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Call-up Day

By the time you read this, PH/1B/break-glass-in-case-of-3B-emergency Troy Glaus might already be on the Cardinals' active roster. What's this worth? Well, how much better do you feel knowing that Troy Glaus, and not Khalil Greene, is the first pinch hitter off the bench? Much will be made of Glaus's indifferent rehab with the bat (.216/.369/.392 in AAA), but the main problem he'll face in September, whether he's fully cleared to play third or not, is that there are too many warm bodies in front of him; DeRosa, Greene, and Thurston all have some claim to the position, and while none of them is a defensive wizard it's hard to imagine a situation in which Glaus will come in as a pinch hitter and then be needed defensively. 

Potentially useful analogue situation: Ryan Klesko's 2006 season, which began as a pinch-hitter at the end of September (he went 3-4 with two walks, giving him a year-end 388 OPS+) and ended in the beginning of October as designated pinch hitter against a certain Team of Destiny.I can't see La Russa forgoing "flexibility" in the bullpen and on the bench for a guy who might bat once a game, but sometimes I think he just needs a buzzword he can be excited about to make weird, out-of-character changes to the roster; if anything is going to get him excited about a pinch-hitter, it's Troy Glaus, who can Do Damage out of that nine spot with the best of them. 

The other September call-ups, at least for now, seem to be the usual, inexplicable choices—the third LOOGY and the third catcher. Taken in order of likely appearance, according to Goold's article: The third LOOGY might actually influence the outcome of a game, which makes it more worrisome, if also more understandable. Royce Ring is probably better than a lot of lefty specialists who have stuck in the bigs, but that doesn't make him very good; first round Future Closer hype aside, his formidable strikeout rates didn't translate to the high minors in 2004, and they don't now. 

(I hate to draw conclusions from so little data, but Ring's got weird splits for a lefty reliever. Unlike a prototypical LOOGY—Memphis teammate Charlie Manning, or Dennys Reyes—he doesn't pitch around righties at all; like prototypical LOOGYs, he gets pounded by righties. Get on it, future pitching coaches.) 

The compulsion to have two backup catchers is maybe the weirdest managerial tendency ever to gain widespread currency in Major League Baseball; it is something that is both nearly universal among managers and completely uninteresting to everyone else involved in baseball. My only explanation is that the managerial equivalent of the naked-in-public dream is one where Yadier Molina and Jason LaRue collide trying to field a fly ball and you, the manager, are forced to put on the gear and replace them. 

Anyway, it is what it is; if it helps La Russa sleep at night, and Bill DeWitt is willing to pay his meal money, it's not going to hurt the team. So the 28th Cardinal, due up some time after the end of the PCL season, will be Matt Pagnozzi, who is not a good enough hitter to play in the minor leagues, but who, to his credit, has been able to elevate his game in such a way that he's been equally below average at every level. 


Once more into the Dave Duncan trough—the New York Times, whose reporters don't fall under the purview of Elder Duncan's press embargo, ran an interesting piece about him on Sunday. It's all worth reading, but most interesting to the VEB demographic is the first extended description I can remember of his Tipping Pitches ideology: 

"You start looking at the individual numbers of a guy like Kyle Lohse," Duncan said, "and when there's hitters that have absurd numbers that they shouldn't have, that's a real indication that they know what's coming."

Duncan explained that when pitchers tipped their pitches, hitters would lay off the breaking stuff and wait to devour a fastball. That quickly gets inside the pitcher's befuddled head.

"When you have a pitcher that's afraid to throw a fastball that has a good one, that compounds your problem because you can't pitch without a fastball," Duncan said. "[...] If he has really good stuff and a variety of pitches and he's getting hammered, then there's a reason."

I wonder if Dunc reads Fangraphs? I'm being completely serious, here—one of the many unfortunate side-effects of the stats/scouts false dichotomy is that a guy like Dave Duncan, who "watches hours of film and keeps extensive charts of pitchers and opposing hitters", would probably dismiss a web site that facilitates the exact same thing out of hand. 

Anyway, their pitch values illustrate, at first glance, that the opposite effect has been key to Lohse's success in St. Louis; his fastball has been a little worse than his career average (although far better than it was in 2007), but his breaking pitches, including a curveball that used to get, well, devoured, became solid positives. That said, pitches aren't thrown without context; if Duncan's gameplan is to keep hitters from "[laying] off the breaking stuff", their increased tendency to make contact on pitches outside of the strike zone, where most non-Vlad hitters make a ton of outs, might be the result.