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Another loss, another eh performance by the offense.

 

The Good:

Berkman showed the solid on base skill that the Cards need from him over the long haul drawing two walks to add to his single.

Kyle Lohse got more swings and misses (7 according to Brooks Baseball) than I had anticipated.

 

The Bad:

Berkman made his first error of the year, to continue a trend of less than stellar defense out of the club.  We all knew the defense was going to be rough in some places, but hopefully things will improve some.

Theriot continues to struggle at the plate, as does the team in general.  Is it too early to panic?  Clearly not, but I’m not overly optimistic about Theriot turning it around.

The Ugly:

The 6 and 7 spots in the order (Freese and Molina) combined to go 0-8 and a combined -0.390 WPA.

 

Commentary:

The team seems to be pounding the ball into the ground so far this season, and this game was no exception, 19 of the 24 balls in play were ground balls, including 15 of 17 against Charlie Morton.  Coming into the day the Cards had hit over 51% of their balls in play on the ground, “good” for 5th in baseball.  Nothing to be alarmed about yet, but something worth keeping an eye on as the season progresses.  I’m sure it’s something we’ll look at with pitch f/x if the trend continues.

I must admit I only caught a little bit of the game between work and then chasing after the little guy, so I’m only going on numbers until I watch the DVR’ed copy later tonight.  First the WPa chart courtesy of Fangraphs

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A game the Cardinals seemed to dominate fell the other way, not the way you want to begin the season.

The Good:

Matt Holliday’s home run 0.305 WPA

Trever Miller getting Brad Hawpe to fly out 0.139 WPA

The Bad:

Albert Pujols grounding into a DP in the 10th -0.167 WPA

Matt Holliday’s caught stealing in the -0.124 WPA

The Ugly:

Brian Augenstein giving up the single to Maybin in the 11th and Theriot committing an error -0.407 WPA

Ryan Franklin giving up a home run to Maybin in the ninth -0.368 WPA

Albert Pujols’ combined WPA of -0.429

 

Commentary:

On the bright side, Albert Pujols will likely not have another game like that until he’s in the last year of the ten year deal some team is going to give him.  Interestingly we had the first Kyle McClellan bullpen outing and it went to Miguel Batista, not surprising given Tony’s love for the proven vet, but not a good sign of things to come either.  Franklin worries me independent of the results, but we’ll clearly give him a few more outings before we analyze anything there.

 

Pitch FX portion of the program

Carp’s fastball velocity was about right where it should be compared to last year given that it’s the first start of the year.  The following table summarizes

Year + 1 SD AVG - 1 SD
2010 92.7 91.5 90.2
2011 91.9 91.0 90.2

 
I’ll be trying to get as many of these game recaps up as I can throughout the season (maybe with the help of the rest of the guys). Clearly once we start to develop some sample sizes I’ll start to do more analysis.

 

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fangraphs.com

Top three performers in win probability added:

  1. Jaime Garcia .233
  2. David Freese .209
  3. Nick Stavinoha .186

Hyperventilating prospect geek fraternity: Vindication.

Joe Blanton may never want to attempt a bunt again. Brendan Ryan apparently made a great play on Blanton’s bunt attempt in the third inning. I still am waiting to see the replay, but it had John Rooney and Mike Shannon freaking out, so it must have been pretty good. The inning ending DP cost the Phillies -6.3% in win expectancy. Then Blanton got doubled up in on a bunt attempt in the 5th in spite of a wild throw to Skip Schumaker, who was covering first, by Ryan who was covering third.  The umpires called Blanton out for standing in the grass, interfering with Yadier Molina‘s throw. That cost the Phils -11.5% in win expectancy.

I thought the Phillies walking Holliday to load the bases was a semi-interesting move. According to The Book, it’s only with two outs when the decision to walk the current batter a function of the difference in skill between the batter (in this case Holliday) and the hitter on deck (Freese). Holliday is a .397 wOBA hitter according to ZiPS, Freese .345.  Freese on the other hand is riding a hot streak, while Holliday hasn’t been playing up to his usual standards yet. But knowing that a hitter is in the middle of a hot streak has pretty much nil predictive value. Charlie Manuel, or whoever was managing the game for the Phillies may have had the right idea expecting that the hitter should hit at his predicted norm.

If I’m understanding the principles in laid out in The Book on when the IBB is kosher, the smallest wOBA ratio has to be 1.25 between the hitter at the plate and the hitter on deck, and that’s after doing some factoring of how patient a hitter is on deck. Freese is not the world’s most disciplined hitter, and the ratio fell short – 1.15, meaning that walking Holliday to get to Freese wasn’t the best managerial move. Freese made them pay.

fangraphs.com

Praise the Almighty, this game was on TV. The local Fox station in Cedar Rapids has picked up the Cardinals KSDK games, or it least it seems that way. That means I’m no longer stuck with just waiting for national broadcasts. This might not sound like much for you lucky people with Fox Sports Midwest, but this news made for a glorious Sunday afternoon for me. Happy baseball days are here again.

Three Stars of the Game:

  1. Carp + 34.6%
  2. Freese +11.1%
  3. Boog +4.3%

Aside from a horrible, horrible game one of the series, Freese capped off a splendid week with another homerun, his third in the last four games. Thanks to a solid start to the season,  Freese’s updated ZiPS projection has him pegged for a .348 wOBA on the season.

The Reds seemed to have their bats glued to their shoulder against Carpenter. 9 of his 100 pitches were swinging strikes, yet he K’d 8.

I don’t think Brandon Phillips bunting in the 4th inning with Stubbs on second base with no outs was the dumbest decision ever. Busch III isn’t a high run scoring environment, and runs are hard to come by with Carpenter pitching. And the Reds should be able to count on Aaron Harang to keep them in games.

I could understand it more if it was more of a sneaky bunt with Phillips’ speed. Even with the straight up bunt attempt, his speed still can cause problems for the defense. The bunt decreased the Reds win expectancy by just 2.2%, and their run expectancy went down slightly, from 1.58 to 1.56. Votto was up next, and things were looking good for Cincy.

Carpenter’s walk to Votto set-up the double play, but it also increased the Reds’ WE to 2.3, and now Carpenter had to face Rolen, who is no easy out.  So the bunt wasn’t a horrible call, and the walk to Votto very well could have blown up in Carpenter’s face. I’m not sure it’s as clear cut as the “all sacrificing is dumb” crowd would make this out to be.

In case you haven’t noticed, this prodigal son has returned.

via fangraphs.com

My stars of the games votes go for:

  1. Skip +29.7 win probability added
  2. Pujols +26.8%
  3. Lohse +22.8%

This was one of Kyle Lohse’s better starts since signing with the Cardinals, or at the least it was certainly one of his more efficient. He only needed 89 pitches to get through seven innings, and faced just five batters over the minimum. Best of all, Lohse was missing bats; he struck out 8. Coming into this game, Lohse had only struck out 9 of the 97 total batters he faced, and his swinging strike rate was just 4%. For a pitcher whom the Cardinals still owe around $34 million, today’s outing was just what the doctor ordered.

Lohse was on cruise control until the 7th, before he hit a speed bump by giving up a lead-off triple against Jay Bruce. If Colby Rasmus wasn’t napping on his throw to home on Cabrera’s sac-fly, he might have not even scored, and then Lohse struck out the next two to end the inning. This is why I was left scratching my head about why Lohse didn’t come out for the next inning. While it’s true that hitters gain an advantage over the starting pitching as the game goes on, Lohse was dealing. I think it’s pretty clear by the results he had something left in the tank. His velocity was consistent, and he was missing bats with his slider.

Hawksworth came in the 8th and allowed two runners to reach. Dennys “the Human Sweat Machine” Reyes couldn’t get Joey Votto out, who made the game 3-2 on an RBI single, and then was allowed to face Scott Rolen, who hit a game-tying sac fly.

Was this a bad move? There’s a lot of ways to look at this one. The leverage index was 3.5, meaning this was as crucial of a situation you could come across. That’s “relief ace time”.  The thing is, with the Cardinals is that there’s no real relief ace in the bullpen, so you’re left with mixing and matching . Bringing in a LOOGY against Votto is probably the right thing to do.  I have Votto’s projected wOBA against lefties as .360, versus .392 against right handers. He’s just a good hitter regardless of who he’s facing, but he has enough of a platoon split to go to someone like Reyes.

Having Reyes pitch to Rolen is another matter. The LI bumped up to 4.7, with lefty Jay Bruce on deck. Jay Bruce has a noticeable platoon split; his true ability is .316 versus lefties, .357 versus right-handers, but I have Rolen at .374 wOBA against lefties, .352 against righties. Now if you think Franklin is your man, then let him earn it against Rolen and Bruce. Walking Rolen to get to Bruce would have made the Red’s scoring chances even higher, and facing him isn’t wise, so why not just go all-in with Franklin? Franklin came in a batter late, but fortunately for the Cardinals, the Reds bullpen imploded. After Skip hit a go-ahead RBI against Danny Ray Herrera (a lefty!), the Reds were too scared to throw another strike, apparently, walking the next three batters. Skip’s RBI increased the Cardinals win expectancy to 87%, the three walks increased it another 11%.

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