Skill or "Energy"

Bernie, Bernie, Bernie. The Chinese need energy to continue economic growth. Busch Stadium needs energy to light the stadium, keep the Budweiser cold, and light the Stan Musial statue. The City of St. Louis needs energy to run traffic lights, street lamps, provide electricity. The St. Louis Cardinals Baseball Club, though, does not need energy.

Sitting at the Par Lounge, Bernie could have written an intelligent, researched post about how the Cardinals squandered good pitching performances, how they aren't getting guys on-base, how they are not being patient at the plate, how Pujols being out amplifies the black hole in offensive production that is our middle infield, or some other poignant subject. Of course, Bernie didn't do that. Instead he embarked on the worst kind of sports writing, a column on the stuff of myth and lore--in this case, it's "energy."

Bernie states that the Cardinals need to "energize" their attack, by playing Barton and Ryan more as well as by calling up Memphis Redbirds (apparently because AAA players have more "energy"). Admittedly, since greenies were banned, teams seem a little lethargic. The chocolate-covered espresso beans from Starbucks don't seem to be doing the trick. The problem is that we are swinging more, taking fewer pitches, and walking less. Surely, taking a pitch is the least energetic endeavor in baseball, followed by its derivative--the walk. As LB chronicled in a post that was everything Bernie's is not, this is the problem of our beloved Redbirds since Pujols went down.

I don't think that Cesar Izturis's inability to hit is due to a lack of energy, nor do I think that Kennedy's incredibly slow bat speed is because his energy cells are running low. And, anyone will tell you that Aaron Miles always puts forth 117% in his grit-filled efforts. But energetic scrappiness doesn't mean that Miles should play over Ryan, either. Brendan Ryan should be getting more ABs because Izturis and Kennedy just aren't that good.

The Real Izturis has stood up. It has nothing to do with energy and everything to do with skill, or a lack thereof. An inflated OBP in the early going has fallen to normal and expected levels. And an inflated OPS, especially after his lone HR, has similarly sank like a stone cast into the sea. His BA is also bad. He is not good enough to be penciled into a big league lineup for a team striving to play in October. For the year, Izturis is batting .241/.315/.313, for a horrid .628 OPS that ranks him 20th out of 21 big leaguers with at least 200 PAs as a shortstop. Point blank, Cesar Izturis should not be allowed to dig into a Major League batter's box.

Adam Kennedy has proven himself washed up as well. The question of whether or not Kennedy would be able to rebound from his horrendous 2007 season after surgery has been resoundingly answered in the negative. His slapping weakly proved lucky early this season, but has since evened out, exposing him as a subpar player not fit to button a jersey with Cardinals-on-bat (and, probably not even with a Redbird-on-Memphis). AK's .258 BA might not be unbearable if his OBP weren't worse than even Izturis at .308. To make matters worse, he is slugging only .304 (and that's in the wake of his only HR of the season). All of this makes for an OPS of .637, which is bad for 22nd out of 24 secondbasemen with at least 175 PAs. Kennedy is the new Junior Spivey and should be dealt with accordingly.

Even after today's very good performance, Aaron Miles is on the fringe of being a legitimate big leaguer. He certainly is not good enough defensively to have played SS as much as he has this season. Even one inning is too much. His high BA, for him, of .293 has bolstered his marginal .333 OBP, and today's blasts have propped up a nonexistent slugging percentage. Nonetheless his OPS of .681 is not good and intolerable with the black hole at SS.

I'm not at all stating that Brendan Ryan has been setting the park ablaze with his hitting. That said, in his relatively few ABs, he has hit .276/.321/.314, for an OPS of .636, which sucks. But, last season he put up an OPS of .753 and he did have the best Spring Training of our quartet of slappy middle infielders. He has played a solid defense in his limited playing time, as well, showing good range. It would do the Cards well to see what Ryan can do since it cannot conceivably be worse than Izturis and Kennedy. That way, we know how badly we need to target a middle infielder come the deadline.

What the Cardinals need in the wake of Pujols' injury is not energy, but baserunners and power. In the K.C. sweep, we managed a mere .224 OBP. We also slugged four XBH, one of which was a solo Ankiel homer. With no one on the basepaths and no one driving the ball, runs were not scored. Luckily, power was to be had from some unlikely sources between the hallowed foul lines of Fenway. LaRue, Skippy, and Yadi all homered in Game 1, a game in which we had 13 baserunners. (I tried to calculate the odds of these three all homering in the same game, but my head nearly exploded, so I stopped for safety's sake.) In Game 2, Miles whacked one, as did the sluggers Glaus and Ankiel. We had 17 baserunners in the game.

I paid close attention during these games and I didn't see any great energy differential. I didn't a radiant glow from the Cardinal dugout in Fenway. Nor did anyone seem to be playing harder in Boston than in St. Louis vs. the Royals. The played with the energy that professional ballplayers intent on winning play with--both in St. Louis vs. K.C. and in Boston vs. the Sox.




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