Let me begin by saying that I’m a 4th-generation Cardinals fan, so this isn’t the idle speculation of a Cards-hater. (I suppose it’s still idle speculation, though.)
I’ve been wondering why the Cards, who have been a notorious power-hitting team ever since Tony LaRussa took over as manager, are all of a sudden spotty hitters this year. I can’t help noticing that some notorious steroid users—McGwire in St. Louis and Canseco in Oakland—played for Tony, and it makes me wonder if part of the LaRussa formula for brawny, home-run-driven teams included a locker room full of Deca-Durabolin.
The conspiracy theory is that LaRussa used to overtly or tacitly encourage steroid use among his players, but now that so much attention has been drawn to the subject, his guys have had to stop using. That would be why LaRussa has all of a sudden decided to embrace a pitching-driven strategy for winning ballgames—his 'roids strategy is no longer safe.
In fairness, it should be noted that I actively hated LaRussa’s burly teams in Oakland—I think I called it “sending a football player to do a baseball player’s job”—though, in typical fan fashion, I became neutral on the subject when he came to my town and started winning pennants.
I would be thoroughly disgusted to hear that Pujols was juiced. I don’t believe he is, but stranger things have happened. An acquaintance ran around with his roommates when he was a college student in KC. Said he’d go to their house to go out for a night on the town. They’d invite Albert to go along. He would always turn them down to stay in the basement working on his swing. He had mirrors to watch his form from all angles. Free weights & weight machines. The man lived to perfect his game, offensively & defensively. Said he was always a helluva nice guy and had the respect of all his peers. I would hate to think he would shatter that reputation.
Maybe. To me, the fact that it’s the exact same guys all suddenly playing differently is an argument in favor of the conspiracy theory, not against it.
Don’t get me wrong, though—I hope you’re right. I’m just asking because I don’t want to be the fan who turns a blind eye to possible wrongdoing in his own clubhouse. So much so that I’m probably being more suspicious of the Cardinals than I would be of any other team. (Except the Yankees, of course—those guys eat babies.)
I’m agnostic to whether or not Pujols ever did steroids, but this antidote makes me more likely to believe he did rather than the other way. These types of arguments were used to claim that McGwire, Clemens etc. could not have done steroids. We need to stop associating steroid use with laziness. He obsessively worked out? That is what steroids let you do, by greatly speeding up the recovery time. He made sacrifices to improve his game? Taking steroids involves making sacrifices to perfect improve one’s game. It would be kind of odd to expect players who have made every other sacrifice to no not make this one, especially when the rules against them were vague, mostly unwritten, and never enforced. He is a nice guy? So is from all accounts Mcgwire. I don’t think that is a terribly important variable.
I suspect that, if a significant number of players on any team were using steroids in the past, that usage likely was curtailed several years ago, when MLB started doing more thorough testing. I think it’s fairly unlikely that “lack of steroids” is the explanation for a decline in hitting from 2009 to 2010.
I have watched almost every Cardinals game this year, and I don’t see it. The lack of timely hitting and seeming inconsistency in the lineup is more a function of having a few guys not hitting at all (Ryan, Molina) and the ones that are hitting doing it at inopportune times (as a proud “there is no such thing as clutch hitting” believer I figure this will balance out in time).
What is “not hitting” about these lines:
Holliday: .298/.374/.493 (who wasn’t even in STL last year…)
Or, to look at it at a team level, they are fourth in the NL in OPS+ (at 100 even) yet just below average in Runes Scored. To me that smells of an offense plagued by a few poor hitters (which is starting to change - look for Tyler Greene to take some PT from Ryan going forward) and bad luck (one could compare their BABIP - just below league average - to, say CIN - second best - as a sign of this).
Hell, they are 6th in the NL in home runs and every team above them plays in a hitter park (save perhaps MIL - not sure how that park plays).
Their “expected” record is 48-34 by the way.
ETA: Better yet, just look at MD12’s stat - that says it all faster than I did.
Even if we all agree that the Cardinals have suddenly stopped hitting this year – which we don’t – the fact that it’s baseball would explain it more than adequately. Shit happens, and things naturally vary.
But to be clear, they aren’t suddenly a spotty hitting team. Everybody but the catcher and the middle infield are comfortably above-average. They’re 13th in baseball in OPS, and last year they were 15th.
They’re not exactly playing Whiteyball any more, but have they really been a “notorious power-hitting team” throughout the La Russa years, compared to other teams?
If they truly are “all of a sudden spotty hitters this year,” this could have something to do with their new hitting coach—but I’m not inclined to think so. Last season’s offense didn’t live up to expectations either, at least part of the time.
All of a sudden? Tony, and his right-hand man Dave Duncan, have placed a high priority on pitching for as long as I’ve been paying attention.
Almost certainly not - the pitching is pretty much second-best in the NL (to the Padres). The last two spots in the rotation are currently dodgy, but the front three (Carpenter, Wainwright, Garcia) have been extremely solid (Carp’s recent fraying notwithstanding).
Team ERA is 3.28 if you want some stats backing up that claim… (Padres are tops at 3.07, third-best Giants are at 3.51).
Gotta look at it the other way around - why are the Reds doing so well? Because they’re pounding the ever-living shit out of the ball. They’ve scored 27 more runs than any other team in the NL.
You can dismiss the Pythagorean Record if you want (it’s an expected record based on the runs you’ve scored versus the runs you’ve allowed) because it’s not the actual record. But it is a pretty reliable predictor of success and wins. It indicates that the Cards are playing slightly below their expected record (3 games back), while the Reds are one game better than where they “should” be at.
(Totally off-topic: Wow - I never realized that no team in the NL plays on turf any more! Tampa and Toronto are the only ones left.)