Patience...please!

There’s been a lot of discussion of late about whether or not the Cards should resign Matt Holliday, who they should pursue should the fail to resign him, and whether or not Hal McRae should return as the Cards’ hitting coach next year. Someone ought to, at some point, study the impact that hitting coaches have on an offense, to the degree that that’s possible. Look at the table below and see if anything stands out.

P/PA wOBA
Cards 3.66 .325
Rockies 3.99 .340
Phillies 3.86 .340
Dodgers 3.88 .331
Yankees 3.88 .366
Red Sox 3.94 .352
Angels 3.88 .346
Twins 3.86 .338

Did anyone else know that the Twins’ offense, featuring Nick Punto, Brendan Harris, Matt Tolbert, and Carlos Gomez for almost 1600 PAs, was better than ours – and it wasn’t even really close. The Cards’ offense, featuring clearly the best hitter in the game, was the worst of the playoff teams. Only the Giants saw fewer pitches per plate appearance than did the Cardinals. That’s right – we were the 29th most patient team (or 2nd most impatient team) in the major leagues in 2009. Our most patient hitter – Albert Pujols – averaged 3.84 P/PA, barely above the league average of 3.82 P/PA. Actually, everyone’s favorite whipping boy – Chris Duncan – averaged 3.91 P/PA in just 304 PA.

Let’s look at the team as a whole.

2009 P/PA 2008 P/PA 2009 wOBA 2008 wOBA
Pujols 3.84 3.83 .449 .458
Ludwick 3.83 3.83 .336 .406
Skip 3.73 3.58 .336 .341
Yadi 3.60 3.36 .337 .323
Ryan 3.62 3.78 .324 .277
Ankiel 3.52 3.82 .288 .360
Holliday 3.62 3.88 .390 .418
DeRosa 3.78 3.90 .327 .376
Rasmus 3.61 .311
Lugo 3.90 4.04 .342 .317

The table says a lot about Ankiel’s struggles this year, in particular. I can’t account for the decreases in Holliday’s and DeRosa’s numbers but they both saw their wOBAs fall this year as their P/PA did as well. The bottom line, however, is that the Cards like to swing the bat. The league average % of pitches swung at was 45% and the Cards swung at 48% of the pitches they saw – only the Giants were higher. Again, we were 29th in the big leagues.

Individually, only Albert (42.6%), DeRosa (44.3%), and Lugo (40.1%) swung at less than the league average 45% of the pitches they saw. The others were all above league average – Skip (45.5%), Yadi (50.4%), Ludwick (49.9%), Ankiel (54.1%), Ryan (46.9%), and Holliday (49.6%).

Is this a problem of the players or the team’s approach to hitting? I can’t really say but, to me, there’s little doubt of a connection between the team’s impatience and the team’s struggles at the plate. We can blame Hal McRae if we want but, w/o a little more evidence, that’s a little tough for me to swallow. In order to properly evaluate McRae, it seems to me that we’d have to see how hitters perform for McRae and how they perform elsewhere and see if there’s a trend. Are hitters less patient as a result of McRae’s tutelage? Again, we’d have to compare the "with McRae" to the "w/o McRae." Lugo, DeRosa, and Holliday all provide some info but the sample sizes are awfully small. Plus, we’re talking about players who, at one point in the transition, changed leagues. It’s not as cut and dried as we may think it is.

Still, there’s a problem w/ the team’s offense. We can look to fix it at 3B and I’d expect Rasmus to improve in year 2. But Ryan’s not going anywhere, nor should he b/c of his defense. Yadi’s hardly the problem and, while it wouldn’t surprise me if only one of Holliday and Ludwick return, they’re not the biggest culprits either. Certainly extricating Ankiel from the lineup will help some and maybe replacing McRae is the solution. I know that something’s gotta change, however b/c we’re going to be hard-pressed to pitch as well next year as we did this year.

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