My August 21st article here on Scout.com entitled "Cardinals Among MLB's Best at Drafting" quantified the St. Louis Cardinals' success in drafting major league players. That article ranked the Cardinals organization against others based on major league batter at bats and pitcher wins.
Based on feedback from readers, and with the assistance of Lee Sinins and his Complete Baseball Encyclopedia, I have expanded the range of measures used to rate the 30 major league teams. This article summarizes those additional measures.
As noted in the prior article, judging future prospects in a farm system pipeline is a subjective process. However, with the benefit of time, the drafting performance of teams can be objectively judged — by looking at the players a team drafted and their eventual success (or lack thereof) in the major leagues.
Baseball-Reference.com has a web page of the amateur drafts of each of the 30 teams, showing players which have played in the majors by a certain time frame (in this case, by the end of the 2005 season). The statistics on those pages have been augmented with career statistics from the Complete Baseball Encyclopedia, along with sabermetric measures from the Encyclopedia. This revised article is based on the enhanced database.
The drafting performance of teams can then be judged by comparing the summary stats of each team. So instead of opinions as to which team has done the best in the draft, by aggregating the results, one can obtain an objective ranking of teams.
One significant limitation to this approach is the time lag from the time a player is drafted until they reach the major leagues, and the subsequent time to compile the counting stats such as hits, at bats, wins, losses, etc. On average, the "gestation period" (as I like to call it) for players can be four, five, and six years.
For example, most players drafted in 2002 are just breaking into the majors in 2005 or 2006. To illustrate, there were only 24 players drafted in 2003 in the majors by the end of 2005, six from the 2004 draft, and only three from the 2005 draft. In round numbers, about 150 players drafted and signed each year make it to the majors.
Accordingly, this approach is useful to measure the 1995 to 2000 drafts, and less so for the subsequent drafts. The later drafts can only be judged in this fashion several years further down the road.
2. The Cardinals' Drafts, 1995 to Present
Walt Jocketty made his reputation as the Farm Director of the Oakland A's from 1980 to 1993. He moved to Colorado in 1994, and became the Cardinals general manager in late 1994. The 1995 draft was his first; thus I selected 1995 as the beginning point of my database.
How have the Cardinals done compared to the other major league teams since Jocketty took over the Cardinals?
First, let's examine the significant batters and pitchers the Cardinals have drafted.
Table 1 presents the batters drafted by the Cards from 1995 onward that compiled at least 100 plate appearances in the majors by the end of 2005, along with the totals for all of the players drafted:
Table 2 shows the pitchers with at least fifty innings pitched by the end of 2005, along with the totals for all of the pitchers drafted:
3. Major League Team Draft Performance, 1995 to Present
How do the players the Cards have drafted, in total, compare to the other 30 major league teams?
There are two basics measures of farm production. One is quantity, the other is quality. A team may have produced a lot of players, but they could be average or below average. Or a team could have produced a relatively low number of players, but those players could be above average.
For the batters, the quantity measure is plate appearances (PAs), the quality measures are Runs Created Against Position (RCAP) and on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS).
For the pitchers, the quantity measure is innings pitched (IP); the quality measures are Runs Saved Against Average (RSAA) and earned run average (ERA).
(Editor's note: For those looking for a sabermetric glossary about now, click on this link.)
Let's start with the batters.
Table 3 shows the top four and bottom four teams for the period, ranked first by plate appearances, then by RCAP, then by OPS.
|TOP FOUR||BOTTOM FOUR|
|St. Louis||18,062||316||0.805||NY Mets||5,599||(68)||0.723|
|St. Louis||18,062||316||0.805||San Diego||6,154||(55)||0.696|
Cardinals batters rank second in plate appearances, first in RCAP, and third in OPS. The only comparable team in the majors in terms of quality and quantity is the Rockies, and OPS is affected by Coors Field in the pre-humidor days.
So while the perception among many is that the Cards have had underperforming drafts, the opposite is true.
At the other end of the spectrum are the Dodgers and San Francisco; they haven't produced players, and the players produced have been below average. Of late, San Francisco has disdained the draft, while current prospects in the Dodgers farm system are highly regarded.
Another interesting team on the list is Minnesota. They rank eighth in PAs, but last in RCAP. In short, they have produced players, but on the whole, these players have been below average for their positions based on RCAP (Minnesota is middle of the pack for OPS).
Now let's turn to the pitchers.
Consistent with their performance in drafting batters, the Cardinals finished in the top ranks for pitchers; ninth in the majors in innings pitched, third in RSAA, first in ERA.
Table 4 shows the top and bottom four teams, ranked by innings pitched, Runs Saved Against Average (RSAA), and earned run average (ERA).
|TOP FOUR||BOTTOM FOUR|
|St. Louis||3,491||136||3.94||Tampa Bay||2,764||(267)||5.39|
Oakland being at the top of the list is probably not a surprise to most baseball fans, given the big three of Hudson, Mulder, and Zito. Oakland is first in innings pitched and RSAA, and second in ERA. Given the use of the designated hitter in the AL, effectively Oakland has the best ERA also. Oakland produced both quantity and quality.
But the Cardinals, reputation or not, have been among the best in producing pitchers; ninth in innings pitched, third in RSAA, first (effectively second after allowing for the designated hitter) in ERA. Houston and the Cards are in an effective dead heat; roughly the same innings pitched, the Cards with the better ERA, the Astros with the better RSAA.
4. Ranking the Teams
Let's put the numbers together, using two of the batter metrics, at bats (ABs) and on base plus slugging (OPS), and two of the pitching metrics, innings pitched (IP) and earned run average (ERA). How do the 30 major league teams rank?
By adding the quantity and quality metrics, we have an offensive score and a pitching score for each team, and a total score. Add up the score, and you have a relative ranking of the 30 major league teams.
With a 15 overall score, five on offense, 10 for pitching, the Cardinals have the best score in major league baseball. The Dodgers rank last.
Other notables include the second place "Moneyball" A's (where Walt Jocketty ran the farm system from 1980 to 1993). Near the bottom of the table is the self-proclaimed scout-driven Atlanta Braves, who have focused on Georgia/Southern high schoolers.
(Note: Due to space limitations, click here to view the entire Table 5, rankings for all 30 MLB organizations.)
Contrary to popular perception among some St. Louis fans, the Cardinals have not been a failure at drafting players — using these metrics, they have performed the best in Major League Baseball since Walt Jocketty took over in 1995.
As more players emerge from the minor leagues and establish their major league careers, these rankings may change.
However, for now, the Cardinals have the dual distinction of being among the best in baseball for drafting since 1995, and having drafted the best player in baseball over that period.