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not-quite random musings as the season resumes . . . .

  • you gotta read HC's FanPost about Dan Uggla's awful all-star game ---- probably the worst performance by an all-star in history. but uggla shouldn't feel too bad; a lot of great players had lousy days / nights in the ASG . . . .
  • wanna know how previous wild-card leaders at the all-star break have fared in recent years? eventual playoff teams in bold:

    2007 dodgers, indians
    2006 dodgers, white sox
    2005 braves, twins
    2004 giants, red sox
    2003 phillies, red sox

    half the teams went on to make the playoffs; 50-50 are the baseline odds for a team in the cardinals’ position. but the odds must be somewhat less for this particular wild-card leader, insofar as it leads by the slimmest possible margin (half a game) and is being chased by a team that has cc sabathia and ben sheets in its rotation. Baseball Prospectus gives st louis a 34 percent chance of playing october baseball; i’ll accept that without argument and without complaint.

  • speaking of sheets and sabathia, they’ll start the brewers’ first two games coming out of the all-star break, on friday and saturday; that puts them in line to pitch wednesday and thursday at busch III, the last two games of the cards’ important 4-game set w/ the brewers. the cards are set to oppose them with looper and wellemeyer; pineiro and lohse will pitch games 1 and 2. the cards had a 4-game set at home with milwaukee last july too, and it proved to be a pivotal one; the cards had been planning to be sellers at the deadline, then changed minds after winning 3 of 4 in that series; kept their season alive for another 6 weeks. i wonder how the results of this year’s 4-game set w/ milwaukee will alter the buyer / seller matrix. short of a milwaukee sweep, i can’t imagine that it would change the cards’ current status (buyers) . . . .
  • did you know the cardinals have one of the best offenses in the league in road games? they’re 3rd in the league in runs per game away from home (5.2), 1st in batting average, 1st in obp, 2nd in homers, and 3d in slugging. at home they rank 12th in runs per game and no higher than 6th in any statistical category.
  • the cards have taken more plate appearances against lhp than any other team in baseball; not surprising, given their apparent weakness vs southpaws. yet they’re holding their own vs left-handers --- 6th in the nl in ops.
  • the cards, as per their custom, lead the league in hitting line drives --- 589 of them so far, or just over 6 a game. as i noted back in may, they have ranked at or near the top of the league in this category for several years running, mainly (i assume) because they have pujols roping the ball every night . . . .
  • their batting average on groundballs continues to plummet. i’ve been tracking that stat for a couple of months --- back on may 5 they were hitting .276 on grounders, 50 points above the league average and clearly an unsustainable figure. by the end of the month their gb batting average had dipped to .263; it now stands at .246, 3d in the league behind playoff rivals milwaukee and chicago. they’re approaching the equilibrium point --- they’re at .246 overall, and .233 since may 5. probably will stabilize at around .240 . . .
  • the cards lead the league in on-base percentage by batters leading off an inning, at .352. they’re 2nd to the dodgers in preventing the first batter of an inning from reaching base, holding those batters to a .299 obp. without running any numbers, i bet that discrepancy alone is worth enough runs to turn a .500 team into one that’s 10 games over . . . . oh what the hell, let’s at least eyeball some numbers. according to BR’s run expectancy matrix, getting the leadoff man on base in a particular inning is worth about half a run. compared to an average team, the cardinal offense has put about 30 extra runners on base leading off innings --- that’s +15 runs. and the pitchers have allowed 27 fewer leadoff baserunners than an average team; that’s worth +12.5 runs. so that means their skill at the beginnings of innings is worth nearly +3 wins, which amounts to most (but not all) of their +5-win advantage over .500. (read it carefully --- a .500 team would have 48 wins, and the cards have 53 ---- +5 wins). . . . .
  • using this guy’s system for ranking the pre-season predictors, i currently have 51 points ----- which would land me solidly in the middle of the pack of pro prognosticators. i forecast the mets, brewers, and dbacks to win the nl divisions, and the red sox, indians, and angels in the junior circuit. at 51 points, i’m leading jonah keri of BP fame by 1 point; ahead of tom verducci, rob neyer, and most of the espn staff; and within spitting distance of keith law and john heyman. my only clunker pick so far is cleveland; if the mets and / or brewers move up in the standings i’ll gain some points, but if the dbacks continue to suck i might lose a few points there.
  • re the rumor (overmuch discussed) that st louis might be willing to trade colby rasmus for xavier nady or the like --- just ignore it. we all know how rumors like that get started: the pittsburgh GM wants to create some buzz around xavier nady and/or jason bay, to drive up the asking price for those players. so he lets it drop that the cardinals are really interested (which they might be), and that colby rasmus's name has come up in the discussions (which it might have ---- only to be quickly shot down, but he doesn't mention that). a writer "overhears" this (note the verb), but he knows there's probably not much to it so he doesn't put it into print. but he does have a source, and it's a juicy tidbit --- perfect for his blog, where there's a higher tolerance for rumor / gossip.