Another home game, another great performance by Albert Pujols. A day after his daring baserunning broke a 3-3 tie, Albert hit a grand slam, powering the Cardinals to a 8-2 win over the Chicago Cubs. That makes the Cardinals 3-2 against Chicago this year, and puts them at 13-5 overall, 3 games ahead of Pittsburgh (yes, Pittsburgh!) in the Central.
Along with the Dodgers, St Louis will enter play Sunday with the best record in baseball.
We go for the sweep today. Wellemeyer vs Harden.
I thought, before the season started, the Cardinals were a 90 win team. To make it to 90 wins, they will have to finish 77-67, or play .535 baseball. The Cubs, picked by virtually everyone (save Joe Posnanski) to win the division, would have to go 82-64 the rest of the way, or play .568 ball. Chicago has the talent to do that; however, with each passing game, and each loss, they need to play better and better for the balance of the season to catch up.
Let's just say we've gotten off to a fast start, and the Cubs are down. Now is the time to go for the throat.
With Schumaker moving to second base, his impact on the Cardinals fielding statistics has been floating around my head as a post idea. I haven't put anything together yet on that; however, this post at USS Mariner got me thinking about how the Cardinals are doing (a) this year, and (b) how they compare to last year. Here's the data for 2009:
a. In terms of fielding percentage, only the Nationals are worse.
b. Raw balls put into play - they're slightly better (19th), but only Houston in the Central is worse. Last year they were 11th, as a team widely accepted as a very good fielding team.
c. Looking at UZR, St Louis is 27th in the league. Only the Angels, Nationals, and Orioles are worse. In 2008, they were the 6th best defensive team in baseball.
Now, this is a very small sample size (18 games), but it does indicate there's more going on with the team's defense than just Skip Schumaker's play at second. Perhaps it's the absence of Troy Glaus at third (who should have won the Gold Glove last year, by the way). Perhaps it's Duncan playing LF regularly. Perhaps it's Khalil Greene (he's made a lot of errors (4) early this season, leading all NL SS). Either way, this team is a lot more suspect with the glove than last year.
That makes the fact they're 13-5 that much more amazing. However, when the offensive goes into a funk (which it will at some point this season), one can only hope they've turned things around on the defensive end.
*Hat-Tip to U.S.S. Mariner for the defensive statistic links*
Update 1103: Joe Strauss has an article on the Post-Dispatch site discussing defense. Here's the link. I think LaRussa's lack of concern for the dip his defense has taken is misplaced.
43 minutes ago