Diaspora Returns! Tell your friends.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

 

This N' That Again

Greetings Diaspora-ites. There's just not much going on in the baseball world at all right now, even if you do care about the WBC. That's okay, it's good to take a break from your obsessions, it's unhealthy otherwise. Remember that SNL sketch from the early 90s where William Shatner tells costumed fans at a Star Trek convention to "get a life?" That's kind of what I feel like (one of the fans) roving the net looking for stuff about baseball right now. Besides, today my interests have been focused exclusively on the Academy Award Nominations, because film is a passion of mine that rivals only baseball for my devotion. Oh yeah, and that whole day job thing today. By the way, if you're thinking about your taxes and a good place to donate a little cash in preparation for next year's taxes, I highly recommend community-based non-profit arts organizations, especially film festivals, societies, etc. Here's my favorite. Also, when you become a member of organizations like this you get killer benefits, oh, and you support that whole good cause thing. Sorry, kind of a tangent; I blame the lack of baseball. In news on the official site, the Cards are doing the obligatory mentions of the "competition" for several positions on the team. Obviously, Junior Spivey is the odds on favorite to start at second base, and the cliche about competition is required in the world of competitive sports. It reminds me a lot of junior high football or little league baseball, where the coaches would make the stupid "anybody can win this or that position" talk. In spite of this crap, we all damn-well knew, as did the coaches, who was going to start, and in a small town like mine that usually had as much to do with who a kid's parents were as someone's skill. Uh oh, blood's starting to boil a bit from all the bad memories of youth sports, so I'll stop now. Anyway, don't read too much into the competition for second base or left field or fifth spot in the rotation mumbo-jumbo. Spivey and Ponson are clearly the predetermined favorites, in as much as that can possibly be considered good news. Be sure to check out the Probabilistic Model of Range info for each position at Baseball Musings. Today, Mr. Pinto looked at RF. Back at you later.

Monday, January 30, 2006

 

Youth Culture

"Rejoice O young man in thy youth..." -Ecclesiastes The specter of age chases, and catches, us all. In sports age is one of the few constants. It helps observers understand and predict the many factors associated with performance; only in pro sports can you be considered old at age 35. Despite the heavy Biblical quote above, the same one that appears ominously in the opening of Oliver Stone's Vietnam epic, Platoon, youth is a valuable commodity in baseball. Age and the team's lack of youth weighs heavily in discussions about the Cardinals and their fortunes for the 2006 season and beyond. Let's take a look at age for the Cardinals. I lumped players (hitters only this time) into four groups which represent the young, those in and close to their prime, past their prime but still capable of performing, and the old. My groupings are somewhat random, but based around the general consensus that age 27 is when hitters are at their prime, and performance typically declines noticeably each season after age 30. In addition to looking at players' ages, I also wanted to take stock of the guys that are most likely to start and be the prime bench/replacement guys for the 2006 team. This list doesn't include Travis Hanson, Brendan Ryan, etc. from the 40-man roster because they are not likely to play in the majors outside of September call ups. Final note: I went with a player's age at the start of the season, except for the three players I noted below whose birthday falls in April. Rejoicing in their youth: Molina, 23 Chris Duncan, 24 Luna, 26 Pujols, 26 Ankiel, 26 Skip Schumaker, 26 At the top o' the mountain: Michel Hernandez (3rd catcher), 27 John Gall (April b-day), 28 Bigbie, 28 Rodriguez, 28 Aaron Miles, 29 Mid-life crisis: Encarnacion, 30 Rolen (April b-day), 31 Eckstein, 31 Spivey, 31 Cruz, 33 Old man take a look at my life: Gary Bennett (April b-day), 34 Edmonds, 35 Taguchi, 36 Looking at the list, it's clear that age for the overall team isn't the problem. The problem is the age of several key cogs in the team, and the lack of young talent to step in for the aging ones. The most important gray beard is Edmonds, without whom success figures to be hard fought. Super-sub Taguchi's age isn't huge factor given his role (remember Julio Franco is on someone's payroll), but it could be more of an issue if he starts for the Cards this year or even if we have to rely on him for extended playing time during the season. With his history of injuries and style of play, Rolen can be called an old 31, but he's probably got a few good seasons left for the Cards. In my opinion, the lack of talented hitters in their prime is the most glaring red flag for the team related to age. With the notable exception of Pujols, there's not a bat under thirty that could be considered a player in the top third of the talent scale, much less a suitable offensive replacement for Edmonds or Rolen. Bigbie or Rodriguez, the lone (probable) starter is the best of the bunch in the 27-29 year-old category. None of those guys are better than third outfielders or platoon players. You can really laugh at me for saying this, but I think that Ankiel is probably the best outfielder on that list of guys under thirty. We'll see about Gall, but it's telling that the 28 year old has never spent much time in the bigs. Of course Molina is only 23, and he looks to be a backstop that can post above average numbers for a guy at his position. That's definitely a bright spot. Is age an issue for concern? Yes and no, but it hardly poses the threat of undoing the hopes of the 2006 team. That said, if Jocketty does make a big move for a position player, he'd do well to find one under 30 that could be an important part of this year's team and the next several.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

 

Match Game

Whatever you may think about the Cardinals' rotation, it's got a lot of hopes pinned on it. The burden is pretty evenly distributed across the team, but the rotation, no matter who ends up rounding it out, has to be solid enough to give the Cards a chance to win enough games to capture the NL Central for the third year in a row. In the NL East, the Mets also have their hopes of dethroning the Braves resting, in part, on their starting rotation. The rotations of these two teams share a very similar structure, if not slightly different tasks. Anchoring the rotation for the Redbirds and the Metropolitans, are established right-handed hurlers, aces that rank among the best in the league. Pedro Martinez is older than Chris Carpenter, but both can be counted on for a sub-3.00 ERA, 200+ K, and better than 15 wins. Like true aces, they can wins games for their teams, stealing a few for themselves when the hitters can't get their job done. In the second spot, each team puts out lefties better known for the ability induce grounders than throw the high heat. In his second year with the Cardinals, Mark Mulder hopes to become the Tom Glavine for a new generation. Mulder's off-speed repertoire helped make him an effective pitcher, despite a k/9 rate that dipped to 4.87. Glavine's career k/9 rates varied from season to season, but were pretty consistently below 6.00. He owns a career k/9 of 5.35 to Mulder's 5.80. The remaining spots in each rotation are rounded out with efficient, less-than-exciting starters. Like Suppan, Trachsel has been effective in rounding out the rotation, giving his team some decent starting pitching and the chance to in games. Give me Jeff Suppan over Steve Trachsel. Supe transcended mediocrity a bit last season, and has really taken his game up a notch in the playoffs. Suppan's a few years younger than Trax, too. Marquis and Victor Zambrano fill another spot in each team's rotation. Both guys have potential, but experience some periods of suck-i-tude when they insist on trying to finesse hitters instead of throwing the pitches that have given them success. Finally, each rotation is capped off with something of a question. For the Mets, the question is whether or not to let 27 year old Aaron Heilman start, which he is as of now, or to put him in the pen where he had much success. For the Cards, the question is whether to start the young, talented, and ready for the majors Anthony Reyes or the newly acquired 'project' Sidney Ponson. The resolution to each question could have a significant impact on the success for each team. Over at Mets Geek, they're optimistic that this rotation can unseat the Braves this year. There's little reason not to have a similar optimism that the Cards' rotation can help the team claim the NL Central again.

Friday, January 27, 2006

 

Rubbing Is Racing

Fantasy baseball magazines keep popping up on bookstore shelves. They taunt me and fill me with a sensation of eagerness that approached insanity. At any moment I could start scratching and clawing at my face and body, shaking like a junky who hasn't has a fix for four months. So what did I do today? Run out and buy six cartons of Sudafed to cook up some Country Crack? No, I signed up for a NASCAR fantasy team on Yahoo! It was free, and might hold my attention for a few hours in the days leading up to Daytona and before fantasy baseball drafts start. I know next to nothing about NASCAR, but how can anything that draws more than 100,000 people, half of them shirtless, listening to Alabama and guzzling Busch beer by the bucket for every event be uninteresting? ed. note: Before you send me an angry missive about being some kind of elitist, know this: I'm not trying to belittle NASCAR in any way. I actually find it to be very interesting, eventhough I know so little about it. And, personally, though I kid about the shirtless fans guzzling Busch and listening to Alabama, I place myself within the same demographic. In fact, I personally feel that the best way to enjoy a Cardinals game, besides in person, is loafing about on your porch in the summer sun, beer in hand, listening to Mike Shannon call it. The experience is that much better when your porch has a weathered sofa on it so you can lay down, shirtless is fine given the Missouri heat, and catch the game. A close second to this experience would be listening to the game while driving, arm out the window, and enjoying a beverage and smoking a...well, taking in the whole experience. There is just something so wonderfully primal about it. Back to fantasy racing. In the Yahoo! format, you pick three levels of drivers. Level A (pick 2) consists of the big names that win a lot: Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, etc. These are the guys you know from the sports report on the 11 p.m. news. Level B (pick 4) guys seem to perform pretty well, and steal the occasional win. Level C (pick 2) racers don't win much. Picking the drivers was tough because I don't know enough about the sport to make even a quick assessment as to which racers will perform well. I stayed away from Jeff Gordon, since he seems to be somewhat reviled, based on the number of "Calvin pissing on #24" stickers I have seen (or used to see before moving to the city of dullards). In Level A, I took Tony Stewart and Greg Biffle. I didn't know Biffle, but he seemed to perform well. Level B and C were different. Here, my strategy was to take guys whose average finish was better than their average start. I did know that you get a few more points when a guy finishes in a better position than when he starts, so I figured these guys were good enough race car drivers that they had a decent chance of achieving this and even the potential to win a race or two. My Level B guys are: Kevin Harvick, Dale Jr., Dale Jarrett, and Kyle Busch. For Level C I went with Rusty Wallace and Kyle Petty. Daytona (the race not the racy biker magazine) is February 19. I'll know more afterward. If anyone out there has any feedback on NASCAR drivers that might be better picks, I welcome it. For the baseball fans who read this site strictly out of baseball interest, I'll be back later tonight or tomorrow morning with a baseball post. Fellow fantasy enthusiasts, remember, it's good to have an open mind to new games, and new ways to get a fix. Give racing a try; it's free, which is a damn good argument for getting a team. Just remember, if you a team called "East Coast Liberal Elite" pushes you out of way heading into the turn, you were warned. Oh, by the way, earlier this month I had a post about a Cardinals Diaspora/blogosphere fantasy baseball league, and I got comments and emails from a few readers with interest. There was enough interest that I am going to set up a league (or two) when the time comes. Sign up for leagues on Yahoo! and CBS start within the next few weeks, so stay tuned for details.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

 

Backtracking through the Central

Yesterday, I looked at how our new 8th inning setup man, Braden Looper, has fared against the teams in his new divisional home. Today, let's expand our insight by examining how Looper's predecessor, Julian Tavarez held up versus the NL Central during his tour with the Redbirds (2004 & 2005). vs. Astros total: 16 G, 0-2, 2 SV, 15.6 IP, 4.60 ERA, 12 BB, 10 K, 17 HA, 8 ER, 1 HR at HOU: 7 G, 0-2, 2 SV, 4.6 IP, 11.57 ERA, 5 BB, 3 K, 8 HA, 6 ER, 0 HR vs. Brewers total: 17 G, 1-1, 1 SV, 17.3 IP, 2.08 ERA, 1 BB, 13 K, 17 HA, 4 ER, 0 HR at MIL: 8 G, 1-0, 8.6 IP, 1.08 ERA, 0 BB, 3 K, 8 HA, 1 ER vs. Cubs total: 14 G, 1 SV, 9.3 IP, 2.89 ERA, 4 BB, 6 K, 7 HA, 3 ER, 1 HR at CHN: 5 G, 3.3 IP, 0.00 ERA, 1 BB, 3 K, 1 HA vs. Pirates total: 19 G, 0-2, 1 SV, 14.6 IP, 3.07 ERA, 2 BB, 12 K, 20 HA, 5 ER, 1 HR at PIT: 9 G, 0-2, 1 SV, 6.6 IP, 2.70 ERA, 2 BB, 5 K, 9 HA, 2 ER, 0 HR vs. Reds total: 18 G, 2-2, 1 SV, 14 IP, 3.86 ERA, 4 BB, 14 K, 12 HA, 6 ER, 0 HR at CIN: 11 G, 1-2, 1 SV, 7 IP, 5.14 ERA, 4 BB, 5 K, 7 HA, 4 ER What I found to be the most interesting is that Looper's pitched pretty effectively against Houston, much more so than Tavarez. Looper owns a H/9 rate lower than 1.0 against Houston overall and at Enron Minute Maid Field, where he has never given up a home run. Tavvy on the other hand did not fare as well against the Spacemen. It should be noted that Julian's performance against the Astros was a tale of two season, with a showing in 2004 far better than 2005. Tavarez was fine against the Cubs, but didn't pitch as much against them as he did the other NL Central teams. Being too lazy to go back and look it up, I'm jumping to the conclusion that LaRussa had a reason for using him more as a one out specialist than a full inning reliever versus the Small Bears. Looper, with an ERA slightly high for a reliever, has been moderately successful against the Cubs. The Houston split still grabs my attention more than the others though. Don't forget Houston, outside of the switch hitting Berkman, has a lineup that leans heavily to the right side, Looper's strength even in off-years. How much does the 2005 NLCS loss still burn? I have to think that Looper's line against Houston was part of the justification in signing him with the assumption that his 2005 season totals and his numbers versus lefties can be ironed out at the Dave Duncan health spa for pitchers not living up to their potential. It's not a stretch to assume that the Cards view Houston as their biggest challenge within the division and maybe within the larger National League.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

 

Looping through the Central

Braden Looper has pitched in the National League (interleague play aside) since his career began with the Cardinals back in 1999. All of the other new pitchers added to the 40-man roster this offseason came from the American League, with the exception of Juan Mateo, a Rule-5 addition, who has no major league experience. I wanted to look at how the new arms have done versus out NL Central opponents, but I ended up focusing on Looper because he has thrown the most innings versus the teams in our division. Ponson and Rincon haven't seen much service time against the other NL Central teams, in fact they have never faced a some of them at all, so I left them out of the mix, for now. Looper is our new $3 million per year 8th inning set-up man, so he figures to see lots of action in the 60 or so games against divisional opponents. Since he has faced each of the NL Central teams a fair number of times in his career, we can get an idea of his performance versus them. Presented here are his overall stats against each team and the split for their home parks. Let's go to the stats. vs Astros total: 24 G, 1-1, 4 SV, 33.3 IP, 2.16 ERA, 15 BB, 19 K, 27 HA, 8 ER, 0 HR at HOU: 8 G, 1 SV, 9.6 IP, 4.66 ERA, 4 BB, 6 K, 13 HA, 5 ER vs Brewers total: 19 G, 2-1, 6 SV, 22.3 IP, 3.22 ERA, 9 BB, 12 K, 24 HA, 8 ER, 2 HR at MIL: 7 G, 4 SV, 7.6 IP, 3.52 ERA, 2 BB, 3 K, 10 HA, 3 ER, 1 HR vs Cubs Total: 22 G, 0-2, 4 SV, 25 IP, 4.32 ERA, 12 BB, 13 K, 24 HA, 12 ER, 2 HR at CHN: 11 G, 0-2, 2 SV, 13.3 IP, 4.72 ERA, 9 BB, 7 K, 13 HA, 7 ER, 1 HR vs Pirates total: 17 G, 0-1, 5 SV, 19 IP, 2.84 ERA, 9 BB, 11 K, 22 HA, 6 ER, 1 HR at PIT: 5 G, 0-1, 2 SV, 5 IP, 3.60 ERA, 1 BB, 6 K, 5 HA, 2 ER, 1 HR vs Reds total: 23 G, 0-1, 8 SV, 22.6 IP, 5.56 ERA, 10 BB, 22 K, 25 HA, 14 ER, 6 HR at CIN: 6 G, 0-1, 4 SV, 4.6 IP, 11.57 ERA, 1 BB, 3 K, 11 HA, 6 ER, 3 HR Looper averages out to a little over a hit per inning against each team. It would seem that none of these teams really quiver in fear when Looper comes into the game. Encouraging is his performance against Houston, notice he hasn't given up any homers to the Astros. His ERA is a little high at Minute Maid, but can Brad Lidge say he hasn't surrendered any homers there? No Central team has done much damage to him with the long ball, except for the Reds, who murdered him with the long ball. Only half of the homers Looper gave up to the Reds came at Great American Ballpark too. Adam Dunn claims two of those home runs, confirming our reservations about his ability to face lefty sluggers. Of course, it will be important to revisit these numbers again at the end of the 2006 season, the idea being that TLR and Duncan's pitcher improvement program (patent pending) will start make the numbers look a little better, versus the NL Central teams and throughout the entire league. Do you get the feeling that Duncan and TLR really have their work cut out for them this season? And here's another question, with so much time devoted to so many "projects," will the coaches and staff have time to focus on winning a championship? Well, let's just hope we don't continue to give Adam Dunn reason to smile much in 8th innings this year.
 

Misunderestimation: Cincinnati Surprise

Starting new ideas is nothing out of the ordinary, but with a bad case of adult ADD (so diagnosed by a pharmaceutical company's website), the follow through gets me every time. In an effort to break that tendency, without the assistance of pricey prescription drugs, I am continuing my "Misunderestimation" pre-preview series. Today, the focus turns to the Reds, the Cincinnati Surprise. As currently structured, it is tough call to predict whether this team or the Pirates will rule the Central cellar. Given that the Reds scored 820 runs last year, they probably don't have to pick up any allergy medication to deal with the damp and moldy conditions in the NL Central basement. Moving beyond their propensity to score runs in a lineup built around the bat of one Adam Dunn, you get to a pitching staff (and a home park) that pads stats for even the most feeble armed of batters around the league. Seriously, how does Eric Milton even venture outside between the hours of 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. without having rocks, tomatoes, or dog feces thrown at his car? Besides an ability to score runs (runs do have something to do with winning games as you may recall after watching the NLCS last season), the new ownership may be the most important factor in this teams ability to win a few more games this season. New owner Robert Castellini immediately 86'd GM Dan O'Brien. Committed to winning, the new ownership will hire a GM (DePodesta?) with the mandate that the team begin the process of becoming a winning force in the Division. This will include, as you have no doubt already concluded, trading some of their hitters for capable pitchers, not prone to the long ball, with a decided emphasis on younger guys, I assume. If a move comes this spring, (Get Up, Baby! already has one in mind) the Reds could manage to win a few more games than they did last year. This won't make them a threat to take Central crown from the Cards, but another spoiler always makes things interesting. In a close race for the division, a September series with the Reds (or Pirates) might have a little more significance than a way to pass time until the playoffs start.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

 

Pen, Rubber Room...It's All the Same

Okay. It took me a little longer to finish was I was writing. This particular piece of work fails to come easy, like say, writing about how you want to see Anthony Reyes in the starting rotation. Self promotion doesn't come easy to most, which makes something like a cover letter a more difficult exercise than one expects. Anyway, back to baseball. Rant time. I'm working on another post, but when I saw this on the Cards' official site I knew it couldn't pass without comment. Beat writer Matthew Leach opens the mailbag and the first question probes the six starter issue. Leach responds:
I wouldn't expect a trade, though it's not impossible. If Anthony Reyes wins the spot, odds are that Ponson would be sent to the bullpen, something he's said that he's open to. If Ponson wins out, you might see Reyes in the bullpen, though I'm not sure that would be the organization's first preference. I think what you might see is Reyes headed back to Memphis to start every fifth day there, where he'd be at the ready if anything happened to one of the other five starters. It's a good problem to have.
Good news, bad news to take away from this. The bad, Anthony Reyes gets exiled for a ground balling, control guy that can work well with the offense through 32 starts and pull out 15-16 wins, rounding out a control oriented staff that won't find much success in the playoff environment. Listen, I realize Reyes is young, but come on, at some point all the "projects" becomes farcical, "Washed Out Major Leaguer? Come on Down to Walt Jocketty's Health and Fitness Spa, the Gateway to a Bigger Contract in Your Future." Whatever. The good news, at least they don't want to stick Reyes in the pen. I got $10 that says the kid gets traded, sure maybe Marquis gets shopped and swapped too, but start reviewing all the 35 year olds around the league. Good problem to have? Yeah, sure, in the post-modern paradigm every perception holds some form of truth, so maybe it is a good problem to have. Okay rant over. I feel better, if not a little tired. Oh so tired. Going to spend a little time watching film, a passion equaled only by Cardinal baseball. Mean Streets has a particular appeal after reading that.
 

Status and Youth

Greetings loyal platoon of readers! Quick update of some Diaspora happenings. I've got a major project in the realm of real life going on right now, and am forcibly denying myself baseball until I finish it, which should be by this afternoon. Sometimes procrastination is the only way. Hey, I work better under pressure, or so the old excuse goes. Following this project, I'll be finishing up a post for this evening, so you late night readers can have something to do while you watch the Discovery Channel fill its educational programming requirements. Here's something for a talk amongst yourselves activity in the meantime. Let's say July rolls around and things are going well for the Cards, all six starters are doing well, Big-Rod (the LF combo of Rodriguez and Bigbie) is producing, the Encarnacion naysayers prove to be wrong, nobody's injured, and even old Junior Spivey is playing like it was 2003...what kind of trade should Jock make? My instincts tell me to go for a hard throwing number two starter, but what about the other options? This might be a good opportunity to get a talented young player(s) that would beef up the farm system. Jock could trade Marquis or Supe or whoever to an AL team in the midst of a close playoff run for a 22-23-or so year old AAA blue chipper, hitter or pitcher whose impact would be felt in 2007 or 2008. Of course, this impact could be using the kid in an offseason trade, but still you get the idea. I don't know. Just a quick thought to chew on as your day drags on.

Monday, January 23, 2006

 

Grueling Offseason

I think we all struggle with what to do with ourselves as the days and weeks turn into months without baseball. Cardinals fans starved for the team and the game we love have found little in the way of team news these last few weeks to sustain our obsession. Watching four football teams you could care less about battle for a trip to Detroit hardly represents a healthy alternative to a steady diet of baseball, and the pathetic tailspin of the St. Louis Blues only makes your longings for a winning team to cheer for that much harder to bear. All of this makes maintaining a year-round website devoted to a seasonal sport difficult. Nevertheless, Cardinals Diaspora aims to inform and entertain. While the caloric content has left us unable, for the moment, to provide our faithful readers with much insightful analysis, we will provide you with a marginally nutritional gruel comprised of sawdust, circus animal remnants, and childish humor. To that end, today’s entry is all about Cardinals versus Cardinals, a random look at how current members of our pitching staff (these are the only ones on staff to have pitched against the Cardinals in their careers) have fared against the Birds on Bat. This posting lacks any kind of thesis or argument; it merely satisfies a sick curiosity. In fact, it is an exercise akin to laughing at the bad haircuts and dated couture of your high school yearbook. Enjoy. Jason Isringhausen – Izzy faced the Cards in his early days as a starting pitcher with the Mets. This line must have helped make the case for Izzy in the pen. Career vs. STL: 4 G, 4 GS, 0-3, 8.66 ERA, 1.75 WHIP Braden Looper Career vs. STL: 16 G, 1-0, 3 SV, 17 IP, 0.00 ERA, 1.18 WHIP Jason Marquis – Hmmm, in 2007 we may see additional stats of Marquis versus the Cardinals. Career vs. STL (so far): 3 G, 1 GS, 1-0, 8 IP, 2.25 ERA, 1.63 WHIP Sidney Ponson Career vs. STL: 1 G, 1 GS, 1-0, 1 CG, 7 HA, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 8 K, 1.00 ERA, 1.00 WHIP Ricardo Rincon Career vs. STL: 15 G, 14.3 IP, 6.91 ERA, 1.81 WHIP Jeff Suppan Career vs. STL: 6 G. 6 GS, 2-2, 4.38 ERA, 1.28 WHIP

Thursday, January 19, 2006

 

Worldly Baseball

The World Baseball Super Fantastic Happy Funtime Tournament (also know as the tournament where a team is sure to see on of their high salaried players get injured and torpedo their playoff hopes) must be a boon to genealogy researchers, both professional and amateur. With the news that Kirk Saarloos is playing for the Dutch team, I started thinking about which teams I could play for. My last name is Van Bibber, so the Dutch team would be on the list. I thought about moving to Canada and I like hockey, so I could probably swing that one. If France, Ireland, and the Ukraine had teams, my ancestry would just about be covered, and I'd have some serious reflection to do. And what about the political implications of the tournament, the whole Cuba issue aside? Colonialism's ugly legacy hangs over almost all of the countries playing in the tournament. For instance, Andruw Jones is playing for the Netherlands, but is actually from Curacao, an island nation in the Caribbean once included among Holland's imperial holdings. Doesn't that seem a little weird? Would players form Mexico (or Venezuela, Panama, or the Dominican Republic) want to play for a Spanish team? Seems unlikey. Puerto Rico is another example. Puerto Rico, which does have a healthy independence movement, was seized by the United States from Spain in the Spanish-American War, in a late 19th century move to build its own empire. In addition to an independence movement, Puerto Rico has a movement championing 51st statehood, and players from there could technically play for three teams. I'm pulling for independent Puerto Rico. In fact, while I still don't care much about the whole thing, I'm throwing my complete support behind Puerto Rico. Here's another political issue, what about China (as in Mao's China) playing Taiwan (as in Chiang Kai Shek's China) playing each other in the first round pool play? Seems like it could be pretty dicey given that mainland China still views Taiwan as a "rebel" province, and has lots and lots of nuclear missiles pointed at the island nation. Here's a better solution. Put baseball back in that other big international sports competition, the Olympics, and let the teams send their best and brightest amateurs to play against each other.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

 

Beating the Dead Horse Some More and Again

Just when you thought bloggers had all tired with detailed, microscopic analyses of the Cards' hot stove moves...NO. Not this day. And I'm not talking about all the lamenting that will happen in July when you still see Larry Bigbie and Juan Encarnacion penciled in on your scorecards as you sit and wait for the game to start. On the news that the Cards avoided arbitration with Marquis, the assumption still stands that Jocketty makes a swap for an outfield bat. Maybe not, though. Although Encarnacion et al fail to send shivers of excitment through the veins of all but the most meth addled of Cardinal fans, the offense is pretty much set. And with Pujols, Edmonds, Rolen (health permitting) and Eck the lineup is competitive enough to win games and most likely lock up the NL Central. My question is whether or not Jocketty's move would be to shore up the rotation. Yes, I know we have six potential starters right now, but if a reasonable move can be made to bring a hard throwing, top three starter to the team, you have to think Jock would pull the trigger. His stated desire in the off season was to improve the rotation; remember that whole Burnett saga? What would make you think that has suddenly changed? The addition of Ponson? I don't know. I'm probably too tired to process much more tonight, but I think adding a pitcher of that caliber might be a better move than adding another outfielder, as much as I refuse to get excited about Bigbie and Encarnacion. Thinking about the rotation as is, it probably is not good enough to earn the team an invite to the World Series, wouldn't you agree? A Barry Zito or a comparable pitcher might be more of a key to a competitive team in October.
 

Misunderestimation: The Pirates

I've decided to make "Misunderestimation" a series, a backhanded look at our NL Central competition, a warning to fellow prognosticators, and something of a pre-preview. Today, maybe because I'm a little pressed for time this morning, Diaspora covers the Pirates. The veritable Pittsburgh Platter of the division. Not to be overly derisive, but there is very little to underestimate about the Pirates. They don't stand to contend for the division title, and even Pirates' front office has conceded that goal. Instead, the Pirates organization is looking to tug the bootstraps a little harder and win a few more games. With some pretty good young talent filling out the ranks, that goal seems entirely possible. The biggest key to their success is Jason Bay. Through the winter, the team has traded and acquired a lineup that will afford the young phenom the best protection he has ever had. Last year the guy had 32 homers and a .961 OPS. Through the same season he had a WARP3 of 10.6 and 32 win shares. With Sean Casey and rookie Chris Duffy (a good OBP guy) in front of him and Burnitz hitting directly behind him, it stands to reason that Bay's bat will have a few additional ducks on the pond to bring home and see some decent pitches to hit with a moderate threat like Burnitz behind him. Okay, maybe I'm being a bit Pollyanna-ish on this, but Jason Bay is good, really good, the kind of player you can build teams around. He came to Pirates in the Giles trade, and given his age, Bay made that a great deal. Anyway, the Pirates stand to pick up a few wins more wins this year, and can certainly play the spoiler's role in a tight race for the division between the Cards, Cubs, or Astros.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

 

Pointing Fingers

LaRussa "fingered" the 2006 batting order at the awards dinner last night. The skipper raised four fingers and pointed at Edmonds when a reporter asked the slugger a question about hitting the first dinger in Busch 3 implying JEd would be in the second spot. Tony then raised five fingers and pointed at Rolen. Hitting fourth, a good spot for JEd according to Hummingbird's analysis at VEB, should help to boost Jimmy's numbers from last year. Looking at his stats it seems things were in line with career norms except for a decline in his total number of hits. He'll obviously have some decent protection behind Albert and ahead of Rolen*. Now who's in the two hole, Spivey or Bigbie? Ugh. (I'm going to be "hatin'" on Spivey until he provides me with a reason to do otherwise. Deepest apologies for using the term "hatin'."

Monday, January 16, 2006

 

Soft Reactions

My obligatory reaction to the Jeff Nelson signing: meh... It's a minor league contract, and the guy has to pitch his way onto the team in the spring. More than anything, this seems like the Bill Pulsipher story updated for 2006. Yeah, it doesn't have the same Horatio Alger like stuff associated with it, but you get the idea. I was looking at the pictures of the Winter Warm-Up, it seems like adults really go in for the autographs more so than the young-uns. Hopefully, these are the "reconnecting with their youth" adults fans as opposed to the "must sell shit at local card conventions" greedy adults. Couple other observations, John Gall looks refreshingly more like an audience member on CSPAN's "Book TV" than a pro baseball player. Fredbird flashed a gang symbol - on further review it's just a thumbs up. It'd would be cool to meet Walt Jocketty ("Juan Encarnacion!? What were you thinking?!"), but who cares about is autograph.
 

Getting Physical

After an appearance at the Cardinals' Winter Warm-Up, Sidney Ponson has picked up a little ink in the hometown fishwrap and around the internet. He grew his hair out. He sees a counselor. He's in the mix for the fifth starter role in the Cardinals' rotation. As much as I really, really hate to see Anthony Reyes relegated to purgatory in Memphis or even the bullpen, hopefully Ponson finds his talent again and whips the personal scourge of alcoholism. While Ponson's efforts to stay alcohol free garner the most attention in a modern media valuing personal stories more than news, I think the other major factor that has to happen for Ponson to pitch well again is for him to get in tip-top shape. Ponson needs to work on his conditioning so that he can get his fastball back to the 92-94 MPH range and pitch into the sixth or seventh inning, if he starts. If his physical conditioning is where it should be for an athlete being paid a million bucks or more, then he won't be leaving pitches up in the zone as a result of sheer exhaustion. He can throw the off-speed stuff and a fastball and a slider with a little velocity. An Orioles fan friend of mine at work, tells me that Ponson's success in 2003 revolved around a slider. If he is off the hooch and really working hard on conditioning, there's reason to believe that he can, at the very least, get back to 2003 shape, maybe better. I still argue Reyes should have a starting spot.

Friday, January 13, 2006

 

Misunderestimation

“If” Best explained by Principal Skinner to Homer in an episode of The Simpsons, the definition of the word is, “A conjunction meaning ‘in the event that’ or ‘on condition that.’” It’s not a big word with a complicated definition, but it’s a word used frequently around the baseball blog world. I read the word thousands of times each day in sentences, paragraphs, and articles on blogs and sites everywhere around the web. Encountering the word rarely raises a red flag for me. Lately, however, something has made stop and take notice of it. Articles forecasting the fate of the Cardinals and other teams have started to pop up across the web, probably an inevitable consequence of the hot stove hubbub settling down. While very informative (but perhaps a bit early), these articles, entries, etc. are filled with the word “if”. In fact, the word forms an indispensable plank of the very thesis at the heart of any such prognostic writing. The “ifs” in these articles, the actual word and the statements based on the conjunction, bother me because I think they’re being used to draw incomplete and misleading conclusions. Getting right to the “if” bothering me the most, let’s turn to the Cubs, the starting rotation in particular. While easy to write off Dusty Baker’s Cubbies, I caution any commentator away from doing so based on the assumption that the Small Bears’ starters will be injured. In fact, responsible prognosticators will offer them the benefit of the doubt and assume that Cubs’ starters will indeed be healthy. Upon granting them health in any predictions, you will quickly notice that this is a pretty gol derned good starting rotation. Let’s review. Mark Prior is arguably among the most talented pitchers in the game right now. For my money, I’d still take Prior over Oswalt. However, many think only of the injuries when thinking of the 25 year-old. Prior had to deal with injuries before the season started, and missed virtually all of June after taking a liner off his elbow at the end of May. He still managed to start 27 games. Down the stretch, he wore down and couldn’t go very deep into games. This, no doubt, resulted from poor conditioning sometimes caused by lengthy stints on the DL, and of course Dusty’s insistence that pitchers pitch till their arm falls off the body. Rather than presuppose injury for 2006, I’m going take the view that Prior comes back healthy and pitches 30 games. Just as I would expect commentators to extend Carpenter the same assumption. When Mark Prior is leading your rotation, you’re going to win some games. He’s the kind of pitcher that can steal victory from the jaws of defeat; a team of eight Neifi’s could win some with Prior on the mound. Carlos Zambrano fills the second spot, making the rotation even stronger. This head case was particularly effective versus the Cards last year, going 3-0 in 4 starts with a 1.10 ERA. To quote a famous TV star from the 1990s, “whoa.” Not to mention, Zambrano started 31 games or more and pitched over 200 innings each of the last three seasons. He might be impervious to the Dusty treatment, seriously negating the injury assumption for prognosticators. Maddux is old, but damn near invincible. Even in a 2005 that was considered an off-year, he only walked 36 batters. It’s pretty safe to say that the old man has still got much of it. The one that really makes predicting an “iffy” affair, is Kerry Wood. Wood has not been able to start a full season since 2003. (2003 must have been a really magical season for the Cubbies. Oh wait.) Assuming Wood is injured is a pretty safe bet, and the prediction is just based on established trends in his career. (Cub fans might say the same thing about Rolen.) Injury guru Will Carroll recently offered his opinion that Wood pitches no more than 140 innings. Suppose he does pitch 140 innings, and pitches effectively in most of these games. If that’s the case, throw in a replacement level starter for the 10 starts Wood can’t make and a fifth starter somewhere just north of replacement level to round it out, and you’ve got a formidable rotation of pitchers. Better than a Clemens-less Astros rotation, and arguably the best in the NL Central. My point here is not to say that the Cards cannot possibly win the division against such odds. All things considered, I’d still pick the Redbirds to claim that prize, completely biased fan perspective aside. Simply put, I want to caution my fellow Redbird fans away from writing off the competition, particularly in the face of a Cubs’ starting rotation with such potential.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

 

Supporting Pitch

Sometimes, there's no better feeling than when another voice, particularly that of an expert, seconds an idea or suggestion that you're passionante about. When that person seconds your opinion without prior knowledge of your statement, all the better. Thus, in the spirit of "I told you so," allow me to point out Bryan Smith's opinion, expressed today in his top 75 prospects run down at Baseball Analysts, of Anthony Reyes and what role the young righty should fill on the 2006 Cardinals.
As a Cubs fan, I really like Sidney Ponson all the sudden. Yes, he just signed with the Cubs rival, but I'm really hoping he wins a rotation spot in Spring Training. Why? Because it blocks Anthony Reyes, who the Cardinals should have simply all-but-guaranteed a spot. After four unimpressive and inconsistent seasons at USC, Reyes has blossomed with the Cardinals now that he has found himself healthy. Starting his pro career in 2004, Anthony has flown through the system, and even impressed the Cardinals with a call-up in 2005. However, St. Louis remains reluctant to give the 24-year-old a rotation spot, which is just fine with the Cub fan in me.
Ahh, damn it feels good to be right. But it's a short-lived and potentially pyrrhic victory, as our beloved Cardinals are the ones likely to suffer by starting more recycled pitchers instead of legitimate talent.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

 

Sutter It Is!

Congrats to Bruce Sutter on being the lone pick for the HOF this year. From 1981-84 he anchored the Cardinals' bullpen, registering 127 saves. In 1982 he helped the Cards win their last World Championship, pitching 7 2/3 innings in four games of the World Series that year, posting a win and two saves. Not to mention the contribution his beard made to the team's intimidation factor.

Monday, January 09, 2006

 

Hall of Fame Facial Hair

The Hall of Fame voting results get announced tomorrow, and the big question is whether or not Bruce Sutter and/or Goose Gossage, two of the game's best relievers, will get some love from the BBWA. Alright, let's put aside all the issues of career longevity, stats, the BBWA disdain for the save, and all the other issues around HOF voting. For these two, the issue boils down to one thing and one thing only-hair. Both hurlers are notable for their follicle contributions as much as they are for cutters, saves, and ninth inning heroics. Have a look for yourself. Goose did for soup strainers in baseball and throughout society what Spinal Tap did for fans of improvisational jazz. Sutter looks absolutely feral, Jeremiah Johnson, a wild man ready to howl at the moon and eat a raw buffalo heart. Batters can't get a hit off the guy because they're too scared the pitcher will gouge their lungs out with a deer antler handle Bowie knife. Let's hope Cooperstown makes 2006 the year baseball rewards cutting-edge hair fashion and the trendsetters who made it possible.
 

The Gift That Keeps on Hurting

With a birthday coming up in a couple weeks, I've been in something of a reflective mood. Because this birthday marks the beginning of one of those named decades in a person's life, like your "twenties" (soon gone for yours truly), that reflection might easily turn to brooding were it not for the positives of a great wife, wonderful family, my health, yada yada yada. Given a pretty good situation overall, I felt marginally justified in spending a little of that reflecting time answering the question of just what I might find to be a welcome gift for the occasion. I think for adults men finding gifts is a bit challenging. I outgrew action figures in the 11th grade. Really, the best gift would be enough money to retire early, say at 30. Given the rather unrealistic possibility of that, I perused the Cards' official online shop to find something that might be a suitable replacement for twenty years of work-free bliss. What did I find? While thinking about maybe getting a customized "Bartman 03" jersey (eventhough the karmatic implications of such a thing would be heavy indeed), I came across something that possessed even more entertainment value. Lo and behold, the official J.D. Drew Replica jersey!!! Now you can relive your favorite J.D. Drew moments, such as: - His sixth career stint on the DL in August of 2003 with an oblique injury. - Tendinitis in right knee from late June thru mid-July of 2002 - A lower back sprain in August of 2001, And many, many more of your favorites, which are sure to be some of LaRussa's favorites too. Maybe, I'll just ask for a gift certificate, unless the Cub fans I know have already chipped in for a Juan Encarnacion jersey. On second thought, maybe the Drew jersey would be better after all.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

 

Brush with Greatness

Reading around the Card blogs this weekend, I saw a couple of comments around Leach's story about John Rodriguez' line from Winter Ball in Puerto Rico. Rob at the Birdwatch gives readers a look at how those stats might translate in terms of major and minor league ball in the regular season, and Erik makes a case for Rodriguez in the field at PAH9. I had kind of hoped that Rodriguez would play his way into a full time, starting gig with the Cards. [I hoped to see Rodriguez as the third OF'er, and Giles or Wilkerson as the other OF not named Edmonds. We got Juan Encarnacion.] Like Erik, who is going to a Cardinals Caravan event staffed by Rodriguez, my reasons are primarily based on a deep personal connection with the 28 year-old NYC native. You see, when the Cards were in DC this summer, I went down to the dugout before the game that Sunday afternoon, joining hordes of little kids in waiting for players to autograph something for me. Unlike the children, I bitched rather loudly about the insufferable heat and humidity. Nevertheless, we represented a determined bunch, and when Matty Mo stuck his out of the dugout it looked like our persistence my be rewarded after all. Nope. Just two kids were able to get the once great starting pitcher's signature before some old man pushed his way forward, children falling aside as his forward movement and sweat soaked Tommy Bahama shirt cleared him a path. Matty Mo signed whatever it was the middle aged man slipped across the dugout's concrete roof, exchanged a few words, and slipped back across the divide separating the professional athletes from adoring fans. I slid back from the dugout a bit, shamed to be an adult. The old man in the exotic print rayon shirt marched back to his seat, pleased at his entitlement, and probably thinking about how much he could sell the newly autographed memorabilia for on eBay later that week. Just then, John Rodriguez appeared, and in a tone that would almost seem surly if you didn't know he was a New Yorker, he started signing balls and hats and programs and ticket stubs for kids. And he kept signing, so finally I decided to push my way through the children and ask him to sign my official NL ball. (I didn't really push kids out of the way, don't worry.) Johnny signed it, and rolled it back across the dugout roof to me, probably tipped off by the glasses that I didn't have the coordination to catch it. While he was still signing things for fans, I stood there and watched a little longer, after thanking him of course. He was looking in the stands to spot his family, who were up there in the 200s section above the dugout, not far from where I had found a seat (far better than the one I had paid for) the day before. Then I yelled, "hit one for Bed-Stuy," an area of Brooklyn where my wife once lived; I had no idea if that was where he grew up. (I think he is from Brooklyn though.) He looked at me like I was crazy. The left fielder smiled a satisfied smile though, knowing I was just some crazy Cardinal fan happily welcoming him to "our" team. I wouldn't sell the autograph on eBay, no way; I have a little bit of a soul. It sure would be great though for my newly acquired memorabilia item, adding another dimension to the story, if J-Rod has a decent little career in St. Louis.

Friday, January 06, 2006

 

ESPN's Housewarming Gift

If you listen carefully, you can hear LaRussa's blood boiling right now at the news the Cards will have a total of ZERO days to practice or play in Busch III. This move comes courtesy of ESPN switching their Cards' Sunday, April 9 game in Chicago to an evening start for ESPN's Joe Morgan showcase, Sunday Night Baseball. Maybe they did it so that Neanderthal could get an Italian Beef Sandwich; I don't know. The highly respected cable network, also know as Disney's last vestige of profitability, pulled this stunt with the Cards last year for their game in San Francisco right before the All-Star Break. LaRussa was pissed off then; I can't wait to hear the skipper's reaction to this move. Because the Stadium construction is coming down to the wire, the Cards won't get to play any exhibition game before the season starts. The morning and afternoon of April 10 was going to be their first intro to their new home. Okay, so the team gets a small demerit for poor planning, but seems like another ill-conceived move by ESPN, the same type of move that made Stuart Scott the voice of the network, the same type of move that put Deadspin favorite Cold Pizza in the afternoon. Hat tip to Baseball Musings for the news.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

 

You think this is easy?

Have you ever harassed a mascot or other person wearing a large character costume in the paid role of trying to entertain park guests or event spectators? If you have, now you have the chance to experience life on the other side. The Springfield Cardinals are holding tryouts for mascots and the spirit team on Saturday, January 21st. Can you fill the shoes of Fredbird's AA counterpart, Louie? Let's see how you feel after you've made a few toddlers cry with your fuzzy red mask and taken the kicks and punches of their older brothers and sisters as you walk the isles getting ready for your next dance on top of the dugout. Seriously, that's got to be one of the hardest paychecks to earn in baseball. Here's my other question. Do you really get to move up through the system as your mascot performance peaks at that level of the farm system, a la Homer Simpson's short stint as the Capitol City Goofball?

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

 

More New Media

There's a great deal to be analyzed, discussed, figured out, etc. about the roles, functions and intersection of blogs/new media and the more traditional outlets. I have much to say on the issue, but with a head full of cold medicine and my attention span divided into thirds between the internet, a surprising UT lead over USC, and Bravo's Project Runway (shut up), it's probably not the time to expand on such an important subject. I do want to point out to you, though the SE Sports Blog by Mike Mitchell of the Southeast Missourian, the local newspaper for Cape Girardeau, MO. By no means is this the only newspaper to enter the blog world, but I find it to be a smart mix of the more traditional reporting with the analysis and commentary function of blogs. Check it out. As you read it, notice how much it differs from the standard thousand word newspaper column. When newspaper columns are posted on the web, they have all the luster of 1977 Novas on a used car lot. Unlike so many tedious contemporary newspaper columns, Mitchell's blog gives the reader some credit, assumes they have some knowledge of the subject, and helpfully points readers to where they can glean this knowledge if they do not bring it with them. Like other top blogs but coming from a source within the established boundaries of media, the SE Sports Blog also acknowledges the insights and contributions of blogs, acknowledging that good blogs are far more than just partisan rants deserving nothing more than a sneer from the old media. I've added a link on the left, so stop in and check it out from time to time.
 

Issues, Pitching Issues

Player predictions are starting to pop up around the web. Looking at ZiPS, Fungoes notices that Pujols is an early favorite for the Triple Crown. At the Birdwatch, Rob notices more reason for concern in around the pitchers than the offense. I have to express my agreement with that sentiment. Outside of Carpenter or Reyes, the ZiPS projections surrounding the other starting pitchers aren't much to get excited about. Suppan looks to again be Jeff Suppan, and that's a really good thing. As you may have discerned from posts here, I think the steady fourth and fifth starters are a point of pride for the Cardinals over the last two years, especially when they carry economical price tags. Having said that, my intention of this post wasn't to offer a late entry into the ZiPS discussion, rather it was to express some frustration about a couple issues we have around our starting rotation. Issue #1 Mark Mulder Mark Mulder posts stat lines respectable to fourth and fifth starters; this is not acceptable for a number two starter. Of course I realize that these are just predictions, to be taken with a grain of salt, but you can't help but feel that frustration creep back into your thoughts when you see these numbers. 2006 ZiPS projection: 207 IP, 4.22 ERA, 70 BB, 128 K, 205 HA, 19 HR, 1.64 K/BB, 5.57 K/9 2006 Roto Authority: 206 IP, 4.21 ERA, 73 BB, 101 K, 209 HA, 21 HR, 1.38 K/BB, 4.41 K/9 I know Mulder has never been a high strike out, "power" pitcher, but he used to have the ability to strike out hitters when necessary. The walk totals would indicate (at least in the predictors' minds) that we'll be seeing more Mulder painting the outside of the plate, and also that his ability to throw fastballs in the lower-mid 90s is long gone. What I would like to see is Mulder get back to his 2001-03 form, where he walked fewer than 55 batters in each season, and had a K/9 north of 6. Now, his ZiPS is a little better, but it's still not enough to wow you, especially from a number two starter. Another thing to consider is that he's a number two starter in a division where Roy Oswalt, Zambrano/Wood (?), and Chris Capuano are also number two starters. I'm not going to rehash the old "should have never traded"argument; in fact, even though I'm unhappy with the results, I supported the trade. I would still support it, if we could have used those players to grab another true, power pitching number two pitcher. Even so, Mulder does give us an innings eater, and he may well find his way back to his 2001-03 form. He's also a bargain for us in the current market for pitchers; at $7.5 million for 2006, he could have easily garnered $9 million a year as a free agent this winter, probably for four years too. With a contract expiring after this season, I think the Cards should try to work out a deal with him. If they can get him at a reasonable rate (say $32M/ 4 years, contract by Pollyanna there, but still...) and get the kind of number two starter I'm talking about through trade/FA or via Reyes working out well, then he becomes a nice number three starter for 2007. Those are big "ifs" I realize. If they do sign him and Reyes works out and they can get a power pitcher for the number two spot, then they can trade him down the road. Issue #2 Let Reyes Pitch I realize Jocketty most likely intends to use one of our extra starters to trade, so this may be a bit of a dead issue. However, Anthony Reyes is ready to start pitching games in the majors, and reconciling him to Memphis puts him at risk of languishing and regressing in his development. As of now, you have to think that the starting fourth and fifth spots will be taken by Marquis and Ponson, barring major meltdown by the large one. Both of them will certainly expect to start, and will not go the pen graciously. To me, sticking Reyes in the bullpen is not an option at all. He's a starting pitcher, and his importance to the organization is as a starter. Pitching out of the pen risks his conditioning and everything else the club has invested in him. Besides, given his injury history, it just makes sense to keep his body and mind accustomed to starting. I've said before that it might be a good idea to not trot him out there for 200 innings this year, and I still believe that. Therefore, bringing him up in July, after having traded one of our other starters, might be a better than nothing option. This could help him adjust physically, but if the Cards are in a tight race for the division you have to wonder how much LaRussa will be willing to use the rookie. Better to let him start the season in the rotation and adjust. His innings pitched could be held down by keeping him strictly limited to 6 per start and giving someone else (by call-up or by committee) five of Reyes' scheduled starts. I'm sure things will shake out Reyes starts games for the big club this season. If not, expect more rants on the subject as the season progresses. Those are the two main issues I wanted to share today. Sure, I've got lots of issues, some more about baseball even, but I'll save the others for those cold afternoons of the offseason.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

 

You're Grounded: Conclusions on the Ground

In coming back to the ground ball/fly ball ratio issue, I’m really kind of struggling with what to say. I endeavored into the topic expecting to find that the Cardinals’ pitching staff has a collective G/F ratio that far exceeds most other teams around the majors; it would have been a nice, easy point illustrated with statistics. What I found, however, was that other teams have very similar, even higher, staff G/F ratios to the Cards. Because I don’t have them with me, I can’t share my stats with you, but I’ll post a couple examples this evening. The Braves, for example, had a higher G/F ratio among their projected starting five for 2006. Mike Hampton (2.13) and Tim Hudson (2.25) both possess career G/F ratios that dwarf those of any Cardinal starter. [Point of clarification: Hampton and Hudson both have career G/F ratios that top any current Cardinals starter, but Mulder's 2.74 G/F last year was higher than the seasonal rate for either Huddie or Hampton] At Baseball Musings, David Pinto looked at the G/F statistic and its relationship to ERA; like me, I think he winds up at a point struggling to conclude anything of great significance, saying “in general, we shouldn’t worry about how balls are put into play against pitchers.” Ultimately, that’s probably the best conclusion of all. There is a thing or two we can take away from a closer look at the G/F ratio as applied to the Cardinals, however. One noticeable thing about starters, their G/F ratios and the Cardinals, is that the Redbirds don’t have a single starter below the league average (1.2) G/F. Other teams do seem much more willing to employ one or two starters that do indeed allow more fly balls than grounders. That doesn’t necessarily weaken the rotations of those teams. For instance, the Brewers’ Chris Capuano posted a 0.93 G/F ratio last year, and if you would prefer Jason Marquis to him, you’re crazier than Christopher Walken after a Deer Hunter flashback. Probably the most significant thing about the Cardinals and the G/F ratio is that would seems the organization smartly figures G/F ratios into their accounting stats as much as any kind of sabermetric analysis. By finding pitchers more prone to the ground ball, the team can combine that with good coaching and an emphasis on solid defense to employ effective pitchers to round out the pitching staff in a rather economical manner. See Suppan, Jeff. The less money committed to fourth and fifth starters the more money that can be committed to…uh…Juan Encarnacion – or long term salary dollars for Pujols et al. Besides the financial concerns, this approach that combines an emphasis on the ground ball with solid coaching and good defense gives the team solid guys at the back of the rotation and in less heralded bullpen roles that are effective, above replacement level players that give the team a chance to win games. Of course, it is impossible to quantify good coaching’s impact on this, but circumstantial evidence tells us a good head on the bench can go along way toward making a league average guy play above that level. And even if that means scoring 6-3 for every other opposing at bat, it’s better than having to suffer rampant inconsistency every fourth or fifth game through the long hot summers.

Monday, January 02, 2006

 

First Monday

Happy New Year, neighborinos! Posting has been a little lighter than I had originally intended, between the wife and I celebrating the first anniversary, the new year, much quality time with a new Xmas toy video game system, and a general inability to read small computer screens yesterday as a result of celebrating the new year. I'll save the reflecting on the Diaspora when we mark our first year in April...along with our raison d'etre. It has been a great year so far though, so a major thanks to everyone who checks in for our mad ramblings. I've been working on a quick review of the G/F of the Cards compared to other teams around the league and expect to have that today or tomorrow. I will tell you this, it's not what I expected to find. In fact, the info I gathered has left me scratching my head as to how I might present it. Couple other quick hitters to cover here: Do you have an avid interest in fantasy baseball, be it as a novice or seasoned veteran? Would you be interested in forming a league and/or accepting another seasoned fantasy baseball player to fill a gap in your league? It's early, I know, but I just wanted to throw it out there for you early birds. Post in the comments or send me an email if you're interested in either of these items. I'll have more info about a Diaspora fantasy league (or two) as the season draws nearer. Finally, are you interested in writing some, again, as a seasoned pro or as a rookie with a strong desire to learn? There's some stuff in the works for the Diaspora and a couple other projects, so if you think you might be interested in doing a little extra writing drop me a line and I'll give you a little more info for you to decide if you might be interested. Get out and enjoy the last day off of the nice long holiday break (if you have it off).

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