Breaking down Cardinals September call-ups

In comments following a recent post about first-year players and rookies, we had a hearty discussion about September call-ups by the St. Louis Cardinals.

A couple of questions were posed:

1) Are the Cardinals calling up fewer players for the final month than in previous years?

2) Is the mix between prospects and veteran call-ups changing?

In order to answer this, I had to reconstruct the rosters and September transactions in recent years. With the data available to me, I could only do this in a manner in which I was satisfied back the past five years, from 2004 through 2008.

I made a quick best-effort call on which players should be labeled prospects and which were called veterans. In most cases, it was straightforward, but for some, it was a bit gray. For example, players like Brad Thompson and Brendan Ryan moved to the veteran column after they had served at least parts of several years in the majors.

To answer question number one, in terms of raw numbers, the data shows the club is actually calling up more players in recent years than in the past.

Callups Pitcher Hitter Prospect Veteran
2008 9 4 5 4 5
2007 8 4 4 4 4
2006 8 4 4 5 3
2005 7 4 3 6 1
2004 5 4 1 2 3
avg. 7.4 4.0 3.4 4.2 3.2
pct. 54% 46% 57% 43%

In the most three recent years, the eight, eight and nine call-ups respectively made are all above the five-year average of 7.4. The number of pitchers has been exactly same each year at four.

Position players, aka “Hitters”, show the greatest fluctuation, with a year (2004) with as few as one, while the 2008 mark of five was the highest during this period. Last September also marked the only year in which there were more hitters called up than pitchers. Though I did not study disabled list data, the latter could be at least partially due to the high number of late-season injuries encountered in 2008, primarily in the outfield.

Moving to the right, one can see that average mix of prospects and veterans is approaching 60-40. Yet in the most recent two seasons, 2007 and 2008, the levels of veteran call-ups, at four and five respectively, represent the high-water mark of this period and a continuation of a four-year upward trend.

This latter point surprised me a bit. I had expected that with an improving farm system we would see more prospects and fewer veterans, but that hasn’t been happening.

Here are the detailed names of the 2004-2008 Cardinals September call-ups, broken out between prospects and veterans:

Pitching prospect Hitting prospect Pitching veteran Hitting veteran
2008 Josh Kinney Nick Stavinoha Randy Flores Josh Phelps
Jason Motte Brian Barden Kelvin Jimenez Brendan Ryan
Mark Johnson
2007 Andy Cavazos Skip Schumaker Brian Falkenborg Miguel Cairo
Kelvin Jimenez Brian Barden Brad Thompson Kelly Stinnett
2006 Anthony Reyes Skip Schumaker Brad Thompson John Rodriguez
Chris Narveson John Nelson Mike Rose
Josh Kinney
2005 Anthony Reyes Skip Schumaker Randy Flores
Adam Wainwright John Gall
Tyler Johnson Chris Duncan
2004 Dan Haren Randy Flores Cody McKay
Carmen Cali Al Reyes

In summary, here are my conclusions:

1) No, the Cardinals are trending up in recent years in terms of raw numbers of September call-ups.

2) Yes, the prospect-veteran mix has changed over the last two years – in favor of the vets.

Yet I don’t necessarily see the latter continuing. The prospect pipeline is filling as fewer minor league free agent journeyman signings seem to be needed at the highest levels of the system.

Of course, we’ll have to see how this plays out in 2009 and beyond. Bringing us back fill circle, I would expect to see the prospect content increasing as the number of players that need Rule 5 protection grows.

Skip Schumaker (pictured) holds the recent record for consecutive last-month calls with three (2005 2006, 2007), tied by reliever Randy Flores in non-contiguous years (2004, 2005 and 2008).

Added to the 40-man

Another factor, albeit a much lesser one, concerns how many of the September call-ups were not already on the 40-man roster. Some may have not yet have been required to be added because of their relative baseball youth while others were once on the 40-man in St. Louis or elsewhere, but later removed, only to be re-added here.

One such example of the latter in 2008 was infielder Brian Barden, outrighted by the Cardinals last March and re-added to the 40-man when called up last September.

In terms of numbers, the Cardinals typically added one pitcher and two position players each September. Of course, these players can be removed just as quickly as they were added, as happened with Josh Phelps and Mark Johnson at the conclusion of the 2008 season and a number of others in previous years.

Callups Pitcher Hitter + 40 man Pitcher Hitter
2008 9 4 5 3 0 3
2007 8 4 4 3 1 2
2006 8 4 4 2 0 2
2005 7 4 3 2 1 1
2004 5 4 1 3 3 0
avg. 7.4 4 3.4 2.6 1 1.6

Now, here are the players’ names that go behind the numbers. Looking at those in recent years indicates this approach is rarely used for legitimate prospects, signaling those called up were likely previously added to the 40-man roster prior to the final month of the season.

With the large number of Rule 5-eligible players coming this fall, it will be interesting to see if this pattern is broken.

Pitchers Pitchers added to 40-man Hitters Hitters added to 40-man
2008 Randy Flores Nick Stavinoha Josh Phelps
Jason Motte Brendan Ryan Brian Barden
Kelvin Jimenez Mark Johnson
Josh Kinney
2007 Andy Cavazos Brian Falkenborg Skip Schumaker Miguel Cairo
Kelvin Jimenez Brian Barden Kelly Stinnett
Brad Thompson
2006 Brad Thompson John Rodriguez Mike Rose
Anthony Reyes Skip Schumaker John Nelson
Chris Narveson
Josh Kinney
2005 Anthony Reyes Tyler Johnson Skip Schumaker Chris Duncan
Adam Wainwright John Gall
Randy Flores
2004 Dan Haren Randy Flores Cody McKay
Carmen Cali
Al Reyes

The passed over

Taking this one step farther, for the final view, we will take a look at the players on the 40-man roster each of the years of 2004 through 2008 who did NOT receive a call up. Sometimes you might have seen these players listed in transaction logs at the end of the season noted as “recalled, not to report”.

The yearly totals varied from as few as four to as many as eight, averaging six, roughly four pitchers and two position players.

Callups Pitcher Hitter Non call Pitcher Hitter
2008 9 4 5 6 5 1
2007 8 4 4 4 2 2
2006 8 4 4 6 2 4
2005 7 4 3 6 4 2
2004 5 4 1 8 6 2
avg. 7.4 4 3.4 6 3.8 2.2

In almost every case, the names are that of prospects apparently deemed not ready or perhaps had already pitched enough innings. In 2008, both Jaime Garcia and Mike Parisi were injured, but remember the constant number of four yearly pitching promotions. As a result, I submit that had Garcia and Parisi been available and gotten the call, a pair of other pitchers simply would have joined this list of passed-over players instead of them.

Pitchers 40-man no promo Hitters 40-man no promo
2008 Mitchell Boggs Jarrett Hoffpauir
Jaime Garcia
Mark Worrell
Mike Parisi
Blake Hawksworth
2007 Dennis Dove John Rodriguez
Blake Hawksworth Cody Haerther
2006 Carmen Cali Michel Hernandez
Brian Falkenborg Brendan Ryan
Travis Hanson
Reid Gorecki
2005 Carmen Cali Bo Hart
Chris Narveson Reid Gorecki
Rhett Parrott
Evan Rust
2004 Jason Simontacchi John Gall
Jim Journell Bo Hart
Rhett Parrott
Josh Pearce
Evan Rust
Adam Wainwright

Many names appeared on this list twice, but no player lasted long enough to be passed over for a September call-up three times. With a current two-year streak and counting, Blake Hawksworth should definitely sit up and take notice.