this morning's boston globe asks: "Do you ever find yourself secretly wishing the Red Sox had lost last October?" and i'm thinking what a stupid question, of course i do -- and not so secretly. but reading on i find, to my surprise, that the question is directed not at me but at the cult of the red stocking. here's a whiff of the article:
But if this suffering no longer surpasses a human life span--if, in fact, it is no longer suffering--is it any longer holy?
gack. sorry to lay that tripe on you 1st thing sunday morning, but it flew across the desk and i sure as hell wasn't going to hold onto it a second longer than necessary. let's just say this: it would be in keeping with the generous nature of the stl franchise if we play the sox again this october and restore the sense of tragedy that's been missing from new england's self-image since last autumn.
as for our own sense of tragedy, i hope it departed for good with jason marquis' two-hit shutout yesterday, ending that tortured pitcher's quarrel with win #10. we all knew he had it in him; indeed, he pitched nearly as well in at least two of his losses during the long winless streak. the big diff'nce yesterday, as danup points out, is that he threw strikes -- 61 of his 91(!) pitches, and nary a base on balls. he induced 10 swinging strikes and a dozen or so foul balls; guys just weren't making good contact. and if jason had had his typical game with the bat, his own hit total would have equaled the nationals'.
so now that jason has reached the blessed double-digit win plateau, we can stop focusing on the minutiae of ev'y outing and ask more pertinent questions, like:
a) do we want him on our playoff roster?
b) do we want him in our rotation next season?
assuming they don't trade him in the next four days, he's got to be on the postseason roster -- he's one of their best hitters off the bench. and i say that completely without sarcasm; it's simply a fact. the better question is whether we want him in the postseason rotation -- and that, in turn, is really a question of: who do we want to start game 4 of a given series, marquis or suppan? before yesterday, the obvious answer was suppan; jason was simply too messed up in the head, and his manager was trying so hard to snap him out of the funk that he prolonged it. but let's just put all that stuff off to the side and pretend it never happened: taking their seasons as a whole, which one profiles as the more trustworthy postseason pitcher? which one is most likely to go 6 innings and keep the game close; which is least likely to lose a game singlehandedly? to the numbers:
|yielded 5+ er||7||4|
|went 6+ inn||18||17|
|went 8+ inn||7||2|
|went less than 5 inn||4||3|
those numbers still say suppan, by a whisker. and yet . . . . on any given day, marquis is capable of pitching like he did yesterday. he yields 1.1 fewer hits per 9 than suppan and 0.6 fewer baserunners; also is slightly less prone to the gopherball. and when you factor in his bat . . . . . in my opinion, it's his spot to lose. at the very worst, it's a toss-up. that makes his five or six remaining starts among the most important games left on the schedule.
as for the second question, next year . . . . well, he's making $3 million this season and can go to arbitration this winter. based on his stats to date he's probably going to get bumped to at least $4.5 million -- and in my mind he's nowhere near worth it. per baseball prospectus, marquis this year has been just 5 runs better than a replacement-level player -- ie, five runs better than adam wainwright or chris gissell. his strikeout rate (4.1 per 9 innings) is easily the worst of his career -- 2.0 k/9 lower than his career mark coming into the season. his batting avg, obp, and slg avgs allowed are all right at his career rates; ditto his walks per 9 and hr per 9. there's no improvement in a single phase of his game. i'd just as soon have the cardinals non-tender the guy, give his spot to wainwright -- who will likely pitch almost as well -- and put the $4 million into signing matt morris or an outfielder. (i'm assuming, by the way, that anthony reyes will take suppan's slot.)
so while i'm very happy for jason -- who has pitched better than his w-l record shows -- i'd be happier still if his shutout yesterday convinces some team to trade us a hitter for him before august 31. jason might -- might -- be marginally better than suppan this october, but there's a much bigger margin in adding a hitter. and you know who might want to take a flyer? the nationals. they're 15-26 since the all-star break, now 5th in the wild-card race and fading. they have some players who could improve our bench and who might be available -- preston wilson, brad wilkerson, and junior spivey among them. nick johnson isn't signed for next year; he'd make a hell of a pinch-hitter and a hell of a world series dh.
c'mon, it's sunday morning and the summer's almost over; let a guy dream . . . .