Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Revisiting An Old Project

Two and a half years ago (september 2008), I wrote up a post detailing the St. Louis Cardinals' stability (or lack thereof) since the start of the 1982 season at each position on the field. For comparison's sake, I lumped the Herzog and Torre years together, since they were roughly equivalent to the LaRussa tenure. I thought I'd revisit it, in a somewhat more thought out approach. Looking back, it was kind of stupid to cut it off partway through Herzog's tenure, so this time I went all the way back to the 1980 season. Plus, I have two more years of LaRussa to factor in now. I went ahead and split Torre and Herzog into separate groupings, since they were different managers after all.

Like last time, I considered a starter to be the player who logged the most innings at a position for a season. As far as partial seasons (since Herzog and Torre both had their tenures start and end midway through seasons) I pulled up the box scores and counted starts, rather than innings. I figured it would be close enough.

Herzog (11 seasons): 6 catchers, 6 first basemen, 4 second basemen, 3 third basemen, 2 shortstops, 4 leftfielders, 4 centerfielders, 7 right fielders.

One note about center field. In 1981, George Hendrick logged the most innings on the team in center and right field. Baseball-Reference lists him as the starter in right, and Tony Scott in center. Likely because Hendrick did play more in right (472 innings to 433.2), and Scott played more in center (374.1 innings) than Sixto Lezcano (268), the #2 guy in right.

Other things of note: Herzog took over the 1980 Cards in June, and managed them for about 45% of the season, until he was promoted to GM and Red Schoendienst took over as manager. His 1980 preferred outfield is completely different from the overall season. Overall, the starters from left to right were Bobby Bonds, Tony Scott, and George Hendrick. For Herzog, it was Terry Kennedy (the backup catcher), Hendrick, and Leon Durham. He'd use Bonds and Scott, but also go several days without starting either, especially Bonds. I don't know if that was injury-related, or if Herzog just didn't like Bonds.

Keith Hernandez was the starter at 1st every year from 1976 through 1982, and probably would have been the starter in 1983 if they hadn't traded him midway through the season. His being traded started a sequence where the team couldn't find a long-term first baseman. 3 years was the max tenure for anyone throughout the remainder of Herzog's run. And Torre's, and the first few LaRussa years.

Right field was pretty unsettled, as Hendrick was the only one with more than two years as the starter. That's another trend that will continue beyond Herzog.

Shortstop's obviously the most settled, but second base (Tom Herr from 81-87), third base (Terry Pendleton from 84-90), and center field (Willie McGee, 82-88 and 90) were all manned by one player for several years.

The most starter turnover from one year to the next was from '80 to '81, with six different starters (catcher, second, third, and all three outfield spots). Some of the same players were involved (Ken Oberkfell moved from 2nd to 3rd, Hendrick from center to right), but at different positions.

The least turnover was from '85 to '86, when the only difference was catcher (Mike LaValliere instead of Tom Nieto).

Torre (6 seasons): 1 catcher, 4 first basemen, 3 second basemen, 3 third basemen, 2 shortstops, 2 leftfielders, 1 centerfielder, 3 rightfielders.

Torre took over late in '90, after Herzog quit at the halfway mark, and Schoendienst managed for 24 games. Then he got fired about two months into the '95 season. In both cases he was the manager for about 1/3 of the season. So his preferred lineups in both those seasons differ a bit from the overall season.

In '90, he preferred Tom Pagnozzi at catcher, and started using Todd Zeile (the overall starter) at 3rd, though Pendleton still started slightly more for Torre that year. Torre started Ray Lankford in center, and Felix Jose in right, rather than Willie McGee and Milt Thompson, but Willie had been traded to acquire Jose at the end of July, so one guy had just left, and the other had just arrived. Milt had been starting mostly due to lack of better options after Tom Brunanksy was traded for Lee Smith in April (a trade the Cardinals won)

In '95, the only major difference was Torre used Zeile as his primary 1st baseman, while Jorgenson (who took over after Torre was fired) used John Mabry. But Zeile was traded (for Mike Morgan) at the same time Torre was fired, so that likely explains that, since Zeile was a superior player and would probably have continued to start if he'd been there.

Beyond that, the instability at first continues. Pedro Guerrero managed three years (starting in Herzog's run), Andres Galarraga just one, Gregg Jefferies two, then Zeile for the Torre portion of 1995. Right field didn't fare much better. Felix Jose for two years (traded to acquire Jefferies), then Mark Whiten for two, then the start of the Brian Jordan era (which would actually reach three seasons, albeit non-consecutively)

Second base continued a game of hot potato that started when Tom Herr was traded in 1988. Luis Alicea had taken the job that year and been overhwlemed. So Jose Oquendo won it by the end of the year, and kept it from 1989-1991. Injuries hobbled him the next three years, and Alicea platooned with Geronimo Pena, Alicea logging more innings in '92 and '93, Pena getting the nod in '94. They traded Alicea after '94, but Pena was hurt in '95, so it fell to Oquendo again.

For Torre, the greatest amount of turnover came from '94 to '95, as five spots were manned by different players, some due to player movement, some to injury (like Tripp Cromer manning SS in place of Ozzie). From '93 to '94, the only difference was Geronimo Pena at second instead of Alicea, and that was hardly a change since they were still platooning as they had the previous two seasons.

LaRussa (15 seasons, so far): 5 catchers, 5 first basemen, 10 second basemen, 8 third basemen, 5 shortstops, 8 leftfielders, 5 centerfielders, 8 rightfielders.

Obviously, this isn't complete since LaRussa is still going, but it's as up-to-date as it can be. We see there are 4 positions that have been the most stable, all of which had one guy who has held down the fort for several years. Yadier Molina at catcher (though Mike Matheny helped), Albert Pujols at first, Jim Edmonds in center, and Edgar Renteria at short.

Shortstop has been less stable the last few years. With Brendan Ryan being traded, the Cardinals are guaranteed of their 4th different starting SS in the seven seasons since Renteria left.

McGwire was the player to break the 3 year barrier at first, as he was the starter from '98-'01. Really, he was the starter as soon as he showed up in '97, but Dmitri Young still had more innings overall that season. The advantage of being starter for four months compared to two.

J.D. Drew of all players broke the three-year mark in right field, holding the spot from 2000-2003, though he only played about half the possible innings in right over that stretch.

Second base has been a mess, as Fernando Vina is the only player to hold the job more than two years, though Schumaker can join him if he plays the most innings there this year. Which is so depressing I want to cry. Skip Schumaker is the second baseman LaRussa and Mozeliak decide they should hold on to? Second went through a six-year stretch ('02-'07) where the starter was a different player every year. Vina, Bo Hart, Tony Womack, Mark Grudzielanek, Aaron Miles, Adam Kennedy.

Left field had an even longer run from '03-'09. Pujols, Lankford, Reggie Sanders, So Taguchi, Chris Duncan, Schumaker, Matt Holliday (who barely edged out Duncan).

There have been two occasions were six positions were manned by a different player than the year before. Once was from '98 to '99, when catcher, third, shortstop, and all three outfield spots changed hands. The other was from '04 to '05, with catcher, second, third, shortstop, and left and right field. In the latter case, injuries (such as scott Rolen getting hurt, forcing Abraham Nunez into the starting lineup) dictated some of the changes.

The least amount of turnover was from 2000 to 2001, when the only shift was from Fernando Tatis at 3rd to Placido Polanco. Also between 2009 and 2010, when the only difference was David Freese instead of Mark DeRosa, also at 3rd, strangely enough.

I might mess around with this a little more later. Maybe trying to pick the best players at each position for each manager, or maybe the best at each position overall. Some positions would be pretty easy, others could be a real pain (right field in the Torre era, for example).


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Checking In

It's been over a month since my last post here, but I haven't felt particularly inspired. Looking at my last post, I guess I should mention discussion of Albert Pujols' contract situation has mostly subsided. At least it's not being brought up on the Cardinals' websites I read. That was a pleasant surprise.

Wainwright's gotten hurt since my last post, and Kyle McClellan seems poised to be the new #5 starter, which I'm cautiously optimistic about. If Braden Looper could manage two marginally effective seasons as a starter for the Cards, why not McClellan? Injuries are a concern, but they're a concern for everyone else in the rotation, so he'll fit right in.

Nick Punto's also hurt, and won't be back until May, at least. Which has opened the door for either Daniel Descalso or Matt Carpenter to make the team. While I'm intrigued by Carpenter (a supposedly average 3rd baseman with limited home run power but excellent plate discipline), I think Descalso's the choice. He has a little major league experience already, while I don't believe Carpenter's even played about AA, and Descalso's more defensively versatile. He can play 3rd like Carpenter, but also 2nd. If he were to somehow get the majority of the playing time away from Schumaker, I wouldn't mind it a bit. Not that I think Descalso's a worldbeater, just an upgrade on Skip. Anyway, let Carpenter get some time in AAA, Freese, Craig, Descalso (and Punto when he gets off the DL, I guess) can handle the hot corner for now.