BaseballHQ: Predicting the 2006 Cardinals

Looking at projected year-to-year performances of the Cardinals players does not provide comfort.

For this article, I should give full credit or at least a major assist to sabermetric guru Ron Shandler and his team from BaseballHQ, since their research is the core of this piece.

 

For me, one of the most important dates during the hot stove season each year is the day in December when my new copy of the Baseball Forecaster arrives. In its 20th year, Shandler's guide is the bible to the upcoming season for thousands of fans, whether fantasy players or not. This year's 257-page work includes a wealth of historical as well as predictive information for major leaguers and minor leaguers, as well as sections on gaming (fantasy) and sabermetric tools.

 

But, the purpose of this story isn't to sell books for Shandler. Instead, it is to cobble together a small subset of his work to assemble what could be called an overly-simplistic glimpse of what we might expect from the 2006 Cardinals. My premise here is very basic. That is, to look at the delta between key player stats from year to year.

 

First, some disclaimers. This data was generated to analyze individual players, not a team. Nowhere in the Forecaster does BaseballHQ aggregate stats for team views as I attempt here. I also did not include the entire roster, which would be required for a thorough analysis of the Cardinals team. In addition, these projections were completed prior to this off-season's free agent signings and trades.

 

Still, all disclaimers aside, for individual players, these projections are well-founded, based on years of experience in analysis of individual skill sets, rates of growth and decline, resistance and recovery from injury, opportunity and other factors. 

 

You still have to buy the Forecaster to get the full story, as these stats only scratch the surface of the in-depth analysis provided.  It is $24.95 well spent plus you get a free update in March.  http://www.baseballhq.com/

 

2006 Projections vs. 2005 Actuals - St. Louis Cardinals

 

Hitter

At Bats

Home Runs

RBI

Batting Average

On-Base %

OPS %

Eckstein

-15

-2

-10

-0.011

-0.026

-0.054

Pujols

-1

3

2

0.002

-0.009

0.019

Edmonds

-10

-1

2

0.008

0.004

0.013

Taguchi

-178

-4

-26

-0.017

-0.012

-0.039

Molina

-28

-3

-6

0.006

0.018

0.001

Rolen*

-66

-18

-46

-0.054

-0.055

-0.206

Rodriguez

62

4

9

-0.039

-0.063

-0.058

Luna

40

1

2

-0.031

-0.038

-0.087

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spivey (Mil/Was '05)

-20

0

4

0.027

0.017

0.056

Encarnacion (Fla '05)

-3

0

-4

-0.017

-0.028

-0.043

Bigbie (Col/Bal '05)

-21

0

2

0.016

0.018

0.047

Miles (Col '05)

214

4

18

-0.013

-0.009

-0.013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Subtotal

-26

-16

-53

-

-

-

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pitcher

Innings

Wins

Saves

ERA

WHIP

Strikeouts

Carpenter

-23

-5

0

0.6

0.13

-18

Isringhausen

6

1

-1

0.76

-0.01

8

Mulder

-16

-3

0

0.37

0.02

-4

Marquis

-12

-1

0

0.02

0.09

13

Suppan

-5.1

-2

0

0.58

0.04

-5

Thompson

-11

0

-1

0.77

0.13

-2

An. Reyes

50.2

3

0

0.99

0.54

40

Flores

2.1

0

-1

0.47

0.16

-3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looper (Mets 2005)

13.2

0

-3

-0.46

-0.09

21

Ponson (Bal 2005)

-14

-2

0

-1.17

-0.2

-6

Rincon (Oak 2005)

6.2

0

0

0.21

0.1

6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Subtotal

-0.2

-9

-6

+

+

50

 

* 2004 was selected as a comparison, based on Rolen's injury-shortened 2005 campaign.

 

What conclusions can one draw from this? 

 

Offense 

 

At-bats. While the totals balance out nicely, it is primarily due to Aaron Miles being assumed to have a full-time job in Colorado, which was likely when the Forecaster went to press. Needless to say, the arrival of Junior Spivey may likely change his prospects for playing time situation substantially.

 

Other items which caught my eye was Yadier Molina still seeing fewer than 400 at-bats in his second full-time season, So Taguchi's playing time cut almost in half and Scott Rolen not even closely returning to his 2004 level of play. At this point, Hector Luna and Larry Bigbie were not assumed to be starters.

 

Prize acquisition Juan Encarnacion, had he remained in Florida, was expected to decline in most all major categories, while Spivey has nowhere to go but up after missing large parts of the prior two seasons.

 

Home runs and RBI. The main difference is the view that while Scott Rolen is projected to beat his 2005 performance, coming anywhere near repeating his 2004 season is not forecast. This has to be depressing to most Cardinals fans.

 

Batting average. In addition to Rolen, six others – Rodriguez and Luna and to a lesser extent, Taguchi, Eckstein, Encarnacion and Miles - are all expected to drop ten points or more in batting average compared to last season. Those few who are projected to increase their batting average may only do so in meager amounts, making this category a major drain year-to-year.

 

On-base percentage. Even a worse picture than batting average, with only four of twelve players forecast to improve (and one of them was Bigbie in Colorado).

 

On-base plus slugging. Almost as bad as OBP and BA, except Pujols is slated for a slight increase here.

 

In aggregate, these players, representing the core of the 2006 Cardinals offense, are forecast to decline in every major area.

 

Pitching

 

Innings. Like at-bats, the totals seem to line up pretty well.

 

Wins. Over half the aggregate decline is from Carpenter, slated to win just 18 in 2006. Ponson is down two wins from a very modest total, but that was forecast when he was still looking for work.

 

Saves. The actual decline will be worse, but is almost all due to Looper's change in role from closer to set-up man.

 

ERA. Every single pitcher on the team, from Carpenter on down, is forecast to have a higher earned run average year to year, some as much as a run per nine. Only Looper and Ponson, each coming off horrendous seasons, were estimated to be able to show improvement. Ouch!

 

The only positive thing I can think of is that most all the players' ERAs were also forecasted to be down prior to last season. But, the actual results were much different. As you know, the 2005 Cardinals staff, starters and relievers, ended up being one of best in the League.

 

WHIP. Generally, almost every Cardinals hurler is expected to have more walks plus hits per inning-pitched in 2006 than when compared to 2005, but the increases are less dramatic than ERA.

 

Strikeouts. These are up from year to year with the majority coming from Anthony Reyes' first significant action as a major leaguer.

 

Conclusion

 

It's not as if we didn't know that the Cardinals have made few strong additions this off-season. One key factor, however, is BaseballHQ's relatively-pessimistic projection for Scott Rolen. Another is their view that Bigbie would not have received starters' at-bats even if he had remained at altitude. They are also down on pretty much the entire pitching staff.

 

Let's hope the BaseballHQ team is wrong, some unheralded players step up to fill the gaps or there is more help on the way via trade. Otherwise, these projections for this subset of the current roster, taken at face value, would signal a significant year-to-year decline is ahead for the St. Louis Cardinals individually and in aggregate in 2006.

 

For sharing their data, thank you again to Ron Shandler and BaseballHQ.com. I think.

 

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brwalton@earthlink.net.

 

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