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making it last

let’s start with ankiel’s 17-pitch at-bat. it was nearly as long as the brewers’ entire 9th-inning rally (19 pitches); that’s what type of an at-bat it was. the pitch-per-AB data at Baseball-Reference’s playfinder index stretch back 20 years, to 1988. in that entire span, no cardinal hitter ever took a 17-pitch at-bat. the longest lasted 15 pitches: mike deflice against bartolo colon on june 14, 1997 (he walked) and pedro guerrero against don robinson on april 25, 1989 (also walked). another 4 st louis at-bats of the last 20 years lasted 14 pitches (one of them happened last year, rolen vs jake peavy on august 8; he popped out); 7 at-bats lasted 13 pitches.

so we’re talking about an historic event here; rick’s legend grows. here’s the whole list of 13-pitches-or-more at-bats:

date hitter pitcher no pitches outcome
apr 16, 2007 ankiel villanueva 17 W
aug 8, 2007 rolen peavy 14 popout 2b
april 16, 2004 mckay wendell 13 groundout 3-1
june 4, 2004 edmonds wa miller 13 K looking
aug 22, 2004 renteria vogelsong 13 homerun
april 2, 2003 renteria rusch 14 K
aug 7, 1998 mcgwire da stevens 13 flyout cf
sept 23, 1998 jordan ra johnson 14 W
june 14, 1997 defelice colon 15 W
sep 13, 1997 da bell erdos 13 K
may 7, 1996 clayton delucia 13 flyout rf
sep 18, 1996 pagnozzi bottenfield 13 popout 2b
sep 2, 1991 pagnozzi ojeda 14 K
april 25, 1989 guerrero do robinson 15 W

i love some of the matchups here. on the one hand you’ve got heavyweight collisions like rolen v peavy and jordan v big unit --- two mean, stubborn guys who’ll be damned if they’re gonna give in. edmonds v wade miller would also fall into this category --- miller was still effective in june 2004 (he got hurt later that year and has never been the same). so would guerrero vs don robinson (the latter was a 230 lb intimidator). you can easily imagine how two badass guys like this would end up in a marathon confrontation. ditto for any pair of evenly matched mediocrities like pagnozzi v bottenfield or clayton v delucia; both parties are always out there grinding away, just trying to survive. but the most intriguing at-bats to me are the mismatches. how does dave stevens (career era 6.02) hang in there for 13 pitches against mcgwire (in the midst of his 70-homer season)? and 10 of the pitches were strikes! he must’ve thrown mcgwire every pitch in his meager arsenal, to every part of the plate, yet somehow he emeged with his head still attached to his body. the mike defelice matchup itself is pretty interesting, a battle of rookies. defelice in 1997 put a .238 / .297 / .331 line; colon (who was only making his 6th big-league start at the time of this at-bat) went 4-7 that year with a 5.65 era. the following year colon was an all-star, and the year after that a top-5 vote-getter in the cy young polling; defelice never got any better than what he was in 1997.

p.s. --- does it mean anything that 4 of these 14 at-bats were taken by catchers? (superior ability to think along w/ the pitch calls and anticipate the pitch?) ok, probably not. but how does cody mckay hang for 13 pitches against any hurler? kinda weird that has at-bat took place 4 years to the day before ankiel's.

alright, enough about that. a few other thoughts this morning:

  • i disagreed w/ the decision to send wainwright back out there in the 8th, and particularly the decision to let him face ryan braun as the potential tying run. adam’s location was way off that inning; he went to 3 balls on the leadoff man before retiring him, then gave up a hit and a walk; when braun stepped in wainwright was at 113 pitches for the game and 19 for the inning. fortunately, it isn’t necessary to throw braun a strike (he has 0 walks this season); he chased a fastball in off the plate and got himself out. tony must not have liked his options; mcclellan was unavailable, and apparently the overused franklin needed the night off too (at least, i never saw him warming up). that left reyes and thompson as the only options. against the top of the order, tony trusted adam more; adam justified the faith.
  • pujols’ catch in the 9th; whew.
  • and speaking of that: was anyone warming up behind izzy? the cutter was not cutting, and his regular fastball wasn’t popping (he only threw three of those all inning). but that’s what makes izzy such an unusual closer --- he can fall back on his 3d-best pitch (curveball), which he did against weeks, to get out of trouble. there’ve been a few troubling signs out of him this spring, but at least he’s throwing strikes --- he wasn’t doing that when the hip was bothering him.
  • the cardinals’ #8 hitters --- ie, pitchers and pinch-hitters --- rank 12th in the league with a .535 ops, ahead of 3 teams (sf, chicago, and atl) who use position players there. the giants’ #8 hitters have struck out more than the cardinals’ have.
  • the cardinals have only reached base via error 3 times this year, tied for last (with the rockies) in the nl. whatever they’ve scored so far, they’ve scored on merit.