Cardinals news from a Sabermetric point of view

Was Colby Rasmus unfairly singled out for his slumps?

In announcing that the Cardinals had traded Colby Rasmus, John Mozeliak cited performance and production as reasons. Perhaps protesting too much, manager Tony La Russa even went so far as to say that “I’ve heard it said that if you don’t get along with the manager in St. Louis you can’t play. That’s ridiculous. If you get on Tony’s bad side you’re out of here. That’s wrong.”

It’s true that Rasmus experienced periods of low production in 2011. But he wasn’t the only Cardinal batter to slump. In fact, he didn’t even have the worst one — check out the 20 worst 10-game periods by OBP for qualifying Cardinal batters so far:

Rk PeriodEnding Player 10gmOBP 10gmSLG 15gmOBP 15gmSLG 20gmOBP
1 27-Jul Theriot .108 .057 .150 .172 .189
1 25-Jul Theriot .108 .083 .153 .207 .189
3 28-Jul Theriot .111 .059 .136 .158 .167
4 29-Jul Theriot .121 .156 .158 .200 .174
5 22-Jul Theriot .135 .167 .185 .245 .205
6 24-Jul Theriot .139 .143 .167 .226 .192
7 3-Jun Schumaker .143 .143 .231 .271 .235
8 15-Jul Rasmus .154 .211 .237 .358 .250
8 10-Jul Rasmus .154 .211 .241 .434 .253
10 4-Jun Schumaker .160 .160 .184 .234 .239
11 20-Jul Theriot .167 .229 .222 .283 .208
11 16-Jul Rasmus .167 .118 .232 .340 .260
11 26-Apr Jay .167 .091 .300 .353 .321
14 17-Jul Rasmus .171 .121 .214 .314 .264
15 21-Jul Molina .172 .214 .239 .326 .210
16 19-Jul Molina .179 .192 .239 .310 .197
16 19-Jul Theriot .179 .237 .224 .281 .224
18 23-Jul Rasmus .182 .100 .189 .184 .250
18 24-Apr Jay .182 .100 .368 .400 .346
20 10-Jun Rasmus .184 .278 .276 .434 .293

As you can see, Rasmus’s slumps were nothing compared to Ryan Theriot‘s and Skip Schumaker‘s. Factor in Jon Jay‘s horrendous slide in April, in which he had nearly as bad an OBP as Rasmus at his worst but a much worst slugging percentage, and it’s clear that Rasmus wasn’t the only one who struggled for periods. Indeed, streaks — both good and bad — are part of the game. Just about any player, when the sample taken is small enough, is going to stink for several games at a time; the wise man looks not at cherry-picked periods of time but at the bigger picture.

And yet Rasmus was regularly singled out. Google Stltoday.com for “rasmus” and “slump” and you’ll find 207 references this season. Conduct the same search with “theriot” and you get 72. “Schumaker” yields 53, and “molina” 30. The same pattern is true with the Cardinals’s official MLB site: Molina: 45, Schumaker: 27, Theriot 118 — and Rasmus: 132. Why? It’s possible that Rasmus had become a media lightning rod because La Russa took special umbrage at him. It might also be that the media (and fans) have jumped aboard the bash-Rasmus bandwagon blowing their trumpets a little too loudly. And it could be — and probably is — a combination of both. In any case, it’s disappointing and a disservice not only to readers but to Rasmus himself. With the exception of Rasmus’s father imposing himself in the news, the Rasmus saga has been rather one-sided, with La Russa doing much of the agitating, aided of course by media outlets, not the least of which was his classless swipe during an infield KSDK report. For his part, Rasmus has generally been taciturn and composed, taking the high road, either because of a genuine dignity or innate shyness. Meanwhile, the real scufflers (and La Russa favorites) — Theriot and Schumaker — get a relative free pass, both from La Russa and the media, not to mention get to keep their jobs.

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