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The 10.5: The Cardinals are fine, Pujols chases 3,000

Welcome to a new, ideally semi-regular feature (maybe every two weeks or so?) that we are calling the 10.5, a special number in Cardinals lore. Here, we plan to recap the current state of affairs, sort through some stats, give a nod to other pieces of work that we enjoyed, and perhaps preview whatever might be on the horizon for the Cardinals. - AC

All is fine

I wrote a piece earlier this week noting that 55 percent of teams in the Wild Card era who were able to win ten of eleven games at any point during a season went on to make the postseason. (Since 2012, when the second wild card was added, that number has increased to 64 percent.) Well, the Cardinals fell behind quickly and lost today at Wrigley meaning they will need to patch together another five-game winning streak if they want to get their 10-1 stretch out of the way early. And with three games at home versus the dreadful Reds in the next coming days, it's not beyond the realm of possibility. Whatever the case, FanGraphs currently has their playoff odds at 63.2 percent, so the Cardinals are currently fine. 

FanGraphs Cardinals page

Speaking of FanGraphs, before the 2017 season they unveiled their team pages. I immediately bookmarked the Cardinals page and check it quite religiously during the season. I recommend doing the same. It's filled with information that was already at our disposal, but now distilled down to a single page.

Positional and batting order production

On Tuesday, the following tweet from Ken Rosenthal caught my eye. 

That would be José Martínez doing the heavy lifting for the Cardinals with the best OPS in the league at first base although that might have since changed as Martínez is 1-for-9 since Rosenthal sent that tweet. But taking Rosenthal's idea, here's the type of production the Cardinals are getting from positional and lineup spots thus far in this early season, as measured by wRC+ (all stats are from before Thursday's loss to the Cubs).

By Position

Pitcher: -5

Catcher: 126

First Base: 184

Second Base: 124

Third Base: 59

Shortstop: 118

Left Field: 104

Center Field: 145

Right Field: 75

Pinch Hitters: 94

By Batting Order

1. 98

2. 118

3. 108

4. 87

5. 137

6. 126

7. 134

8. 131

9. 28

Without seeing any of the players' names, the big takeaway - and this is no mystery - is that the Cardinals are not getting enough production at the plate from Dexter Fowler. Same thing happened last season, and I spent several columns writing, "Yeah, but if you remove Fowler's first 75 plate appearances, his slash line all of a sudden looks like this..." Ideally, I'll be able to do the same thing this season.

Lineups can be a funny thing. In a perfect world, hitters five through eight would not each have a higher wRC+ than hitters one through four, but other than José Martínez, there really isn't a case for batting one of those players higher. And if you're wondering why the number two spot only has a wRC+ of 118 even though Tommy Pham has more or less picked up right where he left off, it's because Paul DeJong has a -15 wRC+ in eleven plate appearances from the two hole this season.

This will be worth tracking as the season goes on, and perhaps next time I'll compare each spot with the overall average in the National League.

Recent words written about baseball that are worth reading

  • The art and science of designing a new pitch, from beginning to end, with Adam Ottavino by Eno Sarris of The Athletic. The first tweet I saw this morning was from my old colleague Ben Godar, a fantastic writer himself, stating that this column from Sarris was possibly the best article about pitching that he had ever read. That was enough for me. It's a long, pretty deep read but you won't regret it. (Also, I subscribe to The Athletic so the link opens directly for me but I'm guessing it's behind the paywall.)

  • Inside Albert Pujols' path to 3,000 hits by Jerry Crasnick of Another long one and I should confess that I haven't actually read it yet (although it's been open in my browser for several hours now). This is a blind recommendation, but one I feel fine making because the subject matter concerns the best Cardinal of most of our lifetimes. And a quick scroll shows some words on his past relationship with Stan Musial, as well as an embedded video of his first hit as a Cardinal. So yes, I haven't read it yet but it can't not be worthwhile, right? And good luck, Albert. I'm hoping I'll be lucky enough to be in front of a television when he gets hit number 3,000 just like I was last season when he hit home run number 600 (a grand slam, no less).

  • Jordan Hicks is melting MLB's radar guns - wait, who? by Michael Baumann of the Ringer. We don't really need an introduction to Hick so this one was more intended for a general baseball crowd. But it's a good reminder of just how surprising it is that Hicks went from having fewer than 200 professional innings under his belt to being one of the bigger stories during the first month of baseball.

  • The Cubs just can't find a leadoff hitter by Craig Edwards of FanGraphs. I don't know if by matter of disclosure I should mention that Craig used to be my boss at Viva El Birdos, but that's not why I'm including this column. Rather, this is to point out that, per above, if you're frustrated with Dexter Fowler's production so far, at least he isn't wreaking havoc for the Cubs from the leadoff spot like he did in 2015 and 2016. The Cubs haven't had any luck finding a suitable replacement for Fowler at the top of the lineup, as Craig showed in this helpful graph.

That is going to wrap up the first 10.5 It's not lost on me that the four article I recommended come from pretty prominent websites with large readerships. Although these are all excellent and worth your time (again, I'll get to Crasnick's in a second), we would like to promote good writing from smaller sites as well. So if something catches your eye that you think deserves a lot of clicks, please don't hesitate to send it my way (alcrisafulli @ gmail).

Lastly, whether or not you're familiar with the kerfuffle that occurred on Baseball Twitter this week concerning the fair use of MLB content, such as GIFs, I'm going to leave you with a wonderful creation from our editor-in-chief, @CardinalsGifs.

Have a great weekend, everyone. And go Cardinals.


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