Thursday, April 30, 2009

Team-Building Amusement Exercise - Part 1

So here's the game:

Try and construct a 25-man roster for a baseball team of your choosing, selecting players from a 25 consecutive years stretch.

Keep in mind certain rules:

1) You must select one player - and only one player - to represent each year, and it has to be based off what they did that season. Example: if you select Jack Clark, but you select him from 1986, well then that's the Jack Clark you get, not the 1987 or 1985 versions. You want either of those Jack Clarks, then you have to select them. And if you select one of those other Jack Clarks, then you can't choose anyone else based on what they did in those seasons

2) You have to build a complete team, meaning you must select set-up relievers, back-up catchers, utility infielders, and so on. The players you select to fill these roles must have played those roles regularly in the season you are selecting them for (we'll allow some wiggle room with relievers). Example: I could not select Jim Edmonds to be a back-up outfielder for the Cardinals, because he was the starting CF every year he was with the team. I could, however select 2001 Albert Pujols to be a utility player because he was not the primary starter at any position that season. That would be his only season I could do that. For my definition of "primary starter", see this post, first paragraph.

3) You can not select a player more than once. So you can't pick 2001 Albert Pujols as a utility guy, 2003 Albert as your starting LF, and 2008 Albert as your 1B. Sorry, you can only have one (though any one of those is, in fact, a valid choice).

Anyway, I've been screwing around with this for a couple of years, off and on, ever since I first saw it on Viva El Birdos (and I think they saw it on a Mets blog originally). I've never managed to actually finish a team until sometime last week, and here it is. This is the best team I felt I could come up with, based on the various handicaps I've placed on myself. Those handicaps, if you want to call them that, are that 1) I consider starting pitching very important. 2) I want this team to be fast. They are going to steal bases and hit-and-run frequently. 3) There are certain players that will be on this team, no argument, I don't care if there are better options. That last one is obviously the largest handicap, but that's just how it is. So this is Part 1, and I'm just going through the starting rotation today. Then I'll hit the bullpen, starting lineup, and the bench to wrap up. Let's go!

1) John Tudor, 1985 - 36 starts, 275 innings, 21-8, 169 K, 49 BB, 14 CG, 10 shutouts, 1.93 ERA.

That's a pretty good season, huh? A few other stats worth mentioning. His Pitching Runs Above Average (PRAA) was 39. As in, he surrendered 39 fewer runs than an average pitcher would have that season. His WHIP (Walks + Hits Per Innings Pitched) is 0.938, which lead the league. His ERA+ was 184, meaning his ERA was 84% better than average. His WARP3 is 8.0, which means he was worth 8 wins over a replacement pitcher.

This season just dwarfs any other year he had. I really believe his workload (305 innings once the playoffs were over) explains a lot about the shoulder problems he had the remainder of his career. That's OK; I have a soft spot for players who are willing to risk their future production to help win now. We like that as fans, don't we to see them playing like they care as much as we do. His next highest innings total was 242 with Boston in 1983; his next highest wins total was 13, in '82, '83, and '86. He never had more than 7 complete games or 2 shutouts in any other season (both those were 1983). His next best ERA in a year he qualifies for the ERA title is 2.32 in 1988. What's amazing is just how much of a control pitcher Tudor was. He averaged 5.5 Ks per 9 innings that year. Contrast that to the guy he finished 2nd in the Cy Young balloting to, Doc Gooden, who averaged 8.7 K/9. An overwhelming power pitcher, especially compared to Tudor. Tudor got by not walking people (1.6 BB/9) and not allowing HRs (0.5/9). Part of that is probably that Busch Stadium was huge, so there weren't a lot of home runs there (though his road ERA was only 2.47), and he had an excellent defense behind him, which is what you need if you're not going to strike people out. Still, I think Tudor would do alright with the team I'll put behind him. And though he wasn't much of a hitter (.138 AVG, .182 OBP, .213 SLG) he did have 3 doubles and 2 triples that year, which isn't too shabby. Probably aided by the Astroturf they had at Busch, but nothing to sneeze at.

2) Chris Carpenter, 2005 - 33 starts, 241.7 innings, 21-5, 213 K, 51 BB, 7 CG, 4 shutouts, 2.83 ERA.

Let's see, ERA+ of 149, WHIP of 1.055, PRAA of 29, WARP3 of 6.6, 7.9 K/9, 1.9 BB/9. Not too shabby. Won the Cy Young, though Clemens and Willis both had legit claims.

I wish Carpenter could have shown this in 2004. Then LaRussa wouldn't have felt he needed an ace, and Jocketty wouldn't have traded Dan Haren (and two others) for the Rich Man's Jeff Suppan, Mark Mulder. Ugh. The thing I remember about this season (besides Carp stumbling a bit in September, and admitting he had trouble focusing since the Cards had locked up the division), he was crazy good over the summer. In June and July, he threw 80.7 innings and surrendered 9 runs. He struck out 76, walked 14, allowed only 49 hits. That's just insane. It makes his August, with a 2.17 ERA look like crap. OK, not crap, but less impressive by comparison, certainly.

3) Bob Tewksbury, 1992 - 32 starts (1 relief appearance), 233 innings, 16-5, 91 K, 20 BB, 5 CG, 2.16 ERA.

Other stats: ERA+ of 157, WHIP of 1.017, PRAA of 24, WARP3 of 5.7, 3.5 K/9, 0.8 BB/9. Finished 3rd in the Cy Young voting.

The kind of success story you associate with Dave Duncan, but this one goes in the win column for Joe Torre and Whitey Herzog, since the White Rat's the one that saw something in Tewks to begin with. Putting up that kind of stat line while striking out less than 4 batters per 9 innings? Astounding. Obviously, you need an excellent defense behind you to make that work, and I guess the Cardinals had that, even with Todd Zeile at 3rd, and whoever they were using at first (It was Galarraga originally, but they dumped him midway through the season, so it might have been Gerald Perry after that). Sadly, this was the high point for Tewksbury, as either he started to regress, his defense grew too porous, or the hitters just figured him out, but it's a heck of a year.

4) Darryl Kile, 2001 - 34 starts, 227.3 innings, 16-11, 179 K, 65 BB, 2 CG, 1 shutout, 3.09 ERA.

The usual other stats: ERA+ of 140, 1.289 WHIP, PRAA 19, WARP3 of 5.2, 7.1 K/9, 2.6 BB/9.

I originally thought this season could go to either Kile or Matt Morris, and Morris actually has better stats in terms of win-loss record, more strikeouts and fewer walks, and a slightly better ERA and WHIP. Apparently though, Kile was still better because Morris' WARP3 was 3.5, so he was a win and a half less valuable to the Cards. I don't know how, but there it is. And I guess, since Kile was a mentor to Morris, it's kind of fitting for Morris to be slid aside to make room for Kile. Anyway, this was a pretty good season for Kile, as I think he'd gotten over the aftereffects of pitching in Coors, which I think had haunted him in 2000. I mean, when your best pitch is a nasty breaking pitch, and you go to a place where it doesn't break, so you can't trust it for two seasons, it might be hard to get used to throwing it again. He pitched really well in 2001, you could always count on him to take the ball when it was his turn, and that's enough.

5) Joe Magrane, 1989 - 33 starts (1 relief appearance), 234.7 innings, 18-9, 127 K, 72 BB, 9 CG, 3 shutouts, 2.91 ERA.

ERA+ of 124, WHIP of 1.24, PRAA of 15, WARP3 of 4.8, 4.9 K/9, 2.8 BB/9.

Originally, I was going to give this spot to 1997 Matt Morris (which would eliminate the issue of whether his 2001 self should take Kile's spot). But, I needed that year for another player, and Magrane's WARP3 was equal to Morris', so what the hell. I also considered Jose DeLeon from 1989, because he had pretty fine stats himself, but his WARP3 was only 4, so I figured Magrane was better, might as well go with him. Besides, DeLeon often seemed to be a cursed pitcher (I used to think of Anthony Reyes as the current generation DeLeon, though he was often getting screwed by run support, while DeLeon was usually the victim of lousy relief pitchers). I wish Joe's WHIP and strikeout rate were a little better, but I can't argue with the complete games, or the innings pitched. The concern would be he wore down in the last month, as his WHIP was 1.896, and he averaged fewer than 6 innings a start. Fortunately, he'll be my fifth starter on this team, rather than the #1 guy he was on the '89 squad, so it shouldn't be as much of a concern.

So there's the rotation. When next we meet (assuming I don't decide to do some NBA posts before then, and that's not looking too likely unless someone requests it. Anyone? You? No? OK then.) I'll hit the bullpen. Marvel at how I scour through crappy Cardinals teams in search of that one useful reliever!

Labels: ,

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Already With This Shit?

So yesterday was Opening Day for the St. Louis Cardinals. In a scenario all too similar to last season, the Cardinals took a lead into the 9th, only to see their closer, in this case Jason Motte, blow the lead, and cost them the game. However, that's not the shit I'm referring to above.

No, I'm referring to the boos that apparently rained down from the crowd yesterday, as well as the bitching I'm seeing on the Internet. Really, one game and the sky is fucking falling?

Let's start with the booing. I don't normally care if fans boo. I've done it; I booed the crap out Jeff Brantley throughout the '98 season, because he was terrible. So if you want to boo, then go for it; it's your vocal chords. But on the first day on the season? Isn't that jumping the gun a little bit? I'm pretty sure even when Isringhausen and Juan Encarnacion stank up the joint in April 2006, the fans waited at least a few weeks before they turned on the two of them. I'm positive I didn't start booing Brantley until the end of April, because the "blowing saves" thing kept happening. But for just one save? It's a bit much to me.

Of course, the other downside of the booing is it brings out the annoying Cardinals' fans. The ones who insist we're 'the best fans in baseball', and that means we shouldn't boo. I've already made it clear that I figure people can boo if they wanna (even if I don't agree with it), but can I say I hate this "best fans" tag? It was bad enough when it was national sportswriters saying it (and I hate to admit this, I let that puff my head up a bit), but then the fans started believing the hype, and touting themselves as the best fans in baseball, which is a little fucking presumptuous, don't you think? Plus, it becomes the go-to thing for any fan that doesn't like how other fans are behaving. "Don't boo; we're the best fans in baseball and we shouldn't do that." Or, "Don't leave early", even if the game's running long and that person has work early in the morning. Or, "Don't do the Wave; we're the best fans and we're above that". It actually makes me ashamed to be a Cardinals' fan, because I'm sharing that fandom with these arrogant fuckers.

Then there's the Internet chatterboxes. Goddamn I'm tired of these reactionary twatwaddles. Your rookie closer blew one save? Well, it's all because of that cheap ass owner who wouldn't shell out $30 million or whatever for Brian Fuentes. Of course, these are the same dumpling-brained chucklefucks who, had the Cardinals done just that and Fuentes blew his first save here, would be complaining that the Cardinals wasted all that money on a closer, instead of going out and getting a 2nd baseman. I mean, one fucking game and we're off to ther aces with this, to the extent that people who aren't screaming bloody murder about how tight-fisted the Cardinals are get labeled as 'drinking the kool-aid'.

Yeah, or maybe we're just calmer than you incompetent gasbags. Maybe we recognize this is baseball, not football. That's it's a 162 game season, and anybody can look like shit for one day. I mean, if you want to base your feelings on a personnel move based on one game, then back in 2001 you could have argued that the Cardinals made a mistake using Albert Pujols more than Craig Paquette, since Albert had a stretch from June 29 to July 8 where he went 2-for-33. Holy crap, he must not have been worth a damn, what were the Cardinals thinking using a guy who was so lousy?

Labels: ,