There's got to be a parallel dimension where Allen Craig is king of the St. Louis Cardinals. In that dimension, the 2008 Jim Edmonds trade with San Diego never happened. David Freese still broke both ankles there though.
It's been a weird journey for Allen Craig who was drafted in 2006 and did nothing but hit the ball all through the minors. Then, after being leapfrogged by David Freese, Craig found himself without a position and had to convert to the outfield. That's all been well and good -- the Cardinals essentially get to have their cake and watch it walk around on two metal ankles too -- but sometimes I still wonder about that other world.
The funny thing about that other world is that I'm not sure it even needs to be all that different from the one we're trapped in -- damn you, quantum mechanics -- sans David Freese, World Series hero.
Setting aside my personal opinion on Craig's ZiPS projection (for the record, I'll take the over), what does a .022 point advantage in wOBA mean for these two. Well, it means that Freese needs to be about 12 runs better than Allen Craig in the field to be the better third baseman. Again, this is all hypothetical bit it's not hard to see a scenario where Allen Craig is a -10 fielder and David Freese is a little better than average (that's what the metrics generally point towards) so this is in large part a moot discussion.
Somewhere though, Allen Craig is lofting his 2011 World Series MVP trophy in celebration of his 1.013 OPS in the post-season capped by home runs in game 6 and 7. (Hint both of those last things actually happened in our world too. Spooky.)
I was channel flipping mid-day yesterday before the UFC fights (this is what you missed if you didn't watch it -- hopefully the link is still live come morning) and came across an MLB Network countdown of the best individual player seasons in baseball history. They got number one correct: Barry Bonds' 2004 season. Let's play baseball math with Barry Bonds.
- Albert Pujols walk total for any season + Albert's walk total for any other season < Barry Bonds 2004 walk total
- Albert's career walks + Scott Rolen's career walks + Jim Edmonds career walks = 284 BBs + Bond's career walk total
- Skip Schumaker's 2011 OPS + Ryan Theriot's 2011 OPS < Barry Bonds' 2004 OPS
- Barry Bonds' 2004 walk total > Mark Reynolds' 2009 strikeout total
- Barry Bonds 2004 walk total * 2 > St. Louis Cardinals Pitching Staff's walks issued
- Barry Bonds 2004 walk total > Corey Patterson's career walk total
You can go on and on and on. Barry Bonds' 2004 season was unquestionably the most incredible season baseball has ever seen an individual player produce. Every now and then I have to just step back and be in awe of it.
A while back, Dave Cameron wrote on Fangraphs about the value of single year deals for pitchers -- the kind of deal Roy Oswalt is looking for. Here's the money quote:
All told, [pitchers signed to a single year deal] totaled +23.7 WAR in just over 2,100 innings, coming in at a cost of just above $2 million per win, half the going rate of free agents last winter. They also averaged about +1.8 WAR per roster spot taken, as their average production per inning pitched was dragged down just slightly by the lower innings totals that these pitchers managed.
It's interesting perspective and perhaps makes the Kyle Lohse and Jake Westbrook deals a little harder to swallow. Regardless, this should give you a good sense of why the Cardinals continue to kick the tires on Roy Oswalt.
I also think this whole scenario is pointing towards a real strategy from the Cardinals front office. I'm hesitant to even bring something like Moneyball up because of the rigid stances people have on that subject but here I go anyway. The Cardinals have now signed Lance Berkman, Carlos Beltran and Rafael Furcal to somewhat below market rate, short term deals. Are injured aging players a market inefficiency that the team is trying to exploit?
If so, it certainly worked well for them in 2011 when Lance Berkman was an integral part of the offense and went on to show that he still had a lot to offer a major league team. Whether the Cardinals will continue to make pickups like this will play out over time but it is worth keeping an eye on. This may just be the club biding its time until the farm system spits out the next round of players or it may be a more comprehensive approach to the free agent market. I don't know but I am curious.
Those of you waiting for a tie in to the picture are SOL. I just wanted to screw with you and use the same picture, cropped differently for the third day in a row. Suckers! I'm not sure if there's some kind of handegg event today or not but, if there is, I hope the 5th level of Dante's hell opens up directly beneath the Patriots' sideline. Enjoy your day.