Outfield Miscellany

First of all, I'll say that, though I'm a fan of the Edmonds trade, I am sorry to see him go. Three of the greatest plays of the last several years have been courtesy of Edmonds - the homer he took away from Jason LaRue in Cincy, the homer he hit in the 11th inning of Dan Miceli in Game 6 of the 2004 NLCS, and the catch he made off the bat of Brad Ausmus in Game 7. The Cards don't go to the WS if he doesn't make that play. The trouble is that he just doesn't make plays like that anymore. Every now and then we'll get a glimpse - he'll make a diving catch or hit a towering bomb to right-center and we think that maybe he's still got it in him, but it is just a glimpse. It's been painful for me to watch him on the bench as LaRussa uses every other possible pinch-hitter; to see him platooned w/ the likes of So Taguchi, etc. It's like watching Kerry Robinson pinch-hit for Mark McGwire- I just can't watch it anymore. That's not a reason to trade him, of course but it pains me that he's not the player he used to be.

Erik has a pretty good take on the trade and on the newest Cardinal farmhand, David Freese. It seems as though he instantly becomes a top 10-12 prospect for the Cards. I realize that he turns 25 in April but I'd put him in the range of Hoffpauir and Maiques. I'd put him behind Craig but ahead of Hamilton and Jay. It's kind of nice to once again be able to debate prospects in the Cards' system. It's improving, slowly but surely.

There's been a lot of heat directed toward Mozeliak for making this trade. To some degree, I understand it. He is signed for only 1 more year and I've been an advocate of signing players this offseason to 1 year deals - Lieber, maybe Jennings, Colon, Bonds, etc. There's no question that, in the Cards' present situation, it's better than adding someone for 3-5 years in most cases. Some of the criticism has been directed toward DeWitt - "he's only going to stick the extra $7 M in his pocket" - that sort of thing. To me that would be better than giving it and $2 M extra to Josh Fogg each year for the next 3 but I'm probably in the minority there.

The real cost to keeping Edmonds on the roster for the last year of the contract (besides adding a potential 3B) is the opportunity cost - losing the opportunity to see what others can do. Now I don't know that David Freese will become the next great Cardinal 3B - personally, I'd like to see Allan Craig assume that mantle. But organizational depth helps and it seems the guy can hit. Let's see what he's got. Trading Edmonds also allows Rasmus an opportunity to make the team out of spring training and become the everyday CF. It also allows us to see what Brian Barton offers. If Ankiel become the everyday CF, it allows Ryan Ludwick to play more frequently and allows us to see what he's got.

Additionally, we've got a lot of OF's in the upper levels of the minors for whom it's time to see if they can be productive major leaguers - Cody Haerther, Amaury Marti to name just 2. Do I think they're ready? No but it'll be good to see them get some PA's in the spring to find out.

As for Rasmus, he is the future and there's little doubt in my mind that, right now, he's better than Edmonds is. As a couple pointed out in yesterday's thread, however, it doesn't necessarily hold that that means it's time for him to get 5-600 PA's w/ the big club next year. His ZIPS projections have him at .245/.329/.419. Those are about the #'s of an average CF but, if we're looking at a rebuilding year anyway, does it make sense to start his major-league service clock in April? Perhaps not. There's a good argument to be made to having him spend 2 months or so at Memphis unless he has a Pujolsian spring. That would, essentially, start his clock in 2009 while giving him a good bit of major-league experience.

As for Ankiel and Duncan, it's pretty clear to me that we need to trade 1 for young pitching. Does the Edmonds trade make it more difficult to trade Ankiel? Probably but presumably one of Rasmus or Schumaker or Barton could be entrusted w/ the CF duties in his stead. There's some question as to which (Ankiel or Duncan) should be traded. Duncan seems to have the offensive advantage while Ankiel has the defensive advantage. Both have the potential to hit lots of homers. Duncan has more of track record than Ankiel, of course and both are lefties. Ankiel has shown some ability to hit lefties, both in the majors and at Memphis, though we're talking about a grand total of 154 AB's. I'd like to see more evidence before I declare him equally prolific vs. lefties and righties.

Last year, Ankiel and Duncan were almost the same player:

PA RC/27 EQA BRAR BRAA FRAA
Ankiel 190 6.30 .289 13 7 -2
Duncan 432 6.36 .284 25 12 -5

Of course, BRAR, BRAA, and FRAA are all counting stats. Duncan had slightly more than twice the PA's of Ankiel so if you double those 3 numbers for Ankiel you get almost the same values as Duncan had for each. Is Ankiel really as bad an OF as Duncan? Certainly not. It's interesting that BP had him as a terrible CF last year while most everyone (including BP) had him as an outstanding RF. I suspect he's not really that bad in CF - small sample size again. It should also be pointed out, however, that Duncan spent much of last year injured and likely will be better this year - more in line w/ his first 500 or so big league PA's. Ankiel, on the other hand, has no track record to go off of aside from the 190 PA's he had w/ the big club last year.

So what do the projections have for them?

James OBP James SLG James RC/27 ZIPS OBP ZIPS SLG
Ankiel .301 .498 5.18 .285 .458
Duncan .356 .505 6.36 .346 .472

So both projection systems have Duncan w/ about a .60-.75 advantage in OPS over Ankiel. Will Ankiel's defensive strengths be able to offset a .70 loss in OPS? I dunno but I would think that Duncan would have considerably more trade value right now than Ankiel - longer track record, better hitter, defensive liability could be offset by a move to 1B or DH. I still think it's a move that needs to be made - for young pitching, not for Javier Vazquez or someone like that. For those who will argue that we can't afford to trade either's offense b/c we just lost Edmonds it needs to be pointed out that the offense we get in CF this year should be an upgrade over what Edmonds provided last year. It would only be losing the offense of 1 OF - and, if Duncan, as a LF it's offense that is eminently replaceable.

Finally, I'd like to get back to Edmonds. There has been/will be some discussion of his Hall of Fame chances. My initial thinking was, "Very good player, great Cardinal, not a Hall of Famer." I know he's got the 8 Gold Gloves but he's only been on 4 All-Star teams and never finished higher than 4th in the MVP race. He's only had 2 top-10 MVP finishes. Then I began to compare him in Jay Jaffe's system at Baseball Prospectus. He compares potential Hall-of-Famers on his JAWS system - comparing players throughout eras. His contention, essentially, is that a player must be above the average Hall-of-Famer for his position in order to merit entrance into Cooperstown. The rationale behind that is that there are a lot of undeserving Hall-of-Famers, first of all and second, that the Veterans' Committee will give the others who are close a 2nd look anyway.

So let's look at how Edmonds stacks up right now vs. the average H of F CF:

BRAR BRAA FRAA Career WARP3 Peak WARP3 JAWS
Avg CF 720 466 15 109.1 63.7 86.4
Edmonds 546 337 86 105.2 69.2 87.2

Wow! Edmonds stacks up pretty well against the Hall-of-Fame CF's. His career WARP3 is right there and his peak (best 7 seasons) is actually 5.5 wins better. That's not chump-change, bubba! Those Hall of Fame CF's include some pretty stout names - Mays, DiMaggio, Mantle among others. I'm not saying he's Willie Mays, of course, but he's still in some high-cotton here.

Now, we know he has at least 1 more season in him - can he add to those #'s? Sure but, while his WARP3 was 2.6 last year, his BRAA and FRAA were negative - not going to help him much. Going in I really didn't expect his Hall of Fame case to be this strong. I figured he was closer to Dale Murphy or Andre Dawson. It's pretty clear that he's better than that.

That said, a lot of his value, it seems, comes from his defensive ability. There aren't many Hall-of-Famers who are a good bit behind the others offensively but substantially ahead of them defensively. Defense just isn't recognized the way offense is. Make no mistake, his BRAR and BRAA are considerably lower than the others in the group. It's also not going to help his case, among the voters, that he played in such an offensive era - the so-called steroid era. Though he wasn't listed in the Mitchell report and I know of no allegations about prior steroid use, his numbers will still be compared to others of this era - Bonds, Sosa, Frank Thomas, Piazza, Griffey, etc. Those guys are (or should be) sure-fire Hall-of-Famers and Edmonds just doesn't have their offensive pedigree.

My guess is that he won't get in but I'm a lot more convinced now that he belongs than I was when I began this odyssey. Here's to you Jimmy. I love ya. I still believe getting younger is the right move but I'll not soon forget the great memories you've brought to Cardinal Nation. And one more thing, if all you want to do is complain about Jimmy's K's - give me a break! Take one more look at the numbers above and then say the K's matter!

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