News, Notes and Historical Information on the St. Louis Cardinals
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Born 119 years ago today by the name of Grover Cleveland Alexander, Pete Alexander is one of the very best pitchers of all time. While you can argue about Roger Clemens and Greg Maddux’s eventually ascencion up the list, Alexander is listed as the third best pitcher of all time in Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract.
Alexander began his career in 1911, several years before the Cardinal’s first World Series in 1926. He made his debut for the Philadelphia Phillies on April 15th of that year, and he proceeded to have one of the best seasons a rookie pitchers has ever had. He won 28 games and his ERA of 2.57 was good for an ERA+ of 133. He was second in the league in strikeouts with 227 and he finished third in the National League MVP vote.
Four years later, in 1915, Alexander had one of the finest seasons a pitcher’s ever had. He won thirty games for the first time in his career (finishing with 31 and beginning a streak of three straight seasons over 30 wins). He led the league in ERA with 1.22, which was good for a phenomonal 225 ERA+.
In 1918 he was traded to the Cubs but Alexander missed most of the season to fight for the United States in World War I. While in Europe, he began showing signs of epilipsy, and to cover it up he began drinking. By the time he returned home, Alexander was an alcoholic and while he was a very effective pitcher, most of his best seasons were behind him. He continued his time with the Cubs, but by 1924, he was slowly beginning to regress. On June 24, 1926, the Cubs finally got fed up with Alexander and his drinking and they shipped him off to St. Louis for the price of a waiver player.
Alexander finished the season for the Cardinals with 16 starts, 11 of which he finished. He was a modest 9-7 with an ERA of 2.91 and a WHIP of 1.079. While those numbers by itself aren’t all that impressive, his performance in the World Series is the reason he’s being highlighted with this essay. After the Cardinals dropped game one to the Yankees, Alexander pitched a complete game four hitter in which he gave up two runs (one earned) and struck out ten. His second start of the series was in a must win game six. Down three games to two, Alexander improved to 2-0 in the series with his second complete game. He gave up two runs on eight hits although he did benefit from ten runs by the Cards offense. Then in gave seven, Alexander threw 2 1/3 innings of no hit ball to close out a one run game to win the World Series.
Alexander followed up his post season heroics with a 21 win season in 1927. His last full season was 1928 and in 1930, he was traded back to the Phillies where he finished his career the same place that he started.
Here are Pete Alexander’s numbers for the Cardinals in 1926:
Games Started 16
Complete Games 11
Innings Pitched 148
Earned Runs 48
Runs Saved Above Average 17
Neutral Wins 10
Neutral Losses 6
Even though the Cardinals won 100 games last year, there’s no doubt that we missed the prescence of Scott Rolen. And in the latest Cardinal Notes, MLB.com’s Jim Molony talks about Scott Rolen’s comeback among other things.
PECOTA puts him at only 407 at bats and a .270/.358/.475 line. If that’s all we get out of Rolen, I’d be a little disappointed even though 2/3 of him is better then none. They also give him a 42% collapse rate.
Play a Hard 9 has not only moved, but they changed the name of their blog. Be sure to check out Reverend Redbird when you get a chance.
A team that wins a World Series usually does so with a combination of solid home grown talent, some good seasons from veterans near the end of their career, and an odd career year from a player nobody would think of. Les Bell was that career year for the 1926 Cardinals. Les Bell got spot time in 1923 and 1924 before becoming the Cardinals starting third baseman in 1925. In what was essentially his rookie year, Bell was good but not great. His line was .285/.334/.422 which gave him an OPS+ of 90. He was durable and he led the league in games played with 153.
In 1926, Bell blew up. He led the team in hits (189), batting average (.325), OPS+ (137) and slugging (.518). He finished third in the league with 100 RBIs and his .325 average was good for ninth in the National League. His .518 slugging was fifth and he also finished in the top ten in doubles, triples and he was fourth in the NL with 17 homeruns. Bell went from slightly below average to one of the team’s best hitters on a team that was already loaded offensively. For all that, he finished sixth in the MVP voting.
Of course Bell’s sun didn’t shine for too long. Over the next three seasons, he notched only 500 at bats one time. And he never got back above a 100 OPS+ in any given season. By 1930 he was a part time player for the Cubs and by 1932, he was out of the league.
For one season though, Les Bell was a star. And his timing couldn’t have been more perfect.
Here are Bell’s numbers in 1926:
Stolen Bases 9
Caught Stealing ??
MLB.com’s latest is on the Cardinals bullpen. Matthew Leach seems a little optimistic about the Cards pen. I wasn’t really optimistic about the Brandon Looper signing. He was hit hard pretty while pitching for the Mets last year, and he’s never been the big strikeout guy that you’d expect from a former closer. And while Ricardo Rincon will make a nice left handed specialist, even he’s been shaky the last two seasons. He was good against lefties, but he was hardly lights out.
There’s even some concern about Isringhausen. Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA gives him a very high 64% collapse rate. He only has an 8% breakout rate and hiss median VORP is only 8.8. What’s also interesting is even at his 90th percentile, he doesn’t reach the 22 VORP that he’s had the last two seasons. I’m curious to see what Will Carroll has to say about him once the Cards Team Health report comes out.
SI.com’s John Donovan recently published his NL Central preview over at Yahoo. Great stuff, and of course he talks about the Cardinals being the favorite.
If the reports of Scott Rolen being ready are true, we could see the Cards go wire to wire. While the Cubs have the talent, they don’t have the horses and it showed last year. The Astros are trying to force Jeff Bagwell, one of the best players in the franchises history, into retirement so the team can collect insurance money on his contract and there’s still be no word from Roger Clemens. I still don’t think the Brewers are quite there yet and the Reds and Pirates are just there.
Flint Rhem made his debut late in 1924 and was pretty mediocre (ERA+ of 85 and a WHIP of 1.485) after getting called up. In 1925, Rhem got a spot in the rotation and was equally mediocre (ERA+ of 88 and a WHIP of 1.541).
In 1926, Rhem broke out and became the ace of the World Series Champs. He logged 258 innings, more then the previous two season combined. He led the team with 20 wins and also led the 1926 Cards in strikeouts with 72. He finished 20 of his 34 starts and he got his WHIP down to a more respectable 1.225. It also didn’t hurt that the Cardinals had the best offense in 1926. Rhem’s 20 wins led the National League and he finished eight in WHIP. HIs 20 complete games put him fourth in the league and he finished sixth in innings pitched. He also finished eighth in the MVP voting, with three of his teammates ahead of him. His post season was pretty bad (4 innings, 3 earned runs, no decision) but he definitely came through for the Cards on a regular basis during the season.
1926 was a career year for Rhem. He’d never log more then 218.7 innings after 1926 and he’d never win more then 15 games. His career ERA+ was a pretty mediocre 97 and his career WHIP wasn’t much to write home about either (1.441).
Here’s a look at Rhem’s numbers in 1926:
Games Started 34
Complete Games 20
Innings Pitched 258
Earned Runs 75
Runs Saved Above Average 21
Neutral Wins 16
Neutral Losses 11
Cardnilly is doing a great series on Cardinals uniform numbers. Seems like every column there is, I have an ha moment. His most recent entry is uniform number #59, and he highlights Marcus Jensen, but when I saw the name Skeeter Barnes,
Everyone who is anyone is gearing up for the 2006 MLB season. My first step is going to be purchasing my St. Louis Cardinals Opening Day tickets. It is a tradition in my family for us all to take the day off of school or work to head down to Busch Stadium for the Cardinals Opening Day. The Cardinals have played better than they did in 2005, but I’m no fair-weather fan! I still buy Cardinals tickets and take the family out to support our local boys and the sport we enjoy so much.
This year’s spring schedule looks exciting with the Cardinals appearing on the New York Mets schedule six times. The St. Louis Cardinals regular season home opener will be April 10, 2006 against Milwaukee Brewers at Busch Stadium. April’s schedule starts with some exciting match ups like Cardinals versus Chicago Cubs games and Philadelphia Phillies games. Hopefully there will be some May flowers blooming when I use my San Diego Padres versus St. Louis Cardinals tickets. Come July, I will be wishing I had bought Cardinals box seats as the weather heats up and we host the Atlanta Braves games from the 17th to the 19th.
The Cardinals have been rebuilding and retooling their weapons for a year now in an attempt to achieve the goal of becoming a World Series game contender once again. Tony La Russa has been working hard to mesh together our mix of young and veteran players and hopes that his efforts will translate into a winning season in 2006. We lost some key players after 2005 but have replaced them with talent like Junior Spivey and Juan Encarnacion . Look for Mark Mulder, Chris Carpenter and Jeff Suppan to make their mark this season as well. I am more excited than ever to use my St. Louis Cardinals tickets because this team looks like it can really do something special in 2006.
In St. Louis there are plenty of sporting events to keep a baseball fan busy in the off season. But, going to St. Louis Rams home games or watching St. Louis Blues hockey games on TV, really never compares to watching my favorite baseball team try to make it to the World Series game year after year. Cardinals baseball games are a part of my history and of my future. I bought World Series tickets in 2004 when the St. Louis Cardinals battled the Boston Red Sox. Hopefully the Cards will win their Los Angeles Dodgers games, Houston Astros games and Arizona Diamondbacks games for a spectacular 2006 season.
Cardinals president Mark Lamping defended the Cardinals on Thursday, saying that the insurance claim they filed for the environmental cleanup costs on the site of New Busch Stadium was a valid one. I wrote late last week about how Greenwich Insurance Co. was denying the claim because they feel past studies were performed on the site and they showed the Cardinals knew there was contamination prior to taking out the policy. Greenwich is also saying that the Cards didn’t inform the insurance company that they were going to build a new stadium on the site.
Also in the column, it clarifies that the claim is only for $7.5 million, not the $14 million originally reports. The actual cleanup costs were $14 million, but the Cardinals got some of the back through brownfield tax credits.
MLB.com beat writer Matthew Leach wrote a nice piece on Brandon Looper. Looper was pretty shaky for the Mets last season, but Looper is blaming that on a sore shoulder. He blew eight saves and finished with a 4-7 record before losing the closer role to Aaron Heilman.
Fortunately, we won’t need Looper to close. He’s not the fireballer that you’d normally out of a closer, and he struck out only 33 batters in 534 innings. I do think he’ll make a nice set up man for Jason Isringhausen, and in the event Jason goes down, Looper at least has experience closing games.
Alright, in preparing for the 1926 Cardinals Diary, I went through and printed off box scores for each of the games from Proquest (which is worth the price of getting a SABR membership just on it’s own). One of the things I never realized was how great a pennant race 1926 was.
Not that I want to spoil things too much, but the Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds and the defending 1925 World Series Champion Pittsburgh Pirates were in a three way tie as late as August 26, 1926. After that point in time, the Cardinals played the Reds and Pirates a total of 13 times to make for some great matchups through the final month of the season.
The Cardinals took the lead in early September, but even as late as September 13, 1926, the Cardinals had slipped into a tie with the Reds. On the fourteenth, they fell a half game back and they never retained sole possession of first place until September 17, 1926, when there were only eight games remaining. With two games left in the season, the Cardinals finally clinched their first pennant.
So this is going to be a cool trip down memory lane. Hopefully you readers will have as much fun with as I know I will.
This was posted all over the Yahoo Baseball page today. It appears that the Cardinals are trying to collect on a pollution liability policy while the insurance company, Greenwich Insurance Co., is trying to claim that the Cardinals are making a false claim some cleanup costs involved with the construction of new Busch Stadium. Apparantly the Cardinals are claiming that there were no prior environment audits or studies while the insurance company says that studies were done in 1995 and 1996, and both showed contamination. We’re talking about $14 million here, which is no small sum.
You can read the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s version of the same story here.
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