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let the dog days commence

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let's begin with some good news: trey hearne added another good performance to his resume last night, holding the lansing lugnuts (love that name) to 1 unearned run in 7 innings. he departed trailing 1-0, though, and stood to take a very tough loss; then, with two out in the top of the 9th, mark hamilton singled home the tying run to get hearne off the hook; bryan anderson followed with another rbi single to put QC ahead, and tyler greene reached on an error that plated two more runs. the win went to chris perez; hearne lowered his era to 2.32, 5th in the midwest league.

as for the parent club . . . . lot of frustrated cardinal fans out there. during the game thread last night there were even people lashing out at pujols, which -- insofar as he is the only thing separating this team from a .450 winning percentage -- i can't understand; even babe ruth had his .250 weeks. since the all-star break, albert has a .339 / .431 / .645 line and leads st louis in rbi (he's 2d in runs); the cardinals as a whole, though, are dead last in the league in post-all-star batting (.243), next-to-last in slugging (the astros are worse), and 13th in the league in scoring. taking the season as a whole, they now rank 7th in league in runs scored, 10th in slg, and 10th in HR. . . . if you just absolutely have to have someone to blame these things on, blame rolen and eckstein. scotty hasn't homered since july 9, has only 3 extra-base hits since the break, and is hitting .233 in that span; eck is hitting .221 with 0 extra base hits, 0 rbi, and 2 walks.

there are your scapegoats; have at 'em, folks.

eckstein clearly hasn't been the same since his concussion back in mid-june, but the funny thing is that he had an almost identical slump last season without benefit of a head injury. see for yourself:

g ab r h xbh rbi avg obp slg
2006
6/20 thru 8/1
35 154 16 38 3 2 .247 .293 .266
2005
6/20 thru 8/1
34 142 14 30 8 11 .211 .280 .296

last year eckstein followed this 34-game slump with a 34-game tear in which he batted .338 / .389 / .517, scored 23 runs and knocked in 21. i wouldn't bet on him getting quite that hot again this season, for a couple of reasons. the main one is strikeouts: he's whiffed 19 times during the above-named slump, nearly twice his career whiff rate. a disproportionate slice of eckstein's value derives from simply putting the ball in play, hitting em where they ain't; if he don't hit 'em, he can't ain't em. the other big concern is david's utter lack of extra-base pop; he's obviously not making very hard contact. these things ebb and flow, and i do think the hits will start falling in for eckstein eventually; but there's definite cause for concern.

as for rolen, they obviously need more out of him, but i can't fault the guy; he's out there grinding, just like all of the other cardinals. indeed, i have a difficult time faulting any of these players; most of the regulars are at or above their career norms offensively, and they have weathered some serious adversity to remain in 1st place all summer. my frustration lies primarily with the ownership -- that, and not on the field, is where i perceive the lack of effort.

for whatever reason, i'm not particularly bent out of shape over this little skid. we've already seen much worse, and we already know the team lacks the top-to-bottom excellence required to play consistently good baseball and run away with the division again; guess i adjusted my expectations two months ago. the cards are still on track for 92 to 93 wins, which is about where most of the know-it-alls projected them during spring training; i didn't see any pundit predicting another 100-win season. so they are about where they "should" be -- grinding it out in august, still playing meaningful games.