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Game 13 Open Thread: April 17, 2007

in the four at-bats that lost the game --- the sacks-jammed outs by schumaker and eckstein in the 7th, and duncan and pujols in the 9th --- the cardinals saw a total of 9 pitches. they swung at 8 of them. that's the definition of an anxious lineup: the more they struggle, the harder they try to make something happen ---- and the harder they suck. i've long been a proponent of aggressive hitting in rbi situations, but there's a difference between aggressive and undisciplined. the former means you go up there looking for a certain pitch in a certain zone and attack it when you see it, even if it's on the first pitch; the latter means you swing at anything close. let's evaluate the 8 pitches at which the cards took their hacks, beginning with the 7th inning:

  1. schumaker I: slop (changeup?) inside, borderline strike (swing/miss)
  2. schumaker II: slider down and in, ball (swing/miss)
  3. schumaker III: fastball, outer half (popped up)
textbook display of the "swing at anything close" method, with results as you would expect. next victim:
  1. eckstein I: slider/sinker inside (pulled foul)
  2. eckstein II: slider on the hands (groundout)
this was not a terrible at-bat. eckstein frequently attacks early in the count in 2-out, rbi situations; i think he was looking for a pitch on the inner half, got one on 0-0, and yanked it down the line. he might have been fooled by it --- might have thought it was a fastball, got out in front and pulled it foul. the second pitch, the one david got out on, was snell's worst pitch of the sequence --- he appeared to hang it, but eck did nothing with it. that's a question of execution, though, not of plate discipline. i have no problem with eck swinging at either of those pitches. now to the 9th:
  1. duncan I: junk in the dirt, ball (swing/miss)
  2. duncan II: fastball away (popup)
duncan is now 1 for 12 in his career with the bases loaded --- and probably 12 for 12 in overeager at-bats. but let's cut him some slack; as the only cardinal regular who's hit the ball well this spring, he's entitled to fail from time to time. his fault is a common one among young sluggers --- wants too badly to be the hero. which brings us to:
  1. pujols I: fastball high, ball (take)
  2. pujols II: fastball on the hands (popup)
the out pitch probably was a cutter. of the four at-bats, this is the one that troubles me the most. either albert wasn't looking for an inside pitch --- in which case he shouldn't have swung --- or he was looking inside but couldn't catch up to the pitch. i think it's the latter. go back and look at the swing, if you have access to the game; it's hardly what you would call an explosive stroke. there have been whispers lately that pujols tweaked his oblique at some point this spring, hence can't apply his usual torque; the game's final swing was all arms, no torso. . . . to make things worse, the pitch probably was a ball. when we've seen albert expand his strike zone heretofore, it's usually been outside pitches that he's a sucker for; he sees a pitch he can extend his arms on and goes for it. but this was a jam job.

at the moment, it doesn't look like he has much of a clue up there.

anthony reyes doesn't have one, either, at least during the first inning; thereafter he's a decent enough pitcher. insofar as both starts came after long layoffs (8 days, in this instance), maybe he deserve a little slack, too. the pitching coach cuts some in this morning's p-d: "Maybe the layoff had an effect on him. I'm sure it wasn't good for him. Get him out there a couple times with a normal routine and we'll see how it goes."

for the 2d consecutive start, reyes' changeup betrayed him. i looked at the game and counted 26 iterations of the pitch, 14 of which missed the strike zone. the change particularly killed reyes in the at-bat that keyed the long first inning --- la roche, hitting with 2 on and 1 out. la roche could do nothing with reyes' fastball --- fouled one off, swung through another, and barely stayed alive with a foul tip on a 3d heater. but reyes interspersed those pitches with three changeups, all out of the zone --- none of them particularly close. after the foul tip, which came on a 3-2 fastball, reyes came back with a changeup right down the middle, and la roche whacked it to right field for a hit. the guy came to the plate hitting .088 and couldn't catch up with the heat; keep it simple, stupid. . . . . the bases-loaded walk to bay came on another 3-2 changeup; the subsequent 2-run single by nady came on a 3-1 change. iron bill's just got no command of that pitch right now --- and without it, he suffers.

give up on the guy if you must; his labors are frustrating to watch. but to reiterate a thought i articulated in last night's game thread: the days of building the team via free agency are over. homegrown talent will determine whether or not the cardinals remain contenders over the next 5 to 10 years. the cardinals need reyes to succeed; he's not there yet, but neither is he a proven failure. not after 108 big-league innings. somebody mentioned haren in the game thread last night, wondering how reyes compares to danny before the trade. interesting comparison:

haren 19 118.2 129 39 75 13 6-10 4.85 1.416
reyes 20 108.2 101 42 89 19 6-11 4.80 1.316

reyes still might amount to something.

the cardinals had no business winning the game, but it's aggravating nonetheless that they didn't convert. after the cards' sweep in pittsburgh last week, i said the cards need to take their wins however they can get them; any time they fail to cash one in, however undeserved, it stings.



1-0, 1.50

1-0, 1.98