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Colby Rasmus hits, Adam Wainwright pitches, Ryan Franklin rises in my estimation

Come on, you know you'd link this photo instead of another "Adam Wainwright throws a curveball" AP special if you had the chance.
Come on, you know you'd link this photo instead of another "Adam Wainwright throws a curveball" AP special if you had the chance.

I don't presume to speak from Colby Rasmus's heart, so he could yet demand a trade out from under the adoring eyes of the best-damn-baseball-fans-period, but I have to imagine that his performance lately has made Tony La Russa and the St. Louis Cardinals less fond of the idea. Rasmus has added forty points to his OPS since his season low on August 31 and now sits at .884, within 10 points of the OPS leaderboard.

(Let me digress, momentarily, while we're still in the self-flaggelation part of the season—that means that the Cardinals are dangerously close to owning spots two, five, and 10 on the OPS leaderboard, spots three and five on the ERA leaderboard, and zero spots on the National League playoff schedule.)

After fruitless months in July and August, when he stopped walking so much, stopped hitting for power, and also got himself called into the principal's office, Rasmus is hitting nearly as brilliantly as he did in April. He's got a great chance at making this season, five years from now, look like a smooth, uniformly brilliant sophomore campaign to lazy bloggers everywhere; he just happens to have done it with three astounding months and three that—how do I put this—were not lacking in stounding. 

And maybe that's just who he is—I sincerely doubt he'll ever put up a full season where he hits .356/.435/.627, but this might be what his .870 OPS seasons look like. The Cardinals, especially the guy who sets out the lineup cards, will have to learn how to deal with that. (So will fans, for that matter—I'm hoping the J.D. Drew vibe will have passed by Opening Day 2011.) 

While I'm cutting statistics up into the unsatisfying numerical equivalent of fun-size boxes of Good & Plenty—am I the last person to notice that Adam Wainwright's supposedly mortal September-to-date involved him striking out 21 batters against two walks? He ruined that one with his low-ERA, three walk performance yesterday, so I had to get that out there while it was still easily visible on Baseball-Reference.

Yesterday leaves him with 19 wins, and 2003-Baseball-Prospectus-radical Dan would be at least a little disappointed (probably angrily, probably with CAPS LOCK on) to know that 2010 sellout Dan will be very disappointed indeed if Wainwright misses out on the 20 win milestone again.

This is as good a time as any to write about wins, and RBI, and batting average, something I'd like to talk about in greater depth if anybody would ever pay to read something about it. I realize that Adam Wainwright's season is outstanding whether he finishes 19-11 or 20-11. I realize that last season's failure to finish 2009 20-8, which can be put almost entirely on Kyle McClellan's apparent desire to finish with an ERA over three, is a crystal-clear anecdote in favor of that idea.

In my capacities as blogger and amateur general manager I wouldn't dare use wins to pick one season in Wainwright's apprently ongoing peak over another. But as descriptive stats I find the old, useless guard incredibly satisfying, even now. Better than FIP or even just ERA wins give me an idea of the shape of a player's season in a very rough historical context. Even the miscarriages of win justice—where could a player who's 12-11 with an ERA of 2.35 and 234 innings pitched play, except nestled within the sixth best organization in baseball? 

I know, intellectually, that Adam Wainwright is having an incredible run with the Cardinals at this very moment. But I'd like, down the road, to remember that in the middle of his peak he ran off 20 wins for a team that seemed, sometimes, completely incapable of winning. Of course, who knows how true that will be for people who were born while 2003 Dan was busy fomenting J.D. Drew-related angst; these stats all have this narrative power because they're what the narrative's been made out of for 100 years. 


I feel like I've gotten Ryan Franklin wrong all these years. He wasn't just a frustrating closer, a second-half scuffler, a guy I should like more than I did, a guy whose beard looks disgusting—he was a guy who did that while secretly possessing the ability to throw a knuckleball!

I realize this was news a while ago, but this was my first chance to see the knuckler knowing he threw one—in case you're scrubbing around MLB.TV now, instead of reading this, he throws two consecutively to Chase Headley—and it was the most I've ever empathized with Franklin.  

It's not a good example of a knuckleball; he throws it very hard, harder even, I think, than Jared Fernandez once did, and it spun just enough to make it more of a goofy-looking slider than Heisenberg's uncertainty pitch. If I were trying to explain to someone why the knuckleball was so awesome I'd go to Tim Wakefield first, or Eri Yoshida. But Headley is no September call-up, and it caught him looking, so it could yet be, well, a good knuckleball. And that would go a long way toward allowing me to keep my TV on for the ninth inning of Cardinals games.