marquis maintains his 20-win pace. . . . .what, no all-star invite?
i shouldn't mock; Good Jason showed up at an opportune time, averted what would have been a grisly sweep and pitched the cardinals back into 1st. bullpen nearly blew it for him . . . . which got me thinking. after ponson's awful start two nights back, you'll recall, la russa chafed at the proposition that his starting pitchers bear the main responsibility for the team's recent slide. and after last night, i wondered if maybe he's right: hasn't the bullpen been just as bad? maybe even worse?
sort of like trying to distinguish between diff'nt rings of hell --- is one really more unbearable than the next? -- but if you can't conduct inquires such as this on a blog, then what on earth are blogs for. . . . . so i ran a little test, using the WPA charts at fangraphs as a quick/dirty gauge of where the blame falls hardest over the last couple of weeks. (for a brief primer on WPA, or win probability added, go here.) fangraphs' WPA chart for yesterday's game hasn't posted, so i only looked at the 11 games prior to that -- from saturday night's game back to the inaugural loss of the 8-game streak, the 20-6 humbling in comiskey. i broke out the cards' WPA scores unit by unit --- rotation, bullpen, lineup. i would've liked to include a separate score for fielding, but i don't know whether fangraphs' WPA system assigns credits/debits for glovework; if so, the split isn't transparent -- every position player gets a single WPA score that encompasses hitting, running, and (maybe) fielding. so, parsing to the greatest degree possible, we find the following:
no, the onus still falls on the starting pitchers --- they singlehandedly lost four games and put the team in a 6-0 hole in a 5th. but at least they occasionally had a good game and posted a high positive score; the bullpen was either bad or irrelevant throughout the streak, with no score higher than +3.1. and while they end up holding the bag for only one loss on this chart, that's a bit of an illusion; on sev'l occasions they got let off the hook by extenuations. for example, the late relievers' meltdown on 7/1 translated into nothing worse than a -9.9 WPA score because josh hancock threw 4.1 innings of scoreless relief, worth +16 WPA. the night before that the bullpen's sins were essentially equal to the hitters'; and one night further back, the bullpen blew a late lead against the indians and ought to have taken the loss, but the cleveland fielders fell apart and the cardinals won the game.
of the cardinals' 16 losses in june, 3 came after the cardinals carried a lead into the 9th inning; another came after they the carried a lead into the 8th, and a fifth came when they carried a lead into the 7th. you would expect the team -- any average team -- to go 4-1 in those 5 games; instead the cards went 0-5, turning a 13-12 run-in-place month into a 9-16 disaster.
so, yeah, the bullpen's got some 'splaining to do. but it can be argued that their failures still come back to the starting pitchers, whose spate of short outings overtaxed the relievers and led to their awful performance. in april/may, the bullpen was averaging only 8 outs a game; in june they were asked to get 10, or 2/3 of an inning more per contest. that's gotta have something to do with why a unit that posted a 2.88 era in the first two months of this season turned in a 5.27 era -- nearly twice as high -- in june.
you're aware by now that josh kinney got recalled to provide some reinforcement, but you may have missed bernie miklasz's intimation that wainwright might be re-conditioned to a starting role via a short assignment in memphis. wonder if that was part of the closed-door discussion among tlr, duncan, and jocketty that took place after the frustrating saturday-night loss (according to joe strauss; see 3d graph). jocketty, you will recall, said just a few days ago in the paper (and i'm sorry, i can't find the link) that the cardinals need to commit to their younger pitchers. could it be he's pulling rank on tony/dave here? maybe nothing so dramatic; perhaps behind those closed doors the three of em weighed the pros/cons of jeff weaver and placed those alongside the other option(s) already on the roster; maybe they think wainwright could do as much or more for the rotation as weaver, and are heading in that direction. or perhaps weaver's plan A, pending jock's ability to acquire him affordably, and wainwright's plan B . . .
whatever the case, if wainwright's status changes then falkenborg prob'y comes up to replace him -- or maybe walter picks up roberto hernandez or joe borowski or some other veteran reliever on the cheap.
today's game marks the close of the 1st act -- 81 down, 81 to go. i have some midway musings but will save those for after the holiday, get em up wednesday or thursday.