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The Splits

Today is the Cardinals' collective last chance to alter the April 2010 stats that will be looked up forevermore on their Baseball-Reference pages, but yesterday was a good start. Adam Wainwright picked up win number four, something he did twice in the course of finishing with 19 wins last year; Blake Hawksworth kept his scoreless April intact, and dating back to last year has now thrown 20 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings.

The young hitters put a lot together, too. David Freese ensured that his first month with the third base job to himself won't be commemorated by a stathead-poisonous Empty .300; he'll keep his slugging percentage over .400, someplace it hasn't been since he was hitting .353 on the 18th. 

And what a month Colby Rasmus has had, to this point. At .344/.487/.754, hitting for power and drawing walks like a player apart from the never-quite-together rookie we watched in 2009, he's having the Cardinals' best month in center field since Jim Edmonds in 2004. That August—if you'll indulge me some Jim Edmonds discussion—he hit .359, with 10 home runs and 28 walks against 78 at-bats, for an OPS of 1.313. That performance was the Cardinals' best month in center field since Jim Edmonds in July of 2004, where he hit .381 with 13 home runs and 7 doubles, for a slugging percentage of .952. 

Organizing these transcendent months by position, of course, is just a way of getting away from the inescapable fact that Albert Pujols does this once or twice a year. Last June he slugged .856; in 2008 he spent three months with a slugging percentage over .700 and one with an on-base percentage over .500; in April of 2006, of course, he exploited a loophole in Major League Baseball's contract with his home planet and briefly turned into Super Albert Pujols. 

For Pujols this month's splits will be, somehow, ordinary. Since his breakout season in 2003—we don't have a word that approximates "his season where he was way better than he already was, which was awesome", so breakout will have to do—he's hit .337/.435/.640, which is within a few points either way of his 2010 performance thus far. 

The team is also one game from putting a month into the books. Does it surprise anybody else that they've only struck out nine times more than the league average? Deep into Brendan Ryan watch, and having noticed with everyone else that Pujols was swinging and missing a little more often than he usually does, I had begun to build that into some kind of McGwire-related team narrative. 

But like any April narrative, that's probably a few months ahead of itself. Pujols's 17% strikeout rate is definitely above his usual numbers, but it's not a lot higher; he was at 14% last August (.319/.443/.649.) It's his highest number in years, but it's close enough that if he goes four or five at-bats tomorrow without swinging through strike three it won't be. That's April—the stats don't mean anything more than they do any other month, but they're so isolated that they look like they should. 

As for Brendan Ryan, the increased pressure on him now that he's seen as a future long-term starter and the ugly strikeouts might make this the most menacingly bad month of his career, but he didn't quite manage to make it the worst. That's still July of 2008, where he rode a .158 BABIP to an OPS of .383 and disappeared until September. 

There's one last split to work on today, if the Cardinals are interested: wins and losses. Last year the Cardinals played through April with a 16-7 record, and if they beat Johnny Cueto they'll tie it.