Posts Tagged ‘St. Louis Cardinals’

h2h Corner ~ Check You out on the Flip Side: David Freese

So, I pulled this card out awhile ago and almost wrote about it a dozen times. Now, Joe Buck’s monstrous head and Tim McCarver’s repeated idiocy have rendered it pointless.

Yes, the decision was fated to benefit the Cardinals. As did Roy Halladay’s friendship with Chris Carpenter…or something like that.

Still, I can quibble with the whole “Rookie of the Year” candidate thing right? I mean he was as much a candidate as Ron Paul is for president in 2012.

Last I checked, the top NL rookies of the year were Buster Posey, Jason Heyward and Jaime Garcia.

Heck, among NL rookies, Freese’s 0.5 WAR was behind those above and Starlin Castro, Neil Walker, Ike Davis, Jose Tabata and Jonny Venters and tied with Gaby Sanchez.

Freese had a fine 2010, but appeared in just 70 games. His .296/.361/.765 foretold of future success if he could stay healthy. Good for him that a whole heaping lot of that success happened in the grandest stage of them all.

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h2h Corner ~ Check You out on the Flip Side: Jeff Suppan

So Jeff Suppan was the Todd Van Poppel of the mid-90s? That was my initial reaction to the blurb on the back of the card.

However, that’s not really true.

As the card points out, Suppan had all the promise and pedigree of a highly touted young pitcher (he had more stuff than fluff which was the case with Van Poppel). And you can’t really fault those press clippings, as Suppan tore through the minors. In 1996, at AAA and just 21-years-old, Suppan had a 5.68 K:BB rate.

For whatever reason, though, his stuff at that time just couldn’t fool major league hitters. While he posted nearly a K per inning in the minors, he struggled to strike out more than five batters per nine with the Red Sox. After three unsuccessful seasons and 39 appearances (29 starts) with a 5.99 ERA, 1.60 WHIP and 1.83 K:BB rate, the Red Sox left him unprotected in the 1997 expansion draft* and the Diamondbacks pounced (that’s probably a poor onomatopoeia).

He pitched horribly for Arizona and they soon sold him to Kansas City. While his tenure with the Royals was unspectacular, he pitched over 200 innings during each of his four full years there (from 1999-2002), combining for a 4.79 ERA, 1.42 WHIP and 1.60 K:BB rate. Dude just ate innings, pitching the seventh most during that span – just behind Livan Hernandez, Mike Mussina, Greg Maddux, Curt Schilling, Tom Glavine and Randy Johnson.

After 2002, he signed as a free agent with the Pirates, who quickly traded him and Brandon Lyon to the Red Sox for Mike Gonzalez, Freddy Sanchez and dollar dollar bills. Talk about a deal involving some average players who ended up making serious bank. It was a one-year deal, so Suppan found himself a free agent again in 2003.

That’s when he met the god that is Dave Duncan. From 2004-2006, he threw 572 innings for the Cardinals, posting a 3.95 ERA, 1.40 WHIP and 1.67 K:BB rate. Sure it was mostly smoke and mirrors, but that’s some quality durability.

He also came through when it matted. He went 3-3 in the post-season for the Cardinals during that stretch and dominated the New York Mets in 2006. He threw 15 innings and allowed one earned run. He was the MVP of the NLCS that year and even took Steve Trachsel (a very similar pitcher) deep in game three.

After his splendid 2006 regular and post season, Suppan was treated to a four-year $42 million contract by the Brewers (good gosh, my golly, what a folly). He pitched wretchedly for the Brewers, prompting one fan to put Suppan up for sale on eBay.

He was eventually released, but scooped up by the Cardinals. He posted a 3.84 ERA, 1.49 WHIP and 1.32 K:BB rate for the Cardinals in 70.1 IPs during 2010. That would be his last season in the majors.

While I was able to mention Suppan in the same breath as Maddux in this piece, he never lived up to those press clippings. However, the $58 million he earned in his playing time, the NLCS MVP, 2006 World Champion and 12.8 WAR suggest he was a far better player than Van Poppel ever was (TVP was worth -2.1 WAR during his career).

*Man, there were four total All-stars in that draft (although possibly a Hall of Famer in Bobby Abreu). One All-star, Damian Miller, I vaguely remember as a subpar catcher. While I was annoyed Esteban Yan was gone from the Orioles, it didn’t hurt as much as Aaron Ledesma being scooped up in the final round. I was 15 when he played for the Orioles – I had no clue he was 26 at the time as I had never heard of him. That year was magical for the Orioles (at least for awhile) and I remember an 11-3 loss to the Tigers pretty well. Jimmy Key continued his second half swoon and Esteban Yan compounded the damage, but a scrappy infielder went 2-4, raising his average to .345. Ledesma hit .352 that year for the Orioles but didn’t make a postseason appearance. The following year he hit .324 for Tampa Bay, then would be out of baseball two years later. The only two HRs he ever hit were for the Orioles and he finished with a .296/.338/.365 line. His dWAR seems average, so I’m surprised his bat never stuck. Maybe he just wasn’t that good…like Luis Mercedes.

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h2h Corner ~ Check You Out on the Flip Side: Hoyt Wilhelm (via Candy Maldonado)

Before the summer of 1991, when I was just 9, I thought I knew everything about baseball – and, if not everything about baseball, everything about the Baltimore Orioles. I grew up going to games with my family. I also tagged along with my father and some of his college friends, one of which played “fantasy baseball.” This particular friend was astounded at my ability to recall statistics, trades, etc.

What changed that summer? I rode in a car driven by my father to Cooperstown, New York. We had an old Volkswagen Rabbit (I think) without A/C. I had purchased Pocket Full of Kryptonite (holy crap what a video) before the trip and we listened to it on repeat the entire way – my father must have hated the Spin Doctors.

Anyway, the whole city is amazing, baseball card stores, memorabilia abounds – and that doesn’t include the awesome history-rich spectacle that is the Hall of Fame. On this trip, I opened a 1989 Upper Deck pack and received a Ken Griffey, Jr. card. Magic.

Getting to actually go into the Hall was a special thrill. I got my picture taken in-between the plaques of Brooks Robinson and Frank Robinson. Then we wandered around and I saw Hoyt Wilhelm. I had no freaking clue who Hoyt Wilhelm was. I had never studied my Candy Maldonado cards apparently (probably because I hated Maldonado even though I sort of liked the Blue Jays teams from the early 90s…Maldonado always seemed to make errors and lollygag. But, I’ve already written about Maldonado so there’s no reason to dwell).

Wilhelm, who pitched as a 48-year-old, had a career that spanned 21 seasons and 2,254 innings and he racked up a bunch of records on the way.

Wilhelm appeared in the fifth most games in history by a pitcher: 1,070, which trails only Dennis Eckersley, Mike Stanton, John Franco and Jesse Orosco – modern day relievers. He also owns the 30th best ERA (2.52) by a pitcher with at least 1,500 IPs. He owns the most career victories in relief: 124 – a record not likely to ever be broken. He also pitched the most innings in relief in MLB history: 1,871.

And that knuckleball was devastating, resulting in the eighth lowest opposing batting average – people hit just .216 off him – a mark better than Randy Johnson. Hell his knuckleball was so good, the Baltimore Orioles created a bigger mitt so catchers could handle it.

And, really, it wouldn’t be until he joined the Orioles that his career would take off. He spent eight seasons with the New York Giants, St. Louis, and Cleveland, until the Indians gave up on him and Baltimore claimed him off waivers. He pitched for parts of five years for the Orioles, amassing 14.7 wins above replacement player, a 2.42 ERA and 2.28 K:BB walk rate. Eventually he would be part of a trade that brought the Orioles Luis Apiricio.

Still, Wilhelm is probably most remembered for September 20, 1958 when he threw a no-hitter against the hated Yankees and Mr. Perfect, Don Larsen. The Yankees wouldn’t be no-hit for another 45 years.

Then, the following year, on August 6, 1959, Wilhelm almost pitched a no-hitter in relief. Entering the game at the start of the ninth inning, Wilhelm held the White Sox hitless for 8⅔ innings before finally surrendering a hit in the 17th.

Wilhelm also fought in Europe during World War II and was wounded in the Battle of the Bulge. He received the Purple Heart.

I’ve found my way to a number of Hoyt Wilhelm cards over the years (all pictured here). I realize he’s a borderline Hall of Famer, at best, but his career remains terribly fascinating to this day. I stumbled upon his life much the same way I stumbled onto this topic – just cruising through baseball history looking to soak up knowledge. Who knew something good could come from Candy Maldonado?

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Baseball Daily Digest Radio with Joel Henard and Albert Lang 10/24

Baseball Daily Digest Radio with Joel Henard and Albert Lang 10/24 by JoelHenard | Blog Talk Radio.

Baseball Daily Digest Radio with Joel Henard and Albert Lang will air at 7:00 PM ET

Baseball Daily Digest Radio with Joel Henard and Albert Lang

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/thefantasyinsiders/2011/10/24/baseball-daily-digest-radio-with-joel-henard-and-albert-lang

We’ll talk the World Series, replay and umpires, the DH-rule, the Arizona Fall League, take a quick look ahead to 2012 and free agency, Ken Griffey Jr.’s historic award and Brooks Robinson’s statue, Theo to the Cubs, White Sox and Robin Ventura, the Red Sox locker room, and much much more.

Baseball Daily Digest Radio with Joel Henard and Albert Lang from 9/26/11

Baseball Daily Digest Radio with Joel Henard and Albert Lang from 9/27/2011. The show included a great discussion of the wild card, MVP and CY Young races. We also dished on Ozzie Guillen and talked about total fantasy failures.

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/thefantasyinsiders/2011/09/26/baseball-daily-digest-radio-with-joel-henard-and-albert-lang

h2h Corner ~ Check You Out On the Flip Side: Ray Lankford

lnakbackI came across the 2002 Topps card first and had forgotten that Lankford switched teams late in his career. I remember Lankford as a Cardinal with a ton of promise who never quite reached his true potential. However, after looking at the card and realizing he had the third most HRs in Cardinals history, I wanted to write about how good Lankford was, even though he was perceived as never reaching his true potential.

lankfbTPThen I was home looking through old cards and stumbled upon the Donruss Triple Play card and found out Lankford was the first Cardinal since the great Rogers Hornsby to reach 15 triples. Kind of an odd stat, but still (somewhat) impressive.

Adding the two cards together, I really thought my memory of a lackadaisical Lankford was wrong. Perhaps, I had the next underrated guy on my hands. Umm…no. While Lankford was a useful and good player, he was never really underrated.

In fact, in MLB history, Lankford struck out every 3.71 ABs – the 15th worst rate among players who played 1,000 games or more. Not surprisingly, he struck out 1,550 times in his career – tied for the 27th most with Willie McCovey. Among lefties, Lankford struck out the 6th most times – trailing only Lou Brock, Fred McGriff, Jim Thome, Willie Stargell and Reggie Jackson.

Still, even with all that swinging and missing, he finished with a .272/.364/.477 line and a .840 OPS (just behind Cap Anson and ahead of Cliff Floyd on the all time list). It is actually better than hall of famers Eddie Murray, Enos Slaughter, Roberto Clemente, Yogi Berra, Ernie Banks, etc. Of course his career WAR (38.4) is nowhere near those guys.

lankfront

That said, Lankford did have some amazing years, and a real good stretch from 1995-1998. During that time, he averaged 27 HRs, a .285/.382/.530 slash line and 26/34 SB rate. Not bad at all.

Was he Musial or Hornsby, clearly not. Heck he wasn’t even Ken Boyer (.287/.349/.462 as a third baseman/centerfielder from 1955-1969).

However he was a good Cardinal. According to Wikipedia, Lankford finished his career among the Cardinals Top 10 in home runs (third), stolen bases (fifth), runs scored (eighth), runs batted in (eighth), and bases on balls (fourth).

Oh and he is the only Cardinal to post more than one 20/20 season.

The perception of Lankford reminds me a lot of one of my favorite players, Adam Dunn, in that walks weren’t perceived to have the value they do and strike-outs were supposedly worse than pop outs.

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Lankford simply played in an era during which strike-outs were viewed as a cardinal sin and preventing outs (i.e., taking a free pass) wasn’t recognized as a very important thing. Odd but true, let’s give Lankford his due.

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