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I have an odd theory about why the Texas Rangers, despite their current 0-1 hole, at least seem like a better baseball team than the St. Louis Cardinals.

  • Point #1: I think it's pretty clear who, given complete health, the best player on each team is. Albert Pujols (duh) and Josh Hamilton -- in fact, in the past couple of years, both have staked various claims on best player in baseball status. (And Albert may well still be That Guy.)
  • Point #2: Pitching has been discussed earlier on this very site, and given the exceptions of of the Cardinals having the better #1 starter (Carpenter) and the Rangers having the better closer (Feliz, though holy crap, Motte can make a guy re-think that!), the staffs are pretty damn well evenly matched.
  • Point #3: So here's the interesting question: who ....

... is the second-best (position) player on each team?

For the Rangers, you can make an argument for Nelson Cruz or even Elvis Andrus, and in a bar fight, Mike Nappli. But it's probably, bottom-line, Iam Kinsler, and he'd be the best player in several MLB lineups.

Now, the Cardinals' second-best player is ... Lance Berkman? Matt Holliday? David Freese? Rafael Furcal? Yadier Molina? My rapid-fire reaction to each is: too old, too brittle, too young, (wait ... he's 28?) and in the last two cases uh, no.

This is not to downplay what is an excellent Cardinal lineup, anchored by the B'est of BSBs in baseball. But there's just nobody shining forth as filling the "And co-starring ..." role like there is in Texas. The difference, to me, seems to be that for the Rangers, you have to choose the guy from among several viable options, while for St. Louis, you're reaching from the outset.

What say, noble Bauxites? What Cardinal is Phat Albert's second-billed supporting actor?

Who's the #2 Redbird? | 18 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Mike Green - Thursday, October 20 2011 @ 04:58 PM EDT (#245932) #
If you ask WAR who were the most valuable position players on each team for 2010-11, it would tell you Hamilton/Pujols and Kinsler/Holliday.  Both #1s and #2s are in the same range of value, according to WAR.  I tend to agree with WAR in this case, as Holliday has been healthy enough prior to this year. 

bpoz - Thursday, October 20 2011 @ 07:55 PM EDT (#245933) #
Anyone can win in a short series. A star can get cold and a non star can get hot.

At least the players & luck will decide the outcome and not officials.
BlueJayWay - Thursday, October 20 2011 @ 09:13 PM EDT (#245934) #
Pat Borders won a world series MVP.  That says it all.
sam - Thursday, October 20 2011 @ 11:21 PM EDT (#245935) #
I quite liked Anthony Gose's most recent interview in the AFL. It seems like he's a bit more humble these days and a good assessor of his own skills. The clip also has him hitting a triple down the RF line. He basically glides half the play to 3B. Impressive. He also looks like he's a bit more quiet in his set up as well at the plate.
electric carrot - Friday, October 21 2011 @ 12:32 AM EDT (#245936) #
Here we go again -- another idiotic argument that baseball is basically fair despite huge salary differentials.  This time Jeff Blair is the one playing the fool:

Obviously he didn't look at the research grjas did on this site that proved pretty convincingly that his argument doesn't hold up.  (It's really is a giant mystery to me why otherwise intelligent people would be so set against both common sense and careful analysis when it comes to this issue.)

smcs - Friday, October 21 2011 @ 01:35 AM EDT (#245937) #
another idiotic argument that baseball is basically fair despite huge salary differentials.

A salary cap doesn't completely solve payroll disparities, nor does it make it fair. The only major sports league where teams actually spend somewhere in the same vicinity of each other (the NFL) makes so much money that the small market teams (Buffalo and Jacksonville) are mandated to spend to 99% of the cap, which is north of $120MM, and they are comfortable spending that much. They would rather spend less, but they can spend that much because the NFL is so popular that ESPN is paying about $1.8B a year to broadcast 18 games, plus the potential to get one playoff game a year, not to mention their deals with CBS, Fox and NBC. The league controls every major media and merchandise transaction that any team could hope to make. If MLB wanted all teams to spend the same amount, the cap would be in the neighbourhood of $45MM because the Rays and Marlins simply don't make that much money. The NHL has 3 or 4 teams that can't afford to spend to the floor, that is $20MM less than the ceiling. And these teams are essentially circumventing the cap in order to spend less than the cap floor because they don't have the means to actually spend to the floor. The NBA has the Lakers and the Knicks that were around $100MM, but the Hornets (who are run by the league) are around $40MM.

In leagues other than the NFL, the big market teams have a built-in advantage because they can make so much more money. Just tossing down a salary cap won't solve the fact that the Yankees can afford to spend $200MM and the Rays can't sustain $50MM. The way to get closer to solving these problems would be to mandate that MLB controls all television and radio deals. Try to tell the Yankees, Red Sox and Rangers that they can no longer make television deals and have to share their revenues with other teams. It ain't gonna happen. If MLB wants to lessen a salary disparity, then they are going to have to start controlling the deals that teams make, and they simply have no leverage.
John Northey - Friday, October 21 2011 @ 08:36 AM EDT (#245938) #
Ah, the good ol' argument that baseball is not fair because some teams spend 4 times what others do. Sadly, that is the way life works.

Baseball has had a better spread of teams win the championship than other leagues though. This is more due to the nature of baseball than anything. In baseball anyone can win in a given day while football it is rare to see significant upsets.

The trick is the playoffs. A 5 game series is equal to 3% of the season. A 7 game is equal to 4%. In basketball and hockey a 7 game series is 8% of the season. In football a one game playoff is equal to 5 1/2% of the season. Thus a single football game is the same as a 9 game playoff in baseball. The longer the playoff, the better the odds of the better team winning.

Mix in the 6 years a team has full control before a player becomes a free agent, the fact baseball players are less predictable from draft day (thus harder for top teams to sign the top talent - Pujols was a 10th round pick, Piazza was in the 60s for example) and you get more variability mixed in.
Mike Green - Friday, October 21 2011 @ 09:45 AM EDT (#245939) #
Gose had a nice game in Arizona yesterday.  Two doubles, a single, a walk in five trips and three stolen bases.  He has been one of the best 10 hitters in the league, despite still having strikeout issues. 
bpoz - Friday, October 21 2011 @ 10:38 AM EDT (#245940) #
John N, the % you just mentioned blew me away. Thanks. I understood the concept perfectly, at times stuff written here goes over my head.

So some day with extra wild cards, we could see NYY play KC or Oakland in a very short series and the winner (Oakland) to take on the Jays. Of course it depends on the playoff format.

I will grin while NYY bears it. Similarly like I do now, when I peek at the the Boston site for entertainment and shameful------ cannot think of a word.
AWeb - Friday, October 21 2011 @ 11:15 AM EDT (#245941) #

I have a completely different reaction to naming the best players on each team. I find Texas lacking a true #1 type guy, wih Kinsler, Beltre, Hamilton, Cruz, Napoli all seeming like reasonable choices for a good "wingman", but not a best position player on a very good team. Meanwhile, Pujols is that good, Berkman is that good a hitter, and I'd rather have Holliday than Hamilton. Little Molina seems like a capable player, and Freese might be. In my head, it's a pretty even matchup, with the Cardinals top-heavy offense against the Rangers spread out lineup.

Now for a random Nick Punto rant...I know it's a truism that catchers get credit for defense inverse to their offense, and middle infielders get the same thing. I have no idea why Punto is considered a good "fundamental" player. He's never been a good bunter, although this seems to baffle most announcers - he gets lots of sacrifices because managers know he sucks and so he has to try a lot. The going assumption is if a major leaguer can't hit for average or power, he must be a great bunter. Why "guys who can handle the bat" can't handle it to actually get hits seems to be a question too far. At some point Guardenhire decided Punto was good enough, so now everyone decides that must be true. And since he did nothing useful at the plate, he got to hit in the 2-spot a lot. The most baffling of all baseball traditions - it stopped making sense 90-100 years ago to bat a guy second who was a good bunter and would advance runners. Of course, Punto isn't this kind of guy, he isn't very good at these skills, but it has been projected upon him. Punto is John MacDonald without the defense. I don't know why his presence annoys me, but I just wanted to get that off my chest. Punto is not the #2 redbird...

Mike Green - Friday, October 21 2011 @ 11:25 AM EDT (#245942) #
Nice typo, aweb.  Punto's former manager's ancestors clearly helped people with their floral beds rather than their security needs. 
John Northey - Friday, October 21 2011 @ 12:41 PM EDT (#245943) #
The random playoffs (especially if they put in a one game wild card vs wild card) levels off a lot of stuff. If you make the playoffs you have a very good shot at winning it all, regardless if your payroll is $200 million or $40 million. Players get hot or cold for a week all the time. Pujols will have 0 for 10 stretches, John McDonald 6 for 10 stretches. If one of those happens in the playoffs the guy is a 'chocker' or is 'clutch' depending. Do it in May and no one notices.

Football you can't have that. If you are off for a game it is the same as a baseball player being 'off' for a 9 game stretch (or 0 for 40). starting pitchers would need to have 2 games in a row that are 'off' to match a quarterback having an off-day.

As I mentioned earlier, the fact you cannot tell when drafted who will or will not be a superstar (with a few exceptions) also changes things. Few players reach the majors without time in the minors, but in basketball, hockey, and football it happens all the time. John Olerud is one of the few to reach without minor league time, as was Dave Winfield and Jim Abbott. But super-studs like Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg don't even when they are drafted by a horrid team desperate for anything. Ken Griffey Jr and A-Rod were both early to majors with tons of hype as #1 overall picks and both started out in the minors.

As mentioned before, many top players are drafted much later than the 1st few rounds. Mike Piazza 62nd, Pujols 10th, Jim Thome 13th. Noteable Jays include Stieb 5th, Jeff Kent 20th, Jimmy Key 3rd, Jesse Barfield 9th, Fred McGriff 9th (and a throw in for a trade later on).

There is a reason it is rare for a team to win more than 60% of its game, or to lose more than 60% and almost never to reach 70% either way while in other sports it is common.
BlueJayWay - Friday, October 21 2011 @ 01:39 PM EDT (#245944) #
There is a reason it is rare for a team to win more than 60% of its game, or to lose more than 60% and almost never to reach 70% either way while in other sports it is common.

There are several reasons for that.  Two of which are:

-there is more luck involved baseball, imo, than most sports.  Anyone can beat anyone else in one game, or a few times.  This naturally pulls everyone closer to .500

-the starting pitcher changes everyday.  Thus you often get matchups like a bad team's #1 or #2 against a good team's #5.  Since the starter has a large effect on outcome, this is a great equalizer. 
AWeb - Friday, October 21 2011 @ 02:54 PM EDT (#245945) #

Baseball games are simply small sample sizes compared to football games (or basketball games). The greatest equalizer in baseball is the batting lineup - in no other sport are the best players involved so rarely (11% of the time for hitters, 15% for the best pitchers). Football would look a lot different if teams had to rotate a different QB each week (like pitchers), or every play (like hitters).

The advantage of Tom Brady over a terrible QB, (but still one of the best 30 available in the entire world, apparently) is pretty much hidden if he only comes in for 5-10 snaps a game and the rest are filled by the best you can find out of the final 270 QBs in the world. This sounds like a fun simulation, actually, but I have no idea how to go about it.

And basketball is of course entirely different, being a huge sample game, with huge chances of success each time. A single elimination tourny in US college basketball gets better teams to the finals most years than MLB playoffs do, and of course the NBA finals virtually never feature a genuinely surprising team.

bpoz - Friday, October 21 2011 @ 03:02 PM EDT (#245946) #
I get the pitching match ups. Last year, to me almost seemed the year of the No Hitter.

Which games have the most influence by the officials?
Mick Doherty - Friday, October 21 2011 @ 03:11 PM EDT (#245947) #

the NBA finals virtually never feature a genuinely surprising team.

Excepting 2011 of course. Even the most die-hard of Dallas fans was surprised the Mavericks actually won something!

Gerry - Friday, October 21 2011 @ 03:31 PM EDT (#245948) #

If you are interested in ticket sales for sports or rock music, Bill Simmons has an interesting podcast with the CEO of Ticketmaster discussing the business of selling seats.  Topics include the decline in ticket sales, how it is tough to sell season tickets, convenience fees, innovative seating plans and the potential decline of big name rock music acts.

You can find the podcast at Grantland or on iTunes.

smcs - Friday, October 21 2011 @ 06:01 PM EDT (#245953) #

the NBA finals virtually never feature a genuinely surprising team.

That has more to do with how a single player can impact a game more than any other sport, except maybe a goaltender. Detroit winning in 2004 was a genuine surprise, but pretty much every series, championship or otherwise, is determined by which team has the best player. That's also why their league is in a lock-out: the system underpays the superstars, but owners vastly overpays the multitude of role players and rotation guys.

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