On October 19, 2010, the Yankees had two outs in the sixth inning of game four of the ALCS.  They led by one (3-2) and had A.J. Burnett on the mound while Benjie Molina and his well below average regular season wOBA (.275) stepped in to the batter’s box (.275 wOBA).  It’s easy to question Girardi’s decision to intentionally walk David Murphy.  Generally speaking, it’s a poor tactical decision to give the opposing team free baserunners; there are very few situations in which statistics justify doing so.  Murphy’s regular season wOBA (.358) demonstrated that he was a much better hitter than Molina.  One can at least sympathize with Girardi’s temptation to give A.J. the easier assignment even if they wouldn’t have arrived at the same decision.  The tying run was already at second base after all and, according to the game log at B-R, the IBB only increased the Rangers’ chances of winning by two percent.

A closer look at the players’ batted ball data may have hinted towards the ensuing disaster that occurred.  A.J. Burnett’s fly ball percentage has been on an upward trend rising from 22.3% in 2005 to 37.5% in 2010.  More fly balls in the air mean an increased chance of home runs.  Put those fly balls in Yankee Stadium whose LF and RF fences are only 318 and 314 feet away respectively and one can imagine why he’s struggled to have as much success in New York.  Now consider the hitters.  Despite Murphy’s much more impressive wOBA, he only hit 36.5% fly balls in 2010 compared to Benjie Molina’s 48%.  Of course, Murphy’s fly balls (.449 SLG) generally had more authority than Molina’s (.326 SLG) but a fly ball down either foul line doesn’t exactly have to be a monster shot and, in other stadiums, might even be an out.  The next play was summed up best by this tweet for Cardinals fans who also happen to hate the Yankees.  As history would have it, Molina hit an improbable home run into the left field stands that damaged the Yankees chances’ to proceed to the World Series and sent the Rangers into Game 5 with a 3-games-to-1 lead.

Have you ever stopped to think how crazy it is that the Molina family can boast of three brothers who all play in the major leagues, all play the same position (catcher), and have all won World Series rings?  Now two of the brothers (Yadier and Benjie: click each name for clips) have hit memorable postseason home runs sending their respective teams to the World Series to defeat  New York on the exact same day (October 19) in the exact same city just four years apart.  Even the camera angles following Benjie around the bases were remarkably similar to the footage that captured Yadi’s trip around the diamond.

Below is a table detailing the postseason careers of Yadier and Benjie Molina.  Only offensive numbers are represented in the table as caught-stealing percentages for postseasons prior to 2010 were surprisingly difficult to locate.  In case you’re unfamiliar with wRC, it’s total runs created based on wOBA.  Clutch represents the player’s performance in high leverage situations compared to context neutral environment (from FanGraphs’ glossary page).  Remember: any player’s clutchiness has very little (none) predictive value as talented hitters perform better than poor hitters regardless of context; it simply describes what’s transpired to date.  Also, Jose Molina wasn’t included because he’s only accumulated eighteen postseason plate appearances to date.

Postseason Molinas
Year wOBA wRC WPA Clutch
2004 .127 -0.3 -0.22 -0.03
2005 .285 -1.2 0.19 0.35
2006 .405 11.1 0.55 0.27
2009 .303 1.3 -0.33 -0.23
Career .339 15.0 0.22 0.20
2002 .300 5.6 -0.38 -0.27
2004 .148 -0.2 -0.09 -0.05
2005 .371 5.8 0.20 0.01
2010 .468 6.3 0.76 0.34
Career .351 17.5 0.49 0.34

Each of the Molinas have held their own in October, easily outperforming career wOBAs (Yadi – .303; Benjie – .309).  Whereas most of Yadi’s value comes from 2006, Benjie had a very strong 2005 in support of his incredible 2010.  Benjie still has another series left to cushion his lead of 2.5 wRC over Yadi… or he could regress to his actual talent level against the Giants/Phillies subtracting from his overall numbers.  The pitching he’ll face in the World Series won’t be any easier than what he’s seen in the Yankees/Twins staffs.

Although Benjie was a stellar defender in his own right once upon a time, Yadi’s defensive greatness has been sustained for a longer period of time.  One might argue that his defensive value would give him the edge in postseason performances to date.  Unfortunately, I could not find any worthwhile defensive information to add to the discussion.  Feel free to offer any insights/arguments/ideas you might have in the comments area.

But how do the two brothers’ infamous (in NY anyways) home runs match up with one another in terms of win probability?  When Benjie took A.J. deep, the Rangers’ win expectancy jumped by an impressive 41%, but it was the sixth inning and the Yankees still had time to do some damage… so it’s reasonable to assume that Yadi’s homer was more decisive, right?  Wrong.  Amazingly, Yadi’s blast off of Aaron Heilman in Shea Stadium on October 19, 2006 improved the Cardinals’ win expectancy by 41%.  Baseball.  Family.  You can’t make this stuff up.

(Full disclosure: In my opinion, the FAIL meme needs to die. Sorry for my usage of it, but I don’t know what else could accurately describe the relief outings discussed here.)

DanUp took a quick look at Cincy’s monumental meltdown against the Phillies last night, which somewhat mirrored Franklin’s epic, failtacular night against Colorado. It was clearly a 10.5 on the Swampgas scale, but how does it stack up against other bullpen failures in Cardinal history?

Rk Player Date Tm Opp Rslt App,Dec IP H R ER BB SO HR WPA ? RE24 aLI
1 Herm Wehmeier 1957-09-21 STL CIN L 8-9 8-10f,BL 2.0 3 3 3 2 1 2 -0.992 0.117 2.863
2 Ryan Franklin 2010-07-06 STL COL L 9-12 9-9f ,L 0.1 6 6 6 0 0 2 -0.981 -4.570 2.476
3 Dennis Eckersley 1996-05-18 STL COL L 8-9 9-9f ,L 0.1 4 5 5 1 0 2 -0.973 -2.672 2.958
4 Phil Clark 1958-04-23 STL SFG L 7-8 9-9f ,BL 0.0 2 2 0 0 0 1 -0.960 -1.927 3.725
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/10/2010.

Franklin didn’t quite reach Herm Wehmeier’s level. Wehmeier blew a save in the 9th on a game-tying HR, was given the lead back in the 10th and then lost it in the 10th on a homer.  But at least he recorded more than an out.

Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley also had his trouble with the Rockies, coughing up a four run lead in the ninth back in the pre-humidor days at Coors.

The lesson: Poop happens in Denver.

FanGraphs added an interesting new metric that stemmed from Jeff Zimmerman’s anti-save rant. That’s what is cool about the sabermetric community. They solve problems together, and then Appelman comes along and puts these stats on the site for everyone to enjoy.

The stats are shutdowns and meltdowns, and they are a win probability based stat. The value for a shutdown or meltdown when a reliever accumulates greater than or equal to 0.06/-0.06 WPA in any individual game. In other words, they improve or blow the chances of their teams winning by at least 6%.

Here’s how the Cardinal relievers stand at the moment.

Reliever Shutdown Meltdown
Ryan Franklin 7 0
Dennys Reyes 4 2
Trever Miller 3 1
Jason Motte 3 1
Felipe Lopez 1 0
Kyle McClellan 2 1
Blake Hawksworth 1 3
Mitchell Boggs 2 2
Joe Mather 0 1
Totals 23 11


Converting Win Probability added, or WPA,  into individual player Win-Loss records, we looked back at the juggernaut that was the 2004 Cardinals. Today here’s the ’82 World Champs. Remember, with WPA  there’s no accounting of fielding or position, but this does perfectly add up to the team’s 92-70 record. Defense is what this team is famous for, bear that in mind.

First, the hitters:

Offense W L
Keith Hernandez 9 0
Lonnie Smith 9 0
Ken Oberkfell 4 2
Willie McGee 4 2
Tom Herr 4 3
George Hendrick 4 4
Tom Herr 4 3
Ozzie Smith 3 4
Darrell Porter 2 3
All others 4 13

Maybe one day I’ll give Lonnie Smith his close-up, as he’s an interesting player, fraught with personal demons and peaks and valleys during his career. Nicknamed “Skates” for his lack of grace in left field, but for what it’s worth, Total Zone rates him as an average outfielder overall. Smith hit .307/.381/434 with 68 steals, and came 2nd in the MVP voting to Dale Murphy.

Keith Hernandez was equally good in what amounted to his last season as a Cardinal.  Say no to the blow, kids. Here’s the pitching/defense:

Pitching/Defense W L
Joaquin Andujar 9 4
Bob Forsch 7 5
John Stuper 5 3
Steve Mura 4 5
Bruce Sutter 7 3
Dave LaPoint 5 3
All Others 8 13

Sutter finished 3rd in the Cy Young voting and 5th in the MVP voting.  Joaquin Andujar is one player I wish I could somehow clone and put him in today’s game. My favorite Joaquin quote:

“You can’t worry if it’s cold; you can’t worry if it’s hot; you only worry if you get sick. Because then if you don’t get well, you die.”

Words to live by.

Tom Tango has toyed with the idea of player win-loss records for a while, and this past week he laid out a method on how to convert WPA into individual win-loss records. Tango challenged us to play around with this new toy with some of our favorite teams; the 2004 club popped to mind. The normal WPA caveats apply: there’s no accounting of fielding of defense or position, but this does perfectly add up to the team’s 105-57 record.

Offense W L
Albert Pujols 11 -1
Jim Edmonds 10 -1
Scott Rolen 9 0
Reggie Sanders 5 2
Ray Lankford 2 1
Larry Walker 2 1
Edgar Renteria 3 5
Mike Matheny 1 4
Tony Womack 4 3
The Rest 5 15

And the pitchers:

Pitching/Defense W L
Chris Carpenter 7 3
Jeff Suppan 7 4
Jason Marquis 6 5
Woody Williams 6 5
Matt Morris 5 6
Jason Isringhausen 6 0
Ray King 4 -1
Julian Tavarez 3 1
The Rest 8 5

If you’re wondering about the negative values, Tango explains:

There are negative wins and negative losses.  That happens when a pitcher pitches so poorly or so well, that he “breaks” the “sum of the parts equals the” theory we are constraining ourselves to.  The reality is that trying to represent players in this way is a fudge to the way we really should be thinking it (WPA).

Naturally, Albert broke the system. This was a year when Jason Isringhausen was mostly just Izzy and not Baron Von Isringhausen. All hail the MV3.

The split between hitting/pitching+defense is pretty even 53-52. Anyway, next up I’ll probably look into the 1987 team, or maybe just last year’s team. Hopefully this proves to be semi-interesting. I like how it assigns a true W-L record for everyone that adds perfectly up to the team’s real W-L record, instead of just looking at a bunch of numbers and decimal points.

Interactive win probability graphs at that.

Here are a few games that are a little more fun remembering with the interactive graphs. I’ll try and dig up some more later.

While I’m certainly not at all sad to see Aaron Miles go to the Cubs, he was a Cardinal for three seasons and was one of the few remaining pieces of that 2006 memorable championship team. And he had his moments. With the help of the win probability added stats available at Fangraphs, I thought it would be fun to by look at Miles’ top 3 games as a St. Louis Cardinal, IE his “clutchiest” performances.

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