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missing the knockout punch

a number of folks have posted comments lately about stl's rallies falling short -- rallies like last night's 8th-inning uprising, the type that seemed to go the distance last year. given the absence of three power bats, i can't fault the cards for coming up just short -- nor for that matter can i say with certainty that they really are coming up short more often this year than last. haven't seen any stats on come-from-behind wins.

but i did get curious enough to look at some of the readily available "clutch-hitting" markers, imperfect though they may be. we begin with batting with runners in scoring position (RISP) -- the cards stand 3d in the nl with a .284 avg, 5th in slugging at .441. both avgs are higher than their figures for the season as a whole (.271 avg, .433 slugging). how about their performance in so-called late-inning pressure situations (LIPS)? . . . . . ulp. maybe you guys aren't just imagining this. from the 7th inning on in close games, the cards still do ok at getting on base -- .264 average, .336 obp, which rank 6th/5th in the league, respectively -- but they are slugging an anemic .349, which ranks only 11th in the nl . . . . . the cards get the runners on base but can't knock them in; rally falls just short. again, i have to think rolen's extended absence skews these numbers downward. albert's hitting just .179 in LIPS, walker .133, edmonds .225. but hold on -- before we get too down on the team, they are tied for 3d in the nl in runs scored during LIPS (credit squeeze plays &c for that), and seem to be holding their own if you pro-rate the runs per opportunities.

interesting numbers, but i'm not putting a whole lot of stock in them. first, the sample sizes are tiny. the cards have just 387 LIPS at-bats -- on a sample that small you wouldn't draw firm conclusions about a single player, much less a whole team. second, i don't know that trendlines like these mean a whole lot when the postseason comes. yes the cards were a great comeback team in 2004, but that didn't help them against brad lidge or the red sox bullpen. it's just as likely the opposite will happen this year -- they'll get that one extra hit to put the rally over the top.

the one player who clearly doesn't seem himself in LIPS is albert -- and let's not forget, he did blast an enormously significant clutch homer against houston in the first game post-all-star break. while we now have some data to back up the subjective impression re late-inning fizzles, those frankly are less a concern for me right now than (in order) health, the bullpen, and the "m" boys (morris mulder marquis) . . . . ..