Monday, November 08, 2004

2004 Outfield Review

Jim Edmonds
.301 Average, 1061 OPS, 173 OPS+
36 Win Shares, 19 Win Shares Above Average
2004 Salary - $8.6 million
2005 Salary - $9.8 million

Jim Edmonds was in the running for the MVP, but in my opinion his late season slump kept him from coming as close as he could have. Of course, the numbers Edmonds put up in September and October were very similar to those he posted on April and May, so maybe he was just reverting to normal. Consider this - of his career high 42 home runs, Edmonds posted 23 of them in July and August. If he could put together an entire season of hitting home runs at that pace, Edmonds could actually make a push for 70. Of course, we all know that he's a streaky hitter, so that's unlikely to happen.

Overall, streaky or not, he had a career year. His 36 win shares was 6th most in the majors, and his 6.5 defensive win shares was the best in the NL, right behind Johnny Damon (7.1) for the most in baseball. His 173 OPS+ was the best of his career, as was his home runs (42), RBI (111), and SLG (.643). He was just off of the mark for career highs in walks and OBP. One would think that at his age - he'll turn 35 in late June - that he would begin to trend down. However, his play since coming to St. Louis has actually been trending up. By simply looking at his OPS+ since playing for the Redbirds, we see an interesting trend.

2000 - 148
2001 - 150
2002 - 163
2003 - 161
2004 - 173

Every season other than 2003, he has set new career highs in OPS+. While it would be unrealistic to expect that trend to continue for a couple of more years, I do think that it is likely that Edmonds will still be a very large part of the St. Louis attack next season. Most likely, his production will decrease slightly from his 2004 numbers. However, I would have said the same entering 2004.

Larry Walker
.298 Average, 1013 OPS, 152 OPS+
13 Win Shares, 5 WSAA
2004 Salary - $4.2 million (paid by St. Louis)
2005 Salary - $5 million (paid by St. Louis)

What a great shot in the arm this guy was. He provided another tough out in the lineup, gave the Cardinals another power lefty to go with Edmonds, stabilized the bench, and gave the Cardinals a slight upgrade defensively all in one fell swoop.

Since Walker played for Colorado in recent history, it's hard to tell just how good he's actually going to be in St. Louis. Looking at OPS+, his 152 during the 2004 season was the best he had performed since 2001, when he posted a 160. From a power standpoint, I really don't know what to expect out of Walker next season. Consider is SLG over the last few seasons.

2001 - .662
2002 - .602
2003 - .476
2004 - .589

Furthermore, his SLG in St. Louis was .560 this season. Very good, but not the numbers he was posting in his prime in the thin air of Coors Field. However, there is one thing that I believe we can count on out of Walker. His OBP has not been below .400 since 1996, when he posted a .342 at the age of 29. In fact, over the last eight years he has a .437 OBP. Granted, some of that is due to playing in Colorado. The large field increases base hits, the thin air produces more home runs, and also causes pitchers to walk a few more batters. What's more, Walker's high OBP's have been created in large part by his high batting average, as he has never drawn more than 100 walks in a season, with his average being around 58 per year.

With that being said - Walker showed in his limited time in St. Louis that he will in fact draw walks when he feels he is needed to. His walk rate of 0.18 per at-bat was higher than his career mark of 0.13. To add to that, take a look at his 2003 numbers. His power numbers were very low, and Walker drew a career high 98 walks, 18 more than he had ever drawn in a season. That appears to me to suggest a player who did not think he could contribute as much with power, so he was getting on base more to create opportunities for his teammates.

Other than playing in a hitter's park, the other problem Walker has had is staying healthy. Walker has only managed more than 500 at-bats twice in his career, and has only played more than 143 games once, when he played 153 in 1997. Of course, it's no coincidence that he won the MVP in the one year he was able to play the most. Walker turns 38 next month, so there is no reason to expect him to suddenly be a player that can be counted on to play more than 130 or so games next year, and even that may be pushing it a bit.

Reggie Sanders
.260 Average, 797 OPS, 105 OPS+
16 Win Shares, 2 WSAA
2004 Salary - $2 million
2005 Salary - $4 million

Sanders did about what should have been expected out of him this season - posted slightly above average numbers for a corner outfielder by providing a little pop, and stealing a few bases when the opportunity arose. Much like Walker, Sanders has been a bit injury prone over his career, but that did not provide any problems this season. Sanders played in 135 games, 3rd highest in his career and just 5 games off of his career mark.

The most interesting thing to note about Sanders for the 2005 season, to me anyway, is this; will he continue to play better in odd years? Look at his OPS+ pattern.

1994 - 110
1995 - 155
1996 - 115
1997 - 121
1998 - 99
1999 - 130
2000 - 76
2001 - 119
2002 - 111
2003 - 134
2004 - 105
2005 - ???

For eleven seasons in a row, he is consistently better in odd seasons, worse in even. I have always considered this to be a fluke, and I still can't explain it. Let's just hope it happens again this year. At his age, it's unlikely that he will improve much over this season. In fact, we should expect him to decline slightly. However, if he has any of his "odd season mojo" left over, the Cards might get a left fielder that can hit 15 to 20% better than league average, providing some extra, unexpected spark out of the bottom of the lineup.

Conclusions

Edmonds, Walker, and Sanders should provide the Cardinals with an above average hitting and fielding outfield again in 2005, despite them all getting a bit long in the tooth. I personally expect Edmonds to be in the hunt for his 8th gold glove, and to provide one of the best bats in the NL yet again. Walker should minimally be able to provide a .400+ OBP out of the two hole, with the potential to still hit 25 to 30 home runs not being out of the question. And Sanders will likely be posting very similar numbers to this year, with an outside shot of him reverting a bit to his 2003 form.

Overall, however, the Cardinals shouldn't count on more than 120 or so games from each of their corner outfielders. This opens up an opportunity for others to get starts in a minimum of 80 games during the course of the season, as I would assume that both Sanders and Walker will be given off one day per week during the year. Whether those extra starts are given to guys already on the team, in the minors, or a free agent remains to be seen. I will address the #4 outfield slot in a future article.

1 Comments:

At 3:36 AM, Blogger Jeff said...

The heck with just the outfield; I'll be saying a little prayer every night for each and every member of the '05 starting lineup to play 120+ games.

 

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