Wednesday, September 09, 2009

How Badly Did We Need a Holliday?

Apparently, pretty badly.

Statistics are interesting because they can highlight trends or factoids not normally made plain to the casual fan (i.e., me). Here's my current favorite one: St Louis is 31-11 since acquiring Holliday from the A's. Here's a close second, although it qualifies more as a factoid: the Cardinals have not lost ground in the Central since taking over the outright lead in the division on August 7. Of course, it hasn't hurt they've gone 24-6 over that stretch (.800 baseball).

Trevor Hoffman is one of the best closers in baseball who, as a mostly San Diego resident, I've had the pleasure of watching pitch for most of his career. His fastball isn't what it once was (most forget he used to routinely hit 92-95 with it before the arm surgery), but that change up is still devastating. That said, he is susceptible to the long ball, which Holliday provided last night. The loss won't affect Hoffman - one doesn't accumulate 584 saves without knowing how to put a bad outing behind one - but the win will affect the Cardinals, who rightfully believe they are never out of a game, and are becoming more and more comfortable with the idea they don't need to rely solely on AP to deliver in high-leverage situations.

I'm hope the Cardinals don't face Manny Parra again this season. I may have to create the Manny Parra Effect to describe what happens to Redbird bats when he pitches or is scheduled to pitch. How else to explain a guy who's 2-1, sub-2.4 ERA against STL and 8-9, 7.49 against everyone else? Even when he leaves the game early (neck spasms, day-to-day), the Cardinals can't solve Brewer pitching.

Cardinals look to win the series today.

Magic Number Watch:

Clinch Division: 13 (Cubs beat Pirates 9-4)

Eliminate Rivals:
- Milwaukee - 8
- Houston - 8 (Lost to Atlanta 2-1)
- Cincinnati - 5 (Lost to Colorado 3-1)
- Pittsburgh - ELIMINATED

Current Cardinal Brendan Ryan sports #13. Before him the immortal Sidney Ponson stretched the number across his prodigious backside (2006).

Other news:

- Cardinals are reportedly very interested in bringing Mark DeRosa back for next year. Money quote:

"Recognizing where we are, the thought is we'll talk about it and that we're still hopeful that he's someone we could sign and bring back," Mozeliak said. "He's a very valuable person to this club."

Given his reputation as a leader on whatever club he plays for (as reported in various media stories about what's wrong with the Cubs, as well as ancedotal conversations with people having insight into the Cubs locker room), I view this as a good move.

- Rasmus is suffering from a sore heel/achillies tendon. This sounds like plantar fascitis to me. Granted, I'm not a doctor, and the media reporting on his injury is probably purposefully vague, but left heel/foot pain and a sore achillies plagued me earlier this year; when I went to the podiatrist, he diagnosed plantar fascitis, and prescribed shoe inserts (which, incidentally, have helped). So I'm willing to bet that's Rasmus' problem too. It didn't bother me when I was hitting, but it did when I pushed off to chase flyballs, etc, in the OF.

- Lohse to rotation, Boggs to bullpen. Came up in the comments yesterday. Boggs pitched much better his last time out against Pittsburgh, and was serviceable in his previous start vs Milwaukee, so he's not being shifted due to a lack of performance. I think LaRussa wants to see Lohse pitch to determine his availability and effectiveness going into the playoffs. This is a sensible and rational move. A healthy Lohse, pitching like he did last season and in April 09, is a big asset and a dangerous #3/4 starter - more so than anyone else the Cardinals can run out there, including Smoltz (more on him in a moment). The team needs to know what they've got with Lohse going forward in 2009. I think Lohse will make 4 starts the rest of the year and then we'll see what the team does in the playoffs.

- Smoltz's line yesterday - 5 IP, 3 ER, 0 BB, 7 K. We talked earlier about his first two starts being aided by the weak lineups he was facing. Against a good hitting team his last 2 starts, he's given up 3 ER in each start (it just happened to be the same team). This is the level of performance we should expect to get from a John Smoltz start at this point in his career. The problem is each of his starts taxes the bullpen, in that they need to get up to 12 outs.

Now granted, the Cardinals have thrown the fewest relief innings in the NL this season (372.0 -next lowest is San Francisco at 386.2), so bullpen burnout isn't as serious an issue as it may be for the Dodgers, but in the short series playoff format, burning out the pen in one game can hamstring LaRussa for subsequent games, and potentially bring on unfavorable matchups or cost the team a game. So I believe Smoltz will be used exclusively in relief once the post season starts, even if Lohse remains lousy these next 3 weeks.

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