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Morose Robot is Sad

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I don't recap games very often. I struggle to escape the visceral emotions of the moment and analytically look at a game. I'm far better at objectively analyzing large swaths of data that don't carry the emotional baggage of a direct win or loss. So I find myself in an uncommon place. After an unexpectedly long day in the office, I watched the Cardinals game only to witness a series of missteps and poor decisions resulting in a loss. After the game, I watched the UFC 117 fights only to see Anderson Silva, whom I vehemently detest, escape a drubbing in the last half of the 5th and final round of his fight.

The unfortunate confluence of events makes for a morose robot.

The Cardinals seem to be a mistake prone team this year. I have to admit that there's a psychological attachment to mistakes. When the team botches something, it's liable to stick out at you. For every 99 times they do something right, it's that 1 time they don't that stands out.

Matt Holliday gets tossed out at the plate. While this isn't a mistake, and there's statistical evidence to prove that 3B coaches should be aggressive, it proved to be an unfortunate difference maker.  Jake Westbrook getting caught after what seemed to be a strikeout pitch to Donnie Murphy only to see the ball go out of the yard was rough. Aaron Miles, moments after singling in the go ahead run, gets caught in an ignorant rundown to end the inning.

Those kinds of events are rotten. They stink. I can usually rationalize them away at the end of the night because they're random events that happen due to split second reactions and decisions. It's the decisions that are made with time and consideration, which are then so blatantly wrong, that I struggle with. For all the faults the club made on the field last night, Tony LaRussa made some foolhardy personnel choices once again in late innings.

The idea that switching Allen Craig in for Colby Rasmus when the Cardinals are up by one inning is undefendable unless Rasmus is escorted off the field on a stretcher. Jon Jay is not a bad defender. He's actually a very good defender. Allen Craig isn't a complete butcher in right field. Regardless, the idea that Jay & Craig is a better late inning arrangement than Rasmus & Jay is patently false.  In recent weeks, LaRussa has made the same costly mistake by supplementing Randy Winn for Rasmus. 

It's easy to dog on LaRussa when he does things wrong. That's not my point. LaRussa probably doesn't get enough credit for the things he does right. But he has persistent blind spots. Colby Rasmus is one of them. Unless there is an injury or a very infrequent rest day, Rasmus should be on the field every inning of every game.

Besides, arguably, Jon Jay, Rasmus has no outfield peers defensively. Behind Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday, Colby Rasmus, even after fading from his early season highlights, is still the third best offensive component of this team. If you're behind in a close game, he should be there to bat. If you're ahead in a close game, he should be there to field.

Colby Rasmus not playing is a black mark on the manager every time.

Whether or not that affected the specific outcome of last night's game. . .  probably not. Could Rasmus have gotten to that ball or would Jay have reached it from RF? Hard to say. Would he have made a better throw than Jay's lollipop? Rasmus might have the stronger arm. Regardless, LaRussa diminished his team late in a close game. That's a bad decision even if it isn't the impetus for the loss.

* * *

One of the earliest moves that John Mozeliak made after being selected as the GM in October of 2007 was to lock up Adam Wainwright to a long term contract.  They bought out the remainder of his team controlled years through 2011 and tacked on some club options for 2012. Those options are probably going to get picked up involuntarily at the end of this season. Wainwright has a clause that guarantees both his 2012 option and his 2013 option if he is in the top 5 in Cy Young voting in 2010 or 2011.

With 169.1 innings in 24 starts and potentially another 10 starts to go, Wainwright could rack up something on the order of 60-70 more innings. The Cardinals have to be thrilled with his performance this year has he's surpassed Chris Carpenter as the ace of the squad. With a 2.95 FIP, Wainwright has become one of the premier pitchers in the league given his ability to strikeout batters, not walk many hitters and generate a ton of groundballs.

Mozeliak deserves a heaping of credit for moving fast on this deal. It looks to be a beauty for the team. Here's a rough comparison of the value the Cardinals were paying for (i.e. assume the contract was market value and convert to WAR) versus the actual WAR produced.

Year Contract WAR Actual WAR
2008 0.2 2.2
2009 1.5 5.7
2010 2.0 6.5
2011 2.0 5.0
2012 2.5 4.5
2013 2.5 4.0

 

(azru edit: Upon waking this morning I was appalled to find that I had committed one of the most basic sins of projecting future performance. I set Wainwright's true talent level at his current season's performance. Obviously, this is incorrect. Upon fixing that with a basic Marcel weighting, he lost 1 WAR in years 2011-2013. The crux of the argument holds true however. Very team friendly contract.)

I compensated for arbitration rates in his contract WAR and assumed that pitchers have no true peak and will age immediately. Basically, the Cardinals are making out like bandits in this deal paying well below market value for the production that Adam Wainwright provides. When the contract was signed in 2008, I thought the deal looked good. Now the deal looks great. Adjust the actual WAR totals to your hearts content, the Cardinals come out big winners in any reasonable evaluation of Wainwright's talent.

* * *

You do not get to watch Adam Wainwright this afternoon. You get to watch Jeff Suppan who is coming off of a reasonably good outing in which he pitched 5.1 innings, struck out 5 and walked no one. Beyond that, I don't mutch want to talk about Jeff Suppan and his future chances of success. (Hint: they're slim.)

The Cardinals are 1.5 games back of Cincinnati right now. They could use the Cubs to win a game and they could do themselves a favor by battering Sean West and the Marlins.  The Cardinals are still in a good position to make the playoffs at the end of the year but the Reds aren't going away and the Cardinals need to start racking up the wins soon.

Game time is 12:10 CT. Game thread is 12:00 CT.

A quick self programming note. I'm supposed to appear on SiriusXM Radio on Tuesday Night around 7:30 CT. I'll be talking baseball with former Mets GM and ESPN Analyst Steve Phillips.