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left turns

that would have been a tough loss to swallow; thankfully, the mets' lefty relief pitcher was as inept as the cards' was. with their 4 hr last night, the cards climbed to 6th place in the national league in that category and now are on pace to whack 170 hr, the same number the pujols-edmonds-rolen-walker-sanders group produced in 2005. they've outhomered their foes 90-75 so far this year, after being badly outhomered each of the last two years.

pineiro got hit pretty hard for the 2nd consecutive start. last night the mets feasted on his fastball. he threw it 32 times (according to gameday), 23 times for strikes; the mets swung at it 16 times and put it into play 10 times, a very high ratio of BIP per swing. (you’d hope to get a higher percentage of foul balls and swing/misses than that.) worse yet, 8 of the balls in play were base hits, 3 for extra bases. . . . . they were getting extremely good looks at his fastball. only one met swung and missed at the pitch --- delgado, who whiffed at it twice in his 5th-inning at-bat. the velocity on pineiro’s fb was normal, right around 89-90 mph, but (understandably) he didn’t throw it nearly as often as he typically does. per fangraphs, he has consistently thrown the #1 about 55 percent of the time over the last four years; last night it accounted for barely over a third of his pitches. in pineiro’s last start, in kansas city (which i witnessed in person), he threw the heater only about 45 percent of the time, although his results with it were decent enough (he did yield a homer and a double off the pitch). pineiro has spent time on the dl this year with shoulder and groin problems; nagging trouble from either injury might rob his fastball of some life --- which, in turn, might explain why he’s backing away from the pitch. i’m just fishing for explanations here; could be way off. but for one reason or another, it’s a fact that he has altered his repertoire the last couple of starts --- he’s not throwing his fastball as much as he usually does. might not mean anything . . . . but still something to look for in his next outing.

moving on to mulder: clearly a mistake to put him into that situation. in addition to all the obvious reasons not to use mulder there, add the fact that carlos delgado (one of the two lefties he was sent in to face) has a .348 / .483 / .565 career line against mulder in 29 plate appearances --- and most of those occurred when mulder was good. i realize the first hit off mulder was another bloop (the 3d cheapie he has yielded in 2 nights), but you can’t really say he was a victim of bad luck last night. he fell behind the first batter 3-1; gave up a solid line drive to delgado; fell behind easley 2-0 before yielding the sac fly (also well hit); and then hit schneider. the bloop was unfortunate, but overall mulder just didn’t make many good pitches; the results were fair. in any case, mulder has never had the ability to throw the ball past hitters since he came to st louis; he has always pitched to contact, counting on the late movement of his pitches to induce weak groundballs. but with his new shoulder and arm angle, mulder can’t keep the ball down nearly as well; instead of topping the ball, hitters (the few we’ve seen so far, anyway) are able to muscle it over the infield. of the 7 balls put in play against him in his two appearances, only 2 have been grounders. that’s not bad luck, it's a reflection of ability --- and, for a pitch-to-contact pitcher, it’s not a formula for success.

how else could tony have played the inning? he could have stayed with mcclellan, who has a very good record vs left-handed hitters (.599 ops against) and at home (.621 ops against). however, kyle needed 17 pitches to get through the first couple of batters of that inning, and he was up to 27 pitches for the game; he has thrown more than 27 in an outing only twice all year. if tony was trying to avoid burning the guy out, it was a good call. but why not villone there for the lefty-lefty matchup? the old geezer has smothered lhb this year, holding them to a .191 average / .298 slugging; over the last 5 years (including 2008) he has faced 561 left-handed hitters and held them to a .208 / .314 / .300 line. villone has only pitched 5 times in the last 3 weeks, facing just 19 batters over that span, and he had a day’s rest under his belt; he ought to have been fresh, no? maybe villone still hasn’t recovered from the beating he absorbed in the 20-2 loss vs philadelphia last month; he threw 66 pitches in that outing, his highest count since 2004 (when he was a starting pitcher), and has appeared in only 5 of the 17 games since. . . . . i also wondered if perhaps tony was saving villone for potential 8th-inning matchups against reyes (a weaker hitter vs left-handers) and chavez --- but if that was his thinking, i disagree w/ it.

hard to know which half of the pitching staff to worry about more at this point, the bullpen or the rotation. i’m still most worried about the latter --- although the starters held it together for a couple of cycles after wainwright and wellemeyer went down, the last two-plus cycles through the rotation haven’t been encouraging. with waino out and wellemeyer ineffective, there’s just not a whole lot to work with; i fear an implosion. re the bullpen --- i’d be all in favor of picking up a left-hander on the cheap, but strongly against yielding one or more big prospects for brian fuentes. as i noted the other day, relievers of his ilk cost a load of talent on the mid-season trade market --- even those heading into free agency. a left-handed specialist just isn’t worth that much to me. HC has mentioned joe beimel as a more affordable target --- that’s the type of guy the cards might get cheap, although i don’t think beimel himself will be dealt (the dodgers are only 1.5 games out of first). but ron mahay might; another possibility is the giants’ jack taschner, although he’s probably due for a regression from his current 2.54 era. the blue jays’ most tradeable lefty, brian tallet, has a wicked reverse split; ditto the mariners’ ryan rowland-smith. i just don’t see a whole lot of options out there on the trade market --- and i’d rather do nothing than overpay for a guy like fuentes, who i’ve watched his entire career out here in denver. i think st louisans would grow to hate him in short order; he’s inconsistent and mistake-prone, capable of losing the strike zone for a week or two at a time.

the cards go for the series win tonight --- tomorrow, the cubs.