections.

Here's the best possible group of 12 pitchers.

Player WAR
Fausto Carmona2
Aaron Laffey1.9
Jeremy Sowers1.5
David Huff1.4
Hector Rondon1
Jake Westbrook1
Anthony Reyes0.9
Hector Ambriz0.8
Carlos Carrasco0.6
Kerry Wood0.6
Mitch Talbot0.6

 

Rafael Perez is also at 0.6, so feel free to substitute him in for Carrasco, Wood, or Talbot as you see fit.

Here's my best guess at the opening day staff. I wasn't sure quite how it was going to turn out, so I started with the guys under contract (Westrbook, Wood, Carmona, and Perez), added rule five pickup Ambriz, then just went in descending order by WAR after that.

Player WAR
Jake Westbrook1
Kerry Wood0.6
Fausto Carmona2
Rafael Perez0.6
Hector Ambriz0.8
Justin Masterson2.7
Aaron Laffey1.9
Jeremy Sowers1.5
David Huff1.4
Hector Rondon1
Carlos Carrasco0.6
Mitch Talbot0.6

 

The best possible scenario clocks in at 15 total WAR, and the "realistic" one comes in just under that at 14.7. Add that to our 47-win baseline and the 22-24 wins by the hitters, and we're looking at a team that should win at least 80 games and could win as many as 87.

Of course, a word of caution: it was these types of sabermetric projections that predicted the Tribe to win the Central in '06, '08, and '09. But still, it's February, so why not be optimistic?

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