Cardinals news from a Sabermetric point of view

Our 2015 MLB predictions

April 4th, 2015 by Pip

[Note: We’re not big into the prognosticating game, especially picking teams in the postseason, but we do make exceptions in the name of group participation. Following are our picks for ESPN’s 2015 MLB predictions, along with a brief word of rationale.]

2015 MLB Award Predictions

Who will win the:

American League Playoff Races

Which team will win the:

  • American League East? Boston Red Sox
    What a difference a year makes. The arrivals of Pablo Sandoval and Hamley Ramirez help make the Sox respectable enough to win a division in which no team figures to clearly distinguish itself.
  • American League Central? Detroit Tigers
    Despite ace David Price, the Tigers’ rotation is no longer the strong suit it once was. However, their lineup is still potent, especially with the addition of Yoenis Cespedes.
  • American League West? Los Angeles Angels
    The Angels don’t have much behind uberstar Mike Trout, but their cast of semi-stars like Albert Pujols, Matt Shoemaker and a recovering Garrett Richards can keep them ahead of a middling AL West.
  • First American League wild card? Seattle Mariners
    King Felix may finally taste the postseason, as a rag-tag collection of Mariners — including newcomers Nelson Cruz and Seth Smith — may actually vie for the playoffs. Their lineup projects to be 5.0-WAR better than last year.
  • Second American League wild card? Tampa Bay Rays
    Yes, they’ve lost Joe Maddon, David Price and Ben Zobrist. But their pitching staff still has some quality in Alex Cobb, Drew Smyly and Jake McGee.

National League Playoff Races

Which team will win the:

  • National League East? Washington Nationals
    The Mets may surprise, but the Nationals are simply too strong. Their best-in-baseball rotation alone — with newcomer Max Scherzer — makes them the prohibitive favorite.
  • National League Central? St. Louis Cardinals
    The Cardinals improved their defense and lineup with Jason Heyward — a projected 7.0-WAR improvement at right field — and expect to have perhaps their second-best pitcher, Michael Wacha, back for the season. They return a lineup virtually unchanged from last year’s division winner. Even with a resurgent Chicago team and the declining Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina, that should be enough to repeat in baseball’s strongest division.
  • National League West? Los Angeles Dodgers
    Even with losses like Hanley Ramirez and Matt Kemp, a rotation with Kershaw and Greinke — not to mention hitters like Yasiel Puig — is enough to easily carry a team to the postseason tournament.
  • First National League wild card? San Diego Padres
    Sleeper pick or charity pick? If we’re going by projections, the lineup from southern California’s other team stands to improve the most in the league — an anticipated 4.2-WAR upgrade from 2014. With the addition of James Shields, Justin Upton and Matt Kemp, coupled with the Giants’ key losses, the Padres should contend.
  • Second National League wild card? Chicago Cubs
    As strange as it feels to type “Cubs” here, we have to admit that they’ve got a good-looking club, even if Kris Bryant never bats once at the major-league level. After all, their offseason netted them a projected 2.8 in their lineup, to say nothing of their pitching upgrade. They’ll have to hold off the Pirates, who are still tough but for whom the loss of Russell Martin may be too much.

MLB Postseason

Which team will win the:

  • American League title? Detroit Tigers
  • National League title? St. Louis Cardinals
  • Which team will win the World Series? St. Louis Cardinals
    The postseason tournament is a crapshoot, so, assuming that they get in, why not the Cardinals?

Cardinals Announce Bobbleheads Featuring Non-Players for 2015

April 1st, 2015 by Pip
Building on the success of bobbleheads of famous St. Louis entertainers like Chuck Berry, Nelly and Jon Hamm, the Cardinals in 2015 will roll out an entire season’s worth of the novelty statuettes commemorating non-players.
“Some people think that Cardinal baseball is entertaining enough on its own.  But we feel that fans are looking for something more than the game offers,” said Joe Strohm, Vice President of Ticket Sales.
St. Louis-raised Victoria’s Secret model Karly Kloss will be the youngest person ever to be honored with her own bobblehead from the Cardinals. Karly Kloss Night is August 3 to commemorate her birthday. “It’s one of the hottest days of the year, if you take my meaning,” said Vance Wilkins, Director of Alternative Marketing.
In May, as part of the team’s “Tradition Meets Today” theme, the first 5,000 fans age 100 years and older will receive a bobblehead of Missourian Daniel Boone, born in 1734. Unfortunately, with only one existing portrait of the frontiersman, coming up with a realistic likeness of Boone proved difficult and some fans may be disappointed.
The lineup even includes some controversial characters. The bobblehead of pimp-gambler Lee Shelton, better known as “Stagger Lee” from the famous folk song about him, features a removable Stetson hat. Lee murdered a man on Laclede’s Landing in 1895 for taking Lee’s hat. Wilkins expects security to be beefed up for the promotion “just in case” of would-be copycat crimes on account of the bobble hat. Deadheads will be admitted free.
Singer Ike Turner’s bobblehead sparked some debate. The initial design was actually a double bobblehead, with former wife Tina Turner. “Our producer in China thought he’d have a little fun by portraying Ike slapping Tina,” said Wilkins. “But we thought Ike would prefer to be remembered for his coke habit.”
In September, little-known rapper “J-Kwon” will headline racial-healing night with a pre-game concert in which he will play his lone hit. Any fan with an official police record will then get to take home a J-Kwon bobblehead.
Paranoid-fiction writer and spoken-word performer William S. Burroughs will also have a bobblehead. The club has yet to set a date for the promotion but intends to have it coincide with Heroin Night at the Ballpark, featuring readings from Burroughs’s first novel, Junkie.
Lest fans feel that the non-player bobbleheads detract from the the baseball focus at Busch Stadium, Strohm was reassuring. “If we didn’t consider the game to be most important, would we have ever started our annual Star Wars Night at the ballpark? I think not.”

Cardinals notorious for not being notorious

March 8th, 2015 by Pip
If you’re a Cardinal fan, you look forward to the perennial “worst contracts” lists with little fear. Other than some low-level schadenfreude (sorry, Angels’ fans), the most entertaining thing about the lists from a St. Louis perspective is how many bad contracts the Cardinals avoided.
Here are a few recent players that the Cardinals let walk:
And that’s to say nothing of the free agents not associated with the team that John Mozeliak passed on, like Justin Verlander and Jon Lester.
How advantageous are the Cardinals’ contracts? When forced to provide an entry for St. Louis in their “Each Team’s Worst Contract” post, The Outside Corner blog wrote that it was Matt Carpenter’s. No joke. For the record, we would’ve picked Jaime Garcia, currently in the final year of a $27-million, four-year deal. But the fact that the Cardinals may yet break even on the contract — Jaime needs to post around two WAR this season to do it– demonstrates how disciplined they’ve been.
The worst contracts that the Cardinals ink are generally low-exposure deals like Mark Reynolds (one year, $2 million) and Matt Belisle (one year, $3.5 million). When the team did go big in the winter of 2013-14, they brought on Jhonny Peralta for a four-year, $53-million contract. At the time, it wasn’t exactly a risk-free acquisition. But Peralta showed his value in the first year of the deal, leading the clubs with 5.4 WAR, roughly worth $29.9 (according to Fangraphs), or more than half of the value of the contract. Moreover, Peralta’s contract is front-loaded (compare that to Pujols’s, which escalates every year, as his value only declines).
Even the players brought over via trades carry little contractual baggage. Jason Heyward ($7.8 million), Jordan Walden ($6.6 over the next two seasons) and John Lackey (famously only $500,000) represent some of the best return on investment for 2015.
That affords the kind of flexibility that can allow the Cardinals to pursue Heyward for a longer-term arrangement and to continue their tradition of locking up home-grown talent. Next up should be Michael Wacha.
Just don’t look for them to do anything foolish.

Twelve Days of Christmas 2014: Day 12

January 5th, 2015 by Pip

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

Twelve teams a-blanking,

Eleven stars a-shining,
Ten games a-winning,
Nine shutouts posting,
Eight runs a-scoring,
Seven K’s per free pass,
Six runs surmounting,
Five frozen ropes;

Four singling bunts,
Three Matt bats,
Two inductees,
And a platinum glove for Yadi.

  1. Catcher Yadier Molina won his third career Platinum Glove Award, honoring the best defensive player in the league.
  2. On July 27, former Cardinal player and manager Joe Torre and former Cardinal manager Tony La Russa were inducted into the MLB Hall of Fame.
  3. Matt Holliday (97 weighted Runs Created), Matt Carpenter (92) and Matt Adams (72) accounted for 40% of the team’s offense in 2014.
  4. The Cardinals’ 4-1 win on May 17 featured four bunt hits, two each by Kolten Wong and Peter Bourjos. It was only the second time in this century, and the first time since the Detroit Tigers on Sep. 23, 2003, that a team had that many bunt safeties.
  5. Matt Carpenter ripped five hits — three line drives and two ground balls — on June 4, the first five-hit game of his career and first for a Cardinal since Ryan Ludwick  on Apr. 9, 2009. Carpenter also had a walk to complete a perfect night.
  6. The Cardinals surmounted a six-run deficit against the Brewers on July 12, capped by Matt Holliday‘s game-winning home run in the ninth inning, the team’s fourth of the game. It was their largest comeback since 2007.
  7. Pat Neshek, a non-roster invitee to spring training, made the team and led the pitching staff with a 7.56 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 2014.
  8. The Cardinals scored eight runs off Cy Young winner and NL MVP Clayton Kershaw to win Game 1 of the NLDS, the second straight year that they lit up the Dodger lefty in the playoffs and second-most in a single game that Kershaw has allowed in his career.
  9. Adam Wainwright led the league for the second straight season with three shutouts in 2014 to bring his career total to nine, which ranks him 12th among active pitchers. He needs one more to tie Chris Carpenter on the club’s all-time list.
  10. Jhonny Peralta recorded 10 game-winning RBIs in 2014. The offseason acquisition posted the highest fWAR for a Cardinal shortstop — 5.4 — since Edgar Renteria‘s 6.4 in 2003.
  11. The Cardinals sent 11 representatives to the All-Star Game: Matt Carpenter, 3B; Yadier Molina, C; Pat Neshek, P; Adam Wainwright, P; Mike Matheny, Manager; Mike Aldrete, Coach; Blaise Ilsley, Coach; Derek Lilliquist, Coach; John Mabry, Coach; Chris Maloney, Coach; Jose Oquendo, Coach.
  12. Adam Wainwright started 12 of the Cardinals major-league leading 23 team shutouts, the third-most in team history and most since 1968.

Twelve Days of Christmas 2014: Day 11

January 4th, 2015 by Pip

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

Eleven stars a-starring

Ten games a-winning,
Nine shutouts posting,
Eight runs a-scoring,
Seven K’s per free pass,
Six runs surmounting,
Five frozen ropes;

Four singling bunts,
Three Matt bats,
Two inductees,
And a platinum glove for Yadi.

  1. Catcher Yadier Molina won his third career Platinum Glove Award, honoring the best defensive player in the league.
  2. On July 27, former Cardinal player and manager Joe Torre and former Cardinal manager Tony La Russa were inducted into the MLB Hall of Fame.
  3. Matt Holliday (97 weighted Runs Created), Matt Carpenter (92) and Matt Adams (72) accounted for 40% of the team’s offense in 2014.
  4. The Cardinals’ 4-1 win on May 17 featured four bunt hits, two each by Kolten Wong and Peter Bourjos. It was only the second time in this century, and the first time since the Detroit Tigers on Sep. 23, 2003, that a team had that many bunt safeties.
  5. Matt Carpenter ripped five hits — three line drives and two ground balls — on June 4, the first five-hit game of his career and first for a Cardinal since Ryan Ludwick  on Apr. 9, 2009. Carpenter also had a walk to complete a perfect night.
  6. The Cardinals surmounted a six-run deficit against the Brewers on July 12, capped by Matt Holliday‘s game-winning home run in the ninth inning, the team’s fourth of the game. It was their largest comeback since 2007.
  7. Pat Neshek, a non-roster invitee to spring training, made the team and led the pitching staff with a 7.56 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 2014.
  8. The Cardinals scored eight runs off Cy Young winner and NL MVP Clayton Kershaw to win Game 1 of the NLDS, the second straight year that they lit up the Dodger lefty in the playoffs and second-most in a single game that Kershaw has allowed in his career.
  9. Adam Wainwright led the league for the second straight season with three shutouts in 2014 to bring his career total to nine, which ranks him 12th among active pitchers. He needs one more to tie Chris Carpenter on the club’s all-time list.
  10. Jhonny Peralta recorded 10 game-winning RBIs in 2014. The offseason acquisition posted the highest fWAR for a Cardinal shortstop — 5.4 — since Edgar Renteria‘s 6.4 in 2003.