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Near Miss
2006-11-05 21:29
by Mike Carminati

The justification for the kings of mediocrity, the Cardinals, winning the World Series is that they had so many players that missed substantial stretches of the season. They got healthy to start the players and the end result was that they slid into the postseason by the skin of their teeth but given the actual talent they had on the team, they easily won in it all. And what kind of jerk am I anyway for not seeing it all along?

Well, that sure sound great, but did the Cardinals really miss more games than the average playoff team? Does getting players back for the postseason guarantee success?

The Cardinals starters missed a total of 206 during the regular season:

David Eckstein12338
Yadier Molina12932
Jim Edmonds11051
Albert Pujols14318
Scott Rolen14219
Ronnie Belliard*14714
Juan Encarnacion1538
Preston Wilson*13526
Tot Missed206

* Belliard played just 54 G w/ St. Louis;Wilson 33

206 sounds like a lot, but how does it compare with past postseason team? The answer is not all that well. It's about average.

Of course, this kind of study is rife with assumptions. I am assuming that the starting position players used in the postseason are the team's ideal lineup, which is of course not always the case. A team could have a starting player who played all 162 games but gets hurt in the final game and misses the playoffs entirely. He gets replaced by a backup who may have played just a handful of games. By my assumption, it looks like the backup missed was the preferred player but he missed most of the regular season. But it's impossible to state in all situations who was the player the teams preferred.

Anyway, here are the playoff teams that lost the most regular season games to their starters:

YrTmG MissedWLDivWinWCWinLgWinWSWin
1940Cincinnati Reds46310053 YY
1998New York Yankees39711448YNYY
2004Anaheim Angels3929270YNNN
1957New York Yankees3899856 YN
1975Boston Red Sox3859565Y YN
2001Atlanta Braves3848874YNNN
1978New York Yankees38310063Y YY
2002Arizona Diamondbacks3769864YNNN
1955New York Yankees3709658 YN
1980Houston Astros3669370Y NN
1948Boston Braves3659162 YN
1999Cleveland Indians3529765YNNN
1988New York Mets35210060Y NN
1984Kansas City Royals3518478Y NN
2004Minnesota Twins3499270YNNN

You might notice by the way that only three of those teams won a World Series. Overall, there is the very slightest correlation against the missed game theory (-0.024).

The real reasons that the Cardinals' offense went wild in the postseason was that they upgraded two of their sore spots (second base and left field) and their other liability, "It's Yadier!" Molina had the postseason of his life.

By the way, here are the teams that lost the least time during the regular season:

YrTmG MissedWLDivWinWCWinLgWinWSWin
1909Pittsburgh Pirates4911042 YY
1950Philadelphia Phillies689163 YN
1933Washington Senators789953 YN
1919Chicago White Sox798852 YN
1921New York Giants799459 YY
1986Boston Red Sox929566Y YN
1934Detroit Tigers9410153 YN
1996Baltimore Orioles968874NYNN
2003Florida Marlins989171NYYY
1995Colorado Rockies997767NYNN
1999New York Mets1069766NYNN
1911New York Giants1079954 YN
1923New York Yankees1089854 YY
1993Atlanta Braves10910458Y NN
1954New York Giants1159757 YY
2006-11-05 22:21:28
1.   franklin
How about DL time for the pitching staff? I know Mulder was a loss, anyone else?
2006-11-06 11:01:40
2.   rbj
Wow, didn't realize the '98 Yankees lost that much time.
2006-11-06 14:29:51
3.   das411
Or that the 03 Marlins lost so little...that has to be attributable to Pudge somehow...
2006-11-06 16:56:20
4.   Xeifrank
1. Mulder and Isringhausen among the more prominent pitchers. Not that they did all that well in the regular season, but both missed time and the complete postseason.

I am not sure about the original premise of "winning the World Series is that they had so many players that missed substantial stretches of the season" being a justification for the Cards winning the WS. Do they need a justification? I agree that they had significant injuries to key players. One thing the study should look at (if done right) is to look at which part of the season they had the injuries and which part of the season did they play poorly. The Cardinals were a solid 2nd best team in the NL (record wise) for much of the season. Personally, I don't look for "justification" of them winning the WS, other than the simple fact that they took on all comers and outplayed them all. The playoffs are a small sample size and any team that makes the playoffs can win it, within reason. Don't mock the team, mock the system. vr, Xei

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