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Posts Tagged ‘St. Louis Cardinals’

Albert Pujols was supposed to be a Cardinal for life.

Albert Pujols’ decision to take his talents to Southern California has inspired great joy among Angels’ fans and, not surprisingly, a considerable amount of vitriol from those who root for the Cardinals. Phony, trader, liar, mercenary, and fraud have all been used on twitter and talk radio to describe Pujols because he opted for a mega 10-year deal worth $254 million (with $30 million in extra incentives) over a hometown discount. Apparently, charity begins in St. Louis.

Although it’s understandable why Cardinals’ fans might feel betrayed, such sentiment is both incredibly naïve and logically absurd. According to fangraphs.com, Pujols has provided $194 million worth of performance in excess of the $104 million the Cardinals have paid him since 2002 (if 2001 was included, that figure would be even higher). In other words, the Cardinals already got their discount. What’s more, not one, but reportedly three different teams offered Pujols a better deal than the Cardinals, so it sure seems as if it was the team, and not the player, that had an unfair sense of his worth.

Albert Pujols’ Salary vs. Value, 2002-2011
 
Source: fangraphs (value) and baseball-reference.com (salary)

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Last night’s epic game six was so compelling, that tonight’s game seven almost seems anti-climatic. As is sometimes the case when the World Series goes the distance, it is the sixth game that proves to be the most memorable (see 1975, 1985, 1986, and 2002 for a handful of examples). So, before settling in to see if baseball can serve up a suitable encore for its season finale, it seems appropriate that we take one last look back at what was truly one of the most remarkable games in World Series history. For Cardinals’ fans it will be a raucous stroll down memory lane, while the Rangers’ faithful might want to cover to their eyes, but for those who love the game of baseball, game six will take a lofty place in World Series lore.

So Close, Yet So Far…

After being one strike away from winning the World Series, this wild pitch added 18 more years to the Red Sox' curse.

After 50 seasons without a championship, the fourth longest streak for any team since its inception, the Texas Rangers were tantalizingly close to finally tasting World Series champagne. On not one, but two occasions, the Rangers came within one strike of tossing their gloves up in the air and piling on top of each other somewhere around the pitcher’s mound. Instead, they were forced to watch the Cardinals celebrate on the field.

Will the Rangers be able to recover? Only twice before had a team come within one strike of winning the World Series only to see the lead slip away. Most famously, the Red Sox suffered that cruel fate on Bob Stanley’s wild pitch in game six of the 1986 World Series, and it took them another 18 years to finally get the last out. The 1992 Blue Jays rebounded much more quickly, however. After Tom Henke surrendered a game tying single to Otis Nixon on an 0-2 count, his teammates picked him up by rallying to win the game, and the World Series, in the 11th inning.

Saving The Best For Last?

In addition to the two leads squandered by Neftali Feliz and Scott Feldman in the ninth and tenth, respectively, Alexi Ogando was also tagged with a blown save in the sixth inning. As a result, the Rangers became only the second team in World Series history to suffer three blown saves in the same game. If Texas’ fans are looking for a good omen, the only other team to “accomplish” that feat was the 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates, who actually won the very same deciding game seven in which they continued to let the lead slip away.

Of course, the Rangers would not have had the opportunity to keep blowing saves if the Cardinals’ bullpen hadn’t been just as bad. In fact, poor pitching out of the bullpen has been a theme of the entire series, which is a little bit ironic when you consider both teams advanced to the World Series on the strength of their relief pitching. In the series, the Cardinals’ and Rangers’ relievers have posted ERAs of 5.16 and 7.58, respectively, so perhaps both teams would be better off if the bullpen phone stopped working?

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Last year’s World Series matchup ensured that a long championship drought would be broken. The Giants entered the 2010 Fall Classic without a title in 56 seasons, while the Rangers had never won a World Series. The two teams’ combined 105 years chasing the trophy ranked as the third longest of all time, but after the Giants proved victorious, only the Rangers’ stretch of championship futility remained.

World Series with Longest Combined Championship Drought

NL AL Years
2005 Astros (43) White Sox (88) 131
2004 Cardinals (22) Red Sox (86) 108
2010 Giants (56) Rangers (49) 105
1975 Reds (35) Red Sox (57) 92
2002 Giants (48) Angels (41) 89
1980 Phillies (77)* Royals (11) 88
1986 Mets (17) Red Sox (68) 85
1995 Braves (38) Indians (47) 85
1966 Dodgers (11) Orioles (63)* 74
1972 Reds (32) A’s (42) 74
1987 Cardinals (5) Twins (63) 68

*Drought dates back to 1903, the year of the first World Series.
Note: 1904 and 1994 were included in calculating the durations. Winner in bold.
Source: mlb.com

After failing to win a playoff series in their first 49 years of existence, the Rangers have now won consecutive A.L. pennants and given themselves another chance to snap baseball’s third longest stretch without World Series success. With the exception of the Cubs and Indians, no team has gone longer without tasting champagne after the Fall Classic, so, needless to say, the fans in Dallas are probably somewhat anxious. In fact, the entire state of Texas will probably be on edge. Combined with the Astros, major league baseball has existed in the Lone Star state for 89 years without producing a World Series winner.

Longest Current World Series Droughts, By Team (30 Years or Longer)
Note: Texas’ streak does not include the current season.
Source: mlb.com

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Allen Craig, who spent most of the season being a utility-type bench player, has become a central figure in the 2011 World Series. In game 1, with David Freese on third and Nick Punto on first, he came off the bench to face Alexi Ogando and drove home the go-ahead run with a single to right field. Then, in game 2, he again faced Ogando as a pinch hitter, with Freese and Punto in the same position on the bases, and recorded another base hit to right. Somewhere, Yogi Berra must have been smiling.

Déjà Vu: Allen Craig has come off the bench to knock in the go-ahead run in the first two games of the 2011 World Series (Photo: Getty Images).

Since the first World Series in 1903, there have been 1,409 plate appearances by a pinch hitter, and in only 32 did the batter’s cameo end up giving his team the lead (including 22 times involving a hit). Among that select group, Craig is the only pinch hitter to do it twice, which isn’t too bad for his only two World Series at bats. Unfortunately for Ogando, he finds himself on the other end of that historical footnote, but at least he has some company. On two occasions during the 1995 World Series, the Indians’ Julian Tavarez also surrendered the go-ahead run while facing a pinch hitter.

With one more pinch hit, Craig would also tie several others, including the Yankees’ Johnny Blanchard (10 PA), Bobby Brown (7 PA), and Bob Cerv (3 PA), for the most in World Series history. In terms of Win Probability Added (WPA), however, Craig’s exploits off the bench haven’t been as impressive.

Craig’s two singles recorded a WPA of .181 and .212 in games 1 and 2, respectively, which ranks 39 and 50 on the all-time World Series pinch hit list. Although nothing to sneeze at, Craig’s combined WPA for both hits would barely crack the top-10. Listed below are the 10 most impactful pinch hits based on their WPA contribution.

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Albert Pujols, one of the greatest players in the history of the game and most revered figures in the city of St. Louis, is a coward who lacks leadership skills, at least according to the headline writers at Yahoo! Sports.

Judging by the solemn photo of Pujols, crouching low after allowing a relay throw to slip by his glove, you’d think the Cardinals’ first baseman did something heinous. Was he caught cheating on the field? Or, maybe he put a personal accomplishment ahead of team goals? Perhaps he had an argument with his manager, or disrespected a teammate in full view of the country? Pujols did none of those things. He simply skipped out on reporters by leaving the clubhouse soon after the game.

Yahoo! Sports Teaser for a Column by Jeff Passan

Source: Yahoo! Sports

Yahoo! Sports wasn’t alone in criticizing Pujols for his early exit. In columns and tweets, media members took turns lambasting the MVP for his refusal to live up to his post game obligations. Not content to simply cover the World Series, many in the media instead decided to make their role a central story line.

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The San Francisco Giants’ championship in 2010 was supposed to usher in a new era of pitching dominance. With offense levels reaching long-time lows, the conventional wisdom suggested that only with a strong starting rotation could a team hope to make the World Series. Then, 2011 happened.

The Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals have each advanced to this year’s Fall Classic despite lackluster starting pitching. In fact, the teams’ respective rotation ERAs of 5.62 and 5.43 rank near the bottom among the field of eight that began the postseason. Even more incredibly, the two teams combined had only one starter go at least six innings (C.J. Wilson in game 5 of the ALCS) in their recent LCS triumphs, and the Cardinals actually logged more innings from the bullpen than the starting rotation (28 2/3 vs. 24 1/3) during its victory over the Milwaukee Brewers.

Postseason ERAs by Starting Rotation

 Team G Avg GSc IP ER ERA
PHI 5 57.8 34 14 3.71
DET 11 51.3 59 2/3 30 4.53
ARI 5 49.2 28 15 4.82
NYY 5 47.6 20 1/3 11 4.87
TBR 4 49.5 22 2/3 13 5.16
STL 11 45.5 54 2/3 33 5.43
TEX 10 45.0 49 2/3 31 5.62
MIL 11 40.3 55 1/3 43 6.99
 Total 62 47.2 324 1/3 190 5.27

Source: Baseball-reference.com

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The Brewers exult after Morgan's walk-off single (Photo: Getty).

Yesterday’s sudden death doubleheader in the baseball postseason had the feel of March Madness. While the Cardinals were rallying for what turned out to be the game’s only run in Philadelphia, the Brewers were enjoying a walk-off in Milwaukee. As remote controls worked feverishly across the country, baseball was in the midst of a 24-hour period in which three winner-take-all games would literally come down to the final at bat. Only twice before had more than one sudden death elimination game been played in one day (two on 10/15/2001 and three on 10/11/1981), but in none of those games did the tying run come to the plate in the last inning.

Nyjer Morgan’s game winning single in Milwaukee was only the 12th walk-off hit in a sudden death playoff series game (the 1972 NLCS also ended on a “walk-off” wild pitch), and the first since Aaron Boone’s 11th inning home run broke the hearts of Red Sox Nation in the 2003 ALCS. Earlier in the game, Willie Bloomquist’s RBI bunt single marked only the fourth occasion in which a road team staved off sudden death elimination with a run in the ninth inning, but that historical footnote was overshadowed by the Brewers’ eventual victory.

Sudden Death Walk-Offs in the Postseason

Date Series G# Tm Opp Batter Rslt Pitcher Inn
10/7/11 NLDS 5 MIL ARI Nyjer Morgan 1B J.J. Putz b10
10/16/03 ALCS 7 NYY BOS Aaron Boone HR Tim Wakefield b11
11/4/01 WS 7 ARI NYY Luis Gonzalez 1B Mariano Rivera b9
10/14/01 NLDS 5 ARI STL Tony Womack 1B Steve Kline b9
10/26/97 WS 7 FLA CLE Edgar Renteria 1B Charles Nagy b11
10/8/95 ALDS 5 SEA NYY Edgar Martinez 2B Jack McDowell b11
10/14/92 NLCS 7 ATL PIT F. Cabrera 1B Stan Belinda b9
10/27/91 WS 7 MIN ATL Gene Larkin 1B Alejandro Pena b10
10/14/76 ALCS 5 NYY KCR Chris Chambliss HR Mark Littell b9
10/13/60 WS 7 PIT NYY Bill Mazeroski HR Ralph Terry b9
10/10/24 WS 7 WSH NYG Earl McNeely 2B Jack Bentley b12
10/16/12 WS 8 BOS NYG Larry Gardner SF C. Mathewson b10

Source: Baseball-reference.com

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Jason Giambi used three titanic blasts into the right field stands at Citizen’s Bank Ballpark to turn back the clock for at least one game. In addition to the three homers, which doubled his season’s hit total, Giambi also knocked in seven runs, becoming one of a select few to accomplish each feat over the age of 40.

Giambi watches second of three HRs leave the ballpark (Photo: AP)

By joining the list of 40-somethings who have homered three times in one game, Giambi entered rarified territory shared only by Hall of Famers Reggie Jackson, Stan Musial and Babe Ruth. At one time, Giambi also seemed destined for Cooperstown, but the combination of a late career breakdown and the stain of performance enhancing drugs has all but ensured that he won’t be joining those others in the Plaque Gallery.

Like the Bambino, the “Giambino” had never before belted three homers in a game. Also like the Babe, Giambi’s accomplishment came amid what seems to be the waning days of his career. When Reggie belted his third trio of long balls, he was still a regular with one year left in the tank, but he too was on steady path toward retirement. Musial, however, was still going strong when he went deep three times against the Mets on July 8, 1962.

Three HR Games at 40

Player Age Date Tm Opp PA R H HR RBI
Stan Musial 41.229 7/8/1962 STL NYM 5 3 3 3 4
Jason Giambi 40.131 5/19/2011 COL PHI 5 3 3 3 7
Reggie Jackson 40.123 9/18/1986 CAL KCR 6 4 3 3 7
Babe Ruth 40.108 5/25/1935 BSN PIT 4 3 4 3 6

Source: Baseball-reerence.com

Seven RBI Games at 40

Player Age Date Tm Opp PA R H HR RBI
Stan Musial 40.214 6/23/1961 STL SFG 5 2 2 2 7
Jason Giambi 40.131 5/19/2011 COL PHI 5 3 3 3 7
Reggie Jackson 40.123 9/18/1986 CAL KCR 6 4 3 3 7

Source: Baseball-reerence.com

When Musial victimized the hapless Mets, he was not only months from turning 42, but also in the midst of yet another MVP-caliber season. Entering the game, Stan the Man was hitting .325/.395/.476, leaving some to wonder if he’d ever slow down. “I don’t want to give that boy any ideas,” Mets’ manager Casey Stengel observed, “but the way he’s hitting he can hang around in this business two or three more years easily”.

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Spring training hasn’t been very kind to the St. Louis Cardinals. First, Albert Pujols decided to table contract extension negotiations until after the season, and now it has been confirmed that Adam Wainwright will have Tommy John surgery and miss the entire season.

Pujols and Wainwright are both vital parts of the Cardinal team. In fact, the Cardinals are more dependent upon their best position player and pitcher than just about any other team. Combined, the Cardinals received 34.5% of their total WAR production from Pujols and Wainwright, the fourth highest percentage in the major leagues. So, the thought of losing one next season and being without the other this year has likely diminished much of the optimism usually associated with spring.

Top WAR Contributions from Teams’ Best Pitcher and Position Player, 2010

Source: fangraphs.com

As illustrated by the graphs above and below (click to enlarge), which display each team’s 2010 WAR leaders relative to its position players’ or pitchers’ total, much of the Cardinals’ production emanated from Pujols and Wainwright. Among position players, Pujols contributed 32.4% of the team’s WAR (considering the Cardinals’ $100 million payroll, maybe $30 million for Pujols makes sense after all?), which ranked sixth in the National League and eighth in the Majors. Meanwhile, Wainwright contributed 37.4% of the team’s pitching WAR, a level higher than every N.L team but the Brewers.

2010 WAR Leaders Relative to Team (Position Players)

Source: fangraphs.com

2010 WAR Leaders Relative to Team (Pitchers)

Source: fangraphs.com

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After agreeing to table contract extension talks with Albert Pujols until after the 2011 season, St. Louis Cardinals’ owner Bill DeWitt Jr. lamented, “We’re not the Yankees”.

Like Musial, will Pujols end his career as a life-long Cardinal?

Although that statement is literally true (unless the Steinbrenners secretly sold the team over the winter), the Cardinals have historically been thought of as the “Yankees of the National League”. Other than the Bronx Bombers, no team has been able to match the Cardinals’ success, which includes 10 World Series championships and 21 National League pennants. Based on that resume, the red birds have built both a rabid local and regional following that has helped make the team one of the most popular in all of baseball.

Considering his team’s success and popularity, is DeWitt right to sell his storied franchise short by crying relative poverty? According to Forbes’ most recent MLB franchise calculations, the Cardinals rank eighth in both overall value ($488 million) and revenue ($195 million), but check in toward the bottom in terms of operating profit ($12.5 million). Based on those figures, it certainly does seem as if St. Louis is not in a position to make Pujols the highest paid player in the sport by giving him a 10-year deal worth approximately $300 million. However, they should be.

2009 MLB Franchise Valuations

Source: Forbes.com

A closer look at the Forbes’ study reveals that the Cardinals have had relatively stagnant revenue over the last few years, with the only significant bump occurring after the team opened up its new ballpark in 2006. Most recently, the team enjoyed no revenue growth between 2007 and 2009 (the entire sport grew 7.5% during this period), according to Forbes. Instead of leading the sport’s expansion, as you would expect a brand like the Cardinals to do, the organization’s revenue growth has fallen more toward the middle of the pack.

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