Now Adam Wainwright's September ERA is 4.20, which reliable Colorado State University undergraduate sources tell me is the best ERA. It's way better than 4.88, at least, and now his peripherals are five strikeouts and one walk more palatable and he's over .500 for the season. He's not pitching like Adam Wainwright, but now his September has slipped from worrying to kind-of-iffy.
12 runs can do some awful things to monthly splits. Now the Cardinals' magic number is three, and if-and-by-the-time they clinch the chance to flip a coin against the Braves we could be stuck with constantly-walking-Carlos-Beltran and obviously-tweaked-clutch-muscle-Matt-Holliday as the only September stragglers on this team.
My hope is that at least one of Beltran and Holliday takes the rest of the regular season as an opportunity to wipe out their own meaningful skid, a la Wainwright and—
Lance Lynn, who has 17 wins and was briefly pulled from the rotation by a man who loves the sacrifice bunt, which is the kind of dissonance that drives people to google this Bill James guy. Lynn's allowed two runs in just shy of 20 innings since returning to the rotation, which has reset his ERA to where it was mid-slump.
The frustrating thing about baseball is that it seems reluctant to conform to the scientific method; that Lynn was briefly removed from the rotation right before he allowed two runs in 20 innings leaves open the possibility that he was fatigued and now isn't or couldn't locate his fastball and now can.
But since his three weeks in the bullpen Lynn has looked exactly like he did in April and May. After spending most of August conspicuously out of the Cardinals' plans, he's slipped quietly back into the presumptive postseason rotation in September, all forgiven.
And Jason Motte, who ages and slumps in closer-years. Nine home runs are pretty harrowing for a closer in general, but between August 16 and September 15—after being good enough he sort of faded into the background and got no credit for it for most of the year—he allowed four of them, blew three saves, and took two losses.
Very suddenly, because that's the only way people think about closers, he was (and had always been, somehow) a stopgap the Cardinals needed to replace at the earliest opportunity. Since losing so brutally to the Dodgers he's struck out 11 of 20 batters and hit a round saves number, and now it'll be at least another 10 bad innings until he's always been a stopgap and is Heath Bell still around?
Both players reached points in the season—the end of the season, when we're all aching to make pronouncements—at which we worried and were told to worry about the wheels coming off, about things never quite being then same, about a new normal coming through.
But if, most or even many of those times, that inflection point really did portend new and different things, normal as a concept wouldn't be much use at all. It's rarely a good idea, I think—even in the case of maybe-injured and injury-prone thirtysomething outfielders—to bet on a slump outlasting our capacity to base nervous fantasies on it.