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i have news this morning about imminent changes to the site; minor cosmetic alterations and some cool new functionality. click on over for more details.

from this morning's p-d, under the headline La Russa bothered by attention paid to opening lineup:

Redbirds skipper Tony La Russa voiced displeasure after Monday's optional workout at Busch Stadium about what he considered excessive attention paid to [Chris] Duncan's absence against Mets lefthander Tom Glavine. . . . "That wasn't, in my opinion, one of those controversial moves that deserves that much attention."
i can sympathize, up to a point. if carpenter executes the squeeze and eckstein doesn't get tossed out at the plate, opening night has a much different feel; the offense makes a decent showing, puts some runs on the board, maybe gets a little credit for mounting a serious comeback against a 300-game winner, and there's probably a whole lot less talk about the outfield woes. i mean, yeah, they have problems --- but the 3 starting outfielders did manage a 3-for-11 performance sunday night, neither stoking nor stifling the offense. unless you think duncan would have gone 2 for 3 with a couple xbhs against glavine, he wasn't likely to have altered the outcome. the storyline was boring and obvious: execution. the mets did, the cardinals didn't.

but (and here's where my sympathy ends) all the "where's duncan?" talk wasn't really about duncan anyway; it was about the glaring void in the st louis outfield that has gone unfilled since reggie sanders and larry walker departed 18 months ago. of all the players the cardinals have trotted out in place of those two --- juan encarnacion, larry bigbie, hector luna, scott spiezio, john rodriguez, wilson, taguchi, schumaker, timo perez --- only one has come close to matching their offensive presence: chris duncan. as i noted elsewhere, st louis leftfielders not named duncan hit .258 / .326 / .375 last season, with 7 hr and 36 rbi in 516 plate appearances; centerfielders not named edmonds went .252 / .321 / .345 in 302 plate appearances, with 4 homers and 29 rbi. that's what this is about. it's about the acceptance of outfielders who hit worse than shortstops.

just one decent bat --- even juan en'cion --- would make a huge difference. with him in right, wilson and duncan platooning in left, and edmonds in center mosta the time (god willing), the shortstop types are relegated to late-inning defense and the pinch-hitting assignment. wouldn't be the league's best outfield, but it'd be far from the worst. but encarnacion is now at least as big a question mark as edmonds; we don't know exactly when he'll be back (at least a month), nor whether he'll be able to provide his accustomed mediocrity when he does return. this guy is in the walk year of his contract; maybe he'll be for sale at the deadline. wouldn't come cheap, though . . . .

hey, i never gave you the results of the community projection of stl's final record; 40 people put in entries, 60 percent of which fell in the 86-to-90-win range. another 35 percent of the respondents had the cardinals at 91 wins or more, leaving just 5 percent --- two people --- at below 86 wins. one of those people marked st louis down 81 wins; the other put 'em at 78, the lone doomsayer brave enough to predict a .500 record.

that dangerous individual has been placed under 24-hour surveillance by mr dewitt's private security force.

the finally average was 90 wins, 72 losses, and a 3-game margin over the rest of the division. the runs scored/against averages were 769 and 704, which translate to an 87-75 pythagorean record; so much for that 3-game margin, eh? as we did with the individual player projections, let's now compile a projection of the projections to see how ours stacks up. "RLYW" refers to the oft-cited Diamond Mind Blowout conducted last month by Replacement Level Yankee Weblog; the projection labeled "Diamond Mind" refers to DM's own projections, which posted yesterday:

W L GB/A RS RA
VEB 90 72 +3 769 704
RLYW-zips 90 72 +5 753 665
Diamond Mind 85 77 +2 769 728
RLYW-chone 84 78 -- 778 741
RLYW-pecota 80 82 -5 726 736
PECOTA depth chart 81 81 -4 731 735

the overall average of the above is 85 wins . . . . . ok, so the hometown fans are a little optimistic. who'da ever thunk that?