Tag Archive | "Best Player"

Picking the Biggest Bird on Bat isn’t Easy

Picking the best player in a particular league is never an easy task, but picking who is the most meaningful Cardinal is arguably and even tougher one. Between Yadier Molina, Matt Carpenter and Allen Craig, the team has three very viable MVP candidates, all of which could make a claim for the real deal by season’s end.

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More so than any other team in baseball, the Cardinals lean on the total team approach at the plate. There’s no one contributor that’s leaned on to carry the weight of the club individually. This delegation of responsibility is what makes determining just who’s the most valuable portion of the lineup that much more difficult this season. Even with the contributions of Carlos Beltran and Adam Wainwright, it is a three headed race for who is the Cardinals’ biggest regular impact this year. Each has been an irreplaceable catalyst in the timeliest lineup in baseball.

The Glue: The favorite in the clubhouse for most of the season has been Molina, and with good reason. The perennial Gold Glover and face of the organization has had his finest summer to date, on the heels of a 2012 season that carried that same honor. While his league-best (…) average is the most noticeable headline of his year, without a doubt he is perhaps the best intangibles player in the game today. He has guided the club’s young pitching staff to an outstanding year thus far, and has continued to change the way that teams approach attacking the Cardinals on the bases. In terms of most differences made, it is tough to make a case against Yadi.

The Catalyst: However, the biggest change in the team came when Carpenter truly took off out of the leadoff spot, solving a long-standing uncertainty for the club. And he the windfall of his production has spread throughout the entirety of the lineup beneath him. He leads all National Leaguers in doubles (31) and runs scored (75), while his 120 hits come in at second in the league as well.

While he is not the traditional leadoff man in a speed sense, the most important job of a lineup lead is to get on base, and he has that down pat. His .399 on-base percentage is the best on the club, and third best in the NL, and since moving up to the order in May, his .410 OBP has been the second best mark in the NL overall.

For a guy that started the calendar year with a new glove at a position he’d never played exclusively in his life, to find himself in his first All-Star Game just six months later, his impact combined with growth has been the most remarkable transformation the club has seen in years.

The Wrench: Craig’s impact has been predictable in a situation where it shouldn’t be. Simply put, he’s the most dependable player in baseball at the absolute best time to be that. While his 77 RBI overall are impressive, the fact that 67 have come with runners in scoring position is unreal. The batting average he carries in this position is a surreal .489 this year, which is nearly 50 points better than next most efficient producer in the situation. Digging even deeper into his clutch prowess, with runners in scoring position and two outs, Craig has produced 30 of his 77 runs driven in and carries a .467 average as well.

Timely hitting has been the Cardinals calling card, as they carry a .338 average as a team with runners waiting to be driven in, but Craig’s efforts go over and above. It’s truly one of the most efficiently productive years in recent history.

In the end, it is very possible that Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt, Colorado’s Carlos Gonzalez or another rising candidate from a contender takes the MVP crown for himself completely. It is also possible that another situation such as took place around the Cy Young Award in 2010, Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter cancelled each other out on the ballots, takes place and knocks each Cardinal down a notch. However, regardless of outcome, 2013 has plenty of potential to go down as one of the finest overall efforts of any offering the franchise has put forth, across the board. Where everybody gets their due…yet nobody can claim too much credit.

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Grading the Cardinals at the Half

To say the first half of the season for the Cardinals was good would be a gross understatement; they set a club record for first half wins and go into the break with the best record in the National League. Yet, to get to this point, it took a complete effort from not just the organizational mainstays, but also a coming of age of the youth movement throughout the entire organization.

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Arizona Diamondbacks

Overall, 38 players have worn the birds on bat at some point during the year, including six All-Stars and a club-record 12 rookies, already. But in the end, the parts create the sum, and here is the rank of the how each portion of the club played into the first half, 1-38.

  1. Yadier Molina: Basically, he’s the best player on the club because he’s been the best player in the league as well. He’s leading the National League in hitting, as masterfully directed the Cardinal staff to a club record in first half wins.
  2. Adam Wainwright: With a NL-best 12 wins and top 5 totals in strikeouts and ERA as well. Waino is having his finest year, and would have been a legitimate candidate for adding a third Cardinal All-Star starter, if he was eligible.
  3. Matt Carpenter: The team’s offense took off when Carpenter was moved to the top of the lineup in May. He is leading the National League in doubles with 28 and runs with 72, and has hit over .320 since moving to the leadoff spot.
  4. Allen Craig: The RBI machine is up to his same tricks from last year, coming in second in the league with 73. He’s been the biggest part of the Cardinal assault with runners on base, with an insane .480 average with runners in scoring position.
  5. Carlos Beltran: If it is his farewell tour, it’s a greatest hits collection for sure. Headed into his 8th All-Star team, he’s the only Cardinal to top .300, with 15 home runs and 50 RBI, and among only five NL outfielders to meet the level overall.
  6. Edward Mujica: Last season’s seventh inning fireman moved back to the ninth with the same results. He cashed in on his first 22 save opportunities and sits at second in the NL with 26 overall. A last second selection to the All-Star Game to “replace” Wainwright was made his late Sunday night.
  7. Trevor Rosenthal: He’s settled in as the club’s eight inning stopper nicely, striking out 65 in just over 43 innings on the season, and posting 22 holds, second in the NL.
  8. Shelby Miller: The rookie righty has exceeded expectations in many ways in an equally young season. He leads all rookies in wins (9) and strikeouts (112).
  9. Matt Holliday: His totals have not been up to the accustomed levels he’s set over the years, but his 47 RBI and 13 home runs keep him at the heart of Cardinal production. If injuries don’t curb his second half much, he’ll be in range for his usual total of 90+ RBI.
  10. Lance Lynn: He’s posted another typical Lynn effort: upheld leads and racked up the wins (11), in a somewhat up and down effort. But he’s been consistent and is on pace to yet again push close to 20 wins.
  11. Matt Adams: The odd man out has made the best of his opportunities. He’s punched out seven home runs in just over 120 at-bats and 40% of his hits have been of the extra base variety.
  12. Jake Westbrook: An injury interrupted what was off to a phenomenal first half for Westbrook, but he has posted a 2.88 ERA across 12 starts and has continued to steady the boat around the up and down young starters.
  13. Jon Jay: His bat has been down tremendously this year, but his defense has stayed top tier. He set a Cardinal record with his 227th consecutive errorless game. He’s been a nomad in the lineup, but has shown life over the last few weeks.
  14. Seth Maness: More credit should be paid to what Maness brought to the club for half of the season thus far. He’s won five games out of the bullpen, but not of the vulture variety: he’s been a seventh inning fireman, producing nine double plays in 30 innings.
  15. David Freese: He’s off to his toughest start at the plate in his career. His numbers are down across the board, and health has been an up and down battle again, but he hasn’t shown much life in his swing this season.
  16. Pete Kozma: The value of Kozma has continued to be debated, but for what it is worth, he’s been what he was supposed to be: a solid glove, with an adequate (at times) bat. Not too great, not too bad.
  17. Randy Choate: He’s been exactly what he’s supposed to be as well: a situational lefty that does what he’s called on to do, and that’s win matchups. Left handers are hitting .202 against him.
  18. Daniel Descalso: The idea of him being in a platoon with Matt Carpenter was put to sleep quickly by no fault of his own, but he’s done well around the infield where needed and has rediscovered his swing as well, hitting .275 on the year.
  19. Kevin Siegrist: One of the season’s biggest revelations thus far has been this hard throwing lefty. Against the former 41st round pick, batters have just three hits in 42 at-bats, an .071 average against.
  20. Jaime Garcia: He pushed out as much as he had left to make it through nine starts, but ultimately his shoulder gave out and he finally had to give in to surgery.
  21. Joe Kelly: He’s spent much of the year as a nowhere man, and there’s no guarantee that couldn’t continue again soon. But his has been willing to step up to every role asked of him, regardless of how sporadic, and it has been commendable.
  22. Michael Wacha: The hype was huge, but the result was more realistic of a guy that made it to the Majors in under a calendar year. He showed promise (1-0 record, two quality starts out of three), but needed more seasoning.
  23. Shane Robinson: The light-hitting Robinson didn’t bring his huge spring bat with him to St. Louis, but has continued to be a solid fill as a defender at each outfield spot.
  24. Tony Cruz: He didn’t get many opportunities to contribute early in the season, but performed well at the end of the half when Molina was injured, and stands to get more at-bats in the second half.
  25. Carlos Martinez: His talent has been too tempting for the Cardinals to leave in the minors. And they have twice brought him to the St. Louis bullpen, where he has shown why, striking out 11 in ten innings.
  26. Kevin Butler: He started off has a fill in fresh arm, but has become a very solid part of the middle of the bullpen. He’s posted a 1.98 ERA in his first 13 MLB innings.
  27. Fernando Salas: Taken out by injury and seemingly relegated to the minors since, Salas may be finding himself lost in the shuffle of young arms making their way to St. Louis.
  28. Tyler Lyons: A tale of two stories: Lyons won his first two starts after being promoted, but then lost the next three before being chased in under two innings in his final start in June and returning to Memphis.
  29. John Gast: The finesse left-hander was the first call to replace the injured Jaime Garcia, but then fell victim to a shoulder injury himself. Results were varied, return is uncertain.
  30. Michael Blazek: The promise is there (1.38 ERA in 26 games between Memphis and Springfield), but the chance for regular work hasn’t manifested yet in St. Louis.
  31. Rob Johnson: The call up when Ty Wigginton was let go, and he made the best of his return to the Majors in a hurry, hitting a tripling and scoring a run in his second day on the job.
  32. Ryan Jackson: He’s been among the most consistent performers in Memphis, but hasn’t gotten the call back to St. Louis since the second series of the season.
  33. Mark Rzepczynski: Was too hittable, and really replaceable to hold off the brimming young arms in the Cardinal system, and hasn’t done much to regain favor since being demoted in May (44 hits, and 15 walks in 41 innings in Memphis).
  34. Ty Wigginton: The season’s biggest reach consequently his biggest headlines when he was signed, and then released. The Cardinals waved the white flag on Wigginton after he showed, well, not much at all.
  35. Victor Marte: The Triple-A mainstay didn’t show much in his brief return to St. Louis again this season (6.00 ERA spread across four games).
  36. Jermaine Curtis: Two spot plate appearances don’t equal much, coming or going, for Curtis.
  37. Maikel Cleto: The Brendan Ryan era completely came to an end when Cleto, the return for him three years ago, was released in June.
  38. Mitchell Boggs: One of the most rapid and remarkable falls from grace was Boggs’, which saw him fall from closer to two unceremonious exiles to the minors, and eventually a trade for the rights to spend more freely in the international market down the road. No one had a rougher year than Boggs did, in barely three months time.

 

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How to be an Educated All Star Voter and a Loyal Hometown Fan (Part 1)

First Base and Second Base

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Fans take different philosophies when it comes to voting for the All-Star game. Some are complete homers. Your player can be worthless in every form of evaluation imaginable, and you will still vote for him over the player from the rival team who is on pace to shatter every single-season record set. The inverse of that is the fan who combs every stat to pick the best player, even diving in obscure stats to find the tie-breaking advantage. The second group will question the first group’s knowledge of the game; the first group will call the second group sociopaths.

So this article asks the questions: can you be both an educated viewer and a homer? Is there a margin of error where players can fall into that then allows you to pick your player? And what is that margin of error.

I’m going to use WAR (fangraph) to help decide. And since both this article and every position is subjective, I’m going to go through the positions and help decide how acceptable vs criminal it would be to vote for the Cardinal/Royal at that position. It’d be too easy to say “the margin of error is 0.5 WAR, now everyone have a good day.” And not nearly as fun.

I posed the question to some of my friends recently, and though none of them outright said they will vote for their player just because he is their player, they found ways to logically come up with that conclusion. And some just outright stated that the All Star game isn’t important and is a popularity contest to start with (even though it stupidly does count, thanks Selig).

Some fans just vote for whoever they’ve heard of, regardless of what’s going on with them. Like that year Nomar led the vote even though he was on the DL. Or there’s ballot stuffing in San Francisco. So the game is viewed as king of a joke by some to start with. But this is about you, the educated fan, and how you can partake in the game, and still hold your head up high as both an educated fan and a loyal Cardinals and/or Royals fan.

FIRST BASE

Royals: Eric Hosmer – .272/.331/.359. WAR: 0.3

Hosmer is actually not having that bad of a season, since he’s getting on base at a fairly consistent rate. It’s just his slugging is so pathetically low. His ability to take walks is similar to last year, but his higher average this year has kicked up his ops to an almost respectable number.

AL Leader: Chris Davis – .335/.414/.697/. WAR: 3.7

Davis is a monster having a monstrous season. It’s just insane. He’s leading everyone, including Prince Fielder, by at least a million votes. And it’s especially impressive since he’s pretty new to the scene (at least in terms of name recognition).

If you vote for Hosmer: COMPLETELY UNACCEPTABLE. In fact, voting for anyone except Davis is unacceptable. If you were to vote for Hosmer, you could maybe justify it by claiming this may be an outlier year for Davis, but in that case your vote should probably default to Fielder, not Hosmer. Maybe you can say that Hosmer was a top prospect, and he’ll put it together eventually (???), so you want him to represent the AL. Otherwise, I’d just leave this one alone.

Cardinals: Allen Craig – .313/.357/.458. WAR: 0.7

Craig has an incredibly low WAR for having a pretty impressive slash, due to poor fielding and base running metrics. He’s currently 3rd in the voting behind Votto and Goldschmidt.

NL Leader: Joey Votto – .318/.437/.498. WAR: 2.9. It’s basically a coin toss between Votto and Goldie. I vote Votto since Goldschmidt is more than likely playing over his head. I think he may be an improved player, but not this improved.

If you vote for Craig: MILDLY UNACCEPTABLE. If you go by offensive numbers alone, Votto has him beat. Though you can maybe say it’s within a margin of error of being a homer. But if you add the other metrics in, it’s not much of a competition. However, the offensive numbers are close enough that I can understand why someone would vote Craig. A narrative that further favors for Craig is the amount of RBIs he has. Craig has 51 versus Votto’s 33 (Goldschmidt has 59 though). If you look at RBIs (and you probably shouldn’t), I can see that edge. But those numbers are probably more due to the fact that Craig has the on base machine Matt Carpenter hitting in front of him, while Votto has Zack Cozart.

 

SECOND BASE

Royals: Chris Getz – .212/.273/.288 (wow). WAR: 0.0

I like Elliot Johnson more than Getz starting. But both aren’t exactly impressive options though. Getz is the kind of player who occasionally has okay games, and it causes a distraction and takes focus off that he isn’t good. Having him anywhere near the All Star Game seems like a travesty.

AL Leader: Robinson Cano – .278/.350/.511. WAR: 3.0

Cano is leading Pedro by almost a million votes, but Pedroia is arguably putting up similar numbers at .319/.401/.436 WAR: 2.7. But The Yanks and Sox can duke out their rivalry at second base and feel safe they will have no threat coming from KC.

If you vote for Getz: WORDS CANNOT EXPLAIN HOW UNACCEPTABLE THAT IS. Like there literally is no justification. Besides you are just a homer and don’t care about having the best player out there. If you want to be respected and not called a homer when you maybe vote for Salvy Perez at Catcher (we’ll get to that later), then this is the bone you throw to people who criticize you. You say, “yeah but at least I didn’t vote for Getz at Second.”

Cardinals: Matt Carpenter – .320/.405/.467. WAR: 3.5 (wow again)

Carpenter is having a monster year so far. Great average, getting on base like crazy, and hitting lots of extra base hits. Add that to the fact that Matheny is using him very wisely in the lineup, and it’s really allowing Carpenter to live up to his full potential. He’s not a household name yet, but with more seasons like what he’s doing this year, he will be soon.

NL Leader: Brandon Phillips – .278/.330/.444. WAR: 1.7.

Phillips is honsestly having a fairly average year offensively. His WAR is elevated by his base running and stellar defense. Not only is he paling in comparison to Carpenter offensively, but is also trailing Marco Scutaro in offensive numbers. Name recognition is helping him to a great degree.

If you vote for Carpenter: COMPLETELY ACCEPTABLE AND ABSOLUTELY ENCOURAGED. This is the time that being a homer is needed. When you are a homer, you may know of a player having a good year and the national media hasn’t quite caught up yet. Carpenter is that guy. It’s kind of crazy how good he’s beien and how much better he is than the competition. The argument can be made, I suppose, that taking the players career in consideration is okay, which would bode in Phillips favor. But even with that in his corner, Carpenter is your man.

Next up: Shortstop and Third base

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Oscar Mercado: A Regression in Drafting Philosophy?

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The philosophy for the Cardinals while drafting under Jeff Luhnow was always “best player available”. Don’t worry necessarily about specific needs or who is already filling what position on the big league club, but rather create a good problem by having too many players for a certain position. That has created situations where The Cards have both Allen Craig and Matt Adams ready to be big league starters at first. And the idea that it’ll all work itself out was exemplified with the transition of Matt Carpenter to second base, where his fielding has been adequate (enough) and allowed that impressive bat to hit lead-off.

But the philosophy of drafting for need may have permeated itself back into the Cardinals since the departure of Luhnow. I want to focus on the Cardinals 2nd round pick (57th overall), Oscar Mercado. The Cardinals chose Mercado, possibly with pressure to fill the need they have at SS with underachieving Pete Kozma filling the role now and uncertain Ryan Jackson in the minors. Mercado, who was ranked relatively high by Baseball America, was selected over other players who they even ranked higher (and from some analysts and scouts, they believe Baseball America ranked him too high.) Higher ranked players available at the time of Mercado being drafted included RHP Bobby Wahl, RHP Alex Balog and LHP Hunter Green.

Every report on Mercado states he provides basically no offense at all. The 2nd round seems to be awfully high to select a player solely on defense. He is stated as being able to possibly develop a “solid swing” that could lead to high-average, though minorleagueball.com states he COULD, with added strength, have a slash line up .280/.330/.400. But that is implied to be a ceiling for Mercado.

What else is troubling is the contention Mercado is highly overrated at defense. Scouting reports will comment on his skill at defense, including a recent  Post-Dispatch article which quotes from the scouting report at BA claiming him to be a “smooth, fluid defender whose glove will give him a chance to survive as a pro while his bat develops and strength catches up.” But his abilities has been questioned by other writers and scouts who have seen him in person, including Keith Law, who wrote:

Shortstop Oscar Mercado from Gaither HS in Tampa was similarly disappointing when I saw him over the weekend, playing a low-energy game on Saturday that featured two throwing errors to first on routine ground balls and a sloppy uppercut swing that helped him work his way out of hitters’ counts in two of his trips to the plate.

Mercado’s reputation in this draft is that he’s one of the only shortstops who is a lock to stay there, but he didn’t show the hands or the arm for that on Saturday and he certainly didn’t show the effort level, even in pregame warm-ups. He looked better last summer, but another scout who’s seen Mercado this spring said what I saw was representative of his showing so far this spring.” 

2nd Round picks do not always transfer to good major league players, in fact they rarely do. Looking at the Card’s 2nd round picks during the 2000s, with the exception of Dan Haren, who was an all-star pitcher, most of the others never made it up or just had a cup of coffee in the majors. But I fear the draft of a shortstop who is only optimistically projected to have an OPS barely over .700 due to absolutely no slugging, is a predetermined destiny to begin with. And when you add possible holes at defense, which is his strength, it may all signal to a regressive philosophy of drafting on needs and desperation in spite of talent.

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St. Louis Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak might be best in MLB

In just four years, St. Louis Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak has done just about everything an organization could ask out of that position, and he has done it in steady, yet stunning fashion.

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Mozeliak was promoted to the general manager position in 2008 after the Cardinals fired long-time GM Walt Jocketty, who had helped lead the organization through one of its most successful stretches in team history.

Since, Mozeliak took a team that was in the midst of a two-year hiatus from the playoffs and helped turn it into a team that has won a World Series and made the playoffs in three of the last four seasons despite losing arguably the best player in the game, Albert Pujols, at the end of 2011.

Mozeliak made some shrewd moves to reach that success, and he took avenues that weren’t necessarily glamorous, but they were vitally important to the success of the Cardinals.

For example, the only big signing he’s made since taking over as general manager was the seven-year, $120-million contract he gave Matt Holliday after trading for him midway through the 2009 season. Other than that, Mozeliak has deftly made trades that didn’t make major headlines, but paid off huge for the team in the long run.

In one of his first moves, Mozeliak traded Jim Edmonds to the San Diego Padres leading up to the 2008 season, and the Cardinals received a minor leaguer by the name of David Freese in return. At the time it looked as though the Cardinals had given up a fan favorite at the end of his career for a player who had potential but hadn’t had a stellar minor-league career.

But Freese has gone on to hit .296 in his four seasons with the Cardinals to go along with a .345 postseason batting average that includes the most famous hits of the 2011 World Series, a ninth-inning triple in Game 6 to tie the Texas Rangers, who were one strike from winning their first championship, and an 11th-inning homerun to win the game that sent the Cardinals to their championship moment the next evening.

Mozeliak has also added a great mix of veterans and young players. He signed Lance Berkman and Carlos Beltran in back-to-back seasons, and both had their best seasons in recent memory. But he also has developed a farm system that is cranking out big-league caliber players who are on the cusp of stardom.

In just the past two seasons, Freese, Jon Jay, Allen Craig, Jaime Garcia, Lance Lynn, Joe Kelly, Jason Motte and Trevor Rosenthal have filled critical roles for the Cardinals throughout the regular season, and in the team’s deep postseason runs.

Baseball America also recently ranked the Cardinals minor-league system as No. 1 in baseball. That is quite an honor for a system that the same organization ranked last in 2005. The organization is currently stocked with exciting prospects such as outfielder Oscar Taveras, infielder Kolten Wong and pitcher Carlos Martinez.

The combination of all of those factors is what makes Mozeliak the best general manager in baseball. He hasn’t had incredible amounts of money to throw at free agents to try and buy a winning team, as so many organizations have done. The New York Yankees, Miami Marlins, Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are just a few examples.

Those teams can overcome poor decisions by throwing money at the problem. Others, such as the Toronto Blue Jays this year, trade for a bunch of high-priced talent all at once and hope it all mashes together to create a winning team.

The Cardinals don’t solely use either of those approaches, but they take pieces from each. They are an organization that has developed a near-perfect combination of developing young talent while maintaining the flexibility to add key outside pieces to the puzzle of a big-league roster. The Cardinals are sort of a balance between the Tampa Bay Rays, who rely almost solely on home-grown talent, and the big market teams that spend a ton of money.

Granted, general managers are often viewed as good or horrible based on the flexibility their owners give them. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman was viewed as a genius when the Yankees spent loads of money each offseason, but this year his reputation has taken a hit because the Yankees don’t want to spend as much money. That’s not fair, but it is something that comes along with the job.

Texas Rangers general manager Jon Daniels is probably the closest to Mozeliak in terms of his ability to build a consistent winning team without breaking the bank on free agents. The Rangers had the No. 1-ranked minor-league system in 2009 and followed it with two consecutive World Series appearances.

San Francisco Giants general manager Brian Sabean is another who does an excellent job, and Jocketty is also building a strong foundation with the Cincinnati Reds by applying the same principles he used during his successful 13-year run with the Cardinals that included seven playoff appearances and a World Series championship.

Mozeliak has taken those principles to the next level and built a team that is capable of winning a World Series now, as well as a team that should consistently compete for championships in the foreseeable future.

Given the Cardinals’ recent success and the projections that similar success lays ahead, Mozeliak deserves to be called one of the best, and quite possibly the best, general manager in Major League Baseball.

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Projecting the Royals Pitcher and Player of the Year

Each year, not matter how dreadful it is, a player and pitcher of the year is named by the Kansas City Royals. While it’s far from a scientific process, I thought it would be fun to try to project who will win that award in 2012. Now I want to be clear, this is not who should win the award. As is the case with most things the Royals do, what should happen and what will happen are not necessarily the same. Nonetheless, here are the contestants.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Alex Gordon- If this were a scientific process, Gordon would be the winner as he leads the team in WAR at 4.8. In fact, in terms of value, no one on the team is within 29% of his 4.8 WAR. After a terribly slow start to the season, Gordon now leads the majors with 47 doubles and has put together yet another spectacular defensive season. He’s quietly (at least outside of Kansas City) turned into one of the best defensive corner outfielders in the American League. Gordon also leads the team in walks and runs while placing second in hits, OBP, and triples. The negative, if there is one for Gordon, is that advanced metrics agree with the eye test that Gordon is not very clutch. In terms of advanced metrics, he is the least clutch player on the team with a clutch rating of -1.5. Furthermore, is WPA (Win Probability Added) is actually -0.5 for the season.

Billy Butler- If this was simple the award for offensive player of the year, you’d have to give it to Butler.  Butler leads the club in all three Triple Crown categories plus OBP and Slugging %. Butler’s 137 OPS+ is easily the best on the team and it really isn’t close. He’s most likely going to finish with .300/30/100 for the first time in Kansas City since Jermaine Dye in 2000. Unfortunately, this is a player of the year award and that includes defense, which would be the down side for Butler and why is WAR ranks Butler as the 4th best player on the team. The only real question with Butler is whether is offensive statistics are impressive enough to override his lack of contribution in the field. That may very well be determined by his production in the last 17 games of the season.

Alcides Escobar- If we’d gotten the type of defense we expected from Escobar this season he may just be a runaway winner. Unfortunately, he has 17 errors and seems to have regressed just a little bit in the field. Of course that may be because he’s been so focused on what has been an outstanding year at the plate. Escobar leads in the team with seven triples and 29 stolen bases, is second in batting average, and surprisingly third in OBP. WAR rates Escobar as the Royals second best player, partially because he does still add something with his glove, but mostly because there just aren’t very many shortstops that can hit like him. He has a very good chance to finish the season with a .300 average, 30 stolen bases and 40 extra base hits. No one has done that in Kansas City since Carlos Beltran in 2003.

And the winner is…

I think it ends up being Gordon if only because Dayton Moore loves to feel like he’s smart and it would make him feel like a genius to have gotten Gordon’s contract done. Butler could probably only win the award by breaking Balboni’s record which would take ten home runs over the next 17 games…not happening.

PITCHER OF THE YEAR

Kelvin Herrera- Should middle relievers really be considered? Well, WAR thinks Herrera is the best pitcher on the club, so I’d say so. In 69 appearances, Herrera has a 2.43 ERA. Depending on which site you read, he may be the (consistently) hardest thrower in all of baseball. I don’t believe the Royals have the ability to recognize a pitcher with only 4 wins and 1 save, but Herrera should win the award regardless.

Greg Holland- Holland was arguably the best closer in baseball in August, and though he’s struggled a bit down the stretch he still sports a 2.98 ERA with 13 saves in 60 appearances. Holland’s most impressive stat? He’s struck out 84 batters in just 60 innings. He probably needs a couple more saves, and no more blow ups, to win the award. One thing that may help are his six wins, at least in the Royals eyes.

Jeremy Guthrie- Do I say this tongue-in-cheek? Kind of. Guthrie has been outstanding since the Royals acquired him for Jonathan Sanchez. The club is one game over .500 since they traded for him on July 20 and they’re 7-3 in games Guthrie has started including three games in which they only scored 2 runs. Guthrie would probably need to win his last three starts and lower his ERA below 3 (currently at 3.23) to have a real shot, but it plays right into the Dayton Moore making himself look smart angle.

And the winner is…

I believe in Greg Holland so I’m going to assume he finishes the year strong and wins the award with 18+ saves and a sub-3 ERA. He may not be the most deserving pitcher but he’ll have the statistics to make the club feel better about selecting him.

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A tale of two teams

In listening to the post game press conference it is obvious something is off with this team. And Cardinals manager Mike Matheny sees it to. “You could see one team with a lot of confidence and the way they walk onto the field and the way they play the game, and I think you’re seeing a team on the other field that’s not so much,” he said following  the Cardinals’ 6-1 loss.

In today’s world, most major league teams don’t have the depth to withstand a constant rash of injuries, and the Cardinals are finding out they are no exception. With seven of their projected 25-man roster on the disabled list, the Cardinals have gone 11-19 in the last month and 6-12 in their last 18 games.

Winning just two of their last 10 series — against weaklings San Diego and Houston – they have dropped to third place in the National League Central after leading the division for much of the early part of the season.  The confidence and swagger the Cardinals showed the first month of the season is noticeably missing. And they know it.

Offensively, the team’s on-base percentage was .356 when the Cardinals were 20-11. Since they’ve gone 11-19, it has dropped to .317. A bit of this is because of the falloff of shortstop Rafael Furcal, who might have been their best player in the first month. Furcal is 0 for his last 11 and 7 for his last 46.

In the same press conference Matheny offered this nugget as well, “We have to figure out how to get it back, because we had it and it’s there and it’s in us, but right now we’re not doing it,” “We’re not showing it. Obviously wins create that confidence and that breeds more.”

Two of the Cardinals’ starting pitchers, Lance Lynn and Kyle Lohse, have a combined 15-3 record, with Lynn at 9-2. The rest of the rotation is 12-16. And that means an inconsistent bullpen is 4-11.

Some help is on the way. Matt Carpenter and Skip Schumaker both are expected to go on rehab assignments soon as they recover from oblique and hamstring ailments, respectively. Help they desperately need.

They’ve scored just six total runs in their past four games – the same number the second-place Pittsburgh Pirates scored Tuesday night against Baltimore.

Perhaps the best news the Cardinals have received in recent weeks, they still play in the National League Central. So despite the poor play and the concerning amount of losses piling up in recent weeks, the Cardinals find themselves just three games behind the division-leading Reds with more than half the season yet to play.

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St. Louis Cardinals Lineup Might Be Set, Bench Could Use Work

Every year as Spring Training approaches, fan bases evaluate their team’s 40-man roster and generally look for that one spot that might be the weak link in the chain.

St. Louis Cardinals fans are no different and will likely pick apart the roster from now until the Cardinals face the Miami Marlins April 4 on Opening Day. However, the Cardinals could very well enter that game with the same projected rotation and lineup they have now.

Yes, the Cardinals lost their first baseman and the best player in the game when Albert Pujols left to sign with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Yes, the players they signed to fill out the roster after he left might turn out to be old and unreliable. But, there still might not be much competition for starting jobs during Spring Training.

In the infield, second base is the only position that might be even a small question mark. Lance Berkman will play first base, Rafeal Furcal will play shortstop, David Freese will play third base and Yadier Molina will be the catcher.

Skip Schumaker also looks to be the obvious choice for second base. The only scenario where he doesn’t come away with the starting job by Opening Day is if he has a terrible Spring Training and somebody such as Tyler Greene, Matt Carpenter or Zach Cox has an amazing exhibition month.

That isn’t likely to happen, considering Schumaker usually has great numbers during Spring Training, and here are some arcane stats for you to prove it. Schumaker has a career Spring Training batting average of .311, and he hit.389 last year. His only terrible Spring Training was 2010 when he hit .182, but that was also the year he moved from the outfield to second base.

So, the infield is likely already set, the outfield will likely be Matt Holliday, Jon Jay and Carlos Beltran to start the year while Allen Craig returns from knee surgery, the starting rotation is set, and so is the back end of the bullpen.

It is almost remarkable that at this point in the winter the Cardinals could walk into the regular season without having to make a major decision about who to put in the lineup for Opening Day.

Now, that’s not to say there won’t be any competition for spots during Spring Training. There always should be. There will be plenty of guys who have spent the last few years in the minor leagues that will work their tails off to make the 25-man roster that travels north for April.

The Cardinals bench looks pretty thin at this point. Infielder Daniel Descalso should be in line to play a prominent back-up role with the big club, and outfielder Adron Chambers provided a spark off the bench for the Cardinals down the stretch in 2011. Of course, Tyler Greene will be back, as well, but he needs to prove he can be a reliable player that could someday take over at shortstop.

Beyond that, the Cardinals currently don’t have a back-up player on their roster who has spent more than two weeks in the big leagues. That could be cause for a lot of concern with a starting lineup that averages 31 years of age.

This could be a season that is fantastic if the starting lineup and rotation stays healthy, but the chances of multiple starters breaking down throughout the season could spell a lot of trouble, especially when teams such as the Milwaukee Brewers and Cincinnati Reds have considerably younger teams.

Between now and the start of the season, the Cardinals will have do something former manager Tony La Russa was a master at: finding cheap, undervalued players who can fill in at key points during the season.

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Beltran Becomes a Royals Legend

By signing a five-year extension with Kansas City, Carlos Beltran ensures that he will finish his career as a life-long Royal and will be firmly established as the second best player in team history.

Having spent 14 years patrolling centerfield of Kauffman Stadium, Beltran hopes his career will end on a more competitive note.

“We’ve lost a lot during the last decade here in KC, but with all the talent we’ve got coming up, I really think we’ll compete for championships before I’m done,” Beltran said.

Despite being slowed by injuries, Beltran has been one of the few bright spots for the Royals. When outfield mates Jermaine Dye and Johnny Damon sought greener pastures in the early 2000s, Beltran chose to stay in KC, joining George Brett and Frank White as the faces of the franchise.

“Sure I could have made some more money somewhere else, but I always wanted to be a guy who played his whole career for one team,” Beltran said upon signing the contract extension. “Some things are more important than money. Who knows where I’d be right now if I’d listen to that money-grubbing Scott Boras.”

Ok, so the reality is that Beltran is now a Cardinal. He’s also an ex-Giant, ex-Met, ex-Astro, and of course, ex-Royal. Beltran is now 34 and might possibly finish his career in St. Louis.

Beltran left KC at age 27, having played five and half seasons in a Royals’ uniform. Because of injuries and the natural decline of skills, Beltran played his best baseball before the age of 32. About half that time was spent in Kansas City.

Sadly, KC just missed out on some of Beltran’s best seasons – 2006 to 2008. In those seasons he won three Gold Gloves, two Silver Sluggers, made two All-Star appearances, and in 2006 finished fourth in the MVP balloting.

I really shouldn’t blame Beltran for his departure from KC. The team wasn’t paying top talents at the time, and they knew they had to deal Beltran when they could get a good return. It’s not his fault that the three players KC got in the trade (Mark Teahen, Mike Wood and John Buck) didn’t help the team rebuild.

What Beltran can provide the Cardinals and where Beltran stands among the greats of history are topics for another article.

But what interests me is just where Beltran would rank if he had played the same seasons, with all the same production, and with all the same injuries and decline of skill, in KC.

Here are Beltran’s career numbers compared to the best in Royals history:

Games – 1768 Beltran would rank 6th currently and could move to 3rd this season behind Brett and White.
At Bats – 6767 Beltran would currently be in 5th place.
Runs – 1184 Beltran would already be in 2nd place on the team list, with only Brett’s 1583 to shoot for.
Hits – 1917 Racking up hits isn’t exactly Beltran’s game. Even so, he would rank 6th on the team list and could move into 2nd this season. Only Brett and White collected more than 2000 hits.
Doubles –390 Beltran would be in 4th place at present.
Triples – 73 Beltran would be a distant 3rd behind Brett’s 137 and Willie Wilson’s 133.
Home Runs – 302 Beltran’s home run total might be different if he’d spent his entire career playing in Kauffman stadium. But for the sake of this game, we’ll give him full credit. Amazingly, only one other Royal has more than 200 homers – Brett with 317. Beltran would, in 2012, become the Royals all-time home run leader.
Runs Batted In – 1146 Beltran would trail only Brett, who drove in 1595 runs.
Stolen Bases – 293 Beltran is one of the most efficient base stealers in the game, but thievery numbers are down from the Royals golden years. Even so, he would rank behind only Wilson (612), Amos Otis (340), and Freddie Patek (336). In reality, Beltran ranks 6th in team history.
Average – .283 Of players with more than 4000 at bats in a Royals uniform, Beltran would sit fourth, behind Brett (.305), Mike Sweeney (.299), Hal McRae (.293), and Wilson (.289).

Without a doubt, Beltran would rank as the second greatest player in Royals history, and by some measures could be considered THE greatest.

It’s been hard over the past decade for Royals fans to resist delving into a lot of “what ifs:” what if the Royals had kept the outfield of Beltran, Dye and Damon together; what if they could have held onto Joe Randa and Raul Ibanez, what if Mike Sweeney had stayed healthy…

I’m sure millionaire professionals like Carlos Beltran don’t waste time on “what ifs.” But if Beltran did, he might wonder what his legacy would be had he stayed in KC. He might think that players who jump from team to team during the prime of their careers are quickly forgotten. But players who grow up and grow old with the same team can become legends.

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Way Too Early 2012 Predictions: MVP

To settle my excitement about the 2012 MLB Season down a bit, I decided to lay out a few predictions about what might happen next year.

First off, I want to start with: Who will be the Royals MVP next year?

There is no easy choice here. With the everyday lineup that the Royals will have on Opening Day next year, there are about 10 to 15 possible choices for this award.

My first thought was to pick Eric Hosmer.

The 22-year-old will be entering his first full season playing first base for the boys in blue. His third place finish in the A.L. Rookie of the Year vote did not do his season justice. If the award was based on who has the brightest future rather than who had the best complete year, Hosmer would have definitely took home the hardware.

However, I kept looking up and down the roster for someone that could put together a better year than Hosmer in 2012. Billy Butler, Jeff Francoeur, Mike Moustakas, Salvador Perez… The list goes on and on.

But for this award, I had to give it to Alex Gordon. He was voted the Royals’ best player, won his first Gold Glove, and received three 10th place votes for the A.L. MVP in 2011. He will still only be 28 years old at the beginning of next season, and I don’t have any reason to believe he can’t put up even better numbers.

Although I don’t think Gordon will get up to 20 outfield assists next season, he definitely has a shot to earn another Gold Glove. I picture his offensive numbers somewhere in the area of .300, 25 HR’s, and 100 RBI’s. That is, if he is moved out of the leadoff spot.

He might still be hitting in the one-hole next year, because the Royals still don’t have a true leadoff hitter. If he is still in that spot, expect his RBI’s to go down, but not by much.

Gordon did almost everything right this year. He showed his leadership on and off the field and deserved every bit of credit he received.

Before we give Hosmer the award for the next 10 years, let’s go ahead and give Alex one more shot.

Royals Tweet of the Week

whats up everyone! new to this twitter thing but ill figure it out.. hit me -duff
@dduff23
Danny Duffy

Danny Duffy officially on Twitter. This should be a fun follow.

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