11/15/2004: It pains me to disagree with Ray Mileur....
(at least I assume that this commentary is from Ray, and not from Brian Walton) who is maintaining a "Cardinals Free Agent Watch" in the right-hand sidebar of The Cardinals Birdhouse. Apropos of new free agent infielder Tony Womack, Ray writes:
Tony Womack - a fan favorite that it seems like everyone thinks played over his head... his reward for giving us his all - let's get rid of him - I'm amazed on how we treat some players.Well, if you go follow the link (on Tony's name) to Womack's stat card at Baseball Reference, you'll see that there's a pretty damn good reason that everyone thinks that Tony played over his head last season.... namely because he did. Compare his 2004 offensive stats (.307/.349/.385, OPS+: 93 [OPS+ is a normalized stat; basically an OPS+ of 100 indicates a player who's average for his league that season], RCAA [Runs Created Above Average--another measure of offensive worth]: 3) to his stats for 1997, his best full season (arbitrarily defined as 400+ AB for my purposes) prior to 2004 (.278/.326/.374, OPS+: 82, RCAA: -6). [Incidentally, for those of you who followed the link to the Baseball Reference stat card and can't find the RCAA numbers there, that's because they're not there; I've pulled the RCAA numbers for Tony from my copy of Lee Sinins's wonderful Sabermetric Baseball Encyclopedia, an absolutely must have toy for every aspiring baseball stathead.]
Due a raise this next season it still may be cheaper to keep him than to go get a Jeff Kent or Placido Polanco here, for at least 3x the money.
The bottom line, while Womack did contribute to the Cardinals' success this year by exceeding our expectations for him, the bottom line is that he exceeded our expectations in large part because our expectations were pretty damn low. Even so, offensively Womack has been, in his best seasons, a player who's in that half of the class which makes the top half possible (granting, in 2004 he was just barely below the 50th percentile by OPS+, and was actually (barely) in the top half of the class by RCAA). And given that he's had a career year this year, my expectation is that he's liable to demonstrate regression to the mean, and give us a season that's more like 1997 (or, heaven forfend, worse) than 2004.
I'm torn. I understand what Ray's driving at. But I'm not convinced that Womack's performance isn't a fluke, and he seems to have quite the potential for generating loud sucking sounds in the leadoff slot next season (indeed, my subjective impression was that I was hearing some of those sucking sounds during the postseason this year, though with all the sucking noises that the entire lineup was generating during the World Series, it was difficult to make out which were Womack's and which were the rest of the lineups). Ray does have a good point; it's probably going to be cheaper to keep Tony than plug the hole in our lineup with someone better..... But as the saying goes, you get what you pay for, and to cite the great baseball analyst Han Solo, "I've got a bad feeling about this...."
If we can get a more consistent, proven player to lead off and play second, I'd be happier.
Time will tell...
Len on 11.15.04 @ 08:56 AM CST