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tipping point

according to bernie, elizardo ramirez was tipping his pitches, giving away his fastball; the cardinals had "a lengthy hitters meeting" about it before the game and applied the knowledge immediately. in the first inning they saw 11 strikes and swung at 8 of them -- and put the ball in play on all 8 swings. didn't just put it in play, either -- roped it, yanked it down the lines and over the wall. only one player (rolen) swung at an off-speed pitch; ev'yone else feasted on fastballs. beginning with the 2-0 pitch to duncan -- which resulted in a single to plate the game's first run -- the cardinals scored 5 runs in a span of 7 pitches.

way to go, scouts.

might similar factors explain some of the beatings cardinal pitchers have absorbed this season? i went back and scanned the pitch logs of a few blowout games (there are so many . . . .), looking for similar swing/in-play patterns.

mulder's injury explains his punching-bag outings, and rust/disuse seems to explain weaver's two implosions; but marquis -- bingo. just look at jason's game two starts ago vs the cubs on july 28. after poking just 2 hits through the first 3 innings, the cubs came out whaling in the bottom of the fourth. they swung at the first 8 pitches of the inning -- 8 hacks in a row -- and put 6 of'm in play. two were outs (one sharply hit), but the other four batters hit for the cycle: double, triple, homer, single. and that was hardly the end of it; the cubs' 7th batter of the inning, cedeno, finally took a pitch, a ball -- but he jumped on the first strike he saw and laced it for a base hit. the pitcher went up there hacking, too, and reached on an error; then juan pierre came up, looked at strike one, and then yanked a triple into the right-field corner. all told, marquis threw 17 pitches in that sequence, 15 of em for strikes; the cubs swung 13 times and put 9 balls in play, scored 6 runs.

that sounds an awful lot like what the cardinals did to ramirez last night; perhaps the cubs picked something up the 1st time through the order.

in jason's disastrous july 18 start (one of the "take-one-for-the-team" outings), the braves came out of the chute much as the cardinals did last night, hacking at ev'ything. they swung at 23 of the first 28 strikes they saw (a span covering 17 batters) and pounded out 8 base knocks and 6 runs, including 2 dingers. over jason's entire stint (5 innings) that night, marquis threw 51 strikes (excluding the pitches he threw during a bunt attempt in the 2d); the braves swung at 39 of them, a 76 percent swing rate -- off the charts high. and 25 of those swings (64 percent) resulted in a ball in play, also an inordinately high proportion.

similar tale on june 21st, when the white sox took a total of 4 called strikes from marquis in the first 2 innings -- swung at almost ev'ything and made very hard contact, viz 8 hits (including 4 xbh) and 9 runs. after that game, you'll recall, the cardinals accused the white sox of using the centerfield camera to relay the cards' pitch signals to the batters . . . .

i'm not at all convinced that marquis is tipping his pitches; seems just as likely that the problem is his reliance on a transparent strategy -- viz., throw sinkers for strikes. not a lot of guesswork there; hitters look for the pitch, see it, swing. which may explain jason's recent foregrounding of his curve and other off-speed pitches; mix it up, change speeds, make the hitters think a little bit. trouble is, jason can't locate those pitches . . . . it'll be interesting to see how he approaches the reds tonight, and vice versa; they haven't seen each other so far this year. throwing off-speed stuff early in the at-bat, even on the 1st`pitch or in hitter's counts, might be one way for jason to try to keep the reds off balance.

jeff weaver: at last, something to build on. he struck out only 5 guys in his first 4 games for st louis, which is what soured me on the experiment; last night we finally saw the ks. he didn't miss a lot of bats (only 7, excluding ryan franklin's feeble misses), but he showed an ability to put guys away with 2 strikes, which is the main thing. it'll take more than one good start to convince me, but that's the type of performance he was brought in to supply.

our interview subject from yesterday, blake hawksworth, was weirdly effective down at springfield: 2 hits and 1 run in 6.1 innings, but 5 walks vs only 1 strikeout. the opposing starting pitcher also walked 5; makes you wonder if the home-plate ump was squeezing. hawk got a no-decision; springfield lost on a walkoff grand slam.

mitchell boggs threw 5 shutout innings for palm beach, and trey hearne was a tough-luck loser vs clinton last night; yielded 2 runs on three 2-out hits in the 1st inning, then followed that up with 6 innings of no-run, 1-hit ball -- yielded 2 runs on 4 hits in 7 innings overall. but quad cities didn't score until late, and the bullpen didn't hold it close; hearne took his first loss in two months.