It's a good thing that team records decide who makes it to the postseason and who stays home in Major League Baseball.
The Cardinals have the best record in the game, 33-17 after winning Monday against the Kansas City Royals. But if you look at one of the most popular stats in some sectors of baseball fandom, wins above replacement, the local nine sure don't seem like much to write home about.
WAR is supposed to factor how a particular player compares to the average MLB player at his position. The higher the positive number, the better that guy is than the average player. The higher the negative number, the worse he is by comparison.
So lets see how the 2013 Cardinals stack up, according to baseball-reference.com:
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Matt Carpenter: 1.9
Carlos Beltran: 0.2
Matt Holliday: 0.1
Allen Craig: -0.1
Yadier Molina 1.7
David Freese -0.3
Jon Jay: 0.3
Pete Kozma: 0.4
As a whole, the Cardinals starting eight averages only half a win more than the average collection of bench jockeys. Meanwhile the second place Cincinnati Reds starting eight, led by Joey Votto's mark of 3.2, have five starters who rate a 1.1 or better average a little better than a +1. The Cardinals only have two players who are better than a 0.4 rating.
Despite the obvious disparity between the stats and the standings, the ratings within the Cardinals roster don't make any sense at all. How is Allen Craig, an average fielder but one of the most prolific RBI men in the majors, rated as a below average overall player? Matt Carpenter scores a lot of runs. But is the Cardinals glorified utility player of a second baseman so much better thought of than Carlos Beltran?
Carpenter has played a part in 56 runs being scored (39 scored, 17 driven in) compared to Beltran's 51 runs (22 scored, 29 driven in). Carpenter's on base plus slugging percentage is .824 compared to Beltran's .826.
The only major advantages Carpenter has over Beltran are runs scored and defensive rating. It doesn't make much sense to me to value runs scored over runs driven in. First, while RBIs is dependent on guys in front of a player getting on base, runs scored is dependent on hitters after that particular player producing.
Second, it is impossible to compare an outfielder to a second baseman or a catcher to a shortstop when it comes to the value of their fielding. While Beltran has been compromised in his range thanks to the toe issue he had at the beginning of the season, he's not what I would call a bad outfielder. He's still got a strong throwing arm and he knows how to play the game. The fact that he hits the cutoff man more often than not ought to make him head and shoulders above the average MLB outfielder these days.
Allen Craig ranks a ridiculous -0.9 as a fielder despite his .997 fielding percentage in 389 chances.
I guess St. Louis skipper Mike Matheny must really know what he's doing if he can win 65 percent of his games with a cast of nobodies. Either that or there must be a little more to baseball than meets the stat sheet.