FanPost

The Cardinals Go to WAR

Since the Cardinals have largely finalized their 2012 roster, I thought it might be a useful (and probably provocative) exercise to hypothesize what kind of WAR the players are likely to generate next year. I’m just spit-balling in a lot of cases, so I hope folks will feel free to argue, disagree and offer their feedback. For what it’s worth, I tried to be as objective and conservative with my numbers as possible.

I’ve tried to organize the players into logical groupings. I also used as a general baseline an estimated 1,480 innings pitched and 6,200 total plate appearances when theorizing likely WAR levels. These numbers are approximately what the Cardinals produced in 2011.

STARTING PITCHING

Wainwright: 2011 WAR = 0.0, 2012 WAR = 4.5 (180IP)

Carpenter: 2011 WAR = 5.0, 2012 WAR = 3.8 (160IP)

Garcia: 2011 WAR = 3.6, 2012 WAR = 3.9 (190IP)

Westbrook: 2011 WAR = 1.1, 2012 WAR = 1.4 (200IP)

Lohse: 2011 WAR = 2.5, 2012 WAR = 2.8 (200IP)

The Cardinals starters all appear to be set and I don’t think we’re likely to see too many surprises. I do think production from the staff’s two aces will be a bit beneath expectations, but given Wainwright is coming off of major surgery, it’s difficult to expect more than 4.5 WAR. I’m hopeful Carpenter will avoid the injury bug, but the fact is that he pitched an incredible number of innings last year, some under very intense pressure. I wouldn’t be shocked by at least one minor visit to the DL, but I have my fingers crossed.

I see Garcia continuing to improve, albeit gradually. He seemed to tire as the year went on, but I think it’s reasonable to hope for 190 innings and a slightly higher WAR, given good health. And while Lohse and Westbrook get maligned by folks, I think both will enjoy slight bumps in value. In Lohse’s case, it’s worth noting that 2012 is his walk year and he might have a bit of extra motivation. Westbrook has an option, but I just cannot imagine he would sink lower…

RELIEF PITCHING

Motte: 2011 WAR = 1.5, 2012 WAR = 1.5 (60IP)

McClellan: 2011 WAR = 0.6, 2012 WAR = 0.6 (100IP)

Salas: 2011 WAR = 1.0, 2012 WAR = 1.2 (80IP)

Sanchez: 2011 WAR = 0.4, 2012 WAR = 0.6 (80IP)

Lynn: 2011 WAR = 0.6, 2012 WAR = 0.8 (100IP)

Rzepczynski: 2011 WAR = 1.0, 2012 WAR = 1.2 (100IP)

Romero: 2011 WAR = 0.1, 2012 WAR = 0.2 (80IP)

I’m going to operate on the assumption that this group represents the primary relief corps for the Redbirds next year. But given the amount of turnover we saw in 2011, these numbers could turn out to be almost meaningless. The pen’s anchors and most reliable pieces will likely still be Motte and Salas. I think Sanchez stays healthy and his stuff will be filthy enough to show improvement. I also have a strange suspicion that Lynn, McClellan, or Rzepcynski will see a few spot starts, unless management chooses to keep things intact and dip into the AAA farm club. And I have no idea what to do with Romero. I know LOOGY’s are popular and all, but I just don’t see how he contributes much from a WAR perspective.

What makes me scratch my head is there are no wily veterans like an Arthur Rhodes or an Octavio Dotel in this group (I guess Romero counts). Again, it just makes me think that at some point a move will be made. But given what the Cardinals have on hand, this is the group we have to work with, and these are my best guesses at their WAR values. Feel free to disagree.

OUTFIELDERS

Holliday: 2011 WAR = 5.0, 2012 WAR = 5.5 (550PA)

Beltran: 2011 WAR = 4.7, 2012 WAR = 3.5 (500PA)

Craig: 2011 WAR = 2.6, 2012 WAR = 2.8 (500PA)

I don’t think there will be any real surprises here. Holliday will have another quiet, but highly productive season (hopefully without any weird injuries). I think that Beltran will be a bit exposed in centerfield, effectively replacing Jay, but I think he still manages to produce a solid WAR, meeting expectations. Craig could probably have had an extra 0.5 WAR tacked on, but missing the first month of the season kills that. I think he also needs a few weeks to catch up, power-wise. 500 plate appearances might be a bit optimistic, but I have little doubt Matheny will want to work his bat into the game at every opportunity, even if it’s just a pinch hitting appearance.

INFIELDERS

Molina: 2011 WAR = 4.1, 2012 WAR = 4.0 (500PA)

Berkman: 2011 WAR = 5.0 WAR, 2012 WAR = 4.2 (500PA)

Descalso: 2011 WAR = 0.5, 2012 WAR = 0.9 (500PA)

Furcal: 2011 WAR = 0.5, 2012 WAR = 1.0 (400PA)

Freese: 2011 WAR = 2.7, 2012 WAR = 3.5 (450PA)

This is a motley bunch, and I’m not sure how “regular” these guys are going to be in these positions. Will second base be a swinging screen door, with one player after another getting time share? I have no idea. But I’m going out on a proverbial limb and assuming Descalso gets the majority of playing time here. Will Freese hold up at third base for a full season? I sure hope so, but there are plenty of folks who will jump in there, just like with shortstop. At least catcher seems locked down, and Berkman will hold onto first, save for the odd day off.

I actually see a lot of room for growth here compared to last year, assuming folks stay healthy. Molina will be steady as he has hit his prime years. Berkman will regress a little (he almost has to, doesn’t he?). But the others all seem poised for modest improvements, assuming good health. Descalso gets a bump simply because he plays more. Same with Freese, assuming those ankles stay intact. And for some reason I see Furcal adding a bit to his stat lines.

BENCH

Cruz: 2011 WAR = 0.3, 2012 WAR = 0.4 (150PA)

Jay: 2011 WAR = 2.8, 2012 WAR = 2.5 (400PA)

Komatsu: 2011 WAR = NA, 2012 WAR = 0.2 (200PA)

Schumaker: 2011 WAR = 0.6, 2012 WAR = 0.4 (300PA)

Greene: 2011 WAR = 0.1, 2012 WAR = 1.1 (350PA)

OTHER – 900 PA, WAR = ???

I’m a little confused as to what the Cardinals bench will look like this year. I suspect it will be this constantly changing, amorphous blob, with people shuttling back and forth between St. Louis and Memphis. But I guess we have to wait and see. I’m a little worried that there isn’t much power here. Then again, it seems likely that there will be at least one bopper resting each evening (Berkman, Craig, Beltran, etc.), so hopefully I’m just overreacting. If your favorite pet rock isn’t on the bench, feel free to speak up.

For the guys that are there, I think Cruz will replicate his last season, Komatsu will not find a niche and get released, and Schumaker will get more playing time than he likely deserves. On the plus side, we probably see Jay get used a bit more sparingly (something I think makes him more comfortable), and Greene finally gets some needed time at 2B / SS. And that’s why I gave them both a small bump in terms of WAR.

CONCLUSION

I am a little confused with my totals. I did the 7th grade math and added up the scores, factoring in an extra 52 wins (that’s what the interwebs says a replacement level team would generate). The final score I get is… 104 wins. That seems way wrong. If there is someone out there wiser in the ways of WAR that can explain what I’m missing, I would love to hear it.

So what do folks think?

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