Post-Reds reverie; Jim Edmonds, J.D. Drew and the Hall of Very Good

This is the perfect moment for an off-day. I want this to sink in a little more. The Cardinals just swept a series against the Reds to move into first place; they did it after Brandon Phillips launched a new Viva El Birdos meme, and Johnny Cueto offered us the possibility of seeing (15 Day DL - Bicycle Kicked) on the press notes next week. Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright were outstanding, and Jaime Garcia—well, the Cardinals won, at least. He wasn't very good, but 126 innings into his rookie season it's unsurprising to see him struggle. 

After all this—Skip Schumaker and Colby Rasmus and Yadier Molina hitting, Albert Pujols's slugging percentage climbing toward .600—I don't want to see a Cubs game tomorrow. I don't want even the possibility of the Cardinals losing tomorrow night to Thomas Diamond, who, incidentally, was always my favorite member of the D-V-D Trio. I don't want to be near that this morning. 

So, yesterday afternoon. Prior to that game Colby Rasmus had been hitting .230/.272/.365 since the All-Star Break. Now he's bounced twice off .853, his lowest OPS since mid-April, and sits at .862 this morning. .862! His OPS was higher for just one month in all of 2009—June, when he didn't walk a single time and threatened Swingin Shawon's unbreakable record. He's having an excellent season, and he's doing it even as, at -3.9 UZR fielding runs, he selflessly acts as an object-lesson reproach against getting too involved in single-season fielding numbers.

Meanwhile, Adam Wainwright's season line: 17-6, 1.99. It's awesome, and weird; 23 decisions in 25 starts, a FIP considerably higher than that ERA, another season in which there are players with better sabermetric cases—why is Roy Halladay's season being cast as a disappointment, exactly?—but Wainwright seems almost uncannily solid and sure. Chris Carpenter at his best was better, and even then I'd worry, but with Wainwright the game just rarely seems in doubt. 

Other news: this article about Jim Edmonds in what might be his final season is kind of creepy and condescending in the apparent glee with which Jeff Pearlman talks about the boring life of baseball players after retirement, but the thing that got me mad enough to log into Baseball Think Factory and whine about it was the players with which he lumped Edmonds in the Hall of Very Good: Shawn Green, Reggie Sanders, Steve Finley, Travis Fryman, Mo Vaughn, Luis Gonzalez, Bret Boone, and Bernie Williams.

Suggested sportswriter rule: From now on, when you mention a baseball player, at least bring up his Baseball-Reference page for a second

Necessary WAR comparison: 

    Jim Edmonds: 68.3
  Bernie Williams: 47.3
    Luis Gonzalez: 46.3
Jim Edmonds 00-05: 42.9
     Steve Finley: 40.5
   Reggie Sanders: 38.4
    Travis Fryman: 32.5
      Shawn Green: 29.4
        Mo Vaughn: 25.8
       Bret Boone: 21.4 

That's right: Only Bernie Williams and Luis Gonzalez, who played 18 seasons, accrued as much value as Jim Edmonds did in his best six seasons. Comparing these guys to Jim Edmonds is explaining why Jim Edmonds won't make the Hall of Fame, not why he shouldn't. He's closer to Derek Jeter than he is to Bernie Williams, and he's closer to Ken Griffey, Jr., than he is to Mo Vaughn, who will only make the Hall of Fame in an exhibit on awesome, off-balance hammer-throw home run swings. 

Reminder: Jim Edmonds spent six seasons as an outstanding defensive centerfielder in which he hit .292/.406/.584, an OPS+ of 153. Mo Vaughn spent six seasons as an increasingly planetary first baseman in which he hit .315/.405/.569. In the six years before he moved to right Andre Dawson hit .298/.333/.495 (OPS+ 129, since by then we're getting into the Distant Pre-Longball Past.)

He also spent four years before that as Andre Dawson

Jim Edmonds was Jim Rice, if Jim Rice were a better hitter and also a Gold Glove centerfielder, and also not the most prolific double-play grounder-into in baseball history, and also not a Red Sock.

A more interesting Hall of Very Good case can be made for the guy the Cardinals traded to get Adam Wainwright, and the guy who was getting the undue Mickey Mantle comparisons long before I listened to ESPN drool all over Josh Hamilton last night: J.D. Drew, while we're talking about WAR, has been worth 46.5 over his injury-scarred career.

It's overshadowed by Rick Ankiel, but I'll always regret that Drew's career has turned out as "poorly" as it has. Drew at his best, in 2004 with Atlanta or in 2001 with St. Louis, was the perfect, boring baseball player. He wasn't intense and otherworldly like Albert Pujols, or showboaty and perpetually hobbling around like Jim Edmonds. He started running toward the ball and he was a little faster to it than you thought he'd be; he hit the ball and it traveled a little farther than you thought it would.

Every last thing he did, when things were going well, surprised me, but only a little. That's the curse of being J.D. Drew. I remember he hit a 500 foot home run at Busch Stadium, in one of his last years as a Cardinal, and he did it with an incredibly slow, untheatrical swing; if I had just seen the replay I could have been convinced without too much trouble that he had just looped one over the second baseman's head.

But for all the injuries and the unpopularity, WAR has him as approximately Bernie Williams. He's played 145 games twice in 12 seasons. 

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