Derrick Goold has been polling the fans, asking who was the best player at each position. Here’s the team the fan’s selected:

THE CARDINALS ALL-AUGHTS TEAM

SP — CHRIS CARPENTER
RP — STEVE KLINE
CL — JASON ISRINGHAUSEN
C — YADIER MOLINA
1B — ALBERT PUJOLS
2B — FERNANDO VINA
3B — SCOTT ROLEN
SS — EDGAR RENTERIA
LF — REGGIE SANDERS
CF — JIM EDMONDS
RF — RYAN LUDWICK
Bench –SO TAGUCHI

So what does WAR say? While my family is over playing board games (wild times in the Manning household), I thought I’d take a quick peak at Rally’s WAR numbers and see who comes out ahead. Here’s the Cardinal All-Decade team, according to wins above replacement.

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I’m borrowing this from Lookout Landing. This is a mix of CHONE projections, some looks at FanGraphs and my knowledge of the NL Central. This is purely a gross estimate.  I know the Cardinals a whole lot more than I know about these other teams, so I could be off on some of these projections.

The whole point of this is: a.) fun. b.) to get a general idea of how the Cards project to do as the team stands right now. If I’m wrong on any of these estimates, feel free to tell me.

Cardinals
POS Player WAR POS Player WAR
C Molina 3 SP Wainwright 4
1B Pujols 7 SP Carpenter 4
2B Skip 1.5 SP Penny 2.5
3B Freese 1.75 SP Lohse 2
SS Ryan 2.5 SP Garcia 1.5
LF Craig 1.5 CL Franklin 0.5
CF Rasmus 2.5 Pen Assorted 1.75
RF Ludwick 2
Bench Assorted 1
TOTAL 22.75 16.25
Cubs
POS Player WAR POS Player WAR
C Soto 3.5 SP Dempster 3.5
1B Lee 3.5 SP Zambrano 3.25
2B Fontenot 1.5 SP Lilly 3
3B Ramirez 3.5 SP Silva 1.25
SS Theriot 2 SP Wells 2
LF Soriano 1.75 CL Marmol 1
CF Byrd 2 Pen Assorted 1.5
RF Fukudome 2
Bench Assorted 1
TOTAL 20.75 15.50
Brewers
POS Player WAR POS Player WAR
C Zaun 1.5 SP Gallardo 3.5
1B Fielder 5 SP Wolf 2.75
2B Weeks 2.5 SP Bush 1.75
3B McGehee 1 SP Parra 1.5
SS Escobar 2.5 SP Suppan 0.5
LF Braun 4 CL Hoffman 1
CF Gomez 2 Pen Assorted 1.75
RF Hart 2
Bench Assorted 1
TOTAL 21.5 12.75
Reds
POS Player WAR POS Player WAR
C Hernandez 2 SP Harang 3
1B Votto 3.5 SP Cueto 2.5
2B Phillips 2.75 SP Arroyo 2
3B Rolen 2.75 SP Bailey 2
SS Janish 1 SP Maloney 1.75
LF Dickerson 2 CL Cordero 1.25
CF Stubbs 2 Pen Assorted 1.75
RF Bruce 2.5
Bench Assorted 1
Total 19.5 14.25
Astros
POS Player WAR POS Player WAR
C Towles 2 SP Wandy 3.75
1B Berkman 3.75 SP Oswalt 3.5
2B Matsui 0.5 SP Norris 1.75
3B Feliz 1.5 SP Paulino 1.5
SS Manzella 0 SP Moehler 1
LF Lee 2.25 CL Lyon 0.75
CF Bourn 2.75 Pen Assorted 2
RF Pence 2.5
Bench Assorted 1
Total 16.25 14.25
Pirates
POS Player WAR POS Player WAR
C Doumit 2.25 SP Maholm 3.5
1B Clement 1.5 SP Morton 2.5
2B Iwamura 2.25 SP Duke 2
3B LaRoche 2 SP Ohlendorf 1.5
SS Cedeno 1 SP McCutchen 1.5
LF Milledge 1.25 CL Hanrahan 0.5
CF McCutchen 2.75 Pen Assorted 1
RF Jones 2
Bench Assorted 1.25
Total 16.25 12.5

Projected Wins
Cardinals 87
Cubs 84.25
Brewers 82.25
Reds 81.75
Astros 78.5
Pirates 76.75

With or without Matt Holliday, the Cardinals are favorites to win the division. They can thank Jim Hendry for some of that, his Silva-for-Bradley trade knocked the Cubs back a projected game and a half. Silva blocks Tom Gorzelanny and Byrd is fine, but he’s not quite Milton Bradley.

This is all the more reason for the Cardinals not to bid against themselves for Holliday’s services. They’re in a weak division. The Cubs are hamstrung by their current commitments. The Brewers are in shouting distance but still have a ways to go in cobbling together a pitching rotation. The Reds seem to have no clue. The Astros have no clue. And the Pirates are in a seemingly endless rebuilding effort. A few minor improvements could be all they need to do. Holliday would just ensure a full-blown massacre of the division next season, barring some pretty bad injuries.

With the Matt Holliday clock now ticking there has been a lot of talk about the plan B options, so I thought it would be a good time to bring out my WAR simulation (which I’ve expanded to include defense).

I looked at the following options that I’ve heard/read about at some time over the past couple of days [Quick update: as Dan at VEB points out this list is not exhaustive, and I'll try to run at least some of the suggestions people make here or over there]

  • Holliday (hey I was curious) in left and David Freese at 3rd (MH)
  • Erik’s nightmare – AKA Miguel Tejeda at third and Allen Craig in Left (MT)
  • Mark Derosa at 3rd and Craig in Left (MD)
  • Freese at 3rd and an  Craig/Kelly Johnson platoon in LF (KJ/AC)

Here’s the CDF graph

The x axis is position player WAR and the y axis is probability.  For those that are not statistically inclined, the probability is the probability that the respective WAR would not be exceeded.  For example, the probability that the Holliday team won’t exceed the 2009 Phils is ~0.8.  More simply stated, there’s a 20% chance that (based on CHONE offensive and my defensive projections) a Cards team with Holliday would outperform the position player production of the 2009 Phils.

The MT line is under the MD line.

Clearly this exercise doesn’t factor in that money saved could be put towards pitching (I hope to add pitching to the sim this week).  That being said it’s fairly obvious (even without the sim) that Holliday>>these plan b options.  Also of note is that going young and rolling the dice on Johnson is likely better than the proven vet options.  We’ll see what pitching adds to the equation later this week.

Data: Offensive projections from CHONE, defensive projections mine (right sidebar) or CHONE for those with no MLB experience, 2009 data from fangraphs

Yesterday, out of the blue, we learned that Troy Glaus underwent surgery to repair a torn muscle near his right shoulder and could miss 5 weeks or more of the season. That sucks and certainly calls into question “why now?”, but there’s not much that can be done about it now. So can the Cards weather this? I think so.

First of all, let me say there’s not a good enough reason to bring up Brett Wallace right now. If there were no other viable 3B options in house, then maybe, but there’s no reason to start the Walrus’s service time unless you plan on keeping him up in the big leagues for good. Let the big guy work on his defense in the minors where it doesn’t matter and then install him permanently as the regular 3B next season after Glaus walks. 

That brings us to David Freese. Why? Because he has little left to prove in AAA and will turn 26 early in the season. He’s an able defender and a decent hitter.  Freese’s CHONE projection calls for a .335 wOBA, a far cry from Glaus’ .372, but it’s respectable enough. I knocked down Glaus’ plate appearances to 500 and give 155 of them to Freese and it knocks the team off 3 runs. I also knocked Glaus’ projected .372 wOBA to .365, considering he may start slow coming back.  You can see the results here

The short of it is the Cardinals as they stood before this news had 88 win talent. Minus some Glaus, plus some Freese, the result is 87.4 wins. In other words, if Freese does play and plays as projected it costs the Cardinals only 6 runs. Not good, but certainly bearable. 

Now if La Russa mismanages the roster (and he very well could, knowing Tony) and plays a lot of Brendan Ryan at 3B, that could cost the Cardinals another 4-6 runs. Here’s hoping Freese has a strong showing in spring training and that he lives up to his prospect billing as a Cardinal rookie.

The bottom line is having Glaus out of the lineup for a month isn’t going to break the season. Barring a big move, the season right isn’t riding on Troy’s health so much as it is on Carpenter’s.

Over at Beyond the Boxscore, Sky had a great idea of putting together a community WAR project, which I volunteered to help participate in. It’s pretty cool- different team specific bloggers get input from their readers on how to enter the projections, and in the end we should have a pretty interesting projections, and we’ll all keep updating as the season goes on. CHONE, Marcel, ZiPS, et al crunch the numbers, but we fans who follow the team closely know some things the projections don’t, like who is expected to see an increase/decrease in their playing time, who is battling injury, etc. Now I know the blog is relatively new here and we’re still growing in readership, but those of you who read, I’d like to hear your input.

Here is the community spreadsheet as I entered it. What would you change? For example, we’re hearing a lot of positive press about Carpenter’s health out of Winter Warm Up.  Should I project more than 85 IP for Carp? Less? Leave it the same? Other things to consider is how much playing time will Chris Duncan or Colby Rasmus actually see…there is the matter of who will be the utility IF, outfielder playing time, etc.  You get the idea.

I’m not saying I’m going to make just any change, but if it’s something reasonable and we’re able to come to a consensus, great.

Over at Bird Land, Derrick Goold puts together a pretty fearsome looking lineup made up strictly of the remaining free agents on the market and poses the question: How would this “expansion team” fare in the NL Central? Off the cuff, you’d have to think a lineup featuring-

  • Manny Ramirez, Bobby Abreu and Adam Dunn in the middle of its order,
  • a middle infield that boasts two former Gold Glove winners plus a defensive stalwart such as Joe Crede at the hot corner,
  • a rotation headlined by Ben Sheets, Oliver Perez and three other innings-eaters with solid reputations,
  • topped off with a bench made up of three former all stars (and a future Hall of Famer) 

-would do pretty well, right?

The readers of Bird Land seem to think so. As I write this, according to DG’s poll 33% believe they’d actually overtake the Cubs as the favorites to win the division. Another 33% think they’d finish 2nd. Not so fast. Thanks to Sky’s newly updated, user friendly WAR spreadsheet, I attempted to answer that question. To cut to the chase:  79 wins. That’s it.  And that assumes a pretty healthy rotation, which is a stretch considering Sheets and Wolf’s injury history.

  • You can see the lineup projects to be pretty good, but after Sheets, the rotation is built on a lot of #4 type starters, some masquerading to be better than they really are. (Perez, Garland). 
  • The bullpen is less than inspiring as well. I wasn’t sure who else to fill it with, so I threw in a couple of retreads in Izzy and Chad Cordero. 
  • That is one horrific defensive outfield. Perez and his crazy fly ball tendencies would definitely suffer. 

While this team boasts a lot of all star talent, it just isn’t that good. Even in this buyer’s market, this team would also likely surpass any team in the division’s payroll. The Cardinals in their current condition are the better team.  With Sky’s new and improved sheet, I have the Cardinals now at 85 wins, which seems more accurate then before. More on that later.

I tweaked the original a bit and came up with exactly 87 wins this time.

  • This time I used CHONE projections. For some of the more optimistic projections, I scaled down some, as in the case of Molina, Greene.
  • For the pitchers, I used FIP instead of their projected ERAs. I then shaved off a .1 or .2 up or down, depending on the pitcher.

It’s not quite a perfect world scenario, but it does assume everyone but Carpenter remains healthy, so feel free to shave off 2-3 wins in your mind.

You’ll notice there are four tabs.  The 2nd tab I added Orlando Hudson and Randy Wolf.  John Perrotto today said that Hudson has received zero offers to this point and the poor team Nats are biding their time, hoping to scoop him up on the cheap for a 1 year, incentive-laced deal.  I would think the O-Dawg would prefer St. Louis, if the Cardinals are interested.  The downside: He’s a type A, which will make liveblogging the draft over at FR a real bore, at the minimum.  His projection of 2.4 WAR also concludes he’ll bounce back some defensively.

Derrick Goold also earlier in the week tweeted that the Cards are interested in Oliver Perez and Randy Wolf.  Ollie is still probably priced out of the Cards’ budget, while Wolf is more of an injury risk and should come for less $/yrs.  Goold also said the market may push Jon Garland their way.  Bah.  They may as well have offered Looper arbitration.  All three pitchers project to be around equal value, and again, if all goes well, then O-Dawg +  either Perez/Wolf/Looper/Garland could push the Cards up to 90 wins.

The third scenario is the Summer of Colby.  Pushing Luddy to LF, Slick Rick to RF and assuming Colby will provide some darn good defense in CF  bumps the Cards to 88 wins without adding anyone.  (87.7 to be exact)  Combine this w/ the “sign free agents” scenario and it might do the trick. 

The final tab is the ever hopeful, no moves, 90 win tab.  That’s the dreamland scenario of Carpenter winning the comeback player of the year award and Colby having a ROY campaign of a season.   Hope springs eternal.

88 wins. Not shabby.

Here’s how I did it, but first I should explain.  I love sabermetrics.  The downside is I suck at math. Pretty ironic, eh? I look at various advanced stats and refer to them all the time, but I myself am not a great number cruncher. That’s why I gotta give a big shout out to Sky at Beyond the Boxscore for making this user friendly WAR spreadsheet. Why, it’s so easy, even a…nah. I’ll resist referring to car insurance website slogans. Let’s just say even I can do it.

For the offense and pitchers, I used Marcels mostly, which are available at Fangraphs. There was a little gut involved, mostly for plate appearances and innings pitched. As for baserunning, I didn’t delve in too deep. Baseball Prospectus has some numbers I referred to, but when I was in doubt, I went back to gut. For fielding I used Chone Smith’s defensive projections and again, more gut, but not too much.

A couple of quick thoughts before my head hits the pillow very early Thursday morn-

  • Honestly I was thinking something more like 84-85 wins given that Ludwick, Glaus and Lohse were due to regress some, so this was a pleasant surprise. I’m being optimistic w/Wainwright’s IP, which gave things a boost.
  • The youth movement bullpen will be better. Not that the bar was set real high from last season.
  • One solid starter could equal a wild card. I haven’t ran the numbers on the Cubs yet, but I’m not expecting them to fall off. I’d like to also run the Phillies and Mets, because whoever places 2nd in the NL East will most likely be the top contender for the wild card.
  • As is the case with most teams, a lot is riding on the starting rotation. If Carpenter can somehow magically throw 160 innings, then the NL Central could get very interesting.  I don’t think Wellemeyer hits that rather optimistic projection, but I’ll let it lie for now.
  • Mo and DeWitt right now are getting hammered by the loud, ignorant segment of Cardinal fans who think the answer lies in simply spending, but having some “dry powder” around for spring training or at the trade deadline could prove to work out just fine. If the right signing comes along between now and then, then obviously they should jump all over it, but I don’t have the trouble with the wait and see approach that some of the more impatient fans do.

As player and playing time expectations change, I’ll modify the sheet, but I’ll keep it at the same link so feel free to bookmark it. I’ll refer to it often here at the site throughout the season as things change. If a trade/signing/important injury happens, I’ll try and modify accordingly as quickly as possible and discuss the impact.

If you feel I goofed in any way, please tell me. It’s a work in progress.

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