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Game 75 Open Thread: June 26, 2006

marquis lee
9-5, 5.53 6-5, 4.71

last time we were all this depressed -- two and a half weeks ago, after the sweep at the hands of the reds -- a poster named Solanus issued the following prediction:

I just think that if we start seeing some real competition over the next few weeks without Albert, our shortcomings that we've hidden fairly well over the first two months are going to come to the forefront and we're going to get hit hard.
prophecy fulfilled. against real competition last week, the cards got hit hard alright -- even harder than Solanus prob'y expected -- and their shortcomings were unmasked for the world to see. Solanus based his forecast on a strength-of-schedule monitor he called the Challenge Rating system. without getting into all the details (see his original post for those), the system integrates two pieces of information: 1) the overall winning percentage of a given opponent, and 2) how well they are playing at the time you happen to face them. an opponent with a CR of 1000 is a .500 team that's playing at about that level when you play them; CRs above that are tough competition, and CRs below are creampuffs.

for the 1st two months of 2006, Solanus noted, "St. Louis has had a criminally easy schedule, with a Challenge Rating of 882 (Cincinnati is 2nd in the NL with a 941)." in a followup comment (scroll down three replies), he explained:

Basically, if you go against a team that poses a Challenge Rating of 800 or less, it's a bad team playing normally, an average team playing badly, or a good team in the middle of a slump. 1200 or more means just the opposite and is a good challenge for any team. The Cardinals have only had 4 series (thru 5/31) that would be considered good challenges: Cincy the first two times, Arizona, and the Mets (they went 6-5). But they've had 8 series against <800 teams . . . Having twice as many games against poor competition as good ones has been a huge factor in our record to this point.
the cardinals have now played three 1200+ opponents in a row: the rockies, white sox, and tigers. they swept the first, got swept by the next two, and find themselves with an 11-12 overall record this season against top opponents (ie, CRs of 1150 or higher). that's not so terrible, Solanus writes; only 6 teams in all of baseball have played above .500 against teams with 1150+ CRs. overall, the cardinals have played the 4th least-challenging schedule in baseball, facing opponents with an avg CR of 954.

their schedule returns to its usual level of softness this week: the indians (if i did my calculations correctly --- Solanus, jump in if i f'ed it up) have a weak CR of 847, and the royals are even worse at 551. the cardinals have gone 8-1 against teams with CRs in the 800s this year, and 10-2 against teams that are at 600 or below. they have pounded the patsies. a 5-1 week, while not solving the cards' very real problems, may nonetheless get the team back to feeling good about itself.

tonight's starter, by the way, has drawn the 2d-most-challenging assignments among the cardinal pitchers: marquis' average opponent has a CR of 977, bested only by mark mulder (avg CR of 1010). cleveland starter cliff lee's composite opponent has a Challenge Rating of 1063 . . . . and the cardinals, by virtue of their current slump, only carry a Challenge Rating of 852.