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The St. Louis Cardinals' Rapidly Changing Batting Lines

Jose Oquendo guides Daniel Descalso smoothly into Lambert Int'l Airport, where Joe Strauss is presently fuming over the ratty carpet. #hooterville
Jose Oquendo guides Daniel Descalso smoothly into Lambert Int'l Airport, where Joe Strauss is presently fuming over the ratty carpet. #hooterville

I've got one more week (and then one more year) of grad school on my back—anybody have a finished paper about Wilkie Collins and the evolution of the "fair play" detective novel on them?—so let's play a quick game of It's Still Really Early And These Lines Are Subject To Change, America's favorite in-stadium game.

1. Carlos Beltran was hitting .247/.378/.444 yesterday afternoon; this morning he's hitting .279/.398/.535. Of course, he didn't have just any night—he had seven RBI and two home runs and, while he was at it, two singles. Two big years from Beltran in St. Louis (and obviously this is not something I'm predicting based on one big month) would pull the rare trick of solidifying his sabermetric and narrative Hall of Fame cases at the same time.

The obvious comparison is to Jim Edmonds, noted stealth Hall of Famer and player we adopted on Baseball-Reference; here's a very ugly chart with their bWAR arranged from best to worst:

Thing I learned just now: Jim Edmonds never had a WAR season between borderline-All-Star-type (3.8, 1997) and passable-regular-type (1.6, 2006.) And it makes perfect sense—I'm trying to think of an average version of Jim Edmonds, and I just can't do it. He makes absurd diving plays sometimes? He kind of has the ability to uppercut a high fastball onto the batter's eye? In his brief third career as an average outfield bat he approximated average by being a great power hitter who couldn't stay in the lineup and probably shouldn't run too much in the outfield.

Beltran's career isn't quite so drastic, and because his great seasons didn't come one right after the other the moment he turned 30 it's felt more normal. But he has the same problem: All the Hall of Fame career parts, none of the padding. Two 4-WAR seasons, say, would get him past Edmonds for his career, though the peak question would probably still settle it for our in-house candidate.

2. Matt Holliday was hitting .197/.240/.352 on April 22, and .215/.277/.376 on April 30. Now he's hitting .250/.312/.430, which is a really strange in-between place for a hitter like Matt Holliday to be. I've noticed that Baseball-Reference still isn't running 2012 WAR totals yet, and maybe that's for the best; the manufacturing of these seasonal lines that tell us stories about great players, like Holliday's career .313/.386/.538 career mark, with all its doubles, has a lot of moments, on the assembly line, where it's impossible to imagine the finished product.

I don't think Matt Holliday has ever been a .250/.312/.430—that's just not what I've imagined, at any point in this season or his career, when I've watched him play. I guess that's the appeal of monthly splits.

3. A.J. Burnett's comeback was a success yesterday! two starts, 15 strikeouts and five walks in 13 innings, ERA under 2. Now he's 1-2 with an ERA of 8.04 and it's going to take him 15 scoreless innings to get his ERA back down to 4.06, where his comeback will be a qualified success, or maybe just a story worth following. Sorry about that.

4. If Albert Pujols went 4-5 with 2 HR today he would be hitting .236/.277/.368. And man, I hope he does.