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while you're glued to the tournament, you can listen to the cards game on the radio; izzy's first inning of the year, and it's not a save situation. breathe easy, ev'yone. . . . . or maybe not. shouldn't the fans at jupiter be instructed to boo when izzy takes the mound? gotta get the old boy's ears back in game shape, along with his arm and hip . . . .

they're playing the dodgers. here's the gameday link.

in addition to izzy's very welcome return, we'll see russ springer in his first game action today. he's been somewhat of a forgotten man, but in a bullpen hollowed out by looper's reassignment and kinney's injury, springer could be an important pitcher. . . . couldn't he? up until this morning, i had considered him a candidate to become the primary 8th-inning guy. but after looking at his usage patterns over the last couple years, i'm a lot more skeptical. last season for houston, springer made about 45 percent of his appearances in the 8th inning or later (33 out of 72), but there's a major catch: only 7 of those late-inning appearances came with the astros ahead in the game. and in 5 of those 7 instances, the lead was a very bulky one --- at least 5 runs. only once all season was springer entrusted with an 8th-inning lead in a tight (ie, 3-run spread or less) game: august 20 vs milwaukee. he got two outs, gave up a single, and was removed before he could face the tying run. i should add that springer was waved into a tie game three times last year from the 8th inning forward; he took the loss in this game and preserved the other two ties.

all this information comes courtesy of Baseball Reference's easy-to-scan 2006 game log for russ springer. thank you, sean forman.

looking over springer's 2005 game log, we find that russ made 33 8th-or-latter appearances in that season, too. that year, 11 of the late-inning appearances came with houston leading by 3 runs or less (or tied); he held the lead/tie 8 of the 11 times. but he blew it in one of the most memorable cardinals games of 2005, on july 15; telling, perhaps, that it was springer's last opportunity of the entire season to protect a slim lead late in a game.

to sum it up, for the last season and a half he's pretty much been in cal eldred's role. . . so why are we paying this guy $1.75m a year?

i took a quick look at springer's win-probability data, just to be sure i didn't miss something. i didn't; fangraphs has him as basically neutral in WPA terms for each of the last three seasons. his leverage indexes (all well south of 1.00) confirm that he's not getting brought into many important situations. i had a completely different impression when the cardinals signed him.

it doesn't mean springer can't set up from time to time in 2007, but he is 38 years old and not exactly on the upswing. the 8th inning is pretty much entirely in brad thompson's hands; or, if you prefer, thompson and flores/johnson, with springer and josh hancock picking up some spot duty. as the season progresses, we'll probably see dove, falkenborg, cavazos, and/or jimenez --- whichever one(s) distinguishes himself down at memphis --- get a chance to set up. or maybe it'll end up being the guy who has 8 years of setup / save experience; there is, after all, supposed to be a displacement in the rotation when mulder comes back.

it'll sort itself out; almost always does. but it'll probably take la dunca a few weeks of the regular season to figure out who goes where; might want to brace yourself for a few frustrating blown leads / ties early in the year.


  • Brock20 put up this link to a video of a little kid aping the cardinals' batting stances. spot-on impressions, particularly of edmonds and sanders; does molina in both the '05 and '06 versions. hil-hairious entertainment.
  • more sims; cards win again. but in this run of 50 seasons, conducted by a poster named jim over at Gateway Redbirds, the cardinals averaged only 84 wins per 162. that was still the best average in the division, and the 4th-best average in the national league; but the team only made the playoffs in 22 of the 50 sim-seasons, a 44 percent success rate --- much lower than the 65ish percent playoff rate they registered in some other sims i've referenced.
  • it looks like community-projection fever is passing. very few takers for the eckstein and looper threads. i'll leave those up for another day or two and look at the numbers over the weekend; if the interest remains low, maybe we'll retire that particular series.
  • i apologize for the silence on the all-time tournament front. it's just been a busy week-plus around here, and i haven't been able to move the tournament to the top of the stack. there are fresh results to report, and i'm hoping to get things moving forward again. i'd originally envisioned the tournament as an off-season time passer, but it looks as if it'll end up competing with the regular season. meanwhile, we've got The Real Tournament to occupy us.
  • tomorrow --- an interview with Fantasyland author sam walker.
let's go, quakers.