Witness For The Defense

by on May 15, 2012 · 4 comments

Have an opinion about a particular player, coach, manager, team, or franchise you wish to express?  Try tossing stones 140 characters at a time on Twitter, and then wait for every keyboard jockey with a view contrary to yours to find you.  Either nature or some universal law entitles everyone to their own opinion, and in theory there are no wrong opinions.  Great theory.  Poor execution.  Consider for a moment that you wish to play “armchair GM” for a moment.  You better be prepared for the inevitable onslaught of both knee jerk reactions and well-reasoned opposition.

  1. Do you understand the logical ramifications of what you propose or suggest?
  2. Does your opinion or suggestion violate any current rules, laws, treaties, or the Geneva Convention?
  3. In addition to blasting some person, persons, or entity with a candid assessment, do you have a reasonable alternative to propose?
  4. Are you being in any way logical, or are you simply allowing your opinion to reflect some deep-seated personal bias?
  5. Based on all the information available, do you fully comprehend the situation which are choose to address?
  6. Do you understand the concepts of both libel and slander?
  7. Can you support your conclusion with any facts?
  8. Are you able to address any detractors with a logical argument, or are you just going to throw intellectual mud at them and run away?
  9. Have you checked to make sure someone more knowledgeable and/or eloquent than you has not already expressed your opinion in much better form than you can?
  10. How much consideration have you put into understanding a particular team’s financial constraints, discrete goals, and plausible personnel options?
  11. Are you familiar with the minor league teams affiliated with the team of your choosing?
  12. Do you actually watch baseball games, or do you simply like to start debates for the sake of starting debates?

“Abandon all hope ye who enter here.” -Inferno (Dante)

Here are just a few examples of armchair GM tidbits floating around the interwebz:

Mitchell Boggs has not pitched well, and he should be optioned/released/taken snipe hunting.”  Well, Boggs happens to have a relatively solid 2.81 ERA, a 1.313 WHIP, and averages 10.1 SO/9, but that does not satisfy everyone.  In 15 appearances this season, Boggs has surrendered 5 earned runs, and he has yet to allow more than 1 earned run in a single appearance.  Beyond the obvious here, why shouldn’t Boggs be taken on a one way snipe hunting trip?

  1. For starters, most of his stats are trending in the right direction and have been since his introductory year in 2008.  His ERA has gone from 7.41 to 2.81, WHIP has dropped from 1.881 to 1.313, and his H/9 has steadily fallen from 11.1 to 8.4.  Unless I’m mistaken, that’s the career arc of someone who is actually improving as he gets older.
  2. Relatively speaking, Boggs has struggled a bit in his last 2 outings, and by “struggled” I mean he has allowed 2 earned runs in 3 innings.  Workload may be responsible for this performance drop.  After all, Boggs made 4 appearances in 7 days, and he threw 28, 15, 31, and 46 pitches respectively during that time.
  3. The real underlying problem for Boggs might be traced back to May 9th when he surrendered 3 hits without register a single out.  Boggs has only pitched on consecutive days twice this season, and the first occasion (1 1/3 innings combined) required only 13 pitches total.  On May 8th, Boggs threw 28 pitches through the course of a rather lengthy inning, and he was not nearly as sharp or strong the following day.  After that May 9th appearance, his 4-seam fastball that frequently registers in the high 90’s has hardly been seen at all.  Arm fatigue much?
  4. Finally, exposure to LHB might be problematic as well.  Boggs has a 5.50 SO/BB rate and .211 BAA when facing RHB, but he allows LHB a .333 average and .500 BAbip.  His BAA and OBP allowed against LHB are well above his career numbers, and the extra 36 points of OBP probably helps explain his slightly elevated WHIP in spite of a below average walk rate.

While he certainly does not post numbers that most elite relief pitchers do, you might be hard-pressed to find a better option for $506K a year.

“Designate Skip Schumaker for assignment, because all he can do is hit for a decent average and play mediocre defense.”  Yeah, hitting for a decent average – just horrible.  Granted, “mediocre” might be putting it kindly, but he isn’t getting the kind of paycheck that Robinson Cano, Ian Kinsler, or Dan Uggla are getting, either.  The Cardinals put forth no pretense that Schumaker represents a defensive stopper, so fan expectations might be slightly misaligned with the team expectations.  While impossible to divine the team’s internal expectations, I consider it fair to compare him to similar “combo” players with similar experience and numbers.

  1. Go hunting for combo players who play both the corner OF positions and 2B.  Then whittle that list down to the ones with 5+ years experience.  After that, go ahead and cut out the ones make $2M+ per season.  You’ll find yourself with a relatively short list of players you probably wouldn’t pick ahead or behind Skip.  Since the Cardinals cannot afford an All-Star at every position, they could do worse than Schumaker.
  2. Schumaker has played in just 17 games, and he is hitting .325/.400/.425/.825.  He currently stands at 0.1 WAR, and based on his 2 year deal at $1.5M per season, the Cardinals basically break even at around 0.3 WAR per season.
  3. Descalso plays a much more competent 2B (-6.8 UZR/150 vs -25.8 UZR/150), but Descalso’s struggles at the plate this season make this a matter of picking your favorite poison.  Tyler Greene currently represents the worst of the 3 defensively and offensively, and his current claim to fame is that he is 5th on the team in stolen bases despite having only a fraction of playing time the 4 players ahead of him have had.
  4. For his career, Skip is a .261 pinch hitter.  Maybe that does not count for much, but having an experienced pinch hitter rarely hurts a team.
  5. Lastly, Skip’s prowess as the team’s 4th (or 5th) outfielder should not be undersold.  He managed a 49.0 UZR/150 in the OF for 2010 and 35.1 UZR/150 for 2011.  Not surprisingly, his arm strength benefits him greatly in that statistical department, but you might be surprised to learn that his range component in both of those years was above zero.

Daniel Descalso should be the starter at 2B.”  Tough call.  Descalso certainly should be the late innings defensive guy at 2B as long as he has not been charged with that responsibility at one of the other positions he can play competently.

  1. Descalso currently boasts a line of .203/.311/.359/.670 in 27 games this season.  While I expect him to move that up closer to his career numbers, he still doesn’t represent a better offensive option than Skip.
  2. Double D’s built a substantial portion of his .255 career average by facing mostly RHP.  In fact, he has 403 plate appearances against RHP and just 84 against LHP.  His .266/.338/.369/.707 line against RHP helps makes the case he should start against RHP, but Schumaker’s .306 career average against RHP trumps all.
  3. If anything, Descalso probably deserves the label “super utility guy” for his ability to play multiple positions.  In 2012 alone, he has already spent time at 1B, 2B, SS, and 3B.

“When Chris Carpenter eventually returns 1 of the 5 current starters must move to the bullpen.”  Another tough one here.  Even if Carp returns, he may not be at 100% in terms of conditioning right away.  Even if his conditioning checks out fine, he may experience “dead arm” issues or require some time to get command of all of his pitches.  Rather than risk upsetting the apple cart, the Cardinals could get creative.

  1. Move Chris Carpenter to the bullpen.  That eliminates almost all concerns about pitch counts and innings pitched.  Also, Carp could actually be just as valuable in a relief role as he could be as a starter so long as the starters are holding up reasonably well.
  2. If Carp comes back and only has solid command of 2 pitches, he probably won’t last long in games as a starter.  Considering the mileage on his arm, working him up from being the long guy in the pen to being a starter in what Cardinal fans hope is the playoffs might pay dividends in the long run.

Jaime Garcia has some issues and needs to mature, seek help, or just pitch better.”  The Cardinals could certainly use the best Garcia can give them, but some might argue that Jaime has actually had more good starts than bad ones this season.

  1. Garcia’s record currently stands at 2-2, but he could easily be something like 5-2 right now.  The Cardinals have dropped 3 1-run games Jaime has started.
  2. Run support for Jaime may look good based on average (5.26), but the bulk of that came from an 11-5 win over the Brewers and an 11-1 win over the Reds.  Beyond that, the Cardinals have scored just 3.2 runs per game in his other starts.
  3. While Garcia certainly could improve in some areas, it should be mentioned that his WHIP has only increase .157 over last season.  This implies that while Jaime certainly has some control issues, he also isn’t so far away from where he was last year that all hope is lost.

I’m not declaring this team “perfect” in any way.  The point here is that 35 games into the season for a team that is 20-15 may be a bit too early to make significant changes.  20-15 projects to something in the mid-to-high 90’s in terms of wins, and the NL Central may only require 90-91 this season.  Finally, just consider the kind of starting lineup the Cardinals can trot out on a regular basis.

Think about that lineup, and then consider that Allen Craig (.372/.420/.814/1.234 with 5 HR and 16 RBI) isn’t even in the list.  Even if they drop off the pace a bit, that’s 7 players headed for 80+ RBI seasons.  Circumstances could be a whole lot worse, and a 4-game losing streak does not portend the end of all things.

Follow gr33nazn on Twitter, because the Defense has not rested quite yet!

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Cardinals fan since I could hold a fishing pole steady. Accidental blogger. Opinionated. I could care less about what you think of me. Constantly confounded, bemused, and confuzzled (ie I'm a pc and a mac). I'm an IT infrastructure analyst with a penchant for breaking tech toys. I ate a sabermetric primer for breakfast. I love playing "All-powerful GM of MLB". The 2010 Cardinals represented a good, practical definition "cognitive dissonance". The 2011 version got by on duct tape and a prayer, and I'm fine with that. They just need new tape for #12 in 12.
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