Cardinals make big deal for Lackey

The St. Louis Cardinals announced today that they have acquired starting pitcher John Lackey from the Boston Red Sox along with prospect Corey Littrell and $1.75 million in cash in exchange for Allen Craig and Joe Kelly. It was  a big move that shocked most Cardinals fans and even some in the clubhouse as well. As Derrick Goold described it, everyone is stunned at the news of the trade.

John Lackey, 35, is 11-7 with a 3.60 ERA this season in 21 starts for the Red Sox.  After missing 2012 due to injury has had surged back, pitching as well as he has most of his career since returning in 2013. He’ll replace Kelly in the rotation. Kelly had been rushed back from his hamstring injury and hasn’t pitched as well as he has in the past since returning.

Littrell, 22, is 5-5 in 18 starts for High A Salem with a 3.60 ERA. He is a left hander who is described as crafty, not overpowering. His appearance in the majors some day seems like as certain as you can claim about a fifth round player playing A ball from what I’ve read. [click to continue…]

What is the value of upgrading starting pitching?

We all know what the rough cost to acquire an ace pitcher like David Price, Jon Lester, or Cole Hamels would be. We’ve seen that discussed by the media over and over again over the last couple months. But what we don’t know is really what the net effect would be to the team. Well, I attempt to answer that.

Of course there isn’t a way to tell the future. Any of those three pitchers could put together an incredible final two months of the season or the offense could provide him an incredible amount of run support. Those are all variables that have a great effect on these calculations. For the sake of discussion, we’ll assume that all pitchers will continue pitching to their current season averages for the remainder of the season.

The first step was to determine how many runs per inning each pitcher allowed and then how many innings per start they went. Multiply that and you have the runs per start allowed by the starting pitcher. [click to continue…]

Cardinals pick up Masterson from Indians

The St. Louis Cardinals have acquired RHP Justin Masterson from the Cleveland Indians in exchange for 2012 first round pick OF James Ramsey, the clubs announced today.

Masterson, 29, has struggled through his contract year with a 5.05 ERA and 4-6 record in 19 starts. He is currently on the disabled list with knee inflammation and was scheduled to return to the Indians for a Friday start, but that will be scratched and he is scheduled for a Saturday start with the Cardinals.

His FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) is 4.08 this season, indicating that pitching in front of the St. Louis defense may improve his overall results. Walks have been a problem for him this season too, allowing 1.5 more walks per nine innings than his career average, however he’s been able to maintain his 0.6 HR/9 rate. Obviously the Cardinals see something out of Masterson who was an All Star pitcher in 2013 with 14 wins and a 3.45 ERA. [click to continue…]

What happened with Kozma in June?

Remember back in June when the Cardinals designated Pete Kozma for assignment and then after he passed through waivers he was optioned to Memphis and kept on the 40 man roster? Well, it was confusing to me because the Cardinals had optioned Kozma to the minors back in April without waivers, so there shouldn’t have been a need to go through waivers based on my understanding of the roster rules.

I was confused, so I questioned and never really came up with a good answer other than “they needed to.” While most fans moved past it, I wanted to know why. I wasn’t able to get a clear answer from anyone nor find one in the CBA (which is really hard to read, by the way).

I generated my own theory that perhaps it was based on the number of years since he was drafted to protect a player from being held in the minors as long as possible and then optioned out every year to keep him even longer. But I was wrong. Thanks to a discussion we were having at CardsClubhouse about optioning Craig to Memphis and the ensuing research, we found the answer.

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Praising Neshek

Mention Pat Neshek to a Cardinals fan and you’ll no doubt get a positive reaction. “He’s having a good year.” “He deserved that All Star nod.” The 33 year old veteran relief pitcher that the Cardinals signed on a flier in Spring Training made the team and has put together a great season. However, just how great that season has been has flown under the radar.

As we approach the end of July, roughly 2/3rds of the way through the season, Neshek is sporting a 0.85 ERA and a 0.638 WHIP over just over 42 innings of work, both league leading numbers among relievers with more than 30 innings pitched. He has a 428 ERA+. For those who don’t know what ERA+ is, it’s an attempt to normalize ERA for league and park factors. An even 100 ERA+ means a league average pitcher. For Neshek’s 428, which leads the league as well, it means he is more than 4x as good as the league average pitcher this year.

But Neshek hasn’t just been arguably the best relief pitcher in baseball this season, you can make a case that it is among the best seasons for a reliever in the history of baseball. A couple of weeks ago, wondering just how good Neshek has been, I plugged it into the Baseball Reference Play Index tool (if you’re a stat-head like me, best $36 I ever spent). I asked it how many relief pitchers had thrown more than 30 innings with an ERA below 1.00 and a WHIP below 0.75. There were three. [click to continue…]