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hobby horses II 1/2: damn the luck

i find the whole "luck" thing endlessly fascinating; hope y'all are at least slightly as enthusiastic about it as i am.

to add a little perspective on yesterday's post, i went back and looked at the cardinals' performance in 2004. looks like they "earned" their runs more fully last year than this: the 2004 cards actually created a handful more runs (860) than they put on the scoreboard (855). basically they scored the number of runs they "should" have last year; in 2005 they were lucky to put up as many runs as they did.

i also took a look at luck from a pitching perspective. per defense-independent era (DIPS, and here's an explanation of the concept by its creator), the 2005 cards were the "luckiest" pitching staff in the national league. their DIPS era was 72 points worse than their standard era -- hands down the highest gap in the league. (the second-largest gap, 41 points, belonged to houston.) basically, the argument is that the cardinals "should" have had an era of 4.21, rather than the 3.49 they actually registered; they just got lucky that so many batted balls found their way into fielders' gloves.

but in this case i'm not buying the "luck" argument, insofar as the cardinal pitchers pursued a deliberate strategy of inducing ground balls. they relied on the defense by design, not by chance. that interpretation is reinforced by the fact that the 2004 cardinals had a nearly identical DIPS gap: 74 points, also the highest in the league. and the 2002 staff registered a gap of 55 points, which was -- yes -- the highest in the league. luck might enable a team to shave half a run off its DIPS era once; but when you do it three times in four years, it's a replicable skill. even the putrid 2003 staff outperformed its DIPS era, albeit by only 15 points; but that has less to do with luck than it has to do with exchanging brett tomko and garrett stephenson for jason marquis and jeff suppan.

but here's one related item that merits our attention: as a group, the cardinals' relievers outperformed their DIPS era by a full run. and here's the primary reason: they yielded way too many home runs. don't be fooled by the fact that the st louis bullpen allowed the second-fewest hr in the national league. they only accomplished that feat by virtue of facing so few batters. when you convert it into a rate stat, the stl bullpen stunk. they gave up one homer every 36 at-bats, 10th in the league -- better only than the cubs, rockies, reds, phillies, dodgers (sans gagne), and astros. aside from the dodgers, all of these teams play in bandbox ballparks, which excuses their relievers' high HR rates a bit. . . . . anyway, the point is that jocketty needs to reserve some $$$ for a couple of good setup men in 2006. the cards did get lucky with a substandard bullpen for most of the year; but as we saw in the postseason, despite having the lowest era of any NL bullpen it was nowhere near the best. it was a flat-out liability.

this'll be my only post today; paying work beckons. a few links:

the rockies are taking a run at matt morris; fat chance. . . . fungoes learns that mark grudzielanek is the new edgar renteria; belly learns (scroll down to the bottom) that he likes to kiss girls . . . who better to get out the vote for the shannon-for-frick-award campaign than get up baby? . . . . . the ryans on brian: the one at the birdwatch really likes the idea of a giles signing, while the one at diaspora thinks the price is gonna be too high. i think it's a very tough call -- it's this offseason's renteria signing, the fork in the road that will determine the drift of all jock's other transactions. and i'll be weighing in with my own opinion when it stays the same for two hours in a row . . .