Patience or Panic with Colby Rasmus?


For the past three years, a common recurring theme has seemed to emerge with the Cardinals every summer.  Besides crippling heat that is.

Regardless of how he starts out of the gate in the spring, it seems inevitable that Colby Rasmus will eventually fall into a slump, his overbearing father will become involved (even if only on chat boards) and the “dump him or keep him” chatter begins anew.  The only variable is how far into the season he’ll make it before it all starts again.

The chatter has heated up over the past few weeks as some fans are convinced it’s time to scrap Rasmus for spare parts even though he’s firmly in the “sell low” zone given a two-month long slump.

Courtesy of the enormous hype that accompanied him to the Majors, many critics forget that Rasmus entered his third season at the ripe age of 24.

Manning centerfield for the Cardinals has been an exclusive club over the last three decades. On any scorecard dated back to 1982 until the day Rasmus took over, there’s a very strong chance you’ll see one of these three names – McGee, Lankford or Edmonds, who collectively played 4,274 games with the Cardinals.

While McGee and Lankford cut their teeth with the home team, Cardinals fans were treated to the best years of Jim Edmonds’ career thanks to the Angels’ decision to send him packing. The same scenario occurred to the detriment of the home team when Whitey Herzog shipped his own young, talented outfielder, Andy Van Slyke, out of town based largely on a lack of patience only to watch him become one of the premier centerfielders in the league during his time in Pittsburgh.

To trade young or to invest long term is ultimately John Mozeliak’s decision, but we took a look at how four notable examples faired as their careers progressed using our favorite stat, Wins Above Replacement (per, the scale of WAR: 8+ MVP, 5+ A-S, 2+ Strtr, 0-2 Sub, <0 Repl) to offer some perspective:

While their career paths all took different and sometimes dramatic routes, two things were fairly consistent – 1.) at the age of 24, just like expected, their performance was at the low end of its potential and 2.) at the age of 25, they saw a relatively significant spike:

In these cases, all reached their peak at a later age.

Considering we’re only halfway through 2011, Rasmus’ production looks like it will put him on a similar path, or even slightly more encouraging considering his 2010 season was better than any of the others when they were at the same age.

Of course, the only tangible connections between the players on this graph and Colby Rasmus are the uniforms they wore at one point and the positions they played. No one can be sure of what was going through their heads at a young age or how they dealt the pressure of being a Major Leaguer that often saw their names printed next to the word “potential”.

What we do know is that Rasmus has loads of it. And at the age of 24, it’s hard to assume we’ve seen whether it will be met.

If it is, just hope he doesn’t meet it in another city.



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