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dump duncan?

bernie argues that the cards should send duncan to memphis. reading between the lines, i surmise that the increasingly loud jeers are weighing on duncan (way to go Best Fans); it also seems clear that he’s either not 100 pct healthy or hasn’t shaken off the bad habits he got into while trying to play through last year’s injury. the cardinals have faced a lot of left-handed pitching this month, and i wondered if perhaps duncan’s current slump (he’s got a .637 ops in may) might be nothing more than overexposure to left-handed pitching. turns out that isn’t the case; per the splits section of david pinto’s Day by Day Database, duncan has only taken 6 plate appearances against lefties this month (with 1 hit). against right-handers, he’s hitting just .216 / .298 / .353 in 51 at-bats during may.

even so, it’s only 51 at-bats; in duncan’s 54 april at-bats against right-handed pitching, he hit .333 / .464 / .500. and taking the season as a whole, he’s got an .817 ops against right-handers. joe mather has had a hot month at memphis and he’s got some potential, but i wouldn’t bet on him to come right up and post an ops much (if any) better than .817.

i’ll grant that mather might be a better player than chris duncan right at this moment, because right at this moment duncan doesn’t look like an .800 ops hitter. he has taken some awful at-bats the last couple of weeks, chasing bad pitches and failing to make consistent contact (11 whiffs in his last 36 at-bats dating back to may 14). but i think a lot of people are overreacting to the slump. he came into the month with an .839 ops for the season and an ops of roughly .870 for his career; a few bad weeks and half the fan base is ready to dump the guy. (and they chide la russa for his impatience . . . .) duncan is a homegrown, cost-controlled, productive player in his 20s --- exactly the type of commodity this organization needs. bernie argues that a trip to memphis is in duncan’s (and the franchise’s) best interest --- the best way to preserve / restore his value. it’s worth noting that duncan is 0 for 14 coming off the bench this year; in his starts, he’s got a .282 / .389 / .436 line in 2008 --- an .826 ops. so it may be that the run of left-handed pitching, combined w/ the competition for at-bats w/ ludwick ankiel and schumaker, has depressed duncan’s line; maybe the lack of playing time has hurt him. and if that’s the case, maybe he would benefit from a month’s worth of regular abs in triple A, and come back with his swing and batting eye rehabilitated.

if that’s the rationale, then i can see the sense in sending duncan down. but as a short-term gambit, i don’t see any upside in exchanging duncan for mather. st louis outfielders already have the second-best aggregate ops in baseball, .868; the average nl outfield has an ops of .778. compare that production to st louis outfields of recent vintage:

stl of nl of ops+
2008 .868 .778 112
2007 .771 .794 97
2006 .771 .795 97
2005 .828 .796 104
2004 .853 .811 105
2003 .891 .814 109

the cardinals haven’t had an outfield this productive since albert pujols was an outfielder. not even the 2004-05 sanders-edmonds-walker outfields were as potent, in the aggregate, as the current crop. adding joe mather to the mix isn’t going to make this a higher-scoring team; the cardinals don’t need an upgrade in the outfield. they need an infielder who can add a little sock.

which brings us to troy glaus, who has escaped the abuse heaped on duncan despite a nearly identical batting line (.760 ops for glaus, vs .743 for duncan). he has stopped piling up the doubles --- only 3 this month, vs 12 in april; during may glaus has just 5 extra-base hits (vs 4 for duncan) and is slugging .390 on the season. glaus’s home/road split is no longer as glaring as it was; he’s hitting much better at home but much worse on the road. i don’t know what to make of it. glaus’s batted-ball patterns remain right in line with his career averages, and his babip is normal; if he’s doing anything differently from previous years, it’s not apparent. the only number that’s off is his strikeout rate, which is abnormally low (18 percent this year, vs 26 percent in his career); has he cut down on his swing? a while back i expressed confidence that glaus would eventually progress to the mean ; it hasn’t happened so far. i got no answers; i am open to your thoughts.

but i'm not open to the joe-mather-as-3b argument that occasionally surfaces. mather has played 3b just 24 times as a professional  --- all of those games were in A ball. his fielding percentage in those 24 games was .917. he last played 3b in 2005, and that was for 2 games. can't play the position, period.

other items:

  • the astros apparently didn’t get the memo that you don’t mess around w/ breaking pitches against brian barton, you just blow fastballs past him. all 3 of barton’s hits the last couple of nights came against off-speed stuff --- the homer on tuesday and the single vs valverde on wednesday both came against sliders, and the single against wandy last night came against what looked like a changeup; 79 mph on the gun. i’m glad barton picked up a few hits; i was worried he was gonna get buried.
  • don’t underestimate the potential significance of joel pineiro’s health problems. the cardinals are contending for only one reason --- consistent starting pitching. if the rotation starts to get patchworky, they’re likely to fall off the pace. any / all of pineiro, looper, and lohse are capable of going south in a hurry . . . . .
  • but there may be help at triple A. mitch boggs threw a complete game yesterday to run his record to 5-1, 3.17. he has yielded just 3 homers in 65.1 innings and has a 2:1 gb/fb ratio. there’s also a guy down there named reyes with a 2.04 era . . . . as a team, memphis ranks 4th in the pcl with a 4.14 era. it’s a pitcher’s park, though . . . . .
  • am i the only one who hates the 1st-inning intentional walk? the cards did it tuesday night, with an "unintentional" walk to lance berkman; the ’stros did it last night vs pujols. seems like you’re just begging to fall way behind when you hand out free baserunners in the first inning, and both teams did just that . . . .