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Game 129 Open Thread: August 27, 2006

weaver walrond
5-13, 6.11 0-0, 0.00

so comes to an end another outstanding season series between the cubs and cardinals. frustrating for cardinal fans, to be sure, and not very well played on the whole --- but most of the games have been close, fraught with tension and no small degree of controversy. after 18 games vs each other, the two teams stand dead even in runs scored -- 79 apiece -- making today's the rubber match of the set, in a sense.

in keeping with the perverse nature of their play against chicago this year, the cardinals have both over- and underachieved vs the small bears. they've overachieved in this sense: st louis has matched the cubs' run total in the 18 games despite getting badly outhit. the two teams are about even in batting avg and on-base pct, but the cubs hold a 46-point advantage in slugging --- plus a 7-run surplus in unearned runs. (st louis has yielded 13 unearned runs, or nearly 1 a game, to chicago this year --- 40 pct of their unearned-run budget for the entire season.) based on those factors, you'd expect the cubs to hold a comfortable series lead in runs scored, maybe 10 or 12 runs. how have the cardinals erased that gap? likeliest explanation (and i don't have the splits, so i can't check) is that they've hit well situationally vs the cubs -- ie, high avg / slg with men in scoring position. some of you won't be buying that argument after the cards' much-discussed failures with the bases loaded the last couple of weekends, and maybe it's not true; i'm just making a logical guess, don't have any evidence to support the theory. but the cards haven't played much small ball vs the cubs (notwithstanding p wilson's sweet sb in the 9th yesterday) and hold no obvious advantages over chicago to counter the cubs' clear edges in batting, slugging, and gift runs. if they're not making up the gap by hitting with RISP, what else could it be? feel free to offer alternative hypotheses.

that's the overachieving part. the underachieving part is this: despite being dead even with chicago in runs, the cards are only 7-11 in the series; we'd expect them to be even, at 9-9. in this case, the imbalance is easily explained: before yesterday, the cubs were 5-0 vs st louis in one-run games. now get this: although the cardinals did blow a few saves vs chicago, the bullpen as a whole has pitched well in the series --- a 2.45 era, with only 6 hr allowed in 55 innings (and only 3 unearned runs). by contrast, the cub pen has posted a 3.86 era vs st louis and yielded 8 homers in 63 innings . . . . .

yet somehow the cubs have won all the close ones. it has been that kind of a season.

the cubs' starter today, les walrond, was drafted by st louis in 1998 (13th rd, u of kansas) and worked his way up to memphis by 2002; the organization released him in may 2003, and he has drifted ever since. he's 9-4 at iowa this season with a 3.83 era; this will be his 1st major-league start. he's 29 years old.