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ash thursday

lot of ways we could torture ourselves over last night's game -- for starters, the 10 men left on base and 0-for-6 performance with men in scoring position. it's 0-for-8 if you count mulder's two at-bats with RISP -- but then, why was mulder allowed to bat in the bottom of the 6th with two on, two out, and the cards down 2-0? and why did tony stick with mulder after he yielded two rockets in the 8th inning and two hard-hit singles opening the 9th? and why, in a one-run loss with a lot of missed rbi opportunities, did we never see larry walker off the bench? and why --

how about why this: why bother? i mean, really. losing our last chance to stick it to the cubs at busch is painful enough; no need to compound the punishment by looking for clues to our postseason fortunes in the ashes of the loss. i'm just putting all that out of my mind; should we see the like in october, it'll hurt plenty enough then. instead i'm just gonna pull a couple of pain- and portent-free embers out of the pit, little glowing sticks:

i've been watching david eckstein lately for examples of what i'm calling "situational aggressiveness"; he provided another last night in the bottom of the 9th. man on first, one out, cards down a run, and he went up there ripping -- swung at the 1st pitch and yanked a line drive down the left-field line, just foul. he ended up grounding out to first, but the approach was sound. it has taken most of a season, but i'm finally down with this guy.

while i'm on the subject -- and truth to be told, i've been on this subject all year -- dan fox has posted an excellent study about hitters' counts v. pitchers' counts at hardball times today. his conclusion is not shocking -- it's good to get ahead in the count -- but the study quantifies the advantage to a degree. it also identifies which players have been the most successful over the last five years at getting themselves into hitters' counts, and which are most prone to fall into pitchers' counts. no current cardinal appears on either list, although tony womack shows up as one of those most likely to fall behind (he resolves fully 50 percent of his at-bats while behind in the count); long-ago cardinal joe mcewing ranks 2d on the same undistinguished list, and ex-stl benchman shawon dunston ranks 4th. another interesting tidbit: for all the moneyball ballyhoo about working the count, only one oakland athletic -- scott hatteberg -- shows up on the "hitter's count" table. it's a good article; if you liked my piece about first-pitch swinging last month for baseball analysts, you'll enjoy dan's piece as well.

'nuther ember: three hits for pujols, including a dinger. after a lackluster (for him) august -- .287 average, 16 rbis -- albert is off to a smashing start in september. through six games: .455 average, .556 obp, .773 slugging average. he now stands 2d in the league in batting avg, 2d in rbis, and 3d in home runs; also 1st in runs scored, 1st in obp, 2d in slugging, 2d in total bases; he even ranks top-20 in stolen bases, chrissakes. how can he not be the mvp? even the stat-fratters at Beyond the Boxscore grudgingly acknowledge that he is the guy. i say "grudgingly" because, per their numbers, derrek lee has had the more productive season. but like good sabermetricians, the BtBers don't follow the numbers blindly; as one panelist notes, "Cubbies could have finished fifth without D-Lee." interestingly enough, the man who may well beat pujols in the mvp voting -- andruw jones -- doesn't even merit a mention at BtB. and at hardball times, studes wonders whether jones is even the mvp of the braves.

by the way, the BtB panel embraces chris carpenter as cy young with a fair degree of enthusiasm.

back this aft'noon w more links and a game thread.