When the Philadelphia Phillies lost to the San Francisco Giants this year, I was glad to see them fall. I don’t know if it’s because I was stuck on the east coast for so long while in the military, if it’s because of the hype they got versus what those Cardinal teams got, or if there is another reason I can’t quite figure out yet.
I don’t know if my mind may change in the future, but I thought then and think now that we were watching something really special from 2004-2006. A few of the pieces changed, and it would seem on paper that 2006 was the least likely to win it all, but that’s the great thing about baseball. The Cardinals got healthy and hot at the same time in 2006. I don’t know if Dave Duncan will ever be appreciated enough for the work he does with the pitchers on the roster. For every Kip Wells, it seems there are 3 Jeff Weavers. I would love to have a behind the scenes look at the game plan for all the starters in the 2006 playoffs, and see or hear some of the game plans for guys like Weaver and Jeff Suppan, as well as our closer that year at the end, Adam Wainwright.
I’ve been using Wins Above Replacement a lot lately. It seems like a good measure of a players overall ability using both offense and defense. I see a lot of sportswriters using it to make or break the case for players up from everything from player of the month to the Hall of Fame. Before I get into comparing the two teams, I wanted to point out that for career Wins Above Replacement, using BaseballReference.com as my guide, the St. Louis Cardinals had 4 players on the 2004-2005 team in the top 108 of all-time. Those players were Albert Pujols who is currently 47th, Jim Edmonds—92nd, Larry Walker—98th, and Scott Rolen—108th.
I don’t know if we will ever see a lineup that is as deep as what is was in 2004. When you have Larry Walker hitting 2nd, Reggie Sanders hitting 6th or 7th, with Edmonds, Pujols, and Rolen in the middle, that’s hard to beat. Throw in the speed of Tony Womack and Edgar Renteria, along with Sanders, and it becomes that much more impressive. In 2005, David Eckstein replaced Renteria, Yadier Molina replaced Mike Matheny, and Mark Grudzielanek replaced Womack. If you look at the numbers, it’s hard to make a case against one team over the other.
I think the Cardinals will be hard pressed to come up with a team that is as balanced on offense and defense as the 2004-2006 teams. I don’t think the Philadelphia Phillies team from the last 3 years is anywhere close to those Cardinal teams. The fact is that both teams won a WS, lost one, and were beaten in the NLCS 4 games to 2 in a three year span. Although it was in a different order, I want to look at some numbers comparing the teams.
The problem is that I’m not sure what stats are going to give us a full picture to compare the two. I’ll start with Wins Above Replacement (WAR). I’ll use Team Player Value—Batters WAR and Team Player Value—Pitchers for WAR (pitchers).
Team Year WAR WAR(for pitchers)
St. Louis Cardinals 2004 34.5 12.0
St. Louis Cardinals 2005 30.9 12.3
St. Louis Cardinals 2006 23.8 4.7
Philadelphia Phillies 2008 22.4 14.3
Philadelphia Phillies 2009 23.9 11.0
Philadelphia Phillies 2010 24.0 16.6
So, what this shows is that in terms of WAR, The Cardinals won the World Series when they had their lowest totals, both on offense and pitching in the regular season. The Phillies had their best pitching staff of the 3 years this year, but didn’t advance past the NLCS. The Cardinals best year of WAR for pitchers in the regular season was 2005, and they also were put out in the NLCS.
I know by doing my previous article on Jim Edmonds-Hall of Fame-Wins Above Replacement, that Edmonds was underrated most years in his career in MVP voting. I know before I look it up that Edmonds, Rolen and Pujols are going to have a better combined WAR than any combination of Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Shane Victorino, Carlos Ruiz and Jason Werth, but I’ll look them up anyway.
Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels are probably going to have a higher WAR than any 3 starters of the Cardinals in 2004-06, so I’ll look up those as well. Chris Carpenter might make it close, and Lee and Halladay were not on the same team, so we’ll see. Come back for part II of Cards 04-06 vs. Phillies 08-10 in a few days.