St. Louis Cardinals: Replacing the lost WAR in 2016

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Apr 5, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright (50) delivers a pitch during the first inning against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Injured Stars Returning

Matt Holliday and Adam Wainwright. These two along with Yadier Molina represent the “core leadership” of the St. Louis Cardinals. These two players have been playing together since 2009 and have been through success and disappointment in their time in a Cardinals’ uniform. Last season saw both of them miss over half of the season due to injury. What can we expect out of them?

Things should be better next season, as both players get healthy and prepare to be better next season. Both players were able to come back and attempt to rescue the Cardinals in the playoffs, and while Adam Wainwright looked rejuvenated out of the bullpen, Holliday looked timid at best.

Adam Wainwright

According to Steamer‘s projections, Wainwright projects out to have a 3.7 fWAR next season and Holliday stands to have an unimpressive 2.1 fWAR next season. So, between the two of them they will make up 5.8 of the 12.7 fWAR missing from the three aforementioned players.

My projection is going to be a little different. The way I get this is by looking at their previous seasons and looking at where steamer projects their stats. I strongly believe that Adam Wainwright is not quite in decline mode just yet. So, in looking at his 2013-2014 stats I want to come up with a safe and conservative number that also reflects with how he looked in 2015 to start the season.

Until the injury, Adam Wainwright was off to a flying start in 2015. Through four starts he had an ERA 1.44, with a FIP of 2.05, and a xFIP of 3.00. So, Wainwright was really good and his early success wasn’t at all due to luck or a better than average defense behind him.

Looking into 2016 and looking back at what he has done shows that Wainwright could be right on the same track. So, according to Steamer’s projection of a 3.58 ERA and 3.48 FIP it kind of suggests that Adam Wainwright will regress into an average pitcher. Not happening.

In my opinion, Wainwright is probably good for a 2.75 ERA and a 3.10 FIP. Now I won’t go through the process of actually calculating fWAR based on this projection, because that is just too much math for me. However, I can come with a number based off of what I see in other starters with similar numbers. My two comparables from 2015 are Carlos Martinez (3.01 ERA, 3.21 FIP, 3.4 fWAR) and Jose Quintana (3.36 ERA, 3.18 FIP, 4.8 fWAR).

I would expect with the numbers I am projecting for Wainwright to end up with a fWAR somewhere in between these two. The point exactly in between the two pitcher’s fWAR would be 4.1 fWAR and I think that is a very good spot for a conservative estimate for him.

Matt Holliday

Currently, Steamer has him projected for a wRC+ of 124, and I really don’t have a problem with that at all. That is a really good projection for a full season of Matt Holliday at age 36. The currently have him bringing in 2.1 fWAR next season, which is again a really good conservative estimate for him.

However, based on what we saw out of Holliday before his injury, I think it could be slightly better. Up until his injury on June 8th, Holliday had a really really good OBP of .417. That he kept this up for two solid months shows to me that this wasn’t necessarily a fluke, and could be an expectation of things to come for the LF in 2016. If Holliday comes into next season healthy, he showed at the end of the season that his bat speed was still there, which is important for the aging outfielder.

Another important thing for Holliday is going to be rest, and he will get more of it this year than he has in his career as a Cardinal with Stephen Piscotty, Brandon Moss, Tommy Pham, and Randal Grichuk all capable of moving around to give the big guy some rest. So, projection wise I want to take into effect his OBP from early 2015 and bring it down a notch, somewhere probably close to his 2013 number of .389, a season in which he had a perfect 4.0 fWAR.

Now, I don’t expect Holliday to have a slash of .300/.389/.490, as well as a wRC+ of 147. This means we need to adjust his fWAR to match Steamer’s average (.274) and slugging (.440), which almost matches his numbers from 2014 of .272 and .441. That season Holliday had an fWAR of 3.6. So, I think a fair assessment for Holliday including an OBP of .389 would be a 3.8 fWAR for 2016.

So, when you take Holliday’s 3.8 and Wainwright’s 4.1 fWAR, you get a fair number of 7.9 fWAR between the two of them. This puts us at still needing to come up with a 4.8 fWAR to make up for the losses.

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