Reliving the 2017 Season: St. Louis Cardinals Edition | The Process Report

Reliving the 2017 Season: St. Louis Cardinals Edition

With the end of the regular season comes a time for reflection for the majority of baseball fans. What went right? What went wrong? You probably have a few ideas where your teams fell short or exceeded expectations, but what about a completely emotionless point of view? Throughout this season I have shown what batter and pitcher production looks like when we regress balls in play to look more like what the players should have seen using exit velocity and launch angle. The offseason will be no different as I take a team by team look at how the season fared for the team, while going a little deeper on a handful of players from each team. The order will mirror next June’s draft slotting so you can expect to find some depression leading to elation here. It’s going to take some time, but I would like to get two to three of these out each week which should allow for every team being covered before our glorious game returns to continue threshing our hearts.

Past: DET SFG PHI CWS CIN NYM SDP ATL OAK PIT BAL TOR MIA SEA TEX TBR LAA KCR

After a quick stop in Kansas City we head a few hours east over to St. Louis where the Cardinals look like the first really good team covered so far. There is a positive gap between expected runs and allowed over the entirety of the season . The bats when through a couple of lulls, but the first merely brought them to the average while the second was a short pit stop into the bad zone. Other than that they were a good to great offense for much of the season. There was a bout with underperformance early, which was offset by a much larger overperformance later in the year that went on for a much longer time. These guys could really hit, but that wasn’t all.

The arms were very similar, in that, they were rarely worse than average. They hugged that line much more tightly than the more explosive bats, but pitching was rarely an issue for the club. There were a couple periods of underperformance in the middle and towards the end, but those brief forays into the badlands didn’t stick around for long. While the team wasn’t a monster on either side of the chalk they were a good bit above average in both regards leaving them as easily the best team thus reviewed.

Both walks and strikeouts came in a little better than average for the arms, with a good ability to suppress contact that didn’t quite show up as well in actual results. Add it all up and you’re looking at a pitching staff that was around 47 runs better than the average. The bats rode a strong walk rate that came with league average strikeouts, but they also put up a well above average production on balls in play that was a little better than what they received, but close enough for government work. Cardinals batters were a little better than their pitcher teammates putting up just over 60 runs above average. This looks like a good, balanced team that didn’t suffer from a glaring weakness like so many teams that we have run across so far.

The 2017 Cardinals showed several sluggers at different tiers of production, and very little giveback from the bottom outside of the since-traded Aledmys Diaz. The star hitter was Matt Carpenter who walked nearly as much as he struck out and showed a good bit of misfortune on his balls in play. His shoulder was fairly lame by the end of the season after getting doped up with cortisone a couple of times, but he gritted through the pain to be a wonderful producer. A couple of out of nowhere guys came next with Jose Martinez and Tommy Pham showing outstanding production from the plate. Martinez showed excellent production on balls in play, if a bit of underperformance, while Pham walked a little more and looks to have overperformed his balls in play a good bit. Old hands Dexter Fowler and Yadier Molina were steady while pacing out a little less than your typical everyday regular.

Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk are not all that similar players from a skillset perspective, but their contributions were remarkably close to each other. Grichuk is the more powerful guy that comes with swing and miss, while Piscotty walks a bunch more without quite as much power. Moving back onto the infield Jedd Gyorko and newcomer Paul DeJong both showed a good bit of overperformance, though even upon regression they were better than average hitters. The beat rolled on with Kolten Wong and Matt Adams and even rookie Harrison Bader looking like average or better hitters. This looks like a lineup with incredible depth that allowed the team to get guys rest without skipping a beat. Hard to believe they will add Marcell Ozuna to the mix for next year.

Carpenter has been a steady producer for years, but this past season saw considerable volatility as he worked around a lame shoulder that sapped almost all of his ability to throw the ball in the field. You can get a good feel for when he got that first cortisone shot. The tremendous dip early on was even more dramatic in reality, but he got right back on the horse and was as good as ever. For a time. You can see a steady fall off that mostly maintained over the rest of the season leaving him as more of an average hitter than a star. With health I would expect more of the inflated outcomes, but shoulder injuries can be tough as they depress power, and can lead a player to fall into bad habits to compensate for the dinged wing.

With so many good players to review, but precious time and space to cover them I wanted to make sure I covered DeJong who featured historically bad strikeout to walk ratios as covered by friend of the site Eno Sarris. You can see a staircase pattern to his expected results with a strong start leading to more of an average stretch and then another step down as his close to the season was fairly poor. Actual results showed more of a lull before getting back to similar heights in the middle and then both perspectives tying tighter at the end. That middle stretch looks like a whole bunch of overperformance that will be priced into his future cost, but probably won’t be a part of his future production. As such, I feel there is a ton of gamble with DeJong and would prefer to stay away. The high reward of a powerful bat at shortstop is quite the lure so I would expect the more adventurous to take that trip, though.

Tommy Pham was someone I was able to get in most of my leagues after seeing his early strong results, but I hedged the risk by trading him in some of my leagues once he was in that mid-season gap period. I rode him out in others where his low waiver cost makes him an exceptional keeper. I expound on this because few folks probably have a good handle on what ot make of Pham. There was the overperformance period in the middle with a return to the average, but then he crushed it over the last month or so with actual and true production both at the highest levels he would exhibit all season. Unlike DeJong, I’m more than happy to take Pham on where I can due to his walk rate and what looks like a bit smaller future downturn on those balls in play.

Very much like the batters you see a couple tiers of positive performance and very little giveback on the negative side. Mike Leake was the weak link starter, but the team ran away from him via a mid-season trade. Old Man Adam Wainwright was the next worst starter, but he was a little better than you probably think as you’ll see below. With no one being truly awful on the mound it’s time to focus on all those positives.

Carlos Martinez is the kind of ace that you can build a staff around, while Trevor Rosenthal gave them the bullpen version of that until his elbow blew out. You’ll also find a few other reliable relief options before getting to the mid-rotation arms Lance Lynn and Michael Wacha. Lynn is unlikely to return, but you’ll notice the team might have a readymade replacement in Luke Weaver who put up even better numbers albeit in around a third of the innings. The Cardinals pitching factory just keeps on rolling.

Carlos Martinez gives you everything you could reasonably ask for. He shows durability, league average walk rates, above average strikeout rates, and does very well to suppress production when batters do put the ball in play. There was a fairly terrifying blip mid-season, but that looks like something he got over to get back to being the staff anchor. The transition took a little longer when looking at actual results, but things eventually fell back in line. I have no idea if that is an injury flag, but if his medicals are fine then that ensuing gap might create a bit of an arbitrage opportunity. At least, as much as you’re likely to get on a young man that has shown so much to like over his career.

In his volatile career Michael Wacha has shown a lot to like and just as much to dislike. As many fans have bought in low on him to rave about the gains as those that bought high only to decry the losses. As such, 2017 showed all of that stuff within a singular season. The start was fine, but then he was fairly bad. He recovered to put up a prolonged, fully earned stretch of dominance only to then be as bad as he would be all year again. The close was better, especially by the boxscore. Add it all up and he was a better than average starter that brings more variance than you typically like to see. As such, I would prefer him in roto leagues where maybe you can stash him on your bench when things are looking sour and hope to capture more of the good than the bad.

Old Man Waino looked a lot more like Great Uncle Charlie this year, but a lot of that came early on when the ball was doing impossibly bad things to his numbers. He looked like an average guy by the peripherals, but much worse by the results. There were nearly mirror opposite results to follow, but these were fully justified by his peripherals. First he was very good, then he was less good, before seeing similar volatility to close out the season. He has already provided more than I expected when he signed his extension, and the thought always had to be that these later years would be less productive. The team should be happy if they get anything out of him this year, but if it starts off poorly again might they possibly put him in the bullpen as a multi-inning guy to help shore up a pen that has it’s fair share of losses coming into the season? Time will tell, but with the factory still sending arms in droves it might be more of an option than in the past.

Leaderboards

The following leaderboards can help you gain context as far as what the above numbers mean. You’ll find the top and bottom 20 hitters and pitchers before moving on to the team lines. In the interest of transparency I found a small mistake in the aggregate pitching lines for the Royals and Angels that have since been corrected. Lastly, you’ll find team combined xwRAA figures that should help give you a ranking of who was good and who was not.

 



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