September 2007

I mean, hasn't that ever occurred to you?

OK, so you’re the Milwaukee Brewers. You have a very nice ballclub, lotta power on offense, some good starting pitching, but bullpen problems all year. Sixteen times blowing a lead of at least three runs. Some might say your bullpen has poured gas on the fire all year long. Right? Right.

OK.

So reliever Seth McClung enters the game in the 8th inning tonight. And what’s his entrance music? The Prodigy, "Firestarter."

Yes. "I’m a firestarter! Twisted firestarter!"

Then the next pitcher, Derrick Turnbow enters the game. And what’s his entrance music? Metallica, "Fuel."

"Give me fuel! Give me fire!"

Look. Good songs. But in the words of Alanis Morrissette, "Isn’t it ironic? Don’t you think? A little toooo ironic?"

-M.

Yadi out for the year; Pujols in

Yadier Molina underwent surgery today to repair a medial meniscus tear in his right knee. He’s out for the remainder of the year, but apparently it’s not expected to have any effect on his 2008 Spring Training or season.

Update, 6:45 pm — Pujols has been inserted in the lineup after originally being a scratch.

-M.

Couple links

My friend and colleague Jesse Sanchez, who does some very cool stuff all over MLB.com, pointed me to our new Dominican Beisbol page. There’s some cool stuff there, and besides Jesse asked me to give him a link. So here you go, my friend — see you in October, somewhere.

Additionally, one of my favorite baseball writers is now in the blog world. Jeff Passan at Yahoo!, who keeps cranking out good stuff, is blogging. Check it out.

-M, playing a little Modest Mouse in honor of their coming to the STL in November.

Lucky Seven, the end is in sight edition

1. The Cardinals have four remaining starts to divvy up among the back of the rotation. Wainwright, Pineiro and Looper are each set every fifth day from here on out. How should those other four games be apportioned?

2. What other players do the Cardinals need to be looking at for the final week and a half?

3. Who should be the starting shortstop in 2008? Jack Wilson? Edgar Renteria? David Eckstein? Brendan Ryan?

4. Where will Tony La Russa be on Opening Day 2008?

5. What’s the biggest surprise from football (college or pro) thus far this season?

6. This is the time of year when Oscar-candidate movies start showing up on screens, or at least start showing up in previews. Any trailers you’ve seen that you’re looking forward to"

7. What’s your favorite fall food/snack/treat/drink? I know it doesn’t feel like fall just yet here in STL, but let’s channel some nice cool weather, eh?

-M.

(currently playing on the iPod: Velocity Girl, Simpatico!)

Starters, home and away

I know I promised a lot of blogging last night, but I was undercaffeinated or something so it didn’t get done. This is one of the things I wanted to examine, though. All numbers are through last night, not including today’s game.

We all know how much better the Cards have been at home than on the road. Yet offensively there’s not a big difference. Where the difference shows up is in the starting pitching. With the exception of Adam Wainwright, who has very little home-road split, every Cards starter with any significant number of starts has been much better at home than on the road.

Seven starters have made at least five starts for the Redbirds this year: Wainwright, Looper, Pineiro, Wells, Reyes, Maroth and Thompson. All but Wainwright have ERAs at least .84 higher on the road than at home.

Here’s the breakdown by ERA, in starts only:
Wainwright — 3.86 home, 3.53 road (-0.33 difference)
Looper — 3.20, 6.33 (3.13 difference)
Pineiro — 2.70, 5.81 (3.11 difference)
Wells — 5.82, 6.66 (0.84 difference)
Reyes — 4.85, 6.58 (1.73 difference)
Maroth — 8.44, 9.74 (1.30 difference)
Thompson — 4.59, 5.52 (0.93 difference)

It doesn’t change much if you include all appearances for the guys who have both started and relieved. Wells’ overall numbers are 5.23 at home and 6.27 on the road, so the difference is actually a smidge more pronounced. Reyes has only two innings of relief, dropping his overall home ERA to 4.83. Maroth’s overall is 8.44 and 12.17, increasing the difference to 3.73. Thompson overall is at 4.78 and 5.26, dropping the difference to 0.48.

Here are the numbers overall, though. When those seven pitchers start at home, they have a 4.35 ERA and they average 0.98 HR allowed per nine innings. When they start on the road, they have a 5.87 ERA and allow 1.30 HR per nine innings.

So why would this be? My working theory is that new Busch is more forgiving of mistakes, as evidenced in the home run differential. A little further research, if someone had time, could break down K/BB rates and maybe even defensive efficiency — is new Busch a better place to play defense? Is the scoring more favorable, meaning that the ERA is misleading at home?

There’s plenty to work with in all of this. But when you’re 5 1/2 months into the season, and looking at a total of more than 700 innings, it looks less like a fluke and more like a trend. If the Cards could prevent runs on the road like they do at home, this season would look a lot different. Then again, if they struggled to prevent runs at home like they do on the road, it would look a lot different in another way.

-M.

Guess who's back? Back again — UPDATES

Two updates: 1, the corresponding move on the 40-man roster is that Troy Cate has been designated for assignment. 2, Spiezio is now in the starting lineup, batting sixth and playing third base. David Eckstein has been scratched with back trouble.

Scott Spiezio is back with the team and eligible to play. He’s listed as an available sub on the lineup card. He talked pretty extensively to reporters this afternoon, so we’ll have more on all of that as the day goes on.

Putting everything else baseball-wise aside, it was good to see Scott, and he seemed to be in good spirits.

-M, with a lot of blogging ahead of me in the coming days, to go along with regular coverage of the team.

Rotation adjustments

Multiple adjustments/announcements to the rotation:

* Still Reyes for today.

* Wainwright will no longer pitch tomorrow (Thursday). In his place will be Wells.

* That’s because Wainwright is being pushed back to Friday, the opener of the Cubs series.

* That leaves Looper for the opener of Saturday’s doubleheader, and Pineiro in the second game.

* Mulder on Sunday against the Cubs.

* Monday and Tuesday vs Philadelphia to be determined, depending at least partly on how Reyes and Wells pitch this series, then back on rotation with Wainwright Wednesday 9/19 vs PHI, then Looper, Pineiro and Mulder the first three games at home against Houston.

* Down the road: Wainwright and Looper will go every five days from here on out. So Wainwright will pitch 9/19 at home vs PHI, 9/24 in the opener in Milwaukee and 9/29 in Pittsburgh. Looper will go 9/20 at home vs HOU, 9/25 in Milwaukee and 9/30, the final day of the season, in Pittsburgh.

-M, back in the saddle.

Kip's days numbered?

Asked about Wells today, both TLR and Dunc declined to give a vote of confidence. Reading between the lines, I take that to mean he will not be getting another start. Typically, if he were even likely to get another, they wouldn’t be nearly so noncommital.

Daniel Berk is writing about this in the notebook tonight, so please do be sure to read that. But in the interim, here’s what was said. First, with TLR in his pregame on-field briefing.

(Question: What’s Wells’ status in the rotation?) "Dave [Duncan] and I spent some time talking about it today. All I cantell you is we talked about it and we are concerned. His last two starts — we
are getting down to the end now, so I think that’s all that I’d say based on that
conversation. We are concerned, and it’s the same simple rule. If we feel like
we’ve got a better shot, somebody else is going to pitch. He’s pitched because we’ve
felt he gave us our best shot."

(Question: Will he take the ball next time through the rotation?) "What I would do is, I would take what I just said. We discussed
it and we’re concerned."

(Question: You guys announced a six-man rotation for the next two times through. Is that still set, or is it any less of a sure thing than it was two days ago?) (long pause) "Primarily it’s done for Wainwright and Looper. There’s been
some talk about Wainwright not pitching the Chicago series.The only way to do that was for him to pitch every fifth day. And we
decided that was a risk that we didn’t want to take. If we just pitch him once
on six and go back to five, he misses it anyway. So why not go back to the
original plan? As long as we can feel going into a series that we have a
starting pitcher that can win each of the games, then that’s the way we’re going
to go. And it doesn’t mean we can’t go and give these guys extra days’ rest. We’ll
see."

And Dunc, with just me and Daniel later in the afternoon:

(Question: do you guys have a decision to make on Kip?) "Yeah. That was
a less-than-impressive outing yesterday, and right now we need guys that can go
out there and can compete to win."

(Question: would you entertain going to five starters instead of six?) "We’ll
look at it all different ways. And will look at availability, who’s available
to pitch."

 

(is Thompson the natural option if you need someone to start, since he’s stretched out?)
"He’s one of the options."

 

Stay tuned.
-M.

Playing with stats

The Cardinals are:

17-10 when Adam Wainwright starts. 16-10 when Braden Looper starts.
So they’re 33-20 with the front of their rotation, and 34-47 when anybody else pitches.

Another way to look at it, though. They are:

4-15 with Anthony Reyes and 5-17 with Kip Wells.
So they’re 9-32 with the back end of their rotation, and 58-35 when it’s anybody else pitching.

Still another way to look at it. They are:
45-23 when a member of the 2006 bullpen (Wainwright, Looper, Thompson) starts.

Or another way. Out of the current six-man rotation, they are:
37-22 when Wainwright, Looper or Pineiro starts, and
9-21 when Wells, Maroth or Mulder (obviously 0-0) starts.

Just some different ways to look at the same data. All calculations, done in the 9th inning today, assume the Redbirds do not, in fact, score 11 runs in the bottom of the ninth.

-M.

Rolen done for the year

The specific details remain to be worked out, but it’s been decided that Scott Rolen will, in fact, have surgery before the year is out. He’s done for the season.

-M.

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