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Miscellaneous Sunday Ramblings

I have to admit to being a little bit stumped this morning. What’s there to say? We’re playing great baseball, though it helps that we’re playing bad teams. Tied for the best record in the NL. Biggest lead in baseball. We run out our 2nd string against the Pirates and still manage to win the game. Pineiro goes today and he’s been a little shaky his last few starts. I mean, relatively shaky. When you go most of the season w/ an ERA under 3 then the last 5-6 starts haven’t been that great. If we’re comparing him to the Pineiro of old, he looks great. Since the beginning of August, he has a 4.35 ERA and has given up 4 homers in 41.1 IP. That doesn’t sound like a lot of homers but consider that he had given up just 3 homers in the first 4 months of the season, 4 in 1 month and 1 start is a lot. His ground ball % over the last 6 starts is just 58%. Again, that’s very high but lower than his % for the entire season. The bottom line is that he’s been getting more pitches up over the last 6 starts and been getting hit harder as a result.

Baseball Prospectus has this stat that they call secret sauce. It’s their supposed measurement of ability to succeed in the postseason. I think, by now, we all recognize that the postseason is basically a crapshoot. The people at BP have looked at all sorts of statistics to find their relationship to postseason success -- # of veterans, success down the stretch, # of homers hit, etc. They found that only 3 stats had a statistically significant relationship to postseason success – fielding runs above average (defensive ability), K/9 by the pitching staff, and WXRL (how good your closer is). Right now, according to big league teams, the Cards are 12th in the secret sauce report and 4th among possible NL playoff teams. We’re behind the Dodgers, Giants, and Rockies but way ahead of the Phillies. Brad Lidge is really weighing them down.

The problem I have w/ their numbers for the secret sauce report is that they use numbers for the entire pitching staff (K/9) over the entire season rather than trying to weigh them according to projected postseason usage. Brad Thompson doesn’t strike out anyone but if he’s pitching in postseason games we’re not going to win many games, and it isn’t b/c he doesn’t strike anyone out. They should try and weigh the numbers according to the fact that Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, and Ryan Franklin will be pitching an inordinately high % of the innings. None of them are huge strike out pitchers but they still strike out more than Thompson and Kyle Lohse. In 2006, we were very low in the secret sauce report primarily b/c we were getting killed by WXRL. Izzy was horrendous that season but wasn’t even on the postseason roster. There was no accounting for the fact that Wainwright would be closing games. Would it have made a big difference in the report? Maybe not but my main argument is that they use what has been rather than what will be and that affects the validity of the report. Take it w/ a grain of salt.

I was curious about how tough our competition has been so far this season so I decided to look at the OPSes of NL starters’ opponents. It turns out that Wainwright has faced much tougher competition than either Carpenter or Pineiro so far this season. Out of 53 NL starters who’ve pitched 120 innings, Wainwright’s faced the 18th highest opponent OPS -- .731. That’s 11 points and 23 spots higher than Tim Lincecum, btw. Pineiro is 38th (.722) and Carp is 45th (.718) out of 53 in terms of the toughness of their competition. Jason Marquis, btw, is 50th so some of his good season can be attributed to the fact that he’s faced relatively weak competition.

As far as our hitters go, out of 124 NL hitters w/ 300+ PAs, Skip Schumaker has faced the 5th easiest pitchers, Colby Rasmus the 11th, and Albert Pujols the 14th, as measured by SLG against. Chris Duncan was 17th, Brendan Ryan the 48th, Ankiel the 52nd, and Yadi the 54th easiest pitchers. Somehow Ryan Ludwick has gotten screwed. He’s had to face the 78th easiest pitchers – much tougher competition than most of the lineup. We’ve faced some pretty light competition this season, a fact that shouldn’t be all that surprising considering there’s just 1 other team in our division above .500, and they’re barely above .500.

Finally, when Rasmus was picked off 1st base last night I got the idea to compare our baserunning this season (something BP measures relatively well, most agree) to previous seasons. There’s been a lot made of Joe Thurston’s baserunning escapades, for example. Right now we sit 12th baseball in overall baserunning. Our baserunning has added about 0.208 runs to our total so far this season. Oakland’s been the best in baseball, according to the report, adding more than 11 runs – and 1.1 wins – to their total by being good at running the bases this season. The worst has been the Orioles who have cost themselves more than 19 runs, and nearly 2 wins, on the bases. So our baserunning’s basically had a neutral effect on our win total this season.

Here are our totals since 2004.

2009 0.209
2008 -6.441
2007 -11.478
2006 -7.020
2005 7.608
2004 7.632

We were first in baseball in ’04 and 3rd in ’05 and this year’s the only season we’ve had a positive number since ’05. It’s also probably our 3rd best team (behind ’04 and ’05) over that time period. Interesting. Gotta get a game thread up soon. Early game. Late riser. Not a great combination!