Tag Archive | "Cardinals"

Barry Zito – Am I a genius?

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Barry Zito – Am I a genius?

Posted on 15 April 2013 by Trish Vignola

Or have I just gone plain insane? Fearing the impending Joey Votto 2012 injury to sink my team, I perhaps overcompensated a tad bit this year regarding my everyday players. By doing that, I neglected my starting pitching.

BarryZito

Ok. I only have five starting pitchers and three of them go on the same day.

This is not the wisest move you can make when playing head-to-head. So, it was time to let go of one of my three center fielders. (Seriously, I had three…I know.) Today, I went trolling the free agent market.

As of 6:50 AM this morning, I announced on Facebook (to an audience of no one) that “Beat with an Uggla Stick” picked up Barry Zito to solidify its staff. Stop, laughing. I’m serious. I might be a mad genius. Follow me here…

Why was he just sitting there? That’s the real shocker. Is anyone aware that he has not lost a game since Aug. 2? True! Barry Zito has not lost a game since early August 2012.

This baffling streak (as compared to Zito’s history with the Giants) included him winning his last six straight regular-season starts. He then proceeded to go 2-0 in three postseason starts. This spring Zito put the icing on the cake, going 2-0 within six spring outings (technically five starts) this year. This is an amazing fete, considering the Giants were looking for every reason to run this guy out on a rail last year.

Why are Fantasy owners overlooking this outstanding run? He should not have been siting there for the taking.

Barry Zito posted a 3.92 ERA in his last 11 regular-season starts in 2012. He posted a 2.70 ERA this spring and opened the 2013 season with seven scoreless innings. He was the team’s fourth starter in a row to toss a scoreless outing in a 1-0 win.

Zito threw 102 pitches and limited the Cardinals to just three walks and three singles. He picked up seven groundball outs and 10 flyball outs. He struck out four batters!

Zito allowed a runner to reach second base just once in the game. That was in his final inning of work. However, he quickly retired the side to secure the win.

Did you see what he did today versus the Rockies? He went 7.0 innings again. He allowed only 7 hits, walked 1 and struck out 4. He’s got a 0.00 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP. Heck! He might be leading the team in batting average now too.

Not that I care. Barry Zito’s batting average buys me nothing!

Don’t get me wrong. At some point, Zito is going to start walk batters. His strikeout rate won’t be mesmerizing. Nonetheless, if he can make 30+ starts and maybe eat up some innings, I will look like a mad genius. CBSSports.com’s prediction of a 12 and 12 record will look like a woeful estimation if he keeps up this rate. Last week, he garnered his owners 27 points. That’s Strasburg territory. If he can help me get out of the gate strong, even if he starts to lose steam mid-season, he’ll still be worth the move.

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The More Things Change…

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The More Things Change…

Posted on 16 October 2012 by Will Emerson

…the more they stay the same. The LCS match-ups are set. Yankees-Tigers, Cardinals-Giants. Ho-hum. Now, while these are not heated rivalries and these teams do not have a ton of recent playoff history against each other, well, they are not exactly new blood. Since 2004, the span of the past eight postseasons, these four teams have combined to make six World Series appearances and ten LCS appearances. In comparison, the four teams they just bounced from the playoffs, well, they have just one appearance in that time span. No, no, not each. Combined! There have been 16 World Series slots, if you would, from 2004- 2011 and this year’s four remaining teams have all been there once and accounted for 37.5% of those slots. This includes the past two World Champions, the Giants and Cardinals who are squaring off against each other for another National League Championship and a chance for another World Championship ring. After this season is done, heck even before it is done, from 2004-2012 these four teams will have been responsible for eight of the 18 World Series slots. That will be 44% of the slots for those not quick with the arithmetic. The real question here, is why these teams have been able to do this? Sure, everyone knows the Yankees open their checkbook and make things happen, and none of these teams are considered as small market as, say, Oakland, but as we’ve seen in the past, money does not always win championships. So what is it, exactly, that brings us the same teams time and again? Well, one thing I always tend to hear is that it is simply because these teams know how to win, especially when it counts. Or, sometimes, once we reach the postseason, it is playoff experience that can take over and is what gets these team past those teams with inexperience. But how much of a factor is that really?

The argument of experience in the playoffs, or simply in big games, will almost always win out over inexperience. Sounds reasonable and in life, that should certainly be the case. If two people are interviewing for the same job, all else being equal, the person with more experience, in theory, will win out. But how much of a factor does experience really play in baseball playoffs? Sure, as mentioned above, these four teams have been in the thick of the pursuit of a World Series Championship, but did the Yankees oust the Orioles because they have more experience, or rings? Is it because they know how to win in October? Well, I do not think you can completely dismiss that point altogether, but maybe there is a bit of an overemphasis on explaining it as easily as that.

Yes, the Yankees have more playoff experience of late, and well, over the history of baseball, than the Orioles. In fact the Yankees have more World Series rings since 2000, than the Orioles have playoff appearances in that time. But this is also kind of my point. Okay, okay, experience yes, got it. But isn’t the reason the Yankees, and the other three teams remaining, have more playoff experience is because they are consistently good enough to get to the post season and win. Isn’t it more that the Yankees are just a better team than the Orioles, regardless of experience? Did anything the Orioles did in their losses count as something that would not have happened if they had experience? They took the Yankees to five games in a best-of-five series and that was more than most people probably expected. Heck, the fact they almost won the division, or even made the playoffs was more than most people expected. As they approached Game 5 the common notion amongst baseball fans, and pundits alike, was that the Yankees would win because they were at home and their experience, and the Yankee aura (yuck), would take over and get them to the ALCS. Or could it be that, generally speaking, they are overall a better team than the Orioles? Now it was an admirable fight by the Os, but it doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to see that Sabathia versus Hammel is a match-up that favors the Yankees. So, what does postseason experience matter there?

I mean, it is not as if the rules change in the postseason, right? Games are still nine regular innings, are they not?  It is still three outs per half inning, correct? Three strikes and your out, even in the postseason, right? And most importantly the team that has more runs wins and the first team to three or four wins, depending on the series, moves on. Do you think Drew Storen would have not given up the winning run and blown his save opportunity in what ended up being the last inning of the Nationals’ season, had he had more playoff experience? Probably not. Anything to that effect is of course, pointing to mostly psychological factors. The experience is about handling the pressure of the big stage and not succumbing to said pressure or intimidating crowds. But even there, doing it once, twice, or even more times, may never get rid of the jitters a player feels going into or during a playoff game. And as far as the intimidating crowd noise? The Reds, Nats and Athletics all had game fives at home, so it’s not like they ventured into hostile territory or anything. You don’t need playoff experience to know you need to win at home. I guess, this could be the biggest argument for experience playing a large role in the playoffs, since the experienced teams were all ready to go and despite the hostile environment, managed to win big games. It is a decent argument, I will grant you, but I still feel like it may have just been a case of the better team actually winning.

Now as I say that, I am sure there are people saying, “well look at the records, how can you say the better teams won?” Well, that is a kind of flimsy argument. Despite the records, I believe the Tigers are better than the Athletics. In the National League, with the exception of the Cardinals, the teams were, I thought, pretty evenly matched. I do think the Reds are a better team than the Giants and the Nationals are a better team than the Cardinals. However, these could have been two remarkably different series’ had the Reds and Nats had their aces. The Reds lost Johnny Cueto after one batter and, I’m sure we’ve all heard about the Nats’ Steven Strasburg situation plenty at this point. So if they pitch, do their teams win? Well, you can’t say for sure, but that could have been a much bigger factor than experience, who’s to say?

So, does experience play a factor when it comes down to big games and big moments in the postseason? Of course it does, and I am not arguing that or dismissing experience altogether. All I am trying to get across is that it may not be quite as big of a factor as many would like to believe. The reason the teams with experience win, I believe, is because they are generally just better teams, which is why they keep making the playoffs in the first place and gaining said experience. Yeah, if Derek Jeter was released by the Yankees and lands on say, the Indians (an extreme example, I know, but bear with me here), you don’t think that would help them more in postseason play as far as the experience he brings? Sure it would, but matched up against a better team, with equal or less experience, I still say that better team will win out, 80-85% of the time. So let’s hold off on laying so much playoff credit on experience and taking away from the fact that for the most part, the better teams are winning. And as far as experience over inexperience, ask the back-to-back AL Champion Texas Rangers, who fell apart down the stretch and lost their one game playoff, how they feel about it.

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10 Bargains in the Playoffs

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10 Bargains in the Playoffs

Posted on 04 October 2012 by Dennis Lawson

Cha-ching!

Spending big money on player contracts comes with no guarantee of success or even an assurance that the money will be well spent.  In some cases going big pays off (see “Yankees”), and for some teams the “less is more approach” pays off just as well (see “Athletics”).  Regardless of how much a team spends or how it distributes the spending, every team that makes the playoffs has at least 1 player turning in a big money performance for a fraction of the cost.  So, here I pay tribute to those who overproduce despite being underpaid.  Here are 10 of the “Biggest Bangs for Your Buck” players.

New York Yankees – $209,792,900 total payroll commitments.  For a lot of teams a $10M deal for a single season represents a huge chunk, but the Yankees do not fall into the category of “a lot of teams”.  The team certainly must appreciate the production from big money guys like C.C. Sabathia, Derek Jeter, and Robinson Cano, but they fall well short of Hiroki Kuroda in the “biggest bang for your buck” (BBFYB) category.  Kuroda has given the team a 3.34 ERA over 32 starts which works out to $2M per 1 WAR.  In Bronx Bomber terminology, Kuroda gives them a Sabathia season at less than half the cost of Sabathia.

Detroit Tigers – $133,475,000.  It might be difficult to stand out with Justin Verlander on the roster, but Austin Jackson sticks out like a sore thumb this season.  Giving a team a .298/.376/.476/.852 line with 16 HR, 65 RBI, a 130 OPS+, and outstanding defense at the same time will do that for a guy.  A 5.2 WAR season for just $500K?  Definitely.

Texas Rangers – $120,836,000.  Tempted to think of David Murphy or Alexi Ogando for this one?  Sure, but the unsung hero for the Rangers has been Craig Gentry.  Gentry’s career year at age 30 this season certainly has helped keep the team in contention.  His line of .302/.379/.479/.858 with 15 HR and 59 RBI comes with an extremely reasonable price tag of $484.3K.

Baltimore Orioles – $84,102,333.  Matt Wieters deserves this recognition both for his performance and his handling of the pitching staff.  Consider it a small miracle that the Orioles have a staff ERA of 3.89 in baseball’s most competitive division.  Producing 3.2 WAR for $500K would be sufficient to win the BBFYB award, though.

Oakland A’s – $52,873,000.  You might think it difficult to pick out a BBFYB winner on a team full of underpaid talent.  Josh Reddick makes the decision quite easy, though.  4.5 WAR for $485K makes it a no-brainer, and I’m all about not using more brain power than necessary.

San Francisco Giants – $131,355,298.  Buster Posey definitely belongs in the MVP conversation, but he already owns the BBFYB title for the Giants.  He leads the NL with 7.2 WAR for a measly $615K.  Too bad for the Giants he reaches arbitration eligibility after this season, because that salary number should increase an awful lot.  With a substantial raise, Posey will likely lose that BBFYB title, but that is a good problem to have.

St Louis Cardinals – $111,858,500.  Up until a few weeks ago, the reigning World Series MVP, David Freese, had the Biggest Bang for your Buck title sewn up.  Then Pete Kozma happened.  Kozma has given the Cardinals 1.1 WAR in just 25 games (79 PAs).  Considering that he makes the minimum and wasn’t expected to contribute at a Major League level this season, he edges out Freese just slightly.

Atlanta Braves – $93,529,667.  The Braves have at least 3 legitimate candidates in this race.  Jason Heyward and Craig Kimbrel are worthy, but Kris Medlen has just been unreal.  Going 10-1 merits attention in just about any situation, but doing so over the 2nd half of the season when some teams fall of the pace is like a jolt of adrenaline.  From his 1.57 ERA to his 4.2 WAR, Medlen has proven himself to be worth far more than the $490K he’s getting paid.

Cincinnati Reds – $87,826,167.  Flip and coin between Todd Frazier and Zack Cozart.  You really can’t go wrong with either one.  Frazier provides the Reds with pretty good corner infield bat.  Cozart gives them a decent bat but a plus defender at shortstop.  Cozart gets the BBFYB nod for being a better all-around player, but both are really good deals at $480K a year.

Most of the aforementioned players get enough media attention that casual fans have probably at least heard of them, but I thought it worth pointing out just how much they produced without breaking the bank.

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Show Me Your “O” Face

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Show Me Your “O” Face

Posted on 13 September 2012 by Dennis Lawson

Office Space FTW!

Your mission (should you choose to accept it) consists of explaining how in the world the Baltimore Orioles reached mid-September with a statistically plausible chance at making the playoffs.  How exactly does a team that ranks 16th in runs scored, 21st in batting average, 23rd in OBP, and 12th in slugging hang with the big bad wolves of the AL East?  More importantly, how can someone explain with a straight face that the same team that sits 18th in ERA, 25th in quality starts, 20th in WHIP, and 16th in batting average against also has a tenuous grip on either the 2nd wild card spot or the division lead?

Without a crack team of researchers (or maybe a team researching crack), one might think such a thing impossible.  Below average pitching combined with sub-par hitting somehow results in a playoff contender.  If a Baseball Urban Dictionary exists somewhere on the interwebs, the Orioles’ team photo must be pictured under the section on “logical incongruity”.  Explain the anomalous nature of this Baltimore beast, or be relegated to watching Golden Girls reruns.

The Orioles have exactly 3 players who have accumulated more than 2.0 oWAR – Adam Jones (4.8 oWAR) and Nick Markakis (2.4 oWAR), and Matt Wieters (2.1 oWAR).  Moreover, Markakis just went down for the season with a broken left thumb.  Of all the players who qualify for MLB’s statistical leader boards, Markakis was the batting average leader for the team at .298.  Total number of qualifying players hitting .300+?  Zero.  After Markakis at .363, the next highest OBP belongs to Adam Jones at .351.  Jones happens to have the highest OPS at .848.  For perspective, the Rangers have 3 players above that OPS mark.

The Orioles have exactly 1 starting pitcher with 10 wins or more, and that happens to be Wei-Yin Chin at 12-9.  The Cardinals have 4 starters at 13 or more wins, and they are struggling to lock down the 2nd wild card position in the NL.  So, exactly how can the O’s success be explained?  Please rationalize how a team can play 11 games ahead of Pythagorean W/L pace.

  • Opportunistic offense:  The team has hit .251/.324/.436/.760 with runners in scoring position which translates to 407 runs scored in 994 opportunities.  By comparison, the Yankees have hit .253/.350/.424/.775 with runners in scoring position, but the Bombers have only pushed across 452 runs despite having 135 more opportunities than the Orioles.
  • Doing just enough:  The Orioles lead the majors in winning percentage in games decided by 1 run with a 25-7 record.
  • Playing a hard 9….10….11:  The Orioles are currently tied with the Nationals for the most wins in extra innings in baseball (12).  The Nationals have gone into bonus baseball 19 times and lost 7.  The Orioles have gone extras just 14 times and lost only twice.  2.  The deuce.  That’s 12-2 when the number of innings hits double digits.
  • Relief work:  Combined ERA for all Baltimore pitchers in relief – 3.15.  That group has accounted for 58 “holds” and 46 saves.  By comparison, the Rangers have the best record in the AL, and their relievers have combined for a 3.29 ERA, 54 holds, and 37 saves.  The difference?  The Orioles have relied on the bullpen for 468.0 innings this season.  The Rangers have used relievers for just 388.1 innings.

Maybe the Orioles can keep it going by getting just enough offense at the right time.  After all, the team has made it 141 games using this not-so-secret formula.  Perhaps maintaining a negative run differential while staying 17 games above .500 will prove unsustainable.  Just don’t let the Orioles know that.  It would be a shame for them to realize how much of an uphill battle they are fighting (and winning).

NOTE: This was written before last night’s walk-off win that pushed the Orioles to 26-7 in games decided by 1 run.

 

 

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MVPosey? Not so fast

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MVPosey? Not so fast

Posted on 11 September 2012 by Dennis Lawson

C’mon man!?

Under normal circumstances, I would consider it ludicrous to argue against a guy hitting .327/.402/.531/.933 winning an MVP award.  The 20 HR and 87 RBI certainly strengthen the case for Buster Posey at least being in the conversation.  He plays the most demanding position on the field, and he accounts for 5.5 WAR this season on a team leading its division by 5.5 games.

Then again, an argument can be made that he does not even rate as the best catcher in the NL.  Yadier Molina has put together a career year, and he deserves as much consideration as Posey does (if not more).  Yadi’s line of .321/.373/.505/.877 with 18 HR and 65 RBI falls just short of the offensive pace set by Posey, but the debate does not end there.  Posey gives the Giants 5.8 oWAR but just 0.1 dWAR.  Molina gives the Cardinals a more balanced 4.1 oWAR and 2.2 dWAR.

One of these players provides a lot of offense and happens to play catcher.  The other plays catcher and happens to provide a lot of offense.  Say all you want about Posey, but you cannot avoid the incontrovertible truth that he has played 22 games at 1B for a total of  163.0 innings.  He also has 3 games as a DH under his belt.  Molina has 984.0 innings at catcher and just 9.0 innings at 1B.  Posey hits primarily from the #4 spot in the San Francisco lineup.  The bulk of Molina’s plate appearances come in the #6 spot – typically accompanied by a light hitting middle infielder as lineup “protection”.

Posey has already had 159 plate appearances with runners in scoring position.  Molina?  109.  To Posey’s credit he’s hitting .355/.447/.548/.995 with runners in scoring position.  Then again, Molina hits .340/.407/.532/.939 in the same situation.  With 2 outs and RISP, Posey bats just .208/.387/.354/.741, and he’s a .313 hitter “late and close”.  With 2 outs and ducks on the pond in scoring position, Molina gives the Cardinals .320/.393/.520/.913, and he’s a .338 in “late and close” situations.  Posey wins the battle in a tie game with an OPS of 1.164 to Molina’s .848.  The end result is a 33 to 19 RBI advantage for Posey who also happens to get far more opportunities in that situation (145 pa to 100).

One of these guys throws out base stealers at a 45% clip.  The other is Posey (29%).  The league average is 26%.  Molina has yielded just 32 stolen bases this season.  Posey has given away 80 bonus base passes.  Naturally, many more attempts have been made against him, but throwing out just 32 of 112 seems a bit low for an “elite catcher”.

Of course, the debate between Posey and Molina basically could amount to a moot point.  Andrew McCutchen has basically carried the Pirates all season and has given them a legitimate shot at finishing the season with a .500 record or better.  If you believe that the MVP must come from a playoff contender, then maybe you should just take your elitist attitude out of my sandbox.  If any player in the NL has been more “valuable” to a team than McCutchen, then I have yet to see him play.  Cutch carries a .966 OPS for a team that doesn’t have another regular within 100 points of that.

When the debate points bring you to a logical conclusion, I believe the following to be true:

  • Posey would not have quite the production numbers he has if not for Melky Cabrera hitting .363/.401/.547/.948 in the #3 spot this season (before getting suspended for being a really bad cheater).
  • Molina would not merit consideration without being in a stacked lineup with a bunch of .800+ OPS guys.
  • The Pirates would be on the way to the team’s 20th consecutive losing season if not for McCutchen accounting for 6.2 of the team’s 13.3 WAR provided by batters.

Maybe we should change the discourse to focus on Cutch instead of the guys who catch.

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