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PAH9 Roundtable Discussion: Is Ted Simmons Hall Worthy?

November 21, 2010
Photo of the interior of the Baseball Hall of Fame

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Erik: The Veteran’s Committee has some interesting choices to make this winter with 12 people on their ballot, including former Cardinal great Ted Simmons. The backstop with the caveman hair of amazing-ness never got the credit he deserved, having played his career in the shadow of Johnny Bench, Carlton Fisk and Gary Carter.  Simmons also played for some forgettable Cardinals teams and suffered a bum wrap for his defense, which I don’t think is as horrible as critics make out.

I’ve covered Simba in more depth in an earlier post. Then I thought he wasn’t quite up to snuff, but I’ve softened my stance. Why? Simmons ranks 9th among catchers on Baseball Reference‘s WAR leader board. The 8 players ahead of him: Bench, Pudge Rodriguez, Fisk, Gary Carter, Yogi, Piazza, Bill Dickey and Mickey Cochrane, all Hall of Famers or very likely future Hall of Famers. A total of six 6 Hall of Fame catchers are below Simmons. My objection to Simmons making the Hall might be that out of the 21 seasons he played, only 6 of them were seasons he posted 4 WAR or higher. He also never really had an MVP caliber-season, although he was excellent in ’77-’78. ( around 6 WAR per season)

To close, he’s no slam dunk, but because Simmons was a one of the best offensive catchers ever to play the game, I say “aye” for induction, not that it matters. What say you fellas?

Andy: I won’t pretend to be an expert on Hall of Fame credentials and who is deserving of entry, but type, “catcher hall of fame standards,” into Google and the first result is an article about Ted Simmons’ worthiness.  Maybe it’s because I sought out sabermetric analysis, but it seems just as hard to argue against Ted Simmons’ credentials than deny him HOF enshrinement.  Some argue that he spent too much time playing DH/1B to be considered a full-time catcher, but his numbers were slipping when he occupied the DH spot in the latter years of his career.  It’s not as if he was just padding his statistics during those years.  In fact, Simmons actually lost 26.8 batting RAR from 1984-1988.  Offensively, Simmons posted a career wOBA (.346) right in line with Fisk (.354) and Carter (.341).  Although Carter and Fisk’s defense are universally regarded as better than Simmons, I feel uncomfortable denying him entry into the HOF based on defensive metrics that are even more tenuous for catchers than other defenders.  Thinking more like the voters, Simmons’ traditional stats even seem HOF worthy.  Judged against his peers (Berra, Fisk, Carter, and Bench), Simmons tied Berra for the highest AVG (.285) and only trailed Berra in RBI’s.  I see how voters would be on the fence about his induction, but he certainly deserves more consideration than he’s received to date.  If I had to go one way or another, I’d vote yes.

Steve: Like Andy, I’m not a Hall expert, but I do have access to Baseball Reference just like my two colleagues.  As Erik mentioned, Simmons sits behind only Hall of Famers on the career totals for catcher rWAR.  I think this graphic portrays the situation rather well

The graph shows the WAR totals (ranked best season to worst season) of the players 2 above and 2 below Simmons on the career catcher rWAR list.  As mentioned, Dickey and Cochrane are in the HOF, as is Hartnett.  It seems to me that Simmons is in a dead heat with those that are in the Hall (I’d say he’s better than Hartnett, with the other two questionable).  My personal opinion is that none of these guys probably should be in the hall, but that’s an argument for a different day.  Given that 3 of the 5 are though, and have set the standard for inclusion, I have to vote yes on Simmons as well.

Mozeliak’s 2011 Wish List: Part 1

November 14, 2010

Here at PAH9, we’re going to start a series of posts in which a question is asked about various baseball topics (mostly Cardinals related though we may dip into other MLB subjects such as the major awards) and each contributor will offer their opinion.  Hope you enjoy the first installment.

Right before the end of the season, Bernie had an article that detailed John Mozeliak’s wishlist for 2011 in which Mo first mentioned desiring, “…a couple of guys who can hit 15-20 homers.” Now that the hot stove season is officially burning up, who do you see as legitimate free agent possibilities? Who would be your number one choice?  I dealt with this a little bit already in this post.

Below is a table with those free agents who hit at least 15 home runs in 2010; I made exceptions for a few players who had high home run totals despite accumulating few at-bats and those that have a history of hitting more than 15 but didn’t for whatever reason last year.  Taking a look at such hitters is reasonable since the Cardinals are presumably trying to lock up Pujols long term and will try to save as much money as possible when filling other needs.  In the UZR/150 column, I used players’ total defensive RAR (not per 150 innings) for utility players logging innings at multiple positions.  Lastly, I eliminated all 1B/DH types because they don’t have a place on this team, mang.

2010/2011 Free Agents
Player HRs wOBA UZR/150 WAR
Carl Crawford 19 .378 21.2 6.9
Jayson Werth 27 .397 -7.2 5.0
Adam Dunn 38 .379 -3.3 3.9
Adrian Beltre 28 .390 12.7 7.1
Manny Ramirez 9 .382 -20.9 1.6
Juan Uribe 24 .322 6.8 3.2
Aubrey Huff 26 .388 6.7 5.7
Magglio Ordonez 12 .375 2.8 2.5
Bill Hall 18 .342 -7.3 1.0
Miguel Tejada 15 .306 -6.8 1.3
Ty Wiggington 22 .316 -7.7 0.3
Brad Hawpe 9 .330 -10.0 0.5
Jorge Cantu 11 .305 -7.2 0.0
Andruw Jones 19 .364 0.7 1.8
Jose Guillen 19 .321 5.8 0.9
Austin Kearns 10 .334 -1.8 1.5

Andy: It’s always good to start with a process of elimination.  On whom will the Cardinals NOT spend money?  Exit Crawford, Werth, and Beltre.  Next, we can rule out any outfielders unwilling to accept a bench role if we’re comfortable with a cost-efficient platoon of Jay/Craig in RF (are we?).  Exit Manny Ramirez (but gosh how I’d love to hear the Busch Stadium jeers turn into cheers) and Adam Dunn.  The most obvious choice is Miguel Tejada, for whom TLR has been a long time advocate.  I’m sure that Mozeliak will kick the tires on this possibility but I’m hopeful that he resists the urge to placate the manager once again by adding another veteran (see Miles, Winn, and Suppan) whose ceiling offers average contributions at best.  Such an acquisition runs the risk of being advertised as SS/3B insurance but, in actuality, enables TLR to deprive Ryan, Freese, and Greene of at bats.  I don’t like the inconsistency of Hall or Cantu.  Wiggington’s bat has been useful in the past and he is supposed to play several positions… but UZR rates him dreadfully at every infield position and other metrics aren’t much kinder.  This seems to leave us with Juan Uribe who I trashed in the post linked to above.  Though his home run totals look better than his actual offensive output, Uribe’s fielding has been surprisingly steady (at 2B, SS, and 3B) over the years… which suggests that he would also be a fit for Mo’s vow to improve infield defense.  Remember, 1.0 WAR on the free agent market is generally valued at approximately $4 million.  Having posted ~3.0 WAR seasons for the past two years, Uribe should easily be worth his contract assuming it doesn’t exceed the $3-4 million neighborhood he received in 2010.

Erik: I’m with Andy, Uribe makes a lot of sense for a lot of the reasons I thought Felipe Lopez made sense last year. Unfortunately, Flip flopped, but I think Uribe is a relatively safe bet to hit some dingers and play a decent enough defense at several different positions. He has his shortcomings – OBP – but he has been worth about 3 WAR per season the past two seasons. Of course the previous two seasons, he was worth only .5 WAR. He could be a little overvalued now in this market, but he makes a lot of sense for the Cardinals given their needs. Bill Hall might be Uribe light, and at a fraction of the cost, but it’s hard to see him as anything more than a spare part.

Having watched quite a few White Sox games this past season, I guess wouldn’t mind seeing Andruw Jones if it’s on the cheap. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want him to be signed because that  means blocking Allen Craig, but I won’t cry if the Cardinals did sign him. Jones is always swinging for the fences, and I have some sort of odd feeling he’d be a fit under McGwire, not that Big Mac is some sort of fix-all. I’m just saying I have a hunch. Andruw still has some power and a cannon of an arm in RF, and Jones and Jay could form a decent platoon.

Steve: Just to try and change things up I thought long and hard to come up with a name that isn’t Juan Uribe.  That said, my amigos above know what they are talking about and he is pretty obviously the best option of those listed.  I think Cardinal nation would be extremely happy if he were picked up to be a infield depth guy with the chance to step in and start at various positions when needed.  As Erik said he’s basically a power hitting version of Flip, with a little better defense.

I think the other options to add power are probably either redundant (Hall = Tyler Greene, Kearns=Allen Craig), out of the Cards price range (those Andy mentioned), or just not a great fit.  If Uribe goes somewhere else the Cards would likely be best served to try and add OBP and defense instead of 15+ HRs.

Pitching Prospects

November 5, 2010

Over in the comments at VEB I posted a notional chart that attempts to illustrate the “there’s no such thing as a pitching prospect” adage.  The basic idea behind the chart is that pitching prospects will have a lot more variance in their projection that would hitters.  This additional variance leads to a lower mean projection if you want to assume that two players have the same peak and same peak probabilities (i.e. both have the potential to be 6 WAR players).  Here’s the chart I used to illustrate my point (the values are completely notional)

In this case the red is the position player and the blue is the pitcher.

Chasing Edgar

November 3, 2010

Everyone has probably heard enough about the World Series MVP, Edgar Renteria, by now,  but here’s a quick chart I threw together depicting WAR generated from the SS position for the Cardinals since 2002 (just click the image for a larger version).

Much has been made of the revolving door at 2B and the curse plaguing 3B since Scott Rolen’s departure, but the Cardinals have had a difficult time replacing Renteria’s production at SS since Boston lured him away from Saint Louis following the 2004 World Series (as if the four game sweep and Fever Pitch production weren’t heart breaking enough).

Since Edgar’s peak years (2001-2003: 13.4 combined WAR), the Cardinals have been searching for someone to rely on at SS.  Most noteable: Not once has a Cardinals’ SS posted an offensive season half as valuable as Renteria’s bat in 2003 (31.5 RAR).  The closest was Renteria’s 2002 (14.5).  David Eckstein became a fan favorite but only achieved above average value once in 2005 (3.0 WAR); though he was still a bargain for the team if you consider the free agent market’s going rate for WAR (roughly $4 mil/1 WAR).  In 2009, Brendan Ryan BABIP’ed his way towards near average offense with a .324 wOBA while netting win via his glove as well.  Of course, Ryan’s offense crumbled in 2010.  Despite being even more valuable with the leather last season, he only accumulated 1 WAR total (otherwise known as the worst season represented in the graph above).  Let’s all cross our fingers and hope that Big Mac can inject (pun totally intended) a little more reliability into Brendan’s swing.  Boog could be a very valuable player if he just managed to muster something approximating league average offense.  Now who will hold his hand during ingrown toenail operations since the Braves claimed Joe Mather off waivers?

2010 Cards Hitters FSR

November 1, 2010

All of the conversation about mechanics and such on VEB got me to thinking if we could compile something similar to Tango’s Fans Scouting Report, only for hitters.  My first take is a very simple, trimmed down survey that asks you (the fan) to grade the hitter on 4 basic categories:

  1. Swing Mechanics – how fundamentally sound (whatever that means to you) is the players swing
  2. Plate discipline – you can think of this as approach at the plate.  How well does the player command the strike zone, as well as the count
  3. Strength – raw power
  4. Speed – pure footspeed (NOT baserunning ability)

 

The form is available here.  I’ll publish the results (and some analysis of the results later in the month).  Thanks for your time.  Leave any questions in the comments and feel free to skip any players you don’t feel comfortable voting on.

 

What I’m Proposing

October 30, 2010

There’s been a lot of discussion/arguing about hitting mechanics and their relationship with success over at VEB recently.  The sabremetric crowd (of which I am clearly included) has proposed a number of different analytical studies to “test” and find the order of magnitude associated with the up to date hitting theories.  I figured I’d outline here what I’m specifically proposing.

I’d want someone (doesn’t have to be Chris, and can even be multiple people) to fill out the following:

Where the variables are coded 1 if the player has the flaw and 0 if he does not. If the grader wanted a “sometimes” choice I’d guess we could work that in. The overall grade is a scouting grade on swing mechanics. I’d probably look at multiple response variables including but not limited to wOBA, ISO (or some other power metric), BA, etc. I wouldn’t want it to be a swing by swing results analysis, rather a generalized season level look.

I’d let experts identify which flaws were important enough to code in.

So where are the pitfalls? One big assumption is that the swing is reasonably stable over a season. I’d want the grader to look at swings from a few time frames to vet this assumption some. Clearly there could be some results bias too. The grader would have to try and not let a players results factor into the grading (especially the overall category).

EDIT: Posted a little prematurely, but ya’ll get the idea I think. Ideally this would be multi-year too, so as to do a WOWY if possible.

UCB Roundtable PAH9 Style

October 30, 2010

Earlier this week it was my turn to pose a question to the UCB group.  I went with, “If you could go back and change one event in Cards history what would it be?  It could be a trade, FA signing or anything else you could think of.”  The conversation went as follows:

 

Tom Knuppel – I would sign/keep Steve Carlton.

Dennis Lawson – The Dan Haren trade in the winter of 2004 never would’ve happened.  The Cardinals sent Dan Haren, Daric Barton, and Kiko Calero to the A’s for Mark Mulder.  Since the trade, Haren has won 85 games, and Mulder won 22 before taking up golf full time.  To add insult to injury, Haren is signed through 2012 with a 4yr/$44.75M deal which is eerily similar to the Lohse contract.  Oh, what could have been.

Jacqueline Conrad – Gotta agree. This is a no brainer. Keep Steve Carlton!

Mark Tomasik – The Don Denkinger call in ninth inning of Game 6 of the 1985 World Series.

Bill Ivie – What happens if we change the Denkinger call and we still lose the game?  Was it really that big of a turning point?

I would have to say that I would want to go back and change the Mark Mulder deal.  That could have gone better for the Birds.

Jacqueline Conrad – Ohhhh! Good one! If we can change the space-time continuum, I’m changing my answer! The Don Denkinger call in the ninth inning of Game 6 of the 1985 World Series. hahahaha

Dustin McClure – I would also love to reverse the Haren/Barton/Calero for Mulder trade. If I could change one more thing I would go back to 2004 and somehow halt the production of the movie “Fever Pitch.”

Pip – Don’t trade Keith Hernandez on June 15, 1983.

 

The team captain went on to produce 26.5 wins Above Replacement, garner six Gold Gloves and win a World Championship with the Mets.

 

In that same period (1983-89), the Cardinals went through no fewer than eight first basemen, including Jack Clark, Pedro Guerrero and Bob Horner, who together produced only 18.4 WAR. Ironically, the Cardinals spent about as much on Hernandez’s replacements as he earned with the Mets.

 

The players that the Cardinals got in exchange, Neil Allen and Rick Ownbey, produced 0.1 and -0.3 WAR, respectively, for the Cardinals.

 

It looks like the Mulder trade ruled the day, but all of the given answers were great.  A couple other ones that popped in my head, telling Mike Matheny to not open the hunting knife (who knows if Ank still explodes, but hey I can always dream right?).  How about drafting Chase Utley in 2000 instead of Shaun Boyd… just a couple.  Thanks to all that participated.

The Molina Mash

October 23, 2010

On October 19, 2010, the Yankees had two outs in the sixth inning of game four of the ALCS.  They led by one (3-2) and had A.J. Burnett on the mound while Benjie Molina and his well below average regular season wOBA (.275) stepped in to the batter’s box (.275 wOBA).  It’s easy to question Girardi’s decision to intentionally walk David Murphy.  Generally speaking, it’s a poor tactical decision to give the opposing team free baserunners; there are very few situations in which statistics justify doing so.  Murphy’s regular season wOBA (.358) demonstrated that he was a much better hitter than Molina.  One can at least sympathize with Girardi’s temptation to give A.J. the easier assignment even if they wouldn’t have arrived at the same decision.  The tying run was already at second base after all and, according to the game log at B-R, the IBB only increased the Rangers’ chances of winning by two percent.

A closer look at the players’ batted ball data may have hinted towards the ensuing disaster that occurred.  A.J. Burnett’s fly ball percentage has been on an upward trend rising from 22.3% in 2005 to 37.5% in 2010.  More fly balls in the air mean an increased chance of home runs.  Put those fly balls in Yankee Stadium whose LF and RF fences are only 318 and 314 feet away respectively and one can imagine why he’s struggled to have as much success in New York.  Now consider the hitters.  Despite Murphy’s much more impressive wOBA, he only hit 36.5% fly balls in 2010 compared to Benjie Molina’s 48%.  Of course, Murphy’s fly balls (.449 SLG) generally had more authority than Molina’s (.326 SLG) but a fly ball down either foul line doesn’t exactly have to be a monster shot and, in other stadiums, might even be an out.  The next play was summed up best by this tweet for Cardinals fans who also happen to hate the Yankees.  As history would have it, Molina hit an improbable home run into the left field stands that damaged the Yankees chances’ to proceed to the World Series and sent the Rangers into Game 5 with a 3-games-to-1 lead.

Have you ever stopped to think how crazy it is that the Molina family can boast of three brothers who all play in the major leagues, all play the same position (catcher), and have all won World Series rings?  Now two of the brothers (Yadier and Benjie: click each name for clips) have hit memorable postseason home runs sending their respective teams to the World Series to defeat  New York on the exact same day (October 19) in the exact same city just four years apart.  Even the camera angles following Benjie around the bases were remarkably similar to the footage that captured Yadi’s trip around the diamond.

Below is a table detailing the postseason careers of Yadier and Benjie Molina.  Only offensive numbers are represented in the table as caught-stealing percentages for postseasons prior to 2010 were surprisingly difficult to locate.  In case you’re unfamiliar with wRC, it’s total runs created based on wOBA.  Clutch represents the player’s performance in high leverage situations compared to context neutral environment (from FanGraphs’ glossary page).  Remember: any player’s clutchiness has very little (none) predictive value as talented hitters perform better than poor hitters regardless of context; it simply describes what’s transpired to date.  Also, Jose Molina wasn’t included because he’s only accumulated eighteen postseason plate appearances to date.

Postseason Molinas
Year wOBA wRC WPA Clutch
Yadier
2004 .127 -0.3 -0.22 -0.03
2005 .285 -1.2 0.19 0.35
2006 .405 11.1 0.55 0.27
2009 .303 1.3 -0.33 -0.23
Career .339 15.0 0.22 0.20
Benjie
2002 .300 5.6 -0.38 -0.27
2004 .148 -0.2 -0.09 -0.05
2005 .371 5.8 0.20 0.01
2010 .468 6.3 0.76 0.34
Career .351 17.5 0.49 0.34

Each of the Molinas have held their own in October, easily outperforming career wOBAs (Yadi – .303; Benjie – .309).  Whereas most of Yadi’s value comes from 2006, Benjie had a very strong 2005 in support of his incredible 2010.  Benjie still has another series left to cushion his lead of 2.5 wRC over Yadi… or he could regress to his actual talent level against the Giants/Phillies subtracting from his overall numbers.  The pitching he’ll face in the World Series won’t be any easier than what he’s seen in the Yankees/Twins staffs.

Although Benjie was a stellar defender in his own right once upon a time, Yadi’s defensive greatness has been sustained for a longer period of time.  One might argue that his defensive value would give him the edge in postseason performances to date.  Unfortunately, I could not find any worthwhile defensive information to add to the discussion.  Feel free to offer any insights/arguments/ideas you might have in the comments area.

But how do the two brothers’ infamous (in NY anyways) home runs match up with one another in terms of win probability?  When Benjie took A.J. deep, the Rangers’ win expectancy jumped by an impressive 41%, but it was the sixth inning and the Yankees still had time to do some damage… so it’s reasonable to assume that Yadi’s homer was more decisive, right?  Wrong.  Amazingly, Yadi’s blast off of Aaron Heilman in Shea Stadium on October 19, 2006 improved the Cardinals’ win expectancy by 41%.  Baseball.  Family.  You can’t make this stuff up.

Scouts vs. Stats and Searching for Synergies

October 16, 2010

The Pain Guy at VEB seems to always stir up the scouts vs. stats debates.  The current version stems from a post analyzing Pagnozzi’s swing.  My thoughts are in the comments there.  However what I’d like to discuss is the way stats guys can either hypothetically (because we don’t have access to scouts) or actually (because we have pitch f/x data and the FSR) leverage the scouting world to improve the way us stat-heads see it.

Before I dig too deep into that question I need to take a slight tangent to talk about the way sabermetricians do their projecting/forecasting.  The basic formula is to take a weighted average of past data, regress those against some population average, and apply an aging curve.  So where do scouts come into play?  I think there are opportunities to leverage scouting data in all 3 steps.  I’ll address them in order.

  1. Getting a weighted average – Generally projection systems take 3-4 years of data weighting the most current information the most and gradually decreasing weight the further back the data comes from.  Scouting data can be added in at this step by pointing out opportunities to over/under weight recent data because of things like mechanical/philosophical changes or injuries.  Now this is a slippery slope as overweighting recent results based on philosophical changes can get you a Kyle Lohse extension, but used correctly there could be some value there.
  2. Regression to the mean – In my opinion this is where the saberist can get the most bang for his buck by leveraging scouting data/information.  The question with regression to the mean is what mean to regress to.  You want to regress to a mean of a population that the player belongs to; that population could be all of MLB (like MARCEL), players with similar builds, histories (like PECOTA), or similar stuff for pitchers (Like Nick Steiner did).  I think that using scouting data like Nick did for pitchers is likely the next step in projections.  I don’t know of any projections that currently are as in depth as what Nick did, but there are a few that use fastball velocity (MGLs for example).  I do something similar in my defensive projections, using the Fans Scouting Report as a proxy for actual scouting reports.  I wonder if a similar thing could be done for hitters using “swing type” buckets.
  3. Aging – Undoubtedly players of different skill sets and types age differently.  The problem becomes binning players into certain types.  I’d guess that having scouts input on this grouping process would be helpful.

I know that the Cardinals say they leverage scouts in their analytical models, which makes me happy.  Hopefully we can get Mo to maybe pay a little more attention to the analytical department (I’m looking at you Feliz and Miles).

 

Mozeliak Makes a List and (Hopefully) Checks It Twice

October 9, 2010

When I started writing this post, the season hadn’t quite ended so it might seem a little out of place but I had already set the foundation so here’s a belated entry in which I lament the Rockies inability to reach the post-season despite an incredible performance by their SS. After that, we’ll turn our attention towards 2011 and John Mozeliak’s ambitious checklist.

2010 Ends Fittingly
When it became clear that the Cardinals truly had went “poopy in their pants,” as Jack Clark so eloquently put it, I started rooting for the patented late-season Rockies surge. Troy Tulowitzki appeared to be on a mission in September when he accumulated 40 RBIs and 15 HRs. Don’t like counting stats? Me neither. That’s good for a ridiculous .492 wOBA (twenty-six points better than the second place guy who also happens to play for the Rockies; Carlos Gonzalez). Tulo hit 14 HRs between 9/3 and 9/18; according to Hit Tracker, all but two of them would have left a majority of MLB parks and none were considered lucky. He also plays a premiere defensive position well (6.1 UZR/150 on season) and features a mullet that he’s promised to keep growing as long as fans continue donating money to charity. Other than my soul, what wouldn’t I be willing to trade for Troy Tulowitzki?

The Phillies were the only NL team that had a better cumulative wOBA for September as a whole but the Rockies offense faded in the second half of the month with a .306 wOBA in the past fourteen days. Don’t blame Troy; he stayed strong with a .396 wOBA. The Rockies pitching simply couldn’t match the crazy awesome Giants staff that posted a 2.75 Team FIP and 4.03 K/BB. The Rockies ended the season having lost thirteen of their last fourteen games. It was kind of fitting then, that the Cardinals and Rockies were left to face off in the season’s final week to see who ended 2010 with the dirtier trousers. Unfortunately for the Rockies, they had an above .500 record which meant that the Cardinals would inevitably win the series.
Mozeliak’s 2011 Checklist
Looking toward 2011, John Mozeliak provided a check list of sorts in Bernie’s not-so-recent column:

  1. “…a couple of guys who can hit 15 to 20 homers.”
  2. A number two catcher who can provide more offense.
  3. Cleaning up middle-infield defense.
  4. Improving overall poor base running.

Let’s break down each bulleted point and compare the Cardinals’ top offensive performers against all postseason teams (Phillies, Giants, Reds, and Braves) within the parameters established by Mozeliak (at least 15 HRs).

2010 Postseason Teams Vs. Cardinals
Player HR wOBA
Giants
Huff 26 .388
Uribe 24 .322
Posey 18 .368
Burrell 18 .371
Torres 16 .363
Reds
Votto 37 .439
Rolen 20 .367
Bruce 25 .363
Stubbs 22 .345
Phillips 18 .332
Gomes 18 .330
Phillies
Howard 31 .367
Werth 27 .397
Victorino 18 .339
Utley 16 .373
Ibanez 16 .341
Braves
McCann 21 .361
Heyward 18 .376
Glaus 16 .331
Prado 15 .352
Cardinals
Pujols 42 .420
Holliday 28 .396
Rasmus 23 .366

Yes, I’m aware how ugly that table looks compared to the width of the page. Turns out all of the division winners had at least five such players (Reds have six) while the Cardinals only had three (Pujols, Holliday, and Rasmus). Although that sounds like a significant difference, when you consider numbers that encapsulate a more complete offensive picture, only the Giants(!) had more players with at least .360 wOBAs. Maybe the Cardinals don’t have as large of an offensive chasm to fill after all. With that said, there are already Rasmus trade rumors swirling and we haven’t even made it out of October yet. Yikes. Let’s hope that the Cardinals resist the urge to placate a manager only willing to go year-to-year and look beyond HR totals when signing/acquiring new players this hot stove season. Beware of guys like Uribe who, despite hitting at least 15 HRs since 2004 (exception of 2008), has only managed to post above average wOBAs twice.

Next on the list is a back-up catcher who can provide more offense. Of course, this is not the type of player that will make or break a team’s competitiveness but it would be nice to have someone capable of posting an OPS+ of at least 75. That’s something the Cardinals haven’t had since, well, Yadier Molina in 2004. Speaking of Yadi, Brian McCann is the only NL catcher that has logged more innings behind the plate in the past three years. At just 28-years-old, we’re starting to see the physical repercussions of such a demanding work load. Maybe the Cardinals are recognizing this as well and they’d like to give him more rest in future seasons. Despite this indication, I remain skeptical that they follow through with pursuit of an offensive minded back-up catcher. Exhibit A: In Molina’s absence, Matt Pagnozzi (.586 OPS in minor league career) has been given regular playing time over Bryan Anderson (.782 OPS in minor league career). That Anderson can’t accumulate AB’s in meaningless September games despite offering this exact skill for the major league minimum price is perplexing; would it be that surprising to see him packaged in a trade this off season?

Mozeliak’s vow to shore up the middle-infield defense seems to be an indictment on Skip Schumaker. See this video for proof. Brendan Ryan doesn’t really care which defensive metric by which you judge him: 11.6 UZR/150, 15 total zone total fielding runs above average, and 27 BIS defensive runs saved above average. Boog’s glove appears to have bought him at least one more season to put things together offensively. The effort and professionalism with which Skip tried to convert to 2B from the OF was much undoubtedly won him points in the clubhouse and made him a fan favorite but the Cardinals appear ready to abandon the experiment. And that seems like the right move. According to UZR, Skip’s defense was actually worse in 2010 (-17.7 UZR/150 in 2010; -8.5 UZR/150 in 2009). Combine that with an unfortunate offensive season (.299 wOBA) and he’s essentially become a replacement level player (-0.2 WAR).

Last on Mo’s agenda is to improve the team’s value on the base paths. According to Baseball Prospectus, however, the Cardinals were in the top third of the league, ranking 9th in equivalent base running runs (EqBRR). Of the top eight teams, only three made the playoffs. In fact, the league overall seems to be pretty bad at adding runs via base running. Only the top ten teams had positive EqBRR and the Cardinals were one of them. Fungoes has more on this topic here. Not that they couldn’t improve in this area, but base running doesn’t appear to be one of the team’s greatest needs.

The positive? John Mozeliak appears to know his team well. I wouldn’t argue with his assessment of team needs. If the Cardinals were able to improve in these four areas, we’d likely have a better team to root for in 2011.

The negative? I’m not convinced that he understands how to make these improvements. In Derrick Goold’s “Thrills and Spills” article, Mozeliak is quoted as desiring, “a more experienced presence,” on next year’s bench and roster. In 2010, the Cardinals added experience to the roster in the form of Aaron Miles, Randy Winn, Jeff Suppan, and Pedro Feliz. These players “helped” the club in the form of the following WARs: 0.0, -0.2, 0.1, and -0.5 (respectively). Maybe triple-A guys like Tyler Greene and Allen Craig wouldn’t have helped much more offensively, but they certainly had the upside that warranted giving them an extended chance. And now the Cardinals will go into 2011 with these guys still needing to wet their feet in the big leagues. 2010 was a wasted opportunity to learn more about guys that the Cardinals need to contribute in the future. The Cardinals don’t need experienced, seasoned, or veteran players. They just need more talent… and their failure to utilize that talent in 2010 even when freely available was (and is) disconcerting.