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Sunday, January 26, 2020

Cardinals’ speed-based style thrilled baseball fans in the 1980s, but would it work today?

The St. Louis Cardinals always find a way. A way to maximize their talent. A way to stay relevant in a constantly changing landscape. Above all else, they always find a way to win baseball games.

At least that’s the narrative this generation of fans are used to. If you rewind 40 years, you’ll discover it wasn’t always this way for St. Louis.

After winning World Series titles in 1964 and 1967, the Cardinals became mired in mediocrity throughout the ‘70s and were looking for answers to begin the 1980s. That’s when owner August “Gussie” Busch called Whitey Herzog, who had recently been fired by the Kansas City Royals, and offered to let him remake the Cardinals in his vision.

What followed was the birth of “Whitey Ball” at Busch Stadium.

Tempting to just follow Betteridge’s Law- however, it’s probably more productive to figure out the why with this question…..

 

 

QLE Posted: January 26, 2020 at 12:35 AM | 32 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: cardinals, whitey herzog

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   1. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: January 26, 2020 at 01:34 AM (#5919314)
I can't think of any World Series outcome that gave me more schadenfreude satisfaction than game seven of 1985, when that entire House of Card(inal)s collapsed in spectacular fashion, highlighted by TOO-dah's meltdown, Whiney Whitey's temper tantrums, and Andujar being carted off to the funny farm. Couldn't have happened to a sweller bunch of guys. I would've rooted for the Black Sox over them.
   2. AndrewJ Posted: January 26, 2020 at 06:47 AM (#5919320)
With artificial turf making a comeback, maybe the Dbacks or Rangers could revive Whiteyball...
   3. SoSH U at work Posted: January 26, 2020 at 09:16 AM (#5919329)

With artificial turf making a comeback, maybe the Dbacks or Rangers could revive Whiteyball...


Unfortunately, from what I understand, it's slower turf. We need deep fences and bouncy turf for that.
   4. bfan Posted: January 26, 2020 at 09:31 AM (#5919331)
The world series winners in 1982 were 200-291 in SBs, or at a .687% success rate, which means the value of those SBs for runs created was less than zero, correct? People just didn't understand the value of outs then.
   5. bbmck Posted: January 26, 2020 at 09:35 AM (#5919332)
In the expansion era but excluding 1981, 11 teams with 100 or fewer HR made the playoffs.

Runs per Game Scored/Runs per Game Allowed in Runs per Game League

1965 LAD: 3.75/3.22 in 4.03
1968 STL: 3.60/2.91 in 3.43
1973 NYM: 3.78/3.65 in 4.15
1976 KCR: 4.40/3.77 in 4.01
1978 KCR: 4.59/3.91 in 4.20

1980 HOU: 3.91/3.61 in 4.03
1982 STL: 4.23/3.76 in 4.09
1985 STL: 4.61/3.53 in 4.07
1987 STL: 4.93/4.28 in 4.52
1988 LAD: 3.88/3.36 in 3.88
2014 KCR: 4.02/3.85 in 4.14

The 1976-1978 Royals who win 102 hitting 146 HR and win 90 and 92 hitting 65 and 98 HR have a mediocre pitching staff but have Frank White 39.1 Rfield, George Brett 28.7, Al Cowens 24.5, Tom Poquette 19.8, Jim Wohlford 11.7 and Willie Wilson 11.3. Freddie Patek 14.1 Rbaser, Amos Otis 8.8, George Brett 8.3, Willie Wilson 6.9 and Frank White 4.8 helps but Willie Wilson entering 53 games as a PR and going 26 for 35 in SB is simply a case of smaller bullpens and extracting some value from a really fast player with 61 OPS+.

The 1985-1987 Cardinals have Ozzie Smith 50 Rfield, Terry Pendleton 42.9, Andy Van Slyke 19.3, Curt Ford 18.5 and Tito Landrum 18.1 vs Vince Coleman 40.1 Rbaser, Ozzie Smith 15.7, Willie McGee 8.6 and Tom Herr 6.6. Coleman 79 OPS+, 326 for 387 SB produces 6.5 WAR in 3 years. Danny Cox produces 7.4 WAR in 3 years but getting 12 seasons of 2.2 to 3.4 pitching WAR in 3 years as well as John Tudor's 8.1 pitching WAR that wins Cy most seasons doesn't line up with the narrative so it's largely ignored.

It's the basic Moneyball principle, win with pitching and defense and then make a big deal about some aspect of the offense. There aren't many players like 2013 Elvis Andrus 4.3 WAR, 9.9 Rbaser, -11 Rbat and 11 Rfield in the 21st, 20th or 19th century and while his 42 for 50 SB is impressive most of his value comes from other sources and you can certainly build a playoff team that includes him but most of the best position players hit HR. 2000-2019 seasons of 4+ position player WAR and qualified for the batting title:

0-9 HR: 66 out of 521
10-19 HR: 201 out of 1002
20-29 HR: 289 out of 905
30-39 HR: 259 out of 451
40+ HR: 104 out of 133

Among the qualifying seasons, Adam Dunn 0.4, 0.8, 1.4 and 1.6 with 4 of the 5 lowest WAR seasons with 40+ HR and Ichiro Suzuki 9.2, 7.7, 5.8, 5.4 and 5.3 with 5 of the 20 highest WAR seasons with under 10 HR.
   6. Jose Is Absurdly Chatty Posted: January 26, 2020 at 10:02 AM (#5919334)
I think they could be successful. The 1985 team led the league in OBP and were second in runs scored but first in fewest runs allowed. One skill they had that would be very useful today is they allowed the fewest home runs in the majors. Also I think it would be interesting to see how teams dealt with it. Because the stolen base is so rarely used as a weapon today that Ithink you’d see teams making adjustments to their detriment.

The thing about those Cardinal teams is that they were really good. I looked at the 1985 team and they had 8 players with 2.0 WAR or better, quite literally the entirety of the every day lineup. The “how” of what they did is interesting because it is unusual but the simplicity of it is that the Cardinals in those years were just a really good baseball team.
   7. SoSH U at work Posted: January 26, 2020 at 10:19 AM (#5919335)
One of the problems you'd have today is that what comes along with having the kind of fast team that steals a lot of bases (FWIW, that '82 team bfan mentioned was the worst basestealing group of the bunch. Later clubs had better success rates) is you are likely to have a team that covers a lot of ground on defense, which those Cardinals absolutely did. But with Ks being such a big part of the game now, having that kind of defense isn't going to be worth as much.

   8. John DiFool2 Posted: January 26, 2020 at 10:47 AM (#5919337)
One skill they had that would be very useful today is they allowed the fewest home runs in the majors.


H/R split was 39:59--latter figure is almost exactly average for the league.

Only way to make that work today would be to have distant fences all the way around (recall Busch back then was 414 to dead center, 385 in the alleys], but any time someone tries making a park like that the local press gangers scream and howl, and the following year in come the fences.

I still think there is a strategy there that could still be exploited, if they didn't mind having bleacher seats a mile from home plate and had a design which mitigated that to a large extent. [I'd also put in "triple traps" down each line, large foul areas near the poles which flare away from the foul lines]
   9. SoSH U at work Posted: January 26, 2020 at 10:51 AM (#5919338)
I'd also put in "triple traps" down each line, large foul areas near the poles which flare away from the foul lines


I nominate you to design all future stadia.

   10. Fernigal McGunnigle Posted: January 26, 2020 at 01:46 PM (#5919355)
From 1985-88 those Cardinals had five switch hitters listed as regular starters at BBRef -- Ozzie, Pendleton, Coleman, McGee, and whoever of Tommy Herr/Luis Alicea/Jose Oquendo was playing 2B.
   11. puck Posted: January 26, 2020 at 01:51 PM (#5919356)
The world series winners in 1982 were 200-291 in SBs, or at a .687% success rate, which means the value of those SBs for runs created was less than zero, correct? People just didn't understand the value of outs then.


I thought the break even point was lower in that era due to the lower scoring averages. Though it still did not add many runs.

If the Rockies ever subscribed to the roster-building strategy of "have a decent player at each lineup spot, not just half of them" they could make use of a speed strategy assuming the speed in the OF translated to defense. The OF is huge and BABIP in Coors is significantly higher than the league average.
   12. Perry Posted: January 26, 2020 at 02:01 PM (#5919357)
The world series winners in 1982 were 200-291 in SBs, or at a .687% success rate, which means the value of those SBs for runs created was less than zero, correct? People just didn't understand the value of outs then.


Yeah, their "secret" was more OBP than stolen bases. Or as Bill James described their lineup, "Seven leadoff hitters and Jack Clark."
   13. Rally Posted: January 26, 2020 at 02:14 PM (#5919358)
The baserunning stat on bbref is more than just SB/CS, but the 82 Cards were only +4 on that, another +5 for avoiding GIDP. They had a below average FIP, but still led the league in run prevention. Helps to have both the best defensive SS and 1B ever in the same lineup.
   14. John Northey Posted: January 26, 2020 at 02:49 PM (#5919367)
I think it all depends on the talent you have. The '85 Cards for example had 5 guys steal 30+ bases. 58 CS between those 5, 262 SB = 81.9% success rate for their big 5. Rest of the team was 52 SB 38 CS = 57.8% success rate. The trick is to make sure the guys who are good at stealing do it, and the rest just play their game. I miss the days of 100+ SB guys - so much fun to watch, frustrating to play against.
   15. McCoy Posted: January 26, 2020 at 03:24 PM (#5919387)
I would think WPA would show how productive the base stealing was.
   16. Walt Davis Posted: January 26, 2020 at 04:47 PM (#5919403)
I would think WPA would show how productive the base stealing was.

Probably. The break-even point in high leverage situations is lower. The numbers John posted suggest that the really good base stealers could go whenever they wanted but the other guys were probably restricted to strategic situations -- late in the game, poor throwing catcher, #8 hitter up or a busted hit and run.
   17. Walt Davis Posted: January 26, 2020 at 08:10 PM (#5919438)
A quick look at the 82 Cards in the WS to give some very small sample of WPA when it matters most. Only 7 SBs in 10 attempts in 7 games. (Brewers just 1 for 3) "scores anyway" is under the assumption that everything stays the same if he doesn't attempt a steal which of course might not be the case).

G1: Brewers 10-0 blowout, no steal attempts

G2: Cards 5-4 with 3 SB
Behind 3-0 in 3rd, McGee steals second adding 1% (from 22% to 23%). Scores (might score anyway)
Behind 4-2 in 6th, Oberkfell adding 2% (from 24% to 26%). Scores (scores anyway)
Tied 4-4 in 7th, Ozzie adds 2% (54 to 56), doesn't score

G3: Cards 6-2 with 1 CS
0-0 t4, Hendrick with 2 outs ... somehow -3% (47 to 44)

G4: Brewers 7-5 with 2 SB and 1 pickoff (not a CS)
Ahead 1-0 t2, McGee adds 2% (61 to 63). Scores (scores anyway)
Ahead 3-0 t2, Oberkfell adds 1% (78 to 78). Scores (probably not anyway)
Ahead 4-0 t4, Ozzie PO -1%

G5: Brewers 6-4 with 1 SB and 1 CS
0-0 t1, Lonnie steals 2nd, adds 2%
0-0 t1, Lonnie CS at 3B, -6%

G6: Cards 13-1 with 1 SB and 1 CS
Ahead 2-0 b3, Lonnie steals 2nd, adds 2% (80-82)
Ahead 2-0 b3, 2 outs, Lonnie CS at home with Henrick at bat, -3%

G7: Cards 6-3 with 0 SB

That all adds up to -1% thanks to Lonnie's misadventures. Anybody remember the circumstances of the steal of home -- wild pitch that wasn't; silly pickoff resulting in rundown? So +8% if Lonnie calms down. The second Oberkfell one is the one most likely to have added a true run (E4 with 2 outs and Hernandez reaching 2nd ... possibly Oberkfell still scores from first but probably not) which took them from 78% to 85%. The first Lonnie CS was quite damaging.

Anyway, it shows the ups and downs of stealing. Also that the steal itself almost never adds much WPA (exc maybe steal of home). Also in this particular sample, the steals mostly were early in the game and no attempts after the 7th. Big plays in games add 15-20-30%. Even something like Dave Roberts famous steal -- his walk added 13%, the steal added 11% and Mueller's single added 26%. Neither the steal nor the walk were among the top 5 plays of that game per WPA. They just changed history. :-)

Main news to me is that with a 2-0 lead after 2.5 innings, the probability of winning is already over 75%. I'm also surprised that in a tie game, 4th inning with 2 outs that a CS could cost you so much. I wouldn't have thought that the chances of scoring from first were very high, especially in that low power era. Hendrick though not much of a basestealer (3 for 5 that year, 59-47 career). Maybe a busted hit and run?
   18. Howie Menckel Posted: January 26, 2020 at 08:33 PM (#5919441)
yes, they did many hit-and-runs.

sticking purely with SB/CS would not seem to account for extra bases gained on a hit-and-run. if a CS, downgrade. if running allows a baserunner to score from 1st on a weak 2-out double, no bonus.
   19. PreservedFish Posted: January 26, 2020 at 08:40 PM (#5919443)
How much WPA did Dave Roberts' famous steal add? That immediately leaps to mind as a situation where several million people watching thought that the SB was absolutely critical.
   20. SoSH U at work Posted: January 26, 2020 at 09:00 PM (#5919445)
Offhand, I'll say 11 percent.

   21. McCoy Posted: January 26, 2020 at 09:53 PM (#5919453)
Straight steal. At the 44:50 Mark. https://youtu.be/beCtEBXVDo8
   22. SoSH U at work Posted: January 26, 2020 at 10:20 PM (#5919458)

Straight steal. At the 44:50 Mark. https://youtu.be/beCtEBXVDo8


It wasn't a bad time. He just didn't have nearly the lead necessary to pull it off. And it certainly looked like he could have.

   23. Sunday silence Posted: January 26, 2020 at 10:46 PM (#5919460)
with a 2-0 lead after 2.5 innings, the probability of winning is already over 75%.


This cant be correct. Im going from memory but it doesnt hit that rate until the 7th inn. if memory serves. Perhaps there's a typo or something?
   24. Perry Posted: January 26, 2020 at 11:02 PM (#5919462)

It wasn't a bad time. He just didn't have nearly the lead necessary to pull it off. And it certainly looked like he could have.


Um, did you watch the last replay? He was pretty clearly safe. All the announcers (Enberg, Kubek, Garagiola) agreed.
   25. PreservedFish Posted: January 26, 2020 at 11:06 PM (#5919463)
Great steal. He was absolutely safe. Even the "5th umpire given no more than 30 seconds to reverse a play" replay system would overturn that one.
   26. bobm Posted: January 26, 2020 at 11:29 PM (#5919467)
with a 2-0 lead after 2.5 innings, the probability of winning is already over 75%

From 1957-2018:

After 2.5 innings:

Visitor +2:

Total games: 13465
Wins for Visitor: 8936
Win percentage: Visitor 66.36% (2 in 3)

Home +2:

Total games: 10333
Wins for Home: 8275
Win percentage: Home 80.08% (4 in 5)

Either team +2: 72% win percentage


Win Expectancy Finder
   27. Perry Posted: January 26, 2020 at 11:30 PM (#5919468)
Also, in the "how times have changed" department -- the game ended 5 hours after it started, thanks to two rain delays, one lasting 2 and a quarter hours. The final score was 13-1. And John Stuper pitched a complete game.
   28. SoSH U at work Posted: January 27, 2020 at 12:02 AM (#5919473)
Um, did you watch the last replay? He was pretty clearly safe. All the announcers (Enberg, Kubek, Garagiola) agreed.


I hadn't no, but yes he was.

I still don't think his lead was good enough, but the jump was fantastic.
   29. Walt Davis Posted: January 27, 2020 at 12:26 AM (#5919476)
if running allows a baserunner to score from 1st on a weak 2-out double, no bonus.

Sure but this is captured in Rbaser (i.e. the runner scored from first when most wouldn't) ... unfortunately hit and run plays are not captured in the play by play at b-r to my knowledge so I don't know that they can be tied to WPA.

I pointed this out a couple of weeks ago -- Whiteyball wasn't a particularly great offensive strategy. And as noted, a lot of the offensive success it did have was OBP-driven more than speed-driven. Now add in the positive defensive aspects and super-speed might be a good overall strategy. Anyway, the key period was 1982-87 and here are the Cards runs scored rankings for those years:

1982 5th (1st in OBP)
1983 5th (2nd in OBP)
1984 6th (6th in OBP)
1985 1st (1st in OBP and OPS despite 6th in SLG)
1986 12th (12th in OBP)
1987 2nd (1st in OBP, 9th in SLG and OPS)

That's of course not bad over 6 years but it hardly looks like some secret code was cracked. They were first in SB all 6 seasons, they even stole more bases in 1986 than in 1987. Across the 6 years, they're credited at +89 Rbase and +36 Rdp (an amazing +13 in 1985). Two wins a year is nothing to sneeze at and, if it doesn't cost you elsewhere or provides extra benefits (defense), you take it.

(Note I am sure some of those performances might be partly explained by "X was injured that year" etc.)

1985 was a weird year. NL line was 252/319/374 and Cards at 264/335/379 ... but the league-leading SLG was only 390 and that was the Cubs likely aided by Wrigley. The top 4 teams fell within 6 points of OPS. However the Cards did lead by 41 runs so the OBP and speed were likely helping a lot.

1987 was weird in how well they did in scoring terms and might be an even better example of where speed really helped them. NL was 261/328/404, Cards 263/340/378. Compared with the average team, they gave up 140 TBs in exchange for 96 BB which (I believe) is usually a good trade but not a great one -- but they scored 67 runs above average. Compared with the league-leading Mets, they were 350 TB behind and 52 walks ahead but only 25 runs behind. By WAR, that offense was basically average.
   30. The Honorable Ardo Posted: January 27, 2020 at 10:20 AM (#5919520)
Yeah, at 45:35 it's obvious Lonnie was safe. Jim Evans blew that call badly; luckily, it didn't affect the outcome of the game.
   31. Sunday silence Posted: January 27, 2020 at 02:08 PM (#5919638)
In the above discussion; would it be useful to factor in wins above/below pythagoras. Perhaps the Cards were manufacturing crucial runs at the right times so they were actually better at winning games then the raw numbers indicate.

I doubt its going to turn out so, but maybe take a look. The fact that SB are a function of someone's decision means they dont happen randomly, SO maybe their pythag is better.

I doubt it, but maybe...
   32. Rally Posted: January 27, 2020 at 02:27 PM (#5919650)
1985 was a weird year. NL line was 252/319/374 and Cards at 264/335/379 ... but the league-leading SLG was only 390 and that was the Cubs likely aided by Wrigley. The top 4 teams fell within 6 points of OPS. However the Cards did lead by 41 runs so the OBP and speed were likely helping a lot.


I was curious if a .374 SLG was unusual...not really. Similar to the surrounding seasons except for 1987.

NL slugging would have been 2 points higher if nobody had to face Dwight Gooden.

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