LOOGYs, Defensive Stats

So it looks like the Cardinals will be addressing the LOOGY problem in a familiar way: bulk. To Charlie Manning Mozeliak added, yesterday, Ian Ostlund and maybe-Trever-Miller.

Miller first, since as of this moment he is "... still working on the language of the contract." Provided the Cardinals actually get him he seems to echo the last lefty reliever the Cardinals handed a two-year contract—Ricardo "Gulp" Rincon.

Which is not to say that he's going to pitch eight games or lose his job to Bill Pulsipher or anything. It's just that, like Rincon, he's an aging LOOGY whose appearances have, of late, gotten shorter and shorter—whose platoon split has widened to where it would be better for him to throw underhand against righties, or just do the hidden ball trick every time, than to actually challenge them with his fastball.

The year before the Cardinals got Rincon, who had a one or two year run as one of the better LOOGYs in the league, he threw just 37 innings in 67 appearances, and faced 30 more lefties than righties. He still seemed outwardly effective, but he was far gone from his peak, when he got righties out better than the average relief pitcher.

Miller never had Rincon's peak, but like him he's become even more one-dimensional in his dotage. From averaging three quarters of an inning an appearance in his three year "peak" he's down to just barely half in 2007 and 2008, during which time he's become more lefty focused and less effective.

Basically, Miller is an upgrade to the Cardinals bullpen like a cold is an upgrade to the flu. You feel better, because you used to feel like crap, but you'd still rather not feel that way all summer. I hope this isn't the zenith of the bullpen construction.

As for Ostlund, he looks like he might be a keeper. A reliever for most of his career, he's made his way slowly up the Tigers' system by spending what amount to whole seasons at each stop. Now 30, he was extremely effective in the AAA International League, where he struck out 77 batters to just 17 walks in 69 innings. That sort of control is par for the course for Ostlund, who's walked two batters per nine innings in his Minor League career, and not at all par for the course for LOOGYs, who typically walk the hitters they can't get out.

As per Minor League Splits Ian Ostlund doesn't have the prototypical LOOGY split we discussed re: Charlie Manning at all. In fact, in 2008 he walked one more lefty than righty. His career splits only show one significant difference between the way he attacks lefties and righties: he's allowed one home run to a left-handed batter in 97 innings, but 23 to right-handers in 157 innings.

As a lefty on the Cardinals he almost certainly wouldn't be called upon to get many right-handers out, but that he can do it—at least at the AAA level—makes him a more palatable option, for me, than any of the other LOOGYs the Cardinals have presently thrown against the wall.

But you know who I'd love to see? R.J. Swindle. Anybody whose #2 pitch is the eephus curve is alright by me. 

Anyway, I've been working on it all week and the formatting is still godawful, but it's time to present version 0.5 of the Defensive Stat Aggregating Chart. Down the chart are the positions; heading right you reach the backups. Fielding Bible +/-, available at Bill James Online (which is definitely worth the $3 a month) is measured in outs; DRS, computed by Chris Dial, is Zone Rating converted into runs. PMR—David Pinto's stat—has been converted into runs at Chronicles of the Lads and now Beyond the Box Score.

I'll work PMR into the rest of the starters' tables today, but I wanted to have some semblance of this nasty-looking table up before, uh, Saturday. (I've only checked this in Safari—if it looks even worse in IE or Firefox, let me know in the comments and I will probably... well, I'll probably throw my hands up. But let me know.) 

POS

1

2

3

C

Yadier Molina

Jason LaRue

1B

Albert Pujols

08: FB +20 DRS: 14.5 PMR: 28.5

07: FB +37 DRS: 12.1 PMR:  ---

06: FB +25           PMR: 30.7

Chris Duncan

08: FB -1 DRS:  ---

07: FB  0 DRS:  0.7

06: FB +1

 

2B

Adam Kennedy

08: FB +19 DRS:  9.1

07: FB  -1 DRS:  3.4

06: FB  +1

Aaron Miles

08: FB  0 DRS:  -.8*

07: FB -1 DRS:  1.5

06: FB  0

Brendan Ryan

08: FB -1 DRS:  ---

07: FB +2 DRS:  ---

 

3B

Troy Glaus

08: FB  +6 DRS:  4.5

07: FB  +9 DRS: -5.2

06: FB  +8

Aaron Miles

08: FB  0 DRS:  ---

07: FB +1 DRS:  1.1

06: n/a

Brendan Ryan

08: FB -1 DRS:  ---

07: FB +1 DRS:  ---

 

SS

 

Aaron Miles

08: FB +5 DRS:  ---

07: FB -9 DRS: -6.3

06: FB -2

Brendan Ryan

08: FB +3 DRS: -1.9*

07: FB +3

 

OF

Ryan Ludwick

08: FB  -7 DRS:  0.4

07: FB +10 DRS:  4.4^

 

Chris Duncan

08: FB +4 DRS:  5.3

07: FB -4 DRS: -4.6

06: FB -6  

Brian Barton

08: FB +4 DRS:  0.5

 

 

CF

Rick Ankiel

08: FB -15 DRS: -1.3

07: FB  -1 DRS:  ---

Skip Schumaker

08: FB -2 DRS: ----

07: FB -1 DRS:  1.0

Joe Mather

08: FB 0

 

OF

Skip Schumaker

08: FB  +5 DRS: -5.0*

07: FB  +5 DRS: -0.6

Rick Ankiel

08: FB +1 DRS:  ---

07: FB +4 DRS: -2.1

Joe Mather

08: FB +7

 

* - The stats are only available in this year for total defensive value, and are not broken down by position. This is the Aaron Miles asterisk.

^ - This year Ludwick derived most of his value from playing center field.

I think the fundamental thing to remember here is that at many of these positions the starter sees fewer fielding chances per game than he gets at-bats, and that for many of the utility players or part-timers they're playing the equivalent of 30 or 40 at-bat seasons at each position. The Fielding Bible stats put it best in their tables--another reason to pick up a Bill James Online subscription--which list "expected" plays, given their playing time and the balls hit to their area, and the actual plays that were made.

It's one thing to say that Aaron Miles was +1 play as an outfielder--it sounds permanent, like a rate stat. But it's another to realize that that was one more play out of three he was expected to make. I wanted to mention this in the table but, well, it's a table, and the benefits of a table get lost when you begin writing disclaimers inside the cells. Use your best judgment. 

What strikes me immediately, besides how absurdly good Albert Pujols is by every available metric, is how good a prospective defensive team the Cardinals trotted out to begin the year. Ludwick's 2008 seems to have been shaky at best but he was a career centerfielder who'd acquitted himself extremely well in 2007. Ankiel's exploits in center were well-regarded for a newcomer and, as the refrain goes, he certainly had the arm for it. Glaus is the only player who didn't come into the season with either an excellent defensive reputation or every reason to have one, and even he did well by +/- coming into the season.

It's difficult to really declare it a pattern, or a Mozeliak predilection, since a guy who might be the best defensive third baseman ever was traded before the season even began, but given the Izturis signing and the Kennedy non-signing Moz's tastes certainly mesh with the valuation of players in the publicly available metrics.

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