First-half failures, second-half failures

Jaime Garcia's rookie year has been unequivocally wonderful, but between his more recent performances and the Cardinals' I was worried that yesterday's game could have been a killer—it had the look of an Admiral Ackbar-class trap, the kind of game in which Bryan Anderson goes 1-2 and Mike MacDougal throws three innings. 

Now, I'm certainly a MacDougal and Anderson fan, but the three-hitter and the forfeit score worked for me. I've been waiting nervously for Garcia to wipe out since the second half began, but whenever it seems like it's about to happen he puts together an excellent outing like this. Maybe he's just a very good pitcher—not as good as his ERA right now, but better than we had any right to expect. I'll always be worried about his arm, and I'll worry for the rest of the season about his workload, but he's clearly still capable of pitching at this inexplicably high level. 

The offense came from literally every spot in the lineup; even Jaime Garcia got a hit. But the parts we weren't taking for granted came from the players who spent most of the first half of the season trying to figure out whether OPS+ stopped at zero (ask TPJ—it doesn't!). In the first half the Cardinals started two players whose OPSes sat 50 points below Joe Thurston's 2009 mark. In the second half those two players are hitting an admittedly empty .330 and .293.

When everybody's hitting, baseball is considerably more enjoyable to watch. Unfortunately for us, not everybody's hitting; losing Colby Rasmus to injury and ineffectiveness (.914 in the first half, .683 since) and Felipe Lopez to super-ineffectiveness (.203/.293/.280 since the break) has all but wiped out the Cardinals' back-of-the-lineup gains and, in Lopez's case, necessitated trading for a guy who's hit .229/.250/.323 all year. Which, yes, is worse. I don't know. Don't think about it. 

Don't think about it because the Cardinals at least went 1-2 on depth yesterday afternoon. They may have felt required to trade for a ninetieth-string third baseman, but their outfield, picked clean by trades and Colby Rasmus's fragility, drove in four runs. Believe, for a moment, in romantic comedy serendipity, if not the romantic comedy SerendipityAllen Craig and Jon Jay were drafted so that at this exact moment in time the Cardinals didn't feel compelled to trade for Jose Guillen, while they were at it. 

Unfortunately the money quote is only in the headline to this Post-Dispatch piece, and not the article, because short of a brief look at Pedro Feliz's career nothing exemplifies the ill-fatedness of the Cardinals' new third base acquisition than the words "Cards expect Feliz to hit better." 

Well, a little, probably. How does a rest-of-season ZiPS of .231/.266/.342 sound? That's like 40 points higher! Nice! 

I'd love to be wrong about the Pedro Feliz trade, but unless Mozeliak has his own fanpost set to go about the flaws the team noticed in Feliz's weird swing or the reason Feliz's UZR has been held down this year I don't think great results justify the move this time. It's not just having to watch Pedro Feliz—bad process is what's so worrying. Mozeliak and the Cardinals looked at a real problem where the best solution might have just been to stand pat, and their response was to make a seemingly arbitrary decision that offers little upside over the problem to begin with.

There are a lot of situations in which the Cardinals' process has been both easily understandable and easy to love. The Cardinals appear to have drafted well of late, though we won't see dividends for a while, and they've also begun spending on bonuses in a manner more in keeping with their station in the payroll ranks. (Unironic references to DeWallet have reached seven-year lows.) Other things, like the Kyle Lohse deal, have been both easy to follow and probably wrong. 

But since Mozeliak took over no move has been so oblique and problematic all at once. All I can hope is that the Cardinals appear to luck out over the last month of the season while, behind the scenes, Dave Duncan continues to work on his skunkworks swing-tipping project. That's the only way I can imagine this trade making sense and working out well. 

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