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grains of salt

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you can watch today's game against the braves on mlb.tv; here's the gameday link.

brian barton has moved front and center in the outfield competition; he's 9 for his last 15 with 4 extra-base hits. hal mcrae says barton plays better in games than in practice; la russa terms him "an excellent worker." i'd like to see him stick, and i'd be the last one to dismiss the kid's hot recent hitting as some sort of illusion . . . . . ok, maybe not last. like all infinitesimally small sample sizes, this one is pretty skewed --- skewed toward NRIs. most of his damage has come against pitchers who've established that they're not very good major-leaguers, or pitchers who haven't established that they're major leaguers at all. that doesn't mean the hits don't count; i just think perspective is always a very useful thing.

barton launched this streak with a 4 for 5 day against the nats last tuesday, march 5; the pitchers he faced were john lannan, a 23-year-old who's thrown 73 innings above AA; tyler clippard, also 23 and nearly as inexperienced (96 innings above AA); and jason stanford, a quadruple A player who, at age 31, has thrown only 87 big-league innings. barton homered against stanford.

against the dodgers day before yesterday, he whacked a double against hong chi kuo, a 26-year-old left-hander with a 5.38 career era and a career .296 average allowed to right-handed hitters. and then he tripled against mario alvarez, a 24-year-old with a career 5.75 era in the minors (all at class A or below). yesterday's triple came against tyler yates, who has pitched the last couple of years for the braves with so-so results.

like i said, i'm not trying to trash this guy's performance; i'm merely trying to get perspective on it. when chris duncan homered off randy johnson in spring training two years ago, that caught my eye; barton hasn't done anything comparable so far. all the same, i'm rooting for him and hope he makes the team. and i love the colorful names on his list of PECOTA comps (especially wonderful monds and noochie varner). for what it's worth, PECOTA has barton at .256 / .329 / .385 this season. . . . .

out of curiosity i also took a look at who joe mather's been hitting; he, like barton, is 9 for 23 so far this spring with some pop (5 extra-base hits). and, like barton, he has mostly put the hurt on weakling pitchers. mather did homer off of kevin gregg, a halfway decent reliever, but 2 of his 3 doubles this spring came against aaron thompson, who's only 21 and hasn't pitched above class A (he was, however, a 1st-rounder in 2005), and his triple came off the aforementioned john lannan. at this stage of the spring, a disproportionate number of at-bats come against pitchers of this ilk, and the cardinals have played so many games against rebuilding teams (marlins, nats, orioles) that the sample is probably skewed even more. let's see how the youngsters do as the spring progresses and the best starting pitchers begin throwing 5 and 6 innings at a clip.

elsewhere:

  • john sickels compares jay bruce vs colby rasmus and decides that bruce has more raw hitting potential, but rasmus will probably wind up the better all-around player.
  • jeff luhnow answers some questions from Baseball Prospectus. a sampling:
    David Laurila: After assuming your current role, you said that your joint responsibilities should eliminate the natural tension that exists between scouting and development. Can you expand on that?

    Jeff Luhnow: Scouts evaluate players and have to project future development and performance. They dream on the players they recommend because they see potential. Once they decide that they like and want a player then they become an advocate for the player --- think of it as the player's marketing department within the organization. Once the player signs, [the scout] continue[s] to be an advocate and cheerleader, hoping that the player will develop and ultimately make a contribution. . . . . Inevitably, though, the player development department has to send guys home that the scouts signed, and that is the natural tension to which I referred. Nobody can eliminate that tension, but we try to channel it in a constructive direction.

  • speaking of scouting: the cards' community-scouting project piqued the wall street journal's curiosity.
  • joe posnanski asks: what is it with this high-falutin' "batting average" statistic?
  • a whitey herzog sighting! gosh, i miss the old buzzard. good read:
    I get together quite a bit with Stan and Red, Brock and Gibson. We do a lot of signings together I stay pretty busy. Hell, I get paid more money now to drink beer than I did to manage. . . .

    I had a relationship with (Cardinals owner) Gussie Busch for 10 years. You couldn't have an owner and a manager who got along like we did. I didn't have to answer to anybody but him. When I was the general manager and the manager and I put the team together, he didn't really know what I was doing. He said as long as I told him before it got into the paper, he was happy. I'd tell him, "Hey Chief, I just got so-and-so." And he'd say, "Ah, wonderful, wonderful." Hell, he didn't know. . . .