Thursday, September 29, 2005

Izzy vs. Lidge

I've heard it many, many times. From the timid "this guy makes me nervous" to the extreme "I hate this guy." Let's face it - Jason Isringhausen is viewed by many, if not most Cardinal fans, as a tightrope walker who more often than not blows the game. Meanwhile, Brad Lidge is viewed as the un-hittable closer. When he comes in, it's lights out. Is the difference between these two really that different this year?

Traditional Stats

Lidge
4-3, 40 saves, 3 blown saves, 2.13 ERA, 1.12 WHIP

Izzy
1-2, 37 saves, 4 blown saves, 2.21 ERA, 1.18 WHIP

Not a lot to get upset about, is there? Izzy allows 0.06 more baserunners per inning, and 0.08 more runs every 9 innings he pitches. Sure, he's blown 1 more save, but he's lost 1 less game. His save percentage (90%) is just lagging that of Lidge (93%).

More Traditional Stats

As in, "let's look at some more" as opposed to "these are more traditional."

Lidge
101 K's, 23 BB's, 67.2 innings, 5 HR

Izzy
48K's, 25 BB's, 57 IP, 4 HR

This, obviously, is the big difference. Lidge strikes out an insane amount of batters, while Izzy walks too many. I can understand the awe that is created by a guy that strikeouts out more than a batter an inning. I can also understand the frustration created by a guy that walks a batter every other inning. Of course, that's why statistics can be an important tool. Other than frustration, does it matter how many baserunners Izzy allows, as long as he's not giving up as many hits? (WHIP). Or as long as he's getting the job done? (Losses, Blown Saves.) Realistically, no. Emotionally? That's a little different.

One other note - Lidge has allowed 0.66 HR/9 IP, Izzy 0.63 HR/9 IP. Dead even.

Batting Stats Allowed

Lidge
657 OPS Allowed vs. Left
563 OPS Allowed vs. Right
609 OPS Allowed Overall

Izzy
498 OPS Allowed vs. Left
667 OPS Allowed vs. Right
591 OPS Allowed Overall

That's right, folks. Jason Isringhausen has a lower OPS allowed than Brad Lidge this season. "But wait!" you say. "Lidge plays his home games in a home run park." I don't know about you, but I hadn't paid any attention to park factors this year. Have you seen them? According to ESPN, Busch stadium has been the 4th most offense friendly park in the majors this season. Minute Maid Park? Last!? 43.8% fewer runs have been scored in Houston than in an average park this year. Yes, that is partly impacted by Houston's pitching and lack of hitting, but remember that the numbers for both home and road teams are taken into account in park factors. (I wonder how many Cy Young voters take park effects into consideration, since Carpenter is the only contender playing in a park that hasn't been pitcher friendly?)

That's freaky. But whatever the case, Izzy has a lower OPS allowed, and has done so while playing in (for this year at least) a park more friendly to hitters than Lidge has.

Less Popular Stats

Lidge
11 Win Shares, 6 WSAB, 22.6 VORP

Izzy
9 Win Shares, 5 WSAB, 21.0 VORP

Lidge does come out a bit on top when it comes to these metrics. Basically, Lidge has been worth about 2/3 of a win more than Izzy this year, and about 1.6 more runs over a replacement pitcher. Lidge's VORP ranks 95th among pitchers in the majors, while Izzy ranks 107th.

(For another oddity, both rank 2nd on their team in VORP - Russ Springer leads the Astros, while Al Reyes leads the Cards.)

Summary

So, what's my point? Basically, I just wanted to point out that Izzy isn't quite disaster waiting to happen that many, many Cardinal fans make him out to be. If I needed a strikeout to win a game and had the luxury of choosing between Lidge and Izzy? I'd go with Lidge. Duh. But you know what? Isringhausen has been getting the job done this year. He may not be going about it in as sexy of a manner as Lidge, but the truth of the matter is - the closer is not even close to the top of the list of my post-season concerns this year.

Friday, September 23, 2005

RRR Update

I just added links to two new websites that I've come across. (Cool Standings and Fan Graphs.) You may not like them as much as I did, but I think both are great.

I'll be getting some new articles out over the next few weeks. Namely, the concluding articles of the Walt Jocketty trade series (which, I know, has taken me months instead of weeks) in addition to playoff previews. For those of you that stop by from time to time - thanks for the patience!

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.