i'd like to add my thanks and good wishes to erik, who yesterday wrote his final regular sunday post. he's added a ton of insight to VEB and contributed in many other ways besides the sunday posting. as he noted in his farewell, he'll still be lurking about in the comments and diaries and maybe on the front page in a pinch; he'll also be ever-present at Future Redbirds. so it's really not farewell at all; just farewell to sundays. great job erik, and thanks again.
i asked houstoncardinal if he wanted to take over on sundays, and he has agreed to do it. you guys all know him as the resident braden looper watcher (he charts loop's starts for the pitch-by-pitch project). i'm really looking forward to having him in the front-page mix. . . . . and as long as i'm on the subject of sundays, i've neglected to promote SB Nation's stl rams blog, Turf Show Times. it's written by ryan van bibber of Cardinals Diaspora; the blog launched in the midst of last season and is growing. so if you're looking for some views / conversation about the rams' loss yesterday, start w/ TST.
here's something else y'all may care about: daric barton's getting called up to The Show.
that takes care of the preliminaries. to the baseball: the weekend showcased all the reasons why the cardinals trail by 3 games in this lousy division. it was all there: the defensive lapses, the uneven pitching, the one-hit-shy rallies, the questionable managing, the off-field turmoil, the players lost to injury (the latest is duncan, who might need surgery for a sports hernia). all the missteps and mishaps outweighed --- not by much, but by just enough --- the many good things the cardinals did over the weekend: another solid start by wainwright, a solid bullpen appearance from wells, a lotta production from pujols, two big-inning outbursts. all three losses could, and probably should, have been wins, but i can't argue that the outcomes were unjust. the cardinals earned all three defeats.
by the way, "questionable managing" does not include the decision to lift wells for ryan franklin in the 7th inning yesterday. that was an obvious thing to do; franklin just had an off-day. later in that inning, another question came up in the game thread: why was franklin allowed to pitch to tony clark with the score tied, two outs, and the lead runs on base? why not tyler johnson there, to gain the platoon advantage? a legitimate question, and it wasn't a second-guess; the poster made that suggestion before clark's at-bat started. but if tony had gone to johnson there, bob melvin would have countered with the right-handed conor jackson, who has been hot lately --- 4 hr in his last 32 at-bats, including a 3-run shot off looper on saturday night --- and has pounded left-handers throughout his brief big-league career. melvin also could have gone to jeff cirillo, who doesn't have much left but can still punish a lefty. so there was no platoon advantage to be gained; a move would have needlessly burned a key reliever in a tie game that still had, at a minimum, 7 outs to go. give clark credit; he fell behind in the count, fought off some good pitches, and kept himself up there until franklin made a mistake.
the entire series thumbed its nose at the concept of pythagorean records (and i'm a subscriber to the concept, by the way). arizona has been outscored by 29 runs this season and "should" be carrying a record of 69-75; they're 12 games better than that. the cardinals have been beaten by 62 runs this year and ought to be 12 games under, per pythagorus; they've topped their hypothetical win total by 10. . . . . a more outliery pair of september contenders you'll never find. a few weeks ago, chris jaffe of Hardball Times explained that the dbacks' ugly run differential is a mirage produced lagely by what he terms a "bipolar bullpen." when they're ahead or the games are close, the dbacks use their go-to relievers, who are all above league average for their respective roles; but when they fall behind, they go to a mop-up corps that is awful even by mop-up standards. hence the disparity between arizona's pythagorean w-l and their real-life one: "they can dependably win an awful lot of close ones," jaffe writes, "but when they fall behind badly they have virtually no chance of recovery."
the same thing applies to st louis, whose bullpen is as dichotomous as arizona's. the teams have some other key attributes in common, including below-average offense (the cards are 10th in the league in runs/game, the dbacks 13th) and error-prone defense (the cards are 3d in the league in errors, the dbacks 4th). the only meaningful difference between them is that arizona has gotten 30 starts out of its cy young pitcher, while st louis has gotten 1. otherwise, they're pretty much the same team. the dbacks look like they won't get blown out in october --- not with a stopper in the rotation, an airtight bullpen, a deep and versatile bench. you stick a healthy carpenter in there alongside wainwright, and wouldn't the cardinals --- despite everything else that has gone wrong for them --- have at least as good a chance in this year's postseason as they did last year?
ah, well --- they don't have carp. it was a discouraging weekend near the end of a discouraging season, and it's tempting to count the cards out. hell, i counted them out almost two months ago. but even now, it ain't quite over; not yet. they've got a game on the schedule today, and they'll show up and try to win; the outcome will have a lot to say about how much the games that come after matter. the cubs' starter has been struggling of late; 10 homers in his last 47 innings and an era of 4.94.
suck his brains out, you zombies.