Trivia

Quick, name the player who:

* is batting .433 in close-and-late situations this year,

* is batting .294 with runners in scoring position and two outs,

* hit .310/.358/.506 with RISP in 2006,

* hit .333/.400/.542 with RISP and two outs in 2006,

* is a lifetime .325/.353/.500 hitter with the bases loaded,

* has a lifetime line of .286/.369/.461 line with RISP and two outs,

* rates among the baserunning leaders this year in advancing on flyballs hit by other players (source: Baseball Prospectus), indicating at least some level of hustle on the basepaths, and

* rated four runs above average as a defensive right fielder in 2006 (again, thx to BP).

Hint: this player is widely perceived to be not clutch, not a good defender and not a hustling player.

Note: none of this means that said player is necessarily a great ballplayer. It does not mean that Player X should be starting every day. Just a little thought exercise about re-thinking perceptions.

-M, listening to "Music from Big Pink" by The Band.

39 Comments

So Taguchi? Encarnacion problem is that he is smooth. And he doesnt get his uniform dirty. Fans in St. Louis like showboating a la Edmonds. Juan never ‘looks’ like he is hustling. Then when he doesnt slide and gets thrown out, or he turns a single into a triple on a mis-played ball… Well, they go for blood.

I agree completely. Encarnacion is a good player. He has played well this season. I’m OK with the Cards dealing him, but they need to get something decent in return. I love Ankiel and am rooting for him harder than anything, but I’m not ready to dedicate the everyday spot to him. I’m afraid La Russa may have already burned that bridge though. I bet Encarnacion’s gone.

I hear you…not saying he’s not a good player. Just seems like the team has more life and drive to win with someone else in Player X’s place. Maybe a lot of that is not his fault and due more to youth in the lineup and wide-eyed happy-to-be-here love of the game which gives infectious hope and energy to the team, but whatever it is, it just is…Sometimes the right direction is indicated by a gut feeling and not individual stats…but point well taken. Thanks for the reminder that he’s a good player with strong ability. (Plus…did he HAVE to say “he hurt my feelings”? Seriously?)

THERE’S NO CRYING IN BASEBALL!!! – Jimmy Dougan…j/k

In all seriousness, though…I like Juan’s ability. There have been several times this season where I’ve jumped up and down yelling “Way to go, Juan!” But in the end, it just seems to me like we have too many good options to hold onto him, especially if we are trying to be future-focused. Although, I will say I sometimes find it more difficult justifying Edmonds place in the batting order while simultaneously yelling for Juan to be scratched from it.

I don’t know…maybe I’m just too much a victim of perception.

I wouldn’t mind keeping Juan around for the rest of this season and split some of the time with Anks. That way we can get a better feel for how he hits ML pitching.

OK,

What Cards outfielder (with at least 100 bats this year) ranks behind Duncan, Ludwick, and Schumaker on the team in SLG and OPS?

What Cards outfield has never hit .300 in a full season, has never hit 20 home runs, and has never had 100 rbi.

What Cards outfielder has many lapses, not necessarily because of lack of hustle.

What Cards outfielder is at best a 6th place hitter on a team with many sixth through eight hitters?

I would not be unhappy if both Juan and Dunc were gone from the lineup next year. Of course that means developing/acquiring true impact players.

Maybe Ankiel, maybe Ludwick, a new player. Yes Juan E is OK and really give decent production (assuming you can handle the lapses) for the money he earns.

Shame on you Matt for bringing statistics and facts into the equation… They only confuse the masses.

Just wanted to say I like your choice in music for this post. Go Cards.

Thought you weren’t a Juan fan?

I think everyone knew that signing Juan was a sideshow to the Pujols, Edmonds and Rolen trio, especially signing him after the three finish 3,4,5 in the 2004 MVP votes. He’s done his job, but injuries and other circumstances have diminished Edmonds and Rolen. Thus, Juan’s role has become, unfairly or not, magnified.
With Encarnacion’s situation, do you think the club will try to move him? What do you think the Cards outfield will look like in 2008?

Sorry about the mistake. Just realized the Cards signed Encarnacion after 2005, which wasn’t such a good year for Rolen or Edmonds. That weakens my point. Sorry.

Well, the club was actually interested in Juan in ’04,but it just didn’t work out…can’t remember why. Remember, Juan was signed because we needed a regular outfielder. We were just platooning too much. I think Juan was intended to be an upgrade from Reggie Sanders…20 or more home runs but an average between .285 and .315 with possibly better baserunning and defensive skills. Honestly, he hasn’t really fallen short of that…much.

I’ve been hard on the idea of keeping Juan on this blog, but I have to say I actually do like Juan…on another ball club. I just don’t think he has the right mentality to fit what the Cardinals organization or fans want. When we signed Belliard last year, we did so partially because he is, as La Russa said, a winner. It’s that intangible quality that Juan doesn’t “seem” to have…despite the stats. Juan seems like such an introvert that his on-field play starts and ends with him. He’s a plug and play player.

Baseball is too often misunderstood as a game of stats only…by some players, experts, and writers. Baseball is more a game of heart and unidentifiable team qualities than a lot of people realize. Think of what a lot of people said about A-Rod last year…tons of numbers but in meaningless games. While I don’t think that’s true, that’s part of what I’m talking about. It’s not just about what you do stat-wise, or even with runners in scoring position with 2 outs…with baseball, it’s also about how you make your team better. I just can’t shake the feeling that Juan doesn’t have that inherent quality. Good, skilled player…but look at how he reacted this week…he said maybe someone else can use his “services.” Sometimes the sound bytes are a clue to what’s inside a player…and you never hear Juan talking about “we” very often. He may be a GREAT guy, but even great guys aren’t necessarily great team guys. I just don’t think he’s the right fit on our team. Being a good fit is more/different than being a good player or doing a good job.

To answer a few things in broad strokes…

I’m not a fan of Encarnacion’s, particularly, as a player. He’s not productive enough to be a guy I want as my everyday right fielder.

But Kevin, what’s important, and what I’m trying to point out, is that perception is just as easily flawed as stats are misused. If Juan really isn’t “clutch,” then shouldn’t it show up SOMEWHERE in those numbers? If he’s such a choking dog, there should be evidence of it. And there’s not.

If people don’t like him, OK, whatever — fans want to see guys get their uniforms dirty. But this guy has acquired elements of his reputation that are, IMO, patently unfair — mostly that he’s a choker and that he’s a bad defender.

I’d rather they have a legitimate impact bat in RF, which he’s clearly not. But the reason I’d prefer somebody else, maybe even Ankiel, has nothing to do with how he LOOKS and everything to do with production.

Our brains and our eyes trick us sometimes, and it’s always a good idea to double-check whether perceptions are accurate.

-M.

Completely understand…and you’re right. I was actually surprised at the numbers you found. I will say, I never did think Juan was a ‘choker.’ He seems to produce well enough (for a player of his caliber) in so-called clutch spots – at least, he seems to when he’s not in a funk (like a good portion of last year). And, it’s not (for me, anyway) about him getting dirty. I’ve seen Juan slide and dive almost as much as anyone else. For me, I just think it’s this: Juan doesn’t appear to have the drive that some of the other players seem to have. Maybe that is all perception, maybe it’s all language/culture barrier related…but for whatever reason, the appearance is such that Juan “looks” like a player who has mental lapses all too often and the only explanation is a slightly more apathetic approach to the game than others.

That’s what gets me…the difference in approach. He’s a smart player, an aggressive player, and a talented player…he may even be a nice guy…he just seems to play the game as if he doesn’t care enough. Truthfully, he seems more interested in looking “cool” on the field than winning the game. Of course, I used to think the same thing about Edmonds when we got him…but then I saw moments like when he hit the home run in the NLCS in 2004 and clenched both fists and yelled with emotion…it was that Rod Tidwell/Jerry McGuire moment that showed me there was more to him than I gave him credit for…That’s what I want to see from Juan…not for performance value, and not so he will “get dirty,” or whatever…I want to know he gives a **** because then I will trust him to go the extra mile when the game’s on the line.

Sorry about my long posts…that’s what I get for posting from home while watching games on TV…too much time on my hands. Okay…I’m all done now…really…seriously…

I completely agree with kevinreyn. My big problem with JE is that at some point in a game I’ll find myself cheering him and thanking the baseball gods that we have him but then in the same game I’ll find myself furious and cursing those same baseball gods because he doesn’t slide when trying to score and the on-deck hitter is indicating a slide or he seems to lose concentration and muffs an easy fly ball. At times he doesn’t seem to care much one way or the other about how he plays the game and I have to believe that has a negative affect on the team even if in subtle and difficult to measure ways. He definitely contributes with the bat but I would rather have an Ankiel or a Duncan who have real potential and play the game
HARD, than someone who doesn’t seem to care and who doesn’t seem to play with much intensity.

In my opinion, Juan Encarnacion was most likely injured the second half of last season which is why his numbers went down. Also, in my opinion, since his wrist had surgery, this season he’s become afraid to do slides, because most slides are head first, and when you slide head first you put your hands out when going into the base, it’s very likely he’s afraid of reinjuring his wrist. I am afraid at baseballs in the air now, because I took a baseball off the face when not paying attention, so I try to watch out for those kind of things.

Okay, will somebody just tell me the answer?

K.B.

Hahaha…nice, K.B.

Know what’s funny? When Matt first put this post out there, I was totally taking it as a serious trivia set of questions. I was all like, “Okay, gonna’ go with Chris Duncan here, Aaron Miles there, and I’ll guess…hey…wait a minute…”

It was actually the question about advancing on fly balls that finally made me realize…that’s one thing I’ve noticed about Juan…you can usually count on him to advance on fly balls.

Yeah, I can’t say I’m really a fan of Juan’s, either. But he is certainly getting a bad rap. I don’t get a lot of pleasure from watching his style of play, but his numbers are indisputable. He’s pretty darn good.

And given the market, he’s a TREMENDOUS bargain.

It’s hard to not to continue to be down on Juan since so much of his last year was a drag. But, none of us knew he was playing hurt and just assumed he was bad and flailing away at that outside slider over and over and over.

He’s obvious trade bait, but he’s welcome to stay, as far as I’m concerned.

Now, let’s give Jimmy Pop-up a parade and a gold watch and send him on his way. It’s time. And it lookss like we have options at center field.

It seems my friend that youth is starting to become the answer: Brendan Ryan, Rick Ankiel, Chris Duncan, Skip Schumaker, and Chris Perez should all be playing next year at some point in time. Then we should get a young every day secondbaseman and make Kennedy back up or trade him.

I agree on the youth movement…like Ryan, Ankiel, Duncan, etc. But don’t dismiss veterans like Edmonds. In addition to the fact that he’s been a great Cardinal and deserves to retire as such (hopefully next year), his defense still (like Rolen) has the ability to win or save a game as much as offensive output. Plus, his big-game playoff ability means I would rather have him at the plate in game 7 of the WS with 2 outs, 2 strikes, winning run on third in the 9th than any of our young center field options right now. However, next year I think Jimmy’s value is going to be in spot starts, experience and leadership, and helping educate our young outfield. Should be a good farewell year for Jim. Hopefully, unless his production and injuries pull a u-turn, he’s smart enough and humble enough to realize when it’s time to quit.

Jimmy’s BEEN a great Cardinal. But it’s been a good good, long time since he’s been even a very PLAYER. The current contract is a bust. I wish him well and love his flashes of defense, but his staying hurts the team.

His contract is obviously part of the reason we’re in a budget crunch.

Now, I’ll admit, at the time of its signing I was okay with it, but certainly not happy. We were short on options and thought we could muddle through and the free agent market’s a mess.

But, Jimmy’s been around for a year too long and hopefully some defensive wisdom has been gleaned. But I don’t want to pay for $11m more wisdom.

Now we have a chance to take a step or two forward, make a payroll move and cease to embarrass the club and Jimmy with poor play. It’s time for the buyout.

We’ll suffer some in the outfield, but maybe we could afford to get some pitching to pick up the team and decrease the necessity for stellar fielding.

Juan stays. Ankiel at center. Dunc at left. Edmonds at far left (California).

I’ve liked Juan Encarnacion, regardless of what anyone says. He’s improved a little this year despite playing over a few minor injuries. I just think Cardinal fans were spoiled with a high powered lineup for a few years. It can never stay that way. Encarnacion was supposed to only be a temporary solution in Right field anyway. And to compliment a potent lineup that has completely lost it’s punch this year. He’s a complimentary player who’s not supposed to be “Mr. Clutch” who bats at the bottom of the order and that’s all. People say he doesn’t hustle or doesn’t “look” like a Cardinal. I think he did his job the best he **** well could, and introverted he might well be…he’s not a fan favorite. But he shouldn’t have to be either. Cut him some slack. He’s not a major reason the Cardinals have been losing this year. However I’m a fan of the youth movement as well, and despite my respect for Juan…Ankiel is a badass ninja and can have any outfield position he wants right now. With his mental toughness and work ethic, there’s no doubt in my mind he’ll improve a lot next year in the Majors. Juan was a nice temporary solution that battled quite a bit of injuries, he did his job, time to let him go for the development of our new frickin stud outfielders. haha.

I understand what you’re saying, and it’s not that I disagree with you. I don’t. The team would be a better offensive team with a different center fielder. But I have to say that I’m okay with the team not having the best performing center fielder for a season or two after the World Series victory if it means rewarding a long-time veteran. I don’t believe in keeping a player, riding him like a horse, then cutting him lose as soon as his numbers aren’t what they used to be. I’m okay with keeping a veteran around a year or two more as a recognition of his service…even if it means the team isn’t quite as good as they could be – and especially if it means that player, who has meant so much to the Cardinals organization and fans for so long, has a chance to retire a Cardinal. I’m a fan of the Cardinals not just because of their record, but because I love the organization – the club. I was okay with the 2 year deal because I wanted to keep our core World Series unit together for a year or two after the series, and I wanted to see a bit of loyalty from the organization shown to Jim. Now…I am not a fan of keeping Edmonds past next season (unless his performance does a 180). I don’t even have a problem with him starting the minority of the games at center. If we try to keep him around to allow him to retire here and he doesn’t know when to quit, not our fault.

Free agents at center field for next year, take your pick.

Andruw Jones (31)

Torii Hunter (32)

Eric Byrnes (32)

Corey Patterson (28)

Milton Bradley (30)

Aaron Rowand (30)

Mike Cameron (35)

Kenny Lofton (41)

My choice is Andruw Jones

Pitching pitching pitching. We have strengths in the outfield and glaring weaknesses in starting pitching.

Why spend more money for positions which are ostensibly filled?

If we had $50m more in the budget to get premier position players, then great. But we don’t. Hence the “youth movement.”

Free agent pitchers, take your choice.

Starting pitchers

Carlos Zambrano (27)

Curt Schilling (41)

Jason Jennings (29)

Koji Uehara (33)

Freddy Garcia (32)

Kenny Rogers (43)

Jon Lieber (38)

Bartolo Colon (35)

Joe Kennedy (29)

Tomo Ohka (32)

John Thomson (34)

Kip Wells (31)

Wade Miller (31)

Livan Hernandez (33)*

Randy Wolf (31) – $9MM club option for ’08

Paul Byrd (37) – $8MM club option for ’08

Jeff Weaver (31)

Tom Glavine (42) – $9MM player option for ’08

Kris Benson (33) – $7.5MM club option for ’08

Jaret Wright (32)

David Wells (45)

Eric Milton (32)

Kyle Lohse (29)

Matt Clement (33)

Rodrigo Lopez (32)

Josh Fogg (31)

Byung-Hyun Kim (29)

Odalis Perez (31) – $9MM club option for ’08

Brett Tomko (35) – $4.5MM mutual option for ’08

Closers

Mariano Rivera (38)

Jason Isringhausen (35) – $8MM club option for ’08

Bob Wickman (39)

Francisco Cordero (33)

Armando Benitez (35)

Eric Gagne (32)

Todd Jones (40)

Middle relievers

Scott Linebrink (31)

Jorge Julio (29)

Kerry Wood (31)

Folks, please try to stay on-topic. Thanks.
-M.

I have A.D.D. that’s hard for me to do. Well, nevermind, I don’t have A.D.D. it’s just….oooh squirell.

Matthew, I think that examining the coming free-agent market is in fact “on topic.” You have correctly pointed out that some readers are harder on Encarnacion than his performance warrants, and that’s fine, people should see the guy for what he is rather than what he looks like in a bad moment (which all players, even Pujols, have). Even with all of that, he is still a rather so-so corner outfielder who is paid a lot of money, and the team is approaching a point of having a glut of corner outfielders who are at least so-so and possibly better. That, by itself, sets him up as trade bait, regardless of whether fans are dumping on him unjustly. And if he’s a candidate to be traded, surely thinking about the implications of trading him — or not — is on topic.

With that as background, an interesting question is: just exactly what should we expect Encarnacion to fetch in a trade? According to BP, a league-average NL RF has a .271/.340/.435 line; Juan’s for this year is .290/.330/.440, which is durn close to that average, and a beneficiary of a platooning situation at that. This doesn’t exactly mark him as somebody — even packaged with a young prospect (Brandon Buckman?) — who’s going to get much of a return in a trade, particularly a trade for pitching or a center fielder like we need. Looking into the hot-stove-league possibilities for free agents as an alternative to an unproductive trade today seems sensible to me.

I think Encarnacion fetches a B prospect, if that, at this point. Due to the health issues, for one, the issues with the mgr for two, and a history of less production than he’s even giving this year, for three. I don’t think it’s quite a Tino Martinez situation, but I do think any Encarnacion move at this point would be more about moving him than about actually getting something in return.

And, yes, the broader points are more or less on-topic, but it was definitely threatening to go elsewhere. And I figured better to remind gently, early, than to get all grouchy after it was too late. :-)

-M.

hehe…nice…they should make a bobble head doll of grouchy Matthew.

I will say this about Encarnacion…With his record against Capuano, I wanted him in there tonight and was mildly upset about him being out and Edmonds being in (completely forgetting Edmonds’ hitting success lately)…good thing TLR is managing this team instead of me…

Ultimately, I think the fact that most people that want Juan to stay around don’t care if he stays or goes is telling…he just hasn’t been, as you said Matt, an impact bat. That, in itself, makes him expendable. That means if we are looking to upgrade anything on our team, Juan has to be considered possible capital in any deals.

Well, as I type this, Ankiel gets beat for a triple…but nice throw…

Will someone answer on which of those pitchers the Cardinals are most likely to get?

I was never really excited about the Encarnacion deal to begin with, but there is no denying we got what we expected out of Juan. He is for his career, and for the two years he’s been with us, a .275 hitter with 15-19 HRs and 70-80 RBIs. I think what people don’t like is the series of defensive miscues that “look” like he just wasn’t trying. In terms of being a clutch player, he’s had his fair share of hits in those situations. What he hasn’t done is a hit a home run in a big situation that would make him more likeable. He’s hit only 3 HRs in the last three innings of the game with the Cardinals. Two of those games STL had the lead and the other one was a tie game. Even though he has the numbers, he needs a diving catch to end a close game or a walk off home run to adjust his perceived “clutchness.”

He needs a new agent to advise him NOT to say things like “he hurt my feelings” in the press…that’s what he needs.

Juan won’t be gone. He’s actually hurt, otherwise he would have probably played today. Remember when Juan started his Cardinal career? Tony envisioned him as the #2 batter, but it never worked. I believe Juan hasn’t fit in with Tony’s plans for the lineup ever since. I think Juan should platoon with the whole outfield and just do as he is told. Ankiel and Duncan don’t need to play against all the leftys and Taguchi is a true bench player. I think Skip Schumacher should be up….here’s an idea, could Juan play 2nd base?

Kevin–if they make a grouchy Matthew bobblehead, I’d totally buy one.

–Mrs. Dude.

I’d buy a 1000.

K.B.

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