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Posts Tagged ‘St. Louis Cardinals’

It seems the Pittsburgh Pirates cannot do anything right.  Faced with brutal ticket sales for an upcoming series against the lowly Nationals, the Bucs marketing department came up with a “You Score As The Bucs Score” campaign.  I do not know about you, but I would rather have my “scoring” tied to something other than the Pirates offense, which ranks thirteenth in that National League.  Either way, the point of the promotion was that for each run the Pirates scored in their weekend series against the Diamondbacks, fans would receive $1 off of a $24 dollar ticket to a game against the Nationals. 

While they did bust out in game one, scoring ten runs, they were shutout the next two games by Doug Davis and Max Scherzer.  This left fans with a $10 discount to a game of their choice versus the Nats.  I think this is a slap in the face to the fans.  Pittsburgh is only averaging 19,074 fans per game, which is fewer than 50% of their capacity.  I understand that their ticket sales against the Nationals are going to be brutal, but the fact is they are not going to sell out against ANYONE.  Why make the promotion available only for a game against the worst team in the league?  You are not going to lose any revenue if you offer the promotion for the series’ against Arizona or St. Louis that are coming up.  You are putting a crappy product on the field; at least let your fans see a good visiting ball team for a discounted price. 

Also, why tie the promotion to your little league offence?  You know they are not going to score many runs, and the promotion will probably just tick fans off.  Why not make it something like $5 off for every hit Freddy Sanchez gets, $4 off for each strikeout Paul Maholm gets, or get a free ticket if Matt Capps serves up a home run.  Ok, maybe the last one is not the best idea. 

The first point I am trying to make is that organizational mediocrity is contagious, and spreads from baseball operations.  Poor performance on the field leads to terrible promotional ideas like this.  If you put a winning team on the field, you do not have to worry about embarrassing yourself with promotional campaigns like this.  The second point is give your fans something they want.  No amount of a discount is going to make someone excited about watching a meaningless Pirates-Nationals contest.  Baseball is a business like anything else, and people do not buy something they do not want just because it is discounted.  Pride.  Passion.  Pittsburgh Pirates.  Maybe twenty years ago.

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Here is my latest article at Inside The Majors in which I discuss the acquisition of Matt Holliday.

http://www.insidethemajors.com/?p=2369

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Here is the link to my article for Inside The Majors about the Lugo acquisition.  Very risky move by Mozeliak to risk alienating his manager and pitching coach.  I am not sure I like this.

http://www.insidethemajors.com/?p=2335

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The top story in baseball over the last couple of weeks has been the potential destination of trade block member Roy Halladay.  Doc is by far the best player currently available, and the suitors are many.  I would like to comment on some of the rumors and trade proposals thrown around in the media.  These are not necessarily reflective of what is going on behind closed doors, simply what I have read on the Internet.

St. Louis Cardinals

At first glance, this seems like it is a match made in heaven.  Halladay is a very private player, I think his wife gets more camera time than he does, and would fit perfectly in St. Louis.  It is a baseball crazy city, but the media is not overpowering like in New York or Boston.  The Cardinals are also currently leading the NL Central, and Halladay would push them over the top.  Imagine a rotation of Halladay, Carpenter, Wainwright, Pineiro and Lohse.  However, that is where the dream ends.

The most common rumor I have heard is a package headlined by Colby Rasmus and Brett Wallace headed to Toronto.  First of all, giving up Rasmus would leave an enormous hole in the Cardinals outfield THIS year.  They would be forced to start Ludwick, Ankiel and then Duncan or Glaus, if they do indeed decide to move him into the outfield.  I am sorry but that is not a championship calibre outfield.  I also think Rasmus’ value has increased exponentially over the last four months.  He has gone from top prospect to bona fide MLB player.  It is a big thing for a prospect to prove he can handle major league pitching, and Rasmus has made the transition almost seamlessly. 

Second, a year and a half of Doc is not worth six and a half years of Rasmus and seven years of Wallace, not by a long shot.  It does not make sense in terms of finances or on-field product.  I do not see this deal happening in a million years.

Los Angeles Dodgers  

This seems like another great fit for Halladay.  The Dodgers have the best record in the Majors, and are the odds on favourite in the National League, even without Halladay.  However, the Dodgers would most likely have to give up either Clayton Kershaw or Matt Kemp. 

Let’s start with Kershaw.  In his second season, he has a 2.95 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in nineteen starts to go along with a 3.42 FIP.  Halladay’s numbers, on the other hand, are 2.73, 1.07 and 2.75.  Granted, Halladay pitches in a much more difficult division, but Kershaw is an excellent pitcher in his own right.  Teams are winning with young, cheap star players, and Kershaw fits that description perfectly.  The Dodgers have his rights for the next five and a half years, and will probably not pay him much more over that time frame than they would Halladay over the remaining year and a half on his contract.

Kemp has an OPS of .885 and is leading NL center fielders with a VORP of 34.7.  He also has a very respectable UZR/150 of 15.8.  While he would be easier to replace than Kershaw because they have Juan Pierre on the bench, I still do not think it is a smart move by the Dodgers.  Kemp is a star in the making, and will be an important part of the Dodgers core over the next 3-4 years.  He brings almost as much to the table as Halladay.  I also do not know if the Blue Jays are in the market for another outfielder.  They have much more pressing needs at first base, catcher, and shortstop if they lose Scutaro this off-season. 

Philadelphia Phillies

This is actually the consensus landing spot if Halladay does get traded.  While Philadelphia needs him the most, I do not think that this is the best package for the Jays considering that the Phillies do not have a top prospect ranked in the top 50 by Baseball America.  They Jays need to get at least one impact player for Halladay, and these Phillies players, other than Happ, just do not seem like they are those type of guys.  I am sure many people disagree with this statement but that is my opinion.

San Francisco Giants

I know it is a bit of a darkhorse pick, but I think this is where Halladay will end up if he does indeed get traded.  The Giants have surprised a lot of people this year, and I believe there window is in the next two years, which is exactly the same as the Halladay window.  Lincecum and Cain are healthy and dominant, Zito seems to have regained a bit of his former ability, Sandoval has emerged as a superstar, and Buster Posey could be ready to replace Bengie Molina behind the player next year.  Even though the Giants have scored the third least runs in the National League, they would have to be favourites with a rotation consisting of Lincecum, Cain and Halladay.

The Giants also have the prospects to appease JP Ricciardi’s appetite.  Madison Bumgarner was ranked as the ninth best prospect by Baseball America this year, giving the Blue Jays the impact pitcher they need to replace Halladay.  He would also probably be ready to go for 2010.  This is very important for Toronto as Ricciardi is running out of time, and the Blue Jays are only giving up on this year, not next.

Conclusion

I honestly do not know if Halladay will even be traded.  Teams are holding on to their prospects tighter than ever, and it is not the end of the world if JP does not get the package he wants and decides to hold on to Halladay.  He still has another year to trade him.

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Two of the great tacticians in baseball were at it tonight on Sunday Night Baseball.   The Cardinals started the top of the ninth with a 4-2 lead.  They got their first two runners on base against Cubs reliever Angel Guzman.  This is where things got interesting.

La Russa sent up left-handed pinch-hitter Chris Duncan and Piniella countered with left-handed pitcher Sean Marshall.  La Russa immediately replaced Duncan with Nick Stavinoha, who proceeded to walk.  With right-handed hitting Brendan Ryan up to bat and two lefties up next, Piniella was in a tough situation.  Marshall is the only lefty in his bullpen, and he did not want to remove him from the game.  He moved Marshall to left field, replacing Alfonso Soriano, and brought in Aaron Heilman to strike out Ryan.

He then brought Marshall back in to pitch and inserted Reed Johnson into left field.  La Russa conferred with the umpire to ensure that Marshall would have to pitch to at least one batter.  MLB rules stipulate that a pitcher has to face at least one batter once he comes into the game.  However, Marshall had already faced a batter in the inning, and announcer Joe Morgan even said that he had no idea what the rule was.

La Russa pinch-hit Jarrett Hoffpauir for Skip Schumaker, who proceeded to strike out.  This brought up Colby Rasmus, who owned a .186 average against left-handed pitching.  He laced one into left-field.  Johnson tracked it down but stumbled on the way, but managed to make an incredible diving catch from what was basically a prone position on the field.  I am still not 100% convinced that he caught it, and neither is Joe Morgan.   

Through Piniella’s brilliant managing, the Cubs were able to get out of a bases loaded, no out jam, giving the Cubs a chance to win it in the bottom of the ninth.  Amazing game.

*UPDATE*: Cardinals closer Ryan Franklin struck out the side looking in the ninth.  Cardinals win.

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Yesterday, the St. Louis Cardinals filled a huge hole in their team, sending one-time bright prospect Chris Perez and a player to be named later to the Cleveland Indians for versatile infielder Mark DeRosa.  This is a perfect trade for both teams.

In DeRosa, the Cardinals get a player who can play almost anywhere defensively, and has a solid bat.  With Troy Glaus on the DL, Khalil Greene struggling mightily and Skip Schumaker still learning defensively at second, this is a big boost to the Cardinals playoff hopes.  While DeRosa has struggled a bit at times this year, the big year he had with the Cubs last year bodes well for a return to the National League Central.  They are currently tied with the Brewers for the division lead while boasting the top run differential.  While it is difficult to imagine St. Louis competing with whoever comes out of the American League, this trade helps make the Cardinals a serious contender in the NL.   

DeRosa is also not a big hit financially for the Cards, as he is in the final year of a contract that will see him collect $5 million in 2009.  The Cardinals will be on the hook for a little more than half of that, and will most likely let him walk in the off-season.  With the team trimming payroll this past off-season and the economic future still up in the air, it is important for them to not make any multi-year commitments.

In Perez, the Cardinals lose a former 42nd overall pick who still has the potential to be a back-end reliever, but right now has only shown himself to be an average bullpen arm.  He flirted with the closer role early in the season, but blew his first and only save opportunity.  His ERA sits at 4.18, and he is being killed by a painful 5.82 BB/9.  This is far from an irreplaceable player for St. Louis.

Trading DeRosa was a no brainer for Cleveland.  They are currently toiling in dead last in the AL with a 31-35 record, eleven games behind division leader Detroit.  The season is a lost cause, and like last year with CC Sabathia, GM Mark Shapiro has shown that he is willing to unload his assets rather than lose them in the off-season.

While this was a smart trade by Cleveland, I am surprised they did receive more in return.  Only five and a half months ago, Cleveland gave up three pitching prospects to acquire DeRosa from the Cubs.  His value has not dropped that much even though his OPS has a bit, and there were several contenders interested in him.  I thought Shapiro would be able to have a bit more of a bidding war, but in the end he needed to get a trade done or risk losing DeRosa for nothing.

This was a smart trade on the part of both GM’s, and will go a long way in helping the Cardinals bring home the NL Central title.

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A couple of days ago I wrote an article for Inside The Majors discussing the future of Albert Pujols in St. Louis.  As much as Cards fans hate to admit it, the end of the 2011 season is quickly approaching and Pujols could be gone.  While I covered all of the factors that affect the Cardinals, I did not discuss in depth something that applies to every Major League club.

“The other big question is whether it is even worth it for a team to spend 25-30% of their budget on one player, but that is a story for another day.”

That day has come.  While it is very rare for a player to make more than 25% of a team’s total payroll, it could be the reality in St. Louis, with Pujols eating $25 million out of approximately a $100 million payroll.  I want to look at the success rate of teams where they have a player who takes up more than 20% of the team’s financial resources.  After examining the numbers from 2006-2008, I lowered my threshold to 18%, still very high, to get a larger sample size of data.  All salary information is from USA Today, and these were my discoveries:

Over the last three years there have been eighteen occasions where a single player has made up over 18% of a team’s total salary.

20082008 25%

 

  

  

  

  

  

 

2007

2007 25%

 

  

 

 

 2006

2006 25%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see, these teams as a whole have not been very successful, with an overall record of 1398-1517 for a winning percentage of .480.  The only playoff clubs among the group are the 2007 Rockies, and the 2006 Tigers, A’s and Padres.  That means 22% of these clubs have made the playoffs, while the rest of the teams in the league made the playoffs at a 28% clip.  Not a huge drop off, but significant enough.

There is also a lot of repetition among the teams, with the Rockies appearing all three years, the Royals with three players in two years, and the A’s, Marlins, Pirates and Giants all making two appearances each.  Other than the Giants, these are all small-budget teams, and it does not take much to eat up 20% of their payroll.  You will never see a Yankee make 20% of the team’s salary simply because the denominator of $200M is way too big.  On the other end of the spectrum, Willis ate up 29% of the Marlins salary in 2006 while only making $4.35M

So far, I have shown that these eighteen teams have performed below the major-league average in terms of winning percentage in playoff appearances.  However, what I have failed to mention is the total payrolls of these teams.  If you sort all of the MLB teams by total payroll each year and rank them, the eighteen teams on this list rank an average of twenty-two.  The 2006 teams are an average of $16M below league average, the 2007 teams are 20$ million under, and the 2008 squads are a whopping $31 million under the league average.  Only three of them ( ’06 Giants, Astros and Tigers) are in the top half, and thirteen out of eighteen are in the bottom third.  These teams are actually quite successful considering their financial limitations.  If you were to tell me I could run a team for $20 million less than the average but only have a 6% chance less of making the playoffs, I think I would take you up on the offer.

I honestly thought going into this that I would discover that it would almost without fail be disastrous to have one player take up a huge chunk of your payroll.  There are occasions where this is true, most notably the 2008 Royals who spent 40% of their money on Meche and Guillen, two barely above average players.  However, it is also very possible for these small market teams with one high-paid star, like Todd Helton, to succeed.

After my analysis, the original point from my Inside the Majors article stands.  John Mozeliak, get Pujols locked up.  If there is one player that is worth of that much money and such a large percentage of your payroll, it is him.    

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