Cardinals news from a Sabermetric point of view

Holliday ascends on-base streak list

May 21st, 2015 by Pip
On Wednesday, when Matt Holliday singled in the first inning of the Cardinals’ 9-0 win over the Mets, he extended his on-base streak to 40 games. In doing so, he passed Rogers Hornsby to move into a tie for the 13th-longest streak for a Cardinal player all-time.
Holliday’s streak actually began last season, starting on the penultimate game of the 2014 campaign. Whereas hitting streaks are more well-known, they’re also based more on luck because they rely mostly on BABIP. A batter has a lot of control over BABIP (and therefore batting average) but not as much as OBP, since OBP includes the ability to reach base via walk, a skill that batters can possess. And on-base streaks give credit to batters whom pitchers try to pitch around.
The holders of the longest Cardinal on-base streaks attest to the honor of the statistic. Most of the team’s best hitters are in the top 50 streaks: Rogers Hornsby, Johnny Mize, Stan Musial, Joe Medwick, Ted Simmons, Keith Hernandez, Albert Pujols and Jim Edmonds. Holliday has taken his place among them. The top 20 Cardinal on-base streaks:
Rk Name Start End Games
1 Stan Musial 8/8/43 10/1/43 55
2 Ray Blades 5/28/25 8/13/25 54
3 Vince Coleman 4/23/87 6/21/87 50
4 Ray Sanders 7/18/44 9/3/44 48
4 Solly Hemus 5/12/53 6/27/53 48
4 Albert Pujols 7/28/01 9/22/01 48
7 Keith Hernandez 8/6/82 9/26/82 47
7 Jim Edmonds 6/30/04 8/25/04 47
9 Ken Boyer 7/26/59 9/12/59 46
10 Keith Hernandez 9/8/80 5/5/81 45
11 Albert Pujols 9/24/04 5/11/05 42
11 Albert Pujols 4/1/08 5/15/08 42
13 Jack Fournier 5/14/21 6/25/21 40
13 Stan Musial 5/27/52 7/4/52 40
13 Albert Pujols 8/11/11 9/24/11 40
13 Matt Holliday 9/26/14 5/20/15 40
17 Rogers Hornsby 7/21/24 8/29/24 39
18 Ozzie Smith 6/16/87 7/28/87 38
19 Stan Musial 7/17/53 8/23/53 37
19 Mark McGwire 4/17/98 5/31/98 37

Data: Baseball-Reference.com

Holliday now sets his sights on Pujols’s second-best career mark of 42 games, which he set twice.
In case you’re wondering, the all-time record is Ted Williams, who reached in 84 straight games in 1949. Almost halfway there, Matt!

The Best-Pitched Game Against the Cardinals of All-Time

May 14th, 2015 by Pip
Eight pitchers have no-hit the St. Louis Cardinals. But no pitcher has ever dominated them like Corey Kluber did Wednesday night in Cleveland.
Kluber struck out 18 of the 26 batters he faced (69%) over eight innings, walking none and allowing only a single. Mind you, that’s not merely putting out 69% of the batters he faced — something Kluber’s mound counterpart, John Lackey, would’ve been glad for — that’s singlehandedly and completely preventing them from even trying to reach. Those negative pitching numbers you see in the Fangraphs box score — -1.12 tERA, -7.00 FIP,  -0.27 xFIP — are no error: That’s how literally incalculable Kluber’s performance was. His only slip was plunking Matt Holliday in the first inning.
Success against one’s team is often difficult to acknowledge, much less celebrate. But we make an exception for this, because it was truly historic. Kluber’s gem was likely the best-pitched game against the Cardinals in history. Let’s put it in context by first listing the no-hitters, traditionally considered to be the pitching performances par excellence, by their Fielding Independent Game Scores (* indicates a game in a doubleheader):
Rk Player Date Tm IP H R ER BB SO HR BF FIGS
1 Gaylord Perry 9/17/68 SFG 9 0 0 0 2 9 0 29 70
1 Don Cardwell * 5/15/60 CHC 9 0 0 0 1 7 0 28 70
3 Hod Eller 5/11/19 CIN 9 0 0 0 3 8 0 28 66
4 David Palmer * 4/21/84 MON 5 0 0 0 0 2 0 15 64
5 Fernando Valenzuela 6/29/90 LAD 9 0 0 0 3 7 0 30 62
5 Sam Jones 9/26/59 SFG 7 0 0 0 2 5 0 23 62
7 Johan Santana 6/1/12 NYM 9 0 0 0 5 8 0 32 56
8 Tom Seaver 6/16/78 CIN 9 0 0 0 3 3 0 30 54
As far as no-hitters go, these haven’t exactly been the most transcendent, with Gaylord Perry’s and Don Cardwell’s games topping out at 70 FIGS. For reference, that’s a score that Lance Lynn has already matched twice this season alone (73, 5/1; 71, 4/8). So it’s safe to say that, even before Kluber, pitchers had thrown better games against the Cardinals than any of the no-nos. Let’s now look at the best-pitched games against the Cardinals overall:
Rk Player Date Tm IP BB SO HR BF FIGS
1 Corey Kluber 5/13/15 CLE 8 0 18 0 26 94
2 Sid Fernandez 9/21/89 NYM 9 0 13 0 29 84
3 Roy Parmelee* 7/2/33 NYG 9 0 13 0 30 83
4 Dennis Bennett 9/14/62 PHI 9 0 13 0 31 82
5 Steve Carlton 9/13/82 PHI 9 0 12 0 29 82
6 Rick Sutcliffe 6/24/84 CHC 9 1 14 0 33 79
6 Gary Nolan 7/19/67 CIN 7 0 12 0 26 79
6 Carl Hubbell* 7/2/33 NYG 18 0 12 0 59 79
9 John Montefusco 4/28/76 SFG 8 0 12 0 30 78
9 Frank Castillo 9/25/95 CHC 9 2 13 0 29 78
11 Fred Norman 5/7/74 CIN 9 1 13 0 33 77
11 Randy Johnson 6/25/99 ARI 9 2 14 0 32 77
13 Tom Seaver 9/30/71 NYM 9 1 13 0 34 76
13 Ben McDonald 6/16/97 MIL 8 1 12 0 29 76
13 Nolan Ryan 8/31/71 NYM 6 1 12 0 23 76
13 Jerry Koosman* 7/21/68 NYM 9 1 12 0 32 76
13 Chris Short 9/10/64 PHI 9 1 12 0 32 76
13 Don Drysdale 8/31/64 LAD 9 0 12 0 35 76
13 Turk Farrell 7/20/62 HOU 9 0 12 0 35 76
13 Pete Alexander 5/15/15 PHI 9 0 12 0 35 76
21 Sandy Koufax* 8/16/64 LAD 9 1 13 0 35 75
21 Carl Hubbell* 8/29/33 NYG 9 1 12 0 33 75
21 Cole Hamels 8/3/06 PHI 7 2 12 0 24 75
Pre-Kluber, Sid Fernandez owned the top game. We actually remember that game, since it was during our misspent youth as a Mets fan. But as dominant as El Sid was, striking out 13 Cardinals, he paled in comparison to Kluber. In fact, Kluber’s 94 FIGS was so high, it’s not only the best against the Cardinals, it’s one of the best all-time. Best games by FIGS since 1914:
Rk Player Date Tm Opp IP BB SO HR BF FIGS
1 Kerry Wood 5/6/98 CHC HOU 9 0 20 0 29 98
1 Randy Johnson 5/8/01 ARI CIN 9 0 20 0 29 98
3 Roger Clemens 9/18/96 BOS DET 9 0 20 0 32 95
4 Corey Kluber 5/13/15 CLE STL 8 0 18 0 26 94
5 Roger Clemens 8/25/98 TOR KCR 9 0 18 0 30 93
6 Johan Santana 8/19/07 MIN TEX 8 0 17 0 26 92
6 Luis Tiant 7/3/68 CLE MIN 10 0 19 0 36 92
8 David Cone 10/6/91 NYM PHI 9 1 19 0 31 91
9 Ramon Martinez 6/4/90 LAD ATL 9 1 18 0 31 89
10 Sam McDowell 5/1/68 CLE OAK 9 0 16 0 31 88
11 Nolan Ryan 7/9/72 CAL BOS 9 1 16 0 29 87
11 Randy Johnson 4/21/02 ARI COL 9 1 17 0 31 87
11 Dwight Gooden 9/12/84 NYM PIT 9 0 16 0 32 87
11 Vida Blue 7/9/71 OAK CAL 11 0 17 0 40 87
If we consider Kerry Wood’s 1998 masterpiece to be the standard bearer for pitching performances, please note that Kluber actually struck out a higher percentage of batters faced (69.2%) than Wood did (69.0%). That alone merits strong Kluber’s outing consideration as the best all-time.
It’s never fun to be the victim in an historic event like a no-hitter or one of the best-pitched games of all-time (or of a triple play, as the Cardinals were last weekend). But in the end, it’s simply one loss (or one inning), and fans of perennial winners like the Cardinals can be gracious to tip the cap to those who reach greatness at their expense. Here’s to you, Corey Kluber, for the best-ever pitching performance against the Cardinals and one of the best all-time. May you enjoy continued success — against the American League.

Recap: Cardinals 7, Cubs 4

May 6th, 2015 by Pip
Players of the Game
  1. Matt Carpenter: Three-run home run, walk and a .559 wOBA for the game
  2. Anthony Rizzo: Four total bases, walk and a .748 wOBA
  3. Tyler Lyons: Struck out nearly a third of the batters he faced (seven of 22) and 22.7 K-BB%
Plays of the Game by WPA
  1. Matt Carpenter homered, scoring Kolten Wong and Peter Bourjos scored. (+.320)
  2. Mark Reynolds doubled, scoring Yadier Molina (+.207)
  3. Yadier Molina grounded into a double play (-.144)
Notes:
  • It sure didn’t feel like it, but Lyons finished with a 1.27 FIP and 1.89 xFIP. It’s the best audition for the fifth rotation spot so far.
  • For being one of the top managers in the game, Joe Maddon made some headscratchers last night. First was his decision to play the infield in on Yadier Molina’s at-bat in the second inning with a runner on third. That run was likely going to score that inning — run expectancy was 1.05 — so why give the Cardinals a chance at scoring more by increasing Molina’s chance of reaching?
  • When Matt Carpenter stepped to the plate in the sixth with the bases loaded and the Cardinals up by a run, we figured surely that Maddon would opt for a LOOGy. After all, the Cubs have three. But he left Edwin Jackson in to further scorching.
  • The infield grounder that Jason Heyward singled on in the seventh inning very easily could’ve been ruled an error. The note on Rule 10.12 says that: “The official scorer shall charge an error to a fielder who causes another fielder to misplay a ball—for example, by knocking the ball out of the other fielder’s glove. On such a play, when the official scorer charges an error to the interfering fielder, the official scorer shall not charge an error to the fielder with whom the other fielder interfered.” That rule is typically invoked for outfielders who collide, but Starlin Castro effectively prevented Addison Russell from making the play by crossing onto the second-base side of the base and doing a pirouette. With Heyward struggling, it’s probably just as well the scorer ruled it a base hit.
  • The one official error that the Cubs did get charged with was tougher but still warranted, in our opinion. Kris Bryant did a fine job to stop Jhonny Peralta‘s smash. But as he moved to throw the ball to second, he lost the handle. He did well to gather the ball in the first place, sure, but that’s why they call it the hot corner. Cubs fans — and media personnel — needn’t worry about the play dampening the prospect’s rookie of the year campaign.
  • Maddon wasn’t the only manager who confounded. With the bases loaded in the eighth and the go-ahead run at the plate in Anthony Rizzo, the Cubs’ best hitter, Mike Matheny fell asleep at the wheel. It’s the highest-leverage play of the game — 3.21 li — and your pitcher is … Miguel Socolovich. We understand if it’s the 17th inning, but at this point Matheny has at least two better options: Randy Choate and Trevor Rosenthal. Why not use them?
  • If you don’t have enough confidence in Choate there to dispatch a lefty — which is solely what he’s on the team for — perhaps he shouldn’t be on the team.
  • And Rosenthal ended up pitching a meaningless ninth inning, anyway. Our postgame press conference question would’ve been: If not for the save statistic, would you have managed differently that game?
  • A couple of questionable baserunning plays from the Cardinals, who early on are one of baseball’s worst baserunning teams: Jon Jay tried to tag and score on a popup to shortstop Starlin Castro in shallow centerfield in the first. It wasn’t completely foolish given Castro’s occasional flakiness. But it’s the first inning, and Jhonny Peralta is on deck and the pitcher isn’t exactly Fergie Jenkins. The second was just as questionable, even if more successful: Jason Heyward raced from first to third on Yadier’s seventh-inning groundout. The play thrilled the fans, but it wasn’t wise with two outs. And yes, we know that Heyward scored on the next play, an infield single. That doesn’t make it right.
  • This Robb Nen save business is getting silly. Rosenthal is now seventh among the team’s relievers in game leverage index (1.49). And he has nine saves. We remember when saves used to mean something.

What is Matheny’s plan for using Rosenthal?

April 24th, 2015 by Pip
When the Cardinals lost 2-1 to the Nationals Tuesday night, they used seven pitchers. Not one of them was reliever Trevor Rosenthal.
To review: The Cardinals were down1-0 until the ninth inning, when they tied it on Matt Holliday’s single. At that point, Mike Matheny must realize that he needs a reliever for the bottom of the ninth, which the team will now play. He trots out Matt Belisle to face the bottom third of the Nats’ order. Belisle can’t do the job, walking a couple of batters. Now it’s the top of the order, with the winning run on second base with only one out, a situation clearly crying out for a strikeout. Instead of bringing in his best reliever, Matheny opts for Jordan Walden. Walden escapes the jam, but the Cardinals can’t score in the top of the 10th, bringing up Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman and Yunel Escobar (ever heard of them?). So what does Matheny do? He calls for … Carlos Villaneuva, this year’s Brad Thompson. Now, as far as 13th pitchers go, the former Cubrewer isn’t bad (he projects to have about a 4.00 FIP this season). And neither is Walden, with a projected FIP between 2.81 and 3.04. But neither is as solid as Rosenthal (projected 2.70-2.90 FIP). Perhaps as punishment for his managerial transgression, Matheny then watched as Villaneuva dealt the game-losing home run to Escobar. It was the worst kind of defeat: A loss with your best pitcher on the bench.
Rosenthal did appear in the Cardinals’ 7-5 win Wednesday and in the 4-1 win Thursday, “earning” saves in both. But, as Matheny has been wont to do so far this season, they were both in a low-leverage situations. Thursday’s “save” was Rosenthal’s fourth “Nen” of the season, entering with no one on base and needing a mere three outs. Despite leading the club with six saves, only one has come in an above-average leverage situation. In fact, Rosenthal is sixth among the team’s relief pitchers in average game leverage index, which measures the pressure of the game when the pitcher enters:
# Name gmLI
1 Carlos Villanueva 2.17
2 Jordan Walden 1.79
3 Seth Maness 1.58
4 Randy Choate 1.57
5 Matt Belisle 1.53
6 Trevor Rosenthal 1.43
7 Kevin Siegrist 1.15
8 Carlos Martinez 0.96
This leaves two options that we can see:
  • Matheny believes Rosenthal is his best reliever, and prefers to save him for “save” situations, which aren’t necessarily the highest-leverage situations and therefore an inefficient use of his best reliever.
  • Matheny doesn’t believe Rosenthal is his best reliever, so he doesn’t use him in the highest-leverage situations, even though he is the best.
Either case seems a managerial misdeed: The first is foolish misuse of a player, the second is a foolish misestimate of a player’s ability.
Furthermore, for a guy who complains about his bullpen being overworked, he sure doesn’t take a very resourceful position with his closer. We have a hard time feeling sorry for Matheny when his problems are mostly self-inflicted.
In the first week of the season, we posed Five Questions for the 2015 Cardinals, one of which was “Will Matheny mature as manager?” We fear that he’s already answering in the negative.

Game 11 Recap: Cardinals 2, Reds 1

April 20th, 2015 by Pip
Quotable
You blink and it’s the next inning. We’re sitting down there and are like, ‘It’s already the fifth?’ Wow. We better start stretching.’ The next thing you know, it’s the seventh inning.
Players of the Game
  1. Adam Wainwright: Pitched eight innings of 2.74-FIP baseball, striking out four and walking two.
  2. Matt Carpenter: Posted a game-high .999 wOBA with leadoff home run, single and only one out.
  3. Brennan Boesch: Collected three total bases (.538 wOBA).
Plays of the Game by Win Probability Added (from Cardinals’ point of view)
  1. Jon Jay doubled to center (+.138).
  2. Zack Cozart forced out Jay Bruce at second (+.137).
  3. Brandon Phillips singled to right, scoring Joey Votto (-.132).
Notes
  • You know it’s a fast game when your leadoff man has only three plate appearances. You’re happy to get a win when the other team’s leadoff man has five.
  • The managing moment of the game came when Mike Matheny had to decide whether to leave Wainwright in to face the left-handed Jay Bruce with the go-ahead run on second and two outs in the eighth inning.
  • We would’ve brought in the left-handed Siegrist to gain the platoon advantage. For his career, Bruce has a platoon split of .317/.348 wOBA, 94/116 wRC+. What’s more, the split has progressively gotten more pronounced over the years.
  • We always wonder what’s going through a manager’s mind when he visits the mound, only to leave the pitcher in. It strikes us as undecisive, or of decision making too easily swayed by emotional appeal. But it occurred to us that it’s possible that a manager visits the mound knowing that he’s going to let the pitcher remain, and that he orchestrates the visit in an effort to psyche the pitcher up, figuring on some conferred emotional “win” that the pitcher believes he has gotten from talking the manager into letting him stay.
  • Speaking of platoon advantage, we’re not sure why Bryan Price left Leake in to pitch to Wong when he’s got some guy named Chapman in the bullpen with the winning run on third and only one out.
  • It’s academic now, but if Wong had failed to deliver, would Matheny have kept Reynolds in as the pinch hitter with two outs? The recently recalled left-handed Dean Anna was on the bench.
  • Jordan Walden now has more one-run saves than Trevor Rosenthal.
  • Carpenter is looking locked in right now. We know, we know, bottom story of the day.
  • Credit Matt Adams with saving a base and potentially a run when he dove and knocked down Brennan Boesch’s ground ball hit in the top of the ninth. By keeping it on the infield, Adams kept Boesch from attempting a leadoff double.
  • Sunday’s pitching duel was the fastest Cardinal game since April 19, 2013 (2:01).The fastest Cardinal game of 2014 was 2:03, June 13.
  • On-base machines Matt Holliday (.467 OBP) and Matt Carpenter (.449) rank fifth and seventh, respectively, in the NL.
  • Special thanks to the Cardinals and Lindsey Weber for their hospitality at Blogger Night, the only occasion for which a short game is unwelcome.