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Game 110 Open Thread: August 6, 2006

suppan capuano
8-6, 5.07 10-7, 3.78

last night's game was big; today's is even bigger. and i don't mean today's game at busch iii vs the brewers; i'm talking about the one in davenport iowa, where mark mulder will pitch in a real baseball game for the first time since june 20.

before mulder's shoulder injury first showed itself, the cardinals were perking along with a 32-17 record (.653) and a 5-game lead in the division. but since may 28, when an obviously not-right mulder got bombed for 6 runs in the 5th inning at san diego, the cardinals have gone just 28-33 (.456). the linkage is rather direct; before he got hurt mulder posted 8 quality starts in 10 games, and the cardinals went 8-2 in his starts; since the injury, mulder and his replacements have turned in just 2 quality starts in 12 games, and the cards' record is 3-9.

in all their other games -- the non-mulder starts -- st louis went 24-15 before the injury, and 25-24 after, so the dropoff in mulder's slot doesn't account for all of the cards' miseries since june. but it's a big chunk. let's see how the other st louis starters have done, pre and post injury. in this table, the "q.s." line shows the number of quality starts per overall starts; the "w-l" line is team won-lost record:

pitcher pre injury post injury
carpenter q.s.: 7/10
w-l: 6-4
q.s.: 6/12
w-l: 8-4
marquis q.s.: 4/10
w-l: 6-4
q.s.: 6/13
w-l: 7-6
suppan q.s.: 5/10
w-l: 5-5
q.s.: 6/11
w-l: 6-5
TOTAL q.s.: 16/30 (.533)
w-l: 17-13 (.567)
q.s.: 18/36(.500)
w-l: 21-15 (.583)

no dropoff there; the percentage of quality starts and overall winning percentage are about the same pre and post injury. the rest of the difference has come from the #5 slot, which ponson and reyes have shared:

pre injury post injury
q.s.: 3/8
w-l: 6-2
q.s.: 3/11
w-l: 3-8

funny thing is, the percentage of quality starts hasn't really changed; the difference between the pre- and post-injury sections is only 1 quality start. but the won-lost record is dramatically different; por qua? the main reason is the difference in the degree of non-quality in the non-quality starts; early in the year, most of the non-q.s. were short but solid outings by ponson -- less than 6 full innings, hence not "quality starts." but in late may ponson started getting beat up regularly, and reyes hasn't performed much better as his replacement. the #5 starters, pre and post:

pre injury post injury
era 2.53 5.95
whip 1.27 1.58

reyes' outing last night was extremely encouraging -- and instructive. he featured his four-seamer a lot more prominently, and the results were palpable: 6 strikeouts and 10 swinging strikes. his velocity was up, and more important his changeup was much deadlier when set up by the high heat. the skew toward groundball pitching (discussed in this post) disappeared; his groundout-flyout ratio last night was 2-7, the first time he got more flyouts than groundouts since june. derrick goold, in today's post-dispatch:

To aid his economy of pitches, the Cardinals attempted to get [Reyes] to develop a two-seam fastball that he could pepper the lower reaches of the strike zone with. The theory was to turn a pitcher who delighted in the shoulder-high-fastball strikeouts to embrace contact and work for groundballs and quick outs. On Saturday, Reyes found the lower corners of the strike zone. But he did so by locating his four-seam fastball.
maybe they're starting to get it.

anyway, back to mulder: i sent a note to will carroll, BP's injury guru, and asked him to handicap mulder's comeback chances. he puts it at roughly 50-50 that mulder can be a "useful" pitcher this season, and about 20-80 that he can return to his pre-injury form by the end of this year. we'll get our first peek today.

if they can shore things up in either of those two slots -- the #2, or the #5 -- they're gonna win this division in spite of all.