This week just seemed to fly by, so very suddenly, I found myself waking up this morning typing in stlcardinals dot com to make sure the Cardinals game and my Thursday schedule lined up as nicely as I thought they did a couple weeks ago when I bought some tickets to the game.
Last night, I had a last-second meetup with some friends I hadn’t seen in 10-15 years so, instead of using research for todays game as a cause for procrastination, I much more efficiently pushed an entire evening’s work. We met up and I can say that everyone was even more awesome than I remember them as 6th graders, quite the impressive feat. While we were at the bar, I ran into a few friends I hadn’t seen in about 5 years (who also were engaged in some rather impressive careers) since we would casually eat sandwiches on our dorm balconies, a worthy nightcap after a night out in Columbia.
There would be no sandwich nightcap and I didn’t drink nearly as much as I did freshman year, but then again, I was able to wake up for class this morning, so there’s that. Also this morning, I discovered that I had purchased tickets to a John Lackey game. After the depression had passed (I mean seriously, there’s a lot of exciting pitchers on the Cardinals, and then there’s John Lackey), I thought about my old friends (and hopefully new friends once again!) and thought to maybe look back where John was when we were but wee shy children.
In 2002, a 23 year old John Lackey burst into major league baseball with a 121 era+ and showed the kind of promise, in the midst of a very offensive era, that many of our young guns currently provide. That rate performance is a mark Lackey has surpassed only three times in his career and only once significantly. Lackey actually provided his first team with quite a lot of value. While he had a two year dip below the 100 era+ mark after that rookie season, those next 5 years were hugely valuable and formed a very legitimate case for the contract he received from Boston, even if it seemed more based on the promise of his breakout 2007 than the consistent baseline of the other four seasons (This is not based on hard analysis and given Porcello, perhaps I’m underrating a consistent 115 era+).
My freshman year in college was 2006, which I’m just now realizing is significantly further back than the five years I earlier stated. A 27 year old Angel was in the midst of his second of a 5 year peak of very good pitching. Lackey threw up a 127 era+ and the Cardinals won the World Series.
I’m fairly certain that if Lackey can put up a 127 era+, the Cardinals will (have a very good chance to) win the World Series. He has only come close to the 120 threshold once since his move to Boston, year three of his contract there. Our number 5 pitcher (in my opinion) has been a consistently very good starter who has had a rough go of it in the past 5 years or so, but I hope he is able to deliver a vintage performance today and carry that level of performance through his contact towards a worthy career cap, a Cardinals World Series (victory).
I was fortunate enough to be able to go to the game this afternoon and I love day games. Something about baseball is perfect being integrated into the middle of a day. Its lackadaisical at times in that it is a slow game. You can forget to download your Stubhub tickets and have a mini-crisis of searching your various accounts to find the confirmation email and you likely won't feel like you missed a huge part of the game, or wasted the investment of an expensive ticket. You can get off of school or work and just meander your way down to the stadium and take in that little part of your team's season for just $10 and however much time you can afford. It doesn't demand to be the ultimate center of attention that many other sports do.
This was one of those days. What we got for that rather minimal effort was vintage Lackey. This is what we paid for. He struck out 8 Brewers, with Walden tacking on another 2 in the 8th and I couldn't be more happy with the game-day experience. I professed my love for Jason Heyward and had a birds-view seat for his every move. He probably should have laid off a ball 4 in the middle innings, but he made up for that by drawing a walk on a low pitch later in the game. We made a couple of jokes about his earlier strikeout being on a low pitch and how as Matt Holliday goes to pasture, we've replaced him with another superstar who, at least today, would carry on that affinity for swinging at those beautiful low hanging fruit.
Bourjos was able to come on late in the game and make a rangy catch to left center, thus validating my "Gorgeous Bourjos" yells and there was a moment where all of Heyward, Wong and Bourjos met in shallow center to determine who could beat who to the ball.
This is the team we came to see.
The game was scoreless until the sixth and I was never really worried because this roster is simply oozing with talent and it shows. We rapped together a couple hits in the sixth, but you could argue that nothing really exceptional happened, except maybe Holliday stealing second and oh, well Mark Reynolds hit the baseball (he actually ended up 2 for 4), but this wasn't the type of game where the lineup was hitting on all cylinders. This was the type of game that was really exciting and pleasant, but was only the baseline for what I expect from this team.
Carpenter, Peralta, Reynolds and Molina all had 2 hits and there was baseball at Busch Stadium. I'm excited to see these trends continue through this summer and if Lackey can continue to pitch like he did today, he will trend closer to that 120 era+ threshold and everything that entails.