Second Guessing St. Louis

On July 7th, Rich Harden and CC Sabathia had been traded to Chicago and Milwaukee respectively without yet having made a start. At the time, the Cubs were at 53-36 and leading the division by 3.5 games over then 2nd place St Louis who were at 50-40 a half game ahead of the Brewers 49-40. Those three teams were 1-3 in terms of best records in the National League.

Since that date, Rich Harden has pitched 54 innings, striking out 75 and walking just 18 with two hit batsmen and six home runs allowed totaling a 2.95 xFIP and a 2.72 tRA. Meanwhile, CC Sabathia has logged an impressive 102 innings with a matching 102 strikeouts and 21 walks alongside three hit batters and five home runs allowed. That’s good for a 2.94 xFIP and a 2.50 tRA.

During this same time period, the Cardinals have given nine starts to Joel Pineiro and 12 starts to Braden Looper. Not exactly up to the same caliber as the other teams and the Cardinals have struggled as a result. Since that date, the Cubs have compiled a 34-22 record and widened their lead in the division by a game, now over second place Milwaukee who have gone an impressive 34-23 themselves.

Meanwhile, the Cardinals have only been able to hold serve at .500 with a 28-27 mark and have since fallen behind the Houston Astros in the NL Central, who made their own mid season pitching acquisition in Randy Wolf who has useful on his own in addition to helping keep Shawn Chacon away from the rotation. There was plenty of criticism of the Cardinals for not making a significant trade at the deadline because it was thought they wouldn’t have the horses to stay in the race. This time around, it appears the critics were right.




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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.

7 Responses to “Second Guessing St. Louis”

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  1. drive2fast19 says:

    The problem with this analysis is that the Cardinals did not act (or fail to act) in a vacuum.

    1) There were no other available pitchers who would have had a similar positive impact on the Cardinals.

    2) The rotation has not been the problem; the bullpen has blown 29 saves this season, including 3 of 4 in STL right after the Sabathia trade you mentioned. The improvement was needed in relief.

    3) The Cardinal organization has gone through a long stretch having no real minor league system to speak of. Now it is univerally agreed that they are on the cusp of producing some home-grown ML-ready talent. To trade that away for a few months of a rental starter who would then sign elsewhere would put them right back at the bottom of the hill they just climbed.

    I don’t disagree with your main point; the numbers indicate that the Cardinals needed to make a move to keep up with the Cubs and Brewers THIS YEAR. However, for the good of the organization, I, for one, am glad they didn’t.

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  2. While the bullpen has been a problem, the rotation for the Cardinals has been horrible.

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  3. Big Steve says:

    The cardinals ERA for Starters is 4.04, league average is 4.42. Horrible? Really? How about backing up what you say instead of make ridiculous stand alone statements.

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  4. ERA is a misleading measurement for pitcher’s effectiveness. Look at their strikeout, walk, homerun and line drive rates. The Cardinals rotation is well below league average.

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  5. Big Steve says:

    We are talking about what the starters have done, not what they theoretically should have done based on a formula. I think these formulas are valuable in predicting future performance, but the problem in that there is no holy grail fip? Qera? ERA? Dip? Pitching Vorp?…etc. These are all calculated differently using similar principals, but all have flaws. Fact is that the Cardinals starters ranked 4th in runs allowed this season and were middle of the pack in OPS against (slightly better than league average). In terms of pitching Vorp they rank 5th in the league INCLUDING the bullpen which has been pretty terrible by any measure, especially in high leverage situations. Now do you still think the cardinals starters have been HORRIBLE?

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  6. That’s exactly my point Steve. ERA doesn’t measure what starters have done. It combines about 40% from starters, 50% from defense, 10% from a subjective scorekeeper and makes no adjustments for the pitcher’s home park. That’s bad. If you want to measure what a pitcher has actually done (and only the pitcher) you have to use a different measure.

    For a more expansive explanation, you can read Dave Cameron’s article on the matter: http://ussmariner.com/2006/08/29/evaluating-pitcher-talent/

    The measurement that I subscribe to is tRA, which is described here: http://www.statcorner.com/tRAabout.html and which shows the Cardinals rotation to be the 6th worst in baseball.

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  7. Sky says:

    Backing up Matthew’s point about the Cardinals’ pitching staff, St. Louis has one of the better fielding teams in the league, bringing down their ERA a lot. And then consider than the offense is damn good with few holes, the best hitter in baseball, and three other hitters near the top of their position: Ludwick, Ankiel, and Glaus. If the fielding is really good and the hitting is really good and you only have an outside shot at the Wild Card, there’s gotta be a weakness (ahem, pitching).

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