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I’ll say this once and probably one time only – Tim Lincecum deserves the NL Cy Young. It’ll be great for Wainwright or Carpenter to win it but Lincecum’s been hands-down the best pitcher in the NL this season. It’s true that Carpenter has an advantage in the all-important wins category – a by-product of the fact that the Cards have 4 more wins than the Giants and that the Cards have scored nearly a run more per game in Wainwright’s starts than the Giants did in Lincecum’s – and he has 7.2 more innings pitched than Lincecum. In every other category, Lincecum’s been superior. He’s been worth 2.5 wins more than Wainwright this season. His ERA’s better. His FIP’s better. His K/9 is better. His BB/9 is better. His K/BB is better. His HR/9 is better. Flame away….

The real thing I wanted to discuss today is the most, and least, valuable Cardinals this season. Some players (ahem…Albert Pujols!) have been particularly valuable while others (ahem…Khalil Greene) have been colossal salary albatrosses (or is the plural of albatross albatri?) I’m using fangraphs valuation of WAR and value (at $4.4 M per win) and the players’ contracts according to cot’s contracts. Those that are most valuable, by my definition, have the greatest value minus the amount of money the team had to pay them. In other words, they have the greatest surplus value to the team. Those that are the least valuable to the team are the opposite – they’ve been worth the least amount of money when subtracting what they were paid from the value they provided. So, w/o further ado…

The most valuable Cardinals:

5. Yadier Molina – $11.95 M. Yadi’s had his best offensive season as he’s been more than 5 runs better than average and, when figuring in the replacement level adjustment and the fact that he plays the most difficult position on the diamond, has been worth 33.7 RAR. He’s a 3.4 win player, easily the highest of his career. On the free agent market, that’s worth $15.2 million but the Cards have only had to pay him $3.25 M. What a great bounty for the team.

4. Joel Pineiro -- $14.4 M. Who’da thunk this guy’d be this good this year. I still have no idea really what to expect of him in the playoffs but the very idea that he’s our #3 starter in the postseason is astounding considering how bad he was last year. He’s thrown 209 innings and been worth 45 RAR b/c of a 3.23 FIP. He’s become nearly a 5 win player – 4.9 – this season, worth $21.9 M on the free agent market. Unbelievably, he’s likely priced himself out of our price range.

3. Brendan Ryan -- $15.095 M. Like Pineiro, this guy came totally out of nowhere this season and, let’s face it, if he’d been the starting shortstop from day one, he’d have probably been worth nearly $20 M. Brendan’s been ok offensively (which is a big step up from last year, btw) but he’s generated nearly all his value from his fantastic defense. His UZR is 12.4 for the season – 2nd in the big leagues among shortstops w/ 800 innings or more. He won’t win the Gold Glove simply b/c of a lack of innings played. So – fantastic defense, premium position, league average offense – add it all up and it comes to 34.4 RAR or 3.4 WAR. He’s been worth $15.5 M but we’re paying him just 5 grand more than the major league minimum. Talk about surplus value!

2. Albert Pujols -- $22.2 M. It’s hard to believe anyone’s been more valuable than Albert this season but 1 player has been. He’s been 72 RAA on offense and just barely above league average defensively. Unlike Yadi or Ryan, he doesn’t play a premium position, which subtracts from his value but he’s still been worth 8.5 WAR this season. Subtract his $16 M salary from the $38.2 M he’s been worth to the team and you get $22.2 M in surplus value. He’s probably worth an 8-10 year deal worth $30 M per season. If we can sign him to a contract earning $25 M a year, we’re probably very fortunate b/c he’ll make more than that if allowed to become a free agent.

1. Adam Wainwright -- $23.3 M. He hasn’t been better than Albert this year but he’s only receiving $2.6 M from the team. He’s been fantastic – worth 52.9 RAR (and more than Carpenter due to the fact that he’s pitched 41 more innings ) – and 5.8 WAR. Along w/ Carpenter and Pujols, our postseason hopes ride on his shoulders. To me, it’s more important that we leave room in the budget to resign him at the end of his contract than it is to sign Matt Holliday to a long-term contract.

For what it’s worth, Chris Carpenter ($11.4 M) and Colby Rasmus ($10.1 M) were also worth more than $10 M in surplus value to the team this season. No wonder we won the division – we had 7 guys worth more than $10 M more than they were paid. With performance like that, it makes sense that we’ve had the division locked up for some time.

And now for the LEAST valuable Cardinals…

5. Kyle Lohse – minus $3.225 M. The first year, and cheapest, of Lohse’s $41 M contract was not a good one. He’s thrown just 117 innings and has been just 8.5 RAR – worth less than 1 win and $3.9 M. Unfortunately, he’s receiving $7.125 M from the team.

4. Nick Stavinoha – minus $3.5 M. Again…who’d a thunk it. Stavinoha was worth 4.4 runs less than average in just 91 PAs and another 3.7 runs less than average on defense. Add in the fact that he receives a negative positional adjustment for only being a corner outfielder and he’s worth 0.7 wins less than replacement level – minus $3.1 M. Fortunately, he’s only receiving the major league minimum.

3. Todd Wellemeyer – minus $4.25 M. 114 bad innings and a $4.05 M contract. Need I say more? He’s been worth half a run less than replacement level and minus 0.1 WAR. He’s been basically replacement level (a little less) and a small burden to the payroll – unlike #s 1 and 2.

2. Khalil Greene – minus $10.3 M. Sheesh! Ten million dollars wasted on this guy. I know we only had to pay him $6.5 M but he’s been worth negative $3.8 M this season b/c he’s been bad offensively and defensively. Negative 8.2 runs offensively and negative 9.3 runs defensively. What a waste! I guess it was worth a shot but it worked out horribly. I hope he gets his mind right and can enjoy life. Hopefully he can salvage his baseball career and turn into a useful baseball player for someone but, if not, I hope he’s ok on a personal level.

1. Troy Glaus – minus $11.25 M. I never figured this out from the beginning. We never heard anything was wrong until about January and then, all of a sudden, he’s having surgery. Then, he’ll be back the first part of the season, then June, then the All-Star break. Now, he may or may not make the postseason roster. He’s played a little 3B and had 31 PAs w/ a couple of doubles. He’s been basically useless (minus 0.1 WAR) this season but we had to pay him $11.25 M.

You might have thought Rick Ankiel would make the list. I did, too. I guess he can thank Stavinoha for keeping him off b/c Slick Rick’s been worth minus $2.825 M (his exact salary) to be a replacement level outfielder this season. Good luck to you, Rick. I hope you can turn it around for someone else next year.