[Ed. note - While the usual suspect around here is on vacation, we've drummed up some great guest posters to take the reins and keep our loyal readers (all three of you) entertained. Today's guest post is from Brad Taylor. You can usually find Brad writing on his own blog over at bradtaylor.tumblr.com. Thanks Brad!]
In all of life, I am an optimist. Well, in almost all of life. When it comes to my favorite sports teams, I pretty much expect the worst. In 2006, when the Cardinals were falling apart down the stretch, you should have seen some of my blog posts.
Here’s what I blogged on August 4 that year:
The Cardinals are terrible. They did a lousy job building a team to compete their first year in a new stadium. Their ownership, which has always been very aggressive and willing to reinvest profits in player salaries and team improvement, apparently has decided that the bottom line is all that matters anymore. The Reds will win the NL Central, and they will do so with considerable ease.
And here’s what I posted August 22:
Function: noun, proper
Etymology: German, from German issrinhaus, meaning sorry arm
1. An exercise in futility.
And this, from September 26:
What you are witnessing…is a meltdown of epic proportions.
To call me a sports pessimist would be a bit of an understatement. Anyone reading this likely knows that the Cardinals finished that October on top of the baseball world.
So, you’ll have to forgive me if I don’t get very excited about the content of this post.
Here we sit over a tenth of the way through the season. It’s not a great sample size, but it’s not nothin’, either. Years past have taught us that run differential matters. In 2002, the Yankees, with a +200 run differential, finished with the best record in baseball. 2003 had the Braves with the best record and the highest run differential, at +167. In 2004 the runaway Redbirds won both titles, with a 105-57 record and a +196 run differential, and they repeated with league bests in both categories the next season. You get the idea…
What can we learn from the run differentials so far in 2009? Let’s see…
1. The Cardinals look to be okay. I know my enthusiasm is lackluster, but I warned you about my pessimism in this field. As of this writing, the Cards were at +31 and had best record in the NL. More interesting, right in the RedBirds’ own division, though…
2. The Pittsburgh Pirates, thanks to their pitching, may finally be headed the right direction. The Pirates run differential is +28, third best in the NL. Their offense hasn’t been great, but they’ve allowed fewer runs than any team in baseball. If the Pirates pitching can keep this up, they may contend! (Can they do it?)
3. The Dodgers are what most people expected, but the Cubs sure aren’t. Most of the experts figured the Dodgers would be solid, and they’re doing their part. Their run differential is +35, best in the NL, and the scary thing is they haven’t gotten a lot of production out of Manny yet. I think Manny is probably the only serious threat to Pujols’ MVP candidacy this season (assuming both sluggers stay healthy), so you can expect LA’s run differential to explode. The Cubs, on the other hand, are not living up to expectations, at +1. Harden and Zambrano have been pretty sharp, and some individual players have good offensive numbers (Soriano, Fukudome, and Ramirez), but the offense overall has been inconsistent. The Cubs will be much better than this run differential lets on.
4. Perhaps anointing the Marlins was a tad premature. After Florida’s red-hot start, the Fish have come tumbling back to earth. During a six-game losing streak, the pitching has looked much more reasonable. Chances are Florida’s hot streak (about every team has a few in them) just happened to start the season. I imagine the Braves, Mets, and Phillies will be too much for them as the year wears on.
5. The Nationals, Astros and Diamondbacks are pretty lousy. No one is surprised at the Nationals, I’m sure, but seeing Houston and Arizona where they are (-16 and -20, respectively) is a surprise to me. Evident in that number is how badly the D’Backs are missing Brandon Webb and that nasty sinker, and how much more the Astros need out of Lance Berkman, currently hitting .174. Houston and Arizona will both be better than they’re showing now, but the Nationals are likely stuck in the NL basement.
Brad Taylor is (apparently) an eternal Cardinals pessimist, and is usually imparting his knowledge on the world at bradtaylor.tumblr.com.