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stuff about the new cardinals

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if you haven't seen the claymation highlight reel of stl's win over the mets in game 7, check it out now.

interesting thing about adam kennedy: his rookie marks for at-bats, runs, hits, doubles, triples, rbis, and stolen bases are all career highs. more interesting yet, that was perhaps his worst season --- a career-low on-base percentage of .300, an ops of just .703. from 2002-04 his ops climbed into the .750 range, well above average for a 2-sacker (see his career line), but it sagged back into the .720 range the last two seasons --- an undeniable red flag for a player just turning 30. his loss of power is particularly eye-catching: he hit just 6 homers combined in 2005-06, after blasting 23 of'm in 2003-04. have the cardinals signed him just as he's sliding onto the downward arc of his career?

they might have, but there's one big reason to hope not: the ballpark factor. angels stadium has been murder on kennedy the last few seasons; getting out of there can only help his performance. take a look:

ab h 2b 3b hr rbi bb avg obp slg
away 675 207 43 8 7 72 64 .307 .373 .425
home 660 171 26 3 9 68 45 .259 .318 .348

the pattern has held each of the last three years: his home / away OPS figures are .649 / .854 for 2004, .662 / .784 for 2005, and .686 / .750 for 2006. simply getting out of anaheim might add 20 points to kennedy's batting average, which in turn would drive his obp / slg figures into the .350 / .400 range, at the very least --- a .750 ops. the last cardinal 2d baseman to do that was fernando vina.

speaking of whom, vina's a pretty good analog for adam kennedy. he joined the cardinals at the same age (30) as kennedy, and with a much lower established level of ability; like kennedy, he was coming off a weak (albeit injury-shortened) season. vina had the two best years of his life at age 31 and 32. kennedy's closest comp at baseball-reference, johnny ray, had something of a career year in his age 31 season. PECOTA --- which projected kennedy's 2006 season to a tee --- has kennedy staying in the .270 / .330 / .380 range for the next few years, which isn't much better than what aaron miles might have supplied; but if liberation from angels stadium helps adam squeeze out even one more .295 / .350 / .410 season, the contract will have been worth it.

before we leave the subject of home/road splits: i should pause to note that kennedy had the opposite split from 2000 through 2003 --- a .302 / .353 / .463 line at home, vs .257 / .299 / .352 on the road. but anaheim played as a hitter's park for much of that time; it didn't become a strong a strong pitcher's park until 2002. couldn't tell you why that change occurred, as the ballpark's dimensions don't appear to have changed. i should also observe that busch III was a pitchers' park in its first year; it might not suit kennedy any better than angels stadium did. but even if he simply maintains his .720 ops, kennedy will represent a slight upgrade over last year's tag-team, which produced a .701 line.

here's one last intriguing tidbit re the signing.

* * * * * * * * * * *

somebody asked the following question of will carroll during his chat at baseball prospectus yesterday:

Sally (Las Cruces, NM): Thanks for the chat, Will! What (if any) precedent is there for pitchers recovering from blood clots in their throwing shoulders? I'm thinking of Kip Wells, of course. Is solid mediocrity too much to ask of him in '07?

Will Carroll: Aaron Cook. There's some similarity to David Cone. Medical technology is making amazing advances. I'd say he's got a chance to be Kip Wells again.

here's aaron cook's line; the injury sidelined him in early august 2004, and he was back on the mound about a year late (july 30, 2005). that comp only goes so far, as cook had clots in his lungs, not his pitching arm --- ie, they affected his ability to breathe but not necessarily his ability to throw a baseball. wells' clot apparently surfaced in 2004, was misdiagnosed, and continued to plague him throughout 2005, after which he had surgery; he came back in june, ahead of schedule, but reported soreness in the shoulder in august (right after getting traded to texas) and missed a start. upon returning to action, he immediately sprained his ankle.

wells also has chronic blister problems. a quick search of carroll's archives at BP yield the following:

  • may 2003: left a game with a blister, missed two starts
  • june 2004: left after 5 innings with blister, stayed in rotation but yielded 13 runs in 9 innings over next two starts. he then missed a start while the pirates sent him to two specialists seeking a diagnosis; got some medication and came back healthy.
  • august 2005: left after 3.2 innings with a cracked fingernail; missed a start.
the finger stuff sounds like a nuisance, but it can probably be lived with if wells' shoulder is sound. i wouldn't pencil him in for 30 starts just yet.

i also wouldn't want to rely too heavily on the duncan-fix factor. most of dunc's successful reclamations have come with pitchers who were already hovering at or above league-average performance. here's a list of his most prominent salvage jobs, with each pitcher's ERA+ figures for the three pre-duncan seasons (ie, -3 through -1) and the same figure for years 1, 2, and 3 under duncan's supervision. if you're not familiar with this stat, 100 equals league average; everything above 100 is better than league average, and everything below 100 is worse. the stat is ballpark-adjusted:

-3 -2 -1 1 2 3
kile 156 98 87 119 140 105
suppan 112 97 105 100 120 107
woody 104 99 114 102 155 107
carpenter 79 116 85 121 151 143
bottenfield 80 162 111 94 115 --
ponson 115 90 67 84 -- --
weaver 103 96 70 85 -- --
wells 91 84 70 -- -- --

i split weaver's 2006 in half; the "-1" line corresponds to his anaheim stats from last year, while the "1" line corresponds to his line with the cardinals. as you can see, duncan's biggest success stories (suppan, kile, williams, bottenfield) were all safely in the middle of the bell curve before he got hold of them; he made them all better, but they were pretty good to begin with. the guys who came to him as significantly below-average pitchers (ie, ponson and weaver) stayed below average, although they crept closer to respectability. the lone exception, arguably, is chris carpenter --- but he still came to duncan with a significantly better resume than wells, who has beat the league average only twice in seven seasons. of all the pitchers on this list, wells alone has failed to turn in at least one league-average year.

he has talent, but so did sid ponson. because of the cards' low (relative to market) investment in wells, i don't object to the signing --- but he's a longshot. i hope he pays off, but i'm skeptical that he can stay in the rotation and pitch effectively. if he can post a 10-12 record or thereabouts and throw 170 innings, it'll be a triumph.

just to clarify: i'm not saying wells can't have a 15-win season. i'm merely trying to decide (for myself, anyway) what's reasonable to expect out of the guy. it doesn't seem reasonable to expect that he'll pitch as well as woody or supps; i'm setting the bar lower.