Return to the Team-Building Exercise - The Bench
I know, it's been over a month. I've been distracted, and busy. But since football season is about to start, I better get on this before I get completely distracted by whatever's going to happen with Arizona's season. Six-man bench, lot of positional versatility, I think. We'll just stick to chronological order.
1) Tom Pagnozzi, 1990 - 69 games, 239 PAs, 20 runs, 61 hits, 15 2Bs, 2 HRs, 23 RBIs, 1 SB, 14 BB, 37 K, .277 AVG/.321 OBP/.373 SLG/.694 OPS, 91 OPS+, 2.0 WAR
Pagnozzi had been a Cardinal for three seasons prior to this, but had seen only sporadic use.He got 53 PAs as the third catcher (behind Tony Pena and Steve Lake) in 1987, then 209 PAs as a backup catcher, but mostly at first base in 1988. That the Cardinals were reduced to using someone who would have a .359 SLG for his career as their first baseman, tells you a lot about the '88 squad's struggles. In '89 he was back solely behind the plate, but managed just 88 PAs, and posted an abysmal .391 OPS.
By 1990, Tony Pena was gone, but the starting job was handed to the young slugger Todd Zeile. As it turned out, Zeile might be able to hit a little (he led the team with 15 HRs), but he wasn't much of a catcher. After Herzog quit, and especially when Torre took over as manager for the last third of the season, Zeile was moved largely to third, and Pagnozzi took the lion's share of the starts behind the plate, since he at least seemed solid defensively. He came through on that count. His Total Zone Runs score is +10 in just 520 innings, which projects to a +23 if he'd played 1200 innings. And considering he'd post a +19 in 1156 innings the next season, that +23 might not be out of line. He also threw out 45% of would-be basestealers that year. And, he had his best year hitting up to that point. Admittedly a low bar to clear, but most teams would take a 91 OPS+ from their starting catcher, especially with Pagnozzi's defensive chops. As usual, he didn't get on-base much, but he had a little pop, and that was enough. There were only two seasons in his career - 1994 and 1996 - where he'd post a better OPS or OPS+ than he did in his first extended chance at catcher. Anyway, Zeile still played more innings at the position that year, so he's the starter of record, which is how I can use Pags as the backup catcher, since it was the role he fulfilled most of the year.
2) Milt Thompson, 1991 - 115 games, 361 PAs, 55 runs, 100 hits, 16 2Bs, 5 3Bs, 6 HRs, 34 RBIs, 16 SBs, 32 BBs, 53 Ks, .307/.368/.442/.810, 127 OPS+, 3.7 WAR
For a long time, I thought Milt was the primary left fielder in 1991, but no, that's Bernard Gilkey. By about 26 innings. So this might be fudging it a bit, but too bad. This was Milt's third year with the team. In 1989, he'd taken over in CF when McGee went down, and had a good year. His OPS+ was 107, his Total Zone score was +14, and he was worth 4.2 WAR. The next year, he primarily played in RF, after the team traded Brunansky in April, and didn't acquire Felix Jose until late July. That year, did not go well. OPS+ of 71, 0.7 WAR. His defensive numbers in RF were good, though. Milt's issues, like Pagnozzi's was that much of his value comes down to batting average. Milt didn't walk much, so if the hits didn't fall, he didn't get on base. And he didn't have that much power, so he tended to hit a lot of singles. So he wouldn't make up for poor average with a lot of powerful blasts.
But when it all comes together, you get a year like this: Good average, high OBP, pretty good power (his career ISO in 98, so a 135 is a big step up). '91 is only the third best year of Thompson's career by WAR, but in the other two, he was a full-time starter, so he had more opportunity to acquire value then. His OPS is the best of his career by over 30 points, his OPS+ beats any other year by 11 percent. His Total Zone score is +8 in LF, projecting to a +17 over 1200 innings. He was certainly caught stealing too many times (9) for his number of successes, but that was true of most of the team. They had no power (Zeile led them with 11 HRs), so they ran like mad. Tom Pagnozzi stole 9 bases in 1991. And was caught 13 times.
3) Gerald Perry, 1994 - 60 games, 92 PAs, 12 runs, 25 hits, 7 2Bs, 3 HRs, 18 RBIs, 1 SB, 15 BBs, 12 Ks, .325/.435/.532/.967, 153 OPS+, 0.8 WAR
Perry was in his 4th season with the Cardinals in '94. He was a sporadically used player, most a pinch-hitter, otherwise he'd play first every once in awhile, a more pressing need when he first arrived, since Pedro Guerrero was decaying before our eyes, and Andres Galarraga was the worst first baseman they've had in my lifetime. Since the Cardinals had Gregg Jefferies in 1994, they didn't have much need for Perry at first. He played just 93 innings in the field all year (and posted a Total Zone of -0), which was still more than the 70.2 he played the year before. Perry was there to hit, and he did that. His OPS was .950 in 1993, coming out to a 158 OPS+, and a 0.9 WAR. Which is pretty good value for a guy playing no more often than Perry. That's largely how I envision him, bring him in when I need a lefty pinch-hitter. That's handy, a lot of my power hitters in the starting lineup are righties, so it's good to have an option from the other side. Thompson's a lefty, but he's not much of a power hitter. Also, Perry brings some patience, considering he walked about once every 6 PAs, and once more often than Pags did, in less than half the PAs.
4) Eli Marrero, 2002 - 131 games, 446 PAs, 63 runs, 104 hits, 19 2Bs, 1 3B, 18 HRs, 66 RBIs, 14 SBs, 40 BBs, 72 Ks, .262/.327/.451/.778, 104 OPS+, 1.6 WAR
No we start getting into the versatility. It's one thing to have a guy like Thompson, who can play all 3 outfield spots, and play them well. But Marrero played all 3 outfield spots, plus catcher, and a smidgen of first base. Now admittedly, his scores for catcher and LF are both poor (-4 for both in roughly 200 innings), and 11 innings at first is practically meaningless, but the potential exists. By this point, the Cardinals had given up on Marrero as a catcher, I guess, preferring the good defense and awful hitting of Mike Matheny. Eli had chances in 1998 and 1999, and while his defensive numbers were good (+13 over roughly 1310 innings across the two seasons, and he threw out 48 baserunners in 121 attempts), he couldn't hit a lick, due to some serious illness, the specifics of which I've forgotten. So he gradually developed into a super-utility, one who could legitimately play catcher, which is pretty rare. Sure, Daniel Descalso can play catcher, but he's not a catcher anymore than he is a SS. This was Eli's second best year (behind his '04 in Atlanta), his busiest year. Most hits, most home runs, most stolen bases (and only caught twice), second best OPS+ (again, behind '04 in Atlanta). He brings a nice combo of Thompson's speed with Perry's power. Ought to come in handy.
5) Scott Spiezio, 2006 - 119 games, 321 PAs, 44 runs, 75 hits, 15 2Bs, 4 3Bs, 13 HRs, 52 RBIs, 1 SB, 37 BBs, 66 Ks, .272/.366/.496/.862, 120 OPS+, 1.6 WAR
Continuing the theme of guys who play everywhere. Spiezio played 4 positions for the Cards in '06, not counting DH: 3B, LF, 1B, 2B. He played only 26 innings at second, and 55 at first, only 216 in LF, and had a negative score there (-2). His score at 3rd, where he played about 200 innings, was a +4. The next season, he'd add RF and pitcher to the list, but that would be his final season, as he'd struggle with substance abuse issues. In 2006, though, he was the Cardinals most valuable bench player. Depending on how you look at it, maybe too valuable. He was good enough LaRussa felt confident in benching Rolen for Spiezio during the NLCS, which was what wrecked the relationship between Rolen and TLR. Hopefully such problems can be avoided here.
2006 is one of Spiezio's better years. Not as good as his 2001 or 2002, but on par with his 1997 and 2003. Except for '97, he was largely a utility guy for all those seasons. Even in '02 and '03, when he was the starting first baseman, he'd play three or four other positions. Offensively it's his best year, by a decent amount. He beats his career average by almost 20 points, his career OBP by 36, and his slugging by 77 points. And he's a switch-hitter which allows for some intriguing options.
6) Brendan Ryan, 2007 - 67 games, 199 PAs, 30 runs, 52 hits, 9 2Bs, 4 HRs, 12 RBIs, 7 SBs, 15 BBs, 19 Ks, .289/.347/..406/.753, 95 OPS+, 1.6 WAR
I debate sometimes who the manager is in this fantasy. Is it me, or did I select the manager from one of the options from this 25 year stretch? If it's the former, I put Boog on here in part because I like, and want him on the team. If it's the latter, then he's here in part because the manager would have to be LaRussa, and I want to torment him by giving him two of his least favorite players as the only options at SS. Which I guess means if I'm not the manager, I'm at least the GM, and I'm the one holding the whip hand.
This was Ryan's first year on the team, and it kind of foreshadowed how his time in StL would go. It was an odd-numbered year (and he wasn't injured), so he hit well. For him. He fielded well when given the chance (+4 in 163 innings at SS, +1 in 150 innings at 3rd, league average in 125 innings at 2nd). And he pissed off LaRussa, noticeably getting benched in the 2nd inning of a game against Philly because he swung away on a 3-0 count. Interestingly, LaRussa did not bench either Molina or Schumaker the next night when one of them missed either a stop or go sign, and so both wound up at 3rd base simultaneously. Which is how it went, Boog getting punished, while other players got to skate for some reason or another.
Yeah, if I'm Tony's boss in this scenario, I'm gonna make his life hell.
At any rate, I need someone defensively competent to be the backup middle infielder. None of the other guys can play short, and Spiezio's the only one who can play 3rd or 2nd. I'll likely take Speez over Boog at 3rd, but at 2nd, I'll stick with Brendan Ryan. In fact, he'll probably get a lot of play there as a late-innings defensive replacement, much like Thompson likely will in LF.