Hitting Analysis of Jay Bruce: From a St. Louis Cardinals’ Perspective

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Al Behrman

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Al Behrman

Like Pedro Alvarez, Jay Bruce is a left-handed slugger who has had a good amount of success against the Cardinals over the course of his career. His career slash line against the Cardinals sits at .237/.294/.398.

The .398 slugging percentage is nowhere near that of Alvarez (.473), but he still has 12 doubles, 12 home runs, and 44 RBI in 88 career games against the Cardinals. One-third of his production came from last season alone. In 19 games, Bruce hit .315 with four doubles, four home runs, and 15 RBI.

Bruce has a career .257/.330/.482 slash line. After taking a look at his slugging percentage against the Cardinals (.398, 84 points lower than his career SLG%), he may not be a true “Cardinal Killer” like Alvarez. However, given his numbers against the Cardinals in 2013 and the fact that one of my readers asked me to take a look at Bruce, I decided to write a post on him anyways.

As noted on the following graphs (from BrooksBaseball.net), but to avoid any confusion, all zones are from the catcher’s point of view.

BruceWhiffsLHP

Bruce’s 2013 whiff rate against left-handed pitchers was surprisingly low for a lefty slugger who averages 137 strikeouts per season at just 15.9% (136 whiffs/858 pitches). Non-overpowering lefties like Jaime Garcia or Randy Choate can attack the zones boxed in yellow (21.5% whiff rate); whereas, Kevin Siegrist (fastball averaged 96 MPH in 2013) can attack Bruce up in the zones boxed in orange (26.4% whiff rate).

Ideally, if one of the above pitchers is looking for a strikeout, they should avoid the inside corners of the strikezone against Bruce. These two zones are boxed in green, and he had just two whiffs on 63 pitches (3.2%) in those zones last season.

BruceWhiffsRHP

Right-handed pitchers, especially hard-throwers like Trevor Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez, and Michael Wacha, can attack Bruce up the zone–preferably towards the outside corner. His 2013 whiff rate against right-handed pitchers was also pretty low for a slugger at just 15.3% (290 whiffs/1899 pitches). However, his whiff rate was significantly higher in the zones boxed in yellow (23%) and even higher in the zones boxed in orange (27.6%).

Thus, if any of our righties find themselves in a situation where a strikeout is necessary and Bruce is at the plate, their best bet is start him up and away in the zone, with down and out of the strikezone as their primary backup plan.

BruceLHPLD

Of 152 balls in play against lefties in 2013, 35 of them were linedrives–23%. 40% of these linedrives came on pitches in the middle of the zone which is to be expected–big league pitchers know to avoid the middle of the zone, especially against sluggers like Bruce.

After taking a look at both lefty graphs, it appears that the best place for lefties to attack Bruce is down in the zone from the middle-out (boxed in yellow) where his linedrive percentage is just 12.5%. There is that little blip on the outside corner where nearly 30% of the balls in play were linedrives, but I think this may be due to the small sample size. Either that, or he just loves scorching liners down into the left-field corner.

BruceRHPLD

As a fan of the Cardinals, this graph frightened me. There’s a reason why he has a .267/.341/.502 career slash line against right-handed pitchers. I really could not find a glaring hole that Cardinals’ pitchers could exploit. In 2013, on 302 balls put in play, 94 of them (31.1%) were linedrives. This puts him near the top of the league and shows just how potent his bat can be against righties.

As I noted in the right-handed pitcher whiffs graph, pitching Bruce “up and away” can lead to more swings and misses. However, as you can see, if he does make contact on pitches that are up and in the strikezone, there is a pretty good chance he makes solid contact. Thus, the best place for righties to go is up and out of the zone (boxed in yellow)–hoping to get Bruce to chase. They can set these pitches up with breaking balls or changeups down in the zone immediately prior to change his eye level–increasing the chances of him chasing pitches out of the zone.

Conclusion:

Overall, Bruce is a much better hitter than Alvarez. He may strike out just as much as Alvarez, but he hits for a higher average and has a significantly higher on-base percentage. Also, when he does put the ball in play, it’s more likely to be a linedrive than balls off the bat of Alvarez.

Being a better hitter, there are obviously fewer glaring holes in his swing. However, as I noted above, the Cardinals’ hard-throwing righties (which they have plenty of) best chance is by throwing pitches up and away–with their best chance on pitches out of the zone completely. This not only leads to more swings and misses, but also fewer line drives.

Lefties can attack him low and away, just like with Alvarez. Siegrist can attack him up and away, but he must be careful because zones immediately adjacent to these somewhat “cold” zones show that he can be very dangerous.

In short, Bruce is a much tougher hitter to pitch to than Alvarez. I hope the Cardinals can figure him out because at the age of 26, they are going to have to deal with his potent bat for years to come.

Due up next: Brandon Phillips

Until next time…

Joe

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

Advertisements

Hitting Analysis of Pedro Alvarez: From a St. Louis Cardinals’ Perspective

Photo Credit: piratesprospects.com

Photo Credit: piratesprospects.com

Pedro Alvarez is probably the most infamous “Cardinal killer” in recent memory. In 53 regular season games against the Cardinals, Alvarez has a .254/.304/.473 slash line. The batting average and on-base percentage components don’t seem all that scary, but a .473 slugging percentage shows that his hits “pack a whole lot of punch.”

Of his 51 hits, 11 of them were doubles and 11 more were home runs. Thus, 43% of his hits have gone for extra bases. He has knocked in 42 runners against the Cardinals–11 more than he has against any other team in his career.

So what can the Cardinals do? Alvarez is a career .235 hitter who averages 141 strikeouts per season. He must have a lot of holes for the Cardinals to exploit, right? Well, I took a look at five different graphs from BrooksBaseball.net to see where he can be attacked.

Now, I fully realize that the Cardinals already have scouts and pitching coaches relaying this information to their pitchers, but I figured it would be fun and informative for readers as well. At just 26 years old, fans will be seeing Alvarez take at-bats against the Cardinals for years to come.

As noted on the graphs, but to avoid any confusion, all zones are from the catcher’s point of view.

AlvarezWhiffsLHP

Against left-handed pitchers, down and away (boxed in yellow) seems to be the most vulnerable spot for Alvarez. This makes sense, though. Teams bring in lefty specialists, such as Randy Choate, to throw sweeping breaking balls down and away–daring him to chase pitches that usually end up out of the zone. Of those four squares in the bottom left, Alvarez swung and missed (aka “whiffed”) on 67 of 242 pitches in 2013. His 27.7% whiff rate on pitches down and away was 6 percentage points higher than his average whiff rate (21.5%) against lefties in 2013.

Also, if a pitcher is locating his pitches well, up and out of the zone (boxed in yellow) could be viable options with 50+% whiff rates in these boxed areas. However, very dangerous areas border these so it would probably be wiser to look down and away since there’s more room for error.

AlvarezWhiffsRHP

Like with lefties, down and out of the zone is the way to attack Alvarez if you are a right-handed pitcher looking for swings and misses. His overall whiff rate against righties in 2013 was 16.6%, but in the zones highlighted by the yellow box, his whiff rate was significantly higher at 25.2%. This was a pretty good sample size as well, considering 25% of the pitches from right-handers ended up in the boxed zones.

Enough about whiff rates, what about balls in play? I’ve got you covered there as well. However, before I get into that, let me make you aware of a quick disclaimer. I chose “linedrives per balls in play” instead of batting average because I believe linedrives are a better representation of a hitter’s hot and cold zones than average. A high average in a certain zone could be tainted by a small sample size full of bloop hits; whereas a linedrive is a linedrive–regardless of whether it’s results in a hit or not.

AlvarezLHPLD

That same zone I highlighted on the left-hander whiff rate graph is highlighted here. As you can see, of 15 balls in play on pitches in this zone, only two of them (13.3%) were linedrives. In fact, if you look at the zone highlighted in orange just above that, Alvarez had just one linedrive in 17 balls in play–leading to a very tame 5.9%. If you put the two left-handed pitcher graphs together, the way to attack Alvarez is down and away–looking for him to chase pitches out of the zone at times, which he does at a pretty regular rate.

AlvarezRHPLD

The same area I noted in the right-handed pitcher whiff rate graph is highlighted (in yellow) in this graph as well. Of 36 balls in play on pitches in this zone, only four of them were linedrives–11.1%. Considering the linedrive percentages in other parts of the zone, this is easily one of his weakest spots. I highlighted two other areas in orange that seem to be weak spots for Alvarez as well. However, if you take a look at the zones immediately adjacent to these (highlighted in green), a pitcher must have his best stuff if he wants to attack these two zones.

Finally, a look at Alvarez’s spray chart from 2013:

AlvarezSprayChart

Of his 36 home runs in 2013, five were to the opposite field (14%) and three were to center field (8%). It’s obvious that much of his pop comes when he pulls the baseball. This shouldn’t be news to anyone, though–just thought it was worth visualizing.

Conclusion;

Alvarez’s career batting average against lefties is .200 with 12 home runs. His career average against righties is much better at .248 with 74 home runs. The numbers show his bat is much more potent against right-handed pitching–also should not be news to anyone. However, as I showed in the five graphs above, both lefties and righties should attack him in pretty similar zones–down and away.

I fully realize that the majority of the zones I highlighted were pitches out of the strikezone. Yet, until Alvarez proves he can be a more patient hitter, these zones need to be exploited. Plus, if he indeed proves to be more patient next season, I would much rather walk him on four pitches out of the zone than give him the opportunity to change the game with one swing of the bat–like he has done so many times already in his young career.

I hope you enjoyed this piece because it was pretty fun to create. In the coming days, maybe even today, I will be publishing a few more hitting analyses on infamous “Cardinal Killers.”

Due up next: Jay Bruce

Until next time…

Joe

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

The 2014 Cardinals and Beyond Need Allen Craig at First Base

Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

The 2014 St. Louis Cardinals and beyond need Allen Craig at first base. Before I lose readers, let me make this clear: this post is not meant to be a knock on the ability of Matt Adams or Craig’s defensive ability in the outfield. Will I take a look at their defensive numbers? Of course I will, but as you are reading, keep in mind that this is not the main point of the article.

With four years and $28.25 million (not counting a $13 million team option in 2018) left on his current contract, it is in the team’s best interest to have the 29-year-old Craig on the field as much as possible. Sure, the team warded off the Pittsburgh Pirates for National League Central crown with Adams at first base, but if the World Series is any indication, Craig was sorely missed.

As we all know by now, the 2014 projected lineup consists of Craig taking over Carlos Beltran‘s spot in right-field and Adams stepping in at first-base on a full-time basis. Craig’s UZR/150 in right-field last season? -24.3. To put this in perspective, Beltran’s was -18.7, and we all had some very strong opinions on his declining defense over the past two seasons.

I understand that one season is a pretty small sample size so I dug a little deeper. In 627 right-field innings in his career, Craig’s UZR/150 sits at -5.6–making him “below average” at the position. At first base, Craig had a 3.3 UZR/150 in 2013 and is at 0.3 in just under 1,600 innings played at the position in his career. As Corey Noles noted back in July, Adams vastly improved his defense in 2013, but even at his best, he is an inferior defender compared to Craig. For those wondering, Adams’ career UZR/150 at first base (792.1 innings) is -1.9. To his credit, though, he was much improved in 2013 at -0.5 compared to -4.1 his rookie season.

As you can see, the Cardinals’ defense is much better with Craig at first than in right-field. Obviously, as long as Oscar Taveras‘ health remains a huge question mark and until he proves he can perform at the big league level, they have no choice but use Craig in right. This was made apparent when Beltran left on a three year deal with the Yankees.

However, despite these numbers and like I said in the first paragraph, my reasoning behind the Cardinals needing Craig at first has very little to do with Craig’s or Adams’ defense ability.

Craig, a fan favorite for both his performance and his effort, plays the game 110%. Two of his major injuries are a perfect example of this. He fractured his knee cap crashing into the side wall at Minute Maid Park back in 2011. Last season, he injured his foot rounding first base trying to extend the play on an overthrow (to this day, I blame the umpire for being in his way). Were both injuries fluky? Yep, but if he is called upon to play 140+ games in the outfield in 2014, there is a pretty good chance he will get injured again.

Craig was an All-Star last season, had one RBI every five at-bats, and hit .454 with runners in scoring position. His foot injury left him out of live action for almost two months, yet he came back and did what he does best in the World Series–hit. In 16 at-bats, he had six hits. That’s incredible. He is the “Amazing Whacker Guy” after all.

Adams is due for a breakout season. He will have more experience, he will get more at-bats, and he will be fully healthy. Corey Rudd of stlsportsminute.com wrote a detailed piece for the Yahoo! Contributor Network breaking down this belief. However, despite this, I don’t think I will have many people disagreeing with my following statement.

A fully healthy Allen Craig is more important for the success of the Cardinals than a fully healthy Matt Adams.

Could Adams prove me wrong in this statement? He sure could, but at this point in both their careers, it is hard to argue with the Craig’s resume.

Could Craig still get hurt at first base? Yep, but there’s a much lower risk there than in the spacious outfield of Busch Stadium.

Could the addition of Peter Bourjos lead to less range needed to be covered by Craig in the outfield? Absolutely! Bourjos has some of the best range in baseball, but the outfield walls will still be there, and I am fairly certain Craig will run into one or two throughout the course of the season. Sure, he could ease up on 50-50 balls, but that’s not the way Allen Thomas Craig plays baseball. The Cardinals gave him the five year extension because he not only plays the game at a high level, but he also plays it the right way–the Cardinal Way.

In conclusion, do I want Adams’ bat in the lineup every day for a full season? You bet I do. However, I do not want it at the expense of Craig’s health. With Beltran gone, the Cardinals will ask even more from Craig next season. They need 550+ plate appearances from him. Can he get that while playing right-field all season? Yes, he could, but I like his chances of reaching that number much more if he played most of his games at first.

Obviously, if set-backs occur with Taveras or he doesn’t perform the way the organization would like early in the season, this post won’t mean much. Yet, I still figured it was exploring because if he does perform the way many scouts believe he can, he will be an ideal fit in right-field for the long-term.

I leave you with this. The 2014 ZiPS projections for Craig, Adams, and Taveras from ESPN’s Dan Szymborski. These only include offensive statistics, which wasn’t really the main point of this article, but I still figured they were worthy of being included in the post.

2014ZiPS

I would love to hear your thoughts on the topic. Feel free to include them in the comments section below.

Until next time…

Joe

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

2014 MLB Draft: 5 Prospects to Watch (Part 3)

Photo Credit: PerfectGame.org

Photo Credit: PerfectGame.org

With the St. Louis Cardinals pretty much done with their big moves this offseason, it has been pretty quiet for Cardinal Nation of late. Because of this, I decided it was a perfect time to bring you my third edition of prospects to watch for the 2014 MLB Draft. If you missed Part 1, you can find it here, and if you missed Part 2, then here you go.

With both of the Cardinals picks later in the first round, I decided to forego talking about any of the “lottery prospects” per se. No need to get fans hyped up about a player that will almost certainly be unavailable by the time it’s the Cardinals turn. Now, I realize I wrote about some top prospects in previous posts, but that’s merely because I saw some mock drafts that had them falling back to later in the draft.

1. Derek Hill (OF)
High School: Elk Grove HS, CA

I am taking a look at Hill because in Bleacher Report’s latest mock draft, they have the Cardinals selecting him with their 31st pick.

According to a Baseball America post from last summer, Hill has top-class speed–both on the base paths and in the field. Based on the numbers (~6.4 second 60-yard-dash and 3.9-4.1 seconds from home to first), he would probably already be at the top of the organization in terms of outfield range–a welcoming sight given the Cardinals’ 2013 range in center field. His arm is slightly above average which further cements him as one of the best defensive center fielders in the draft.

Want video proof of his range? Check out this clip from YouTube. What a dazzling play–the play of the tournament.

At the plate, this 6’1″ 175 pound righty packs quite the gap-to-gap punch. According to Baseball America, he has a short compact stroke, and he “rarely swings and misses.” A right-handed bat with speed who rarely swings and misses? Who doesn’t like the sound of that?
_____________________________________

2. Cobi Johnson (RHP)
High School: JW Mitchell HS, FL

Like Hill, I chose to write about Johnson because another site had the Cardinals selecting him in their mock draft. According to a post from Baseball America, this 6’4″ righty delivers quite a downward plane on his pitches despite having just a three-quarters arm slot. He is a quick and efficient worker who pitches to contact, but is also able to strike guys out when he needs to–largely due his deceptive arm motion.

His fastball ranges from 89-91 MPH with late downward movement, but like Michael Wacha, it will likely increase as he develops his pitches and grows into his 6’4″ frame. His father, Dane Johnson, is a former major league pitcher known for his curveball. Well, like father like son, Cobi has quite the curveball of his own (check out the 38 second mark of that video for proof). Professional baseball is in his genes, and as a student of the game that is still growing physically, his future is very bright.
_____________________________________

3. Kodi Medeiros (LHP)
High School: Waiakea HS, HI

Through the Fence Baseball has the Cardinals selecting lefty Medeiros in their latest mock draft. His profile on Perfect Game says it all, “Can flat out pitch! Unhittable and up to 95 at PG AA. Excellent breaking ball. Impressed at WWBA World Championship.” Need I say more?

This lefty has an unorthodox motion (three-quarters dropping down to side-arm at times) with two plus pitches already in his arsenal. His fastball touches 95-96 MPH (watch his pitch sequence starting at 1:12 of that video…nasty!) and his sharp slider basically renders lefthanders useless at the plate. At just 6’0″, there are some doubts of his projectability as a big league starter, but with his devastating stuff that you cannot teach, the Cardinals would surely find a way to develop him. They seem to be pretty good at developing young pitchers don’t they?
_____________________________________

4. Braxton Davidson (1B/OF)
High School: TC Roberson HS, NC

Baseball Draft Report has the Cardinals selecting Davidson in their latest mock draft. At 6’3″, 220 pounds, this left-handed bat has very good power potential. He’s got one of the most powerful swings in the draft that can be seen in this video (start watching video around the 1:35 mark).

According to Baseball America, when Davidson makes contact, “the ball makes a different sound than that of other players as it explodes off his bat.” In a showcase over the summer in Minnesota, he deposited two long home run balls into the upper deck of the Metrodome. He admits that he swings and misses too much, but with time and development, I am sure he can cut back on this.

I have not seen many defense reports about him which isn’t necessarily a good or bad thing. I have seen videos of him in the outfield and at first base, and it looks like he can handle both positions relatively well. However, like I made clear, he is known much more for his bat than his glove.
_____________________________________

5. Taylor Sparks (3B/1B/OF)
College: UC Irvine

Baseball America has him ranked 50th on their October MLB Draft preview. He led the Collegiate Team USA in hitting this summer. He can play either corner infield spot and probably has the power to project as a corner outfielder as well. Unfortunately, I couldn’t really find many reports on him nor any good videos. However, if Baseball America ranks him in their top 50, he is definitely worth keeping an eye on. He will likely be playing his last collegiate season this spring for the UC Irvine Anteaters.

There you have it. Five more prospects for your reading/following pleasure. I now have taken a look at 15 MLB Draft prospects. With the Cardinals having two picks in the first round, let’s hope that one of the fifteen gets their name called by St. Louis so we know a little bit about them before draft day.

Until next time…

Joe

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

Baseball Chat with ESPN’s Dan Szymborski

ESPN-Red-Logo-large

It has been a while since I had a baseball post on here, and I really do apologize for that. Between school (final exams are next week) and the SEC Championship game (if only Mizzou’s defense had showed up), baseball had been on the back burner somewhat. However, to make it up to you, I was able to score a pretty informative baseball chat with one of ESPN’s top baseball writers, Dan Szymborski.

The first three questions involve specific sabermetric statistics. As a fan and a blogger, I always wanted to know what statistics sabermetricians looked at first when breaking down players’ numbers. I realize they look at many more statistics than just one, but as fans, our minds are not always able to grasp the depth behind some of these statistics. Thus, I asked him his “go-to” statistic for the three major aspects of the game–hitting, pitching, and defense. I will now use these more in future blogs, and I hope you all will use them to better analyze players’ numbers as well.

I followed with three questions involving the St. Louis Cardinals–one about Jhonny Peralta, one about the team going into 2014, and one about Carlos Martinez/Michael Wacha. I concluded the Q&A with a question about his job and any advice he would give to fans who take a look at statistics themselves.

stlCupofJoeHitting: What is your single, go-to, most-inclusive statistic when comparing hitters?
Dan Szymborski: I’m at risk of being declared an apostate and being thrown of the fraternity, but OPS+ is still an easy go-to statistic. It gets you most of the way there, it’s conceptually easy to grasp, and it’s been available and used for the right time. Communicating sabermetric ideas doesn’t necessarily mean the exact, most absolutely accurate, statistic.

stlCupofJoePitching: What is your go-to statistic when comparing pitchers? (Let’s stick to just starting pitchers here)
Dan SzymborskiFIP. Most predictive basic stat, though ERA+ for a more general audience.

stlCupofJoeFielding: With DRS, UZR, UZR/150, RF/9 innings, etc., what is your go-to when comparing fielders?
Dan Szymborski: If forced to choose one, it would be Sean Smith’s Total Zone, simply because we have those numbers historically. Now, I like to blend UZR/DRS and regress toward the mean.

stlCupofJoe: What is your opinion of the Jhonny Peralta deal for the Cardinals? 
Dan Szymborski: I’m a big fan of the Peralta signing. It was a gaping hole for the Cardinals last season, one I didn’t think they had the proper motivation to fix, but they proved me wrong. The Cardinals are in WS Contention – it’s not smart for them to sort through guys like Greg Garcia and gamble on who works out.

stlCupofJoe: In YOUR opinion, compare this year’s Cardinals (I realize some more deals may be made) going into the season to last year’s team. Which one is in a better position, projection-wise?
Dan Szymborski: I think they’re a better team, as frightening as that may be to the rest of the NL. Remember, they only got 9 starts from Michael Wacha during the regular season and a whole lot of starts from the Great Kozmandias (Look on his bat, ye Mighty, and despair). And they’re not even a million years old, there’s enough youth to cancel out possible age-related decline from Matt Holliday or a little regression from Yadi Molina.

stlCupofJoe: A little projecting here, given full health (fingers crossed), which young phenom projects the best as a starter? Carlos Martinez or Michael Wacha.
Dan Szymborski: Michael Wacha. Already *having* success in the majors is a big boost to future expectations. We’ve already seen Wacha be able to get major league hitters out consistently as a starter. We *believe* Martinez has a high chance of doing so, but he hasn’t done it yet.

stlCupofJoe: What’s your favorite part of your job working over at ESPN?
Dan Szymborski: The getting paid to write baseball part! I would’ve been quite surprised to be told 20 years ago that I would be a baseball writer for ESPN and not working a really boring job at a bank or an investment firm.

stlCupofJoe: What’s one message you would like to tell fans who try to make sense of all the statistics involved in baseball?
Dan Szymborski: The most important part of using stats is learning when *not* to use each particular stat. There are a lot of people out there that, while interested in modern baseball stats, don’t quite get the benefits and downsides of each of those statistics.

Thank you so much for the time, Dan. It means a lot.

Give Dan a follow on Twitter: @DSzymborski

Until next time…

Joe

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

Unfair to Judge Kolten Wong Based on 2013 Performance

Photo Credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images

Photo Credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images

With the trade of David Freese to the Los Angeles Angels, the second base starting job appears to belong to Kolten Wong going into the 2014 season. Wait, for real?! But he hit just .153 and had an on-base percentage less than .200 last season! He struck out in nearly 20% of his plate appearances and had only one extra base hit! What are the Cardinals thinking? Trading away the hometown hero in order to free up space for a rookie that looked completely over-matched at the plate last season. Sheesh!

To be blunt, judging Wong’s hitting performance during his short stint with the Cardinals last season is unfair. Completely unfair. 59 at-bats with 25% of them occurring in the pinch-hitting role is not enough to get a grasp of Wong’s ability at the plate. To be frank, Wong didn’t even have enough time to get used to big league pitching in so few at-bats with a good amount of them coming from off the bench.

Thus, I will battle the small sample size argument many have against Wong with a small sample size rebuttal of my own. Hypocritical? Sure, but with 59 total major league at-bats to choose from, it is the best I can do at this time. Soon after his call-up, from August 18th through August 20th, Wong received three straight starts and performed quite well. To be honest, I don’t know why this performance didn’t merit more starts down the stretch. He had five hits in 14 at-bats (.357 batting average) with two runs scored and three stolen bases in as many attempts.

Wong has hit at every level in his minor league career. Last year for Triple-A Memphis, Wong had 412 at-bats and hit .303 with 21 doubles, eight triples, 10 home runs, and 45 RBIs. Had had a solid .369 on-base percentage and was 20/21 on stolen bases. Wong’s average minor league season since being drafted two and a half years ago? .301 batting average with 24 doubles, seven triples, 10 home runs, and 50 RBIs. That’s a sign of quality bat that I cannot wait to see get regular plate appearances at the big league level.

Defense and Base-Running:

With Wong in the starting lineup, the team is better both on defense and on the base paths. Despite not being called up until mid-August, Wong was fifth on the team in stolen bases with three. He averaged 20 stolen bases per season in the minors which would have been 10 more than the highest on the Cardinals this season.

Though Matt Carpenter performed admirably at second base this season, Wong is the better defender at the position. Unlike Carpenter, second is Wong’s natural defensive position. This past season, he was voted the best defensive second baseman in the Pacific Coast League (Triple-A)–an honor voted on by the managers. In the big leagues, his UZR/150 was 16.3 while Carpenter’s was -2.0. I know I made a case against small sample sizes earlier in this post, but I am a firm believer that a prospect’s glove carries over to the big leagues much more quickly than his bat, so this is a good sign.

Also, by Wong taking over at second base, it can move Carpenter back over to his natural position of third base. Carpenter’s UZR/150 at third base is 4.7, while Freese’s was a dismal -4.8. Thus, by having Wong at second and Carpenter back at third, 2014’s infield defense is already much better than last year’s–to a tune of 27.8 UZR/150. This will be especially important due to the decline in defense with Jhonny Peralta at short instead of Pete Kozma.

Finally, if you believe in projections (and I know a lot of people do not), Steamer of Fangraphs projects Wong to hit .269 with 26 doubles, five triples, eight home runs, 57 RBIs, and 16 stolen bases next season. This is a solid season for the rookie, and it shows the statisticians believe in his ability despite last season’s poor performance.

In conclusion, will Wong have a breakout performance at the plate like Carpenter did in 2013? Probably not, but the combination of having Wong at second and Carpenter at third will make the Cardinals much better at the plate, in the field, and on the base paths than they were this season.

I cannot wait to see more defensive plays like this gem from Game 3 of the World Series.

Until next time…

Joe

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

P.S. I just noticed that the great Bernie Miklasz published an article of his own on Wong just a couple hours before this one, but I want to assure you that I had this post in mind long before I saw that he wrote one.

A Look at the Cost-Effectiveness of John Mozeliak and the St. Louis Cardinals

Photo Credit: Chris Lee (Post Dispatch)

Photo Credit: Chris Lee (Post Dispatch)

For this post, I will revisit the statistic/measure I used in my Matt Holliday post back in September$/WAR. However, I will be applying it to teams instead of just individual players. If you have not already read my Holliday post, the link is provided above, but I will explain the premise behind the statistic here anyway.

In short, a team pays a player to provide wins above what a replacement-level player will provide to the team. Thus, how much does each team pay for the WAR provided by its players on their payroll? Basically, a lower $/WAR is desired because it means that the team is getting the most out of their players at the right price and in other words, they are paying less per win above replacement.

As an aside, I know that there is a statistic out there for “Team WAR,” but for the sake of this post, I simply added up every players’ individual WAR and made this the team’s “combined player WAR.” Then to find each team’s $/WAR, I divided each team’s 2013 payroll (per Baseball Prospectus) by their “combined player WAR.”

Well, John Mozeliak is pretty darn good at what he does, but upon further review, how does he compare to some of the other general managers around the league? If I had more time, I would have compared the Cardinals to every single team, but unfortunately, as a student, I do not. Thus, I compared the Cardinals to the Red Sox, Dodgers, Angels, Rays, Athletics, and the Nationals.

I picked the Red Sox since they are the World Series Champions, and I wanted to see how the Cardinals stacked up against them. I picked the Angels because I think their General Manager, Jerry Dipoto, makes some really silly moves. I picked the Dodgers because they have the highest payroll in baseball, and then I picked the last three at the request of some of my followers on Twitter.

St. Louis Cardinals: $2.88 million per WAR
2013 Payroll: $116,505,000
Combined Player WAR: 40.4

Sounds like a lot doesn’t it? $2.88 million spent to get one win above replacement? To be honest, I thought so too.

Boston Red Sox: $2.54 million per WAR
2013 Payroll: $150,655,000
Combined Player WAR: 59.3 WAR

Los Angeles Dodgers: $5.23 million per WAR
2013 Payroll: $223,126,072
Combined Player WAR: 42.7 WAR

Los Angeles Angels: $3.82 million per WAR
2013 Payroll: $141,039,107
Combined Player WAR: 36.9 WAR

Tampa Bay Rays: $1.33 million per WAR
2013 Payroll: $61,928,975
Combined Player WAR: 46.7

Oakland Athletics: $1.39 million per WAR
2013 Payroll: $61,964,500
Combined Player WAR: 44.5

Washington Nationals: $3.25 million per WAR
2013 Payroll: $118,289,679
Combined Player WAR: 36.4

As you can see, the Cardinals did pretty well. They were fourth on the list, but this list included low-payroll teams like the Rays and the Athletics, so they obviously faced some stiff competition. Teams with lower payrolls have a better chance at having a lower $/WAR than teams with higher payrolls as long as their players produce solid WAR’s. Both the Athletics and Rays prove this by having such a low $/WAR and the fact that both made the playoffs in 2013.

It’s pretty fitting that the Red Sox were more “cost-effective” than the Cardinals despite having almost $35 million more on their payroll. After all, they did beat the Cardinals in the World Series, so they had to be pretty cost-effective in 2013, especially compared to their flawed 2012 roster.

The Dodgers made the NLCS in 2013, which can be considered a very successful season. However, it took them $5.23 million per win above replacement. This is nearly four times as much as it cost both the Rays and the Athletics, and over 2 million more per WAR than Mozeliak and the Cardinals.

Despite having the 6th highest payroll in baseball, the Angels finished six games under five hundred and 18 games back from the American League West Champion Athletics. Why? Because Jerry Dipoto has made some questionable signings in his career with the Angels. In 2013, he paid Joe Blanton $6.5 million for -0.4 WAR and Jered Weaver $16.2 million for 2.4 WAR. For perspective, Lance Lynn made just $513,000 in 2013 while providing 3.3 WAR for the Cardinals. Josh Hamilton made $17.4 million and only had a 1.9 WAR. Finally, Albert Pujols made $16 million and only had a 0.7 WAR.

Enough with the discussion of other teams, this is a Cardinal blog after all. Let’s take a closer look at the Cardinals. In 2013, the Cardinals best value came from the infield. They only paid $1.62 million per WAR, and this includes Furcal’s $7.5 million that contributed 0 WAR. Without Furcal, the Cardinals’ infield would have cost an incredible $882,000 per WAR–largely due to Matt Carpenter‘s breakout season.

How about the pitchers? They cost $3.26 million per WAR. Take Jason Motte‘s $4.5 million and Chris Carpenter‘s $10.5 million out of the equation, they would have cost only $2.37 million per WAR. The catchers? $2.94 million per WAR. Though Yadier Molina had a 5.6 WAR, the backups both had negative WAR’s, Tony Cruz at -0.2 and Rob Johnson at -0.3.

Finally, the outfielders. With two big-money contracts in Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran, one would expect this to be the highest $/WAR on the team, and it was, but because of how good Holliday and Beltran were, it wasn’t by much. The outfield cost the Cardinals $3.42 million per WAR.

The least cost-effective position for the Cardinals last season was the outfield. This will likely change in 2013 with high-priced Beltran leaving via free agency. Peter Bourjos will receive just over the league minimum at $512,500, Jon Jay will make a little over $3 million, and Allen Craig is set to make $2.75 million. I wouldn’t be surprised if the outfield is the most cost-effective position for the Cardinals next season–especially if Oscar Taveras is finally able to make an impact with the big league club.

With Jhonny Peralta set to make $13 million and the likelihood of Matt Carpenter not performing quite as well as he did in 2013, I expect the infield to be slightly less “cost-effective” next season.

There you have it, a pretty in-depth breakdown of teams’ payrolls and the subsequent value that their players provide. Don’t get me wrong, Mozeliak is a terrific GM, one of the best in the business, but I hope this post showed, via statistical data, how good some other GMs are as well–namely Billy Beane (of the A’s) and Andrew Friedman (of the Rays).

I really hope you enjoyed this piece because it took quite some time to produce. If you know of other Cardinal fans that may be interested in this piece, feel free to share it with them!

Until next time…

Joe

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

Credits:
WAR statistics were retrieved from Fangraphs.com and the payroll numbers came from Baseball Prospectus. Please give or take 5% on some of my calculations due to the complexity and variation amongst some of the data.