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Small Picture, Rookie Pitcher, Big Picture

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Say that title three times fast.

The Cardinals picked up a win yesterday against a great pitcher (Tim Lincecum) after a 5 game losing streak. That win was much needed for the psyche of Cardinal Nation. I should be pumped up about that but it's hard to be overly positive at the moment. There's an element of "Trust the Process" going on and the process, regardless of the recent results, is bad.

The lineup that won yesterday included five batters that have a wOBA below league average (6 when you include the pitcher). That's not just a bad lineup, it's a terrible lineup. The collapse of Felipe Lopez, both offensively and defensively, has been, in some senses, the failing of the fail-safe for the system. The result of a collapse like that is a roster that includes Pedro Feliz or Aaron Miles. In this instance, the result is a roster that includes both players.

There's a reactionary feeling to this last week. Felipe has some bad games in the field, the club goes on a losing streak and there's a sense of urgency to do something. It's one of the classic situations where those in charge seek to reassure their clients by doing something. Anything. The impression of acting, of being in charge of the situation, is more important to them than the whether that act is actually helpful.  The external consensus seems to be that this act (acquiring Feliz) was not helpful.

This wouldn't be the first post where I bemoaned the Cardinals losing wins on the margins. The roster management on the fringes has been nothing short of terrible this year. Aaron Miles over Tyler Greene. Pedro Feliz over Tyler Greene. Mike MacDougal over Fernando Salas. Nick Stavinoha over Allen Craig. It's been an ongoing series of missteps that, taken individually, aren't cause for concern but, taken collectively, are disheartening and significant.

In the past, we've been critical of the spending at the edges. Money thrown at middle relief or on backup catchers when perfectly acceptable and comparable players could be had for less. Some have argued that the Cardinals went into the season with limited depth. To an extent that's true. But third base was never one of the areas that the Cardinals were expected to be short at. Have they had unfortunate injuries? Sure. But there's a lot of blame to be assessed with the roster management this season.

* * *

Jaime Garcia has been nothing short of fantastic this season. He's currently sporting a 3.82 xFIP,which would make him one of the top 30 pitchers in the league. He's gotten groundballs by the dozens and has shown enough stuff to to compensate for control that has been touchy over the course of the season.  At 132 innings, Garcia has fulfilled the wildest expectations that anyone could have had for him this year.  He's a legitimate rookie of the year candidate. That all makes the next question harder.

Year IP
2006 155.0
2007 103.1
2008 122.0
2009 37.2
2010 132.1

 

How long do you ride this rookie of the year arm? At 132 innings, it's the most he's pitched since his first professional season. At 132 innings, it's nearly 100 more than he pitched last year after returning from Tommy John surgery.  He's approaching his innings high of his professional career. Innings pitched is not the best evaluative tool of a pitcher's workload. A strict pitch count might be more instructive and even then all pitches aren't created equally.  I don't have an answer to this question but it seems like an appropriate time to start asking it.

* * *

Did you know the Cardinals have been an above average club offensively? True story. They've got a .327 wOBA thus far this year (.323 is average).  It's part of what has made this season feel so uneven. Despite the fact that they've got top notch pitching and are average offensively, they continue to be underacheivers (or at least from my perspective).

Maybe this season had a psychological setup that is plaguing us still. We (read: me) thought they were going to be a tremendous club. They had a powerhouse offense with three stars and a bunch of average-ish players. They had a solid top to bottom club rotation with two aces. They had a solid bullpen with some live arms. I can't seem to shake the feeling that they should have been something special.

Regardless, it would be wonderful to watch the club go on a bit of a win streak. There's a listless nature to the active roster from the fan's perspective. The club seems stiff and I miss the soft carresses between Boog and Rasmus. The random secret handshakes between players. I miss the club seeming fun.  Team-Fan chemistry may be as much a result of winning as team chemistry is.

Still, win one for the robot? Preferably, win 5 in a row for the robot.