Chris Carpenter – Wow! Just Wow! Just to be clear: For the season, Carp has thrown 15 innings and given up 8 hits, 4 walks, 1 unearned run, and he’s struck out 13. The key, of course, is to find out how he’s doing today and to be sure that he plans to take his next turn which should be next Monday afternoon at Milwaukee. To detail last night’s performance, Carp threw 67 pitches, 41 of which were strikes (61%). That’s lower than his career average. In his Cy Young year (2005), 66% of Carp’s pitches were strikes. 2 out of 3 ain’t bad! Still, for his first start in 5 weeks, it’s pretty damned good. He faced 19 batters and threw 1st pitch strikes to 9 of them. The best news to me is that he had 6 swinging strikes in 5 innings (1.2 per inning). The Cubs swing at everything but that’s still a great number. Of course, in his first start of the year against the Pirates he had a whopping 13 swinging strikes in 7 innings. In 2005, Carp averaged about 1.5 swinging strikes per inning so 1.2 after being off for 5 weeks, after being off for nearly 2 and a half years is pretty good. Very exciting to watch!
I did want to take umbrage w/ a couple of managerial decisions in last night’s game and sorry, Dan, but the decision to use Brian Barden rather than a pitcher to lay down the SAC bunt in the 7th isn’t one of them. Dan tried to imply that Tony was wasting a player by going w/ a position player rather than a pitcher in that situation. However, using Barden allowed Tony the flexibility to NOT sacrifice, if that’s what he decided to do, and therefore, required the Cubs’ defense to play back a little. If Mike Fontenot knew what the hell he was doing, that decision would have backfired as Soto should’ve thrown Duncan out at third on Barden’s horrific bunt but Fontenot came in too far and couldn’t get back to the base in time, thus allowing Duncan to score on Khalil Greene’s short fly ball. Moreover, since Stavinoha was being pinch-hit for, a position player was going to have to enter the game anyway and Barden was going to be playing defense in the top half of the 8th. Tony, therefore, didn’t "waste" a player. Pay attention, Dan!
No, I have a problem w/ having Barden bunt in that situation as it was. By bunting, the Cards’ win probability, according to fangraphs, fell from 84.1% to 83.5%. It’s not a huge decrease, obviously, but it’s a decrease nonetheless. The truth is, when you have a pretty decent hitter at the plate, there’s no real reason to sacrifice when you have no one out and a runner on 2nd. There’s no chance of hitting into a double play so why give the defense the free out? If the Cubs had played it right, it would have ended up costing us the lead runner. We should have had a runner on 1st and 1 out instead of one at 3rd w/ 1 out. It’s just a bad play. The third baseman is drawn in, thus making it easier to get the ball by him. One of the middle infielders is moving around trying to hold the runner close at 2nd, thus potentially opening up another hole. The Book shows us that the run expectancy of a bunt w/ a runner on 2nd and no one out is slightly lower than allowing the hitter to swing away, and that the inning doesn’t much matter. So why give up the out? I don’t like it. Barden’s not a bad hitter. Sure, he might not get the runner over but he also might not have gotten the bunt down or Greene might not have gotten the runner in. In fact, considering the shallowness of Greene’s fly ball, we might have gotten lucky to score the run. If the count hadn’t gotten to 3-2, Lou would’ve kept the infield back and that popup might have been caught by the 2nd baseman, still standing, instead of a diving right fielder. I know it worked, but I didn’t like it then and I don’t like it now.
Finally, I didn’t like using Greene in that situation, w/ 1 out and runners on 1st and 3rd. As I said earlier, I don’t feel as though he should be playing right now and that situation wasn’t the best time to use him anyway. I realize Tony was trying to give him an opportunity to be somewhat of a hero, but that was a pretty important situation. The leverage index of that situation was 1.61, to that point in the game only 6 plays had a higher leverage index. If that popup is caught by the second baseman and Duncan’s stranded at 3rd, considering the beat-down Khalil was talking on the Post boards, how much booing would he have heard? Get him away from the game. Give him time to clear his head. We’ve got to have someone else who could get that run in. I just think that the potential cost to Greene was greater than the incremental benefit he received by getting the runner in. He’s not all of a sudden going to be OK b/c he got a few high 5’s. To me, it smacked of this game -- when Tony sent Ankiel back out to the mound. In fairness, Tony didn’t know what was going on then and didn’t have many other options considering the circumstances, but I’d be willing to bet that if Tony knew then what he knows now, he wouldn’t have sent Rick back out there. So why send Greene up in that situation?
Relating to RB’s post yesterday on the draft – erik’s got a great column up over at F-R on why the Cards (or anyone, really) should truly think twice about selecting a high school pitcher w/ their 1st round pick in a couple of weeks. It’s a good read and highly recommended. I’ll get the game thread up a few minutes prior to first pitch (I didn’t know I could do that before) so you can discuss the lineups and pitching matchups prior to Wainer’s 1st offering.