Cardinals news from a Sabermetric point of view

Around the horn: Spring training, week 1

The early news about Mike Matheny’s bullpen strategy this season offers both hope and concern. We’ll start with the hopeful, from Jennifer Langosch:

“He’s [Choate] a guy that’s going to be specifically effective against lefties, and we have to be real smart with how we use him and put him in positions to succeed,” Matheny said. “There are some lefties, especially in our division, where we could use a guy like that.”

Matheny sounds as if he is narrowing defining Choate’s role to LOOGy, which would indeed “put him in positions to succeed.” Presumably, having two above-replacement-level lefties will give Matheny the flexibility he needs in order to allow those southpaws to have one-and-done outings. After his clear message about Choate, though, Matheny gets mealy-mouthed:

 “There were times when we didn’t have any help for [Rzepczynski],” Matheny said. “His role was pretty undefined. It was a different-looking bullpen. But I think Randy brings a different flair this year. I am counting on it being an asset that does work for [Rzepczynski].”

It sounds like the Cardinal manager is trying to say that Rzepczynski stunk last year (“undefined role”) and that the “different flair” that Randy brings is the ability to get batters out. As for that final sentence, your guess is as good as ours.

But whereas Matheny defines the lefties’ roles based on matchup circumstances, he unfortunately sounds all too conventional with inning-based roles for the other relievers, as he “has no intention of fiddling with a sequence that worked so well late last season,” according to Langosch, meaning that he’ll use Edward Mujica, Mitchell Boggs and Jason Motte in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings, respectively. If he wants to put the others in positions to succeed, he would not lock in their inning assignments but use them by matchup and game situation (e.g., leverage). Oh well, maybe next year.

Visa: Not everywhere Martinez wants to be

Even before the end of the 2012 season, everyone knew when Spring Training 2013 would begin. And with Carlos Martinez being one of the team’s top prospects, everyone knew that he’d be part of it. And yet, we read this:

The Cardinals are nearly a week into Spring Training, and right-hander Carlos Martinez remains a no-show due to visa issues restricting him from leaving the Dominican Republic.

Whether the blame is due Martinez, the Cardinals or one of the two governments involved (neither of which is improving its regulatory efficiency these days), we cannot say. (It’s worth noting that fellow Dominican prospect Oscar Taveras is already in camp.) But The New York Times may have an explanation:

 According to Dave Sohier, the nonimmigrant visa chief at the United States Embassy in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, delays most commonly affect young players who have had brushes with the law while in the United States…

If a visa applicant has a criminal record, the embassy requests additional information to determine whether that crime makes him ineligible for a visa. If he is deemed ineligible, he can apply for a waiver. How quickly the player responds and the severity of the crime usually dictate the length of the delay.

We’re not aware of any such infractions by Martinez, and the US government does have an odd policy of granting amnesty to criminals while blocking the law abiding. So who knows? In any case, the local news outlets have been curiously incurious about the nature of the delay.

Cardinals’ farm system yielding bumper crop

Keith Law is the latest to laud the club’s farm system:

The Cardinals have drafted well, fared well in Latin America, traded well and developed well over the past five years, fulfilling the main goals of a farm system: Provide talent for the major league roster, and provide currency for trades to do the same.

Indeed, it’s a farm system that Branch Rickey would be proud of. It’s a system that erstwhile vice president of scouting and player development Jeff Luhnow, no stranger to quantitative approaches, would also be proud of. That’s because, of course, he was one of its chief architects, though he is now the general manager of a new American League farm team. Will he receive any apologies or at least credit from those in both the local and national media (including Law) who as recently as a couple of years ago mocked him? We’re not holding our breath.

Another Ankiel?

No, we’re not talking about a former promising pitcher who took HGH but a former promising pitcher looking to stick because of his stick:

 Right-hander Micah Owings will not pitch for the Nationals this year; he will play first base and the outfield. Owings was one of the best-hitting pitchers in the big leagues.

Judging from his pre-conversion numbers, he’s as good a bet as Ankiel before the beleaguered Cardinal hurler switched:

PA OBP SLG
Owings 183 .310 .502
Ankiel 96 .258 .310

Granted, Ankiel was a few years younger when he converted than Owings is. But Owings is starting off with twice as many plate appearances and a lot stronger OBP and SLG. We wish him all the best in his unlikely endeavor.

The best deals are the ones you don’t make — I
The 15 Worst Contracts in Baseball (Pujols #15) – Grantland

Look out below!
Giants confident Sandoval will drop weight – MLB

Look out for happier endings!
Below looking for happier ending to 2013 – MLB

Sounds painful
Familiar faces hit the field in first full-squad workout – MLB

The best deals are the ones you don’t make — II
Nine Regression Candidates for 2013 (Lohse #8) – Baseball Prospectus

Breaking news from 2012
Baton passes to a new Cardinals ace – Stltoday.com

Breaking news from 1955
Koufax gets right to work at Dodgers’ camp – ESPN

He paid his respects at the Little Bighorn
Swisher back at Indians’ camp following funeral – ESPN

Bottom story of the day
Mets outfield has more questions than answers – MLB

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

Matheny good-naturedly described the scene after the team’s pitchers engaged in a sac-bunting competition. That’s not a bad idea, given that the club’s pitchers were roughly league average (71%) in bunting success last year (72%). Matheny might’ve stopped while he was ahead. But he went on to say what was next:

“A group of position players who are going to be in bunting situations a lot this year.”

Serenity now!

One Response to “Around the horn: Spring training, week 1”

  1. steve jobs Says:

    steve jobs

    Fungoes » Blog Archive » Around the horn: Spring training, week 1

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