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 blackouts end, and his other interests are theology and philosophy of religion. He is the parent of two young boys.

Move up The Mang?

Earlier today our esteemed, bespectacled beat writer posed the question to the fans - Where should Felipe Lopez bat in Cardinals’ order? I have a proposal that I expect to go over like a lead balloon…

Continue reading »

So we meet again.

For $2 million, this is a fantastic deal for the Cardinals. Lopez offers a lot of flexibility across the infield. He can fill in for Brendan Ryan at short as he recovers from the surgery to his wrist, he can platoon with Skip Schumaker at second base, and he’s nice Freese insurance, should the rookie fail to make good on his promise. Continue reading »

For saying things like this:

Even though they had an exceptional defensive catcher in Ryan Hanigan, the budget-conscious Reds still allocated $3 million to bring back veteran Ramon Hernandez in November.

Defense played secondary into the equation. Hernandez’s bat had everything to do with the re-signing.

You’ve got to admit, Ramon has historically been one of the best clutch RBI guys for the minimum amount of home runs the guy has hit,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said on Sunday.

Ramon Hernandez’s career wOBA in low leverage situations – .325

Ramon Hernandez’s career wOBA in medium leverage situations – .331

Ramon Hernandez’s career wOBA in high leverage situations – .330

Ramon Hernandez = Clutch.

I’ve long felt that Marty Marion was wildly overrated. Maybe it’s because he won an award he didn’t really deserve. “Slats” won the 1944 NL MVP with a OPS+ of 91. No, you read that right. Marion was a negative at the plate and still won the MVP Award. Who says the BBWAA doesn’t value defense? At least back then, apparently they did. In Marion’s case, I thought that it might be to the extreme.

Looking back to that 1944 championship season using Rally’s WAR database, Marion did have a fine season, with 4 wins above replacement, but Stan Musial was Stan Musial that year, with a WAR of 9.1. Fellow teammates Johnny Hopp (6) and pitcher Mort Cooper (5.2) also had better years.  Marion wasn’t even the best shortstop in St. Louis that season. That actually would have been Vern Stephens (5.2) of the Browns, who the Cardinals defeated in the World Series that year.

Marion received as much as 40% backing of the BWWAA in the Hall of Fame voting at one point, and his name was often bandied about by the Veterans Committee.  He was also an eight-time All-Star. All of this despite a career line of .247/.320/.339.

Unmistakably, he didn’t receive these accolades because of his hitting prowess, but his glove. See how he compares with another famous Cardinal shortstop, as well as a couple of his contemporaries.

Name Debut Seasons PA WAR WAR/700PA BtRuns wOBA FldRuns Fld/700PA PosAdj.
Smith, Ozzie 1978 19 10501 64.6 4.3 -140 0.33 239 16 147
Marion, Marty 1940 13 6141 29.1 3.4 -131 0.318 130 15 100
Rizzuto, Phil 1941 13 6516 41.6 4.5 -10 0.336 121 13 105
Reese, Pee Wee 1940 16 9470 66.4 4.9 51 0.354 117 9 131

It’s not as if I didn’t believe the reports of how good Marion’s defense was, but his fielding stats bear out how spectacular he was. Marion was actually a bit of an oddity in his day. He was one of the few shortstops that wasn’t, well…short. (14 shortstops played last year that were at least 6 feet tall). At 6-2, he earned the nickname “the Octopus” for his tentacle-like, long arms that would reach out and grab ground-balls.

So yep, he was pretty brutal with the bat, but his defense really was unbelievably good, and it made up for a lot. Ozzie Smith is the benchmark for defensive shortstops, but let’s not forget how amazing Marion really was.  Perhaps had he had a longer career, he may have made it to Cooperstown. He could have been Luis Aparicio before there was a Luis Aparicio, although I guess that would be Rabbit Maranville.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I think Tony La Russa is a very good manager, someone certain to be in the Hall of Fame one day. But this quote is just plain silly.

“…I’ve always said I would rather have a closer than a No. 1 starter..”

I’m assuming by closer he means “shut-down closer”, not Ryan Franklin, someone who has enjoyed an immense amount of opportunity and luck for a pitcher of his skill set.  Mariano Rivera is the Golden Standard for closers, so let’s use him for the sake of comparison. Mo’s average WAR over the past 8 seasons is 2.4. His best season during that span was worth 3.2 WAR, back in 2005. This is FanGraphs’ WAR I’m using, which factors in leverage, meaning Rivera is getting extra credit for pitching in lot of crucial innings.

Adam Wainwright’s WAR last season? 5.7. Chris Carpenter’s was 5.6, Joel Pineiro’s was 4.8. Starters that had 3.2 WAR last season were Paul Maholm, Jeff Niemann and Max Scherzer.

That is all.

(Glove slap, Fungoes.)

This post has been modified from it’s original content, no thanks to some pesky calculation errors.

Follow the money trail! The stat de jour is SIERA, created by Matt Schwartz and Eric Seidman of Baseball Prospectus. SIERA stands for Skill-Interactive Earned Run Average, and let’s face it, See-air-ah is a lot more graceful off of the tongue than Ecks-fip. The BP writers say that SIERA accomplishes the following -

  1. Allows for the fact that a high ground-ball rate is more useful to pitchers who walk more batters, due to the potential that double plays wipe away runners.
  2. Allows for the fact that a low fly ball rate (and therefore, a low HR rate) is less useful to pitchers who strike out a lot of batters (e.g. Johan Santana’s FIP tends to be higher than his ERA because the former treats all HR the same, even though Santana’s skill set portends this bombs allowed will usually be solo shots).
  3. Allows for the fact that adding strikeouts is more useful when you don’t strike out many guys to begin with, since more runners get stranded.
  4. Allows for the fact that adding ground balls is more useful when you already allow a lot of ground balls because there are frequently runners on first.
  5. Corrects for the fact that QERA used GB/BIP instead of GB/PA (e.g. Joel Pineiro is all contact, so increasing his ground-ball rate means more ground balls than if Oliver Perez had done it, given he’s not a high contact guy).
  6. Corrects for the fact that FIP and xFIP use IP as a denominator which means that luck on balls in play changes one’s FIP.

SIERA comes out smelling like a rose when tested against other ERA estimators. In case you’re wondering, the formula for SIERA is -

SIERA = 6.145 – 16.986*(SO/PA) + 11.434*(BB/PA) – 1.858((GB-FB-PU)/PA) + 7.653*((SO/PA)^2) +/- 6.664*(((GB-FB-PU)/PA)^2) + 10.130*(SO/PA)*((GB-FB-PU)/PA) – 5.195*(BB/PA)*((GB-FB-PU)/PA)
where +/- is as before such that it is a negative sign when (GB-FB-PU)/PA is positive and vice versa.

Here’s your 2009 Cardinals, by SIERA, sorted by IP.

Adam Wainwright 233 3.38 2.63 3.20 0.75 -0.18
Joel Pineiro 214 3.57 3.49 3.36 0.08 -0.20
Chris Carpenter 192.7 3.36 2.24 2.86 1.12 -0.50
Todd Wellemeyer 122.3 5.07 5.89 5.37 -0.82 0.29
Kyle Lohse 117.7 4.47 4.74 4.60 -0.27 0.14
Brad Thompson 80 4.74 4.84 4.70 -0.10 -0.04
Kyle McClellan 66.7 4.44 3.38 3.98 1.06 -0.46
Ryan Franklin 61 4.32 1.92 3.27 2.40 -1.06
Mitchell Boggs 58 4.49 4.19 4.20 0.30 -0.29
Jason Motte 56.7 3.83 4.76 4.86 -0.93 1.03
Trever Miller 43.7 2.88 2.06 3.41 0.82 0.52
Dennys Reyes 41 4.20 3.29 3.91 0.91 -0.30
Blake Hawksworth 40 4.69 2.03 3.83 2.66 -0.86
John Smoltz 38 2.98 4.26 2.75 -1.28 -0.23

A couple of quick thoughts -

  • John Smoltz is 43 years old. I get it. But he deserves a job, because he’s still really good at what he does. Discrimination against the elderly is an ugly thing, MLB general managers.
  • Our bullpen could really suck next year. Our best reliever is a LOOGY. Ryan Franklin, Kyle McClellan and Blake Hawksworth all had spiffy ERAs, but their SIERA indicates their skills are nigh replacement level. That doesn’t quite “feel” right, so take it for what it’s worth. I still get a sense of evil foreboding about our ‘pen for ’10.  Jason Motte on the other hand comes out looking like the Jason Motte we hyperventilated about not that long ago.
  • Revisiting the turd-storm that was the NL Cy Young this past season, Tim Lincecum’s SIERA was 2.73. Javier Vazquez was 2.87. Dan Haren’s was 3.37.  Just stirrin’ the pot.

Skip Schumaker slid headfirst into a 2-year, $4.7  million extension. Seems like a nice enough deal for both sides. Let’s crunch some numbers and see just how good this deal really is.

Continue reading »

Steve already touched on Jeremy Greenhouse’s fantastic work over at Baseball Analysts of using linear weights on strike zone location for 2009 batters, and found a disturbing trend that outside of Pujols, Holliday and Schumaker, the Cardinals seemed to have done an awfully poor job on smacking a pitch down the middle when it comes. I thought it would be fun to put together some visualizations of the entire zone for the main members of the lineup and their run values per 100 swings for the 2009 season.

Here ya go -

Skip made his hay off of driving pitches down the middle, but seemed to sort of struggle with everything else, and was especially susceptible to high and inside pitches.

Rasmus liked low and in, high and away, but didn’t do much with anything else.

So there was a glitch in The Machine, and that’s pitches low and away, and low pitches in general. It’s not as if Pujols will be legging out a lot of ground balls. Pujols loved middle-up and high and away.

Luddy really struggled with pitches up in the zone, especially up and in.

Holliday handled pitches with low and inside and low and down the middle pitches, something most batters struggle with. He murdered a lot of pitched down the middle.

Yadi can handle himself on the inside of the plate, so long as the pitch isn’t up. He struggled mostly with pitches outside, which struck me as odd, because my general impression of Molina is that he’s pretty good taking the ball the other way. You’d think pitches on the outer half would be the type of pitches he could slap to the right side.

Now the Boogameister. It’s a little surprising to see a ground-ball hitter and a fast runner like Ryan to do so poorly with low pitches.

I’m going to pass on the more depressing cast-aways (DeRosa, Greene, Thurston), but I couldn’t resist putting together a zone for Ankiel. Ank handled pitches down the middle, but was helpless on just about everything else.

This was fun. Sometime soon we’ll have to look at pitchers.

Earlier I looked at how Kyle McClellan might fare as a starting pitcher. I’m still not sure the answer is crystal clear. We’ve established his has the arsenal through looking at his Pitch F/x numbers. Translating his numbers from relief to starting, I think he’d range somewhere in the 4.4-4.8 FIP range. Per 150 innings – which I feel is a reasonable estimate; figure 30 starts, an average of 5 innings per – that comes out to 1 to 1.6 WAR. So it seems like a worthwhile endeavor.

The big question of course would be about his endurance. Mac underwent Tommy John surgery in 2005 and has only started four games since then, all of which were in the minors. The most innings McClellan has ever thrown is 128, all the way back in 2004. So I definitely understand the concern, it all boils down to conditioning. The Cardinals did have success with prepping Looper to handle an increased workload, so it can be done.

A reader brought up the issue of McClellan fading as the season went on. Sure seemed right to me, as far as I could recall, so I decided to look it up. Here’s a graph -

This is both his ’08-’09 seasons combined. July is when he seems to hit a real rough patch, but he comes back strong. As far as his stamina goes, I don’t think his month-by-month numbers prove he can’t hack it, per se. He’s reportedly been working very hard to get in the proper condition. He’s years removed from any major surgery, and his mechanics seem to be mostly clean, although I’m not the expert in the field by any means. I think there’s only one real way to tell, and that’s by finding out.

I’m warm to the idea of putting McClellan in the rotation, and I’ll explain why I like it. First of all, McClellan does seem to have the repertoire of a starting pitcher. Here’s a look at some of his Pitch F/x data proving he has enough weapons to succeed as a starter. The data comes courtesy of

Type Count Selection Velocity (mph) Vertical (in) Horizontal (in) Spin Angle (deg) Spin Rate (rpm)
FF 483 44.40% 91.4 7.2 -7.79 227 2,136
CU 278 25.50% 75.8 -8.02 6.53 40 1,688
SL 153 14.00% 87.7 3.43 0.72 172 755
SI 95 8.70% 90.8 6.54 -9.15 235 2,220
FC 60 5.50% 88.5 5.3 0.19 180 1,090
CH 20 1.80% 84.6 5.54 -7.61 233 1,769

So what does this prove, exactly? Well, first of all it proves that I like making tables even though I stink at formatting them, that much you already knew. Getting on point…in order to succeed as a big league starter, there are some ingredients you must have, unless you’re a freak. Those ingredients are at least one “plus” pitch, two average pitches and average command. Looking at this chart, Mac has the pitches. And we’ve all seen him pitch dozens of times, I think our eyes tell us he has the goods.  (Some quick clarification  - sinker/fastball, same thing. Bad Pitch F/x algorithm! Bad! Same goes for his cutter/slider).

Anywho, his two-seam fastball is average. He doesn’t generate tons of sink, but the pitch has good “tail”. His cutter/slider and his curveball can both be very good pitches at times.

Let’s look at his results -

Type Strike Swing Whiff Foul In Play
FF 65.20% 45.30% 3.50% 21.50% 20.30%
CU 48.60% 32.00% 10.40% 10.40% 11.20%
SL 56.20% 45.10% 9.80% 17.00% 18.30%
SI 61.10% 41.10% 6.30% 14.70% 20.00%
FC 66.70% 50.00% 5.00% 20.00% 25.00%
CH 45.00% 35.00% 10.00% 5.00% 20.00%

A fair share of whiffs on the curve and slider. His command is fair enough, although he did walk a few too many hitters last year.

So I hope I’ve established that he has the pitches to start, how exactly would he do? Sean Smith did a study on pitchers from 1953 up to 2008, and found that when switching from starting to relief and vice-versa, a pitcher’s walk rate would stay static, while their hits went +/- 5%, their homers went +/- 15%, and their strikeouts went +/- 16%. Let’s apply those numbers to McClellan and see what we come up with. First, here’s his 50th percentile CHONE projection as a reliever:

McClellan 63 5 25 2 48 3.99

Now let’s see what we come up with for 150 innings for McClellan as a starter, take it for what it’s worth -

McClellan 150 14 61 5 102 4.42

150 innings, 4.42 FIP is a 1.6 WAR pitcher, which is a little over 3 times higher than what his projected WAR would be coming out of the bullpen with an average leverage index of 1.3; in other words him pitching as the primary set-up man. That’s Nick Blackburn/Jon Garland territory, which is serviceable. Let’s put it this way – if the Cardinals had Nick Blackburn, would you prefer they started him or put him in the bullpen? You’d want them to start him, of course.

But wait, to who does Mac’s innings as a set-up man fall to? Yo-yo and unproven arms like Motte, Hawksworth and Boggs pitching in the 8th inning is a scary proposition. Let’s just say for now that McClellan’s innings would fall to Jason Motte. His CHONE projection calls for a 4.4 FIP. The bad news is no non-LOOGY reliever is very likely to do better. And one of those pitchers would be taking Motte’s spot, and so forth. If you give his innings to Motte, that’s a loss of 0.4 WAR, and an increase in sales of garden tools…I mean angry mob supplies in the greater St. Louis area.

Let’s not also forget Jaime Garcia. He’s not projected to fare as well (4.69 FIP), but as a 5th starter, that’s fine and it’s feasible he plays better than projected. Garcia also is a talented arm. With the way the bullpen is set-up now, given the chaining, putting McClellan in the bullpen or in the rotation ends up being closer to a wash than I would have imagined, and that’s assuming he’d succeed according to the numbers I laid out. So is it worth it?

Speaking from a long-term perspective, I’d say heck yes. It would be more beneficial for the Cardinals to have a nice, cost-controlled pitcher in their rotation than one in their bullpen. If the Cardinals think Mac is even close to being the real deal, they need to upgrade the bullpen with someone available for cheap like Kiko Calero or (I can’t believe I’m about to type this) Chan Ho Park. It would be a worthy investment to develop a nice, young starter while saving your team some unnecessary angst in the late innings.  And hey, if he bombs as a starter, there’s no harm in having some extra depth in the bullpen, anyways.

Sign Kiko. Give Mac a long look.

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