On Sunday afternoon the St. Louis Cardinals put the finishing touches on their 2013 campaign that saw them finish with a 97-65 record, good for best in the National League. For a team that spent most of the first half of the season in that position before floundering through the midsummer, it was a happy ending.
The team, however, will enter postseason play for the tenth time in the last fourteen seasons with about as many questions as answers. Here are three important questions that the team will need to find answers to if the franchise’s 12th World Series title is in the cards.
Who will be the postseason closer?
After the preseason injury to closer Jason Motte who led the league with 42 saves in 2012, the team began looking for a new one this spring. Last year’s setup man Mitchell Boggs was unable to settle into the role which opened up the competition. Then last year’s trade deadline acquisition and seventh inning man, Edward Mujica stepped into the role and made it his own, posting a 1.72 ERA, a 0.78 WHIP, and 35 saves in 37 chances from when he took over the position until the end of August. He even got an All Star nod of his own for his work.
But some late season struggles that included being shut down for a week in September for elbow fatigue has opened the door to questions about his health and who will close for the team. Mujica struggled to the finish in 2013 with an 11.05 ERA in his 7 1/3 innings of work and the league hitting over .500 against him. Continue reading
The season is wrapping up and that means its time for discussion over who deserves each league’s postseason awards. The most talked about award for Cardinals’ fans is the National League MVP because the belief is that we have two guys who should be top candidates for the title, Matt Carpenter and Yadier Molina. Now, not to disparage those two who are very good baseball players, but neither is the MVP this year in my opinion.
The award is called the Most Valuable Player. It’s not the Best Hitter Award. So what creates value in a player? There are many ways you can discuss it. Does salary factor in? How about intangibles? What are valuable statistics?
I decided to follow my favorite advice. “Keep it simple, stupid.” Value is created by winning and the only statistic that matters when it comes to winning is runs. So one of my favorite statistics to look at is what I’m now calling Total Impacted Runs (TIR). I previously called it Runs Created, but there is a sabermetric stat with the same name, so I changed it to avoid confusion. The computation is simple, Runs plus Runs Batted In minus Home Runs. So basically Total Impacted Runs determines the total number of runs you played a role in by either crossing the plate yourself or pushing a teammate across. Continue reading
There’s been a lot of discussion over the past few days about Alexei Ramirez and Pete Kozma since a Chicago Tribune article indicated that the Cardinals have attempted to pry Ramirez away from the White Sox. Bernie Miklasz, Derrick Goold, and other writers have weighed in on their opinions. Most call Kozma the better defensive shortstop and Ramirez only slightly less worse than Kozma at the plate. And sure, I’ll admit that when you look at the numbers on the surface, Kozma does appear to be the better fielder.
Kozma has committed just 4 errors and an 11.0 UZR/150. Ramirez has 17 errors and an 8.5 UZR/150.
So yeah, when you look at the numbers, Kozma has better statistics than Ramirez. But what do those statistics really mean? Continue reading
The second half of the baseball season is about to begin and the trade deadline is right around the corner. Already newspapers, blogs, message boards, and twitter feeds are rife with trade rumors as everyone has a keen eye on watching how their teams will perform in the second half. So where are the Cardinals and what could they be looking to add to shore up the team as they drive towards another playoff berth?
I think a good way to get an idea of where the team’s weaknesses lay can be found by a quick glance at the team statistics. With 462 runs scored in 93 games, the offense is currently ranked third in the majors and first in the National League. On the opposite side of the ball, the starting rotation finds themselves with a 3.33 ERA which is good for second in baseball behind division rival Pittsburgh. Their bullpen, on the other hand, has a 3.56 ERA and is only good for 16th.
So a quick glance points you towards the bullpen which has rebounded nicely from an atrocious start with thanks to Edward Mujica‘s step into the closer’s role which he has taken and held onto. Trevor Rosenthal settled into the 8th inning and has once again in the discussion for best relief pitcher in baseball. However, the rest of the bullpen has been a big question mark with most of the rebound behind fueled by great performances by rookie pitchers fresh out of Memphis. Continue reading
It was certainly not Yadier Molina‘s finest hour yesterday afternoon. After putting what he thought was a hit through the gap between the third baseman and the shortstop, Molina cruised his way to first. Except that Giants’ shortstop Brandon Crawford made a great play on the ball and threw Molina out by half a step. Frustrated by what he should have gotten, Molina threw his helmet to the ground and turned towards the dugout. Behind him umpire Clint Fagan threw Molina out.
Rule 9.01 (d) of the MLB rulebook reads, “Each umpire has the authority to disqualify any player, coach, manager or substitute for objecting to decisions or for unsportsmanlike conduct or language, and to eject such a disqualified person from the playing field.”
By the letter of the law, the ejection was correct. Molina throwing the helmet at the ground is an unsportsmanlike gesture. Except that players get away with it 99% of the time. If umpires always ejected players for throwing things, I’d be cool with the ejection of Molina because he should have known better. But in the heat of the moment, it’s a totally acceptable response that rarely gets called. Continue reading