According to research from Pizza Cutter, pitchers’ strikeout percentage per plate appearance (K/PA) stabilizes after they have faced 150 total batters. It just so happens that all five starting pitchers in the Cardinals’ rotation have recently surpassed this threshold, so I thought it would be fun to create a visual that pits their 2012 K/PA against career rates. The graph is below followed by some brief commentary (after the jump).
Being that we aren’t quite out of April, it’s a little early to read into most statistics but certain numbers become meaningful before others. Under the definition of ‘sample size’ in FanGraphs’ glossary, you’ll find a list of stats and the corresponding sample sizes needed before they achieve reliability. For offensive players, the first of those numbers is swing percentage, or how often a given hitter decides to swing the bat.
Theoretically, swinging less often is viewed positively since it suggests that the hitter could be cultivating a more disciplined approach. Selectivity is important for two reasons: (1) Hitters have a better chance to reach base via the walk if they resist swinging at pitches outside the strike zone, and (2) abstaining from pitches that would likely induce weak contact allows them to avoid making easy outs.
According to FanGraphs, swing percentage stabilizes after 50 plate appearances. Most of the Cardinals’ regulars have accumulated enough plate appearances for us to visit this stat and observe whether any obvious trends have emerged. It’s important to note that even though a trend is established after the stabilizing threshold (in this case, 50 PA) occurs, it does not mean that said player will continue to perform at the new rate, just that we can expect his performance to trend in that direction in the future.
The chart below portrays those Cardinals who have stepped to the plate at least 50 times this season and it pits their 2012 swing percentages (blue line) against their career swing percentages (red line). For the record, I’m using the PITCHf/x plate discipline numbers available at FanGraphs (as opposed to BIS data) for the reasons outlined by Colin Wyers in this Baseball Prospectus article. WARNING: I augment each individual player description with other statistics (strike out rate, line drive rate, walk rate, etc.) that have not yet stabilized, so while they are adequate descriptions of what has transpired thus far, they do not imply trends… yet.
Go ahead and vent about this play from Tuesday night that allowed the Cubs to win consecutive games in walk-off fashion. Feel better? Good. Let me provide a couple of reminders.
In the table below, I submit to you the cumulative triple-A performances of three mystery players now on the Cardinals’ roster. Which performance is most appealing?
Find out who they are after the jump…
Much has been said about the success of the Cardinals’ bullpen this postseason. It’s hard to imagine Saint Louis-ans still enjoying baseball this late in October had the likes of Ryan Franklin, Miguel Batista, P.J. Walters, Brian Tallet, and Trevor Miller still been employed. But then again, the Cardinals never would have made the playoffs without drastic upgrades in the bullpen (Dotel and Rzepczynski), rotation (Edwin Jackson), and at shortstop (Rafael Furcal). Per Buster Olney on Twitter yesterday, TLR echoed these sentiments by conceding that the team would have struggled to stay above .500 without said reinforcements.
Let’s take a look at the impact of these guys down the stretch. For the pitchers, I’m choosing to use rWAR (baseball-reference) since it uses ERA instead of FIP. This is appropriate for evaluating the impact these players had in August and September. Fangraphs’ WAR (fWAR) would be better suited for evaluating future value since it uses FIP, a better predictor of ERA than ERA itself (unless you’re talking about larger sample sizes).
Edwin Jackson: Accumulated 0.8 WAR in 12 games started (78.0 IP). Despite boasting a lower ERA after switching to the National League, other statistics suggested he actually pitched worse. Jackson struck out fewer batters (5.9 K/9; 7.18 K/9 with Sox) and generated 7-8% fewer ground balls. He did maintain his improved control (2.65 BB/9).
Marc Rzepczynski: Accumulated 0.1 WAR in 28 appearances (22.2 IP). In contrast to Jackson, Scrabble’s (tired of carefully typing his real name) ERA inflated after joining the Cardinals. However, he struck out more batters (11.12 K/9; only 7.55 K/9 with Jays) and maintained an impressive ground ball rate (63.2%). He did struggle a little with his control, adding an extra BB/9 to his walk rate. Even though he suffered 5 meltdowns (4 shutdowns), he was clearly a better option than Miller or Tallett, both of whom were eventually released by the Jays.
Octavio Dotel: Accumulated 0.2 WAR in 29 appearances (24.2 IP). Dotel pitched out of his mind after arriving in St. Louis as his modest 3.28 ERA doesn’t even begin to tell the story. He’s always been able to miss bats (career 10.91 K/9), but he improved his strikeout rate on the Cardinals (11.68 K/9) while also drastically improving his control (only 1.82 BB/9 compared to career rate of 4.01 BB/9). All of that combined for a stellar 1.57/2.31 FIP/xFIP.
Arthur Rhodes: Accumulated 0.1 WAR in 19 appearances (8.2 IP). Rhodes signed on to fill the other obligatory left-handed specialist spot in the bullpen and pitched like you’d expect a 41-year-old to pitch in the big leagues (5.90/4.77 FIP/xFIP).
Rafael Furcal: Accumulated 0.9 WAR in 217 plate appearances. Furcal’s .323 wOBA didn’t exactly light the arch on fire, but it didn’t need to when he was replacing Ryan Theriot (.292 wOBA) at shortstop. And the offensive upgrade wasn’t as obvious as the defensive improvement. While FanGraphs’ UZR ranked them closer than expected with the glove, Total Zone graded Theriot to be worth 8 runs below average while Furcal was good for 2 runs above average in considerably fewer innings at the position. Furcal accumulated more WAR for the Cardinals despite having 250 fewer plate appearances than Theriot.
Total: All in all, 2.1 WAR is represented here. That sounds pretty modest, but when you consider the guys they were replacing (arguably below replacement level talent), the impact was likely more profound. Trever Miller and Brian Tallet combined for -0.5 WAR during their time in St. Louis. And it wasn’t just the Cardinals that gave up on them: Tallet threw all of 0.1 inning before being released by the Jays while Miller only logged 3.2 innings before his release. Miller caught on with the Red Sox but he only threw two more innings in Boston. Dotel replaced P.J. Walters who spent most of August and September with Toronto’s triple-A affiliate.
What about the position players?
Furcal’s predecessor at shortstop (Ryan Theriot) had a 0.5 WAR through July. While his offense never significantly improved, defensive metrics (UZR and Total Zone) graded him as above average at 2nd base. So Theriot was transformed from an everyday liability into a serviceable part-timer. FanGraphs’ UZR grades Furcal to be nearly as bad defensively as Theriot. Honestly, that seems way off. According to Baseball-Reference – which incorporates Total Zone Rating into its WAR system – Furcal had a much larger impact in his short time with the Cardinals (1.4 WAR).
In center field, the Cardinals replaced Rasmus – who played below replacement level for the remainder of 2011 (-0.5 WAR) – with Jon Jay, who racked up 0.8 WAR over the season’s final two months. That’s a pretty significant swing in terms of 2011 outcomes. Now, as Marc Normandin outlined yesterday at SB Nation, Rasmus does have a much higher ceiling than Jay, so he may still develop into the better player, but that didn’t happen this season. Time will have its say.
Earlier in the season, I had this to say following Rasmus’ departure:
Do the Cardinals have a better chance of winning the NL Central in 2011? Probably. Have they sacrificed their ability to do so in 2012 and beyond? Perhaps considerably.
Given Colby Rasmus’s ceiling, I’m not ready to abandon that statement, but it is hard to imagine things falling into place any nicer for John Mozeliak. Having considered all of the above factors, I think it’s reasonable – if not conservative – to suggest that the above moves added 3 or 4 wins to the Cardinals’ 2011 record. At the same time, I’m not sure that Mo’s activity at the trade deadline should serve as a blueprint for other GMs around the league.
Jayson Stark had an article at ESPN earlier today that contained the following quotes from Mozeliak:
“So we just had so many questions about what 2012 would look like,” Mozeliak said, “we felt like now was the time to go for it.”
“I felt like it was aggressive, to try to do it. I know it wasn’t the most popular move. And I’m sure, if we don’t qualify for the postseason or we’re not playing here in mid-October, then yeah, you’re open to criticism. But I also know, if we don’t take risks, we’re probably not here, anyway.”
Mozeliak’s concern about the future should have provided all the more initiative to keep Colby Rasmus. He is under control for three more seasons and has the potential to develop into an impact player. In general, it’s not prudent to ransom the future by selling off one of your only cost-controlled position players when you’re worrying about where all of your other chips may fall. It’s easy to wonder if Mo’s hand was forced by TLR who openly criticized Rasmus one day before the trade. My guess is that TLR is likely to return in 2012 since he has the chance to rank 2nd in all-time managerial wins. Did Mo really want to manage this volatile relationship for another year? And Rasmus didn’t exactly help his cause when he requested a trade in 2010 anyways.
If you can’t tell, I still have mixed feelings about this whole thing. I worry about TLR’s ever growing influence in the front office and his ability to strong arm players out of the organization. There’s still the sense that something isn’t right between the player development system and big league personnel. And I’m still not confident in Mo’s overall decision making process or negotiating abilities. For every solid trade/signing (Holliday), there’s been some real head scratchers (Pedro Feliz) thrown in there.
I don’t know. All of these anxieties seemed much more valid before the Cardinals were about to play the Texas Rangers in the World Series. Now it just makes me seem like a killjoy. Mozeliak’s moves allowed the team to make a run this year. And even the most ardent critic of TLR has to pause for a moment and wonder how they got here, right? The man – and this team – deserves some serious credit. You’re familiar with all of the hurdles they encountered along the way. Wainwright’s injury. Franklin’s implosion. TLR’s shingles. Holliday’s injuries. Pujols’s wrist. Craig’s knee. Duncan’s extended absence to comfort his wife who had a brain tumor removed. And yet here they are. It’s time to put the nay-saying aside. And enjoy the ride. I know I am.
For the sake of efficiency, I’m abandoning the usual format of discussing each game’s “good, bad, and/or ugly/impressive” moment. Instead, I’ll just make some brief comments before the NLCS kicks off today.
True to form, the Cardinals continue to trick me into writing them off. Before Edwin Jackson had even recorded an out, their win expectancy dropped to 27.9%. Thanks to a strike-em-out, throw-em-out double play, Jackson quickly escaped from the inning and proceeded to lead the pitching staff by adding 12.7% win probability while striking out four and only walking one batter – good for 2.19 FIP.
Some have likened Edwin Jackson’s role in 2011 to Jeff Weaver’s in 2006 (only have one link). Is that true? How do they compare as pitchers? Well, 28-year-old Jackson is probably better right now than Jeff Weaver was at any point in his career, though it was admittedly closer than I would have guessed. While their overall FIPs are comparable (Jackson – 4.34; Weaver – 4.41), Weaver peaked in his early years while Jackson has improved with age. At first glance, you’d probably think Weaver posted the best overall season in 2002 when he performed 16% better than league average (FIP- of 84), but he didn’t give up as many homeruns that year as he probably should have since pitcher’s have relatively little control over the amount of homeruns they surrender per fly ball allowed. Weaver was 25-years-old in 2002, and his performance steadily regressed thereafter. Considering his post season success, it’s easy for Saint Louis fans to forget that his performance was pretty terrible leading up to October (5.71/5.11 FIP/xFIP for Cardinals in 2006′s regular season). While he did pitch somewhat better in October (slightly improved K/BB ratio), his results were exceedingly improved, suggesting that there was probably some luck involved. Maybe the defense helped him out, but the Cardinals weren’t exactly a great defensive team that year. He also had an unsustainable strand rate (84.4%).
Point? While their overall numbers might not be too far off, the Cardinals acquired Jackson at a much more favorable point in his career. In contrast to Weaver, Jackson struggled as a young pitcher but has spent the last three years improving his strikeout to walk ratio and has started coaxing more ground balls. He has career best numbers to show for it (3.55 FIP in 2011).
28-year-old Edwin Jackson is not the same as 29-year-old Jeff Weaver. Edwin Jackson may not end up with better results than Jeff Weaver’s memorable October in 2006, but he is the better pitcher.
Take a look at the above graph and you’ll notice that two of the largest swings in win probability have little notes about the hometown hero, David Freese. His 2-run double in the 4th and 2-run homer in the 6th added 38.2% in win probability alone.
As the 2011 season has unfolded, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how strange Freese’s career has looked thus far. I’m not the only one who thinks so; see Dan Moore’s late-September post at VEB. After posting a .538 slugging percentage in more than 700 triple-A plate appearances, his power has dropped 100 points as a major-leaguer. You’d think that such a power drop-off would lead to less productivity, but that hasn’t really been the case as he’s still been well above average with the bat (.348 wOBA in 667 plate appearances). While his impressive line-drive rate might allow him to float above the usual .300 BABIP watermark, his career .356 BABIP just seems unreasonable. Having said that, statcorner’s wOBAr adjusts for batted ball rates and park effects… and Freese still looks pretty good (.332 in 2010 and .355 in 2011). Maybe I’ll take a more in-depth look at this in the future.
Objectively, I’m not sure Carp really outpitched Roy Halladay. He certainly left more to chance as Halladay allowed fewer balls in play with 7 strikeouts (compared to Carpenter’s 3). At least two of those balls looked like serious trouble off of the bat, but instead of being game-changing home runs in late innings, they fell safely into the gloves of Lance Berkman and Jon Jay who each had to retreat to the warning track.
Overall, however, one might say that Carpenter’s balls in play were less dangerous since 66.7% of them stayed on the ground while Holliday only induced 40% grounders.
This all resulted in a fantastic pitchers duel and, for Cardinals fans, it was a special moment to behold.
I was lucky enough to be in attendance for game three. TLR has been questioned extensively for several decisions he made over the course of the loss and I wanted to spend some time sorting through all of the second guessing.
In the bottom of the 6th inning, Jaime Garcia was left in to hit for himself despite having men on first and second base. At FanGraphs, Jack Moore argued:
“…if any situation calls for Matt Holliday – he of the 154 wRC+ – it was the bottom of the sixth… When Garcia came up to the plate against Hamels, there was a leverage index of 2.51, the highest of the game to that point. By leaving Garcia in, he effectively conceded the baserunners, assuming his pitching staff could hold the Phillies down long enough for the Cardinals to start another rally.”
He goes on to explain other ways in which TLR’s decision-making process was flawed:
- The Phillies bullpen (namely, Bastardo, Worley, Lidge, and Madson) are nearly as difficult to hit as Cole Hamels. By forfeiting the inning, TLR will require his offense to start a whole new inning against pitchers nearly as talented.
- The attempt to save the bullpen was unnecessary since Cardinals’ relievers were relatively fresh despite covering six innings in game two.
- TLR’s decision to leave Jaime in to pitch suggested that he was managing in regular season mode rather than taking a win-now approach where leads are sought as immediately as possible.
Jack brings up some fine points, but I’m not sure that I completely agree. Let’s take them one at a time.
- Should TLR have pinch-hit Jaime Garcia in the bottom of the 6th inning since Matt Holliday was available? This is kind of splitting hairs, but that situation actually wasn’t the most crucial moment of the game to that point; that happened in the top of the sixth inning when Jaime induced a grounder from Ryan Howard with runners on first and second base. And overall, it only rated 7th or 8th by the time the game had ended. When Holliday did eventually pinch-hit, the leverage index was 2.29; that’s not too far off in terms of importance when compared to allowing Jaime to hit for himself. Maybe TLR kicked himself from withholding Holliday when it all played out, but he managed to use him in a potentially game-changing moment later on anyways. Offensively for the Cardinals, the most crucial moment (6.05 leverage index) occurred in the 8th inning when Allen Craig game to the plate with the bases loaded. He hit the ball about as hard as he could, but it headed right towards the sure-handed Utley, who turned the double play. What can you do? This one decision didn’t cost the Cardinals the game. I count at least seven other times when the leverage index was higher than 2.53.
- Yes, by forfeiting the inning, TLR required his offense to start a whole new rally. But guess what? They did. In fact, they did so each of the next three innings. The offense had their chances. If you have to hang the loss on somebody, pick the luck dragon, the Phillies making quality pitches, or the Cardinals hitters for failing to deliver more often.
- The suggestion that TLR was trying to save the bullpen is an assumption I’m not ready to make. I think it’s entirely possible that TLR simply wanted to leave his best pitcher in the game as long as he was dealing. Up to that point, Jaime’s pitch count was still relatively low and he had yet to allow any runs. Jaime’s had a 3.44 FIP in 2011. Other pitchers with better FIPs that were available that night included Octavio Dotel (3.23 in 54.0 IP), Jason Motte (2.48 in 68.0 IP), Scrabble (3.14 in 62.0 IP), and Fernando Salas (3.16 in 75.0 IP). Jaime Garcia pitched 194.2 innings this year with comparable results. As a general rule, you want your best players on the field as much as possible in October, right? In that regard, it’s hard for me to blame TLR. It would have been more difficult to cope with the decision to pull Jaime prematurely only to lose the game with less talented pitchers on the mound.
Others have questioned whether TLR should have opted to pitch to Carlos Ruiz rather than challenge Ben Francisco. In principle, I’m against awarding the opposition free base runners. Honestly, though, if you take a look at the win expectancy after TLR’s decision to walk Ruiz, it only dropped from 52.4% to 51.1%. Now, win expectancy assumes that the players involved are average. Intuitively, TLR knows that he has created an unnecessarily dangerous situation in which three runs could score instead of two in the worst-case scenario (the guy at-bat hits a home run), but he decided that Francisco is a considerably worse hitter than Ruiz to the extent that he was willing to take that chance. Francisco has a career .333 wOBA (approximately league-average) over 1514 plate appearances. Ruiz has a .327 wOBA over 2164 plate appearances. Neither of them have demonstrated trending platoon splits over that time, so they have each been nearly as successful at hitting lefties as righties. Their productiveness as hitters is nearly identical, and that suggests that TLR made the wrong call in pitching to Francisco over Ruiz, even if it only meant a 1% chance difference in winning the game.
Furthermore, I do take issue with TLR’s reasons for intentionally walking Ruiz:
“Well, if you follow our club with Ruiz over the years, he’s gotten as many big hits as the guys in the middle of the lineup. He just terrorizes us, and he’s already hit two balls hard. The matchup we liked, I liked. I made the decision. Francisco has had a tough time with Jaime, so it really wasn’t a tough call.“
Ruiz’s “success” against the Cardinals has come in all of 100 at-bats. As for Francisco, he had faced Jaime in all of 6 at-bats. The most frustrating part of TLR’s decision-making process is that it is often based in ridiculously small sample sizes rather than larger career arcs that provide more meaningful data. It’s disheartening to realize that the guy calling the shots for the team that we’re hanging our hopes on this October is turning to these types of numbers for spur of the moment decisions. I wouldn’t argue against TLR being a good manager. He’s won a lot of games and has taken this team further than I believed it could go. I’m appreciative of that. It’s irrational to discredit his role in the Cardinals’ resilience. But decisions are magnified in the playoffs, and I hate the thought of their season hanging in the balance of a decision resting on an inconsequential 6 at-bat sample size. The implications could be profound.
And that brings us to the last talking point: Should he have brought in Dotel to face the right-handed hitter? Here’s my logic. For TLR to walk Ruiz suggested that he had doubt in Jaime’s ability to get him out. And for all practical purposes, Ruiz and Francisco are similarly productive batters. Dotel has a career 2.92 FIP against right-handed batters and has been particularly effective lately (striking out six times as many right-handed batters than he walks). If TLR had any doubt in Jaime’s ability to retire either of these average hitters, bringing in Dotel was probably the correct play. In that sense, it’s conceivable that it would have been better for Dotel to face Francisco since Ruiz puts the ball in play more often.
All in all, this was an extremely winnable game. My concerns about TLR’s decision-making process aside, I don’t think he’s deserving of blame for this particular loss. While he had to make some tough calls, none of them were obvious transgressions in my estimation.
I was planning on writing a reaction to game four as well, but I think I might be all blogger-ed out for the night. We’ll see. Feel free to leave comments if you agree/disagree with my thoughts.
I’m downright giddy about watching Carpenter oppose Halladay tomorrow night. Hope this crazy season continues.
If you told me the Cardinals would trail by two runs before Chris Carpenter even recorded an out, I’d be hard pressed to imagine a scenario in which the Cardinals were victorious. It certainly wouldn’t have looked like last night.
The Good: The offense continued hitting and ended up tying Cliff Lee’s previous career high in hits allowed (12). At Crashburn Alley, Bill Baer argued that Lee had fallen prey to poor luck on balls in play. That is, the Cardinals twelve hits were a function of luck in that they did not seem particularly hard hit but just managed to find holes in the defense. There’s certainly some merit to this position. After all, Lee pitched well in some aspects. He was missing bats (9 K’s in 6 IP), throwing strikes (only 2 BB’s), and compiled a 1.03 FIP in the process. At one point, Bill tweeted:
The Cardinals have put 20 balls in play. Arguably two of them were well-struck.
Obviously, some of the hits were lucky (e.g. Pujols’s broken bat single, Berkman’s bloop to RF), but I can recall at least five that were hit very hard: Furcal’s triple to lead off the game, Theriot’s double down the left field line, Craig’s triple that was misjudged by Victorino, Pujols’s single to score Craig, and Berkman’s groundout that Polanco snagged and saved a run.
As a whole, the offense accounted for 23.7% of the win probability. Jon Jay lead the hitting group with a .300 WPA. In that respect, maybe the Cardinals were a little lucky since Jay’s 2 RBI’s both came on seeing eye singles that he grounded through the infield defense. So maybe a little luck was involved, but when isn’t that true of baseball?
The Bad: It seemed rather obvious that starting on three days rest did bother Chris Carpenter. He was uncharacteristically falling behind in the count and walked more batters (3) than he struck out (2). Per Joe Lefkowitz’s site, Carpenter’s velocity was down compared to the rest of 2011. I wonder if he threw fewer warm up pitches before the game in order to preserve his arm to compensate for going on short rest. He did have an efficient third inning of work and started throwing more strikes as the game progressed. Should this series reach a fifth game, I’ll look forward to seeing the real Carpenter take the mound. Unfortunately for us, he’ll probably oppose the real Roy Halladay.
The Impressive: The Cardinal bullpen only allowed one hit in six innings. The transformation of this unit has been remarkable. Azruavatar had a nice piece about it on VEB the other day. It’s no longer composed of “control” guys or “experience” guys, but players with discernible skills. Several of them can light up the radar gun and they’re missing bats in the process. Jason Motte (11.9%), Scrabble (11.7%), Fernando Salas (11.2%), and Dotel (13.4%) all induce above average swinging strike rates. Boggs has resurfaced after a baffling year of (non)use. Dotel has been incredible against right-handed batters (1.43 FIP). Add Eduardo Sanchez and Lance Lynn to this mix (possibly subtracting Dotel) and it’s easy to imagine the bullpen to mature into a veritable strength in 2012 and beyond.
As for last night, the bullpen was good for .59 WPA. Boggs entered the game at the most crucial moment, getting out of an inning that started with Scrabble hitting Utley with a pitch. The Cardinals were only leading by one run and Boggs got the first out of the inning when Pence grounded into a fielder’s choice. Motte accumulated the most win probability out of the bullpen (.235 WPA) by recording the final four outs.
And with that, the Cardinals won their first playoff game since finishing off the Tigers in the 2006 World Series. Let’s hope they make it a winning streak tomorrow night, eh?
Well, the Cardinals league-leading offense trumped the Phillies league-leading pitching staff… and they still lost game 1 of the NLDS. After surrendering a 3-run blast to Lance Berkman in the first inning, Roy Halladay morphed into a better version of himself and finished eight innings while easily disposing of his final 21 batters.
The Good: The Cardinals jumped Roy Halladay for an early lead on Berkman’s 3-run homer in the first inning. Berkman’s blast was good for .239 WPA (win probability added) and left the Cardinals with a 78% chance of winning the game before they’d even made their second out. He lead the team with an overall .225 WPA.
Rafael Furcal alleviated fears about his game being compromised by a hamstring injury when he singled and stole a base to lead off the game. Even with Punto’s solid play (when healthy) this season, his career wOBA (.296) suggests that even a decline phase Furcal is probably the better option (.323 wOBA in 200+ plate appearances with Cardinals).
There’s no shame in scoring three runs against Roy Halladay. And when he exited the game, the Cardinals immediately resumed hitting by posting a crooked number on the board in the ninth.
The Bad: TLR replaced David Freese with Daniel Descalso in the bottom of the 7th inning when they were only trailing by 3 runs. Why? I understand it was a double-switch hoping that Scrabble could pitch more than one inning, but the Cardinals were still within striking distance of a win and Freese’s bat (.348 wOBA) is clearly superior to Descalso (.296). If TLR was intent on making a double-switch, it would have made more sense to pull Skip Schumaker (who had made the last out of the previous inning) in favor of Nick Punto.
And while we’re addressing this issue, why has it become commonplace to replace Freese with Descalso at third base anyways? Does the eye test grade Descalso to be demonstrably better than Freese with his glove at the hot corner? The metrics don’t make this argument. UZR/150 has Descalso at -6.6 while Freese is +3.9 at 3B. Total Zone also considers Descalso to be inferior to Freese with the glove. So why do we keep seeing this happen in games?
The Ugly: When the bottom of the sixth inning started, the Cardinals still had a 76.8% chance of winning the game and Lohse seemed to be cruising pretty easily. Lohse’s disastrous sixth inning resulted in a 69.1% upswing in Win Probability for the Phillies. This game lacked in suspense. Once upon a time, the Cardinals had a three-run lead with good Kyle Lohse on the mound and then they suddenly trailed by three. The Cardinals squandered an opportunity to win game one and are now left relying on TLR’s desperation gamble to pitch Carpenter on short rest in game two.
Color me as surprised as anyone that the Cardinals made the playoffs. Although I’ve been fairly vocal about my frustrations with the organization – namely Tony LaRussa’s swelling sphere of influence – credit is undeniably deserved here. It’s October… and baseball is still being played in Saint Louis.
Here are some links to wet your appetite for game one:
- At Birdland, Derrick Goold uses Cool Standings to sets this year’s come from behind charge to the postseason in historical perspective. The 2011 Cardinals had the 4th lowest chance of making the playoffs at any point in September (1.4% on 9/5) and the 3rd lowest chance in the last week of the season (6.8%). Even more impressive, the 2011 Rays ranked 1st in each of these categories; they had a 0.5% chance of making the playoffs on 9/3 and 3.7% chance with one week left.
- At Beyond the Boxscore, J-Doug posted a graph that tracked the chances of both the Cardinals and Rays making the playoffs throughout September. He says: “On September 4th, the odds for either joint-outcome occurring were a dismal 1 in 100,000. Two days later, the odds of both Tampa Bay and St. Louis playing October were a mind-boggling 1 in 250,000.”
- In Beyond the Boxscore’s NLDS Phils-Cards preview, there’s a pretty graph comparing the teams in terms of run-scoring and run-prevention. As you might guess, the Phillies dominate the Cardinals in terms of run prevention. The Cardinals are 10% below league average in RA/G while the Phillies are an astounding 17% better than league average. The Cardinals, however, lead the Phillies in every offensive category (RS/G, wOBA, OBP, SLG, BABIP, LD%, and HR/FB%). While the old mantra calls for good pitching to prevail over good hitting, the playoffs are infamously random… especially when it comes to a five game series.
- Head over to Fungoes for insights from Bill Baer, writer at the great Phillies blog, Crashburn Alley.
- Dave Cameron calls the Cardinals, “the biggest underdogs of round one,” at FanGraphs Staff Playoff Predictions. Of course, I think that says more about the 102-win Phillies than the suddenly formidable Cardinals. Of the 22 voters, 21 picked the Phillies to win. Cameron estimated that the Cardinals actually have a 30-35% chance of winning the series.
A couple of more notes before I park myself in front of a TV:
- I was surprised by the Cardinals’ decision to leave Kyle McClellan off of the playoff roster. According to Mozeliak cited “deadarm” as the issue. He clearly hit a wall in September (9.37/5.63 FIP/xFIP) and struggled ever since resuming his bullpen role (5.97/4.59 FIP/xFIP overall in relief). If the decision was between McClellan and Boggs, they made the correct one (3.44/3.66 FIP/xFIP overall).
- Also, kudos to the team for choosing Adron Chambers over Corey Patterson. Despite only having 8 total plate appearances, Chambers has always had a wOBA over .350 in minors and has walked over 10% of the time in three years split between double-A and triple-A. That suggests that he’s a better option than Corey Patterson’s career .302 wOBA. If the team was really looking for speed, however, I wish they would have chosen Tyler Greene who’s only been caught stealing in 10 of 78 triple-A attempts. Oh yeah… and he lead this year’s Cardinals in stolen bases (11) despite only amassing 121 plate appearances. He was not thrown out once this year and I think he could have handled outfield duty just fine.
Gotta run. Maybe I’ll post some game recaps with help from FanGraphs WPA charts. Go Cards!
On twitter the other day, I asked for some article ideas and a friend of mine asked me to analyze the bullpen and lament all of the blown saves. After all, Franklin blew four saves in the first month of the season… take those away and the Cardinals would be right in the thick of the NL Central race, right? Well, not exactly… but it’s probably fortunate that Albert is holding the sniper rifle in the picture to the right instead of one of 3 million fans that will walk through Busch Stadium’s gates this season.