Cardinals news from a Sabermetric point of view

Ugly loss exposes team’s vulnerable underbelly

An 18-4 loss counts the same as a one-run loss, so they say. Unless, of course, you’re talking about Pythagorean wins and losses, in which case, when you’ve played 107 games, it counts for roughly two losses. Now don’t you feel better?

Tuesday’s ugly loss to the Astros exposed some of the vulnerable underbelly of the 2010 Cardinals: A regressing-to-the-mean Jaime Garcia, fecklessness in the field and a shaky bullpen. Garcia, who only the naive could’ve expected to continue his first-half success, didn’t walk anyone but paid heavily for leaving pitches in the zone. Of the 26 batters that El Gato faced, we counted 12 hard-hit balls (either grounders or liners) on our scorecard. In his postgame remarks, Tony La Russa openly noted the probability of the Cardinal southpaw tipping his pitches, which would explain the roughing up.

Our scoring software gave us this warning dialog. But given Miles's scoreless ninth, we beg to differ.

As it turned out, Garcia was a helpful relief appearance away from escaping the game with only one earned run. Not that that meant he had avoided runs. By the time Mitchell Boggs replaced him, El Gato was officially tagged with just two earned runs, though the Astros scored six runs scored in the first five innings. That’s because of the official scorer’s ruling on a ball that third baseman Aaron Miles dove to stop but threw wildly toward second to attempt to put out the runner from first. The OS ruled it a fielder’s choice with throwing error, but it could’ve gone either way: A fielder’s choice in which the runner going to second would not have been out (which seemed to us to have been the case) or in which the force out should’ve been made. The latter assumes an out should’ve been made, and thus, all of the scoring action that occured after the hypothetical third out would’ve been made are unearned. The former assumes that no additional out should’ve been made and therefore that all runners are the responsibility of the pitcher. As we’ve noted, the arbitrariness of such plays makes the disinction between runs and unearned runs — and therefore ERA — a dubious proposition. In this case, his ERA hinged on a play in which the pitcher had absolutely no control over or involvement in, and which was further left to the judgment of someone sitting in the press box. Does anyone still need to be convinced of fielding-indepedent pitching statistics?

  • With a .320 OBP, Aaron Miles has no business batting leadoff. If the leadoff hitter sets the tone for your offense, what message does Miles send? Then again, the Cardinal lineup featured only four players with a better OBP.
  • With a righthander on the mound, why didn’t Jon Jay — you know, the man who made Ryan Ludwick expendable — start? Perhaps it was because of Tony La Russa’s principle that ultimately frustrated Ludwick that few players are "everyday" or "core" players. Did Jay need a rest? Perhaps. It’s also possible that TLR felt he needed to cover himself and apply his principle, even if it didn’t necessarily make sense in context. That is, don’t let Jay play too much, lest the manager open himself up to criticism that he has a double standard for his former and current rightfielders.
  • In one of the most egregious of a litany of egregious transgressions, Albert Pujols flagrantly disobeyed third-base coach Jose Oquendo’s stop sign on Skip Schumaker‘s fourth-inning single. A night after Jon Jay emulated the team’s perennial All-Star with some ill-advised running, Pujols’s spectacular flouting of the team’s coaching staff was head-shakingly disgusting. Pujols may be the best individual player in baseball, but we can’t help but wonder about the cumulative effect of such disregard for his teammates.
  • In case you need further evidence of Pujols’s me-first tendencies, consider also his self-protecting glance at shortstop Brendan Ryan after Pujols dangerously attempted to catch the return throw on a double-play that he started in the second inning. Pujols’s legal counsel, La Russa, tried to cover up in the postgame press conference by saying that Garcia was late covering the bag, but a) Pujols had no way of knowing it, and b) why glare at Ryan then? If Pujols continues down a path of self-interest and shows that his remarks about needing only a competitive team were in bad faith by becoming a free agent after next year, would it come as any surprise, given his on-field play?
  • The Astros’ Angel Sanchez needed only a home run for a cycle when he batted in the eighth inning against a flagging Mike MacDougal. He took four pitches to strike out looking. FAIL.
  • Backup catcher Jason LaRue entered the game in the seventh inning and went on to block an amazing nine pitches.
  • Not surprisingly, the 189 pitches were the most thrown by Cardinal pitchers in a nine-inning game in 2010.
  • We often question Cardinal fans’ claim to being the best in baseball. But last night, in the throes of a blowout, a cadre of fans started up a “Let’s go Cardinals!” chant in the eighth inning. We admire the pluck to support a team whose win expectancy had flatlined in the seventh inning.

4 Responses to “Ugly loss exposes team’s vulnerable underbelly”

  1. A Historical (?) Evening for the 2010 Cardinals | Pitchers Hit Eighth :: A St. Louis Cardinals baseball blog Says:

    […] of Jay, can we get The Judge in a leadoff audition one of these games?  As our esteemed colleague Pip over at Fungoes correctly opines – Aaron Miles is certainly not the […]

  2. MFOOZ Says:

    Great warning dialog! (An emphatic YES!!!)

    More interesting comments about Albert. Is he too big for his britches? He’s in an environment that encourages him to act like that. He operates at a level above the coaching staff. He can’t do that without the tacit approval of TLR. Is that a bad thing? I’m not sure.

  3. Pip Says:

    Yeah, when that dialog popped up, I had to smile.

    Not sure what to make of Albert’s antics. He’s not in Barry Bonds territory, but his above-the-team displays are disturbing. As to your question, how could it not be a bad thing?

  4. MFOOZ Says:

    If Albert is smarter than Tony, then maybe it’s a good thing. Exceptional players get longer leashes. Marv Levy let Jim Kelly call his own plays.

    I’m really playing devil’s advocate, though. On balance, I think it’s more important to have one skipper. At the same time, I reckon that really good managers tailor the lengths of the leashes to maximize positive results.

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