Andy Beard

Proud STL resident. Baseball enthusiast. Music lover. Theology thinker/reader. MA in Clinical Psych. Never met a pizza I didn't like.

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Is it good to have boxscores to look at again, or what? Today, $41-million man (whoops!) Kyle Lohse will be taking the hill for the Cardinals in a spring exhibition game against the Houston Astros. An afterthought before the sky fell on Wainwright’s right elbow, we are left hoping for something that resembles a comeback season for Kyle Lohse.

Lohse relies on his slider often, throwing it roughly 20% of the time over the course of his career. In his tenure with the Cardinals, it had been a plus pitch (0.65 runs/100 pitches in 2008 and 1.06 runs/100 pitches in 2009) until it fell to -1.77 runs/100 pitches in 2010. This isn’t to say that he’s never struggled with the pitch before – it had negative run values in 2003, 2005, and 2006 – but none were as damaging as pre-surgery (forearm) last season.

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Adam Wainwright on July 20, 2008

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And just like that, a cloud developed over the Cardinals’ 2011 season. Let’s start with a couple of quotes… then I’ll guide us through the plethora of opinions and input (links, links, links) on what this means for the Cardinals in 2011 and beyond after the jump.

From the Post Dispatch’s Joe Strauss:

Adam Wainwright, the Cardinals’ ace, projected opening day starter and two-time Cy Young Award contender, will receive a second opinion today after an initial exam found enough damage to a ligament near his right elbow to suggest surgery that would put him out for this season and a large part of 2012.

And from the injury expert himself, Will Carroll, at Sports Illustrated:

If Wainwright has Tommy John surgery, he’ll miss the 2011 season while undergoing the nine-to-twelve month rehab. He should be able to come back without any real challenge, following the same path as Joe Nathan, the Twins closer who is returning from elbow reconstruction. Nathan tore his ligament at a similar part of spring training in 2010 and is throwing without limitations now.

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Jaime Garcia on July 20, 2008

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I agreed to participate in this month’s United Cardinals Bloggers activity. In case you didn’t know, we’ve created an e-mail chain in which we’ve been exchanging questions/answers about various Cardinals-related issues. You can find the full set of links HERE.

Today is my turn at hosting and I posed the following question to my fellow bloggers:

Jaime Garcia set a strong precedent for seasons to come in his rookie campaign: 2.70 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 7.27 K/9, 3.53 BB/9, and 55.9 GB%.

Marcel (Tom Tango’s projection system) puts Garcia at 3.36 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 7.43 K/9, and 3.39 BB/9 for 2011.

Would you take the over or under on Marcel’s forecast? Why?

Since this roundtable project includes a wide array of Cardinals blogs, I suspect that there might be a few more readers visiting today who are unfamiliar with sabermetrics. Welcome! For those of you interested in learning more about sabermetric principles, check out the collection of links that Steve compiled in Gas House Graphs’ “Saber 101 & Saber 201″ tab… or you can peruse the ever-growing FanGraphs library. Here’s a specific entry dealing with the various projection systems, including Marcel, which follows the most basic model.

By the way, if you still have questions about certain sabermetric principles, maybe we can help. Feel free to use the new Gas House Graphs mailbag set up by Steve yesterday to ask us questions.

Blogger reactions are after the jump. My insightful (or boring… you decide!) analysis can be found at the end.

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I’ve been frequenting Rob Neyer’s new gig at SB-Nation and highly recommend that you do the same. A few days ago, he referenced this SI article in which Will Carroll reports more than $1 billion has been wasted by MLB teams on injured players in the past decade. That’s a pretty astounding number. What’s even more noteworthy is Carroll’s assertion that some teams have figured out how to prevent injuries and/or recover from injuries faster than others:

A majority of teams are around average over the last decade. Many of these have major fluctuations — a year in which they’re good, followed by a year where the injuries hit more. Most around baseball would call that “part of the game” or “luck.” While it’s essentially random around the average for teams that allow it to be that way, the fact that some teams consistently stay at the top or the bottom suggest that there’s more to it than mere randomness.

Neyer agreed that this may represent a significant market inefficiency. Certainly, keeping the best players on the field most of the time is an advantageous strategy for any organization. That some teams have figured out how to do it better than others made me wonder how the Cardinals compare to the rest of the league. Using a spreadsheet provided by Jeff Zimmerman in the discussion happening on the topic at The Book’s blog, I calculated the percentage of each team’s total salary lost to injury (2002-2009).

As you can see, the Cardinals appear to fluctuate randomly year-to-year. Their 16/30 MLB team ranking might suggest that they have yet to implement a strategy that maximizes injury prevention and/or faster recovery time. I don’t know about you, but if there’s any way to heal David Freese’s ankle/foot once and for all, thus minimizing the likelihood that Nick Punto will make 400 PAs at the hot corner, I’m game. If Carroll is correct in his estimation that it would only cost teams $1 million to employ a “world class” medical staff or $50K to hire a third trainer (refer back to the comments section at The Book’s blog), something less than one-third of MLB teams actually do, the Cardinals may want to rethink their approach to injury prevention/recovery.

ST LOUIS, MO - JULY 14:  Former St. Louis Card...
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For whatever reason, I’ve never gotten into Hall of Fame debates… but I think that will change as more and more players that I grew up watching become eligible. Lately, my interest in Hall of Fame stuff has been peaked by Adam Darowski‘s wWAR ranking system. Basically, it awards players with extra credit for seasons in which they accumulated WAR greater than 3 (termed Wins Above Excellence – WAE) and WAR greater than 6 (termed Wins Above MVP – WAM). You can read Adam’s full description here, but he explains:

We’ll count WAR above 3.0 twice and WAR above 6.0 three times. Let’s call it Weighted WAR (wWAR). The formula is simply WAR+WAE+WAM.

I thought it would be fun to take a look at the Saint Louis Cardinals’ career leaders in wWAR to see how they rank against each other and those already enshrined in Cooperstown. To start, I used Baseball-Reference’s Play Index to generate a list of career leaders in WAR. Since this only displayed each player’s WAR accumulated while playing for the Cardinals, I then calculated their wWAR from player pages and included their entire careers. You’ll notice I added a few players of personal interest (McGwire, Walker, and McGee). After the graph, I’ll comment on my favorite observations.

  • My favorite observation? Ray Lankford (49.4 wWAR) ranks favorably to Lou Brock (47.8 wWAR). Fun fact: Lankford’s career wOBA is twenty points better than Brock’s (.366 to .346). Brock lost quite a bit of value from poor defense (minus ~4 wins) and harsher position adjustment. Amazingly, even without the wWAR system, Lankford is within one WAR of Brock. However, FanGraphs does not agree with this assessment as it has Lankford’s career WAR being roughly ten wins worse than Brock’s. With that said, I think it’s safe to conclude that Lankford is pretty under-appreciated while Brock is probably overrated.
  • The whole “Retire 51″ campaign was probably a little silly, wasn’t it? McGee will always be a fan favorite, but he’s clearly one of the weaker players in the graph above.
  • Scott Rolen’s career 98.6 wWAR puts him on par with Brooks Robinson. If he retired today, his wWAR would be good for sixth best 3B in the HOF. If healthy (always a big “if” with Rolen), his past three seasons of 3+ WAR indicate that he should easily pass Robinson in 2011.
  • Jim Edmonds’ candidacy for the HOF is eagerly anticipated around these parts. The wWAR system only fortifies an argument for his induction. Out of the seventeen center-fielders currently enshrined in Cooperstown, Edmonds would rank eighth in this system (short of Bill Hamilton by one-tenth of a point). I’ll leave it at that. Rumor has it that Mr. Darowski will be gracing us with a guest post on this very topic. Be sure to check back often. You won’t want to miss that.
  • Of the thirteen backstops already in the HOF, Ted Simmons would rank 7th. Refer to our previous roundtable for more on Simmons.
  • No, Albert Pujols isn’t “The Man” just yet, but he’s well on his way, already surpassing 150 wWAR (161.6 to be exact) in just his tenth season. Stan accumulated 207.5 wWAR in twenty-two seasons. As you can see, Pujols’ WAE is more than the WAR total of many of Saint Louis’ all-time greats. He already has more WAM (24) than Stan (20.8). Wow. He’s going to make a lot of money.

What did I miss? Anything else worth mentioning?

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I’ve been thinking about Lance Berkman lately. I guess I’m not alone since Steve also posted about him yesterday. What follows are a few links from various sites like FanGraphs, Baseball Prospectus, and Fungoes. Also, a great interactive graphic from Beyond the Box Score ponders whether Minute Maid Park might have inflated Berkman’s power the last few years. It’s all after the jump… and I’ll provide a few musings along the way.
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See what I did there? One of my favorite parts about having a blog is being able to choose titles. You’re welcome for today’s gem. Genius, I know. I thought I’d try something new today. Since Twitter lends itself to spontaneous baseball debates, I thought I’d use a conversation I had with @andrewdmoses regarding his suggestion that Andruw Jones would be a nice pickup for the Cardinals’ bench. You can follow our entire back-and-forth on the subject to the left. If it’s too small for you to read, you should be able to click the picture and access a larger image.
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Joe Posnanski tweeted a remarkable statistic that helps encapsulate the greatness of Albert Pujols:

A Christmas baseball thought: Albert Pujols has averaged .331, 43 doubles, 41 homers, 119 runs, 123 RBIs his first 10 years.

He then went on to explain:

Here’s the thing: Only nine players in baseball history have pulled off that Pujols average season even once in their careers.

Being on twitter, you get inundated with a bunch of crazy baseball stats, but this one about Pujols has really stuck with me. Maybe it’s because he’s a hometown player. Or maybe it’s because he might not be in STL after this year and stats like these might propel him into free agency where he’d have a decent shot at becoming the highest paid player in the history of the game (either by average annual value, length of contract, or both). Regardless, STL fans have been fortunate to witness one of the more transcendent 10-year-performances in baseball history.

Sure, there’s been other stats to show it. Jayson Stark declared Pujols the MVP of the “Double Zeros” after hitting for the decade triple crown (leading in AVG, HRs, and RBIs) in the aughts. Stark noted that Pujols also led in the more telling stat OPS+ over that time frame. To Derrick Goold’s credit, he was following the story before it even happened, but I couldn’t find any updates since Pujols had actually accomplished the feat (though I’m sure he wrote something).

In October, Disciples of Uecker‘s Jack Moore wrote an article at FanGraphs comparing the implications of Pujols’ upcoming free agency to the hoopla that surrounded LeBron James in the NBA. Jack included a graph that illustrates just how well Pujols measures up against some of the all-time greats (Ruth, Aaron, and Bonds). While Ruth is clearly superior, Pujols compares favorably to Bonds and has an age-WAR-path that’s almost identical to Hank Aaron.

This all brings us to Posnanski’s tweet about Pujols’ average season and how only nine players (including Pujols) have matched those numbers in any ONE season. Then contemplate how only twelve player-seasons in the history of the game have matched the offensive qualifications set by an average of Pujols’ first ten years in the league. Sit with that. The graph below illustrates each season with bars representing AVG, OBP, SLG, and wOBA.

Some observations/musings: Out of the twelve player-seasons, six belong to Babe Ruth, Todd Helton (!), and Albert Pujols himself. Three of these performances were by players employed within a pre-humidor Coors Field. Five of the seasons occurred within the live-ball era of the 1920′s.

How good was Babe Ruth? The only of the bunch to post an OPS above 1.300. Actually, only two players have ever posted an OPS greater than 1.300 with at least 500 PA: Ruth (1920, 1921, and 1923) and Bonds (2001, 2002, and 2004). Each did so three times. For reference, Pujols’ highest OPS to date has been 1.114 in 2008.

Sure, some of the stats mentioned by Posnanski are “traditional” ones (e.g. Runs and RBI’s) which can be distorted by the context in which a player is placed (e.g. lineup). But this doesn’t ruin it for me. In a league that features thirty teams with twenty-five man rosters, the 2011 MLB season will begin with 750 active players. Using Baseball-Reference‘s play index, there have only been 222 seasons that compare at or above Pujols’ career lows (32 HR’s, 33 2B’s, 99 R’s, and 103 RBI’s). And that’s not even including his career low .312 AVG which would eliminate seven of the first twenty-five results. Whether he wants to be or not, Pujols is “El Hombre” as far as Saint Louis is concerned.

If anyone plays fantasy baseball and plans on purchasing a book/magazine for guidance next season, consider The Graphical Player 2011. Player summaries for Cardinals’ pitchers and hitters were written by me… but don’t let that discourage you!

This book is loaded with content for every single player (more than 1,050 ballplayers in all) that includes 2011 forecasts, comparable hitters/pitchers, 2010 minor league numbers, 2007-2010 major league numbers, chief competitors for playing time, ten-year trends (SLG, OBP, & BA), and insights from, “24 of the web’s savviest baseball writers.”

Click the Buster Posey book cover below to learn more about the contents of this guide and find out how it can help you get a head start on your fantasy competition in 2011.  Enjoy an 18-page PDF sample.  Word on the street is that an e-book version of GP11 may be dropping in the new year.  Stay tuned….

First of all, go read Fungoes’ excellent take on the Cardinals’ decision to replace Brendan Ryan with Ryan Theriot in 2011.

Having realized that each player had terrible offensive seasons in 2010, I wanted to take a look at which player was more likely to rebound in 2011 given batted ball data from FanGraphs.  As Joe Strauss pointed out in his most recent chat, exercises like this may prove futile in that the Cardinals’ decision to trade Brendan Ryan is rooted in far more than statistics.  About the Theriot acquisition and its implications for Ryan, Strauss wrote:

He IS an offensive upgrade over a guy who hit .223 last season and was twice benched by his manager for pouting. I’m a Ryan honk due to his spellbinding defense. But those who base their opinion on Ryan’s .292 average in 2009 are missing it. This isn’t solely a statistical issue. It’s also a clubhouse matter.

I’m averse to making personnel decisions based on team chemistry as I’m among those that believe team wins breed chemistry rather than vice versa.  Strauss is probably right in reporting that the decision was more of a, “clubhouse matter,” but that doesn’t mean Mozeliak is justified in his decision to replace Ryan with Theriot at shortstop.  He must believe that Ryan/Theriot would approximate equal value in order to consider Theriot’s character as the tipping point.  Theriot clearly isn’t going to eclipse Ryan’s value defensively, so Mozeliak must believe that Theriot’s offensive contributions will be significant enough to disregard Ryan’s defensive prowess.

Could the Cardinals be expecting too much out of Theriot?  After all, he generated a career-worst .286 wOBA in 2010 and has only posted above average offensive numbers once (2008) when given more than 500 AB’s; even in that season, he was only one percent greater than league average (101 wRC+).  Of course, Ryan’s .256 wOBA indicated even more pathetic offense.  The below table displays each player’s 2010 batted ball data with the numbers in parentheses representing career norms minus 2010 rates.  Let’s see if either player is due for upward regression given unlucky results.

2010 Batted Ball Data (Career – 2010)
Player BABIP BB K LD GB FB IFFB
Ryan .253 (.039) 6.8% (-0.2) 13.7% (0.1) 17.9% (0.7) 47.2% (2.2) 34.9% (-2.8) 12.2% (-0.1)
Theriot .305 (.011) 6.4% (1.9) 12.6% (0.04) 19.6% (1.5) 54.1% (-1.7) 26.3% (0.02) 4.6% (0.9)

Theriot’s career offensive season was largely predicated on a solid 11% walk rate and impressive 23.2 LD%.  The Cardinals can’t bank on Theriot being a very disciplined hitter since his walk rate was 2.6% above career norms in 2008.  Although his annually high LD% is encouraging, his BABIP didn’t really suffer in 2010 despite hitting 1.5% fewer line-drives.  Whereas hitting more ground balls isn’t necessarily a bad thing for a player with decent speed, grounders don’t result in hits as frequently as liners.  Theriot’s 2010 batted ball data doesn’t suggest unluckiness; rather, his numbers were more or less representative of his overall skill set.  For what it’s worth, Bill James does project Theriot to regain some patience at the plate in 2011 (8.3% BB), but I’m not so optimistic as Theriot has seen fewer pitches within the strike zone while walking less often every year since 2008.

Brendan Ryan, however, had a huge disparity in 2010′s BABIP, losing thirty-nine points from his career norm.  Some of this was undoubtedly due to hitting more balls in the air, not a positive development given Ryan’s lack of power.  But even after replacing more than two percent of ground-balls with fly-balls, 39 points is too big of a discrepancy to explain away his decrease in BABIP altogether.  I also wonder how much of Ryan’s struggles can be attributed to experimenting with various batting stances throughout the 2010 season.  Instead of vowing to return to his 2009 batting stance, Ryan continues to tinker with new ideas such as choking up on the handle, using a bigger bat, and following through with two hands for at least 1,000 swings.  Therefore, any team relying on him will have to accept his inconsistent approach at the plate or convince him otherwise.  Regardless, he’s due for some positive regression.

Offense be damned, Ryan was still worth 1.0 WAR in 2010 (according to FanGraphs) thanks to 11.5 fielding RAR while Theriot accumulated 0.0 WAR in time split between the Cubs and Dodgers.  Had Theriot spent more time at SS, he would have gained a couple of runs in the positions adjustment, but his overall value still would have fallen short of Ryan.  This gap would have been even larger had Ryan not hit into such poor luck in 2010.

Combine all of this with the reality that Ryan is three years younger and roughly $2 million cheaper, and I don’t see how replacing him with Theriot makes sense financially or competitively.  I’m trying to withhold judgment since other moves could still be made… but I’m haunted by a similar anticipation that was met by the acquisition of Pedro Feliz following the departure of Ryan Ludwick last July.

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