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Off-day Musings Vol. I - A Taste of Our Own Medicine


The maladies that have afflicted the 2009 edition of the St. Louis Cardinals are well-tread territory here at VEB.  Questionable roster management, untimely injuries, sub-par performances, and a thousand other factors have contributed to the thirty losses accumulated this season.  The most glaring of these issues, of course, is the pedestrian offense (pedestrians walk).  With some free time before a date with our favorite World Series whipping boys, now is as good a time as any to take a look at the offensive 2009 Cardinals and identify some areas for improvement.

It is no secret that our offense has struggled to score runs.  After coming out of the gate scoring a blistering 5.8 R/G in April, the Redbirds have regressed to 3.5 and 3.6 R/G in May and June, respectively.  Unsurprisingly, our winning percentage has followed suit, falling from .696 in April to .481 in May and .357 in June.  Since May 1, the Cards are just 18-23.  The question then:  what has changed?  On the offensive side:

 

Month

BB/K

K% - 1

BB% - 2

In play% - 3

OBP

SLG

OPS

RS/G

April

0.74

14.7%

10.9%

74.4%

.369

.450

.819

5.8

May

0.48

16.5%

7.9%

75.7%

.299

.389

.688

3.5

June

0.30

16.7%

5.0%

78.3%

.288

.389

.677

3.6

 

Even the quickest of glances at this data reveals an alarming trend:  our BB% has plummeted and has dragged our OBP, OPS, and runs down with it.  The Cardinals offense has become the ideal Dave Duncan opponent:  a bunch of free-swinging hackers who aggressively put the ball in play.  It doesn't take a genius to figure out that if an offense is achieving what the pitchers are striving for, success is going to be limited. 

Some more disparaging June numbers besides our minuscule 5.0% BB%:  for the month, the Cards have swung at more pitches out of the zone (30.7%) than 28 other MLB teams (the Dodgers lead the league swinging at just 19.5%).  Even worse, the Redbirds have swung at the most pitches of any team in general, hacking at 51.9% of offerings in June.  Whether a concerted approach handed down by the coaches or simply a display of the lack of plate discipline skills, this trend of aggression is choking the team of its ability to get on base and score runs.

Here is an even further examination, with our offensive performance broken down by opponent:

Opponent

BB/K

K%

BB%

In play%

OBP

SLG

OPS

RS/G

Mets

1.50

8.3%

12.5%

79.2%

.441

.584

1.025

7.7

Royals

0.81

14.3%

11.6%

74.1%

.352

.372

.724

4.0

Astros

0.68

17.0%

11.6%

71.4%

.413

.474

.887

6.3

Brewers

0.69

15.9%

11.1%

73.0%

.288

.337

.625

2.8

Diamondbacks

0.93

10.8%

10.0%

79.2%

.360

.468

.828

6.7

Nationals

0.61

15.7%

9.6%

74.8%

.304

.450

.754

5.3

Cubs

0.51

18.3%

9.3%

72.4%

.330

.458

.788

4.7

Giants

0.52

17.5%

9.2%

73.3%

.345

.406

.751

3.7

Reds

0.43

17.6%

7.7%

74.7%

.320

.415

.735

4.1

Pirates

0.51

14.5%

7.4%

78.1%

.319

.413

.732

4.0

Indians

0.35

16.2%

5.7%

78.1%

.248

.313

.561

2.0

Braves

0.23

24.5%

5.7%

69.8%

.267

.216

.483

3.0

Phillies

0.67

7.5%

5.0%

87.5%

.312

.429

.741

4.0

Rockies

0.21

20.6%

4.4%

75.0%

.230

.336

.566

2.3

Marlins

0.25

13.2%

3.3%

83.5%

.350

.483

.833

7.3

 

 

An interesting point to note here is that Cards are 12-6 vs. opponents who walk us in >10% of plate appearances, but just 22-24 against those who walk us less than that while scoring a full run less per game - 4. The Phillies and Marlins were especially good at being Good Cardinal Pitchers, each inducing balls in play at a greater than 80% clip.

So what do we need?  More bad news?  If you insist.  Without Sr. José Alberto Pujols Alcántara, this offense would have the following combined line:  .246/.303/.379/.682.  That, my friends, is what we humans like to call piss-ass poor.  That is roughly the equivalent of sending 9 Adam Everetts up there, a far cry from being a contender with the class of the National League (even if we were to add the top trade rumors). 

Even this blackish green lightning-filled humongous funnel cloud has a silver lining, though:  the offense has been extremely unlucky in regards to BABIP (27th - .283).  With the amount of balls the Cards are putting into play, more are bound to fall eventually and that .288 June OBP will rise dramatically.  I hope anyway.

I would love to hear everyone's thoughts on the status of our offense.   Is the lack of discipline the problem?  The absence of real power outside of Pujols?  Maybe someone with better batted ball stats skills can illuminate the point for all of us.  I just want us to score, and score a ton.  I doubt hitting it to the pitcher is going to serve us all that well this time around with the Tigers.

______________________________________________________

6/16 ADDENDUM:  I have never been happier to write the word "addendum" in my life. 

After all my off-day whining and complaining (which certainly caught the ear of the organization due to my authoritative status and brilliance), the Redbirds decided it would be fun walk in exactly 10% of their PAs on their way to this line against Verlander & Co.: .400/.462/.714/1.176.  For those of you keeping track at home, they also K'ed in 17.5% of PAs, meaning 72.5% resulted in a ball in play (well off the June average).

We made the jump from Adam Everett to Babe Ruth!  Love small samples!  The Bambino's career line:  .342/.474/.690/1.164.

______________________________________________________

Notes, caveats, etc.

Data taken from Fangraphs and Baseball Musing's play-by-play database.

Yes, I am aware I suck at HTML tables.  Yes, I could have googled it and fixed it in 3 minutes.  No, you can't force me to learn.

Footnotes:

  1. K%: defined as K / PA.  I used PAs instead of ABs to be comparable to BB%.
  2. BB%: defined as BB / PA. 
  3. In play%: defined as (PA - K - BB) / PA.  This is not perfect as it includes HBP, but wanted it to tie to my previous formulas, i.e. 1 - (K% + BB%).  
  4. I realize this is one step above BBTN factoid analysis.  Completely cherry-picked and not necessarily telling.  But it supported my point, so I am using it.  Sorry, nerd.

_______________________________________________________

Ed. note:  Many thanks to SleepyCA for a clarification on BB% calculation.  Numbers now reflect the correction.

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