For people like me who like to have a way to prove a point (or simply to justify an opinion), baseball is a beautiful thing. You don’t have to be a numbers whiz to compare statistics of your team with those of another. Or, you can build a case for, say, an MVP candidate and quantify your reasoning with dozens of different stats.
Because there are numbers to prove it.
Just about everything you want to know and compare can be seen in numerical form.
Want to see how Allen Craig compared to That Guy Who Used To Play First Base? No problem.
Or how about the 2012 Adam Wainwright compared to the 2010 version? We can do that.
But, what happens when you want to know the value of a new coach or manager? That gets complicated. There’s no stat line for a hitting coach, or the pitching coach, but their impact is worthy of an argument or two, no?
Okay, where am I going with this?
Last night, I ran across THIS VIDEO where St. Louisan and MLB Network personality Greg Amsinger was defending Yadier Molina’s right to the NL MVP award. Granted, this was before the results were announced. And, even Amsinger acknowledged that Molina’s chances were unlikely. But after rehashing all the numbers and the reasons (with which I agree, by the way!) that could have legitimately earned Yadi the MVP nod, Amsinger made this point: the St. Louis pitching staff — by the numbers we can see — was better in 2012 than in 2011, despite the loss of the greatest pitching coach in the biz, Dave Duncan. Could it be, he supposed, that Yadi, not Derek Lilliquist, was responsible for the pitching improvements?
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a knock on Lilliquist. He had big shoes to fill (to say the least) and he did just fine.
But it is a curious question. With as much credit as Yadi receives for his game-calling skills, and the undeniable respect he commands from the pitching staff — both rookies like Joe Kelly who need his advice, and veterans like Carp who still want it — how much of the pitching success can be attributed to him?
There are no stats to validate the argument either way. But there are stats to prove that as Molina stepped up his own game, so, too, did the pitching staff.
*Disclaimer — I am in no way a statistics expert. The graphics below are my own version of a visual aid to show the stat comparison in a way that makes sense to the mathematically-challenged like me!
Okay. These are numbers we’ve seen, just in a slightly different, comparative way. The center line is the difference between 2011 and 2012. The blue highlighted total simply shows which year was better.
But we already knew that, you say.
I know. Now, here’s Exhibit B:
Same graphic, the pitching version.
Despite losing Chris Carpenter in the spring, and Jaime Garcia mid-season, and even with the drama of the bullpen shuffle, the numbers don’t lie — 2012 was better … even if only by a few hundredths in some cases.
I don’t suppose there’s any fair way to determine the distribution of credit. But, imagine with me for a moment. From a pitcher’s perspective, who had a bigger impact this season?
What say you, Cardinal Nation? Let us know!
Tara is a St. Louis Cardinals reporter for Aaron Miles’ Fastball and a contributor to Around the Horn. Follow her on Twitter @tarawellman.