Friday, May 18, 2018

Checking In At The Quarter Mark

41 games in, the Cardinals are 23-18, close to the record their run differential says they should have (22-18). The record is mostly bolstered by kicking the shit out of the Reds (7-0), and now roughly half the roster is on the DL, so they're probably fucked. Carlos Martinez, Wainwright, Bowman, Lyons, Leone, Gregerson, Molina, Carson Kelly, Paul DeJong. Especially since the NL Central, other than the Reds, is actually good.

Rotation: Carlos has mostly been good, outside of the season opener, and his last start. Second on the team in innings, first in strikeouts, first in ERA. He has been lucky, judging by the large gap between his ERA (1.62) and FIP (3.38). He's done it to himself, walking 4 batters per 9 innings, along with 9 HBP. Hopefully he gets that under control when he gets off the DL, since he probably won't keep giving up 1 HR every 50 innings like he has so far.

Weaver's had ups and downs. Started well, had a rough patch of 4 starts, but had a good effort in a loss last night. His ERA (4.37) is over a run higher than his FIP (3.33). He's under five and a third innings a start, which isn't spectacular. Wacha's been solid, although a little lucky. He's walking too many guys (3.9/9 IP). Miles Mikolas has been the breakout star, despite striking no one, by not walking people. Basically, he's being the best version of Mike Leake. Of course, Leake was the best version of himself for about 5 weeks last season, and that didn't end well, but maybe this will go better. Given the mounting injuries, the Cardinals have to hope it does.

Of the replacements, Flaherty's made three starts, none where he made it through the sixth, but he's been mostly effective. He has a sub-3 ERA, and the same FIP as Luke Weaver. Their numbers are fairly similar. Same K rate, BB rate, HR rate. Weaver's hit rate is actually slightly lower. John Gant made one start, along with three relief appearances. It wasn't bad, but nothing to write home about.

Bullpen: The Cards have used 13 relief pitchers already, which seems like a lot for 41 games. Bud Norris has been excellent, which is unfortunate, since he's kind of a tool. Rather not be stuck rooting for this guy. He's striking out over 12/9, and walking one batter every 7 innings. His ERA is 2.14, and that's actually worse than his FIP (1.57). Jordan Hicks, who had never pitched above A ball before this season is second in innings among the relievers. Which would be great, if he hadn't walked 14 guys and only struck out 8 across those 19 innings. Can't imagine he'll keep getting away with that. Matt Bowman has an ERA near 6, and hasn't been unlucky. He's walking a batter every other innings, and allowing 11 hits per 9 innings.

Leone would be doing great if he hadn't given up those two HRs back to back to blow that game against Milwaukee. Also if he wasn't hurt. Other than those problems, he's fine. Lyons is suffering from home run and walk trouble. Holland. . . is just bad. Great use of $14 million there, Cardinals. Maybe you should have given it to Tommy Pham instead, actually get some bang for your buck. Ryan Sherriff and Luke Gregerson have both struggled, with home runs and walks. I'm detecting a theme. Perhaps walking batters and surrendering homers is bad for a pitcher.

Brebbia's mostly been good, outside of a couple of scuffles lately. Tuivailala's been better since he took some time on the DL to recover from a knee issue. Mayers is getting by, somehow. Brett Cecil's been good, if he could stay on the field. He's only faced 9 batters so far this year.

Infield: Molina was hitting for power before taking a foul ball to the nuts, but his OBP was still only .292. The Cardinals could use an above league-average hitter, though. Of his two back-ups, Kelly was just 2-for-18 before injuring his hamstring. Francisco Pena is 8-for-34, all 8 are singles. Pena is not demonstrating much ability to drive the ball with authority.

Jose Martinez is getting all the starts at first base, where he is not very good. He's been so bad, it's basically canceling out any value from his hitting. Considering his OPS+ is 133, with 11 doubles and 4 HRs already, that really says something about how putrid his defense is. Wong is struggling, with a sub-600 OPS, but playing excellent defense at second. So, Bizarro Jose Martinez. Matt Carpenter has gotten most of the innings at third so far, where his defense has been adequate, but he's hitting as well as Wong. Supposedly he's hitting the ball hard, but it's being caught. Of course, they're using the shift against him 90% of the time, and he's pulling the ball right into it, soooooo. . .

DeJong was hitting very well, tied with Pham for team lead in HRs, and actually walking some. His walk rate is around 9%, which is solid. He's playing solid defense at shortstop as well. Baseball-Reference says he's been the Cardinals' most valuable position player. I have my doubts about that, but he's been valuable no doubt. Jedd Gyorko's been getting regular playing time since he came off the DL. It's only 74 PAs, but he has a .930 OPS. The concern is that Matheny will play him at SS with DeJong out. Gyorko is passable at second, and was very good at third last season, but he's not got the range for shortstop.

But there's a lack of options. Greg Garcia is passable defensively at SS, maybe average if you're lucky. And he's actually hitting for a surprising amount of power this season. His career ISO, including this season, was 101. This year, it's 180. Probably won't last if he gets more at-bats, but it's nice to have while it lasts. While the injury to DeJong, they've brought Yairo Munoz back up. He looked great in Spring Training, but completely overmatched once the real games began. Like Kelly, he was 2-for-18, but with 11 Ks in 20 PAs. He'd only struck out 18 times in 100 PAs in AAA, but also only walked 5 times. So he probably hasn't rediscovered plate discipline. Put him together with Garcia, and they'd probably have an acceptable player.

Outfield: Marcell Ozuna is hitting basically as well as Carpenter and Wong, meaning terribly. He's not walking much, and he's not driving the ball. Swinging at basically everything. Fowler, remarkably, is hitting worse than all of them. Like Carpenter, he's drawing enough walks to prop his OBP to almost bearable levels. He just can't get any flippin' hits, and his defense is grading out as horrible, even after being moved out of centerfield. Harrison bader has been getting more playing time as a result, and so far is rating as an excellent fielder, while being an above-average hitter. Like Garcia, that probably won't last with increased playing time (Bader has never shown much knack for hitting righthanded pitching). Tyler O'Neill is coming back up. Maybe he can get a hit this time.

Tommy Pham is basically propping up the outfield. He's batting leadoff now, has scored almost 10 more runs than anyone else on the team, second on the team in batting average to Jose Martinez. Tied with DeJong for lead in HRs, first in stolen bases, but also first in times caught stealing. OBP of .412, OPS+ of 161.

It's ahrd to see how this team is going to keep it's head above water with all the injuries. Granting that most of the guys getting hurt in the bullpen weren't doing great, and Wainwright is done. He was on the DL for weeks, and when they brought him back, his elbow flared up before he even finished his warm-up throws. Flaherty and Gant would be hard-pressed to be worse, and Alex Reyes may be on the horizon.

But the Cardinals have so many hitters struggling, and so few doing well, that losing two of the above-average hitters they did have - Molina and DeJong - is a blow they probably can't afford. We'll see.


Saturday, April 28, 2018

Looking at Franchises' Best Players - National League West

I have some actual free time this weekend, so let's try and finish another of these. Moving to the NL West, with a couple of stories franchises, and three, let's say less-storied teams and leave it at that.

Los Angeles Dodgers (existed since 1884):

Top Player: Don Drysdale (67.2 WAR)

#24 Player: Pedro Guerrero (32.7)

# of Players >30 WAR: 29

# of Players >50 WAR: 8 (Drysdale, Pee Wee Reese, Duke SNider, Jackie Robinson, Clayton Kershaw, Zack Wheat, Dazzy Vance, Willie Davis

# of Players >100 WAR: 0

Can you make a starting lineup of the Top 9? Four pitchers - Drysdale, Kershaw, Vance, and Koufax -say no. But they do have a complete outfield, and 3/4ths of an infield.

Notes: I would have expected the Dodgers' top player to have more WAR than that. A bit like the White Sox and the Athletics. Not a high peak, but a lot of guys bunched together. It drops off fast in the last third of the list, though. Gil Hodges is 14th at 44.3 WAR, but by 16th, Fernandomania is down to 36.9 WAR.

Koufax and Don Sutton tied with 49 WAR apiece.

I remember Guerrero from his years with the Cardinals, which, outside of his first full season in 1989, did not go well. Across 5 seasons, he was worth 1.7 WAR total. But that 1989, he hit .311 with 17 HRs and 42 doubles. His poor defense negated a lot of the value of his hitting, though. Steve Garvey, who is 17th, is in a similar boat. He spent his last five years with the Padres, and was worth 1.4 WAR total across those years.

The next three guys after Guerrero would have been Davey Lopes, Maury Wills, and Mike Piazza.

Kershaw is the only active player on the list. He should pass Jackie Robinson in the next month. If he can post a 5.5 WAR season, he'll pass Duke Snider. So he has a real good shot of surpassing Drysdale, ultimately. Also, I didn't realize Kershaw had been worth almost 2 WAR with his bat.

San Diego Padres (existed since 1969):

Top Player: Tony Gwynn (69.2 WAR)

#24 Player: Will Venable (12.8)

Players with >30 WAR: 2

Players with >50 WAR: 1

Players with >100 WAR: 0

Can you make a starting lineup of their Top 9? There's 5 pitchers on the list, including one closer (Trevor Hoffman naturally), so no.

Notes: That is pretty disappointing. Just for comparison, the Royals have also been around since '69. They also have one player above 50 WAR, but Brett is almost 20 ahead of Gwynn. And they had 8 players above 30 WAR. Hell, the Mariners have existed 8 years less, and they have 4 players above 50 WAR.

For the record, the other player above 30 WAR is Dave Winfield.

Chase Headley (11th) and Adrian Gonzalez (6th) are the only active players on the list. Neither is doing well so far this year. Gonzalez has been worth -0.4 WAR so far for the Mets, and Headley is back with the Padres, and at -0.1 WAR. If Headly could manage even 1 WAR this year, he'd jump to 8th, behind Andy Benes, and ahead of Randy Jones. If he can manage 1.5 WAR, he'd pass Gonzalez. He was worth 1.8 last year for the Yankees, and 2.6 the year before, so there's a decent chance he has that in him.

One advantage to the Padres being a young franchise is I at least vaguely remember most of these guys. Benes was a Cardinal for 5 years. Jake Peavy is third on the franchise list. Ryan Klesko is 18th. I hated Ryan Klesko when he was on the Braves. I think because he seemed like a such a big, clumsy, swing-and-miss guy, and I hate watching those guys play ball.

As low as the bar is for entry, I thought Ozzie Smith might make the list, despite only being a Padre for 4 seasons, and not being able to hit a lick while he was there. He ended up at 11 WAR, so if he'd stuck around one more year, maybe. 5 of those 11 came in 1980, his best season hitting (when he was still almost 30% below league average by OPS).

San Francisco Giants (existed since 1883):

Top Player: Willie Mays (154.8 WAR)

#24 Player: Art Devlin (34.3)

# of Players with >30 WAR: 34

# of Players with >50 WAR: 11 (Mays, Bonds, Mel Ott, Christy Mathewson, Amos Rusie, Carl Hubbell, Juan Marichal, Willie McCovey, Bill Terry Roger Conner, Mickey Welch)

# of Players with >100 WAR: Mays, Bonds, Ott, Mathewson

Can you make a starting lineup out of the Top 9? Too many pitchers and outfielders, not enough middle infielders. As in, no middle infielders or catchers.

Notes: Matt Cain just missed 30 WAR. Madison Bumgarner is a good enough hitter it boosted him by 6 WAR above what his pitching stats provide. If he'd been healthy this year, he would almost certainly made it to the Top 24.

Position players with >30 WAR outside the Top 24 included Matt Williams, Robby Thompson, Jeff Kent, and Jack Clark.

There's an almost 35 WAR drop from Mathewson to Rusie, but Rusie was valuable enough he'd have been top player on several of the teams we've looked at so far.

Frankie Frisch is 19th on the Giants' list, with 37.8 WAR. He was almost that valuable for the Cardinals, so we'll see if he make it on their list.

I'm also curious to see how high Bonds ranks on the Pirates' list. They've had some pretty great players, though. Barry's father, Bobby Bonds, is 18th on the Giants.

All I know about Travis Jackson, who is 13th at 44 WAR, is his picture makes him look a little like actor Telly Savalas.

Will Clark is 21st. A lot of Cardinals' fans hated him for the issues the Giants and Cardinals had in the late 1980s. I don't really remember those years, other than I liked Will Clark's swing. Designed for line drives, with just a slight uppercut. Jim Edmonds' swing reminded me of it a little, although Jim had more of an uppercut on his. Clark did have one really great half-season for the Cardinals before he retired, filling in for an injured Mark McGwire on the 2000 Cardinals.

Buster Posey is the only active player in the top 24, at 17th. He's been worth 9 wins the last two years, so about 4.5 per year. He's already at 0.6 this year, so he's probably good for another 4 this season. That'd be enough to get him to 14th, moving past Mike Tiernan, Art Fletcher, and Larry Doyle.

Colorado Rockies (existed since 1993):

Top Player: Todd Helton (61.2 WAR)

#12 Player: Jhoulys Chacin (14.9)

# of Players with >30 WAR: 3

# of Players with >50 WAR: 1

# of Players with >100 WAR: 0

Can you make a starting lineup of their Top 9? Very close. But they have two pitchers - Ubaldo Jimenez and Aaron Cook - and two third basemen - Nolan Arenado and Vinny Castilla. No catcher, no second baseman.

Notes: My rough estimate is that Armando Reynoso is 24th, at around 8.5 WAR.

Larry Walker is 2nd in the franchise, at 48 WAR. I expect he'll be on the Expos' list as well. Arenado is 4th. He probably won't catch Tulowitzki this year, as Tulo is about 11 WAR right now, but probably by the end of next year. Carlos Gonzalez is 5th, but I doubt he'll climb any higher.

DJ Lamehieu and Charlie Blackmon, 10th and 11th, respectively, will both probably pass Cook and Castilla this season. Jimenez and Matt Holliday will probably take another year.

Arizona Diamondbacks (since 1998):

Top Player: Randy Johnson (50.8 WAR)

#12 Player: Stephen Drew 13.2

# of Players 2ith >30 WAR: 4

# of Players with >50 WAR: 1

# of Players with >100 WAR: 0

Can you make a starting lineup of their Top 9? No. Four starting pitchers and three centerfielders.

Notes: The 4 pitchers were Big Unit, Brandon Webb, Schilling, and Dan Haren. The centerfielders, Steve Finley, A.J. Pollock, and Chris Young.

The #24 spot probably goes to one of the following three pitcher: Patrick Corbin, Ian Kennedy, or Byung-Hyun Kim. Probably Kim, as both Corbin and Kennedy were able to add to their 8.3 pitching WAR with some hitting. Plus, Corbin is still playing for the D'backs.

Matt Williams couldn't make the Giants' Top 24, but he'd have been 23rd for Arizona. Zack Grienke is moving up the list as well, at roughly 9 WAR right now.

Pollock (6th) and Paul Goldschmidt (2nd) are the only active players currently on Arizona in the top 12. Pollock is at least a couple years away from catching Schilling for 5th. Goldschmidt, even at his 5+ WAR per season pace, is at least 3 years away from catching Randy Johnson.

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Saturday, April 07, 2018

Looking At Franchises' Best Players - American League East

Well, I kind let this fall by the wayside. Whoops. Moving on to the American League East.

Baltimore Orioles (existed since 1901, counting the St. Louis Browns and Milwaukee Brewers, for one year):

Top Player: Cal Ripken Jr. (95.9 WAR)

#24 Player: Ned Garver (26.8)

# of Players with >30 WAR: 19

# of Players with >50 WAR: 5 (Ripken, Brooks Robinson, Jim Palmer, Eddie Murray, George Sisler)

# of Players with >100 WAR: 0

Can you make a starting lineup of the Top 9?  No. They have 3 pitchers - Palmer, Mike Mussina, and the excellently named Urban Shocker - and between Ripken, Robinson, and Mark Belanger, they have three guys who play either third base of shortstop. No catchers, not enough outfielders.

Notes: Given what I've always heard about the Browns being a lousy franchise, there are more of them on this list than I would have expected. Only 8 of the 24, but the franchise has been the Orioles for over 60 years now, so you'd expect Baltimore players to dominate. My dad's always told me his dad was a St. Louis Browns' fan. So bad choices in teams runs in the family.

Two active players on the list, Adam Jones (18th) and Manny Machado (22nd). Of course, Machado probably won't be an Oriole after this season. If he repeats his 2017, he'll move up to 18th or 19th. If he can replicate his 2015 or 2016, he could to at least 16th. 16th is probably about as far as Jones can move up, unless he can turn the clock back to 2013-2014.

Frank Robinson is on here, at 17th. I expect he's going to place much higher on the Cincinnati Reds' list when/if I get there.

Mark Belanger is basically the only guy in MLB history to have been worth as many runs defensively as Ozzie Smith. Smith has him beat by about 25 WAR, because while Ozzie was 13% below average as a hitter in his career, Belanger was 32% below average. Also, Ozzie was worth about 80 runs as a baserunner, Belanger 16. Still, Belanger was good enough to be part of some World Series winning teams.

Boston Red Sox (since 1901):

Top Player: Ted Williams (123.1 WAR)

#24 Player: Tim Wakefield (32.4). Whoo, knuckleball pitcher represent!

Players with >30 WAR: 31ish. I looked up their Top 50 in WAR for Batters and Pitchers, and added on everyone over 30 WAR. That might not be taking into account negative offense value for pitchers from pre-DH, though, but it's the best estimate I've got.

Players with >50 WAR: 11 (Williams, Yaz, Clemens, Boggs, Cy Young, Dwight Evans, Tris Speaker, Pedro Martinez, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Bobby Doerr).

Players with >100 WAR: 1 (Williams)

Can you make a starting lineup of the Top 9? Well, Clemens, Cy Young, and Pedro are all pitchers, so no. Plus, four outfielders, and David Ortiz, who basically plays no position. Friggin' DHs.

Notes: Pedroia is the only current player on the list, although there are several guys that were playing recently. Clemens, Pedro, Ortiz, obviously. Also, Wakefield and Manny Ramirez (23rd), and Nomar (14th). Pedroia can probably pass Pedro and Big Papi this year, but unless he puts up 3.5 WAR, he won't catch Tris Speaker.

Babe Ruth is 15th on the list, behind Nomar (41.2) and ahead of Carlton Fisk (39.5 WAR). I expect Ruth is going to finish a lot higher on the next team's list.

Jimmie Foxx is 20th on Boston's list, after being 3rd on the Athletics'. Lefty Grove, who was 4th for Oakland, is 13th for Boston. Tris Speaker is 7th here, and 2nd for Cleveland. I'm curious if Clemens is going to make Toronto's list, because he had a hell of a two years there.

15 guys on the list have color photos, 6 that were part of the post-2000 teams. Which seems about right. This has been one of the most extended periods of the Red Sox being a relevant franchise.

New York Yankees (since 1903):

Top Player: Babe Ruth (142.4) Yeah, that's quite a bit higher of a finish.

#24 Player: Earle Combs (42.5 WAR). Christ, that's their 24th best player?

Players with >30 WAR: 36. 12 guys didn't make the Top 24, including Don Mattingly, Mike Mussina, and Rickey Henderson.

Players with >50 WAR: 13, same as Detroit. Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle, DiMaggio, Jeter, Yogi Berra, Red Ruffing, Whitey Ford, Mariano Rivera, Bill Dickey, A-Rod, Willie Randolph, and Andy Pettitte.

Players with >100 WAR: 3 Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle.

Can you make a starting lineup of the Top 9?  Actually, not too bad, but no. Got the outfield, the catcher and first baseman, and Jeter will stand at SS. But the last three guys are pitchers, so they're missing a second and third baseman.

Notes: Robinson Cano is 19th, between Thurman Munson and Graig Nettles, the only active player left. Although Brett Gardner was one of the 12 guys over 30 WAR not in the Top 24. Maybe he can make his way further up the list.

Alex Rodriguez finishes 11th, higher than he did with the Rangers, but lower than with the Mariners.

DiMaggio looks so forlorn in his picture, while Gehrig has this skeptical look on his face. Really, you're going to take my picture?

Red Ruffing's position is listed as pitcher and pinch hitter. His OPS+ is only 81, but he did collect over 500 hits and 36 HRs.

I read an autobiography for Whitey Ford when I was in junior high. I mainly remember the parts when his velocity was falling off and he was trying to use his wedding ring to doctor the ball without getting caught.

Toronto Blue Jays (existed since 1977):

Top Player: Dave Stieb (57.1 WAR)

#24 Player: Aaron Hill (17.1 WAR)

Players with >30 WAR: 5 (Stieb, Roy Halladay, Tony Fernandez, Jose Bautista, Carlos Delgado).

Players with >50 WAR: 1

Players with >100 WAR: 0.

Can you make a starting lineup of the Top 9? 4 starting pitchers says no.

Notes: Edwin Encarnacion (12th, 24.3 WAR), and Josh Donaldson (18th, 20.9 WAR) are the only two active players on the list. Although Jose Bautista retired just last year, and Aaron Hill played last year as well. But Hill had been below replacement level 4 of the last 5 seasons of his career. If this "dead arm" thing doesn't impact Donaldson's value too much, he might pass Encarnacion on the lis by the end of the season.

Clemens wound up 20th on the Blue Jays' list, after only two seasons.

I always liked Dave Stieb. Maybe because I briefly considered picking Toronto as my American League team back in the 80s, when I was thinking about having an AL team. So there are a lot of guys on here I remember from their early baseball cards, but I couldn't tell you anything about Jesse Barfield, for example. As for Stieb, he kept coming so close to getting no-hitters, and then they'd get broken up in the 8th or the 9th. My parents and I were at a Twins/Royals game in Minneapolis one year, when he had one going against the Yankees. Mattingly broke it up in the 9th, I think. I think Stieb got one eventually, though.

Pat Hentgen formed a heck of a tandem with Clemens for those two years. But he didn't have anything left in the tank by the time he came to St. Louis in 2000.

Speaking of former Cardinals, I was hoping Todd Stottlemyre would be on here, but no dice. He was worth just under 11 WAR for the Jays.

Tampa Bay Rays: (since 1998):

Top Player: Evan Longoria (50.0 WAR)

#12 Player: Aubrey Huff (11.8 WAR).

Players with >30 WAR: 3.

Players with >50 WAR: 1. Technically Longoria isn't over 50, but it's close enough.

Players with >100 WAR: 0

Can you make a starting lineup of their Top 9?  Nah. Three pitchers, no catchers.

Notes: For these franchises that haven't been around long, Baseball-Reference only went to Top 12. My rough estimate is Jeremy Hellickson (7.2 WAR) would be #24.

If it did go to 24, Fred McGriff would be on here, around 20, which is roughly where he was for Toronto as well.

Seven of the Top 12 are still in the league, the exceptions being Carl Crawford, Julio Lugo, Carlos Pena, Desmond Jennings, and Aubrey Huff.

Kevin Kiermaier is the only guy on this list still playing for the Rays. Unsurprising given their teardown of the last few seasons. Chris Archer will probably be on here soon. Based on his pitching WAR, he should already be ahead of Huff, which I guess means his scant batting chances have tanked his value just enough.

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Saturday, January 27, 2018

An Offseason Check-In

Somehow I thought for sure I'd typed up a post about the St. Louis Cardinals' offseason back in December. I did type up one during a lull at work, but I guess I never posted it. Anyway, in what's been a fairly quiet offseason overall, the Cardinals have been one of the more active teams. Whether it's been enough to close the gap on the Cubs is questionable, and now the Brewers have upgraded their outfield quite a bit with Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain. But let's take a look at where the Cards stand at this point.

Rotation: There are only two moves of note here. Lance Lynn was offered a one-year contract, which he turned down, understandably. He's yet to receive a contract from anyone else, though. And the Cardinals signed Miles Mikolas to a two-year contract. Mikolas spent the last three seasons in Japan, where he was quite effective: 62 starts, 424 innings, 2.18 ERA, 8 K/9, 1.5 BB/9. Prior to that, he'd spent parts of three seasons with the Phillies and Rangers, where things didn't go so well: 37 appearances, 10 starts, 91 innings, 5.32 ERA, 4.81 FIP, 6 K/9, 2.8 BB/9. His home run rate in Japan was also half of what it was in the States.

So the question is whether he figured something out in Japan that will translate to greater success here, or if he's a AAAA player, good enough to succeed there, but not here. If he does work out, it'll probably be as a poor man's Mike Leake. As you may recall, I was not a fan of the Mike Leake signing, but that was because of the years on the contract and the no-trade clause. I expected that he'd block the advancement of some young starter with more potential, but it turned out to be much easier to trade him than I anticipated. In Mikolas' case, his contract is short enough, and for few enough dollars the team shouldn't have any trouble setting him aside if he flops. If he succeeds, great. There are enough question marks about the remainder of the rotation that Mikolas doing well would be a pleasant outcome.

Because as it stands, the other starters are Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha, Adam Wainwright, and Luke Weaver. I'm probably always going to be concerned about Wacha's shoulder. Wainwright may be done, and we've yet to see if Weaver can be a successful major league starter for a whole season. He threw 138 innings across AAA and the majors last year, and did fine, but they're going to need it for a whole year at the big leagues this year. The Cardinals don't have anyone else who'll be ready before midseason. Alex Reyes probably needs to be brought back slow, let him get his form back in AAA. Jack Flaherty needs more time at AAA as well, ditto guys like Jordan Hicks or Dakota Hudson. I guess they could use John Gant, though he hardly inspires confidence.

I don't want the Cardinals to go sign another mid-rotation guy, because those prospects are close, and can probably fill the gaps soon. It's just that even in the best-case scenario, there's going to be a brief period where the available depth is lacking. If the Cards wanted to grab a frontline guy to pair with Martinez, say Yu Darvish or Chris Archer, I'd be OK with that, depending on the dollars or prospect cost. I was pretty excited about that five-minute rumor the Diamondbacks were shopping Grienke.

Bullpen: This is where the Cardinals have overhauled things the most. They'd already released Broxton and Siegrist during the season, and sent Socolovich back to AAA. This offseason, they've let the injured Trevor Rosenthal walk, and didn't bother to offer contracts to Zach Duke or Seung-hwan Oh. Instead they signed Luke Gregerson to a three-year deal at $5 million per season. Gregerson's coming off a rough year in Houston, mostly due to his home run rate more than doubling from his career numbers. It seems as though four or 5 of the 13 HRs he gave up were cheap ones, owing to pitching in the funhouse mirror version of a stadium the Astros call home. So there's reason to hope he'll rebound. His K and BB rates really didn't change much from the previous year.

Not long ago, they traded Randal Grichuk to the Blue Jays for Dominic Leone and prospect Connor Greene. Greene has a big arm, but his control is mostly poor, and his mechanics are iffy. He's basically another version of Sandy Alcantara, who they traded to the Marlins. Leone is coming off an excellent season in Toronto, 70 innings with a 2.56 ERA and 2.91 FIP. 10.4 K/9 and only 2.8 BB/9. Slightly concerning is that his 2015 and 2016 were terrible: 42 innings total, 36 runs allowed, 32 Ks, 21 BB, 9 HRs! But his 2014 was good, if not on the same level as his 2017. Still, two good years, two horrendous years. I don't know what happened in the bad years, if he was hurt or what. Hopefully he doesn't follow fellow ex-Jay Brett Cecil's example and blow a bunch of leads.

As it stands now, the bullpen has Leone, Cecil, Gregerson (who was named closer, for what that's worth), Tyler Lyons, whatever is left of Matt Bowman's arm, and Sam Tuivalala. Which, if the Cardinals didn't employ a dipshit as manager, would leave one spot open for John Brebbia, Ryan Sheriff, maybe Alex Reyes if they want to try that (they should not try that). But Matheny is apparently insistent he needs 8 relievers, even though he never uses more than 3 at any given time. He picks three guys he trusts, and runs them into the ground. So why have five guys sitting around waiting for their one chance every 10 games to pitch?

Infield: Molina says he's going to retire after his contract runs out in 2020. I'll believe that when I see it. Still, it may be enough time to reach 2,000 hits. Carson Kelly hasn't been included in any trade for Chris Archer - yet. So he's probably the backup again. Matheny isn't even pretending they'll get him regular playing time, saying he'll start whoever he thinks gives them the best chance to win that day. So, another 140 starts for Yadi, then. Again, if the Cardinals did not employ a dipshit for a manager, they'd give Kelly at least one of the starters to be the personal catcher. Mikolas maybe, or Weaver. Or both. Reverse the Ozzie/Royce Clayton arrangement, with the veteran getting two-thirds of the starts. I mean, at some point, someone other than Yadier Molina is going to have be to be catcher.

Matt Carpenter's still set up to play first, and is to be trying to be a smarter baserunner by getting suggestions on which other players he should be emulating in approach. And he may not be batting leadoff next year. Kolten Wong is still here, and we're still hoping he'll put all his skills together in the same season for once. Jedd Gyorko has not been traded as part of a deal for Josh Donaldson or Manny Machado - yet. Paul DeJong is still the projected shortstop, we'll see if he can improve his plate discipline and maintain his average defense. The Cards traded Aledmys Diaz to the Blue Jays (separately of the Grichuk trade) for a minor league outfielder named J.B. Woodward. So the fallback is, Greg Garcia? Maybe Breyvic Valera, who is still on the 40-man roster.

Outfield: The Cardinals traded for Marcell Ozuna from the Marlins, in exchange for four minor leaguers: Magneruis Sierra, Zac Gallen, Alcantara, and Daniel Castano. Ozuna's coming off the best season of his career, having been worth over 5.5 WAR. He provided most of that value with the bat, crushing 37 HRs and posting a 145 OPS+. I would expect he'll bat 4th, behind (in some order) Carpenter/Tommy Pham/Dexter Fowler. Given the skill those three have at getting on-base, he should have plenty of chances to drive in runs. Although if Molina continues to bat 5th, they may just pitch around him.

Past that, Pham is apparently going to be starting centerfielder, with Fowler moving to right, I think. Ozuna's at least an average corner outfielder, Fowler should probably be above-average in a corner, and Pham should be at least average in CF, possibly better, if his eyesight holds up. Pham and Ozuna are a couple of the big question marks for the season. They project as the two best position players, but are only being projected for 3 and 3.5 WAR, respectively. Of course, Pham was worth 6 WAR last year, and Ozuna 5.5. If the projections are right, they're good, but a ways behind the best players on the Cubs (Bryant and Rizzo). If they match last year's numbers, much of the projected gap between the Cards and the Cubs vanishes.

We already mentioned Grichuk being traded. Prior to that, they traded Stephen Piscotty to the Athletics for two prospects, Yairo Munoz and Max Schrock. Schrock's a second baseman very good at making contact, but with not much power so far. Munoz has some power, and some speed, but strikes out a lot and has questionable plate discipline. He's been playing shortstop in the minors, but is probably more of a third baseman or utility infielder.

If they're going to have an 8-man bullpen, then they only have a 4-man bench. One of them is Kelly, one is Garcia. Jose Martinez makes three. I don't know who the fourth is, given the trades of so many of the outfield crew. Fowler could cover CF if Pham needs a day off, or they could put Harrison Bader on the roster. He'd probably benefit from getting regular at-bats in AAA, though. Between the versatility of Garcia, Gyorko, and Carpenter, they can cover all the infield spots. Valera might provide a little more versatility. Luke Voit would be a possible power bat. Of course, if Mozeliak tells Matheny to just live with the 7-man bullpen, you could have two of those guys, but I should probably resign myself to that not happening.

I think they've improved overall, though not by as much as people would like. It's hard to tell, because they were supposedly, by run differential and neutral sequencing, a much better team than their record suggested. If that evens out this year, they might be better by quite a bit. Or it might not turn around and they'll flail hopelessly behind the Cubs and possibly the Brewers again. I prefer the Weaver/Mikolas pair to Leake/Lynn, but I'm hard pressed to say it's an upgrade. Who knows with the bullpen. Could be great, could be a disaster. Jhonny Peralta and Matt Adams aren't around to steal at-bats from better players, but we don't know if DeJong can repeat his success. Ditto with Pham and Ozuna, and Jose Martinez. There are just a lot of question marks, given the level of turnover in the last year.


Saturday, December 16, 2017

Looking At Franchises' Best Players - American League Central

I had honestly almost forgotten I was doing this. Let's move on to the AL Central, a division with a few more teams with long histories than the AL West. So expect deeper lists here.

Chicago White Sox (existed since 1901):

Top Player: Luke Appling (74 WAR)

#24 Player: Gary Peters (26 WAR)

# of Players with >30 WAR: 19

# of Players with >50 WAR: 8 (Appling, Ted Lyons, Frank Thomas, Eddie Collins, Ed Walsh, Red Faber, Wilbur Wood, Eddie Cicotte)

# of Players with >100 WAR: 0

Can you make a starting line up of the Top 9? Well, six of their Top 9 are pitchers (Appling, Eddie Collins, and the Big Hurt being the exceptions), so no.

Notes: I expected the White Sox would have someone with a higher total, but they're like the Athletics: deep, but not a real high peak. Frank Thomas (34d, 68 WAR) and Mark Buerhle (in 9th at 48 WAR) are the only two players from the last 50 years, maybe longer than that, in the Top 10.

Eddie Collins comes in slightly higher (#4) on the White Sox list than he did the A's (#5), but he also has 9 more WAR for the ChiSox.

Going by the picture Baseball-Reference used, Ed Walsh had seen some shit. Guy looks scary intense.

Shoeless Joe came in at #23. Paul Konerko finished tied at 28 WAR with Carlton Fisk and Ray Schalk. Luis Aparicio is in 15th place, and Minnie Minoso is 12th, with 41 WAR. I know Fisk was in the later days of his career by his time in Chicago, but I'd pictured him having more in the tank than that.

Chris Sale is the only player currently active on the list. He was 18th, at 31 WAR.

Minnesota Twins (existed since 1901, cripes we're giving them credit for the Washington Senators?):

Top Player: Walter Johnson (165 WAR).

#24 Player: Frank Viola (27 WAR).

# of Players >30 WAR: 20.

# of Players >50 WAR: 6. (Johnson, Rod Carew, Harmon Killebrew, Joe Mauer, Sam Rice, Kirby Puckett)

# of Players >100 WAR: 1

Can you make a starting lineup of the Top 9? Close. Don't know what the defense would be like, but put Killebrew at 3rd and Carew at 2nd, you're only missing a SS and LF. 3 pitchers, though.

Notes: Walter Johnson is over 100 WAR ahead of Carew, which is staggering. Carew is a Hall of Famer, and the gap between him and Johnson is an equal to an even better Hall of Famer. Probably that gap in the level of competition rearing its head again. But regardless, you've got to be damn good for a long time to accumulate that kind of value.

Brad Radke was the 3rd pitcher in the Top 9 besides Johnson and Blyleven.

Johan Santana came in 19th at 35 WAR, just behind Jim Kaat. My dad's a big fan of Kaat, who spent the last four seasons of his 25-year career with the Cardinals. As B-R lists him as below replacement level for those years, he will not be making the Cardinals' list.

Joe Mauer is the only currently active player. He's 7 WAR behind Killebrew, so I'm not sure he can catch him. Two more years like last year would do it, but if he regresses to his 2016 performance, it'll take 4 more years.

There's a clump of 7 guys in the 40s, which isn't too shabby. I thought having the Senators' history as part of theirs would give the Twins a deeper list, but I think I underestimated how miserable the Senators were for most of their history. The Twins' players account for 15 of the 24 on the list, even though they've existed for a few years (57) less than the Senators (60).

Kansas City Royals (existed since 1969):

Top Player: George Brett (88 WAR).

#24 Player: Johnny Damon (17 WAR).

# Players >30 WAR: 8

# Players >50 WAR: 1. Brett, obviously.

# Players >100 WAR: 0

Can you make a starting lineup of the Top 9? The 3 pitchers (Appier, Saberhagen, Gubicza) say no, but you could get close if you were willing to play Alex Gordon at 3rd and Brett at 1st. Still no C or SS, though.

Notes: The Royals do have 4 (Appier, Saberhagen, Willie Wilson, Amos Otis) players in the 40s, which isn't terrible. It isn't great, either. The Mariners have more guys above 50 WAR than KC, and they've existed 10 years less. Although the Mariners beat the Angels and Rangers on that score, too, and they both predate the Royals.

Only having 3 players in the 30s is unimpressive, though. Really fast drop off on this list.

I've read a lot of Royals' fans over the years talk about how underappreciated Kevin Appier is. I hadn't ever really bought in, but 47 WAR is pretty good.

Dan Quisenberry is 12th with 25 WAR. He spent a couple years near the end with the Cardinals, where I really dug that submarine delivery.

As far as currently active players go, there are quite a few. Alex Gordon, obviously, although maybe for not much longer if he doesn't regain the ability to hit. Zack Greinke is in 10th, Lorenzo Cain is tied with Quisenberry right behind him. Recently retired Carlos Beltran is 14th with 24 WAR. Salvador Perez is in 21st with 19 WAR. Since I assume Cain is going to sign elsewhere this offseason, Perez is the only one likely to keep climbing the ladder. If he can match the ~2.5 WAR he's been worth each of the last 3 years, that should get him to 18th next year, between Charlie Liebrandt and Mike Montgomery.

Detroit Tigers (since 1901):

Top Player: Ty Cobb (144 WR)

#24 Player: Rudy York (31 WAR)

# of Players >30 WAR: More than 24, probably.

# of Players >50 WAR: 13, crap. Cobb, Al Kaline, Charlie Gehringer, Lou Whitaker, Alan Trammell, Harry Heilman, Sam Crawford, Hal Newhouser, Justin Verlander, Hank Grennburg, Norm Cash, Tommy Bridges, Miguel Cabrera

# of Players >100 WAR: 1.

Can you make a starting lineup of the Top 9? Nope, and it's not really having too many pitchers (they have two). They have 3 guys B-R lists as Rightfielder/First baseman. No catcher, no third baseman.

Notes: Now that's a deep team. 13 guys with at least 50 WAR? Damn. 8 of those guys have more than 60, and the Top 5 are all at 70 WAR or more. I had the impression Hank Greenburg was one of the greatest players in history, and he barely makes Detroit's Top 10.  It's what you'd expect though. The Tigers have had a lot of stretches of being really good over their long history.

John Hiller, Chet Lemon, and Lance Parrish would all be players with more than 30 WAR who didn't make the Top 24. Parrish is at 29.9, but I assume they'd round up.

Jack Morris is on here, 21st place, with 38 WAR. So he's in the same place on this list as Salvador Perez was on the Royals', but with twice the WAR.

Mickey Lolich's (15th, 47 WAR) picture makes him look a bit like Paul Newman.

The guy just ahead of Lolich is called Dizzy Trout, which is a fantastic name. Pitch like Dizzy Dean, do everything else like Mike Trout. And if the Angels had him, they probably still couldn't make the playoffs.

Verlander and Cabrera are the only two active guys on the list. Verlander was traded away, but Cabrera's still there. Of course, he was below replacement level last year, and has 6 years left on that contract, at about $30 million per. Ouch. If he doesn't turn things around, he's going to descend the list, rather than climb it.

Cleveland Indians (existing since 1901, albeit as the Blues, Bronchos, and Naps the first 14 years):

Top Player: Nap Lajoie (79 WAR)

#24 Player: Elmer Flick (31 WAR).

# of Players >30 WAR: At least 30.

# of Players >50 WAR: 5. Lajoie, Tris Speaker, Bob Feller, Lou Boudreau, Stan Coveleski.

# of Players >100 WAR: 0

Can you make a starting lineup of the Top 9? Nope, too many outfielders. 3 CFs (Speaker, Kenny Lofton, Earl Averill), plus Lajoie (sine Thome would have to play first).

Notes: Not quite what I was expecting. It's a deep list, but a low peak, like the Athletics. They do have two players with more than 70 WAR in Lajoie and Speaker, and Feller and Boudreau are both in the 60s. 9 players between 40 and 50 WAR, though, which isn't bad. On par with the Twins. I'm guessing the 50 years of being terrible post-World War II have something to do with the state of this list.

There are at least four players who would qualify as having more than 30 WAR who didn't make the list, including Omar Vizquel and Manny Ramirez. Well, Manny's at 29.9, but as with Lance Parrish, I'm assuming they'd round up.

There's Shoeless Joe again, this time at 19th with 34 WAR. Larry Doby is 13th, at 43 WAR.

As you might have guessed from my comment about the lack of color photos, there are no active players on this list. I would have expected another couple of guys from the late '90s teams to have made it on here, at least at the bottom.

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Monday, December 04, 2017

Boredom Versus Disaster

The St. Louis Cardinals still haven't accomplished much this offseason. Lance Lynn rejected the qualifying offer, surprising no one. They tendered contracts to Wacha, Lyons, and Grichuk. They've made an offer to the Marlins to acquire Giancarlo Stanton, and the Marlins like it, but Stanton has little interest in playing in St. Louis, and he has a no-trade clause. The Giants are also in the mix, though there are of course rumors Stanton is hoping the Dodgers jump in. The Dodgers, thus far, seem reluctant to take on the kind of salary the Marlins would want them to.

I assume the Marlins will break first, since the new ownership apparently really wants out from under Stanton's contract. That won't mean a thing if the Dodgers aren't interested, though.

The Cards added 4 players to the 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft: Tyler O'Neil, Oscar Mercado, Derian Gonzalez, and Austin Gomber. Which left one open spot, until they traded Aledmys Diaz to the Blue Jays for another minor league outfielder. Because they don't have enough of those. They could open up some more spots on the 40-man by removing dead weight like Mike Mayers, or OK but not essential types like Breyvic Valera.

As for Arizona, they lost to the Rams again last weekend, and fell to 5-7. They've been outscored by about 100 points, and are starting Blaine Gabbert. Their lead rusher is Adrian Peterson, still with less than 500 yards. None of their running backs average even four yards per carry. Larry Fitzgerald is the only one catching any passes. Nelson and Jaron Brown combined have fewer catches and yards than Fitzgerald. Whether that's because they're bad (probably) or because none of the Cardinals QBs are any good throwing downfield (also true), or because the O-line is too shitty for the QBs to even try throwing downfield (always true), the fact is. . . well, everything is bad.

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Friday, November 17, 2017

Looking At Franchise's Best Players - American League West

Baseball-Reference has started including, on each team's franchise page, a list of their top 24 (or 12, in a few cases) players, as measured by Wins Above Replacement. So I'm going to go through each division and look at some of the results. We'll take it one division at a time.

Los Angeles Angels (existed since 1961):

Top Player: Mike Trout (55 WAR)

#24 Player: Doug DeCinces (18 WAR)

# of Players with >30 WAR: 10

# of Players with >50 WAR: 2 (Trout and Chuck Finley)

# with >100 WAR: 0

Can you make a starting lineup out of the Top 9? No. Four pitchers (Finley, Nolan Ryan, Jered Weaver, Frank Tanana).

Comments: Does it speak more to how great Mike Trout is that he's already the most valuable player in team history, or to how the Angels have had any longtime standout players in their 55+ year history? There are some pretty good players on there - Nolan Ryan (#5), Brian Downing (#6), Vlad Guerrero (#16), Jim Edmonds (#22) - just none of them were there for long. Everybody from #11-22 has a WAR somewhere in the 20s, which suggest either they were really good for a few years, or unspectacular for several years.

Rod Carew's number was retired by the team, but is not in the top 24, as he generated 17.3 WAR for the Angels (versus around 64 WAR for the Twins).

Oakland Athletics (counting time in Philadelphia and KC, existed since 1901):

Top Player: Eddie Plank (76 WAR)

#24: Barry Zito (30 WAR)

# of Players with >30 WAR: 24

# of Players with >50 WAR: 8 (Plank, Rickey Henderson, Jimme Foxx, Lefty Grove, Eddie Collins, Sal Bando, Al Simmons, Eddie Rommel).

# of Players with >100 WAR: 0

Can you make a starting lineup out of their Top 9? No. Three pitchers (Plank, Lefty Grove, Eddie Rommel), only two outfielders.

Comments: It appears the A's need to look into exploiting the untapped "Eddie" market. Seems to have worked out pretty well for them in their Philly days.

I expected the A's to have someone with a higher total, but instead it's a deep roster, but with a low peak. Their 24th most valuable player would be 11th on the Angels list. Eddie Collins, their #5 player, would be first on L.A.'s, (until about one month into next season at the rate Trout accumulates value).

The list skews old, which may be a recurring theme. It seems like it was easier for players in the early 20th Century to accumulate value compared to now. Maybe because there was so much bigger of a gap between guys who were actually good, and the guys who wouldn't have been in the league if black players weren't barred from playing. The best guys padded their numbers against the Sisters of the Poor.

Anyway, only 10 of Oakland's guys played recently enough to get a color picture. Sal Bando and Bert Campaneris played long enough ago to have been Kansas City Athletics. Eric Chavez, Tim Hudson, and Barry Zito are the only ones to play for them in the 21st Century. Rickey Henderson finished 2nd overall; I expect to see him on at least one more team's Top 24.

Texas Rangers (since 1961, including time as the Washington Senators):

Top Player: Ivan Rodriguez (49 WAR)

#24: Kevin Brown (17 WAR)

# of Players with >30 WAR: 10

# of Players with >50 WAR: 0

# of Players with >100 WAR: 0

Can you make a starting lineup out of their Top 9? No. Two pitchers, two catchers, no outfielders

Comments: With all the big offensive numbers members of the Rangers have put up, I'd expected somebody to be further up there. I also expected Nolan Ryan to be on here somewhere, but no, he generated 15 WAR for the Rangers. Still got his number retired by them. Someone who will be on two lists is Fergie Jenkins, who ranks 17th here, and will come in significantly higher on the Cubs' list.

Alex Rodriguez is tied with Michael Young for 13th on the list. Adrian Beltre is third, behind Pudge and Rafael Palmeiro. He's only three WAR behind Palmeiro, so he might be able to catch him, depending on how much he's got left in the tank. I keep expecting him to show his age. Other than him, Elvis Andrus is the only person currently on their roster on the list, at #11.

Charlie Hough and Kenny Rogers are the most valuable pitchers in franchise history, at 33 and 32 WAR, which puts them 7th and 8th, respectively. Fairly light on pitchers, only 5 total (Yu Darvish being the only one I haven't mentioned so far).

Seattle Mariners: (since 1977):

Top Player: Ken Griffey Jr. (70 WAR)

#24 Player: Nelson Cruz (13 WAR)

# of Players with >30 WAR: 7

# of Players with >50 WAR: 4 (Griffey, Edgar Martinez, Ichiro, King Felix)

# of Players with >100 WAR: 0

Can you make a starting line of their Top 9? While I'm loathe to doubt Ichiro, three pitchers (Felix, Randy Johnson, Jamie Moyer), no catcher, and they'd have to risk playing Edgar Martinez somewhere on the field.

Comments: It drops off fast. Felix is at 52 WAR, the next guy is the Big Unit at 39 WAR. By the time you reach Alvin Dark in the 12th spot, you're below 20 WAR. Which reflects the relatively short time the franchise has existed, as well as the fact they were pretty awful for the first 15 years.

Alex Rodriguez is on here, at #6. Adrian Beltre is also here, at #10 (21 WAR). Robinson Cano is #11, if he replicates last year, he'll jump to 9th. If Nelson Cruz can duplicate his results last year, that would get him to around 17th or 18th. Kyle Seager is in 8th, he's probably a couple of seasons away from catching Moyer, maybe more if this year is indicative of his level of play going forward.

Speaking of people on multiple teams' lists, Mark Langston is on here (19 WAR) and on the Angels' (26 WAR) list, and he's in 13th place for both teams. Kind of a neat coincidence.

Houston Astros (since 1962):

Top Player: Jeff Bagwell (79 WAR)

#24 Player: Richard Hidalgo (17 WAR)

# of Players with >30 WAR: 10

# of Players with >50 WAR: 3 (Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Jose Cruz)

# of Players with >100 WAR: 0

Can you make a starting lineup of the Top 9? Nope. Two pitchers (Roy Oswalt and Larry Dierker), and no shortstops or third basemen.

Comments: Jose Altuve is 11th right now, at 29 WAR. He should pass Dierker (32 WAR) in 8th easily next year.

Nolan Ryan may not have made it with the Rangers, but he does qualify with Houston, coming in 15h with 23 WAR. J.R. Richard in 18th is the last player above 20 WAR. There's a pretty big drop between Jim Wynn at 7th and Dierker, from 41 to 32 WAR. Cesar Cedeno and Lance Berkman both got close to 50, but didn't quite make it.

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Sunday, November 12, 2017

Checking in on the Cards

The St. Louis Cardinals haven't done anything so far this offseason, other than continue to try and idiot-proof the coaching staff to protect Matheny from himself. As for the Arizona Cardinals, David Johnson probably isn't coming back for this lost season. Carson Palmer's arm was broken, bringing on Drew Stanton. Which can work against the 49ers, but not against the Seahawks.

Bruce Arians is still 3-2-1 against Seattle when he has Palmer, and now 0-3 when he doesn't. Although the 22-16 loss this week was much closer than the two previous attempts. Probably says more about how much Seattle's declined/in transition than Arizona.

The Cardinals, desperate for any running game, traded for Adrian Peterson. Who managed to become team leader in rushing yards after exactly one game. The team's yards per carry has risen a full three-tenths of a yard over the last 5 games, from 2.7 to 3.0. Like the team in general, Peterson ran well against the lousy Niners and Buccaneers, and poorly against the Rams and Seattle. You know, competent franchises.

I, against my better judgment, watched a little of the game against Seattle. Enough to get really down on JJ Nelson. I came in at two different points, and each timed watched him let a ball sail right through his hands that could have been a big play. And he was open enough both times, they weren't particularly difficult catches by NFL standards. He just fucked up.

The sad thing is, according to Pro-Football Reference, still the second most reliable wideout the team has in catch %. Nelson has a 55.3%; Fitzgerald has a 68.2. John and Jaron Brown have 39.0 and 47.9% respectively. Andre Ellington and Jermaine Gresham, the only other players with more than 10 catches, both have Catch % around 66%. So I'm letting a couple bad plays overly impact my perspective, but it's still irritating.

Phil Dawson has missed 6 field goals, 4 of them from 30-39 yards, which is lousy. No one other than Chandler Jones gets any sacks (he has 10 of the 23). They are - surprise! - not a good team. They might be able to beat the Texans next week (if they keep starting Tom Savage), and probably the shitbag Giants. I suppose there's always a chance Blake Bortles could hand them a win, although the Jags seem aware enough of his limitations to avoid that. The Cards will probably end up with 5-7 wins, a situation I'm pretty familiar with.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

A Couple of Wounded Birds

I haven't been paying a ton of attention to the NFL this year. Enough to know Arizona is probably bad. They're 2-2, but both wins came over bad teams, and both required overtime to do it. The offense is the culprit, because they can't manage anything. The team is averaging 2.7 yards per carry. Palmer's already been sacked 17 times, and thrown 5 INTs. David Johnson hurt his wrist three quarters into the season, and probably won't play before Thanksgiving, if at all.

My feeling is the defense gets worn out. The offense can't stay on the field, or Palmer turns the ball over, and the defense is left holding the bag. Sounds a lot like 2010, 2012, any number of other years. The good news is, the Niners still aren't good, and Seattle can't protect Russell Wilson. The bad news is, the Rams made a tremendous leap forward by replacing Tom Selleck Mustache Double Jeff Fisher with a coach with an actual functioning brain. All 7 Rams' fans are thrilled.

On the baseball side, the Cardinals fucked around and lost a bunch of games the last week of the season, ensuring they would not make the playoffs. There's a segment of the fanbase that insists the team was a good, just unlucky, and there's no reason to tear the team down or panic. Which I suppose I can understand, but it's hard to believe when you watch them lose game after game from bullpen meltdowns, defensive incompetence and the ever popular baserunning idiocy.

I'm not sure what the path forward is. Lot of people stumping for Giancarlo Stanton. I guess it would depend on what the Cardinals have to give up, and how much money the Marlins are willing to eat. There's no way the Cards should take on the whole contract and send over much of consequence. Stanton's teammate Christian Yelich is another possibility, a much cheaper one, but not as likely to crush 50 HRs, if that's a thing that matters.

Is isn't so much that they have a glaring weakness - with the depth in their farm system they have enough people to try that someone will work out - but they can still stand to upgrade somewhere. The Team of Average Guys has its limitations.

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Monday, September 04, 2017

A Trade Is Worth Discussing

The Cardinals traded Mike Leake to the Mariners last week. The team is going to cover $17 million of Leake's remaining contract, leaving the Mariners paying $38 million over 3 years.

The Cardinals also sent some money towards international signings, and received minor league shortstop Rayder Asciano, who is a 21-year old in A ball. Allegedly a defensive whiz, he can't hit, at all. I saw him described elsewhere as, if he could learn to hit even a little, he might be able to be Brendan Ryan. Which has value, but is hardly encouraging that he he'll have to improve as a hitter just reach Boog's level.

There are some rumblings the team wanted Leake more on-board with their training programs or something, that they weren't pleased with how he was handling his conditioning or, his recovery from that bout of shingles last year, something. I wouldn't think that would be why they traded him, but who knows.

I was never that enthused about the Leake signing. It made a certain amount of sense as a hedge against injuries, in that you can pretty much count on Leake to make 30 starts and throw around 180 innings, and be at least an average pitcher in doing so. And there really aren't that many guys who can put up that level of performance for that many innings these days. Still, if things had gone well with the 2016 rotation, Leake is your #5 starter. Allocating $15 million dollars to that seems excessive. In the likely event that things don't go well - like Jaime Garcia, Michael Wacha, and Adam Wainwright all struggle - and Leake becomes your 2nd best starter, well, how good are you then, really?

The Cardinals have done a decent job of constructing a team with a solid floor, but limited upside. This bunch would be hard pressed to ever truly crater, they have too many solid players - like Mike Leake - for that. But they weren't likely leap to the top of the standings, either. The difference makers were lacking. What seems to be happening now is the front office decided it's time to see if any of their young pitching prospects can be those difference makers. Wainwright's on the DL, give Luke Weaver another chance to shine. Mike Leake is out the door, call up Jack Flaherty.

And it isn't as though Leake has been pitching well recently. His ERA with the Cards this year is 4.21. His Fielding Independent ERA is 4.22. In his first 10 starts, he had 3 with a Game Score better than 70, and none worse than a 54, which was a 7 inning, 4 run start against the Dodgers. He went at least 6 innings in every start, and 7 or more in 6 of the 10. In the 16 starts he made for StL after that, he has one with a Game Score better than 70, and only two others above 60. He made it 7 or more innings 3 times, versus 4 starts where he didn't make it through the 5th. He wasn't ever going to maintain that sub-2.00 ERA he had for the first 6 weeks, but he's cratered worse than the team could really afford, given Wainwright's problems and the bullpen's inconsistency.

Supposedly the guys in the clubhouse weren't happy about the trade, which is understandable, but I can't say I really care. If they'd played better, not blown so many games through defensive incompetence, baserunning nicompoopery, or bullpen meltdowns, maybe Leake wouldn't have been traded. Hell, the day of the trade, they lost a game to Milwaukee in large because they made three errprs and gifted the Brewers with several runs. Carlos Martinez fielded a ball then airmailed the throw for the second start in a row. Matt Carpenter let a ball go through his legs like a damn 5-year old in t-ball. They've been making fuckups like that all year, for the last two years, really. At a certain point, when you keep repeating the same mistakes, you can't blame anyone but yourself when they keep biting you in the ass.

Anyway, it's been a weird year with this team. It feels as though there's been a lot of roster upheaval, but not in the traditional sense of trading guys to get guys. They have done that, first with Matt Adams, now with Mike Leake, but neither of the players they added are anywhere near the majors. Nor are either of them likely to ever get here, frankly. Tyler O'Neill, who was received in exchange for Marco Gonzales, is the trade return most likely to actually reach the majors. But they DFA'ed Socolovich, Siegrist, and Fryer. They released Broxton and Peralta. That's 7 of the 25 guys from the Opening Day roster. None of them what I'd call critical pieces, to be sure, but it feels like a lot of turnover. An attempt to clear out redundant pieces, I guess, figure out what's worth keeping as foundational pieces.


Saturday, August 19, 2017

Reaching The Three-Quarter Mark

By virtue of an 8-game winning streak, the Cardinals dragged themselves back over .500 for the first time in two months, and have managed to stay there so far, sitting at 63-59. AS the Brewers have fallen back to Earth, and the Cubs have still not taken off, the Cards sit 1.5 games back in the division. The D'Backs and Rockies have also fallen off their earlier paces, so the Cardinals are only ~4 games out of a wild card.

The team did nothing at the trade deadline. The offense is doing much of the heavy lifting lately, while the rotation struggles and the bullpen tries its damnedest to blow every single lead. Three nights ago, they took a 2-run lead into the 9th in Boston, and despite Matheny trying three relievers, blew it. Last night, they were up 11-3 after 7 innings, and won 11-10.

The rotations hasn't been spectacular lately. Wacha still has the best FIP on the team at 3.52, and Martinez is the only other starter below 4.00. Martinez has made 9 starts since the beginning of July, and worked into the 7th just three times. He has two starts with a Game Score above 60 in that time, after 8 such starts in his first 16. Leake's ERA has backslid to 3.88, close to his FIP of 4.02. He's not walking guys, or allowing many homers, he just has to rely on balls in play finding glove too much. It's always going to limit him. Lynn has the best ERA in the rotation, 3.05, but his FIP is 4.78. he and Martinez are equal in HRs, and Lynn has walked one more batter, despite throwing 17 fewer innings. Still, he's been doing this all season, and for the previous two years he pitched before this, so maybe it's something he can maintain. Seems like a precarious tightrope to walk.

As stated, Wacha has the lowest FIP in the rotation, but with roughly the same ERA as Leake. He's also thrown 22 fewer innings than Leake or Lynn. Wacha has gone past 6 innings twice all season, and his complete game against the Mets is the only time he finished the 7th. He's had some damn good 6 inning starts - one each against the Nationals and D'Backs in July - but it'd be nice if he could go further into games occasionally. Some of that is undoubtedly the team being cautious with his shoulder, but there are also several of those starts where his pitch count is in the mid-90s or higher by the end of the 6th. He's not as efficient as you'd hope. Then there's Wainwright, with an ERA over 5, but a FIP far below it. It's hard to buy that he's having bad luck, though. He went on the DL briefly, came back, and made a few starts where he can't throw harder than 85. Now he's back on the DL, thankfully. Luke Weaver got to make the starts in Adam's place, and did OK. Presumably he'll resume that role now.

The bullpen is garbage, absolute garbage. There's no telling who can be relied on at any given time. Oh seems to be transitioning to becoming a ROOGY, but still can't consistently use his slider and inspires zero confidence. Cecil is entirely untrustworthy in any situation where the team isn't already losing. Bowman leads the league in appearances, but is averaging less than an inning per appearance. Rosenthal's ERA is over a run above his FIP, probably because he groups his walks and homers by melting down entirely. Now he's on the DL, along with Siegrist who has blessedly been there most of the month. Zach Duke's thrown 7 innings since returning from Tommy John surgery, and is walking too many guys. He came in with the bases loaded last night, and promptly walked a run home. Which I'm positive I saw him do last year, too.

Matheny's been desperate enough to throw John Brebbia into the 9th innings of close games. It didn't work. Brebbia's ERA is as far below his FIP, as Rosenthal's is above. He doesn't walk anyone, but the home runs are starting to crop up. Tyler Lyons is probably the best option they have right now, based on both ERA and FIP. Seems able to handle most any situation. Tuivailala is back up, he's been fairly useful this year. They called Mike Mayers up a few days ago, and he shit the bed - again! - last night against the Pirates. At this point, he's firmly in the Ryan Lindley category for me, a player so awful and useless that upon seeing him in a game, the only reasonable conclusion is the team hates its fans and wants them to be miserable. But I guess the team doesn't hate us that much because they sent him back to AAA half an hour after the game ended and brought us Josh Lucas, the AAA closer.

It's a little frustrating they won't bring up some of the other useful relievers from Memphis and jettison the dead weight in the 'pen, but we can always hope for that.

On the position player side of things, the team is up to 7th in runs scored, 4th in doubles, just 11th in home runs and 9th in stolen bases. They're third in OBP, but just 9th in slugging. They have no one with 20 HRs, but 7 guys between 14 and 19.

Molina got angry at the one-two punch of Matheny suggesting he might be tired, and the team DFAing Eric Fryer and calling up Carson Kelly. Unfortunately, Mozeliak forgot Molina decides when he does and doesn't play, and so Kelly is sitting on the bench. In the month he's been up, Kelly has collected 25 PAs. Molina's OBP is almost .310, but his ISO is over 150, which is the best he's managed outside those peak years of 2011-2013. He's also second in stolen bases on the team, with 8.

Among the infielders, Carpenter still can't keep his batting average above .250, but he has a .384 OBP, good for third on the team, and his ISO is about 200. That's down from the last couple of years, as he seems to be reverting to Doubles Machine Matt Carpenter (he has 28 of those this year, against 16 HRs). I don't really mind that, he's still being productive. Wong is still trying to get on track with all these brief stops on the DL, but he has an .845 OPS at the moment, in 300 PAs. I'm surprised he's not stealing more bases, given his .398 OBP and lack of extra-base hits, the opportunities are clearly there.

Aledmys Diaz is still in AAA, with most of the SS playing time going to Paul DeJong. DeJong leads the team in HRs, and has an ISO of 278. His K rate has even dropped, from 30.8% to 30.4%! And his walk rate is over 3.5%, my goodness. I'm not sure how long he can keep hitting .300 like this; using Grichuk as a guide suggests possibly for as long as a season, but probably not over the long haul Still, it's nice to have while it's there, and DeJong has played a close to average SS, which is a pleasant surprise. Over at third, Gyorko's quieted down considerably the last couple months. His OPS is down under .800, barely, but combined with his solid defense at third, he's still the Cardinals' second most valuable player this year.

In the outfield, Piscotty continued to struggle, has been part of a lot of trade rumors, and is currently on the DL. Fowler might finally be healthy, has his OBP over .360, and his ISO around 230. His defense in CF still isn't very good, and it should probably be one of a couple other players starting in that spot, but he's the veteran guy on the big contract, so that ain't happenin'. Tommy Pham is the most valuable player on the team this year, with an OBP over .400, and an ISO of about 200. He has 15 doubles, 16 HRs (and an ongoing beef with Statcast, which is outstanding), and 16 SBs. And he gives great, angry, post-game interviews. I hope he's at least enjoying himself, it's hard to tell sometimes.

As for the remaining bench guys, Grichuk is back up and hitting fairly well. His OPS is almost league average now. But he's the other side of the coin for DeJong. DeJong has a .333 OBP because he's hitting .305. Grichuk is hitting .244, and that's why his OBP is .292, despite having a marginally better walk rate than DeJong. Or contrast to Greg Garcia, who has his average all the way up to .240, and has an OBP of .364. He's walked 30 times in 214 PAs; Grichuk and DeJong have combined for 31 BBs in 622 PAs. Different approaches, and DeJong certainly is having success. But it cuts down the margin for error quite a bit. Jose Martinez is continuing to be a productive hitter, although his defense has been a nightmare pretty much wherever he's placed. Luke Voit has predictably dropped off after a hot start, but is still being productive. Harrison Bader had a brief call-up, and Magneuris Sierra is apparently coming back up.

Going forward, I don't know what to expect. The pitching has to get its act together, starters and relievers. They can't keep expecting the offense to score 7+ runs every night. I don't know if they need to hope for the guys they've got to turn it around, or start bringing some new faces into the 'pen, but something's got to change there.


Monday, July 03, 2017

Halfway to the End

The Cardinals had a chance to reach the halfway point of the season one game below .500, but Martinez laid an egg and the offense no-showed, so they're 39-42 instead. They are still in contention for a playoff spot, thanks to the NL Central being trash this year. They're coming off winning 4 of 6 from the Diamondbacks and Nationals, two of the actual good teams in the NL. Hard to tell what that means, if anything.

The rotation is inconsistent. Martinez has been good, last night being a notable exception. Mike Leake has rebounded in his last couple of starts after a rough prior month. Lynn's ERA has jumped to close to 4, but his FIP is still over a run and a half higher than that. If he doesn't get the walks and homers under control, I'd expect things to keep getting worse. Wainwright, for the second consecutive year, has an ERA way above his FIP, which makes me suspect it isn't simply bad luck. When he gets hit, he gets hit hard. I'd put Wacha in the same boat. His FIP is equal to Leake's, but his ERA is over a run higher (4.16 to 2.97). Although I'm surprised their FIPs are that close. Leake has a slightly better HR rate (he allows one roughly every 12 innings, Wacha one every 10), and his walk rate is vastly better (about 5.5% vs. 8.4%). Wacha strikes out more guys, which I guess is the difference, the numbers figure Leake should be giving up a lot more hits. Which is fair, but my guess is Leake avoids hard contact better than Wacha. Marco Gonzales made the only start by someone outside those 5, and was hammered.

The bullpen has gone through a lot of turnover, but is still garbage. Socolovich was outrighted to the minors, Broxton was released. Siegrist is thankfully on the DL right now. No one can be trusted to get outs on a consistent basis. In Martinez' previous start, against Arizona, he gave up 2 runs through 6 innings, and the team scored 5 runs, which should have been enough. But Rosenthal, Oh, and Bowman, who are in theory the good relievers, combined to surrender 4 runs in a little over 2 innings and lose the game. Oh, looking at ERA vs. FIP, is getting lucky, because he's surrendering a homer every 6 innings. Rosenthal and Bowman are supposedly getting unlucky, although Rosie's walk rate is back up to a batter every other inning (12%), so it's hard not to see it as him doing it to himself. On the plus side, Cecil has stabilized. His ERA is down to 3.69, which is only a little better than his FIP (3.87). If he's going to be here 4 years, it would be best if he didn't suck the whole time.

Lyons has been useful in long relief when Waino or someone else gets hammered. Brebbia and Tuivailala have both been mostly effective in mop-up work, though FIP suggests both are getting really lucky. Tui could stand to cut down on the walks, and Brebbia should probably stop hitting guys every 5 innings. Mike Mayers still gives up too many home runs, John Gant made one appearance and didn't impress.

The offense is nothing special. While the team is 5th in OBP, they're unfortunately 10th in slugging, so they aren't doing so hot at getting those runners home. Matt Adams was traded to Atlanta, Jhonny Peralta was released, Kolten Wong can't stay healthy, Grichuk was sent all the way to A-ball, worked back up, and is back in the majors. Aledmys Diaz appears to be taking his turn down there now. Fowler is currently on the DL. They've called up Paul Dejong, Chad Huffman, Alex Meija, and Luke Voit at different times. All of which has the feel of a team trying desperately to find a spark that will get them going consistently.

Molina is 5th on the team in HRs, and tied for second in SBs. Great, we're back in 2007, only with no Albert Pujols. Yadi's OBP is hovering around .300, but his ISO is around .145, which is pretty good for him. Fryer has managed 3 extra-base hits in 75 PAs, and his OPS is below .500, even with an uptick in playing time recently.

Matt Carpenter's batting average is sitting steadily between .210 and .250. His OBP is still .370, which is behind only Wong and Pham among regulars, and an ISO of .224. He leads the team in HRs with 14, and is tied with a couple of guys for second in doubles with 15. He seems to be grading out as about an average first baseman defensively. Wong is having his best offensive season by far, if he could just stay on the damn field. OBP of .390, ISO of .143, defensive stats don't love him this year, but could be small sample size noise. Diaz still isn't getting on base, and isn't hitting for nearly enough power to make up for it (ISO of .136). Gyorko's been the best hitter on the team overall. Drawing a surprising number of walks for him, and an ISO of about .220. Not as much power as last year, but a much more well-rounded game. Defensive stats like him, and he seems to be a runner who knows when to pick his spots.

In the outfield, Fowler was steadily bringing up his numbers. The power has been there most of the season - his ISO is .236 -  but his OBP was starting to climb as well. Piscotty's still getting on base at a decent rate, with a .365 OBP, and the power is starting to come back. The ISO is still only .156, but it's better than it was earlier in the year. Grichuk still isn't hitting for nearly enough power to compensate for his abysmal OBP. His ISO is .183, which isn't gonna cut it with a .275 OBP. He's struck out as many times as Carpenter (66) in 110 fewer PAs, while walking one-quarter as many times (14 vs. 56).

Among the reserves, it's a mixed bag. Greg Garcia still gets on base, but his average has tanked enough that's it's dragged his slugging well below .300. If you could combine his and Grichuk's batting lines, you might have something. DeJong has walked twice in 107 PAs, putting even Grichuk's free-swinging to shame. He's just getting away with it a little more, since he's hitting .269. He even manages to strike out slightly more often than Randal, 30.8% versus 30.4%. Jose Martinez is not proving so useful now that he's not hitting .390. His average and OBP are even with Yadi's, but he's hitting for more power, with an ISO of .199. Which still only makes him a basically average hitter.

Tommy Pham is the real standout of the bench guys, and it's questionable how accurate it is to describe him that way. He was in the lead in innings played in left field until recently, and with Fowler out, he's taking a lot of the starts in center lately. Pham strikes out a bit himself - although 24.9% is still a lot better than 30+% - but is walking a fair amount, giving himself a .373 OBP. The power comes and goes, but the ISO is still at .200 right now, and he already has 9 stolen bases, with only two caught stealings, and most of the numbers like his defense. As always with Pham, the question is how long he can stay healthy, but hopefully he's earned Matheny's trust to the point he'll get regular playing time until he gets hurt. He's been the best outfielder on the team this year, by a country mile.

Huffman, Voit, and Meija has 36 PAs between them, with 10 hits, including 2 doubles (Voit), a triple (Huffman), and a homer (Meija).

The offense's problem seems to be too many unbalanced hitters. Too many guys with power, but no capacity to get on-base. Molina, Diaz, Grichuk, DeJong, maybe Jose Martinez. Which might explain all the solo home runs they seem to hit. But then you have the guys like Garcia and Piscotty who can get on base, but aren't driving the ball much. This team is not built for small ball, no matter how hard their manager pushes for it, or how much I might enjoy watching them do it (if they could do it successfully).

There's a month to the trade deadline. I don't know if they'll be buyers or sellers. I suspect buyers, in the typical patch job bullpen acquisition Mozeliak tends to favor, simply because it's going to be hard to land a substantive upgrade to most of their positions. Except maybe shortstop, and there aren't a lot of available options there. If the Angels would fall back, maybe Andrelton Simmons would become available. I'd be fine with them trading some of the relievers - Oh, Rosenthal, Bowman if he can get you something - for a highly regarded position prospect. But that would require those guys to pitch well enough to make someone want them. I suspect Wacha's not an attractive target, and ditto for Lynn and Wainwright. Plus, trading Wainwright might look bad to the fanbase. He's the second-longest tenured guy next to Yadi. Leake has a no-trade clause, but he supposedly wanted to play for the Diamondbacks at one point. They're in contention in a loaded NL West, would they consider trading for him, and what could you get?

The Cardinals really need a position player who can move the needle, that big star to slot in with their legion of solid players. Not a lot of those guys in the majors that are available, but maybe they can get themselves a potential future star from a team trying to win right this second.


Monday, May 22, 2017

The Cardinals At The Quarter Mark

This post might have been a fair bit more positive a week ago. At that point, the Cardinals were 21-15, coming off taking 2 of 3 from the Cubs, having recovered nicely from an abysmal 3-9 start. Then they lost 4 of 5 to the Red Sox and the Giants through the usual combination of bullpen incompetence, garbage baserunning, and abrupt silence from the bats.

So the team is 22-19, about where they were last season at this time. Of course, last year's team was underperforming according to run differential by 5 games, while this one is right on track. The team doesn't seem too different from last year, hardly a surprise given the limited number of roster moves. Inconsistent pitching, bad defense, bad baserunning.

The rotation seems a bit more solid than last year's although that could be an illusion. Last season, everyone except Carlos Martinez was considered unlucky when comparing their ERA to the FIP. This year, everyone except Wainwright has been lucky so far. Lance Lynn's ERA is 2.78, but his FIP is 5.02 (I'm guessing it's the 8 HRs surrendered in 45 innings that has his FIP so high). Leake has a 2.03 ERA, and 3.19 FIP (which is still the best in the rotation, but that's a not inconsiderable gap). Martinez has struck out 62 batters in 57 innings, far and away leading the team (by 20 Ks), but also has 22 BBs (8 of those in that one awful start against the Yankees). Wacha has a 3.34 FIP to his 2.74 ERA, but Matheny is holding him pretty steadily to six innings so far, which seems smart.

The bullpen has been more of a disaster. Oh has a 3.32 ERA, but a 4.88 FIP. They've already had him intentionally walk 5 guys this year, which seems like a lot in 21.67 innings for the person who is supposed to be your closer. What worries me is he can't seem to put hitters away. He can get two strikes, but that final swing and a miss doesn't materialize. But he has 16 Ks, so maybe I'm overreacting. Siegrist has been garbage. His velocity is gone, he's walked 11 batters in 17 innings, his ERA is 5.29 and his FIP is 4.80. Cecil has an ERA and FIP both over 5, he's given us 3 home runs in 15 innings, walked 9 batters in that time. Broxton's ERA is over 6, he's walked 9 and struck out 10 in 12 innings. Socolovich, to my dismay, has been even worse. His ERA is 6.75, his FIP is 5.69 (Broxton's is only 5.64). The one thing I can say for Socolovich is he isn't walking guys - 4 in 17 innings -  but I strongly believed he should have been in the bullpen last year, and this is disheartening.

The useful relievers essentially come down to Bowman (2.79 ERA, 3.09 FIP, only 5 BBs and 1 HR in 19 innings), and Rosenthal (2.76 ERA, 1.14 FIP, 28 Ks, 4 BBs in 16 innings). Tuivailala hasn't been bad in limited stints. Tyler Lyons spent the first month on the DL, came back, hurt something else almost immediately.

On the position player side, Molina's not really hitting much. OBP of .307, .384 SLG. Actually, that amount of power isn't bad for him, it's an Isolated Power of .123, it's the OBP that's killing his numbers. Still, with Eric Fryer's numbers having crashed back to earth hard this season (OPS of .526 in 27 PAs), I'm surprised Molina's had as many days off as he has. There have been five whole games he didn't play in this year!

Matt Carpenter's one of the best hitters on the team, despite his .235 batting average. He has 32 walks; the highest combined total between any two of his teammates is 35 (Fowler + Piscotty). His ISO is .257, with 5 doubles, 9 HRs, and a triple. Unfortunately, switching to first base has not produced an upswing in his defensive value, and he's a lousy combination of slow and aggressive on the basepaths (traits he shares with several of his teammates). Matt Adams was actually playing more in the outfield, because Matheny's brain is actually a tire fire, and was producing an almost league-average batting line by hitting .296, which was keeping up his OBP and lackluster slugging (ISO of .096). Now he's been traded to Atlanta for a first base prospect in A ball. Well, until Freddie Freeman returns from injury, Adams will presumably gets lots of playing time, so one last chance to earn himself a big contract.

Kolten Wong is having one of the better seasons hitting of his career. He's hitting for average (.282), power (ISO of .145), and getting on-base at a .375 clip. He's 3 out of 4 stealing bases, although some of the defensive stats don't love him so far. Still, this is as close as I've seen to him putting all his various skills together. It hasn't really translated into the value I thought it would, though. Maybe if he maintains it for the full season. Gyorko is second on the team in HRs, is hitting .331, and has an ISO of .260. He's already hit almost as many doubles as he did all last season, and played solid infield defense. Aledmys Diaz is hitting for some power, but walked all of once the first month of the season, which is why his OBP is .289.

AS for the bench infielders, Greg Garcia is hitting for next to no power (ISO of .069), but is getting on-base at a .406 clip. So hitting as advertised, basically. Jhonny Peralta played horribly for the first few weeks of the season, got injured (and the team took off), and is now back. His OPS is .536, so 10 points better than Fryer's, and he hasn't had an extra-base hit yet. At this stage, the Cardinals should either cut bait or trade him and send some cash along to get whatever they can. Just get him out of the way and if you need another infielder call up Paul DeJong or Luke Voit for a bit.

Fowler seems to be coming along. The average isn't there, but his OBP is .318 in spite of it (and he's second on the team in walks behind Carpenter), and he has 6 HRs and 4 triples. Piscotty has been a little better than average hitting as well, thanks to his .381 OBP, because he's not hitting for any power (.129 ISO). He's alo a disaster on the bases, another guy who likes to run but has no clue what he's doing. He's been on the DL for awhile, and suffered a setback just as he was getting close to returning. Grichuk is what he usually is. His average is bad, his OBP is terrible, but he hits for some power, although not much compared to his teammates (ISO of .170). He does lead the team with 13 doubles, for what that's worth.

Jose Martinez was the 4th outfielder coming out of spring training, but often found himself playing first base on Carpenter's days off. Even though Matt Adams was on the roster. Martinez hit for a good average, drew three walks, and hit for a little power in limited chances before he got hurt. Once he did get hurt, the Cardinals called up Tommy Pham, and he did what he does about half the time he's in the majors: Crush the fucking ball (the other half of the time he just strikes out a lot, but the same is true of Grichuk). Pham is hitting .294 with 4 doubles and 3 HRs in just 60 plate appearances. He has struck out 18 times, which isn't great, but his OBP is still .367, so it isn't killing his value. When Piscotty also got hurt (and Fowler was hurt but not put on the DL), they called up Magneuris Sierra all the way from A-ball. Sierra played pretty much like the reports suggested he would: He swung at most everything, didn't drive the ball much, ran really fast (but with no clue how to steal bases), and played excellent defense in centerfield. He was exciting, if not ready for the majors. So it's understandable they sent him back to make room for Peralta, if a little disappointing. But He needs as much chance to work on his hitting as possible, as well as learning to harness his speed.

Going forward, it's hard to tell what to expect of this team. They aren't as bad as the 3-9 start, they aren't as good as 18-6 run that followed it. They're probably roughly the same as last year's team, amybe a little better in the field, but with less power. Bullpen seems worse, rotation is a little better. Probably end up between 82-90 wins, barring either catastrophe or trading for a major difference maker.


Friday, March 31, 2017

Spring Training Was Not Encouraging

The start of baseball games that actually matter is almost upon us, and since I am studiously avoiding the NFL offseason, and waiting for the NBA playoffs to start so I don't have to deal with all these shitass teams trying to lose, let's check back in on the St. Louis Cardinals.

Alex Reyes got hurt before Spring Training even started. He's out for the year. So welcome Michael Wacha back to the rotation! Wainwright's been trying to hone a changeup throughout the spring, and getting his ass beat, which doesn't exactly bode well for my hopes he'd rebound this year.

In the bullpen, Trevor Rosenthal just went on the DL today basically. Tuivailala will be taking his spot in the 'pen, as the Cardinals answered one of my prayers by already including Socolovich on the roster. So it's Oh, Bowman, Cecil, Socolovich, Broxton (sigh), Tuivailala, and I don't know. Rosie's out now, Lyons isn't ready yet I don't think, maybe it's John Gant.

On the position player side of things, the team has supposedly worked out a contract extension with Molina for three more years at $55-65 million. Which would cover Yadi up through his age-38 season, and make him the highest paid catcher in baseball. And let's be honest, he probably won't be producing at the level of best catcher in baseball, it's unlikely he'll hold up, but I'm generally OK with this. It isn't my money, for one thing. There's no guarantee the Cardinals would spend that money somewhere else, or spend it intelligently, if they didn't spend it on Yadier. As profitable as this team is, this should not preclude them from signing some potential big name free agent, like Manny Machado or Bryce Harper (assuming either of those guys would be interested in coming to play for the Cardinals). I'm still surprised, though. I've grown to expect them to let the veteran guy walk in favor of the cheaper option.

Elsewhere on the diamond, Jhonny Peralta was named starting 3rd baseman, while the team has once again walked back from an earlier vote of confidence in Kolten Wong, with Matheny mentioning Kolten will possibly be platooned. Although based on Matheny's past history, he doesn't mean "platoon", where the lefthanded hitter plays against righties, and the righthander against lefties. He means he splits time up based on who happened to have a good game last week. Wong stated he wasn't happy and would rather be traded when informed of this by a media person, and much arguing commenced among the fans.

If Matheny did platoon Wong with Gyorko, the former against righties, the latter against lefties, that would be a reasonable and understandable decision. Wong could still be unhappy, but it wouldn't be a bad call. Like I said, though, Matheny hasn't shown any capacity to understand how to do that, so this will probably result in Kolten having a bad week, and finding himself glued to the bench as he reenters the Labyrinth of Working Through Adversity.

Interesting that Peralta, who has also sucked during Spring Training, and has one year left on his contract, is not facing any talk of being platooned.

In the outfield, Pham has looked unable to even see the ball in Spring Training, continuing an unsettling trend that started partway through last season. So he was left off the roster in favor of Jose Martinez. Oh boy. But don't worry about Martinez being the only backup outfielder, because the Cardinals are going to play Matt Adams out there as well. It pains me to type that. So much for giving a shit about defense this year. I'm sure the rotation can't wait to watch Adams flail around in left field like a slowly dying manatee.


Sunday, January 15, 2017

Looking In On The Offseason

The offseason isn't over, so the St. Louis Cardinals could still do something else, but we might as well look at the roster changes they've made so far.

Rotation: The major change is that the Cards traded Jaime Garcia to Atlanta for John Gant, Chris Ellis, and Luke Dykstra. Gant's the only to play in the majors so far, with a fairly unimpressive 50 innings last year, though he may not have been fully healthy. It feels like a weak haul, since none of the three project as difference makers, but Garcia's coming off a season in which he did stay basically healthy, but didn't pitch well, and only has one year left on his contract. If Gant and Ellis can function as back of the rotation injury replacements or bullpen reinforcements, maybe that's not too bad.

Beyond that, they lost Tim Cooney as a possible rotation filler to the Rule 5 draft, but Marco Gonzales might be back and able to contribute. As it stands, though, it looks as if Lance Lynn and Alex Reyes are the early frontrunners to fill Garcia and Wacha's spots in the rotation. Wacha might still be a possibility if necessary, Tyler Lyons should be back, and Luke Weaver will get a chance to actually pitch in AAA for awhile. If Wainwright can bounce back, and if Reyes can throw more strikes (and if the Cardinals defense is better than atrocious), the rotation might not be too bad, if not overwhelming.

Bullpen: Seung-hwan Oh is still here, presumably he'll retain the closer role he took  over from Rosenthal. But Rosenthal seemed to find the ability to throw strikes after returning from injury, so hopefully he can be a major player again. Siegrist is here, as is Broxton (sigh). Seth Maness was non-tendered, not surprising given his Tommy John surgery. Likewise, Zach Duke is out for the year with TJ surgery. The big signing was Brett Cecil from Toronto, for 4 years and $30 million. Cecil struggled some last year, wasn't as effective against right-handed hitters as he had been in the past. Hopefully that was a one-year fluke, and not a trend. If he can pitch against batters from either side of the plate, that'd be handy.

Oh, Rosenthal, Siegrist, Cecil, Broxton makes five. The other two I would assume are going to be Wacha and Lyons, if they're healthy and ready to go. I'd guess Gant might be next man up, or Tuivailala. I'd go with Socolovich myself, who has done nothing but get outs everytime the Cards actually call him up, but they just don't seem high on him for some reason. So it'll be some guy who throws hard but can't find the plate with a road map, most likely.

Catcher: They cut Brayan Pena with a year left on his contract. They resigned Eric Fryer to a minor league deal. Of course, they wouldn't ever play Fryer when they had him last year, so hard to see what good he is. They have Carson Kelly, but he's supposed to start the year in AAA. It appears they've well and truly abandoned any pretense they're going to try and restrict Molina's innings behind the plate. And if you're going to let him play until he breaks down entirely, why bother to have a decent backup? He'd just sit on the bench. So presumably Fryer or someone similar will collect splinters in his butt until Molina gets hurt, at which point they'll bring up Kelly so he can play most every day. In theory.

Infield: Not much movement here. Matt Carpenter is supposed to be the regular first baseman now, which may not be much of a defense improvement at the position. I expect Carpenter will be better than Matt Adams, but not by much. Adams is a solid first baseman. Probably it's more about improving the defense at the positions Carpenter used to play. Kolten Wong will probably get the chance to be the starting second baseman, until Matheny loses confidence in him again. So, April 17th then. Aledmys Diaz is still the starting shortstop, so hopefully the improvement he showed at the position over the course of the season (when he went from "horrendous" to "below-average") was real. Peralta and Gyorko will probably split time at 3rd, assuming Peralta can bounce back enough to keep Gyorko from taking the job entirely. Greg Garcia and Matt Adams are still around, too, for now.

Outfield: Matt Holliday signed with the Yankees. Brandon Moss is still out there unsigned, as far as I know. The Cardinals signed Dexter Fowler as a free agent. So over the course of two offseasons, the Cards and the Cubs swapped outfielders. I'm inclined to think the Cubs got the better of that deal, even allowing for Fowler's deal being much cheaper, and the fact Heyward completely forgot how to hit last year. The fact Michael Wilbon is sure the Cards got the better end only further convinces me, because Wilbon's a dope.

Fowler's not a bad player by any stretch, he can hit some, draw some walks. I'm certainly looking forward to his generally good baserunning, after watching this team run around the bases like a bunch of kids at a laser tag place. But his defense isn't really anything to write home about, and he's on the wrong side of 30 already. Like with Heyward (who is at least a few years younger), I worry how Fowler's skills are going to age. The patience and plate discipline will presumably hold up, but I'd expect speed and defense to suffer.

At any rate, Fowler is the presumptive centerfielder, with Grichuk moving to left, and Piscotty remaining in right. The backup outfielder is probably Tommy Pham, although it's hard to be sure given Matheny doesn't seem much of a fan. That and Pham has trouble staying healthy. There is Jose Martinez, who played a little last season, and the Cardinals signed a Jordan Schaefer to a minor league contract last month, he's played some outfield in the majors, but after that, there ain't much.

And there's no room for them, anyway. If the Cardinals carry 7 relievers - and it's pretty likely they will because everyone does these days and the Cards seem unlikely to buck the norm in that regard - they have space for 5 bench players. One spot goes to the guy who sits on his butt watching Molina everyday, because you need someone who can competently catch just in case Yadi gets injured or ejected. Then there's Matt Adams and Greg Garcia, who is out of options, so he can't be sent to the minors without going through waivers. And I feel like a guy in his mid-to-late 20s who still hasn't hit arbitration, can play second base, third base and shortstop, all passably well, and is quite good at getting on-base, would draw interest from somebody. And the Cardinals need all the guys who can actually get on base they can get. So that's three guys, plus whichever of Gyorko and Peralta isn't starting. Which leaves one spot for an outfielder. At least Pham can, theoretically, play all three positions, though it's more likely Matheny would move Grichuk to CF to spell Fowler.

Anyway, overall, it doesn't feel like the Cardinals did much to change their level. They should still have a decent floor for their production, what with all the roughly average players. But their ceiling seems limited because there are so few real standouts. Maybe Carlos Martinez is a superstar, maybe Reyes can become one immediately, maybe Wainwright can dig deep and reach that level again. If he can stay healthy and hit like he has the last two years, I think Matt Carpenter can be a superstar, albeit a low-level one. Molina probably is, if he can hit like he did in 2016 and keep his defense from slipping much more (and if we decide there are all kinds of ways he adds value we can't measure in terms of influence on a pitching staff). I think if Diaz can be close to average defensively, and hit as he did last year, he could another lower-tier guy like Carpenter, but that's about it. The other guys are mostly just average. Nothing wrong with that; average guys are handy to have, and you never know when one is going to have a sudden freak year of being really great (although I suspect that was what last season was for Gyorko), but it tends to limit how far you can go with those guys.

Of course, if the bullpen can avoid shitting itself multiple times this season, that may be enough all on its own, at least to make the playoffs.