Friday, November 27, 2009

Post-Thanksgiving Food Coma

I would have wished everyone a Happy Thanksgiving sooner, but was wrapped up in last-minute preparations for Thanksgiving on Wednesday - as well as an unscheduled trip to the Doctor for the boys (bronchitis). Thursday, I meant to write, really I did, but somewhere between the turkey and pecan pie I slipped into a coma. I suspect I'm not alone on this one.

I can't believe I ate the whole thing.

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

The Cy Young, Sabermetrics, and Evaluating Pitchers

First, an announcement. I'm now contrbuting at Baseball Reflections. The gig is for more general baseball content, and is a weekly item. So far, there've been two articles, one on Jorge Posada, one on instant replay. Lots of good stuff over at the site. Stop by and take a look.

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

UCB Topic: 2009 Cardinal Blogger Awards

This is the third consecutive year for the Blogger awards. and I'm back in the saddle after not submitting a ballot in 2008. It's a fun look back at the past year. The final results of the voting will be put up at Dan's site at some point; I wouldn't expect it to happen tomorrow, but most likely by Thanksgiving.

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

Lincecum wins Cy Young; Some Appalled

In case you hadn't heard, and I hadn't due to being at an off-site today, Tim Lincecum repeated as NL Cy Young winner, in one of the closer votes ever. It was so close that Adam Wainwright had more first place votes, but finished third overall. Chris Carpenter finished second. 10 points separated the three hurlers.

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

2009 NL ROY balloting

Let's take a look at the NL ROY results, released yesterday. If you missed it, here is how the voting went:

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

2009 NL Gold Glove Awardees - based solely on ???

Straight from MLB, here are the players acknowledged as the best defenders in the NL in 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. 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

2009 NL Gold Glove Projections - based solely on Defense

With the AL Gold Gloves announced on Tuesday, it's time to project the NL awards - especially since they will be announced today.

I'll keep this simple. Based on UZR/150, here are the best defenders at their positions for 2009. All data is from

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

Kids Korner: Potty Training

Because it is the off-season, and because my kids are hilarious, I thought I'd share some of the funnier things they do. I hope they use their comedic genius often enough to write about it weekly.

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.
- Flush.
- 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

Now on to the Off-Season

Now that the World Series is over, and the Yankees have won (bought?) the title, we can start the off-season personnel shuffles in earnest. For the Cardinal fan, this will be a VERY interesting period to say the least. Already there's been movement in baseball:

- 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:

Holliday: Definitely.
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:

1. Boggs
2. Carpenter
3. Franklin
4. Garcia
5. Hawksworth
6. Kinney
7. Lohse
8. McClellan
9. T. Miller
10. Motte
11. Reyes
12. Wainwright
13. Walters
14. Wellemeyer (?)
15. Molina
16. Pagnozzi
17. Freese
18. Pineiro (?)
19. T. Greene
20. Lugo
21. Pujols
22. Ryan
23. Schumaker
24. Ludwick
25. Mather
26. Rasmus
27. Robinson
28. Stavinhoa

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

Will the Yankees pitch to Chase Utley?

There's been a minor amount of hysteria regarding Chase Utley and his HR binge during this year's post season. The Yankees were widely recognized as having the appropriate medicine to neutralize Philadelphia's lefty-heavy power with Sabathia and Pettitte starting, and Marte/Coke relieving. And they've been largely successful:

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


Crappy Brad Lidge reared his ugly head tonight. Great at-bat by Damon started it. But once he stole second, and third thanks to the shift and Lidge sleeping, the end began. McCarver made a lot of hay discussing the slider, and how Lidge wasn't going to throw it with the tying run on third.

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.