The Hits Keep on (not) Coming

Tony La Russa threw a tantrum during his post-game press conference today. Reporters were asking him the questions that were on the minds of Cards fans everywhere. Why isn’t the team hitting? His response, via this STLtoday.com article:

For everybody listening out there (TV audience), you think I’m being unreasonable? It’s the FIRST WEEK OF THE SEASON. I don’t understand this. Are you going to tell me Yadier doesn’t drive in big runs? Are you going to tell me Albert can’t hit? Are you going to tell me the second baseman and shortstops haven’t hit? David Freese? You don’t think he’s going to hit? You think Matt’s gong to hit? You think Colby’s going to hit? You think Berkman’s going to hit? The answer is ‘no’ to all those things?’

Did you (interrogators) accomplish your goal? Three, four times, you ask so I get excited and get upset? That’s not fair. It really isn’t.

Then he walked away. You could say he was a little irritated.

Angry Red Birds

Artist's Rendition of Tony La Russa's Press Conference

I understand that this is a frustrating time for TLR. It’s a frustrating time for everyone who wants to see the Cardinals win. And I’m sure that TLR wants to see them win as much as anyone, though playing Skip Schumaker at 2B is a funny way of showing it. The anger, however, is uncalled-for. That’s because this slump is absolutely mystifying. Every pitcher we face has turned into Bud Norris.

The reporters have every right to ask their questions. Yes, it is only the first six games. But the first six games count just as much as the last six games. This has also been the first six games for the Padres and Pirates pitchers. Maybe they didn’t get the memo that these games don’t matter.

It’s a small sample size, obviously. But the numbers are so bad and the pitchers in question are so bad that it has to call something into question. Let’s look at some of the lowlights:

In these first six games, the Cardinals had 8 extra base hits. This number is remarkably low. The Houston Astros, the worst hitting team in the NL last season, averaged about 2.4 XBH a game. Houston slugged .362 last year, the Cards are struggling around .300. In this same time, the Cards have 10 GIDP. They are more likely to get doubled up with a man on first than drive him home with a 2b, 3b, or HR. Last year, the Giants led the league by hitting into a double play almost once a game. The Cardinals are on pace to double that.

But as I already pointed out, it’s a small sample size. The Cardinals won’t slug below .300 or hit into 300 double plays. That would be historically terrible. Even the 1899 Cleveland Spiders slugged .305. BUT consider the starting pitchers the Cardinals have faced in these six games:

Tim Stauffer: A 28 year old with 39 career starts. Stauffer has spent most of his career in the bullpen, amassing a 4.04 ERA and 1.36 WHIP in spacious Petco. He throws around 90 mph. A former 4th pick overall, he’s got a nice breaking ball but not much else.
Clayton Richard: Arguably a left-handed Tim Stauffer. Has similar stuff and has put together a career 4.28 ERA, 1.44 WHIP. Struggles with control a bit more than Stauffer, but has a slightly better K/9. Relies more on his fastball. Richard at least had a decent season in 2005 (again, getting his home starts in Petco). In fact neither Stauffer or Richard are particularly bad pitchers. They’re just mediocre.The real crap starts with…
Dustin Moseley: 5.13 ERA, 1.49 WHIP in his career. 4.57 xFIP. K/9 under 5. Doesn’t have any dominant pitches. Doesn’t make up for it with stellar control. Shut down the Cards completely for 7 innings.
Charlie Morton: Maybe the worst. 5.88 ERA, 1.59 WHIP, 4.54 xFIP. Hits around 91-92 with his fastball and according to fangraphs, he threw 85% fastballs in his game against the Cards. Despite this, he walked 5 batters. He only gave up 1 run. He’s not a power pitcher. He was throwing mainly one pitch. He wasn’t locating that pitch. Five walks, two strikeouts, one run. FUCK.
James McDonald: The fact that he’s the Pirates 5th starter should say everything. The Cardinals didn’t figure him out, but they didn’t get shut down like he was Charlie Morton. They managed 2 runs in 4.2 innings. Still… He’s the Pirates 5th starter.
Kevin Correia: 4.55 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 4.47 xFIP. Gives up a lot of fly balls. Unlike the other guys the Cards faced, has a much longer record of mediocrity. There’s probably a decent amount of video tape on him in the Cards’ library, too. Still managed to shutout the Cards.

So that’s it. Those are the six starters who have given the Cardinals fits over the last six games. Yes, TLR, it’s only six games. It’s only the first six games of the season. But what is this team going to do when it faces Roy Halladay? Cliff Lee? Tim Lincecum? We put up historically bad numbers against six mediocre-to-awful pitchers. We didn’t hit a single one of them hard. Not one.

That’s why there were so many questions at the press conference today. The reporters’ goal wasn’t to get TLR upset. They were concerned, because this “FIRST WEEK OF THE SEASON” has been absolutely terrible.

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