What we wrote about a retiring pitcher-turned-hitter and a retiring hitter-turned-pitcher in BP annuals from 1999 through 2014.
While looking toward the future with our comprehensive slate of current content, we'd also like to recognize our rich past by drawing upon our extensive (and mostly free) online archive of work dating back to 1997. In an effort to highlight the best of what's gone before, we'll be bringing you a weekly blast from BP's past, introducing or re-introducing you to some of the most informative and entertaining authors who have passed through our virtual halls. If you have fond recollections of a BP piece that you'd like to nominate for re-exposure to a wider audience, send us your suggestion.
Last week, both Rick Ankiel and Guillermo Mota announced their retirements. Both position-switching players appeared in the Baseball Prospectus annual well over 10 times, so as a career retrospective, we've collected the comments our book authors have written about them over the years. As a reminder, annual comments through 2013 are available to BP subscribers on our player cards. Baseball Prospectus 2014 is on sale now.
Before the Chuck Finley deal, the Cardinals had only one hitting prospect. Now they have none.
Before the Chuck Finley deal, the Cardinals had only one hitting prospect. Now they have none. They tried to trade their only pitching prospect, but he had the bad manners to hit the DL at the All-Star Break. They managed to complete the Scott Rolen deal by trading two major leaguers (Bud Smith's 132 2/3 major-league innings moving him off of any prospetct lists).
The trades may help them win the NL Central in 2002, but they left the organization with a lack of mature talent. This year's pennant race will mask the ugly truth that for the foreseeable future, this is as good as it's going to be for the Cardinals. Under Branch Rickey, the Cardinals created the minor-league system. This past spring, Baseball America rated the Cardinals' farm system the worst in all of baseball.
The current Cardinal roster is largely homegrown. In 2001, the NL Rookie of the Year Award went to Albert Pujols. In recent years the Cardinals have gotten solid rookie seasons from Rick Ankiel, Alan Benes and Matt Morris. J.D. Drew is a fragile, but excellent, player. The Cardinals have had a knack for developing players to play key roles on their good teams. So far, so good.
No Cardinals prospect appeared on the Baseball Prospectus preseason Top 40 Prospects list; only the Pirates, Devil Rays and Dodgers graded as poorly in this year's Minor League Scouting Notebook; and other than Jimmy Journell, who is on the disabled list and has a Tommy John surgery in his past, no Cardinal appeared on any of BA's four Top Prospects lists. If the Cardinals are going to win the World Series any time soon, the 2002 roster is going to have to make it happen.
The Cardinals had no pick in the first or second round of this year's draft, having lost their selections for signing Jason Isringhausen and Tino Martinez. In the third round, with their first pick, they selected Calvin Hayes, a high-school shortstop. Hayes remains unsigned, as does the Cards' third pick, high-school catcher Josh Bell.
The Cards took high-school hitters with three of their first four picks, then used the next 16 picks on college players. Of the 17 college players they took on the first day of the draft, 15 were from four-year college programs. Of their last 28 selections, 18 came from four-year colleges. When they took left-handed pitchers, they took them from colleges.
Four years ago, the Cardinals had their hands around the Braves' collective
neck and let the series slip away. Don't think that Tony LaRussa has
forgotten. Darryl Kile wasn't with St. Louis in 1996, but he has his
own motivation for revenge: he gave up just two hits and drove in a run
against Greg Maddux in the opener of the 1997 NL Division Series,
but his Astros lost the game, 2-1; the Braves went on to sweep the series.
With home-field advantage and a rested rotation ready for the Tomahawk
Twentyfive, the Cardinals have everything they could want to exorcise the
demons of 1996 and let them move on plague the Braves instead.
Most of you probably remember the hullaballoo back in May after Rick
Ankiel tossed 121 pitches in a start against the Marlins. Those of us
prone to paranoia in that area were quick to excoriate LaRussa for his
handling of his talented left-hander. We weren't the only ones drawing
swords: Ankiel's agent, Scott Boras, made it known that he wasn't happy
about the start. There was talk that he had an understanding with the
organization about limiting Ankiel's workload until he became older.
Rick Ankiel is living up to the hype. With his performance Monday
night, he lowered his ERA to an impressive 4.01 and, more impressively, has
now struck out 130 batters in just 119 innings pitched.
To put that in perspective, 78 pitchers in history have struck out at least
a man an inning while qualifying for the ERA title. Of those 78, only one
was younger than Ankiel is--Dwight Gooden, who set the major-league
record for strikeouts per nine innings as a 19-year-old rookie in 1984.
Ankiel turned 21 on July 19, which qualifies him as a 20-year-old this
season; Kerry Wood was one month older than Ankiel when he turned
the trick in 1998.
It has now been more than two years since we created Pitcher Abuse Points
to standardize the measurement of pitcher workloads. By and large, we have
been more successful at that goal than we had any reason to expect. Some
people in baseball now agree with the notion that limiting pitch counts in
an attempt to keep pitchers healthy is one of the most important topics in
baseball. Then again, many more people think we're full of crap. Or, to
quote Bruce Jenkins of the San Francisco Chronicle:
Two years ago, when we first introduced Pitcher Abuse Points, pitch counts
were still shrouded in a veil of mystery. They were available, mind you,
but they were squirreled away at the bottom of box scores, and rarely
ventured from their hiding place to appear in game summaries or in
televised accounts of the game. Columnists never brought them to our
attention. Livan Hernandez could throw 140 pitches in utter obscurity.
Today, ESPN tracks Rick Ankiel's pitch counts the way CNBC tracks