First and foremost, thanks to lboros for letting me contribute to such a great blog. VEB is something I read every day and I'm honored to be able to write here. I loved writing for my own departed blog, Reverend Redbird, but just didn't have the time to do it the way I would have liked with a lot of stuff going on personally. But this once-a-week blogging here should work nicely.
12 runners left on base. How the Pirates won the game, let alone shut the Cardinals out, is puzzling to say the least. I'd have to reckon that was the unluckiest loss of the season, and certainly had to be the unluckiest loss of Jeff Weaver's career. Just plain weird. According to the Win Expectancy Finder, the Cardinals had over a 60% probability of winning that game in 9 different scenarios. Credit Bucco reliever Solomon Torres, his strikeouts of Ronnie D-o-double-jizzle and P-Dub was worth 39.7% of Win Expectancy alone. Wilson looked absolutely ridiculous swinging for strike 3 on that splitter. It seems like the Cardinals have stranded an awful lot of hitters in 06, but looking at their team BA/RISP coming into last night's affair, the Cards are batting .284, good for 2nd in the NL behind the Dodgers. Huh.
The stat gurus at The Hardball Times have a metric called "clutch" , which roughly measures the number of runs a player has created by batting better with runners in scoring position. It accounts for BA/RISP and HR's with runners on. It also scores players negative runs for failing to score runners. I'm not saying it's an end all stat, just another way of looking at how players come through in key moments. Anyway, without breaking the team down pound for pound, the Cards as a team have scored a total of 6.4 clutch runs. Pujols has scored 10.7 of them. Take him out of the equation and the Cardinals as a team are a -4.3 runs clutch. Yeesh. It should be noted that most players don't repeat their clutch stats from one season to the next. (See, Taguchi, So and Eckstein, David.) But you'd like to see more big hits when they are needed, as that's something that's been lacking with this team. Oddly enough, one Cardinal player you could argue as being a consistent "clutch" hitter is Juan Encarnacion. In 04, he created 5.3 clutch runs, in 05: 8.6. So far in 06, 4.7. Maybe LaRussa wasn't so crazy about pinch-hitting Juan for Duncan a few weeks ago in Chicago afterall......
I'd be amiss if I didn't make mention of Weaver's solid outing last night. I wasn't able to watch all the game, but from what I was able to watch, he was relying on his fastball a lot more, very nice to see. I've always wondered why Weaver tries to fool around with so many different pitches when he already seems to have command of a pretty lively fastball.
Speaking of good fastballs, it'll be interesting to see Reyes's approach today. Reyes was the PCL player of the week last week, winning both games he started. In those starts he pitched 13 innings, allowed no runs, 9 hits, 3 walks and struck out 17. Says Reyes, "I was using the fastball like I used to. I was throwing the fastball and working it off all of my other pitches, as opposed to throwing more offspeed pitches. I just want to start going deeper into games and getting back to my old ways of using my fastball I just want to pitch and not try to go out there and worry about location as much. I just want to have fun pitching." Like he used to. There you have it Dunc. There you have it Tony. He doesn't need to screw with this other stuff. Let him throw fastballs. Let him mix in his change-up. As long has he's throwing strikes, screw the 2 seamer, screw the cutter. Let the kid do his thing. Let him have fun for cryin' out loud. Baseball is supposed to be fun.
Down on the farm, Blake Hawksworth continues to re-assert his prospect status, going 7 innings allowing 2 runs on 8 hits and a walk, striking out 8. But the real story of the Springfield game is the team scored 17 runs. My homeboy Nick Stavinoha has now raised his BA to .295 after having a terrible start to his season. He went 3 for 5 with a double and a walk. Mitch Boggs struck out 8 for Palm Beach, allowing 3 runs on 8 hits and a walk over 7 innings.
So says the rev, "go Cards." Enjoy your Sunday.