Wednesday, May 27, 2009

How the F@&$ is Pitch One a Ball

You're blind ump! You're blind ump! You must be out of your mind ump!

That's Better

Sometimes, a little muscle flex is all you need.

Statistically I didn't expect the Cardinals to lose all 18 games to Milwaukee this season, but after losing 4 straight you begin to wonder.

Wainwright turned in his third straight strong start. It's nice to see him get his strike zone under control. First 7 starts: 21 BB, 33 K, Last 3: 5 BB, 23 K. Also, it's nice to see him start to dominate again. First 7 starts: ERA 4.35, WPA -0.11. Last 3: ERA 1.14, WPA 0.89.

Today we're treated to Todd Wellemeyer vs. Manny Parra. Parra's well rested, after only lasting 10 outs against Minnesota his last time out and surrendering 8 ER. That was a reversion to his April form (when he stunk up the joint for both the Brewers and my mixed-league fantasy team, thanks a lot bozo), and I hope it continues for one more start at least. Wellemeyer is coming off his best start of the year, but the good ones have been the exception rather than the norm for him this season. I'll keep my fingers crossed.

Programming note: I'm hosting the UCB radio hour tonight. 2230 EDT, 2130 CDT, 1930 PDT. Feel free to dial in or chat with us! We will have Mr. Rob Rains on the program to start; he is the author of a new book on Tony LaRussa titled Tony LaRussa: Man on a Mission. After the interview the normal hilarity will ensue.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Uh, we are going to beat the Brewers this year? Right?


Because these 1-0 losses to start the series are getting old.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Fallen Heroes

My preview post on the upcoming Milwaukee series can be found at CardsClubhouse.

However, instead of describing today's game, and the current hot streak of starting pitching the Cardinals are enjoying, I offer to you this letter from President Abraham Lincoln.

The background on the letter is this. President Lincoln wrote this to Ms. Fanny McCollough, on the occasion of the death of his long time friend and her father, William McCollough. During Lincoln's law circuit days, McCollough was sheriff and clerk of the McLean County Circuit Court in Bloomington, Illinois. Early in the Civil war he helped organize the Fourth Illinois Cavalry, which he served as Lieutenant Colonel. On 5 Dec 1862 he was killed in a night charge near Coffeeville, Mississippi.

Executive Mansion,
Washington, December 23, 1862.

Dear Fanny

It is with deep grief that I learn of the death of your kind and brave Father; and, especially, that it is affecting your young heart beyond what is common in such cases. In this sad world of ours, sorrow comes to all; and, to the young, it comes with bitterest agony, because it takes them unawares. The older have learned to ever expect it. I am anxious to afford some alleviation of your present distress. Perfect relief is not possible, except with time. You can not now realize that you will ever feel better. Is not this so? And yet it is a mistake. You are sure to be happy again. To know this, which is certainly true, will make you some less miserable now. I have had experience enough to know what I say; and you need only to believe it, to feel better at once. The memory of your dear Father, instead of an agony, will yet be a sad sweet feeling in your heart, of a purer and holier sort than you have known before.

Please present my kind regards to your afflicted mother.

Your sincere friend
A. Lincoln

People don't talk that way anymore.

On this Memorial Day, think kindly of those men who paid the ultimate sacrifice to keep us free. And remember the families they left behind.

Friday, May 22, 2009


Coolest picture of the year so far:

Also best headline of the year.

To Paraphrase Dave Niehaus, "What a SHOT by [Pujols]!"

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Predictions for Pirate Series

Cards Clubhouse has a feature called 'Bird's Eye View', as a way to give Cardinal Nation a primer for the upcoming series. I've been contributing to that this season, and my latest effort is here. I'd like to call your attention to this section of the write-up:

Fearless Prediction: Duke reprises his 8 April start and wins game one. Cardinals then pound Pittsburgh the next two nights and take the series.

Part 1 of the prediction - CHECK. Although in this case, it's not as much fun being right as usual. Hopefully the rest of the prediction will happen as well.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Scheduling Nonsense

As I write this, Colby Rasmus has knocked in the go-ahead run in the tenth, and the Cardinals bullpen has held on for an 8-7 win to salvage 1 game against Cincinnati.

St Louis now heads into their first scheduled off-day since 20 April. And only their second scheduled off-day this season. It also starts a stretch of off-days for them, as they will enjoy 18 May, and 28 May, and 15 June without baseball.

How is it that they play 34 games with one scheduled off-day, then have 15 games with three? Does this make any sense?

And who ever heard of a 2 game series? The Cardinals have three this year, against Philly, Pittsburgh, and at whatever-the-hell-they-call-it-its-not-Shea-anymore. How about a 2-team, FOUR GAME home stand before 2009? Does that make any sense?

Teams have grumbled about the schedule for years, but this is the first time I can remember it being so ridiculous that even casual fans noticed it was dumb.

I can never figure out why the sequence of games is the way it is now. When I was a kid, the Cardinals came to the West Coast twice. And you always knew that, on those trips, they would at least play either San Diego or San Francisco on the same swing through LA. Most times they just did CA, playing all three teams on one 9-game road trip. This made a lot of sense to me.

It doesn't happen that way anymore. Take this year, for instance. The Cardinals have already flown out to play Arizona, a series sandwiched between a home stanza with Houston and a 4-game trip to Chicago. At the end of the month, they fly to SF from Milwaukee before returning to St Louis. They will visit LA and SD on the same road trip in August, although they might as well take the same flight with the Padres to LAX on 16 August.

Fortunately, I have the solution. It is possible to divide the country into lanes. Much like the I-X5 Interstate Freeway system, which cuts the country North/South, I've divided the country into sections. Helpfully, they're grouped by division; this is because of the unbalanced schedule. It doesn't make sense to include a non-divisional team on a travel circuit that the other teams will visit only once a season.

For those of you who like visual references, here's a map of the country.

Map Courtesy of

National League:
East Coast #1 - Philadelphia, New York
East Coast #2 - Washington, Atlanta, Florida
Mid West #1 - Cincinnati, St Louis, Houston
Mid West #2 - Pittsburgh, Chicago, Milwaukee
West Coast #1 - Colorado, Arizona
West Coast #2 - San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco.

A couple of things jump out right away. For the NL Central, it's great; 3 teams at home, the other 3 teams visit on that particular home stand. For the other two divisions, there'd have to be some creative scheduling, because if Colorado and AZ are on the road, playing at SD and LA respectively, what's SF to do? Probably play one of the East-Coast teams, or something. But the bottom line is the cities are grouped geographically, which saves money, and lowers the number of cross country flights per year.

It's much more human friendly to schedule by circuits than by the 'dart board method', which seems to be what is used now.

This model can also be applied to the AL:

East Coast #1 - New York, Boston, Toronto
East Coast #2 - Baltimore, Tampa Bay
Mid West #1 - Minnesota, Kansas City, Chicago
Mid West #2 - Detroit, Cleveland
West Coast: Texas, California (er, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim's Orange County Disneyland Complex, LLC), Oakland, Seattle

The AL West sucks from a travel perspective. Texas belongs in the AL Central, but who ever heard of a three-team division?

I think all would be happy with the circuit approach. I throw this model out for comments from far and wide. Feel free to try and poke holes in it, and I will be happy to respond. Two more things:

(a) Once I'm done with school (which should be middle of next week), I will set up an optimization problem and actually publish a schedule for 2010. I hope to have that by the 28 May off-date, assuming my brain doesn't explode and the computer doesn't melt (and the creek don't rise)

(b) This schedule assumes no Interleague play. Because I hate Interleague play. There will be more on that later this month, I assure you, but here's something to chew on in the interim: How is it that, twelve years into Interleague play, the Angels have never visited St Louis, and the Cardinals have never been to Camden Yards?

Friday, May 08, 2009

Cards Sweep Pirates, and Other Interesting Happenings

First things first: Happy Birthday, Younger Brother! 'Little' hasn't been the right descriptor for many moons now...

After getting clobbered in the first two games of this homestand, and swept by Philadelphia, St Louis did the same to Pittsburgh. They completed the 2-game series sweep with a 5-2 win over the Pirates today at the Stadium.

Todd Wellemeyer finally looked like the Todd Wellemeyer we've come to expect as a starter - 7 innings, 2 earned. That's a positive sign. Now, if he can turn in a similar performance against a slightly better team than the Pirates, well, that'd be great.

Coupled with Milwaukee's loss, the Cardinals lead Chicago by 2.5 games in the NL East. Only the Dodgers continue to have a better record than St Louis (more on them in a moment).

I thought I'd comment randomly on some other items of recent interest at this point:

1. Who ever heard of a 4-game home stand? There's always been grumbling about the schedule, but this is ridiculous. When the Club returns from their series at Pittsburgh, they will have, for all intents and purposes, completed a 16-game road trip. That's crazy.

2. Next thing that's crazy: today's game marked the last time Pittsburgh will play in St Louis in 2009. That's right, folks, 29 games into the season and no more Pirate games at Busch. How in the world does that make sense? They haven't played Milwaukee at all yet.

3. Rick Ankiel went on the 15-day DL today, and although that hurts my already lousy UCB League Fantasy Team, I'm glad he's still ambulatory.

4. Manny Ramirez. Got busted for drugs, and is out for the next two months. As expected, Bill Simmons posted a story about this in relation to the Red Sox, although it took a slightly different tone from what I expected.

Like a lot of people, news of the story didn't surprise me; I just shrugged. And texted my wife, who giggled malevolently (Red Sox fan). What does continue to surprise me is how many of the elite players, guys who are already good, felt compelled to cheat. Barry Bonds was a HOF caliber player before juicing. A-Rod probably would have been based on his talent. Manny is, statistically, one of the greatest right-handed power hitters in the history of the game, and was headed to the Hall based on HIS talent. Why did they need an additional edge?

And you'll never convince me that this level of cheating is confined only to the elite players. Think about it. If you're barely holding on to the 24th or 25th spot on the roster, and you watch Manny walk through the clubhouse on his way to a 'shot', what are you thinking? "Geez, if that guy needs a boost, how stupid am I for not doing the same thing." Right?

That's the insidious side of this, which never seems to get mentioned. The elite guys are doing it, so you better betcha the marginal guys are doing it too.

And ol' Bud Selig, well, he had his chance to nip this in the bud (pardon the pun) 10 years ago, when the steroid monster finally saw the light of day. Could have come out strong and stopped it right then and there. I understand the players union would have fought him all the way, but at least a strong stand acknowledging the problem might have saved the game's credibility. Instead, we were treated to 5 more years of denial before any drug testing program was put in place. Thanks, Bud.

No fan believes any player who insists they aren't on the juice.

And with A-Roid fallen, and Manny fallen, all eyes turn to the other elite players in the league. Who are they talking about now? Which player is as good a hitter as either of those bozos, and consistently puts up HOF numbers? Albert Pujols.

They think AP dopes, with absolutely no proof at all. He plays baseball, and he's really good, so he must be using. His fans are dismissed as homers for defending him. It's depressing.

AP says he doesn't dope. As an American, I will give him the benefit of the doubt.

However, as I've said before on this site, if AP ever pops positive, I will walk away from being a baseball fan forever.

There are probably more important things to do besides complain about the schedule and drug use in Major League Baseball.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Baseball is great, because you never know what you'll see

Today's game with the Nationals qualifies for a Twilight Zone episode. Seriously.

Let's take a quick look at the hilarity that occurred at Nationals Park.

- Rasmus advances two bases thanks to two wild pitches by Daniel Cabrera. AP then hits a 2-R home run.
- Cabrera threw 4 wild pitches total and was hit by a pitch in the fifth.
- AP stole another base. When will teams figure out he's actually becoming a threat to steal and you have to pay attention to him?
- Cardinals went down in order only once (fifth inning).
- Cardinals were issued 11 free passes to first, yet needed five in the ninth to win.

Speaking of the ninth, that's a crazy inning on its own. The AP ground out, Duncan walk, and Ankiel double are pretty pedestrian. But then - a walk, a hit batsman, an infield single/error combination for two runs, a BALK for another run, a stolen base/sac fly combo, another infield single, and finally a fly out.

The Cardinals scored 4 runs without getting a safe hit out of the infield. Only the fourth run scored benefit of a hit to the outfield - and that was a sacrifice fly.

Tim Kurkjian is often quoted saying, "The great thing about baseball is, on any given night you may see something you've never seen before." I certainly think that ninth inning qualifies.

Wellemeyer vs Zimmerman tomorrow. This may be Washington's best chance to get a game in this series. Zimmerman has been very good so far in this his rookie season (2-0, 2.38); Wellemeyer gets hit more often than a pinata at a kids party.

Funny side note: posts a power rankings column (like a lot of sports sites do) weekly. Last week's rankings included this gem of a line:

"The Joakim Soria injury looms as a killer, in that it could force the Royals to use Kyle Farnsworth in situations where the team isn't leading or trailing by at least seven runs. ...... I'd venture a guess that Farnsworth has better stats in such low-leverage situations than Mariano Rivera, Sandy Koufax and Christy Mathewson."

Having been burned two years ago by Farnsworth on my fantasy team (I drafted him because he was projected to be the set up guy for Rivera; turned out the fastball out of his hand is merely the first step in the majestic parabola of flight to the seats beyond all outfielders reach), that comment made me laugh out loud. Thought you might enjoy it too.