Thursday, September 15, 2005

2nd Base in 2006

I know - long time no post. Time flies when you're having fun.

Anyway, I was looking at some random stats last night and stumbled across something kind of interesting. Hector Luna, in limited play, has the exact same OPS as Mark Grudzielanek as of today. To me, this brought up an interesting thought - is Luna actually ready to be a cheaper alternative to Grudz as soon as next year?

Offense

First, let's take a look at the offensive numbers. As I already mentioned, Grudzielanek and Luna have the same OPS in the majors this season.

Grudz - .292/.331/.412, 743 OPS (476 at-bats)
Luna - .284/.331/.413, 743 OPS (109 at-bats)

A bit of rounding error gives them the same OPS despite Luna having a higher SLG by 1 point. Kind of interesting, no? If you adjust Luna's counting statistics to assume the same number of at-bats, you see something like this.

Grudz - 29 doubles, 2 triples, 8 home runs
Luna - 30 doubles, 8 triples, 4 home runs

Basically, Luna's speed gives him triples to offset the slight edge in home runs seen by Grudzielanek. A few more numbers:

Grudz - 22 walks, 72 strikeouts, 8 steals, 5 caught stealing
Luna - 26 walks, 83 strikeouts, 34 steals, 4 caught stealing

Here's where Luna's speed really shines. Those 34 projected stolen bases in the same amount of playing time really add to the potential value provided by Luna. Especially if his success rate (89%) could be maintained. And finally, some team dependant numbers.

Grudz - 59 runs scored, 53 RBI
Luna - 104 runs scored, 56 RBI

Obviously, this stat is tainted by the fact that Luna is frequently used as a pinch runner late in games who ends up being driven in without increasing his at-bat totals. But at the same time, the fact that he's putting himself into scoring position (stealing bases) does help his cause here.

In a nutshell - Luna has performed very well with the bat in the majors this year. In fact, he's been just as good as Grudzielanek. We shouldn't forget, however, that he wasn't nearly as good in AAA this year.

.224/.294/.332, 223 at-bats.

Has being around the "big club" inspired him to do better? Has someone figured out a problem that has since been corrected? Obviously, I don't know. I don't think it's outside of the realm of possibility, however, that he's simply starting to come into his own at this point in the year.

Defense

So what? you say. Grudz is a gold glove candidate this year. That was certainly my first instinct. Then I looked at the defensive numbers.

Grudz - .989 Fielding %, 5.48 Range Factor, .870 Zone Rating
Luna - .976 Fielding %, 6.06 Range Factor, .895 Zone Rating

I wouldn't have guessed it, but Luna is actually getting to more balls in play than Grudzielanek. Granted, he's only played 120.1 innings compared to 1055.1 for Grudz. Nonetheless, he's gotten the job done during the time allotted to him. "But Grudz is valuable for the double plays he turns" you say. Take a look at this.

Double Plays per 9 innings

Grudz - 0.86
Luna - 1.05

That's right - Luna actually has turned double plays at a higher rate than Grudzielanek! I certainly didn't expect to see that.

Conclusions

Mark Grudzielanek has been a great acquisition for the Cardinals this year without a doubt. Both defensively and offensively, Grudz has given the Cardinals an upgrade over Tony Womack for a measly $1 million bucks, helping the team to get back to the 100 win plateau in back to back seasons.

At the same time - he's been somewhat injury prone over the past few years, and turned 35 in June. His role on this Cardinal team - especially his defense - has probably driven up his market value so that someone somewhere will likely be willing to pay him $3 to $4 million a year for the next 2 to 3 years.

Meanwhile, the Cardinals have a player on their team in Luna who has put up similar numbers in limited playing time this year. He doesn't turn 26 until February, and the Cardinals have the rights to him for the next 4 years - including what will likely be a very cheap salary in 2006 (less than $500,000.)

Do the Cardinals let Grudzielanek become the 2006 versions of Womack and Matheny? I don't think it's out of the question. By keeping Luna, and thus keeping an extra $2 to $3 million off of the books, the Cardinals would be in a better position to go after the corner outfielder they need next year, either by trade or by free agent signing.

Just something to keep in mind over the next couple of weeks, as we wait for the real season to begin.

8 Comments:

At 10:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 9:58 AM, Blogger CalvinPitt said...

You make a pretty convincing arguement, but for some reason I'm a little wary. I'm just not sure I trust Luna to be the fulltime 2nd baseman. I'm just not sure he's starting 2nd base material.

Two points in favor of it though: If he becomes the starter, at least we'd get a chance to find out if he can handle it (barring injury). And, we wouldn't have to see Hector in the outfield anymore, a definite plus.

Basically, as long as Jock's 2nd base solution doesn't involve Billy Beane in any way, shape, or form, I'll trust his decision.

 
At 10:05 AM, Blogger Robb said...

I'm actually not convinced myself, to be honest. But with that being said, having Luna and Abraham Nunez battle for the position during the Spring - along with a third candidate from either AAA or the free agent pool - could be a worthwhile gamble.

Of course, it would be much easier to swallow if Brian Giles was wearing the birds on the bat next year....

 
At 11:37 AM, Blogger Currey said...

This might be too much of a fantasy idea- but what if the Cards signed Furcal and moved Eckstein to 2nd? Eck's weak arm wouldn't be as much of a detriment at 2nd and Furcal is much younger than Brian Giles.

 
At 10:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sometimes you have to just look on the field, rather than the numbers. Gruds is one of the very best I've ever seen at turning the DP. TLR calls him perhaps the best. Is arm is a rocket. Luna is one of the very worst I've seen. He is tentative at transfering the ball to his hand, and very tentative on his throw - with good reason, as he's thrown away a number of throws this season, including at least 3 in two games a week or so ago. I hope Luna will not be turning DPs for us next year, except for backup.

 
At 4:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ugh, I don't care what the numbers are.... I just can't believe Luna is a better 2nd baseman than Grudz. Maybe the sample size was too small?

 
At 8:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Grudzielanek. Gold Glove. I never thought I'd see those words in the same sentence.

I haven't followed Grudzielanek this year, but when he was with the expos he was one of the worst defensive shortstops I had ever seen. Worse then Wil Cordero. Worse than Hubie Brooks. No range, poor hands, bad arm. Whether he wins the gold glove or not, he'll always be a terrible defensive player to me.

Scot.

 
At 10:01 AM, Blogger sarah said...

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