holding our attention

welcome, bernie miklasz, to the blogosphere: his new blog, Bernie's Extra Points, launched last night at 7:31 p.m., and by midnight he already had a second post up. best wishes to ya, sir.

for those of you who are geeked up about the amateur draft, i'll put up a separate thread to track it once the selections begin (~1 pm central). at the bottom of the current post, i've tucked in some links to other sites (cardinal-centric and otherwise) that have draft previews and/or will be blogging the draft live. a quick caveat: SB Nation crashed a couple of times during last year's draft because the traffic was so high. we've got bigger servers and better architecture now, and it's believed we will weather the onslaught of traffic this year --- but if there's a service interruption, you'll know why. if we do crash, we won't be down long . . . . .

anyway, set all that aside while i get a few thoughts off my chest about the big-league club, which is doing its damnedest to hold our attention. they're now 10-5 since getting swept by the tigers and have gone 3-1-1 in series; they're alone in 2d place and only 3 games out in the loss column. above all, the cardinals have finally begun to hit. here are the national league rankings in runs per game over the last 30 days (ie, back to may 8, inclusive); runs allowed per game are also included in the table to balance things out:

r / g ra / g
5.1 phillies 1st padres 2.4
5.0 cardinals 2nd giants 3.8
4.9 pirates 3rd dbacks 3.8
4.8 nationals 4th mets 3.9
4.6 dbacks 5th dodgers 4.3
4.5 cubs 6th marlins 4.3
4.5 marlins 7th nationals 4.6
4.5 braves 8th braves 4.6
4.3 giants 9th pirates 4.8
4.3 reds 10th rockies 4.8
4.3 dodgers 11th cardinals 4.9
4.2 rockies 12th brewers 4.9
4.2 padres 13th cubs 4.9
4.1 mets 14th phils 5.1
3.9 astros 15th astros 5.3
3.8 brewers 16th reds 6.0

that list covers the cards' last 26 games; in the first 30 games of this year, st louis scored 3.1 runs a game. it's becoming increasingly safe to write off those first 30 games as just one of those months; check out these numbers and tell me which ones aren't like the others:

avg
(nl rank)
obp
(nl rank)
slg
(nl rank)
hr / g
(nl rank)
r / g
(nl rank)
w-l
(nl rank)
through May 7, 2007 .237 (15) .300 (16) .332 (16) 0.57 (16) 3.1 (15) 12-18 (15)
since May 7, 2007 .279 (1) .332 (3) .431 (2) 1.00 (6) 5.0 (2) 14-12 (8)
2006 entire .269 (4) .337 (5) .431 (8) 1.14 (5) 4.9 (6) 83-78 (5)

that first month now takes on a different cast, doesn't it? now we can say that edmonds was still out of shape, eckstein was shaking off the recurrence of his oblique strain, encarnacion was unavailable, pujols was trying to do everything by himself, and the whole team was mentally unprepared --- hung over from last season and dispirited by carpenter's injury (and, temporarily, by josh hancock's death). but in the last 30 days edmonds has regained his power stroke, eckstein has started swinging hard again, pujols has settled down, and the cardinals have been playing a real major-leaguer in right field. he's no all-star, but encarnacion is a far sight better than skip schumaker and a one-legged preston wilson. we all sneered when the cardinals suggested, about a month ago, that juan'cion's return to the lineup might spark the offense back to life; ha ha ha, guess what? the bats really have come back to life since he returned: team totals were .237 / .305 / .328 (3.2 runs /game) before he rejoined the team, vs .284 / .330 / .448 (5.2 runs/game) since he got back on may 13. i wouldn't give juan all the credit for that, nor even the majority of the credit --- but he surely has made a positive difference. 'nother table:

avg obp slg hr rbi
encarnacion .250 .273 .431 3 10
other rfs .203 .255 .273 1 15

by the way, all three of encarnacion's homers broke a tie and put the cardinals in front in a game they would go on to win.

ok, so let's take stock. i hereby declare the offense repaired --- still not an elite unit, but no longer a sump into which victories disappear. the bullpen has been lion-hearted all year; no worries about that so far. the defense is coming around. that leaves the rotation. they've got two reliable starters (looper and wainwright) and a decent #5 (thompson); if either wells or reyes (if he ever gets another chance) can step up and pitch at a league-average level for a month, then the cardinals might just survive until carpenter gets back.

roster news: andy cavazos joins the big club, while brendan ryan returns to the minors. cavazos will become the 6th player to make his big-league debut for the cards in the first 10 weeks of the season, joining cate, dove, jimenez, esposito, and ryan.

* * * * * * * * *

ok, the draft: it's on espn2 beginning at 1 pm central, but if you're following along at work (or even if you aren't) the best place to track the action is at mlb.com's Draft Central. this is particularly true if, like most of us, you'll be dropping in from time to time throughout the day for periodic updates (as opposed to following the whole draft pick by pick); mlb.com is the quickest and best way to get up to speed on the cardinals' picks and find a little bit of information about each draftee. after the cards make their selections, you can search for the player by name via the Draft Tracker and see if there's any scouting video. if there is, please do not post the video at this site; i'll have to take it down if you do, as our network servers can't handle 3 megs of video, times X selections, times 30 major-league teams. if there's video of a particular player available, please just link to it over at Draft Tracker.

other sites to visit before / during the draft:

  • Future Redbirds: azruavatar will be live-blogging as the draft unfolds. also, he and erik have done the best cardinal-specific draft previewing anywhere on the web, so if you can't wait for the draft to start head over the there before the draft begins and scroll back through the last few weeks' posts --- numerous scouting reports, mock-drafts, and musings about which players the cards might be taking in the first round.
  • derrick goold will be live-blogging at Bird Land today; he has direct access to scouts and front-office personnel and may be able to provide some insights from those guys during the draft.
  • SB Nation brother site Minor League Ball will be all over the draft today. john sickels has seen a lot of these guys play in person, and his community is knowledgeable and very active. sickels ran a 5-round mock draft (with supplemental 1st round) over the weekend, by the way; here's who the cardinals' mock-drafters selected:
    1. kevin ahrens, hs 3bman
    2. pete kozma, hs shortstop
    3. nathan vinyard, hs pitcher
    4. wes roerner, cal st fullerton pitcher
    5. eric sogard, ariz state 2bman
    6. dan schlereth, u of ariz pitcher
    7. dj jones, hs outfielder
    two years ago, the cards' mock-drafters accurately forecast the first-round selection of tyler greene; let's see how well they do this year.
  • i wouldn't be surprised to find danup posting at Get Up Baby during the draft today
  • two of the most knowledgeable prospect watchers in the biz, kevin goldstein and bryan smith, will be live-blogging at Baseball Prospectus.
  • another know-it-all, jonathan mayo, will be on duty at his mlb.com draft blog.
  • Baseball Analysts will be live-blogging the first round and the supplemental.
  • if you're a subscriber to Baseball America, they've got perhaps the best depth and breadth of information of all. i'm not a subscriber; anybody who is, feel free to share any useful tidbits (with respect for copyright rules) that you glean there.
i'll put up a fresh draft-tracking thread when things get underway.
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