Archive for Cardinals

Matt Carpenter and the Greatest Leadoff Seasons of All Time

In 1990, Rickey Henderson came to the plate in the leadoff spot 588 times (out of 594 total plate appearances). He hit 28 homers out of that slot, walking 95 times and striking out just 60, en route to a .326/.439/.579 line as Oakland’s No. 1 hitter. He also stole 65 bases and was caught on just 10 attempts. All told, he produced a 10.2-WAR season that has since been eclipsed by only three position players: Barry Bonds, Cal Ripken, and Mike Trout.

Henderson’s 190 wRC+ mark in 1990 has been topped by a small handful of batters in the meantime, too: Bonds a bunch of times, Jeff Bagwell Mark McGwire. Bryce Harper did it last year, and Frank Thomas did, too, in the strike-shortened 1994 season. None of them provided such production out of the leadoff spot, however. By most criteria, it’s the greatest hitting season by a leadoff batter in history.

It will likely remain the greatest season by a leadoff batter after the 2016 campaign, as well. That said, Cardinals infielder Matt Carpenter is making a strong case for second-best.

In terms of pure value at the plate, Matt Carpenter is off to a great start. Carpenter’s .300/.419/.585 line has led to a .419 wOBA and a 167 wRC+ that leads the National League and is behind only David Ortiz in all of major-league baseball*. Over the last 365 days, Carpenter’s 154 wRC+ mark sits behind only Ortiz, Trout, Josh Donaldson, Harper, and Joey Votto, and his .277 ISO is the seventh best in baseball. Continued production at that level would give him one of the greatest-hitting leadoff seasons of all time.

*Numbers current as of Monday afternoon.

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It’s Time for the Cardinals to Shake Up Their Bullpen

Sunday morning, I was talking with Craig Edwards and some others in the lobby of a New York hotel. Craig, who as you probably know runs the Cardinals’ site Viva El Birdos in addition to his work for FanGraphs, lamented Trevor Rosenthal‘s “shaky” performance this season. After checking in on Rosenthal and the Cardinals’ bullpen, it is even more clear than it already was that Craig is a kind man, for I would use other words to describe Rosenthal’s performance. It might be time for manager Mike Matheny to make a change at the top of the Cardinals’ bullpen.

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Adam Wainwright May Have Found Something

You don’t need numbers to gain a sense of how Adam Wainwright‘s season has started. You just need Adam Wainwright postgame quotes. After his Opening Day start, he wasn’t “anywhere close to being excited,” and called himself “the definition of average.” The next start tied his “career-high-of frustration level” because he was “so upset about the way the ball [was] coming out.” After start number three, he postulated that he’d “made more mistakes these first three games than [he had in] entire seasons.” Start four: “still not great” and “getting tired of losing.” Following his penultimate outing: “The only way I can move on from that is I have to start over. It’s a new season for me from now on.”

That’s a brief rundown of the first eight starts of Adam Wainwright’s 2016 season, in words. I said you didn’t need the numbers, but now you’re going to get them anyway. Through those eight outings, Wainwright ran a 6.80 ERA. The FIP was better, but still a below-average 4.32, and the expected FIP even worse than that. The strikeouts were way down from what we’ve come to expect, the walks were up, and too many balls were being put in the air and leaving the yard. It was the worst stretch of eight games that Wainwright had had in nearly a decade.

Wainwright being 34, and his arm having had the number of surgeries it’s had, a start to a season like that raises some questions. It raises some questions that would be tough to ask to Wainwright’s face. He probably didn’t care about the questions, but he still wanted to give some answers to make the questions stop. Consider his most recent start like the beginning of an answer.

As far as professional athletes go, Wainwright is notably candid. If his stuff isn’t good, even in a win, he’s going to say his stuff wasn’t good. A couple of those negative quotes from the first paragraph came after victories. He doesn’t beat around the bush when it comes to his opinion of how he pitched. The key quote following his most recent outing: “I’m dangerous. You can say I’m dangerous again.”

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Harrison Bader: A Cardinals Prospect on Being a Sponge

Harrison Bader is raking in his first full season of pro ball. The 21-year-old St. Louis Cardinals outfield prospect ranks second in the Double-A Texas League with a .351 batting average. Batting leadoff for Springfield, Bader boasts a .401 OBP and his slugging percentage is a sporty .554.

Last year, he hit the ground running after being drafted in the third round out of the University of Florida. Splitting his debut campaign between the New York-Penn and Midwest Leagues, the Bronxville, New York native put up an .891 OPS. This year he’s been even better, which he partly attributes to being a sponge.

Bader talked about his approach to the game, including his insatiable thirst for knowledge, earlier this week.

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Bader on how he identifies as a hitter: “I don’t see myself as a power guy. Not by any means. I think that’s evident from where I’m batting in the lineup at this level. I’m a leadoff hitter, so I’m expected to get on base as often as possible. I’m expected to work a lot of counts, have a high level of plate discipline and a good understanding of the strike zone. I also need to know my hitting zone, where I can do damage.

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The Cardinals’ Missing Magic

Over the last couple of years, we’ve talked a lot about the Kansas City Royals and the ability of certain teams to sustainably beat estimates like the BaseRuns expected records we publish on our standings page. Famously, the Royals have won far more games than our numbers thought they would — over the last three years, they’ve won 25 more games than their BaseRuns Win% would suggest — making two straight World Series appearances and winning last year’s fall classic along the way.

Interestingly, though, with less fan fare, Missouri’s other team has also been winning far more often than BaseRuns suggested was likely. Over the last three years, they’ve won 23 more games than their BaseRuns expected record, nearly as many as the Royals. Last year, they won 11 more games than expected on the strength of an historic clutch performance. As Ben Lindbergh noted in a Grantland piece last summer, the Cardinals pitching staff was insanely good at stranding runners last year, so their run prevention ended up being fantastic even as their pitchers routinely danced with danger.

Six weeks into 2016, however, the tables have turned. The Cardinals are just 20-18, already finding themselves eight games back of the Cubs in the NL Central, except BaseRuns thinks they should actually be 25-13, which would give them the second best record in all of baseball. A year after posting one of the largest positive differences between expected record and actual record, the Cardinals have already won five fewer games than expected, and if they continued at this pace, they’d post the largest negative differential for any team in a single season.

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Saying Nice Things About A.J. Pierzynski

A.J. Pierzynski has played baseball for a very long time. He’s one of the few players to predate not only the PITCHf/x era (2007-present), but also the Baseball Info Solutions era (2002-present). He’s one of just six active players who played in the 1990s — the others are Carlos Beltran, Adrian Beltre, Bartolo Colon, David Ortiz and Alex Rodriguez. They are all well celebrated and beloved players. Pierzynski does not fit in that group.

If you’re familiar with Pierzynski, you likely know that his opponents generally have not been all that fond of him. A Google search for “A.J. Pierzynski hate” turns up plenty of results. Rather than focus on that, I thought it would be fun to find some nice to things to say about Pierzynski.

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Ranking April’s Most Dominant Pitching Performances to Date

It’s almost time to rip the first page from the regular-season calendar, and many players and moments have already left indelible marks that will live on in our memories. From Trevor Story to Kenta Maeda, from the Cubs and Nationals on the good end to the Twins and Astros on the bad, it’s been an exciting ride thus far.

There are a number of dominant pitching performances already in the books, with Jake Arrieta‘s second no-hitter in as many years an obvious highlight. Just a week before his vanquishing of the Reds, the Phils’ Vincent Velasquez and the Cards’ Jaime Garcia unfurled identical game scores of 97 in complete game victories over the Padres and Brewers, respectively. Since it’s still early in the season, and sample sizes remain quite small, let’s use batted-ball data in a more laid-back, fun manner, and attempt to split some hairs among these three gems, and crown one as April’s most impressive pitching performance.

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Pitchers Can’t Seem to Get the (A)Led(mys Diaz) Out

Note: the editor of this post played no part in the composition of its despicable title. All grievances should be directed to the author, Craig Edwards.

Baseball is full of April surprises. Players who come seemingly out of nowhere. Albert Pujols was one such player back in 2001. So was Chris Shelton back in 2005, Devon Travis last year, and Trevor Story already this season. As Trevor Story has seen his production decline, another surprise has risen in the form of Aledmys Diaz, the Cuban-born shortstop for the St. Louis Cardinals. While many players have come over from Cuba after having received considerable attention and bonus money, Diaz entered baseball in the United States with much less fanfare. Two years after his signing, he is having one the most surprising — and one of the best — starts to a season of all time.

With few exceptions, Cuban players take an unusual route to professional baseball in the State — due, of course, to the relationship between the U.S. and Cuba. For Diaz to sign with an MLB team presented difficulties. Under the rules at the time of his defection, players from Cuba who (a) were 23 or older and (b) possessed a certain amount of professional experience, were exempt from international bonus pools. When Diaz entered the country in the middle of 2013, he indicated he was born January 8, 1990 (1/8/1990) which would have made him a free agent exempt from bonus pools. Other documentation contradicted that statement, indicating he was born on August 1, 1990 (8/1/1990). Due to the inaccuracy, MLB prevented him from signing for another six months.

Diaz worked out for many teams, eventually signing with the Cardinals to a four-year, $8 million contract in March. By the time Diaz started playing for the Cardinals, it had been a year since he had played competitive baseball on a regular basis. Diaz hit pretty well in 2014 but, due to injury, played in fewer than 50 games between High-A and Double-A — a result, possibly, of the increased workload after a period away from the game. Diaz then started slowly in 2015 — so slowly, in fact, that the Cardinals decided in July they could put him through waivers and remove him from the 40-man roster ,as they didn’t want to risk doing the same to Pete Kozma. With around $5 million remaining on the contract, there were no takers. Immediately thereafter Diaz started hitting, and he has not stopped.

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What Pitchers (and Numbers) Say About Pitching in the Cold

Maybe it was the fact that she spent her formative years in Germany, while I spent most of mine in Jamaica and America’s South, but my mother and I have always disagreed about a fundamental thing when it comes to the weather. For her, she wants the sun. It doesn’t matter if it’s bitter cold and dry; if the sun’s out, she’s fine. I’d rather it was warm. Don’t care if there’s a drizzle or humidity or whatever.

It turns out, when we were disagreeing about these things, we were really talking about pitching. Mostly because life is pitching and pitching is life.

But also because the temperature, and the temperature alone, does not tell the story of pitching in the cold. It’ll make sense, just stick with it.

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Randal Grichuk’s Doing Something Very Unusual

I write a lot about player adjustments. I write so often about player adjustments I start to get a little self-conscious about it. I just do it because I love doing it, and because sometimes I forget what else there is to cover. I love it when a pitcher tries to add a new pitch. I love it when he adjusts an old pitch, or when he starts using the same pitches in different ways. It interests me when a hitter starts putting more or fewer balls in play on the ground. Or, there are the cases where hitters pull the ball more, or spray the ball more. There are so many types of adjustments. There’s one in particular we very seldom see. One we also dream about players making. Randal Grichuk, for his part, is giving it a go.

Grichuk has had a familiar hitting profile: big power, but limited by wavering control of the strike zone. He’s been the hitter equivalent of a talented pitcher with overwhelming stuff but inconsistent command. Those pitchers can still be valuable, but more often than not, they never figure out how to throw strike after strike. And, even more often than not, aggressive hitters tend to stay aggressive. It’s easy to observe when a guy is swinging too much, but it’s not an easy thing to improve.

In his last 10 games, Grichuk has drawn nine walks. He’s struck out six times. To put it another way, Grichuk has drawn a quarter of his career walks in the most recent 7% of plate appearances. Obviously, it’s too soon to say anything for certain, but it’s incredible we’re even here in the first place.

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Seung Hwan Oh Has Been Completely Unhittable

Seung Hwan Oh has faced 25 batters this season, and thus, 25 batters in his major league career. There. You can’t say I didn’t warn you about sample sizes limitations. But sometimes, a number just sticks out at you, and you can’t ignore it. Sometimes, a number is separated so far from the pack that even when you consider the limited sample and factor in the expected regression, it still means something. Sometimes, that number looks like this:

Lowest Contact Rates Allowed
Name O-Contact% Z-Contact% Contact%
Seung Hwan Oh 45.0% 38.7% 41.2%
Craig Kimbrel 42.9% 69.6% 59.5%
Ken Giles 33.3% 79.3% 60.0%
Luke Hochevar 38.5% 75.0% 60.6%
Vincent Velasquez 53.3% 66.7% 62.6%
Dellin Betances 52.2% 73.9% 63.0%
Drew Pomeranz 32.3% 81.1% 63.1%
Jose Fernandez 44.8% 73.6% 63.4%
Sean Doolittle 60.0% 64.5% 63.4%
Darren O’Day 43.5% 79.3% 63.5%
-Minimum 25 batters faced
-O-Contact = contact rate outside the zone
-Z-Contact = contact rate inside the zone

Blink, rub your eyes, do whatever you need to do, and then look at that last column again. More than half of all swings offered against Oh pitches this year have resulted in whiffs. He’s got nearly a 20 percentage point lead over Craig Kimbrel and Ken Giles. Look at that rate of contact inside the zone. Look at it! Oh has gotten whiffs at would-be strikes like Francisco Liriano has gotten whiffs at would-be balls. He’s been completely untouchable. Through 25 batters faced.

The lowest single-season contact rate ever allowed by a qualified reliever was 56% by Aroldis Chapman, in 2014. Both Chapman and Andrew Miller checked in below 60% last year. Oh clearly won’t stay near where he is, and he might not even stay near where Kimbrel is, but his first handful of big league appearances have been about as meaningful as they possibly could be, and I think I’m already comfortable saying that, at the very least, Oh isn’t going to be an easy at-bat for anyone. It seems like the Cardinals have found themselves a real weapon. The question is, just how strong is that weapon?

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Jaime Garcia Just Pitched the Game of His Life

Jaime Garcia has had Tommy John surgery, rotator-cuff surgery, and thoracic-outlet surgery. Despite those setbacks — or perhaps to spite them — yesterday Garcia pitched the game of his life, throwing harder than he ever has during his career. Garcia’s afternoon was nearly perfect: a wild pitch on a strikeout, a walk that was erased by a double play, and one hard-hit single were the only blemishes on a 13-strikeout performance. Garcia’s performance was made possible by continuing to keep the Brewers hitters off balance.

Garcia’s opposition on the day often seemed dumbfounded by his arsenal, unable to figure out which pitch was coming and frequently finding themselves frozen. Twenty-six of Garcia’s pitches were taken for strikes, and these weren’t just get-ahead fastballs. Eight of the 13 Garcia strikeouts came looking. Given that so many pitches were taken, it’s probably necessary to check the strike zone and make sure Garcia was not benefiting from an expanded zone. Here was the zone against left-handers, from the catcher’s point of view.

garciamap1

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What We Can Learn from the First Game of the Season

A hundred and fifty-four days. That’s how long we’ve been wandering in the wilderness. That’s a long time, and especially so when you remember that the wilderness isn’t acres and acres of trees but basketball and hockey. But now we have found civilization because baseball has returned and we are all happy and excited at the prospect of a new season. The dawn of a new season always brings with it questions. Who will be the best team? Who will be the best player? Who will win in the playoffs? What unlikely events will occur? We don’t know, which is why this is so fun. If you could flip to the back of the book and find the answer, you know you would, and but then, when June and July came around, you’d be forced to find something else to do with your life. It’s like that book that lists all the World Series winners from Back to the Future. Screw that book.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t take guess on how things will go. You know we love to take guesses and you love it when we take guesses. In fact, listen to any sports radio now or read any baseball article on the internet and you’ll find guesses as to what will happen this season. Because people love guesses! Some will be grounded in numerics and hard data; others will be pulled, to put it politely, from the darkest of regions. But all are, at their core, guesses. So let’s do some more guessing.

The first baseball game of the season just took place on Sunday. It featured the Pittsburgh Pirates hosting the St. Louis Cardinals. What can that game teach us about the season that is to come here?

Even More Strikeouts

Strikeouts are going up. We know this. We’ve seen graphs and pie charts and other representational forms of data showing how more and more batters are striking out. What’s more, as was pointed out by Steve Treder at The Hardball Times, this isn’t anything new. What is new is the heights to which strikeouts have ascended. Last season, there were over 15 strikeouts per game played (an average of 7.76 per team times two). That means 28% of the total outs in games during the 2015 season came by strikeout. That’s a lot.

Much has been written about this trend, what to do about it, or if it’s even a problem. Perhaps it’ll eventually even out? Not if the first game of the season had anything to say about it. The Pirates struck out just five times against Cardinal pitching including Adam Wainwright, but the Cardinals made up for it by striking out 15 times against Pirate pitching. That’s a total of 19 strikeouts. Divide that by the 51 outs in the game (the Pirates were leading at home so they didn’t bat in the ninth inning) and we can see that 37% of the outs made in the game came on strikeouts. Of course, one game doesn’t dictate an entire season and the strikeout rate in baseball has taken a dip at times over the decades. But strikeouts. Yeesh.

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Beating Francisco Liriano, in Theory

It’s difficult to write about the bigger picture when there have been precisely three games played in the regular season. The picture, as it stands now, is microscopically small. So we focus on the little things. We observe, but we try not to draw conclusions. Mostly, we wonder and speculate about the upcoming year, just like we have been throughout the entire offseason, except now, we do so with a tiny bit of knowledge about what that year actually entails.

One of the things I’m interested to watch this year is the development of an eight-year trend of pitchers throwing fewer and fewer pitches in the strike zone while getting batters to chase more and more balls. Most specifically, I’m interested in watching Francisco Liriano, the leader of the “throw strikes never” movement. The last couple years, Liriano has simultaneously thrown the fewest percentage of pitches inside the zone while also generating one of the highest chase rates.

Liriano already walks a ton of batters, and knowing those two facts, the logical question one asks oneself is, “Why do batters keep swinging?” Seems it should be easy to let Liriano beat himself. Spoiler alert: nothing about baseball is easy.

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KATOH Projects: St. Louis Cardinals Prospects

Previous editions: ArizonaBaltimore / Boston / Chicago AL / Chicago NL / Cincinnati  / Cleveland / Colorado / Detroit / Houston / Kansas City / Los Angeles (AL) / Los Angeles (NL)Miami / Milwaukee / Minnesota / New York (AL) / New York (NL) / Philadelphia / Pittsburgh / San Diego / San Francisco / Seattle.

Earlier today, lead prospect analyst Dan Farnsworth published his excellently in-depth prospect list for the St. Louis Cardinals. In this companion piece, I look at that same St. Louis farm system through the lens of my recently refined KATOH projection system. The Cardinals have the 15th-best farm system in baseball according to KATOH, and rank second best in terms of pitching.

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Evaluating the 2016 Prospects: St. Louis Cardinals

EVALUATING THE PROSPECTS 2016
Angels
Astros
Athletics
Blue Jays
Braves
Brewers
Cardinals
Cubs
Diamondbacks
Dodgers
Giants
Indians
Mariners
Marlins
Mets
Nationals
Orioles
Padres
Phillies
Pirates
Rangers
Rays
Red Sox
Reds
Rockies
Royals
Tigers
Twins
White Sox
Yankees

The Cardinals certainly have tons of mid-level depth. If history continues to repeat itself, that means at least two above-average position players and a high-upside pitcher or two will pop up from the low minors this year, replenishing the lack of “impact” players at the high levels. They continue to target hitters with upside in the hit-tool department, trusting them to develop power or complement it with defensive or base-running value. On the pitching side, it’s like a broken record for a lot of the newer pitchers in the low levels: (Pitcher Name) came in throwing in the high-80s, and now comfortably sits in the low- to mid-90s with more physical projection left to realize.

No one will be excited by the prospects coming up through this system, but you’d be mistaken if you underestimate the player development model they have created in recent years. I had trouble putting a lot of the prospects I like in this system into the 50+ group for various reasons, but the Cardinals have one of the highest numbers of players just outside that line that could step forward this year with the right adjustments.

There are a number of players whom I rank lower than most in this organization, but in all honesty, there’s so much clustering in the middle of the list that it’s just semantics arguing over most of them. Feel free, anyway. Darren Seferina is my top pick for the Cardinals’ patented out-of-nowhere starting position player, with excellent hitting ability and base-running potential to go with potential above-average defense at second base. If you listen carefully, you’ll hear the boo birds gathering forces in the darkest corners of the internet as you read this.

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Ruben Tejada, Inevitable Cardinal

A week ago, the St. Louis Cardinals learned they were going to be without Jhonny Peralta for the first couple of months of the season, after he required surgery to repair a torn ligament in his thumb. Because the Cardinals have been participating in a multi-year experiment to see if you can win games without a viable backup shortstop on the roster, speculation immediately turned to outside acquisitions, since no one thinks running Jedd Gyorko out there on an everyday basis is a good idea. While Erick Aybar was floated as a natural fit, given that he’s in a walk year on a rebuilding team, the Braves quickly hung a high price tag on him, making a deal between the teams unlikely.

Instead, the Cardinals seem likely to make a more minor move, not wanting to create a mid-season playing time problem when Peralta does return. And on the minor acquisition spectrum, there was always one name who made a decent amount of sense: Ruben Tejada.

The signing of Asdrubal Cabrera made Tejada superfluous for the Mets, pushing him into a third-string shortstop role that probably wouldn’t have resulted in a lot of playing time. Even with Cabrera having his own health problems, the Mets still seemed perfectly content to let someone else have Tejada if they wanted him, and his availability was no secret around the league. And then today, the Mets made the speculation official, putting Tejada on waivers, and giving any team the chance to take him if they so desire. While Tejada doesn’t yet have a new uniform, his days as a Met are over, and now we simply wait for the seemingly inevitable announcement that he’ll be signing with the Cardinals.

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The Cardinals Already Have an In-House Shortstop

The biggest story of the day is probably that Jhonny Peralta is hurt. It’s his thumb — seemingly a ligament tear — and it’s an injury that threatens to keep Peralta out of action for a few months. You don’t need to do a lot of overstating to make it clear this is significant, because Peralta is an everyday shortstop, and the Cardinals are trying to go to the playoffs. Playoff teams don’t want to lose regular up-the-middle players before the season even gets started. And then, who’s to say how well Peralta performs even when he comes back?

This is a problem, to be sure. Now, however, it should be noted this ought not destroy the year. For one thing, even though Peralta is the shortstop, we give him credit for a -0.4 second-half WAR last season, and in that same second half the Cardinals went 44-29. So while the Cardinals will have to win with Peralta absent, they’ve kind of already done that. Everything is survivable.

And then there’s the matter of replacing Peralta. It’s always tempting to look around for potential external options. Trades are fun, no matter when they happen, and at first glance it’s not like the Cardinals are particularly deep. For my taste, though, I don’t think they need to hurry out to get a new player. An awful interesting player is already in camp.

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Cardinals Lock Up Kolten Wong in Frugal Manner

Now that all the possible arbitration cases have been settled and all the offseason’s major free agents signed (apologies to David Freese and Austin Jackson), teams can turn their respective attentions towards locking up young players to contract extensions that buy out potentially expensive free-agent seasons. Earlier this week, the Royals and Salvador Perez agreed to a deal, although that amounted more to the restructuring of a previous deal and less a typical extension. Rather, the first standard pre-arbitration extension of the spring comes from the St. Louis Cardinals, who could get a decent bargain in Kolten Wong despite the second baseman’s lack of huge upside.

Wong’s service-time situation made him an ideal candidate for a contract extension. Wong is one year away from arbitration, so he was looking at the Major League Baseball minimum salary (or something very close to it) this season, with three seasons of arbitration to follow before he could hit free agency. The contract with the Cardinals is for five years and $24.5 million, with a $12.5 million option with a $1 million dollar buyout for the sixth season, making the guarantee $25.5 million. The guarantee is fairly low and has the potential to buy out two seasons of free agency when Wong will be 29 and 30 years old, respectively. Wong has shown himself to be an average player in his two full seasons in the big leagues and continuing to be average will make this deal a worthwhile one for the Cardinals — although Wong has shown some potential for more.

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Previewing the Best and Worst Team Defenses for 2016

Early this morning, the full 2016 ZiPS projections went live on the site. This is probably news to many of you. Surprise! Happy ZiPS day. You can now export the full ZiPS spreadsheet from that link, find individual projections on the player pages, and view our live-updating playoff odds, which are powered by a 50/50 blend of ZiPS and Steamer. This is good news for everyone, including us, the authors, because now we have more information with which to work.

And so here’s a post that I did last year, and one which I was waiting for the full ZiPS rollout to do again: previewing the year’s team defenses. It’s been a few years running now that we’ve marveled over speedy outfielders in blue jerseys zooming about the spacious Kauffman Stadium outfield, and now those speedy outfielders in blue jerseys are all World Series champions. People are thinking and talking about defense more than ever, and you don’t think and talk about defense without thinking and talking about the Kansas City Royals. Defense: it’s so hot right now. Defense.

The methodology here is simple. ZiPS considers past defensive performance and mixes in some scouting report information to give an overall “defensive runs above or below average” projection. Steamer does the same, except rather than searching for keywords from real scouting reports, it regresses towards the data from the Fans Scouting Report project compiled by Tangotiger every year. The final number is an average of these two figures, and can be found in the “Fld” section of the depth charts and player pages. It isn’t exactly Ultimate Zone Rating or Defensive Runs Saved, but it’s the same idea, and the same scale.

Let’s look ahead toward the year in defense.

* * *

The Best

1. Kansas City Royals

This is one of my new favorite fun facts: the Royals outfield defense, just the outfield, is projected for 31 runs saved, which is higher than any other entire team in baseball. And with Alex Rios out of the mix in right field and Jarrod Dyson and Paulo Orlando stepping in full-time, Kansas City’s outfield defense should somehow be even better than it’s been in the past.

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