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St. Louis Cardinals Off-Day Odds & Ends

A look at some interesting stats from the Cardinals' first 31 games.


The MLB schedule-making computers spit out an odd week for the St. Louis Cardinals. The Redbirds will have an off-day today, play the Cubs at Wrigley on Tuesday and Wednesday, then have another off-day on Thursday, and ultimately head home to play the Rockies in a three-game weekend series. On this, the first of the club's two off-days this week, lets have a look at some of the statistical odds and ends this young season.


When the Cardinals signed Ty Wigginton this past offseason, they said it was to provide righthanded pop off the bench. Everyone scratched their head because Wigginton was (and is) fat, old, and well into his decline phase. During spring training Wiggy hit for .132 BA, .233 OBP, .170 SLG, and .403 OPS over 60 spring training plate appearances. The Cards relegated the positionless out-maker to minor-league camp and told him to take as many at-bats as he needed. It appears that Wigginton may be beyond fixing. His strikeout on Sunday lowered his line to .136/.208/.136 over 24 PAs this season. Wigginton's 168 wOBA works out to a -1 wRC+. As a refresher, a wRC+ of 100 is exactly average. The further above 100, the better a player's offensive production. The further below, the worse. Until perusing Fangraphs yesterday, I didn't know it was possible for a player to have a -1 wRC+.


It's May 6 and the Cardinals have played 31 games this season. David Freese has played in just 18 of those games and notched only 72 PAs. Freese was in a deep slump after returning from the disabled list for the team's home opener. After some solid PAs in Milwaukee, it appeared the October hero was heating up. Then Freese went 0 for 5 on Sunday with three strikeouts. Freese has no homers on the year.


Pete Kozma has outperformed his projections so far this young season. In doing so, he hasn't been a gaping black hole that sucks all offense into its void and kills rallies. Shortstop is not the club's strength but it also isn't a glaring weakness.






MLB ‘12





Furcal ‘12





MLB ‘13





Kozma ‘13






One of the aspects of baseball that sabermetrics has attempted to evaluate is how clutch a player is or isn't. One of the stats that measures this is Leverage Index (LI), which rates a given situation based on the inning, score, outs, and number of runners on base. Another is Win Probability Added (WPA) which, as the Fangraphs glossary explains, measures "how individual players affect their team's win expectancy on a per-play basis." Fangraphs has used LI and WPA to create a "Clutch" statistic that measures, according to David Appelman, "how much better or worse a player does in high leverage situations than he would have done in a context neutral environment." So far in 2013, Matt Holliday is 25th in all of baseball with a 0.95 WPA. According to the Fangraphs Clutch metric, Holliday has been the sixth-most clutch player in MLB so far this season with a 0.77 Clutch rating. The Redbirds would likely not be 20-11 without Holliday's clutch hitting.







Men On










RISP, 2 Outs






On Sunday, backup catcher Tony Cruz came on late in the game to give Yadier Molina a rest. Cruz pinch-hitting led to many Twitter jokes asking who this player was because folks didn't recognize him. It's understandable since Cruz has started one game this year at catcher for the Redbirds. Molina has started 30. Yadi leads the majors in games started for a catcher, which is understandable since the weather is still cool. The climate hasn't had a cooling effect on Molina's bat. He's hitting .328/.361/.457 so far this year. Yadi's .357 wOBA equals a 130 wRC+. Molina has been a cornerstone of the Cardinals on offense and defense.


The Fielding Bible has developed a system of measuring defensive performance that is called Defensive Runs Saved. It measures the number of above- and below-average plays a player makes. Above average plays earn a player a +1 tally. Below average plays a -1. Matt Carpenter has a DRS of +2 at the keystone so far this year. That means he's been slightly above average. Throw in his .345 wOBA and the Cards may very well have a 3.0-fWAR second baseman on their hands.


The foundation of the Cards' early season success has been starting pitching. St. Louis starters had posted an MLB-leading 2.25 ERA through play on Saturday. The second-lowest team ERA for starters belonged to the Rangers at 3.12. The Redbirds starters are not benefiting from some ERA mirage, although they have outperformed their excellent 2.84 FIP and 3.35 xFIP. Before Jaime Garcia's excellent eight innings on Sunday, El Birdos starters were third in MLB with 4.3 fWAR. Not bad for a group that lost co-ace Chris Carpenter before the season began.


Last year, Jon Jay injured his shoulder early in the year. When he came back from the injury, the center fielder was able to hit for his usual .300-ish average. However, at the end of the year, his SLG had dropped 24 points even though his BA had risen by eight points. Jay's Isolated Power (ISO) fell from .127 in 2011 to .095, which was the same as the punchless Skip Schumaker. Jay hit four homers all of last season. On Saturday, Jay hit a mammoth dinger to right-center in Miller Park. The blast was his third of the season. On May 4, Jay is one homer away from tying his 2012 season total. Jay has posted a .140 ISO so far in the season's early going. Even though his BA is down, the power Jay is showing at the plate is heartening.


Allen Craig has a .348 BABIP but only a .286 BA. (Last year, he hit .307 with a .334 BABIP.) Craig has also hit for a lot less power this season--well, at least until the club arrived in Milwaukee. Over the four-game series, Craig sprayed eight hits. In the last two games of the series, the Wrench socked a homer, double and triple. In doing so, he raised his ISO by 40 points. In addition to the low power output in April, there is another troubling peripheral to Craig's offensive output. In 2012, he walked at a below-average rate of 7.2%. So far, in 2013, Craig is walking in just 3.2% of his PAs.


The glaring weakness of this St. Louis ball club has been their bullpen. The Cards' 5.51 reliever ERA through Saturday was the worst in all of baseball and by a wide margin. The Astros' 4.97 is second-worst. Bad luck is a bit of a factor. The Cardinals' 4.20 FIP is tied for fifth-worse in the big leaguers and their 3.84 xFIP is a perfectly cromulent 16th. Nonetheless, the bullpen was a problem. To address it, the Cardinals relegated Marc Rzepczynski and Mitchell Boggs to Triple-A Memphis and have replaced them with strike-throwing extraordinaire Seth Maness and smooth flamethrower Carlos Martinez. The early results have been promising.


Carlos Beltran started off last season at a blistering pace. He hit for average, drew walks, and clubbed a ton of homers. This year, he isn't walking much at all--just 5.3% of the time--but he's once again whacking baseballs out of the yard. Beltran has eight homers in the team's first 31 games. His HR/FB rate is 16.7%, which would be the second-highest HR/FB of his career after 17.6% in 2006 with the Mets and ahead of the 15% HR/FB rate he posted last year and in 2004 with the Royals and Astros.


The Cardinals are 20-11 this season. Their 20 wins are tied with the Red Sox and Rangers for the most in all of MLB and lead the National League. The Redbirds' .645 winning percentage is also the highest in the NL and tied with Boston and Texas for the highest in baseball.