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Wednesday, July 11, 2007


St. Louis, Today

What's happening in St. Louis today? Let's check St. Louis Today and their prognosticator extraordinaire, Mr. Bryan Burwell.

Halfway through the tale of the 2007 baseball season, the Cardinals have not exactly given us some mind-twisting whodunit to solve. The Redbirds, in fact, have been no riddle at all. They reach the All-Star break giving us the rather predictable story of a struggling defending champion beset by too many injuries, and we all know how that plot line is supposed to go.

It's a little disingenuous -- or ignorant, take your pick -- to blame the 2007 Cardinals' woes on injuries. Because the 2006 Cardinals were two games over .500. They were a mediocre team that played in a terrible division, got hot at the right time, and won it all. Good for them. It's what makes baseball great and unpredictable. But it's not like they went from a 105-win team to a 75-win team because Lord Scrapford von Gritt tweaked his hustlebone.

Let's pause a moment to give Tony La Russa's gritty bunch of Memphis misfits a sincere tip of the cap for the effort that has kept them just on the fringe of contention.

Let us also praise him for leaving the best hitter in the history of ever on his bench as Aaron Rowand popped out against a guy who had walked the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth. Why does no one in the world ever allow for the possibility that Tony La Russa is a terrible manager? Sometimes he doesn't just arrange deck chairs on the Titanic -- he fixes the ones with wobbly legs, and then, while clinging to a piece of jetsam in the freezing North Atlantic, arrogantly insists that that chair would've come in handy if the boat hadn't broken in half and sunk.

There is ample reason to believe that what lies ahead must be better than what we've already read. Carpenter is either weeks or days away from returning to the rotation. Eckstein and Edmonds ought to be at or near 100 percent after the break and back in the lineup.

Aaron Miles 2007 EqA: .247
David Eckstein 2006 EqA: .251

Eckstein's return will not help you that much, Cardinal fans. I am sorry. Face facts. Grow up. Take four Advil, drink some coffee, and do away with your Scrap Goggles.

The Cardinals will host the Brewers and second-place Chicago Cubs in a six-game home stand at the end of the month that will be the first of 20 remaining games against the two teams they need to overtake to get into the postseason. There are 10 more games left against the Brewers and 10 more against the Cubbies, which will give the Redbirds all the opportunity to narrow that 7½-game gap.

The Cardinals have been outscored by 64 runs. Right now they are overperforming their ExWL by four games. Unless the Brewers go completely into the tank, it's time to make plans for 2008.

There's no need to bombard you with a zillion inside-baseball stats that will convince you that the Cards are on the verge of behaving like contenders or exposing them as gritty but flawed pretenders.

Second mention of gritty-ness. And no, it does not take one zillion "inside-baseball" stats. It takes one, and I just gave it to you. Outscored. 64 runs. Bad.

I don't care what the team ERA is over the last 15 games. I don't want to listen to anyone drone on about WIPS, OPS or any other exotic calculations that leave so many seamheads dizzy with delight and serve as all-knowing predictors of the future.

WIPS = not a thing, I don't think. OPS is not "exotic," unless you consider the mathematical formula A + B "exotic." And if you do want to get "exotic," I just checked BP's ExWL PECOTA-adjusted page, and the Cards have a 2.48% chance of making the postseason.

But here's the real money-shot:

I prefer to rely on more pragmatic stuff.

You prefer to rely on "pragmatic" stuff. As opposed to hard stats. As opposed to mathematic, science, and reason -- those flighty disciplines. Those wishy-washy, emotional, airy-fairy, astrology/tarot card-like augurs, used by ancient Romans to predict rainfall.

You and Murray Chass should get together, maybe with Wm. Safire, and just do a real-quick refresher course on what fucking words mean.

Here's all I care about. The Cardinals are getting healthy again, and that means they need to come back after the All-Star break not only with all hands on deck, but with a sense of urgency that reflects a team that is willing to compete.

They also need to hit better, and pitch better. But, sure, I guess "urgency that reflects a team that is willing to compete" would help. Move them from 2.48% to maybe somewhere in the upper 4s.

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posted by Unknown  # 5:37 PM
I edited this post after an email from reader Venkat, who pointed out that Rowand swung at the second pitch, no the first, as I had originally written. I guess I was so blind with fury at La Russa for being such a bonehead I missed a pitch.
Jerry chimes in with some excellent points:

Yes, Eckstein is an almost league average player. His return isn't an exciting thing to herald. But, it will improve the Cardinals far more than you expect because, (assuming Tony La Russa hasn't lost his mind completely), it will enable the Cardinals to bench Adam Kennedy and his .252 slugging percentage, putting miles at second and eckstein at short.

It's hardly A-Rod and Robbie Alomar, but it's a vast improvement over trotting Kennedy out there every day.

Also, the team currently has four relievers in the rotation, who are to be gradually filtered out of the rotation and replaced with actual starters.

Maroth will outpitch Todd Wellemeyer. Chris Carpenter will as sure as hell outpitch Kip Wells. Barring an injury to Ben Sheets (the unlikliest of outcomes!) or Prince Fielder, they will probably have issues catching the Brewers, but they could theoretically contend for the divsion title still, especially with all of the hitters they have at their 25% PECOTA predictions.

I of course intended no pooh-poohing of Carpenter's impact. But I did pooh-pooh Eck's based on Miles's #'s, forgetting entirely about the festering corpse of Adam Kennedy, who is the odd man out once Baron Grittle von Scamperstein returns. And if/when Albert turns it on, it is possible, I guess, that the team catches the Brewers. But it wouldn't be because of Eckstein. It would be because Eckstein removed Kennedy.
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