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seat of the pants

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the cards have now lost 4 straight for the first time since the first week of august, when they opened the month with 5 Ls in a row to washington and pittsburgh. that losing streak had a lot in common with the current one; a couple blowouts (15-1 and 12-1), a couple one-run losses that could and should have been wins. that was right before the team called up ankiel, right before the shambles of a rotation improbably stabilized and carried st louis back to within a game of first place. the cardinals' bad pitchers all got hot at the same time, and they stayed hot just long enough to make it seem like maybe they could keep it going for a while. but the run only lasted two or three rotation cycles; in retrospect it obviously was just a random blip, rather than the full-blown trend we had hoped it would be. pineiro's last quality start came on august 30, kip wells' on august 14, anthony reyes' on august 12. mulder and maroth have made things worse, not better; the rotation's a shambles again, and it looks to stay that way. duncan more or less admitted to rick hummel that the cardinals don't actually have a rotation: "It really isn't a six-man (rotation). We're trying to do whatever we can each day." the seat-of-the-pants approach always inspires confidence in september.

what do we make of joel pineiro? his contract includes a mutual option for 2008; should the cardinals exercise their half? after yesterday's start he has 3 quality starts in 8 tries, with the following line:

W-L ERA IP H BB SO HR AVG OBP SLG FIP
4-3 4.60 43 51 7 26 9 .298 .330 .538 5.27

the walk rate's outstanding, but the rest of that line's pretty terrible; barely 5 innings a start, a .300 average, isolated power pushing .250. and it's not as if yesterday's bad outing marred an otherwise good set of stats; even before yesterday, opponents were solving him pretty well (.281 / .317 / .484). pineiro's line looks as good as it does only because of an abnormally high strand rate --- 77.6 after yesterday's game. (70 percent is right around average.) he was due for a blowout; we should have seen it coming. aside from the walk rate, pineiro in 2007 has been pretty much the same starter he was his last few seasons in seattle:

W-L ERA W/9 K/9 HR/9 AVG OBP SLG FIP
2007 (starts only) 4-3 4.60 1.5 5.4 1.9 .298 .330 .538 5.27
2006 8-13 6.36 3.5 4.7 1.3 .311 .376 .496 5.29
2005 7-11 5.62 2.7 5.1 1.1 .296 .350 .458 4.63

doesn't look like a good pitcher to me --- he reliably yields a lot of baserunners and a lot of extra-base hits, and that inevitably leads to a lot of runs. note how opponents' slugging pct has increased as pineiro's walk rate has decreased; he has been throwing more strikes, but they're getting hit. in spite of all that, he might be in the cardinals' plans at the moment; dave n tony like him, and the organization is desperate for some certainty heading into next year. but if joel gets tuned up another time or two between now and the end of the year, it'll be hard to justify renewing the deal; there'll be dfas just like him out on the wire by next may, guys who can deliver the same performance for about $5m less.

speaking of next year, tony got pouty with a usa today reporter and renewed the i'll-go-where-i'm-appreciated act:

Tony La Russa, who has won more games than any manager in St. Louis Cardinals' history, says he might leave after this season and pursue another managerial job.. . . . La Russa is unsure he wants to return and might explore his options.
the proximate cause of the pout, apparently, is the media's treatment of ankiel (side note: rick's 1 for 14 since the story broke), which stirred up older frustrations related to the coverage of tony's dui. there's a diary up on this very subject. i wonder how serious he is; sounds like anger to me. my position remains the same as it was two months ago: if tony is not 100 percent committed to the develop-from-within path the organization has chosen, then he's not the right man to lead the team anymore --- and i am skeptical about whether he's committed to it. in the usa today article he says he'd like to manage another four years, at the max; will he be willing to waste one of two of those (or even a half of one) letting young guys play through their mistakes? can he afford to have that kind of patience?

for that matter, would st louis fans have the same patience with tony if there'd been a single worthy rival in the nl central the last couple of years? those .500 records he's mustered would look a lot different if it took .550 ball to make the playoffs.