programming note: i'll be hitting the road this week for a 3-stop tour of cardinalia. wednesday i'm driving in to st louis for the annual SABR conference, which takes place thursday through sunday at the downtown adam's mark. i'm not presenting or anything; just coming in to check out some sessions and meet a few baseball bloggers. it's open to the public, although i'm not sure if you can get a one-day registration; might be you have to pony up for all four days, which costs $149 for nonmembers.
on my way back to denver on sunday i'll be making two stops. first i'll swing by tuscumbia, missouri, which (as described here and here) is the geographic center of major-league baseball. and then i'll head due west to wichita, where the springfield cardinals play the wranglers at 4 p.m. won't be able to see the whole game unless i still want to be on the road at 2 a.m. (which i don't), but i'm lining up some interviews pre-game and will be able to catch the first three or four innings.
i'll be adhering more or less to a normal blogging regimen while on tour; should be an interesting week for the cardinals, what with the 7 games vs milwaukee / chicago and the trade deadline. a lot of folks on this site haven't given up on the season yet and look at this week's 7 games as important ones; if it weren't for carpenter's status i'd be right there with you. set aside the fact that st louis still doesn't have a rotation, and you can point to a lot of positives. the cards broke even on a difficult road trip coming out of the all-start break and only lost 1 game in the standings to the brewers, who were playing 10 games at home; couldn't have asked for much better than that. the brewers have been a pretty bad road team this year and have to play 36 of their final 63 games away from home; they're also (like the cardinals) without their ace pitcher, although sheets is expected back in time for the september stretch run. the brewers haven't gained any ground on the cardinals since mid-may, and they're only 7 games up in the loss column. even without carp, i can see the cardinals winning the series this weekend and shaving the deficit to 5 games or so heading into the final 50 games. that'd keep things interesting --- if they had carpenter. but since they don't, i think it doesn't matter what happens this week; i think the cardinals are already toast.
there's one other factor that informs my perspective: the cubs. i'm not sure the cardinals could catch them even if they got carpenter back. chicago ranks 2d in the nl (and 4th in the majors) in era; they've straightened out their bullpen problems and tightened up their defense; and they're 19-7 over the last month. the cardinals haven't had a 19-7 stretch in more than a year. chicago has sustained only 8 blowout losses all season (with "blowout" defined as a deficit of 5 runs or more); st louis has 24 such defeats. i'm well aware that anything can happen; we only have to look to last october for evidence of that. but last october the cardinals had carpenter and suppan; they have at least one good equivalent for suppan (wainwright), but there's still no carp. he started 5 of the 16 october games, and the cardinals won 4 of them; his absence is just a back-breaker.
ah, what the hell; go cards. a few notes in the wake of last night's game:
- el hombre inched closer to the 1.000 ops barrier, a standard he hasn't topped all season; he's now at .996. his park-adjusted ops+ is up to 163, nearly as high as in his mvp season of 2005 (167).
- brad thompson lowered his era as a starting pitcher to 4.73 --- that's 2d best on the team, trailing only wainwright. half his outings have met the "quality start" criteria (6 or more inn, 3 or fewer runs). with carpenter out, thompson's spot in the rotation for the rest of this year appears to be secure; that's a good thing. there's a chance he can be a capable #5 starter next year earning close to the minimum --- and on those terms he'd be a valuable player.
- the cardinal centerfielders this year:
AB HR RBI AVG OBP SLG edmonds 201 7 24 .239 .306 .388 schuguchi, et al 175 3 16 .309 .341 .429
don't get me wrong; i'd still rather have edmonds out there. but the other cfs have vastly outhit him this season.
- rolen's homer was the first one in a st louis win since april 22 --- three months ago.
- the Hardball Times has an objective look at the nl central
- kevin goldstein lists daric barton as the #1 1st-base prospect in the minors. but don't get your taffeta in a twist; goldstein also ranks the cards' own mark hamilton as 9th-best at the position:
A second-round pick out of Tulane last year, Hamilton's power ranked with that anyone else in last year's draft, and he was among the Florida State League home run leaders with 13 when he was pushed to Double-A, an aggressive assignment for a player in his first full year of play. Hamilton has struggled since the promotion, as more advanced pitchers have been able to get him to chase breaking balls, but he's a true power threat from the left side.