I made a comment, in yesterday’s post, about how thin the Cardinal margin of error could be in 2010, especially if any of their Big Five miss significant playing time. What I forgot to add to that discussion was the fact Carpenter and Wainwright are due to regress, at least a little bit, because they had career seasons in 2009.
Of course, should Albert Pujols continue to hit like he did in Game 1, it really won’t matter much.
Albert connected on his second swing of the season for a solo HR off Aaron Harang, and the Cardinals blew the game open late, winning 11-6 before a packed house at the Great American Ballpark. It’s always good to start the season with a winner. Yesterday’s win also marked the first time the Cardinals have won their opener since 2006. Albert has had a 2-HR game on Opening Day before, also in that 2006 game. Considering how the 2006 season ended, that’s a pair of good omens to start the season if there ever were any, don’t you think?
I assume Dan over at Cardinal 70 will return his Heroes and Goats for the 2010 campaign, so I’ll leave the handing out of game balls to him. Even with the brillance of Pujols (and big hits from Rasmus and Molina) the bullpen’s performance yesterday validatee the concern most of us have with that corps. Motte gave up a run in his one inning of work, but (a) it was less than the 4 he gave up in the first game last season, and (b) he didn’t give up a HR today. McClellan was also touched for a run, but it was unearned. More concerning was the fact St Louis turned over a 6-2 lead to the bullpen after 6, and after two innings of bullpen work this was still anyone’s game (6-4). Yadier Molina’s Grand Slam (the first Cardinal to do so on Opening Day, if I read the stories correctly, since Scott Rolen did it in 2003) put the game out of reach, yet the pen still then Ryan Franklin* gave up 2 more runs in the bottom of the ninth.
*I really need to read the whole box score before finalizing a post.
The initial shakiness of the bullpen could cause some to fret. And that’s before Ryan Franklin pitches in a meaningful game, which seems to always cause hand-wringing and Maalox-chugging these days.
But, all’s well that ends well.
After the jump, let’s look at Wainwright’s and Carpenter’s 2009 season in a context of their careers to date.
This analysis will suffer from small sample size, and I need to state that up front. Adam Wainwright has only 4 full major league seasons under his belt, three as a starter. Chris Carpenter has been around longer, and so even though he’s played 13 major league seasons, he has been beset by the injury bug throughout his career. So I limited his data to those seasons in which he threw 100+ innings. Turns out, he’s either thrown less than 85 innings or more than 150 innings every year he’s been in the majors.
And a note on the graphs. These are crude in that I’m not currently sophisticated enough, in a time series plot, to show the data plus standard deviations in a pretty way. This is brute force graphing. But, the data presented does serve my purpose.
Carpenter’s average ERA+ is 126, with a standard deviation of 31. One would think the 81 he put up in 175.1 innings with Toronto back in 2000 was driving the ERA+ spread, but with that data point taken out the standard deviation is 27 (and removing that season only raises the average to 131). The point here is every season meeting our criteria falls within 1 standard deviation of his career average, except the 2000 season (which is between 1 and 2 standard deviations) and last year (which almost makes it into the third standard deviation).
Chris’s 2009 season was so awesome it was actually atypical of his career numbers. Based on that, Chris is due to regress from last year’s numbers. He’ll still be very good, but not as dominant as he was in 2009.
Adam’s average over 4 seasons is 138, with a standard deviation of 16. You can see his progression as a starter, with last year being a take off type season. Adam’s year entered the second standard deviation from his career average. Based solely on that he would be due for a minor regression this year, however, it is also possible his career as a starter is just taking off, and he could put up numbers more in line with 2009 going forward.
So based purely on the analysis of his ERA+ to date, some regression to the mean can be expected, but I don’t foresee Wainwright being as at risk of such a regression as I think Carpenter is.
Carpenter and Wainwright are key to this season’s success. Carp and Waino had career years in 2009 and the Cardinals won 91 games. If they are off their game a little bit, this team should still win the division; but they certainly won’t walk away with it, and could be overtaken by someone else (Milwaukee, perhaps). Just food for thought. Your comments, as always, are welcome.
Adam pitches tomorrow after today’s off day.