What’s Next?

The Cardinals did not play well in Los Angeles.  I hope they do better in San Francisco.

It seems like I have been having these hopes of a breakout all season.  I think I have.  Just when it looks like the breakout is about to happen—-it doesn’t.  I don’t know what to think anymore.

I have said there is something wrong with this team.  I could speculate on and on about what I think it is.  I have thoughts and impressions, but nothing I could back up with anything concrete.  Moreover, I think my biases would color those thoughts and impressions anyway.  I don’t like how this team looks, and I don’t like how it is being managed.  Those are my biases.  Anything I theorize about why this team has played so inconsistently is going to be influenced by those biases.

The Cardinals are calling up Oscar Taveras again.  Maybe that will work.  It didn’t accomplish anything the first time Taveras was up, but it was a small sample size.  He needs to play, but he also needs to play in the right environment.  I am just not sure the environment he is coming into is not toxic.  I am not sure that it is, but I am sure that something is not right.  What that something is is the mystery.

I will come right out and say it.  I am not enjoying this season at all.  I am not enjoying it to the point of not watching any games for over a week just to have some peace of mind for a change.  Yesterday’s game was the first one I watched in a while.  I sat there, crocheting, to have something to do with my hands, and I thought I don’t really want to even watch this.  I have never thought that way before.  If my brother wasn’t there with me watching it, I probably would have turned it off.

My brother says the team needs to manufacture runs.  He says they finally have some speed and they need to use it.  He says the power isn’t there, so they need to use the speed.  I can’t disagree with that, but that doesn’t appear to be the strategy. Kolten Wong is hurt, and Peter Bourjos isn’t going to play enough to get in the rhythm he needs to hit.  Those are the facts.  Without Wong and Bourjos there is no speed.  Therefore, the power has to come.  Maybe Taveras will bring it.  If not, then I don’t know.

We just have to wait and see what happens.  That is all I am going to do.  Wait and see what’s next.

 

Thank you for reading.

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Controlled Re-Entry

I haven’t watched a Cardinals game in more than a week.  It has been my choice not to watch.  This season has been extremely frustrating for me, so frustrating that I found myself getting angry, and getting angry over a sporting event is not a path to mental health.  The frustration lies both with the team and with my fellow Cardinals fans (the media is also a source but one that is easily avoided).  There is so much about the game of baseball that is not completely understood and appreciated, even by one who has watched and studied the game for as long as I have.  Baseball is a complicated and even perverse game.  There are 162 games played for a reason.  It’s a game requiring constant repetition in order to be skillful at it and to maintain that skill.  Even after more than 40 years of watching, and all the effort I have put into learning the rules and the business side of baseball and the effort I am putting into learning the statistical side, I still feel like there is much left for me to understand.

Perhaps all the knowledge is not a good thing.  Whoever said ignorance is bliss may have had a point.  I have found the knowledge certainly enhances the frustration level.  It’s too late to fix it now, without just abandoning baseball altogether.

I thought finding social media would be a way to add to my enjoyment of baseball.  It did for the first few years, but it isn’t fun anymore, especially during games.  Twitter has descended into a cacophony of name-calling and scapegoating.  Those blogs and message boards that I have participated in have pretty much taken the same path.  Knowing myself as well as I do, my continued participation in my present state of mind will not end well.

My level of frustration with the team is different.  There are many many reasons why a team as talented as the Cardinals could be having the type of season they are having.  Some are just unavoidable, others are not.  The ones that are not unavoidable are where my frustration has its roots.  I have posted many times on this blog about my feelings about the manager, and the way the roster is constructed.  Individual player performances are constantly in flux; levels of talent can be ascertained, but the performances by that talent are influenced by many factors.  As a fan my contributions are limited.  Watching the games and expressing my opinion about what I see are my only avenues for taking part in the process.

So what that leaves me with is only the ability to withdraw myself from the causes of my frustration.  It’s not a perfect solution, but it is one that I need to try to make work.  I cannot abandon baseball so I have to set up the environment whereby I can still enjoy it, but minimize my stress levels.  Writing on this blog will continue.  I will reintroduce watching the games but my participation in social media will be kept at a minimal level.  It is best for me, and for those who would be subjected to me in my present state of mind.

This will be the last of these self reflecting posts.  They are boring.  I can’t guarantee my Cardinals posts won’t be boring, but at least they will be on topic.

 

 

Thank you for reading.

 

Checking In

I’ve been off the baseball grid for several days now.  Let’s just say it’s my choice and leave it at that.  Call it a mental break.

I plan to continue the mental break for a while longer.  I am not giving up the blog or anything like that, but I won’t be posting in the interim.

Go Cards!

 

 

Thank you for reading.

A Plague of Moths Shall Inherit The Earth

I saw the pictures of all the moths flying around Busch Stadium last night.  All I could think of was that somebody needed to bring Matt Holliday a pair of ear muffs.  It also somewhat reminded me of the biblical story of the Plagues of Egypt.  To take the analogy further, is Pharoah Mike Matheny, who is holding the Israelites (the team) in bondage?  It’s easy for the mind to wander into such fantasies when your team is losing it’s 3rd game in a row and you are wondering why you care anymore.  I find this team incredibly boring.  A little dose of Charlton Heston in a robe and a beard exclaiming “Let My People Go!” over the Busch Stadium loud speaker would have been a welcome change of pace.

A bunch of my fellow bloggers will be in St. Louis this weeked for the UCB get together.  One of the highlights of the weekend is the chance to talk with Cardinals GM John Mozeliak.  He takes questions, and in the past I understand some of the questions have been rather interesting.  If I was there I would be tempted to ask Mozeliak if manager Mike Matheny is actually a lifelike robot, and if so, does he have another setting other than ‘Bland and Emotionless Cyborg’?  Is there a ‘Competent Manager’ setting, and if so why isn’t it turned on?

It isn’t that I thought Matheny did anything wrong last night (other than continue to play Jon Jay in CF and batting him second, but I digress into that area where I don’t conform to the mainstream thought that Jay is Mr. Wonderful).  I do think that this team needs someone to take a torch to their posterior ends, and Matheny doesn’t have the chops for that.  I never thought I would be pining for the days of Tony LaRussa childish temper tantrums, but any sign of life out of Matheny would be welcome these days.

I just can’t watch this team anymore.  There is something profoundly wrong with them.  I don’t know the answer, and even if I did I have no power to fix it.  I can only hope John Mozeliak does and will but I have yet to see any signs of life from him either.  Maybe the bloggers will get some sense this weekend.

In the meantime, I will just have to wait and see.  How much farther behind the Cardinals get before some action is taken is the $64,000 question.   It might take divine intervention to get this team back on track.

Plague number nine is Darkness.  I think we already passed that one.

 

 

Thank you for reading.

Jonathan Lucroy Supports This Message

So this whole Jonathon Lucroy All Star Vote video thing.  People are upset about it, huh?  I don’t know why.  I haven’t watched the video, because frankly, anything featuring a Milwaukee Brewer is sure to be boring.  Even if I did watch it I wouldn’t be upset.  Whatever it says about Yadier Molina, I am sure he can handle it.  I mean, the fans at Great American Little League Park have been trying to upset him for years and all he does is hit home runs and give them the virtual middle finger salute.

Things like this video are just representations of common ordinary petty jealousy.  That’s all.

If you think about it, who exactly are we talking about here?  Jonathan Lucroy is a good catcher.  He is having a good year so far offensively, better than Yadi even.  Defensively, he couldn’t hold Yadi’s jock strap if he super glued it to his hand.  The one he broke two years when a…….. ahem…….suitcase fell on it.   Yeah, sure it did.   Anyway, he’s not bad defensively, it’s just that Yadi is so far superior. Yadi is far superior to everyone in baseball.

Jonathan Lucroy thinks he deserves to go the All Star game.  I can buy that.  I hear Evan Gattis of the Braves thinks he should go too.  I imagine San Franciso Giants fans think Buster Posey should go, but then they think their bat boy should go because he is a Giant.  The media thinks Posey walks on water, so no doubt they think he should go too.  There will be more than one catcher at the All Star game.  A couple of years ago there were three.  After the fan vote, the players could vote one in and/or manager Mike Matheny can pick one.

Let’s face it folks, the All Star game is pretty much a farce.  Bud Selig made sure of that.  The ratings for the game get lower and lower every year, and the comparisons to the NFL Pro Bowl get more and more frequent.  If you ask me, players are better off resting for a week and being with their families than wasting time with Bud Selig’s Circus Side Show.  I might not even watch the game myself.  I could probably find some reruns of Law and Order Criminal Intent that I haven’t seen more than 5 or 6 times.  I could watch some movies I have never heard of on Netflix.  Both of these things would probably be more entertaining.

Who cares about some crappy video?  Deadspin?  Deadspin puts pictures of naked people squatting on toilets on their website;  they are the New York Post of sports journalism.  I am sure Brewers fans care.  You know, the folks who gave a standing ovation to the guy who cheated and then lied about it while publicly smearing some poor schlub who carts pee around for a living?  Before I hear, “Jhonny Peralta cheated too”,  remember the schlub who carts pee around for a living and shut up.

I hope you do get to go the All Star game Jonathan Lucroy.  If I voted for the All Star game I would vote for you.  Get a couple of Benjamin Franklin’s to me and I might.  It’s the only way anyone could get me to waste my time voting.

As for Cardinals fans who are upset by the video—-grow up.  Be flattered that the Cardinals are such a good organization and so dominates the NL Central that teams like the Brewers feel the need to make ridiculous videos to try to drum up some interest in them.  Yadier Molina might even hit some dingers in Miller Park the next time the Cardinals are there.

 

Thank you for reading

 

 

I Don’t Do Cookie Cutters

I’ve been a non-conformist all of my life.   My mother used to tell me stories about how I never did anything like the rest of the kids my age did.  Her favorite one was about how I started to talk.  She said I didn’t say a word for a long time past the time when I should have at least made googly noises like most kids my age.  No “ma-ma”  or “da-da” from me.  I was completely mute.  She was so worried that she even asked the doctor about me.  He told her not to worry, that I would talk when I was ready.  So she waited, and then she waited some more.  Not a word or noise escaped my lips.  Then one day, I was outside in the back yard with my mother and I walked over toward our next door neighbor, Dean.  I stood in front of him and opened my mouth and out came ” How are you today, Dean”?    My mother was flabbergasted.  Dean was flabbergasted.  I apparently was unmoved, or so my mother says.  After that day, my mother would tell that story to anyone who would listen, about how I would not talk, would not say a word, until I could talk in complete sentences.  Well, what’s the point of talking if you are going to sound like an idiot?

I have stayed a non-conformist to this day.  Didn’t care what my classmates thought about me, laughed at all attempts to poke fun at me because I did not conform in school.  Did my own thing, set goals for myself, and worked to accomplish them.  Don’t get me wrong, I had failures along the way, my life has not been smooth sailing.  I have had my moments of self-doubt.  I have never felt like I needed to be what someone else wanted me to be, or behave in a manner that I didn’t think was right for me, just to be popular.  “Go along to get along” has never been part of my personal philosophy.  Of course, that resulted in people who just never cared for my personality.  My smart alek, sarcastic mouth never helped either.

So what does this all have to do with baseball?  I think about baseball just like I think about everything else in my life.  I don’t conform to the mainstream.  My baseball opinions sometime set people’s teeth on edge.  I say things that other baseball fans don’t like.  I don’t go along to get along.

If I don’t like something I say so, even if I am the only one who doesn’t like it.  If I like something that the majority of fans don’t like, I say that too.  My follower count on Twitter fluctuates on an hourly basis.  I say something someone doesn’t like, down it goes.  Whatever.  People have the right not to subject themselves voluntarily to things they find irritating or unpleasant.  I would do the same.

I can’t like every player on the Cardinals just because they are on the Cardinals.  I don’t think every player on the roster is a good player.  I can’t like Mike Matheny just because he is the Cardinals manager, or because the players like him, or because he is good-looking, or for any other non baseball related reason.  I can’t be supportive of everything Cardinals if I truly don’t like it.  I can’t be that false to myself.

If I make people angry by what I say on Twitter, or some Cardinals forum, or on this blog, I can’t worry about that.  Sure, I want people to read my blog, but if a person feels they can’t read what they don’t like and don’t agree with, well, that is their prerogative.  I think that philosophy stunts a person’s growth and leads to narrow-mindedness, but I don’t rule the world and tell other people what to think.

If you are reading this, and wonder what provoked it, let me just say that I have been told on more than one occasion recently that I needed to start writing more “feel good”  “rah-rah” pieces on my blog if I want people to read it.  I was told I needed to not talk disparagingly about certain players that other people liked.  I was not aware apparently that discussing the baseball shortcomings of certain players was “disparaging” them.  I am supposed to say good things about all players (or at least the ones who have been around for a while and are well liked by others).  I am supposed to conform to the mainstream.

Not going to happen.  Sorry.

 

 

Thank you for reading.

 

 

Finding Stasis

The Cardinals have won five in a row.  This is good.  I hope they keep it up.  Of course they won’t, because we all know the laws of the universe say they will eventually lose.  It may be today, it may be this weekend or next week.  Baseball is and has always been a cyclical thing.  Highs and lows.  Good seasons and bad seasons and just so-so seasons.

Individual performances are in flux.  This is the natural order of things.  Statistically, baseball players all have a mean.  It is that level of performance where their central tendencies lie.  It is their expected value.  This applies to both the player’s offensive and defensive abilities.  Some players have a high mean in offense but not in defense and vice versa.  Some have high or low means in both.  That mean will gradually change over time as age and wear and tear on the body cause the performance to decline.  There are other factors which can affect the mean, so not every player’s true mean is known in the same amount of time.  Once it is known, however, it is fairly easy to predict where a player’s performance level will end up over time.

With the Cardinals so far we have seen players play to their mean.  We have also seen players both playing below their mean and above their mean.  Eventually, but not always in the same amount of time, the player will regress either upward or downward to their mean.  The underachievers will heat up and overachievers will cool off.  That is the way it has always been.

The key to long term success is to find stasis, or the level of stability where forces are equal and opposing. This is extremely difficult to do in baseball because it is rare that every player on the team plays to their mean all at the same time.  This is why there are winning streaks and losing streaks, players who are hot and players who are slumping.  It is the natural ebb and flow of baseball.  Teams are in flux, players come and go throughout the season, affecting the ability to find stasis.  You can build a winning baseball team by filling it with players whose means in either offense or defense or both are at an above average level, but you can never guarantee success.

As a team, stasis may never be achieved in any given season.  That is what makes baseball fun and exciting.  We get excited by the overachievers and frustrated by the underachievers, and then it all changes and we continue the cycle.  The goal of course is to win, however you get there.

We as fans go through highs and lows with our teams and with our individual favorite players.  It is the nature of being a fan.  The key to trying to find stasis as a fan is to realize that that the team and the players are going to disappoint us at times. We have to understand that we are seeing today, or tomorrow or for the next week, may not be what see throughout the season.  We have to understand that playing baseball is hard, and that players will not always play to their mean.  We have to have patience and let it all play out.

This is not an easy thing to do as a fan.  I have never found it easy at all, and I go through times of elation followed by times of depression as a fan of baseball.  I have to continuously remind myself that no matter what is happening right now, it is going to change.  I search for my stasis as well.  None of this means that I can’t complain about a player or the manager or the team as a whole.  It just means that at the end of the day, it will play out the way it plays out and things will continue to change, for good or bad, and I have to adapt.  I have to search for my stasis, even if I never find it.  That’s what being a baseball fan is all about.

 

Thank you for reading.

 

A Visit to Bleak House

The Cardinals pulled off a sweep against the Nationals over the weekend.  In all honesty, I didn’t think they could do it.   The Nationals didn’t put up much of a fight to my way of thinking, which surprised me given the fact that they are fighting for first place in their division.  The Cardinals’ pitching has been top notch lately, which accounts for the success; the offense still hasn’t looked like it should or could look given the talent it has on paper at least.

Matt Adams came roaring back from his DL stint with 3 home runs during this series.  The sudden surge in power is welcome, but whether it sticks around is another question.  I sound skeptical because this team has given me every reason to be so.  Let’s face it, this team has been a poor copy of the team we all thought we had at the beginning of the season.  Pitching has kept them in it thus far, and at some point, the pitching is going to falter.

Tonight the Cardinals start a 3 game series against the Mets.  The ace of the pitching staff will not take his regular start during this series because of a sore elbow, so the pitching is already starting this series with one hand tied behind it’s back.  An iffy Carlos Martinez and whatever assortment of the bullpen is called upon afterwards will have to muddle it’s way through tonight’s game.  If the offense doesn’t do it’s job it could be an ugly game.  The Mets, despite their shortcomings, have always given the Cardinals headaches.

I won’t prevaricate folks, I sound pessimistic because I am.  Despite the weekend sweep against the Nats, I still don’t like this team very much.  The offense is weak and the pitching is teetering on the precipice.  The manager is a whole other issue unto himself.  I don’t like Mike Matheny; I won’t lie about that.  The man is clueless and he does more harm than good.  I truly believe this team more often than not wins games in spite of his attempts to muck them up.  I could write pages on what Matheny does to harm this team, in fact I think I already have.  I won’t do it again, at least not here in this post.

Then there is the issue of how poorly the roster is put together.  This is John Mozeliak’s fault.  Too many outfielders coming and going, a weak bench, an unstable bullpen.  Too many choices for a  clueless manager spells disaster.

Yes, I am unhappy with this team.  This has been one of the most stressful seasons for me in recent memory.  In some respects it is even worse than 2007, and I thought that one was pretty bad.  There is still plenty of season for it to get better.  That relies in large part on John Mozeliak doing his part to fix the roster.  I don’t hold out much hope for Matheny; he just needs less choices and less leeway to screw things up.  Whether that can be accomplished remains to be seen.

In the meantime, I am having no fun at all watching the games and even less fun writing these posts.  I sound like Oscar the Grouch and feel like him too.  When I can’t get excited about a sweep of the Nationals, there is definitely something wrong with me.  Maybe I just need a break to get some perspective.  That is something that may be coming, depending on how the next few weeks shake out.  I don’t discount the idea that my attitude is part of the problem.

Let’s take out the Mets and then the Phillies and then maybe I will get a better outlook.

 

 

Thank you for reading.

 

 

Why Jon Jay Is Overrated

This is the post that is going to make some people mad.  I can’t let that bother me.  People need to hear the other side of the argument, even if they don’t like it.  I certainly listen to the folks who think Jon Jay should be the Cardinals’ starting center fielder all the time.  I couldn’t disagree more and it’s time I explained why.

Jon Jay is not a bad player.  He is in my mind a 4th outfielder.  The bat that everyone thinks is wonderful, is in reality pretty blah.  Batting average, my friends, is not the measure of a good hitter.  It’s not even close.  People like to use it because it is what they understand, but as an evaluative tool it is not very useful.  Batting average measures quantity of hits, not quality, and it is quality that is most important.  Give me a .250 hitter who hits doubles, triples and home runs and I will take that every time over a .300 hitter who hits nothing but singles.  Jon Jay is the latter.  His batting average is as empty as the calories in a 2 liter Pepsi.

Let’s look at the numbers that show that.  The best stat for measuring how good a player is at hitting for extra bases is ISO or Isolated Power.  ISO is essentially slugging percentage (SLG) minus batting average.  The following table is an estimated ranking from Excellent to Awful of levels of ISO.  This table can be found here.

 

Rating ISO
Excellent 0.250
Great 0.200
Above Average 0.180
Average 0.145
Below Average 0.120
Poor 0.100
Awful 0.080

 

 

Jon Jay’s ISO currently sits at 0.082.  That ranks a hair above Awful on the above chart.  Now, to be fair, ISO at such small numbers of PAs is not predictive.  Fangraphs suggests a minimum of 550 plate appearances before ISO is predictive enough to draw conclusions.  So let’s look at Jay’s ISO during the last season he had at least 550 PAs, which would be 2013, where he had 628 PAs.  His ISO for 2013 was 0.095.  That ranks higher than Awful but just shy of Poor.  To be even more fair, let’s look at Jay’s ISO for his career.  That number is .106, which ranks just slightly above Poor.

Now let’s compare those numbers with those of Peter Bourjos, the other contender for the starting center field job.  Bourjos’ current ISO is .125 in 151 PAs (that’s compared to Jay’s 162 PAs).  Bourjos’ last season with at least 550 PAs was 2011; his ISO that season was .167.  Bourjos’ career ISO is .144.

However, there is more to evaluating a player than just his offense.  Defense counts too.  There are many who argue that Jon Jay’s defense has improved this season and some who cite his current UZR/150 of 10.2 and UZR of 1.2.  As compared to last season, those numbers are better.  However, those numbers in such small sample sizes are essentially meaningless.  To be at all predictive, UZR numbers must be evaluated using a minimum of 3 seasons.  An average of the 3 seasons is the best method.

Taking the average of Jay’s UZR numbers for 2011, 2012, and 2013 we get a number of -0.7.  That is slightly Below Average (Average is 0).

Another defensive metric used is Defensive Runs Saved (DRS).  Again, an average of 3 seasons of data is best for evaluative purposes.  Jay’s average DRS for 2011, 2012 and 2013 is -2.  That means Jay has cost his team an average of 2 runs with his defense.  Average being 0, Jay’s DRS is slightly Below Average.

Now let’s compare those numbers to Peter Bourjos.  Bourjos’ average UZR for 2011, 2012, and 2013 is +7.6.  His average DRS for those years is +6.6.

I shouldn’t think anyone would need numbers to know that Jon Jay’s arm is pretty bad.  That is kind of obvious from watching him throw.  However, for continuity sake I will tell you that his average ARM rating is -3.5.

So, all in all we have a player with a good batting average but poor ISO score, average to slightly below average range in CF and a below average arm.  As a starting center fielder, these numbers are not exactly a ringing endorsement.  The reader should also know that in 2013, the Cardinals’ outfield defense was one of the worst in MLB, with an outfield consisting of Matt Holliday, Jon Jay, and Carlos Beltran/Allen Craig.  It’s no wonder that John Mozeliak wanted to upgrade in this area.  That upgrade has essentially been nullified by manager Mike Matheny‘s insistence on continuing to use Jon Jay in the center field position primarily.

There will be those who will argue that Jon Jay’s presence in center field is necessitated by the team’s overall offensive performance.  I will argue that Jay’s contribution to the offense is marginal, given his very low ISO numbers.  Such a marginal increase in offense is offset by the more than marginal downgrade in defense he provides.

Jon Jay is a nice player as a 4th outfielder.  As a starter he is overrated.

 

 

Thank you for reading.

 

 

 

 

Oh Offense, My Offense

I am happy the Cardinals won last night.  I have to get that out there first and foremost lest anyone mistake my fandom for being less than what it is.  I live and breathe the Cardinals.  Anyone who knows me well knows that.   I so wanted the win for Wainwright even more, because he has certainly pitched his butt off and not gotten a win he deserved; getting a win when he didn’t pitch his best is more than enough compensation in my opinion.  Of course, I don’t put a whole lot of stock in pitching wins as a measure of performance, but other people do, so for that reason Wainwright deserved the win.

You knew there was a “but” in all of this though, didn’t you?  I pretty much telegraphed it in my first few sentences.  The “but” is that the offense was pitiful, pitiful.  If the opposing team hadn’t been the Rays, that game could have been ugly.  In my last post I talked about how the Cardinals in the past have played down to their competition.  I want to believe that is what they did last night; however, I have been wondering for some time now if the Cardinals are in fact playing to their level of talent after all.  It’s hard to believe given what we have seen out of many of these hitters for the last two seasons.  I don’t want to believe it, but there doesn’t seem to be any change after more than two months of play in the lacklusterness of this offense.

I don’t know the answer to why the Cardinals offense doesn’t take off.  I keep waiting for it.  I keep hoping they figure it out.   I have to assume lots of video is watched, so if there are hitters doing something different, or pitchers pitching differently to the hitters than they have in the past, I would hope such things would be noticed and adjustments made.  If there are other issues involved, I would hope those who have the power to make any needed changes will make them.  I hope a lot of things.

Hope is all I have.  Hope, and this blog, where I can express my frustrations to the infinitesimal part of the world that reads it.  I could stop watching the games and find something else to occupy my time, but that is not an option I want to contemplate.  I know a few people in my life who think that isn’t the worse thing I could do.

So I just wait for the offensive surge to happen.  I wait, and I wait, and I continue to wait.  Just one of those games, I keep telling myself, one of those blowout games where the offense just runs amok.  I want to believe this offense is capable of one of those.   I do so want to believe.

It has to happen, right?

 

 

Thank you for reading.

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