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The Total WAR Project, Part IV: St. Louis Cardinals

One sentence introducing you to this format. While at The Phrontiersman, I identified the ten teams that pose the greatest threat to the Phillies’ World Series run in 2010 and decided to see how they’re doing in relation to each other this offseason; the rules are here, and we’ve already covered the Braves, Mets, and Rockies. If something seems odd, or if you have questions about the methodology, odds are you’ll find it in one of those posts.

This isn’t really a war story, but I find it interesting. English singer-songwriter James Blunt was actually a Royal Army captain before making it big as a musician. While serving in an armored reconnaissance unit during the NATO peacekeeping mission in 1999, Blunt kept his guitar strapped to the outside of his tank and played in his free time. It was there that he began writing his album Back to Bedlam, which, of course, contained his international No. 1 hit, “You’re Beautiful.” But I hate that song, so I’m not going to link it here.

Interesting fact about the Cardinals: they’re not named after the bird. Nope—according to Bill James, St. Louis had three professional baseball teams in the late 19th century. The Cardinals were actually founded in 1882 as the Brown Stockings (later the Browns). In 1885, the St. Louis Maroons joined the National League from the Union Association before moving to Indianapolis. Finally, in 1900, the Browns, after a year as the St. Louis Perfectos (I’m sure whoever thought of that moniker lost his job immediately), the team decided to continue the city’s baseball tradition of adopting progressively lighter shades for its team names—cardinal refers to the color (much like Stanford University), not the bird.

Incidentally, in 1902, the American League set up shop in St. Louis with another team called the Browns. In 1954 they moved to Baltimore and became the Orioles. Don’t worry. They are named after the bird.

Total WAR continues after the jump. With some Madcon, for your listening pleasure.

2009 Roster

C1: Yadier Molina (3.4 WAR)
C2: Jason LaRue (1.7 WAR)

1B: Albert Pujols (8.4 WAR)
2B: Skip Schumaker (1.2 WAR)
3B: Mark DeRosa (0.4 WAR), Joe Thurston (0.2 WAR), Brian Barden (0.4 WAR)
SS: Brendan Ryan (3.2 WAR)
INF: Khalil Greene (-0.8 WAR), Julio Lugo (0.2 WAR)

OF1: Matt Holliday (2.7 WAR),
OF2: Colby Rasmus (2.3 WAR)
OF3: Ryan Ludwick (1.8 WAR)
OF4: Chris Duncan (-0.5 WAR)
OF5: Rick Ankiel (0.1 WAR)

SP1: Chris Carpenter (5.6 WAR)
SP2: Adam Wainwright (5.7 WAR)
SP3: Joel Pineiro (4.8 WAR)
SP4: Kyle Lohse (0.8 WAR)
SP5: Todd Wellemeyer (-0.3 WAR)

CL: Ryan Franklin (0.9 WAR)
SU: Kyle McClellan (0.3 WAR)
RP: Jason Motte (-0.3 WAR)
RP: Trever Miller (0.5 WAR)
RP: Dennys Reyes (0.2 WAR)
RP: Brad Thompson (0.0 WAR)
RP: Mitchell Boggs (0.6 WAR)
RP: John Smoltz (1.1 WAR)

2009 Total WAR: 44.6

I know I’ve got a fantasy sports problem because I’ve got an English Premier League fantasy team. Yes, I play fantasy soccer. With a limited budget to spend on players, I decided that it would be best to load the team up with as many superstars as I could, and fill the rest of my roster with reclamation projects and mediocre defenders (I have three Stoke City defenders on my team—that should tell you everything you need to know). So while I have Cesc Fabregas, Nicolas Anelka, Andrei Arshavin, and Fernando Torres on my team, I have to rely on solid-but-unspectacular players like Ivan Klasnic and Vedran Corluka or feast-or-famine types like Leighton Baines to fill in the gaps.

This Cardinals team is much the same. I’ve been fascinated by this team since the summer. The total WAR of 44.6 is a decent number for a playoff team, if the first few Total WAR posts have been any indication. I think it just illustrates how truly incredible a ballplayer Albert Pujols is. Essentially, there are only 3 other position players besides Pujols (Holliday, Ryan, and Molina) who are anything other than mediocre. Last year, Nick Stavinoha got 91 plate appearances for this team and put up a WAR of -0.7. This illustrates two things: first, how truly terrible Stavinoha was (almost as bad, per plate appearance, as Pujols and Holliday were good). Second, it illustrates how desperate the Cardinals were for position players that they gave someone that bad 91 plate appearances.

Likewise the pitching staff, anchored by two of the three best pitchers in the National League last year and one of the best third starters in baseball. But apart from the first three rotation spots, the cupboard is bare.

This team really indulges the fantasy of seeing if one man can, in fact, win a baseball game on his own. Apparently he can—I thought for sure the Cards were going to the World Series last year.

Also, I’d like to put Kyle Lohse in a group with Dwyane Wade and Brett Favre—people who need to transpose two letters in their names so they can be pronounced the way they’re spelled. Ok, I’ve said my piece.

2010 Roster (Note that I’ve listed an extra catcher and an extra infielder because, according to MLB.com, the Cardinals’ fourth outfielder is their starting second baseman. I think this connotes a move for outfield help before Opening Day, so take this prediction with a grain of salt).

C1: Yadier Molina (3.6 WAR)
C2: Jason LaRue (0.7 WAR)
C3: Matt Pagnozzi (-0.5 WAR)

1B: Albert Pujols (7.2 WAR)
2B: Skip Schumaker (1.6 WAR)
3B: David Freese (1.8 WAR)
SS: Brendan Ryan (2.8 WAR)
INF1: Julio Lugo (0.4 WAR)
INF2: Tyler Greene (0.9 WAR)

OF1: Matt Holliday (4.8 WAR)
OF2: Colby Rasmus (3.0 WAR)
OF3: Ryan Ludwick (2.1 WAR)

SP1: Chris Carpenter (4.7 WAR)*
SP2: Adam Wainwright (5.4 WAR)*
SP3: Kyle Lohse (0.8 WAR) 4.29 FIP, 158 IP
SP4: Brad Penny (2.1 WAR)*
SP5: Mitchell Boggs (0.6 WAR) 4.83 FIP, 148 IP

CL: Ryan Franklin (0.4 WAR)*
SU: Kyle McClellan (0.3 WAR) 3.89 FIP, 63 IP
RP: Jason Motte (0.7 WAR)*
RP: Trever Miller (0.5 WAR) 3.81 FIP, 42 IP
RP: Dennys Reyes (0.2 WAR) 4.05 FIP, 40 IP
RP: Brad Thompson (0.0 WAR) 4.77 FIP, 52 IP
RP: Josh Kinney (-0.3 WAR) 4.46 FIP, 39 IP
RP: Blake Hawksworth (0.1 WAR) 4.82 FIP, 54 IP (Bill James)

2010 Projected Total WAR: 43.9

Out: Ankiel, DeRosa, Thurston, Barden, Pineiro, Smoltz, Wellemeyer, Duncan, Khalil Greene

In: Pagnozzi, Freese, Tyler Greene, Penny, Kinney, Hawksworth

Feel free to insert your Tyler Greene joke here.

Ah, Dennys Reyes. My last day at The Phrontiersman, MLB Trade Rumors linked a what-if piece I wrote about the course of the Phillies since 2003 if they had never traded Scott Rolen. In it I incorrectly identified the Reyes I thought pitched Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS (I thought it was Al, then someone said it was Anthony, then it turned out that it was Jeff Suppan and we all felt really stupid. And by we all, I mean I felt really stupid).

So I have a hard enough time keeping the pitching Reyeses straight as it is, and as of last spring they had completed their collection.

Apparently the fans are high on Jason Motte, which is good because as Phillies fans, we know the roided-up enigma that Ryan Franklin can be as well as anyone. The Cards are going to be in need of a closer soon enough. If Boggs can’t nail down the fifth starter spot, look for Hawksworth, who posted a 2.02 ERA in 40 IP last year, to get a shot if he’s at all effective in spring training. But after only posting 4.5 K/9 IP, Hawksworth might be a Kyle Kendrick-style flash-in-the-pan. If not him, then Rich Hill, who followed up a 3-WAR season in 2007 with two roughly replacement-level campaigns, is coming to spring training as a non-roster invitee.

Also, there isn’t a better solution at third base than David Freese? Are you sure? No one? After the past two years, I’m wondering if I might have to write a Rolen Back History, Part II, for the Cardinals.

I think they’re going to miss Pineiro, as well. Yes, everyone talks about him being an extreme ground ball pitcher and not striking that many guys out, but with that exceptional infield defense (even in spite of Schumaker, a converted outfielder), he was a perfect fit for the Cardinals. Will he do as well for the Angels? Mayhap, but with Chone Figgins having absconded up the coast, I wouldn’t bet money on it.

I’m a big Brad Penny fan. I always have been, since he and Nate Bump went the other way when Livan Hernandez was traded to San Francisco. Up until last year, he had also been a pretty solid fantasy bet. For whatever reason, he always slid to the mid-to-later rounds, and I always picked him up, plugged him into the lineup, and by the time I checked on him in July, he had 10 wins and 82 strikeouts and was starting the all-star game. Ok, this happened twice, but whatever. I’m pulling for him after what happened to him last year in Boston.

I raved in my last post about Colorado’s depth and how it was going to be their greatest strength. Well, the Cardinals are the exact opposite—they’ve got two of the best position players in the league and two of the best starting pitchers in the league and precious little else. Counting on Pujols to put up MVP caliber season after MVP caliber season has worked so far, but this is a seriously flawed team, and after bidding against themselves for Holliday, and with the specter of Free Agent Pujols and Free Agent Wainwright looming in the next couple seasons, the Cardinals have no money left to fix those flaws.

Given that the Cardinals make the playoffs (and I think they will, because no one else in the NL Central has a pulse, much less a clue), having both Wainwright and Carpenter means they might only need 3 or 4 runs a game to win, which Pujols can provide by himself. That makes them dangerous.

But if one of those four big players gets hurt or has a down year, the Cardinals’ front office, to paraphrase Emperor Palpatine, will pay for its lack of vision.

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