Thursday, August 18, 2005

Pujols, Edmonds, and....Nunez

Word is that Scott Rolen's chances of playing again this year are becoming more and more slim every day. Not that this is exactly shocking, mind you - I've felt all along as if the Cardinals probably can't count on more than two out of four of their current injured players (Rolen, Walker, Sanders, and Molina) contributing this post-season. But it still hurts to hear Jocketty himself start to incinuate as much.

Which, of course, leaves the Cardinals with the options of Abraham Nunez, John Mabry, and Scott Seabol manning the hot corner the rest of the year. I thought I'd spend some time today focusing on the guy that has been (and probably will continue to) getting the most time at 3rd base, in Abraham Nunez.

When the Cardinals invited Nunez to camp last off-season, I wasn't excited nor worried about his inclusion. I personally saw him as the 2005 version of Hector Luna (without a promising future) - a player who wouldn't hit much, but could give players days off in the infield. Nunez had the added benefit of solid defense, plus switch hitting capability. All in all, kind of a ho hum, 25th man on the bench.

Prior to 2005, Nunez had spent 8 years in the major leagues. Coming up with the Pirates at the age of 21, Nunez basically spent his entire career as a backup middle infielder, never playing more than 118 games in a season, or getting more than 311 at-bats. His career hitting line before this year was .238/.306/.316 with an OPS+ of 62. As in, he has been 38% worse than an average major league hitter over his career. He had career season highs of 4 home runs, a .262 batting average, a .344 OBP, and a .375 SLG. Note that his .344 OBP came over just 52 at-bats in 1998, and that his 2nd best season was a .311 mark. Similarly, his .375 SLG season was over just 40 at-bats in 1997, but that he posted a similar SLG of .357 in 2003.

Defensively, Nunez spent most of his time at shortstop (229 games, 810 innings) and 2nd base (226 games, 1395.1 innings). His MLB experience at 3rd base consisted of 8 games and 23.1 innings prior to this year. The defense he displayed at short and 2nd were basically league average in relation to fielding percentage and range factor, while his limited duty at 3rd base wasn't pretty. Of course, we all knew that he would likely play 3rd base this year under La Russa, which was fine with me. In fact, I suspect that a healthy Rolen would have resulted in Nunez seeing time in the outfield as well this year. But I digress.

Enter 2005. Due to the unfortunate health of Scott Rolen, Nunez has played a lot of 3rd base this year. So far? He's answered the bill and then some.

Offensively, Nunez has already set career highs in runs scored (45), hits (84), home runs (5), RBI (36), and walks (29), despite only having played in 98 games and getting 278 at-bats. What's more, if the season finished today, he would eclipse his previous season highs in batting average (.304), OBP (.370), SLG (.409), and OPS (.779). Granted, he's been cold lately (547 OPS in August), but his increased walk rates and power are still something to be encouraged about.

Defensively, Nunez has shined at 3rd. I'm not going to bother trying to compare Nunez to every 3rd baseman in baseball, but I will compare him to a pretty ok fielder in St. Louis - Scott Rolen. Looking at defensive stats from just this year, you'll see that Nunez actually has a slightly higher range factor than Rolen. Basically, Nunez (this year) has been better at making more putouts than Scott, while having fewer assists. Intuitively, that makes since with the cannon Rolen has. To show you what I mean, here are the number of putouts and assists per 9 innings at 3rd base for both players this season.

Putouts/9

Rolen - .41
Nunez - .80

Assists/9

Rolen - 2.78
Nunez - 2.59

To top that off, Nunez has a slightly better fielding percentage this year as well. In other words, he's not hurting the team with his glove.

Summary

As you can tell by this post, I didn't really have anything in particular to say about Nunez starting over Rolen, other than to write down some thoughts I was having. Defensively, Rolen would be preferred over Nunez from a gut feel. In 2005, however, it's not really cut and dry that he would be head and shoulders above Nunez.

Offensively, of course, a healthy Scott Rolen would be much, much preferred over Abraham Nunez, no matter how well he's playing. However, we've never really seen a healthy Rolen this year, so once again - that's not a cut and dry argument.

Nunez has obviously been playing better than ever this year. To be honest, I keep expecting it to end - and his August splits may be an indication that the party is in fact starting to end. (Or, he could just be tired of playing from the heat.) Whatever the case, there are signs (walk rate, for example) that Nunez is doing things a little differently this year. He doesn't have to be a superstar in this lineup to help the team win. If he can maintain a .350 OBP in the playoffs - thus not hurting the team as an automatic out - and provide solid defense, then the team can still win it all.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Cardinal Trades - 2002

This was an interesting year in Cardinals history. The somewhat expected death of Jack Buck came first, quickly followed by the very unexpected death of Darryl Kile. The death of Kile brought on a trade that likely wouldn't have happened other wise, in the form of Chuck Finley. On the bright side, 2002 also saw the addition of current cornerstone (when healthy) Scott Rolen.

The Cardinals send Luis Garcia and Covelli "Coco" Crisp to the Cleveland Indians for Chuck Finley.

As I mentioned above, this trade likely wouldn't have even taken place without the unfortunate death of Darryl Kile. With that being said, you may remember that 2002 actually featured several rotation members going through health problems. Woody Williams missed a lot of time with an injury. Andy Benes more or less retired early in the season, only to come back very strong after the death of Kile. And Bud Smith started his repid decline during the 2002 season, after having a very promising 2001. However, the Cardinals had been treading water in the division behind the solid starting pitching of Matt Morris, Darryl Kile, and Jason Simontacchi (aka, the Brit Reames of 2002.)

Anyway, the death of Kile, combined with the injuries to Williams and the uncertainty surrounding Benes, led to the need for another starting pitcher. Adding a lefty to the rotation was a bonus.

Sent away in this deal was Luis Garcia, the key player in the trade at the time. Garcia has never played in the major leagues.

Coco Crisp was actually a player to be named later in this deal. Obviously, the Indians did a nice job in naming him later, because he's made this trade one that is coming back to hurt the Cardinals a little in present day. After being acquired in Cleveland in 2002, the Indians promoted him from AA all the way to the majors, where he hit .260/.314/.386 over 127 at-bats. Interestingly enough, he provided the Indians with 3 Win Shares in 2002, whereas Finley provided the Cardinals with 4. Overall, Crisp (prior to this season) has hit .280/.324/.401 for the Indians over the past 3 seasons, spending most of his time in center field. In 2005, he's currently hitting .296/.345/.446, 791 OPS.

Chuck Finley was 39 years old at the time of his acquisition, and he ended up finishing his career as a Cardinal. During his half season in St. Louis, Finley went 7-4 with a 3.80 ERA, 103 ERA+. He eventually ended up getting the only win for the Cardinals in the NLCS despite giving up 4 earned runs over 5 innings pitched against the Giants.

Win Share Totals

Chuck Finley - 4 (1 year in St. Louis)

Luis Garcia - 0
Coco Crisp - 24 (3 years and counting)

The Cardinals send Placido Polanco, Mike Timlin, and Bud Smith to the Philadelphia Phillies for Scott Rolen and Doug Nickle.

The rumors running up to the trade deadline always mentioned the Cardinals as a possibility in this trade, but it took a while for me to believe it was going to happen. Over the last week, the rumors had the Cardinals giving up both Bud Smith and Jimmy Journell, which had me thinking the price was too high (shows what I know.) In the end, the Cardinals ended up giving up 3 players, and actually getting 2 in return.

Polanco was included in the trade in order to give the Phillies a 3rd baseman to replace Rolen. Polanco had always been a solid hitter, but not for a corner infielder. What's more, his glove was always great, no matter where they seemed to play him in St. Louis. I, for one, was one of the people interested in moving Renteria for needed players, while keeping Polanco at shortstop. Whatever the case, Polanco brought Rolen into town, and it's hard to argue with that. Over three seasons with the Phillies, Polanco hit .294/.340/.441, 781 OPS, spending most of his time at 2nd base over the last 2 years.

Also included in the trade was Mike Timlin, who was getting ready to become a free agent. Timlin was actually one of the better arms in the Cardinal bullpen in 2002 (2.51 ERA, 156 ERA+), making me scratch my head as to why he was included in the deal at the time. After all - the Phillies weren't going to the playoffs, and Timlin wasn't going to be back with them in 2003. I, for one, would have liked to have seem Timlin stay in town, but that's splitting hairs at this point. Timlin finished off the season in Philly, posting a 3.79 ERA over 35.2 innings. He has since spent his time in Boston, picking up a World Series ring. Since leaving St. Louis, Timlin is 14-11 with 3 saves and a 3.82 ERA.

Bud Smith has not pitched in the majors since this trade. As far as I can tell, he actually pitched in 3 minor league games this year, but hasn't been in a game since mid-May. I'd love to see him get it back together some day, but at this point it's a long shot. At least he can tell his kids that he pitched a no-hitter in the majors.

Scott Rolen probably doesn't need a very detailed introduction here. He was a former rookie of the year who already had 3 gold gloves when he was picked up in this trade. What's more, he had hit 25 or more home runs in each of the previous 4 seasons. He had a rap as a bit of an injury prone player, but it was believed that playing on grass rather than turf would help him out. So far, I believe that has actually helped, despite his injury problems last year and this. Especially this year, when his problems were caused by a collision. Since coming to St. Louis, Rolen has hit .296/.381/.561, 942 OPS, including 76 home runs and 272 RBI (not counting 2005.) He's pretty good.

Doug Nickle was placed on waivers right after this trade and claimed by the Padres. He hasn't pitched in the major leagues since.

Win Share Totals

Scott Rolen - 75 (3 years in St. Louis)
Doug Nickle - 0

Placido Polanco - 42 (3 years)
Mike Timlin - 17 (3 years)
Bud Smith - 0

The Cardinals send Jared Blasdell and Jason Karnuth to the Cubs for Jeff Fassero

Supposedly, Dave Duncan saw Jeff Fassero jogging near the arch on a hot day in August during a Cubs series. His dedication to staying healthy despite playing for a horrible Cubs team impressed Duncan, who pressed for the Cardinals to pick him up.

Jared Blasdell was the main player the Cubs wanted for Fassero. Considering he never played in the majors, I guess that was a bad idea.

Jason Karnuth was a player to be named later in this trade. He pitched 5 innings for the Cardinals in 2001 with a 1.80 ERA, but hasn't pitched in the majors since.

Fassero actually wasn't too bad for the Cardinals in 2002, pitching 18 innings with a 3.00 ERA, 130 ERA+. He also ended up pitching 3.1 shutout innings in the playoffs, which included the winning decision in 2 of the 3 Cardinal wins against the Diamondbacks in the NLDS. I'll do my best to remember that part of his career in St. Louis, rather than his adventures for the team in 2003.

Jeff Fassero - 2 (2 years in St. Louis)

Jared Blasdell - 0
Jason Karnuth - 0

The Cardinals send Chris Morris and Mike Matthews to the Milwaukee Brewers for Jamey Wright.

I may be wrong, but I remember this trade as an attempt to revive the career of a starter who had shown some promise earlier in his career. To be honest, they gave up too much for Wright, even though it really didn't hurt them in 2002 or beyond.

Chris Morris was a young player who many thought would end up being a great leadoff hitter for the Cardinals. Morris tore up A ball in 2001, posting a .401 OBP and stealing 111 bases - an organization record, if I recall correctly. For whatever reason, however, the Cardinals traded him away for Wright. Even more perplexing, however, is the fact that Morris is still in the minors - but has never played above A ball.

Mike Matthews was also sent away in this trade, but never really put together a solid season in the majors after leaving town. Overall, he went 8-5 with a 5.02 ERA over 3 seasons after this trade.

Jamey Wright pitched in 4 games for the Cardinals, including 3 starts. Overall, he went 2-0 with a 4.80 ERA, 81 ERA+. For whatever reason, he was grated free agency after the season despite having been traded for. Which brought up an interesting 2003 for Mr. Wright:

January 28, 2003: Signed as a Free Agent with the Seattle Mariners.
March 18, 2003: Released by the Seattle Mariners.
March 26, 2003: Signed as a Free Agent with the Milwaukee Brewers.
April 28, 2003: Released by the Milwaukee Brewers.
May 7, 2003: Signed as a Free Agent with the Texas Rangers.
June 15, 2003: Released by the Texas Rangers.
June 20, 2003: Signed as a Free Agent with the Kansas City Royals.
October 30, 2003: Granted Free Agency.
December 29, 2003: Signed as a Free Agent with the Chicago Cubs.

Win Share Totals

Jamey Wright - 1 (1 year in St. Louis)

Chris Morris - 0
Mike Matthews - 3 (3 years)

2002 Totals

Win Shares acquired by St. Louis - 82

Win Shares given up by St. Louis - 86

Net Win Shares gained - negative 4, or 1 loss.

Basically, 2002 can be boiled down to two things. Scott Rolen improved the team for years to come over the players sent away. Chuck Finley improved the team slightly in 2002 - but the loss of Coco Crisp actually hurt the team for years to come. Assuming, of course, that the Cardinals would have played him. Considering that he's about an 800 OPS player, it's hard to imagine them using him in a corner slot. Worst case scenario, the Cardinals probably should have kept him around in order to use him in a better trade. But that's easy to say right in hind sight. In 2002, it probably looked like the loss of Morris was going to be a bigger problem.

Here's the updated WS matrix.

1996, -5, -2
1997, 9, 3
1998, -5, -2
1999, -4, -1
2000, 32, 11
2001, 34, 11
2002, -22, -7
2003, -15, -5
2004, -2, -1

It's interesting to note that the Cardinals were 95-67 in 2002 - yet had 7 fewer wins than they would have by keeping around players that had been traded away. However, when you look at the specifics you can see why this is misleading.

For one thing, the death of Darryl Kile makes the numbers look worse than reality. Kile only compiled 4 win shares in 2002 over 14 starts. Considering that he had 17 and 18 win shares over the previous 2 seasons, he most likely would have finished the year with 14 or more, bringing up the Cardinals totals. Not helping the balance sheet is the fact that one of the players sent away for the Kile package - Jose Jimenez - posted 13 win shares in 2002.

The other trade from the past that caught up to the Cardinals in 2002 was the Garret Stephenson/Ron Gant deal. In 2002, Stephenson was horrible for the Cardinals as he fought injury problems, picking up 0 win shares over 45 innings pitched. Meanwhile, Ron Gant (12 Win Shares) and Cliff Politte (7 Win Shares) were having solid seasons in San Diego and Toronto, respectively.

Taken together, Darryl Kile and Garret Stephenson posted 28 fewer win shares than Jose Jimenez, Ron Gant, and Cliff Politte, more than making up for the difference listed above. With that being said, it's impossible to argue that the Darryl Kile trade of 2000 was a failure because of his death. In addition to that, the Cardinals dealing away Ron Gant was probably needed from a clubhouse standpoint, even if he had been able to help out the team in 2002. After all - with an outfield of J.D. Drew, Jim Edmonds, and Albert Pujols, where was he going to play? (If he could have helped the Cardinals avoid the Tino Martinez signing, I guess it could have been worth it.) All in all, the Cardinals should have kept Politte around in 1999. That, in a nutshell, was the factor that would have been nice to have erased looking back.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Cardinal Trades - 2001

2001 was a fairly low activity year in regard to trades. The team was coming off of a trip to the NLCS the previous year and felt as if they were somewhat loaded and ready to go. There were a couple of key moves, however.

The Cardinals send Fernando Tatis and Brit Reames to the Montreal Expos for Dustin Hermanson and Steve Kline.

This trade brings back some memories. I personally remember thinking the Cardinals were stupid for giving up on Tatis so quickly. He was, after all, hurt in 2000, thus his lower production. Shows what I know - it ends up that his work ethic really wasn't cut out to every really come back from that injury. Either that, or something more sinister in his make-up scared off the Cardinals. Whatever the case, they made the right call. Ditto that on Brit Reames, who was probably the 2nd best pitcher on the staff during the playoffs the previous year.

Tatis ended up playing for the Expos (and in the majors) for 3 seasons after this trade. In those seasons, he only totaled 208 games, 701 at-bats, and 19 home runs. His batting line was .225/.295/.357. Obviously, something changed with Tatis after he left the Redbirds, since he had hit .281/.381/.530 over the previous two years. In light of recent scandals in baseball....well, you never know.

Brit Reames had a similar, albeit more expected, fall back to earth after his stellar year in St. Louis. After going 2-1 with a 2.88 ERA over 40.2 innings for the Cardinals in 2000, he was shipped north, much to the displeasure of some Cardinal fans. Of course, when the dust cleared Reames, like Tatis, only spent 3 more years in baseball. In those 3 years, he went 5-12 with a 5.53 ERA over 164.1 innings.

Steve Kline gave the Cardinals a solid, durable left handed pitcher for the bullpen. He was especially awesome in both 2001 and 2004, while being serviceable the other two years. Overall, Kline went 12-11 with 21 saves over 4 seasons, posting a 2.69 ERA over 247.1 innings.

Dustin Hermanson was a bit of a disappointment in St. Louis. He came over to be the #3 starter behind Kile and Morris, but in reality finished the season behind both Bud Smith and Woody Williams on the depth chart (more on Williams shortly.) He was still solid on the year, however, going 14-13 with a 4.45 ERA over 192.1 innings. He was traded away after the season.

Win Share Totals

Steve Kline - 30 (4 years in St. Louis)
Dustin Hermanson - 8 (1 year in St. Louis)

Fernando Tatis - 8 (3 years)
Brit Reames - 3 (3 years)

The Cardinals send Ray Lankford to the San Diego Padres for Woody Williams

This was another strange trade. I always felt like Ray Lankford was used as a scapegoat, even though he was still putting up decent numbers (.235/.345/.496 with St. Louis in 2001). I guess the batting average was too scary for those afraid of OBP. Whatever the case, Lankford and Williams both cleared waivers, thus were swapped in a basic salary/change of scenery swap.

Lankford actually flourished after the trade, hitting .288/.386/.480 over 125 at-bats. However, his production really nose dived in 2002, as he was only able to hit .224/.326/.356 over 205 at-bats. Once again, Walt traded before the value was completely gone. Overall, Lankford only played those 2 seasons for San Diego, hitting .248/.344/.403 for the Padres before getting an exit tour with the Cardinals last year. (He took 2003 off.)

Williams was perhaps the most surprising return in a trade in my lifetime. He kicked things off in 2001 by going 7-1 with a 2.28 ERA, leading the Cardinals back to the playoffs for the 2nd year in a row. Personally? I thought it was a fluke, but was happy to see it happen. Of course, as you all know, he proved me wrong over the next few years. Overall, Woody spent parts of 4 seasons in St. Louis, going 45-22 with a 3.53 ERA. Not bad for a waiver pick-up.

Win Share Totals

Woody Williams - 39 (4 years in St. Louis)

Ray Lankford - 15 (2 years)

2001 Totals

Win Shares acquired by St. Louis - 77

Win Shares given up by St. Louis - 23

Net Win Shares gained - 54, or roughly 18 wins.

Interestingly, there were only two trades made all year - but they almost improved the team (18 wins) as much as the multitude of trades pulled of the previous year (27 wins). What's more, Walt gave the team a solid #2 starter in Woody, as well as a solid left handed reliever in Kline for the next 4 seasons - key parts of the 2001, 2002, and 2004 playoff teams.

Here is how the win share matrix shakes out, including the 2001 trades.

1996, -5, -2
1997, 9, 3
1998, -5, -2
1999, -4, -1
2000, 32, 11
2001, 34, 11
2002, -24, -8
2003, -4, -1
2004, -3, -1

Just like 2000, the Cardinals ended up being 11 games better in 2001 than they would have been by simply building with their farm. What's more, you can see that future talent given up to that point wasn't having much of an impact, at least in 2003 and 2004.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Is J-Rod for Real?

Editor's note: Note one - if I had an editor, I wouldn't be needing to add this note. Note two - someone pointed out to me that I had used XBH:AB as a metric instead of XBH:H. That made zero sense, but totally gave me a false impression on J-Rod. I have re-written several sections of this article, with most of it based around XBH:H and the summary.

I was asked this question the other day. My gut instinct, of course, is to say "no." Any time a player doesn't crack the big leagues until the age of 27 he usually isn't going to sustain a .333 average and a 961 OPS over any extended period of time. But maybe, just maybe....

Minor Leagues (pre-2005)

Rodriguez has always been a fairly solid hitter in the minor leagues. Through last season he spent 8 years in the minors, hitting .270/.353/.461, good for a 814 OPS. Minor league numbers are fairly hard to analyze for us common folk, since information on park effects, level of competition, and other factors are a little harder to dig up than their major league counter parts. For that reason, I have a few metrics that I normally look at when digging through minor league stats. They are by no means the definitive answer to how good a player is, but we'll still walk through them in regard to J-Rod.

BB per AB

In general, I like to see a player drawing walks at a rate of about 10% per at-bat. (Yes, I know a BB doesn't count as an at-bat - it's just a rule of thumb.) During Rodriguez' minor league career, he has exceeded the 10% mark in walk rate every season but one, when he had a 7% rate in 2001. In his 8 seasons before this year, his career walk rate was actually 12%. In other words - he's not afraid to get on base.

BB to K Ratio

This ratio, sometimes referred to as "batter's eye", is another useful tool in seeing how patient a hitter is. I use a 0.5 mark as a baseline when it comes to this ratio. In other words, as long as a hitter is striking out 2 or fewer times for every 1 time he walks, I trust his strike zone judgment. Rodriguez comes in looking good in this measure as well, as he had a ratio of 0.5 or better in 6 out of 8 minor league seasons, with a career mark of 0.5 leading up to this season.

K to AB Ratio

This may seem like a redundant measure, but it's not if you think about it. Sure, a player may only strike out 2 or fewer times for each BB drawn, but what he he walks a lot? Then he's being fooled a lot as well. That's why I also check out the K:AB numbers. I don't like to see a minor leaguer striking out more than 1 time every 5 trips to the plate. If he's being fooled more than that in the minors, life is going to be hard on him in the majors. Rodriguez is borderline in this category. His career mark up to this season had been 0.24, just worse than my preferred 0.20 level.

Extra Base Hits per Hits

The final mark I look at his XBH:H. I like this measure for a couple of reasons. One, park factors can give or take away home runs from players, skewing their slugging percentages. Two, younger power hitters tend to hit a lot of doubles, that eventually turn in to home runs as they gain power as they mature. In general, I like to see hitters getting extra base hits 30% of the time in the minors, regardless as to if they're hitting doubles, triples, or home runs.

When I first wrote this article, I had inadvertently calculated XBH per AB instead of per hit. Thankfully, someone caught my stupid mistake, because believe me - it made a world of difference. Rodriguez has actually shown power in the minors from day one. As a 19 year old rookie in the Gulf Coast League in 1997, extra base hits accounted for 32% of all of his hits over 157 at-bats. In fact, over his 8 seasons leading up to 2005, 30% was the lowest XBH:H ratio Rodriguez put together in a season (1999).

On the high side, J-Rod really started exhibiting some serious power in the 2001 season, having extra base hits account for 48% of all hits (393 at-bats.) He then followed that up with XBH 47% of the time in both 2002 (354 at-bats) and 2004 (378 at-bats). 2004 is especially impressive, as he did it in AAA. The fact that he only had 16 home runs is a bit misleading in regard to his power potential when you look at his total extra base hits, which included 10 triples.

Overall, he ended up having extra base hits account for 39% of all of his hits in the minor leagues leading up to this year. Folks - that is the sign of a power hitter in the making.

Minor Leagues (2005)

Rodriguez began this season in the Cleveland Indians organization, which included a very impressive spring training (.320/.370/.760, 1130 OPS, 25 at-bats.) He was then sent to AAA Buffalo, where he hit .247/.323/.447 over 170 at-bats, giving him an OPS of 770 - very similar to his career mark of 814. Looking at his rates from the above section:

BB:AB - 0.09
BB:K - 0.6
K:AB - 0.24
XBH:H - 0.5

Almost every one of those numbers is right in line with his career minor league marks, other than the power stroke. His XBH:H ratio actually looks more like 3 of his previous 4 seasons, with 2003 being a potential fluke.

Then, he was traded to Memphis, where he proceeded to thump the league over the head. Over 120 at-bats, Rodriguez hit .342/.419/.808, giving him a 1227 OPS. He also hit 5 doubles, and 17 home runs. (His minor league stats for this year are here.) Take a look at his ratios at Memphis:

BB:AB - 0.11
BB:K - 0.6
K:AB - 0.23
XBH:AB - 0.54

What you see is - essentially - his walks and strikeouts stayed about the same. His extra base hits rate did in fact increase, but only from 50% to 54% - it just happened that his doubles had turned into home runs. The fact that Rodriguez was hitting an inordinate amount of home runs but only a few doubles suggests something fluky - be it weather, the new home park, or just plain old luck, I can't tell you. Whatever the case, his previous career high in home runs was 22 over 393 at-bats - but he had always shown power potential in the minors in the form of doubles and triples. His short season in Memphis was likely a fluke in the total number of home runs, but not really out of line with his career mark in extra base hits!

Major Leagues

Now let's take a look at the ratios he's putting up in the bigs.

BB:AB - 0.10 (0.12)
BB:K - 0.35 (.50)
K:AB - 0.27 (.24)
XBH:AB - 0.39 (.40)

The set of numbers in the parentheses are his career minor league numbers, including 2005. As you can see, his walk rate is slightly lower, his K rate is slightly higher, and he's hitting for a little less power than he did in the minor leagues - all expected, as he's facing tougher competition. With that being said, he doesn't appear to be performing at a level that suggests he's completely out of his head right now.

Summary

John Rodriguez appears to me to be the type of player that may be able to contribute for more than just a few weeks. He isn't afraid to take a walk from time to time, giving him solid OBP numbers over his career (.353 lifetime minor league OBP.) What's more, he has always displayed power in the minors, usually in the form of doubles and triples up until his crazy visit to Memphis earlier this year.

Is Rodriguez going to be a .300 hitter in the majors? Probably not, at least on a consistent basis. Is he going to be a 30 home run guy? The first time I wrote this article, I said no. Now, I'm not so sure. The fact that he never reached that mark in the minor leagues cannot be used as an argument against him, since he never had more than 408 at-bats in a season. With the power he's displayed starting in 2001, I think he in fact could surpass 30 home runs if given 500 or more at-bats.

All in all, now that I've re-looked at the numbers, I think the Cardinals may have stumbled onto something here. Rodriguez isn't likely to become the next Albert Pujols, Jim Edmonds, or Scott Rolen. However, he in fact could be an 850 to 900 OPS guy in the corner outfield who could be signed relatively cheaply. And considering his young age (27), he could help out the Cardinals for the next few years.

All I need to know about Hal McRae

From the Post-Dispatch:

Cardinals hitting coach Hal McRae approached leadoff hitter David Eckstein
with a rhetorical question Sunday during batting practice: How many walks had he
had in the past 20 games?

Eckstein guessed four.

The answer was one.

"That," McRae said, "is the point."

At McRae's advice, Eckstein waited out pitches and didn't swing the bat
once in his first two plate appearances Sunday. For the day, he reached base
four times, doubling with his first swing and winning the game with its final
swing.


I'll let those words speak for themselves, since most of you reading this blog are already fans of plate discipline.

With a little luck, you'll see some posts from me this week. I'm hoping to do one on John Rodriguez, and at least one more in my (everlasting) series of trade evaluations.