Tuesday, November 16, 2004

2004 Bench Review

John Mabry
.296 Average, 867 OPS, 125 OPS+
9 win Shares, 1 WSAA
2004 Salary - Unknown (Minor League Contract)
2005 Salary - Unknown

I looked and looked for salary information for Mabry with no luck. All I know is the Cardinals signed him to a minor league deal in February. I don't even know if that means he's a free agent or not right now.

What I do know is this - Mabry was far and away the best player off of the bench for the Cardinals this year. With the bat, he was the 5th best hitter on the team if you look at rate statistics instead of cumulative stats. Better than Renteria, better than Sanders. His 125 OPS+ was a career high - even better than the half season he spent with Oakland when he made Beane look like a genius (yet again) for trading away Jeremy Giambi for him. His 240 at-bats was the most playing time he received since he was with the Mariners in 1999. His 13 home runs? Matched his career high that he set as a starter for the 1996 Cardinals when it took him 543 at-bats to get there.

With the glove, Mabry wasn't great anywhere. However, the fact that he could hold his own at both corner outfield positions, as well as both corner infield positions, made him even more valuable.

Mabry, who has a career 93 OPS+, is unlikely to match the production he provided the Cardinals in 2004. However, the Cardinals should attempt to bring him back if they don't have him locked up already. He was an important part of the Cardinal team in 2004 who would have likely been even more valuable had the Cardinals still been in the hunt for a playoff race when Rolen was injured late in the season.

So Taguchi
.291 Average, 756 OPS, 97 OPS+
6 Win Shares, 0 WSAA
2004 Salary - $1.2 million
2005 Salary - Free Agent

This was So's worst season in the majors. Which, of course, should come as no surprise to anyone. It's the first time he's had more than 54 at-bats in a year, getting 179 chances this season.

Some would think his value was as a right handed bat, giving Edmonds the occasional day off against a left handed starter. Unfortunately, he had reverse splits. His OPS vs. right was 836, vs. left was 683.

Others will say that his value was with the glove. In centerfield, that seems to have played out, although no other backup received more than 10 innings in center. If you look at Range Factor, Fielding Percentage, and Zone Rating in the corner outfield slots, however, Taguchi wasn't much (if any) better than other fielders available off of the bench. In fact, Sanders was better in left field than Taguchi, ending my understanding of why So started in left in Game 1 of the World Series - but I digress.

Taguchi was an average bench player in 2004. Was he worth $1.2 million? Hard to imagine, considering how well Colin Porter did in limited action. Taguchi was a better hitter than Cedeno off of the bench, but both only hit right handed pitching. I'm not convinced that Taguchi's glove in centerfield is worth bringing him back next year.

Roger Cedeno
.265 Average, 702 OPS, 84 OPS+
6 Win Shares, 0 WSAA
2004 Salary - $1 million (Paid by St. Louis)
2005 Salary - $1 million (Paid by St. Louis)

You know a guy has worn out his welcome when a team is willing to pay more than 80% of his salary for 2 years in a row just to dump him. It wasn't all that long ago, 1999, that Cedeno posted a .396 OBP and stole 66 bases in a season. For some reason, though, he forgot how to get on base.

In 2004, Cedeno improved slightly over his previous two seasons. His OPS+ ticked up from 82 in 2003, 80 in 2002. Cedeno was a decent hitter against righties (735 OPS), horrible against lefties (553). And for a guy who's weapon used to be speed, he hardly showed it this season as he only stole 5 bases in 6 attempts.

Cedeno will be back next year, unless he is traded yet again. I suspect that what we saw out of Cedeno in 2004 is pretty much what can be expected again in 2005. Hopefully, he'll take more chances to steal a few bases this year to up his value slightly.

Yadier Molina
.267 Average, 684 OPS, 80 OPS+
5 Win Shares, 0 WSAA
2004 Salary - $300,000 (League Minimum)
2005 Salary - Unknown

In limited playing time, Molina was a better hitter than Matheny, with a better glove. Do I really need to say any more? As far as I'm concerned, the future is here. Molina made $2.45 million less than Matheny, giving the Cardinals room to negotiate. If Matheny wants to finish his career with St. Louis, that's fine. But he needs to realize that Molina is already better, and thus the Cardinals do not need to overpay for Matheny's coaching abilities, as valuable as they may be.

Hector Luna
.249 Average, 668 OPS, 75 OPS+
4 Win Shares, -1 WSAA
2004 Salary - $300,000
2005 Salary - Unknown

Considering that he was a Rule 5 (or Rule V, if you prefer) player, Luna did a great job in 2004. He was only 25% below average with the bat, and provided just 1 win share below an average player at his defensive positions. Since he had time at 2nd, short, 3rd, and even some in left and center, that's saying a lot.

I personally expect that we will see Luna playing every day in 2005 - for Memphis. I don't think he's ready to be an everyday major leaguer, even though some argue that he should be starting next year at either 2nd or short. A full year in AAA will do him good, and he may in fact be ready to contribute for the 2006 season. I don't know that Luna will ever be a great major league baseball player, but the Cardinals were not hurt in keeping him on their bench for the entire 2004 season.

Marlon Anderson
.237 Average, 649 OPS, 68 OPS+
4 Win Shares, -3 WSAA
2004 Salary - $600,000
2005 Salary - Free Agent

Absolutely horrible is the nicest way I can put it. Nonetheless, he received more at-bats in the playoffs than John Mabry. Probably the biggest beef I have with Tony all season, in fact. Whatever the case, it's not certain that he'll be back next year.

If the Cardinals do decide to bring him back, there are a couple of things going for him. One, he should be cheap. Two, last year was the worst season of his career by far, making it likely he'll rebound this year. His OPS+ was the worst he had posted since he had a 48 with Philly in 2000. His .269 OBP was a career low, much worse than his career .311 OBP.

Overall, Anderson was a flop in my mind. If the Cardinals want to bring back a left handed hitting, below average defensive 2nd baseman - I hope they only bring back one and not both Anderson and Womack. In my mind, they are interchangeable.

Conclusions

Roger Cedeno is the only member of the bench who is certain to return in 2005. Along with Cedeno, the Cardinals should make sure to bring back the MVP of the bench in John Mabry for another year, even though he is likely to digress a bit from his 2004 performance. Should the Cardinals re-sign Mike Matheny, that would leave the Cardinals needing 3 more bench players, including at least one that could play middle infield.

The Cardinals should attempt to have one guy off of the bench in 2005 that can kill left handed pitching, ala Eddie Perez or Eric Davis. That was sorely missing in 2004. Hopefully, the Cardinals can fill the remaining holes without spending a lot of money, potentially giving guys like Colin Porter or John Gall a shot to actually play in the majors.








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