Jeter, Brewers, and Cardinals…oh my! – Woy’s Words (Vol. 1)

Instead of writing one long post about any of the subjects below, I figure I’d address each with a few brief thoughts. Maybe by incorporating this format, I’ll be able to add more content to this thing. (Don’t get your hopes up.) So without further ado, here we go:

Did you guys hear Derek Jeter is retiring? (p/c: Getty Images)

The backlash against Derek Jeter is silly.

I’m the furthest thing from a Yankees fan (although I guess you can say rooting for the Cardinals is similar), but I’ve been surprised at the recent criticism of the long-time pinstriped shortstop. I do think he’s slightly overrated because of his city/team affiliation, but that doesn’t mean he’s not one of the best players of this era – especially when you factor in his play in the postseason, sample sizes be damned.

I feel one of the reasons why there has been a turn against Jeter in recent days is because of oversaturation of the retirement tour. This is the third-straight season that fans have gone through this, and while we respect the accomplishments of these players, a constant reminder of them can become irritating. Regardless of how bad he is now, Jeter’s a clear-cut Hall of Famer and we should be enjoying his victory lap rather than pointing out a flat tire in his last race.

The Milwaukee Brewers won’t continue their trend of postseason appearances every three years. (p/c: Associated Press)

So much for Milwaukee’s three-year rule.

After holding a 6.5-game NL Central lead at the start of July, it looked like the Brewers would follow the path of their 2008 and 2011 teams and reach the postseason. However, Milwaukee has gone 31-45 since then to fall out of the playoff race altogether. The collapse isn’t surprising to me, but the magnitude of it is – I figured the Brewers would at least compete for a Wild Card after getting off to a 20-8 start in the first month.

While Prince Fielder has been disappointing since leaving Milwaukee, the Brewers haven’t exactly replaced him. In this season and last, Brew Crew first basemen have provided similar offensive value (63 wRC+ in 2013, 88 wRC+ in 2014) to Rays catchers (73 wRC+; .218/.291/.308, .090 ISO in 1,823 PA) and were just barely above the average in 2012 (102 wRC+). All but nine teams have received at least average value from their first basemen this season.

Maybe get a real first baseman for 2015 instead of trotting out projects like Yuniesky Betancourt (.212/.240/.355, 55 wRC+ in 2013), eh Milwaukee?

The 2006 St. Louis Cardinals seem to be the exception, not the rule. (p/c: Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Does momentum matter going into the postseason?

I decided to look more into this following the Cardinals game last night, and was somewhat surprised of what I found.

For this bit of research, I examined the World Series participants from the past 15 seasons by compiling their records in the last month of the season:

  • The 30 teams that played in the World Series from 2000-2014 compiled a record of 481-314 in the last month of the season, which is good enough for a .605 winning percentage.
  • There wasn’t that much difference between the Fall Classic winner and loser, as the victor held a .608 winning percentage in the final month, while the runner-up won at a .602 clip in September/October.
  • There were only four teams in this timespan that made the World Series with a winning percentage of below .500. The 2000 Yankees (13-18) and 2006 Cardinals (12-17) won their respective World Series despite stumbling through the last month, while the 2006 Tigers (12-16) and 2008 Rays (13-14) fell in the Fall Classic.

As of September 25, all but three teams currently in the postseason (Royals, A’s, and Giants) have a winning percentage under .500 this month. The remaining seven teams have winning percentages over .600, with the Orioles’ .696 mark being the best.

The 2004 St. Louis Cardinals won 105 games. No other team has reached that mark in the last 10 seasons. (p/c: Athlon Sports)

How good were MV3 and the 2004 St. Louis Cardinals?

Tim Williams, the editor of Pirates Prospects, wrote an article recently about the Buccos’ three MVP candidates, dubbing them as MV3. While Cutch, Russell Martin, and Josh Harrison have certainly been an impressive group in 2014, the notation reminded me of the Cardinals’ triple-threat from 10 years ago.

I feel that team is overlooked in regards to the best teams of the millennium, mainly because of the egg they laid in the World Series. In a division that featured the NL Wild Card winner, another team that nearly won 90 games, and three teams that were better than the cellar-dwellers of the East and West, St. Louis went 105-57 and won the division by 13 games. That’s absurd. What’s even crazier is that the Cardinals started off the season at 27-23 (.540) before finishing the season on 78-34 (.696) run.

Leading the charge in 2004 was the terrific trio of Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen, and Jim Edmonds. Those three players combined for a fWAR of 25.0 and finished third, fourth, and fifth in the NL MVP voting.

  • Albert Pujols: 46 HR, .331/.415/.657, .442 wOBA, 171 wRC+, 8.1 fWAR
  • Scott Rolen: 34 HR, .314/.409/.598, .422 wOBA, 159 wRC+, 8.9 fWAR
  • Jim Edmonds: 42 HR, .301/.418/.643, .436 wOBA, 168 wRC+, 8.0 fWAR

The rotation was pretty mediocre besides Chris Carpenter (3.46 ERA, 4.00 K/BB, 3.3 bWAR) and Jason Marquis (3.71 ERA, 2.5 bWAR), but a strong bullpen (four guys with 60+ appearances and ERAs under 3.00, including Steve Kline’s 1.79 mark) offset that blip.

Since that season, only the 2005 Cardinals (100-62), 2008 Angels (100-62), 2009 Yankees (103-59), and 2011 Phillies (102-60) have won 100 or more games.

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