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Does Knocking Down Taveras Help Anyone?

The subject of devaluing your own asset has been a hot button for me for years, going back to even before the Colby Rasmus days.

The latest example on the St. Louis Cardinals is rookie outfielder Oscar Taveras. In the post-season, manager Mike Matheny has installed Taveras’ first-year teammate Randal Grichuk as the club’s two-way starter in right field.

The results – past and present – do not warrant this, but Grichuk continues to start against both left-handed pitching (he should) and against righties, too (he should not). One benefit stated by the Cardinals is Grichuk’s fielding, a source of considerable praise. However, if optimal defense was the goal, then the solution would be to play Peter Bourjos instead.

A left-handed hitter who should also be in the outfield mix is Taveras, known for his bat. However, the talented 22-year-old appears to be in the organization’s dog house currently, having made no post-season starts through six games.

It appears that some, perhaps even in the clubhouse, tied unhappiness over popular Allen Craig having been traded away to the arrival of top-prospect Taveras. It seems too bad as one or more of them might serve as a mentor for a player who apparently needs one.

Specifically, there is the matter of Taveras’ approach. He was disciplined in the minor leagues for lack of hustle and the reputation has shadowed him in the big leagues as well.

Now, with Grichuk scuffling at the plate in the post-season, the public line has moved from praise of Grichuk to expressing doubts about Taveras. Organization officials, starting with general manager John Mozeliak, have taken to the press to outline Taveras’ faults, including diminished quickness.

In a Sunday article by David Wilhelm of the Belleville News-Democrat, Mozeliak was quoted as saying about Taveras: “He looks like he’s put on some weight. It probably doesn’t help. Does 20 pounds help you?”

Matheny added that he did not see Taveras as a viable starting option against Jake Peavy in NLCS Game 2, despite Taveras’ apparent advantage over the right-handed hitting Grichuk.

The Post-Dispatch’s Joe Strauss suggests that Taveras’ “untouchable” trade status has changed. Another P-D columnist, Bernie Miklasz, has weighed in by saying he would be surprised if Taveras is still with the team in 2015.

Taking this at face value, why would the Cardinals then drive down the perceived value of such an important asset by making negative comments to the media? Does anyone really think that Taveras would read these quotes and change? How does this approach best serve the interests of the club in the short or long term?

If I am one of Mozeliak’s peers engaged in a trade discussion this winter, the first thing I would quiz him about is his view that Taveras is slower and less-conditioned. After all, why should anyone pay full value for an asset his current owner has clearly placed on the scratch-and-dent table?

On the other hand, perhaps the trade talk is overblown and the club really wants to help Taveras become better as a Cardinal. In that case, the following remark from the general manager would appear consistent, even if poorly-aimed, in my opinion.

“My hope is that he sees this as a bit of a wake-up call for him,” Mozeliak told Strauss, later adding, “He’s obviously not playing.”

The last sentence is really the bottom line.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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64 Responses to “Does Knocking Down Taveras Help Anyone?”

  1. crdswmn says:

    Correction Brian, Peter Bourjos hits right handed.

    This whole thing just completely baffles me. Not so much Matheny, who I think is disingenuous and plays favorites. I never believe a word that man says anymore because he talks out of both sides of his mouth.

    Mozeliak engaging in this kind of petty talk really surprises me though. I thought better of him. If he is just attempting to keep up appearances by publicly backing his inept manager, then he could do a better job of it. If he really thinks so negatively of Taveras though, then you are right, it isn’t wise at all to express such view in the public sphere and devalue your asset.

  2. Bw52 says:

    I agree it is silly to devalue Taveras.If the critique was meant to be a motivational tool then why wait to now to bring it up.Poor timimg unless Cards are trying to really fire up OT.Sounds like Cards are telling OT to grow up and be a pro and part of being a pro is being ready and able to play at a high level. Oscar has apparently caused MM to lose confidence in him and lost playing time to RG and the legion of OT flag wavers can`t stand it.I am not a Matheny fan and question his decisions often.This isn`t one of them.That said if MM feels OT deserves a shot in SF to start then go for it if Cards feel Oscars below average defense can be overshadowed by his bat potential.

  3. JumboShrimp says:

    Mo is going out of his way to show support for Mad Mike by justifying Grichuk getting starts against RHPs. The Cards are feeding stories to their trusty poodles in the press. Mo has had 6 months to worry about Oscar’s weight, it only pops out of his big mouth when they are doing damage control in the media, because of doubters like Jumbo pounding away.
    Why cant Mo get the weight of Matt Adams under control? Are we gonna trade him too? If we trade Lynn, Adams, and Taveras, we should ask for 10 normal sized players in return, because our lads are so big.

  4. JumboShrimp says:

    This feeding of Oscar stories is all about the short-term spin of the playoffs. They are under a media microscope and got shutout in Game 1.
    Everybody knows Oscar is a better hitter against a RHP, so they need to justify Grichuk. The rationale cannot be hitting of course, so its defense. Suddenly, 7 months after Oscar reported to spring training at a higher weight than they wanted, he is announced to be overweight.
    When Grichuk bungles a catch in Game 1, he is lauded for style and effort.

    Maybe the injury to Yadier could give the Cards a way out of their dilemma. With Molina’s bat and defense on the sidelines, we could compensate by trying to score more runs. Why not put Bourjos in CF for defense in immense Candlestick and go with Jay or Oscar in RF?

  5. Bw52 says:

    I see the “Free Oscar” legion is getting up in arms.Grichuk bungled a catch? Grichuk made a hell of a effort to get to the ball and hitting the ground caused the ball to bounce out.Jay would have turned the wrong way and Oscar would still be looking for it.

  6. Bw52 says:

    Yadi says his season isn`t done yet.He played catch today.Doesn`t know if he can swing a bat.

  7. blingboy says:

    I am not really on the OT bandwagon. He was in the starting lineup everyday after the trade and he played his way onto the bench. The fact is he was over matched and just plain stunk. Now we want to see if he can not stink in the middle of the playoffs? I’d rather let him try to play his way into the lineup next spring.

    Why MM thinks Grichuk is any better than Bourjos I don’t know.

    Sometimes a hot prospect turns out to be not what everybody thought. That is a possibility which should not be dismissed.

    • Bw52 says:

      In a perfect world both will work out and be good players for the Cards.Like you said sometimes it takes time for prospect to get adjusted and play his game.Cards will need both for the future.I think Bourjos is gone this offseason and maybe Jay if his Arbitration cost is too much and Cards feel Jay can be replaced.Plus Piscotty is at AAA and he is a line drive guy with very good contact and a very good RF arm and defense.Cards actually are in a situation of having plenty of Outfield talent.Too bad some of that hasn`t happened at CATCHER(instead of conversions learning the position) or at 3B ( Patrick Wisdom has power and defense he just can`t make enough contact.215 aBA and 150 Strikeouts at AA.

    • crdswmn says:

      Sometimes people make premature judgments based on small sample sizes.

      500 PAs minimum for each of Taveras and Grichuk before it matters as far as I am concerned. Until then, minor league numbers and scouting reports tell me that Taveras is the better gamble. Because that is all that it is for either of them right now,

      • Bw52 says:

        Oscar Taveras had the whole platter handed to hm an d he dropped it.Somebody else picked up the chance and ran with it.So roght now Oscar gets to help out Pinch-hitting (He`s done well) for now.For all anybody knows MM might use the small sample size of the pinch Homerun and give OT a start.Who knows.If MM feels OT`s bat is a bigger asset than his defensive liability OT might start

        • crdswmn says:

          The difference between you and me is that I don’t think he played long enough to drop the platter. I also don’t think Grichuk has played long enough to pick it up.

          I used to make judgments rather quickly all the time. Then I discovered that when I did that, I was so wrong so many times. I decided to stop doing that. I learned more about statistics and now I am much more comfortable with my opinions. I am still wrong sometimes, but not as much as I used to be.

          To each his own.

          • Bw52 says:

            I think Oscar had the chance and blew it.Next spring it could be a start over competition again.Grichuk needs to work on making more contact and Oscar needs to realize that that glove on his hand is to play defense with.I think there stil is a place for working hard and husting.Rumor says Oscar doesn`t know or realize that (read today he was disciplined in minors for lack of hustle).

  8. JumboShrimp says:

    Two words: Travis Ishikawa. A journeyman first baseman, came up with the Giants, on the fringes of the majors for seven years. A mediocrity. Except he had a key single in Game 1 and hit a double in Game 2. A left swinger who the Giants plug into their lineup to matchup versus our pitchers.
    In 2012, it was Pagan in CF. He got hurt, so they have plugged in a guy named Blanco. The Giants are good at taking low profile ho hum left swingers and riding them to a couple of recent WS wins.

    We will soon find out how the play Grichuk versus Tim Hudson strategy works.

    • Bw52 says:

      Duke Carmel,Jim Lindemann,Charlie James,Clint Hurdle,Shawn Abner just a few names who where highly rated players who flopped or hung around the fringes for years.Just because you are a high pick it doesn`t mean you will succeed.Being top Cards prospect guarantees nothing.Performing still counts.

      • JumboShrimp says:

        Glad you mentioned performance. Grichik has a post season OPS of .513. He has made some nice plays in the field, but the drop in Game 1 cost us dearly. He made a lazy fly look a lot tougher than it actually was.
        Grichik broke a wrist on an outfield wall in 2010. He does not play then niftily.

        • Bw52 says:

          Bullhockey.Jay would have turned the wrong way and Oscar would still be looking for it.Keep trying.

          • JumboShrimp says:

            Two errors and at least 4 runs given away by your right fielder, in only 3 games. Yikes!

            Grichuk is making the forgettable Ishikawa into a Hall of Famer.

            • Bw52 says:

              Hunter Pence had trouble in RF and its his home park.Nice try Jumbo but no cigar.Grichuk tied the game up.You want to scapegoat somebody how about Holliday who failed a couple of times with runners on ,.Holliday has done nothing since the 3-run HR versus LA.Peralta isn`t exactly lighting it up,Several guys are failing to hit well or timely so blame everybody.The Taveras posse getting louder.I guess its Grichuk`s fault Choate screwed up too.

              • crdswmn says:

                BW it isn’t at all about blaming Grichuk for anything. It’s about an inflexible manager who doesn’t use his personnel to their strengths. He has a wide variety of talents on his team that he can mix and match to fit that game’s situation, but he refuses. He draws out a map and stubbornly follows it even when it takes him down a rat hole.

                Each game is different. Each starting pitcher is different, each ball park is different, each hitter is different. But he plays it like one size fits all. It doesn’t.

                Grichuk should play when the game factors dictate to his strengths. Same with Taveras, Bourjos, etc.

                • Bw52 says:

                  It should be obvious that MM is going to do what he wants.In his Mind he must feel he is doing the best thing.I don`t pretend to understand why he does some things.There is not a thing any of us can do to change it.He isn`t real good at changing things around on that I agree.I think he is most comfortable having set way of doing things and he will stay with that until forced to do different.Its almost like MM thinks only 1 move ahead sometimes and sometimes he just rolls the dice and lets happen happen.

  9. CariocaCardinal says:

    Oscar’s weight gain was in the off season. why make an issue of it now. Mo knew Oscar’s weight hen he traded Craig.

  10. Bw52 says:

    Oscar was handed the startng job when Craig was traded
    August 26 games 24 starts 90 AB 22 Hits 4 2B 0 3B 0 HR 8 RBI .244 BA
    September 21 games 12 starts 44 AB 13 Hits 1 2B 0 3B 1 HR 6 RBI .295 BA

    Grichuk
    August 6 games 3 starts 16 AB 5 Hits 1 2B 0 3B 0 HR 1 RBI .313 BA
    September 22 games 10 starts 50 AB 16 Hits 4 2B 0 3B 3 HR 5 RBI .320 BA

    That’s how OT lost starting spot.

    • Brian Walton says:

      From Viva El Birdos: The St. Louis Cardinals need to bench Randal Grichuk. (Note that it is not a pro-Taveras article, but a deeper look into the splits.)

      • Bw52 says:

        Then that means Cards need to bench Adams versus LHPS
        Oscar Taveras shoul be a DH because he is terrible in the OF
        Shane Robinson should never be seen in a Cards uniform again
        Randy Choate should never pitch to a RHbatter
        Shelby Miller should be pulled after 5 innings
        Tony Cruz can`t play defense or hit
        Daniel Descalso can`t play defense very well
        Jon Jay is a below average CF with a terrible arm

        Some facts that people don`t need VEB to figure out.

      • Bw52 says:

        Jon Jay in RF? Every single to RF means any baserunner gets 2 bases.A flyball to medium RF scores a run.No thanks.At the guy a VEB didn`t bring up the thought of playing the defensively inept Oscar in RF

        • Brian Walton says:

          What do you have to back up your “inept” and “terrible” over-exaggerations?

          • Bw52 says:

            Oscars fielding ratings at Baseball reference and Fangraphs.

            • Brian Walton says:

              Please be specific. One error in 63 games in the OF? Or range factor of 1.98? What is that you see in his fielding ratings that I am missing?

              • Bw52 says:

                -0.8 arm
                -4.8 UZR
                -14.5 UZR/150
                -0.9 dWAR

                • crdswmn says:

                  Anyone who understand sabremetrics would tell you that those numbers are irrelevant in such small sample sizes. Defensive metrics require even larger sample sizes than offensive ones do.

                  • Bw52 says:

                    Small sample sizes or not it tells me that Oscar played poor OF while he was playing.

                    • crdswmn says:

                      No, those numbers mean nothing at all. Defensive metrics say nothing about performance either presently or in the future in sample sizes of less than 3 seasons.

                    • CariocaCardinal says:

                      crdswmn’s statement is just flagrantly and factually incorrect. small sample sizes only influence the predictive value of the metric. they have no influence on the reality of what actually happened. even as a predictive tool they have value but the smaller the sample size the less the value.

                    • crdswmn says:

                      “Beware of sample sizes! If a player only spent 50 innings at a position last season, it’d be a good idea not to draw too many conclusions from their UZR score over that time. Like with any defensive statistic, you should always use three years of UZR data before trying to draw any conclusions on the true talent level of a fielder.”

                      http://www.fangraphs.com/library/defense/uzr/

                    • CariocaCardinal says:

                      they are talking about predictive value. not whether whether the metric shows what actually occurred (it does).

                    • Brian Walton says:

                      I don’t think anyone is disputing the data. It is what it is. The problem is that it is not a large enough sample to be representative.

                    • crdswmn says:

                      What actually occurred as it relates to the performance of other fielders in that position at the same time. Not what his defensive talent is.

                      “Typically, the modern defensive statistics (UZR, DRS, etc) measures this variable by determining how often that play is made by the entire league.”

                      “Additionally, sample size is an important consideration. There are a pretty small number of difficult batted balls hit to every fielder each year. If you luck into a few good plays or miss a few because you happened to be working with a bum ankle, your rating can fall quickly. That’s not a flaw of measurement, it’s a fact of baseball. You don’t get 700 chances to make dazzling plays each season. Even if we could get our measurements from an omnipotent baseball deity, we couldn’t do anything about sample size.”

                      “……The metric isn’t wrong just because the output looks too large or small (although it could be wrong), but it might not be a very good reflection of what will happen in the future or how talented the fielder was for the previous few games.”

                      http://www.fangraphs.com/library/the-beginners-guide-to-measuring-defense/

                      The bottom line is that those defensive metrics prove nothing about OT’s defense.

                  • CariocaCardinal says:

                    “I don’t think anyone is disputing the data. It is what it is. The problem is that it is not a large enough sample to be representative.”

                    well, some one said that it didn’t reflect the actual performance. To me that is certainly disputing the data.

                    “… those numbers mean nothing at all. Defensive metrics say nothing about performance either presently….”

  11. crdswmn says:

    @cardinals Agree with @joe_sheehan: Starting Grichuk is the worst of three possible options in this massive park, against a righthander.— Will Leitch (@williamfleitch) October 14, 2014

  12. Bw52 says:

    MM picks AJ to start at Catcher and hit 7th,Grichuk RF hitting 8th.Cards playing safe with Yadi?Smart move giving Yadi another day to get better.

  13. Brian Walton says:

    Ugh. Grichuk gave up on a catchable ball that hit off the bottom of the wall and plated three. No guarantee Oscar would have done any better, but that play really hurt the Cardinals.

    • crdswmn says:

      I didn’t see it, I was listening on the radio in the car. Was it catchable? Some media people saying it wasn’t. Jay have caught it? If he was in RF?

      Why won’t Matheny play Bourjos in that park? Seem to me those plays would be more likely made with Bourjos in CF and Jay in RF.

      • Brian Walton says:

        Grichuk’s ball would have been catchable had he run to the right spot (to the wall, then come in if needed). The ball hit the base of the wall and shot away. He misjudged the wind and took a bad route.

        So did Pence, who plays out there all season, on a play a few innings later. The difference is that his ball hit high off the wall. It was clearly not catchable.

        I have no idea if the other Cardinals outfielders would have caught the ball, but my guess is either Jay or Bourjos would have played it better. (i.e. Maybe all three runners would not have scored.)

        • crdswmn says:

          Well it matters not. We both know that Matheny Logic dictates that Grichuk will play RF this entire postseason and beyond because he hit a HR on a really bad pitch from Hudson. Moreover, Matheny has apparently decided that Peter Bourjos will not play at all for any reason.

          Oh well. Go Cards.

  14. Bw52 says:

    Allittle redemption for Peralta after fanning with 2 on earlier.Keep chipping away.

  15. Bw52 says:

    Nice HR Randal Grichuk.Come on Cards keep going.

  16. Bw52 says:

    Randy Choate WTH.Just saw elsewhere that Choate has faced 6 batters this offseason and results are BB,BB,HR,1b,out.error on bunt.

  17. blingboy says:

    One homer too few.

  18. Bw52 says:

    Choate held Lefty hitters to a .091 BA and rh batters hit .377 off him.The guy is LOOGY and nothing else.

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