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Sunday Reading with Robot

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I'd like to take a moment, just sit right there, to tell you how Lopez is good and why you should care.

Entering the season, the Cardinals expected most of their infield production to come from Skip Schumaker and Brendan Ryan.  While expectations for both Brendan Ryan and Skip Schumaker where low, the pair has produced abysmally at the plate.  Fortunately for the Cardinals, Felipe Lopez was somewhat bizarrely left out to dry in the offseason free agent market. The Cardinals managed to pick him up on a 1 year, $1M dollar contract. Essentially he's playing for peanuts. While he's been unable to reproduce his 2009 statistical line, Lopez has been performing right around average this season worth 1 WAR thus far. He's already outproduced his contract against a hypothetical replacement player but has he saved the Cardinals more than that?

Lopez has played 20 games at SS (starting 16) and 16 games at 2B (starting 11). For the sake of ease, let's say that he's gotten about 30% of his plate appearances at SS and 20% at 2B.  The other half come from 3B where Lopez is a comparable producer to David Freese. So Felipe Lopez has about 75 ABs at SS rather than Brendan Ryan and about 50 ABs at 2B rather than Skip Schumaker.

As I mentioned, both Ryan and Schumaker have been notably bad performers this season checking in at .247 wOBA and .288 wOBA respectively. They're far below average players and both are toeing the replacement level line when you consider all of their contributions. But offensively, the importance of Lopez this season becomes immediately apparent.

Lopez is tracking his career lines about as closely as Lindsay Lohan tracks the nearest alcohol serving establishment. (That's the second pop culture reference in this post though the first was far more high brow.)  He's hitting .271/.339/.403 compared to a .269/.338/.400 -- like I said, very close. With a .332 wOBA, he's a touch better than league average (.324) for the season and right in line with most of his preseason projections. (ZiPS was, and remains, oddly pessimistic about Lopez.)

So taking Lopez's production to date, I'm going to abuse the non-regressed performance statistics of Skip Schumaker and Brendan Ryan in order to acheive my point. Even over a small time period like 125 PAs, If you assume that Skip and Ryan would have picked up those opportunities and (stat abuse!) performed at the same level as they have to date, Lopez has been worth 7.5 runs offensively. I'd argue that he's been as good as Skip at second and, given the erratic nature of Brendan Ryan at SS, not much worse their either defensively.

The point being that Felipe Lopez was a great signing this offseason in a context neutral evaluation. His 1 WAR performance to date has been something like $3M in surplus value ALREADY and anything more this year is gravy. But, if you contextualize things against the backdrop of the Cardinals' middle infield, Lopez has been far more important that at first glance.

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You may know that I'm a fan of Colby Rasmus. What was once a well kept secret has somehow gotten out. Fortunately, it's done little to impugn my baseball evaluation credentials. (Unlike that offseason where I was all over Jason Schmidt and that $45M Dodger contract.)  Anyway, given the bully pulpit one day a week, I'm going to fire a quick shot across the bow at a Reds player because I can.

If I get out my 2008 Baseball America prospect handbook, it features on the cover Jay Bruce, fellow 2005 draftee of Colby Rasmus. Before I look at their respective performances, I have to note that Dave Cameron has Colby as the #14 most desirable trade asset and Bruce is a lowly #25. Now, that trade series that Cameron does is incredibly biased and completely subjective and I often disagree with it . . . but it is a LIST and humans love lists. There are numbers there that you can easily subtract! Colby Rasmus is 11 spots higher than Jay Bruce! 11! This has no objective meaning but still exclamation points seem fitting!!!!!  

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So, how is Jay Bruce doing compared to Colby?  Well, Bruce has never really progressed as a player since being called up in 2008. Last year he showed more power but sacrificed his line drives which took his BABIP out at the knees. He' s been a slightly above average player offensively for 2008-2010. Colby, however, has taken some really massive steps forward relative to his 2009 campaign.  He's nearly doubled his walk rate -- though the walkapotamoose has been seen less in recent weeks -- and shown tremendous power without sacrificing the line drives. So Colby should be able to hit for a decent average (think .270) based on his batted ball profile. Add in the fact that he plays an above average centerfield to Bruce's right field and it looks like the Cardinals have the better young outfielder.

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F**king Kyle McClellan, how does he work? If you're like me, you ask this question a lot. I consider Kyle McClellan a miracle and I don't care what scientists have to say about his changeup or his curveball.  While it's dangerous, and likely wrong, to draw any significant conclusions about McClellan from 44 innings this year, I do feel the need to point out his success after his ERA dipped below 2.00 yesterday. He's developed excellent control this season with a BB/9 near 2 compared to 4.59 in 2009 and 3.09 the year before that. I don't think it's sustainable (more contact and fewer swinging strikes in 2010 than either previous season) but I suppose I'll enjoy it while it lasts. Still, how does he work?

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Game time is 1:15pm. Be there.