Yesterday Bernie had a blog and a bit on his radio show (which I must say I enjoy listening to) about what he thinks the Cardinals should be concerned about based on the spring among other things.  He lists Ryan Theriot, Lance Berkman, Jaime Garcia, The Bullpen, and Overall Depth.  Read the blog post for all of his thoughts.  I thought it might be interesting to do the same thing in this very space.  Just looking to do some quick hits here, no in depth analysis.

My concerns, in no particular order:

  • The middle infield:  No surprise here.  I think ~3 WAR between the starters is a definite possibility.  Unfortunately 3 WAR (which means below average for the pair) might be close to the ceiling.  Bad defense, average-ish offense = below average.
  • SP depth:  I’m not concerned with Kyle McClellan in a starting spot.  Andy and I both have penned plenty of pieces on that already.  I even think Lohse might actually be serviceable.  That said, I’m not excited about the prospects of the starting five taking all of their turns in the rotation.  All have an injury history, so we’ll likely see Lance Lynn and others at some time this season.
  • Berkman’s health and defense:  Not much to say here.  This is a fairly obvious bullet.
  • Ryan Franklin:  I generally like the bullpen.  I like that the younger guys should get some chances (I’m looking at you Boggs).  That said I’m still worried about Franklin and his contact tendencies.  I think he’ll be ok, but not great by any stretch.
Cardinals Last Spring Training Game - Pic 57

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Last week, I expected McClellan’s rotation conversion to be official before I had a chance to produce the third installment of this series. While that hasn’t happened yet, Joe Strauss confirmed that the writing is on the wall:

If he works like a starting pitcher and his schedule gets rearranged like a starting pitcher, then Kyle McClellan is finally a starting pitcher, even if his manager withholds final approval.

And Rick Hummel concurred:

Manager Tony La Russa, asked if McClellan would be in the bullpen March 31 on opening day, replied “no.”

This is as much an admission as La Russa will give that McClellan, who has given up one run in 17 innings this spring, will be starting the fifth or sixth game of the season.

As if it weren’t clear enough already, Lynn, Dickson, and Valdes were assigned to minor league camp today. Continue reading »

You may have noticed that I’ve added a “Greatest Hits” page up at the top. Under that page is an individual page for each author that links some of their best stuff here at GHG or at PAH9. Ideally I/we will include a one paragraph description for each link given, but that’s not there yet. I think it will be a good way to get a feel for our authors writing and to archive stuff that we feel is better than our normal output.

Today we will continue our 5 question preview through the NL Central with the Houston Astros.  For the ‘Stros we asked questions of David Coleman from The Crawfish Boxes.  Thanks to David.

1.        What are your feelings on Brett Wallace?  Most Cards fans think that we cut bait at an appropriate time when his value was highest.  How do you see him performing this year?

The consensus on our site is that Wallace has a mechanical problem with his swing that big league pitchers were able to exploit last season, holding down his numbers. Unless he fixes that, he’s not going to be the player the Astros hoped he’d be when they picked him up as part of the Roy Oswalt trade.

The interesting thing is there’s actually a silver lining for fans if Wallace does get sent to Triple-A, because that would move Carlos Lee’s horrible defense out of left field and put him at first base. Of course, the Astros would simply move another aging vet like Jason Michaels into the lineup instead of developing a rookie. But, the defensive upgrade from Lee would make the Astros better instantly.

2.       What is the Astros blogosphere’s thoughts on the Wandy Rodriguez deal?

It’s a pretty fair deal and is in line with the production the Astros have gotten out of him the past few years. One of the things that doesn’t get mentioned enough about Wandy is his fantastic strikeout rate. Even last season, when his curve lost some of its “value,” according to FanGraphs, Rodriguez was still able to strike out hitters at a pretty good clip. Is he an ace of a good pitching staff? Probably not. But, I think the Astros may have increased his trade value a bit with the deal, since the receiving team will now have him under contract for a couple of years instead of him being a half-season rental.

3.       Looking through the Fangraphs WAR numbers it appears that the team’s strength last year was starting pitching.  Does this look to be the case again this year despite the Oswalt deal?

Hmm, strength is such a relative term…The rotation will certainly be stronger than the offense, but this is a rotation built around solid if unspectacular pitchers. J.A. Happ has some promise, but expecting more than 1.5-2 WAR out of him is pushing it. Myers will probably tail off a bit from last season, simply because he’s a “pitch to contact” guy now and can’t sustain a lowered BABiP for two whole seasons. That leaves Norris and whoever wins the fifth starter’s jobs as the only two wild cards. I’d expect the Astros rotation to be in the top half of the NL in terms of quality, but they’re not Top 5 right now.

4.       A semi related question; Bud Norris is a bit of a cult figure (not hero per se clearly) here is St. Louis as he’s had numerous dominate starts against the Cards over recent seasons.  Is he just that good against the Birds or has he shown flashes against other teams too?  What does his outlook look like going forward?

Would that Norris could only pitch against the Cardinals. He might be the staff’s ace if that were the case.

We have a lot of fun with the BudChuck stuff during his starts, but he’s still a bit of an enigma. In the first half of last season (before he went down with an injury), Norris was good in stretches, but couldn’t last past the fifth inning in most starts. He came back from the DL and turned things around in the second half, routinely pitching deeper into games with good strikeout numbers.

His control is never going to be great and he relies mainly on two pitches with a developing changeup. That’s why many national scouts view his future home as the closer. But, if he throws the change more consistently, Norris has a good shot at being an innings-eater who can strike out 150 in a season. That’s not fantastic, but it’s the best the Astros have gotten from their farm system in years.

5.       Any other young guys we should be worried about over the next 3 or so years?

Two guys jump out immediately. 20-year old righthander Jordan Lyles pitched in the Pacific Coast League last season as a teenager. He didn’t have a ton of success, but the promise is there. His strengths right now are impressive control and great offspeed stuff. If he can learn to control his four-seam fastball as well as his two-seam, he’s an ace. If he doesn’t, he’ll be a No. 3 starter for the next ten years.

The hitter that will probably make the quickest impact is outfielder J.D. Martinez. Once Carlos Lee’s contract is up at the end of next season, I imagine left field will be Martinez’ to lose. In two seasons in the minor leagues, the 20th-round pick out of Nova Southeastern University in Florida has won two batting titles. He projects to hit about 20-25 home runs at his peak and hit over .300 if given an every day job. As a left fielder, those numbers aren’t mind-blowing, but they’d make him as good or better a hitter than Hunter Pence.


Cardinals Last Spring Training Game - Pic 58

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Since McClellan seems to be the leader for the 5th starter spot I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at his repertoire and see how if might lend itself to starting.  The robot already did a piece that covers a lot of similar ground, but hopefully there will be a few new nuggets of info in this piece.  What type of arsenal would lend itself to starting?  Conventional wisdom would say that he needs enough variety to get through a batting order multiple times, so I’ll continue assuming that is what we are looking for evidence of.  Looking at McClellan’s pitcher card at Joe Lefkowitz’s site, it appears that McClellan has 4 fairly distinct pitches, a Fastball, Cutter/Slider, Curveball, and Change-Up.  On it’s face, that would likely be enough to start.  In fact if you look at the other Cardinals starters they all have 4ish pitches as well.  Just having four pitches is not the end of the story though.  How frequently he deploys each pitch, as a proxy for how confident he is in each, is also an interesting data point.  The following table looks at pitch utilization for Cardinals starters from last season as well as McClellan.  Data is BIS data from Fangraphs

Name FB% SL/CT% CB% CH/SF%
Brad Penny 47% 3% 17% 33%
Chris Carpenter 49% 20% 27% 4%
Kyle McClellan 60% 11% 23% 6%
Adam Wainwright 46% 16% 29% 9%
Jake Westbrook 68% 21% 11%
Jaime Garcia 56% 20% 12% 13%
Kyle Lohse 59% 19% 9% 14%
Jeff Suppan 61% 14% 13% 12%

The thing that stands out to me is McClellan’s reliance on two primary pitches.  Clearly some of that is a function of being utilized out of the bullpen and not needing to vary the arsenal as much as he will as a starter.  I’m not doubting his ability to make said adjustments, just looking at the current factual data.  It would be interesting to get similar breakouts for his stints as a Spring Training starter.  That said, the rest of the Cardinals staff relies fairly heavily on two pitches too.  The following table summarizes and adds an MLB starter average

Name Primary Secondary 1st two
Brad Penny 47% 29% 76%
Chris Carpenter 49% 27% 76%
Kyle McClellan 60% 23% 83%
Adam Wainwright 46% 29% 75%
Jake Westbrook 68% 16% 84%
Jaime Garcia 56% 20% 75%
Kyle Lohse 59% 19% 78%
Jeff Suppan 61% 14% 75%
MLB qualified SP 58% 19% 77%

So while K-Mac used a 2 pitch heavy arsenal out of the bullpen, it doesn’t appear that his usage patterns are that far off from other starters.


In addition to using having and using 4 pitches, there is clearly still the issue of quality.  Using Fangraphs pitch value calculations McClellan has been average or better with the majority of his pitch types over the last three seasons.  All in all it seems like there is no red flag about his pitch arsenal.  I think the biggest remaining question will be about durability.  A question that will not be answered until he gets the full time shot.

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Kyle McClellan

Image via Wikipedia

As detailed last week, I’ll be monitoring the competition for the fifth starter spot. Here are the ERAs for the contenders in week number two:

  • Kyle McClellan – 1.29
  • Lance Lynn – 5.14
  • Adam Ottavino – 0.00
  • Brandon Dickson – 7.50
  • Bryan Augenstein – 1.50
  • Raul Valdes – 12.00

The Cardinals threw me a curve ball by scrimmaging the Braves in a B-game on Wednesday, March 9th. Since the data from that game was not made available through Gameday, most of the players were minor leaguers, and the numbers were not even included on players’ overall stat lines at, they aren’t represented in the graphs here either.

Derrick Goold provided us with the following numbers:

The lines for the pitchers:

Snell … 3 IP, 2 H, 0 BB, 1 K, 2 groundouts.

Valdes … 2 IP, 1 H*, 0 BB, 0 Ks, 3 groundouts.

* Infield hit that ricocheted off of him.

Ottavino … 2 IP, 0 H, 2 Ks, 0 BB, 2 groundouts*.

* One on a bunt back to him.

Today, Strauss narrowed the competition:

La Russa initially claimed 6-7 arms were in the fifth starter competition; however, two of those, P.J. Walters and Adam Ottavino, were optioned out of major-league camp Friday. Prospect Brandon Dickson remains after laboring through a three-inning appearance March 8 against the Boston Red Sox.

That still leaves us with five of the six names we’ve been monitoring: Kyle McClellan, Lance Lynn, Brandon Dickson, Bryan Augenstein, and Raul Valdes. Since Ottavino is no longer being considered by the club, he will not appear in the graphs below. The good news is that he still has a proud mother who loves him, as evidenced by her comments in last week’s installment.

Remember, all of these numbers are subject to small sample size and not necessarily indicative of players’ true talents. All of these pitchers are pretty close together in skill, and their opportunity to win a spot in the rotation is based on a very brief window of observation. Such is the nature of Spring Training.  Onwards to the graphs… Continue reading »

Dave Duncan

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The contenders’ ERA at the end of week one:

  • Kyle McClellan – 0.00
  • Lance Lynn – 0.00
  • Adam Ottavino – 0.00
  • Brandon Dickson – 3.00
  • Bryan Augenstein – 2.25
  • Raul Valdes – 12.00
  • Shelby Miller – 0.00

I spent some time tracking numbers in MLB’s Gameday feature to bring you the following graphs. I plan on recreating them once weekly until a fifth starter has been declared. It might be fun to see how the graphs transform between weeks… and to see how opinions/impressions change… not that I’d ever make a decision based on Spring Training performance. Never! But, in truth, this might be one of few (only?) scenarios in which it might be acceptable to evaluate players on small sample size performance. Would you argue that any of the candidates, in their short careers, have clearly distinguished themselves as the superior option? As Steve showed in an earlier post (Internal Options), the projection systems have lumped these guys together, none offering much more than the other. The Cardinals need a guy to step up and rise to the occasion. The opportunity is there. Maybe this can serve as motivation that allows one contender to reach a new level in his game. Continue reading »

This image was made to represent the grip used...

Image via Wikipedia

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.

Continue reading »

I found an error in my spreadsheet that miscalculated WAR for KMac.  Long story short the final table becomes even more bunched


Bryan Augenstein 3.7 2.8 3.2
Lance Lynn 3.1 3.5 3.3
Kyle McClellan 3.2 2.9 3.1

The chart summarizes the bullpen usage in 2010 in terms of Levearge Index.  High, Medium and Low discriminators are pulled from baseball reference and are as follows: High 1.5+; medium 0.7 to 1.5; low less than 0.7


Nothing too out of the ordinary there.   Might prefer than Boggs gets a few more looks at high leverage opportunities especially if K-Mac starts.


And a table about how the high leverage opportunities broke out.


Ryan Franklin 19%
Jason Motte 18%
Trever Miller* 17%
Kyle McClellan 15%
Dennys Reyes* 14%
Mitchell Boggs 11%
Fernando Salas 3%
Blake Hawksworth 2%
Mike MacDougal 2%
Other 1%
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© 2011 Gas House Graphs Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha