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Kyle McClellan and Colby Rasmus

Kyle McClellan needed that game like nobody else on the Cardinals, save Colby Rasmus. McClellan hadn't struck out five batters in a game since the middle of May, and he hadn't had a strikeout-to-walk ratio you'd associate with someone on this side of the replacement level since the middle of June. 

Kyle McClellan never got fully established in the bullpen because he looked too much like a starter--he didn't strike out a batter an inning, he didn't have a pitch they could highlight on his stalking-in-from-the-bullpen montage video, and he never gave a particularly strong sense of the game being over for good or ill when he'd finished stalking. (Real Closers, like Jason Isringhausen, give both senses of the game being over, all the time.)

Now that he's in the rotation, unfortunately enough, he looks a little like a reliever who's been pressed into the starting rotation. He's competent, so he doesn't fail like a rushed or ruined starter does, he just looks incredibly stretched; his fastball velocity's gone, his strikeout rate is sub-Suppanian, and he's allowing as many home runs as can be allowed without Baseball Tonight commenting on it. 

Monday's game was what he needed--he looked like a starter, and a good one, and although I'm not sure that's really the case he'll continue to float above replacement level for another few weeks. 

Colby Rasmus needed that game like nobody else on the Cardinals, save Kyle McClellan. People who think Colby Rasmus is part of the problem: Were you surprised when Kyle McClellan struck out five and walked zero? Were you surprised when Colby Rasmus homered and walked?

I haven't said anything about the White Sox trade rumors yet because I'm still writing from a crippled netbook and it seems masochistic to put in the extra effort it would take for me to dismiss it. Edwin Jackson is a fine starter, and Matt Thornton a great reliever, but this looks like one of those trades you dream up on baseball cards before you ever hear the word "arbitration", not an actual trade the Cardinals would or should make. 

I wrote yesterday on SLM Daily (I'm there every Monday, incidentally, in short-and-casual form) that trading Rasmus for a piece that helped solidify a team that's had the unlikely success of Lance Berkman and Jon Jay to thank for its current position is betting a lot of future value on an uncertain present. But that's even more true with this trade; with Jackson gone at the end of the year the Cardinals would be trading one of their best young players for the pieces that would have to solidify them as NL Central favorites to have any value at all.

Elsewhere: Yadier Molina hit his eighth home run of the year and might, at this point, sneak into double digits, which is astonishing to me even four years after he established himself as an extremely competent offensive catcher. The season he's having now--his line is .286/.331/.442, with that slugging percentage 50 points higher than his previous career high despite the offensive environment--would make him an excellent catcher even if he were a butcher, which is good because his CS% is presently under 30. (Related fanpost: The astoundingly titled "Does Yadier Molina Hurt the Cardinals by Being Awesome?")

I'm wary of a long-term deal for Molina, but if in the next year or two he managed to combine this offense with that defense he would find himself in possession of a very brief, very valuable Ozzie Smith-style combo peak. 

What's weird about Molina, relative to Smith, is that I couldn't really tell you what offensive tools Yadier Molina possesses, save for his intense reluctance to strike out. Ozzie Smith walked a lot, ran the bases beautifully, and slapped the ball all over the place. Yadier Molina doesn't have power so much as a random tic that keeps him from hitting ground balls on occasion; his sometimes-beautiful home run swings seem totally divorced from the hacking he normally does at the plate. He hits for a high-ish average, but not impressively high. 

There's so much he does on defense that leaves an impression that I guess it's okay that the only lasting image I'll have of Molina's offense is his ability to ground into a double play under any circumstance, in any situation.