Monday, September 27, 2004

Monday Morning Quarterback

I have to say, I've never been a big fan of the NFL. My high school was so small that we didn't have a football team. My family, as I have mentioned before, weren't big sports fans either. Once the football Cardinals moved to Arizona, my exposure to football was left at next to nothing. These days I will watch the occasional game, but usually not until the baseball playoffs are over.

Which, of course, makes my drive to work on Monday mornings a bit boring. I usually enjoy listening to sports radio on my drive in, but the day after the Rams play, it' s a bit pointless on my part. So, for those of you like me - and I know there aren't many of you - here is a small review of a team that plays the game that I actually have interest in.

The Cardinals rolled into Colorado this weekend with a few things of interest. Namely, how many wins can the 2004 Cards put on the table, and how does the health of the team look heading into the playoffs?

First, the win total. The Cards headed into the weekend with 100 wins, looking to move in on the team record of 106, set by the 1942 Redbirds. Of course, playing in Colorado is never an easy feat. This may or may not come as a surprise to many of you, but the Coloardo Rockies have a 57-49 record against the Cardinals over their team history. Pretty good for a team that has only had 4 winning seasons over an 11 year history. The biggest reason for this record is that the Cardinals have never really been successful in Colorado. Over that time span, the Cards are 24-31 in Denver and had only won the season road series 5 out of 11 seasons. Since the beginning of the 2000 season, it gets even worse. The Cardinals were 6-10 at Colorado heading into this weekend's play this decade (whatever it's called). There is just something about playing in that thin air that the Cardinals have not dealt well with.

With that in mind, I personally was hoping to see the Cards take 2 out of 3 from a weak club. It was great to see the Cardinals actually pull off the sweep on the road in a place where they historically haven't played well. The sweep gave the Cardinals a 5 game winning streak, 8 wins out of their last 10 games, and 9 out of their last 12. That's back to the pace that we had grown accustomed to, even if the last 10 games have come against weak opponents. With 103 wins in the bag, the Cardinals are in good shape to win 107 on the season.

The other thing on many minds heading into the weekend was the state of the Cardinal pitching staff. With Carpenter looking less and less likely to pitch in the first round (minimally), the Redbird faithful are going to have to hang their hopes on the likes of Jeff Suppan and Jason Marquis, both of which have struggled as of late. This weekend should have soothed some of those fears by a bit, as each starter pitched 7 or more innings, with Suppan only giving up 3 earned runs, Marquis 2. If they can get the job done in Coors Field, where teams score (on average) 40.8% more runs per game, then they have the potential to be just as or more effective in parks such as Dodger Stadium, Turner Field, SBC Park, or Wrigley Field.

On the series as a whole, the Cardinals only gave up 13 runs, 12 earned. Of those 13 runs, 5 of them (38.5%) were given up by Rick Ankiel. I can't say that I'm too worried about that, considering that he didn't give up a walk or a wild pitch. And despite the success of everyone else, Coors Field is a strange place to pitch - especially for a pitcher with a tough curve ball, who essentially can't use it (see Darryl Kile as a Rockie starter for a good example.) Overall, the Cards bullpen this weekend pitched 12.1 innings (including 9 innings in the "bullpen game"), giving up 7 earned runs. A 5.12 ERA isn't great, but as was already mentioned, Ankiel was responsible for the bulk of that. All-in-all, the bullpen was solid, and look to be rounding into good shape come the playoffs.

Finally, the health of Scott Rolen is still of concern. However, according to the broadcast yesterday, Rolen is coming around. He's been taking batting practice for about a week, and is additionally taking fielding practice as of late. It sounds as if Rolen will in fact be taking the field at some point this week, which should have him in good shape for a week from tomorrow. Having this big lead has been a great blessing in regard to having on of the team's 3 MVP candidates ready to dispose of their first victim in the playoffs.

Things left to watch this week

  • The return of Scott Rolen (when, and how good does he look)
  • The return of Steve Kline (when, how good does he look, should he be on the playoff roster)
  • The health of Chris Carpenter (will he be back? This is going to seem like a repeat of Scott Rolen in the 2002 NLCS, I think.)
  • How many wins can the Cards get?
  • Who will they be playing next week?
  • Can Albert hit 50 home runs?
  • Can Izzy save 50 games?
Stay Tuned...


5 Comments:

At 10:11 AM, Blogger Socnorb11 said...

Good read, Robb. I have the same problem....... too much football (Bears) talk on Monday.

Somewhat off of the topic here....... I was wondering if there was an updated "Monte Carlo projection" this week. I would have to think that the Cubs' odds of winning the Wild Card are dropping. I mean, they've almost played through the "easy" part of their schedule, and haven't really put any distance between themselves and the other Wild Card contenders, and they've got the Braves for 3 games to end the season. Their only saving grace may be the Giants and Dodgers knocking the snot out of each other this weekend.

 
At 10:57 AM, Blogger Robb said...

You can find the Baseball Prospectus Monte Carlo results at http://www.baseballprospectus.com/statistics/ps_odds.html

The Cubs odds have dropped, but only to 75%. Having a half game lead, 1 game in the loss column, with 4 games left against the Reds still keeps them as a heavy favorite.

Of course, keep in mind that the probabilities don't factor in recent play. It looks at the season as a whole.

 
At 1:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Robb,

As a long-suffering Expos fan, I have to say that I really envy Cards fasn these days. Excellent on-field product, a decent front office, a new stadium on the horizon. Hell, I'd settle for any 1 of those 3.

Anyway, great blog. I'll have to add it to my rounds.

Scot.

 
At 2:40 PM, Blogger Robb said...

Hello Scot,

Good to have you checking in. As an Expos fan, how are you handling the probably move to D.C. next year?

In regard to the Cardinals - would you believe that there is a very vocal minority in St. Louis (at least, in internet circles) that have been demanding the dismissal of Tony LaRussa and Walt Jocketty for at least the last 5 years? The better the Cardinals do, the more they complain. It's actually quite entertaining, when it doesn't drive you nuts.

 
At 2:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Robb,

as an Expos fan, it's been a slow, painful death for more than a decade now. Under the previous owners, who figured that they could field a bare-bones payroll and pocket revenue sharing money and make a healthy profit even if nobody paid to go to the games. this resulted in the dismantling of the 1994 team in early 1995, and then firesales again in 1996, and 1997, and 1998. Make no mistake - that is what killed the Expos franchise in Montreal. Not MLB, not Loria (though they both contributed). It was the expos original owners who caused this mess.

so anyway, it's been 10 years of misery, and every season for the last 5 we've heard how it would be the expos final season in Montreal. It's more likely now than it's ever been that the expos will actually be moving, but I'll believe it when it's signed, sealed and delivered.

So yeah, it's sucked being an Expos fan the last few years. Will I still be a fan of the franchise if/when it leaves Montreal? Don't know. I'll have to wait and see. I might be able to follow the franchise in a new city. I might just not have a favorite team, and follow baseball in general. Or I might just stop following baseball for a while. Time will tell.

Scot.

 

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