Hello everyone and welcome to our new blog.  At first you probably won’t really be able to tell the difference between PAH9 and here as we have the same group of authors, and will be talking about the same types of things.  As time goes on we hope to have a few new features that would have been more difficult at PAH9.

One current new feature that we do have is the season summary graphs.  Right now the only completed version is 2010.  Navigate there by hovering over the “Season Summary Graphs” tab at the top.  Go down to the decade you want and then over to the exact year.  Take a look and let me know what you think.

You can follow the site’s twitter feed here or by clicking on the twitter icon in the upper right up there.

That’s all I have for now, thanks for stopping by.

Joe Posnanski tweeted a remarkable statistic that helps encapsulate the greatness of Albert Pujols:

A Christmas baseball thought: Albert Pujols has averaged .331, 43 doubles, 41 homers, 119 runs, 123 RBIs his first 10 years.

He then went on to explain:

Here’s the thing: Only nine players in baseball history have pulled off that Pujols average season even once in their careers.

Being on twitter, you get inundated with a bunch of crazy baseball stats, but this one about Pujols has really stuck with me. Maybe it’s because he’s a hometown player. Or maybe it’s because he might not be in STL after this year and stats like these might propel him into free agency where he’d have a decent shot at becoming the highest paid player in the history of the game (either by average annual value, length of contract, or both). Regardless, STL fans have been fortunate to witness one of the more transcendent 10-year-performances in baseball history.

Sure, there’s been other stats to show it. Jayson Stark declared Pujols the MVP of the “Double Zeros” after hitting for the decade triple crown (leading in AVG, HRs, and RBIs) in the aughts. Stark noted that Pujols also led in the more telling stat OPS+ over that time frame. To Derrick Goold’s credit, he was following the story before it even happened, but I couldn’t find any updates since Pujols had actually accomplished the feat (though I’m sure he wrote something).

In October, Disciples of Uecker‘s Jack Moore wrote an article at FanGraphs comparing the implications of Pujols’ upcoming free agency to the hoopla that surrounded LeBron James in the NBA. Jack included a graph that illustrates just how well Pujols measures up against some of the all-time greats (Ruth, Aaron, and Bonds). While Ruth is clearly superior, Pujols compares favorably to Bonds and has an age-WAR-path that’s almost identical to Hank Aaron.

This all brings us to Posnanski’s tweet about Pujols’ average season and how only nine players (including Pujols) have matched those numbers in any ONE season. Then contemplate how only twelve player-seasons in the history of the game have matched the offensive qualifications set by an average of Pujols’ first ten years in the league. Sit with that. The graph below illustrates each season with bars representing AVG, OBP, SLG, and wOBA.

Some observations/musings: Out of the twelve player-seasons, six belong to Babe Ruth, Todd Helton (!), and Albert Pujols himself. Three of these performances were by players employed within a pre-humidor Coors Field. Five of the seasons occurred within the live-ball era of the 1920′s.

How good was Babe Ruth? The only of the bunch to post an OPS above 1.300. Actually, only two players have ever posted an OPS greater than 1.300 with at least 500 PA: Ruth (1920, 1921, and 1923) and Bonds (2001, 2002, and 2004). Each did so three times. For reference, Pujols’ highest OPS to date has been 1.114 in 2008.

Sure, some of the stats mentioned by Posnanski are “traditional” ones (e.g. Runs and RBI’s) which can be distorted by the context in which a player is placed (e.g. lineup). But this doesn’t ruin it for me. In a league that features thirty teams with twenty-five man rosters, the 2011 MLB season will begin with 750 active players. Using Baseball-Reference‘s play index, there have only been 222 seasons that compare at or above Pujols’ career lows (32 HR’s, 33 2B’s, 99 R’s, and 103 RBI’s). And that’s not even including his career low .312 AVG which would eliminate seven of the first twenty-five results. Whether he wants to be or not, Pujols is “El Hombre” as far as Saint Louis is concerned.

The guys over at Bullpen Banter had Daniel Descalso as their #10 2nd base prospect.

On a related prospect note, Future Redbirds is doing some cool draft retrospective stuff. Check is out. Here is an example.

JT at Triple Alley takes us under the hood of the Marcel forecasting system. It’s a good read, especially with a lot of the projection systems rolling out now. If I were to create my own projections, I’d start with Marcel and make tweaks from there.

This fanpost at VEB lays out the Brewers vs. the Cards in light of the Greinke deal. Erik has a google doc that he tweeted about last week too….

If anyone plays fantasy baseball and plans on purchasing a book/magazine for guidance next season, consider The Graphical Player 2011. Player summaries for Cardinals’ pitchers and hitters were written by me… but don’t let that discourage you!

This book is loaded with content for every single player (more than 1,050 ballplayers in all) that includes 2011 forecasts, comparable hitters/pitchers, 2010 minor league numbers, 2007-2010 major league numbers, chief competitors for playing time, ten-year trends (SLG, OBP, & BA), and insights from, “24 of the web’s savviest baseball writers.”

Click the Buster Posey book cover below to learn more about the contents of this guide and find out how it can help you get a head start on your fantasy competition in 2011.  Enjoy an 18-page PDF sample.  Word on the street is that an e-book version of GP11 may be dropping in the new year.  Stay tuned….

I haven’t really formed a powerful opinion of the Card’s off-season.  All of the moves have really been “eh” moves.  They’re fine on the face, but not likely to substantially improve the club.  I’ll take the two major moves in order.

Trading Blake Hawksworth for Ryan Theriot:

Giving away the Hawk doesn’t bother me too much.  He’s pretty much “just a guy”; an o.k. piece to have around, but replaceable in an instant.  This move boils down to whether you see Theriot as an improvement over Brendan Ryan or not.  Basically you’re taking playing time away from someone who is likely to be a +10 to 15 defender with -15 to -20 bat for someone that will be a -5 to -10 fielder and a -10 to -15 bat.  Seems to be to be a horizontal move at best, with a definite possibility to be a downgrade.

In order of preference, I think Theriot would best be deployed

  1. Starting ~20 games at 2nd and ~20 games at SS; and would be the guy to take over if either got injured (This assumes a competent 2nd baseman; which the Cards lack)
  2. Starting ~130 games at 2nd (this is actually the best for the Cards since they lack an actual 2nd baseman)
  3. Starting ~130 games at SS

So the Cards are going to pick the worst option (where they likely have the best player already in place).

Signing Lance Berkman:

At least Berkman brings something the Cards don’t have too much of; a high OBP bat.  Clearly the question here is can Berkman hit enough to overcome what will likely be large defensive shortcomings?  Assuming health (clearly a big assumption, but if not healthy then all that is lost is $8M)  I think we’re looking at something like a 0.375 wOBA with the error bars being ~0.015 to 0.020.  For him to be a 2 WAR guy with that kind of offense he’d need to be about a -10 defender.  Is that possible?  Probably.  Likely?  Don’t know, my guess would be no.

All in all it appears the Cards made two depth moves.  The problem is they are being spun as more than that.  The question is, “Will they need to be more than that?”.

Here at PAH9, we’re going to start a series of posts in which a question is asked about various baseball topics (mostly Cardinals related though we may dip into other MLB subjects such as the major awards) and each contributor will offer their opinion.  Hope you enjoy the first installment.

Right before the end of the season, Bernie had an article that detailed John Mozeliak’s wishlist for 2011 in which Mo first mentioned desiring, “…a couple of guys who can hit 15-20 homers.” Now that the hot stove season is officially burning up, who do you see as legitimate free agent possibilities? Who would be your number one choice?  I dealt with this a little bit already in this post.

Below is a table with those free agents who hit at least 15 home runs in 2010; I made exceptions for a few players who had high home run totals despite accumulating few at-bats and those that have a history of hitting more than 15 but didn’t for whatever reason last year.  Taking a look at such hitters is reasonable since the Cardinals are presumably trying to lock up Pujols long term and will try to save as much money as possible when filling other needs.  In the UZR/150 column, I used players’ total defensive RAR (not per 150 innings) for utility players logging innings at multiple positions.  Lastly, I eliminated all 1B/DH types because they don’t have a place on this team, mang.

2010/2011 Free Agents
Player HRs wOBA UZR/150 WAR
Carl Crawford 19 .378 21.2 6.9
Jayson Werth 27 .397 -7.2 5.0
Adam Dunn 38 .379 -3.3 3.9
Adrian Beltre 28 .390 12.7 7.1
Manny Ramirez 9 .382 -20.9 1.6
Juan Uribe 24 .322 6.8 3.2
Aubrey Huff 26 .388 6.7 5.7
Magglio Ordonez 12 .375 2.8 2.5
Bill Hall 18 .342 -7.3 1.0
Miguel Tejada 15 .306 -6.8 1.3
Ty Wiggington 22 .316 -7.7 0.3
Brad Hawpe 9 .330 -10.0 0.5
Jorge Cantu 11 .305 -7.2 0.0
Andruw Jones 19 .364 0.7 1.8
Jose Guillen 19 .321 5.8 0.9
Austin Kearns 10 .334 -1.8 1.5

Andy: It’s always good to start with a process of elimination.  On whom will the Cardinals NOT spend money?  Exit Crawford, Werth, and Beltre.  Next, we can rule out any outfielders unwilling to accept a bench role if we’re comfortable with a cost-efficient platoon of Jay/Craig in RF (are we?).  Exit Manny Ramirez (but gosh how I’d love to hear the Busch Stadium jeers turn into cheers) and Adam Dunn.  The most obvious choice is Miguel Tejada, for whom TLR has been a long time advocate.  I’m sure that Mozeliak will kick the tires on this possibility but I’m hopeful that he resists the urge to placate the manager once again by adding another veteran (see Miles, Winn, and Suppan) whose ceiling offers average contributions at best.  Such an acquisition runs the risk of being advertised as SS/3B insurance but, in actuality, enables TLR to deprive Ryan, Freese, and Greene of at bats.  I don’t like the inconsistency of Hall or Cantu.  Wiggington’s bat has been useful in the past and he is supposed to play several positions… but UZR rates him dreadfully at every infield position and other metrics aren’t much kinder.  This seems to leave us with Juan Uribe who I trashed in the post linked to above.  Though his home run totals look better than his actual offensive output, Uribe’s fielding has been surprisingly steady (at 2B, SS, and 3B) over the years… which suggests that he would also be a fit for Mo’s vow to improve infield defense.  Remember, 1.0 WAR on the free agent market is generally valued at approximately $4 million.  Having posted ~3.0 WAR seasons for the past two years, Uribe should easily be worth his contract assuming it doesn’t exceed the $3-4 million neighborhood he received in 2010.

Erik: I’m with Andy, Uribe makes a lot of sense for a lot of the reasons I thought Felipe Lopez made sense last year. Unfortunately, Flip flopped, but I think Uribe is a relatively safe bet to hit some dingers and play a decent enough defense at several different positions. He has his shortcomings – OBP – but he has been worth about 3 WAR per season the past two seasons. Of course the previous two seasons, he was worth only .5 WAR. He could be a little overvalued now in this market, but he makes a lot of sense for the Cardinals given their needs. Bill Hall might be Uribe light, and at a fraction of the cost, but it’s hard to see him as anything more than a spare part.

Having watched quite a few White Sox games this past season, I guess wouldn’t mind seeing Andruw Jones if it’s on the cheap. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want him to be signed because that  means blocking Allen Craig, but I won’t cry if the Cardinals did sign him. Jones is always swinging for the fences, and I have some sort of odd feeling he’d be a fit under McGwire, not that Big Mac is some sort of fix-all. I’m just saying I have a hunch. Andruw still has some power and a cannon of an arm in RF, and Jones and Jay could form a decent platoon.

Steve: Just to try and change things up I thought long and hard to come up with a name that isn’t Juan Uribe.  That said, my amigos above know what they are talking about and he is pretty obviously the best option of those listed.  I think Cardinal nation would be extremely happy if he were picked up to be a infield depth guy with the chance to step in and start at various positions when needed.  As Erik said he’s basically a power hitting version of Flip, with a little better defense.

I think the other options to add power are probably either redundant (Hall = Tyler Greene, Kearns=Allen Craig), out of the Cards price range (those Andy mentioned), or just not a great fit.  If Uribe goes somewhere else the Cards would likely be best served to try and add OBP and defense instead of 15+ HRs.

All of the conversation about mechanics and such on VEB got me to thinking if we could compile something similar to Tango’s Fans Scouting Report, only for hitters.  My first take is a very simple, trimmed down survey that asks you (the fan) to grade the hitter on 4 basic categories:

  1. Swing Mechanics – how fundamentally sound (whatever that means to you) is the players swing
  2. Plate discipline – you can think of this as approach at the plate.  How well does the player command the strike zone, as well as the count
  3. Strength – raw power
  4. Speed – pure footspeed (NOT baserunning ability)

 

The form is available here.  I’ll publish the results (and some analysis of the results later in the month).  Thanks for your time.  Leave any questions in the comments and feel free to skip any players you don’t feel comfortable voting on.

 

There’s been a lot of discussion/arguing about hitting mechanics and their relationship with success over at VEB recently.  The sabremetric crowd (of which I am clearly included) has proposed a number of different analytical studies to “test” and find the order of magnitude associated with the up to date hitting theories.  I figured I’d outline here what I’m specifically proposing.

I’d want someone (doesn’t have to be Chris, and can even be multiple people) to fill out the following:

Where the variables are coded 1 if the player has the flaw and 0 if he does not. If the grader wanted a “sometimes” choice I’d guess we could work that in. The overall grade is a scouting grade on swing mechanics. I’d probably look at multiple response variables including but not limited to wOBA, ISO (or some other power metric), BA, etc. I wouldn’t want it to be a swing by swing results analysis, rather a generalized season level look.

I’d let experts identify which flaws were important enough to code in.

So where are the pitfalls? One big assumption is that the swing is reasonably stable over a season. I’d want the grader to look at swings from a few time frames to vet this assumption some. Clearly there could be some results bias too. The grader would have to try and not let a players results factor into the grading (especially the overall category).

EDIT: Posted a little prematurely, but ya’ll get the idea I think. Ideally this would be multi-year too, so as to do a WOWY if possible.

The Pain Guy at VEB seems to always stir up the scouts vs. stats debates.  The current version stems from a post analyzing Pagnozzi’s swing.  My thoughts are in the comments there.  However what I’d like to discuss is the way stats guys can either hypothetically (because we don’t have access to scouts) or actually (because we have pitch f/x data and the FSR) leverage the scouting world to improve the way us stat-heads see it.

Before I dig too deep into that question I need to take a slight tangent to talk about the way sabermetricians do their projecting/forecasting.  The basic formula is to take a weighted average of past data, regress those against some population average, and apply an aging curve.  So where do scouts come into play?  I think there are opportunities to leverage scouting data in all 3 steps.  I’ll address them in order.

  1. Getting a weighted average – Generally projection systems take 3-4 years of data weighting the most current information the most and gradually decreasing weight the further back the data comes from.  Scouting data can be added in at this step by pointing out opportunities to over/under weight recent data because of things like mechanical/philosophical changes or injuries.  Now this is a slippery slope as overweighting recent results based on philosophical changes can get you a Kyle Lohse extension, but used correctly there could be some value there.
  2. Regression to the mean – In my opinion this is where the saberist can get the most bang for his buck by leveraging scouting data/information.  The question with regression to the mean is what mean to regress to.  You want to regress to a mean of a population that the player belongs to; that population could be all of MLB (like MARCEL), players with similar builds, histories (like PECOTA), or similar stuff for pitchers (Like Nick Steiner did).  I think that using scouting data like Nick did for pitchers is likely the next step in projections.  I don’t know of any projections that currently are as in depth as what Nick did, but there are a few that use fastball velocity (MGLs for example).  I do something similar in my defensive projections, using the Fans Scouting Report as a proxy for actual scouting reports.  I wonder if a similar thing could be done for hitters using “swing type” buckets.
  3. Aging – Undoubtedly players of different skill sets and types age differently.  The problem becomes binning players into certain types.  I’d guess that having scouts input on this grouping process would be helpful.

I know that the Cardinals say they leverage scouts in their analytical models, which makes me happy.  Hopefully we can get Mo to maybe pay a little more attention to the analytical department (I’m looking at you Feliz and Miles).

 

When I started writing this post, the season hadn’t quite ended so it might seem a little out of place but I had already set the foundation so here’s a belated entry in which I lament the Rockies inability to reach the post-season despite an incredible performance by their SS. After that, we’ll turn our attention towards 2011 and John Mozeliak’s ambitious checklist.

2010 Ends Fittingly
When it became clear that the Cardinals truly had went “poopy in their pants,” as Jack Clark so eloquently put it, I started rooting for the patented late-season Rockies surge. Troy Tulowitzki appeared to be on a mission in September when he accumulated 40 RBIs and 15 HRs. Don’t like counting stats? Me neither. That’s good for a ridiculous .492 wOBA (twenty-six points better than the second place guy who also happens to play for the Rockies; Carlos Gonzalez). Tulo hit 14 HRs between 9/3 and 9/18; according to Hit Tracker, all but two of them would have left a majority of MLB parks and none were considered lucky. He also plays a premiere defensive position well (6.1 UZR/150 on season) and features a mullet that he’s promised to keep growing as long as fans continue donating money to charity. Other than my soul, what wouldn’t I be willing to trade for Troy Tulowitzki?

The Phillies were the only NL team that had a better cumulative wOBA for September as a whole but the Rockies offense faded in the second half of the month with a .306 wOBA in the past fourteen days. Don’t blame Troy; he stayed strong with a .396 wOBA. The Rockies pitching simply couldn’t match the crazy awesome Giants staff that posted a 2.75 Team FIP and 4.03 K/BB. The Rockies ended the season having lost thirteen of their last fourteen games. It was kind of fitting then, that the Cardinals and Rockies were left to face off in the season’s final week to see who ended 2010 with the dirtier trousers. Unfortunately for the Rockies, they had an above .500 record which meant that the Cardinals would inevitably win the series.
Mozeliak’s 2011 Checklist
Looking toward 2011, John Mozeliak provided a check list of sorts in Bernie’s not-so-recent column:

  1. “…a couple of guys who can hit 15 to 20 homers.”
  2. A number two catcher who can provide more offense.
  3. Cleaning up middle-infield defense.
  4. Improving overall poor base running.

Let’s break down each bulleted point and compare the Cardinals’ top offensive performers against all postseason teams (Phillies, Giants, Reds, and Braves) within the parameters established by Mozeliak (at least 15 HRs).

2010 Postseason Teams Vs. Cardinals
Player HR wOBA
Giants
Huff 26 .388
Uribe 24 .322
Posey 18 .368
Burrell 18 .371
Torres 16 .363
Reds
Votto 37 .439
Rolen 20 .367
Bruce 25 .363
Stubbs 22 .345
Phillips 18 .332
Gomes 18 .330
Phillies
Howard 31 .367
Werth 27 .397
Victorino 18 .339
Utley 16 .373
Ibanez 16 .341
Braves
McCann 21 .361
Heyward 18 .376
Glaus 16 .331
Prado 15 .352
Cardinals
Pujols 42 .420
Holliday 28 .396
Rasmus 23 .366

Yes, I’m aware how ugly that table looks compared to the width of the page. Turns out all of the division winners had at least five such players (Reds have six) while the Cardinals only had three (Pujols, Holliday, and Rasmus). Although that sounds like a significant difference, when you consider numbers that encapsulate a more complete offensive picture, only the Giants(!) had more players with at least .360 wOBAs. Maybe the Cardinals don’t have as large of an offensive chasm to fill after all. With that said, there are already Rasmus trade rumors swirling and we haven’t even made it out of October yet. Yikes. Let’s hope that the Cardinals resist the urge to placate a manager only willing to go year-to-year and look beyond HR totals when signing/acquiring new players this hot stove season. Beware of guys like Uribe who, despite hitting at least 15 HRs since 2004 (exception of 2008), has only managed to post above average wOBAs twice.

Next on the list is a back-up catcher who can provide more offense. Of course, this is not the type of player that will make or break a team’s competitiveness but it would be nice to have someone capable of posting an OPS+ of at least 75. That’s something the Cardinals haven’t had since, well, Yadier Molina in 2004. Speaking of Yadi, Brian McCann is the only NL catcher that has logged more innings behind the plate in the past three years. At just 28-years-old, we’re starting to see the physical repercussions of such a demanding work load. Maybe the Cardinals are recognizing this as well and they’d like to give him more rest in future seasons. Despite this indication, I remain skeptical that they follow through with pursuit of an offensive minded back-up catcher. Exhibit A: In Molina’s absence, Matt Pagnozzi (.586 OPS in minor league career) has been given regular playing time over Bryan Anderson (.782 OPS in minor league career). That Anderson can’t accumulate AB’s in meaningless September games despite offering this exact skill for the major league minimum price is perplexing; would it be that surprising to see him packaged in a trade this off season?

Mozeliak’s vow to shore up the middle-infield defense seems to be an indictment on Skip Schumaker. See this video for proof. Brendan Ryan doesn’t really care which defensive metric by which you judge him: 11.6 UZR/150, 15 total zone total fielding runs above average, and 27 BIS defensive runs saved above average. Boog’s glove appears to have bought him at least one more season to put things together offensively. The effort and professionalism with which Skip tried to convert to 2B from the OF was much undoubtedly won him points in the clubhouse and made him a fan favorite but the Cardinals appear ready to abandon the experiment. And that seems like the right move. According to UZR, Skip’s defense was actually worse in 2010 (-17.7 UZR/150 in 2010; -8.5 UZR/150 in 2009). Combine that with an unfortunate offensive season (.299 wOBA) and he’s essentially become a replacement level player (-0.2 WAR).

Last on Mo’s agenda is to improve the team’s value on the base paths. According to Baseball Prospectus, however, the Cardinals were in the top third of the league, ranking 9th in equivalent base running runs (EqBRR). Of the top eight teams, only three made the playoffs. In fact, the league overall seems to be pretty bad at adding runs via base running. Only the top ten teams had positive EqBRR and the Cardinals were one of them. Fungoes has more on this topic here. Not that they couldn’t improve in this area, but base running doesn’t appear to be one of the team’s greatest needs.

The positive? John Mozeliak appears to know his team well. I wouldn’t argue with his assessment of team needs. If the Cardinals were able to improve in these four areas, we’d likely have a better team to root for in 2011.

The negative? I’m not convinced that he understands how to make these improvements. In Derrick Goold’s “Thrills and Spills” article, Mozeliak is quoted as desiring, “a more experienced presence,” on next year’s bench and roster. In 2010, the Cardinals added experience to the roster in the form of Aaron Miles, Randy Winn, Jeff Suppan, and Pedro Feliz. These players “helped” the club in the form of the following WARs: 0.0, -0.2, 0.1, and -0.5 (respectively). Maybe triple-A guys like Tyler Greene and Allen Craig wouldn’t have helped much more offensively, but they certainly had the upside that warranted giving them an extended chance. And now the Cardinals will go into 2011 with these guys still needing to wet their feet in the big leagues. 2010 was a wasted opportunity to learn more about guys that the Cardinals need to contribute in the future. The Cardinals don’t need experienced, seasoned, or veteran players. They just need more talent… and their failure to utilize that talent in 2010 even when freely available was (and is) disconcerting.

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