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My Cardinals Christmas Wish: One Third Basemen to Play Them All

(All the innings that is.)

I hope everyone had a good Christmas with family and friends.

I'm going to have to make time for catching up on the first three seasons of 30 Rock in the next few weeks. The first thing I've noticed is that Tracy Morgan has gained a solid 30 pounds in the last 3 years. Also, I'm uncertain why I didn't start watching that show until season 4 as it is hilarious. 


Other distractions I got included:

  • David Rakoff's Half Empty - I primarily read science fiction so this satirical take on modern events and moments in Rakoff's life is a departure for me. I skimmed the first few pages and I've already noticed that Rakoff's style of writing is far more dense than anything I've read previously. He also has an impressive vocabulary so expect me to whip out words like abrogate or palliated whenever I've the opportunity. For example, mysterui's mother is often used as palliative care for those who are not otherwise able to have consensual intercourse.
  • Halo: Reach - I don't play many video games but I do enjoy me some Halo. It's strictly a co-op thing for me. I rarely enjoy games as isolation and prefer them as a socializing game.
  • Tennis Racket - I'm not good (nor terrible) but it's hard for me to pass up on the opportunity to casually play a sport.
  • St. Louis Blues gear - I find that I'm slowly getting into hockey again.  I love watching baseball on TV but I find hockey to be the easier sport for me to enjoy in person. Shorter duration, less demanding of my attention, consistent activity on the ice and the inability for me to overthink decisions since I'm not as well versed in the intricacies of the relative choices.

So give me a list of your favorite Christmas presents this year. I'm also curious just how many people here received Cardinals paraphernalia (I did) since I would assume that is a favored present in these parts.

* * *

I'm a little perplexed by the lack of hype around Matt Carpenter. Much of the focus has been on David Freese and whether his two peg legs medically repaired ankles will hold up over the course of a full season.  Freese emerged almost fully formed in the Cardinals system after coming over in the Jim Edmonds trade. Jumping straight to AAA from 2008, Freese hit .306/.361/.550 while knocking 26 balls out of Autozone Park.  It was an impressive showing if an unsustainable one.

Matt Carpenter has a .300/.403/.444 line in roughly 900 PAs in the minors. He progressed to AA in just his second season in the minors. If anything, his offensive profile is much more refined than Freese. Carpenter's profile is, additionally, one that the Cardinals are desperate for compared to Freese. (I know that you want the best player on the field but when you have two comparable players it makes sense to balance your team's weak spots out with your selection.) 

The point I'd make is that Matt Carpenter and David Freese are comparable players. Using Dan Szymborski's ZiPS projection system, Freese has a marginally better OPS but Carpenter's OBP lead makes them virtually identical offensive values. This should be at least marginally surprising given the skepticism that projection systems show toward players who are levels removed from the majors. It's a remark on Carpenter's impressive but unheralded performance to date.

Matt Carpenter will serve as a nice insurance policy on Freese. I was initially skeptical of both players in the minors. I remain skeptical of Freese because I find the power he showed to be flukish and that represents the lion's share of his value. Conversely, I'm a Matt Carpenter convert thought I'd tamp down on having high defensive expectations for him.  Simply put, ZiPS gives credence to those of us who would like to be more excited than the average fan.

Now, whether Carpenter's approach can stand up against the "aggressive" doctrine of offense that is espoused at the majors . . . well, that's the cart before the horse.

Even if the Cardinals just plug ZiPS' David Freese in at third base, we've made steps in the right direction. The Cardinals' third basemen hit a measly .260/.317/.338 in 2010. Freese projects to be about a 5 run improvement relative to that line.  He'd still be a slightly below average offensive player but nonetheless an improvement.  I'm not quite ready to say Matt Carpenter is the better option for 2011 but my guess is he'll be the better option for 2012.