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Anatomy of a Streak

When Matt Holliday was acquired from the A’s on July 23, the Cards were 52-46, 1.5 games ahead of the Cubs. Today they sit 70-54, 7 games up. According to BP’s playoff odds report, we now have a 92.3% chance of making the playoffs. Counting last night’s loss, we’re 18-8 w/ Holliday in the fold. Now, Dan and Al will probably say that the fact that we’ve won 69% of the games since trading for Holliday is attributable to the team’s collective good mood. Everyone’s happier and playing harder b/c of the "jolt" that Holliday’s acquisition has provided, they’d argue. Unfortunately, that sort of hogwash has been tested and there’s absolutely nothing to it, but the facts aren’t going to keep Dan and Al from running their mouths.

The most annoying thing I’ve heard argued about the team’s winning streak has to do w/ the team’s "grit" or "fight" now. We have more come-from-behind wins than we did before so we’re battling better; the team now has that "never give up" attitude (Play a Hard Nine!!!) that it didn’t have earlier in the season. Has a bigger pile of BS ever been uttered by anyone? The team has more come-from-behind wins b/c we have a much better offense now than we had 2 months ago. We don’t have Thurston at 3rd, Greene at SS, Duncan in LF and Skip playing 2B every day against lefties. It’s insulting to the team to imply that they had no fight or grit or toughness or whatever you want to call it earlier in the season. We just didn’t have any hitters. They were playing as hard as they could, for crying out loud! It’s not like they weren’t trying; they just weren’t very good!

Now, the team’s offense is considerably better. I don’t believe for a minute that they’re trying any harder than they did in May but their efforts will provide more b/c they’re just much better hitters now. Prior to the Holliday acquisition, the team’s offensive splits were .254/.325/.409 – and that includes Pujols’s contribution. Since July 23, the team’s hitting .278/.345/.438. Of course, that’s not all Holliday. Mark DeRosa has provided plenty of offense and Julio Lugo’s been terrific at the plate. It’s a big step up from Duncan to Holliday, Thurston to DeRosa, and Skip to Lugo against lefties. That’s a third of our lineup against southpaws and Lugo’s played some short as well. He’s a better offensive player than Brendan Ryan. Let’s see how the major position players have performed since the Holliday acquisition – which was the last of the 3, by the way.

Molina .305 .380 .378
Pujols .280 .405 .510
Skip .239 .308 .352
Ryan .356 .424 .508
DeRosa .242 .311 .432
Holliday .402 .444 .686
Rasmus .214 .308 .286
Ludwick .228 .280 .326
Lugo .307 .361 .507
Ankiel .297 .308 .500

I guess Albert, Skip, Colby, and Ludwick aren’t happy w/ the Holliday trade, are they Dan and Al? Clearly the biggest "jolts" have come from Holliday and Lugo themselves. Before the Holliday trade, the team was averaging 4.37 R/G. Since July 23, they’re averaging 4.81 R/G. Add half a run a game to the offense and we’re going to win more games.

How about the pitching? Before the trade, the team’s ERA was 3.75. We were giving up 4.08 R/G. Since the trade, the team’s ERA is 3.68 and we’re giving up 3.81 R/G. Our pre-trade FIP was 4.05 and our post-trade FIP is 3.83. So the pitching’s slightly better as well though that’s probably colored by the fact that Carp missed 6 weeks pre-trade and has made all of his post-trade starts. Nevertheless, a slight improvement.

It would appear that the defense is better as well, as we’re giving up fewer unearned runs per game than we did pre-trade, though that could be a result of better pitching as well. Actually, according to UZR, DeRosa’s been worse at 3rd than Thurston has been but it’s really difficult to make judgments like that based on such a small sample. Still, it’s not hard to believe that we’re better off defensively at 2nd when Lugo plays and in LF w/ Holliday as opposed to Duncan.

All in all, the main reason for the run the team’s been on has been the improvement of the offense, although the relatively weak schedule hasn’t hurt at all. It’s also worth noting that while we’ve been on an 18-8 run, the Cubs have gone 13-14. I doubt that they’re struggling b/c they’re demoralized by the fact that we’ve made 3 trades and they’ve made 1. It probably has more to do w/ their injuries, particularly to the pitching staff, but the fact that we’ve added 5.5 games to our lead in less than a month is impressive nonetheless. Just 1 more late-nighter and then we can go back to getting some decent shut-eye at night!