Right of Center

Gonna squeeze one in here….

What a difference a homestand makes.

Last Wednesday the Cardinals had lost 4 of 5, about to limp out of Miami, and barely hanging on to a Wild Card slot.  Today they head to Philadelphia, winners of  7 of their last 8, and with some space in the WC race. They lead SF by 2 and ATL by 4 for the right to host the Coin Flip Game.

The biggest thing on my mind this week was the recent erratic performance by Trevor Rosenthal. Tara, however, covered his status so intelligently I can only detract from that by trying to pile on. Instead I’d like to write about our outfield for a minute.

Trading Allen Craig to Boston cleared the logjam of OF on this roster but there are still major decisions to be made by the Cardinals front office before the 2015 season.  On the current roster there are five outfielders – Matt Holliday, Peter Bourjos, Oscar Taveras, Jon Jay, and Shane Robinson.  I think we all agree Holliday is the everyday LF through the 2016 season.  Shane Robinson fills the ‘interchangeable AAAA player needed to fill out the bench’ role; you could just as easily pencil Steven Piscotty or Randal Grichuk into that slot.  There are really 3 players vying for two every day spots in Bourjos, Jay, and Taveras.  I’m going to cede RF to Taveras and focus on the other two.

Contract-wise, it’s interesting.  The club controls all three.  Bourjos and Jay will enter their second year of arbitration in the off-season; Taveras is obviously a ways away from his first arbirtation negotiation.  FWIW Robinson enters the arbitraiton window this fall. I don’t think money will be the lever driving a decision on any of these guys. Bourjos won’t get a large pay spike based on his play this season; Jay may get a modest bump if he continues to hit like he has since the All-Star break; Taveras will likely play for the league minimum next year.  So money isn’t an issue.

Other things to consider:

  1. Defense – Jay has saved the Cardinals 2 runs with CF defense (#16 on Dewan’s list) this season.  Bourjos has saved 6 (#12). 
  2. Offense – Jay is currently slashing .313/.385/.407, good for a 127 wRC+ and 2.4 WAR.  Bourjos has posted .230/.296/.364 (86 wRC+ and 1.5 WAR).  If we expand that over their respective careers, Jay is the more accomplished hitter.
  3. Speed – Maybe only I find this interesting, but Jay has a better stolen base percentage (85%, 6/7) than Bourjos (80%, 8/10) in 2014.  They’re both at least 80%, so I suppose this is like arguing which is better, the petite or standard cut prime rib (I’ll go with the lasagna).

Bourjos is 27, Jay is 29.  At this point, they are who they are as players.  There may be a career year lurking in there but probably not sustained improvement at the plate.

Bourjos is a plus defender with a slightly below-average bat; Jay is a good defender with a slightly above-average bat.  Seems to me the best way to slay this particular beast is to keep Jay as the every day CF, continue allowing Taveras to grow in right, and use Bourjos as the late innings defensive replacement (when needed), or base stealing threat, or spot starter. If Taveras struggles the team then has options.

My intent with this post was to try and determine, between Peter and Jon, which one wouldn’t be here in 2015.  After review I think there’s room for both on next year’s roster.

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The UCB is doing a team post today – the Cardinal Blogger Lineup.  This is a really good idea from Dan, and has brought out multiple thoughtful, well-written posts from the membership on the subject.  I was not planning to be a part of it but, things opened up a little bit today, meaning I had more time than expected, so:

Why post that. Well, it’s a homage to a great Bugs Bunny carrtoon, brilliantly analyzed in this post from USS Mariner.  If you’ve never read that article, you should.  Reading the other UCB lineup posts today brought into stark relief how far I’ve moved from my roots, and how much things change with time.  Of all the writers listed, Dan and Nick are really the only two I still know.  The vast majority of the people listed I don’t know.  I have work to do.

Also with one obvious exception that’s the most often-used lineup from one of my favorite Cardinal teams.  Kudos if you know which team it is.

Pardon the Airplane! reference embedded above.

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