As I watch the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals and their “MV3-a” offense, I can’t help but remember the 2004 Cardinals that won 105 games and earned a spot in the 2004 World Series. That vaunted offense was nothing short of spectacular. Of course, the make-up of the team was somewhat different, but one consistent thought always links the teams across the span of 7 years…”Boy, it just feels like this team can break out and score a ton of runs at any point.”
In fact, I vividly remember watching games in ’04 when we were trailing and thinking, “Eh…we just haven’t had our big inning, yet.” Sure enough, sooner or later, Rolen, Edmonds, Pujols, and the rest of the STL lineup would kick it in passing gear and throw up a crooked number. I think it was the least stressful year I’ve ever had as a Cardinal fan. You just KNEW the team was going to pull out a victory.
I “almost” feel that way about this team in 2011. Almost.
With Berkman, Holliday, Rasmus, and Pujols, I typically feel like we have a chance to win any game at any time (trailing by 3 runs or less). I don’t recall feeling that optimistic in 2010 or 2009. For the most part, if we got down…we stayed down.
So…all things considered, I thought it would be interesting to throw together a 2004 lineup and a 2011 lineup and compare the two position-by-position up to May 10th (stats for May 10th, 2011 not included…May 10th, 2004 was an off day). EUREKA! …say it with me…A post is born!
Below is a quickly compiled spreadsheet lineup for both teams. I’ve included each players statistics through May10th of each season (although 2004 may be a bit suspect at times considering my utter lack of experience in historical stats research). In some cases, I’ve had to make choices regarding who to put in what position (Sanders in RF) and who to include at a position when injury or platoons factor in (Schumaker at 2B and Freese at 3B). Extra weight was given to players who started the season at the position and/or had the most at-bats at that position through May 10th. Those player selections will include an asterisk (*). Also, please keep in mind I was primarily interested in comparing position to position (not batting order). For example, Ryan Theriot’s numbers are compared directly to Edgar Renteria’s numbers because they both played SS. For each number in a comparison, the better/highest number is highlighted in yellow. Observations/notes follow the lineups.
(FYI – Larry Walker was acquired very late in the 2004 season and therefore did not make the lineup below.)
1. I think the first thing that literally jumps out at me is the crazy BA/OBP vs. SLG/OPS splits between the two lineups. Only two players on the 2004 team have a higher BA/OBP combination than their 2011 counterparts: Albert Pujols (who is competing against himself) and Tony Womack (competing against Skip Schumaker after Schu has missed almost a month). On the flip side, only two Cardinals from the 2011 team have a higher SLG/OPS combo than their 2004 opponents: Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman over Lankford and Sanders. It seems clear that the 2004 team out-slugged a get-em-on-and-bring-em-around 2011 philosophy.
2. Albert Pujols, despite his dismal start to the 2011 season – and being easily out-paced in nearly every category by his 2004 alter ego – has still managed to amass one more RBI (22) in 2011 than his 2004 total (21) thus far.
3. Speaking of Pujols and his wretched start (we should write a post that just lists all of the adjectives used to describe Pujols’ abysmal start), 2004 wasn’t much better. Through May 10th, Albert was hitting .276 versus .248 in 2011. But just two days earlier in the 2004 season, Pujols was hitting .269. And on May 11th? He was hitting .268. May 12th? How about .267? In 2004, his runs scored total was 4 more than his 2011 total, and that included 4 more walks (not including IBBs) and 2 more HRs in 2004. Sure, his slugging and OPS numbers are way down from his 2004 totals, but that’s to be expected. All in all, there is hope. Albert went on to finish 2004 with a BA of .331, an OBP of .415, a SLG % of .657, and an OPS of 1.072. Oh…and clubbed 46 HRs with 123 RBIs.
4. To further flesh out the “power vs. on-base” observation, Jim Edmonds appears to have Rasmus on numbers most influenced by power (SLG, OPS, and HRs), but Raz turns the table on him in nearly every other category (BA, OBP, and Walks). While Edmonds has always displayed a bit more power than Raz to this point in Colby’s career, and Colby’s speed is certainly superior to Jim’s, their relative spots in the order must also be considered. Colby has done most of his damage in the two spot (although it’s not unheard of to see him in the fifth or sixth spot), while Edmonds routinely held down the fifth spot (despite making a few cameo appearances ahead of Albert at number two). The result? Edmonds’ 23 RBIs to Colby’s 14…Colby’s 26 Runs Scored to Edmonds’ 19.
5. Notice the big, double-wide yellow bar in the middle of the 2011 lineup? Yeah…that’s Berkman and Holliday. Both are hands-down upgrades over Lankford and Sanders in every category. Why is this significant? Because it is one interesting point to remember when comparing MV3 (2004) and MV3-a (2011). Edmonds and Rolen (Pujols is out because…well…he’s in both lineups), while superior in many categories over their positional counterparts (especially Rolen) do not completely and utterly eclipse Freese and Rasmus. Berkman and Holliday, on the other hand…they embody “textbook upgrades” at both positions. Sanders and Lankford just don’t hold a candle to either player. Does that make MV3-a perhaps “better” than MV3…?
6. I’m glad you mentioned Holliday…(I know, weak transition) because one thing that stood out to me is his utter dominance over the 2004 version of Ray Lankford (it should be noted that Lankford was an amazing player in the 90’s for the Cardinals…and decent enough in 2004). In looking a bit further, I noticed one stat that isn’t represented above…batting numbers with Runners in Scoring Position (RISP). Because of my own limitations, I don’t know what Lankford hit through May 10th with RISP, but his 2004 numbers (with about 50 ABs?) looked like this: .180 BA/ .328 (12 walks) OBP/ .220 SLG/ .548 OPS. Matt Holliday, however, through May 10th looks like this (34 ABs): .471 BA/ .526 OBP/ .676 SLG/ 1.203 OPS. Talk about crazy high replacement value, eh?
7. Asterisk players in either lineup don’t fare very well. Of course, I’m talking about players in the lineup that shared time due to platooning, lineup/position switching, or injuries. We’ve mentioned how Sanders and Lankford are blown away at their positions, but Freese and Schumaker don’t fare much better. Freese’s BA and OBP save him a bit of dignity…but Tony Womack all but decimated Schumaker. Is it fair that Schu has about 3 weeks fewer ABs? His career numbers suggest the extra 3 weeks would have allowed Schumaker to raise his average and other numbers…but his 2010 suggests the opposite. In other words, do we REALLY know what we have in Skip Schumaker yet? Looks like June and July will be big months for Skip and the Cardinals when it comes to future second base plans.
8. Finally, I can’t help but be struck by the balance between the two lineups. In 2004, as perhaps expected, the Cardinals fielded a more power-hungry lineup than in 2011 (higher SLG and OPS numbers), but the 2011 version seems to be more adept at getting on base (remember all those double plays and runners left on base?). Even HR and RBI totals balance out with 2004 getting the edge 4 players to 3 with 1 tie in HRs while 2011 takes the 5 to 3 advantage in RBIs. Oh…and walks (BBs) are dead even 4 players to 4. It’s an interesting lineup construction observation. It will be even more interesting to compare the teams in October.
Alright…that’ll do it. After doing this post, I have to wonder…how much of what I’m seeing in 2004/2011 lineup differences are fingerprints of the respective GMs (Jocketty ’04 and Mozeliak ’11)? Hmmm…
Lemme’ know what you think of the post (comments section here, twitter, re-tweeting the link, etc.). I always enjoy feedback. In the meantime, enjoy the Carp vs. Zambrano matchup in Wrigley tonight. Should be a good one!