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Play a Hard 9 is moving

January 9, 2011

Since starting PAH9 back years ago, I never really imagined some of the doors it would open for me as a blogger.  Not saying I really “went places”, but I went further than I had expected. And to be able to add great co-writers like Steve and Andy has been great. The ability and love of baseball these two have brought to the table has been tremendous, I’m honored to have had them on board. Both have become friends of mine.

Anyway, I do apologize for the sparseness of posts lately, but I’m here to tell you that PAH9 is moving on up to Gas House Graphs. Same great analysis but  just in some new digs and soon, some new features Steve will be introducing in the coming days.  Please update your RSS readers, bookmarks, et al.

Thanks for reading, we hope to amp up on the content in the coming days, especially as the season rolls around.

Want to write at PAH9?

January 3, 2011

We at PAH9 are looking for some new contributors. As no surprise to anyone that reads this blog on a regular basis it’s going to help your cause if you come at things from a sabermetric/analytic perspective. That said, don’t worry if you’re not a saber guru, as long as you try to answer questions with an open/analytical mind you’ll fit right in.

If you want to be considered send a sample of your work to steve dot sommer05 at gmail dot com. The sample can be an existing post somewhere or something new you’ve come up with. We’re looking forward to hearing from you.

Average Pujolsian Seasons

January 2, 2011

Joe Posnanski tweeted a remarkable statistic that helps encapsulate the greatness of Albert Pujols:

A Christmas baseball thought: Albert Pujols has averaged .331, 43 doubles, 41 homers, 119 runs, 123 RBIs his first 10 years.

He then went on to explain:

Here’s the thing: Only nine players in baseball history have pulled off that Pujols average season even once in their careers.

Being on twitter, you get inundated with a bunch of crazy baseball stats, but this one about Pujols has really stuck with me.  Maybe it’s because he’s a hometown player.  Or maybe it’s because he might not be in STL after this year and stats like these might propel him into free agency where he’d have a decent shot at becoming the highest paid player in the history of the game (either by average annual value, length of contract, or both).  Regardless, STL fans have been fortunate to witness one of the more transcendent 10-year-performances in baseball history.

Sure, there’s been other stats to show it.  Jayson Stark declared Pujols the MVP of the “Double Zeros” after hitting for the decade triple crown (leading in AVG, HRs, and RBIs) in the aughts.  Stark noted that Pujols also led in the more telling stat OPS+ over that time frame.  To Derrick Goold’s credit, he was following the story before it even happened, but I couldn’t find any updates since Pujols had actually accomplished the feat (though I’m sure he wrote something).

In October, Disciples of Uecker‘s Jack Moore wrote an article at FanGraphs comparing the implications of Pujols’ upcoming free agency to the hoopla that surrounded LeBron James in the NBA.  Jack included a graph that illustrates just how well Pujols measures up against some of the all-time greats (Ruth, Aaron, and Bonds).  While Ruth is clearly superior, Pujols compares favorably to Bonds and has an age-WAR-path that’s almost identical to Hank Aaron.

This all brings us to Posnanski’s tweet about Pujols’ average season and how only nine players (including Pujols) have matched those numbers in any ONE season.   Then contemplate how only twelve player-seasons in the history of the game have matched the offensive qualifications set by an average of Pujols’ first ten years in the league.  Sit with that.  The graph below illustrates each season with bars representing AVG, OBP, SLG, and wOBA.

Some observations/musings:  Out of the twelve player-seasons, six belong to Babe Ruth, Todd Helton (!), and Albert Pujols himself.  Three of these performances were by players employed within a pre-humidor Coors Field.  Five of the seasons occurred within the live-ball era of the 1920’s.

How good was Babe Ruth?  The only of the bunch to post an OPS above 1.300.  Actually, only two players have ever posted an OPS greater than 1.300 with at least 500 PA:  Ruth (1920, 1921, and 1923) and Bonds (2001, 2002, and 2004).  Each did so three times.  For reference, Pujols’ highest OPS to date has been 1.114 in 2008.

Sure, some of the stats mentioned by Posnanski are “traditional” ones (e.g. Runs and RBI’s) which can be distorted by the context in which a player is placed (e.g. lineup). But this doesn’t ruin it for me.  In a league that features thirty teams with twenty-five man rosters, the 2011 MLB season will begin with 750 active players.   Using Baseball-Reference‘s play index, there have only been 222 seasons that compare at or above Pujols’ career lows (32 HR’s, 33 2B’s, 99 R’s, and 103 RBI’s).  And that’s not even including his career low .312 AVG which would eliminate seven of the first twenty-five results.  Whether he wants to be or not, Pujols is “El Hombre” as far as Saint Louis is concerned.

Some Christmas Eve links

December 24, 2010

The guys over at Bullpen Banter had Daniel Descalso as their #10 2nd base prospect.

On a related prospect note, Future Redbirds is doing some cool draft retrospective stuff. Check is out. Here is an example.

JT at Triple Alley takes us under the hood of the Marcel forecasting system. It’s a good read, especially with a lot of the projection systems rolling out now. If I were to create my own projections, I’d start with Marcel and make tweaks from there.

This fanpost at VEB lays out the Brewers vs. the Cards in light of the Greinke deal. Erik has a google doc that he tweeted about last week too….

The Graphical Player 2011

December 24, 2010

If anyone plays fantasy baseball and plans on purchasing a book/magazine for guidance next season, consider The Graphical Player 2011. Player summaries for Cardinals’ pitchers and hitters were written by me… but don’t let that discourage you!

This book is loaded with content for every single player (more than 1,050 ballplayers in all) that includes 2011 forecasts, comparable hitters/pitchers, 2010 minor league numbers, 2007-2010 major league numbers, chief competitors for playing time, ten-year trends (SLG, OBP, & BA), and insights from, “24 of the web’s savviest baseball writers.”

Click the Buster Posey book cover below to learn more about the contents of this guide and find out how it can help you get a head start on your fantasy competition in 2011.  Enjoy an 18-page PDF sample.  Word on the street is that an e-book version of GP11 may be dropping in the new year.  Stay tuned….

Cardinals 2011 Zips – Hitters

December 23, 2010

Somehow I missed on Monday that Dan at Baseball Think Factory posted his Cardinals Zips projections.  Here are the projections converted to wOBA first for the MLBers (all calculations use the PAs in Zips and a 0.335 league average for RAA calcs)

Player wOBA RAA
Albert Pujols 0.434 55
Matt Holliday 0.376 23
Lance Berkman 0.368 14
Colby Rasmus 0.344 5
Allen Craig 0.337 1
Jon Jay 0.326 -5
David Freese 0.318 -6
Yadier Molina 0.315 -9
Skip Schumaker 0.311 -11
Tyler Greene 0.297 -17
Ryan Theriot 0.294 -23
Gerald Laird 0.284 -16

and then for the MiLBers

Player wOBA RAA
Nick Stavinoha 0.315 -7
Daniel Descalso 0.317 -10
Mark Hamilton 0.320 -5
Matt Carpenter 0.318 -8
Bryan Anderson 0.311 -7
Aaron Luna 0.306 -11
Andrew Brown 0.300 -13
Daryl Jones 0.297 -17
Thomas Pham 0.301 -14
Adron Chambers 0.291 -18
Steve Hill 0.292 -17
Tony Cruz 0.291 -18
Pete Kozma 0.285 -28
Donovan Solano 0.276 -25


These tables highlight the folly of the Brendan Ryan for Ryan Theriot swap. Theriot projects to only hit slightly better than Pete Kozma. Let that sink in for a while.  They also show the extreme lack of middle infield options, with Descalso posting the best wOBA projection.


The projection for Berkman is alright, but it is likely not good enough to overcome the defensive deficiencies.  On the whole the offensive projections do not inspire a whole lot of optimism.


On the positive side, the projection thinks that if David Freese were to get injured again, Matt Carpenter could step right in and be a suitable replacement.  As I’ve mentioned previously, that’s a sentiment I share.  Bryan Anderson would be a suitable backup with that line, with some potential to be more.  With the versatility of some of the bench options (Greene, Craig if he can backup at 3rd) would it be worth it to carry 3 catchers?  Probably not, but it’s something to think about.

The Year in Cardinal Baseball UCB Style

December 14, 2010

This year the United Cardinal Bloggers created its first collaborative document in the form of a year end review. A good cross section of writers across the UCB wrote articles. Yours truly penned an article about Albert Pujols. Take a look here for the publication.  The introductory post is here at the UCB site.

Musings on the Cards Moves

December 12, 2010

I haven’t really formed a powerful opinion of the Card’s off-season.  All of the moves have really been “eh” moves.  They’re fine on the face, but not likely to substantially improve the club.  I’ll take the two major moves in order.

Trading Blake Hawksworth for Ryan Theriot:

Giving away the Hawk doesn’t bother me too much.  He’s pretty much “just a guy”; an o.k. piece to have around, but replaceable in an instant.  This move boils down to whether you see Theriot as an improvement over Brendan Ryan or not.  Basically you’re taking playing time away from someone who is likely to be a +10 to 15 defender with -15 to -20 bat for someone that will be a -5 to -10 fielder and a -10 to -15 bat.  Seems to be to be a horizontal move at best, with a definite possibility to be a downgrade.

In order of preference, I think Theriot would best be deployed

  1. Starting ~20 games at 2nd and ~20 games at SS; and would be the guy to take over if either got injured (This assumes a competent 2nd baseman; which the Cards lack)
  2. Starting ~130 games at 2nd (this is actually the best for the Cards since they lack an actual 2nd baseman)
  3. Starting ~130 games at SS

So the Cards are going to pick the worst option (where they likely have the best player already in place).

Signing Lance Berkman:

At least Berkman brings something the Cards don’t have too much of; a high OBP bat.  Clearly the question here is can Berkman hit enough to overcome what will likely be large defensive shortcomings?  Assuming health (clearly a big assumption, but if not healthy then all that is lost is $8M)  I think we’re looking at something like a 0.375 wOBA with the error bars being ~0.015 to 0.020.  For him to be a 2 WAR guy with that kind of offense he’d need to be about a -10 defender.  Is that possible?  Probably.  Likely?  Don’t know, my guess would be no.

All in all it appears the Cards made two depth moves.  The problem is they are being spun as more than that.  The question is, “Will they need to be more than that?”.

Will Boog and/or Theriot Rebound Offensively in 2011?

December 4, 2010

First of all, go read Fungoes’ excellent take on the Cardinals’ decision to replace Brendan Ryan with Ryan Theriot in 2011.

Having realized that each player had terrible offensive seasons in 2010, I wanted to take a look at which player was more likely to rebound in 2011 given batted ball data from FanGraphs.  As Joe Strauss pointed out in his most recent chat, exercises like this may prove futile in that the Cardinals’ decision to trade Brendan Ryan is rooted in far more than statistics.  About the Theriot acquisition and its implications for Ryan, Strauss wrote:

He IS an offensive upgrade over a guy who hit .223 last season and was twice benched by his manager for pouting. I’m a Ryan honk due to his spellbinding defense. But those who base their opinion on Ryan’s .292 average in 2009 are missing it. This isn’t solely a statistical issue. It’s also a clubhouse matter.

I’m averse to making personnel decisions based on team chemistry as I’m among those that believe team wins breed chemistry rather than vice versa.  Strauss is probably right in reporting that the decision was more of a, “clubhouse matter,” but that doesn’t mean Mozeliak is justified in his decision to replace Ryan with Theriot at shortstop.  He must believe that Ryan/Theriot would approximate equal value in order to consider Theriot’s character as the tipping point.  Theriot clearly isn’t going to eclipse Ryan’s value defensively, so Mozeliak must believe that Theriot’s offensive contributions will be significant enough to disregard Ryan’s defensive prowess.

Could the Cardinals be expecting too much out of Theriot?  After all, he generated a career-worst .286 wOBA in 2010 and has only posted above average offensive numbers once (2008) when given more than 500 AB’s; even in that season, he was only one percent greater than league average (101 wRC+).  Of course, Ryan’s .256 wOBA indicated even more pathetic offense.  The below table displays each player’s 2010 batted ball data with the numbers in parentheses representing career norms minus 2010 rates.  Let’s see if either player is due for upward regression given unlucky results.

2010 Batted Ball Data (Career – 2010)
Ryan .253 (.039) 6.8% (-0.2) 13.7% (0.1) 17.9% (0.7) 47.2% (2.2) 34.9% (-2.8) 12.2% (-0.1)
Theriot .305 (.011) 6.4% (1.9) 12.6% (0.04) 19.6% (1.5) 54.1% (-1.7) 26.3% (0.02) 4.6% (0.9)

Theriot’s career offensive season was largely predicated on a solid 11% walk rate and impressive 23.2 LD%.  The Cardinals can’t bank on Theriot being a very disciplined hitter since his walk rate was 2.6% above career norms in 2008.  Although his annually high LD% is encouraging, his BABIP didn’t really suffer in 2010 despite hitting 1.5% fewer line-drives.  Whereas hitting more ground balls isn’t necessarily a bad thing for a player with decent speed, grounders don’t result in hits as frequently as liners.  Theriot’s 2010 batted ball data doesn’t suggest unluckiness; rather, his numbers were more or less representative of his overall skill set.  For what it’s worth, Bill James does project Theriot to regain some patience at the plate in 2011 (8.3% BB), but I’m not so optimistic as Theriot has seen fewer pitches within the strike zone while walking less often every year since 2008.

Brendan Ryan, however, had a huge disparity in 2010’s BABIP, losing thirty-nine points from his career norm.  Some of this was undoubtedly due to hitting more balls in the air, not a positive development given Ryan’s lack of power.  But even after replacing more than two percent of ground-balls with fly-balls, 39 points is too big of a discrepancy to explain away his decrease in BABIP altogether.  I also wonder how much of Ryan’s struggles can be attributed to experimenting with various batting stances throughout the 2010 season.  Instead of vowing to return to his 2009 batting stance, Ryan continues to tinker with new ideas such as choking up on the handle, using a bigger bat, and following through with two hands for at least 1,000 swings.  Therefore, any team relying on him will have to accept his inconsistent approach at the plate or convince him otherwise.  Regardless, he’s due for some positive regression.

Offense be damned, Ryan was still worth 1.0 WAR in 2010 (according to FanGraphs) thanks to 11.5 fielding RAR while Theriot accumulated 0.0 WAR in time split between the Cubs and Dodgers.  Had Theriot spent more time at SS, he would have gained a couple of runs in the positions adjustment, but his overall value still would have fallen short of Ryan.  This gap would have been even larger had Ryan not hit into such poor luck in 2010.

Combine all of this with the reality that Ryan is three years younger and roughly $2 million cheaper, and I don’t see how replacing him with Theriot makes sense financially or competitively.  I’m trying to withhold judgment since other moves could still be made… but I’m haunted by a similar anticipation that was met by the acquisition of Pedro Feliz following the departure of Ryan Ludwick last July.

PAH9 Roundtable Discussion: Cards Prospect Man Crush

November 27, 2010

The discussion question of the day is who is your prospect man-crush (non Shelby Miller division, we all have man crushes on him)?

Steve: My prospect man crush is Matt Carpenter, which would have been a lot less cliche if we had done this before he was announced the systems minor league player of the year.  That said I did rank him 3rd on my UCB prospect list.  I like Carpenter because he has been fairly productive at every level he’s played while playing a position that is not value sucking on the defensive spectrum.  Last season Carpenter put up an 0.889 OPS across high A and AA based on a solid OBP and some (albeit not a lot) power.  Additionally in the one season that he has total zone data for, Carpenter was well above average at each stop.  Putting together an advanced plate approach with a solid fielder at his position and you have the recipe for a league average player.  I put together a quick projection during the season using MLEs and came up with something like ~1.8 WAR next year if he were to get everyday playing time in the majors.  At worst he appears to be a good backup plan for Freese’s ankles.

Andy: Being that Carlos Matias has yet to throw a professional pitch outside of the DSL, I’ll take a cold shower and anoint Aaron Luna as my prospect man crush.  From 2009 (3 levels: A, A+, AA) to 2010 (2 levels: AA, AAA), the 23-year-old improved his walk rate by 4.4% and decreased his strike-out rate by 1.1% while posting an impressively nerdy .262/.415/.455 line that was good for a .416 wOBA.  Though the organization flirted with the idea of having Luna play second base for one season, this experiment was abandoned in 2010 and he returned to the corner outfield, spending nearly equal time in left and right fields.

Despite legitimate skepticism regarding Luna’s hit by pitch totals (24 and 28 HBP’s in 2009/2010 respectively), his ability to reach base is encouraging, especially within an organization lacking dependable OBP players to bat first and second in the order ahead of Pujols.  Though his ceiling may not be much more than a 4th OF type, he may quickly approximate a less powerful but more disciplined Allen Craig, which is a valuable commodity when you are paying the league minimum for his services.  Hopefully, this will allow Cardinals’ brass to regard Jay/Craig as the expendable cost-controlled players rather than Rasmus (let me dream).  You can read a more in-depth summary of Luna’s minor league career to date in a recent entry at Future Redbirds.  The Jack Cust comparison made in that article is probably unfair in that Luna’s ceiling for OBP matches Cust’s floor; also, Luna is probably better defensively, makes better contact, but is considerably less powerful.

Erik: As the godfather of Future Redbirds you might think this one would have been a slam dunk for me,  but I really struggled over who to pick. The prospects on the radar – Miller, Cox, Matias and so on are there for good reasons, and I don’t have any one player I think of as a big sleeper or personal cheeseball. I guess if I have to pick one player that I like more than most,  and someone I think that could be underrated, it’s the Cardinals 4th round pick of this past draft, catcher Cody Stanley. The fine nerds at College Splits rated him the 2nd best catcher in the draft. Stanley does everything rather well. He’s good at stopping the running game, he hit well in college and hit for a .397 wOBA in his pro debut, albeit in short season A ball. He’s just a solid, all around player at a premium position, which is enough for me to rate him as my man-crush.