Sunday, November 27, 2011

Week 12 Brings Another Win Over A Crappy Team

But hey, at least Arizona's occasionally beating crappy teams. I couldn't always count on them to do that even on those occasions when they were good, let alone when they were lousy, as they are now. Yes, Arizona beat the Rams 23-20. Didn't even need a 99-yard punt return TD in OT to do it. They did need an 80-yard punt return TD in the 3rd quarter, but baby steps.

Let's look at the good. Arizona had another punt return TD from Patrick Peterson, his 4th of the year, two of them against the Rams. His cornerbacking is still a work in progress, but he's got this punt return thing down.

Arizona forced two turnovers. While they didn't intercept Bradford (who had a quietly decent game, but nothing spectacular), they did recover two fumbles, one by Paris Lenon, the other by Sam Acho. Hey, maybe they're going to have enough good linebackers that running a 3-4 defense isn't an idiotic decision! Acho also sacked Bradford twice.

Beanie Wells! Franchise record 228 yards, breaking the mark set by LeShon Johnson against the Saints back in '96. Geez, I remember that game. Some of us fans wondered if LeShon could be a franchise back. Considering that was in Week 4, and Johnson still finished the year with less the 650 yards rushing, I think we should have known the answer was a resounding "No". Apparently the Cardinals did, since they drafted Leeland McElroy. So they identified the problem, but their response wasn't quite correct.

As for Wells, he did have a 71-yard carry, which certainly didn't hurt his yards per carry, but 8.4 ypc is good however you get it. What I also like is the team committed to the run. 38 rushes total, though the rest of the team had a less impressive 40 yards on 11 carries. But the team wisely stuck with it, even when they were losing, and kept feeding the hot hand (Wells). I don't know if this meant his knee has healed up, of if the Rams' run defense just went down the toilet. He wasn't able to do this 4 weeks ago against them, and I can't imagine the Rams were stacking the box, daring Skelton to pass any less than they did last time. Maybe the offensive line found its run blocking groove. I don't know.

The Cardinals won the time of possession battle. Woo! That never seems to happen!

The run defense showed up. Like I said above, Bradford had an alright day. Certainly better than Skelton, but not superb. Then again, his receiving corps is still mostly ass, so what should we expect? Last time they played, Stephen Jackson went for 130 yards on 29 carries. Today, they were able to limit him to 64 yards on 17 carries. And again, the Rams either lead, or were close through almost the entire game, so it isn't as though they had to abandon the run game. That's not a bad follow-up to limiting the Niners to 3.3 yards per carry last week (albeit over 49 carries, so the yards still piled up).

The bad would seem to be John Skelton. Maybe the offensive line's pass blocking, since the Rams recorded 3 sacks, but maybe those are Skelton's fault, too. He did throw 2 INTs. He did complete just 12 of his 23 passes, for only 114 yards. Still, his 30 QB rating is better than last week's 10.5, right? Ugh, it's still terrible.

I don't know. Skelton's 5-3 and as starter, but his numbers don't suggest he's the key to victory. He once again failed to stake some sort of claim to the starting QB job, this time against a much weaker opponent than the one he faced last week. At the same time, Kolb can't seem to get healthy enough to get back on the field, and like I've said before, he wasn't setting the world on fire when he was playing. Hopefully he'll be back in time to take his turn against San Francisco (at home), and prove he can do better than Skelton did. Shouldn't be hard.


Monday, November 21, 2011

Week 11 Douses The QB Controversy

People are bailing off the John Skelton bandwagon like it's on fire and headed for a tanker truck. And he did play like shit yesterday in Arizona's 23-7 loss to the 49ers. Skelton's QB rating was 10.5, and he threw 3 INTs. Ouch. Whether it was an injury or ineffectiveness, I'm not sure, but he was replaced in the 2nd half by Rich Bartel, who managed to throw a TD pass to Fitzgerald in the 4th quarter. watch as fans now load onto the "Rich Bartel should start!" bandwagon.

The Cardinals' running game didn't do much, though it seems to be a lack of opportunities. Even if you set aside Chester Taylor's lone carry, which went for 34 yards, Beanie Wells averaged 4.1 yards per carry. As that was only 8 carries, it only totaled 33 yards. Why didn't they run more? They were only down 9-0 at the half, and the 49ers didn't score a TD until halfway through the 3rd quarter. I do not understand why they won't run more on those occasions when it's actually working. If they're worried about Beanie's health, then use Taylor more. The guy has a career 4.1 yards per carry average! And he's a receiving threat out of the backfield! He might not know all the plays, but he ought to know enough of them! Give him the damn ball! I mean, cripes, they lost the time of possession battle nearly 3-1! The offense had the ball for less than 16 minutes! The Cardinals defense is playing better, but you can't put that kind of pressure on them and expect it to end well!

Look at the 49ers. They only average 3.3 yards per carry, but they still ran it 49 times. Even if they weren't having big success, they kept at it. The defense didn't do so well at containing Michael Crabtree, but they at least gave it a good shot on run defense. And the special teams blocked two field goals, so credit to them.

In theory, Kolb will be back for the upcoming game with the Rams. Now that the clamor for Skelton has cooled, it'd be a good time for Kolb to win some games. Maybe try throwing more TDs than INTs. Skelton certainly blew this opportunity to show he's the QB the franchise should throw their weight behind, but that doesn't mean Kolb has demonstrated he's that guy, either. All he has going for him is the team gave him a big contract after trading specifically for him. Whoopededoo.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Season In Review - Bench Players

I'm starting to regret this. It's been more work than I expected. So let's wrap things up.

Colby Rasmus: Rasmus was traded a few weeks into July. He already seemed in danger of losing his starting job, as he'd been struggling and LaRussa was giving Jay more run in center. All told, he was worth 1.1 WAR for StL, which is pretty close to Jay's 1.3. Rasmus had a poor defensive showing, which is disappointing. Maybe he'll find success next season with Toronto, but it didn't happen this year.

Ryan Theriot: Theriot led the team in innings at SS for the season, and his 0.0 WAR (or 0.7 if you prefer Fangraphs) makes him the Cardinals' worst starting shortstop since Tripp Cromer in 1995. And keep in mind, Theriot elevated his value by playing a halfway decent second base. He was 3 runs above average in 190 innings there, which somewhat offsets his -8 in 755 innings at SS. Looking strictly at his performance there, he's worse than Cromer.

For the record, Brendan Ryan was worth 2.7 WAR for the Mariners this season. Great move, Cardinals! The good news is they show no sign of planning to bring Tally Ho back next season. He's like Schumaker: defensively inept, with no power or ability to draw walks. On top of that, he's a lousy baserunner. Truly a waste of a roster spot.

Daniel Descalso: Descalso played allover the infield, though judging by B-R's numbers, not very well anywhere. He's slightly below average in 80 innings at 2nd, a -5 in 666 innings at 3rd, and slightly above in 97 innings at short. The good news is, he was only 24, so he still hasn't reached his prime. He should get better, and he's already more useful than the chump I discussed right before him (1.2 WAR). He doesn't hit for a lot of power (his ISO was .089), but he can draw some walks (benefiting from hitting 8th), and like I said, he can still improve. I'd be fine with platooning him at 2nd next year with Punto, since the free agent market looks pretty lousy.

Allen Craig: Craig missed a couple of months with I believe a fractured kneecap. Even so, he was almost a 3 win player (2.9 WAR), and some of that was even defensive value (0.8 dWAR), which surprises me. Sure, I knew he was an improvement over Berkman in right, but I'm not sure Mickey Mantle's corpse wouldn't show more range than Berkman. But he was average in an extremely limited (4 innings) stint at first, and ditto at 2nd (41 innings). He didn't do so hot at 3rd, but we're talking 11 innings. All told, he was 8 runs above average in about 300 innings in the corner outfield spots. Matheny shouldn't try using him in center, though.

Craig had a .917 OPS, with a .555 slugging. he might want to show a little more patience (15 walks in 219 PAs), but he's no worse off than Freese or Jay in that regard, and he's a better hitter than those two. Heck, he was even a perfect 5 for 5 stealing bases. I'm not sure where he'll get time next season if the Cards resign Pujols, barring injury. Albert, Holliday, and Berkman will have his spots covered, and I can't argue for benching one of them regularly for Craig. If they can't resign Albert, shift Berk to first and put Craig in right. It's still an overall offensive downgrade, but maybe the defensive upgrade in right can compensate. Plus, the money not spent on Albert might net them an awesome SS upgrade.

Nick Punto: Too bad Punto couldn't stay healthy. This was far and away the best offensive showing of his career. His previous best OPS in a season where he had at least 100 PAs was .726 (with a 96 OPS+) in 2008. He had an .809 and 127 this year. It's doubtful he can replicate it next year, but I'd still like to have him back for his defensive versatility, and he knows how to take a walk, which doesn't hurt. I mean, he was worth 1.5 WAR in a year where he collected less than 170 PAs.

Tyler Greene: Greene was the biggest loser from the Cardinals' late season charge. It was the perfect excuse for LaRussa to give him no playing time. Which is why, after his September callup, he got only 2 plate appearances, plus a few pinch running opportunities. To his credit, he got hits both times he came to bat, which got his average over .200. He also led the team in stolen bases, going a perfect 11-for-11.

I'd be fine giving Greene a crack at the starting SS job next season, but Mozeliak's likely negotiating tactics aside, I doubt it's going to happen.

Gerald Laird: Laird did OK. Not great, but for a Cardinals backup catcher, a .660 OPS is pretty good. Certainly a step up for the Gary Bennett/Einar Diaz days. I'm pretty indifferent to the idea of bringing him back. Though you never know, Matheny might prize rest for his starting catcher more than LaRussa did. The issue would be getting Molina to go along with it.

Tony Cruz: Cruz didn't get much play once Laird came back, only 12 PAs after the end of July. Still, he did post a .672 OPS in the 72 PAs he got this year. His walk rate is about the same as Laird's (they each average 1 walk every 12 PAs), but Laird showed much more power, with an ISO of .126 vs. Cruz' .076. Defensively, the samples are too small to draw much of a conclusion. Laird seems slightly better, but Cruz has a better percentage of base stealers thrown out. Keep in mind, we're talking 2 out of 4, versus 4 out of 20. Very limited samples.

Corey Patterson: Ugh, do I have to? His OPS was .424. He posted a -0.4 WAR, though his dWAR was +0.1. He struck out 12 times in 56 PAs, with only 2 walks. He hopefully will never play for the Cardinals again.

Mark Hamilton: Hamilton had a little play in July (11 PAs). It was his best month, with 3 hits, including a double. I don't see that the Cards have a place for him, with or without Albert. He can really only competently play first, and even if you remove Albert and Berkman, there's still Craig. Not to mention Matt Adams down in AA.

Shane Robinson: He was called up late in the year. He had 8 PAs, and got on base once, with a walk. I think he was mostly a defensive replacement.

Adron Chambers: Chambers was used even more frequently as a defensive replacement, seeing as he was in 18 games, but only received 8 PAs. He did manage 3 hits, including a triple. He also got some use in the postseason, again, mostly as a defensive replacement for Berkman, but he did get 5 chances at-bat. I wouldn't mind seeing him as the other back-up outfielder alongside Craig next year (assuming they resign Albert, otherwise it'll be Chambers and someone else, since Craig'll be starting in RF).

OK, that's it. Now I have to figure what to move on to next.

Labels: ,

Monday, November 14, 2011

Season In Review - Starting Position Players

So the Cardinals named Matheny their new manager. We'll see how that goes. At least Mozeliak knows he has the power now. Before, LaRussa held the whip hand, since DeWitt basically said LaRussa couldn't/wouldn't be fired. Now, if Mozeliak brings somebody up from the minors to see what he can do, said player might actually get some playing time. Anyway, today is the 8 starting position players.

Yadier Molina: I noted halfway that Molina was hitting for far more power than usual. He not only maintained that in the second half, he improved upon it. His previous best isolated power had been .106 in '05. At the end of June, it was .133. He ended the season at .160. Supposedly he was hitting more fly balls, which would lead to more extra base hits than ground balls, but didn't hurt his average as I would expect (as fly balls rarely turn into hits). Though Molina wouldn't get as many hits off ground balls as the average player, given how slow he is. Anyway, he set a career high for OPS, at .814, the highest mark since Ted Simmons in 1980. So in terms of WAR, this was far and away his best season. Most of his 3.9 WAR is offense, but he did generate 0.7 with his glove, and catcher defense is still tricky. He did only throw out 29% of baserunners, but I don't know whether that's on him, or if it's that pitchers not named Carp and Lohse were lousy at holding runners.

In the postseason his power slumped a bit, but he maintained a .360 OBP, so I'm not going to complain about that.

Albert Pujols: Albert came back from that injured wrist in a little over 2 weeks, and proceeded to hit like he pretty much always has. Really, he did that from the end of May on until the end. He did hit into a lot of double plays, but so did everyone else on the team. I'm not too concerned about his .299 batting average, but the .366 OBP worries me. His walk rate's been dropping, and it seems to be because he's grown more impatient. In 2010, the gap between AVG and OBP was .102, this year, only .067. The two years before that it was .105 and .116, so 2011 is more out of line with past performance than 2010.

So this was his worst year ever, and he was still a 5.4 win player, and 0.9 of that was defense. I'm always happy when he has good defensive stats, because I like him more as a player when he seems like more of a complete player. I'm not a big fan of guys who can only hit home runs, and do nothing else, and fortunately, that isn't Albert. He didn't lead the team in stolen bases this year, but he was 9 out of 10 on his attempts. He's almost certainly too aggressive for how slow he is, and the team probably shouldn't be letting him decide when to take extra bases, in terms of having the best chance to win, but I do like the aggressiveness, from a strict enjoyment standpoint. Too bad the team doesn't have more fast players with that style.

The postseason was very similar to the regular season, though Albert posted an 1.155 OPS in the playoffs. But he seemed very feast or famine. Either he's killing the Brewers and Rangers single-handed, or he's doing nothing whatsoever. He did draw 12 walks in about 70 plate appearances, so that's good, even if several of them were intentional.

Skip Schumaker: Sigh. Skip is now one of only two players to be the starting 2nd baseman for 3 years during LaRussa's tenure with the Cards. The other was Fernando Vina. Sadly, Skip isn't anywhere near as good as Vina was. He did improve on last season, as he was worth 0.6 WAR, up from 0.1 a year ago. Hmm, they must have reevaluated his defense, as it used to be 0.4. Anyway, that's still shitty return for an $2 million+ investment by the team. But supposedly the team loves him, so they still might bring him back this offseason. Crap. They don't need him. There's nothing he does they can't get out of Descalso, Punto, or Adron Chambers, for less money. His power's evaporating, as are his walks, and he's not a good enough defensive player anywhere to make up for that.

Rafael Furcal: Furcal showed up in late July, when the team finally realized (or admitted) Theriot was not the answer. In about 2 months, he was worth 1.4 WAR, and was by some measure slightly above average defensively. By others, not so much. His OBP is a bit lower than I'd like to see in a leadoff hitter, but supposedly some of that was bad luck on balls in play, and if he was hitting better than .255, his OBP would be higher than .315. I was hoping for more of a speed threat, but the 7 HRs were an unexpected bonus.

He really struggled in the postseason, with a .244 OBP and a .325 SLG. Not sure what to attribute that to. Bad luck? Being overwhelmed by the quality of the pitchers? Well, that would only explain struggling against the Phillies. I'm deeply ambivalent about bringing Furcal back. If he wants a two-year contract, pass. He's moving into his mid-30s, and he hasn't shown any consistent ability to stay healthy. I'd rather take my chances with Clint Barmes, or Tyler Greene. Mozeliak's said much the same thing about Greene, though that could just be contract negotiation posturing to try and drive Furcal's demands down.

David Freese: Freese narrowly edged out Descalso as starting 3rd baseman, 674 innings to 666. Which is fine, as Freese rates slightly better than Descalso at third, being about 2 runs better than average, versus Descalso's -5. Course, third is not Descalso's natural position. Even missing 1/3 of the season, Freese was worth 1.8 WAR. Then he stepped it up in the playoffs, hitting .397, with 7 HRs, a slugging of almost .800, and even drawing 7 walks. He only drew 24 the entire regular season, or 1 less than Punto did in 200 fewer PAs.

If he's actually developing some patience, that'd be good, because thus far his OBP has been heavily leaning on his batting average, which has been heavily reliant on good results on balls in play, which might not last. All his power seems to be opposite field, which is odd, but if he can make it work for him, then I guess it's OK. Truthfully, I wouldn't mind trading Freese for a young 2nd baseman or center fielder, because I'd like to see Matt Carpenter and his +.400 AAA OBP in the starting lineup, but I doubt it'll happen. Freese is the playoff hero, and as old as he is, with his injury history, I doubt anyone would sacrifice anything good for him. If only Al Davis were alive, and running a baseball team. You could always count on Al to overpay for guys who had one good game in the Super Bowl. Maybe he'd do the same in baseball.

Matt Holliday: Holliday's string of injuries continued into the second half of the season. Only instead of appendectomies, he was injuring his wrist on practice swings, and having insects get stuck in his ear. As a result, this year wasn't quite as productive as last year, but Holliday was the 3rd most valuable position player, with a 4.1 WAR, and rated as exactly average defensively. He drew a decent number of walks (his gap between OBP and AVG was .092), but struggled a bit when he played in the postseason. His OBP is great (.419), but the power wasn't there (.412 SLG), much like Molina. Except it wasn't that much of a surprise with Yadi, since he'd demonstrated unusual power this season. Holliday's lack of oomph was concerning, but it's probably just the wrist thing, and now he has all offseason to heal up. And since he no longer has an appendix, he won't have to worry about it causing problems. Might want to keep an eye on his gall bladder, though.

Jon Jay: Jay became the starter after Rasmus was traded, though Colby still lead the team in innings in center at the end of the year. Jay had a couple of productive games in the postseason, but overall had an OPS below .500. Ouch. For the season as a whole, he posted a .768 OPS, which is down a little from last year's .780, but still surprisingly close to his AAA .781 OPS. And he really didn't fall off after becoming the starter. He had a poor August (.661 OPS), but no worse than his June (.651), and not too far behind April (.691). he had a .759 in July, and a .793 in September.

He could stand to walk more. In 503 PAs, he collected 28 walks, which is one less than Theriot in 20 more PAs (though Theriot undoubtedly earned some of his from hitting in front of the pitcher). Jay also needs to either improve his base stealing, or stop it entirely. He was only 6 out of 13, this year. Interestingly, he rated below average on defense in both corner spots, but not in center, where he was just barely above average. And center was his primary position, so to the extent the numbers tell us anything, those would be most representative. Not sure what to make of that. At any rate, I haven't heard anything suggesting the Cardinals are against going into next season with Jay in center. I might like someone a little more defensively excellent, preferably with some speed, to offset what looks to be another season of Berkman in right, but I'm not dead set against Jay. If he can keep producing as he has so far, he's an acceptable option, provided the rest of the team does their job. He's not really a difference maker.

Lance Berkman: Well, Berkman sure showed me. I figured last year was the beginning of the end, turns out it was just a injury thing. He was second on the team in WAR with 5.2, and that's with his defense costing him 0.7 WAR. Which isn't ideal, but the Cardinals knew what they were getting into when they put him in right field, and if he produces offensively like he did, it's worth it. He was second on the team amongst qualifiers in batting average, first in on-base percentage, first in slugging, and thus first in OPS. He hit into a third the double plays of Yadi or Holliday (7 vs. 21), and a quarter of the number Albert did. The only thing he didn't do well was steal bases (2 out of 8), and honestly, what the heck are they thinking having Berkman try and steal bases?

He didn't do quite as well in the playoffs. The average went up 12 points, and the OBP held essentially steady, but the slugging fell to .438, an almost 110 point drop. Was he getting tired after a season of roaming the outfield, was it the pitchers, or was it just because it got cold? The ball typically doesn't fly as far in the cold, since it's thicker than it is in hot weather, and it was getting kind of chilly by the end of October in St. Louis. That wouldn't explain the games in Texas or Milwaukee's dome, though, and it wasn't cold every day in St. Louis. Course, we're also talking a very small sample, 18 games and about 70 at-bats, so perhaps just a bad stretch. It was still an awesome season, and like with Yadi and Holliday, I can't complain about the OBP.

Sometime coming up, the bench position players. There's a few guys who didn't play after June, but there are plenty of others to contend with.

Labels: ,

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Has Week 10 Ignited A QB Controversy?

The Arizona Cardinals beat the Eagles, 21-17. Yeah, the Eagles were without DeSean Jackson, but that's their own damn fault. They benched him for completely missing the Saturday meeting. So maybe it's Jackson's own damn fault. At any rate, Vick went 16-34, with 2 INTs, and had at least one other interception nullified by a ticky-tack penalty.

On the Cards' side, John Skelton had some good and some bad. On the good side, he avoided some sacks, threw for 315 yards and 3 TDs, and lead a game-tying 4th quarter drive, and then the game winning 4th quarter drive. On the bad side, he was still sacked 4 times, completed barely more than 50% of his passes (21 of 40), and threw 2 INTs in his half of the field, one of which was returned for a touchdown. He also had a couple of passes to Fitzgerald tipped, which Fitzgerald managed to come down with, despite the Eagles all around.

So it isn't as though Skelton's playing like Kurt Warner, or even Good Jake Plummer. And the Eagles are a massively disappointing team, though I did not know before today there defensive coordinator was formerly their offensive line coach. What the hell was Andy Reid thinking with that one? Still, the Cardinals didn't run the ball terribly well for the second consecutive game. They did at least keep trying, at 29 carries for 88 yards, though it drop to 25 and 73 if you take Skelton's scrambles out. But I appreciate the commitment to the run as an attempt to take some pressure off Skelton. Also, Feely missed two field goals which could have made things easier for Arizona. The indisputable fact is the Cardinals are 2-0 this year when Skelton starts, 4-2 for his entire career.

Certainly that isn't all him. The defense did well against the Eagles air attack today (though not their running game, as the Eagles averaged almost 7 yards a carry on 24 carries, and yeah, Vick's responsible for 8 carries and 79 yards, but that still leaves 16 carries and 87 yards for Lesean McCoy and Co.), and it was defense and special teams that won the day last week. And of course there was Jay Feely's 22 consecutive points game against Denver last year. Whether it's the level of competition, or the rest of the team rising to the occasion, they do manage to pull out some victories when Skelton's under center.

So, is there an issue at QB? I doubt the Cardinals are ready to take the starting job away from a healthy Kolb, though some of the fans certainly are. I figure his job's safe if only because the Cardinals made a point to trade for him, then give him a fat contract. It would look pretty silly to do that, then hand the job to a guy they already had on the roster. Money talks. I'm still OK with that. Whisenhunt said when they drafted Skelton that they saw him as a project. Someone with all the physical tools, but who would need a couple of years to adjust to the level of play in the NFL, compared to what he faced at Fordham. Kolb isn't quite that raw, but his starting NFL experience is pretty limited, 14 starts thus far, 7 before this season. So really, as long as one of them is getting some experience, I'm OK with that. Given the amount they sunk into Kolb, I'd prefer they start him if only so they can more quickly figure out whether he was a mistake. So if he's healthy, let him play. If he's not, then keep Skelton in there. See if he can cut down on the mistakes, improve the completion percentage, or both.


Friday, November 11, 2011

Season In Review - Relief Pitchers

Credit to the bullpen. If they hadn't stopped blowing ass, the Cardinals wouldn't have made the playoffs. And if they hadn't largely maintained that level of non-ass blowing, the Cardinals wouldn't have won the World Series. Because Carpenter sure as hell couldn't win four games out of seven on his own.

Fernando Salas - I said at the halfway point that Salas might not be the closer of the future, and that appears to be the case. LaRussa turned to Motte as his closer starting around September, and Salas' role shifted. Initially he seemed to be more of a set-up guy, but in the postseason, he became the guy LaRussa went to first. Salas would typically try to get through 2 innings, usually after the starter had failed to pitch more than 4. Up until the World Series that was working pretty well. In the first 2 rounds, he threw 9.7 innings, and surrendered 2 runs. In the Series, it was 5 runs (3 earned) in 3.7 innings. Maybe he was getting tired. He was approaching 90 innings by the end.

Salas maintained a WHIP below 1 for the season, 2nd best amongst Cards' relievers (and the best mark is Dotel's, who threw less than a third the innings Salas did). His HR rate's a little higher than some of the others, but he averaged a K per inning, and a 3.57/1 K/BB ratio. I imagine he can close if needed, but I'd like to see him used in whatever role is most useful on a given day next year, though I doubt the new manager will be that flexible.

Jason Motte - Motte took over the closer role from Salas late in the year. Prior to that, his role had shifted over the season, but just before he'd become more of a traditional "fireman", brought in whenever LaRussa absolutely needed a rally squashed, regardless of inning. Guess being able to throw in the high-90s has its advantages. It's interesting that his K rate is lower than Salas' (8.3 vs. 9.0), though K/BB ratio is better (3.94 vs. 3.57). Going by B-R's WAR, Salas was the 3rd most valuable pitcher (after Carp and Lohse), and Motte the 4th. I believe Fangraphs has it differently, in part because they like Garcia a lot more (I believe they have him as a 3 win pitcher, and Carp at 5 WAR). At any rate, Motte and Salas were the two key performers in the 'pen this season, as they were pretty much the only relievers on the major league roster all season (though Salas didn't arrive until mid-April).

I do wonder if Motte's 0.3/9 IP HR rate is sustainable, and if not, how much that will affect his value next season.

Mitch Boggs - Boggs never did seem to regain TLR's trust. Then again, his performance didn't really merit it. In the first three months, his K/BB ratio was 3.3. In the last three months, 1.36. That's Westbrookian. It seemed as though he was struggling with some injuries during the season, and I don't know if that robbed him of velocity, control, both, or neither. He's always had some control problems, at least as a starter, so it isn't entirely surprising that would persist into his career as a closer, but I'm not sure why it seems to have flared up so severely in the latter half of the season. Though we are dealing with small sample sizes, and some of his misfortune may have been bad luck. His babip for July was .343, and it was .354 in August, though without looking at how many line drives he was surrendering, I can't say if that's a fluke or not. I'd still like to have him around next season, as a cheap mop-up guy with the stuff to be more useful if he can harness it.

Trever Miller - Miller went to Toronto in the Rasmus trade, then wound up in Boston at some point, though eh threw less than 10 innings overall in the AL. In those last weeks before his trade, he continued to be generally ineffective. 6 appearances, 1.3 innings, 6 hits, 1 walk, 2 Ks, 1 run allowed. Or he was charged with one run anyway. In three of the appearances, he retired no batters, which suggests he was brought in to get out a lefty, and failed. A 50% failure rate is no good for a LOOGY. I'm not sure why he went downhill so abruptly, but he was addition by subtraction.

Lance Lynn - Lynn was in the bullpen from late June to early August. Then he hurt an oblique and missed the remainder of the regular season. Fortunately, he was ready in time for the playoffs. He pitched well (or had some good fortune) in the NLCS, but was smacked around a little by the Rangers. Which is nothing to be ashamed of, so were most of the pitchers on the staff.

As a reliever, he threw 24.3 innings, posted a WHIP below 1, with almost 12 Ks per 9 IP, and K/BB ratio of 4 to 1. Even so, I still wouldn't mind seeing him in the AAA rotation next year. He may be more likely to have value as a reliever, but he has greater potential value as a starter. Plus, I figure someone in that rotation is going to get hurt at some point, with Wainwright returning from Tommy John, and Carpenter and Garcia having both just set career highs in innings.

Eduardo Sanchez - Sanchez was on the DL at the halfway point, and came back in September. he pitched in one game, the second to last game of the year, when Westbrook crapped his pants, and LaRussa had to haul out anyone he could to get through the game. Which included Edwin Jackson, and also Sanchez, who threw 1.3 innings, struck out 2, and allowed no baserunners.

Sanchez is really exciting. He still has control issues (4.8 BB/9 IP), but he allowed fewer hits than walks, and K'd 10.5 batters per 9 innings pitched. He might have the best raw stuff of any of the young righties, if, like Boggs, he can just control it more effectively. I'm looking forward to his presence in the bullpen next season.

Octavio Dotel - Like I mentioned above, Dotel lead the relievers in WHIP, with a 0.851 in the 24.7 innings he threw for St. Louis, after being acquired in the Rasmus trade. he did continue to demonstrate that he should not face left-handed batters. Against righties, he allowed an OPS of .410, but lefties racked up an .845. Those numbers are for the entire season, not just his StL stint, but TLR seemed to get smarter about not using him against lefties as time went on. In the postseason, he pitched fairly well, allowing 4 runs in 10.3 innings, but with a 7 to 1 K/BB ratio, even better than his regular season 6.4/1 mark.

All that being said, I'd prefer the team not offer him arbitration (they already declined his option). He's Type A, so any team that signs him surrenders 2 draft picks. I can't see any team (maybe Houston, Ed Wade seems pretty stupid), doing that, so I imagine Dotel would accept arbitration. He can't make less than 80% of what he made this year, so it'd be at least 2, 2.25 million for essentially a ROOGY. And one thing the Cards don't lack is power righthanded relief arms.

Marc Rzepczynski - Also acquired in the Rasmus trade. Scrabble didn't pitch as well as Dotel, with a WHIP over 1.45 in his 22 innings. His K rate was close to Dotel's (11.1/9), but he walked almost a batter every other inning, so his K/BB ratio is only 2.55. There are rumors he was getting to wound up, to the point team officials were starting to worry about him, and maybe that was a problem. I suppose he'd never been in a playoff hunt in Toronto, or maybe it's hard going from the Blue Jays' clubhouse to the Cardinals (Note: I have no idea what Toronto's clubhouse is like, or the Cardinals' for that matter). He did alright in the postseason; nothing great, but he recorded some key outs. I'm fine with him being in the 'pen next year, though it looks like he's the only long-term return the team will get for Rasmus, at least until the arbitration thing plays out, and we see if they get some picks. Well, it was a shirt-term deal, anyway.

Brian Tallet - Also traded to Toronto, pitched once there, with poor results. The Cards used him just once in July. He recorded two outs, but allowed two hits and a walk, and two runs were charged to him. Not sorry to see him go.

Arthur Rhodes - Rhodes was claimed off waivers in August, after the Rangers dumped him, for generally being terrible. He was a mixed bag for the Cardinals. In 19 appearances, he threw less than 9 innings, which isn't surprising, since he's a LOOGY. But like Miller, he occasionally failed to get that one guy out. 4 times in 19 appearances to be exact. Which is better than Miller's July ratio, to be sure, but still a little irritating.

True to regular season form, he threw 2.7 postseason innings, but spread it out across 8 games. He didn't allow any runs, though, and only one baserunner total, so I can't complain about the results.

Brandon Dickson - Dickson made two relief appearances in July, and another in September. All told, they encompassed 5 innings, and he allowed 3 hits, 2 walks, and K'd 3. He also made 1 start, against Milwaukee, on short rest (?!), and didn't make it out of the 4th. So perhaps it was a glorified bullpen start. Dickson spent most of the year in the AAA rotation, and as he didn't particularly distinguish himself, I figure that's where he should start next year as well. Maybe he can be the first option if Lynn is a reliever next year.

Raul Valdes - Valdes pitched once for StL just before the halfway mark, then 6 more times in July. In September, he was a Yankee, so who knows. In his 6 July appearances, he threw 4.3 innings, allowed 5 hits, 4 walks, 4 Ks, and 2 runs. So nothing special. He got in trouble, but either worked through it, or was bailed out by subsequent relievers.

Maikel Cleto - Cleto pitched once in the second half of the season, throwing a scoreless inning. Other than that, he spent most of the second half at AAA, as a starter. Mixed results, with his 4.29 ERA, and 5.4 BB/9, but before this year he'd never pitched above high A. This season he pitched there, at AA, AAA, and in the majors. I guess we'll see if it's something he can build on.

P.J. Walters - Walters pitched 4 times for StL in July, before heading to Toronto. He had one bad appearance, but it was pretty bad. 3 hits, 1 walk, 4 runs (on a grand slam, I believe), while recording only one out. Too bad. Before that he'd thrown 3 innings, and allowed only 1 walk, while striking out 3. Toronto used him once, to throw a scoreless inning against Baltimore. Other than that, he spent the season in both teams' AAA affiliates as a starter. It didn't go all that well in Memphis, it went horribly in Vegas.

Pitchers, complete! Sometime soon, position players! Maybe just starters, then bench guys. I don't know.

Labels: ,

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Season In Review - Starting Pitchers

As promised, finally getting around to review the St. Louis Cardinals players, like I did at the halfway point. Since I did that halfway review, I'm going to focus primarily on what each player did since then. To the extent I'll discuss the postseason, I'll mention those numbers separately from the regular season statistics.

Anyway, the Cardinals finished with 90, which is 4 wins better than their halfway mark pace. They made the postseason (with help from Atlanta), and went on to win the World Series. Now LaRussa's retired, and the Cardinals have to find his replacement, and at least make an attempt to resign Albert Pujols. But that's for later.

Chris Carpenter - At the halfway point, Carp was struggling, with an ERA+ of 90. At the time, it seemed the culprit was more hits, as his HR, BB, and K rates were all roughly the same as 2010's. By the end of the season, Carp had lowered the HR and BB rates, and upped the K rate. He managed to lower the hit rate a little bit, and all that combined to give him an ERA+ of 105 for the season. Looking at his season overall, he was really hampered by an unlucky May. In just under 39 innings, he allowed only 2 HRs, and had a 3.56/1 K/BB ratio. Yet his ERA was 5.12 because he somehow surrendered 56 hits that month, and his ERA could have been worse, since 4 runs that scored were counted as unearned. Opponents had an .840 OPS against him, but a lot of that is a .340 batting average, and the isolated power was only .104, which suggests death by a thousand paper cuts. He didn't have more than 1 unearned run in any other month, and his ERA was only above 4 in August (4.08).

At any rate, Carpenter ended posting the second highest innings total of his career in the regular season, behind only 2005's 241.7 innings. If you add in the postseason, however, 2011 is the highest total of his career, at 273.3 (his '05 total was 270 even). I wouldn't say Carpenter was spectacular in the postseason, but he was the steadiest presence the team had, allowing 13 runs in 36 innings, going on short rest twice (once with good results, once with bad), and pitching a heck of a closeout to the NLDS, when matched up against Roy Halladay.

Kyle Lohse - Lohse was the Cards' best pitcher in the first half, worth 3.1 wins according to Baseball-Reference. He fell off in the second half, as he was only worth 2.6 for the season, surrendering the team lead amongst pitchers to Carp, who finished with 3.7. His WHIP increased to 1.168, for the 1.027 it was at the midpoint, while his walks increased slightly (to 2/9 IP), and his HR rate remained static. He wasn't quite as reliable in the second half, which is why he finished 4th on the team in starts, with 30, though he did finish third in innings, ahead of Westbrook. He struggled a bit in the second half, posting ERAs over 5 in both July and August, before putting up a 1.37 in 4 September starts. The difference seems valid, as he K'd 7.5/9 IP (versus 5.3 for the season overall), with a K/BB of 4.4, whereas his ratios in July and August were between 1.8 and 1.9.

In the playoffs, Lohse seemed to get passed over. He made only 3 starts, less than Garcia (5), Jackson (4), and Carpenter (6). Allowing 21 baserunners and 12 runs in 12.7 innings probably had something to do with that. That doesn't change the fact he had a season that was a heck of a lot better than I expected from him, or had even hoped for, really. If he didn't pitch like a #1 starter all season, he was at least a good #2, or an excellent #3.

Jaime Garcia - Baseball-Reference doesn't care much for Jaime, as their WAR statistic says he was only worth 0.9. Which seems low for a guy with a 102 ERA+ who threw 194.7 innings. It is worth noting, though, that Garcia surrendered a lot of runs that were counted as unearned. Add those in, and his runs average would be 4.63, rather than the 3.56 ERA he posted. How many of those unearned runs should be on him, and how many are on the defense, I don't know, but that might explain some of it (Lohse only had 9 unearned runs, which is the difference between a 3.39 ERA and a 3.82 RA). Garcia has a WHIP of 1.32, mostly because he has a slightly higher hits allowed rate than Carpenter or Lohse, and a higher walk rate as well. His K rate is even with Carp's. His HR rate rose slightly, from 0.5 at the midway, to 0.7, but that just puts him in between Carp and Lohse.

Garcia had two problems I saw at the midway point. One was a difficulty holding runners. Runners had stolen successfully 9 out of 10 times by then. By the end of the season, it was 15 out of 18. Consider that only 3 people tried to steal on Lohse all year, and of the 11 who tried on Carp, 6 were thrown out. Jackson had his struggles (5 success, no caught stealings), and only 24% of the 17 guys trying to steal on Westbrook were caught, so it isn't strictly Jaime, but it's something he might want to work on before next year. The other concern was he wasn't working deep into games. In 10 of his 16 starts, he hadn't recorded even 1 out in the 7th inning. This was not a trend that reversed itself in the second half, as he made it to 6.3 innings only 5 times in 16 starts. So he was a 6 innings or less pitcher in 21 of his 32 starts. In 13 of those, he went less than 6 innings, though he only went less than 5 twice. Of course, one of those two was his lousy start in the last series of the year against Houston, when the Cardinals were fighting to get in. Poor timing, to say the least.

In the postseason, Garcia was inconsistent. He had a good start against Texas, but was hammered the next time. He cruised at times against Philly and Milwaukee, but would hit a bump and fall apart. Overall, he allowed 35 baserunners in 25.7 innings, but he did strike out 21, which isn't shabby. Besides, by the end of the postseason he was at 220 innings, so about 55 innings above his previous career high. It was a good second season for Garcia, and if he can start working deeper into games more consistently, he could really be a top-notch starter.

Jake Westbrook - At the midpoint, I was waiting for Westbrook to get his ERA under 5. He did manage it later in the season, but only as far as 4.66, which is an 83 ERA+. Also, like Garcia, he crapped the bed in his final regular season start against Houston, forcing the bullpen and offense to bail him out. B-R rates him as exactly replacement level, which is a great return on the 8 million the team sank into him this year. I'm pretty sure P.J. Walters or Lance Lynn could have managed that. In the second half, he managed to raise his K rate a little (to 5.1, from 4.7), and cut his walk rate slightly (from 3.8 to 3.6), but his K/BB is still only 1.42, and his WHIP was over 1.53. Even for a 5th starter, that's a poor showing.

Since Westie is a groundball pitcher, there's a chance poor infield defense is to blame. Which would point a finger at management for hamstringing their groundball staff with shitty infielders, but I imagine a decent portion of it was simply Westbrook not being good. He did manage two scoreless innings in two postseason appearance, even picking up the win in a World Series game, so that's something.

Edwin Jackson - Jackson was brought in to shore up the rotation, which he did, I suppose. He got McClellan out of there, anyway. He averaged around 6.3 innings a start, and had an ERA+ of 102. It would have been better, but he had that one game against the Brewers were he was left in for 7 innings so TLR could spare the bullpen. He also pitched once in relief during the Houston series, as Garcia and Westie had their dud starts back-to-back. What strikes me as strange is Jackson pitched worse for St. Louis than he did for the White Sox, even though he was in the easier league. His WHIP rose for 1.422 to 1.462. His HR rate rose, from 0.6 to 0.9, and his K rate fell, from 7.2 to 5.9. That last one's not a huge surprise, considering Duncan's philosophy, though I can't figure how Garcia and Carp could have similar K rates to AL-Edwin, but NL-Edwin couldn't.

Some of it is that Brewers' start. Take that out, and his WHIP as a Cardinal is about 1.396. His HR rate would drop to 0.5. Doesn't explain the strikeout rate, but that's probably attributable to Duncan, as I said above. Anyway, Jackson didn't fare well in the postseason, allowing 28 baserunners and 11 runs in 17.7 innings, in 4 starts. That's less than 5 innings as start. Then again, why should he be any different from any of the other non-Carpenter starting pitchers? I think it was mostly Milwaukee that did him in again, as they clubbed him in two starts, while he mostly got through his Philadelphia start OK. At this point it seems unlikely, he'll be back, as the Cards already have 5 starting pitchers under contract for next year. He'll likely be offered arbitration, decline (because he will get a better multi-year deal, count on it), and the Cards will get a draft pick. Works for me.

Kyle McClellan - The arrival of Edwin Jackson signaled McClellan's return to the 'pen. Before that happened, he made a few more starts. The results weren't too terrible. 4 starts, 25.7 innings, 26 hits, 14 runs, 6 walks, 12 Ks. Not much worse than one might get from Westbrook.

Oddly enough, once he returned to a relief role, he actually pitched worse. Opponents batting average was 12 points higher, OBP 36 points higher, slugging 71 points higher. His babip was only 5 points higher, and at .272 still well below league average. So even with good luck, he didn't pitch well. I don't know what to make of that, unless he was just gassed. He finished the year at 141 innings, which is well above anything he'd done at the major league level previously. In the playoffs, he pitched once, allowing a run in one-third of an inning. So even LaRussa didn't have much confidence in him by the end. I'm hoping he'll be let go this offseason, as the team has any number of better right-handed relief options that will cost less.

I didn't originally plan it this way, but things are taking so long, I'm going to split it into starters and relievers, so we'll hit the pen tomorrow. I'm not discussing any players that didn't pitch for the team in the second half. So no Bryan Augenstein, Miguel Batista, or Ryan Franklin. Which still leaves 14 pitchers. This could take awhile.

Labels: ,

Monday, November 07, 2011

What?! Happiness For Week 9?!

Arizona won! Holy cow!

OK, fine, it was the Rams. OK, fine, it took a 98-yard punt return in overtime. Yes, John Skelton was hit with two safeties in the third quarter, while also leading the team in rushing (38 yards).

You know what? Who cares? They won. First rule of Arizona Cardinals' fandom: All victories are good. Actually, that may be the second rule, with the first rule being "Never underestimate the Cardinals' ability to lose." Whatever, there is a rule that says enjoy any victory.

Besides, it keeps them out of sole control of the NFC West cellar for another week.

There is some discussion online as to whether the Cardinals have themselves a quarterback controversy, seeing as Skelton has in one try, won as many games as Kolb managed in 7 tries. The official word is "No." Which is fine. It's not like Skelton lit the world on fire yesterday. One of the safeties was his crap O-line's fault, but in the other, they had the ball at the nine, and Skelton backpedaled all the way to the end zone, then got called for intentional grounding. That's not as bad as Dan Orlovsky getting called for a safety when he ran out the back of the end zone while scrambling, but it's not good.

On the other hand, he did show some pocket awareness, the ability to scramble successfully, and he actually completed more than 50% of his passes, which was not something he did consistently last season. Then again, it wasn't something Max Hall or Derek Anderson could do consistently, either. He didn't get sacked much, didn't throw picks, didn't lose his one fumble, on a day when the Cardinals had no running game, except for Skelton. So he wasn't the biggest reason they won (as Skelton stated after the game, giving credit to the defense and special teams for bailing him out), but he didn't cost them the game, either. And it isn't as though Kolb's been Kurt Warner circa 2009. His completion percentage is about 57%, he has 8 TDs and 8 INTs, he gets sacked on a little under 10% of his dropbacks, I'm not sure the difference between Kolb and Skelton is all that much right now.

Arizona's issue is this isn't a case of veteran QB and young QB. Given the team has no realistic shot at the postseason, with San Francisco already 5 games ahead of them, that would make a good case to give Skelton some run, let him gain some experience. But Kolb isn't much of a seasoned hand, either, so he needs the experience as well.

Ultimately, it probably doesn't matter much. Like I said, I don't believe the gap between the two is large enough to make much difference in the team's fortunes this season. Since they traded so much to get Kolb, I guess it makes sense to give him as many chances as possible, but I don't think they should hesitate to call Skelton in the from the 'pen in the event Kolb stinks up the joint.


Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Who Cares About Week 8?

Arizona avoided being destroyed by the Ravens. They still lost, mind you, and blew a 4th quarter lead in the process, but I never expected them to lead at all, so I can hardly complain.

In other news, the St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series! That's nice, though I must confess to feeling a bit of distance from the team. Maybe because I didn't listen to any of the games, or see them. Part of it is there are some guys I wish could have been involved (Brendan Ryan, Adam Wainwright), and some guys I wish weren't (THERIOT!). I'd be concerned about how much leeway this would give LaRussa, but he's retired now, so it hardly matters.

I'm not sure what to think about TLR being gone. For all that he frustrated me, he was a pretty good manager. I think I can safely say that the next guy won't be a) here as long, b) as successful, but c) will be immenently frustrating in his own way. I do expect that way to be more mundane, like an inability to use his bullpen properly, or correctly perform a double-switch. With LaRussa, the frutsrations came from things like his insistence anyone can play second, using infielders in the outfield, feuding with useful young players while seemingly loving crap veterans like AAAron Miles. At the very least, LaRussa's decision gave me something to talk about.

I want to wrap up this post giving props to Chris Carpenter, who set a new career high for innings this year (if you include the postseason), at the age of 36, and was pretty much the only reliable starter the team had in the playoffs (Garcia's periodic bouts of excellence being far too infrequent). He struggled to start Game 7, but unlike Game 2 of the NLDS, he was able to right himself after the first, and give the team some quality innings.

Sometimes in probably the next week or so, I'll be doing my player recaps. Right now, I plan to focus on the regular season, but I might discuss the postseason performance as well.

Labels: ,