currently are a team performing as a collection of replacement-level players. As defined by sabermetrics, a replacement-level player is the worst-level of performance that a player can sustain while maintaining his job in Major League Baseball. We’ll use Equivalent Average, or EqA to define what’s replacement-level or not.
A 0.260 EqA is standard major league-average performance. Replacement-level performance is about 0.230 EqA. Historically, according to Baseball Prospectus, players who can’t maintain an EqA of at least 0.230 will not keep their major league jobs.
To expound upon this definition, we’ll use a series of ranges to define performance, as far as EqA goes:
Minor Leaguer: 0.170 to 0.230
MLB Fringe (Replacement-level): 0.230 to 0.260
MLB Regular: 0.260 to 0.300
MLB All-Star: 0.300 to 0.330
Hall of Famer: 0.330 +
A look at the Cardinals regular lineup, plus a couple of key bench players reveals the following, with statistics as of Friday, April 20th:
Player EqA VORP
——- —– ——-
Eckstein 0.233 -1.4
Duncan 0.337 +7.0
Pujols 0.255 +1.2
Rolen 0.200 -3.5
Edmonds 0.176 -3.8
Wilson 0.156 -2.2
Molina 0.269 0.0
Kennedy 0.182 -3.5
Spiezio 0.230 -1.3
Miles 0.239 -0.6
I’ve included Value Over Replacement Player, or VORP, to provide a comparison to EqA. VORP measures the value of a position player to a replacement-level hitter at the position he plays.
As the crude chart (my apologies for lack of TypePad expertise) shows, Chris Duncan is playing at Hall of Fame level, or more appropriately, he’s doing the kinds of things with the bat that Albert Pujols should be doing. Yadi Molina is hitting (finally) at MLB regular level. Pujols is showing solid MLB fringe-level performance…which is a darn good thing for a man making 12M+ a season. Aaron Miles, bench-level infielder is playing at his abilities…which is fringe-level MLB performance. Eckstein and Spiezio are on the low-end of the fringe, hitting well below their recent performance, excepting Spiezio’s injury-riddled Seattle tenure.
The heart of the lineup is where the giant gaping chasm exists:
Rolen: 0.200 EqA -3.5 VORP
Edmonds: 0.176 -3.8
Wilson: 0.156 -2.2
Granted, to depend on P-Dub for much would be like expecting a free lunch. Probably not going to happen. However, Rolen and Edmonds are currently ******* the life out of the lineup. They’re both hitting well below replacement-level. In other words, the Cardinals could bring up their Memphis (AAA) center fielder (Rick Ankiel!) and third-baseman (Travis Hanson) and expect to improve quite a bit.
Isn’t that scary? Of course, looking at their performance at Memphis, maybe not:
Ankiel: 0.780 OPS (only 12 hits in 57 AB, but 8 are of the extra-base variety)
Hanson: 0.442 OPS (that’s anemic)
So clearly, the big club doesn’t have any dramatic solution other than to hope that Rolen, Edmonds, Wilson, Kennedy, and Pujols begin some steady, if not dramatic improvement, in their production at the plate.
The 2007 season depends upon it.
Another way of looking at how poor the offense is right now, relative to the pitching, is the pythagorean record, or expected win percentage based upon the runs scored by the team and the runs against.
With 50 runs scored through 17 games, and 65 runs against, the Cardinals’ expected winning percentage is 0.372, or 37.2%. Through 17 games, that’s 6.32, or rounding off, 6 wins. So, Tony La Russa would be justified in saying to his team, “How’d we ever win 7?”
Of course, he won’t. They’ll just keep playing a hard nine and see what turns up. This year, at this moment, that’s just not good enough.