it's been a good week, all in all, in cardinal nation. we went two for three against our temporary divisional nemesis, cincinnati. we stopped losing a starting pitcher every third day to injury. several players broke out of slumps lasting much of the month of may. last night, adam wainwright pitched his first ever complete game shutout, taking another step in his campaign to become chris carpenter, jr., since chris eats complete-game-shutout-o's for breakfast (13 CGSOs in his career). david freese continues to make rookie of the year look like an outside possibility.colby stays smooth. ryan ludwick spent so much time flying around the bases that he almost ran out of his shirt. last night, the cubs and reds both lost as well, the latter's loss bumping the cards into an uncontested first place.
the apparent gray cloud this week for the site was the sudden appearance of aaron miles at the ballgame, in a team uniform, no less. while i can't say i'm pleased, i will say that it could (and has) been worse - both matt pagnozzi and nick stavinoha have been unwelcome surprises in cardinal uniforms. aaron miles has a fairly long track record of being basically replacement value. i find it hard to look at 2009 and say that's his true talent going forward for the same reason i don't think his true talent resembles his 2008 performance. i surmise he will be same old aaron miles. i hope he doesn't spend a lot of time in the field or start any games. and, of course, i would rather see tyler greene (who is really knocking on the door) or allen craig.
while i admit the promotion of miles is a bad baseball decision, i also don't think it is as terrible as some are making it out to be. perhaps a thoughtful member of the front office could put a bug in tony's ear about having miles coach in batavia or something. miles seems like a nice guy, and i'd like to see something nice happen for him.
about a month ago, we took a look at the cardinals and the statistical story underlying their hitting. some things have changed - now the cards are no longer unlucky, with a team BABIP of .310, fourth in the majors, though likely not particularly lucky, as they have a line drive rate of 19.5%, eighth in the majors.
more concerning than any luck issues was the apparent team-wide approach at the plate. i am proud to announce that we have dropped from swinging at the highest percentage of pitches in the majors to merely the third most swing happy team in the majors, swinging at 47.0% of all pitches. this is an unfortunate trend, as we are having a great deal of trouble connecting with pitches in the zone - at an 86.4% rate, fifth worst in the majors. this is a curious problem to have. we are not terrible about swinging at pitches out of the zone, but we are awful about swinging at junk in the strike zone (third worst in the majors for Z-swing).
so, now that we have some numbers to toss around, what do you all see when you watch the games? are we getting fooled, wrongly anticipating what kind of pitch is coming? struggling to connect with breaking balls? (by requesting visual-based opinions, i realize i have transgressed in the eyes of sabermetricians everywhere, none of whom ever actually watch games.)
i wish fangraphs, instead of tracking pitch values, would take a look at how often players and teams make contact with certain types of pitches, say. i can say that our negative pitch values as a team are only on curveballs and change-ups. it seems like this is a team-wide function rather than one where a few really terrible hitters hold down the team stats. the only player on the team with a positive pitch value, as a hitter, against both curves and changes is adam wainwright.
it's odd that the cards have such poor pitch values as batters against the curveball, since two of the best curveball pitchers throw for the cardinals. even if adam and chris have taught the batters nothing about how to hit a curve, you'd expect the team numbers as batters to come up against the curve somewhat, since they at least never have to try to hit chris or adam's curve. jaime, franklin, and kmac all have decent curve ratings, too.
i definitely agree that pitch values should be taken with a certain grain of salt, but i'm grasping at ways to make the team-wide struggle to make contact with balls in the zone make sense.
what's become clear is that the bad offensive luck we saw much of in may has started to turn to good luck. after a panicky couple weeks on the boards, the cards have scored 9, 12, 8, 4,and 8 runs in their five games this week so far, losing only in a pj walters special. our team wOBA is up to .332, a perfectly respectable, if not overwhelming, number. what we still have, though, is an offense with a lot of very talented players, but at least one serious flaw. i am not sure how the cards go about fixing it, but the strikeout rates will remain high and the batting averages low as long as the trend of not making contact in the zone persists. we can improve that .332, given the caliber of hitters we have on our team.