I Just Felt Like Runnin'I am a Colby Rasmus fan, no question. I'll just be a much bigger fan in a couple years when he's an All-Star. But at the moment, he's one of the lowest-rated center fielders in the league, defensively. He's been much better at the plate as far as drawing walks this year, but he still strikes out a ton. When he swings, he misses a lot and I mean even on pitches right down the middle. And since day one that I've watched Colby play, I've had this nagging feeling that he's running about 15 Watts through a 75-watt bulb - yeah, it's pretty dim in there.
Case in point, in the Cardinals loss to the Angels this past Saturday David Freese was on third, Rasmus was at first, with Brendan Ryan at the plate with one out. Ryan hit a chopper that was on the first base side of second that was fielded cleanly by Howie Kendrick. Colby ran straight into the tag and then Kendrick threw to first to nearly complete the double play. Luckily Ryan was hustling and was safe so the run scored from third. This irked me.
Did the play have to be that close?
Now, I didn't get a good look at the replay and I am trying to give Rasmus the benefit of the doubt. Maybe Colby thought the ball was going through for a hit. Maybe he thought he could slip past Kendrick to second before the tag. Maybe he was blinded temporarily by the scorching sun. But most likely he was just not thinking at all. The ball was not hit hard. It was hit right at a defender. The odds were high there would be a play at second. If Colby simply stops running, it forces Kendrick to either run to second or throw to the shortstop Aybar at second before they can attempt to complete the double play. But no, Colby made it as easy on Kendrick as he possibly could by running right...into...the tag.
Rasmus will be a good one, there's little doubt of that, but we are probably going to have to deal with his Forest Gump impersonations for a long time, I'm guessing.
You know what they say: Life (and the MLB Draft) is like a box of chocolates. And so is...
The Hard Nine
1. Right-brained...hitting - David Freese did it again Sunday. Facing a tough reliever in the Angel's Fernando Rodney, he hung in there against 97 mph heaters and 85 mph change-ups before driving a hit through the right side of the infield to score two runs and tie the game at 5 setting up the Cardinals' win in the bottom of the 10th. I looked up Freese's hit chart at Busch this year and it is remarkable:
8 hits to left, 8 to center, 15 to right. 6 of his 7 doubles are to right and right-center. Awesome.
Conversely, Albert Pujols' Busch hit chart is rather depressing. He has ONE HIT, period, to right field - a double, near the line and not deep, probably a "blooper". The cluster of outs made at shortstop is massive and his flyball outs are literally all over short and medium outfield (i.e.: popups). If this chart is correct, Albert has not hit a grounder to the right side at Busch yet this year.
Until Albert resumes staying with those outside pitches and hitting them to right with authority, he will continue to be "Chopper-Popper".
2. No Balls to Call Strikes - Poor Wade Davis of the Tampa Bay Rays. I watched him pitch a couple nights ago against the Red Sox and I can confirm the Sox have officially been added to my Axis of Evil which includes the Cubs, Patriots, and Red Wings. Davis wasn't sharp but the home plate ump sure didn't help matters. He threw a low, but clear strike to Kevin Youkilis with two strikes and didn't get the call.
Instead "Youk" walked to load the bases with one out when Davis should have had a far more manageable two on-two out situation. Eventually, 3 runs came in that inning and that was the game. Just as the Red Wings are among the least penalized teams year after year, the Red Sox hitters enjoy one of the smallest strike zones in baseball. (Also, the Patriots are cheaters - period. Just needed to toss that in there. I'm not bitter or anything...Rams 2001...)
3. Your AL Middle Reliever is My NL Cy Young - I think I am ready for the NL to adopt the designated hitter rule just to help mitigate the offensive differences between the NL and AL which will in turn reduce the times I get whiplash doing double-takes looking at the stats of a guy who has switched leagues while simultaneously saying "WHAT THE WHAT!?".
Case in point: Carlos Silva is 6-0 for the Cubs. Carlos "let- us-take- Milton- Psycho- Bradley- off- your- hands- if- you- take- this- hopeless- batting- practice- pitcher- from- us" Silva is 6 and 0. Here are some notable (and some not-so notable) pitchers along with their career ERAs by league:
Player NL ERA AL ERA Diff
Silva 3.76 4.88 1.12
Carl Pavano 4.21 4.93 0.72
Javier Vasquez 4.02 4.61 0.59
Doug Davis 4.15 5.08 0.93
Andy Pettitte 3.38 3.99 0.61
Randy Johnson 2.92 3.60 0.68
Roger Clemens 2.40 3.21 0.81
Jose Lima 4.74 6.17 1.43
Pedro Martinez 2.52 3.32 0.80
Johan Santana 2.87 3.22 0.35
Jeff Weaver 4.17 4.91 0.74
Average difference for this eclectic sample of pitchers is a healthy 0.80 - nearly a full run higher in the AL which is what most would guess, I would think. Bad pitchers become average and the good become great when moving from the AL to NL - reverse that if going to the AL. What is interesting to me is that the Hall of Fame-caliber pitchers have less variance between leagues, when I might think the difference would be even greater for them - for example, Randy Johnson had a 3.60 ERA in the AL. I would expect him to have a 1.80 ERA in the NL or thereabouts.
But the opposite is true. The mediocre pitchers have the greater variance. Basically, good pitching "stuff" is effective in any league. Pedestrian stuff is punished consistently in the AL but not necessarily so in the NL.
4. Let's Raise a Glass of Molson - The plucky Montreal Canadiens finally succumbed to a tougher foe in the NHL playoffs. The Stanley Cup playoffs will feature the Philadelphia Flyers and the Chicago Blackahawks. Let the battery-throwing and drunken brawls begin.
5. Hitting Into Double Plays Doesn't Reduce Your LOB Total - In the Cardinals 1-0 loss to the Padres on Tuesday night, Colby Rasmus was 0-4 with a double play and two strike outs - 5 runners left on base. With a kid so prone to strikeouts why put Colby in the 5th slot, Tony? Why? Another brilliant outing by a St. Louis starter wasted.
6. Not Just a River In Egypt - The Associated Press has picked up on my recently-forged nickname for Albert as seen (sorta) in a story from May 24: "Albert Pujols has no RBIs in nine games and he's just a few more towering pop-ups or infield choppers from having his average drop below .300." There! You see it from the nationally respected Associated Press: CHOPPER-POPPER!
I shall continue to bash Albert until he finally admits he is struggling, which of course he has not and, likely, will not admit. The month of May has been very tough for El Nino: one homer, 10 RBI, a .256 average and .385 slugging percentage. If you're a three-time MVP who slugs under .400 for a whole month, you either admit you're struggling or continue to swim in denial.
7. Indecent Exposure While Flashing Your Leather - Ah, I love mixed metaphors. Anyway, I get the feeling that Ryan Ludwick is not beloved by the baseball world at-large and even among Cardinal fans, he doesn't get enough love. But I think he is a heart-and-soul Cardinal on par with Albert Pujols or Chris Carpenter. And he is slowly getting more exposure for his defense and if he's not careful, may end up with a Gold Glove at the end of the year. While unscientific, he is fifth in baseball in ESPN's Web Gems ratings. He has been heroic in taking hits away in right field this year and sacrificing the body on numerous occasions. Last night he ran about 40 yards and crashed into the chain link video scoreboard wall at Petco Park to take extra bases away from Will Venable.
8. Big Fish, Little Pond - It is a metaphysical law of nature that the NL Central Division champ must beat up on the other teams in the division. While the Reds and Cardinals are tied for first place, the Reds are a hefty 17-11 within the division while the Cards are only 11-10.
9. The All-Phillies All-Star Team - Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina should rest for this year's All-Star game. Not just because they will both be gassed by the time the break arrives and will need the rest, but also because it will place eight Phillies starting the All-Star game for the National League. EIGHT! The entire infield, possibly the battery if Roy Halladay gets picked to start, and two of the three outfielders. That would be Phunny and Phabulous at the same time.