the cards face another tough assignment in ben sheets, who left his last start with a groin problem. since throwing a 2-hit complete game on opening day, sheets has yielded a .322 average to opposing hitters, and he's not striking guys out at his accustomed rate --- just 3.9 men per 9 innings so far in 2007, vs a career avg of 7.7 batters per 9.
that said, sheets is hardly a creampuff opponent. a week ago, you may recall, i noted that the cards have faced unusually difficult starters so far this year. here are the final tallies for the starting pitchers the cardinals faced in april:
|vs other nl teams||28-24||3.63||1.30||.249||3.2||0.78|
the cards' average opponent has held other nl teams --- again, this is not counting their stats against the cards --- two-thirds of a run below the league norm, and has allowed a batting avg 14 points lower than the norm. to repeat my disclaimer from last week, i'm not arguing that tough pitching alone explains the cards' anemic start with the bats --- but i do think it's a factor. these good pitchers were even tougher on the cardinals than on other nl teams, mainly because the cardinals don't draw any walks. consider their performance against carlos zambrano, in their last game before josh hancock died. Z had walked 19 men in 27.1 innings vs other nl opponents; against the cardinals, he walked nobody in 7 innings.
skip schumaker leads off tonight; after opening the season with 4 hits in 27 at-bats, he's gone 6 for his last 9 with a double. eckstein drops to 8th, first time he has batted in a non-leadoff position since joining the cardinals; he is 7 for his last 42.
i like the shakeup; what the hell, it can't hurt.