The Cards and the Commandments of Sabermetrics

by on August 12, 2008 · 4 comments

I’m sure a lot of you have seen this list before, but I just saw it yesterday for the first time, so I’m going to force it upon you again.

Now, obviously Sabermetrics is something not every baseball fan necessarily follows nor understands, but nevertheless, some of the basics ring true for basic baseball knowledge.  That being said, the list I am referring to (and posted below), is a Ten Commandments of Sabermetrics by the widely-acknowledged “father” of Sabermetrics, Bill James.

The Ten Commandments of Sabermetrics
By Bill James

1. Thou Shalt not Bunt.
2. Thou Shalt Have no Low On Base Percentages Before the Cleanup Hitter
3. Honor the three-run homer and the leadoff walk.
4. Thou shalt not steal at anything less than a 70% success rate.
5. Thou shalt make no idol of the light-hitting middle infielder.
6. Thou shalt not count to the credit of the pitcher that which is done by his fielders or by his hitters, nor charge him with their failings.
7. Thou shalt not abuse thy starting pitchers.
8. Thou shalt make no effort to ride the hot hand, for the hot hand is but a shape in the wind.
9. Place thy faith not in veterans, when youth be available to ye.
10. Thou shalt not pass freely thy opponent’s number eight hitter, nor his cleanup hitter, nor his left-handed pinch hitter, nor any hitter that is thy opponent’s.

Read that list once more, and let them all sink in.

Now let’s address this in the view of the Cardinals.

  1. Well, not everyone believes in this, especially playing National League-style baseball.  Good luck trying to convince Tony LaRussa of this one.  Doesn’t necessarily apply.
  2. For their part, the Cardinals are all over .371 OBP from lead-off to cleanup (with the exception of Brian Barton who has the second-most appearances in the lead-off spot this season – which I would’ve never guessed).  Not too shabby.
  3. The Cardinals are still close to the MLB lead in walks and have taken 86 of them leading off an inning.  Pretty good ratio, from my admittedly amateur point of view.  The Cardinal starters have been good about not giving up a lot of walks, but the bullpen has been horrendous.  I wish I could break out how many of the leadoff walks issued by Cardinal pitchers was by the bullpen.  The Cardinals have 13 three-run homers this season out of a total of 133.  Conversely, the pitchers have surrendered 12 three-run shots of a total of 126 allowed.  Not too bad comparatively.
  4. The Redbirds are 56 of 78 this season, good for 71.7%.  An acceptable percentage, but lots of folks (read: the author) would like to see them run more, situationally.
  5. This one is what really got me thinking about this list and how it pertains to the Cardinals.  Let’s go through the litany of players rotated through the St Louis middle infield in recent years.  Aaron Miles, David Eckstein, Adam Kennedy, Cesar Izturis, Brendan Ryan, Miguel Cairo, Felipe Lopez, Hector Luna, and on and on.  You could go back many years to find a middle infielder with much pop.  Edgar Renteria is the closest in recent history that I can think of.
  6. This one really hasn’t applied to the Cardinals until the last week or so as fielding goes, as their defense has been pretty impressive team-wise, a good reason for their success to date.  You could argue that the offense has had its share of unimpressive performances, leading to undue losses for the pitching staff – but I might extend this commandment a bit further to include not faulting the starting pitchers who have been victimized by the bullpen allowing inherited runners to score at an alarming rate.
  7. LaRussa and Duncan have a minor tendency to push starting pitchers beyond their limits and not pull them at signs of distress and trouble getting hitters out.  In their defense, it is hard to justify pulling  a starter who has cruised through six innings only to go to questionable arms (and mental states) in the bullpen.  To look at this a different way, you could argue that the pitchers have been abused by the consistent letdowns of the bullpen, costing them wins.  The Cards’ ‘pen has 25 losses on the season, exacerbated by 27 blown saves, the most in MLB.
  8. Tony and his merry band of Redbirds would never be accused of riding a hot hand.  It took almost two months before Ryan Ludwick could find himself a regular spot in the lineup, and all he’s done is put up MVP-quality numbers this season.
  9. This appears to be the biggest Cardinal sin (yuk yuk) committed this season (well, and who am I kidding, every other season in LaRussa’s tenure).  The same bullpen retreads are run out every night while youngsters like Chris Perez are “forced to earn their keep” or “made to earn their job” while guys like Jason Isringhausen and Ryan Franklin seemingly can’t do anything horrible enough to lose theirs.  Jason Motte has been filthy on the mound at triple-A Memphis this season, but can’t get a sniff with the big club, despite the massive amounts of shuffling being done this year.  Meanwhile, Kelvin Jimenez continues to get call-ups.  There appears to be a real rift in the organization between what the front office of John Mozeliak and Jeff Luhnow are trying to accomplish and what Tony LaRussa and Dave Duncan want to trot out on the field every night.  Anthony Reyes pitched brilliantly for Cleveland the other night, was anyone surprised?  They allowed him to pitch how he was comfortable pitching and he had a great outing.  It will be interesting to see where this team goes next season as more youth is developed and more of the stopgap veteran players depart.  It will be perhaps even more interesting seeing what LaRussa does following next year, when is contract comes due again.
  10. This one kind of follows with number one – I don’t think there’s a team in baseball that would buy into this philosophy – especially if they had to face Albert Pujols at any point.  Of course, this also takes on special meaning when applied to a team facing the Cardinals, because as we all know – Pitchers Hit Eighth.

What does all this mean?  Eh, virtually nothing, other than I found the list interesting and thought I could throw together some entertaining comparisons and ideas as they apply to the Cardinals.

How would you apply these axioms of Sabermetrics to the hometown club?  Leave a note below…

Writing about the Cardinals and other loosely associated topics since 2008, I've grown tired of the April run-out only to disappoint Cardinal fans everywhere by mid-May. I do not believe in surrendering free outs.
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