Monday, June 02, 2008

Pitching and Defense, Boys, Pitching and Defense

First, I've made some improvements to the blog by finally figuring out how to upload pictures to my layout. This only took 20 months. You want to know how to do it? Layout -- Add page element -- select Photo. Yep, a real technical challenge there.

Cardinals won yesterday 7-4 behind adequate pitching from Braden Looper, Yeoman's work out of the bullpen, and more stellar defense. Cardinals will do no worse than split with Pittsburgh; they go for the series win tonight.

(By the way, why are 4 game series over the weekend now running Fri-Mon? What happened to Thurs-Sun, which was the standard for at least 3 decades? What idiot came up with this schedule? Three-game road trips (ex: Padres completed a 10 game homestand, spent the weekend in San Fran, and are home for 6 more), and weird series scheduling? I'd like to slap the scheduler. Mondays and Thursdays should be travel days, and this should be inviolate. Also, there should only be day games on Thursdays. And every game at Wrigley before 1 July should be played in the sunshine.)

Back to the column.

It's so nice to see this Cardinal team return to the standards that marked the successful Cardinal teams of my lifetime, in emphasizing pitching and defense. There are lots of metrics out there to measure performance on the baseball diamond, and it seems to me the decision makers in MLB have gone way, way overboard trying to quantify offensive production in order to build a winner. USSMariner recently put up their opinion on how much offense (50%), pitching (35%), and defense (15%) contribute to a team's winning. I don't give a hoot how well you hit the ball. If you can't throw strikes, and you can't catch the ball, you will be mediocre - period.

This team's pitching, I think, will never be compared with the great staffs of the past. But their defense makes up for a lot of the failings of the pitching staff. The Cardinals don't give up unearned runs (13 so far this season). Yesterday the Pirates did a good job of putting the ball in play and getting their hits, but the Cardinal defense on more than one occasion snuffed out the rally by making the play on a batted ball (Ankiel, Izturis, et al).

This is the major reason the team is 10 games over .500, especially considering Ludwick and Pujols have been the only consistently dangerous bats in the lineup.

You give me a team of passable major league hitters than can play defense, and I'll contend for a playoff spot every single year. Mozeliak deserves a lot of credit for re-emphasizing this part of the game, something the Cardinals had gotten away from in 2006 and 2007.

The Cubs are in SD for a 3-game set starting tonight, so I'll get a good look at them on the TV over the next 3 days. I may sully this blog with some Cub analysis; you need to know your adversary (and the Cubs are the class of the NL right now, as much as it pains me to say that).

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