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tony v tony

how big does pujols' double look now? if he'd made an out and the cardinals had lost, they'd now be just 4 up on the astros (and reds, but who cares) and losers of three consecutive september series, with the surging giants coming to town and a 4-game set in houston still looming.

good thing he doubled.

at hardball times, dave studeman found a new way to document albert's amazing performance in the clutch this season. (scroll down to the third item.) we already knew he leads the majors in WPA and is batting close to .400 with runners in scoring position (which, last time i looked, ranked 3d or 4th in the majors). now check this out: in his 15 highest-leverage plate appearances this season -- ie, the 15 plate appearances with the greatest potential impact on the game's outcome -- pujols has gone 8 for 12 with 3 home runs; he was intentionally walked in the other three plate appearances. so in 15 essentially do-or-die situations, albert made an out only 3 times. and here's the kicker -- that list doesn't include the walkoff double v houston.

is he the mvp? i'd say so, but i'll admit that i've become increasingly impressed with ryan howard's candidacy. howard has been even more remarkable in the 2d half of this season than albert was in the 1st half, before his injury. look:

ab r h 2b 3b hr rbi w avg obp slg
albert apr/may 185 52 57 7 0 25 65 44 .308 .442 .751
howard 2d half 209 51 78 11 0 28 68 55 .373 .507 .828

howard's sample size is slightly larger, which inflates his counting stats just a tad; doesn't matter. he has been babe ruth for 2+ months, without the steroids. i still think pujols deserves extra credit (and, ultimately, the trophy) for his passel of clutch hits, but if howard wins the mvp, no complaints from me. he's deserving.

further reading on the nl mvp race today at Beyond the Boxscore.

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i don't understand the organization's misdirection -- to use a polite term -- re skipping anthony reyes' turn in the rotation. someone in the dugout -- the source is not explicitly named -- told the post-dispatch that reyes approached tony/dave to complain of a tired arm. i surmise that the source was la russa, who was quoted in derrick goold's blog post on the same subject: "This is exactly when we don't want to push it. We can give Anthony a little rest."

now, according to FSN and KFNS, reyes says he never told anyone his arm's tired (scroll down half a dozen comments or so) and is a wee bit yirked about missing his turn.

if tony and dave want to shut him down, that's their prerogative. if they think his arm has logged too many innings this year and might be damaged by further use, ok -- that's their call to make. but why lie about it? why pretend the decision was reyes', rather than their own? i just don't get why a hall of fame manager like la russa, with his lengthy list of achievements, habitually seeks to dodge responsibility for his judgments. he did the same thing vis-vis mulder -- "the player told us he was healthy so we kept pitching him; what else were we supposed to do?" (shrug). "the reports we got from memphis said that he's ready to pitch, so we pitched him -- what else were we supposed to do?" (shrug). either he's afraid to take responsibility for his decisions and be held accountable for the results, or -- more likely -- so arrogant that he holds himself above scrutiny. he doesn't think he owes a damn explanation to anyone and resents being asked to justify his decisions.

bernie runs down the postseason rotation options this morning, and they're not pretty. after the last couple of games, you'd think any manager would be desperate for an alternative to weaver/marquis -- and there sits reyes. let's acknowledge his demerits -- he's inconsistent, vulnerable to the longball, and not likely to reach the 7th. do any of those statements not apply to marquis, weaver, ponson, or post-injury mulder? those are the players tony has chosen over reyes this year, and his judgment hasn't been vindicated; not exactly. yesterday provided the latest example, when la russa elected -- and we now know this was an elective decision, not a contingency necessitated by injury -- to pitch marquis on 3 days' rest rather than pitch reyes on 4. that decision pretty much cost st louis the game.

reyes, though undeniably shaky, has outpitched everyone except carp and supps this year. there are people who'll parse the data to make it appear that reyes has pitched just as badly as (or worse than) the other back-enders, but to make that case you have to chop the stats down into meaningless samples, excluding reyes' good games and marquis/weaver's bad ones. judge them on their whole body of work and it's not a close call; reyes has pitched better. not necessarily well --- but best among the available options.

la russa evidently sees it differently -- and he's entitled to his opinion. duh -- his opinion is the only one that matters. but i'd like to know what he's basing his conclusion on; i'd like him to take ownership of it, instead of hiding behind a make-believe story about reyes begging off. i think he owes that much to fans who, even in this restless year, care deeply about the team and want to see it put its best foot forward come october.