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The Bipolar Cardinals

September 4, 2010

I’ve seen the word, “bipolar,” tossed around when characterizing the 2010 Cardinals’ version of offense.  Borrowing from a graph created by Steve in this VEB post, I generated a similar one that portrays frequency of runs scored by the Cardinals in games dating back to 2006.

To me, the most noticeable difference between the 2009 team (only one to make playoffs since 2006 World Champions) and this year’s model are the amount of games in which three runs were scored.  The Cardinals scored three runs 33(!) times in 2009 but only 9 in 2010.  Conversely, the 2010 Cards scored 8-10 runs 21 times; a feat accomplished by the 2009 team only 13 times.  It’s easy to wonder how the Win/Loss record would look if their 2010 runs scored were more evenly distributed.  Would it be enough to compensate for the seven games they’re trailing the Reds?  Of course not.  TLR has written out too many questionable lineups  (see today) and Mozeliak has made too many confounding acquisitions (see Miles, Feliz, Suppan, trading Ludwick, etc.).  I planned on airing out more rants on these matters but I’ll save them for another day.

For a baseball team to have bipolar offensive tendencies suggests that its fans may never know what to expect in terms of runs scored on any given day.  They may put up 7 earned runs against a stellar pitcher like Chad Billingsley (3.33 FIP) one day but inexplicably roll over when facing a lesser-known foe in Bud Norris (4.04 FIP) the nextor the next.  As an aside, did anyone else notice Bud’s respectable FIP?  He’s quietly posted an impressive 9.2 K/9 over 118.1 IP; not one pitcher (including starters and relievers) on the Cardinals achieve K’s at that rate.  Nevermind that 60% of them have come against the local nine… I digress in jest.

But, seriously… this post isn’t about Bud Norris.  Being that I studied psychology in school, I’ve found myself pondering the term, “bipolar,” quite a bit.  In the mental health field, a bipolar diagnosis indicates that an individual has drastic fluctuations in mood ranging between major depression and full-blown mania that occur within a span of days, weeks, or  even months.  Of course, this is a baseball blog, so I’ll spare you from the boring nuances of the diagnosis (unless you’re interested).  As is custom within the field of sabermetrics, I started wondering whether statistics could quantify a traditionally qualitative term.  Quick Google searches left me empty handed and, honestly, I have no ideas other than teams’ standard deviation of runs scored per game.  I’m turning my internal meanderings over to you, the reader; I assume that you’re smarter and more creative than I am.  Any ideas?  I’m hoping that maybe this will lead to interesting discussion for me to revisit at times during the off-season… which, apparently, will start in October rather than November for Cardinals’ fans.


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