MLBits: Pham Talks a Big Game, Giants Collecting Franchise Faces, Runs Per Win, More

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MLBits: Pham Talks a Big Game, Giants Collecting Franchise Faces, Runs Per Win, More

Chicago Cubs

This is the week the dam is going to break, and all the free agents are going to sign and all the trades are going to happen. I can feel it. It’s gonna happen.

Here’s some news from around the league …

  • Never in his career has Cardinals outfielder Tommy Pham played in 150 games, hit 30 home runs, or stolen 30 bases in a single season, but he plans on doing all of that next year … and a lot more, telling that he “believes that I could be a really special player, and all I’ve got to do, I just need time to show it.”
  • To be fair, he did break out in a HUGE way in 2017 (148 wRC+, 5.9 WAR) … but there was just SO MUCH not to like about it. For one, despite always being something  of a high-BABIP guy, Pham’s .368 BABIP last season was 26 points above his previous career high. On top of that, he hit way too many grounders (51.7%), dropped his fly ball rate (26.1%) below his career average, hit more infield popups than ever (7.0%), benefitted from the third highest HR/FB ratio in the NL (26.7%), and didn’t even earn it given his decreasing hard-hit rate (35.5% – lowest of his career) and increasing soft-hit rate (15.5% – second highest of his career). Oh, and his breakout came at the age of 29 (he’ll be 30 before the season). So, yeah, I’ll take the under on his 30-30 prediction, thanks.
  • Also, an interesting anecdote from Adam Wainwright in that piece about the nature of the Cardinals’ clubhouse last year: “Last year, Tommy stood up in the middle of the clubhouse one time and started yelling at folks, and guys were looking at me like, ‘Are you going to do something to stop him?’ And I was like, ‘Man, absolutely not. I love that about this guy.’ He brings an attitude to our team that we need.”
(Photo by Scott Kane/Getty Images)
  • One Cardinal I do suspect will do well next season, however, is Marcell Ozuna – the former Marlins outfielder trade to St. Louis earlier this winter. In a funny quote from, Ozuna recalls learning about the trade to St. Louis and how “scared” he was that the Marlins might send him to the wrong team. “The first thing I heard [was] they were going to trade me to the Oakland A’s,'” Ozuna recalled. “I said, ‘God, please, leave me over here.’ Then I heard they traded me to the Cardinals, and I said, ‘OK, thanks.'” I woulda went with Oakland, pal.
  • Okay, we love to hate on the Cardinals here (like we really, really LOVE it), but sometimes even they do something right. At the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Benhamin Hochman writes about Emily Wiebe, their first female baseball analyst. “She has a strong interest in baseball,” Mozeliak said, “… The game is changing, the industry is changing, and she brings a lot of modern skills to our operations. She is very talented — she has a very bright future in our organization.” Even if it feels almost unimaginable that there’s not been more female analysts in similar positions within their organization, it’s a great step in the right direction.
  • To keep up the Cardinals’ theme, apparently, … in case you didn’t know, 35-year-old catcher Yadier Molina has a plan:

  • And with it being Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I have one final bit related to the Cardinals:

  • If I asked ten people, “How many runs wins a ballgame?”, I might get as many different answers, but the disparity would be understandable. Indeed it’s a difficult one to answer, because there are actually two different ways to consider it. At first glance, you might think, “Surely you need fewer than 10 runs to win your average baseball game,” and that’s certainly true (62% of teams that score half as many runs (5) win their game). But if you’re coming at it from a purely mathematical/sabermetrics perspective, you’ll find every additional run a team scores (or prevents) gives them about .103 more wins. Or, put differently, you get one win every 9.74 runs (frequently rounded to 10!).
  • I bring that up because, for as long as I’ve been following baseball closely, “10” is the number of runs I’ve always seen equated to a win. But at Baseball Prospectus, Rob Mains took a closer look to see if that doesn’t need to be updated. And lo and behold … it does. Sorta. Er, well, depending. Basically, while 10 runs is still a good estimate for the entirety of Major League history, it varies much more wildly from year-to-year based on the offensive environment. “If you said ’10 runs per game’ in 2012,” writes Mains at BP, “you were more than a full run too high. If you said it this past season, you were more than a run too low.” We most often bring up runs in this context when discussing WAR, defense, and/or pitch framing, so we’ll need to keep in mind how “off” our results might be if the current season is inflated or not.
  • 53-year-old Rafael Palmeiro has not had much luck finding the starting point for his comeback just yet:

  • But, hey, he’s still working on that swing:

  • If you’re keeping score at home, you’ll note that the Giants now have three “face-of-the-franchise”-type position players in Buster Posey, Evan Longoria, and Andrew McCutchen. The thing is, even if they’re all still talented, they aren’t quite the players they were circa 2012-2013:

  • Also, at least one defensive metric is extremely unkind to McCutchen as he reached age 30:

Brett Taylor contributed to this post.

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Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami