Brand Keys, a research consultancy firm, specializes in customer loyalty and what makes it. Hardball Talks, recently posted about the research the Brand Keys did into baseball teams and fan loyalty. The results found the St. Louis Cardinals nabbing the top spot on the ratings. The Philadelphia Phillies were second, the Boston Red Sox third. I was personally surprised that the Chicago Cubs didn’t have a spot in the top-5.
This study is likely to throw some fire on the public hate that’s recently come the Cardinals’ way thanks to their recent success and overuse of the buzz-term “The Cardinal Way.” And don’t forget the other one, the “Best fans in baseball.”
I have two questions about this study.
First, each team in the top-5 has existed for well over 100 years. On the other side of the coin, the bottom-5 were all founded in the last 52 years. A team’s history and tradition were factored into the study, but that means that recent expansion teams are automatically placed a disadvantage before you start measuring anything.
And second, one of the metrics that Brand Keys used in the study was a measure of “Pure Entertainment,” or basically, how well a team performs on the field. Passikoff mentions in the release that “Winning the series can add up to 20% to a team’s loyalty score.” I have a problem using that as a measuring stick. It’s easy to love a winner. If anything, team performance should have an inverse effect and ask the question, do your fans still love you when you aren’t winning? That’s the question they should be asking and is the root of any question of loyalty.
The news came out over the weekend in an article by Derrick Goold that the Cardinals want Randy Choate to be more than just a lefty specialist in the bullpen. According to Matheny, the Cardinals can’t afford to use Choate in just a specialist role going forward and the tinkering with his role is in pursuit of what’s best for the bullpen. I would figure what’s best for the bullpen is to put your relievers in the best position possible to succeed, but maybe I’m wrong.
Here’s the problem. Lets name all the Cardinals’ pitchers who were worse against right handed batters than Choate last year. Seth Maness, Michael Blazek, Victor Marte, Maikel Cleto, Mitchell Boggs, and Marc Rzepczynski. See a recurring theme? Only Maness remains with the team (thanks to his double play ability, no doubt). The rest have been traded or released.
Point is, 38 year old pitchers who are 14 year veterans of the big leagues don’t become lefty specialists because teams decided not to let him face right handed batters. No, I’m pretty sure at this point in his career it’s because he’s a heckuva lot better against left handers than he is against right handers and there are usually a pletora of pitchers in a bullpen better against right handers.
With the depth of the bullpen with Trevor Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez, Seth Maness, Pat Neshek, and Keith Butler there is no need for Choate to be facing right handed hitters unless he’s sandwiched by a pair of lefties. In fact, every other Cardinals’ reliever has faced a left handed batter this year, except Choate. You know how many relievers in the Cardinals’ bullpen were better against lefties last year than Choate? Just one. The other lefty in the bullpen.
For years the Cardinals struggled to piece together a competent left handed specialist out of the bullpen. Lots of cheap failures, lots of failed potential. Mozeliak finally goes out and spends for one of the premier LOOGYs in baseball and the manager decides to not use him in that role. #BecauseMatheny
The St. Louis Cardinals have gotten out to an obviously slow start offensively. So I went back to trace the numbers. They have scored 17 runs over the first six games of this season, that is the third lowest total of the last 20 years. The only worse were 1997 (12 runs scored) and 2011 (15 runs scored).
However, on the bright side, the 22 runs the Cardinals have allowed is the third lowest of the last 20 years. The only better starts for a pitching staff were 2008 (13 runs against) and 2012 (17 runs against).
Their -5 run differential provides some hope as it is just the 7th worst of the last 20 years. There’s something interesting to consider with years that start with negative run differentials too. The Cardinals have seven of them now, in all but two they ended up making the playoffs (1996, 2001, 2005, 2011). That’s the same number of playoff appearances out of the best six run differentials too.
So the point of this was to say that there is no point in worrying about the offensive output over the first six games of the season. There are 156 more to play anyway and it has no visible effect on playoff chances.
As I’m watching the game against the Pirates tonight, Mike Matheny brought Carlos Martinez, his eighth inning guy, in the sixth inning to spell Joe Kelly. Which made me wonder why Matheny bothered to designate Martinez as his setup man if he wasn’t going to actually be the eighth inning man.
But at the same time, the more I think about it, the more I think this is the perfect role for Martinez.
We have three guys in the rotation this year who will need to have their innings watched. Those are Shelby Miller, Michael Wacha, and Joe Kelly. Miller and Wacha will likely be targeted around 200 innings, including the playoffs. Kelly will likely be a lot lower, maybe around 170 innings.
Martinez’s role should be that of an innings saver. Have him expected to go a few innings behind Miller, Wacha, or Kelly every few days. With Kevin Siegrist as a quality option for the eighth inning and Jason Motte on his way back, this role is a win from almost every angle.
If Martinez is really the next best starting pitcher on the staff, he is being vastly underutilized confined to a one inning bullpen role. Making him a modified long reliever to help protect the other young pitchers while keeping himself stretched out to go multiple innings in case of an injury to a starting pitcher would seem to make the most sense for the team going forward.
Following a play where he fell into the stands, Matt Adams pushed a fan as he was extricating himself from the tarp. Some media outlets are describing it as a shove or even Jenifer Langosch calling it a “nudge” in her article. It was somewhere in between.
At first I thought it was a “bro shove” as fellow UCBer Kevin Reynolds called it this morning on Twitter as we discussed it. However, Adams’ face betrayed that concept. He was frustrated with the fan interfering with him.
I’m not saying it was intentional, and I don’t believe it was. There is a distinction between intention and reaction. It was just a frustrated reaction towards a fan who stole an would-be out away from him. Adams didn’t set out to push the fan, but it happened, and intent doesn’t matter.
Major League Baseball can’t allow fan/player contact like this to go unpunished and they shouldn’t. I think he needs to be suspended for three games. Players need to be reminded that they have to be above the fans, unfortunately it is Adams who has placed himself on the chopping block as the example.
Adam Wainwright pitched masterfully in the season opener. Michael Wacha did the same in the second game of the series. Then came Lance Lynn. The much maligned Lynn may not have the overall performance some would like to see out of him, but with him on the mound the offense usually finds a way to win baseball games. That can’t be argued.
Lynn and Wainwright, now at 34 wins, remain tied as the winningest NL pitchers since the start of the 2012 season. However their paths to get there are vastly different.
Wainwright has a 3.34 ERA over 67 starts and a 111 ERA+.
Lynn has a 3.90 ERA over 63 starts and a 95 ERA+, just below average.
The cries to replace Lynn have already resounded, especially after the Reds scored 3 runs during the first inning on him, but he did rebound nicely as he threw four more shutout innings. No doubt Lynn needs to step it up and be more consistent of a pitcher, but he is on the mound when the team wins baseball games. That may not count for much, but it should count for something as wins are all that matters. As long as they do, I’m not inclined to move him out of the rotation.