Tag Archive | "Fielders"

St. Louis Cardinals can survive without Allen Craig until playoffs

After a season filled with injuries to the pitching staff, now the St. Louis Cardinals will have to deal with an injury to one of their starting fielders, who also happened to be one of their most important hitters.

AllenCraigHurt

First baseman and occasional right fielder Allen Craig suffered a sprained left foot Wednesday in Cincinnati during a game against the Reds that the Cardinals eventually won 5-4 in 16 innings.

Craig went back to St. Louis for further examination Thursday and at least found out he did not have any broken bones in his foot. That probably gives him a chance to return before the end of the season, which is significant.

The Cardinals can likely survive through the rest of September without Craig even though he leads the team with 97 runs batted in and is tied with second baseman Matt Carpenter for the second-best batting average on the team at .315, behind catcher Yadier Molina’s .322 average.

In the worst case scenario, the Cardinals offense would fall flat without Craig’s contributions, specifically his incredible .454 batting average with runners in scoring position, and the team would lose the division title to the Reds or Pittsburgh Pirates and have to play in the one-game Wild Card round for the second consecutive year.

However, the Cardinals do have a solid backup for Craig. Matt Adams has been the Cardinals best hitter off of the bench this season, he has a .269 average with 11 homeruns and 38 RBIs in just 212 at-bats, which is about half of an everyday player. Plus, fans have clamored for Adams to get more playing time through much of the season.

Well, here’s his chance.

He certainly made an impressive first impression Wednesday with homers in the 14th and 16th innings to help the Cardinals win, but becoming a consistent hitter in the middle of the lineup will be vital for Adams now that he will be the starting first baseman for the foreseeable future while Craig’s foot heals.

The Cardinals also have 13 consecutive games against teams with losing records after they finish a three-game series with the Pirates during this upcoming weekend, so they will likely face less-than-dominant pitching that could allow the Cardinals to win even when the offense is not clicking on all cylinders.

But the Cardinals will be in an entirely different scenario come the playoffs in October. Those games are often dominated by good pitchers, and timely hits determine the outcome.

Craig is perhaps the best timely hitter in Major League Baseball, and the Cardinals would sorely miss his bat in the lineup during the playoffs.

The team got good news Thursday when Craig’s X-Rays and MRI came back negative, but it should not push its luck and force him back onto the field during the regular season unless he truly is fully healed.

If Craig can’t play the rest of the regular season, fine. It would certainly be nice to have his production in the lineup during the final weeks of the race for the National League Central Division title, but that will not determine whether or not the Cardinals are considered champions at the end of the year.

The most important title is settled in late October, and that is when Craig will be the most valuable

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St. Louis Cardinals need more Daniel Descalso

The St. Louis Cardinals have used a trio of second basemen this year as they’ve muddled to a 58-49 record heading into play Sunday that mirrors the mess the team has at the second-base position.

It’s time for the Cardinals to make a playoff push, but to do so they will also need a regular second baseman who plays fantastic defense and can get a key hit when necessary. That player is Daniel Descalso.

Descalso was a key part to the Cardinals 2011 run to the World Series championship, and he could play an even more important role this year if manager Mike Matheny gives him the chance.

Descalso has always played stellar defense, and he has flashed the leather lately. He filled in at shortstop for Rafeal Furcal for five games last week against the Chicago Cubs and Colorado Rockies. In those games he made two outstanding defensive plays. He also had six hits during the weekend agains the Milwaukee Brewers and made a couple more fabulous diving plays.

Part of the Cardinals troubles this year have stemmed from their inconsistency in the field. The Cardinals have committed 69 errors and their fielding percentage ranks 17th in Major League Baseball. Beyond the errors, there have been countless plays fielders simply haven’t made. They don’t count as an error, but the runner still gets on base or takes an extra base and quickly ends up in scoring position.

Sure, Descalso is hitting just .241 on the season, but he gets hits when they matter most. He is hitting .281 in the late innings of close games. Of regular starters, only Furcal and Yadier Molina have a higher batting average in those situations.

The other option for the Cardinals at second base is Skip Schumaker. He is hitting .319 on the season and plays solid defense. Unfortunately, both Descalso and Schumaker bat left-handed. That means Tyler Greene continues to get at-bats when the Cardinals face a left-handed pitcher even though he is hitting .222.

Greene has long been an enigma for the Cardinals and their fans. The Cardinals drafted Greene in the first round back in 2005, but he has failed to hit above his current .222 batting average in any of his four seasons with the club.

Yes, Greene has speed. He has stolen nine bases and been caught just twice, but he doesn’t get on base enough to utilize that speed. Also, when he gets on base he sometimes tries to do too much. He has twice been thrown out at the plate to end a game this season.

So, while Schumaker has the better offensive numbers, Descalso has the intangibles that help a team win ballgames.

Descalso doesn’t have to be the starting second baseman for the entire final two months of the season, but he does need to be on the field more often than not if the Cardinals are going to make a run at either the NL Central title or a wild-card berth.

If not, the frustrating inconsistent play that has plagued the first four months of the Cardinals 2012 season will prevent the team from making a run at the playoffs in the final two months.

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Random Thoughts: Cards vs. Phillies

The St. Louis Cardinals have dropped the first two games of a four game set with the Philadelphia Phillies, and both were heartbreakers which the Cards could (should?) have won. In both games, the Phils jumped all over the Cards’ starter for first inning leads. Both nights, the Cardinals battled back to tie or lead the game, but were not able to finish the job. Some notes and thoughts:

–The Phillies clearly are not the same team without Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. Normally, this would be a perfect time to face the Phils and exploit that vulnerability. But the Cardinals are so depleted by injury, they may be in even worse shape. Watching great teams locked in see-saw battles is exciting; watching teams full of replacements stumble through games and lead changes until one stumbles worse than the other is frustrating. It’s almost hard to imagine that these two teams clashed in an epic playoff series less than eight months ago.

–What was Yadier Molina thinking on the base paths Friday night? In the 4th, he tried to go first to third on a “can of corn” pop-up that Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino muffed in shallow right-center. Molina read the play right as the outfielders searched for the ball in the twilight sky; he was practically standing on second base by the time the ball dropped. But when he saw the Philly fielders fall over each other, he tried to leg out an extra base. And Molina is not a base runner that is going to fare well against someone like Pence—who has a cannon arm—in the outfield. Molina was gunned down at third…for the first out of the inning. Later, in the 8th inning with the game tied 3-3, Molina tried to score from first base (yep…you read that correctly) on a Matt Adams gapper. Molina is not alone in owning this one because Jose Oquendo was waving him home. But a collision with catcher Carlos Ruiz was not enough to knock the ball loose, and Molina was the third out of the inning. For those of you who haven’t completely forgotten everything from Little League, making the first or last outs of an inning at third base or home is generally frowned upon. He is still the best catcher in the league, and his offense this year has been a revelation. But a piece of advice for Yadier Molina, the base runner: know thyself.

–Speaking of that collision at home, it did seem a bit on the ballsy side for a catcher to plow into his counterpart like that. Collisions at home are a part of the game, and nothing about the play seemed dirty. But it will be interesting to see if Molina is the target of any repercussions throughout the rest of this series. I could be wrong, but Jonathan Papelbon’s first two offerings to Molina in the 10th seemed awfully high and tight.

–The recent antics by the Cardinals’ relief corps can be summed up by using a lot of one- or two-word descriptors, but I’ll keep it civil with a simple “Yikes.” Late addition to this note: the Cardinals have called up reliever Chuckie Fick from Triple A and optioned Fernando Salas back to Memphis. Time will tell if this ends up being an effective fix or a band-aid on a bullet wound.

–Whoever came up with the idea for Fredbird to dash across the field sans jersey in between innings Friday night after the streaking incident Thursday should be applauded. Good stuff. And if it somehow deters future hijinks on the field, please find a way to do something similar in the stands to stop The Wave.

Chris Reed also writes for InsideSTL Mondays and Bird Brained whenever he feels like it. Follow him on Twitter @birdbrained

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2012 key player: Lance Berkman

Oh what a difference a year makes.

Last spring we worried if new St Louis Cardinals signee Lance Berkman had anything left in his offensive tank. Turned out, did he ever.  By OPS+ he enjoyed the best season of his career.  By slash line (.301./.412/.547) it was a top-five career season and his best effort since 2008.  Then he went out and, for an encore, hit .423/.516/.577 against the Rangers.  He was the 2011 NL Comeback Player of the Year, and deservedly so.

Last spring we worried how Berkman would do playing the OF full-time for the first time in 4 years.  He was not as bad as we feared, but he wasn’t great either. Opponents took an extra base on a ball hit to right slightly more than half the time when presented with the opportunity.  That ranked him 20th among right fielders.  He was OK on balls hit to shallow right, but not too good on medium flies and slightly worse on deep balls.    Berkman was ranked 31st overall among RF’s by Dewan Plus/Minus in 2011.

This spring we wonder if Berkman can repeat last year’s performance at the plate.  It is a near certainty he will not bottom out like he did in 2010.  Berkman’s hitting last season, while impressive given the context, was virtually dead on his career averages (.296/.409/.545).  Plus, he is no longer being asked to patrol the outfield.  Albert Pujols‘ departure for the sand, sun, and cash of Orange County California ceded first base to Berkman.  He will be a lot less physically taxed this year in the field than he was last year.  And, his contribution to the overall team defense will rise.  Throughout his career Lance has been at least an average defensive 1B, and on occasion (2006, 2008) a top 5 defender (again, according to Plus/Minus).  He is not as good a defender as Pujols, but he’s no Freddie Freeman either.

Berkman will hit fourth in the new order. Last season he was supporting cast to Pujols and Matt Holliday, and he performed above expectations.  This year the stakes have risen, and he is expected to be a vital cog in the Cardinal offense.  He is also expected to be a plus defender at first base.  Oh, what a difference a year makes.

Mike Metzger is a freelance writer based in San Diego.  He blogs about the Padres.  Follow him on Twitter.

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The Revolving Door At Second

No aspect of the 2012 Cardinals comes with more questions than the middle infield, where one position has no clear starter and one has a veteran with something to prove. Rafael Furcal returns on a two-year contract with the Redbirds, hoping to show he can still play at the high level he displayed as recently as 2009, while the team goes into Spring Training with an open competition for the starting second-base job.

If Furcal’s performance is an unknown, at least his role is not. On the other side of the keystone, there’s a different kind of uncertainty. Three players go into camp with a shot at winning time at second base: Tyler Greene, Daniel Descalso and Skip Schumaker. Any of the three could win the lion’s share of the job, or manager Mike Matheny could fashion a job-sharing arrangement among two or three of the contenders.

This is one spot where the Cardinals find themselves far from the top of the division, both offensively and defensively as it stands today.

Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney hit .276 in 2011, with a pair of homers, nine steals, 43 RBIs and 66 runs scored.  Barney secured the starting second base job in Spring Training and never looked back. A .238 batting average in the second half dampens any enthusiasm for this youngster, who hasn’t shown much power or speed.

The Reds exercised Phillips’ $12 million option on Oct. 31, but the three-time National League Gold Glove winner has long trumpeted his desire to re-sign with Cincinnati for many years.  Phillips, 30, has also been firm about his lack of willingness to accept a hometown discount to remain with the Reds.  Phillips recorded his first .300 season but the numbers weren’t all as rosy. His home run total was the lowest since 2006 and his 14 steals were the lowest since 2005. Phillips remains a quality second baseman but at age 30, it remains to be seen if he can climb back to the 20-20 level.

Astros rookie second baseman Jose Altuve hit .276 with a pair of homers, seven steals, 12 RBIs and 26 runs scored in 221 at-bats during his inaugural season.  Altuve was hitting .389 in the Minors when the Astros gave him the call to the show. The 21-year-old showed some speed and the ability to collect hits against Major League pitchers but his lack of power and elite speed will limit Altuve’s potential in the short term.

Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks finished up an injury-plagued 2011 season with 20 homers, nine steals, 49 RBIs, 77 runs scored and a .269 batting average in 453 at-bats.  Weeks launched 17 homers in the first half of the season but suffered a serious ankle injury near the end of July and registered only 83 at-bats in the second half. The 29-year-old is an attractive asset heading into 2012 because of his ability to hit for power as a second baseman.

Without a lot of fanfare, this second-year player  produced a solid 2011 with .273 with 12 homers, nine steals, 83 RBIs and 76 runs scored.  Walker has settled in as a solid, but not spectacular second base option. Don’t look for major improvements in 2012 but at age 26 he could still make small gains. A  reasonable expectation for him and a solid season cound make him one of the few second baseman to collect 90 RBIs.

Schumaker, 31, hit .283 in 117 games last season, including a .299 mark after the All-Star break. He batted .381 in the playoffs and had the game-winning RBI in the decisive fifth game of the National League Division Series against the Phillies.

By the time 2012 is said and done here is how I see things shaking out amongst the NL Central second basemen

  1. Brandon Phillips
  2. Rickie Weeks
  3. Neil Walker
  4. Darwin Barney
  5. Skip Schumaker
  6. Jose Altuve

Looking ahead:

Descalso and Greene are likely slicker fielders, but Schumaker has established himself as a solid hitter for a middle infielder. Whereas at the start of the winter it sounded as though he was being removed from the second-base picture, later indications have made it clear that Schumaker can compete for the job.

Greene and Descalso both come from other positions. Descalso has played plenty of second, but in the Major Leagues, he’s spent more time at third. Offensively, he’s a bit similar to Schumaker, a line-drive hitter with some on-base ability but not much power. Defensively, he is probably a superior second baseman. But his versatility is also an asset that Matheny may covet.

Then there’s Greene, who sometimes sounds like the favorite coming into the spring. A former first-round Draft pick and a shortstop by trade, he has tremendous tools but has yet to turn them into dependable production at the big league level. Greene’s upside is the highest of the contenders, but of the three, he has proved the least in the Majors.

One advantage for Greene is that he is a shortstop, and there’s no clear backup to Furcal. If Greene doesn’t win the starting job, he could well stick as a utility player. Descalso is also almost certain to be on the roster for his positional flexibility, defense and pinch-hitting savvy, while Schumaker will be on as a utility man if not the starter.

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Lost In Right Field

The sun has finally set on the Chiefs horrendous up and down season. The countdown to the Major League Baseball season can finally begin. Well at least for those of us in Kansas City. Now let’s turn our focus to the Royals. This week baseball fans saw reports from Buster Olney ranking the ten best of everything. Our Kansas City Royas came in number 9 in his outfield rankings. This gave me the idea to compare American League Central teams position by position for the next 10 weeks until Spring Training is upon us. Obviously, if something important happens with the Royals organization, I will be sure to address it. This week, I thought I would begin by examining the right fielders. The following statistics will give us a view of each player’s 2011 season.

Team Player Avg. OBP SLG OPS H 2B 3B HR RBI SB
Chi Dayan Viciedo .255 .327 .314 .641 26 3 0 1 6 1
Cle Shin-Soo Choo .259 .344 .390 .733 81 11 3 8 36 12
Det Brennan Boesch .283 .341 .458 .799 121 25 1 16 54 5
KC Jeff Francoeur .285 .329 .476 .805 171 47 4 20 87 22
Min Josh Willingham .246 .332 .477 .810 120 26 0 29 98 4

The Chicago White Sox have been extremely active this week, including trading perennial All Star right fielder Carlos Quentin. This leaves a relative unknown in right field for the White Sox Dayan Viciedo. Throughout the minor leagues Dayan has been a consistent offensive player. In 3 minor league seasons Dayan hit for an average .284 with 52 total Home Runs and 203 RBI’s. With Viciedo, the Tigers can only wait and see what type of player he will be in the major leagues. It was a big gamble to trade Carlos Quentin, but it could be an advantage for the other AL Central teams.

The Cleveland Indians have been relatively quiet all off season. The Indians have arguably the best and most consistent right fielder in the division. Shin-Soo Choo. 2011 was a down season for Choo. He battled injuries the entire season. If Choo can return to form of the previous 3 seasons where he hit over .300 and averaged 18 HR’s and 80 RBI’s he will be a force to reckon with.

The Detroit Tigers currently list Brennan Boesch as their starting right fielder on their official depth chart. Boesch has played consistently over the past two years. Boesch is still a relatively unkown player. He has produced roughly the same power numbers during his two major league seasons. In 2010 he hit 26 doubles and 14 HR’s with 67 RBI’s in 133 games. You can see above his 2011 numbers have shown growth in OBP and Slg. If Boesch continues to grow as a hitter and improve his batting average the Detroit offense will only be that much better than they already are.

The Kansas City Royals will start Jeff Franceour in right field. After signing Jeff to a 2 year extension during last season, Royals fans can only hope Jeff’s production remains close to what he produced last season. Last season’s production was well beyond expectations in my opinion. Jeff is still a free swinger and does not take a walk as you can see from his OBP. This is a stat that really scares me. If Jeff’s BABIP decreases he could experience a significant decrease in average and OBP.

That brings us to the Minnesota Twins. The Twins acquired Josh Willingham this offseason. Josh will provide the Twins with a significant power bat in the middle of the order. Josh has consistently been a 20+ home run hitter. He will provide protection to Mauer and Morneau. As with a lot of power hitters though, Josh has a tendency to strike out. Josh will not hit for a high average, but will provide that worry to opposing pitchers that he could strike with the long ball.

Now that all right fielders have briefly been discussed, I will rank them from 1 to 5 in my point of view as to how their overall production for the 2012 season will stack up.

  1. Shin-Soo Choo
  2. Jeff Franceour
  3. Brennan Boesch
  4. Josh Willingham
  5. Dayan Viciedo

In my opinion, Shin-Soo Choo will regain his form previous seasons and be a big contributor to the Cleveland offense. I believe Jeff Franceour will take a step backwards, but will still provide the Royals a solid bat in the middle of their lineup. Boesch could have a breakout season and prove me wrong for putting him third. Willingham will provide power but will not consistently hit for average so he ranks fourth. Vicideo, really is an unkown and we will have to see what he can do.

For the Royals sake, lets root for Frenchy to continue to produce close to the level he did last season and provide veteran leadership in the middle of a young lineup.

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Does Beltran Fit?

Ask a Cardinal fan about Carlos Beltran and one of two things usually come to mind. His 2004 NLCS performance, when he hit 4 home runs in seven games, or his 2006 NLCS-ending strikeout at the hands of Adam Wainwright‘s curveball. With Allen Craig possibly out for the first month of the season, St Louis appears to be in the market for another outfielder, and Beltran’s name keeps popping up. Would he be a fit in St Louis?

Beltran

With Matt Holliday in left and Jon Jay in center, the Cardinals would slot Beltran in right. Beltran has spent the majority of his professional career patrolling center field, sliding over to right only last season. Whether he was a competent corner defender is somewhat ambiguous. He saved 1 run on the Dewan plus/minus scale, ranking 13th amongst right fielders, making him average. By UZR/150, on the other hand, he posted a -9.2, which would be below average. By way of comparison, Lance Berkman cost the Cardinals 10 runs in right per Dewan, and was -10.2 by UZR/150.

So should the Cardinals bring Beltran in they would get a defender not much better than Berkman was last season.

At this point of his career, however, St Louis would not be signing Beltran for his defense, but rather for his bat. Beltran is still an elite offensive player. He has not posted an OPS+ less than 100 since 2005. Last year he posted an OPS+ of 152 while splitting the season between pitcher-friendly Citi Field and pitcher-friendly AT&T Park. He’s hit the ball particularly well in limited action at Neo-Busch. Beltran has appeared in 12 games since the stadium opened in 2006, posting a .340/.407/.681 line. Granted, he wouldn’t have the luxury of facing Cardinal pitching anymore, but regardless he seems comfortable hitting in the ballpark.

Beltran probably won’t command $19 million like he did his last 3 seasons in New York, but it’s not unreasonable to think he’d at least command Rafael Furcal money ($6 or $7 million for next season). For that kind of salary, one has to wonder if the Cardinals would cede the starting RF position to him and relegate Craig back to the bench. That in and of itself would be a tragedy; for if Craig proved anything in the post-season, its that he is ready for a full-time job in the Majors.

So does Carlos Beltran fit on the Cardinals team? Probably not; not for the money it will take to sign him. No GM in their right mind is going to pay someone $7 million to be a bench player.

Mike Metzger is an I-70 contributing writer. He tries to blog about the San Diego Padres. Follow him on Twitter.

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Wizardry: One Author’s Ranking of Greatest Fielders May Surprise

Neifi Perez was actually a good defensive shortstop. Amos Otis wasn’t as good a centerfielder as he was reputed to be. And Frank White wasn’t as good with the glove as some of his1970s second base contemporaries.

Those are just some of the assertions by Michael A. Humphreys in Wizardry: Baseball’s All-Time Greatest Fielders Revealed.

(Humphrey’s starting lineup of all-time greatest is at the end of this article)

The development of sabermetrics has changed how we analyze and discuss baseball. But I must be honest that when I try to study overly sophisticated statistical measures, my head sometimes starts to spin and my eyes go out of focus. As a writer, I tend to want to leave the heavy lifting to someone else, focusing more on the story, less on the calculus.

But I was intrigued enough by Humphrey’s individual defensive rankings in his recent book that I gave it a casual perusal, skimming the math to get to the findings.

My personal opinion: there are two sides to the coin of player analysis. You may prefer one over the other, but no matter what you believe, the beauty is in the debate.

Like the classic argument of “Who was better? Williams or DiMaggio? Mantle or Mays?” There is joy to be had in comparing the greatness of individuals.

Some would rely upon the eye-test. A Supreme Court Justice once reportedly said concerning pornography that he couldn’t define it, “but I know it when I see it.” Applying this logic to player analysis, some fans base their judgments upon what they see. Or what others have seen. To them, the eye doesn’t lie.

Problems with this approach are that our opinions are skewed by perception, legend, bias, etc. Evaluation of Negro league players depends almost entirely upon this method. Statistics mean virtually nothing when trying to include a Satchel Paige or a Josh Gibson in the discussion.

And it would seem obvious that some players benefit from perception, while others are penalized. Some guys make great plays look easy, while others seem constantly to be diving and grinding. That perception affects our judgments.

On the other hand, some fans choose to eschew subjective observation, relying instead upon complicated formulas to render empirical judgments.

But as Mark Twain famously said, “There are lies, damn lies, and statistics.” Sometimes, it would appear, sabermatricians endanger themselves of missing the forest for their study of the trees.

Mr. Humpreys would fall in the second category. Using his “Defensive Regression Analysis” and accounting for everything from the stadiums to the Dead Ball Era to his “Talent Pool Adjusted Runs” (having to do with integration), Humphreys does more calculating than a NASA engineer.

Ready for his sales pitch?

“Michael A. Humphreys shows how to apply classic statistical methods to estimate runs saved by fielders going back to 1883. Humphreys tests his results against other fielding measures, including published ratings based on proprietary batted ball location data, and explains their respective strengths and limitations… Position by position, Humphreys identifies and profiles the greatest fielders of all time…”

My eyes just went bleary. Are you like I was, ready to skip the math lesson and get on to what we really want to see – where Kansas City Royals rate according to Mr. Humphreys?

What he found was certainly intriguing.

My favorite of Humphrey’s conclusions was that Willie Wilson was the second greatest left fielder of all time.

“Wilson also saved more runs in left field per 1450 innings than any other left fielder in history; the only reason Wilson isn’t the greatest left fielder in history on a career basis is because his team moved him to center… could credit Wilson with another dozen or so runs for holding base runners, which makes sense because Wilson could cut off batted balls that dropped in for hits and get them back into the infield so quickly.”

Also on the plus side for Royals fans, George Brett was twelfth in the Modern Era (1969-1992).

Humphrey’s formulas show Rey Sanchez (KC from 1999-2001) was the best defensive shortstop of the contemporary era, and second greatest ever.

That’s cool. But according to the same standard, Neifi Perez was fourth best in the contemporary era. You’ll have a hard time convincing many KC fans of that.

There were other findings Royals fans will take exception with.

Humphrey states Otis was greatly overrated as a centerfielder.

“The Historical Abstract describes Otis as a ‘magnificent’ fielding center fielder, but (various statistical standards) indicate otherwise. Otis was a solid fielder until about 1976… Otis fell off after age thirty, as seems to happen to many center fielders, and consistently played worse than his backups…”

Freddie Patek also appears to have been overrated, according to the stats. Either Humphrey’s standards are wrong, or else the perception of Patek was, because it was his glove that kept him the lineup while his bat was certainly a detriment.

Most shockingly, White was rated EIGHTH in the Modern Era at second base, judged by one statistical measure. White may be an example where statistical measures just can’t tell the whole story.

Humphrey rates White ninth overall, which isn’t bad. But amazingly, three players who played the same position in the same league at the same time – Lou Whitaker, Willie Randolph, and Bobby Grich – were ranked higher. That means that, according to Humphrey, while White was winning those eight Gold Gloves, he was actually getting outplayed by several other guys in the same league.

I don’t buy it.

There are many other controversial findings in the book.

Humphrey believes Gold Gloves don’t go to the best defenders. He says they tend to be given to good all-around players who had an exceptional season defensively in the early stage of their career. From that point on, they continue to win them repeatedly even when their skills decline.

His greatest case in point: Ken Griffey, Jr. Griffey won 10 straight Gold Gloves, but according to Humphrey’s analysis, Junior “was never clearly better than average when he was winning all those Gold Gloves.”

Other vastly over-rated centerfielders include Torii Hunter (9GGs). Steve Finley (5GGs) and Bernie Williams (4GGs). Humphrey says Joe DiMaggio was over-rated as a center fielder, and was actually not as good at the position as his lesser-known brother Dom.

According to Humphrey, Johnny Bench doesn’t make the top ten at catcher, while contemporaries Gary Carter, Jim Sundberg, Steve Yeager, and Bob Boone do.

Of interest to Cardinal fans:

Humphreys finds Albert Pujols the third greatest defensive first baseman of all time. He says Pujols should be considered the greatest all-around player to ever play the position.

I’ll keep Cardinal fans waiting to see who Humphrey has number one at first base.

By one standard of measurement (Talent Pool Adjusted Runs), Frankie Frisch came out as the greatest second baseman of all time.

Shortstop Marty Marion came out on the short end of some statistical analysis, which Humphrey tried to address.

At third, Scott Rolen ranks sixth best all time, while Terry Pendleton comes in tenth. Ken Boyer ranked third among third baseman in the Transitional Era (1947-1968).

Vince Coleman and Lou Brock are considered liabilities in left field, according to Humphrey’s research, while Lonnie “Skates” Smith was actually on the plus side.

Stan Musial was a very solid left fielder, while his contemporary Ted Williams was one of the worst at the same position.

Brian Jordan was ranked the sixth best right fielder of all time, while Reggie Sanders was rated ninth.

Jim Edmonds was viewed very favorably defensively and deserves Hall of Fame consideration, according to Humphrey.

What may seem like heresy, Humphrey’s system finds Ozzie Smith behind Mark Belanger in the Modern Era, and just ahead of Garry Templeton, the much better hitter he replaced. On Humphrey’s all-time list, Smith ranks third.

If you are like me, you may not agree with some of Humphrey’s conclusions. But let me remind you, these are not his OPINIONS. They are his FINDINGS, based on statistically thorough, yet unbiased, mathematical processes.

Are you ready for Humphrey’s starting lineup of the greatest fielders of all time, based strictly on his statistical research?

C: Ivan Rodriguez
1B: Keith Hernandez
2B: Joe “Flash” Gordon
SS: Mark Belanger
3B: Brooks Robinson
LF: Rickey Henderson
CF: Andruw Jones
RF: Roberto Clemente

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2011 Royals’ Awards

Another year is in the books for the Kansas City Royals.

They had ups and downs, highs and lows, and many, many growing pains.

2011 was judged a success from many within the organization, and more outside of the organization. Having a record of 71-91 isn’t normally looked at as a good thing. However, the progress made by the young players on this squad is more than anyone could have hoped for at the beginning of the year.

With that being said, it’s time to hand out some awards:

Best Player
The award for Best Player isn’t an easy one to give out for the 2011 Royals. Several players had stellar seasons, especially the top 5 hitters in the Royals lineup (Alex Gordon, Melky Cabrera, Billy Butler, Eric Hosmer, and Jeff Franceour). Each of those players had at least 18 Homeruns, 78 RBI’s, a .285 average, and a .799 On-Base Plus Slugging (OPS). With the exception of Hosmer, who was called up a month into the season, they all had at least 44 doubles.

At the end of the day, I have to give the award to Alex Gordon. He said he was going to “dominate” after the 2010 season, and he did not disappoint.

Gordon put up career highs in HR’s (23), Doubles (45), RBI’s (87), Runs Scored (101), and Batting Average (.303). He did all of this from the leadoff position for most of the year, which was a brand new spot for him in the batting order.

Not only did Gordon have a career year with his bat, he also got it done with his glove. This was the first full season of playing Left Field for Gordon in his career, but you would have never known with how smoothly he did it.

He recorded an MLB-best 20 outfield assists, which also set the Royals’ franchise record. He only committed 3 errors all season and his .991 fielding percentage was tops for American League Left Fielders.

Overall, Gordon’s numbers on both offense and defense were too much to ignore when selecting the Royals’ Best Player. He should also be considered for a Gold Glove this year and perhaps the A.L. Comeback Player of the year.

Honorable Mentions: 2)Hosmer 3)Butler 4)Cabrera 5)Francoeur

Best Pitcher
A lot of people will surely disagree with my choice for the Best Pitcher on the 2011 Royals: Luke Hochevar.

Of course, Bruce Chen was the fan favorite and had the Royals’ best win total (12) and ERA (3.77) among starting pitchers. He also battled injuries early in the season. Joakim Soria had a decent year notching 28 but he also had 7 blown saves. Aaron Crow was the Royals’ representative at the All-Star Game, but faded after the break. Greg Holland turned out to be the best bullpen arm and was the guy who the Royals used as their “fireman” throughout the season. However, I had to go with Hochevar for a couple different reasons.

Hochevar’s numbers weren’t anything special, but his Post-All Star Break numbers showed that he finally figured something out. He improved greatly throughout the season and gave Royals fans a look at a good Number 3 (maybe a Number 2) starter in the rotation.

Before the break, Hochevar went 5-8 with a 5.46 ERA. After the break, he was 6-3 with a 3.52 ERA. His numbers in all aspects were much better after the break and he rarely had the “big inning” that fans were accustomed to seeing at the beginning of the year. Also, he lasted 6 innings or more 11 times in his 12 starts post-break.

When Ned Yost gave Hochevar the ball for Opening Day, he showed a ton of confidence in the 27-(now 28)-year-old. He wanted Hoch to be the leader of the rotation and, in my mind, he was for the entire year. If you wanted somebody to give you the absolute best chance to win, with the best “stuff,” it had to be Hochevar.

Honorable Mentions: 2)Chen 3)Holland 4)Felipe Paulino 5)Soria

Rookie of the Year
I’m going to go ahead and rename this one as “Rookie of the Year-Not Named Eric Hosmer.” Obviously, Hosmer wins this award for the Royals. Hands-down. No vote needed. He is one of the top candidates to win A.L. Rookie of the year, and should in the minds of every Royals fan out there.

Hosmer’s final numbers look like this: 19 HR’s, 27 Doubles, 78 RBI’s, 66 Runs Scored, 11 Stolen Bases, .293 Batting Average, and .799 (OPS).

Stud. Absolute stud. Everybody knows about him and how good he his, so let’s get to the “Rookie of the Year-Not Named Eric Hosmer.”

For this award, I have to go with Greg Holland.

There were a lot of good choices for this award just like all the others. Mike Moustakas’ last couple months were what fans were ready to see when he was called up in early June. His power finally came around in the last month of the season, but it wasn’t quite enough to give him this award.

Aaron Crow’s ridiculous start to the season was overshadowed by his struggles after the All-Star break. Tim Collins and Louis Coleman were good, but inconsistent throughout the season. Johnny Giavotella and Salvador Perez made an instant impact when they were called up, but they didn’t play enough to solidify themselves as candidates for this award. (Although Perez’s offense and defense were much better than expected).

In the end, it had to be Greg Holland. If there was one pitcher you had to pick to get one out this year, it would have to be Holland. When any other young bullpen arm would come into the game, most fans had to be at least a little nervous that run might be given up. Not with Holland. I felt more comfortable every time he was on the mound than any other reliever.

He finished with a 1.80 ERA and 74 strikeouts in 60 innings pitched. If he can keep this up next year, he could become an even more important of the pitching staff.

Honorable Mentions: 2)Moustakas 3)Crow 4)Perez 5)Giavotella

Play of the Year

Jeff Francoeur, Jeff Francoeur, Jeff Francoeur. Right?

When you think of the Royals’ top plays this year, you think of Francoeur. His cannon of an arm was second to none in the Majors this year.

However, with all of Frenchy’s awesome defensive plays, Alcides Escobar has been greatly overshadowed. Maybe it’s because we were spoiled all year by Escobar’s unreal defensive prowess. Maybe it’s because of Frenchy’s constant smile that makes him look like a 10-year-old playing in Little League.

Those two guys would be the main attraction in the Royals Top 10 plays of the year.

For the best of the best, I have to give this award to FrencHy Gunning down Jhonny Peralta of the Detroit Tigers at 3rd base on August 7th. On this play,l Francoeur had to run to his left, field a base hit, square up his body towards 3rd and make the throw. He did all of those things and the throw was on a line right to Mike Moustakas’ glove. The Royals were up 4 to 3 and instead of having runners at 1st and 3rd with one out, the Tigers then had a runner at 1st with two outs. Unreal.

Honorable Mentions:

2)Alcides Escobar’s diving stop and throw on former Royal Alberto Callaspo on June 1st. Escobar robbed Callaspo with a dive deep in the hole between 3rd and short. He got up, made the throw, and Hosmer made an incredible scoop on a double hop. The score was 0-0 in the top of the 8th with 2 outs and the bases loaded.

3)Francoeur makes the rare 9-3 putout against the A’s on September 7th.

4)Francoeur robs Dustin Ackley of a homerun on September 9th. Frenchy climbed the wall, and made the catch with his back towards homeplate.

5)Giavotella to Escobar to Hosmer for the double play against the A’s on September 5th. Gio dove to his left, caught the ball on one hop, threw it to Escobar who caught it bare handed, and made the throw to hosmer for the 4-6-3 double play.

Game of the Year
Again, there are a ton of choices for this award. At the beginning of the year, it seemed like the Royals’ first 20 wins came on walk-offs. During the middle of the year, the team was struggling but still fighting back to win games. At the end of the year, the Royals had their 2012 lineup in full effect and showed flashes of greatness.

My Game of the Year Award goes to Royals vs. Rays on July 23rd 2011.

The Royals fought back from a 2-0 and 4-2 deficit to win the game 5-4 in 10 innings.

This game was Mike Moustakas’ breakout game as he went 2-3 with a double and 3 of the Royals’ 5 RBI’s.

Down 4-3 in the bottom of the 9th, the Royals were facing Kyle Farnsworth. Farnsworth pitched for the Royals the previous two years and was not loved by fans, to say the least. Down to their last out, the Royals had Alex Gordon coming up to the plate with Alcides Escobar on 1st. Gordon doubled to deep right center to score Escobar and hand Farnsworth his 4th blown save. It was really nice for fans to watch Farnsworth melt down like he did so many times for the Royals.

Then came the top of the 10th. Aaron Crow came in, walked two batters, and was pulled from the game. Soria came in and gave up a single to load the bases. With no outs, everyone in Kauffman Stadium was nervous about what would happen next.

Soria, who was shaky all season, got a comebacker and two strikeouts to get out of the jam. The score was still 4-4 going into the bottom of the 10th.

With Mike Aviles on first base, Eric Hosmer smacked a double to deep left center. Aviles got on his horse and scored all the way from first.

This game was the game of the year because of:

A)Rallying back from 2-0 and 4-2 deficits

B)Alex Gordon with the game-tying double with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th against Kyle Farnsworth

C)Soria getting out of a no-out bases-loaded jam

D)Hosmer with the walk-off double in extras

Honorable Mentions:

2) Royals 2, Angels 0 June 1st

Butler with a walk-off HR, Escobar saves the game with his glove in the 8th

3) Royals 7, White Sox 6 September 16th

Bullpen blows 3-run lead, Hosmer walk-off double

4) Royals 2, Twins 1 July 15th

Hosmer game-winning 2-run HR in the top of the 9th

5) Royals 3, Red Sox 1 (F/14) July 25th

Great pitching all night from 6 Royals pitchers, Mike Aviles with the botched squeeze bunt over Adrian Gonzalez’s head to score Hosmer in the 14th

That does it for this year’s awards. Each one of these was difficult to pick and an argument can be made for each pick.

The best thing about these awards is that there were so many great players, plays, and games this year. In past years, awards would be much easier to hand out because of the lack of talent and passion that has plagued the Royals before.

2011 was the start to a new era in Royals baseball. The entire organization has taken a step forward so look forward to next year’s awards being even tougher to pick.

Please share your thoughts and let us know who your awards would go to.

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To Be Or Not To Be An NL Team…That Continues To Be The Question

To piggy back off of last week’s column where I noted the Cardinals inability or maybe better said, hesitance, to play small ball the team embarks on a six game trip through the American League East. After the lack luster home stand showed that perhaps the Cardinals are not equipped for the NL game maybe this trip out east will show if perhaps they are built for the AL game. Somehow I doubt it. The St. Louis Cardinals are a team without a baseball identity and until they can commit to one style of play or the other the Cardinals will continue to linger in baseball purgatory. Worse yet, if management and the collective brain trust behind Ballpark Village cannot pick a direction for this team I fear every 3-4 years will be a roster turnover and more of the same.

There are a lot of quality players on this 2011 roster; the problem is that they can be divided into two groups. Those best suited to play in the NL and those maybe better off on an AL club. In this situation two halves do not necessarily make a whole. Adding to their identity crisis is manager Tony LaRussa, who cannot seem to make up his mind as to which style the Cardinals should play. Seemingly changing his strategy from series to series. We as fans and bloggers know what we see when watching a game so no facts, sabremetrics, percentages or other statistics will be used. That is for another article on another day. All statements within this column are based on the “eye-test” and common sense factors.

For as long as I can remember the breakdown was always speed and defense win games in the NL, power in the AL. Here is how it breaks down for the Cardinals. Theriot and Schumaker give away outs like free soup at a homeless shelter while Pujols and Molina when healthy are two of the best fielders in either league at their positions. If not for his glove Descalso would not be on the Major League roster, by the same token, if not for his bat neither would Allen Craig. The yin & yang of it goes on and on.

Based on the criteria above here is how I separate the two groups. In examining the roster I take into consideration any position player who has seen significant AB’s as either a regular or an off-the bench guy.

Albert Pujols Ryan Theriot
Daniel Descalso Allen Craig
Yadier Molina Matt Holliday
Colby Rasmus Lance Berkman
Skip Schumaker David Freese
Jon Jay
*disclaimer players were assigned leagues based on where their skill levels I felt were best suited. Some of course could play in both

Finding a way to utilize both types of players requires good strategy and gamesmanship. Usually synonyms for how TLR has managed his teams. But for his part, these last few seasons TLR’s management of this miss-matched roster only makes the differences more apparent. He has players in Rasmus and Schumaker who are supposed to be good on the bases but doesn’t let them show it. To make it worse more often than not he bats them out of position. In yet another mystifying move, where a team should be sacrificing offense for defense the Cardinals do the opposite on a daily basis by continuing to run Theriot out to SS rather than moving him over to 2B.

The pieces are there and yes injuries have played a large role in the season’s results thus far. But the season is not lost, especially not in the NL Central. The sooner the Cardinals and Tony LaRussa decide which type of team they want to be for the remainder of 2011 the better the results will be.

As usual these are just my thoughts…if you’re smart you’ll most likely agree. If not keep on reading my articles and you’ll get up to speed.

Follow me on Twitter @SportsbyWeeze or check out my thoughts on the Rams at RamsHerd.com

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