Unfortunately for myself and for my readers I haven’t had the opportunity to keep up my writing here at GSC as often as I’d like. Working for a pool company keeps me very busy through early baseball season and 80 hour work weeks making writing nearly impossible. Work is slowing now, and UCB Weekend is right around the corner, so here I am, back in action.
It is no secret the Cardinals offensive production has been down this year, leading to an unfortunate amount of underachievement by this talented bunch. I wrote before the season even started that scoring runs could be an issue for this team because of their lack of pop and the randomness of the RISP stat.
In that article I referenced the Cardinals record setting BA w/ RISP last year, and how that was sure to decline, it has, hard. The Cardinals hit the fourth fewest home runs in the major leagues last year, which has fallen to the second fewest this year. A team that doesn’t hit home runs relies heavily on being able to produce runs. Given the Cardinals lack of speed, hitting with RISP become essential to run production.
The Cardinals main run producers last year were Matt Carpenter, Allen Craig, Matt Holliday, and Yadier Molina, all of whom have seen significant drops in production, particularly with RISP. The following table depicts drops in production with and without RISP from 2013 to 2014 for the four aforementioned players.
The numbers speak for themselves. When one of these four core players are at the plate, the Cardinal are getting a hit nearly 4% less often, and almost 10% less often with a RISP. Those four have totaled 259 AB’s with RISP this year. For simplicity we will operate under the false pretense that one run scores per hit with RISP. That means if the four core hitters for the Cardinals returned to their 2014 numbers with RISP, the Cardinals would have approximately 24 more runs on the season.
According to most run/win expectancy theories 10 runs = 1 win, so essentially the Cardinals are missing out on 2-3 wins due to a drop in RISP production. Projected over a full season the Cards would be missing out on approximately five wins dropping their win projection from 93 to 88. In the past five full seasons, every NL team that has finished with 93+ wins has made the playoffs, while four teams have missed the playoffs with 88+ wins. If not for the expanded wildcard, that number would be increased to six.
Surprisingly, these four are actually coming to the plate with RISP MORE often this year than last. Over the entire 2013 season Carpenter, Holliday, Craig, and Molina combined for only 495 AB’s with RISP, this year they are on pace for 599. Part of this can be attributed to the lack of production. Look at it this way, if Matt Holliday bats with a RISP and commits an out, Allen Craig will then also bat with a RISP and so on and so forth. In any case, it’s obvious that the Cardinals are still hitting, just not as timely as they need to be for a team with such little power.
Most would agree the Cardinals are still playoff bound this year regardless of their RISP production. They currently stand as the first wildcard team with a one game lead over the Dodgers and a two game lead over the Nationals. Besides, this roster is likely to undergo some sort of transformation before the trade deadline, and the dynamics within what already exists are surely to undergo ebbs and flows. The Cardinals offense is not where it should be though, and it’s due to an over reliance on a stat that is almost completely random.
When I previously discussed this topic, I stated how I did believe that approach has something to do with how you hit with RISP, and I think the Cardinals excel in this department. Even despite the drops in production, the four discussed are still average to above hitters in this situation. However, numbers will always find their way back to the norm and the Cardinals offense is finding the harsh reality of that fact this year.
It’s not crazy, it’s sports.
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