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mid-season doldrums

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ST. LOUIS - JULY 2: Albert Pujols #5 of the St. Louis Cardinals reacts to striking out against the Milwaukee Brewers at Busch Stadium on July 2 2010 in St. Louis Missouri.  The Cardinals beat the Brewers 5-0.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
ST. LOUIS - JULY 2: Albert Pujols #5 of the St. Louis Cardinals reacts to striking out against the Milwaukee Brewers at Busch Stadium on July 2 2010 in St. Louis Missouri. The Cardinals beat the Brewers 5-0. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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as we approach 81 games, the midpoint of the season, fatigue sets in. we're not so close to the post-season that a close division race carries much excitement -- more annoyance that we can't seem to pull away. we're not still in the throes of early season passion, when we are excited about everything. by now, we've seen enough depressing losses to grow a little cynical about the team's trajectory, even if it remains favorable.  we've also gotten to the point where players are getting worn down and tweaks are getting the best of some of them.

a lot of changes are taking place with the team right now. salas traded places with tyler greene yesterday, with ryan ludwick soon to hit the DL. find the logic here: our right-fielder got injured so we moved a pitcher to make way for a backup shortstop.  

clearly, we now have a glut of middle infielders whose hitting is at least dubious – greene, miles, ryan, schumaker, even felipe lopez, who is probably the best of the bunch, but whose offense has slacked off. other than felipe, tyler greene is the only one who shows any hint of power – highlighted by knocking a HR off milwaukee last night. greene's power demonstrations have been infrequent in his major league appearances. hopefully, he is able to put it together this time.

let’s take one moment to appreciate what salas has done so far this season (tRA 3.56, K rate 14.6%, BB rate 3.6%, StatCorner FIP - 4.30). despite the fact that fangraphs has no respect for him,  and while he’s been short on playing time, he’s been remarkable in the appearances they’ve given him. he seems like real major league talent. why the team would bump him off the roster – other than the simple fact that he’s not ready to pitch today – rather than someone else is not clear to me. salas has earned an extended look at the majors. hopefully, he and sanchez (cumulative 9.00 k/9 in AA and AAA, 2.70 BB/9, 3.31 FIP) get a good look from the team later this season. they’re ready, and probably better than much of our right-handed relief right now.   

the most important question, though, is what happens to ludwick’s slot. ludwick has had a tremendous season so far, rewarding those who thought his true talent lay somewhere between an MVP-level 2008 and a sub-par 2009. alternately running randy winn and nick stavinoha out as starting RF seems like a good way to get people to turn off their TVs. skip schumaker was somewhat better defensively as a corner outfielder than a 2B, but if his bat is barely playing at 2B, it has no business in RF.

the two options that seem to be seriously discussed as call-ups are allen craig (AAA OPA .866) or jon jay (AAA OPS .885). either would be plausible.  i would probably lean more towards craig as a matter of personal predilection, but jay seems to have made some impression on tony. if the difference is between jay  getting 5 starts and 25 PAs in the next week to ten days and allen craig getting 1 start and 10 PAs, i’d take jay.

this is a trick question, of course. the right answer is "release one of nick stavinoha and randy winn and play both craig and jay."

i should acknowledge the outside chance that the club pulls another winn and snatches some aging player off the waiver wire or trades a low-level prospect for a gabe gross or someone of that sort. 

me, i can’t wait till brad penny comes off the DL. while it’s always dangerous to hope regarding pitcher health, i can’t help but get a warm feeling inside when i hear he’ll be pitching to live batters soon.  our current rotation, 60% of the time, it works all the time. plus, it has real wainwright in it.