I never thought I'd find myself making this argument, but here goes. As this player has become more productive, they've received less playing time. When looking at wOBA, it's scaled to look like OBP so .~330 is around average for a player. Here we've got a middle infielder posting a league average-ish wOBA and they're playing time is decreasing? What if I told you that another player had received 340 PAs this season while posting a .271 wOBA.
That's right. I'm making an argument that Aaron Miles hasn't received enough playing time this season. Everyone has to have been a little surprised that mighty mite has posted an OBP near .350. He's been lucky but not extraordinarily so. Even if you project him to the future using a weighted average he still looks like a player capable of a .295 wOBA. So worst case scenario he's got 20 points on Kennedy (who has received 340 PAs this season).
We can lay the blame for playing time at LaRussa's feet. For someone who "plays the hot hand" and watches matchups, etc., he's consistently played a worse player this year. I think you'd be hard pressed to prove that the defensive difference is significant enough to overcome the offensive one. Aside from that though, Mozeliak deserves a kick in the shins for letting this team languish with 2 middle infielders on the bench for virtually the entire season. Pick either Kennedy or Miles (neither of whom should really play anything other 2B) and live with it. Add a more potent bat to your bench. Hopefully the 4 middle infielders is put to an end this year -- it's bad roster construction and it doesn't need to continue.
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Poor Kyle Lohse. He signs a 1-year deal for below market rates in the offseason, joins the Cardinals and pitches out of his mind for the first half basically becoming the rotation stalwart and staff anchor after Wainwright and Wellemeyer went down. The Cardinals showed a great deal of fiscal restraint by not extending him and then he's tanked in the second half. I feel bad for the guy.
He's already thrown more pitches this year than the last three. With 2 more starts you figure he'll be about 150-200 pitches more. So maybe it's a fatigue issue. Pre-All Star break he had a 3.39 ERA in 120 innings; after the break he's put up a 4.50 ERA in about 70 innings. His FIP remains an impeccable 3.77 due in large part to the dramatic reduction in HRs. He's 7 innings away from his career high in 2003 when he allowed 28 HR. This year he's allowed just 16. A large part of that is the reduction in flyballs; he's generating more groundballs and I can't remember the last groundball HR I saw.
The Cardinals need some arms to pencil in after Wainwright, Wellemeyer and Pinata next year with Carpenter a question mark. Even if Lohse is a 4.50 ERA pitcher, that's still a valuable commodity. Would a Jason Marquis 3Y/24M get the job done? Would the Cardinals be better off signing Looper who might command fewer dollars and years? It's a hard choice to make but it might even be worth it to sign both of them.
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Springer came in and retired one batter last night. At age 40, he's having another great season striking out nearly a batter an inning with a 3.48 FIP. The "get one out" theme has been a relatively common occurence with Springer this season as he's appeared in 66 games while only totaling 48 innings.
Looking to the future, I question whether he's part of the solution or part of the problem. The Cardinals have a very talented right handed relief corp with a lot of young power arms. Assuming the Cardinals take 5 righties in the pen, someone is going to get squeezed. McClellan, Perez, Motte, Worrell, Franklin, Thompson and potentiall Springer are all players capable of pitching at the big league level. Is it worth ~2.5M for the Cardinals to resign Springer if he can only pitch 50-ish innings? For a pen that's had workload issues all year, I wonder if the strain of reassinging innings from Springer to other players isn't a more serious problem than we realize at times.
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One more tidbit before I go. I wasn't thrilled with LaRussa's decision to pull Perez last night. Yes, he was having command issues but wouldn't it have been worthwhile to see his reaction to getting himself into a tough situation? It's obvious the Cardinals are playing for next year and making sure that you have a closer in house would go a long way in the right direction.
Some will probably tell me to be satisfied by the fact that he brought Motte in. While I certainly want to see Motte get some big league innings, his outcome wasn't demonstrably better than Perez's. Skip Schumaker was practically leaning on the outfield wall as Jerry Hariston blooped a single over shortstop into shallow centerfield. Neither Skip nor Perez were wrong in that situation but the only difference between the Perez-Harriston at bat and the Motte-Keppinger at bat was Keppinger hit the ball harder.
All's well that ends well I suppose.