OF Bat

Who knows how reliable this is, but I just found this article on mlb.com regarding the Cardinals perhaps picking up Jeff Conine from the Orioles to play LF.  All I have to say is… WHAT??  I’ll admit that I don’t know that much about Conine, but from his line of .326 OBP/421 SLG/.258 AVG he doesn’t seem to fit Walt’s criteria for the OF:

  1. The article states that Walt is particularly upset that our LF platoon has only hit 6 HRs so far this season.  Guess how many Conine has so far?  Exactly 1 more, 7.  That’s not really much of an improvement…
  2. He is a worse hitter than all the guys we’ve used in LF with the exception of Skip Schumaker (remember him?) and Larry Bigbie.  Taguchi, J-Rod, Speezio, and Duncan top him in SLG, OBP, and AVG, with only 1 exception: he outslugs Taguchi .421 to .375.
  3. He’s not young, and youth is supposed to be exactly what Walt is looking for.  He just turned 40 last month, making him 6 months older than our last LF that was too old, our friend Reggie Sanders.

And since I brought up Sanders anyway, he is also likely to be available from the Royals.  I’d much rather see Reggie back than see Conine come over.  Their lines are about the same except that Reggie has been on the worse team, has 15 more RBIs, 2 more homers, and a few more stolen bases.  Their AVG/OBP/SLG aren’t much different, but Reggie is a known quantity for us, he loves STL, the fans love him, and he’s always clutch in the post-season.  I’m not saying Reggie is my first choice – he doesn’t have the impact we need – but if I had to choose between him and Conine (or any other non-impact player), I’d much rather have Reggie.

***** UPDATE 7/15/06 00:45*****

Reverend Redbird just posted that the Cards might be close to signing David Delucci.  I really know nothing about him, except what I just read over at the Rev’s, but he could be valuable simply because he is dirt cheap.  As long as this isn’t treated "The Answer," he could be a good patch or utility man.

50: HALFWAY!! W5

Today’s game was boring: No deficits to overcome, no extra innings, no walk-off home-runs.  Just adequate offense (HRs & small ball), great defense (spelled J-I-M-M-Y), and amazing pitching by Carpenter.  But you know what?  That’s fine by me.  I don’t know about you, but after the June we had, I’ll take boring every day of the week.  I don’t care if we never have a nail-biter again; I’d rather see dominance.  And with 50 wins down, 50 wins to go, and only 73 games left, dominance is exactly what we’ll need.

Congratulations to Carpenter on the Cards’ first complete game this season and the Cards’ first shutout since May 17 – when Mulder almost (and probably should have) got the CG, Izzy got the save, and Rolen doubled in Pujols for the game’s only run. 

And in case you didn’t hear, Wood is likely done for the season and Prior will miss yet another start.  Will the Cubs EVER learn?

Looking forward to the 2nd half

Well, it’s time for me to make some fearless predictions/observations for the 2ND half:

  1. The Cards will still win the division.  100 games is looking much more difficult given our heIIish June, but is not out of the question quite yet.
  2. The pitching will recover, although, will not be as strong as last year (unless Mulder comes back and absolutely blows the doors off his game).
  3. Reyes will be sent down when Mulder returns and I will blow an aneurysm.
  4. Luna will be hitting .450 and Miles will still start more.
  5. Offensively, we will improve.  Hitting will be adequate for the post-season, assuming Jocketty is able to get anyone decent for the OF.  I haven’t been too impressed with Young Dunc so far.
  6. The Reds will fall off.  I have a feeling this trade will not work out as well as they are hoping.
  7. The Astros will not win the Wild Card and I will dance a jig.
  8. The Brewers will hang in there and finish 2ND in the division.  They will be tough when Sheets and Okha return from the DL.
  9. The Cubs will not make significant moves, will keep both Wood and Prior, will continue to *****, and will pin their hopes on the broke-arm duo again next year.  Baker will not be re-signed.
  10. David Wright will win the MVP because he’s just so da mn cute, and I will vomit.

51: W4 feels good

Seeing a Cardinals streak with a ‘W’ in front sure is a sight for sore eyes.  The Cards still have a lot to improve on, but I think it’s safe to say that the worst is over (Rachel had a good post on the subject, she captured what I have been feeling quite well).  The starting pitching can’t help but improve (it is statistically improbable that this rotation could perform any worse given their career numbers), the offense is clicking on most nights (how about giving Carp and Reyes some more support though?!), and the defense is still solid for the most part.  Here’s some things I’m excited about looking forward:

  • Jimmy Ed is starting to find his HR stroke again and has turned in some amazing catches in the past few games. 
  • Pujols, while not quite his first half self again, did win 2 of the last 4 games with a walk-off homer.
  • Marquis has had 2 strong starts in a row.
  • We used almost every member of our bullpen tonight and none of them gave up a run.
  • The Cardinals, while still blowing countless offensive chances, are giving much more than a hard 9.  We have won 3 extra-innings games in a row.
  • We will get our first look at Jeff Weaver on Monday.  I’m not sure that he will solve our problems, but he surely can’t be worse.  He isn’t much of a pinch-hitter though…

One thing I don’t like is the way Ponson went out.  It is apparent that several teams were interested in Ponson and we got nothing for him.  Actually, we got less than nothing, because we still have to pay his $1 million salary while he plays for the Yankees.  I know this isn’t much, but it seems to me we could have at least shoved some of his salary off on somebody, if not gotten a low-level prospect.

Here’s hoping for continued success and some run support for Carpenter tomorrow!

Playoffs part II: Built for the long haul

This continues my discussion of the Cards’ playoff misery following regular season success and concerns some qualities of the Cardinals themselves that are big advantages in the regular season but not so much in the playoffs:

Second comes to the make-up of our team.  Our team is renowned for
it’s ability to rise above injuries and other bad luck factors and
still be successful, where as a team like the Cubs are not.  When
someone gets injured (e.g. Rolen in ’05, Pujols in ’06), someone else
steps up in their stead (Nunez, Rolen).  I’m not sure exactly how to
identify/quantify this quality of any given team, but it is just
something you notice.  Perhaps part of it is management/staffing, such
as minimizing the liklihood of several pivotal players being injured at
any one time.  The Cubs are especially bad at this, having 2/5 of their
starting rotation consitently missing time (Prior and Wood) year after
year after year.  These pitchers are phenomenal on the mound and can
easily win most games for you, but only when they are healthy enough to
pitch.  When your 2 star pitchers are always hurting, that’s when an
injury to another key player like D. Lee seals your fate to finish in
the gutter. 

The Cards are a different story.  They primarily have only
slightly above average players, but generally very robust players that
don’t miss much time (Eckstein, Miles/Grudz, Sanders, Suppan).  Our big
injury liabilities are Carpenter, Edmonds, and, lately, Rolen.  But
these guys all play different roles, so that even if all 3 of them go
down at the same time, you have damage control in that you use 1
reserve pitcher (Reyes), 1 utility infielder (Luna), and 1 utility
outfielder (Rodriguez), instead of 2 pitchers and/or people playing out
of position.  This has worked well for us, and our utility players are
good enough to fill in nicely when needed.  These guys are not going to
lead the leagues in any major categories (Reyes MAYBE), but
they get the job done.  This is another reason the Cards perform so
well over the season: when injuries happen, they can stop the bleeding
and stay afloat until the main guys return.  In the playoffs, however,
injuries are magnified and decimate your team.  There is no time to
recover from an injury in a 5/7 game series.  And the lucky teams will
have all of and only their best players on the field over a short
series, all but eliminating the value of one of the Cardinals’ greatest
strengths: quality backups.

Due to these factors, the Cards are rarely streaky, they just consistently win 2 out of 3
games per series.  They sweep here and there, they get swept here and
there, but in the long term, they just win more than they lose.  This is great for 162 games, but not so good for the post.

Another
element is the idea of "impact players."  Impact players come in two
types, consistent and situational (streaky).  Consistent impact players
are always on fire, like our own Mr. Pujols.  A more situational impact
player is someone like Reggie Sanders in the NLDS or the Astros’ Chris
Burke in the playoffs – very hot and very dangerous, but only for a
short time.  IMO, the Cardinals have had less of these impact players
than other playoff teams, especially when it comes to pitching.  The
only impact pitcher we had last year was Carpenter.  The Astros had at
least 2 in Oswalt and Lidge, with Clemens and Pettite being borderline
3rd and 4th.  We had a very good pitcher in Mulder, but I would not say
Mulder is nearly at the level of Carpenter or Oswalt.  He was closest
to Pettite.  Same with Izzy – good, but not lights-out Lidge.  Our
other 3 starters and our bullpen were simply average or slightly above
at best. 

On the other half of the inning, we had more impact players than
Houston – Pujols, Rolen, Edmonds, and Sanders (situational).  BUT, were
missing 2 of our impact players in the post-season (Rolen and the
"good" Edmonds – we currently have some light-hitting clone of Eds ),
and Sanders, our situational 4th, was injured in the NLDS.  Pujols did
a lot, winning game 5 for us almost single-handedly, but we really
missed Rolen, the good Eds, and pre-injury Sanders.   Any one of them
could have given us the victory over Houston and those d*mn Killer
B’s. 

Finally, some random thoughts on regular season vs. post-season:

  • In the post, 2 or 3 great pitchers and 2 bums off the street
    will beat 1 great pitcher and 4 above average pitchers.  You only need
    4 pitchers in the playoffs, and if three of them are amazing pitchers,
    you only have 1 start in 7 games with a non-great pitcher.
  • Impact pitchers get to go out there for every play over (usually)
    at least 5 innings – but only every 5th game.  Impact hitters get to go
    out there every game, but only get to bat 1/9th of the time.  Which is
    better?  After watching Oswalt humiliate our impact hitters (in both
    starts) in the NLCS last year, I’d have to go with pitching.
  • I didn’t touch on defense, but there are impact defenders also
    (Rolen, Edmonds, D. Lee).  What impact do you think they have in the
    playoffs vs. regular season?  A line drive Rolen catches on a dive is
    an out, the same line drive that eludes Nunez could be a 2-RBI double.

Well, those are my thoughts.  Please comment and tell me what you
agree with and with what you wonder if I smoked a crack-pipe before I
wrote it.  SSL!!

(57) Playoffs part I: The law of large numbers

Tiff asked me a long time ago why, IMO, the Cards can win convincingly in the regular season and then play so poorly in the playoffs.  I had 2 ideas at the time – luckily she asked me before Interleague play started, because right now I am inclined to say that the AL is just flat out better than the NL.  But, sticking to my original arguments, I will say that (1) the bigger the sample (more games) the more likely you are to accurately determine the best team, and (2) the Cards are fundamentally built to win in the regular season and this usually does not translate well into playoff success.

We all have heard the phrase, "The season is a marathon, not a sprint."  This is a valid statement and is often used in reference to a losing streak.  Ironically, this phrase is of some use to Cards fans currently to comfort us coming off of a 8-game losing streak.  The point is that no matter how bad we are doing currently, or have been lately, it is a long season in which you can work out kinks, reemerge from slumps, and just generally endure bad luck.  No matter how good any team is, baseball happens, and no one wins 162 games in a season. 

The long season translates into the law of large numbers (for you math / statistics geeks out there, like me) in that, the more trials you have, the more likely the results are to resemble the phenomenon you are trying to measure.  The large number of repetition reduces the effect of "luck" and streaks.  For example, take a series of coin tosses.  We all know that, with a fair coin, you have a 50% chance of getting heads or tails.  However, it would not be too weird for you to get all heads if you only flipped the coin 3 times.  But if you flipped the coin 100 times, it would be extremely strange if you got 100 heads.  More likely would be to have something close to 50 heads and 50 tails plus or minus a few.  Within the 100 flips there may have been several streaks – 4 heads here, 3 tails here, 10 tails, 7 heads, etc. – but in the end they cancel each other out.  In 1000 flips, you are likely to be even closer to 50% than you were in 100 flips, and so on.  It works with any probability.  The more trials you have, the better you can approximate the "true" probability from your sample.  This can be applied to baseball as well.

In the regular season we have 162 games vs. only 19 games in the playoffs (really, we should count these individually as 5, 7, and 7 since each series decides once and for all who continues and who dies).  So if team A is better than team B, we are much more likely to see that over 162 games vs. either 5 or 7 games, and the difference in accuracy between these two samples is anything but trivial.  Hence the large impact of "luck" and "hotness" and "streakiness" that permeate the post season.  These streaks are meaningless over the long season, just as the 3 game sweep of the Cards by the Cubbies will be meaningless when we finish the regular season 15 games ahead of them.  Given that the Cardinals are the best team, they are exponentially more likely to demonstrate that over 162 games than any 5 or 7 game series.

See the next post for part II: Built for the long haul.