The second half of the season is set to begin in a particularly evocative way: Chris Carpenter, wounded ace, versus Clayton Kershaw, the kind of tier-one pitcher certain tier-one Cardinals have had trouble hitting in 2010. (The good news about this split, incidentally, and the reason to distrust it: Albert Pujols's sOPS+ against power/finesse types is 257, and Matt Holliday's 74. While worrying about Pujols's performance against the very best have you found yourself wondering what it is Holliday finds mystifying about pitchers who leave no strong impression on you at all?)
A list of trends stopped dead by the All-Star Break, here for our re-edification—Previously, on Happy Days:
- Tom Bosley taught Kyle Lohse that necking just because all the other guys are doing it isn't fair to his best girl—or himself.
- Chris Carpenter fought an alien with jukebox magic, and then fired the producer who greenlit that script. Under his Thalbergianly strict direction Happy Days became, again, a single-camera look at the bygone culture of the fifties.
- On TV's You've Got To See It Tyler Greene jumped over 14 trash cans in front of Arnold's Diner, a new world's record. "It's no big deal," he said, afterward, "I had a running start."
- Jon Jay was hitting .500/.536/.846, with three doubles and two home runs. His career high in home runs is 12; now he has seven between AAA and the majors. But the most impressive thing is that he has 22 doubles in 2010, one lower than his career high in 2009—in 300 fewer plate appearances. I feel like a jerk saying this while he's hitting .377 and slugging .594 in the major leagues, but I'm still not convinced he's a starter, especially on a team playing Colby Rasmus. But as a fourth outfielder on a team with a fragile third outfielder, he's been a Felipe Lopez-class safety net.
- Matt Holliday and Albert Pujols have eight home runs and 18 RBI in 86 at-bats. Neither's hitting for his usual average, but the Cardinals will take matching 1.000+ OPSes however they can get it.
- Five of the Cardinals' regulars have an OPS well over the team's extremely average .257/.307/.436 line for July, and Felipe Lopez's .737 OPS counts as the sixth. The team's problem is what those other players are doing: Skip Schumaker, Nick Stavinoha (who's made six starts), Yadier Molina, and Brendan Ryan are hitting .132 in 91 at-bats, 27% of the team's total. They've driven in six runs and scored six times themselves. The Cardinals would like Skip Schumaker and Brendan Ryan (0-16) to start hitting again; they need David Freese to return to the field and Tyler Greene to keep hitting. They also need Yadier Molina to figure out what turned him back into 2006 Yadier Molina three years after becoming an adequate Major League hitter.
- If you take a look at the Cardinals' pitching splits for the month you'll notice what seems to me to be an excessively divided set of ERAs, one that has a lot in common with their hitting struggles: The top five pitchers by ERA have allowed eight runs in 45.1 innings, for an ERA of 1.59. (They're all individually under 2.00.) Next on the list is Blake Hawksworth, who's got a 3.86 ERA on the month. After him, the lowest ERA is 6.23, courtesy Dennys Reyes; all told the worst six performers have allowed 29 earned runs for an ERA of 10.88.
- Worst on the list is Chris Carpenter. Carpenter's numbers, aside from the runs and the hits (18 in nine innings) don't look as bad on Baseball-Reference as they did over the course of his two July starts, and considering his ERA+ after both of them stands at 123 (in the year of the pitcher!) the eulogies have seemed, to me, premature. He could absolutely be hurt, and if he is the Cardinals are in trouble; but if he's not, this trouble spot is the Chris Carpenter who struck out 10 batters in two consecutive starts two months ago.
All these storylines will fade as the month marches on; that we ended up stuck on them for a few days is a quirk of the schedule.