Suppan’s Return

One attribute prevalent throughout coaching ranks in all professional leagues is a degree of loyalty to certain players. Sometimes the manager or coach sees a little of themselves in the player and they keep him around as a service to their lost youth. Other times it’s as simple as sharing common interests*. We’re unable to quantify exactly what that loyalty means to the team dynamic or the players individually. One probable result: the players don’t like it when horrible players are given more playing time because of said loyalty, especially on good teams.

Yet, that’s just what’s happening in St. Louis with Tony La Russa and members of his previous rosters.

Aaron Miles is already back; and for some reason, actually playing. Miles will soon be joined by former teammate Jeff Suppan who was released by the Milwaukee Brewers days ago. Suppan is best known as a sunk cost finally purged from the Brewers roster after making only two starts for them this season. The most steadfast and hopeful Cardinal supporters will point to Suppan’s success under Dave Duncan nearly half a decade ago. The reality is, though, that Suppan wasn’t all too different of a pitcher then than he was in Milwaukee:

MIL: 97 GS, 577 IP, 4.7 SO/9, 3.4 BB/9, 1.2 HR/9, ~5.00 FIP
STL: 95 GS, 572.1 IP, 5.2 SO/9, 3.1 BB/9, 1.1 HR/9, ~4.70 FIP

Yes, Suppan’s FIP and xFIP look improved this season relative to last, but again, he’s spent 90% of his appearances in relief, so of course the numbers should be improved. Suppan managed to tally 31 innings with the Brewers despite a 7.84 ERA. He’s not that bad. He may just be a replacement level starter in his career. That’s relevant because the Cardinals already have one of those in P.J. Walters, whom Suppan will likely replace. Frankly, Walters probably has more upside than Suppan, just as Tyler Greene has more upside than the aforementioned Miles.

This swap looks like a lateral move that’s only being made because Suppan has a history with Duncan and La Russa. If this were, say, Ian Snell, would the Cardinals have hopped on him? The Cardinals needed some rotation help heading into Thursday and it appears the same will hold true come Friday.

*A few years ago the Orlando Magic had a forward named Pat Garrity who had long since reached the end of his three-point sharpshooting usefulness, yet he stuck around on the inactive list. Why? Because Magic head coach Brian Hill and Garrity would go to museums together while on the road.

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24 Responses to “Suppan’s Return”

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  1. Theron says:

    I’m under no illusion that Suppan is some sort of upgrade to the Cardinals, but if he does offer replacement level pitching for league minimum I guess that’s something. The Miles signing and rostering is indefensible, though.

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  2. Dave says:

    In looking at the data, I have long believed that Tony LaRussa’s one desirable trait as manager is in keeping Dave Duncan in the fold. All we need to do is look at folks like Joel Piniero to see that this is true. If Suppan is going to make a difference for anyone, it will be for the Cardinals. I agree about Miles — he isn’t under the auspices of Duncan.

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  3. Dann M says:

    As a Cubs fan, this signing of Suppan makes me very happy. Now if only Dusty Baker were so loyal to Mark Grudzielanek and LaTroy Hawkins.

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  4. greenback06 says:

    I won’t wax poetic about this signing, but the Cardinals’ starting rotation right now is extraordinarily fragile. Suppan and Walters probably aren’t that far apart, but the problem is that Garcia and Carpenter are pretty good bets to break down some point this year, and then you’re looking at the Evan MacLanes of the world.

    Really if the worst thing you can say about a transaction is that they replaced Player A with an older, similar version of Player A, then it’s just not a bad transaction. Certainly it’s more useful than mainstream media-style remote psychoanalysis of a GM or field manager. I mean we all rely on narratives, but it’s supposed to be something we try to move past.

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    • vivaelpujols says:

      what rotation isn’t fragile? The Cardinals legimiately have 3 of the top 30 starters in baseball healthy and in their rotation, with Penny coming back soon.

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      • greenback06 says:

        If your point is that everybody can use some depth, then I won’t disagree. I’ve got a hard time believing that most good teams are as vulnerable as the Cardinals though. I don’t have to re-tell the Carpenter and Garcia stories to you, Nick.

        Although I guess I’m discounting Brandon Dickson, whoever the heck he is, a bit too quickly.

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    • Jason B says:

      “if the worst thing you can say about a transaction is that they replaced Player A with an older, similar version of Player A, then it’s just not a bad transaction.”

      True, perhaps, if Player A is Pujols and they’re bringing a Pujols clone aboard for the league minimum…but when you’re bringing someone aboard who has been *below replacement level for three years running*, well…

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  5. John says:

    So the Cards have replaced Colby Rasmus, David Freese, and Brad Penny with Randy Winn, Aaron Miles, and Jeff Suppan. On the bright side, it will be great to see the Reds back in the playoffs after all those years of suck. Oh, and if it wasn’t obvious already who’s running the show in St. Louis, it is now, and boy does TLR love his replacment level veterans (although calling Miles replacment level is quite charitable).

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    • Theron says:

      To be fair, Miles replaced Greene and Winn replaced Jay, not Rasmus and Freese, who are only out for a few games due to injury. There’s a big difference between those guys replacing minor-league bench players and replacing good young starters.

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    • chuckb says:

      This is what bothers me the most. John Mozeliak is simply a figurehead GM in St. Louis. Whenever La Russa wants something done, he manages to pull the right strings in order to get it done. There is no way that Suppan is an upgrade over Walters, Hawksworth, Lance Lynn or Evan MacLane but La Russa and Duncan wanted a veteran and, preferably, someone they knew, so Suppan is now on the roster. Similarly, Aaron Miles is making starts at 3B and batting 2nd in the Cardinals’ order. As long as La Russa is allowed to repeatedly call the shots vis-a-vis the roster, we’re going to continue to see the same bizarre roster moves.

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      • vivaelpujols says:

        You’re overreacting chuck. If La Russa was truly pulling the strings then why was Freese given the starting 3B job of of ST and Garcia given the starting 5th starter position? In those case, the young guys were clearly better than the veteran options. This isn’t true in this case.

        Let’s go through the projections of the guys you mention as possible replacement for the 5th starter spot, using ZIPS RoS ERA.

        Hawk: 4.50 ERA (with 32 G, 0 GS, so that translates to a 5.4 ERA in the rotation)
        Walters: 5.69 ERA
        Lynn: no ZIPS, Oliver projects a 4.90 ERA before the season
        MacLane: no ZIPS, Oliver projects a 5.05 ERA before the season

        Suppan projects for a 5.42 ERA via ZIPS. He’s no worse than Hawksworth or Walters (and having personally attended monday nights game against the Dodgers, I don’t think it’s possible to be worse than those two), and barely worse than MacLane or Lynn. Lynn is the only prospect out of that group and the only one who projects to pitch significantly better than Suppan. But he’s only made 13 starts in AAA so far and isn’t pitching very well at all. Besides, if he is actually a prospect we don’t want to rush him up just to make a couple of spot starts.

        Suppan is crap, but there is not much else. Obviously Tony has a lot of influence on the roster construction, but he’s not going to effect any major decisions. Miles ahead of Greene as the teams (second) utility infielder and Suppan ahead of Lynn/other crap are not going to effect the Cardinals very much at all. When it counts, Tony is not going to influence the major decisions of the Cardinals.

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      • Jason B says:

        Meanwhile Odalis Perez sits beside the phone…

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  6. oh Hal says:

    Rather remarkable the number of assumptions you make in that brief post. The psychological analysis is nice, but the idea that its loyalty that make teams sign players they are familiar with is special. I guess you could say you don’t know something. First time for everything.

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  7. BigSteve says:

    It felt so good when the Cubs signed Miles and I thought I was rid of him. I die a little bit inside every time I see that little hobbit in Cardinals uniform trying to make a throw across the diamond.

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  8. CircleChange11 says:

    I’m interested in how Sup will do. I thought the Cards should have resigned him after the playoffs, but he was asking too much.

    I am not, at all, a fan of Miles. I don’t care bow many “little things” he may or may not do. Part of me thinks that TLR must relate to Miles as a player or something. Aaron Miles is no Ken Oberkfell. *grin*

    The list of pitchers that do well in StL and then go elsehwere and suck is long. Bottenfield (thanks for Edmonds), Weaver, Suppan, Looper (it’s a stretch), etc. It is possible that Suppan gives the Cards 6-8 decent starts in June and July. I have more concerns with the O.

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    • Felonius_Monk says:

      Weaver was garbage in St Louis except for a couple of playoff starts. Suppan and Looper really weren’t that good either.

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  9. CFIC says:

    I’m guessing this signing of Suppan proves that Penny won’t be back for a while. at least, that’s the only way I can rationalize the move. But coming after putting Aaron Miles on the roster and actually giving him starts, I am a bit worried, being a Cardinals fan. and if Randy Winn starts taking a lot of starts away from Colby Rasmus, I may have to start rooting for the Padres or the Rays or something. This is ridiculous.

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    • David says:

      Seems to me you’re overreacting a bit. Miles has made 2 starts so far – one at 2B (giving below replacement level Skip Schumaker a day off) and one at 3B (for Freese who has a sprained right ankle). Miles isn’t even the team’s primary backup infielder when everyone’s healthy – that’s Felipe Lopez.

      Obviously Rasmus has been injured so it’s no surprise that Winn got the recent starts in CF. I think we should wait until these kids are healthy before we accuse TLR of giving Winn/Miles too much playing time…

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  10. Rob says:

    I’m a Brewers fan. If STL is picking up the sloppy seconds from our rotation, then WOE to them I say. If it’s a stopgap measure, then fine. But I do not believe there exists any playoff caliber team with Suppan starting every 5 days. You cannot (without having been a Brewers fan) know how demoralizing it is to a fan (and I assume also to the team) to see a guy taking the mound that give you no chance to win. That impact carries through more than once ever 5 days–it’s a morale killer.

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  11. jimiu says:

    Suppan is what he is and no one expects much more – just a placeholder until Penny comes back, send the other guys back to AAA and let them try and figure stuff other there. as far as the Winn and Miles signings i think people need to look at what STL is trying to do long-term, sign Pujols and save money with guys from their system and still be competitive. They need to give guys like Jay and Greene as many PA as possible, why should they sit on the STL bench and get 4 or 5 PA a week. Let them develop and hopefully next season or the season after they can come up and replace Schumaker and Ludwick.

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  12. Matt says:

    I’m a Brewers fan, and I guarantee that Suppan will be better with St. Louis than he was with Milwaukee (or at least appear better). It’s not because of some magic by Dave Duncan either. The reason he will be better with St. Louis is because he is an average pitcher that pitches to contact. He’s not nearly as bad as his numbers suggested in Milwaukee, because Milwaukee’s defense is horrendous. They are one of the worst in the league. St. Louis has success with pitchers who pitch to contact because they historically have pretty good defense. Even this year, they are above average. It is for this reason, and this reason alone that Suppan will appear to be better with St. Louis than he was with Milwaukee.

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