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the elephant in the room

did you know the cardinals have hit 1 homerun --- one --- in the 12 games since josh hancock died? did you know they've averaged only 6.3 hits per game over that span? only 1.1 extra-base hits a game?

the cards haven't hit well at any point this season, but before hancock died the offense was merely struggling. now it's asphyxiating. the cardinals scored an average of 3.5 runs a game in the 23 games before hancock's death; they've averaged 2.4 runs in the 12 contests since. more details of the sad before-and-after:

cards thru 4/28 23 81 16 .249 .310 .360
cards since 4/28 12 29 1 .203 .281 .243

before hancock died they had been outscored by a run a game (81-104); since then, they've been outscored by almost two runs a game (29-55). before he died, the cardinals' batting line was almost indistinguishable from their opponents':

cardinals thru 4/28 780 194 33 3 16 .249 .310 .360 89
opponents thru 4/28 784 193 34 8 21 .246 .312 .390 99

the only meaningful difference was that opponents had outhomered st louis by 5; the cards were 10-13 in that stretch, a pretty accurate gauge of their performance up to that time. now compare the lines since hancock died:

cardinals since 4/28 374 76 12 0 1 .203 .281 .243 27
opponents since 4/28 401 103 28 1 9 .257 .322 .399 55

they are getting their brains beat in. they're defenseless. in half the games since hancock died, the cardinals have lost by 5 runs or more; in the other half they are 5-1. they are quite literally hanging on by their nails. but how long before that tenuous grip finally breaks? seems like it's already happening, if edmonds' postgame comments are to be believed. a story in this morning's post-dispatch ends like this: "Reminded that this team used to make relentlessness its trademark during 100- and 105-win seasons in 2004 and 2005, Edmonds said flatly, 'This is a different team.'" matt leach's story at the cards' official site also concludes with an edmonds quote: "Things are sliding."

after their first game post-hancock (a 7-1 loss to milwaukee), i mused: "the cardinals already were unsure of themselves before [hancock's death] happened, already equipped with thin reserves; i'm sure we'd like to see them 'dig down deep' or whatever the cliché is, but there isn't a lot of depth to mine." to my eye, the cards' discouraging effort in the month of may is very obviously a direct consequence of what happened on the next to last day of april. let me be clear about this: i'm not trying to make excuses for the team, nor suggesting that we should accept lifeless play because the team is grieving. i'm merely trying to understand what's happening --- trying to understand why a team that was struggling but still battling in april can now be so easily beaten. we're not supposed to talk about it; the cardinals don't want pity, nor even sympathy. but i think --- speaking without pity, without sympathy; just stating what i see --- that whatever sense of resolve the cardinals carried into the season got kicked to the curb on april 29. these are tough guys, mentally tough --- tough enough to win game 7 vs the mets last year, and to come back against clemens in game 7 of 2004; tough enough to survive, 1 out from elimination, and make the astros earn their pennant in 2005.

but man, do they look tired. they look weary. edmonds is right; it's not the same team.

here are some other slice-n-dice statistical oddities of the season:

  • the cards now stand 1-9 in "revenge" games --- that is, games against teams they beat in last year's playoffs (mets, padres) or against starting pitchers they chose not to re-sign (marquis, suppan). in those 10 games they have scored 13 runs (or 1.3 per game) to their opponents' 51; they're getting outscored by nearly 4 runs a game. three revenge games vs the tigers loom this weekend . . . .
  • corollary to the preceding: the cardinals have a winning record in non-revenge games (14-11), despite being outscored 97-108 in those games.
  • against opponents that, as of today, have a winning record, st louis is 2-12; they have been outscored 70-29 in those games, an average deficit of 2.9 runs. against opponents who currently stand at .500 or below, the cards are 13-8 --- again, despite having been outscored in those games (81-89).
  • in games where they have allowed more than 2 runs, the cardinals are 2-20. that's not a typo: 2 wins, 20 losses when they allow more than 2 runs. they're 13-0 when they hold the opposition to 2 runs or less.
  • in the 7 games started by anthony reyes, the cardinals have hit .178, slugged .205, and scored 8 runs; only 4 of those runs scored while reyes was still in the game. they have produced just 4 extra-base hits (3 doubles and a homer) in his starts. in all other games, they are batting .247 and slugging .351.
reyes didn't pitch great yesterday, but as always he contained the damage and kept the team within striking distance. and that's all the cards are hoping to do at this point --- contain the damage, stay in the game, keep it close enough that they still have a chance.