Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Chris Carpenter: Clutch in the Postseason

Chris Carpenter had a terrific postseason this year, cementing his place among the greatest Cardinals pitchers. His Game 5 Division Series duel against Roy Halladay is unforgettable, one of the best pitched postseason games I've seen. Besides his first start in Game 2 of the NLDS when he pitched on 3 days rest, he was lights out. He won 4 games and the Cardinals were 5-1 in games started by Carpenter this October.

Really, during Carp's postseason career he's only had 3 bad starts out of 15. He got roughed up in Game 2 of the 2006 NLCS, and in Game 1 of the 2009 NLDS. There was also his first start of this years playoffs were he only went 3 innings on 3 days rest. But it was Carpenter's start in the last day of the season that helped clinch the wild card. Carp is 9-2 in the postseason and the Cards are 12-3 in games he starts. Carp also pitched in the only two games the Cardinals won against the Astros in 2005 NLCS including the Pujols/Lidge game. Carpenter has also won 3 series clinching games, including two this year.

There has been many pitching heroes in Cardinals postseason history, from Grover Alexander to Dizzy Dean to Harry Breechen to Bob Gibson to Joaquin Andujar, but Carpenter now has the most wins and highest Winning Pct. in Cardinals postseason history. Carpenter is now 10th alltime in postseason victories with 9 and had 4 this past year. I would still say Gibson's postseason career is the most dominant in Cardinals history, he was 7-2 with a 1.89 ERA in 9 starts(all complete games) with 92 srikeouts in 81 innings pitched. While Carp isn't quite as dominant as Gibson was, he's proven to be a guy you want in there with the season on the line.

News and Notes: Jonathon Broxton has traded in Dodger Blue for Royal Blue, should be a good addition if he's healthy. I'd also like to thank the Red Sox for hiring Bobby Valentine to be their manager so I no longer have to hear him on Sunday Night Baseball games, he gets on my nerves. It looks like the Cubs are joining the Marlins and Cardinals in pursuit of free agent Albert Pujols. I have my doubts that Pujols would serious consider signing with the lovable losers up north, but we'll see.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The All St. Louis World Series

In 1944 the country was deep into World War II and there were quite a few players in the military at that time. The Cardinals were missing Enos Slaughter, Terry Moore, Howie Pollet, and a few other players from their pennant winning teams the prior two seasons. They still managed to win 105 games without them with Stan Musial, 1944 MVP Marty Marion, and the Cooper brothers(Walker and Mort) leading the way. The Browns clinched the American League pennant the last day of the season just beating out the Detroit Tigers. The Browns were a team of 4-A nondraft elgible players, drunks, and castoffs with shortstop Vern Stephens being their top player.

1944 marked the first and only time two St. Louis teams would play each other in the World Series. All games would be at Sportsmen's Park, which the two teams shared. This was also the first World Series for the St. Louis Browns, who were a perennial loser up until now. It was familiar territory for the Cardinals, who were the Yankees of the National League during this time. This was the third straight World Series appearance for the Cardinals, and their 8th appearance since 1926. Needless to say the Cardinals were heavy favorites to win the World Series.

The Cardinals officially had home field advantage for the World Series, even though all games were in the same ballpark. The Browns jumped out to an early lead when Denny Galehouse outdueled Mort Cooper in Game 1. The Cardinals won a 11 inning Game 2 on pinch hitter Ken O'Deas RBI single. The Browns roughed up Cardinals starter Ted Wilks in Game 3 knocking him out after three innings. The underdog Browns now had a 2-1 series advantage.

In Game 4 Stan Musial hit a 2 run home run in the first helping the Cards to a 5-1 win over the Browns, evening the series. Game 5 was a pitching rematch of Game 1 with Cooper outdueling Galehouse for the win this time. In Game 6 the Browns jumped out to an early 1-0 lead, but the Cardinals scored 3 runs in the fourth giving them the lead. That would be all the Cardinals needed, and they went on to win the game and the World Series over their intercity rival the Browns.

This was the fifth time the Cardinals had won the World Series, and the second time in three years they had won. Stan Musial would be drafted in 1945, but he returned in 1946 winning the batting title, MVP, and led the Cardinals to another championship. The Browns never returned to the World Series, and were plagued by low attendance after the war. After a 100 loss last place season in 1953, Browns ownership sold the team to Baltimore investors. The Browns moved to Baltimore becoming the Baltimore Orioles and St. Louis became a one team town.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Sabermetrics is for Squares

I was watching Clubhouse Confidential last night with Brian Kenny and they were discussing the NL MVP vote were Ryan Braun and Matt Kemp finished 1-2. One could make a case for either player since they both had great years. Kenny had some guest on his show that was pretty much inventing stats. Braun and Kemps numbers were "adjusted" for their ballparks, and a few other factors. Then they were compared by using some sabermetric stats I've never heard of. The actual stats that happened on the field were barely discussed, I didn't see them talk about Avg., Runs, HR, RBI once and their OBP and SLG were adjusted somehow. Billy Ripken made a joke about making his own adjustments at the end of the show when Kenny said Curtis Granderson leading the league in runs and RBIs was just because of his teammates.

There was an article by Dave Shoenfield on ESPN that said Justin Verlander was kind of lucky this year because his Batting Avg on balls in play was only .236 compared to CC Sabathia's .316. My reaction is, isn't that a good thing on Verlander's part? For the most part, award voters are not into sabermetrics. However, there are a few who are like Keith Law. This is the same guy who voted Javier Vazquez #2 ahead of Adam Wainwright and left Chris Carpenter off the ballot in 2009 because of the WAR and FIP(a stat that doesn't consider outs made by defense)stats. This year he placed Clayton Kershaw third despite the fact Kershaw led the NL in Wins, ERA, Strikeouts, and WHIP. He voted Halladay number 1 because of WAR, and said Lee and Kershaw was a toss up because Lee had tougher competitition. Law didn't mention that Lee and Halladay also had better team defense and a better offense to back them up. Law also left 21 game winner Ian Kennedy off his 5 spot ballot.

WAR is a joke of a stat, its an attempt to put a one number total value ranking on a player but it often has funny results. It stands for wins above replacement, but can a complex formula really determine how many wins a player brings to a team? Pitching is calculated using FIP and BA on balls is play instead of regular pitching stats, and defense is ranked by UZR an unreliable defensive measure. I'm sure there is numerous adjustments for hitters as well. There's also handicaps and penalties depending on the player's position, league, and home ballpark. There is at least 3 different versions of the stat, and its formula is constantly changing. Tony Phillips has a higher career WAR than Lou Brock, and Ben Zobrist ranked higher on one version of WAR than Albert Pujols in 2009. Garbage stat in my opinion.

People who are into sabermetrics are more like accountants than baseball fans. I'm not sure they even like watching baseball and seem to think the game is played by robots not humans. Just like corporations and governments twist numbers around to suit their agenda, baseball stats can be used to do the same. There was alot of talk about how revolutionary Billy Beane's Moneyball was, but without scouts and player development coaches it wouldn't of worked. The movie downplayed scouting, but without scouts the A's would of never had Eric Chavez, Miguel Tejada, Jason Giambi, Barry Zito, Tim Hudson, or Mark Mulder. That was the key to their success more than sabermetrics. However, the Athletics have had 5 straight losing seasons, and haven't made the playoffs since 2006. Maybe Beane should hire some more scouts and baseball people instead of number crunchers.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Berkman Ranks Among Alltime Great Switch Hitters

Lance Berkman revived his career this past season in St. Louis and played a big role in helping the Cardinals win their 11th championship. Its also safe to say that Berkman has been one of the best switch hitters to ever play the game. I'm not sure if he'll make the Hall of Fame, but with another good year or two he might.

As of right now Berkman has the 2nd best Slugging Pct. and On Base Pct. of all switch hitters behind Mickey Mantle. He also has the 4th most HRs for switch hitters with 358 behind Mantle, Eddie Murray, and Chipper Jones. He's also had some of the best individual seasons of any switch hitter besides Mantle or Chipper Jones. I would say Berkman is close to being in the top five best switch hitters of alltime, if he isn't there already.

Here's my rankings, considering only hitting(not defense or baserunning)

  Player                      Years            Key Stat(s)
1) Mickey Mantle       1951-68    Most HR by a switch hitter career(536) and single season(56)
2) Chipper Jones        1993-        2nd in BA(.304), 3rd in HR(454), and 2nd in RBI(1561) for switch hitters
3) Eddie Murray         1977-97    2nd in HR(504), 1st in RBI(1917), 2nd in hits(3255) for switch hitters
4) Pete Rose               1963-86    Most hits by any hitter with 4256, 5752 Total Bases, 2165 Runs Scored
5) Lance Berkman      1999-         One of three switch hitters to post an OPS over 1.000 in a season
6) Roberto Alomar      1988-04    5th most hits(2724) and 5th most total bases(4018) among switch hitters
7) Frank Frisch           1919-37     Best career BA among switch hitters with .316, former Cardinal
8) Tim Raines              1979-02    Won a batting title in Montreal, 4th most runs(1571) for switch hitters
9) Bernie Williams       1991-06    Big player in the Yankees dynasty, hit over .300 eight seasons in a row
10) Carlos Beltran       1998-        Has 9 100 RBI seasons, 5th best career SLG pct among switch hitters

Other Notable Switch Hitters
Chili Davis              
Ozzie Smith
Reggie Smith
Ted Simmons
Bobby Bonilla
Ruben Sierra
Mark Teixeira
Victor Martinez
Omar Vizquel
Willie McGee
George Davis
Jimmy Rollins
Max Carey
Tony Fernandez
Terry Pendleton
Red Schoendienst
Jose Reyes
Willie Wilson
Devon White

Friday, November 18, 2011

Extra Playoff Teams a Bad Idea

It looks like baseball is going to add a second wild card in 2012 or 2013. Nows there is going to be a one game playoff before the Division Series between the two wild card teams. I think this a terrible idea and it waters down the playoffs. Sometimes, the wild card has the second best record in the league and now its possible that a team with a inferior record could beat them in a one game playoff. Its also possible that a third place team could make the postseason now.

One would figure after one of the most exciting end of the seasons in recent years Bud Selig would leave well enough alone. Under this scenario, it wouldn't of mattered when the Rays and Cardinals won the wild card in the last day of the season. Because they would of both had one game playoff with the Red Sox and Braves who both stumbled down the stretch. Making the postseason should mean your one of the best teams in baseball, not reward mediocrity.

The current playoff format was fine, and baseball has the least amount of playoff teams in all major sports. I prefer that over basketball or hockey's long postseason. Baseball has made a good move eliminating off days on travel days during the playoffs. Now the World Series ends before Halloween, but thats no reason to add 2 playoff teams. A better idea would of been expanding the Division Series to a best of 7 instead of a best of 5.

The Astros are also moving the American League West after next season after 50 years in the National League. This will even up the amount of teams in each league, solving some scheduling problems. There will also be at least one interleague game every day starting in 2013. As a Cardinals fan, I'll miss the Cards/Astros rivalry. It was a pretty good rivalry until the last year or two.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Verlander deserves MVP as well

In the National League, I think the MVP is between Ryan Braun and Matt Kemp. I don't see anybody else winning that award. In the American League its a crowded field. Jose Bautista, Curtis Granderson, Jacoby Ellsbury, Adrian Beltre, and Justin Verlander's teammate Miguel Cabrera all have good MVP cases. But Bautista played on a 4th place team, Granderson only batted .262, and Ellsbury's team collapsed down the stretch(no fault of his own). Cabrera did win the batting title and had a great season, but the Tigers would of been in trouble without Verlander.

Consider the season Verlander just had

ERA          2.40(1st in AL)
WHIP       0.92(1st)
Wins          24(1st)
Innings       251(1st)
Strikeouts  250(1st)

Verlander had one of the best pitching seasons of the last 20 years this past season. He had the most wins since Randy Johnson in 2002, and the lowest WHIP since Johan Santana in 2004. He pitched deeper into games this season by not trying to strike everybody out. He still led the league in strikeouts, but he pitched alot more innings than he usually does. He also gave up far less hits and walks, which were career lows for him.

The rest of the Tigers rotation was pretty average this season. Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello both had ERAs in the mid-4s, and Brad Penny was terrible this year. Phil Coke was moved back in the bullpen after being ineffective as a starter. They didn't have a good complementary starter until they picked up Doug Fister at the trading deadline, and he gave them 10 good starts. The Tigers won their division by 15 games, but Verlander won 24 of them. Verlander also was 9-0 in August and September when the Tigers went on a 38-16 run to win the division. Before the trading deadline they were 57-51, and Verlander was their only good starter going 16-5 during that span.

Dennis Eckersley was the last pitcher to win a MVP and that was nearly 20 years ago. Roger Clemens was the last starting pitcher to do it. Pedro Martinez should of have won in 1999, but two voters left him off the ballot. Pitchers don't win MVPs often, but I think with the year Verlander had he deserves it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Worst Free Agent Signings Ever

More often than not big time free agents flop or don't produce to the level they did with their previous team. Trying to buy a championship fails more often than it succeeds, just look at the Mets. Here is my list of the worst signings of alltime.

1) Barry Zito, Giants(7 years, 126 million)

Was pretty good with the A's, but has been mediocre at best across the bay with the Giants. He was no longer the Cy Young Award winning pitcher when he was up for free agency, but he was still a solid #2 starter. With the Giants he's been 43-61 with a 3.91 ERA and was left off the postseason roster during their 2010 championship.

2) Mike Hampton, Rockies(8 years, 121 million)

Said he went to Colorado because they had better schools for his children. Pitched 2 seasons with the Rockies compiling a 5.75 ERA and a 1.68 WHIP. He was then traded to the Braves, and was hurt for most of the last 4 years of his contract.

3) Alfonso Soriano, Cubs(8 years, 136 million)

This contract has been a albatross for the Cubs. He is no longer a stolen base threat, and his OBP was below .300 last season. His outfield defense is pretty bad as well. The Cubs are still on the hook for 3 more years of Soriano.

4) Chan Ho Park, Rangers(5 years, 65 million)

Was a pretty good pitcher with the Dodgers, but was awful with the Rangers posting a 5.79 ERA during his time there.

5) Mo Vaughn, Angels(6 years, 80 million)

Mo Vaughn had two good years with the Angels, but his body started breaking down after that. Most likely a steroid user he was out of the league before his contract ended. Luckily for the Angels, they were able to trade him after the 2001 season to the Mets for Kevin Appier who contributed to their 2002 championship.

6) Jason Schmidt, Dodgers(3 years, 47 million)

Alot of bad deals were signed after the 2006 season, and this is one of them. Schmidt barely pitched for the Dodgers because he was injured.

7) John Lackey, Red Sox(5 years, 82 million)

This might move up the list because he's only 2 seasons into the deal. So far, he's had a 5.26 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP with Boston and is going to miss next season because of Tommy John surgery. He'll have plenty of time to eat chicken wings and drink beer next year.

8) Denny Neagle, Rockies(5 years, 51 million)

Was signed along with Hampton after the 2000 season to bolster the Rockies rotation. However, Neagle was 19-23 with a 5.57 ERA in Colorado and was injury prone. His Rockies career ended when he was caught soliciting a prostitute in 2004.

9) Gary Matthews Jr., Angels(5 years, 50 million)

Made a amazing catch in 2006 with the Rangers and had a career year. But, during his first spring training with the Angels it came out he was getting HGH shipped to his house. He went back to being a 4th outfielder type with the Angels. Most expensive 4th outfielder ever.

10) Alex Rodriguez, Yankees(10 years, 275 million)

ARod decided to use the opt out clause in his contract after the 2007 season to get even more money. Even though he was 32 years old at the time, the Yankees still gave him 10 years. It came out in the second year of his deal he did steroids earlier in his career. His production has slipped from his prime years,and is more injury prone now. The Yankees still have 6 years remaining in this deal.

11) Darryl Strawberry, Dodgers(5 years, 22 million)

Only had one good season in LA, before injuries and cocaine abuse did him in. The Dodgers released him duing the 1994 season.

12) Dice K, Red Sox(6 years, 52 million)

The Sox paid 51 million just to get the rights to Dice K, then gave him a 52 million dollar contract. Had two good seasons before injuries hit him. Entering the final season of his deal next year and is recovering from Tommy John surgery.

13) Jason Bay, Mets(4 years, 66 million)

Bay has completely fallen off in New York, hitting only 18 home runs in two seasons after hitting 30 homers multiple times in the past.

14) Russ Ortiz, Diamondbacks(4 years, 33 million)

Ortiz was terrible in Arizona going 5-16 with a 7.00 ERA there. The Diamondbacks ended up releasing him with 2 plus years left in his deal because he was so bad.

15) Danny Tartabull, Yankees(5 years, 26 million)

One of the biggest contracts ever when he signed it, Tartabull was never the player he was in Kansas City. He only batted .252 in New York after batting .290 during his time with the Royals.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Hero of the Cardinals first championship

The Cardinals had never won a National League pennant before 1926, but they had put together a good team by that time. They were led by 2B/Manager Rogers Hornsby, 1B and onetime Sullivan native Jim Bottomley, C Bob O'Farrell(who won the MVP that season), and OF Chick Hafey. They also had a strong pitching staff led by Jesse Haines and Bill Hallahan.

In midseason, the Cubs placed Hall of Fame pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander on waivers, and Hornsby suggested that the front office should pick him up. Alexander was one of the greatest pitchers of alltime, winning 373 games during his career. However, he was 39 years old in 1926 and suffered from epilepsy and shellshock from World War I. He was also a heavy drinker who wore out his welcome with Cubs management. Alexander was key in the Cardinals winning the pennant over the Reds and Pirates in 1926.

The Cardinals reward for winning the NL pennant was to face the Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig led Yankees. This series went a full 7 games and the Yankees took a 3-2 lead going back to New York. In Game 6, Alexander won his 2nd game and pitched his 2nd complete game of the series. Jesse Haines started Game 7 for the Cardinals, but ran into trouble in the 7th inning with St. Louis hanging on to a 3-2 lead.

Hornsby called for Alexander to enter the game, even though he pitched a complete game the day before and was recovering from a hangover from celebrating the win. Earle Combs, Ruth, and Gehrig were on the bases, and Tony Lazzeri was up. After a long battle, Alexander struck Lazzeri out. Alexander retired the next five batters in a row, and had to face Babe Ruth to get the last out. Ruth ended up drawing a walk, and Bob Muesel was up next with the Cards still clinging to a 3-2 lead. Alexander threw the first pitch, and Ruth decided to steal second. Muesel missed the pitch and catcher Bob O'Farrell threw Ruth out to end the game and the Cardinals won their first championship.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Matheny, new Cardinals manager

Surprisingly, the Cardinals hired former catcher Mike Matheny to be Tony La Russa's replacement as manager. I expected Jose Oquendo to get the gig due to his tenure with the club. I do think Matheny can become a good manager, although I'm not sure how long the learning curve will take. One of the reasons GM John Mozeliak hired him is because his ability to work with younger players, which is a plus. Matheny has also been praised for his leadership skills, and he did teach Yadier Molina some of tricks of the trade during his rookie season.

Regardless of having a rookie manager, I think the Cardinals can still make a run next year. The Cardinals have a good coaching staff now, and if they can get a former manager to be bench coach that would help Matheny out. Also, Matheny is taking over a team that just won the World Series. Dave Duncan wants to return as pitching coach, which is a big help. Oquendo also wants to return as 3rd base coach despite being passed over for manager.

The big question is still about Albert Pujols, and if he's going to re-sign or not. It would be a big loss if he left, but the Cardinals are in good position to make a playoff run next season even without Pujols. Lance Berkman can be moved to 1st, and Allen Craig and possibly Adron Chambers can play right. The Cards should look to upgrade the middle infield regardless of what Pujols does. The pitching should be better next year. Adam Wainwright is returning from Tommy John surgery next season, and top pitching prospect Shelby Miller could be ready sometime next year. Promising reliever Eduardo Sanchez should be healthy, and he has pretty good stuff.

The Cardinals have the talent to win, and the Brewers made the playoffs with a rookie manager last season and the DBacks had a second year manager. Its hard to repeat as champion, but I do think the Redbirds can make a run at it again next year despite having a rookie manager.