Erik Manning

Erik became addicted to Cardinals baseball as a young lad growing up on the mean streets of O'Fallon, MO. He moved away to Tulsa to attend Bible College, where he met his wife, who talked him into moving to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, also known as the Bermuda triangle of baseball. His dream is to see the MLB.tv blackouts end, and his other interests are theology and philosophy of religion. He is the parent of two young boys.

Mark Teixeira

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Tango addresses a trade idea that Ken Rosenthal suggest.  I think makes a decent amount of sense, with a huge caveat. Take this post with a grain of salt, this basically is just me thinking out loud.

Albert Pujols, in 2011, is playing at a discount.  A deep discount.  Albert Pujols, from 2012 to whenever he retires, will sign a fair market-value contract.  He’s worth 250MM$, and his mortgage will be for 250MM$ (or 225/225, or whatever he will sign for).

Mark Teixeira is overpaid by about 30MM$.  Though you can construct a reasonable case that makes Teixeira properly paid.  He’s got a 135MM$ mortgage on a property worth 135MM$.  Maybe.

Ryan Howard? Forget it.  He’s hugely overpaid.

Pujols for Teix?  Even if it makes sense from 2012-onward, Pujols in 2011 is playing at a huge discount.  The Yankees will have to fork over alot more than just Teix.  And Teix cannot ask for a contract extension either.  That would really tilt things way over to the Yankees side.

Hmmm…color me intrigued IF the Cardinals get a load of prospects. Say the Cardinals are at an insurmountable impasse with Albert. Teixeira is owed $22.5 annually in 2011-2016.  His surplus value is nada, in fact using Sky’s trade value calculator here is what we get:

(Someone feel free to correct me if I’m behind the times on any of this stuff, my saber-fu is rusty these days.)

Here’s what we get for Albert-

So the Yankees would have to kick in quite a lot. As in a lot alot. Others and myself have done work on finding out what prospect surplus values are. Here is the Yankees Top 20 prospects per John Sickels.  I’d ask for Montero, Joba (sure, why not?) and Banuelos or Betances, and see if I couldn’t get more.

The problem with this scenario is that the Cardinals would have to hope for a great year from Teixeira in order to compete with Milwaukee and Cincinnati. But at least they’d be set at first base long-term with Teixeira, plus they’d get some nifty prospects to boot. Considering the seemingly short-sighted decisions from the front office, this would be encouraging.

The elephant in the room is that Pujols has said that he’d exercise his no trade rights as a 10/5 player. But you’d have to think that if he had no hope of coming back to St. Louis, he’d go to the team that is certain to give him what he wants. Plus he can play in New York, for the Yankees, the team of great history, mystique, tradition and chase all those famous ghosts and all those other things that make us Midwestern people sick.

So Pujols for Teixeira…good idea, bad idea? Got any other ideas?

Albertageddon is upon us.

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Photo by Rafael Amado©

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You may have noticed that we here at Gas House Graphs are not really panicking about the Albert Countdown to the Apocalypse, at least not yet.  Tommy Bennett says why we should stay cool about the situation better than I can in this post at Baseball Prospectus.

But if you want to get gloomy about the situation, over at The Hardball Times, Anna McDonald asks the question that no Cardinal fan wants to think about – Can the Cardinals build around Holliday?

More doomsday reading at THT: Pujols, the free agent. Jeffrey Gross looks at potential fits for El Manquino. My money is on the Blue Jays, gotta keep it uh…birdy. Seriously, the Blue Jays make sense. They dumped a ton of money through Jedi mind tricks and they need Albert to catch the Big 3 in the AL East.

Tom Tango has a potential solution – Give Albert a good-sized stake in the Cardinals. Having the Mang as part-owner… Wow, that thought has multiple implications that one can go to town on, but I’ll resist for now. Tango is enlisting readers help for a % that is fair.

Finally, and I’m just speaking for me here:

Dear Radio Talk Show Callers,

Yes, Albert is a Christian. Yes, he wants a lot of money, and it’s because it’s getting what is fair being that he is the best player in the game. The logic, agree with it or not, is that if he takes less money than he’s worth than it hurts his fellow players from getting their due. The players union typically wants players to get what they are worth and not just always settle for team friendly deals.

Yes I agree, it’s weird seeing baseball players get paid inordinate amounts of money. But they’re only getting the piece of the pie they’re getting because we, the consumers, have ensured that pie continues to get larger. We love sports as a society, probably way too much. The amount of money entertainers and athletes get is a reflection of our own values, whether you think that’s bad, good or you’re indifferent on the matter. If you don’t like the monster, then just don’t feed it.

Finally, I don’t know if it has occurred to the average person, but the more money a person like Albert has, the more he can do to reach out to the community. Pujols has won the Roberto Clemente award for his philanthropy in helping kids with down syndrome and the poor in his native country of the Dominican Republic. It’s not all about him living a comfortable life; obviously he already is living pretty comfy. Let’s turn the question on ourselves before we judge – what percentage of our income do we give to benefit others? I’m guessing for the critics that it’s not much.

Think before you open your mouth. None of us really have any idea what is going on in Albert’s mind.

Your pal,

Erik

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Jim Edmonds 2000 Home

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I admit it, I’m an unabashed Jim Edmonds fan-boy. So naturally, I had a “heck yes!” moment when I read that he had been invited to spring training. I have to say I was sort of disappointed when I saw on the inter-webs that most of the fanbase reaction was of the Chicken Little, “the sky is falling” variety. I’d like to think of myself as a long-standing member with some stature in the hyperventilating prospect geekdom, so yeah, I can see some of the backlash, I suppose. But it’s JIM EDMONDS, people. He was only the best center fielder in the history of the franchise. Where’s the love?

Rk Player WAR/pos From To Age G PA BA OBP SLG OPS
1 Jim Edmonds 45.3 2000 2007 30-37 1105 4356 .285 .393 .555 .947
2 Ray Lankford 37.7 1990 2004 23-37 1580 6289 .273 .365 .481 .846
3 Curt Flood 36.3 1958 1969 20-31 1738 6914 .293 .343 .390 .733
4 Willie McGee 22.6 1982 1999 23-40 1661 6100 .294 .329 .400 .729
5 Terry Moore 19.9 1935 1948 23-36 1298 5204 .280 .340 .399 .739
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 2/5/2011.

Look, I think younger players like Jon Jay and Allen Craig deserve playing time, but it’s not as if Jim Edmonds hasn’t shown that he still something left in the tank. This invite to spring training is more than a mere victory lap for Edmonds. The man sat out 2009 and then was good for 2.8 WAR in 272 plate appearances last year with Milwaukee and Cincinnati, slugging .504 at the ripe old age of 40, mind you. Erstwhile, Jon Jay fell slugged around .300 the rest of the season after having a “J-Rod” type of  July. (Where have you gone, John Rodriguez?)

PECOTA thinks he still can contribute, says Colin Wyers. Marcel has him at projected for a .333 wOBA. OK, so that’s not that great, but look, this is a no-risk move on the Cardinals part. And it has Jim Edmonds finishing his career as a St. Louis Cardinal, which I think is a nice thing. I hope Jon Jay has the courtesy to give him #15 back, and I really do hope the Cardinals retire it when he finally does decide to hang it up for the good.

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I already kicked this dead horse once, but I finally got around to downloading the latest CAIRO projections, which come complete with platoon splits. I wish I would’ve known about that before I dinked around for a half hour or so getting splits for my lineup post. Anyway, the prognosis is rather negative for Cardinal hitters against southpaws.

Behold the ugly.

Player Vs L
Albert Pujols 0.453
Matt Holliday 0.396
Lance Berkman 0.348
Yadier Molina 0.332
David Freese 0.331
Allen Craig 0.325
Ryan Theriot 0.313
Colby Rasmus 0.307
Nick Punto 0.289
Gerald Laird 0.289
Daniel Descalso 0.287
Skip Schumaker 0.283
Bryan Anderson 0.277

Eno Sarris at Fangraphs already hit on how horrible the bottom of the Cardinals lineup is, but it just get so much worse against left-handed pitchers. For I’m afraid that after Albert and Holliday, things begin to unravel in a hurry. Berkman who is no guarantee to hit southpaws if the current trends continue, but I guess that more prone to believe this projection than just make a judgment based on last year’s splits. Molina and Freese are the only two players left that project to be league average.

Finally I will say that I’ll definitely take the over on Colby Rasmus here, but the larger point remains that after the Big 2, the Cardinals lineup against lefties ranges from league average to … well… poopy.

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 08:  Manager Tony La...
Image by Getty Images via @daylife

2011 edition.

With the signing of Nick Punto to a major league contract this past week, the roster is pretty much set going into spring training. I’m sure like many of you, we’ve all monkeyed around with possible lineups. Tony La Russa is the king of using different lineups, he mixes and matches more than your average manager. It can be maddening at times to see names like Aaron Miles sitting atop the batting order, or Colby Rasmus batting 7th (or not at all) based on weird and mostly meaningless platoon splits.

La Russa has done some innovative things with a lineup, like batting the pitcher 8th, or batting a power hitter 2nd, and I applaud him for that. But for the most part, La Russa also pretty much sticks with tradition – like batting his best hitter 3rd, or putting a “bat handler” at lead-off, for instance. And if you’ve ever read the book Three Nights in August, we also learn that La Russa literally will agonize over writing a lineup card. Well, according to saber-nerdery wisdom, this is really all unnecessary. Believe it or not, using a foolish looking lineup over an optimized lineup is only worth about a win over the course of the season, at best. Lineups just don’t really matter that much, so when you do see (and you can bank on it that you will) a goofy lineup that La Russa scratches out, don’t get upset. At least don’t get upset unless he’s regularly sitting Colby Rasmus.

So what would be the best lineup for this team this year? Well, according to Tom Tango and MGL of The Book, there is a better way to go about it than the traditional way. Here are some of their general rules of thumb:

  • Don’t consider the strikeout, or the hitter’s ability to move runners over on outs, when constructing your starting lineup.
  • The second lead-off hitter theory is valid. You can put your pitcher in the eighth slot and gain a couple of extra runs per year.
  • Put your best hitters in the #2 and #4 spots, with the better slugger hitting cleanup. The leadoff hitter should be of similar quality and have high on-base skills, but usually with less power.
  • The #3 hitter should be of a lower quality than the 1, 2, and 4 hitters because he comes up in lower leverage situations on average (ie, he comes up more often with 2 outs and nobody on). In fact, the #5 hitter gets the higher overall run value chances vs the #3 hitter.
  • The #3 hitter faces the most double play situations.
  • Leverage your good baserunners by putting them in front of good hitters, regardless of their power numbers. Ideally, the hitter should be one who puts the ball in play a lot and hits a lot of singles and doubles.

In short, here’s how the lineup spots rank in order of  importance of avoiding outs for NL teams:

#1, #4, #2, #5, #3, #6, #7, #9, #8

Here’s how it’s probably going to happen this year, for the most part:

  1. Theriot (yuck)
  2. Rasmus
  3. Pujols
  4. Holliday
  5. Berkman
  6. Freese
  7. Molina
  8. P
  9. Schumaker

And here’s my recommendation. Hopefully, I did this right. Quick explanation on the projections – I regressed the splits to determine true talent versus pitcher handedness.

Rasmus draws the walks and will bring the thump batting lead-off, although maybe Berkman might be a better fit. You could also swap Holliday with Berkman, depending on how you feel about the player’s respective ZiPS projections. Freese batting 3rd? Yeah, I don’t like it either.  Good gravy, Theriot sure is no one’s idea of an ideal lead-off hitter. But after the Big 4, the dwarves are all that is left. Don’t look now, but the lineup against lefties is less than awe-inspiring.

There’s just not a real good choice for lead-off here. David Freese, maybe?

Tyler Greene has a projected .307 wOBA against lefties, but with sample sizes I don’t know how accurate that is. I’m sure he’d hit better than Punto, but Punto has the glove and he’s the gritty vet, so…you know. If you think this team was maddening against soft-tossing lefties in the past, well, just you wait. Hopefully Allen Craig’s lefty mashing ways from his minor league numbers translate. If so, he’d be a better fit here than Fat Elvis.

Overall this is a fun exercise. Let me know if you think I did anything wrong. I doubt we see lineups with Freese batting 3rd or Rasmus leading off any time soon, but remember: Lineups aren’t really worth the irritation that they can seem to cause at times.

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Minnesota Twins infielder Nick Punto during a ...
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In case you haven’t already heard, the Cardinals signed Nick Punto.  With a team that increasingly looks to be more and more dictated by the whims of a certain sunglassed manager, why didn’t we see this one coming? Nick Punto is a classic La Russa utility infielder – he can play all over the field, and his grit factor is off the charts. He emanates scrappiness from the depths of his being. Just look at him, for crying out loud.

On with my pithy analysis. Nick Punto has a career wOBA of .293. His career high was .324 (twice), and last season his wOBA was a lowly .280. He does draw walks at a decent clip. Assuming he doesn’t go any further south than where he already is batting-wise, he’d likely cost the Cardinals 15-20 runs if, for some reason, he ended up playing almost everyday. So that means that Punto is worthless, right?

Well, no, because hitting isn’t the only thing that matters in evaluating a player. (Get with the now, man!) Punto’s teammates nicknamed him the “Human Highlight Reel” for his web-gemmy goodness. From what I gather, Punto can pick it. According to UZR, Punto rates at +6 at 2B, +19 at 3B, and +17 runs at SS, per 150 games played at each position. DRS and Total Zone like him as well, albeit to a lesser extent. Let’s just say he’s worth +6-10 runs in the field. I think that’s conservative. Punto is also known for his heady baserunning, so that’s another feather in his cap. If you give him a full season of plate appearances, you’re looking at a 1.5 WAR player or so; maybe better.

While I’m not a real fan of Punto potentially blocking younger players like Tyler Greene or Daniel Descalso, for a one-year, $700,000 contract, Punto makes plenty of sense. He’s probably a fit as far as the all-important clubhouse chemistry goes, and for a team that is counting on Skip Schumaker, Ryan Theriot and a recovering David Freese to anchor the infield, he’s nice insurance. Yes, his bat is anemic, but look around the league. 7th and 8th place hitters in the NL averaged somewhere around a .300 wOBA. I, for one feel a little better having Punto around, but if you think about it, he’s basically Brendan Ryan in a different package.

This is, in a way, another type of lateral move, but I’ll take it. Improving even modestly in what is shaping to be a tight division could prove to be crucial. I’d rather have the goofy guy, but Punto is just fine.

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Some rather notable moves have been made by teams within the NL Central this season. The Cubs added a couple of ex-Rays (did you see what I did there?) in Matt Garza and Carlos Pena. The Brewers greatly revamped their rotation with the additions of Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum. And while the Reds have been mostly quiet on the hot stove front, they still look to field a very strong team come this spring. The Cardinals moves seem to be rather lateral to me, but at least on paper, the division looks to be closer in talent than it has in …well…maybe ever. What are your thoughts on the division headed into 2011, and how do you see it shaking out?

Continue reading »

Photo of the interior of the Baseball Hall of Fame

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Erik: The Veteran’s Committee has some interesting choices to make this winter with 12 people on their ballot, including former Cardinal great Ted Simmons. The backstop with the caveman hair of amazing-ness never got the credit he deserved, having played his career in the shadow of Johnny Bench, Carlton Fisk and Gary Carter.  Simmons also played for some forgettable Cardinals teams and suffered a bum wrap for his defense, which I don’t think is as horrible as critics make out.

I’ve covered Simba in more depth in an earlier post. Then I thought he wasn’t quite up to snuff, but I’ve softened my stance. Why? Simmons ranks 9th among catchers on Baseball Reference‘s WAR leader board. The 8 players ahead of him: Bench, Pudge Rodriguez, Fisk, Gary Carter, Yogi, Piazza, Bill Dickey and Mickey Cochrane, all Hall of Famers or very likely future Hall of Famers. A total of six 6 Hall of Fame catchers are below Simmons. My objection to Simmons making the Hall might be that out of the 21 seasons he played, only 6 of them were seasons he posted 4 WAR or higher. He also never really had an MVP caliber-season, although he was excellent in ’77-’78. ( around 6 WAR per season)

To close, he’s no slam dunk, but because Simmons was a one of the best offensive catchers ever to play the game, I say “aye” for induction, not that it matters. What say you fellas?

Andy: I won’t pretend to be an expert on Hall of Fame credentials and who is deserving of entry, but type, “catcher hall of fame standards,” into Google and the first result is an article about Ted Simmons’ worthiness.  Maybe it’s because I sought out sabermetric analysis, but it seems just as hard to argue against Ted Simmons’ credentials than deny him HOF enshrinement.  Some argue that he spent too much time playing DH/1B to be considered a full-time catcher, but his numbers were slipping when he occupied the DH spot in the latter years of his career.  It’s not as if he was just padding his statistics during those years.  In fact, Simmons actually lost 26.8 batting RAR from 1984-1988.  Offensively, Simmons posted a career wOBA (.346) right in line with Fisk (.354) and Carter (.341).  Although Carter and Fisk’s defense are universally regarded as better than Simmons, I feel uncomfortable denying him entry into the HOF based on defensive metrics that are even more tenuous for catchers than other defenders.  Thinking more like the voters, Simmons’ traditional stats even seem HOF worthy.  Judged against his peers (Berra, Fisk, Carter, and Bench), Simmons tied Berra for the highest AVG (.285) and only trailed Berra in RBI’s.  I see how voters would be on the fence about his induction, but he certainly deserves more consideration than he’s received to date.  If I had to go one way or another, I’d vote yes.

Steve: Like Andy, I’m not a Hall expert, but I do have access to Baseball Reference just like my two colleagues.  As Erik mentioned, Simmons sits behind only Hall of Famers on the career totals for catcher rWAR.  I think this graphic portrays the situation rather well

The graph shows the WAR totals (ranked best season to worst season) of the players 2 above and 2 below Simmons on the career catcher rWAR list.  As mentioned, Dickey and Cochrane are in the HOF, as is Hartnett.  It seems to me that Simmons is in a dead heat with those that are in the Hall (I’d say he’s better than Hartnett, with the other two questionable).  My personal opinion is that none of these guys probably should be in the hall, but that’s an argument for a different day.  Given that 3 of the 5 are though, and have set the standard for inclusion, I have to vote yes on Simmons as well.

The United Cardinal Bloggers have begun their postseason roundtable. Today’s question comes via Tom Knuppel -

Branch Rickey wrote that it is better to trade a player one year too soon than one year too late. Is this the year the Cardinals should consider looking to deal Chris Carpenter? Could the Cardinals get some key pieces in return for him? Would trading him dilute the starting rotation too much?

My response -

If I were an opposing general manager, I’m not so sure I’d give up the farm to get Carpenter. He’s going to be 36 years old next year, he has an extensive injury history, he faced a career high batters last year, his velocity dropped an average of 2 MPH this past season. He was still effective, however, but that is a lot of red flags.

Add in the fact that Carpenter is owed $15 million next year,  I don’t see him as much of a trade chip.

Also, consider that the market for pitching isn’t that great these days. Just look at the underwhelming returns from Cliff Lee, Dan Haren and Roy Oswalt trades this past season.

I don’t at all view this as a “sell-high” opportunity.

Albert is good.

The stats that follow are from BEFORE today's game. Albert Pujols has a 7.3 WAR. It's his lowest since 2002 (5.7 WAR). Albert Pujols has a .313 BA. It's the lowest of his career. Albert Pujols has a .415 OBP. It's his lowest since 2002* (.394 OBP). Albert Pujols has a .598 SLG. It's his lowest since 2007 (.568 SLG). His next lowest SLG was in 2002. Albert Pujols has a .420 wOBA. It's his lowest since 2007 (.414 wOBA). Albert Pujols had a Fld. rat … Read More

via Four Posts Above Replacement Level

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