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Game 104 Open Thread: July 30, 2006

carpenter zambrano
10-4, 2.68 11-3, 3.27

those of you hoping for the team to get fired up may get your wish today; zambrano's pitching, and he'll be trying to push buttons. he has won 8 decisions in a row and 11 of his last 12; if he frustrates this already frustrated team, look out; there could be a brawl . . . . . that consideration aside, what a great pitching matchup.

the boots and brain freezes afield these last three games have been maddening, but they're not the main reason the cards are losing in wrigley. facing two rookie starters and a faded old man (who is, by the way, three years younger than me), the cards have managed just 6 extra-base hits (1 homer and 5 doubles); the cubs meanwhile have bombed our rag-tag staff for 13 (3 hr, 7 doubles, 3 triples). when you get outhit and outpitched that badly, you're probably gonna lose even if you play flawlessly with the gloves; if you're gonna steal a game, you better play error-free. so it's not that the 2006 team is more error prone than previous editions; it's that no margin for error exists. last year's team, and even the 2004 club, committed blunders from time to time, but we usually didn't notice them because those teams could slug their way through mistakes, partic vs bad teams with bad pitching. they'd have won these last couple of games 9-6 or 7-4 or whatever, and we'd be taking the snafus in stride.

now, to reyes. take a look at his game log and pay particular attention to the far right-hand column, which lists groundouts vs flyouts/popups. notice what's happened? in each of his first four starts this season, he got more flyballs and popups than groundballs; in each his last five starts, he has gotten more grounders than flyballs / popups. it may just be a coincidence -- but probably isn't -- that his performance has gone down the shitter since he started getting groundballs. let's put it into table form, adding in his start vs the brewers from last year to balance the rows at 5 starts apiece -- again, take note of the go/ao column:

starts inn h w k hr era go/ao
thru 6/27 5 31.1 17 7 22 3 2.30 28-45
since 7/3 5 26.1 33 13 15 6 6.84 36-22

0.6 go/ao ratio before this month; 1.6 go/ao ratio this month. tony and dave have been saying since spring training they want reyes to throw the 2-seamer and pitch to contact; he's doing that now, and pitching worse as a result. this doesn't necessarily mean dave and tony are wrong; they think reyes will pitch better over the long haul if he does it their way, and maybe over the long haul they will be right. that remains to be seen. but it's just as likely that reyes -- and more to the point, the organization -- would have been better off if dave and tony hadn't intervened, if they'd just left well enough alone and allowed him to pitch his game instead of forcing their theories about pitching down his throat.

we'll never know, will we . . . . .

out of curiosity i went back to watch the first 4 innings of the game vs the white sox, just to gauge the contrast between last month and this one. it couldn't be starker. at comiskey reyes established the 4-seamer from the very first pitch and threw fastballs above the belt in every at-bat, to every hitter --- thome, konerko, dye, pierzinski, didn't matter. just went right after 'em, very aggressive. with two out, none on in the 4th he had an 8-pitch confrontation with thome in which he threw one 2-seamer, two changeups, and five 4-seam fastballs, the last of which thome popped up.

contrast that with the pussy-footed way they pitched around ramirez yesterday.

about 3/4 of his fastballs were 4-seamers vs the white sox in the innings i watched --- that's not a precise count, but it's a pretty close estimate. by contrast, in reyes' last two starts (vs the rockies and dodgers) he threw about twice as many 2-seamers as 4-seamers. Hardcore Legend asks in this diary: "What's going wrong? I know people will say that it is TLR/Dunc messing with his approach and forcing him to pitch a different way than he wants to. . . . " well yeah, that's exactly what people will say. that's exactly what is happening.

nobody expected reyes to carry a 2.30 era as a rookie, nor even 3.30; even if left to his own devices, the league would have made some adjustments and he would've taken some lumps. but at least he would be pitching to his strengths -- and when those are working, as we saw in his "apprentice" starts, they can put big-league hitters in a world of trouble. just one inning into the game at comiskey, the chicago announcers were saying: "oh brother, the white sox are gonna have their hands full tonight." he was that impressive, throwing his unadultered 4-seam/change repertoire.

it's impressive, in a different way, that he can get by even as he's having his game deconstructed and rebuilt, having his best weapon relegated to auxiliary status; says something about his ability and maturity.

so now they're interested in kip wells; 1-5 with a 6.69 era this year, 8-18 with a 5.09 era last year. at least jeff weaver had a recent history of success you could point to. honestly, with willis unavailable (and the cards did apparently make another play for him last night), the next-best available option is already on the team: adam wainwright. nobody who's available from another organization is any better than him. relief pitchers are buzzing around out there like free electrons; the cards just need to snag one, put him into wainwright's 7th-inning role, maybe recall brian falkenborg as well, and then the bullpen is covered; wainwright's free to go into the rotation. he won't be an ace, but he'll likely give you a quality start ev'y other time out --- and on this staff that'd be an enormous improvement.

congratulations, engine #42.