Monday, November 25, 2013

Cardinals 2014 Off Season Moves Analysis

This is a follow up to my prior blog post  "Cardinals Questions for 2014".

The Cardinals made two big moves that pretty much answer all of their off-season questions.

1) Who plays right field next year?
2) How do you handle David Freese, Matt Carpenter, and prospect Kolten Wong?

The Cardinals solved these two problems with one trade.  They traded David Freese & Fernando Salas for Peter Bourjos, Randal Grichuk.

I love this trade.  It gives the Cardinals so many options.

First, it allows the Cardinals to move Allen Craig to right field and put Matt Adams at first base.

Second, it moves Matt Carpenter to third and gives Kolten Wong the starting job at second base.

With Allen Craig in right field, the Cardinals were concerned with their outfield defense.  They improved it greatly by getting Peter Bourjos.  When healthy, he is a gold glove calibre centerfielder. 

Bourjos' offense is questionable, however, he's a right handed hitter.  In certain games the Cardinals can platoon Bourjos with Jon Jay, who is left handed.

In addition, Jon Jay can play right field on certain days.  Jon Jay would be a huge upgrade in defense in right field over Allen Craig.

So the Cardinals improve the defense of centerfield, third base, and second base with this move.  The defense in right field presumably goes down (Allen Craig < Carlos Beltran), but it's an overall big win.

In addition, it was an incredibly smart trade.  The Cardinals traded a 30 year old third baseman who appeared to be in the decline on offense and defense, and only had two years of control left.  They also gave up a relief pitcher who had already been demoted back to AAA.

In return they got a 26 year old centerfielder with three years of control left and potential to grow.  They also got a nice mid-tier prospect to refill their minor league system with.

The only risk the Cardinals take is that Bourjos does have injury history.  That is the risk they take, however the overall risk/reward appears to be favorable to the Cardinals.

3) Can the Cardinals upgrade shortstop?

The Cardinals solved this by signing Jhonny Peralta to a four year $52M contract.

While I personally preferred the signing of Stephen Drew, the signing is a decent one.  It's a bit of an overpay, but not by a ridiculous amount. The Cardinals had Carlos Beltran, Chris Carpenter, Rafael Furcal, and Jake Westbrook's contracts coming off the books.  So they had more than enough money to make a push for Peralta.  They had enough money to even stretch the contract a little bigger than they'd be comfortable with.  A 3 year contract would would have been better, but it's not a crazy stretch.

There are natural concerns over how Peralta will fair after his PED suspension last year.  Regardless, his offense will be a huge upgrade over Pete Kozma in 2013.  Even if Peralta regresses to his 2012 form (.239/.305/.384) it's still a good upgrade over Kozma in 2013 (.217/.275/.273).


A great thing about these offseason moves (so far) is that the Cardinals didn't give up a single high value prospect.  They kept Taveras, Wong, Wacha, Miller, Rosenthal, Kelly, Lynn, Siegrist, Martinez, Piscotty, etc

In addition, by not signing Stephen Drew (who had received a qualifying offer from Boston) the Cardinals retain their first round draft pick in 2014.  With the Carlos Beltran signing, they'll get another first round draft pick in 2014 too.

Overall, a great set of moves that improves the offense and defense of the team, keeps the depth of the minor league system strong, doesn't overburden the team with a huge contract, and keeps draft picks for the future.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Baseball Scheduling Problem

Came upon this ESPN video at random the other day.

For years I had assumed that baseball (and all professional sports) had used computers to determine their season schedules, but apparently the scheduling problem was so difficult and so complex, human beings did Major League Baseball's schedule by hand until 2004.  The couple highlighted in the video did it for about 20 years.  Apparently multiple companies and research universities (MIT, Stanford, Carnegie Mellon, IBM are mentioned) failed to come up w/ schedules in the 80s and 90s.  In some cases, it was not failed to come up with "good schedules", but apparently failed to come up with a schedule at all.

The scheduling problem seems mighty complex.  The scheduling conditions below are from the video and my own knowledge of baseball.

  • 30 baseball teams, each plays 162 games (2430 games total)
  • The schedule is unbalanced, teams in the NL or AL play within their league more often than the other (15 teams per league).
  • Teams within divisions play each other more often than other divisions in the league (5 teams per division).
  • Teams cannot play any other team in the other leagues (interleague play) but only specific ones in certain divisions.
  • Cities w/ two teams (Chicago, NY, etc.) must not be in the city at the same time on specific days (especially weekends and such)
  • Special games are scheduled in for specific rivalries.  e.g. New York Yankees and New York Mets will play each other each year no matter what.
  • For ratings/ticket sales, specific rivalries (intra division or otherwise) must be scheduled at specific times. e.g. intra-division battles almost always must be scheduled at the end of the year in September.  e.g. Boston vs NY or St. Louis vs Chicago games should almost always be on weekends.
  • A specific number of rest days are mandated for each team.  They must be distributed evenly throughout the year (i.e. not back to back).
  • Rest days must be scheduled in when long travel occurs (e.g. west coast teams going to east coast).
  • Traveling must not be unbearable (e.g. you can't schedule team to play in NY, then LA, then Miami back to back to back).
  • Each team has special requests to be home/away on certain dates b/c of special occasions or city specific events.  For example the SF Giants may not want to be in town during Fleet Week.
  • Scheduling must be fair and equitable for holidays.  For example, it would be unfair to never allow a team to have a home game during the July 4th weekend.  In addition, you must handle Canadian holidays.
  • Some teams may share their stadium with other professional sports teams, so that must be handled.  Although this constraint certainly existed in the past, it may not exist anymore (off the top of my head, St. Louis, San Diego, San Francisco, and Houston used to share their stadiums but no longer do).  Although I'm sure special case handling probably still exists (e.g. state championships, conventions, etc.).
I'm sure there are even more constraints that they don't mention and I can't think of.