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hacking and chasing

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sheesh mang, why'd i swing at that? (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
sheesh mang, why'd i swing at that? (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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danup’s on his way back to north america today, so i’m sitting in. man, but SB Nation has made some upgrades to the machinery around here. where’s the ignition on this thing? where’s the clutch?

ha ha ha, get it? see, because the cards haven’t been getting any clutch hits . . . .

so they’re now 5 for their last 40 with men in scoring position dating back to saturday night, and 11 for their last 69 dating back to the home opener. it’s surely just one of those things, a blip — they’ve had some bad luck the last few days, taking good RISP at-bats and hitting the ball hard but right at the defense. but that doesn’t mean it’s entirely random, or that an adjustment or two might not be in order. i have the vague sense that the hitters, in their eagerness to drive in runs, have been taking less patient at-bats with men in RISP. i can’t back that up with any data though, and i could well be wrong. so here’s a set of questions for anybody who has access to a pitch fx database:

  • during their RISP drought (ie, going back to the home opener), how often do the cards swing at the first pitch in RISP plate appearances? how often do they swing at the first strike?
  • how do these rates compare to their rates in non-RISP at-bats?
  • what’s their chase rate in RISP plate appearances, and how does that compare to their chase rate overall?
  • what’s their walk rate, excluding IBBs?
  • eliminate the walks to pujols and the #8 hitter — what’s their walk rate then?
  • back to the first pitch / first strike: how often do they swing at a first pitch / first strike that’s not a fastball?

it may be that there’s nothing of interest in those numbers, but maybe there is. if anyone’s got time to lodge some / all of those queries, you’ll be doing a public service.

i did spot some interesting data pertaining to the Hombre: his chase rate is sky high this year. according to fangraphs, he’s swinging 29.8 percent of the time the ball’s out of the zone in 2010, versus a career average of 19.3 percent and a career high of 22.9 percent. rick ankiel, that paragon of indiscipline at the plate, has a career chase rate of 31.7 percent; albert’s approaching that so far in 2010. he was at it again last night, swinging at ball four in at least two of his at-bats (he eventually did walk in one of them). he seems to be chasing pitches up in the zone (maybe that elbow feels a little too good, eh?), and this would explain his atypically high flyball rate of 53.5 percent (career average: 39.8 pct). in albert’s case, some batted balls that are classified as flyballs are what i would call very long line drives; they reach on outfielder’s glove and there’s a little bit of (though not much) arc on them, ergo somebody calls it a flyout. . . .

but i digress. the elevated chase rate is the extension of a trend: albert’s O-swing percentage has been climbing steadily since 2004, when it was 15.7 percent. the percentage of strikes he has seen has decreased commensurately; his swing percentage has mostly held steady, he just has fewer strikes to swing at now than he used to. but in swing percentage, too, the 2010 number is an outlier: albert is going after 49.6 percent of the pitches he sees this year, versus a career average of 42.2 percent and a career high (set in 2003) of 44.3 percent. despite the restoration of his long-absent "protection," he’s become more hacktastic this season, not less.

i reckon he’ll make an adjustment, as he always does.

down at memphis, tyler green hit his second homer but made his 7th error of the young season; if the cards need another middle infielder, i wonder if it’ll be donny solano’s turn. meanwhile, jon jay is making quite the statement at memphis; after a tepid spring training (.231 / .279 / .282) he is just pounding the crap out of triple A pitching, with a .360 / .418 / .580 line and 7 steals in as many attempts. in his last 293 triple A at-bats, going back to july 1 of last season, jay has hit .324 / .364 / .491; he can play all three outfield positions, run the bases a little, and bat left-handed --- all of which make him a better fit than nick stavinoha. thanks to his clutch dinger vs the brewers, stavi will be around for a while, but i don’t see what he adds to a bench already populated by al craig and joe mather.

here’s a little poll to round out the post today: which of the cardinals’ minor-league affiliates do you suppose has got the most future big-league regulars on it? let’s define a "regular" as a position player who makes at least 120 starts in a season; a starting pitcher who makes at least 22 starts; or a reliever who appears in at least 65 games. it doesn’t matter if the player becomes a regular for the cardinals, nor how long he maintains his regular-hood; if you think he’ll achieve the status for just one season anywhere in the big leagues, even as the worst regular on the worst team in baseball, he counts.

i’m gonna vote for memphis, altho quad cities makes an interesting case. the memphis roster doesn’t appear to have any future stars, but it has got a lot of players who can play in the big leagues. i figure john jay, tyler henley, daniel descalso, adam ottavino, lance lynn, and tyler norrick all have pretty good shots to meet my definition of "regular" at some point by 2015, and there are a lot of dark-horse candidates down there like fernando salas, pj walters, bryan anderson (whatever happened to him, anyway?), and oneli perez. (and i haven’t even mentioned cazana.) out of that group, it wouldn’t shock me at all if three or four guys eventually became big league regulars for at least one season. i guess i’d be more shocked if fewer than three / four guys attained that status.

the case for QC roster begins with the pitching staff — shelby miller, deryk hooker, and joe kelly are all there, and all have big-league arms, plus there’s some guy named scott schneider, a 20th-rounder from last year’s draft, who has a k-bb ratio of 91 to 13 and a 9.75 k/9 in his short minor-league career. he pitched at st mary’s college in northern california, over the hill from berkeley --- anybody know the story on him? does he have legit potential, or is he just one of those guys who can dominate in the low minors but will get killed once he reaches double A? anyway, QC’s team k-bb is about 3.5 to 1, and its team k/9 is 9.6; there’s clearly some talent there that bears watching.

in addition to the arms, the river bandits have robert stock behind the plate; an interesting set of middle-infield prospects in jason stidham, luis mateo, and ryan jackson; a superior athlete in d’marcus ingram, a young and projectable talent in freddie parejo, and a couple of pure bats in matt adams and devin shepherd. there’s also the oddball niko vasquez, who is still defining himself as a player and apt to do anything.

the arms alone make this an interesting roster, but i’d like to think some of those position players will develop as well. the only reason i’m not voting for QC in this poll is because the great distance between class A and MLB increases the risk that injury, inability, or some other dysfunction derails a career. i’m almost certain that the current QC roster harbors more good big-league regulars than the memphis roster; but memphis might trump ’em in quantity.