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On twitter the other day, I asked for some article ideas and a friend of mine asked me to analyze the bullpen and lament all of the blown saves. After all, Franklin blew four saves in the first month of the season… take those away and the Cardinals would be right in the thick of the NL Central race, right? Well, not exactly… but it’s probably fortunate that Albert is holding the sniper rifle in the picture to the right instead of one of 3 million fans that will walk through Busch Stadium’s gates this season.

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I must admit I only caught a little bit of the game between work and then chasing after the little guy, so I’m only going on numbers until I watch the DVR’ed copy later tonight.  First the WPa chart courtesy of Fangraphs

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A game the Cardinals seemed to dominate fell the other way, not the way you want to begin the season.

The Good:

Matt Holliday’s home run 0.305 WPA

Trever Miller getting Brad Hawpe to fly out 0.139 WPA

The Bad:

Albert Pujols grounding into a DP in the 10th -0.167 WPA

Matt Holliday’s caught stealing in the -0.124 WPA

The Ugly:

Brian Augenstein giving up the single to Maybin in the 11th and Theriot committing an error -0.407 WPA

Ryan Franklin giving up a home run to Maybin in the ninth -0.368 WPA

Albert Pujols’ combined WPA of -0.429

 

Commentary:

On the bright side, Albert Pujols will likely not have another game like that until he’s in the last year of the ten year deal some team is going to give him.  Interestingly we had the first Kyle McClellan bullpen outing and it went to Miguel Batista, not surprising given Tony’s love for the proven vet, but not a good sign of things to come either.  Franklin worries me independent of the results, but we’ll clearly give him a few more outings before we analyze anything there.

 

Pitch FX portion of the program

Carp’s fastball velocity was about right where it should be compared to last year given that it’s the first start of the year.  The following table summarizes

Year + 1 SD AVG - 1 SD
2010 92.7 91.5 90.2
2011 91.9 91.0 90.2

 
I’ll be trying to get as many of these game recaps up as I can throughout the season (maybe with the help of the rest of the guys). Clearly once we start to develop some sample sizes I’ll start to do more analysis.

 

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(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.

Wishy-washy peripherals aside, Ryan Franklin is the closer for the unforeseeable future. Cardinal fans are left feeling apprehensive about their 37-year old closer, because out of two out of his three seasons, Franklin has fell apart in the second half. With no clear contingencies in place (sign Smoltz!), the club seems undisturbed about Franklin’s fades down the stretch. Are they right? And is Franklin a 1st half pitcher? I went to Baseball-Reference.com to check out his splits, here’s what I got. First I looked at his when Franklin began to be used primarily in relief, which was 2006.

Frankin 2006-2009 PA wOBA
Pre-All Star Break 691 0.293
Post-All Star Break 561 0.352

That’s a 59 point split in wOBA against, scary stuff. But because we’re not talking about a lot of plate appearances, I took a look at his career numbers.

Franklin Career PA wOBA
Pre-All Star Break 2566 0.317
Post-All Star Break 2150 0.331

Now we get a 14 point split, not nearly as significant, but I think it establishes the pattern of Franklin as a 2nd half fader. So what can the Cardinals do to save Franklin’s arm from wear and tear? Let’s check Franklin’s workload compared to other closers around the majors.

Days of Rest 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Other (days rest listed)
Bobby Jenks 9 13 13 4 5 2 4 1 99 days
Matt Capps 9 16 5 17 5 1 3 99 days
Jonathon Papelbon 11 21 16 10 4 2 1 99 days
Ryan Franklin 13 15 12 13 3 3 2 99 days
Joakim Soria 13 6 11 3 6 2 1 9, 26 and 99 days
Frank Francisco 13 15 6 4 4 2 2 15, 16, 22 and 99 days
Trevor Hoffman 16 13 8 7 3 1 4 1 99 days
Francisco Rodriguez 17 19 19 6 4 4 99 days
Andrew Bailey 17 21 10 9 5 4 1 99 days
Brian Fuentes 18 14 13 8 7 2 2 99 days
Brian Wilson 19 14 16 9 6 2 1 99 days
Mariano Rivera 20 14 12 10 4 3 2 99 days
Brad Lidge 21 18 14 6 1 2 3 19 and 99 days
Heath Bell 22 16 10 10 1 5 3 99 days
Joe Nathan 22 19 9 10 2 5 2 99 days
Huston Street 22 16 8 6 7 2 1 20 and 99 days
Francisco Cordero 22 21 8 5 3 4 2 9 and 99 days
Fernando Rodney 23 18 19 5 2 4 10 and 99 days
David Aardsma 25 16 13 13 2 2 9 and 99 days
Jonathon Broxton 26 19 8 10 4 4 1 99 days
Rafael Soriano 29 19 11 8 6 3 99 days

Franklin pitched on 0 and 1 days rest quite often. I’m of the persuasion that relievers could handle a much bigger workload then they typically do now, but based on what we know about Franklin’s low-gas mileage, throwing him out there with in so many of those situations might not have been the greatest idea. On the other hand, he did have many times when he had 3 days rest, so I’m not trying to draw any hard conclusions.

Here’s are a few scenarios where I have real trouble with the Cardinals using Franklin on shorter rest. These are wasted uses of their closer. The Book says:

The three-run lead is almost a sure thing, with a 2% difference in the odds of winning between a great pitcher and an average one. Be careful on cashing in on that 2% today at the risk of losing even more tomorrow.

  • On April 21st and the 22nd against the Mets, the Cardinals used Franklin in save situations, but they were easy saves. 9th inning, no runners on. On the 21st they had a 2-run lead. On the 22nd, a 3-run lead. The average leverage index for those games were 1.04 and 0.48, meaning they already had the game in the bag.
  • The same scenario played out on May 6 and 7 against the lowly Pirates.
  • Franklin threw 21 pitches on the 20th in a nail-biter of a game in which he got the save. Good usage. The problem is, the next game the Cardinals took the ball away from Wainwright, who was one out from a complete game. Derrek Lee singled and Wainwright was pulled. It took Franklin only two pitches to get Bradley to fly out to end the game, but they still had to warm him up when he could’ve rested.
  • Franklin pitched three days in a row to start the month of July. The first time was an extra inning tie against the Giants where he pitched the 10th. No qualms there. The next game he came in with no outs, 9th inning, 3 run lead. average LI of 0.48. A one-legged chicken could’ve saved that game. The next day against Cincinnati, it took 30 pitches to finally retire the Reds, another game where he entered with a 3-run lead. He finally struck out Brandon Phillips with the bases loaded.
  • August 10th, 12th and 15th Franklin was brought in for saves, the 9th inning, no runners, no outs, 3 run lead variety. More fail.

You can see Franklin’s full game logs here, complete with average leverage index and base/outs states.

I’m sure this is typical closer usage, although I’m not about to take the time and look at all of them. The point is, there were many times Franklin could have rested but instead was brought in for an easy save. I’m sure there were other opportunities where McClellan or Motte were given high leverage innings in the 7th or 8th that probably belonged to Franklin, so I’m not trying to drawn a firm deduction, but I think Franklin could have been managed better. He should never be brought in games on back-to-back days or on one day’s rest for the sake of netting an easy save. Keeping him from such wasted innings might better save his arm for when he’s truly needed.

SMOLTZ SMOLTZ SMOLTZ.

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