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Welcome to Brian Walton's St. Louis Cardinals blog!

News and commentary about the past, present and future state of the St. Louis Cardinals. 
 
Note that all new St. Louis Cardinals-related content will be posted on the new Birdhouse site, stlcardinals.scout.com, rather than here.  An explanatory note is below. 
 
Search the archives, listed by week and month, at the bottom of this page.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Predicting the 2005 Cardinals

 

Actually, I should give full credit or at least a major assist to Cardinals consultant and Advisory Board member Ron Shandler and his team from BaseballHQ, since their research is the core of this story.

 

One of my most important milestones of the hot stove season each year is the day in December when my new copy of the Baseball Forecaster arrives.  In its 19th year, Shandler’s guide is the bible to the upcoming season for thousands like me.  In this year’s 240-page work, there is a wealth of historical as well as predictive information for major leaguers and minor leaguers, as well as sections on gaming (fantasy) and sabermetric tools.

 

But, the purpose of this story isn’t to sell books for Shandler.  Instead, it is to cobble together a small subset of his work to assemble what could be called an overly-simplistic glimpse of what we might expect from the 2005 Cardinals.  My premise here is very basic.  That is, to look at the delta between key player stats from year to year.

 

First of all, some disclaimers.  This data was generated to analyze individual players, not a team.  Nowhere in the Forecaster does BaseballHQ aggregate stats for team views as I attempt here.  I also did not include the entire roster, which would be required for a thorough analysis of the Cardinals team.  Finally, I adjusted the Forecaster projections to totally align with BaseballHQ’s most current projections, which unlike the ones in the Forecaster, make a first shot at fitting numbers into available playing time on the team. 

 

Still, all disclaimers aside, for individual players, these projections are well-founded, based on years of experience in analysis of individual skill sets, rates of growth and decline, resistance and recovery from injury, opportunity and other factors.  You still have to buy the Forecaster to get the full story, as these stats only scratch the surface of the in-depth analysis provided.  It is $23.95 well spent.  http://www.baseballhq.com/

 

2005 Projections vs. 2004 Actuals - St. Louis Cardinals

Hitter

At Bats

Home Runs

RBI

Batting Average

On-Base %

David Eckstein (as Anaheim Angel)

-2

+1

+4

-.006

-.004

Albert Pujols

-25

+2

+5

+.002

-.003

Scott Rolen

+33

+2

-7

-.023

-.022

Jim Edmonds

+13

-2

-3

-.013

-.018

Reggie Sanders

-41

-3

-7

+.002

+.008

Larry Walker (vs. 2003)*

-49

+6

-1

+.002

-.022

Subtotal

-71

+6

-9

-

-

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pitcher

Innings

Wins

Saves

ERA

Strikeouts

Chris Carpenter

+20

-3

 

+0.42

0

Jason Isringhausen

-17

-2

0

+0.07

-16

Ray King

-19

-3

0

+0.74

-4

Jason Marquis

-14

-4

 

+0.14

-8

Matt Morris

-29

-2

 

-0.77

-7

Mark Mulder (as Oakland A)

-52

-4

 

-0.33

-28

Jeff Suppan

-1

-3

 

+0.12

-7

Julian Tavarez

-21

-3

-2

+0.75

-20

Subtotal

-72

-24

-2

+

-100

 

* Since Walker’s 2004 was abbreviated due to injury, I chose the 2003 season as a more valid comparison point.

 

What conclusions can one draw from this? 

 

Offense 

For those key players upon which the Cardinals offense depends, overall trends are down.  Albert Pujols is the only player expected to improve in as many as three of the four categories year-to-year.  Scott Rolen is the one projected to have the largest decline in batting average and OBP and tied for most RBI down.  In aggregate, the power numbers from this group are not that different from year-to-year, but both average and on-base percentage look to decline a fair amount.

 

Pitching

First of all, it is clear that the HQ gang see Mark Mulder as an injury risk, peeling back his number of innings substantially.  (Even without looking at the improvement expected from Dan Haren, HQ’s view of the Mulder trade is clear.)  They project the ERAs of every one of these hurlers to rise, with the exception of Matt Morris and Mulder, in some cases by three quarters of a run per nine innings.  Not a single member of this group expected to increase his strikeout total. 

 

On the positive side, Jason Isringhausen is expected to basically repeat his fine 2004. 

 

However, most telling projection of all is that none of these pitchers is expected to increase their number of wins year to year, with the aggregate decline an alarming 24 games.

 

Conclusion

Let’s hope the BaseballHQ team is wrong or some unheralded players step up to fill the gaps.  Otherwise, these projections for this subset of the current roster, taken at face value, would signal a significant year-to-year decline is ahead for the St. Louis Cardinals individually and in aggregate in 2005.

 

10:45 pm est

Friday, December 24, 2004

Cora to Second?

 

Thursday’s Post-Dispatch mentions the Cardinals interest in former Dodger Alex Cora to play second base in 2005.  Walt Jocketty is noted to have said that a free agent acquisition is most likely to fill the opening versus a trade.

 

Walton’s take:  Jocketty could believe that or he could be doing what he can to bring the price down for any potential trade or both.  As always, likely keeping his options open.

 

12:12 pm est

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Entering the Eckstein Era

 

David Eckstein has agreed to terms with the Cardinals on a three year contract, apparently to be their new shortstop and lead-off hitter.  Eckstein, who turns 30 in January, was non-tendered by the Angels earlier this week after playing with them since 2000.  ESPN reports the deal is for $10.25 million guaranteed, with yearly salaries of $2.25M, $3.25M and $4.5M.  Eckstein received a signing bonus of $250,000, as well. 

 

He is said to be a fan favorite who gets the most out of his ability.  That is the kind of player who the Cardinals fans seem to embrace (see Bo Hart, Stubby Clapp, Joe McEwing, etc.).  Eckstein has averaged 23 stolen bases per season, a .278 average, .347 on-base percentage and 49 RBI per season over his four full seasons. 

 

Eckstein is an excellent bunter and is effective at the hit-and-run.  He is an experienced lead-off hitter.  Let’s hope Eckstein likes Busch, as he hit over 50 points higher at home than on the road over his career.

 

On the downside, scouts report Eckstein’s arm is weak and his range is limited.  However, his fielding percentage is good, so he is accurate for those balls he gets to.  As a result, some believe Eckstein is better suited to return to his original position of second base.  He has no power, as his career slugging percentage is only .353.

 

ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reported earlier Thursday that Eckstein had multi-year offers on the table from at least two teams.  Other teams rumored to be interested in him were the White Sox, Tampa Bay, Kansas City and DetroitHis agent was quoted as saying that Eckstein would be willing to play second base, as well as shortstop.  

 

Walton’s take:  I don’t like three years, especially the last year at $4.5 million, but that is likely what the Cardinals had to pay to get him.  Eckstein made $2.150 million last season.  I like him better at second than at short, though it remains to be seen who is signed next.

 

Ex-Cards to New York

In other news, former Cardinals Kerry Robinson (1998-2003), Andres Galarraga (1992) and Marlon Anderson (2004) each signed minor-league deals with the Mets with invitations to spring training. 

8:15 pm est

Age is a factor

Creaky Cards

 

With all the recent trades and signings, the Cardinals are getting longer in the tooth.  The players on the current 40-man roster, sitting at 36 in number, average 29.7 years of age.  That is third highest in the game, after the Red Sox (30.5) and the Yankees (30.6).

 

Looking at the projected 25-man roster based on what we know today, not surprisingly it gets worse, at 30.56 years of age on average.  I assumed a roster of 12 pitchers, with the starting shortstop and second baseman open and generously allowing young Hector Luna to keep his backup role in the middle infield.

 

Pitchers (12):  Ankiel (25), Carpenter (29), Eldred (37), Izzy (32), King (30), (Lincoln – not included – 29), Marquis (26), Morris (30), Mulder (27), Myers (35), Reyes (34), Suppan (29), Tavarez (31).

 

Position players (11):  Diaz (31), Molina (22), Pujols (24), Rolen (29), Luna (24), Cedeno (30), Edmonds (34), Mabry (34), Sanders (37), Taguchi (35), Walker (38).

 

Spread by age range:

20-24: 3

25-29: 6

30-34: 9

35-39: 5

 

Even counting Matt Morris as a starter and Rick Ankiel as a reliever, the average age of the bullpen is an advanced 32.  But, the outfield is even worse, with an average age of 34.67.  Perhaps the team can live with a seven-man pen and get by with all the oldsters, but there is no way this outfield can survive the season intact. 

 

The re-signing of So Taguchi is a feel-good story, but it weakens the bench to the point that any prolonged injury to a starter would require an immediate trade for a dependable replacement.  I cannot envision a scenario wherein Cedeno, Taguchi or Mabry could hold down a regular outfield job for a pennant-winning caliber team.

 

2:23 pm est

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

More Cardinals Signings

 

The 40-man roster is now at 36 players.

 

Dr. Evil Takes Less than $1 Million to Spare World

Left-handed reliever Mike Myers agreed to terms on a one-year, $600,000 deal with the Cardinals.

 

Walton’s take:  At the Carmen Cali household, there is no joy this Christmas.  Myers, 35, is joining his eighth team in 11 seasons.  His career ERA is nothing to brag about at 4.40, but Myers has held lefties to a .212 batting average over that time.  He is clearly a one-out lefty specialist and will serve as Ray King’s sidekick.  Party time!  Excellent!

 

So Back at You

Outfielder So Taguchi is re-signing with the Cardinals for next season at a salary of $550,000.  He had been non-tendered after making $1.2 million in the final year of his initial MLB three-year contract. 

 

Walton’s take:  Again slated to be the fifth outfielder on a team that badly needs stronger backups at the position.  After all, the three starters are 37, 34 and 38.  So is 35, for what that’s worth.  At least the amount of the deal feels right, as John Mabry got $750,000.

 

But No Miller Time at Busch

 

ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that pitcher Wade Miller agreed to sign a contract with the Boston Red Sox for $1.5 million plus another $3 million in incentives.  The Cardinals were not mentioned among the eight other teams known to be interested.

 

Walton’s take:  A risky player to sign, but the price was very reasonable.  I wish the Cardinals had hustled like the Sox apparently did to get Miller.  He used the same “they wanted me most” words that Edgar did.  While everyone is consumed over middle infielders, don’t forget that La Russa and Duncan craved two starting pitchers going into the off-season.

 

9:41 pm est

Lugo interest outed

A New SS Entrant

 

The Tampa Tribune  reports that the Cardinals are interested in Devil Rays shortstop Julio Lugo.  The 29-year-old drove in 75 runs, hit .275 and stole 21 bases for the Rays in 2004.  He was cut by the Houston Astros after a domestic violence incident in 2003.

 

The Rays’ #1 prospect B.J. Upton is poised to take over Lugo’s spot next season and the team may also sign a free-agent shortstop, in which case Lugo would be expendable.  Lugo is arbitration-eligible and was offered a contract for 2005.  He made $1.75 million last season, but could come close to doubling that this year.

 

At this point, we are unsure of the Cardinals names being discussed, but if you re-read my story about Jerry Hairston from Monday, those are likely among them.  (Click on the "2004.12.01" link at the bottom of this page.)

 

Dodgers Add Drew

 

The Bergen Record reports that outfielder J.D. Drew has agreed to a five-year, $55 million megadeal with the Los Angeles Dodgers, pending completion of a physical exam.  That’s a lotta’ bucks for former Cardinal and Brave Drew and agent Scott Boras.

 

8:51 am est

Guest column

Minor League Middle Infield Help?

By Jerry Modene

 

(Walton’s take:  Regular Birdhouse contributor Jerry Modene offers a guest column on a pressing need.  Realistically, if any of these guys are added, they would likely compete with Bo Hart in Memphis, but as Jerry points out, you never know…)

 

Decided to spend a little time looking at the minor-league FA list to see if we can't find any help there - I can't believe we're going to be the only ones with an eye on David Eckstein.  And you never know what little gems might be out there; the minor-league FA list is how we got Kiko Calero, after all.

Here's the link to BA's list. Of course, some of these guys have been signed, but I'm too lazy right now to see which ones are no longer available.

http://www.baseballamerica.com/today/news/041028falist.html

Looking at the list (it's a long one), let's see if there are any middle infielders who might be of some help:

2B: Keoni DeRenne - this is a good little player who's been in the Braves and D'backs organizations since he finished up here in Tucson at the University of Arizona. Scrappy type player but a little on the small side; 5'7". He hit .306/.352/.385 for the Tucson Sidewinders after the D'backs picked him up; lifetime in five minor-league seasons he's a .267 hitter. He'd be a good pickup for
Memphis but I don't know if he could hit enough to make it with the Cards.

SS: Isaac Iorg - this guy isn't any relation to Dane, is he? Out of the Braves' system, where he hit .273 in A-ball.  Obviously no prospect, but the name sort of jumped at me.  (Ed. note:  Rex Duncan pointed out that Dane is Isaac's uncle.)

2B: Trace Coquillette - now 30 years old, he used to be quite the prospect.  Hit .249/.329/.365 for AAA Pawtucket this past season.

2B: Carlos Febles - the former Royal (.250/.328/.354 in 1656 ML at-bats)
hit .257/.319/.356 for AAA Pawtucket in 2004. Age 29.

SS: Gookie Dawkins - former Reds prospect, hit .223 for AAA Omaha and .329 for AAA Iowa in 166 and 164 AB's, respectively with a combined 10 HR. Still just 25 years old.

IF: Denny Hocking - now 35 years old, was supposed to be the guy who replaced Greg Gagne in
Minnesota but never made it. Still, he's a lifetime .250 hitter in 2298 ML at-bats. He hit .288 in 104 AB for AAA Iowa this year after he was let go by the Colorado Rockies.

SS: Aaron Holbert - is he still around? He'll be 32 in January and has been bouncing around for years now, hit .271/.349/.361 for AAA Louisville this past season; hit .311 in 2002 and .270 in 2003.

SS: Benji Gil - now 32 years old, he hit .257 for AAA Iowa in 2004 in 113 AB. Former Angels and Rangers prospect, he's hit .237 in 1610 major-league AB's. Had a pretty good 2001 season for the Angels, though, when he hit .296/.330/.477 with 8 HR and 39 RBI in 260 AB.

SS: Danny Klassen - turned 29 in September; the former Brewers and D'backs prospect hit .253 in 395 AB for AAA Toledo in 2004.

2B: Terry Shumpert - we're not that desperate, are we? He's 38 years old and still hanging in there; hit .256 in 211 AB's for AAA Nashville.

2B: Jared Sandberg - still young; turns 27 in March. Used to be quite the prospect; his star fell pretty fast. Hit .230 for AAA Durham this past season.

IF: And now, here's Stubby Clapp, who turns 32 in January (where do the years go???) and who only played in 48 games between AA and AAA for the Blue Jays this past season (hitting a combined .264) because he took considerable time off to play for Canada in the Olympics.

Well, nobody really leaps out at me, but Sandberg, Coquilette, Febles, and maybe DeRenne are the ones that are at least a little intriguing. Gil if all you want is defense.

 

8:11 am est

2005.02.13 | 2005.02.06 | 2005.01.30 | 2005.01.23 | 2005.01.16 | 2005.01.09 | 2005.01.02 | 2004.12.26 | 2004.12.19 | 2004.12.01 | 2004.11.01 | 2004.10.01 | 2004.09.01 | 2004.08.01

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