Predicting the 2007 Cardinals

Using BaseballHQ's projections to project year-to-year performances of the St. Louis Cardinals players in 2007 does not provide comfort.

For this article, I should give full credit or at least a huge assist to sabermetric guru Ron Shandler and his team from BaseballHQ, as without their research, this piece would not exist.

 

One of the most important events of the hot stove season each year is the day in December when my new copy of the Baseball Forecaster arrives. In its 21st year, Shandler's guide is the bible to the upcoming season for thousands of fans, whether fantasy players or not.

 

Front office baseball personnel also are regular users of the Forecaster. It wasn't a coincidence that Shandler and his team were hired by Jeff Luhnow and the Cardinals back in 2004.  

 

This year's 252-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. He does quite nicely in that area without my help.

 

Our intent here 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 2007 Cardinals. My premise here is very basic. That is, to look at the delta between key player stats from year to year.

 

First, we need 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 Cardinals roster, which would be required for a thorough analysis of the team. In addition, these projections were completed prior to the completion of this off-season's free agent signings and trades.

 

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/

 

2007 Projections vs. 2006 Actuals - St. Louis Cardinals

 

Hitter

At Bats

Home Runs

RBI

Batting Average

On-Base %

OPS %

Duncan*

-55

-4

-13

-0.006

-0.002

-0.015

Eckstein

23

2

9

-0.020

-0.013

-0.019

Edmonds

39

4

8

0.008

0.017

0.057

Encarnacion

-56

-2

-8

-0.004

0.005

-0.003

Kennedy (ANA)

-2

-1

-6

0.003

-0.009

-0.020

Miles 

-195

0

-12

0.010

-0.007

0.000

Molina

23

3

3

0.034

0.037

0.077

Pujols

60

1

0

0.008

0.002

-0.031

Rodriguez

-57

2

-1

-0.039

-0.036

-0.025

Rolen 

10

1

1

-0.008

0.001

-0.016

Spiezio

-54

-5

-19

-0.011

-0.027

-0.091

Taguchi

-57

1

-5

0.004

-0.008

0.009

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Subtotal

-321

2

-43

-

-

-

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pitcher

Innings

Wins

Saves

ERA

WHIP

Strike-outs

Carpenter

-3

3

0

0.14

0.07

-6

Flores

3

1

0

-1.13

-0.23

-1

Hancock

-9

0

-1

0.54

0.17

-8

Isringhausen

-30

-3

-23

0.62

0.04

-29

Johnson

8

0

0

-0.65

-0.10

8

Looper

0

-3

0

-0.09

0.04

0

Reyes*

16

1

0

-0.10

-0.01

25

Springer (HOU)

-1

1

0

0.69

0.23

-2

Thompson

-54

0

0

0.61

0.01

-34

Wainwright

-2

1

27

0.36

0.11

-4

Wells (vs. '05)#

-37

-1

0

-0.50

-0.07

-33

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Subtotal

-109

0

3

-

-

-

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mulder (vs. '05)#

-45

-4

0

0.87

0.07

-22

Suppan

-1

1

0

-0.11

-0.04

2

Weaver

31

5

0

-1.24

-0.13

29

 

* Major league equivalent Triple-A stats are included.

# Due to injury-shortened 2006 seasons, 2005 was used for comparison instead.

 

What conclusions can one draw from this? 

 

Offense 

 

At-bats. The total is skewed by the use of Chris Duncan's minor league equivalents. At the major league level, he is forecasted to increase his at-bats from 280 to 406.

 

But, all the key bench players, from Miles to Rodriguez to Spiezio to Taguchi are forecast to see fewer at-bats in 2007. Miles is especially affected, down almost 200 at-bats year-to-year. (I think that is a good thing.) The addition of a fourth outfielder to replace Preston Wilson might beef the totals up.

 

Home runs and RBI. Duncan's major league totals are expected to rise slightly, but when David Eckstein is the player with the next highest year-to-year increase expected in the power categories, you know you're in trouble.

 

Jim Edmonds is expected to have a partial bounceback season, but would not approach his career bests. Albert Pujols and Scott Rolen look to basically replicate their 2006. For Rolen, again that is significantly short of his best, but is still pretty good.

 

Batting average. Most players are forecasted to drop in this category, led by a 20 point decline by Eckstein. On the plus side, Yadier Molina is expected to have a .250 season, which would be a tremendous improvement. But, the outlook is that no one else will increase their average by even as much as ten points.

 

On-base percentage. Not a tremendous amount of variation here, with Molina and Edmonds improving with Eckstein, Rodriguez and Spiezio going the wrong way.

 

On-base plus slugging. The only players forecasted to improve here are Molina, Edmonds and So Taguchi (slightly). The rest doesn't look pretty.

 

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 would seem to line up pretty well once another starter is added in. At the bottom, I included the numbers for the three free-agent starting pitchers, Mark Mulder, Jeff Suppan and Jeff Weaver, for comparison purposes.

 

Wins. Other than a few more wins added to the 2006 hard-luck Chris Carpenter in 2007 and a few less vulture wins for Braden Looper, there is not much to see here. 

 

Saves. Shandler worries that forecasting even ten saves for Jason Isringhausen is a gift given the closer's degenerative hip condition, but he likes Adam Wainwright as the ninth-inning guy. Will we see him in that role?

 

ERA. Josh Hancock, Russ Springer, Brad Thompson and Izzy are among the group forecast to post ERAs at least half-a-run higher year to year. The only real improvements on the staff are Randy Flores, Tyler Johnson and Kip Wells (compared to 2005), all coming off sub-par seasons.

 

Skipping down to the free agents, Shandler doesn't believe that Mark Mulder is ok just yet. Even compared to his uneven 2005, the projections are that the lefty's ERA will be almost one run higher in 2007. Jeff Suppan is boringly expected to be Jeff Suppan again, while Jeff Weaver is forecasted to shave a run and a quarter off his poor 2006. Hooray!

 

WHIP. Nothing earth-shaking here. Flores is expected to improve at the rate by which Springer declines. Flores, Johnson and Wells are particularly high still, around 1.50. Too many baserunners!

 

Strikeouts. Almost everyone is down year-to-year except Anthony Reyes in his first full season as a major leaguer.

 

In closing

 

It's not as if we didn't know that the Cardinals have made few strong additions in this off-season to-date. It seems the projections are what one might expect from a veteran team getting one year older.

 

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, could signal little improvement is ahead for the St. Louis Cardinals individually and in aggregate in 2007 compared to their 83-win regular season of 2006.

 

Granted, I said almost the same thing last season, too.

 

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.

 

© 2006 www.thestlcardinals.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed.


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