See, told ya our bad defense was overstated.
Bernie wrote a good, short piece on that today. Basically, this is the team that he thinks that TLR wants. Sabremetrics be damned, he wants gritty, gutty, scrappy (a.k.a. David Eckstein-cliched players) players that want to win. Not saying I disagree with you, I'm on your side. But TLR is getting his jollies off on this team apparently. http://www.stltoday.com/sports/columns/ ... f6878.html
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* The Cardinals' 7-5 victory over Florida Tuesday is the kind of game we've come to expect from St. Louis in 2011. The home team played defense in a way that made you want to cover your eyes. There were base-running blunders and other mistakes. Not sure what's going on with Albert Pujols, who is batting .231 for goodness sake. But you know what? They'll keep pushing for nine innings, and will not go quietly into the night, so you'd better not give 'em an opening. The Cardinals' Scrap- O-Meter is pretty much off the charts so far in 2011. The fact that one of the grinders, Daniel Descalso, won it by blistering a hanging changeup for a 3-run homer? Perfect.
* Because this is the team that manager Tony La Russa wanted. So yeah, Ryan Theriot will make errors and have limited range, other plays won't be made by other fielders, the Cardinals will run their way into outs, and at times it'll seem like a beer-league softball team. But it will put up offensive numbers, and it will compete with gusto. So La Russa shouldn't be offended when I write about Theriot's defense, or point out things that fans already can see for themselves. The team's stenographers shouldn't get all aroused, as if this is some sort of controversy. Because it isn't. Of course La Russa was going to defend Theriot. He will always defend Theriot. And I expect that. Commend it, actually. Because La Russa wanted Theriot to come to St. Louis and help him change the team's personality. And TLR will stand by Theriot all season. This is his guy. And some of us recognized this in advance. We could see it coming.
* Some of you may recall a column I wrote for Jan. 11, You can take a look here, and feel free to skip down to the pertinent area, where I start talking about La Russa going "rogue" in defiance of the sabermetric-base philosophies that influence the game.
* If you don't want to read the whole thing, here are a few relevant excerpts.
(1) "At a time when so many organizations are putting a special emphasis on defense and stressing "run prevention" - as if that's some newfangled thing - La Russa is going rogue. He's rebelling against the revolution."
(2) "You want the Cardinals to be a sabermetric-based creation? Well, you better SABR La Russa down to the ground, 'cause it'll happen over his dead body. You want defense and a high OBP? Well, La Russa wants ballplayers who hustle and scuffle and rip the knees on their uniform pants. He wants a team of no-retreat, no-surrender players."
(3) "The manager believes that this team needed grinders. And more offense, sure. What La Russa wanted more than anything was to take last season's disappointingly soft team and give it a backbone and a hard-shell attitude."
(4) "So yeah, the rest of us can take our Wins Above Replacement and Equivalent Average and come up with formulas. But just give La Russa 25 players with a sharpened competitive edge who want to win more than the 25 on the other side. And he'll happily go into 162 games with that."
* So La Russa defends Ryan Theriot? You're damned right TLR will defend Theriot. This is exactly the team that La Russa wanted, down to the last dirt stain, down to the last act of scrappiness. And Theriot is a big part of the collective team personality that La Russa sought to cultivate. TLR went rogue, and so far it's working.
Moving on ...
* Let's put Pujols' start into historical perspective. His .231 batting average is his lowest on the May 4 date on the calendar in a season. His previous low on May 4 was .276 in 2002, and .2004. Pujols' .298 onbase percentage is the lowest on May 4; the previous low was .363 in 2007. His slugging percentage of .419 is also AP's career low for May 4; the previous low was a .500 SLG in 2007. I won't bore you with the data, but I'll share a couple of things: pitchers are throwing more fastballs to Pujols than they ever have before, and he's not making them pay for that. His performance against fastballs is way off compared to previous season. And while it's been said many times that Pujols is having problems with inside pitches, the bigger issue is that he's not getting to pitches on the outside part of the strike zone. According to STATS he's batting .176 on pitches (strikes) outside at the waist, and .167 on pitches (strikes) outside and at the knees. But Pujols' strike-zone judgment is still strong. He isn't chasing pitches. His rate of going after pitches out of the strike zone has dropped from last year, which is good. His contact rate is up. But his line-drive rate is down. Pujols is putting balls in play at a healthy rate, but they're not being hit as hard (generally speaking.) And his batting average on balls in play is .206. His career mark in BABIP is .317. So there's some bad luck, too.
* To pick up on a stat used by our friends at Fox Sports Midwest: the Cardinals are 14-2 this season when they aren't charged with an error in a game. And 3-11 when they're charged with an error. I thought that we'd see similar numbers from all teams, but actually it's random. Cincinnati, for example, is 5-5 when making an error and 9-10 when not making an error. The Cubs are 6-7 when making an error and 7-9 when they don't. But the Cardinals' number on this is certainly eye-opening.
* Zack Greinke makes his debut for the Milwaukee Brewers on Wednesday night, and the team could use the boost. Though Milwaukee's starting pitching has been good overall this season, with a 3.81 ERA, things are eroding a bit. Yovani Gallardo is off to a brutal start, with a 6.10 ERA and 71 baserunners allowed in 41.1 innings. Over the last 11 games the Brewers' starting-pitching ERA is 5.10, so Greinke's arrival is on time. More than anything, the Brewers need to start hitting. The Brewers are 9th in the NL with an average of 4.3 runs per game.
* Homer Bailey will return to Cincinnati's rotation on Thursday, with Sam LeCure moving to the bullpen. The Reds are 15th in the NL with a starting-pitching ERA of 5.56. And no, I didn't think they would be this bad. (Then again, Reds' starters got bopped around early last season, too. And got better. As always: it's early.) Since going 5-0 to start the season, the Reds are 9-15. Here are the starters' ERA since April 6: Bronson Arroyo 4.25, LeCure 4.79, Edinson Volquez 5.27, Mike Leake 6.35, Travis Wood 8.39.
Thanks for reading ...