About that Cardinals Dodgers preview . . .

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Absent Albert Pujols and Chris Carpenter carrying out a murder-suicide pact before tomorrow’s game, I won’t change my prediction that the Cardinals will beat the Dodgers in four games. I say this for two reasons: (1) my gut just likes St. Louis in this thing; and (2) backtracking on a prediction is weak sauce. If you’re going to predict something stick with it before, during and after, and take the credit and the lumps in equal measure.  It’s only baseball, after all, not medicine. No one is going to sue you if you’re wrong.

All of that said, this bears consideration:

The Cardinals grade out as the worst of the playoff teams with 83 wins against an average schedule.

Cardinals fans will, I’m sure, be up in arms at this characterization. By our measures, the Cardinals pitchers faced the second-easiest set of lineups and the batters faced the easiest set of pitching staffs, meaning they had the easiest schedule by a wide margin. (The Cy Young candidacies for Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright are another discussion.) In addition to playing in the N.L. Central where the next best team ranked 18th in the majors, the Cardinals faced the A.L.’s worst division, the Central, in interleague play.

It’s less about what is being said — that the Cardinals, if they had faced at least an average schedule, would have only won 83 games — than who is saying it: Sean Forman. The same Sean Forman who founded and lords over Baseball-Reference.com, which is only the greatest invention since The Gutenberg Press.  I don’t like being on the other side of certified geniuses on most issues, and Forman may very well have a point.

But screw it. I’m still sticking with the Cardinals prediction. If for no other reason than that I don’t want to fall in with any analysis that may cause baseball to go the way of football where almost every single playoff conversation is about the schedule. It’s a tired, tired exercise that is more about whining than it is about analysis.  And like the man said: there’s no crying in baseball.

  

Jonny Venters is still pitching

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Lefty reliever Jonny Venters was among a handful of players the Rays signed to minor league contracts, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Venters, 32, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2012 and has logged just 27 2/3 innings in the minors in the meantime due to a continuous battle with his elbow. According to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Venters has undergone four — four! — Tommy John surgeries.

When he was healthy, Venters was a fearsome late-game option for the Braves. He posted a 1.95 ERA with 93 strikeouts in 83 innings in 2010, and a 1.84 ERA with 96 strikeouts in 88 innings in 2011. His first-half performance in 2011 earned him a spot on the National League All-Star roster.

Venters has spent the last two years in the Rays’ system and he’ll try to make it a third.