Research for this post began with full intentions to point out how ridiculous the Cardinals’ production from RF has been since Ryan Ludwick hit the DL.  My main objective was to dissuade fans from believing Al/Dan when they inevitably claim that the lineup should see a boost in production from his return to the lineup.  Then I looked at the numbers.  Clearly, I had forgotten how much of a stud Ludwick was in 2008.  First, let’s take a look at production from RF using Fangraphs’ sortable statistics and  last 30 days’ feature. Note that these numbers only reflect plate appearances that these players made while playing RF; the parenthesis following each players’ name reflects plate appearances made during sample size.  Ludwick’s line, however, is for the entire 2010 season.

You probably didn’t need this graph to realize that Jon Jay has been performing at an otherworldly level.  The rest of the players represented are clustered right around the same area in wOBA (with the exception of Nick Stavinoha).  The blue line entitled, “Cardinals,” represents a combination of all of the guys in the chart not named Ludwick.  Overall, this group of players (.387 wOBA) has outperformed  Ludwick in 2010 (.351 wOBA).

If Jay were to continue playing everyday, however, his performance would surely decline.  His only full season in AAA resulted in a roughly average wOBA (.328).  Furthermore, his BABIP over the past thirty days is a ridiculous .500, a number that doesn’t match up with a batted ball profile of 10% LDs, 50% GBs, 40% FBs, and 8.3% IFFBs.  Everyone else in MLB who puts the ball on the ground 50% of the time and have a BABIP of at least .330 generate at least 17% line drives with no more than 31.7% fly balls. And most of those guys (if not all) have a speed score of at least 5.0 while Jon Jay’s is 3.0 for the season.  I like Jay as a platoon with Craig once/if Cardinals decide they can’t pay Ludwick beyond 2011.  But would you blame them if they decided to sell high on the guy?  Seems doubtful that his trade value will ever be higher than now.

Can Ludwick be expected to step in and improve an offense from a position whose July numbers actually outperformed his season to date? Since the beginning of the 2009 season, Ludwick has had only one month that was better; he posted a .411 wOBA in July 2009. But go back a little further to his career year in 2008 and he had wOBA’s of .392 or higher every month besides June. Take a look at his 2008, 2009, and 2010 seasons by RAR.

If common belief that Ludwick’s true talent level is somewhere between 2008 and 2009, then he’s certainly providing affirmation in 2010.  With his improved defense, he’s actually generated more RAR halfway through 2010 (23.7) than he did in all of 2009 (19.7).  Though it’s doubtful that Ludwick matches 2008′s 5.4 Wins Above Replacement (roughly speaking, 10 RAR equals 1 WAR) even with improved defense, it actually does seem reasonable to expect him to be an upgrade over the motley crew that filled in during his absence.  Furthermore, he appears physically sound in that he stepped up to the plate nine times in his brief AAA rehab assignment and smacked 2 HRs.  He’ll be a welcome addition to a lineup that’s been blanked over its past twenty innings.

There seems to be a lot of talk on Twitter lately about what happens to Jon Jay once Ludwick is cleared to return from the DL. Based on this question from Derrick Goold and this response by Mozeliak, Jay will stay with the big club instead of returning to Memphis.  Any other answer would have been unacceptable as Jay has little else to prove in AAA with a career line of .295/.356/.424 in 728 ABs.  The rationale for him needing ABs at that level just isn’t true anymore.  But who will be squeezed from the big league club once Ludwick and Freese return?

Let’s take a quick and dirty glance at games played since July 2nd (day before Jay was recalled); a span where the club has scored 5.5 runs/game compared to their season long mark of 4.5 runs/game.  The infusion of youth seems to have ignited the offense.  Who’s been involved in runs scored?  Below is a table that portrays each position player’s contributions since July 2nd (not including yesterday’s game on 07/16).

Yes, I know it’s a small sample size.  Yes, I know that Runs and RBIs largely depend on what happens before and after the hitter they’re attributed to… so they are flawed descriptions of a player’s contributions… but I wanted to take a look at how Jon Jay, Tyler Greene, and Allen Craig have helped the offense to date… and I don’t think more meaningful stats like wOBA provide any more insight given their limited playing time at the big league level thus far.  And, generally speaking, the players with the most opportunities (plate appearances) have accumulated the most Runs and RBIs during this span of time.  But Jon Jay, Tyler Greene, and Allen Craig (one game’s worth of data!) have been right in the mix.

Below is a table that provides those three players’ 2010 stats at AAA, their 2010 MLB numbers, and the players most likely on the chopping block come time for Freese/Ludwick to return from the DL.  Next to Craig/Jay/Greene’s MLB numbers is their MLE (minor league equivalency) which takes their AAA numbers and translates them into what they should be given the same amount of playing time in a neutral MLB setting (thanks to this awesome tool).

Memphis Redbirds
Player AB .AVG .OBP .SLG
Craig 250 .308 .370 .520
Jay 165 .321 .394 .491
Greene 254 .291 .362 .465
MLB (MLE)
Craig 22(250) .091(.268) .160(.316) .091(.434)
Jay 70(169) .386(.280) .403(.330) .614(.414)
Greene 56(254) .286(.254) .344(.302) .464(.389)
Low-Hanging Fruit
Winn 61 .262 .324 .377
Miles 39 .333 .372 .385
Stav 90 .256 .295 .344
Boog 221 .190 .257 .281

Despite his putrid offense to date, I think it’s safe to say that Boog is protected since he is out of options.  He’d have to clear waivers before returning to AAA and I don’t think there’s any chance of that happening.  Given his defensive upside, some team would gladly assume his near minimum contract.  Winn’s numbers are pretty pedestrian but he’s been slightly better against RHP (.278/.362/.400) and according to UZR (where he’s spent most of playing time in recent years), he’s been in the positive in RF since 2006.  Aaron Miles has managed to be a roughly average MLB player (1.9 WAR) once in his career (2006).  He’s NEVER had a positive UZR/150 at ANY infield position where he netted more than 100 chances in ANY year.  And there’s no reason for a team to carry five middle infielders.  He shouldn’t be on the team.  That leaves us with Stavinoha.  Despite the reputation that he seems to have gained with casual Cardinals’ fans (Nick the Stick!), Nick Stavinoha  is not a HR threat off the bench in late inning pinch-hit situations.  His slugging percentage is lower than Aaron Miles; a truly impressive feat.  The answer seems clear to me that Aaron Miles and Nick Stavinoha should be the ones to go.

First let me say welcome to Andy, I’m sure he’ll be a good addition to the site.  Be sure to read his first post below on Yadi.

I did a quick hit on the Cards Futures Game represetatives using Pitch FX over at Future Redbirds.

I also did a quick graph at BtB that shows the Cards to be a little top heavy offensively (Duh).

Dave Cameron is starting his trade value series at Fangraphs.  Colby, Albert, and Adam likely to appear.

I’ll have some analysis on BOOG in the next day or so similar to what I did for Yadi, so be on the lookout for that.

Brief Introduction: You probably noticed that I’m not Erik or Steve but they’ve offered me a chance to contribute at PAH9.  I’ve been following the blog pretty closely and excited to see what I can bring to the table.  Thanks for the opportunity, dudes.

Just one game away from the All-Star Break during a season in which the Cardinals were expected to run away with a weak NL Central division, they remain one game back of the Reds. Saint Louis will be represented by five players in Anaheim including a clearly under-performing Yadier Molina. How fans overlooked Miguel Olivo for the starting job is beyond me. Per Fangraphs, the Colorado catcher has already been worth 3.2 WAR (good for best figure among all MLB catchers). Not only has he been superior with the bat, but his defense has also been worth 8 runs; he’s caught 51.3% of would-be basestealers compared to Yadi’s even 50%.

Below is a graph that illustrates the runs above replacement (RAR) that Molina has been worth over his career. There are a couple of things to keep in mind with this graph: (1) Roughly, ten RAR equals one WAR. (2) 2010 numbers are estimates based on season’s performance to date. For simplicity’s sake, I just multiplied current statistics by two because I was interested in what his worth would be at the end of the season assuming that current production sticks. (3) 2004 was left out since Molina only accumulated 151 PA. (4) Replacement level adjustments are made based on 20 runs per 600 PA; this explains why this value changes from year to year. (5) Likewise, positional adjustment for catchers is worth 12.5 runs (according to Fangraphs) per 162 games played. Therefore, this number will fluctuate based on how many games played in a given season. (6) All numbers courtesy of Fangraphs.

Molina’s batting and overall value have not been this bad since 2006 when he seemingly turned things around in the postseason. You’ll notice that his positional and replacement level adjustments have steadily increased since 2007 due to increased playing time. Despite positive value represented in the graph, it’s easy to speculate that increased playing time could actually hurt Molina’s overall line given the demanding physical nature of the catcher position. In the past three years, Russell Martin is the only NL catcher that has logged more innings behind the plate than Molina; interesting that he’s also experienced substantial offensive decline.

The above graph matches up with common perception that Molina’s offense has steadily improved ever since October 2006. He posted batting RAR of -5.2, -0.3, and +5.5 in 2007, 2008, and 2009 respectively suggesting that his offensive improvements were not a fluke but a newly learned skill. Let’s take a look at Yadi’s plate discipline and batted ball data for 2010. Again, I left out 2004; his career averages are listed on the bottom line for easy comparison.

Year O-Swing% Z-Swing% Swing% O-Contact% Z-Contact% LD% GB% FB% IFFB%
2005 21.7 73.8 51.8 57.9 94 18.5 51.1 30.3 10.2
2006 27.7 70.8 51.5 71.1 92 18.5 42.5 39.1 14.2
2007 24 73.1 49.8 70.3 91.2 18.8 46 35.1 7.3
2008 31.4 74.9 54.7 83.9 93 21 46 33.1 11.5
2009 22.8 75.6 50.4 73.7 90.7 19.9 50.8 29.3 4.6
2010 29.9 69.4 49.9 79.7 90.1 20.3 52.2 27.6 1.6
Career 25.8 73.2 51.3 73.4 91.5 19.5 47.8 32.7 8.8

Molina’s most glaring concern is that he is nearing a career high in swinging at pitches outside of the strike zone while swinging at a career low percentage of pitches within the strike zone. That’s a pretty clear indication that he just isn’t seeing the ball well this season. Not only that, but he’s making less contact on pitches within the strike zone and more contact on pitches outside of the strike zone (with the exception of 2008).

In his July 7th post, Steve demonstrated that Yadi is chasing pitches below his knees more often this season compared to 2009 (see the last graph).  Furthermore, Molina is besting his career mark of balls hit on the ground by 4.4%; that doesn’t bode well for a player as slow as Molina and helps to explain how he’s grounded into twelve double-plays which is good for second (Pujols has sixteen) on the team.

With that said, there is some room for optimism. Molina is still hitting line drives at a 20% clip, his infield pop-ups are at a ridiculously low 1.6%, and his BABIP sits at .240 (37 points below his career average), an indication that at least part of his putrid offense to date may be attributable to bad luck. Let’s hope this is the case as the organization is pretty bereft of other options. Jason LaRue has had his chance to be an everyday catcher and Bryan Anderson has seemed destined to be the 2nd/3rd tier prospect in a trade for quite some time now to the chagrin of #hpgf members everywhere.

There has been a lot of angst in the Cardinal blogosphere and twitter-verse over the peculiar roster decisions (most notably the veteran heavy bench) made by the Cardinals so far. I thought it would be a good idea to put some numbers behind that angst and see what the theoretical impact actually is. To do that I used the updated CHONE projections and calculated the edge in both offensive and defensive runs/game. Combining the two and taking the difference between the current situation and the public’s ideal situation yields the following table

Roster Move Runs / Game
Stav over Craig 0.09
Winn over Jay 0.05
Miles over Greene 0.09

The way to read the chart is that for every time the noted player starts over the other it costs the Cards X theoretical runs/start. Add that up over the number of times it is likely to happen over the course of the year and you’ll get a theoretical “runs lost” for the duration.  As an example, every game that Miles starts over Greene costs the Cards 0.09 runs; over 10 starts that would be about a run total.

My reaction is it’s not as big as everyone thinks it is, but it’s still enough to warrant making the appropriate changes. Just as an example if you give each of these 30 games for the rest of the year (which I’d consider high) it comes out to about 0.7 wins.

Just a few quick links to pass the time while you try and forget about today’s game.

I did a piece on Pujols’ “Struggles” for the ESPN TMI blog (Insider subscription required).  It seems silly now that he has gone on a HR binge, but the observations were interesting at the time I wrote it up.

Fourstick has a fanshot at VEB on the Pujols effect.  Worth a read.

Andrew at PH8 interviews our own Erik and Jason Churchill from ESPN about the Card’s draft.

Enjoy.  Next up for me a little analysis on Colby.

In case you haven’t guessed I enjoy the research part of sabremetrics more so than the writing part, and a researcher always needs topics.  I’ve got a few Cardinals related topics bouncing around in the back of my head, but I thought I’d open it up to you.  What questions do you want to see answered / investigated here at PAH9?  Suggestions may not get a full post kind of answer, but I’ll try and get up at least a chart or two presenting some of the data I find.   Floors open, bring it!!

In honor of the “Stand for Stan” day

Data from Rally

Pujols, while great, has to stay great for awhile longer to match Stan.

Mitchell Boggs’ transition to the bullpen is going ok so far (granted I have a bias towards hard throwing relievers in general). His ERA is down a good deal from last year, but his FIP is only marginally lower. We’d expect more from a pitcher making the bullpen transition; however it is still early and the sample sizes are small. We can say that he is definitely throwing much harder as a reliever.

Here’s a breakdown of how Boggs’ transition has impacted his velocity, and also how velocity impacts his results. Only fastballs (all types) are included. The left hand axis has frequency of the velocities and the right hand axis has wOBAc for the respective velocities.

And here’s how it impacts his whiff rate, with both frequency and whiff rate on the left axis

There has been a lot of talk about the Cardinals struggles on the base paths so far.  Here are those struggles in graphical format.  Data is from Baseball Prospectus

Not so good at stealing bases eh?  On the positive side we’re ok at advancing on outs… hits on the other hand…

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