July 22, 2014

Dead #Cardinals bats = Taveras vs Craig, #CardinalNation idiocy

What brings this post to a starting point is a classic example of fake media outrage, sports world division.

At Hardball Talk, NBC Sports' baseball blog, Drew Silva jumped all over the issue of Cardinals manager Mike Matheny starting Allen Craig, a righty, rather than left-handed minor league phenom Oscar Taveras vs. Tampa righty Jake Odorizzi.

Silva especially jumps on the exact language Matheny uses about the decision.
Matheny talking Taveras/Craig pregame: “We’ve got to do what we can to win today, we’re not here in the development business.”

To me, this is a stereotypical example of a media-manufactured controversy. Sure, Matheny's language might not be perfect, but I get what he meant, and -- coming from someone who's done plenty of Matheny criticizing -- I agree with where he's coming from.

Matheny maybe could have used better language, but I generally agree with him. This isn't the Diamondbacks under Kirk Gibson, miles out of the playoff scene. This is the Cardinals. Even with the reality, to some degree, of "Matheny's guys," which I, along with Bernie Miklasz, agree is real, I'm still leaning Matheny's way here.

That said, in context, Matheny DID use better language:
“We all just got to that point in realizing that….everybody knows we need to do what we need to win the game. We’re not here for development. There are times we like to give guys exposure but the overriding factor is that we need to dow what we can to win. Along with that, you don’t want a guy to just sit here when he can be getting much neeed experience at another level.”

Matheny equated the situation to the one the Cardinals faced last summer with Matt Adams.
“We can send him back down to Triple A, but he’s already hit well in Triple A. Can we use him possibly as a bench guy? Get him a few starts a week. Does that make more sense? The answer is yes, and that’s where we are right now. That being said, too, continuing to give Oscar opportunities and hoping he takes off, and prove he can play, he’ll probably need more opportunities.

I’d love for all of them to be hot and have it be a tough call every night who should be in there.”
Courtesy of commenter White Falcon, the one other Cards fan on that post to not be a moron.

Call it "small sample size" or whatever you want, but so far, Taveras remains a minor-league phenom, and if not yet a major-league "bust," at least in St. Louis, a major-league struggler.

And, the lefty Taveras' splits against righties are no better than righty Craig's.

Some Cards fans might say, "but defense"!

Well, if you'll read my comments at Silva's piece, you'll see that "Gimpy," Allen Craig, is statistically a better right fielder this year than Taveras. Sure, part of that may be learning the details of Busch's right field, but ... this is a player that John Mozeliak, before calling some of us Cards fans "junior GMs" recently, was touting as a center fielder. (I've got a blog post on Mo's flip-flopping in the pipeline, too.)

But, I'll save you the trouble, on the defense:

By the slash of Total Zone Runs per year/Defensive Runs Saved per year/range factor per 9 innings, with RF only for both:
Taveras -13/-9/1.42
Craig -2/2/1.87

There you go. Now, let's see how many Cards fans can be very selective with their sabermetrics.They can be, indeed. "Small sample size" claims lead to "not enough time" claims ... and then, if Taveras did start more, and were still hitting a buck-ninety a month from now, Matheny would get some other sort of blame.

Speaking of, commenter Falcon also notes that Taveras, between last year's injury shortened play and this year's call-up shortened play, doesn't even have a full season of AAA at bats. So, I could say "small sample size" for everybody touting his Memphis work.

I could add that, if we consider those two partial years together, in 412 at-bats (448 plate appearances), his OBP/SLG/OPS slash is .373/.485/.858. Nice. Or maybe, "nice," given how the Pacific Coast League is known as a high-offense league, for various reasons. And, having done that crunching, I may have another post about Taveras as "phenom," or at least, Taveras as "too soon," in the pipeline next week.

That said, arguably, against righty pitchers, the best current solution for both offense and defense is to put Peter Bourjos, having a mini-awakening, in center, and Jon Jay in right. OTOH, Cards fans who see Taveras as the second coming of Derek Jeter might be even more pissed at that arrangement. And, yes, I'm going to pull out plenty of sarcasm here.

Per John 8:59:
At that, party-line anti-Matheny Taveras-worshipers picked up stones as if to stone him, but the Gadfly hid himself from them.
And yes, I can be "Life of Brian" type satirical as well as sarcastic.

As for, beyond the "but defense," to "but Taveras" ideas?

One Pirates fan brought up Gregory Polanco, and how manager Clint Hurdle is sticking with him even though he's struggling.

First, Polanco started out better than Taveras, a fair amount better. Second, he's not (yet) struggling as severely for as long.

Second, Clint Hurdle!

Not Clint the manager, but Clint the player.

Per my comments above, look up "phenom" in a major league baseball dictionary, and you'll see Clint's mugshot. Didn't have a horrible career, but certainly never had a great one, nor a long one, and he never came close to living up to his pre-majors phenom tag. For those of you not old enough to remember, he, like Taveras, was billed as a five-tool guy. He wound up with 2.8 WAR and -2.5 WAA.

This all said, per the NBC post, this gives "Cardinals Nation" a certain level of mindlessness and groupthink. I'm not perfect, but, there's enough mindlessness there that I have no problems with every ounce of sarcasm I left there.

That all said, give me a few more years down the aging curve, and a better job in a less isolated, parochial part of the world, and my overall sports interest intensity will likely fade again. That said, even on the team that interests me the most in the pro sport that interests me the most, I just can't be that tribal.

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