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round n round she goes

i have a minor quibble with bernie's column yesterday, in which he asserts that the cardinal rotation is one of the worst in franchise history. the flaw in that statement is that it assumes the cardinals have a rotation. what they have are rotations, plural --- each cycle through is a little bit different from the preceding one. in early may, after the team settled on brad thompson rather than keisler as a 5th starter, the team went through 4 conseuctive cycles of wainwright / wells / looper / reyes / thompson; a fifth cycle followed the same pattern but omitted thompson (due to an off day). that was a rotation; it lasted until about memorial day. since then the cardinals have moved reyes out of and back into the rotation two times; thompson has yo-yo'd back and forth; wells got dumped, then came back; looper missed a few turns on the dl; maroth and wellemeyer contributed their skills to the endeavor; and now piniero's aboard. a bicycle wheel doesn't have this many spokes.

surprisingly, one contending team has labored along with a rotation that's almost as disorganized as stl's. the yankees have used nearly as many starting pitchers (12) as st louis (13) --- and just as many bad ones. they've received 27 starts from pitchers with a current era of 6.00 or higher; the cardinals have received 22 such starts. (wells's outings no longer count in this category, as his era has come down into the mid-5.00s.) another contender, seattle, has an even worse rotation than new york. the mariners have used only 7 starting pitchers this season, but 3 of them (including jeff weaver) currently have eras of 6.00 or higher. the rotations, statistically:

cardinals 600 5.46 .288 .355 .455 30-50
mariners 628.2 5.07 .294 .353 .452 37-42
yankees 625.2 4.68 .284 .342 .440 39-36

ironically, the team that has ended up with the rotation profile we all hoped the cardinals could muster is the team they are (ostensibly) chasing, the brewers. milwaukee has 4 starting pitchers with eras hovering around 5.00 --- #4/#5 types --- with an ace at the top holding things together (ben sheets until he got hurt; rookie yovanni gallardo at the moment). that's the formula the cardinals tried to apply this year, but the ingredients just didn't gel. the brewers are 8th in the league in runs allowed and on track to yield 741 runs --- about the figure i guesstimated for the cardinals way back in january, while messing around with PECOTA. (ha ha ha; PECOTA projected the cardinals to have the 2d-best pitching staff in the national league.) milwaukee's rotation is no great shakes, but it's good enough to contend in a weak division.

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busch iii is playing as one the most hr-suppressing parks in the national league this year. in 51 games there this season, the cardinals and their opponents have combined for 79 homers ---- 1.55 per contest --- vs 2.17 hr/game in 58 road games. so the ballpark is quashing hrs by 29 percent so far this year. compare that to the two parks best known for suppressing homers, the padres' petco and the nats' rfk:
busch iii 1.55 2.17 29 %
petco 1.43 1.87 31 %
rfk 1.44 2.00 39 %

last season busch iii suppressed home-run output by about 14 percent --- not nearly as large an effect as we've so far this year, but not insignificant. the outlines of a trend are beginning to emerge. when we contemplate the abrupt decrease in power from the 2004-05 cardinals to the 2006-07 era, the ballpark has to be taken into account. it's not as big a factor as age / infirmity, but it's probably a strong second. on the flip side, though --- how awful would the 2006-07 pitching staffs look without that ballpark effect?