After the moneyballing Oakland A’s corrected the market’s understanding of the importance of defense and a few teams emphasized offense, then the sabermetric community and some clubs corrected that possible excess, is it possible that some teams — like the Cardinals — have fallen back into an overemphasis on defense?
How else to explain the Cardinals’ Thursday trade for offensively-challenged Pedro Feliz, whose name translates to "out happy"?
The 35-year-old, who by our reading should’ve been third on the Astros’ depth chart at third base, ostensibly closes the hole at third base for the Cardinals, where Felipe Lopez has been leaking like the Deepwater Horizon oil well. But like the attempts to cap the well, the Cardinals’ acquisition will only serve to create pressure elsewhere, namely on offense, where, given Feliz’s lifetime .289 OBP, they’ll continue to leak outs.
Considering that the Cardinals’ struggles lately have been more related to offense than defense — even with Lopez’s two errors Tuesday night, the team yielded only three runs — the more pressing need is improving offense, not defense.
Though it’s true that Feliz has provided objectively and subjectively above-average defense in the past, he gives aways any benefit in the field with a feckless bat. In 304 plate appearances this year — enough to base some judgments on, considered in context of his career work — Feliz has a .243 OBP (.241 wOBA). That’s not batting average, that’s the rate at which he gets on base overall.
If you’re looking for a glimmer of hope in an unlucky BABIP, you’re not going to find it. True, it’s down a bit this year at .232, but that’s not really not far from his career of .267. This harsh fact should remind us that, while Feliz may have once at least offered power, he is too slow and hits too few line drives to even give himself much chance of reaching base these days. This clearly is a player whose offensive tools have rusted and are only getting more useless.
Even if the Cardinals had traded the proverbial bucket of balls, this trade fails to improve their team. But in sending away David Carpenter, they surrendered a prospect who, if still a few years from the show, is improving.
Just two days ago, we offered what seemed to be a simple solution in moving Allen Craig to third base and Felipe Lopez to second, where he’ll cause considerably less damage. That would’ve left the reliable veteran Skip Schumaker and the unpredictable but promising Jon Jay for right field. But the Cardinals appear to have overcompensated for Lopez’s bad play at the hot corner and overvalued defense. Come October, we’ll hope that our calculation is wrong and that Pedro Feliz saves them more outs with the glove than he costs them with the lumber.