Friday, July 3, 2009

Game Notes: Cardinals 5, Giants 2: The Colonel Strikes Back

Posted By on Fri, Jul 3, 2009 at 1:36 AM

-- I still don't believe in Todd Wellemeyer. He's done this to us too many times already this year. Suck, suck, suck, then a good one, followed by some revelation about a flaw found in Wellemeyer's delivery, or a change in his mechanics, or the fact he slept with his feet facing south the night before. 

Sorry, I'm just not buying it. Wellemeyer started off the year going over his head in the windup, and sucked. He went back to the delivery he used last year, had a couple good starts, then sucked again. Then he went back to over his head, had a good start, and we heard about how that delivery allows him to stay back. Then, suck again.

Now Wellemeyer and whoever it is that advises him on his mechanics have found some sort of balance issue, and he had a good start. Well, guess what? I've heard this song before, and it does not end well. 

-- On the other hand, I will give the Colonel some credit; that was a very nice performance he turned in. The runs and hits and all are good, but what I really like seeing is that 6/1 K/BB ratio. We haven't seen that combo of stuff and location from Wellemeyer very often this year; if we had, there wouldn't be a question of him being the odd man out when Kyle Lohse makes his way back. 

-- Best part of the game? Ryan Ludwick getting a couple of hits, easy. Ludwick may be the most important player on the entire team right now; what he does from July through September is going to go a long way toward determining when the Cardinals' season ends. 

It's been a brutal season for Ludwick in 2009; just a year after he was a darkhorse MVP candidate, he's seen his OPS fall all the way to .740, 225 points lower than what he posted in 2008. Looking at his peripherals, though, I think there's good reason to be optimistic about Luddy going forward. The hamstring injury obviously hurt him, and his timing hasn't been great for a pretty good chunk of the season, but even so, he's played much better than what his stat line indicates. 

Despite hitting line drives at an 18% clip (an average LD% is right around 19%), Ludwick's batting average on balls in play is an abysmal .242. A player hitting an average number of line drives should expect to have a BABIP in the .290 range. Just by sheer power of regression, Ludwick should get a very nice boost to his numbers in the second half. 

Ludwick's strikeout and walk numbers are both down this year, but neither one by a particularly large amount. All the composite numbers point to a player who should have much better overall stats than what Ryan does this year. I expect him to hit around .270-.280 the rest of the year, even if he doesn't do anything differently. 

-- I'm still not entirely sure what we're seeing from Ryan Franklin this year is real, but I've also stopped expecting him to self-destruct in a blood tornado one of these nights when he takes the mound. Franklin has done two things differently this year with his repertoire, and I think both have been excellent changes. One, he's stopped trying to throw twelve or thirteen different pitches, and pared it down to what works. Two, and probably the biggest difference, has been the addition of a cutter. He's scrapped the slider almost entirely in favor of the cut fastball, and it has been his most effective offering this season. Fastballs and cutters account for almost 70% of Franklin's pitches this year, with the curveball thrown about 20% of the time. The rest are the oddball slider, an occasional splitter, things like that. Still, the vast majority of the time Franklin is throwing one of his two fastballs or dropping the curve in there. It's an approach that has paid dividends, as all three of his primary pitches are above average on the season. (For the record, his splitter has also been worth 1.2 runs above average on the season, despite being used so sparingly. It's a good pitch, especially when a hitter doesn't get to see it more than once.) 

-- I really can't decide who's worse at the moment, Chris Duncan or Dick Ankiel. I want to say Ankiel, just based on how awful he looks at the plate most of the time (especially if the game is close or it's any time past the sixth inning), but I may actually have to go with Duncan. At least Ankiel is capable of playing solid defense in the corners. Duncan brings a .715 OPS to go along with defense in left field that would make Lonnie Smith look like a Gold Glover. 

To be honest, I really wish we didn't have to watch either of them night after night on this roster, but there just aren't many other good options. Somewhere, Joe Mather is holding his wrist and sobbing quietly. 

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