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reyes: the stakes

writing from a hotel room on the 14th floor . . . .

i know a lot of you are tired of reading / talking about anthony reyes, but he’s an important player --- important enough that his roster status merits an intervention by the front office. the rookie g.m. is very publicly overruling his hall-of-fame manager here; obviously reyes matters a great deal. as i wrote last june, the stakes are much larger than the fate of one pitcher:

the never-ending debate about him is really just a proxy debate about the future of the organization. as a general rule (and i realize there are individual exceptions here), those of us who urge patience with reyes tend to think that players like him --- young, cheap, and homegrown --- represent the key to the cardinals' future and therefore are too valuable to give up on. and those who are ready to give up on him tend to believe (again, generalizing very liberally) that the cards should just stick with formula that produced 6 division winners in 7 years: bring in competent veterans who know how to play the game and let tony and dave get the most out of 'em. the argument over reyes could also be construed as a proxy for the luhnow v jocketty argument. . . .

i would no longer characterize this as merely a proxy debate; it really is about the future of the organization --- about whether or not personnel decisions will be guided by any semblance of a long-range strategic vision; about stats vs scouting; about how to get maximum yield from the organization’s assets; ultimately, about who's in charge. i cite two quotes from today’s post-dispatch article:

Mozeliak: "As far as asking whether I position it as the manager's team or the organization's, I'd say ultimately it's the organization. That's who we all work for."

La Russa: "The decision of who gets in uniform is ultimately placed with the front office and/or ownership. I just appreciate the coaches and I having input in that. I also understand that at some point the decision is theirs. But once you get them, the decision how to play them is mine and the coaches'. . . . ."

the disagreement among the cards’ decision-makers isn’t just about reyes; it’s about priorities --- about how, and by whom, organizational decisions will be made. this argument has been going on for at least a year and a half; it cost jocketty his job. and it's still unresolved. that's the issue of greatest interest here, an issue far larger than the composition of the opening-day rotation or bullpen.

when mozeliak was hired, there were some doubts that he'd be able to stand up to la russa. if reyes winds up on the roster (and that's still not decided), it'll signal something of a power shift. a healthy one, imho.

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on an unrelated note: what happened to all the cardinals’ curveballers? from 2000 through 2006 the rotation was dominated by guys who relied heavily on uncle charlie (kile, ankiel, morris, carpenter, suppan); the crystallizing moment of the ’06 championship run was a curve that froze carlos beltran. but the guy who threw that pitch is the only member of the current staff who possesses a plus curve. indeed, he’s the only one who throws more than 4 or 5 curveballs a game. here are the curveball percentages for each cardinal starter, according to josh kalk’s database of pitch-types from the 2007 season:

neither clement nor mulder threw enough pitches in 2007 to show up in kalk’s database, but fangraphs has pitch-type data going back to 2005; according to it, clement does not throw a curve. about 15 percent of mark mulder’s pitches were curveballs in injury-marred 2006-07; in 2005, his last good year, he only threw half as many curves.

i raise this point merely as a curiosity; i’m not suggesting that the current pitchers should throw more curveballs, or the team should acquire more curveball pitchers. it’s merely something i noticed.