When I was young I was not a fan of the concept of moral victory. My anger after Cardinals losses knew no bounds, made me miserable the rest of the night, and Edgar Renteria looking good out there or Brett Tomko pitching out of trouble wasn't going to do much to placate it.
But I like to think I've mellowed since I was thirteen (or sixteen), so: Since the Cardinals are still four games over .500 for the month; since the Cubs and the Brewers both lost; and since it's been a while since the Cardinals have had good sinkhole-related news to cheer about, I'll allow it.
The moral victory I'm going to take, as you might imagine, is that Rick Ankiel hit a double. I don't profess to believe that Rick Ankiel, having pulled one ball as sharply as I have seen all season, is fixed. But even one double is a big deal when it means one half of the Cardinals' left field Platoon of Necessity managed an extra base hit three weeks and one day after his last one. In the space between that XBH and today's—Duncan's last double was a month ago today, if you forgot to mark the anniversary—the two primary left fielders went 4-65 with 13 walks: .061/.215/.061.
I'm a masochist, so I took a look at every Cardinals box score between the 28th and yesterday with the handiest run estimator, extrapolated runs, to see what the left fielders have contributed in that time period. As a control group, I offer the hot corner, which has been quarantined since some time in April.
I can't begin to tell you how grisly this whole thing is. The third basemen don't get their first hit until the fourth of July; at that point they're worth -1.9 runs in 23 at-bats, which is extremely difficult to do. This is not above some average—they are literally removing runs from the team. They are breaking the estimator. They, uh, break out the next day, when Joe Thurston's RBI single improves them to 2-27.
The only day both positions pick up two hits is July 9. Stavinoha/Ankiel and Thurston/Schumaker share the credit; the umpires convene to make sure it is legal for the Cardinals to counteract the LF/3B One Hit Act of June, 2009 by playing no fewer than five players at both positions over the course of the game, and after much deliberation Tony La Russa is vindicated in a landmark decision.
Before yesterday's game, the two positions combined, according to XR, to contribute two of the Cardinals' 70 runs in those 17 games. Not above average. Not above replacement. Two runs. Skip Schumaker, the league-averagest hitter who ever did play in a league with an average, was responsible for nine. Not the position of second base—Skip Schumaker by himself.
The final numbers look like this: .132/.220/.132. No extra bases. Exactly twice as many strikeouts (32) as hits (16). Lots of Joe Thurston—and he was the best part. (On June 30 the two positions shared him; in true La Russa fashion, he started in left and moved to third.)
Between Rick Ankiel's doubles the Cardinals have averaged 4.1 runs a game. They've basically done it with six position players. If Ankiel's better than replacement level, if Mark DeRosa can eke out a few singles every so often, it's not just a moral victory, it's a real one.