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Affirmation

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Mark DeRosa's line since I called out his Cardinals performance as vaguely disconcerting: .313/.313/.938.

First: Yes, I will take credit for it. Second: That brings his seasonal line back up to .257/.326/.451. Gaining 20 OPS points in one day at this late hour is pretty impressive on its own merit, and it's important for the team this year, but Dan'n'Al have begun pressing down pretty hard on the resign-DeRosa pedal, and I can't say I buy it. Paying market value for Mark DeRosa so that he can stand at third all year is like signing, say, Mike Napoli and then installing him at DH; he's not a bad player there, but you're getting less out of him than his other suitors would. 

One more year of DeRosa is far from the worst thing that could happen to the Cardinals next year, but signing him to play third base would be a (far cheaper, far less risky) Lohse move—they'd be paying full price for production that, at the high end, is a little bit above league average for the position. Teams that are not the Yankees can't afford to do that very often, and it seems like a waste of resources to do it at a position where the Cardinals have David Freese and Allen Craig ready to fight each other in Mortal Kombat for at-bats. Freese, by all accounts an above-average third baseman, finished his abbreviated AAA season with MLEs of .263/.317/.438; Craig, by all accounts not an above-average third baseman, had an MLE of .351/.400/.688, which is just awesome. 

If Mozeliak and co. don't think either of those two can hold down third base in an average way for the remainder of the season, that's fine; but it seems to me that they're close enough to it that any prospective free agent signing ought to be more than, say, one win better when he's playing at his best. That's right: Nobody's quite so ecstatic about what he adds to the Clubhouse Chemistry man stew, but consider this my back-door, measured recommendation to see how Troy Glaus feels about a make-good contract. 

Lohse also looked better, probably because he was item #2 on that same list, but the real eye-openers came courtesy of the bullpen. Motte's now struck out 13 in 9.2 scoreless innings, dating back to the end of August; in the same time he's walked three and, maybe most importantly, not allowed a single colossal, soul-crushing home run. If you were wondering, his career splits now look something like this: 

G IP H ER BB K HR ERA OBA
April-August 58 46.2 50 29 21 40 10 5.59 .279
September 20 18.1 8 1 5 27 0 0.49 .133

There's only one word for this kind of clutch performance, and I've had to invent it—Jeterian. Jason Motte had the presence of mind, upon having earned the closer's role as a rookie, to blow a series of games so that Ryan Franklin could not only be unhittable for several months but also give his young kids the excitement of an all-star week in St. Louis. Then, when the seasons changed and Franklin's luck ran dry (not everyone can be this good when it counts) he put it back together.

We can only hope that La Russa knows as much about putting your best foot forward in September as Motte does; in the meantime, I think it's obvious that Jason Motte is your 2009 AL MVP.

As great as it is to see Motte succeeding like he did exactly one year ago, I have to give just as much credit to Kyle McClellan, against whom I named myself chief runner-down sometime in the immediate aftermath of the Chris Perez trade. He's still not the pitcher he appeared to be in the first half of last season, and his control problems are still both real and almost entirely hidden by his weird ERA, but his walks have trended down and his strikeouts up since the beginning of August. He might not really be a set-up man, but for this team he's a reasonable facsimile.

Small sample sizes are hard to deal with, and it's tempting—it might even for the best—to just stop analyzing day-to-day reliever performance entirely. But that's the only kind of sample we have for these guys. The entire Jason Motte story, his incredible September and his disastrous April and the doldrums of summer, covers 65 innings; for Adam Wainwright that's a month and a half.