Spring Training is, mercifully, nearly over. For the Cardinals, all but the smallest decisions have been made, and I'm ready to write about a team other than the Marlins, Nationals, Mets and Astros. The Nationals still have their fifth starter competition undecided, but neither of those pitchers are going today. Like yesterday, we get a rematch of recent vintage as Adam Wainwright and Gio Gonzalez return to the mound for their final tune-ups. However, this time Waino will get to face an actual lineup rather than the mostly minor league squad he mowed down five days ago.
David Aardsma is in the pen today, hoping to show that his command is ever so slightly better than Jorge Rondon's, and we'll see Carlos as well if Wainwright is kind enough to leave some batters for the the bullpen.
The big news in Washington since that last date is that Doug Fister looked great and says he felt just marvelous in his return to action Saturday. If said feelings continue to be marvelous, this is a development that will have a big impact on the NL East standings this year.
The small news in Washington is that they just released Jamey Carroll. It's still spring training, so humor me for a minute and let's talk about a player who is now on neither team playing today.
Jamey Carroll was drafted in 1996. By the Expos. He debuted in 2002 as a 28 year old. With the Expos. He was released yesterday, in 2014, by the
Expos Washington Nationals. In his career, he has played every position on the diamond except catcher and first base (he has one unblemished inning pitched to his credit). He was the last Expo to ever score.
Jamey Carroll has no power. For over 1400 PA's covering three years in the 2009-2012 seasons, he hit no homeruns. He averaged just 14 doubles in each of those seasons. There are plenty of players with power profiles as limited as Jamey's who don't strike out much, as he doesn't, but what's surprising is his ability to draw walks. By having a very good eye, swinging judiciously, and making contact nearly every time he swings, he's managed an almost 10% walk rate while giving the opposing pitcher no reason to throw anything but strikes.
Compare these eerily similar plate discipline numbers:
O-Swing, O-Contact, Z-Swing, Z-Contact, Swing and Contact %
A) 19.2 / 77.7 / 54.8 / 93.7 / 38.3 / 90.9
B) 22.8 / 75.9 / 50.7 / 94.5 / 37.1/ 88.9
If you're not familiar with the terms, these guys swung at only around 20% of pitches outside the zone, and they made contact with over 75% of those. They only swung at around half of pitches in the zone, but when they did swing at a pitch in the zone, they made contact around 94% of the time. Overall, they swung at 37-38% of all pitches and made contact 90% of the time. That's the profile of a very smart and effective contact hitter.
One last comparison:
Player A has a 24% Line Drive rate and Player B has a 27% LD rate, so they square up frequently. For context, last year an LD rate of 24% would be top-30 in all of baseball.
Player A is Jamey Carroll's career, and Player B is Matt Carpenter's 2013.
And that's how a player can get on base 35% of the time for his career without being able to hit the ball hard or run fast.
Carroll is a rare example of a utility player with actual utility. Of course, he had so much utility that he generally received more playing time than many who go by that title, but it's worth remembering that a player with absolutely no punch and little speed can still, every once in a while, be pretty good. I hope he catches on somewhere else for another year.
The game starts at 12:05 Tower Grove Park time and plays on FSMW, KMOX, & mlb.tv.