Whether we slice and dice the baseball season into weeks, months, or games played, the start and ends points are arbitrary. The completion of yesterday's game marked the end of 26 consecutive games against National League Central opponents for the Cardinals. This end point is no less arbitrary than the calendar turning form April to May so I thought we might take some time this morning to look at the Cardinals' offensive production to date and how ZiPS projects it to be going forward.
Rafael Furcal: .330/.402/.464
Remember during spring training when Mike Matheny was openly talking about Daniel Descalso getting plate appearances at leadoff instead of the struggling Furcal? Thankfully the rookie manager didn't act on Furcal's spring stats. Furcal had three hits on Opening Night. After his slash line fell to .293/.341/.439 on April 10, it shot up again. After play on Sunday, his wOBA is .389 (the same wOBA that Carlos Beltran and Troy Tulowitzki posted last season). To his hitting, Furcal has added above-average defense and excellent base-running. Furcal has already tallied 5 SB to 0 CS. The updated ZiPS projection for Furcal foresees a 4.0-fWAR season. If he is able to do this, Furcal will have provided production worth $20 million in the first year of his two-year, $14 million contract.
David Freese: .302/.368/.531
Over 768 career PAs, David Freese has a .365 BABIP; over 106 PAs in 2012, Freese's BABIP is .359. What has always made me nervous about Freese as a hitter is that he only hits .300 with a .365 BABIP; or, in 2012, .302 with a .359 BABIP. When his batted-ball luck evens out, the slump is going to seem even deeper because of the strikeouts. Freese has struck out in 21.4% of his career PAs and in 24.5% of his 2012 PAs. All of this being said, the uptick in power from St. Louis's favorite son is very heartening. His HR/PA has fallen to one homer per 17.7 PAs in 2012. With his .239 ISO and .554 SLG, this is the power-hitting Freese of the Cardinals farm system that most expected to see for the Cardinals.
Tyler Greene: .256/.360/.512
Sunday's game exemplified the allure of the toolsy Greene. He showed off his power with a double and two dingers as well as his patience at the plate with a walk and speed on the basepaths with a stolen base. Somehow, he didn't strike out, which prevented Sunday's performance from exemplifying Greene's skill set. As of today Greene's wOBA is .384 and his OPS is .872 through only 50 PAs. The horse is perhaps a zombie that will forever be kicked on this blog, but Greene should get an extended look at second base. ZiPS projects a 10-homer season from Greene along with a .227/.306/.354 line. His upside is something more than that and the Cards should probably figure out if he'll reach it. After all, his ceiling is far higher than that of either Descalso or Schumaker.
Daniel Descalso: .214/.323/.357
Descalso's plate discipline has improved significantly from last season. In 2011, his walk rate was 8.8%. Not bad, but not great. This season, Descalso has walked in 12.% of his PAs, which is excellent. Unfortunately, with a 25.8% K rate, he's striking out at a pace approaching that of Greene. Descalso's BABIP of .289 is quite a bit below his .319 career mark. Even so, ZiPS projects Descalso to put up a 2012 line that closely resembles his 2011: .255/.329/.374.
Skip Schumaker: .308/.419/.423
Schumaker came off the disabled list with neither Descalso nor Greene hitting particularly well. In a nightmare scenario for Cardinals fans, the worst defensive second baseman in baseball from 2009 through 2011 has wormed his way into playing time at the keystone in 2012. In fact, he's making another strong run at the title of "worst defensive second baseman" again. Schumaker has hit for average and drawn walks at a very healthy rate. His ISO of .115 so far is nearly double the .068 he posted last season. ZiPS isn't buying Schumaker as a valuable offensive player, though. The ZiPS (U) for Schumaker is as follows: .277/.338/.359. A .307 wOBA is probably right. Given his horrendous defense, he probably shouldn't ever play second base over Descalso, his offensive equal and defensive superior. Then again, a manager shouldn't ever bunt in the first inning with a runner on second base and nobody out, either.
Jon Jay: .392/.442/.494
Jay isn't going to hit for a .400 average. He probably won't even manage a .360 OBP when the 2012 season is said and done. That's not to say that Jay has been lucky in 2012. With a 28.4% LD rate, his high average and .414 BABIP is based more on a skillful hot streak than a luck. The question then becomes whether the Chief Justice can maintain a LD rate so much higher than his 21.9% career rate. He very likely can't, but that doesn't mean that his .412 wOBA won't fall to unacceptable levels. ZiPS foresees a .334 wOBA over the rest of the season and a .348 wOBA in its updated projection. That's quite good. Here are the center fielders with a higher wOBA than .348 in 2011: Matt Kemp, Jacoby Ellsbury, Curtis Granderson, Shane Victorino, Josh Hamilton, Andrew McCutcheon, and Melky Cabrera. Jay could very well be a 4.0-fWAR player in 2012, so long as his shoulder injury doesn't hurt his production.
Matt Holliday: .250/.320/.422
Holliday got off to a slow start this 2012 season. After the club's April 21 game against the Pirates, Holliday was hitting .194/.229/.352. From April 22 to present, Holliday's numbers have steadily climbed. His BA has increased by 56 points, his OBP has gone up by 91 points, and his SLG has shot up by 70 points. Holliday's line in the 13 games since the .587 OPS valley is .327/.431/.510. That's a .941 OPS over the last two weeks. This hot streak has helped his ZiPS updated projection, but it still isn't spectacular: .278/.354/.464. The .355 wOBA that ZiPS now projects would be the lowest of Holliday's career. The silver lining is that ZiPS projects 3.8 of his 4.6 fWAR to come over the remainder of the season.
Carlos Beltran: .281/.395/.510
In 2011, Beltran hit .300/.385/.525, which equaled a .389 wOBA. This season, Beltran is hitting .281/.395/.510 and his wOBA is .400. As Matthew Leach likes to remind us, hitter hit. Beltran is hitting like clockwork with 2012 the tock to 2011's tick. He has been everything John Mozeliak and the Cardinals could have hoped. ZiPS projects Beltran's production to tail off to a .277/.369/.469 clip and that Beltran will end the season with a .276/.372/.478 line. If Beltran does end the year with a .371 wOBA, he projects to be worth 4.6 fWAR. Even with ZiPS's somewhat conservative projection, with 1.0 fWAR being worth about $5 million, Beltran will have been worth $23 million; or, 88.5% of his $26 million, two-year contract.
Lance Berkman: .348/.500/.522
The catch to Berkman's rate stats is that they've been posted over a mere 30 PAs in just 7 games. The counting stats bear this out. Puma has yet to homer and has only 2 RBI. His updated ZiPS projection for 2012 has Berkman playing in 104 total games, the 97 games over the remainder of the season would be 72% of the Cardinals' remaining games. Over that time, ZiPS projects 15 HR and 60 RBI. His wOBA of .371 and projected poor defense would equal out to a 2.5-fWAR season.
Allen Craig: .375/.353/.750
Craig's is the smallest of samples. Activated just last week from a prolonged disabled list stint due to two screws being drilled into his once-fractured knee cap to help stabilize it, Craig returned to the scene of the incident that broke his patella, Minute Made Mallpark, and laid waste to the Astros. Craig has only totaled 17 PAs, but already has 3 doubles, a homer, and 7 ribbies to his credit. ZiPS projects only 12 homers the rest of the way and a yearend line of .280/.330/.460. A .345 wOBA is quite good for a bench bat, but that total would feel low from Torty's master, a man who has only ever hit at every level he's played.
Matt Carpenter: .263/.326/.447
Carpenter filled in well at first base with Berkman and Craig on the disabled list. His .331 wOBA is solid for a bench player capable of playing the corner defensive positions in the infield and outfield. That being said, Carpenter has managed a mere .263 BA on a .328 BABIP. His 9.3% is good but not elite and his .184 ISO is solid if unspectacular, as well. ZiPS sees an uptick in his walk rate but not his batting average or power. His ZiPS (U) is .252/.337/.385, which would be a .319 wOBA. Not bad for a bench player.
Yadier Molina: .296/.346/.520
I saved Molina for last because of the extensive post I wrote on him last Monday. His .381 wOBA is incredible. So, too, is his .224 ISO. The updated ZiPS for Yadi is .287/.344/.437 with a .150 ISO and a .342 wOBA. With his defense, that would make Molina a 5.2-fWAR player, an fWAR total higher than either Albert Pujols, Holliday, or Berkman posted last season for the Cardinals.