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Tuesday Notes

And lefty relievers somehow begin another day atop the news cycle. I've never had sympathy for 24-hour news networks, and I probably never will so long as Nancy Grace is gainfully employed, but if I were ever going to gin any up it would be while blogging about baseball in late November. Trever Miller probably appeared less often in his high school paper than he has in the Post-Dispatch in the last week.

Arthur Rhodes is an interesting case, but I'm not sure what to get out of what's there. He's got a nice career platoon split—.614 OPS v. lefties, .735 v. righties—but when he was Arthur Rhodes, the name reliever for whom the Cardinals would, in part, be paying, he was notable for having no platoon split at all; he mowed down righties and lefties indiscriminately, and while he was brought in primarily to face tough left-handed hitters he still typically faced as many righties in a season. It's mostly in his dotage, and earlier in his career, that he's shown a particular distaste for right-handers. 

But in 2008, while putting up that gorgeous 2.04 ERA—maybe it's just too early for me to be awake, but that seems, in its slight asymmetry and false precision, to be a perfect back-of-the-baseball-card number—he was just about the LOOGY-est LOOGY who ever did LOOG. Not only did he face 55% lefties in his stint, he threw his 35.1 innings over 61 games. That sort of average, 2.4 plate appearances per game, should give you uncomfortable memories of the 2005 version of Ray King, whose shiny ERA was cold comfort when he was in the process of turning another right-handed batter into Joe Jackson. 

To use a reliever that selectively—a reliever who is not Mike Myers or Chad Bradford or some other pitcher who is more or less physically incapable of throwing the baseball to certain types of hitters—is to invite a lot of suspicion into the already suspicious, alchemic art of signing a kind of pitcher whose very job description makes it difficult to accrue enough numbers for anything to be meaningful. 

Then there was the Edgar Renteria signing and unsigning. Now that we have what was presumably some kind of offer out in the open—two years, $18 million—I feel a little like I'm cheating off of Brian Sabean's notes. Oh, that's what it's going to take, or almost take? Tell me more. 

I think Renteria's proximity to the Robbie Alomar Dead Zone might be a little overstated, because not every over-30 middle infielder turns to dust and his defense, having slipped below average, is not therefore guaranteed to immediately force him into an infield corner. But if there's any question at all of continued decline the main problem, with Renteria, is less that decline in and of itself than weighing that against his bizarre pattern of upside. There's just no way of knowing what a true Renteria recovery would look like; 2003 and 2007 seem to have been placed into his career more or less at random, and without them his career hitting numbers are less Jay Bell and more a taller, less gritty David Eckstein. 

That said, somebody's got to play shortstop, and as much as I love Tyler Greene and his Two True Outcomes stylings he's not the guy. If Edgar is still available after the arbitration deadline and two years under twenty million is less a jumping-off point than an offer on the table there could be worse options. His offensive decline, at least, seems no more certainly real than Cesar Izturis's defensive renaissance.

Finally, over at Beyond the Boxscore Mr. Vince Coleman is the poster child for a list of the best base stealers since 1900. (I guess Sliding Billy Hamilton will just have to wait for some other list.) I've come of age as a Cardinals fan in a weird time for Vince Coleman valuation—it seems like I'm stuck in the moment between "That tarp machine cost us 1985" and "That Vince Coleman cost us 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, and 1989." So it's weird to see what Coleman could do, heretofore relegated to vague, intangible notions of throwing the pitcher off his game or getting rallies started, begin to be evaluated statistically.

A commenter on BtBS put it the most succinctly: "In 1986 Vince Coleman got on base 199 times. He stole 107 bases and was caught 14 times." That's just shockingly effective. It's like being a LOOGY—sorry, Trever Miller has devastated my capacity for analogy—and just not allowing any left-handers to reach base. It's perfect, and according to BtBS it was worth 18 runs. 

... Of course, he hit .232/.301/.280 that year.