Take a look at the win probability graph for last night’s loss from Fangraphs:
It’s almost as if this graph, for last night’s game, might as well illustrate the way the Redbirds’ season has gone in 2010.
Started out strong, had a couple of early hiccups where the offense sputtered a bit, but ultimately ran out to a fairly early lead and eventually got to a point where folks were declaring the NL Central race over already. Put it in the bag, things are wrapped up, punch the playoff ticket.
At one point last night, the Rockies’ win percentage was about 0.3%. I bet you could’ve found someone in early May that put the Cardinals’ probability of NOT winning the NL Central at about 0.3%.
Then, like Ryan Franklin last night, June and July have been the -.990 win probability added for the home team. Like the graph above, folks are leaving this Cardinal team for dead after last night.
Me? I’m on the fence. Something is wrong with this team. Some have suggested clubhouse chemistry issues, some have suggested the manager is past his prime, some have suggested the player’s just don’t care enough. I think it’s probably a combination of all of these things, exacerbated by the fact that slumps are just hard to break. A run of bad luck always seems to self-perpetuate.
There aren’t excuses for the way the Cardinals played or coached in the ninth inning last night, but it’s not uncommon for teams to take these kind of losses. What IS uncommon, is for teams to take this kind of loss as if they are helpless to stop it, or just don’t care. When Yadier Molina threw his hands in the air last night after Randy Winn‘s error in right field, was that exasperation at what was happening, or a more personal, direct frustration with Winn? These are the problems that Tony La Russa and John Mozeliak and their entire staff must address in the coming days – yes, days – before the All-Star Break. If this team is allowed to languish to a few more defeats before the break, the second half could get very ugly.
On the other hand, if someone in the clubhouse chooses to step up (ahem, Albert Pujols) and make an example of leadership (or of specific players, if need be – desperate times, desperate measures and all that) for this ballclub, I still believe we could still see inspired play down the stretch. It’s going to take a lot of strong personality, probably some yelling and screaming, perhaps some very direct finger-pointing and maybe some threats. But I do still believe this team can win.
The “answer” that all of us fans believe is out there won’t be a quick flip of a switch or an easy roster move or two. What changed things for this team? Injuries? The team’s medical staff must evaluate honestly, cautiously, and provide feedback to the General Manager accordingly. Was it the addition of TLR’s Vet Mob at the expense of younger players that set this clubhouse on tilt? Some interesting decisions loom, at least in this humble fan’s opinion, on whether to keep players that are clearly outclassed and over-matched on a big league roster. And I’m not talking about young guys who still belong in triple-A.
One thing is for certain – us Cardinal fans will learn a lot in the next five days. Let’s all hope the players learn about what it takes to sack up and win some ball games.