The good news doldrums and Shelby Miller

ATLANTA - SEPTEMBER 09: Colby Rasmus #28 of the St. Louis Cardinals celebrates his second homer in the ninth inning against the Atlanta Braves with manager Tony LaRussa #10 and Mark McGwire #25 at Turner Field on September 9 2010 in Atlanta Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Yesterday's game was a lot of fun, and I don't have a lot to say about that! Adam Wainwright kept himself just barely in range of 20 wins, the Cardinals kept themselves just barely in range of the Reds, and Colby Rasmus hit his 20th home run, which is an important baseball card number. Then he hit his 21st home run, which was just awesome. 

(Sometimes I resent the playoffs—at this point, unless the Cardinals continue to gain on the Reds, the last 24 games have a kind of useless cast to them, just because the regular season now ends with a postseason tournament. The Cardinals would be well out of contention without the playoffs, but these last several games might at least have some bearing on the standings for pride's sake. When it's all a prelude to the playoffs, and there's no playoffs in the cards—well, at least it's not as bad as the NBA season.)

In any case, no Cardinal left his seasonal numbers worse than they stood Thursday afternoon, and there's something to be said for a game like that. In Baseball Mogul that's my favorite event of all, and the one I hope for most fervently when two or three of my players are within range of 100 RBI or 30 home runs or some other round number. 

As if that weren't enough, I'd like to talk (belatedly) about Shelby Miller's Midwest League playoff performance, which was so good that I will laboriously copy it here in its entirety:

IP H R ER BB SO HR ERA
Miller, S (W 1-0) 7.0 2 0 0 1 13 0 0.00

There isn't much that can be said about the Cardinals' good Thursday that isn't variations on how incredibly fun it was to watch. But I don't think we've said enough about how good Shelby Miller has been this entire year.

The Cardinals haven't had an outstanding lower-level pitching prospect in a long time—Dan Haren came into his own in AA, and Anthony Reyes didn't show up on the radar at all until AA. It's been long enough, honestly, that lower-level pitching prospect handling has changed in the interim, and I don't think I was quite prepared, at the start of the season, for how brief some of Shelby Miller's appearances would be, or how long he'd take between starts for strictly instructional reasons. In the regular season he made 24 starts and threw 104 innings, significantly less than five a start. He had those long gaps where he seemed to disappear, and then there was July, where Cards Talk had him dangled in front of every scuffling team that had a pitcher on an onerous contract. 

All that made it tough to take the magnitude of his achievements into account. But in his age-19 season, pitching in the full-season Midwest League, Miller struck out 140 batters in 104 innings, against just 33 walks. After the All-Star Break is when his numbers started to look a little more like a starting pitcher's—he made 13 starts with a 2.86 ERA, and in 63 innings he struck out 84 and walked 18.

I think that because he was being treated with kid gloves I assumed he was struggling anymore—that he had a control problem, or allowed a lot of home runs, or struck out a lot of batters by running up wild counts on everybody. Instead, he's just pitched extremely well, while being handled with kid gloves.

Now that we have something to think about, this outstanding, weird seasonal line, I'll be following Shelby Miller with more interest, especially his innings pitched. Wherever he's assigned next year, he'll still be 20, well inside Baseball Prospectus's famous young pitcher injury nexus. His innings have to go up eventually, but it's a long way between 111 and 160, and between the Midwest League and Major League Baseball. 

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