Monday, October 20, 2008

What I Dislike About The MVP Award

First, let us thank the Tampa By rays for saving us from more Boston teams vying for championships. I probably shouldn't hate the Red Sox, but the '04 Cardinals were the best Cardinals team I'd ever seen, and the Sawx made them look like chumps. Then, the media had to spend the next nine months reminding me of that, by constantly talking about the bloody sock, and how they were idiots who didn't know better than to Cowboy Up, and the Curse is broken, and blah, blah, fucking blah. Then they went and signed J.D. Drew and that sealed the deal. "Oh, I have a sprained toe, I'll sit out for a few weeks and you can watch So Taguchi start in right." Hey J.D. do what you think you gotta for your career, but don't expect us to love you for that shit. Not when Ozzie played for a decade with a torn rotator cuff.

Enough of that. MVP award. I think my issue with it comes down to 2 points:

1) There's no solid definition. Each sportswriter gets to decide how they define it. So some guys only conisder players from teams with winning records, so only consider players that went to the playoffs. But wait, if your team makes it into the postseason too easily, that counts against you, because then you didn't play meaningful games in September, which overlooks the fact that the games you won in April count for just as much in the standings and you shouldn't penalize players for doing well all year, as opposed to just at the end of the season. So, some pople vote for basically the best August/September. So voters won't consider closers, some will. Some won't consider any pitchers. Some use stats, some don't. it's just a big clusterfuck, and we have no idea why one player wins it or one doesn't, expect when one of the voters deigns to tell us why they specifically voted, which doesn't help with all the ones that won't say.

Still, I could probably just live with that. It's just a seasonal award, and if it just concerned whether a player got a contract incentive or not, I probably wouldn't care so much. But that brings us to. . .

#2) Use of MVP awards and placing in MVP voting as evidence for making the Hall of Fame. As far as baseball goes, the Hall of Fame ought to be a pretty big deal. In theory, a player who makes it in there is really something special, the creme de la creme. So there's something that strikes me as wrong about a player's entry being argued for or against based on an award handed out by sportswriters. Jim Thome's lack of MVP awards, and his lack of high finishes in the voting has been used as evidence against his getting in. Is Jim Thome a Hall of Famer? I'm not sure, he has the home runs, those his hits total is a bit low, but it seems wrong that because sportswriters didn't perceive him to be outstanding in certain years (even if he was outstanding) that he could be deemed not good enough.

I think if sportswriters would sit down and hash out a set of criteria, then stick to it, that would help. The voting process would actually be understood, and it would seem like such a clustertfuck, and I wouldn't feel so annoyed by the whole thing.

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Cardinals' 2008 Season Review - Position Players

Didn't mean to let this go so long, but I kept getting distracted, and these posts always take me forever, so it really is easiest to just wait until the weekend.

Catcher - Well, Yadier finished the season with a .741 OPS and 16.8 VORP, setting a new career high, and establishing the highest OPS for the Cardinals starting catcher since Darrell Porter in 1983. Unfortunately, he only played 2 games after September 10th. I'm used to Molina missing some time in June, seems to happen most every year now, but sitting out because of a knee ailment in September concerns me a bit. Also, while his offense improved, his defense seems to have suffered. His +1 BRAA is a career best, but +10 FRAA is his worst as a starter. Based on those numbers he was better last year when he was a combined +15 (+19 fielding, -4 hitting), versus his +11 this year. Probably not enough to make a difference, but I don't know that he can improve his offense enough to make up for a drop defensively. Jason LaRue's numbers tailed off, as he finished with a .213 batting average, to go with his .644 OPS, and -2.3 VORP. He was -6 BRAA and +2 FRAA. Sadly, a -2 is his best result since a +6 in 2005. That's why he's a backup. Still, there'll always be the month of June, when his OPS was over 1.000.

Infield - Obviously I'm biased, but I figure Albert Pujols deserves the NL MVP this year. Howvere, I figure he'll miss out on it again, due to the failures of his teammates. Again. I fail to understand how it is his fault LaRussa kept letting Izzy and Franklin close games. I mean, attempt to close games. And now he's had elbow surgery, though not the Tommy John surgery he's supposedly needed since at least the end of '07. No, this was to move a nerve that was getting pinched and causing him to lose feeling in his arm. Yes, Albert hit .357 with a 1.115 OPS (That's a 190 OPS+, 90% better than league average) while periodically losing feeling in his arm. Sweet fancy Moses on a rocket-powered unicycle. He walked 104 times, his first season over 100 walks. I know, I'm surprised too, especially given the lineups he's had around him the last couple years, but I guess Albert's like Vlad Guerrero, and doesn't like walking. He only struck out 54 times. He lead the team in hits and doubles (44). His VORP was 96.8, which means he was worth almost 10 wins above a replacement player. WARP3 says he was worth 13.5 wins, which is the difference between the Cards being in the wild card hunt, and fighting Cincy and Pittsburgh to stay out of the Central Cellar. Put it this way, Albert, based on VORP, was worth more to the Cardinals than their #2 (Ludwick at 53.6) and #3 (Wainwright at 39.3) players combined, and that's just based on offense. Defensively, his Range Factor (10.61) is ridiculously above the league average for 1st basemen (9.34). He's listed at 82 BRAA and 13 FRAA. That FRAA is his best ever, and the +95 is also his career best, topping the + 81 he had in 2003 (when he was a -7 FRAA as a leftfielder, but +88 as a hitter).

Adam Kennedy was not completely worthless this year. Woo. His RaFa was well above the norm (5.21 vs. 4.83). He even got his OPS up to .693 by season's end, which meant his OPS+ was 82, so he was only 18% below average. He had a VORP of 4.4 so hey! positive number! His BRAA was -5, and his FRAA was +1, which is LaRueian, but it beats the -22 stinkbomb he dropped last season. On the downside, Tony insisted on playing Kennedy in right field a bit last month, 55 innings total, including 6 starts. What the hell, LaRussa? I said I was sick of middle infielders in the outfield, not that I wanted more of them!

Aaron Miles and Felipe Lopez logged some innings at second as well. Neither one was the fielder Kennedy was (Miles' RaFa was 4.61, Lopez' was 4.81, so both below average), but they were both vastly superior hitters. Miles had a career year, with an OPS of .753, a 15.2 VORP (8th among hitters on the team), a +2 BRAA and 0 FRAA. Certainly better than the -21 he had in '07. I'd say that should teach TLR not to give Miles so many at-bats, but he only had 40 fewer ABs this year than last, he just hit a lot better this year. And played less at shortstop. That probably helped. Meanwhile, Lopez decided to play Cesar Cedeno in 1985, racking up a .964 OPS for the Cardinals in 156 at-bats. While his batting average was .385, his OBP was only .426, but his slugging was .538, as he cranked 8 doubles, 2 triples, and 4 home runs in his brief stint with StL. What I'm trying to say is, I was pretty wrong to dismiss signing Lopez and demoting Ryan as a terrible move back in August. Lopez contributed a +14 BRAA (vs. the -16 he gave the Nats before they released him), and a -2 FRAA (vs. a -5 in Washington), and a 19.8 VORP, which is 6th amongst the hitters. Naturally, Tony wanted to get all these guys in the lineup, so Lopez logged, in addition to his 157 innings at 2nd, 85 innings at 3rd, 58 innings in LF, 25 in SS, and 2 in RF. His Range Factor insists he was above average at 3rd and right. Miles logged almost 500 innings this year at 2nd, 61 at 3rd, 172 at SS, 26 in left, 3 in center, and 2 in right. For what it's worth, his range factors for SS and 3rd say he was better than average. I'm not sure I believe that.

Like Kennedy, Izturis provided an RaFa above average for his position (4.85 vs. 4.43), while hitting poorly. Unfortunately, Cesar only had a .628 OPS, which is just sad. How he merited a +2 VORP, I don't know, since it doesn't include defense. He had a -12 BRAA, but a +6 FRAA, so he wasn't really much worse than Kennedy. Your 2008 St. Louis Cardinals' starting middle infield, everybody! Still, his OBP was about the same as Kennedy's (.319 vs. .321), despite a batting average 17 points lower (.263 vs. .280). Also, he stole 24 bases, and was only caught 6 times, which means his base stealing was actually beneficial (I think your success rate has to be at least 75% or you're costing the team runs). Brendan Ryan = huge disappointment. Last year's numbers probably weren't sustainable, but he couldn't even hit better than Izturis (.596?!) Sorry Brendan, but your 4.69 RaFa at SS isn't enough to make up for that, your -3.9 VORP, or the combined -11 RAA (-9 BRAA, -2 FRAA). Not even close. And you were worse than Miles at 2nd! What the heck? Oh, and Ryan put in 19 innings in right and 1 inning in left. I wonder how Izturis managed to duck outfield duty?

Troy Glaus was certainly better with the glove than I figured. His RaFa was 2.74, vs. league average of 2.6, and he had a FRAA of +3. He also had a +27 BRAA, and the combined +30 is his best result since 2002, when he put up a +37 for Anaheim. That surprises me, I'd thought he had some other good years in there, but it looks like his D has been erratic, and this is his best offensive season since '02. He finished with an .855 OPS, which was third on the team among qualified hitters, but damn, he was streaky. His OPS was .927 in June, .963 in July, and .947 in September (though he only played 18 games that month). It was between .750 and .780 in April, May, and August. Which I guess makes him consistent day-to-day, but streaky month-to-month. Whatever, he only hit 6 of his 27 HRs in the bad months, which is not really good. I mean, 27 homers is good, but only hitting 6 over three months is not. That may just be who he is though. He did draw 87 walks, that's a plus. And yes, the swap of him and Rolen appears to have worked out well.

Outfield - The outfield disintegrated the last 40 games, hence all the infielders running around making fools of themselves. Chris Duncan was already MIA with his herniated disc. Then Joe Mather fractured/broke his wrist in early September, so that was it for him. Which is too bad. He couldn't seem to draw walks (.306 OBP), but 8 HRs and a .474 SLG in 133 at-bats is nothing to sneeze at. He logged a +3.6 VORP in limited time, +1 BRAA, +2 FRAA, and Range Factor says he was better than average in left and right, and just below average in center. Ankiel finally got shut down for the season in early September, as whatever this abdominal injury that he got in late July was didn't get any better. Rikki-Tikki-Tavi wound up with an .843 OPS and 24.5 VORP (it was 29.7 with 40 games to go), which is still decent. Unfortunately, he put up a .648 in August (59 plate appearances), and a .369 in 17 September PAs. I have to consider that he did so poorly because pitchers figured him out, rather than trying to pin it on the injury, but I'd rather blame the injury. Still, he hit 25 homers with a .337 OBP, and he had his OPS against lefties up to .717. by year's end, so he was learning to hit LHP and be more selective, both of which are encouraging. On the other hand, Range Factor says he wasn't any better than Mather in center (2.55 for both, vs. 2.61 for the league). His BRAA was +15, but he offsets that almost entirely with a -12 FRAA, which is unsettling. Paging Colby Rasmus, no don't worry about the mean man in the dark sunglasses, we drugged his milk, he won't bite.

Nick Stavinoha got some more playing time, and continued to not justify it (-6.3 VORP in just 61 PAs, jeeminey Christmas), unfortunately. So that leaves Skip, Thudwick, and Barton. Skip is listed as primary leftfielder, but he actually spent more time in center (556 innings vs. 338). In left and right, his RaFa says he's better than average, but in center he was worse than Rick or Joey Bombs. He finished with a .765 OPS, but his VORP's at 20.6, so one stat says he got worse since mid-August, the other says he got better. He racked up a +8 BRAA, and a 0 FRAA. I'd always figured Schmaker was a good defensive outfielder (or that's what TLR's usage pattern suggested), but FRAA says he's never been better than +1. Maybe his defense suffers with more use like his offense seems to. He can't hit lefties (.423 OPS), so he's a platoon player/defensive replacement at best. I'm disappointed that he only stole 8 bases. Heck, Albert stole 7, but we could chalk that up to TLR not being a base-stealing type of manager. I can't shake the feeling that Skip ought to be able to steal more bases, and he had an OBP of .359, so he's on-base enough to try, at least.

Ludwick appears to be solid with the glove in either left or right, and he was actually above average (2.81) in center. It was only 64 innings, but still, that's more than you can say for the other centerfielders. Obviously, his offense was a huge boost, as he produced a .299 batting average, a .375 OBP, and a .591 SLG. So a .964 OPS. It's down 30 points from the 3/4ths mark but I'd say that's pretty solid. He ended up tied with Albert in HRs, first in runs, and second in RBIs. He's listed at +46 BRAA, and +12 FRAA, which as far as I can tell, makes him our best defensive outfielder. Maybe he ought to be in center. He did strike out 146 times, but if he keeps putting up these numbers, I can accept that. I lived with it from both Lankford and Edmonds, I can deal with Ludwick doing it, too.

Barton had some bad luck. He made it back from that injury in August, then pulled something in his first start, and had to miss a couple more weeks. Once he was back from that, Tony still wouldn't let him finish games. Damn it Tony, you let Felipe Lopez play left and his Range Factor was 0.62. Barton's was 1.94 (league average = 1.90). Let the man finish some games! Crabman put up a .746 OPS, with a .354 OBP and .392 SLG. And that came with a .268 batting average, so he showed some ability to both walk and hit with power. He added a 3.7 VORP, so about equal to Mather, +2 BRAA, and +2 FRAA. See LaRussa, he was a better with the glove than Rick or Schu, so please leave him in the game! Yeah, yeah, sample size.

I'm disappointed he only stole 3 bases. I know, only 179 PAs, but he can fly. It's like watching Willie McGee or Vince Coleman back in the '80s, hauling ass around those bases. One thing in Barton's favor for the future (sample size caveats aside) is he can hit LHPs. His OPS against lefites is the same as against righties, though he hits for more power against RHPs (.324 OBP/.422 SLG), and walks more against LHPs (.374/.371). I mentioned Ankiel improved against LHPs as the season went along, but he still hits RHPs (.890 OPS) much better. Skip can't hit lefties, Duncan never could, and Mather has a .682 against LHPs, but an .871 against righties. Ludwick is the only one who hit LHPs better than Barton, and he was killing pitchers regardless of which arm they used (.985 vs. RHP, .929 vs LHP). So that, plus the speed, is something Barton could offer the team next year. I hope he can make it.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I Am No Longer Too Angry To Discuss Hating The Cowboys

When I first started following the NFL, and foolishly selected the (then Phoenix) Cardinals as "my" team, it was easy to dislike the Cowboys. They were good, Arizona was not. The two teams played twice a year, and Dallas regularly thumped Arizona both times. From the time when I became a fan, Dallas beat the Cardinals 8 times in a row (avg. score: 25-12), and this was in the middle of a streak of 13 victories in a row (Avg. score: 25-12) by Dallas over the Cards. Fortunate then, that San Francisco was good and the Rams weren't, so there was one other matchup more one-sided.

It was so easy to hate them. Dallas won Super Bowls. Arizona could barely finish .500. Dallas was called "America's Team", which their fans loved, but made them despised by fans of lots of other teams, including this fan here. I'm an American, and Dallas sure as hell wasn't my team. There was only one fan base that hated the Cardinals, and that was the one they abandoned in St. Louis. And once the Greatest Show on Turf got going, many fans proclaimed how much happier they were now with their new team. The Cardinals were a joke, an object of derision, mocked by gasbags like Chris Berman about how, every time they would start to show some promise, they 'would remember they were the Cardinals *hur hur hur*' and go back in the tank.

The Cowboys had Troy Aikman, Emmit Smith, who was pretty much guaranteed to get 150 yards on the ground when he played Arizona, Michael Irvin, and eventually that hot dog Deion Sanders, that everybody called the best cornerback in the game, despite the fact he seemed deathly afraid of contact. I once watched him "tackle" Larry Centers (not a large guy by fullback standards), by essentially going into the fetal position as Centers ran towards him. It surprised Centers so much, he tripped over Sanders. Shit, you didn't see Aeneas Williams shying away from physical contact, or failing to help in the running game. In that same game, I watched Aeneas hold Irvin to 82 yards on 5 catches (not one of Aeneas' better results, to be sure, but he was single-covering Irvin), only to watch the rest of the secondary surrender 203 receiving yards to Kevin Williams. Yeah, who? Jimmy Johnson got fed up and left, well Barry Switzer came in and netted the 'Boys another ring (or tricked Neil O'Donnell into throwing it to him).

Meanwhile, after my first year of fandom, the Cardinals fired Joe Bugel, and brought in Buddy Ryan, who declared they had a winner in town. Yeah, 8-8, then 4-12, and you wrecked the offense. Good job Buddy, you offensive coordinator punching dick. In truth, I had it pretty well. My first 4 years as a fan, Arizona went 26-38. The 4 years before that they'd gone 18-46. Still, you need that ray of hope, and after the 8-8 season was followed with 4-12, I was still looking. It came in Week 2 in '97, when Arizona beat Dallas 25-22, behind the immortal Kent Graham. It was the, to steal from Bill Simmons quoting Rocky 4, "the Russian's been cut!" moment. As you might expect, Dallas got revenge later that year, winning 24-6, sacking Jake Plummer (making career start #3) and Kent Graham 9 times. I think I may have to do a post just about stuff I remember about the Cardinals from my time as a fan thus far. The ineptitude of the '97 offensive line will be discussed.

The critical year was '98. Dallas had curb-stomped Arizona 38-10 in Week 1, but it was Week 11 now, Arizona was 5-4, and this game was on the Cardinals' home turf. Sure, with all the Dallas fans, that didn't mean too much, but you hoped it would mean something. It didn't seem like it would early. Dallas was up 28-7 at the half, but Arizona rallied, and at the end of the game sat on Dallas' 2 yard line, down 35-28. The ball was snapped, Plummer dropped back and threw a fade to Rob Moore in the corner. It was a little underthrown, so Moore turned and reached back for it. The cornerback, Kevin Smith, didn't turn around. Made no attempt to play the ball whatsoever. Instead, he opted to grab Moore's arms and hold them down, preventing him from catching the ball. The refs swallowed the whistle, and Arizona lost. I cursed and raved, and hit things, and got chastised by my mother for all of it. My dad, who'd been a Cards' fan until they left StL, and has more than once expressed regret for somehow passing that particular fandom on to me, just looked sad, and understanding.

Where was the flag? I know they say to let the players decide the game, but calling defensive pass interference there actually allows for that. Kevin Smith comitted a penalty, and got away with it. If the refs do their fucking job, the Cards get the ball on the 1 yard line, and gets one more chance, since the game can't end on a defensive penalty. Maybe they score a touchdown, maybe they don't. If they do, maybe they go for two, get it and win, maybe they fail and lose. If they kick the extra point, maybe it misses, or they still lose in OT. But we'll never know because the Cards got hosed. I was sure it was because they were playing the Cowboys (still am sure of that, in fact). I had been jealously hating the Cowboys before, now I just despised them, everything about them. Sanders' douchebag high-stepping (or goose-stepping as I dubbed it) into the end zone, Irvin's repeated run-ins with the law not seeming to harm his career one bit, goddamn Emmit who I was certain was just a product of his O-line, and their half-domed stadium. What was that? Either have a dome or don't, the middle road is for wusses, and I thought there were no wusses in the Great State of Texas. So I stewed over it.

But things occasionally work out, even for the Arizona Cardinals and their fans. Arizona got in the playoffs, by winning their last 3 games, all on field goals, either as the clock expired or in OT, including a 52-yarder the last week. And who did Arizona get in Round 1? Dallas? How lovely. Actually, not so lovely. Even though Dallas appeared to be the weakest division winner, they had still beaten Arizona 11 of the last 12 times the teams played, and this was in Dallas. There was concern. But Arizona won, handily. 20-7, and Dallas didn't get that 7 until the last few minutes of the game. They got dominated. Emmitt didn't get to 100 yards, Irvin (4 catches, 32 yards) got locked down by Aeneas, who picked off two passes Aikman tried to force in there. Deion tried to play hurt and was useless. Plummer made a big pass play by scrambling from the pocket and chucking it downfield as he was being tackled, for about a 30-yard gain to Frank Sanders. They scored their first TD on Jake seeing the blitz, ignoring it, and shovel passing it to Adrian Murrell as planned. It was a glorious game*, though I was sad my dad couldn't let himself enjoy it even a little. After all, he'd never gotten to see them win a playoff game, and he hated Dallas as much as me. It was OK to savor that, wasn't it? But he wouldn't join in on my jumping and cheering.

It didn't matter too much that Minnesota whomped Arizona next week. It certainly wasn't a fun game, but I knew that the Vikes seriously outclassed Arizona (though I think I printed a newsletter in my software class predicting Arizona would win. What's fandom, if not eternal optimism?). Desides, Arizona had beaten Dallas, in front of all their fans, on national TV. Sure, it was a Chan Gailey coached team, not Switzer or ole Jimmy, but I'd take what I could get. Still, I think something was lost at that point. Arizona had slain the dragon that had haunted my fandom. The Cowboys were in descent at this point. Unfortunately, Arizona was not in ascent, for I could have learned to enjoy the Cardinals giving Dallas a little of their own ass-beating medicine. They were in the same division 3 more years before Arizona was moved to the NFC West. They split those 6 games, each team winning all the games played at their stadium. Arizona's wins were close (13-9, 32-31, 17-10), Dallas' were not (35-7, 48-7, 17-3). Still, these weren't the same unbeatable Cowboys anymore, and the hatred cooled.

Since Arizona moved to the NFC West, they've played Dallas 5 times in the regular season (counting last weekend). Some of those games have been mighty ugly, either because Arizona got crushed (all three losses), or because the teams both played really poorly (the offenses at least). The spark wasn't there for me, and I turned my dislike towards other teams. There were the Rams, who were annoying if only because the StL sportswriters seemed to take great pleasure in writing about how the Rams beat the "Deadbirds", as some of them liked to put it. It was annoying enough that when Arizona crushed the Rams 31-7 in 2004, I think I sent Bernie Miklasz a mocking, sarcastic e-mail to celebrate Arizona's victory. There was San Francisco, who even when they were terrible, could somehow always manage to beat Arizona just when Arizona really needed the win.

As for Dallas, well, I enjoyed their failures when Bill Parcells was the coach, since I've always disliked him for some reason. But Wade Phillips is someone I can't really muster the energy to dislike, especially when his own offensive coordinator makes more money than him. Though I guess he did decide to go with Rob Johnson over Flutie in that Music City Miracle game**, but I keep forgetting that. Romo's ridiculously overhyped for a guy that's no playoff games, but he didn't ask for that. T.O.'s a giant pain in the ass, but that just means the Cowboys have to suffer through his antics. While enjoyable for me, it doesn't induce hatred. Ditto for Pacman Jones. Fortunately, you can always count of the refs to pick you up. They hosed the Cardinals out of two fumbles they forced out of Romo, one by invoking the bullshit Tuck Rule, and the other by, well, nobody seems to know. Dockett hit Romo, he fumbled (all replays showed this), the Cardinals fell on it. Ref, who never whistled the ball dead, runs in and says Cowboys' ball. Whisenhunt wants to challenge, the ref says he can't. At no point does the ref bother to explain to us, the paying audience, why it is still Dallas ball, or why Whisenhunt can't challenge the ruling. We're just left in suspense.

I mean, I'm following this game on ostensibly neutral sites like Deadspin (well, I figure it's neutral now that Leitch is a guest blogger, not editor) and Kissing Suzy Kolber. At best, these are sites populated by people who hate Dallas, not Cardinals' fans, and they're screaming bloody murder. Mike Sando, ESPN's NFC West blogger, said Arizona got hosed. At that point, you could have told me that one of the refs hit Warner with a chair while Wade climbed the ladder to grab the championship belt and the only part of that I wouldn't have believed was Wade Phillips climbing a ladder***. That was all it took, and I was back in my "Goddamn Cowboys, in bed with the refs, trying to screw my team over" mode. When Dallas lost because their special teams stank, I jumped for joy. I had figured Arizona was toast once their "Time out as the ball is snapped" let the field goal kicker hit the game-tying kick, because that's how things go for them. They surprised me though, won the game, and the fact I loathe the Cowboys once more makes it all the sweeter.

The Cowboys are in disarray and it feels so right. Everybody sing! (Now watch Brad Johnson lead them to the Super Bowl. I think he'll do it just to remind Gruden that he had a good QB, before he started this ridiculous carousel he had now. And I say that as someone who likes Jeff Garcia).

* I saw a lot of online reaction on Sunday from Cardinals fans along the lines of "I've been a Cardinals fan for 18 years, this was their biggest win ever!" I can't help but think, "Really? A game in Week 6, in Arizona was bigger than the franchise's first playoff vistory in 50 years, over Dallas, on the road no less?" Fans are such idiots sometimes.

** I totally bought into the Flutie magic. Still do. Surest way to know Flutie's good? Merril Hoge, noted imbecile and Vince Young despiser, bad-mouthed him when he was starting ahead of Brees in San Diego. So did Jason Whitlock for that matter, and this is a guy who keeps stumping for Jeff George, 'cause they played together in college or some shit. Note that Drew Brees hadn't shown anything like what he does these days.

*** No, no, it's not a fat joke! See, Wade wouldn't be able to climb it because T.O. would run up and push the ladder over, saying wasn't devoting enough time to get Owens the ball. Or Jason Garrett would have replaced the ladder with an escalator, so Wade could never reach the belt, letting Garrett get it and present it to Mr. Jones. Jerry, not Adam. Pacman would probably hit someone with it. Actually, so might Jerry if Dallas don't get things straightened out****.

**** Fine, it is a fat joke. Happy?

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Monday, October 13, 2008

I Am So Incredibly Pissed Off Right Now

I'm sitting here, looking around my current home, for lack of a better word, trying to figure out which of the possessions I have here I could destroy as a way to vent my frustration, without feeling regret later.

It's a lot of things. The weather for the week appears to be planning to suck, which means work will be unpleasant this week. Also, I'm getting annoyed with some of the piddly bullshit we have to deal with at work regarding our work vehicles. I get too close to a tree on a shitty little trail they can't be bothered to expand for easier access, and put a fucking little dent in the side of the truck, a dent so small I wouldn't even bother to get it worked on if it was my own vehicle, and for that I ahve to fill out a fucking accident report sheet.

For some reason, my computer seems to be telling me on a near daily basis that something related to my virus protection is fucking up, demanding I restart my computer frequently. If it isn't the stupid Anti-Spam installing it's most recent update, then telling me that it needs to be reinstalled, while I'm reasonably certain it doesn't serve any useful purpose on my computer, I'm being told I need to verify my subscription, but doing so doesn't remove the desktop warning about my computer not being fully protected. Noooo, I've got to shut down and start up again to take care of that. Why the fuck do I have to do that, you stupid, worthless, electronic piece of shit!

Plus, they just announced Amazing Spider-Girl is getting canceled, and that's got me pissed off, plus I keep seeing stupid ass commentary about it on various online sites, and the people are so imbecilic I want to grab them by the collar and shake them until their neck breaks, just to stem the flow of dumbassery they put out into existence through their keyboards.

I feel so aggravated by the world in general, I can't even do the post I was planning to do here about how glad I was to discover I still don't like the Cowboys, because I'm just in too bad a mood to get into it and have any fun with it. A post about hatred, and I'm too angry to do it. How does that even work?

I can't even play a fucking video game to relax because the game decides there is absolutely no way I'll be beating it today, and it's not really relaxation if it has me gritting my teeth and thinking about ripping the game out of the console and snapping it in half, or throwing the controller through my TV. And punching the wooden bed frame only succeeded in hurting my wrist and pissing me off even more.

I just, part of me just wants to find a pickax, I don't know where, step outside, and simply start smashing all the windows of my car. Maybe put a few "speed holes" in the hood and engine. Maybe I would feel better, and hey! since it's my car, I wouldn't have to file any goddamn accident reports if I don't want to! Suck on that bureaucratic, jackbooted, sacks of wombat offal!

I'm going to try and stop grinding my teeth, maybe go to bed and hope things are better in the morning.


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Cardinals 2008 End O' The Season Review - Pitchers

I don't know why this has taken so long to get around to. Work hasn't really interfered, I haven't been distracted by the playoffs or anything of that sort, I simply haven't been able to get to it. I guess I can't decide whether I want to change formats or not. I think I'll just stick with usual format, though having started it, I think it's going to run long enough I'll split it into 2 parts, pitchers and position players.

The Cardinals finished with 86 wins, and even ended on a 6-game winning streak, which partially covered the fact they were 7-13 in September before that. And the Wild Card was right there for the taking! The Mets and Brewers were just dicking around like a bunch of damn hippies, with their stupid hackey sacks!! Seriously though, I'm OK. They certainly exceeded my 'if a few things go right, they could maybe reach .500' prediction from March. As a team, they were 1st in the NL in batting average, 2nd in OBP, and 3rd in slugging. They were 7th in ERA, had the 4th fewest walks, but the fewest Ks. Sigh. I'm getting kind of tired of them not striking anybody out.

Rotation - Kyle Lohse had his best season ever, going 200 innings with a 3.76 ERA, and a VORP of 35.3 (39.2 pitching, -3.9 hitting). He's listed at 6 Pitching Runs Above Average (PRAA), but 55 Pitching Runs Above Replacement (PRAR), both career bests. His fielding independent ERA (FIP) says he was a bit lucky, as it says he should have a 3.92. I'm willing to excuse that because it's how TLR and Duncan build their teams: have good defensive players, and pitchers that take advantage/rely on it. He also had 80 Pitching Runs Created (PRC). For 4.5 mil, Lohse was a bargain. At $41 million over the next 4 years? Um. . . Well, he was a major bargain for the team this year!

Looper is the one who really impressed me. At the beginning of the year, I was hoping for 185 IP, ERA of 4.50ish. That would have represented an improvement on last year. He gave the Cards 199 IP, and a 4.16 ERA. Only 12-14, but he got screwed by the bullpen a couple times (including his last start where Franklin blew it in the 9th, then got the win after the offense bailed his ass out in the bottom of the 9th. More evidence that Wins are worthless as a stat). His VORP was 33.5 (25.7 pitching, 7.8 hitting, which makes him the 9th best hitter on the team). His K/9 was only 4.88, but he walked just 2.04/9IP, which was best amongst the starters. Some of the other stats are less impressed. He's listed at -6 PRAA, his FIP is 4.58, and he recorded 68 PRC (behind Lohse and Welly). I'm not going to complain, though, given the road he took to get here.

Wellenmeyer completes the Starter Surprise Trifecta. He went over 190 IP, kept his BB/9IP at 2.91 (this was a guy with a career walk rate of about 4.5/9IP before this year), kept his strikeouts sort of up (6.29/9IP; it's good for a Cards' starter, anyway), and posted an ERA of 3.71. Racked up a VORP of 36.6 (37.3 pitching, -0.7 hitting), which makes him the 2nd most valuable pitcher on the team. The Colonel is listed as a +7 PRAA, a PRC of 79, and a FIP of 4.56 (which means he got a pretty serious boost from his defense, moreso than the other two). I wonder whether he can improve next year, much as Looper did this year. He's a little younger, he'd been starting (in the minors) more recently than Looper had prior to his conversion, and I think Wellenmeyer has better pure stuff. I worry that drop in walk rate is a fluke rather than a sign of actual improvement. Again, I can't complain with this year's results.

Pineiro? Now him I can complain about. He was the 2nd highest paid member of the regular rotation ($5 mil to BLoop's $5.5), and he was bad. His VORP was 4.5 (5.7 pitching, -1.2 hitting). I know he's the 5th starter, but I still find that pretty bad. He was 9th amongst the pitchers, behind 4 relievers, including one with about 1/7 Pineiro's innings to raise his VORP. PRAA? -15! He more than cancels out Lohse and Welly! PRC is 43, which puts him behind all the other starters, even the one that threw fewer innings (more on him in a sec). His K (4.9) and BB (2.12) rate were similar to Looper's, and his HR rate (1.33 vs. 1.13) isn't that much worse. His FIP is 4.78, which suggets he got screwed by the defense almost as much as Looper got helped. So maybe I'm being unfair, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed in his performance. I wasn't expecting the #s Wellenmeyer gave us, but something close to what I hoped for from Looper would have been nice. But when a guy hasn't been a serviceable starter since 2003, it's probably a good idea to quit expecting that to change.

Wainwright picked up more or less where he left off last year, continuing to pitch like a #1, maybe even an ace in the making. Then he got hurt in June, and we didn't see him for about 2 months, and he was up and down upon his return, and he ended up at 132 IP. Still, his VORP was 39.3 (33.2 pitching, 6.1 hitting), so even in abbreviated time, he was the most valuable pitcher on the team (by that metric). His BB rate was worse than all the starters save Welly, but 2.32 is nothing to be alarmed at, especially since he can actually strike people out (6.2K/9). His PRAA is +10, and his PRC was 61, which puts him pretty close to Looper in almost 70 fewer innings. FIP was 3.82, which suggests he was lucky. Not as much as Welly, but more so than BLoop or Lohse. I don't understand that. His line drive % (19.2) is the best among the starters, same with his infield fly/flyball % (16.9). Since line drives go for hits about 75% of the time, fewer of those should mean fewer baserunners, thus fewer runs. Likewise, infield flies are pretty easy outs, so getting more of your flyballs to be those should help. His HR rate was better than all the others as well, which also ought to help his case. It is interesting that Lohse has the highest LD% (22.1), and did OK, while Piniero had the worst IF/F% (3.9) and was getting shelled. Of course his % of flyballs that became HRs was also the highest of the group, so that probably explains part of that. It just doesn't add up to me why FIP says Wainwright should only have an ERA 0.1 better than Lohse, instead of the 0.5 ERA lists. The actual results are what matter most, though it worries me that Wagonmaker's sounding a bit lucky.

I should mention Carpenter, huh? Well, there's not much to say. When last we did this, he'd left his start against the Cubs with arm troubles. Well, he came back to make one relief appearance in September, and went back to the DL. They're talking about a compressed nerve in his throwing shoulder, which Carp doesn't want surgery on, and is a situation I've seen described as "unprecedented". Oh goody. But don't worry, the team medical director assures us it's 90% certain Carp will pitch next year. This would be the same guy who kept assuring us Muldoo would be ready any time now, so you know, feel free to abandon all hope of Carpenter being useful to the Cardinals as a pitcher ever again.

Bullpen - I've been ranting about the 'pen for months. I can't figure why Tony insisted on continuing to use Franklin in the 9th. Especially after Franklin said he wasn't comfortable pitching the 9th, and was actively trying to pretend it was the 7th or the 8th. Shouldn't that be a warning bell for the manager? Some pitchers are not meant for closing! Just ask Cub fans about LaTroy Hawkins (be prepared to duck). He did fine for the Twins as a set-up guy, but he couldn't close. As it is, Franklin was worth a VORP of 15.3 (just pitching in this section). His K rate isn't anything special (5.83), and that BB (3.43) is still higher than I'd like. His ERA was 3.55, but FIP says he ought to have been 4.66. I know I said above the actual results are what's important, but, guh. He and Springer tied for 6th on the team with 32 PRC.

Speaking of Springer, Russ really surprised me. I thought for sure last year was a fluke and we'd regret giving him a 1 year, $3.5 mil deal, then he goes and proves himself as the most reliable reliever we've got. Kinda made me look like a jawkawss theah, huh Russ? Aw, I forgive you. Springer's VORP was 17.6, he K'd over 8 per 9 IP, and kept his BB rate (3.22) below Franklin's. Of course, FIP (3.58) says Russ (2.32 ERA) was even more defense assisted than Franklin. Hmm.

McClellan slumped pretty badly at the end of the year, probably due to fatigue, and there's some debate about whether he should compete for a rotation slot next year (he was previously a starter), or stay in the bullpen. I guess if he can be a good starter (or at least better than Jo-El) then give it a whirl. He had a VORP of 10.5 and a PRC of 29. 7 Ks and 3 BB per 9 IP. Flores came off the DL in September, made six generally ineffective appearances, and went back on the DL. I think his contract is done, so we may finally be free of him. VORP of 0.1, and PRC of 7? *shakes head sadly* There were times Villone looked useful, usually involving lefthanded hitters or games the Cards were losing badly. Other times, not so much. VORP of 4.3, PRC of 18. So I feel Tony will need to find two new lefty relievers. or he could just, you know, focus on finding good pitchers, regardless of which side they throw from. Perhaps we could expect them to retire hitters regardless of which side they bat from? Novel concept, I know.

Brad Thompson endured his usual back and forth between the StL and Memphis, as well as the bullpen and the rotation. He made six starts, one good, one really poor, the other four sort of meh. That sums him up pretty well, I think. I'd be fine with him in next year's pen, as the spot starter/long reliever/mop-up guy. He seems willing and mostly able. Izzy got shut down in mid-August. VORP's listed at -1.2, and you know, I have a hard time believing it shouldn't be worse. He looked so completely done. Meanwhile, Chris Perez had his ups and downs. Saved 7 games, but blew a couple in a row in there. Strikes out over a batter an inning, but walks one roughly every 2 innings, which is too high. Still racked up an 8.1 VORP, and 19 PRC, and I'd rather see him in the 9th than Izzy, Franklin, or really, anybody except perhaps Springer.

The team did get some help from a couple of September call-ups by the names Jason Motte and Josh Kinney. Kinney was part of the '06 postseason bullpen, but has been shelved with repeated elbow issues, related to a nasty slider he throws (nasty to both the hitters and him, apparently). Motte was a catcher who converted to pitcher in the mid-minors. He currently throws very hard, and I'm not sure whether he has more than 1 pitch. The two combined for 18 innings, allowing just 8 hits, 4 walks, and 2 runs (1 earned, both by Motte), while striking out 24 (16 of those by Motte in 11 innings). Motte had a VORP of 4.9 (better than Villone in less than 1/4 the innings) and a PRC of 11 (basically equal to Izzy in about 1/4 the innings). Kinney had a VORP of 4.4.

Tony says none of the kids (Kinney, Motte Perez) can count on making the team next year, which is fine, since you don't want them getting too cocky. The only problem is, you know the same doesn't apply to say, Franklin, Villone, or Izzy (if the latter two are resigned, which i would prefer they not be, especially Izzy. Better to cut ties alltogether than have him around for LaRussa to get tempted to use him to close, whether he can or not). I highly doubt that if Franklin shows up next spring, out of shape or pitching like crap, that Tony wouyld send him to the minors or order him released. But that's life with LaRussa. *cue freeze frame and cheesy '80s sitcom theme*

If it's up to me, I'd like next year to have a rotation of Halladay, Carpenter, Wainwright, Lohse, and Wellenmeyer. In the real world, I guess I'll have to settle for Wainwright, Lohse, Wellenmeyer, Pineiro, and either Mitch Boggs or P.J. Walters. Bullpen wise, let's say Perez, Franklin, Motte, Kinney, Thompson, McClellan, and some random journeyman lefty, to make LaRussa happy.

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