middle of night miscellany

insomnia sucks. i'm awake; might as well blog.

programming note: right before the holidays i had a long chat with rick hummel, the post-dispatch's hall-of-fame-bound writer; look for the Q+A transcript in the next day or two.

in today's p-d: the mulder bidding plods along. texas and cleveland are in for two guaranteed years, and the bet's to jocketty: call or raise? i say fold 'em. a mulder signing would be worse than no signing at all, imho, because it would make the cards apt to sit back and count on mulder for their midseason rotation boost, instead of aggressively pursuing walk-year pitchers who hit the market as the trade deadline approaches. jake westbrook and mark buehrle are both pending free agents and prime candidates to be moved; see derrick goold's entry at Bird Land today for a long list of other players who might shake free on that basis. if they have mulder in their hip pocket, the cards won't feel the same urgency to bring in reinforcements. but mulder, whenever he returns, is just as likely to undermine the rotation as stabilize it --- the guy hasn't been right for two and a half years, and he's recovering from a torn rotator cuff. i'd sooner have the cards take a flyer on tomo ohka or john thomson, the latter of whom tops jeff sackmann's list of free agents still worth watching.

sackmann's list also names jeff weaver, who (according to the p-d article cited above) remains on the cardinals' radar. if he'd sign for a year or two, sure --- but why would he do that? he's got a better resume than jason marquis and adam eaton, both of whom signed for three years in the low $20ms; if it takes more than that to get weaver (and it will), it's too much. sure, he looked great in october; he also has posted era's pushing 6.00 in two of the last four seasons. weaver has had just one winning season in an 8-year career, and just one year with a sub-4.00 era. jocketty got him for next to nothing last season, and next to nothing is about what he is worth going forward . . . . well okay, that's a little harsh; maybe not next to nothing, but in the same subdivision. will weaver be appreciably better than brad thompson over 30 starts? i'd put it at 60-40, maybe 65-35. if that's worth $30m to ya, be my guest . . . .

it might be worth it to the seattle mariners, who per this diary at Halos Heaven may empty part of their unspent zito purse into weaver's lap. before you dismiss that as a worthless internet rumor, you should know that the socal-based HH seems to have an in with the socal-bred weaver; this blogger scooped the mainstream media by two days last winter when weaver signed his one-year deal with the angels. the diary also notes weaver's fondness for st louis and hints that this factor might even trump seattle's dollars. if jeff would grant the cards one of those coveted Hometown Discounts, i'd discount my reservations about him commensurately.

one other thing before we leave this morning's post-dispatch: the last paragraph says st louis is considering adding a right-handed bat, with preston wilson among the possible targets. i'm not wild about preston, but he has his uses; i'd still rather have the other wilson, craig, who has better on-base ability.

randy johnson won't be joining the cards . . . . .  

final item: the first of the diamond mind simulations have appeared, courtesy of Replacement Level Yankees Weblog (RLYW). for those not familiar with diamond mind, it's a simulation game --- think strat-o-matic, but a lot more sophisticated. the game first impressed itself upon cardinal fans back in the spring of 2004, when it correctly forecast that st louis would reclaim the division title after its 85-win, 3d-place finish in 2003. that was not a widely shared prediction, you may recall; the astros had signed clemens and pettitte, and the cubs had added greg maddux to their terrifying wood/prior combination, while the cards were counting heavily on a reclamation project (chris carpenter) and an inexperienced 25-year-old (jason marquis). but in 100 full-season diamond-mind simulations using projected stats for 2004, the cardinals finished first nearly half of the time and had the highest average win total (92) over the 100 simmed seasons.

RLYW has run preseason diamond-mind simulations the last couple of years, with mixed results. in 2006, this exercise correctly called 6 of the 8 playoff teams; in 2005, it only went 3 for 8. the sims that appeared at RLYW last week are preliminary and should not be taken very seriously; they used data from one of the less established projection systems, CHONE, and only 100 seasons were simmed. by the end of spring training, RLYW will have run several thousand simulations using multiple sets of projection data --- those are the results i would place the most stock in.

but we don't have those yet. the results we do have, flimsy though they may be, are at least encouraging. the CHONE-driven sims project st louis as the best team in the national league, with an average record of 90-72. the cards won the nl central in 54 of the 100 simulated seasons and took the wild card in another 15. even more shocking than that result was the following: the sims project st louis, with its uncertain starting rotation, to yield the lowest number of runs in all of baseball.

i e-mailed SG, who runs the sims for RLYW, and asked who he had slotted into the cardinal rotation for these simulations. he answered that carpenter, wells, wainwright, and reyes were in the first four slots, with narveson and blake hawksworth splitting the #5 slot. it so happens that CHONE thinks reyes and wainwright are just swell --- both are projected to have era's in the mid-3.00s --- and it's reasonably bullish on kip wells, who projects to an era of 4.41. if those pitchers can meet such rosy projections, then st louis will indeed have a hell of a staff.

but don't order your playoff tickets just yet. it's only one projection, and it's based on so-so data and incomplete rosters. i recommended to SG that he use brad thompson as the cards' #5 starter in future simulations; if they sign mulder or weaver or anybody else, that will alter the simulation results. i'll keep an eye on his site and let you know how the make-believe cards fare in the thousands of make-believe seasons to be played in the coming weeks.

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