back home but still a bit travel-addled; here are some jumbled thoughts on a thursday morning:
ryan franklin has closed out the last two victories, while chris perez watches. . . . it's hardly even worth discussing this, because we know how it all shakes down. tony would probably say he's trying to protect the kid, who has struggled a little bit in recent outings; he doesn't want perez to end the season on a bad note and spend all off-season with negative thoughts in his head. i tend to doubt perez is that fragile emotionally, and if he is that fragile then he's never gonna survive at this level anyway. i would let the kid pitch through his struggles (which haven't been that severe, to be truthful about it), take a few lumps if he has to, and find out some more things about the adjustments he needs to make. and of course, there's always the possibility that perez might actually come in and pitch well . . . . . . just a fan's opinion.
if they can manage 2 wins in the last 4 games, the cardinals will post their best win total record since the 100-win seasons of 2004-05, surpassing the 83-win total of the 2006 world-champion club. if this year’s team faced the ’06s in a 7-game series, who do you think would win? 2006 would get 2 starts out of carpenter, giving them a very big advantage, but the other 5 starts would come from suppan, weaver, and reyes; the 2008s would likely have the better starting pitcher in all 5 of those games. they’d also have big advantages in right field (ludwick) and catcher (molina 2008 vs molina 2006). the 06s would have clear position advantages at ss (eckstein v izturis) and left field (healthy duncan vs schumaker), and they’d have spiezio on the bench. both teams would rely on kids in the bullpen . . . . it’d be a very close matchup, but i’ll take the 2008s for their deeper rotation.
since i made my last post the cards won their 81st game, averting a second straight losing season. when the off-season began last october, i noted that the cardinal franchise has suffered back-to-back losing seasons only once in the last 49 years, that being 1994-95. prior to that, you have to go all the way back to 1958-59. since they started winning championships 80+ years ago, the franchise has only suffered one real slump ---- the late 1950s, when they finished under .500 five times in six years.
they’ve raised their team batting average to .278 with four games to go, matching the figure posted by the 2004 club; well actually they’re just a caterpillar’s eyelash behind, at .2778 (vs the ’04 club’s .2779). as i mentioned the other day, the 2003 club has the highest batting average of the last 54 years, at .279 (.2785 to be precise about it); to surpass that, the cards will need to bat about .310 the rest of the way --- something on the order of 40 base hits in the last 4 games (assuming they all are regulation length; if there’s an extra-inning game, they’ll need more hits). they have batted about the same at home this year (.278) as on the road (.277).
’nother interesting fact about this team: despite the frustration over high LOB totals and missed opportunities in key games, they’re gonna finished 2nd in the league in batting w/ men in RISP and 2 outs. the pirates lead the league at .269; cards are second at .263, nearly 30 points above the league average (.235). in another "clutch" category --- batting avg in innings 7 through 9 --- st louis leads the league in batting and is 3d in slugging. we tend to remember (and agonize over) the times when the team came up one basehit short, but on the whole you’d have to say this team cashed in its fair share of the time. unlike the high-average teams that i grew up watching in the 1970s, the 2008 cardinals can do more than hit singles.
non-cardinal-related item: the twins have won the first 2 of their 3-game showdown with the white sox. if they complete the sweep tonight they’ll pull into a tie for first place in the loss column, and half a game ahead overall. the twins wrap up the schedule vs the royals, while the chisox have to host cleveland, which has surged back to .500 after a very slow start; minnesota obviously has the easier weekend. if they’re still within half a game after sunday, the chisox will have to play a makeup game on monday --- and it then might be necessary for those two clubs to face off on tuesday for a winner-take-all game to decide the division. let’s go twins --- should the white sox let it slip away, the ozzie guillen video footage could be priceless.
in the nl wild-card chase, one of the remaining contestants --- either the brewers or the mets --- is going to be guilty of choking two years in a row. both fired their managers this year in hopes of avoiding same; the brewers are 4-4 under their new skipper, while the mets are nearly a .600 team (53-37) under jerry manuel. but they’re only 11-11 in september, and they’ve dropped 5 of their last 6 . . . . . they finish at home against the marlins. their last game of the year will include a lot of farewell-shea-stadium ceremonies; can you imagine if they close the place out with a loss that knocks them out of the playoffs? not that i’m wishing, mind you . . . . .
the mets make for an interesting comparison with the cardinals. they’ve got a lot in common with our team ---- an ailing ace (pedro), a studs-n-scrubs lineup (fernando tatis, damion easley, endy chavez, and marlon anderson all have played significant roles for the mets this year), and an injured closer (wagner) resulting in a lot of blown saves. like our team, the mets have largely stayed out of the free agent market since the ’06 nlcs; their only significant acquisition came via trade, the johan santana blockbuster. if they miss the playoffs again this year, they’ll be under enormous pressure to spend obscene amounts on ben sheets, cc sabathia, etc etc.; indeed, they’re gonna be under pressure to do that whether or not they make the playoffs. it’s pretty likely that both new york teams will be aggressive buyers in the starting-pitcher free agent market; gonna be difficult to find value there this winter.