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the brackets

a few quick items this morning, and then i'll explain my provisional seedings for the all-time cards tournament.

christina kahrl posted her summation of the nl central clubs' off-seasons at Baseball Prospectus yesterday. it's behind the subscription shield, but the quick-n-dirty: kahrl generally approves of the cardinals' decisions re the rotation. she singles out the ryan franklin signing as a solid insurance move, but isn't wild about the carpenter extension; she names preston wilson a reasonable hedge bet for the outfield. kahrl's concluding paragraph:

It wasn't a brilliant winter, and a lot of things didn't work out the way the Cardinals wanted, but rather than pout about it, Jocketty has resorted to some adequate temporary fixes. Even so, the team increasingly resembles a disjointed collection of compromises and place-holding solutions, instead of a concerted effort to give Albert and Carpenter a top-shelf supporting cast. The trophy's nice, but this team might not match last season's 83 wins, and the rest of the division didn't sit still.
i disagree only with the last sentence --- i'd bet on the cardinals to win more than 83 games. i wouldn't bet on them to win 93, though.

as for the rest of the division: kahrl likes the cubs' new lineup a lot but still thinks their chance to contend comes down to mark prior's health. the reds: meh. the astros: kahrl thinks it has more question marks than the cardinals'. pittsburgh: slowly clawing upward. the brewers: well positioned to step forward.

the Big League Baseball Report podcast invited me on last night to talk about the cardinals' outlook for 2007. the BLBR is hosted by a couple of cubs bloggers --- joe aiello, who writes View From the Bleachers, and phil zuber of Cubs Obsession --- good guys despite the northside affiliation. they're eyeing the cardinal roster and licking their chops. it's a long interview; at the end of it i predicted 90 wins and another division champ'ship for the cardinals. BLBR has quite an archive of team previews; worth sifting through their backlist of posts.

ok, on to the tournament --- details after the jump.

there was a big discussion about where mark mcgwire fits into this bracket. without rehashing the whole debate (it's here if you want to review it), here's the conclusion i've come to. i share the widespread reservations about the guy, but you could disqualify a third of his homers from the '98 season on the grounds that they were steroid-enabled; that still leaves him with 47 homers, a figure no cardinal ever reached until albert hit 49 last year. you could do the same math for mac's '99 season and he'd have hit 43 homers, which would make it the 4th-highest total in franchise history. no matter how you feel about the steroid issue, mcgwire posted two of the greatest seasons in cardinal history. he needs to be in the tournament somewhere.

but should he be paired with johnny mize? i originally did so based on this reasoning: neither player spent 9 years with the franchise, so both lack enough player-seasons to field a full team. they played the same position, and both were among the greatest sluggers in franchise history; seemed like a natural combination. in making pairings, the overriding objective is to create a complement; you want the secondary player to have seasons that are consistent with those of the primary player, so that you end up with something resembling a unitary whole.

after the at-large bids were determined, i took a look at the entire field with that objective in mind. certain natural pairings emerged. for example: joe torre and orlando cepeda. they combined to spend 9 contiguous years with the cardinals, 1966-1974 --- perfect fit. the one was traded for the other, so there's another logical connection. both won mvp awards with st louis; they were fairly similar hitters. the end result: a two-player team that could pass for a single career; a 9-year span of cardinal history. that's a great combination.

here's another one: keith hernandez and george hendrick. mex spent 7 more-or-less full seasons with the cardinals, and you can piece together an 8th out of the partial years. that leaves one hole to fill, and hendrick --- a teammate, a vaguely similar hitter, and the guy who took over at 1st base after hernandez was traded in 1983 --- makes for a logical complement. again, we end up with a "team" that represents an unbroken string of years (1975-83) at one position.

by these lights, the perfect partner for mize would be ripper collins. i inadvertently left collins off the list of at-large candidates; terrible oversight on my part. ripper was the jack clark of the gashouse gang, a 3-time all-star who led the league in hr and slugging in 1934. he was mize's direct predecessor at 1st base; the two men shared the position in 1936, and then mize took over full time the next year. they were extremely similar hitters. pair them, and you've got a team that represents stl's 1st base position from 1934 through 1941.

but that leaves mcgwire to team up with . . . . pujols? if we stick with this framework, it's pretty inescapable. albert's first year was big mac's last; the two men hold spots 1 through 5 on the all-time single-season hr list. they play the same position; their stats align. a pujols-mcgwire team would represent an unbroken 9-year span (1998-2006) . . . . . that would be a logical pairing.

but that would skew the tournament. larding big mac's best seasons on top of albert's is just plain unfair; albert doesn't need the help. but if we flip-flop mcgwire with ripper collins --- and, furthermore, if we water down mcgwire slightly by rolling his weak 2001 season into his 2000 season --- what then? then we end up with a fair fight. each team (ie, the pujolses and the mizes) would then have 2 seasons of 1100 or higher OPS; 1 season in the 1050-1099 range; 3 years in the 1000-1049 range; 1 of 950-999; and 1 of 900-949. mize-mcgwire and pujols-collins would be very evenly matched. and how would they stack up against the other top contenders? let's check it this way: assign 10 points for a season of 1.100 OPS or better; 9 points for 1.050; 8 for 1.000; and so forth down the line. here are the top 4 teams:

1.100+ 1.050+ 1.000+ .950+ .900+ TOT
musial 10 18 40 7 -- 75
mize/mac 20 9 24 7 12 72
pujols/rip 20 9 24 7 12 72
hornsby 30 18 -- 7 -- 69

hornbsy's total includes 3 seasons in the .800 OPS range, bringing his total to 69 points. those are my four top seeds. i'm convinced they're pretty balanced teams, and they are far and away the best four teams in the tournament --- i used a similar point system to build out the rest of the brackets, and no other team cracked 60 points. as i made up these seeds, i moved guys up or down a line here or there to account for base-stealing proficiency, and i also factored in counting stats --- where guys had very similar rate stats, i used visibility on the franchise leaderboards as a tie-breaker. likewise, guys who are in the hall of fame get privileged over similar hitters who are out. i did my best to balance the two sides out overall --- by position, by era, etc. --- but i am very much open to alterations. here we go:

1. musial 1. pujols/
2. mize/
2. hornsby
3. edmonds/
3. medwick/
4. hafey/
4. bottomley
5. slaughter 5. boyer
6. kurowski/
6. o'neill/
7. lankford 7. simmons
8. torre/
8. hernandez/
9. brock 9. frisch
10. ozzie 10. mcgee
11. schoendienst 11. renteria/
12. mccarver 12. flood

in round 1, the top 4 seeds in each bracket would get a bye while the 5 seeds played the 12s, the 6s vs the 11s, etc etc. the survivors would go into round 2. i'm in favor of re-seeding after each round, so that the lowest remaining seeds always face the highest remaining seeds; if you have an opinion about that, weigh in.

a note re joe medwick: he played 7 full seasons with st louis, plus another 3 that consisted of 158 or fewer at-bats; as with keith hernandez, i lumped the partial seasons together to create an 8th player. that left 1 open slot, and i filled it with terry moore's 1940 season; moore played alongside medwick for 5 and a half years; in 1940, when the cards dealt medwick away, moore was about his equal as a hitter.

edmonds is paired with wally moon (1956-57), with whom he has no logical connection whatsoever. by far the most logical partner for edmonds would be jd drew --- drew's 2000 and 2001 lines read very much like edmonds seasons, and he was edmonds' backup in center both of those years; plus, he flat-out was a better hitter than wally moon. but i didn't think there would be a lot of enthusiasm for including drew in the tournament so i didn't go there. this can be changed, however . . . . .

i took zubin's suggestion and paired tip o'neill with his contemporary bob caruthers. as for the renteria / groat and kurowski / rolen pairings --- those make no sense, other than the positional affiliations. but i like the teams anyway; i say we stick with them.