Friday, October 15, 2004

Kline's Bout with Gout

Steve Kline didn't travel to Houston with the team, as he was having his aching finger checked out by a specialist. The end result? Well, according to the report I saw on TV, Kline is out for the remainder of the playoffs with gout.

How does this affect the Cards? Well, for one thing, they can't replace Kline on the roster unless the Cards advance to the World Series. This shouldn't cause any problems, though, as the Cardinals still have 6 other bullpen pitchers, which is what they used all season. Additionally, should the series go 7 games Jason Marquis could be used in relief as well.

What may be even scarier for some is the fact that the Cards go from 2 lefties to just 1 in the NLCS. Will that matter? I'd say it's unlikely. For one thing, Kline had only pitched 1.1 innings in the playoffs to this point, including last night when he gave up 2 hits to the only 2 batters he faced. In other words, he had pitched only 2.4% of the innings in the playoffs to this point, having a .333 batting average allowed.

Before the playoffs started, Kline pitched a total of 2 innings after coming back from his injury. In that time he allowed no hits and no runs, and never pitched more than 0.2 innings in any of the 4 games in which he pitched. And to be honest, I had reservations about having Kline pitch in the playoffs with what was described as a 70% torn tendon in the first place.

What does having just 1 lefty in the pen mean in the Houston series? I looked up the stats for all Houston hitters vs. both left and right handed pitching. To keep it simple, I compared their OPS' vs. each and looked to see who has more trouble with lefties than righties. Basically, there are 5 hitters that fall into this category.

Jeff Bagwell - 589 vs. left, 897 vs. right
Lance Berkman - 836 vs. left, 1069 vs. right
Raul Chavez - 351 vs. left, 562 vs. right
Orlando Palmeiro - 536 vs. left, 705 vs. right
Jose Vizcaino - 582 vs. left, 709 vs. right

The guy at the top of this list shocked me completely. I would have never guess that Bagwell was so poor against left-handed pitchers this year. Berkman isn't much of a surprise, as he's always been much better against righties. The Cardinals would have a huge edge against Palmeiro and Vizcaino as well. Chavez doesn't hit anyone, so I don't care.

So, losing Kline might have an effect on this series. Most likely, however, King can be used to face Berkman late in a game. Additionally, if La Russa chooses to use a lefty against Bagwell, he hits in front of Berkman in the lineup, making that choice even easier. And while Palmeiro and Vizcaino do hit righties better, it's not by a large margin. Add to that the fact that Calero and Izzy are both tough on lefties, and this shouldn't cause any large problems during this series.

Looking down the road, the Cardinals would be well served to replace Kline on the roster with another lefty should they advance. The options would be Rick Ankiel and Randy Flores, both of who were impressive during the regular season. According to the local St. Louis CBS news, the Cardinals are leaning towards using Flores, since he's more accustomed to being used in relief. On the season, Flores had a 1.93 ERA, 1.14 WHIP over 14 innings of work. And usually, a pitcher with little major league experience in the majors have a tendency to cause problems for opposing teams, since very little scouting information is available.

So, the Cardinals will miss Kline. However, this shouldn't cause much more than a hiccup for their post-season chances.

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