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friday morning miscellany

rick hummel asks what's up with pujols at the post-dispatch today. the commish is seeing what we're all seeing --- albert's impatient at the plate, expanding his strike zone, lunging at pitches he'd normally lay off, getting himself out. has he ever struggled like this before? almost never; i browsed his game logs at Baseball Reference PI back to 2003 and only located two 9-game stretches even remotely as bad as the one with which El Albert has opened 2007. the second of these is almost an identical match:

4/29/04 - 5/7/04 37 9 8 3 0 1 2 3 2 | .216 .368 .378
6/3/04 - 6/16/04 34 6 7 1 0 0 3 3 4 | .206 .282 .235
4/1/07 - 4/11/07 34 5 6 2 0 1 2 5 4 | .176 .282 .324

despite the two ugly stretches in 2004, he finished at .331 / .415 / .657 and placed 2d in the mvp balloting. but then, both of those cold spells were 9-game islands in an ocean of monstrous bashing; this one is contiguous with a month of spring training in which he hit .262 and slugged .403. he will break out of it at some point, but it's no stretch to say that albert is mired in one of the worst slumps of his career --- the worst, if you factor in the subpar march stats.

maybe he'll break out of it this weekend vs the brewers: he's a career 47 for 108 (.435) against the three scheduled starting pitchers. check out his line against chris capuano (saturday's starter): 17 for 30 (.567) with 6 walks (.639 obp) and 3 doubles / 3 homers (.967 slugging pct). he's a career .387 / .406 / .710 vs tonight's starter, ben sheets, in 62 at-bats (5 doubles, 5 homers) but has whiffed in 23 percent of their confrontations (14 times).

while we're talking about albert: he is one of three st. louis icons to figure prominently in rich lederer's evaluation of the greatest living hitters at pujols, mcgwire, and musial ranks 2d, 3d, and 5th respectively on the list of career OPS+ (again, that's only for guys who are still above ground). . . . . and now that stantheman has worked his way into the discussion, i should point you to derrick goold's blog post about washington dc's stan musial society.

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i find it mildly interesting that mike parisi, not chris lambert, got called up from double A to take randy keisler's slot in the memphis rotation. they're both from the 2004 draft class, but lambert's a higher draft pick (1st round, vs 9th for parisi) and has already logged nearly two full seasons at double A --- unsuccessful seasons, admittedly. it was suggested during spring camp that the organization intended to challenge lambert, move him up and let him either sink or swim at triple A. but parisi pitched better down at jupiter, and he made a good first impression at memphis --- 3 singles and 1 walk in five innings. his groundout / flyout ratio: 10 to 3. that's parisi's game; lives and dies with the sinker. i have a feeling memphis will be a good fit for parisi --- large ballpark, pretty good defense behind him, and a pitching coach (dyar miller) who might help parisi learn to simplify his game and pitch to his strengths. the kid got into trouble with his control at times last season and was way out of sorts during the arizona fall league, where he got lit up. nobody talks about him, but he's got the type of repertoire that dave n tony often wring a modestly useful pitcher (viz.: brad thompson) out of.

one other farm-system note: i got an amusing e-mail from chuck king, who covers the florida state league for the palm beach post and blogs at Minor League Dugout. he tells me that during the opening week of the palm beach season, a rattlesnake parked himself just behind the right-field fence right before a game vs jupiter. the first pitch was delayed for 15 minutes while the grounds crew mulled its options; it was decided to let sleeping snakes lie. but the outfielders were duly placed on notice, just in case the reptile stirred and decided to come onto the playing field. i love this quote from nathan southard, who had to retrieve a double hit into the right-field corner early in the game: "I was like, no way! This fly ball is going to the rattlesnake."

southard later offered to take a little extra batting practice, using a shovel for the bat and the snake as the ball . . . . the full story is at chuck's blog.