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This Year's Baseball Prospectus and the Cardinals

One more Spring Training tradition: Once a year I buy the new Baseball Prospectus Annual on Amazon, where it is perpetually 40% off, and spend the next three days trying my hardest not to buy it at Barnes and Noble. The further they are from the vanguard, and the easier it is to find advanced statistics on the internet—as of sometime in 2009 it has now officially become more difficult not to find advanced statistics on the internet—the more often I find serious blindspots in their Cardinals coverage; this year it's a strangely firm conviction that Skip Schumaker is unlikely to finish the season at second, which is held everywhere except their actual Schumaker comment.

But their combination of pith and stretched literary references is, if nothing else, a foundation on which the first wave of baseball blogs was built, and I can't stop reading it. So here it is, one more yearly compulsion: the most interesting Cardinals writing in Baseball Prospectus 2010.

Best Similar Players

5. Jason LaRue: Gary Bennett. Is this the Cardinals repeating themselves, or backup catchers all being the same mid-thirties gamer who can't hit? I can only hope that if PECOTA had run similar players for Bennett it would have been Einar Diaz, and Diaz Chris Widger, all the way down. 

4. Colby Rasmus: Carlos Gonzalez, Nick Markakis, Grady Sizemore, Orsino Hill. ClemsonGirl, think fast: Orsino Hillhot or not? Less superficially, Gonzalez and Markakis both made significant jumps in their age-23 season. 

3. Matt Holliday: Dave Winfield, Vladimir Guerrero, Moises Alou, Albert Belle; Ryan Ludwick: Juan Gonzalez, Dale Murphy. The Holliday comps are awesome; the Ryan Ludwick comps are also impressive, but once you turn 31 Juan Gone and Dale Murphy become more ominous than exciting. 

2. Rick Ankiel: Jim Edmonds; Mark DeRosa: Ken Boyer. These... really should have worked out better than they did.

1. Dennys Reyes: Ray King, Steve Kline, Scott Radinsky, Scott EyrePrediction: Scott Eyre will unretire some time in 2011 and join the Cardinals.

Interesting Statistics

31—this is how many runs BP's new play-by-play fielding metric thinks Brendan Ryan saved over the course of last season, which cannot possibly be right but encapsulates the way I subjectively think of his glovework. Of course, they also have Albert Pujols at 23, so maybe it's better for my psyche to just accept these numbers as correct instead of wondering when they'll work the bugs out of the system.

.247/.316/.387—this is officially the new least-pleasant projection for David Freese's 2010 season. 

4.58; 4.47; 4.48—these are Kyle Lohse's SIERAs from 2007, 2008, and 2009. Can you see the breakout season?

And, From the Chris Carpenter comment: 

How good was Carpenter's comeback? In the 55 years covered by Retrosheet, it's no surprise that Bob Gibson's 1968 is the all-time franchise high in Support-Neutral Winning Percentage at .732. SNWP is BP's metric for how likely a team is to win a game the man starts. Third in Cards history was John Tudor's '85 season, at .670. And nestled between them? Carpenter's '09, coming in at .673. 

Best Player Comment

Todd Wellemeyer—When spinning some bit of waiver-wire jetsam into gold, it's important to remember that it usually doesn't remain gold. Wellemeyer's rise and fall is sort of the Bottenfield experience redux, but that's the magic: taking something ordinary, making it seem extraordinary, and producing the ilusion that convinces batters they're up against a quality pitcher. Duncan's best tricks always go back to ordinariness—it's why they're called tricks [...] From here on out, expect the ordinary. 


The book also features an interesting essay about Tony La Russa—"Creative thought doesn't always have to involve practical, meaningful results, but creativity applied to problems produces unusual solutions"—and a prospect list that features, as was often the case in the years when BP was at its most relevant, exactly one Cardinal. 

For me, though, the fun of Baseball Prospectus has never been the Cardinals pages; it's the other teams. When I'm watching two AL teams play it is still some comfort, even though I'm rarely ten steps from the internet, to have a phonebook at hand filled with single-sentence dismissals of most of their prospects. For me, the slow descent into curmudgeonliness will start with buying this book on paper, potentially even at a brick-and-mortar store, if Amazon ever stops undercutting them, until I die.