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friday odds and ends

in no paricular order:

here's some info from bernie miklasz, posted last night (thanks play a hard 9 for the link): "If Ponson has a good spring, then he's in the rotation and young Reyes is in the pen (if he pitches OK)."

nothing really new there, except seeing it in black and white kinda irks me. (it irks diaspora, too.) does any other organization mollycoddle its young pitchers the way this one does? it's particularly aggravating for those of us who remember the way whitey herzog used to challenge young pitchers. i ran a chart last year comparing herzog's use of young hurlers to tlr/dunc's:

21-25 26-30 31-35 36-40
Herzog 81-90 20 14 13 3
La Russa 96-05 9 25 12 4

each starter-season counts separately in this table -- for example, dave lapoint accounts for 3 of the 20 seasons in herzog's 21-25 cell, because whitey sent him out there at ages 22, 23, and 24. likewise, matt morris accounts for 5 of the 25 seasons in la russa's 26-30 cell.

you might think that herzog simply had better prospects to work with than tlr, but it's the other way around. in the 1980s the farm system only hatched one mound prospect in the class of morris, ankiel, haren, and reyes -- joe magrane, who came up in 1987 at age 22 after two years and 280 innings in the minors (about what reyes has logged to date). whitey put him straight into the rotation; magrane made 26 starts and led the pennant-winning cardinals in era that year, then started games 1 and 7 of the world series. the very next year he led the national league in era.

magrane aside, herzog had pretty lackluster material at his disposal. as i wrote last year: "not a single one of the guys he broke in -- lapoint, stuper, greg mathews, cox, kepshire -- was worth a damn when he left the cardinals. . . . i think herzog made a difference, by giving those kid pitchers the guts to throw their unimposing stuff over the plate. he knew the ballpark and the defense would take care of the rest, as long as his pitchers would throw strikes. he made them seem better than they really were; whitey spoiled us that way."

i still have to think reyes will eventually find his way into the rotation, subbing in for an injured or traded veteran. and given his history of injuries, maybe that's the prudent course -- keep the kid's innings down so he'll still having functioning parts down the stretch and (knock on wood) in the playoffs. but then, you get the feeling that tony/dunc wouldn't entrust a postseason start to this guy unless he's 15-0 or something in the regular season. . . . .

also from bernie: "They have, for at least the time being, backed off F. Rodriguez. They've been talking to Jeff Nelson (don't know the latest)." i believe that to be payroll driven; just a guess. if they think they might have an opportunity down the road to trade for some high-impact player, then it would make sense to stow f-rod's $2m (or whatever) salary away for now. whatever the case, f-rod isn't worth getting all worked up about one way or the other; would been a cheap spare part with a limited role, lotta other guys who could do about the same.

over at bronx banter, alex belth muses today about the virtues of throwing soft stuff vs hard stuff -- a lively subject of discussion on this blog and elsewhere in cardinalland. "Vulnerability is often the greatest sign of strength, the most powerful tool," he writes, and he makes a good case. the unstated key to his argument, though, is that soft stuff gets its strength by playing off of hard stuff -- it works because hitters are all geeked up for high heat. and the flaw with the cardinals' current rotation (my opinion only) is that there's not enough hard stuff for the soft stuff to play off of -- too much emphasis on the sinker, not enough on high heat. one more hard thrower in the rotation (cough anthony cough reyes cough aj cough burnett) would go a long way toward balancing out the scales. "One of the most compelling aspects of baseball is the balance it requires of its participants," belth notes -- bingo.

the concept of balance also surfaces over at cardnilly. while identifying himself as more of a stathead than a seamhead, scott says: "I don't buy into the One True Path vibe that's sometimes an undercurrent running through their [ie, statheads'] writings." in other words: use sabrmetrics, trust sabrmetrics, but balance it out with other forms of input. cardnilly just observed its one-year anniversary (congratulations scott); if you're a regular reader (as you should be), you'll get a kick out of learning where the blog's name came from, how the waste-of-flesh concept was born, what intro music scott would have on the p.a. for his at-bats.

finally, the cardinals won the 2004 Fake World Series in six games at 26th Man -- matt morris finally got the better of curt schilling in a postseason game, outdueling him in the clincher at fenway. woulda coulda shoulda . . . . . .