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Know Your Enemy 2005 - Week 17
by Derek Smart
Some movement in the standings? Yes. Movement in the rosters? Very little, which makes any further shifting in the stacks beyond changes in the content of the foundation unlikely, to say the least.
St. Louis Cardinals
At precisely the moment they needed it most, what with so many important players missing because of injury, and others needing rest due to the same, the Redbirds met the struggling Padres and Dodgers, albeit on the road. Things get tougher next week as the NL East comes calling, but not even the streaking Astros and a schedule full of their former selves will keep this team from its October appointments.
After May 27 they were 16-31, but since then they've gone 41-17 on their way to taking over the Wild Card lead, and while their offense has been more effective periodically, the real boost has come from their pitching staff progressing from excellent to ridiculously good.
Thanks to the extremely useful Day-By-Day Database maintained by Dave Pinto over at Baseball Musings, I can tell you that, of the fourteen pitchers the Astros have used since embarking on their current run, half of them have ERAs under 2, and that those seven men threw 338.2, or 63.9%, of the 530.1 innings tossed by the staff as a whole.
I'll put it another way: during this same period, when one looks at all Major League pitchers who have thrown at least ten innings during the span, you will find a total of thirty-six pitchers across the whole of MLB who have an ERA under 2. Those thirty-six men have thrown 1126.1 innings since May 28th.
That means that not only do the Astros' have 19.4% of all such pitchers in the Majors, but that those Astro hurlers have thrown 30.1% of those sub-2 ERA innings. That's some truly remarkable work, and while one can be excused for wondering how sustainable that kind of dominance might be, one cannot be excused for failing to acknowledge just how impressive it is.
As they ease their way through the rest of the year, playing solid baseball while giving their young studs the time and experience they need to develop, the Brewers are leaving me with little to note about them, except that we're not far from the day when this type of season - a good building campaign with an excellent chance of reaching .500 - will be a distinct disappointment.
Not only have they extricated themselves from the division's nether region, they came through the trade deadline essentially intact, and if you think highly enough of Edwin Encarnacion, improved.
It would have been nice if they could have flipped some of their extra pieces (specifically The Mayor and his Rich friend) for some young pitching to go with all that thump, but since no one on the roster beyond, perhaps, Eric Milton (untradeable, one would think, due to his pricetag and a profound lack of talent), has a financial future so onerous as to demand immediate relief, refusing to deal for the deal's sake was a wise move, even if certain Matterhorn-sized holes still exist.
Since making me plotz back in June, the Pirates' descent from the .500 mark has been speedy and merciless, with the Bucs sporting a 14-31 record after their flirtation with competence. Absolutely everything has gone wrong of late, and with Dave Littlefield's inability to get anything of great worth out of their non-building block flippables, it's difficult to see an end in sight.