We interrupt, again, this programming to bring you the next set of Cardinals projections—ZiPS, come on down!
I follow ZiPS really enthusiastically every year because Dan Szymborski, their creator, seems to be working on them constantly. This year he's added a new way of formatting; they're ordered by the way a player's bat plays at each position, with players like Adam Kennedy appearing four times in different places. (Take a look at that average catcher the Cardinals apparently have—is Steven Hill the next Mike Jacobs, or what?)
There are some weird quirks to this year's ZiPS, as there are with any projections (in this case, D'Angelo Jimenez, who spent all of last year at Memphis, is predicted to be our middle infield savior), but what's more interesting to me are the narratives it continues from our look at the Bill James numbers.
Narrative One: Ryan Ludwick is actually really good. Nobody's going to predict him to continue to be the fourth best hitter in the National League, or slug .600 over 500 more at-bats, but so far both projections have predicted continued success for Thudwick.
(Incidentally, the James projections lived up to their reputation for generosity; just about every player covered by both teams is noticeably better in their Jamesian form.) For a player like Ludwick, whose fluke season and late start to his big league career would seem to make projecting his future difficult, these are remarkably similar. And while it's a regression from 2008, I don't think the Cardinals would be at all concerned about taking it.
Narrative Two: Yadier Molina isn't a .300 hitter. I'll watch PECOTA and the other projectors—and our community projections, for that matter—with the most interest when they come around to Yadi, who has made quantum leaps in his offensive output two years running since his miserable 2006 campaign. Last year, his .300 batting average bringing his slugging percentage almost to .400, he had the Ozzie Smith skill-set: great defense and offense that, in its near-averageness, was a major asset at a position with low offensive standards. But even though he's 26 neither James nor ZiPS has any hope of it being a new talent level.
This sort of regression knocks him just below where he was in his abbreviated 2007 campaign. (Incidentally, it's interesting how close offense-first Bryan Anderson is to Molina according to ZiPS; I like Anderson as a prospect, but unless he's got Ichirovian bat control he'll have to develop some power if he is to separate himself from all of the Yadi-types—great defense, balding, can hit a little—in the league.
Narrative Three: The Rotation is Anybody's Guess. If there were no such thing as injury concerns the Cardinals' ZiPS rotation would be wonderful. They sign Braden Looper and then—voila.
I like Szymborski's method for categorizing pitchers; here Carp and Wainwright are "top third" pitchers, and Wellemeyer, Lohse, and Looper are "middle third." If you don't have to worry about Carp's nerves rebelling this looks great! But if you do—
—well, it would help to name the pitchers who finish ahead of penciled-in #4 Joel Pineiro. Jess Todd; P.J. Walters; Mitch Boggs; Tyler Herron; Blake Hawksworth! Not much to say about this contract, anymore, except that even Jamie Moyer has to miss some bats.