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Good Friday Storms and Baseball Miscellany

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I don't much like writing about personal things or emotional things. It's generally not my style. I have a brother who is 16 years younger than I am and when we play catch and the ball hits him from a missed catch, I commend him for not crying. It's baseball after all and guys have this weird phobia of crying during sports or really crying at all.

Even if you don't live in the St. Louis area, you've probably heard about the tornadoes that passed through this region on Good Friday.  I spent most of my Saturday in an area -- hence the lateness of this post -- that had seen a tornado touch down. Dozens of trees that were 30 feet tall were snapped off 8 feet into the air. Their trunks still showing the classic twisting nature of the winds that sheared them. A warehouse building with 40 foot ceilings had it's cinderblock wall just torn away. Nothing punched through that wall, the wind just started grabbing block after block from this wall.  Once the wall was gone, the winds reached inside to remove things from the shelves themselves.

Highway signs were bent, torn off and deposited a quarter mile away. A steel billboard column had been bent over at it's foundation, one sign facing the ground, the other facing into the air. Trees with massive root systems were upended at their base. Often times they were upended onto homes, cars and other possessions. Entire blocks of homes were demolished, just rubble and wooden shrapnel with the family's entire worldly possessions strewn about and ruined.

I'm not sure that words can fully describe what I saw yesterday. It was one of the most unbelievable sights I can ever recall. If you've got a little bit of time, visit or (St. Louis' local news channels) and look at some of the pictures and videos for yourself. As someone who has seen it firsthand and talked with some of the residents whose houses were damaged, I can't describe it as anything short of heartbreaking. 

So it's Easter and even if you don't celebrate Easter in any kind of religious or spiritual day, just take a second and be thankful for all the great things that are in your life. Because, tragically, some Cardinals fans will be picking up the pieces of their lives for most of the day while we rail against a dropped ball or an opponents home run.  There's no shame in thoroughly enjoying the positive aspects of your life; I'd just like us all to remember for a moment how lucky we are.

Baseball miscellany after the jump . . .

I'm not sure how Kyle McClellan does it but he's done about all we could have asked for thus far. The 2.16 ERA is a mirage and he's not striking out many batters but his control has been reasonably good and he's getting a slightly above average number of groundballs. Even if you correct for the low HR rate, he's still rocking a 4.26 xFIP on the season. I never would have thought that was possible.

One of the (few) interesting things Al Hrabosky said on  Friday's broadcast was that being a starter has allowed Kyle to use all his pitches better. As a reliever, by the time he could get feel or command of a secondary offering, his outing was usually over. This made him less effective as a reliever. Intuitively, I find this to be a somewhat attractive explanation. Objectively, I don't see much evidence to support it.

McClellan is throwing his fastball 60% of the time. He's scaled back the curveball in favor of more cutters and changeups. Instinctively, I'd like to see that fastball usage rate closer to 50%. McClellan has survived as a starter not because of his fastball but in spite of it.  As a starter, he's lost about 2 mph off his fastball and it's noticeably less effective. A greater reliance on his above average secondary offerings would go a long way, if I had to guess, towards shoring up that strikeout rate.

There's one other thing that McClellan needs to figure out. Right Handed Hitters. He's had a consistent reverse split to his numbers in the majors and that has been exacerbated early in the season during his time as a starter. With a average fastball and a above average changeup, it's not hard to answer why he's so effective against lefties rather than righties. The cutter is the obvious attempt to answer right handers but he hasn't been as effective with it as he'll need to be if he wants to stick as a starter long term.  I won't advocate for a slider but you can see pretty clearly why sliders are effective pitches and what happens when you don't have one.

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The Cardinals currently have the second best team offense in the majors behind only the Yankees. Lance Berkman, Matt Holliday and Colby Rasmus all have wOBAs over .400 and a healthy bit over nonetheless.  David Freese has returned from where he left off healthy with a bizarre high average, modest power line that has his batting average at .348 currently. Ryan Theriot has been a tick better than average offensively and Skip Schumaker . .  .

well, I don't have anything nice to say about Schumaker. If there's one player that obviously isn't getting it done on either side of the ball right now, it's Schumaker. But still, offense! Yay!

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Lightning Round:

  • Garcia has added to a point to his K/9 and subtracted a point from his BB/9 in 2011 compared to 2010. It's to small of a sample to draw long term conclusions from but IF that's a real expression of true talent, he's likely a front-line starter. I'm amazed at how much better he's looked in the majors compared to the minors.
  • I have no words for Kyle Lohse. With a much reviled contract and a long running, specious claim of not being healthy, he's back to pitching well.
  • Daniel Descalso is rocking a OPS south of .500 in 38 PAs this year. I feel like he's been asked to bunt in at least half of his trips to the plate so that could explain it.
  • Colby Rasmus is striking out less than 20% of the time. This seems like a, potentially, important development if he can maintain it.  That said, he's actually hitting worse in 2011 than he did during April of 2010. Last year's April sported a .480 wOBA; this year's is .436. Quit slackin' Colby.
  • Eduardo Sanchez has faced 21 batters. 10 of those have struck out.
  • Speaking of relievers, if the Cardinals have to dip down into Memphis again for a pitcher, I'm not sure we're going to like the results. The obvious candidates would be guys like P.J. Walters or Adam Ottavino -- neither of whom have, to date, been terrible successful in the majors.
  • Last note: Shelby Miller currently has a 28:3 K:BB ratio in 17.2 innings.