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You may have noticed that we here at Gas House Graphs are not really panicking about the Albert Countdown to the Apocalypse, at least not yet.  Tommy Bennett says why we should stay cool about the situation better than I can in this post at Baseball Prospectus.

But if you want to get gloomy about the situation, over at The Hardball Times, Anna McDonald asks the question that no Cardinal fan wants to think about – Can the Cardinals build around Holliday?

More doomsday reading at THT: Pujols, the free agent. Jeffrey Gross looks at potential fits for El Manquino. My money is on the Blue Jays, gotta keep it uh…birdy. Seriously, the Blue Jays make sense. They dumped a ton of money through Jedi mind tricks and they need Albert to catch the Big 3 in the AL East.

Tom Tango has a potential solution – Give Albert a good-sized stake in the Cardinals. Having the Mang as part-owner… Wow, that thought has multiple implications that one can go to town on, but I’ll resist for now. Tango is enlisting readers help for a % that is fair.

Finally, and I’m just speaking for me here:

Dear Radio Talk Show Callers,

Yes, Albert is a Christian. Yes, he wants a lot of money, and it’s because it’s getting what is fair being that he is the best player in the game. The logic, agree with it or not, is that if he takes less money than he’s worth than it hurts his fellow players from getting their due. The players union typically wants players to get what they are worth and not just always settle for team friendly deals.

Yes I agree, it’s weird seeing baseball players get paid inordinate amounts of money. But they’re only getting the piece of the pie they’re getting because we, the consumers, have ensured that pie continues to get larger. We love sports as a society, probably way too much. The amount of money entertainers and athletes get is a reflection of our own values, whether you think that’s bad, good or you’re indifferent on the matter. If you don’t like the monster, then just don’t feed it.

Finally, I don’t know if it has occurred to the average person, but the more money a person like Albert has, the more he can do to reach out to the community. Pujols has won the Roberto Clemente award for his philanthropy in helping kids with down syndrome and the poor in his native country of the Dominican Republic. It’s not all about him living a comfortable life; obviously he already is living pretty comfy. Let’s turn the question on ourselves before we judge – what percentage of our income do we give to benefit others? I’m guessing for the critics that it’s not much.

Think before you open your mouth. None of us really have any idea what is going on in Albert’s mind.

Your pal,

Erik

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I already kicked this dead horse once, but I finally got around to downloading the latest CAIRO projections, which come complete with platoon splits. I wish I would’ve known about that before I dinked around for a half hour or so getting splits for my lineup post. Anyway, the prognosis is rather negative for Cardinal hitters against southpaws.

Behold the ugly.

Player Vs L
Albert Pujols 0.453
Matt Holliday 0.396
Lance Berkman 0.348
Yadier Molina 0.332
David Freese 0.331
Allen Craig 0.325
Ryan Theriot 0.313
Colby Rasmus 0.307
Nick Punto 0.289
Gerald Laird 0.289
Daniel Descalso 0.287
Skip Schumaker 0.283
Bryan Anderson 0.277

Eno Sarris at Fangraphs already hit on how horrible the bottom of the Cardinals lineup is, but it just get so much worse against left-handed pitchers. For I’m afraid that after Albert and Holliday, things begin to unravel in a hurry. Berkman who is no guarantee to hit southpaws if the current trends continue, but I guess that more prone to believe this projection than just make a judgment based on last year’s splits. Molina and Freese are the only two players left that project to be league average.

Finally I will say that I’ll definitely take the over on Colby Rasmus here, but the larger point remains that after the Big 2, the Cardinals lineup against lefties ranges from league average to … well… poopy.

ST LOUIS, MO - JULY 14:  Former St. Louis Card...
Image by Getty Images via @daylife

For whatever reason, I’ve never gotten into Hall of Fame debates… but I think that will change as more and more players that I grew up watching become eligible. Lately, my interest in Hall of Fame stuff has been peaked by Adam Darowski‘s wWAR ranking system. Basically, it awards players with extra credit for seasons in which they accumulated WAR greater than 3 (termed Wins Above Excellence – WAE) and WAR greater than 6 (termed Wins Above MVP – WAM). You can read Adam’s full description here, but he explains:

We’ll count WAR above 3.0 twice and WAR above 6.0 three times. Let’s call it Weighted WAR (wWAR). The formula is simply WAR+WAE+WAM.

I thought it would be fun to take a look at the Saint Louis Cardinals’ career leaders in wWAR to see how they rank against each other and those already enshrined in Cooperstown. To start, I used Baseball-Reference’s Play Index to generate a list of career leaders in WAR. Since this only displayed each player’s WAR accumulated while playing for the Cardinals, I then calculated their wWAR from player pages and included their entire careers. You’ll notice I added a few players of personal interest (McGwire, Walker, and McGee). After the graph, I’ll comment on my favorite observations.

  • My favorite observation? Ray Lankford (49.4 wWAR) ranks favorably to Lou Brock (47.8 wWAR). Fun fact: Lankford’s career wOBA is twenty points better than Brock’s (.366 to .346). Brock lost quite a bit of value from poor defense (minus ~4 wins) and harsher position adjustment. Amazingly, even without the wWAR system, Lankford is within one WAR of Brock. However, FanGraphs does not agree with this assessment as it has Lankford’s career WAR being roughly ten wins worse than Brock’s. With that said, I think it’s safe to conclude that Lankford is pretty under-appreciated while Brock is probably overrated.
  • The whole “Retire 51″ campaign was probably a little silly, wasn’t it? McGee will always be a fan favorite, but he’s clearly one of the weaker players in the graph above.
  • Scott Rolen’s career 98.6 wWAR puts him on par with Brooks Robinson. If he retired today, his wWAR would be good for sixth best 3B in the HOF. If healthy (always a big “if” with Rolen), his past three seasons of 3+ WAR indicate that he should easily pass Robinson in 2011.
  • Jim Edmonds’ candidacy for the HOF is eagerly anticipated around these parts. The wWAR system only fortifies an argument for his induction. Out of the seventeen center-fielders currently enshrined in Cooperstown, Edmonds would rank eighth in this system (short of Bill Hamilton by one-tenth of a point). I’ll leave it at that. Rumor has it that Mr. Darowski will be gracing us with a guest post on this very topic. Be sure to check back often. You won’t want to miss that.
  • Of the thirteen backstops already in the HOF, Ted Simmons would rank 7th. Refer to our previous roundtable for more on Simmons.
  • No, Albert Pujols isn’t “The Man” just yet, but he’s well on his way, already surpassing 150 wWAR (161.6 to be exact) in just his tenth season. Stan accumulated 207.5 wWAR in twenty-two seasons. As you can see, Pujols’ WAE is more than the WAR total of many of Saint Louis’ all-time greats. He already has more WAM (24) than Stan (20.8). Wow. He’s going to make a lot of money.

What did I miss? Anything else worth mentioning?

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Yes, we all know that batting average, as a value stat, is a terrible indicator of a player’s worth, but I think it’s still one of the first things that we glance at when we look at a player’s Baseball Reference or Fangraphs page.  One thing that makes BA fun is its day-to-day fluctuations and how that influences the season’s-end BA.  No season’s-end .312 hitter hit .312 every single day.  It’s a random distribution of 0/3 days and 4/4 days and 2/5 days that creates a .312 hitter. That’s what I wanted to take a look at.

For today’s graph, I took Pujols’ individual day BA’s from his Game Log over at Sports Illustrated and his season-to-date BA from his Batting Game Log at Baseball Reference, and constructed a simple line graph in Excel.
Warning: This picture is biggggggg.  It’ll stretch the screen a little bit, and I apologize, but there’s a lot of data

Click to enlarge

What does this tell us?  Well… not a whole lot.  The scale of the Y-axis is something I fought myself for awhile on; While I wanted to capture the entire spread of the individual day BA (So, from 0.00 to 1.00), that minimizes the visual impact on how much the season-to-date BA fluctuates.  For example, during a two week stretch in late July, Pujols’ batting average fell from .310 to .295, which is pretty significant.  The graph shows it only as a slight, innocuous drop.

Just looking at the graph, and knowing Albert as a hitter, I’m guessing that Albert’s BA stabilizes more quickly than other hitters.  Anecdotally, Colby Rasmus seems like a player who has rather large fluctuations in BA in relatively short periods of time, so I’ll be sure to look at him in a future post and compare him to Albert.  For now, though, enjoy this graph!

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.

In terms of the future of the franchise, Rasmus>La Russa. The impact of a manager hasn’t been something I’ve seen nerds really be able to penetrate; it’s something that is made murky by secondary factors and the human element.  If you follow me on Twitter, you probably have come to conclusion that  I would like to roll La Russa up in a carpet and throw him off of a bridge.

I honestly don’t believe he’s a bad manager, as he didn’t get his reputation as a Hall of Fame manager for no good reason at all. But I do tend to think that his overall value to the team is greatly inflated in the minds of pundits and fans (thanks, Buzz!). What irks me is all silly personality clashes with players, the need to use his favorite pets, and his odd machinations and weird lineup cards.

The rub is that as La Russa goes, so might Pujols go. The Mang must be appeased because we need the Mang to stay in St. Louis. The Mang likes Tony. The Mang doesn’t like anyone who doesn’t like Tony. Therefore Rasmus must go.

It’s completely stupid, but you get the feeling that despite the public hugging-it-out we’ve read about between Colby and La Russa in the press the past few days, we’re going to read about Colby being jettisoned away some cold January morning if La Russa comes back for another season. And that thought is very depressing.

So to brace myself for the pain of witnessing my all-time favorite Faberge egg being moved, I am going to play this scenario out and then go back to soothing myself with false comforts that all is going to be well between the Raz and the Genius.

Using Sky Kalkman’s Trade Value Calculator, here’s what I conservatively (?) estimated Rasmus’ surplus value as. The Raz has averaged 3.5 WAR per 625 plate appearances. (Hint: Give him 600+ PA’s per season, then everyone is happy.)

What kind of a player could Rasmus fetch? The club isn’t in the place to trade him for a player making more than Rasmus, so we’re talking about trading prospects. Prospect surplus value has been studied by Victor Wang, and then smoothed out by this quick study based on some discussions with Matt Swartz. Click the link, eyeball the tables.

In a straight value for value trade, Rasmus could bring the Cardinals anything outside of a top ten hitting prospect.  The problem is, as Jayson Stark has pointed out, is that if a team perceives the Cardinals have to move Rasmus, they’ll only be willing to pay 60 cents on the dollar. That might get the Cardinals one really good pitching prospect. That may mean a Shelby Miller-type if the Cardinals were willing to wait, but given the Cardinals’ needs, someone closer to the majors and more polished makes a lot more sense. I’m not going to speculate about who that might be, but here is BA’s mid-season Top 50 for your perusal. I’m sure a lot has changed since it was published, but it gives you some ideas.

Moving Rasmus also leaves a big, gaping hole in the OF. No more fire burning in the outfield. :_(

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to find a happy place.

Takeaways: Personality clashes are dumb. Rasmus is good. The team could get a good player for Rasmus, but probably not a player as good as Rasmus. Also, personality clashes are dumb.

With Albert striking out more than normal I thought I would investigate the numbers some.  It appears to the untrained eye (i.e. me) that he is swinging at pitches out of the zone on a more frequent basis, and according to Fangraphs plate discipline stats he is.  This year Albert has a 30% O-Swing rate compared to a career rate around 20%.  With that in mind I thought I’d still an idea from Dave Allen to see if I could visualize the difference.  The following chart takes the swing percentage by location for 2010 – percentage from 2009.  Red means more swings this year, blue less, and the color intensity equates to magnitude of the difference (click to enlarge)

This is from the catcher’s perspective and the numbers in bold on the perimeter are the pitch f/x location parameters. A generic strike zone is outlined in black. From the chart it appears that Albert is going out of the zone on pitches above the zone and off the plate away.  Clearly this years data is still a small sample size, but this does seem to concur with what my eyes are seeing.

There’s been some concerns raised about the Cardinals’ plate discipline, most notably about Pujols swinging at a lot more pitches out of the zone than usual. The problem isn’t just limited to Albert. Holliday, Schumaker and others have all been a little more hacky than usual. On the flip side, Colby Rasmus has really raised his game in the on-base percentage department. He’s taken a much more disciplined approach overall, but his strikeout rate has raised some concerns.

The problem with even bothering looking at batter’s walk and strikeout rates this early in the season is we’re talking about small samples. Studies have shown that it takes about 150 plate appearances for a player’s strikeout rate to become something we can draw conclusions from, and 200 plate appearances for his walk rate. But Swing% and Contact %’s become a safer guide as early as 50 PA’s and 100 PA’s respectively. These stats give us a better idea of a batter’s plate discipline than K% and BB% this early in the season.

Jeff Zimmerman has found a way to use plate discipline stats such as these to estimate a player’s future walk and strikeout rates. Armed with this knowledge, we can get a good idea of what to expect in the plate discipline department from the Cards going forward.  The stats are from FanGraphs, batters must have a minimum of 50 PA.

Name Est. K% Est. BB% Actual K% Actual BB%
Colby Rasmus 25.4% 13.3% 35.6% 17.7%
David Freese 23.8% 10.4% 23.2% 8.8%
Brendan Ryan 20.9% 9.3% 24.7% 10.7%
Ryan Ludwick 25.1% 10.3% 27.2% 10.7%
Yadier Molina 17.8% 9.1% 12.1% 8.9%
Matt Holliday 18.2% 8.8% 18.3% 4.8%
Albert Pujols 15.5% 13.3% 16.9% 13.2%
Skip Schumaker 10.8% 4.5% 14.8% 10.1%

Intentional walks are taken into account, and some of the Cardinal batters have some gaudy IBB totals. Colby Rasmus has five intentional passes! So instead of factoring in the batter’s current IBB%, I used their Marcel projected IBB%.

Some observations:

  • Colby Rasmus really has shown a better eye, and should be counted on for walks going forward. This isn’t a big surprise judging by his minor league history, but his pitiful walk rate last year was a little worrisome. Colby should cut down the K%.
  • If David Freese really walks 10.4% of his plate appearances, I will be thrilled. He’s made me a believer with his performance to date.
  • Matt Holliday should revert back to normal when the dust clears.
  • Now the bad news. Skip Schumaker’s walk rate looks good now, but he could be on his way to a terrible walk rate unless something changes.
  • Albert is on his way to his highest strikeout rate since he was a rookie, and his lowest walk rate since 2004. He’ll still be really, really good, but just not the Albert we’re used to. The thing about Pujols is when he has a flaw, he seems to be able to correct it in short order.

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.

I’m a little late to the party here.  I started this post the night the Mauer signing was announced, but slacked on finishing it.  Anyhow, here’s what I came up with.  Joe Mauer’s deal was formally announced at 8 yrs $184M.  The immediate question that comes to mind for Cardinals fans is, “How does this deal affect the pending Pujol’s negotiations?”  We can’t guess at that until we make an attempt to compare the players over the lifetime of such deals.   First what could Mauer look like during the entirety of his deal?  The following tables attempt to give insight into that question.  First if he can remain at C during the entire deal

Year Age Pos Pos adj rep def off War
2011 28 C 7 21 6.5 36.0 7.1
2012 29 C 7 21 5.5 35.3 6.9
2013 30 C 7 21 4.5 35.3 6.8
2014 31 C 7 21 3.5 34.4 6.6
2015 32 C 7 21 2.5 33.8 6.4
2016 33 C 7 21 1.5 31.9 6.1
2017 34 C 7 21 0.5 28.3 5.7
2018 35 C 7 21 -0.5 24.2 5.2

Then if he has to switch to 1B at the end of the deal

Year Age Pos Pos adj rep def off War
2011 28 C 7 21 6.5 36.0 7.1
2012 29 C 7 21 5.5 35.3 6.9
2013 30 C 7 21 4.5 35.3 6.8
2014 31 C 7 21 3.5 34.4 6.6
2015 32 C 7 21 2.5 33.8 6.4
2016 33 1B -11 21.5 2 34.6 4.7
2017 34 1B -11 21.5 1 30.7 4.2
2018 35 1B -11 21.5 0 26.3 3.7

And a similar table constructed for Albert

Year Age Pos Pos adj rep def off War
2011 31 1B -11 21.5 5 60.0 7.6
2012 32 1B -11 21.5 4 59.4 7.4
2013 33 1B -11 21.5 3 57.3 7.1
2014 34 1B -11 21.5 2 53.4 6.6
2015 35 1B -11 21.5 1 49.0 6.0
2016 36 1B -11 21.5 0 45.2 5.6
2017 37 1B -11 21.5 -1 39.7 4.9
2018 38 1B -11 21.5 -2 35.4 4.4

You may be asking “Where did you come up with those tables?”  Which would be a valid question.  I used CHONE to get a feel for the offensive production levels, CHONE for catcher D, my own projections for Albert’s D, and the JC Bradbury criteria (read as star player with slow aging) aging curve that MGL developed using the delta method.

Now that we have all of the assumptions out of the way, let’s talk about the actual impact.  The Mauer deal sets the market at somewhere between $3.6M and $4M (unadjusted for inflation, but all numbers will be unadjusted) per projected WAR depending on which of the above scenarios you see as more likely.  Translating those numbers over to the Pujols deal yields an 8 year deal between $180M and $197M, so I’d say 8 yrs $190M would be about “right”.  If we back up to a 6 year deal that would work out to $145M to $160M over 6 years, although the $/win for Mauer was driven up slightly by the length of deal.  If we limit the Mauer deal to 6 yrs then the price for Pujols translates to $140M to $145M over 6 years.  Most of these parameters work out to somewhere in the $25M/year range, so that “feels” about right.

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