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    Thursday, October 31, 2013

    Cardinals Fall Short in 2013 Series, but There's a Lot to Look Forward To

    Now that the World Series is over and the Cardinals are finally done, I guess I can get back to writing about baseball. And what better way to get back into the swing of things than writing about the Series that just ended?

    On one hand, this is a particularly rough way for my team go down. I had been particularly hoping the Cardinals won this one on behalf of Carlos Beltran. He’s been, by all accounts, an incredible and underrated star with a history of great postseason performances and disappointing endings. And by all accounts, he’s been a great guy, too; it’s hard not to feel miserable for him. I’m sorry we couldn’t get him a ring the way we did with Lance Berkman.

    There are other reasons to feel frustrated about this series, too. Mike Matheny looked overmatched at times. The Cardinals were utterly deserted by the luck they had experienced with runners in scoring position during the regular season-St. Louis actually outhit the Red Sox 45 to 41 over the six games, despite being outscored 27 to 14. It’s not hard to imagine a title with only two or three more lucky breaks.

    But, at the same time, there’s a lot to be excited for in the future. This team won 97 games this season, but there’s still reason to hope for improvement. First and foremost is the pitching; Adam Wainwright may or may not replicate his stellar year as the team’s ace, but there’s still plenty of depth around him. Shelby Miller, just 22 this season, burst out the gates, making a case for Rookie of the Year. Michael Wacha, who turned 22 in July, made a name for himself in September and October.

    And then there’s Carlos Martinez (turned 22 in September) and set-up man-turned-closer Trevor Rosenthal (23), who will both hopefully get to show their stuff in the rotation (Jason Motte will be returning from surgery next year, meaning they should have enough depth to shift them). And that’s not even getting into Lance Lynn, Jaime Garcia, and Joe Kelly, all of whom will still be around.

    There’s good things on offense, too. Matt Holliday, Yadier Molina, and Allen Craig will all be returning. Matt Carpenter had a breakout year at the top of the lineup, and can either stay at second or move to third if prospect Kolten Wong forces his way into the lineup. Matt Adams may become a regular force in the lineup, and the team also has top prospect Oscar Taveras in the wings.

    There’s even more to be excited about for 2014. The team could always make a move from outside the organization. Beltran will be hard to replace, but the only other players who are free agents are Jake Westbrook (who looks to be the eighth or so starter on the depth chart), Edward Mujica (who was admittedly a good reliever for most of the season, but those are rather replaceable), Chris Carpenter, and Rafael Furcal (both of whom were injured the entirety of 2013).

    All in all, those five represent over $40 million coming off the books, with only one part looking hard to replace. Granted, there will be player raises through arbitration and such, but that still leaves them with something in the neighborhood of $30 million to use as needed for whatever holes they can’t fill internally. It’s a lot of flexibility, especially for a team with as much of a long-term core in place.

    It’s always tough to take a loss like this, when you were so close to the top. But it makes me feel better that there are so many reasons for Cardinals fans to be optimistic about 2014 and beyond.

    Tuesday, October 22, 2013

    Evaluating Postseason Performance, with Carlos Beltran, David Ortiz, and WAR

    Many fans outside of New England and the Midwest may be upset with this year’s World Series match-up; no matter which team wins, the Red Sox and Cardinals will have combined for half of the past decade’s titles. One upside of it though is that the world gets a little bit more of two of the game’s greatest postseason hitters in Carlos Beltran and David Ortiz.

    Beltran and Ortiz are both special for another reason; a majority of fans still see them as borderline Hall candidates in need of more October glory to stamp their eventual ticket to Cooperstown. Several writers this week have looked at the issue already. I would agree with Dave Cameron’s thinking that Beltran is already a Hall of Famer, but I wanted to look at it in another way.

    Wins Above Replacement has taken off in the national consciousness as of late, and for good reason. Few stats can take as all-encompassing a look at on-field results and turn them into something easy to understand and compare. With the spread of the WAR framework, many people have gotten used to the scale it works on as well. For example, by Baseball-Reference’s version of the calculation, players start to get serious Hall consideration around 60 or so Wins and become locks around 70.

    Beltran already has a solid case at 67.5, while Ortiz is a little lagging at only 44.2. However, those figures don’t account for their aforementioned post-season prowess. Is there a way we can add that in to the WAR framework?

    2013 Baseball Bloggers Alliance Award Ballot

    The postseason is a weird time for me. Despite all the baseball going on, I usually don’t write as much. Partly because watching games takes up a larger percentage of my time than it normally does, with multiple must-watch games on most days, but also partly because I really just don’t do reaction writing to individuals games. It just seems too reactionary to what is generally a pretty randomized tournament.

    This isn’t to say that I don’t have anything planned about the play-offs, though, so be on the look-out in the next few days. However, until that’s ready, I’m getting a jump start on the offseason awards by posting my ballots for the Baseball Bloggers Alliance elections. In the coming weeks, I’ll be going in depth on each selection, but until then, I’m just making sure that my ballot gets in on time.

    Wednesday, October 9, 2013

    The All-Expansion World Series That Never Was: A Brief History of Expansion Teams in the Post-Season

    Something interesting that I saw pointed out in an article the other day: the Rays were the only expansion team that made the playoffs (even counting that stupid Wild Card Round). Just think about that for a second; almost half the league (fourteen out of thirty, to be exact) is expansion teams, and a full third of the league makes the playoffs now (still stupid), but only one-tenth of the playoff teams were expansion teams. Or, to put it another way, over half of the original sixteen teams were in the playoffs.

    On top of that, there has never been an all-expansion team World Series. That’s why, in the event that I don’t have a rooting interest remaining, playoff droughts and expansion teams generally get my sympathies in the postseason. It seems so small, yet ground-breaking.

    In any case, what’s the closest baseball has ever gotten to an all-expansion World Series? And what are the prospects of it happening in the future? Let’s start with the first question.