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Friday, October 01, 2004

Pickoff Moves Contortionist Edition

... because, hey, we're way beyond just the stretch...

Deconstructing Plaschke

I don't think there's a record for stupid newspaper commentary from a third-rate hack, but there might be for getting paid for it. Plascke today jumps on Tracy's back for overusing Gagné, complaining that his seven two-or-more innings appearances "equals the number of two-inning appearances during that span by seven other probable playoff closers combined." Tracy and Gagné, of course, have the ultimate shaddup rejoinder to this:
"With Mota not here, did I do things slightly different? Yeah. You had to," Tracy acknowledged Thursday. "What are your choices? Lose the division? You think anybody in a blue shirt wanted to see that?"

... "I haven't been overused," Gagne said. "I've never pitched when I can't pitch. I talk to them all the time. We're on the same page. If I'm not ready, I don't pitch."

Always The Bridesmaid, Never The Bride

My wife, who had been at the recent Cubs-Reds series in Chicago for the last three, got to see them swept in that time, and the cuprit was the offense. Alex Ciepley analyzes Dusty's mistakes in yesterday's game. As Ciepley put it, "It isn’t that the Cubs would have won the game had Baker not made bad decision after bad decision in extra innings. It’s that Baker consistently went against the odds, making it all that much harder for his team to win." With the Cubs' elimination number now at three, only a miracle collapse by the other teams will keep them in this race.

The bigger story, to me, is the offseason. Too many key parts of this club's offense are aging or marginally effective in an Eric Karros way, i.e. they work well at acquiring counting stats like home runs but not at much else:

Add to that a bullpen that remains stubbornly resistant to improvements. Despite adding Mike Remlinger, Joe Borowski's loss of effectiveness at the closer role forced Dusty to substitute middle reliever Latroy Hawkins, with disastrous results. (Dodgerkid and other Moneyball jihadists notwithstanding, the results of Octavio Dotel and Arthur Rhodes in Oakland, and Hawkins' poor showing in Chicago, are evidence enough that the closer is a specialty worth paying a premium for.) The positives are almost exclusively in the rotation, but in short, the Cubs have too many things going wrong all at once -- and too many aging or injured guys -- to replace in the offseason. Call me a pessimist, but I'm not really impressed with their chances next year.

Oddsmaking On The Knife Fight

Clay has us as 60-40 underdogs.

Cards Minus Ace For First Round

The Cardinals will be minus ace Chris Carpenter in the first round of the playoffs, with nerve damage. Will Carroll believes his injury and Penny's may be related:
I'm going to connect some dots and get pretty speculative here, so hang with me. Both Brad Penny and Chris Carpenter are out for the playoffs due to nerve irritations in their pitching arms. This is an unusual injury, so unusual that Frank Jobe states that he's never seen something like this before. Seeing two unusual injuries coming so closely together makes me look for similarities. I can only find one: both Carpenter and Penny have had labrum problems. Carpenter's have been well-documented, but the health of Penny's arm was also questioned over the last two seasons. Is it possible that the swelling in the shoulder is putting the nerve under additional tension? Dr. Jobe seems to indicate that a lack of flexibility contributed to the problem. Given that pitchers with labrum tears are now beginning to return to baseball, this may be an injury we'll see more often.


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