Thursday, December 31, 2009
I know/assume several posts tomorrow will cover the playoff run, Wainwright/Carpenter and the Cy Young Award, the All-Star Game, the DeRosa trade, the Holliday trade, the Lugo trade, Dave Duncan's hissy fit with the media regarding their treatment of his son, NLDS Game 2, David Freese imbibing enough alcohol to kill a small horse yet still stay semi-coherent (but he doesn't have a drinking problem, nooooo), the Scott Boras/John Mozeliak Mexican Standoff, and so on. Let's take a different tack. Let's look at five interesting events regarding the Cardinal Blogger Community.
(drum roll, please)
IN order, I present the Top 5 Cardinal Blogger Events of 2009.
5. Erik Manning joins Fangraphs
If you're smart, you surround yourself with smart people willing to tell you when you're wrong. If you're dumb, you surround yourself with smart people to keep youself out of trouble. I'll reserve for others to determine where I fall on this scale, but Erik Manning is undoubtedly smart.
The brains behind Future Redbirds for years, Erik joined the Fangraphs team this past June (it's the bottom post on the link; sorry I couldn't get the story to come up solo). I surf over there a lot. I started reading Fangraphs because I liked what Dave Cameron had to say about baseball at U.S.S. Mariner, and he contributes at Fangraphs often. It was a nice mid-season surprise to see Erik's name on the ledger. "HEY! I know that guy!"
Well OK, I 'know' him through the UCB and Facebook, and the occasional interview at the UCB Radio Hour, but still - it's a brush with greatness for all of us. We all knew he was knowledgable; now a whole new audience knows it too. Congrats to Erik (again).
4. Fox Sports Midwest Live Game Blogs with a UCB flavor
This season saw FSMW start doing a live game blog for the Thursday day games. This was a cool idea, and it worked well, at least from my perspective. There was some delay between typing a comment and seeing it in the chat room, and some drop-out issues, but overall it was a positive development for Cardinal broadcasts.
For me personally, it offered the opportunity to interact with other Cardinal fans while watching/tracking the game on my computer. And, the middle innings coincided with my lunch break at work, so I could happily munch on a sandwich while following the game, with a few snide comments and/or insight thrown in.
For the UCB, it offered another forum to promote the group. UCB members were conspicuous during the broadcasts, and on at least one occasion the FSMW moderator mentioned the UCB Radio Hours during the broadcast. I don't think it ever made the actual telecast, but the publicity from the live chat was huge. More exposure, more fans listening, more discussion on the Cardinals. That's why it checks in at #4.
3. Cardinal 70 founds the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, immediately crosses swords with the BBWAA.
The UCB is full of movers and shakers, isn't it? How did I hoodwink them into extending me membership? Let's not ask that question. The UCB has been a big success in it's 2 years, so Dan decided to expand his reach and form a loose coalition of baseball bloggers.
Great idea. Get writers from all the major league teams, as well as some general blogs, together to talk baseball. The BBA has it's own website and everything.
Because we're intelligent people who like intelligent discussion, we decided to offer our own thoughts on who should win the Cy Young, MVP, ROY, and Manger of the Year awards for 2009. Dan then published those results to the media contacts he had in his Rolodex, er, his email address book. Innocent fun, right?
Sure. Until the BBWAA took exception to the BBA 'awarding' the awards, and so stated their angst via email. Clearly Dan's intention was not to try and usurp the BBWAA (right, Dan?), but they didn't see it that way. From my perspective, this event was proof of two things:
A. Media types actually read Dan's email (positive)
B. It was publicity, and any publicity is good publicity (also positive).
2. Interviews, Muffed Interviews, and More Interviews
The All Star Game in St Louis provided a lot of story ideas for both the media and us humble bloggers. Bank of America marketing hit upon the bright idea to use Cardinal HOF and Legends as spokesmen for their MLB Checking, and had these men make appearances throughout the St Louis area.
They also offered them up for interviews, which presented the UCB with the unique opportunity to talk to a Hall of Famer. Members of the guild spoke with Ozzie Smith, Bruce Sutter, and Lou Brock.
Additionally, we attempted to interview Al Hrabowsky, but due to technical difficulties that never happened.
Finally, our success with the HOF men opened a door to interview Bill DeWitt III, which we did as a group in October.
That's a big story, and probably would be the biggest blogger story of 2009 if not for the next one.
1. Fungoes selected for ESPN's SweetSpot Network
Rob Neyer is a good writer at ESPN, taking a bit more saber-metric centered approach to his baseball analysis. Sometime during 2009, he decided to create a Network made up of 30 blog authors, one for each ML team.
His SweetSpot Network debuted just before the playoffs started. The first 8 blogs announced were for the 8 playoff teams. Representing the Cardinals was Pip from Fungoes. Pip, like Erik, is undoubtedly smart. And again, his selection reflects well on the UCB.
The fact that ESPN decided to create a Network comprised of fan blogs is testament to the impact bloggers have had on how sports news is disseminated and consumed. One might argue other Cardinal blogs deserved to be selected, but no one will argue Fungoes' selection was a poor or misguided one. Recognition by a mainstream media organization like ESPN is a major step forward for blogging as a whole, and big news in the UCB. Congratulations, Pip (again) - this event is the top Cardinal blogger story of 2009.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
DeRosa stated he was 'Tired of being someone's Plan B'. That's a veiled shot at the Cardinals, isn't it? You know what? I don't blame him for moving on. Even if he waited until Matt Holliday signed, the odds of Mark DeRosa not playing somewhere next season hovered around 0.000001%; the amount of money he would make next season, however, probably rode an inverse proportion relationship with when he signed. The longer he waited, the more anxious he would get about signing on with someone, and the less money he might have been forced to take to play.
To you and me, the difference between $4 mil and $6 mil is like the difference between apple and watermelon Jolly Ranchers - apple is clearly better than watermelon, but in the end they're both pretty darn good. For a guy trying to maximize his earning power using perishable physical gifts, that's a pretty big difference. So Mark took the best deal with a team he didn't mind playing for. Good for him.
One guy out of the LF sweepstakes.
The Cardinals never expressed real interest in Jason Bay, for which I remain thankful. We've had plenty of decent-bat, no-glove guys patrol that corner (see Gant, Ron; Sanders, Reggie; and Duncan, Chris), and I hoped that pattern wouldn't repeat itself with Bay. The more important outcome of Bay joining the Mets is the price tag. He's to make $16.25 mil per year. Since most observers rank Holliday a better outfielder than Bay, I believe we've just firmly established the floor for the Holliday negotiations.
Boras/Holliday won't accept less than $16.25 million per season to play for the Cardinals. The length of contract, opt-out clause, no-trade protection? All just contract language. First, we must agree on price. Chet Novak posted on Facebook his guess: $17 mil per/8 years. If the $18 million figure bandied about before the season ended becomes the high end of the range for Holliday, this is a completely reasonable guess at a per year cost for his services. But boy, I really hope the Cardinals don't ink him for 8 years. Paying a guy $17 million a year for his age 37-38 seasons seems a tremendous waste of money to me. Should the Cardinals go with a 8-year contract, I'd prefer to see a mutual option each year for the last 3 years written into the contract language. That would at least protect the club should a Vernon Wells-type decline in skill start, and not make the contract a millstone.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
"Today I want to tell you the story of an empty stocking.With warm wishes for a Happy Christmas.
Once upon a midnight clear, there was a child's cry. A blazing star hung over a stable and wise men came with birthday gifts. We haven't forgotten that night down the centuries; we celebrate it with stars on Christmas trees, the sound of bells, and gifts.
But especially with gifts. You give me a book; I give you a tie. Aunt Martha has always wanted an orange squeezer, and Uncle Henry could do with a new pipe. We forget nobody, adult or child. All the stockings are filled...
all, that is, except one. And we have even forgotten to hang it up.
The stocking for the Child born in a manger.
It's His birthday we are celebrating. Don't ever let us forget that. Let us ask ourselves what He would wish for most and then let each put in his share: loving kindness, warm hearts, and the stretched-out hand of tolerance; all the shining gifts that make peace on Earth.
- Re-printed w/o permission from the movie "The Bishop's Wife" (1947)
Thursday, December 17, 2009
First, Matt Holliday was offered a contract for about $15 million per, 5 years. Then it became 8 years. Then 8 years at $16M per. Now it's back to 5 years, but still $16M per. And today ESPN Insider contains a report he's drawing interest from the Orioles.
I'm having a hard time imagining Holliday with the Orioles. Not saying Camden Yards is a bad place to play, or the people of Baltimore are somehow lesser humans than the rest of us; although they did take away the Browns. Even that, I guess, could be considered a good thing depending on your point of view. It's just that Baltimore has a lot of young outfielders on the roster already - Nolan Reimold, Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, Felix Pie - under cost-effective control for a while still. Baltimore needs a third baseman and those guys who throw strikes and get people out. Plus, as I mentioned last night on the UCB Hour, AL teams likely remain a little leery of Holliday's bat in their league, given how he struggled in Oakland the first half of 2009.
So I think this becomes nothing other than "more posturing" by Holliday's representation.
What is interesting is the lack of rumor out there regarding other teams most thought might make a run at Matt, like the Yankees, Mets, and Angels. I don't believe a guy with Holliday's skill isn't in demand with teams other than the Cardinals, but you wouldn't know it based on the RUMINT out there.
The other big news item this week revolves around David Freese's drinking. Or rather, his drinking and driving. David, arrested for DWI, reportedly blew a 0.232 BAC, 45 minutes after his arrest. David stands 6 foot 2 inches tall and weighs 220 pounds. If I remember correctly, the story reported David admitting to drinking 7 beers. I don't know the time frame; let's assume from 8pm to 2am (he was arrested at 2:4am). That's 6 hours. The chart below shows BAC based on number of drinks and body weight.
OK. Twelve drinks would give an average 220 pound man a BAC of .205. The body burns approximately .015 alcohol per hour, and his BAC was taken approximately 1.5 hours after his last drink. If he'd had 12 drinks, his BAC should have been (.205 - (.015 x 7.5)) = .0925. It was close to three times that value. Which means (a) he drank for less than 6 hours, and/or (b) he had more than 7 beers, and more than 12 drinks.
I'd say David Freese has a drinking problem. Especially since it's recently come to light he was cited for public intoxication while in the Padre minor league system.
I have two thoughts on this. First, I'm glad to see the Cardinals and Freese have decided David needs professional help, and taken steps to provide that. Second, seeing as this becomes the fourth substance abuse issue to hit the Cardinals in the last 2 years, they club has a problem. And they need to aggressively move to squash it.
No reasonable person would recommend the club can David Freese, or deny him a shot at the everyday third baseman job. He didn't (luckily, I know) hurt anyone driving drunk. We will probably not know the full details of what the club does, but I wouldn't be surprised (and frankly expect) he'll pay a fine imposed by the club, and be 'asked' to perform some community service, like talking to high school students, something like that, in addition to whatever John Law throws his way.
And on that sober note, this will probably be my last post until after Christmas. Should some large story develop between now and 31 December, like Holliday signs with St Louis or signs somewhere else, or they pry Cliff Lee from the Mariners, I'll put some thoughts up here. There is a UCB topic coming up - top 5 Cardinal stories of 2009 - that's collectively to be posted 31 December, and I'll be involved in that.
And there may be a story of an empty stocking here on Christmas Eve.
But until the calendar starts to turn, to echo the Christian tradition my ancestors bequeathed me, Peace to You and Yours, and a very Merry Christmas.
[update] I fixed the formatting issues. Sorry about that.
Monday, December 14, 2009
Since historically Boras seemed to like conducting his negotiations in public, this lack of news was somewhat disconcerting. The lone leak reported Mo's contract offer didn't approach the $18 million per year the Rockies offered Holliday (which he subsequently rejected).
Late last night more news broke. Seemed the Cardinals and Boras have talked since the winter meetings broke up, and the Cardinals sweetened the pot a little. Holliday's contract offer is now reported to average about $16 million per. That doesn't approach the Teixiera-level money Boras set as a benchmark for this negotiations. Perhaps there are other considerations being made. The Post-Dispatch story talked about guaranteed money, an opt-out clause, and full no-trade protection as possible contract language to make the 'lower' figure more amenable to Holliday.*
*As an aside, is there really that big a difference between $16 million and $18 million a year? Would one's quality of life suffer terribly if compensated 11% less per year than one wanted?
Complicating matters is Jason Bay. Reports on ESPN indicate Mike Cameron has signed a 2-year deal to play for Boston. Which OF spot Cameron will mann remains to be seen; he is a gold-glove center fielder, but I hardly think Boston will shift Ellsbury to left and install Cameron in center. So pencil Cameron into the LF slot. That means Bay won't be returning to Boston. As the popular choice for second-best bat on the 2009 free agent market, where he goes will limit Holliday's options if he doesn't accept St Louis' offer.
All of this is cause for one to shake his head. Matt: you could do a lot worse than play baseball for $16 million a year. If you want to play in St Louis, take the deal. Work out the specific contract language you want, but take the money. If you don't want to spend a hot summer on the shores of Big Muddy, that's fine - just say so.
All this posturing is quite silly.
A quick final word on Ben Jukich. He was taken in the 13th round by Oakland in 2006. He hasn't pitched in the major leagues yet. He's spent the better part of 3 seasons at AAA.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Major League Phase:
Mike Parisi is a Cub.
Cardinals acquire LHP Ben Jukich from Cincinnati.
Memphis Redbirds acquire Matt Meyer from Cleveland.
AA Phase: In progress.
Rule V draft results can be followed here. Cards Clubhouse has a thread on Parisi's loss, and some data on Jukich, AND some data on the Rule V draft process.
More info later today, as time allows.
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
No one reading these words should be surprised Holliday declined. He's 26 and $cott Bora$ is his agent. He's about to become a very rich man. DeRosa's move to decline was perhaps influenced by the big deals Placido Polanco (3 yrs/$18M with Philadelphia) and Chone Figgins (4 yrs/$36M with Seattle) signed. Erik Manning posted an article over at Fangraphs today which neatly summarizes DeRosa's value. I think Mark saw the two aforementioned deals and realized he could command between 7-9 million dollars, even while coming back from wrist surgery. Can't blame him for chasing the funds.
Pineiro, well, he had expressed interest in staying a Cardinal. However, he probably thinks based on this past season he'll get something north of the $6.5M he made in 2009, and get a multi-year deal. He may be right. Again, he's chasing the money and long-term security.
There is still a chance Joel could return to the Cardinals, but that chance became a lot longer based on the widely reported imminent signing of Brad Penny. There had been discussion about bringing a veteran pitcher on a short term deal like a 1-year contract. John Smoltz dominated that discussion. Ben Sheets also seemed a viable candidate. But Brad Penny? Wow.
Why would the Cardinals give Penny $7.5M in base salary after he struggled for most of last year? Penny finished 11-9 with a 4.88 ERA in 173.1 innings for the Red Sox and Dodgers. Doesn't seem to make sense. Let's look a little deeper. His FIP was 4.46. That's not great; in fact, it's the fourth highest FIP of his career (his worst FIP season was 2008 - 5.27). His K/9 was 5.66, the second lowest of his career. BB/9 ratio? 2.14 (fifth BEST of his career, and best since 2006). K/BB (2.14) and BABIP (.307) were right on his career averages (2.17 and .303 respectively), and his HR/9 ratio was slightly elevated (0.88 career vice 1.14 in 2009).
Other than his strikeouts being down, what caused his bad year last year? Well his fly ball percentage was the worst of his career (38.4%), and in a park as small as Fenway is, that probably killed him. Guys also didn't swing at his stuff out of the strike zone as much as they did in years past, which would also explain his lower strikeout totals.
Penny becomes an intriguing guy for next year's rotation. He won't be as good as he was with the Giants (and in their pitching-friendly ballpark), and he won't be as bad as he was with the Red Sox (and their hitting-friendly park). Not sure if he's worth $7.5M, but Mozeliak is a better judge of market pricing than I am.
Welcome, Brad Penny.
Monday, December 07, 2009
Obviously I'm excited by this. Whitey managed the Cardinal teams of my teenage years, the teams that left an indelible mark on my fandom and cemented the Cardinals as my team of choice. The 1982 team won it all, the 1985 team was my favorite, the 1987 team gets less credit than it should, and the 1989 team was headed to the post season too until a Labor Day series in New York derailed it.
Whitey is elected for the sum total of his managerial expertise, and success, so his years in Kansas City can't be ignored (although his year in Texas will be). 5 Divisional championships, 3 League Championships, and the 82 World Series.
A good start to the week, despite the local rain. Congratulations Whitey!
Seeing as the Winter Meetings start today, we'll keep tabs on what's happening and comment as events dictate.
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
"I think that this front office has shown that it has a real hesitation to offer arbitration to anybody who even might accept that they might be worried about having to pay the salary. I think that they have pretty consistently shown that. Each of the past two years I have been surprised at some of the decisions, and I have yet to be surprised with them offering to somebody. If I had to guess I would guess that there's a pretty good chance that Holliday is the only guy they offer to. They've just shown themselves to be very risk adverse when it comes to the possibility of somebody accepting arbitration.
Now if the negotations start going somewhere that kinda leads you to believe things are different, that's one thing - but also remember that under the new CBA [collective bargaining agreement] that not offering arbitration is not the sort of 'death knell' in negotiations that it once was. So to some extent, not offering is no longer the risk that it was. Again, this is one area where I actually disagree with them - I think that you should be willing to take those risks. I think the draft picks are so valuable. But I think they have shown themselves to be very, very risk adverse when it comes to the possibility of players accepting arbitration."
Apparently the Cardinal Front Office has reconsidered their position and decided to accept the risk, because today they offered arbitration to Matt Holliday, Mark DeRosa, and Joel Pineiro. According to about.com's baseball page, that's all the Type A/B free agents the Cardinals had this season.
What are the implications? Baseball's arbitration rules are summarized here. Bottom line is Holliday, DeRosa, and Pineiro have until midnight EST on 7 December to accept/reject arbitration. If they accept, they go back on the Cardinals 40-man roster even though they do not have a contract in place yet, and negotiations for compensation continue. If they reject they return to the free agent pool. The Cardinals will get a compensation pick (or two in the case of Holliday, a Type A free agent) when/if they sign with someone else.
My take on the why.
Prospect Replacement. The Cardinals traded away a large chunk of their high value prospects to acquire DeRosa and Holliday. If in the worst-case all 3 reject arbitration, the Cardinals would receive 4 compensation picks. They traded away 5 in 2009 (Perez, Todd, Wallace, Mortensen, Peterson), so those 4 picks would go a long way to evening the scales in the minors. Granted, picking up raw talent to replace MLB-ready guys like Perez/Todd/Wallace isn't a fair swap or comparison, but at least there will be some return on the DeRosa/Holliday investment.
Third Base Situation. At the start of the off season there was a lot written about David Freese getting a real shot to play third next season, and although no one in the Cardinal organization anointed him the starting third baseman in 2010, it 'seemed' to be the case. Freese may not be ready. Bringing DeRosa back would allow him to develop a little further in the minors, and perhaps hold down a bench position on the major league club while learning. Call it risk mitigation going forward for the big club. Not a bad move.
Who Wouldn't Want These Guys On The Roster? Holliday is a bona-fide power hitter giving the Cardinals additional thump in the lineup. DeRosa should - will - hit much better in 2010 when fully healthy than he did the second half of 2009 with a bum wrist. And Pineiro thrived last year under Duncan, using his sinkers to force hitters into pounding the ball into the dirt (Career year concerns do exist for Pineiro, but his ground ball dominance continued a trend he's had for a couple of years, and is a repeatable skill in my opinion).
Prognosis. Holliday is due for a big payday this off-season if he stays a free agent. I would expect Holliday to reject arbitration. Pineiro already expressed interest in returning to the Club for 2010 and beyond. I think Pineiro accepts as well. DeRosa, with the bum wrist, isn't as desirable this off-season as he was last. The Cubs may make a real run at him; if they've already been in contact with DeRosa, and have a tantalizing offer on the table, he'll probably reject arbitration. Absent that I would expect DeRosa also returns.
Friday, November 27, 2009
Anyway, Happy Thanksgiving to all. May your indigestion be short and your dessert leftovers last you into next week.
Some news and notes
- The 2009 United Cardinal Blogger awards are official. No real surprises in there, and no arguments here with the winners. Congratulations to all.
- Even with the excitement of Wednesday, I was able to dial into the UCB Radio Hour and spend 23 min or so with Dan. We had a lively discussion about all the end of the year awards, especially the NL Cy Young and evaluating pitchers. There may be some additional discussion on the recording - things got a little heated in my house, oh the joys of potty-training children - so don't be surprised. I haven't listened to it yet, so I don't know what to expect.
- The 2010 Hall of Fame ballot was announced today. In addition to the expected returnees to the ballot (Blyleven, Dawson, McGwire), there are 15 new candidates, including former Cardinals Andres Galarraga, Pat Hentgen, Todd Zeile, and Ray Lankford. Most of these guys made their names with other teams - Galarraga with Montreal and Colorado, Hentgen with Toronto, Zeile by bouncing around the league for 10 years after leaving St Louis.
Ray Lankford was different. He was a Cardinal for virtually all of his career, except for a couple of years in San Diego (you may remember that lopsided trade - Lankford for Woody Williams in 2001). From the day Whitey Herzog resigned to the day Tony LaRussa was hired, the Cardinals were a mediocre team at best. Over parts of 5 and a half seasons they were 406-419-1, and never finished within 10 games of first. Ray Lankford was one of the few bright spots on those teams.
Ray took over in CF from Willie McGee following the 1990 season. He finished third in the 1991 ROY voting (behind Jeff Bagwell and Orlando Merced), and he led the majors in triples with 15. The following year he finished ninth in the NL in OPS+, and led the league in caught stealings and strikeouts (not really something to brag about, but still). From 1993-1996 he put up solid numbers while patrolling center. His only other really good year was 1997, when he was voted to the All-Star game, and posted the highest OPS+ of his career (159), good enough for 5th in the league. He was pushed to LF from CF by the arrival of JD Drew before the 1999 season. He fought the injury bug starting in 1999. He missed most of July and all of August in 2002, and didn't play in 2003; he tried a comeback in 2004, and made the team out of spring training, but he didn't play in the post season that year and retired following the season.
He posted a career .366 wOBA. It's too bad UZR and Dewan's plus/mnus don't go back past 2002, because we can't quantify how good a fielder he was. In 2002 he had a UZR of 6.2 for the Padres, but that was in 3 games so doesn't mean much. His UZR in LF was -26.1 in 59 games.
Also for what its worth, here's where Ray Lankford ranks on the 'All-Time Busch Stadium II Leaders' list:
Games Played - 4th (790)
At Bats - 5th (2705)
Hits - 5th (776)
Runs - 3rd (461)
Doubles - 1st (181)
Triples - 6th (30)
HR - 1st (122)
RBI - 2nd (458)
Stolen Bases - 5th (117)
Ray to the Hall? Not likely. Baseball Reference's Similarity Scores compare him to the following players: Kirk Gibson, Raul Mondesi, Torii Hunter, Bill Nicholson, Cliff Floyd, Mike Cameron, Larry Doby, Eric Davis, Reggie Sanders, and Rick Monday. Only Larry Doby is in the Hall. Torii Hunter, Mike Cameron, and Cliff Floyd are still active, but probably won't get a serious look; the rest of this list are no longer eligible to be voted in and can only become a Hall of Famer if the Veteran's Committee selects them. Probably Kirk Gibson has the best shot of that lot.
But it's nice to see his name on the ballot. It brought back some pleasant memories.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
I keep mulling over the Cy Young results. I've mentioned before I don't have an issue with who won, but I've been wondering about the methodology used to select the winner.
My rankings for Cy Young went Lincecum, Vasquez, Carpenter, Wainwright. Keith Law came up with the same rankings, albeith with Wainwright in place of Carpenter for third, putting me in the interesting position of agreeing with Keith Law. I came to my order after looking at some of the traditional metrics (ERA, Wins, Strikeouts, etc), and some of the new statistics (FIP, WAR). I allowed the more sophisticated stats to trump the traditional ones. Fairly or not, Keith Law came under fire for his rankings, which caused me to re-examine mine.
For years, we in the sabermetric community have dissed wins as a measure of a pitcher's performance, and with good reason. The way managers use their pitching staff, especially their bullpens, has rendered the win pretty meaningless. If you've played any fantasy baseball in a league using wins as a statistical category, you've seen one of your relief pitchers get credit for a win after throwing 4 pitches, or one of your starters get a no decision after throwing 8 shutout innings because the closer came in and started throwing BP.
ERA is also out of vogue, mostly because of unearned runs being determined by the awarding of errors, an inherently subjective statistic based solely on the official scorer's determination as to whether the fielder should have made the play cleanly. We invented things like WHIP to better understand what made a pitcher successful. Then Tom Tango invented FIP, which attempted to boil down pitching evaluation to those things a pitcher controlled - allowing HR, walks and hit batsmen, and strikeouts. FIP removed the rest of the defense from the pitcher evaluation. Most people believe using FIP and stats of that nature have put pitcher evaluation on the right track.
What about the pitchers who pitch to contact, and use their defense and ballpark effectively? I think this comment, from a Cy Young post Cardinal 70 did, sums it up the sabermetric community's thoughts:
I'm sympathetic to the "Should groundball pitchers be punished for basically doing their job?" argument. However, that's an a priori argument that assumes that their approach is correct. In some way, such as in the aggregate, perhaps it is. But as far as an individual pitcher's contribution -- what he alone is able to do -- fielding-independent stats tell us more about the pitcher himself. If we are rewarding individual accomplishments, as it seems the Cy Young does, team philosophies are irrelevant. They're reflected, however, in a team's success.
The author of this comment isn't some schmoe. It's Pip from Fungoes, a man who's opinion I respect, an educated man who speaks intelligently about baseball in his blog posts. But I've come to disagree with this position. I think the SABR community is missing the forest for the trees.
The point of pitching isn't to give up no walks, no home runs, not hit anyone, and strike everybody out. The point is to get outs and keep guys off base. If you can't keep guys off base, then get outs and don't let them score. Strikeouts is only one of a variety of ways the pitcher can succeed in preventing runs.
The philosophy behind FIP is right on the money. It gives the pitcher credit for executing his pitches correctly. Most HR are allowed because a pitcher leaves the pitch in the fat part of the plate; perhaps a fastball with no movement or a breaking ball that spins but doesn't break. Walks, HBP - can't find the strike zone or can't control where the ball is going. Strikeouts: most times a K is because of a well thrown pitch in the exact location it was intended to go. No argument on the components of FIP.
However, pitchers don't pitch in a vacuum, and aren't the only guys on the field when pitching.
If Buzz Bissinger is to be believed, before each game the pitching coach, pitcher, and catcher get together to discuss how they will attack the opposing lineup. They discuss pitch location and tendencies of individual hitters, to develop a game plan for the night. It's reasonable to extend this preparation to the bench coach who positions the defense. I'm sure pitching coaches and bench coaches discuss the pitcher's approach to each hitter, so as to better position the defense. Pitchers who are able to execute their pitches and use that defensive alignment should get credit for it.
Think about it. How many times have you watched a game, and in inning after inning with guys on base the pitcher manages to get the hitter to roll the ball right to an infielder? Think that was by accident?
Evaluating pitchers should also take into the types of outs that are made. In Chris Carpenter's 7 September complete game shutout against Milwaukee, he gave up two balls to the outfield. Nine IP, 1 hit, 2 walks, 10 K's. A dominating performance. The fact that 26 of the 27 outs were recorded by an infielder puts a whole other dimension on it for me. Of the 17 hitters that did put the ball in play, 16 couldn't get it out of the infield, meaning they either were fooled, or the pitch location was so good they couldn't center the ball on their bat and drive it. Carpenter should get credit for having the ability to throw that kind of game.
When you get down to it, FIP, WAR, ERA, K, K/9, BB/K, LD% GB%, all these metrics are simply tools to develop a picture of how good the pitcher is. There's no one statistic, no magic formula, that spits out who's good and who's not, and basing a Cy Young vote on one or two of them is inherently misguided. Yes I realize I'm making fun of my vote. Choosing pitching rankings by evaluating all of the data available, tempering it with personal observation if possible, is a much better way of doing business.
Again, I don't disagree with how the Cy Young voting shook out. The top three vote getters were all deserving of the award, and the fact 10 points separated them is good evidence the voters were torn as to who was the best. Wins and ERA aren't the be-all and end-all for evaluating pitchers. But neither are FIP and WAR. And not taking the use of the defense into account when deciding which pitcher has performed the best over the course of a whole season is to not use all the data at our disposal. It does a disservice to pitchers that don't have Lincecum's stuff but are still mighty effective pitchers.
I disagree with the community. You can't properly evaluate pitching without including some statistical information on how they use their defense. This is, after all, a team game.
Friday, November 20, 2009
So, on to the voting:
1. Cardinal Player of the Year - Albert Pujols. Could there be any other? The NL MVP favorite. He's won the Fielding Bible award for his defense at first, and the Silver Slugger for NL first basemen as well. His 188 OPS+ led the league for the second year in a row and third time in 4 years. Easy.
2. Cardinal Pitcher of the Year - Chris Carpenter. This might take some of the sting out of finishing second in the Cy Young voting. Honorable Mention - Joel Pineiro.
3. Game of the Year - 29 July 09 (Cardinals 3, Dodgers 2 (15)). Widely considered to be the best game of the season at the time. This game saw a classic pitchers duel between Pineiro and Clayton Kershaw; a clutch single from Colby Rasmus to tie it up in the bottom of the ninth; a rare (at that time) bad Franklin outing; Ludwick tying the game at 2-2 in the eleventh, then throwing out Ramirez trying to score in the twelfth; and finally AP knocking in the winner with a booming shot to CF in the fifteenth. Honorable Mention: August 23 09 at San Diego - Smoltz's debut, AP's 40th HR, Franklin's meltdowns start in earnest. I was there, too.
4. Surprise Player of the Year - Brendan Ryan. He gets the nod here because most observers did not expect him to evolve into the everyday shortstop, which on May 19 is exactly what he was. Honorable Mention: Blake Hawksworth, Joel Pineiro.
5. Disappointing Player of the Year - Kyle Lohse. Khalil Greene is too easy a choice, and let's face it: based on his 2009 numbers are pretty similar to his 2008 ones. No, it's gotta be Lohse, who followed his 15-win campaign in 2008 with a 6 win effort in 2009. To be fair, the hit by pitch really screwed up his year, as opposed to Lohse just sucking out loud; but no matter what the reason or why, he didn't perform as we had hoped. Which makes him the disappointing player for 2009. Honorable Mention: K. Greene, Rick Ankiel.
6. Cardinal Rookie of the Year - Colby Rasmus. Led all NL CF in UZR/150 (13.4), and was having a ROY-caliber season when he got hurt in July. Honorable Mention: Blake Hawksworth.
7. Off-season Acquisition of the Year - Trever Miller. Signed for $500k on 12/3/08, he ended up being the better of the two left-handed specialists, and one of the most reliable guys period out of the Cardinal bullpen in 2009.
8. Mid-season Acquisition of the Year - Matt Holliday. Let's see... DeRosa was hurt, Julio Lugo can't play defense, Smoltz - well, Smoltz was pretty good. But Holliday's arrival helped spur the Cardinals to their best month of the season (August), and vaulted them into the playoffs. Honorable Mention - John Smoltz.
9. Most Anticipated Cardinal - David Freese. If he can hit and play defense at the major league level like he did last season in the high minors, the Cardinals will have an ecomonical bat under their control and a big contributor in the middle of the order.
10. Best Individual Blog - Stan Musial's Stance. If I don't vote for myself, who will? OK, OK, OK. Let's invoke the 'can't vote for yourself' rule. In that case, Fungoes gets the nod. Not only do I learn something every time I stop by, Pip was selected to represent the Cardinal Bloggers in Rob Neyer's SweetSpot Network. Can't do much better than that.
11. Best Team Blog - Pitchers Hit Eighth. Viva El Birdos is still very good, but I prefer the insight I get from Nick and Josh.
12. Best Media Blog - Derrick Goold's Bird Land.
13. Best UCB Project - UCB Debate Day. I thought it was an intriguing idea - ask a question with two possibilities, then have each possibility covered by a different blogger. It made for some interesting reading, especially when the writer was arguing for a position he might not actually believe in. I also thought my 'Cubs aren't the Cardinals biggest rival' was one of my five best, so far, in 2009.
14. Most Optimistic Cardinal Blog - Pass. I can't differentiate between the blogs. Everyone in the UCB is optimistic and pessimistic, as appropriate given the situation.
15. Funniest Cardinal Blog - None. We're all pretty good writers, but high comedy isn't our strongest suit. Perhapst Fredbird Follys will fill the void here in 2010.
16. Rookie Blog of the Year - Pass. I can't keep track of all the blogs out there. I've no idea which blogs have been around 'forever' and which just started up last week.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
As can be expected, some Cardinal writers are incensed by this result, and that's fine. And as is typical in these types of contests, some voter ranking choices are being called into question. Interestingly, my rankings closely matched Keith Law's ballot, except I had Carpenter third instead of Wainwright. I never thought I'd agree with Keith Law on anything.
I am on record as saying Lincecum, Wainwright, and Carpenter were all worthy candidates, and whoever won amongst the three of them would be deserving. But based on the results, and some of what's been written by other writers, there are a couple of things I wanted to at least throw out there.
- Innings pitched should not enter into the Cy Young argument. What, no reliever can ever win a Cy Young again? Besides, to say one pitcher is less qualified than another because he threw 40 fewer innings, in this day and age, is ridiculous. Most pitchers don't go more than seven innings a start anymore as a general rule. Assuming a starter gets 32 starts in a season, and goes 7 innings in all of them, he'll rack up 224 innings. Lincecum averaged 7.04 innings/start (225 1/3 innings, 32 starts). Wainwright - 6.85 (233 innings, 2 more starts). Carpenter 6.88 (192 2/3, 4 fewer starts). So on the average, each guy lasted almost as long per game as the other two. It's a wash. Total IP shouldn't be the deciding factor.
Advanced statistical metrics exist to take some of these things off the table; to allow the serious observer of the game to strip things the pitcher can't control away (like how long the manager will leave him in the game) and evaluate him based on his talent alone. If anything Carpenter is MORE deserving of the award based on total innings pitched. He missed 6 weeks with a strained muscle in his midsection, and upon his return he was as dominating as he was before he got hurt. Compare that to Lohse, who was never the same after getting hit by a pitch, or Lincecum, who tired down the stretch.
- That said, some statistical metrics may be overrated. There was a comment at the bottom of Jeff Gordon's post regarding FIP, that it's too heavily weighted by strikeouts. FIP, as the name implies, takes the contribution of the defense out, evaluating the pitcher on the things he alone can control. (HR*13+(BB+HBP+IBB)*3-K*2)/innings pitched is the equation. You can see that strikeouts will raise the numerator's total value, bringing it closer to innings pitched and lowering the quotient. So it is a short walk to obvious-ville to say guys with high strikeout totals and high innings pitched will have a lower FIP than others. Lincecum led the NL in FIP at 2.34. and K with 261.
But pitching isn't all about strikeouts, nor just preventing HR, and the like. Pitching is about getting guys out and not allowing the other team to score. I did my ranking largely based on the FIP and WAR of the major candidates, but using FIP (and to a lesser extent, WAR) does a disservice to guys who successfully pitch to contact. Keith Law's ballot also appears to be largely influenced by FIP and WAR (in fact, his top 3 exactly match the WAR rankings for starting pitching). There's got to be a better way than ERA to evaluate pitching that doesn't rely heavily on strikeouts.
In the end, it is what it is. Carpenter and Wainwright had outstanding seasons. For Cardinal fans, the hope is 2009 wasn't a career year. Perhaps the Cy Young results will help motivate these guys for 2010.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
I'm not surprised that Chris Coughlan won as much as I am Colby Rasmus got one vote. ONE. For third place. As I noted in the Gold Glove post, Rasmus played the best defensive CF of anyone in the NL last season. You'd think he'd garner more than one vote.
For argument's sake, what's the WAR ranking of the votees?
Again, not saying Chris Coughlan was a bad choice, or that Colby Rasmus deserved it more. HOWEVER, perhaps the voting for ROY didn't take into account how much each player contributed to the team.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
1B - Adrian Gonzalez (SD)
2B - Orlando Hudson (LA)
3B - Ryan Zimmerman (WASH)
SS - Jimmy Rollins (PHI)
C - Yadier Molina (STL)
OF - Shane Victorino (PHI)
OF - Michael Bourn (HOU)
OF - Matt Kemp (LA)
P - Adam Wainwright (STL)
Congratulations to Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright for winning this season.
For those new to the program, I highlighted the players I projected as winners in yesterday's column. Let's compare the projected folks with the winners. Fangraphs.com provides a repository of UZR data. I had hoped to include Dewan's Plus/Minus data as well (which Joe Posnanski likes to quote), but I can't find the database on line. If anyone knows where I can access that data, I'd be grateful if you include the link in the comments.
First Base - Adrian Gonzalez winning the award isn't that egregious an error. His raw UZR (3.8) was higher than Lee's (3.7). Also, Gonzalez had one more charged error in 120 more innings. Whatever your feelings are on errors, that's pretty good.
Second Base - Chase Utley had the third highest UZR in the NL this season. Orlando Hudson's was -3.7. Negative three point seven! Hudson cost the Dodgers 14 more runs than Utley did. Freddie Sanchez, Felipe Lopez, Brandon Phillips, Clint Barmes, hell even Kaz Matsui would have been better choices than Hudson. Talk about someone winning the award on reputation alone.
Third Base - No argument. The right guy won.
Shortstop - Jimmy Rollins started 152 games; JJ Hardy - 110. That must have been the deciding factor. Hardy had a better raw UZR, RngR, RF/G, and RF/9 than Rollins. In fact, the only statistics Rollins had an advantage was ErrR and Errors (Rollins - 6, Hardy - 8). If Hardy's 110 starts were a deal breaker, Ryan Theriot and Rafael Furcal both started 140+ games and saved their teams 6 more runs than Rollins did.
Outfield - The outfield voting always pisses me off, because the award usually goes to 3 center fielders. OH LOOK - that's what happened this year. Except this year's voting was worse than most.
Bourn's UZR was 8.7, Kemp's 3.2, and Victorino's -4.2. Not only were there better options in LF and RF than the winners (Ibanez's 10.7 in LF and Randy Wynn's 20.1 playing 104 games in RF), but there were 3 better CF than the winners - Nyjer Morgan (35.8), Colby Rasmus (13.7), and Mike Cameron (10.4).
The voting would be laughable except for the impact it will have on salaries for these guys and possible HOF credentials. Nothing happens in a vacuum, so to see worthy defenders ignored because of what appears to be a lack of criteria for evaluating defense is criminal. Back before 2002, using fielding percentage and errors was the best way to differentiate the good defenders from the bad. That's no longer true, with the advent of advanced statistical metrics like plus/minus and UZR.
MLB should do two things to make these awards meaningful: Mandate that voters look at advanced defensive metrics when making decisions, and take the vote away from managers/coaches - give it to an impartial body of evaluators. My guess is you could find a sabermetric organization (hey - how about SABR?) willing to sponsor the numbers part of it and distribute that data to the voters.
Otherwise, Dave Cameron is right - the award has no meaning and we should not care about the results.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
I'll keep this simple. Based on UZR/150, here are the best defenders at their positions for 2009. All data is from Fangraphs.com.
1B - Derrek Lee, Cubs (4.7). AP was 5th with a 0.8.
2B - Chase Utley, Phillies (11.3). He was tied with Freddy Sanchez, but Sanchez only played 110 games. Schumaker was the third worst 2B in the NL (-8.5).
3B - Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals (20.1). Kevin Kouzmanoff has gotten a lot of publicity locally based on his league low error total (3) at third. Considering how difficult the position is to play, I would have thought he'd be the highest UZR going away. Not so. Kouz was second in the league, just ahead of Casey Blake.
No Cardinal qualified. Mark DeRosa played the most innings, and had a -5.3 for his effort. The highest Cardinal ranked was Brian Barden (20.1), but he played 1/7 the innings Zimmerman did.
SS - JJ Hardy, Brewers (8.8) and now of the Twins. He just nosed out Rafael Furcal (8.5). Brendan Ryan put up a 13.8, but it looks like he missed qualifying by about 100 innings.
C - Not measured by UZR/150, so I'm awarding the Glove to Yadier Molina. This is a Cardinal blog, after all, and he is the incumbent. No other catcher played well enough to unseat him.
LF - Raul Ibanez, Phillies (10.8). Amazing. I guess Citizens Bank is better suited to his defensive talents. No Cardinal qualified; Holliday's UZR/150 was -2.6 with St Louis.
CF - Colby Rasmus, Cardinals (13.4). How about that? He beat out Mike Cameron by about 3 UZR.
RF - Justin Upton, D-backs (8.0). Ryan Ludwick finished fourth with a -0.1
P - Another category where there isn't enough data, given starters work only every 5 games or so. Fangraphs ranks them based on RF/9, and based on that there's a 3-way tie: Joel Pinero, Ubaldo Jimenez (Rockies), and Jon Garland (D-backs).
Last year's winners, for comparison:
1B - Adrian Gonzalez
2B - Brandon Phillips
3B - David Wright
SS - Jimmy Rollins
C - Yadier Molina
OF - Carlos Beltran, Nate McLouth, Shane Victorino
P - Greg Maddux.
And finally, the 2009 Fielding Bible awards recognized the following National Leaguers: Albert Pujols (1B), Ryan Zimmerman (3B), Yadier Molina (C).
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
I have two young sons, and the oldest is of sufficient maturity it is time to potty train him. He isn't the most willing student in the world; he has the occasional accident with #1, and we won't discuss #2. His younger brother, however, has taken to potty training with gusto. Sometimes I think he was born to pee, because he seems to be in there every 5 minutes trying to squeeze out a drop or two.
Obviously using the toilet is a new experience for them. When they first started, they would tell us they had to go, and we would follow them into the bathroom to work on the litany:
- Pull pants down (this is very important, and sometimes gets overlooked).
- Lift the seat (my oldest has become proficient at hitting the water with the seat down and missing the seat. He's ready for submarine duty).
- Hit the water.
- Put the seat down.
- Wash hands. Who knew they'd love soap that much?
- DRY hands. Sometimes I think this is optional for people under the age of 10.
- Turn light off, which is definitely optional.
Now, being good parents, my wife and I are quite supportive. We would coach them through all this, and when they were successfully peeing we would applaud and say encouraging things like "Yeay!" "That's great!" "Good Job!" And so on.
Which has had an unintended side effect. Whenever I head into the bathroom, and close the door, my youngest barges right in to watch. To reinforce the litany, I'm sure. But while in progress, he'll cheer me on: "Yeay, Daddy!" Complete with applause.
Ever have stage fright? Come to my house. After hearing the little guy cheer you on, that problem will be solved.
Friday, November 06, 2009
- Bobby Abreu signed a 2 year, $19M deal to stay in Southern California;
- the Red Sox traded for OF Jeremy Hermida;
- and the Royals may have shipped Mark Teahen to Chicago's south side for Chris Getz and Josh Fields.
There's also been movement on the Cardinal front:
- Jarrett Hoffpauir was claimed by the Blue Jays. Hoffpauir had made his ML debut in 2009, and projected as a 2B. Looks like the organization is sticking with Schumaker long-term, which meant Hoffpauir was blocked at his natural position.
- Brad Thompson released. The baby-faced kid is a Cardinal no more. Thompson, a soft-tossing righty, was thought to have a future in the rotation when he first came up in 2005, but it didn't pan out. His FIP was always over 4 at the ML level (best year - 2008, 4.17), and he allowed a ton of baserunners. The team had done well in his starts (19-9) before this season, but he got beat up quite a bit in 2009. When your roster spot is 'long mop-up guy', you're expendable - as evidenced by his frequent-flier status between St Louis and Memphis last season. But hey, he's got a World Series ring. Best of luck, Brad.
- Six file for free agency. This list includes the expected suspects - Holliday, Ankiel, DeRosa, K. Greene, LaRue, Smoltz, and Glaus. Most expect Wellemeyer and Pineiro to file as well. Of the seven already declared, Holliday, LaRue, and possibly DeRosa/Smoltz have a chance to return in 2010. DeRosa, Glaus, and Pineiro will be Type B free agents, meaning the Cardinals would get a supplemental first-round draft pick should they sign with another team. Holliday most likely will be a Type A free agent, bringing a first round AND a supplemental first-round pick should he go elsewhere.
Derrick Goold poses the question: Which guys will be offered arbitration? My thoughts:
DeRosa: Will Freese be ready to start at 3B on Opening Day? Will Holliday return to play LF? Those are the positions DeRosa would man if he returns. Given the amount of money Holliday will command if he stays, and what it will likely take to resign Pujols, I say no.
Glaus: No. He's coming off injury, and the Cardinals can't afford him should he accept.
Pineiro: Yes, but only if Smoltz doesn't re-sign. Why not? Pineiro returning wouldn't be bad thing at all. He thrived under Duncan in 2009, and he would be a functional piece to the 2010 rotation. It would leave only 1 rotation spot for a rookie, scratching LaRussa's 'preference for veterans' itch and lowering the team's risk with said rookie.
With that, we can take a look at the current 40-man roster:
9. T. Miller
14. Wellemeyer (?)
18. Pineiro (?)
19. T. Greene
Wow, twelve and probably thirteen slots open on the roster. How should Mozeliak manage this?
Off the cuff, I would leave two slots open. That gives the team flexibility to re-sign some of their free-agents before the Rule V draft on 10 December. I've assumed they'll sign a back up catcher (LaRue or someone else), and one of their free agents (I'm guessing Smoltz) before the Winter Meetings start 7 Dec.
That means moving 10 players onto the 40-man roster. Well, Derrick Goold is currently polling Cardinal Nation to create a top 21 prospect list headed into 2010. Seems like a good place to start.
That vote has ranked 12 prospects (add John Jay and Adam Ottavino to the list at the above link). Some of them are already on the 40-man. Let's just add the remaining names that aren't. That makes the 40-man roster look like this:
29. Shelby Miller
30. Allen Craig
31. Daryl Jones
32. Eduardo Sanchez
33. Lance Lynn
34. Daniel Descalso
35. John Jay
36. Adam Ottavino
Just for fun, let's add a couple of prospects to fill out #37 and #38:
37. Tyler Henley
38. Pete Kozma
Thoughts? I'd be interested in hearing them in the comments.
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
Howard: 3-19, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 2 BB, 12K, .263 SLG
Ibanez: 5-20, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 0 BB, 9 K, .500 SLG
The exception to the rule is Utley (6-18, 5 HR, 8 RBI, 3BB, 3K, 1.222 SLG). His power numbers not only dwarf the rest of the lineup, but he's raised his game significantly in the post-season (17 career 2-HR games, 2 this season in 162 games, now 2 in 5 games). The other post-season records he's tied/broken are impressive:
- First LH batter to hit 2 HR in a game off a LH pitcher since Ruth did it in 1928
- New NL record for most home runs in a World Series (previously held by 4 different players)
- Tied ML record for most HR in a World Series (with Reggie Jackson)
- Most career WS HR by a second baseman (7)
Joe Girardi tends to overmanage, but at some point you'd think he'd stop pitching to Utley, especially with Howard struggling so mightily. Out of curiousity, how has Utley fared in men-in-scoring-position situations during the World Series? I'll also include the game situation for each of his HR.
HR #1 - Game One, 3rd inning, 0 on, 2 out (Sabathia).
HR #2 - Game One, 6th inning, 0 on, 1 out (Sabathia).
Game One, 8th inning, runners on 1st and 2nd, 0 out (vs Marte): Strikeout Looking.
Game One, 9th inning, runners on 1st and 2nd, 1 out (vs Coke): Flyout to deep RC.
Game Two, 3rd inning, runner on 2nd, 2 out (vs Burnett): Intentional Walk.
Game Two, 8th inning, runners on 1st and 2nd, 1 out (vs Rivera): Double Play.
Game Three, 1st inning, runner on 2nd, 1 out (vs Pettitte): Strikeout Swinging.
Game Three, 2nd inning, runner on 2nd, 2 out (vs Pettitte): Strikeout Looking.
Game Four, 1st inning, runner on 2nd, 1 out (vs Sabathia): Double to RC, RBI.
Game Four, 5th inning, runners on 1st and 2nd, 0 out (vs Sabathia): Popout to short.
HR #3 - Game Four, 7th inning, 0 on, 2 out (Sabathia).
HR #4 - Game Five, 1st inning, runners on 1st and 2nd, 0 out (Burnett).
HR #5 - Game Five, 7th inning, 0 on, 0 out (Coke).
Four of Utley's 5 HR have come with no one on. He's had 9 at bats with a runner in scoring position during the series. Subtracting the intentional walk in Game 2 (after which Howard struck out), the Yankees have held Utley to a 2-8 performance.
I recognize this as a small sample size. Looking at his at bats with runners in scoring position, maybe one other instance (the second inning at bat in Game 3) would have lent itself to intentionally walking Utley, however Pettitte had struck Utley out in his first at bat, so he was allowed to attack Utley the second time around and got a strikeout then too. The Yankees weren't going to walk Utley in Game 5 given the way Howard kills RH pitching, and since it was the first frigging inning. So the Yankees have had success neutralizing Chase Utley with runners in scoring position.
Will the Yankees pitch around Utley tonight? As always, it's possible given the game situation at the time. However, the results through the first 5 games indicate the Yankees have done well against Utley with runners on base, so it would be perfectly understandable if they continued to attack him in those situations during Game 6.
Sunday, November 01, 2009
Lidge didn't, and he should have. But he went away from it during the end of the Damon at-bat. Damon got 4 straight fastballs, the last one he lined into LF for the single. I'm pretty sure Texieria got 3 fastballs as well, with the third one hitting him. I know A-Rod got 2. Lidge's slider is his best pitch. Seemed an odd choice he'd abandon it when he needed it most.
Not to sow the seeds of panic in Phillies fans, or fan their flames of doubt, but:
- The last team to recover from a 3-1 deficit in the World Series: 1985 Royals, and they had Games 6 and 7 at home.
- The last team to recover from a 3-1 deficit in the World Series, and win Games 6 and 7 on the road: 1968 Tigers, and they had a 30-game winner on the roster.
It's a cruel coincidence both those series involved the Cardinals.
Friday, October 30, 2009
Since the start of the 2007 season, they are 6-33. The Lions, losers of every game last season, are 8-32 over the same span.
Their offensive ineptitude has put them in range of two records for futility:
Fewest points scored, 16-game season: 143 (1991 Colts)
Fewest touchdowns scored, 16-game season: 14 (same Colts).
In 2009 the Rams have scored 60 points and 6 touchdowns. The Colt averaged 8.9 points per game in 1991; St Louis' average currently sits at 8.6.
I shield my face with my hands and watch this team through the space between my fingers to see if they'll break those two records.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
It was so good Robinson Cano ran hard to first even though he was already out.
It was soo good Hideki Matsui made no attempt to get back to first to avoid being doubled off.
It was sooo good the umpires had to confer for 5 minutes to make sure they understood what they saw.
It was soooo good 55K+ Yankee fans were completely fooled.
It was sooooo good Fox had to run through the replay 3x before they accurately reported what happened.
Yeah, that was awesome.
Please note that's 30 min later than our usual start time. Hope you can join us! We've a lot to talk about:
- McGwire as hitting coach
- LaRussa, Duncan return
- Carpenter voted comeback player of the year by peers
- Wainwright voted most outstanding pitcher by peers
- Bill DeWitt III interview
- Roster construction
And whatever else comes up.
Monday, October 26, 2009
Then everything happens at the same time.
My Blogger Round Table Post.
My NL MVP award Post at the BBA site.
Interview with Bill DeWitt III this afternoon on the UCB radio show.
Then, the Cardinals announce the return of Tony LaRussa for 2010. Dave Duncan is expected to return as well, as is virtually all of the coaching staff. Except for the hitting instructor; Hal McRae to be replaced by Mark McGwire.
Wait, hold up: THAT Mark McGwire? Living in exile in Orange County these past 5 years, following his appearance before the Senate Select Committee on Steriod Use in Baseball?
Get ready for the firestorm and recrminiations, folks.
There will be lots of voices out there demanding McGwire come clean about his steroid use (see here), and some voices saying who cares if he doesn't talk about it (see here). You want my opinion? Either McGwire shouldn't talk about it at all, or he should say something like this:
"I was asked by Tony to be the hitting coach for the Cardinals. It's a great opportunity, and I'm grateful he thinks highly enough of me to ask me to be a coach. There are a lot of great hitters on this team, and I hope in some small way to make them better.
"Because I've been out of the spotlight for a number of years, and the allegations of my steriod use during my playing days, many in the media and general public believe that, as part of my stepping into this coaching position, I owe an updated answer on what, if any, supplements I used during my career. I'm here today to say I won't be responding to those questions, now or ever.
"Enough time has passed, and enough ink has been spilt speculating on what I did or did not do, that everyone who cares to form an opinion on this has. If I say 'Categorically, I didn't use steriods', some will believe it, some won't. If I state I used steroids, I won't be able to coach effectively because players can say 'I can't do what you did without cheating'. That's before and after the media and bloggers 'spit on my grave' over the statement.
"So you can print and believe whatever you want. I'm here to help this team be more productive offensively in 2010. Judge me on that, question me on that, not on what might or might not have happened while I was playing baseball in Oakland and St Louis."
(Update #1: Or, he could fly into a rage, flip the podium over, and tell everyone to kiss his not-as-big-as-it-used-to-be white ass. You know, whichever works for him.)
McGwire doesn't owe me an explanation and he doesn't owe the BBWAA an explanation. How they're going to vote on his HOF resume is already well documented; he's not going to change any minds now. What they should judge him on is his performance as a hitting instructor. I for one look forward to seeing what he can do in that regard.
Update #2: Some bonehead at Cards Clubhouse wondered why the Cardinals would hire a .263 career hitter. Consider:
- St Louis as a team ranked 18th in MLB in wOBA.
- McGwire has a career .415 wOBA.
- McGwire's average wOBA would have been fifth best in the majors in 2009.
Maybe that's why.
Links to the transcripts for the first 4 questions can be found here.
Friday I posed the following topic for discussion:
Let's look at the starting rotation. Currently the Cardinals have 3 names penciled in for 2010: Carpenter, Wainwright, and Lohse. For the last two slots:It didn't generate as much discussion as I had thought/hoped, but anyway, here are some Cardinal Blogger opinions:
Do the Cardinals promote from within? Given LaRussa/Duncan's seeming preference for veteran arms in the rotation, is this a workable plan should they come back for 2010? Who has the best shot of winning a starting slot (and if you could estimate the odds or percent chance of someone making it, like Jamie Garcia - 80%, that'd be cool)?
Or, do the Cardinals sign a veteran arm on the cheap? How much would constitute cheap (years/dollars)? Who should they target?
Dan (C70 at the Bat):I think, due to the two slots, the Cards do both.
I really think that John Smoltz is going to return to the Redbirds. If he wants to play, it'll be in St. Louis, probably on a one year deal. That takes care of your #4, at least initially. The odds of him making it through the whole season without some down time are pretty slim, but that's where he'll be Opening Day.
The fifth slot will be someone from within the organization. I think you are about right on with your example. I'd say there's at least an 80% chance that name is Jaime Garcia. He's the obvious frontrunner. It'll be interesting to see if bullpen stalwarts Kyle McClellan and Blake Hawksworth get a shot. I'd guess the odds of either one of them getting the job, though, are around 10%. There could be someone that impresses in the spring and wins the fifth starter slot, like a Lance Lynn, but I wouldn't count on it.
Nick (Pitchers Hit Eighth): In my mind, there are four names to fill the two slots. Jaime Garcia. Mitchell Boggs. PJ Walters. John Smoltz.
Garcia’s performance in his rehab from Tommy John surgery was very impressive, and another off-season of conditioning and preparation should put him in a fantastic position to win a rotation spot come spring. How nice will it be to have a lefty back in the rotation in St. Louis? I hesitate to be too bold, but I’d put Garcia’s chances of being in the 2010 rotation at about 95%.
Boggs and Walters are both in the same boat, in my opinion. Either one could put together a really strong spring and make a case for the rotation, or at least a Brad Thompson-ish role with long relief and spot starts out of the bullpen. Neither has created any distance from the other, nor really embarrassed. Chances of either one breaking camp in the rotation? 25%.
If Smoltz wants to pitch in 2010 (and it seems he does) and the Cards want him back as a starter, I envision it being an easy deal to get done. Probably a one year, $5mm contract or something similar. Smoltz could be a serviceable 4 or 5 while bridging the gap to some of the youngsters still developing (as well as providing some sage advice).
I hesitate to speculate on any other free agents that may be signed, because I feel like they have enough options internally or re-signing Smoltz that may preclude them from entering that market. As we are all aware, they are clearly focusing their payroll money elsewhere for the time being.
One wild card I want to throw out there… Mike Parisi. Parisi is also coming off of a Tommy John procedure, and is pitching out in Arizona. For some reason even unbeknownst to me, I’ve rooted for the guy since his first call-up with the big club. He apparently had the stuff at one time to warrant a promotion, and if his elbow is right, he just may surprise some folks. At the very least, expect his name to be discussed at spring training.
Following Nick's response, I followed up to the group with a specific question about going after Ben Sheets:
Just for the sake of argument, and realizing their money priorities are elsewhere, would Ben Sheets be someone they could consider? After a full year off, he might sign for $5M per year.Unfortunately, no one had a chance to respond to that thought before we went to post.
Update: Josh from Pitchers Hit Eighth weighs in with:
For me the rotation is already set so I guess you can put my % at 99.9 just so I can be viciously laughed at in March.
I want Smoltz back in the 4th spot, just because he was one of the very few bright spots to the end the season. He is also a perfect player coach to keep Wainer grounded, Lohse thinking positive, and mentor for my fifth starter.
Garcia adds not only a lefty to the rotation but a shot of youth into a fairly vet-laden staff. Even Hawk has seemingly been around the Cards forever, so call it a competition with every and all Memphis starter for the remaining spot.
St. Louis a real chance to have all five starters in double digits with Garcia and a little luck on the health side. With that and LaDunc back in the fold, I smell a much longer run than just the NLDS.
Update #2 Matt from Fungoes adds:
While Adam Wainwright and Kyle Lohse are generally healthy, Chris Carpenter still represents a lot of risk in the injury department. As such, the Cardinals would be wise to hedge their bets with the rest of the rotation and aim for players without a lot of injury baggage (read: younger pitchers).
Furthermore, it seems doubtful that the team would be able to sign someone with as much upside as any of the pitchers currently in their system. Blake Hawksworth started a majority of his minor-league games, and though his BB and SO rates have declined in his last two minor-league seasons, he showed a Pineiro-like propensity for ground balls in his rookie campaign (53.8%). He'll need to improve on his BB rate and K/BB (1.33) rate, though, and his low HR rate was perhaps misleading due to a below-normal HR/FB rate (5.3%). Ditto Mitchell Boggs, who is in a similar position as Hawksworth and had a similarly unimpressive K/BB rate (1.39)
Jaime Garcia is probably the most talented of the in-system options, but may need some AAA time to sharpen his arsenal before returning to the bigs. If he doesn't come north out of camp, he'd be an excellent midseason addition and/or Carpenter fill-in. Another option would be for him to make the team as a midrange reliever.
Assuming Smoltz a) wants to pitch again, b) wants to do so for the Cardinals and c) wants less than his 2009 salary, he -- on an incentive-laden deal -- would be a fine choice for one of the open slots.
My personal thoughts on this are mixed. If John Smoltz really enjoyed his time as a Cardinal, and there's been nothing (to my knowledge) indicating he didn't, then bringing him back on the cheap is a distinct possibility. He signed a 1-year, $5.5M contract to play with Boston in 2009. I would think something in that ball park, with the $5.5M figure being as high as the Cardinals would go, would get him in the rotation for 2010.
However, as Nick accurately points out, the Cardinals intend to spend their money elsewhere this off-season, so there might not be enough cash available to sign Smoltz. In that case they build from within. Jamie Garcia is the popular name to throw out as an early front-runner for a slot, but it will come down to who performs in Spring Training. I would expect Kyle McClellan, Blake Hawksworth, Brad Thompson, PJ Walters, Garcia, and probably someone we don't know yet to compete for the two open slots.
Regarding my follow-up question: I think Sheets would need to be approached much like Smoltz might be - with a max salary ceiling of about $5M for a 1-year deal. I would think, after a year off, Sheets would want a short-term deal just to re-establish his bona fides as a legitimate Staff Ace, then seek fame and fortune elsewhere. Why not sign with a playoff contender?
As always, your comments are welcome.
Friday, October 23, 2009
As always, if you have a question you'd like to propose we ask Mr. DeWitt, leave it in the comments or email it to me at email@example.com.
Not sure how much time Mr. DeWitt will be able to give us, so I can't guarantee all questions will get on the air, but we'll try.
I'm pretty excited about this. I know Dan is too. Not often the 'common man' gets a chance to interview someone this high up in any organization.
Link to the UCB Radio Hour page
Link to C70 at the Bat
Bill DeWitt bio
At some level, the AL teams should be happy their ALCS is extended another game, shortening the time off they will have between the conclusion of this series and the start of the World Series. Remember the 2006 Tigers? They had a week off, and it showed during their WS loss to St Louis - they were rusty. Hard to believe after a 6-month season a team could get that far out of whack with 7 days off, but remember: the only break of comparable length is the 4 days off around the All-Star Break. These guys are used to playing every day.
Which is another reason why the long breaks between series, and the indefensible off-day between Games 4 and 5 of the LCS, is so exasperating. I believe MLB is actually hurting the competitive nature of the playoffs by artifically extending the schedule. No I don't have any hard statistical evidence to back that up; I hope to develop this thesis during the off-season. But philosophically, here's the jist of my argument. If MLB teams craft their rosters to compete over a 162-game season, negate that team aspect of the game during the post-season? Specifically with starting pitching. I don't know if this will just be me proposing another unpopular opinion that has no basis in fact. But I hope to soon.
Phillies the best team in the NL. Obviously we say that now since they've won the League title. But based on how the playoffs played out, Philadelphia has the best team. Best lineup, best pitching staff, deepest bench, solidifying bullpen. If the NL is to win the World Series for the third time in 4 years, this Philadelphia team gives the league its best shot. And for those who think the Yankees will win the LCS and roll over the NL in the Series: I believe this will be a better Series than you do. I believe it will go at least 6. And I believe the Phillies has a good shot at repeating.
Oh, the wonders of pitch selection. In two key situations during the ALCS, the pitch thrown has made me question what the pitcher/catcher were thinking. The first was the 0-2 fastball Fuentes left up in the zone to A-Rod in Game 2. I still can't get over this. Behind A-Rod was Guzman and Gardner. A-Rod was the only bat in that inning that had even a remote chance of hurting the Angels (of the three scheduled hitters). YOU'RE AHEAD 0-2. Why throw him anything in the strike zone, especially after throwing 2 fastballs for strikes. Now, A-Rod might have gotten a pitch later in the at-bat to hit; we don't know. But that pitch was ridiculous.
The other was Hughes' 1-2 fastball to Vladimir Guerrero last night. Tim McCarver went on and on about how lousy this pitch choice was, especially after Guerrero looked really bad on the 1-1 curveball the pitch before. As near as I can tell, of the 18 pitches Hughes threw in the seventh 3 were curveballs, and on all three he got a swinging strike (I can't seem to get GameDay on MLB.com to come up from work. Crap.). Seeing as Guerrero is a dead fastball hitter, WHY throw a fastball in that count? And as it turned out, why throw a straight 4-seam fastball in that count?
Intentional Walks. Joe Posnanski is on record for hating the intentional walk on principle, in almost any instance. I've never thought much about the intentional walk per se; I believe there are times when it is called for, if used properly. However, I don't believe Fuentes' intentional walk of A-Rod was one of those times. Why? Because:
- There were two outs in the ninth and no one on.
- Scioscia basically admitted, 'I don't trust my highly-paid closer to get A-Rod out with the game on the line.' What happens when, tomorrow or Sunday night, Fuentes has to get A-Rod out with no where to put him? Is Scioscia going to take Fuentes out in that situation?
- It seemed to get into Fuentes' head. He couldn't find the plate to the next two hitters, walking Matsui and hitting Cano. He jumped ahead 0-2 to Swisher because Swisher went to the plate with his head up his ass. I mean, seriously: Fuentes suddenly has command issues, so why are you hacking at the first two things he throws up there?
The Angels were lucky to survive and win last night's game.
At any rate, the UCB is conducting a round-robin this week. I'll have a question and responses up on Monday here and at the UCB Home Page. Also, the BBA is voting on MVPs, so I'll have that story up over there Monday as well (there'll be a link to the BBA site here Monday afternoon).
Monday, October 19, 2009
The BBA is leveraging that knowledge to suggest winners of the various end of the year baseball awards, and posting those stories both on their home blogs, and at the Alliance web site. Already the group has discussed NL and AL Managers of the Year and Rookies of the Year. Next will be the Cy Young, and the MVP, of each league, and I have the opportunity to offer an opinion on both.
National League Cy Young
We'll start with the NL because that's the home league of this blog. I've long thought the NL Cy Young will be awarded to one of three men: Tim Lincecum of San Francisco, or Chris Carpenter or Adam Wainwright of St Louis. Looking at specific accomplishments and NL pitching statistics, Javier Vasquez of Atlanta was a surprise addition to the discussion. Let's get into the specifics, starting with the standard metrics.
Wainwright - 19
Carpenter - 17
Lincecum - 15
Vasquez - 15
Lincecum - 261
Vasquez - 238
Wainwright - 212
Carpenter - 144
Carpenter - 2.24
Lincecum - 2.48
Wainwright - 2.63
Vasquez - 2.87
If you needed another reason to think wins isn't a great metric anymore for deciding who the best pitcher in the league is, Bronson Arroyo finished with 15 wins. Anyway, using the standard measuring sticks, each of the contenders led in one of the categories. We're going to need some additional fidelity. The advanced statistics I looked at were ERA+, FIP, and WAR. ERA+ turned out to not be that great a choice, because the rankings using that metric matched those for ERA by itself. So what about Fielding Independent Pitching, and Wins Above Replacement?
Based on these two metrics, Lincecum was the best pitcher in the National League in 2009. Vasquez pitched better than his ERA would lead you to believe; his defense actually cost him (his ERA is higher than his FIP). So, in a bit of an upset for a Cardinal blogger, my NL Cy Young votes are Lincecum (1), Javier Vasquez (2), Carpenter (3), Wainwright (4).
American League Cy Young
Most observers think Zack Grienke was the best pitcher in the American League this year. Let's see if the same statistics back that up.
Hernandez - 19
Verlander - 19
Sabathia - 19
Halladay - 17
Grienke - 16
Verlander - 269
Grienke - 242
Lester - 225
Hernandez - 217
Halladay - 208
Sabathia - 197
Grienke - 2.16
Hernandez - 2.49
Halladay - 2.79
Sabathia - 3.37
Lester - 3.41
Grienke - 2.33
Verlander - 2.80
Halladay - 3.06
Hernandez - 3.09
Lester - 3.15
Sabathia - 3.39
Grienke - 9.4
Verlander - 8.2
Halladay - 7.3
Hernandez - 6.9
Lester - 6.0
Sabathia - 5.9
Lincecum may have been the best starting pitcher in the NL, but Zack Grienke was the best starting pitcher in baseball based on FIP and WAR. I think these selected statisics, when compared to the standard set, bring home how much of a penalty Grienke paid for playing on a lousy Royals team. Verlander had a better year than I thought, as did Jon Lester; Sabathia, who is a good pitcher, and is pitching well in the post-season, wasn't as good as the rest of the guys on the list.
I will give a little more weight to pitchers who worked for teams finishing below .500. Felix Hernandez had a phenomenal year for Seattle. If Halladay had continued to pitch as well after 31 July as he did before the All-Star break, this would have been a much closer vote for first. So, based on these numbers, my vote for 2009 AL Cy Young are Grienke (1), Hernandez (2), Verlander (3), Halladay (4), Lester (5), Sabathia (6).
Discuss amongst yourselves. I look forward to your comments.