[EDIT: Mark DeRosa to the DL, Stavinoha called up in his place. Nothing the Cardinals could do to see this coming—he'll be eligible to come off the list right after the all-star game, and hopefully that's all this is, a bit of useful retroactive-off-days manipulation.]
I have to be brief today, because, well—I don't have a lot to talk about today. The off day's got my tongue.
Anyway, maybe tonight will be the matchup to foil the Pitcher's Duel jinx; I long ago stopped predicting low scores for ideal pitching matchups because of how often that expectation seemed to be confounded, and at this point I think I would be pretty mum on the run forecast if Kevin Brown and Brandon Webb toed the mound at Jupiter Stadium. But two first-rank pitchers with minor but unexpected control problems? This could do it. There's just enough probability of the wheels coming off of one of these guys for it to not happen, in a jinxes-all-the-way-down kind of way.
Speaking of the control problem, since April it's completely cleared up, statistically, which eluded me until just now. I guess it's just a hard thing to forgive a pitcher for—when he struggles with the simplest things for a few starts, it's easy to look at every momentary relapse as evidence of his continued loss of command, instead of, well, walking somebody. But the exciting thing is that his strikeouts have continued to hover around eight per nine innings, two more per game than we saw in his first two years as the Cardinals' ace-by-default.
His low strikeout rate was the last thing keeping me off the Wainwright, Future Real Ace bandwagon; eight per nine isn't just enough, it's a lot.
Greene down for Barden seems like a fine move to me, although it is changing out one sort-of-redundant piece—the Cardinals' second best plus defender with a shaky offensive history at shortstop—for another redundant piece, the not-quite-shortstop who can play all over the infield and hit a little. These are great bench pieces, useful ones, but they are made less useful when the same model is being pressed into the starting lineup. If you've got 2004 Edgar Renteria or even David Eckstein, established guys with starter cred, Tyler Greene is a vital piece on your bench. If you've got Brendan Ryan, he's the same player as your nominal starter, only stuck in the middle of a slump.
But 25-man machinations aside, it's a good move because there's still just 117 at-bats in Memphis that suggest that Tyler Greene is an MLB-caliber hitter. Since he wasn't doing much to cement the notion in St. Louis, it makes sense to see what another half-season at Memphis does to the notion that he's undergone a long-overdue offensive renaissance. Larger samples can do a lot to confirm those ideas, and they can do a lot to make it seem absurd that we ever had them. Whatever the truth is, the Cardinals will be in a much better position for 2010 when they know it.
Finally, generic all-star carping, an evergreen blog staple. In order of crotchety-old-blogger anger:
1. I realize that Ryan Howard is A Star and therefore will go to the All-Star game, but when a star has not played at his star level for a year and a half he is due, at least, some perfunctory grief. With that in mind, let's think of it this way, choir: Ryan Howard is a one dimensional player inside of a one dimensional player, an offense-first first baseman whose one significant offensive contribution is his ability to hit home runs. He is seventh in the National League in home runs. That's all.
2. If you were to have told me that Andrew Bailey had made an all-star team and then asked me which sport he played, I think I would have been right, say, sixty percent of the time. This never happens to me; I was all caught up on Lance Carter before he made his all-star appearance. So I took the news of his existence and subsequent election to the all-star team with a certain amount of emotional distress, but I wish him the best.
3. Pitchers getting in on the basis of not just wins but the fact that the way the all-star game is scheduled makes having ten such a convenient magic number... I don't know. I can't get too mad about it, which is completely out of character for me, card-carrying basement-blogger that I am. But there are three kinds, so if we segment this omnibus category into smaller ones I might be able to work up the form-mandated dander:
- Certainly it will be nice to see Tim Wakefield, determined to keep the knuckling art alive while his acolytes suffer through the mandatory five-to-ten career setbacks before they arrive, fully formed, at thirty, in the all-star game. Wake has been a pretty good pitcher for a very long time, occasionally great, occasionally newsworthy, and he's having a season that's—well, it's good enough. If someone were to run a political attack ad against me they would justly decry me as Soft on Knuckleballers, so maybe this isn't the best year for me to judge this category.
- There's also the way having a lot of wins is used as a Good Pitcher Tiebreaker. I'm fine with this as a general principle, but some of the decisions it makes are repellent to me in other ways.
- But the ones that make me mildly disgruntled are the Jason Marquis picks. Again—I, along with most of the people on this blog, am not quite a disinterested observer in the Man Called Betty's basically average MLB career. But in general I don't like when a pitcher who everybody knows to be just like a million other basically average pitchers is given an all-star appearance based on a stat that is almost certainly not picking up some heretofore unseen talent or skill. I bet Jason Marquis will have a wonderful time at the all-star game, and I hope he does, but he's not Tim Wakefield.