[Yesterday was our turn to pose the daily roundtable to the intrepid crew of writers known as the United Cardinal Bloggers. As usual, the wisdom of the crowd didn't disappoint.]
What individual Cardinal feat do you want to see in 2014? This can be as modest as “Jaime Garcia throws a pitch in a major-league game” to something as ambitious as “Matt Holliday wins the Triple Crown.” It can be a player breaking a team record. Feel free to list more than one player, as well as to give some explanation for your selection(s).
Since I grew up in the Whiteyball era, I truly miss the young guys making a huge impact. I want to see a Cardinal win Rookie of the Year. That’s my wish…
Matt Carpenter hit 55 doubles last year. In overtaking Stan Musial for the doubles record set by a left-handed hitter, Carpenter was still shy of Joe Medwick’s 2nd place record by one double and short of the franchise single-season record of 64 doubles. I would like to see him set the new single-season franchise record.
Also, I want to see Yadier Molina take home the NL MVP Award.
– Daniel Solzman
I’d like to see the Cardinals turn a triple play.
I’d like to see Tyler Lyons make 10-12 starts for the club.
And, finally, I’d like to see a record turnout at UCB Weekend, whenever that might be!
– Daniel Shoptaw, C70 At The Bat
I’d like to see Adam Wainwright become the first Cardinals pitcher to lead the National League in wins three times. He led the NL in wins in 2009 and 2013. The only other Cardinals to achieve that feat twice were Dizzy Dean (1934-35) and Mort Cooper (1943-44).
– Mark Tomasik, www.retrosimba.com
What I’d like to see in 2014: Allen Craig, World Series MVP.
– Christine Coleman, AaronMilesFastball.com
To add to the list that people have already stated, I’d like to see Craig continue to lead the MLB with runners in scoring position. I think the team as a whole will regress, but maybe Craig can defy the odds.
–Ben Chambers, The View From Here
I would like to see Carlos Martinez pitch 140 to 150 innings this year, whether at the major league or minor league level or combined. If the Cardinals are going to develop him as a starter, he needs innings to work on his secondary stuff and he’s not going to get them if he’s in the Cards pen all year or on the Memphis/St. Louis shuttle.
Martinez pitched only 120.2 innings last year (including the playoffs), 104.1 innings in 2012 and just 84.2 in 2011. He needs to keep increasing that figure if he is going to be a major league starter.
– Mark Sherrard, Cardinals Fan in Cubs Land
The Cardinals’ lack of power in 2013 is concerning. I’d like to see Matt Adams hit 30 homers and be the power boost the big club needs.
I want to see 4/5ths of the rotation have solid, but dependable seasons, with some progression for the younger guys. By that, I’m hoping it holds together and the young arms stay intact. And by this, these are the markers I hope to see:
– Matt Whitener, Cheap Seats Please
I would love to see Kolten Wong have a solid first season. I’m not talking about a rookie of the year first choice. Just a solid and dependable season that puts the kids nerves at rest and solidifies himself as a major league second baseman.
He’s got the talent and I hope Cards fans have the time. I’m hopeful for a line reading like .275 BA, .350 OBP, 25 steals, 145 hits and maybe 5-7 triples. Anything else is icing on the cake.
That’s what I’d like. The Waino Cy and Rosenthal 40 save season don’t sound bad either.
– Dan Buffa, Sports Rants
Thanks to a friend and former teammate on the St. Louis Perfectos (no, not those Perfectos, but these) and the graciousness of the Ballpark Village people (no, not those village people), we toured the soon-to-be-completed Ballpark Village adjacent to Busch Stadium. Visit our gallery to view some snapshots of the place, which features a 36-foot-high screen, retractable roof, views of ballpark game action, rooftop seating a la Wrigley Field and a Cardinals Hall of Fame.
[Note: The United Cardinal Bloggers have begun their preseason roundtable discussion. Ben Chambers from The View From Here posed today's question.]
There have been a few changes this offseason to change the look of the team that will be put on the field. Bourjos and Peralta joining the team, with Freese and Beltran leaving.
With that in mind, if you were in Matheny’s shoes, what would your lineup card look like? What do you think the opening day lineup will look like? Do you think the lineup will change at all during the season (similar to Marp’s move to lead off last year)?
We feel obligated to at least mention the idea that “who” is more important than “where” when it comes to lineup optimization. That said, we love lineup-making as much as the next guy, and this is, after all, what fans do in Spring Training, so here goes.
With the likeliest opening-season starters at this point– Yadier Molina, Matt Adams, Kolten Wong, Matt Carpenter, Jhonny Peralta, Matt Holliday, Jon Jay/Peter Bourjos and Allen Craig — we’d lump the lineup into three sections, numbers 1-2, 3-5 and then 6-8. With a couple of exceptions, we’re not picky on where people bat inside each of those sections.
Section 1 (1-2):
These two figure to boast the highest on-base percentage and slugging percentage on the team, so it’s vital to give them the most plate appearances. According to The Book:
Your three best hitters should bat somewhere in the #1, #2 and #4 slots. Your fourth- and fifth-best hitters should occupy the #3 and #5 slots. The #1 and #2 slots will have players with more walks than those in the #4 and #5 slots. From slot #6 through #9, put the players in descending order of quality.
Section 2 (3-5):
- Craig, Molina, Adams (in any order, but preferably Craig batting cleanup)
Make no mistake, these three comprise a stout middle of the order, literally and figuratively. In both foot speed and offensive prowess, they are largely indistinguishable from each other, though Craig projects to offer both Molina’s on-base skills and Adams’s power and is therefore the best of the bunch. These guys find gaps — think lots of doubles (Steamer projects the trio to hit 96 of them) — so they, like Carpenter and Holliday won’t require the following lesser hitters to hit home runs to drive them in.
Section 3 (6-8):
- Peralta, Jay/Bourjos, Wong (in any order, but preferring the fastest guy sixth)
Contrary to conventional wisdom, speed is most helpful in the lower reaches of the lineup. Some people believe that the most optimal spot for a fast runner is sixth, because a stolen base is most valuable ahead of singles-hitting contact hitters. Conversely, a caught stealing in front of weaker hitters is less costly than doing it with, say, Allen Craig batting (or, say, a pickoff with Carlos Beltran batting). And remember, after the first inning, these are the guys who will be setting the table for the 1-2 batters.
Even without factoring in baserunning, here’s what David Pinto’s old lineup analysis tool says will be the team’s top-scoring lineup based on Steamer projections:
Many fans of course remember the runnin’ Redbirds of the ’80s, which featured speed burners like Vince Coleman and Willie McGee perched atop the lineup card. When the Cardinals blew the league away in runs per game in 1985, they did so not so much because of Coleman leading off — though his 110 stolen bases at an 81% success rate certainly helped — but because McGee batted second most of the year and posted a Holliday-like .384 OBP and .503 SLG, and Jack Clark batted cleanup with a near-identical .393/.502. Similarly in 1987, with Coleman (.363 OBP) and Ozzie Smith (.392) batting 1-2 and Clark (.459) fourth, the team had its top three OBP men in those most vital spots. Mike Matheny has a chance to do the same in 2014 in Carpenter, Holliday and Craig.
“I’d like to be in the 40s,” said Bourjos, referring to his potential stolen-base total, as he was interviewed at the Cardinals’ Winter Warm-Up, which wrapped up Monday.
“It’s all about how you’re swinging the bat,” said Bourjos.
“In the minor leagues, I had a season where I stole 50 bags and I had a lot of seasons where I was in the 30s. So, in the 30-to-40 range would be nice.”
We’re all for setting (and reaching!) goals. Total stolen bases, however, is a dubious measurement. Unless your goal is ultimately to steal bases, rather than, say, produce more runs, simply counting thefts without reference to their context — like how much win-probability they add — can actually have undesirable side effects. Don’t believe us? Check out the teams that topped the NL in raw stolen bases last year: Milwaukee (142), San Diego (118) and New York (114). All three teams scored below league average runs per game. The team with the fewest steals? You guessed it, the Cardinals, with a mere 45.
No one denies that Bourjos is fast. But his career stolen-base rate — 76% – isn’t exactly Rainesian (NL average in 2013 was 72%). Moreover, stolen bases simply don’t help a team score as much as their reputation leads people to believe. For example, Bourjos stole six bases last year, but their sum total win-probability added was a mere .308. And that’s to say nothing of the cost. For his career, the net win-probability added by his 54 stolen base attempts — which includes caught stealing — is .287. To put that into perspective, that’s less than an eighth-inning David Freese RBI single.
When he set his career high of 22 steals in 2011, Bourjos actually cost his team win probability. Seen in this way, a plan to steal more bases is like the company that loses money on every sale but plans to make it up in volume.
Given that Bourjos projects to get on base at a below-average rate (despite a career OBP of .306, estimates range from .309 to .331), he’s better advised to focus on getting on base in the first place. For a player who professes that ”I’ve never walked so I can’t really say I’m an on-base guy” and that “I don’t go up trying to walk because I don’t think it’s one of my strengths,” his speed better serves him in his effort to improve his batting average on balls in play, which, if he eliminates walks from his game, is going to be the only lever he can use to boost his on-base percentage.
Bourjos noted that Albert Pujols told him that St. Louis “fans understand the game.” Assuming that the locals comprehend the folly of an offensive strategy that focuses on total stolen bases, the darling of the Sabermetric set may be in for a rude welcome if he fails to consider his running game in the bigger picture. The primary reason so many people loved the acquisition of Bourjos was because his speed served the ends of better defense, not more stolen bases. At the team prepares for camp, perhaps someone in the organization this spring can help the promising outfielder put some context around his quest to steal bases. We suggest a slightly different goal: Add positive WPA with his stolen base attempts.