St. Louis Cardinals MLB Notebook – Week of December 20-26

photo: Scott Rolen (Getty Images)

In the last week for the St. Louis Cardinals, news was sparse. The MLB lockout continues with no progress made. 2022 ZIPs projections generally favor Cardinals players. Our history feature highlights the Hall of Fame candidacy of third baseman Scott Rolen.



MLB lockout news

There have been no further updates on the MLB player lockout situation in the last week. The sides are not expected back at the table until the New Year.

Cardinals 2022 ZIPs projections are out

Among the many annual activities that take place in the offseason, player projections are an item to which many in the analytics community look forward.  Projections are tools that helpsteams, analysts and interested fans get some idea of how players and teams may perform in the upcoming season.

One of the most popular and more accurate of the projection systems available is the ZiPs System, created by Dan Zymborski, previously of Baseball Think Factory, and published each offseason at Fangraphs.  The system uses past player performance via weighted statistics and aging trends to predict the likely future performance of the player.  The previous three years of statistics are used with the most recent seasons weighed more heavily.

The ZiPs projections for the Cardinals roster were published this past week.   The entire team projections in detail can be found at https://blogs.fangraphs.com/2022-zips-projections-st-louis-cardinals/.

In terms of WAR in particular, the projected 2022 outfield of Tyler O’Neill in left, Harrison Bader in center and Dylan Carlson in right looks very good.  ZiPs projects both O’Neill and Bader coming in at over 4 WAR each.  Carlson is projected to have a WAR of 2.5.

Nolan Arenado

In the infield, third baseman Nolan Arenado leads the team with a projected WAR of 4.5 with Goldschmidt next at 3.7. Because the shortstop position in 2021 was fluid, ZiPS projects that position with a combined 3.2 WAR from Paul DeJong and Edmundo Sosa.  At second base, the expected 2022 arrival of prospect Nolan Gorman figured into the equation with a combined WAR for Tommy Edman and Gorman at 2.6.  At catcher a combined 1.7 WAR for Yadier Molina and Andrew Knizner is projected.

Pitching performance is predicted for starters individually, but in combination for the bullpen.  Jack Flaherty is projected for the highest WAR by a Cardinals starting pitcher with 3.3.  The combined bullpen WAR is projected to be 2.6.

Once the season starts, ZiPs projections are updated daily to reflect current performance.  No projection system is 100% accurate nor are they meant to be.  Projections are just a guide, not an expectancy.  Players may exceed or fall short of their projections and do so routinely.

Trade and Acquisition Rumors

There are no trade or acquisition rumors to report. Only minor league transactions are allowed during the lockout.

Transactions

There are no transactions to report.

Injury Report

There are no new injuries to report.

Looking Ahead

As of 11:59 p.m. ET on December 1, the MLB/MLBPA Collective Bargaining Agreement expired. The Commissioner’s Office announced that the owners of all 30 teams voted unanimously to institute a lockout of MLB players effective immediately.

As a result of the lockout, all major league transactions are halted indefinitely. Players and team personnel are prohibited from communicating with each other and players are not permitted to use team facilities. The parties may continue to negotiate to reach an agreement that would end the lockout.

Depending on how long the lockout continues, the exchanging of salary amounts for arbitration purposes, which occurs in mid-January, may be delayed. The Cardinals annual Winter Warm-Up, which occurs in January, is still scheduled to occur as of this writing but will likely be canceled.

There will be no major league activity to report for the foreseeable future as long as the lockout continues.

Blast from the Past

As the MLB lockout continues, last week’s Blast began with a series that remembers Cardinals transactions that occurred during the same time period in the past.  This series is meant to fill in the gaps that the lockout has brought to current offseason transactions.  However, this week we detour from that series for something different.  Because very few transactions in past history have occurred in and around the week of Christmas, and because we are nearing the end of the Hall of Fame voting period, this week’s Blast will instead look at the life and career of a former Cardinal whose candidacy for the Hall of Fame is reaching its heights.

When thinking of Cardinal’s greats in the infield over the past couple of decades, probably the first player that comes to mind is Albert Pujols.  Pujols of course is not yet a candidate for the Hall of Fame as he remains an active player.  One former Cardinal infielder, however, is currently being considered for the honor, a third baseman that most Cardinals fans remember as one of the best at the position in St. Louis history.

Scott Bruce Rolen was born on April 4, 1975, in Evansville, Indiana, the youngest of three children born to Ed and Linda Rolen.  Rolen grew up in Jasper, Indiana and was blessed with superior athletic gifts, most prominently in baseball and basketball, which Scott played in high school and intended to pursue in college.  Though Rolen was offered a basketball scholarship to the University of Georgia, and committed to playing there, Scott changed his mind and instead chose baseball after he was taken in the second round of the 1993 MLB draft by the Philadelphia Phillies.

Rolen began his professional baseball career with the Martinsville Phillies of the Appalachian League in 1993.  In 1994 he moved to the Spartanburg Phillies of the South Atlantic League.  He played in the Phillies High-A and Double-A teams in 1995 and in 1996 reached the Triple-A level.  On August 1 of that year, he made his major league debut with the Phillies.  Rolen played in 37 games with Philadelphia that season and hit .254/.322/.400 with four home runs and 18 RBI.

Rolen began 1997 with the Phillies and played full time at third base.  He slashed .283/.377/.469 with 21 home runs and 92 RBI.  Scott was named the National League Rookie of the Year in 1997, the first Phillie to win the award since Dick Allen in 1964.  In the offseason, Rolen signed a four-year, $10 million contract extension.  In 1998, he received the first of three Gold Gloves he would earn as a Phillie.

Rolen had off-field difficulties in Philadelphia, especially with manager Larry Bowa, who had taken over from Terry Francona, who had been fired after losing seasons in 1999 and 2000.  Rolen and Bowa did not get along, and Bowa did not hesitate to criticize Rolen in public.

Scott’s contract was set to expire at the end of the 2002 season and the Phillies offered him an extension, which he declined.  Rolen explained his decision in a press conference, criticizing what he perceived as the Phillies unwillingness to spend money to make the team better.  It was reported that Rolen asked for a trade, and the Phillies obliged him by sending him to the Cardinals on July 29, 2002, for Placido Polanco, Mike Timlin, and Bud Smith.

Scott Rolen and Bill DeWitt, 2002 (AP photo)

The Cardinals in turn signed Rolen to an eight-year deal worth $90 million.  Scott won his fourth Gold Glove in 2002 and hit .278/.354/.561 with 14 home runs and 44 RBI in the second half of the season with St. Louis.  In 2003 Scott slashed .286/.382/.528 with 28 long balls and 104 driven in.  He was sent to his second All-Star Game and won his fifth Gold Glove.

The best season of Rolen’s career was 2004 with the Cardinals.  He hit a career high 34 home runs and had a career high 124 RBI.  He went to the All-Star Game for the third time, won his sixth Gold Glove and finished fourth in the MVP voting (teammates Albert Pujols and Jim Edmonds finished third and fifth).  The three teammates, Rolen, Pujols, and Edmonds were dubbed the “MV3”.  That season the Cardinals won 105 games and advanced to the World Series. Unfortunately, they were swept in four games by the Boston Red Sox.

On May 10, 2005, Rolen suffered a devastating shoulder injury in a collision with Dodgers first baseman Hee-Seop Choi which led to season ending surgery. He returned to play in 2006, was selected to the All-Star Game for the sixth time and won his seventh Gold Glove.  Scott’s shoulder injury flared up at the end of the season, and though he contributed to the Cardinals 2006 World Championship, he and manager Tony La Russa had a disagreement over Rolen not starting in Game 4 of the series.

Larry Walker and Scott Rolen (Ford-Mobley.com)

Rolen’s shoulder injury persisted into the 2007 season and so did the tension between he and La Russa.  The relationship disintegrated to the point that Rolen asked to be traded at the end of the 2007 season.  The Cardinals sent Rolen to the Toronto Blue Jays on January 12, 2008, for another third baseman, Troy Glaus.

Rolen played less than two seasons in Toronto before being traded to the Cincinnati Reds on July 31. 2009.  Rolen finished his major league career with the Reds, while earning two more trips to the All-Star Game and winning his eighth and last Gold Glove.  Rolen went to the postseason with Cincinnati in 2010, but ironically the Reds were swept in the NLDS by his original team, the Philadelphia Phillies.

Scott retired after the 2012 season with the Reds, having not played a full season in either 2011 or 2012.  He amassed a stellar 17 seasons in the major leagues including 316 home runs, 2,077 hits, 1,287 RBI, eight Gold Gloves, five All Star berths, a Rookie of the Year, and a Silver Slugger.  His 70.1 WAR ranks 13th all-time among MLB third basemen.  On the defensive side, Rolen is one of only six third baseman with a defensive WAR of 20 or above.

In 2019, Rolen was inducted into the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame.

Will his next speech be in Cooperstown?

Rolen is currently in his fifth year on the writers’ Hall of Fame ballot. He received 52.9% of the vote last year, with an upward trajectory.  As of this writing, with 59 public ballots counted, Rolen sits at 72.6% of the vote (15.8% of the possible ballots). 75% or more is required for induction.  Source:  http://www.bbhoftracker.com/2021/12/2022-bbhof-tracker-summary-and-leaderboard/

The last day for writers to submit their votes is December 31.  Stay tuned.


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