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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