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
Yadier
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
Benjie
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.

When I started writing this post, the season hadn’t quite ended so it might seem a little out of place but I had already set the foundation so here’s a belated entry in which I lament the Rockies inability to reach the post-season despite an incredible performance by their SS. After that, we’ll turn our attention towards 2011 and John Mozeliak’s ambitious checklist.

2010 Ends Fittingly
When it became clear that the Cardinals truly had went “poopy in their pants,” as Jack Clark so eloquently put it, I started rooting for the patented late-season Rockies surge. Troy Tulowitzki appeared to be on a mission in September when he accumulated 40 RBIs and 15 HRs. Don’t like counting stats? Me neither. That’s good for a ridiculous .492 wOBA (twenty-six points better than the second place guy who also happens to play for the Rockies; Carlos Gonzalez). Tulo hit 14 HRs between 9/3 and 9/18; according to Hit Tracker, all but two of them would have left a majority of MLB parks and none were considered lucky. He also plays a premiere defensive position well (6.1 UZR/150 on season) and features a mullet that he’s promised to keep growing as long as fans continue donating money to charity. Other than my soul, what wouldn’t I be willing to trade for Troy Tulowitzki?

The Phillies were the only NL team that had a better cumulative wOBA for September as a whole but the Rockies offense faded in the second half of the month with a .306 wOBA in the past fourteen days. Don’t blame Troy; he stayed strong with a .396 wOBA. The Rockies pitching simply couldn’t match the crazy awesome Giants staff that posted a 2.75 Team FIP and 4.03 K/BB. The Rockies ended the season having lost thirteen of their last fourteen games. It was kind of fitting then, that the Cardinals and Rockies were left to face off in the season’s final week to see who ended 2010 with the dirtier trousers. Unfortunately for the Rockies, they had an above .500 record which meant that the Cardinals would inevitably win the series.
Mozeliak’s 2011 Checklist
Looking toward 2011, John Mozeliak provided a check list of sorts in Bernie’s not-so-recent column:

  1. “…a couple of guys who can hit 15 to 20 homers.”
  2. A number two catcher who can provide more offense.
  3. Cleaning up middle-infield defense.
  4. Improving overall poor base running.

Let’s break down each bulleted point and compare the Cardinals’ top offensive performers against all postseason teams (Phillies, Giants, Reds, and Braves) within the parameters established by Mozeliak (at least 15 HRs).

2010 Postseason Teams Vs. Cardinals
Player HR wOBA
Giants
Huff 26 .388
Uribe 24 .322
Posey 18 .368
Burrell 18 .371
Torres 16 .363
Reds
Votto 37 .439
Rolen 20 .367
Bruce 25 .363
Stubbs 22 .345
Phillips 18 .332
Gomes 18 .330
Phillies
Howard 31 .367
Werth 27 .397
Victorino 18 .339
Utley 16 .373
Ibanez 16 .341
Braves
McCann 21 .361
Heyward 18 .376
Glaus 16 .331
Prado 15 .352
Cardinals
Pujols 42 .420
Holliday 28 .396
Rasmus 23 .366

Yes, I’m aware how ugly that table looks compared to the width of the page. Turns out all of the division winners had at least five such players (Reds have six) while the Cardinals only had three (Pujols, Holliday, and Rasmus). Although that sounds like a significant difference, when you consider numbers that encapsulate a more complete offensive picture, only the Giants(!) had more players with at least .360 wOBAs. Maybe the Cardinals don’t have as large of an offensive chasm to fill after all. With that said, there are already Rasmus trade rumors swirling and we haven’t even made it out of October yet. Yikes. Let’s hope that the Cardinals resist the urge to placate a manager only willing to go year-to-year and look beyond HR totals when signing/acquiring new players this hot stove season. Beware of guys like Uribe who, despite hitting at least 15 HRs since 2004 (exception of 2008), has only managed to post above average wOBAs twice.

Next on the list is a back-up catcher who can provide more offense. Of course, this is not the type of player that will make or break a team’s competitiveness but it would be nice to have someone capable of posting an OPS+ of at least 75. That’s something the Cardinals haven’t had since, well, Yadier Molina in 2004. Speaking of Yadi, Brian McCann is the only NL catcher that has logged more innings behind the plate in the past three years. At just 28-years-old, we’re starting to see the physical repercussions of such a demanding work load. Maybe the Cardinals are recognizing this as well and they’d like to give him more rest in future seasons. Despite this indication, I remain skeptical that they follow through with pursuit of an offensive minded back-up catcher. Exhibit A: In Molina’s absence, Matt Pagnozzi (.586 OPS in minor league career) has been given regular playing time over Bryan Anderson (.782 OPS in minor league career). That Anderson can’t accumulate AB’s in meaningless September games despite offering this exact skill for the major league minimum price is perplexing; would it be that surprising to see him packaged in a trade this off season?

Mozeliak’s vow to shore up the middle-infield defense seems to be an indictment on Skip Schumaker. See this video for proof. Brendan Ryan doesn’t really care which defensive metric by which you judge him: 11.6 UZR/150, 15 total zone total fielding runs above average, and 27 BIS defensive runs saved above average. Boog’s glove appears to have bought him at least one more season to put things together offensively. The effort and professionalism with which Skip tried to convert to 2B from the OF was much undoubtedly won him points in the clubhouse and made him a fan favorite but the Cardinals appear ready to abandon the experiment. And that seems like the right move. According to UZR, Skip’s defense was actually worse in 2010 (-17.7 UZR/150 in 2010; -8.5 UZR/150 in 2009). Combine that with an unfortunate offensive season (.299 wOBA) and he’s essentially become a replacement level player (-0.2 WAR).

Last on Mo’s agenda is to improve the team’s value on the base paths. According to Baseball Prospectus, however, the Cardinals were in the top third of the league, ranking 9th in equivalent base running runs (EqBRR). Of the top eight teams, only three made the playoffs. In fact, the league overall seems to be pretty bad at adding runs via base running. Only the top ten teams had positive EqBRR and the Cardinals were one of them. Fungoes has more on this topic here. Not that they couldn’t improve in this area, but base running doesn’t appear to be one of the team’s greatest needs.

The positive? John Mozeliak appears to know his team well. I wouldn’t argue with his assessment of team needs. If the Cardinals were able to improve in these four areas, we’d likely have a better team to root for in 2011.

The negative? I’m not convinced that he understands how to make these improvements. In Derrick Goold’s “Thrills and Spills” article, Mozeliak is quoted as desiring, “a more experienced presence,” on next year’s bench and roster. In 2010, the Cardinals added experience to the roster in the form of Aaron Miles, Randy Winn, Jeff Suppan, and Pedro Feliz. These players “helped” the club in the form of the following WARs: 0.0, -0.2, 0.1, and -0.5 (respectively). Maybe triple-A guys like Tyler Greene and Allen Craig wouldn’t have helped much more offensively, but they certainly had the upside that warranted giving them an extended chance. And now the Cardinals will go into 2011 with these guys still needing to wet their feet in the big leagues. 2010 was a wasted opportunity to learn more about guys that the Cardinals need to contribute in the future. The Cardinals don’t need experienced, seasoned, or veteran players. They just need more talent… and their failure to utilize that talent in 2010 even when freely available was (and is) disconcerting.

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

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Over in the comments of my fanshot at BtB I put some alternate looks at breakdowns of wOBA.  Below I’ll reproduce those within the context of the Cardinals.  The first is a re-post of the stacked bar graph; however it added a league average stack and line across for comparison sake.  It also has Holliday’s full season stats instead of just his time in St. Louis.  Graphs after the jump

Continue reading »

Jumping off of the work I did earlier today I thought I’d put together the same chart just for the Cardinals.  Here it is, the top Cardinal hitters (in terms of PAs) broken down by wOBA

A Couple of Notes:

  • This is only from Holliday’s time with the Cardinals
  • Holliday, Skip, Ryan, Ankiel, and Thurston all have slightly (~0.001) negative SB components that don’t show well on the chart.
  • NIBB is non intentional BBs

I put a graph in the comments over at BtB breaking down the top wOBAs by component.  Here it is

Pujols has built his wOBA lead via the long ball and the walk (Duh and Duh).

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