Here we sit, the day after another
disappointing blowout loss absorbed by the St. Louis Cardinals, this time a 15-1
drubbing at the hands of the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Buccos are the worst team
in the National League; their 43-62 (.410) record places them 13.5 games out of
first place. Across all of MLB, only the woeful Tampa Bay Devil Rays have a
Yet, unless the Cardinals can
salvage a win behind Anthony Reyes on Thursday afternoon, the Pirates will take
another series from St. Louis at a time the defending world
champs can simply not afford it.
The club is still treading water
just six games out of first place in the National League Central, but needs to
pull to .500 or better during the current road trip against poorer teams like
the Pirates and the Washington Nationals this coming weekend. The three series
following are against first-place or contenting teams –
Milwaukee – and the surging Cubs have moved
alongside the slumping Brewers and risk pulling away from the pack.
At the All-Star break, the 40-45
Cardinals had posted a 4.71 ERA as a team. Since then, the team’s ERA has been
considerably worse – in fact, one run per game worse at 5.69. As a result, one has to seriously
question if even the modest 10-9 (.526) winning pace established since the break
can possibly be maintained.
And, even if the Cardinals play .526
ball the rest of the way, their final record would be a symmetrical, but
non-playoff qualifying 81-81.
Making matters worse is the fact
that the Cardinals have allowed another 11 unearned runs (not included in ERA
calculations) since the break. That over a half-run per game rate is highest in
Not surprisingly, the Cards' second-half
5.69 ERA is the second-worst in the NL, even behind the Pirates, whose Wednesday
starter, Tony Armas, had been rumored to be on the verge of being released. Yet
against the Cards, Armas allowed just one run over 6 1/3 innings, picking up his
first victory of the season in the process.
In the other dugout, Wednesday
night’s game featured a pair of Cardinals pitching meltdowns, as starter Braden Looper and new reliever Mike Maroth each yielded a “lucky” seven runs. Looper
put the Cardinals in an immediate hole by serving up a grand slam to the Bucs’
number seven hitter, Ronny Paulino, in the first. He hung around for three more
innings, allowing two more runs.
Ostensibly the number two starter
on the Cardinals’ NL-trailing staff, Looper has actually been the worst of them
all in recent months. After starting out the season on fire, with a 2.29 ERA
through mid-May, in the two-and-a-half months since, Looper’s 7.55 ERA is dead
last in the NL among hurlers with at least 40 innings pitched. He has yet to
string even a pair of consecutive wins together since early
Maroth actually got through his
first inning on Wednesday night, the seventh, unscathed, before falling apart in the eighth, a
frame during which the Bucs tacked on their final touchdown and were successful
on the conversion of the extra point. As a result of this small, but brutal
sample, Maroth the Cardinals reliever now sports an ERA of 37.80. That makes his
Cards starter’s ERA of 9.20 pale in comparison.
With more bullpen innings, Maroth
will surely have to do better than he did on Wednesday night. But, how long
should the team continue to find out? With Tyler Johnson on the mend, one would
have to think that Maroth’s days on the 25-man roster are nearing their
In between Looper and Maroth, Brad Thompson pitched two innings in game two against the Pirates. Perhaps most known
for his near-record scoreless innings pitched streak as a Minor League starter,
Thompson is working on a streak of a different kind this season in
Just as Looper had given up two
before him, Brad predictably yielded a long ball of his own. It was the seventh
straight appearance during which he allowed an enemy home run.
During that stretch, Thompson has
yielded nine long balls. Overall, he has given up 18 in 101 2/3 innings this
season. Projecting that out to 200 innings, he would serve up 36. As a point of
comparison, the National League’s home run allowed leader last season was
then-Cardinal Jason Marquis with 35.
As I have debated with others
about Thompson, some think he is going to improve due to age and experience,
despite the trend clearly heading south. The reality is that like many of his
mates, Thompson simply allows too many baserunners to be an effective Major
Walks plus Hits per Inning
Pitched, or WHIP, is a very commonly used statistic, especially in sabermetric
circles. In fact, it is almost always a scoring category in fantasy baseball, a
game played by millions of Americans in varying forms. While not the most
exacting, it does provide a point of comparison as to runners
Here is a rough WHIP scale to
1.30 – good
1.50 – poor
The 22 men who have pitched for
the 2007 Cardinals stack up like this. Also added are the Cardinals and NL
averages, along with the Boston WHIP of new acquisition Joel Pineiro.
Not surprisingly, a majority of
the 2007 Cardinals staff, past and present, are not only below average, but fall
into the “poor” category when looking at WHIP.
Sadly, the formula is easy to understand, but seems unlikely for the 2007 Cardinals to break. Too many opposing baserunners
lead to too many runs allowed lead to too many losses.
Brian Walton can be reached via
email at email@example.com.
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