Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Cards Over The Last 32 Seasons - Right Field

Like I said last week, right field is the least stable position, pretty much regardless of the manager. There's only been one player that was starter for more than 3 years, and that's J.D. Drew, who played 48% of the possible innings in RF over the 4 years he was starter (it increases to 60% if you include innings played at other outfield spots). Beyond that, there are a few players with 3 years, and quite a few one-year wonders. Or not so wonders, as the case may be.

Herzog Era: 7

Best: George Hendrick has the years. Even excluding the years he was starter before Herzog came along, he still has three ('81, '82, '84). But Andy van Slyke has the production. Across two seasons as starter, he was worth 4.1 WAR/162, versus Hendrick's 2.3. Of course, the thing about van Slyke is he and Herzog didn't get along, which is why he was ultimately traded to Pittsburgh as part of the Tony Pena deal (which wound up being a really bad trade for the Cardinals). I don't know. Hendrick has the power, van Slyke the speed and defense (Hendrick over three years: 9 runs below average. van Slyke over two: 21 runs above). But Andy played a lot of first base in 1986 when Jack Clark was hurt, so that may be boosting his defensive numbers.

Well, my dad's not going to like it, but I'll take Andy van Slyke.

Worst: Milt Thompson. He was only the starter in '90 until Felix Jose showed up (from the Willie McGee trade), but he was exactly replacement level for that period of time, which puts him a win and a half, at minimum, below all the other possibilities. Strange thing to note: Excluding Thompson, the other six guys all have an OPS between .730 and .790. If you remove Hendrick (.779), and van Slyke (.784), the other 4 (Durham, Green, Ford, Brunansky) are all between .730 and .750. Of the six, none have an OBP below .302 (Durham), or above .339 (van Slyke). SLG stays between .408 (Curt Ford) and .446 (Hendrick, with van Slyke 1 and Durham 5 points behind).

Torre Era: 3

Best: The best is really Brian Jordan. His 6.8 WAR/162 is more than Felix Jose and Mark Whiten's combined. Problem: Jordan was only the starter in 1995, so we're talking one-third of a shortened season. Admittedly the other guys are only starters for about two years. Whiten a little less when you consider one was a strike year, Jose a little more since he was starter for Torre's portion of '90. But the longevity gap is a little much. Of the other two, I give the nod to Felix Jose. Their offensive numbers are fairly similar, Jose with a .788 OPS, Whiten with .784. Whiten walks more and hits for more power (63 BBs and 26 HRs vs. 51 and 13 for Jose). But Jose has a 30 point batting average edge which somewhat mitigates those advantages, at least as far as OBP and SLG. Jose is more of a speed threat (27 SBs to 17). Given that neither one was much of a defender, I'm curious how Jose was worth 2.6 WAR/162, and Whiten 2.1.

Worst: Well, it certainly isn't going to be Jordan, so Mark Whiten by default.

LaRussa Era: 9

Best: Yes, Lance Berkman had a really good year last year. But it's just one year, and we're not so hard up for choices that he's going to win. Ludwick has 3 years as starter, but his performance (3.8 WAR/162) lags well behind the other two guys with similar time. So it really comes down to Brian Jordan vs. J.D. Drew. As I mentioned up top, Drew has 4 years as starter, at a rate of 5.4 WAR/162. Jordan has just two, but produced at a rate of 7.0 WAR/162. Across 4 years, Drew played 2800 and 1/3 innings in right field. In two years, Jordan played 1991 and 2/3 innings. Drew was better at drawing walks and hitting for power (ISO of .216 vs. Jordan's .197), but Jordan has the speed, average, and outstanding defense - 54 runs above average over those two years. Drew's 4 year total is a not insignificant 39 runs above average, but it's still 9.75 per year versus 27 per year.

At the end of the day, Jordan does have a pretty significant edge in performance, and while he was prone to injury, so was Drew. Plus, nobody was really sorry to see Drew go, since the best thing he ever did for St. Louis was headline a trade that netted the Cards Adam Wainwright. Go Brian Jordan!

Worst: Juan Encarnacion. Two years as starter, -0.7 WAR/162. I think Juan had a tough road to climb from the first, being the major free agent signing of the Cardinal's offseason going into 2006, plus taking over for Larry Walker. The expectations from fans were out of line with what Juan's career numbers said to expect. That being said, his career numbers didn't suggest he'd be this lousy either. Still sad that his career was ended by that Aaron Miles line drive.

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Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Cards Over The Last 32 Seasons - Center Field

Centerfield is the other position, along with shortstop, that's remained the most stable over the course of this study. Still just nine different players. The difference is, where shortstop owes its stability largely to one guy holding down the job for 13 seasons, centerfield's advantage comes from three different players having 8 year runs as starter. Of the other six, only one was starter for more than a year.

Herzog Era: 4

Best: George Hendrick and Milt Thompson both had good years as the starter (in 1980 and 1989, respectively). But it was just one year for each, and really a half seasons for Hendrick (though he was also sort of the starter in 1981). So Willie McGee's 8 years wins. His 3.5 WAR/162 isn't quite at the same level as the other two (4.3 for Hendrick, 4.0 for Thompson), but the longevity carries more weight. Hendrick's the only real power hitter of the bunch (as the only one with averaging more than 10 HRs per 162 games, at 26, and he also, interestingly, strikes out less. He doesn't any more though, which is why his, Thompson, and McGee's OBPs are so close together (.341, .340, and .336, respectively). He does haven't the speed of the other two, but that wasn't his role on the team, anyway.

Worst: Tony Scott. 0.4 WAR/162 in 1981. I mentioned Hendrick was sort of the starter that year. What I mean is Hendrick actually lead the team in innings in both CF and RF that year. But since he played more innings in right (and Scott played more innings in CF than runner-up Sixto Lezcano did in RF), both Baseball-Reference and I count him as the starting right fielder that year, and Scott as starting left fielder.

Torre Era: 1

Best: Ray Lankford. McGee had been traded to Oakland by the time Torre came along in '90, so there really are no other options. Anyway, Lankford was a solid 3.2 WAR/162 player over that stretch, posting a .349 OBP in spite of his average of 142 Ks per year. He also averaged 17 HRs and 33 stolen bases.

Worst: There's no one else.

LaRussa Era: 5

Best: Lankford had the three best seasons of his career as TLR's starting CFer from '96-'98. His batting average rose over 20 points, and his OBP rose almost 40 (from .349 to .388, because he went from 74 walks to 97). His slugging also jumped by over 97 points, and his HRs went from 17 to 31, while his stolen base totals remained roughly the same (30). All told, he was worth 6.2 WAR/162.

And he still doesn't win. Because Jim Edmonds was the starter for 8 years, and he averaged 6.6 WAR/162. Edmonds doesn't have Lankford's speed (2 triples to Ray's 4, and 5 SBs to his 30), but he slightly edges him in OBP (.393 to .388) and SLG (.555 to .535). Plus, the defensive metrics were rarely high on Lankford. He had one season as a starting CFer where he was more than 5 runs above average - 1996 - and 5 where he was anywhere from 1 to 12 runs below average. All told, in his 3 years under TLR, he was 17 runs above average. Edmonds had one season (2006) where he was 1 run below average, and 2 (2000 and 2007) where he was one run above average. In the other 5 he was a combined 68 runs better than an average centerfielder. So 6 runs above average a season vs. 8.5 (or 13.6 if you only consider 2001-2005), which probably explains the difference.

Worst: There really isn't a worst. J.D. Drew was really only starter for half the season thanks to injuries. I know, it's shocking J.D. Drew would miss time to injury. Still, he was on a 3.7 WAR/162 pace that year. Ankiel's one year as starter he was on a 4.6 WAR/162 pace. Which just leaves Colby Rasmus. Even so, across his 3 years as starter (as Jon Jay didn't catch up to him before the end of the 2011 season), he was still a 2.9 WAR/162 player. He just didn't consistently post offensive numbers on Ankiel's level, or defensive numbers on Drew's. Sometimes he'd do one or the other, but never both simultaneously.

Next time, we wrap up the series by moving from one of the most stable positions to the least stable position of all.

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Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Cards Over The Last 32 Seasons - Left Field

I finally made a single choice for Torre Era 2nd base, so that post has been updated. On to left field. It's not a position that's had much long-term stability. Lots of people for 3 or 4 seasons, most of them average players at best. Only a few standouts.

Herzog Era: 4

Best: Vince Coleman may have the longevity, but Lonnie Smith's got the performance. Coleman, over 6 years, averaged 1.7 WAR/162. Most damning, for a guy who hit leadoff anyway, is his .322 OBP. The average of 116 strikeouts per 162 games isn't great either, since a guy with his speed is always a threat to get on, but not if he isn't making contact.

Lonnie, on the other hand, was a 4 WAR/162 guy for three seasons. Most of that is his outstanding 1982, but that doesn't make it count for less. Lonnie had a bit of power (117 points for his ISO), an OBP of almost .370, and while he can't match Coleman's stolen base totals, 61 steals per 162 games is nothing to sneeze at.

Worst: For some reason when Herzog took over in 1980, he opted to use his backup catcher in left field frequently. Maybe Bobby Bonds was hurt a lot, or Herzog didn't like him, I don't know. Either way, Terry Kennedy was exactly replacement level that season.

Torre Era: 2

Best: 1990 actually was one of Coleman's better seasons overall. But it's only a third of a season under Torre, and it isn't appreciably better than Bernard Gilkey's average from 91-95. Gilkey's average isn't as good, but his walk rate is high enough to give him the superior OBP, and his ISO beats Coleman's by 40 points. Gilkey was also usually a fair defender,

Worst: I'm not giving this to Coleman, because his performance is too good to merit it.

LaRussa Era: 8

Best: The best performer is Albert Pujols. His average of 8.6 WAR/162 is a full 3 wins better than the next guy. But it seems wrong to count him as TLR's first baseman and left fielder. Besides, he was only there two seasons. What are the other options? Ron Gant was starter for three years, averaged 2.4 WAR/162 (accompanied by a .332 OBP and 149 strikeouts). Ray Lankford was starter for 4 years, at 2.2 WAR/162 (with 157 strikeouts, but a .363 OBP). The best answer is Matt Holliday (though Gant should probably earn points for feuding with LaRussa during and after his time in St. Louis.)

Anyway, Holliday's been the starter for 3 years now (really 2 and one-third if we consider when he arrived), has a 5.6 WAR/162, good offensive numbers, slightly above-average defense. There's really no one else with the combination of time served and performance. Except Albert, of course, but I already explained that.

Worst: It's either So Taguchi or Chris Duncan. They were each starter for one season. They were each worth about 0.4 WAR/162. Taguchi had mostly lost his starting job to Duncan near the end of '06, but Duncan mostly lost his due to injury and Skip Schumaker in 2007. Taguchi's worth is from his defense, because it sure isn't going to be that .686 OPS. Duncan's value is entirely based on his offense, and he was actually a fairly valuable hitter in 2007. It's just that he was an abysmal fielder. Worse than Lance Berkman was last year, actually. I don't think the Cardinals really planned for Taguchi to be such a prominent player in their outfield in 2006, so I'm giving the nod to Chris Duncan.

Next time we move to center field. A position that's not had too many starters over the years.

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Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Cards Over The Last 32 Seasons - Shortstop

Shortstop is one of the two most stable positions for the Cardinals over the last 3 decades. In that time, only 9 different players have played the plurality of innings at the position for even one season. In the case of SS, much of that is owed to one guy being the starter for 13 consecutive years. We'll look at the key for the other position when we get to it.

Herzog Era: 2

Best: In any of the other eras, Garry Templeton would probably win. Between 1980 and 1981, his WAR/162 was 4.9, which is what you get with a shortstop who plays above average defense (8 runs above average both years) while posting a .728 OPS (OPS+ of 108 and 98 for the 2 years). His base-stealing wasn't the best (39 successes to 29 failures), and he didn't walk (average of 27/162 games, which is how a guy with a .300 average only has a .324 OBP), but he did hit for average, had good power for a SS (ISO of 124), and like I said, above average defense at a premium position.

Unfortunately, he shares this era with Peak Ozzie Smith. During this time, Ozzie was worth 5.5 WAR/162. Much of that is defense. In his worst season during this time, he was 10 runs above average, usually between 13 and 19, and in 1989, he was 31 runs better than an average SS. So anywhere from 1 win to 3 per season right there. he was a solid base runner, always worth at least 3 runs there, sometimes as much as 11 runs, and a successful base stealer (317 steals to 65 times caught). But he was also worth more as a hitter than people think. No, he didn't have a high average (.269), or much power (ISO of 74), but he drew 74 walks/162 games, which is how he has a .346 OBP, so the gap between his and Templeton's OPS is only 39 points, and Ozzie's in OBP-heavy (which is generally considered more valuable). Throw in that Ozzie has a big longevity edge, and that Herzog traded Templeton for Ozzie specifically, and it's clear cut.

Worst: That said, I'm not listing Templeton here, because it doesn't seem fair to list a guy who produced that well under this heading.

Torre Era: 2

Best: Ozzie Smith. He wasn't nearly as good as he had been, but he was also in his mid to late 30s throughout the Torre Era. And he was still a 4.1 WAR/162 player. His average climbed (.282), but his walk rate fell (69/162, which is why his OBP only rose to .348), and his power declined (ISO of 67). His baserunning and defense weren't what they used to be, but he's still better than anyone we'll see on this post besides Templeton and his younger self.

Worst: Tripp Cromer. He's the only other option, and unlike Templeton, his performance merits the "worst" tag. It's still not really his fault. It wasn't planned for him to start in '95, but Ozzie got hurt, and Cromer was what they had. I'm sure they hoped for better than a .595 OPS and -0.9 WAR/162, though.

LaRussa Era: 6

Best: Outside of one player, TLR generally had solid shortstops. Rarely great, but the worst WAR/162 of the other five was 1.8, which is basically average. That said, there are two in the running here. Eckstein has the performance edge at 3.3 WAR/162, and an OBP (.357) heavy .732 OPS. But it's only a narrow edge over Edgar Renteria, who posted a 3.2 WAR/162, with a pretty solid .347 OBP of his own, and considerably more power (ISO of 130 to Eckstein's 78). Renteria's numbers suffer because his years came during a more offense heavy time. By the time Eckstein got here, baseball was starting to PED test, and numbers were slipping a little, which makes him look better by comparison. Renteria was more of a stolen base threat (27/162 vs. 11). Eckstein was probably the more sure-handed defender, but Edgar has the greater range. Renteria was the starter for twice as many years, and Eckstein was the fallback option after Renteria took the bigger contract from Boston. Wonder if he regrets that, considering how his one season there went? I'm giving the nod to Edgar Renteria, because Eckstein's performance advantage is just too slim to compensate for the rest.

Worst: Ryan Theriot. He was worth exactly 0.0 WAR/162 last year. That's with his time at second base, where he was average defensively, rather than a fucking disaster like he was at SS, factored in. As a SS, he'd beat out Cromer for the worst SS of the last 3 decades. He still might when you consider that unlike Cromer, Theriot was supposed to be the starter, and the team had to trade for a replacement because of his performance. Also, the team didn't pay Cromer over $3 million for the job he did (Baseball-Reference says $112,000). Anyway, we're not doing best and worst ever, today, so that's irrelevant. For LaRussa, though, Theriot's clearly the worst. For the record, Brendan Ryan's WAR/162 for his two years as starter? 2.7, which is basically what he was worth for Seattle this year in less than 162 games.

Next time, left field. There are a couple of cases where I don't think longevity will be enough.

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Saturday, March 03, 2012

The Cards Over The Last 32 Seasons - Third Base

Third base has generally been a more stable position for the Cardinals than second. Not necessarily players holding the starting job for five or more years, but several guys who were starter for three or four seasons. Not many one-hit wonders, as it were.

Herzog Era: 3

Best: This is the problem I alluded to at the end of the last post. On one hand, you have Ken Oberkfell, who was moved to third base to make room for Tom Herr at second, and because the team had no viable options at third. Oberkfell didn't really like playing third, and was eventually traded to Atlanta, making way for Terry Pendleton, who held the job the next 7 years.

Oberkfell's AVG/OBP/SLG/OPS are 292/354/376/730, versus Pendleton's 261/308/359/667. This tends to give Oberkfell a significant advantage as a hitter, though Pendleton scores well as a defensive player. Oberkfell's best dWAR is 0.7, which Pendleton bests on 5 occasions, going as high as 2.2 in 1985. Oberkfell walks more, Pendleton's isolated power is higher (98 points vs. 84). In terms of WAR, Oberkfell clocks in at 3.2/162, Pendleton as 2.5/162. However, Pendleton has the two best seasons, 1989 (4.0) and 1987 (3.6). Oberkfell's 3 seasons would rank 3-5, as he was eerily consistent: 2.9, 2.2, 2.7. Pendleton has only one other season where he's even average (1984, 2.0 WAR). The dilemma: Do we take Oberkfell, with his consistent production for 3 years, or Pendleton, who has the longer term of service, who had the best seasons, but also some real clunkers (sub replacement level in 1990)?

Though Oberkfell intrigues, Terry Pendleton's longevity, plus the fact Oberkfell was traded because the Cards had Pendleton (and Oberkfell didn't really like playing third) tips things in Pendleton's favor.

Worst: Just leaves Ken Reitz. Well, when you have a worse OBP than Pendleton, and not nearly enough of a power edge to keep your WAR/162 from being -1.7, that's what you get.

Torre Era: 3

Best: Todd Zeile. The other two candidates are Pendleton in Torre's third of 1990, and Scott Cooper in Torre's third of 1995. Considering one is replacement level, and the other even worse, that's no competition at all. For the record, Zeile posted a .772 OPS from '91-'94, and was worth an average of 2.0 WAR/162. So exactly an average third baseman. Oberkfell could have beaten him standing on his head.

Worst: Cooper's numbers aren't pretty, and he was supposed to be a big free agent pickup, but at least his OPS was over .600. Terry Pendleton it is.

LaRussa Era: 8

Best: While the Cardinals had a fair amount of turnover at third under TLR, there hasn't been a severe dud in the bunch. The worst WAR/162 is 2.3, shared by two players. That being said, one player stands head and shoulders above the rest. Scott Rolen has the years (4, the longest of any of them), the production (6.2 WAR/162), and even got traded after bickering with LaRussa, which has to count somehow on the philosophical scale. Fighting with players and turning the local media against them is a LaRussa specialty, and Rolen's yet another member of the club.

Worst: Here are the guys with the 3 lowest WAR/162 numbers: Gary Gaetti (2.3), Abraham Nunez (2.3), Mark DeRosa (2.4). I'm giving the nod to DeRosa. Nunez did remarkably well for a guy who became the starter because Rolen collided with the Dodgers first baseman. Gaetti was the starter for three years, have to respect the longevity, and he posted pretty good defensive numbers. DeRosa was the midseason acquisition meant to stabilize third base in '09. Admittedly, it wasn't his fault he had a wrist injury, but he still wound up being possibly the weakest bat in the lineup, and he barely beat out Joe Thurston on the innings count. If I looked at it as a combo of the two, it'd be no contest.

Next weekend, shortstop! This will be a mostly uneventful post, but we will get to poke fun at Ryan Theriot.

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