On Jon Jay Versus Shane Robinson (by Jared Simmons)

Photo Credit: fantasycpr.com

Photo Credit: fantasycpr.com

This is a guest post written by Jared of @McGeeTriples. Thus, please read the post accordingly. Considering this topic can lead to heated debates, feel free to include your thoughts in the comments section below or by contacting either of us on Twitter.

It says a lot about your organization when one of the biggest questions you have about your team on December 31st is which solid bench guy should be the 4th or possibly 5th outfielder on the roster. But that’s the position the St. Louis Cardinals and their fans find themselves in as 2014 beckons. With the bulk of the roster written in blood and holes in its construct harder to find than Tim Tebow at a key party–there’s little left for Cardinal diehards to deliberate.

Be that as it may, St. Louis is a town where baseball sits ever on the conscious, and thus a debate rages among the more far gone addicts about who the better player and fit will be for the Cardinals in 2014: Jon Jay or Shane Robinson.

There is a strong contingent among us running the flag up the pole in support of Shane Robinson. Among that group there are two sub-groups: those with intelligent, well-reasoned and valid arguments for backing Robinson, and a second group racing to be first in line to support any diminutive, “gritty” player who gives them warm fuzzy feelings, and makes them believe that THEY TOO can become great.

You can count me out of both groups.

While I acknowledge that Robinson was a better defender than Jay in 2013 (and by a wide margin), it is clear to me that Jay is the better baseball player and the better fit for the Cardinals’ roster as presently constructed. This argument is built on analytics, advanced baseball metrics, and old-school eye test reasoning. I fully respect Robinson and what he has accomplished in life. Most of us would be lucky to get out of our gifts what Shane has produced from all 5 feet, 5 inches of his body.

That said, Major League Baseball and professional sports, in general, are a zero sum game. There are no points for being the best pound-for-pound and no moral victories. Feel-good stories are made for TV only. ESPN will nauseate you to death with heart-wrenchers and baby-mama drama. Yet, the fact remains that in the business of baseball, the sole measure of success is winning and losing.

So let’s get into it…

Jay’s defense drew much ire in 2013 and rightfully so. He had a UZR of negative 7.3 (beyond terrible). By contrast, Robinson’s UZR was a positive 4.0. While defensive numbers can be hard to quantify–the stark contrast in those zone ratings is hard to ignore.

The questions that all concerned parties must answer is whether or not at the age of 28 (generally considered to be a prime year in a player’s career), has Jay completely lost the ability to play defense? After all, in the prior year he played a solid CF, and his UZR was a respectable 3.7 (nearly identical to Robinson’s 3.6). I tend to think that the awfulness that was Jay’s defense in 2013 was an outlier and that given playing time in 2014, he would be more slightly below average and less albatross than he was in 2013.

Robinson also has a decent arm; while Jay terrifies no one with his wet noodle. I won’t offer you any numbers here, but ask yourself this question, how often does an averaged-armed starting outfielder impact a game with a throw? The answer is rarely. And if that guy isn’t playing very much, this impact is almost nonexistent. And let’s not kid ourselves, Robinson is an averaged-armed outfielder. Rick Ankiel, he is not.

The best fit for this team is going to be the player that hits the most. Matt Holliday, Peter Bourjos, and Allen Craig are going to patrol the outfield for the Cardinals for the most part in 2014. If one of those three (or Matt Adams) suffers a long-term injury, then the bulk of the playing time created will likely fall into the lap of Oscar Taveras. As a result, the opportunities for either Robinson or Jay to impact games are going to be few and far between, and they are also going to come in the form of pinch-hits.

There’s a reason a player (Robinson) makes it to age 29 and has amassed only 386 plate appearances for his career. Robinson’s career slash line is .246/.316/.327. Robinson has also posted a career RC+ (runs created plus) of 80 (100 is average).  Three leading projection sites project Robinson’s 2014 numbers to be:

Rotochamp: .255/.349/.355 (OPS: .704)
Steamer: .264/.337/.381 (.718)
CAIRO: .241/.312/.355 (.647)

I tend to favor CAIRO’s projection for Robinson as I believe that given full-time at bats, he would struggle to post a .700 OPS. Obviously, this is just one man’s opinion.

In contrast to Robinson, Jay is 28 (younger than Robinson) and has compiled 1956 plate appearances throughout his career. His career slash line of .293/.356/.400 completely dwarfs Robinson’s. He also has a career RC+ of 112. Jay’s projection:

Rotochamp: .294/.366/.388 (.754)
Steamer: .281/.349/.397 (.746)
CAIRO: .274/.340/.374 (.714)

I like the middle ground here with Steamer’s projection for Jay in 2014. In case you haven’t noticed, Jay is also left-handed and the Cards’ entire projected starting OF is full of RH hitters. Coveting a roster composition of diverse skill sets is another feather in Jay’s cap.

But perhaps the most decisive reason for Jay over Robinson is potential value. In short, Robinson has none and is never going to have any. Perhaps, only Jeff Luhnow in Houston would covet Robinson’s services. After all, he also wanted Tyler Greene.

Jay on the other hand, has established value in the major leagues. Even last year, as his defense completely tanked, Jay was basically a league average player. According to Fangraphs, he had a WAR of 1.9. Robinson posted a WAR of just 0.9 in limited playing time and would likely have seen that number decreased had he seen extensive exposure. Jay’s bat, and likely defensive rebound offer the most upside both in terms of tangible value to the Cardinals and speculative value as a trade chip mid-season.

Jay is a fringe starter and solid 4th outfield option. Robinson is a AAAA player. We all want to cheer for the little guy and pull for the underdog, but the Cardinals are best served by making calculated decisions. Not emotional ones. John Mozeliak has wreaked havoc on professional baseball by remaining steadfast in this approach (buh-bye David Freese), and we can only hope that he continues to do so by maximizing the assets at his disposal. Jon Jay is an asset.

Feel free to cheer on the best story if you like, but I’ll be rooting for the best team and hopefully…

…A World Series championship.

-Jared

Like I said before the post, feel free to include your opinions in the comments section below. Both Jared and I would love to see conversation result from this this post.

You can follow Jared on Twitter: @McGeeTriples

For more updates from stlCupofJoe, follow me on Twitter: @stlCupofJoe or Facebook: stlCupofJoe’s Sports Page

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Is Adron Chambers the Spark the St. Louis Cardinals Need?

Photo Credit: Scott Rovak

Photo Credit: Scott Rovak

With Yadier Molina and Shane Robinson being placed on the 15-day disabled list, the St. Louis Cardinals have called up Adron Chambers and Brock Peterson from Triple-A Memphis.

With the offense scoring a grand total of six runs in the past six games (all losses), the team obviously needs a spark. Thus, can Chambers be the spark the team needs?

In 326 at-bats for the Memphis Redbirds, Chambers is hitting .252 with eight home runs and 42 runs batted in. His on-base percentage is .338, and he is 15 for 17 on stolen bases. 25 of his 82 hits are for extra bases (eight home runs, four triples, 13 doubles) which gives him a .390 slugging percentage.

The big problem the Cardinals have now is that both of their center fielders bat left-handed. With Robinson being a right-handed bat, the team had been splitting time–giving Jay starts against righties and Robinson against lefties.

Jay Against Lefties in 2013:

73 at-bats: .151 batting average, .262 on-base percentage, .205 slugging, one home run, six RBI

Chambers Against Lefties in 2013:

83 at-bats: .145 batting average, .209 on-base percentage, .241 slugging, two home runs, 10 RBI

Jay Against Righties in 2013:

278 at-bats: .277 batting average, .348 on-base percentage, .381 slugging, four home runs, 33 RBI

Chambers Against Righties in 2013:

243 at-bats: .288 batting average, .379 on-base percentage, .440 slugging, six home runs, 32 RBI

Analysis:

Thus, if you compare the numbers, Chambers and Jay look like identical hitters. They have average to above-average numbers against right-handers, and they struggle mightily against left-handers.

However, as we all know, Jay’s defense has been lacking this season. His arm strength is poor and his reads on fly balls are just a step slower than past seasons. Chambers is not necessarily known for his throwing arm either, but he can chase down fly balls with the best of them. His outfield range is probably the best in the entire organization.

Chambers is absolutely ON FIRE in July. He has a .354 batting average, .391 on-base percentage, .573 slugging, four home runs, and 16 RBI. He is also 7 for 7 on stolen bases.

Thus, with the funk that the entire team seems to be in right now, Chambers should be given an opportunity to start in center field for the Cardinals. He has a fresh mind that has not been around the clubhouse that is undoubtedly down right now. He can bring an enthusiasm to the lineup that the team does not necessarily have right now.

With Jay’s decreased range this season, Chambers will provide an upgrade in the field, a slight upgrade at the plate, an upgrade on the base paths, and frankly, he is on fire right now, so he deserves a shot.

He very well could come back to Earth now that he is facing Major League pitching, but to me, with the way things are going for the offense, he is fully deserving of a shot to be in the starting lineup.  Will Matheny do this? Probably not, but if I was the manager of a team currently in a six-game losing streak, I would switch it up and insert Chambers into the lineup.

Oh yeah, one more thing: as I noted on Twitter, in his MLB career, Chambers is 2 for 4 with two triples and three RBI when putting the first pitch in play. Thus, when he comes to bat for the Cardinals, look for him to be first pitch swingin’!

Until next time…

Joe

Follow me on Twitter: @stlCupOfJoe