There’s been lots of discussion about Colby Rasmus and TLR recently. A lot of it was centered on his approach at the plate, so I thought it would be good to spend the next couple of posts digging into the information that we have at hand that describes his approach.
One common statement is that he tries to yank every ball out of the park. I read that as folks think he’s trying to pull too many outside pitches. Here’s the data, first the break down for any pitch from the dead center of the plate out.

Percent
Oppo 30%
Middle 31%
Pull 39%

and then for the outer quarter and beyond.

Percent
Oppo 35%
Middle 34%
Pull 31%

Unfortunately I do not have any league averages in front of me, so these numbers are slightly out of context. All we can really conclude is that he pulls about 1/3 of the outside pitches he sees. Is that good/bad/ or indifferent. One way to get some insight into this question is by looking at his batted ball profile by field. First for all pitches on the outside half

FB% GB% LD% IFF%
Oppo 56% 12% 25% 7%
Middle 54% 28% 15% 3%
Pull 15% 65% 20% 1%

And then for just the outer quarter

FB% GB% LD% IFF%
Oppo 54% 11% 31% 5%
Middle 47% 33% 19% 2%
Pull 7% 81% 12% 0%

As with most hitters, more pulled outside pitches = more GBs. In general (small sample size applies) those pulled GBs are going for less hits than the GBs hit either up the middle or the other way.

An interesting tidbit to note is that embedded in the 15% of fly balls that he pulls on pitches from the middle of the plate out are 9 HRs. That equates to around a 40% HR/FB ratio which is clearly unsustainable no matter who you are. I point his out because there is some chance that this is causing something of a confirmation bias for Colby.

All this being said, Colby is clearly the best option to be playing right now. Could he add some points of wOBA by taking a few more balls the other way (especially the ones on the outer quarter)? Yes. Does it make a big enough difference that it makes other less talented players better performers than him? Probably not. Does it make him not one of the three best options for the Cardinal outfield? Of course not!

In a later post I’ll try to frame the strikeout discussion.

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.

With Fangraphs adding splits, it’s now much easier to determine how high on the priority list finding a suitable platoon partner for Colby should be (if it should be there at all).  If we were to base the decision solely on last years performance, then the answer might be #1; however, as with everything numbers related we need to reconcile the small sample size problem (~115 PAs against LHPs last year).  These posts (The Book, Fangraphs, Another Cubs Blog) run through the methodology behind estimating hitter platoon skills, and the Another Clubs Blog post links a spreadsheet calculator.  Running Colby’s history and his CHONE projection for next year through that methodology yields a projection of

Proj wOBA wOBA v LHP wOBA vRHP
Colby Rasmus 0.334 0.303 0.343

Clearly this projection shows Rasmus being below average with the bat against LHP next year, but what’s the magnitude of that when you combine it with his above average D? And is there an option out there that could help? Those questions can be answered using a WAR v LHP Metric as in the below table. I’ll also include a couple of other potential (either still or at the beginning of free agency) platoon partners so we can get a feel for the potential gain of a platoon.

wOBA v LHP ORAA DRAA RAA
Colby Rasmus 0.303 -4 1 -3
Reed Johnson 0.336 0 -0.5 -0.5
Rocco Baldelli 0.355 2.5 -0.5 2

The wOBAs were derived using the same methodology as noted above and the DRAA are prorated versions of my projections (linked on sidebar).  This chart shows that a platoon would be an OK idea to the tune of about a 5 run gain.  The built in assumption is that Baldelli could stay healthy enough to take all of the PAs vs LHP.  Also of note, Rasmus’s splits were much smaller in his minor league days (in fact, including the MLEs for his last two years in the minors would bump the projection up to 0.306).

So what’s my final answer?  If Rasmus needs a day off, then obviously giving it to him against a LHP is a good idea; however, the marginal gain (at most ~5 runs) probably isn’t enough to get worked up over if the Cards don’t bring anyone in to platoon with him.

Steve already touched on Jeremy Greenhouse’s fantastic work over at Baseball Analysts of using linear weights on strike zone location for 2009 batters, and found a disturbing trend that outside of Pujols, Holliday and Schumaker, the Cardinals seemed to have done an awfully poor job on smacking a pitch down the middle when it comes. I thought it would be fun to put together some visualizations of the entire zone for the main members of the lineup and their run values per 100 swings for the 2009 season.

Here ya go -

Skip made his hay off of driving pitches down the middle, but seemed to sort of struggle with everything else, and was especially susceptible to high and inside pitches.

Rasmus liked low and in, high and away, but didn’t do much with anything else.

So there was a glitch in The Machine, and that’s pitches low and away, and low pitches in general. It’s not as if Pujols will be legging out a lot of ground balls. Pujols loved middle-up and high and away.

Luddy really struggled with pitches up in the zone, especially up and in.

Holliday handled pitches with low and inside and low and down the middle pitches, something most batters struggle with. He murdered a lot of pitched down the middle.

Yadi can handle himself on the inside of the plate, so long as the pitch isn’t up. He struggled mostly with pitches outside, which struck me as odd, because my general impression of Molina is that he’s pretty good taking the ball the other way. You’d think pitches on the outer half would be the type of pitches he could slap to the right side.

Now the Boogameister. It’s a little surprising to see a ground-ball hitter and a fast runner like Ryan to do so poorly with low pitches.

I’m going to pass on the more depressing cast-aways (DeRosa, Greene, Thurston), but I couldn’t resist putting together a zone for Ankiel. Ank handled pitches down the middle, but was helpless on just about everything else.

This was fun. Sometime soon we’ll have to look at pitchers.

First off a hello to all you PAH9ers; second, thanks to Erik for letting me tag along over here.

For those that haven’t heard of me I used to write here.  I’ll basically be doing the same thing over here that I did over there, which means a steady diet of numbers, graphs, and pitch f/x.  Some of it will be broad spectrum, but most of it will be Cards focused (or at least brought back to the Cards).  Now back to your regularly scheduled analysis.

CHONE projections for hitters are out, so now we can provide another piece of the 2010 projected value puzzle.  First just a quick table of the “relevant” Cardinals and their projected wOBA (for full stat lines go poke around the linked site)

Name 2010 Projected wOBA
Albert Pujols 0.433
Ryan Ludwick 0.356
Colby Rasmus 0.334
Skip Schumaker 0.330
Yadier Molina 0.329
Brendan Ryan 0.310
Julio Lugo 0.311
Allen Craig 0.346
David Freese 0.337

It’s good (but maybe overly optimistic?) to see both Freese and Craig come out as better than league average performers offensively. That really bodes well for Freese as all signs point to him being a capable (i.e. league average-ish defender).  It’s much less stellar to see Boog so low.

Keep reading after the jump for some FA projections along with a little more Cards analysis

Continue reading »

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.

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