If you told me the Cardinals would trail by two runs before Chris Carpenter even recorded an out, I’d be hard pressed to imagine a scenario in which the Cardinals were victorious. It certainly wouldn’t have looked like last night.

The Good: The offense continued hitting and ended up tying Cliff Lee’s previous career high in hits allowed (12). At Crashburn Alley,  Bill Baer argued that Lee had fallen prey to poor luck on balls in play. That is, the Cardinals twelve hits were a function of luck in that they did not seem particularly hard hit but just managed to find holes in the defense. There’s certainly some merit to this position. After all, Lee pitched well in some aspects. He was missing bats (9 K’s in 6 IP), throwing strikes (only 2 BB’s), and compiled a 1.03 FIP in the process. At one point, Bill tweeted:

The Cardinals have put 20 balls in play. Arguably two of them were well-struck.

Obviously, some of the hits were lucky (e.g. Pujols’s broken bat single, Berkman’s bloop to RF), but I can recall at least five that were hit very hard: Furcal’s triple to lead off the game, Theriot’s double down the left field line, Craig’s triple that was misjudged by Victorino, Pujols’s single to score Craig, and Berkman’s groundout that Polanco snagged and saved a run.

As a whole, the offense accounted for 23.7% of the win probability. Jon Jay lead the hitting group with a .300 WPA. In that respect, maybe the Cardinals were a little lucky since Jay’s 2 RBI’s both came on seeing eye singles that he grounded through the infield defense. So maybe a little luck was involved, but when isn’t that true of baseball?

The Bad: It seemed rather obvious that starting on three days rest did bother Chris Carpenter. He was uncharacteristically falling behind in the count and walked more batters (3) than he struck out (2). Per Joe Lefkowitz’s site, Carpenter’s velocity was down compared to the rest of 2011. I wonder if he threw fewer warm up pitches before the game in order to preserve his arm to compensate for going on short rest. He did have an efficient third inning of work and started throwing more strikes as the game progressed. Should this series reach a fifth game, I’ll look forward to seeing the real Carpenter take the mound. Unfortunately for us, he’ll probably oppose the real Roy Halladay.

The Impressive: The Cardinal bullpen only allowed one hit in six innings. The transformation of this unit has been remarkable. Azruavatar had a nice piece about it on VEB the other day. It’s no longer composed of “control” guys or “experience” guys, but players with discernible skills. Several of them can light up the radar gun and they’re missing bats in the process. Jason Motte (11.9%), Scrabble (11.7%), Fernando Salas (11.2%), and Dotel (13.4%) all induce above average swinging strike rates. Boggs has resurfaced after a baffling year of (non)use. Dotel has been incredible against right-handed batters (1.43 FIP). Add Eduardo Sanchez and Lance Lynn to this mix (possibly subtracting Dotel) and it’s easy to imagine the bullpen to mature into a veritable strength in 2012 and beyond.

As for last night, the bullpen was good for .59 WPA. Boggs entered the game at the most crucial moment, getting out of an inning that started with Scrabble hitting Utley with a pitch. The Cardinals were only leading by one run and Boggs got the first out of the inning when Pence grounded into a fielder’s choice. Motte accumulated the most win probability out of the bullpen (.235 WPA) by recording the final four outs.

And with that, the Cardinals won their first playoff game since finishing off the Tigers in the 2006 World Series. Let’s hope they make it a winning streak tomorrow night, eh?

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FanGraphs‘ win probability graphs for games five and six:

Game Five:


Link to page
I don’t have time to go through the good, the bad, and the impressive for yesterday’s win, but I’ll offer some quick commentary:

  • Clearly, that was an impressive debut in the rotation for Kyle McClellan. Not only did he settle down after giving up two first inning runs, but he added 7 K’s and 1 BB. With that said, it seemed like he left a bunch of pitches over the heart of the plate, especially early… so it’ll be interesting to see how his season unfolds.
  • Pujols led the team with .221 WPA (1-2, 1 BB, 2 RBI). Unfortunately, one of those RBIs came on a ground ball through the left side; a foot in either direction, and it could have easily been another inning ending double play.

Game Six:

Link to page

Again, bullet-point commentary:

  • Again, the offense takes the blame (-.539 WPA). They have only scored 14 runs. Of the seven teams that have played six games, the Cardinals rank last among them in runs scored; they trail the next closest team (Mariners) by 6 runs. I count 8 extra base hits in 218 total plate appearances. Yikes. For perspective, however, the Brewers and Rays have only scored 13 and 7 runs respectively in five games a piece. I have faith in those teams rebounding… so perhaps I should suspect the same of the Cardinals… but it’s easy to feel paranoid about your favorite team.
  • Carpenter had another strong outing (6 IP, 8 H, 0 BB, and 6 K); he touched 95 mph with his four-seam fastball.
  • Believe it or not, Brian Tallet led the team in win probability added (.032) despite only facing one batter. He induced a ground ball from Lyle Overbay with guys on first and third to end the seventh inning. Tallet has looked very capable early on.
  • Though Jason Motte has yet to strike out a batter, his velocity looks fine. According to Brooks Baseball, his four-seam fastball averaged 96 mph; another pitch was qualified as a two-seamer that averaged 94 mph. Spring Training struggles aside, I suspect he’ll be fine going forward.

 

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Like Steve on opening day, I didn’t get a chance to watch game number two (other than the few highlights available at MLB.com). Two games. Two analyses. Zero minutes of actual live baseball watched. But we have numbers… saber-purists here at Gas House Graphs. The win probability table from FanGraphs:


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Link to page

The Cardinals took the lead twice but couldn’t hold off the visiting Padres.

The Good:

Matt Holliday Allen Craig led the team with .151 WPA; his bases loaded single with two outs boosted the Cardinals’ win expectancy all the way up to 74%.

In the third inning, Pujols put the team back on top with a solo home run (.123 WPA), his first round-tripper of the 2011 season; he finished the game with .093 WPA.

The Bad:

Jason Motte pitched 1.2 innings, gave up one hit, walked two batters (one intentional), and didn’t strike out anyone (-.073).

Yadier Molina was 0-3 with a strikeout (-.059 WPA); he grounded out with a runner in scoring position to end the first inning.

The Ugly:

Jake Westbrook only managed to pitch 4.1 innings while surrendering 8 runs, 6 hits, 5 walks, and 3 strikeouts (-.524 WPA).

Commentary:

Considering he coughed up two early leads, this game’s pretty much on Westbrook. When he left the game, the Cardinals’ win expectancy had already dropped to 11.3%.With the extra innings played in the opener, and mop-up duty necessary today, I wouldn’t doubt if the Cardinals decided to call up another reliever (to take Holliday’s place if he’s placed on the DL) as a way of alleviating some of the stress on the bullpen. I’m not necessarily advocating for that, but I can foresee it happening.

Pujols is no longer on pace to ground into 486 double plays

In his first game as Matt Holliday’s substitute, Allen Craig contributed 2 RBIs. I’m sure Jon Jay will be sprinkled in occasionally, but I hope that Craig gets most of the playing time in his absence. Dude can hit (slightly better than .400 wOBA in 871 triple-A plate appearances).

Boggs’ line (3.0 IP, 2 R, 2 H, 1 BB, 4 K) is pretty good other than the home run. How did he look out there? There must be some positive vibes about his back since he was allowed to throw 42 pitches.

Weakened defense has already been a theme in each of the season’s first two games, and the perpetrator was the same as Theriot made another error. Lucky for him, it didn’t cost the team a run. Unlucky for the team, it didn’t matter; they were already down by six runs playing in the second half of the game.

Prediction:

The Cardinals will not lose 162 games this year.

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The chart summarizes the bullpen usage in 2010 in terms of Levearge Index.  High, Medium and Low discriminators are pulled from baseball reference and are as follows: High 1.5+; medium 0.7 to 1.5; low less than 0.7

 

Nothing too out of the ordinary there.   Might prefer than Boggs gets a few more looks at high leverage opportunities especially if K-Mac starts.

 

And a table about how the high leverage opportunities broke out.

 

Ryan Franklin 19%
Jason Motte 18%
Trever Miller* 17%
Kyle McClellan 15%
Dennys Reyes* 14%
Mitchell Boggs 11%
Fernando Salas 3%
Blake Hawksworth 2%
Mike MacDougal 2%
Other 1%
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This post has been modified from it’s original content, no thanks to some pesky calculation errors.

Follow the money trail! The stat de jour is SIERA, created by Matt Schwartz and Eric Seidman of Baseball Prospectus. SIERA stands for Skill-Interactive Earned Run Average, and let’s face it, See-air-ah is a lot more graceful off of the tongue than Ecks-fip. The BP writers say that SIERA accomplishes the following -

  1. Allows for the fact that a high ground-ball rate is more useful to pitchers who walk more batters, due to the potential that double plays wipe away runners.
  2. Allows for the fact that a low fly ball rate (and therefore, a low HR rate) is less useful to pitchers who strike out a lot of batters (e.g. Johan Santana’s FIP tends to be higher than his ERA because the former treats all HR the same, even though Santana’s skill set portends this bombs allowed will usually be solo shots).
  3. Allows for the fact that adding strikeouts is more useful when you don’t strike out many guys to begin with, since more runners get stranded.
  4. Allows for the fact that adding ground balls is more useful when you already allow a lot of ground balls because there are frequently runners on first.
  5. Corrects for the fact that QERA used GB/BIP instead of GB/PA (e.g. Joel Pineiro is all contact, so increasing his ground-ball rate means more ground balls than if Oliver Perez had done it, given he’s not a high contact guy).
  6. Corrects for the fact that FIP and xFIP use IP as a denominator which means that luck on balls in play changes one’s FIP.

SIERA comes out smelling like a rose when tested against other ERA estimators. In case you’re wondering, the formula for SIERA is -

SIERA = 6.145 – 16.986*(SO/PA) + 11.434*(BB/PA) – 1.858((GB-FB-PU)/PA) + 7.653*((SO/PA)^2) +/- 6.664*(((GB-FB-PU)/PA)^2) + 10.130*(SO/PA)*((GB-FB-PU)/PA) – 5.195*(BB/PA)*((GB-FB-PU)/PA)
where +/- is as before such that it is a negative sign when (GB-FB-PU)/PA is positive and vice versa.

Here’s your 2009 Cardinals, by SIERA, sorted by IP.


Name IP SIERA ERA FIP ERA-SIERA FIP-SIERA
Adam Wainwright 233 3.38 2.63 3.20 0.75 -0.18
Joel Pineiro 214 3.57 3.49 3.36 0.08 -0.20
Chris Carpenter 192.7 3.36 2.24 2.86 1.12 -0.50
Todd Wellemeyer 122.3 5.07 5.89 5.37 -0.82 0.29
Kyle Lohse 117.7 4.47 4.74 4.60 -0.27 0.14
Brad Thompson 80 4.74 4.84 4.70 -0.10 -0.04
Kyle McClellan 66.7 4.44 3.38 3.98 1.06 -0.46
Ryan Franklin 61 4.32 1.92 3.27 2.40 -1.06
Mitchell Boggs 58 4.49 4.19 4.20 0.30 -0.29
Jason Motte 56.7 3.83 4.76 4.86 -0.93 1.03
Trever Miller 43.7 2.88 2.06 3.41 0.82 0.52
Dennys Reyes 41 4.20 3.29 3.91 0.91 -0.30
Blake Hawksworth 40 4.69 2.03 3.83 2.66 -0.86
John Smoltz 38 2.98 4.26 2.75 -1.28 -0.23

A couple of quick thoughts -

  • John Smoltz is 43 years old. I get it. But he deserves a job, because he’s still really good at what he does. Discrimination against the elderly is an ugly thing, MLB general managers.
  • Our bullpen could really suck next year. Our best reliever is a LOOGY. Ryan Franklin, Kyle McClellan and Blake Hawksworth all had spiffy ERAs, but their SIERA indicates their skills are nigh replacement level. That doesn’t quite “feel” right, so take it for what it’s worth. I still get a sense of evil foreboding about our ‘pen for ’10.  Jason Motte on the other hand comes out looking like the Jason Motte we hyperventilated about not that long ago.
  • Revisiting the turd-storm that was the NL Cy Young this past season, Tim Lincecum’s SIERA was 2.73. Javier Vazquez was 2.87. Dan Haren’s was 3.37.  Just stirrin’ the pot.
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