Season in Review: St. Louis Cardinals

A continuation of the series of retrospectives looking back at the regular season and how teams fared. They will be presented, from first to last, in order of their run differential as given by the BaseRuns formula and adjusted for strength of schedule, which I feel is the best measurement of a team’s actual talent level.

Number Twelve: St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals were one of the biggest surprises this year in large part because of their offense, roughly an 800-run unit, 2nd in the National League. The 22nd ranked run prevention group though is not quite as impressive, 12th among 16 NL teams.

Given how bad their run prevention finished, who was to blame? Well, one group that doesn’t deserve the blame is the defense, which clocked in at 58 plays above average according to The Hardball Times. That was the 2nd best in the NL, just a single play below league leading Milwaukee.

Among the starters and relievers, the brunt of the blame rests on the starters. Significant innings going to Todd Wellemeyer, Joel Pineiro, Braden Looper and Kyle Lohse (newly signed to a 4-year, $41 million contract) were all to a varying degree below average, Pineiro being the biggest offender. Adam Wainwright was the only saving grace amongst the rotation.

The bullpen didn’t have any single person to really lay the blame on, it was an almost total team commitment to mediocrity with the exception of Russ Springer. Ryan Franklin and Jason Isringhausen provided numerous adventures out of the closer’s role, and not really of the thrilling kind.

But oh boy those bats! Albert Pujols had another insane season that he no longer gets credit for just because he does it every year. In addition to Big Al, the Cardinals struck gold in Ryan Ludwick who came off the free talent scrap heap to post a 4.89 WPA/LI and came out winners in the Troy Glaus for Scott Rolen swap.

Although several members of the offense are due for some regression in 2009, the pitching was so bad that it shouldn’t be hard to improve in that area and would help keep the Cardinals as contenders next season. Kyle Lohse for $10 million a year though? Not a great start.

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Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.

5 Responses to “Season in Review: St. Louis Cardinals”

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  1. Isaac says:

    Why so much hate for Lohse? He was in no way below average. He was a different pitcher this season; probably another feather in Dave Duncan’s cap. He displayed better control and induced way more ground balls than he did in 2006 and 2007. His 3.89 FIP, good for nineteenth in the NL, backs up his 3.78 ERA.If he maintains his current numbers over the next four years he should be worth every bit of that 40 million dollar deal.

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  2. Erik says:

    The pitching was bad? Except for Pineiro, the starters were fine. The bullpen coughed up a zillion saves and was the downfall of the Cardinals.

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  3. Lohse had the lowest swinging strike rate of his career and the highest line drive rate of his career. He did lower his walk rate, but threw strikes less often. Those are bad indicators on future performance and his below average strikeout rate and noted line drive rate certainly did make him below average in 2008.

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  4. aaron says:

    not sure if it has come up in a previous entry, but how did milwaukee end up at 59 plays above average?

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  5. Bible John says:

    Isaac, do you realize how big of an if that is? Eight thousand to one? Nothing in the numbers says sustainable.

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