Surprising in Missouri

It’s funny; we analysts wait throughout the off season for regular season games to begin so that we can have meaningful stats to write about and then once the season does begin, we have to hold off further still until decent sample sizes can be established. Still, though everything comes with menacing caveats of sample size warnings, I will forage on. For now, a look at two teams that surprised me from the first week of play:

St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals seemed a bit underrated coming into the season. Many people concluded that the Cubs were the class of the National League, much less the NL Central. While that may still portend to be true, there is always the case of the Wild Card and a weak class of divisional foes. The Brewers are suffering from a lack of pitching depth (as are many many teams it seems) and their offense just doesn’t seem as up to the task as the Cardinals’ is.

That offense for St. Louis has certainly shown up early in the season. Albert Pujols is no surprise, but fast starts from Chris Duncan and Ryan Ludwick are good news for Cardinal fans who might have been worried about regression from the duo. Newly acquired Joe Thurston has been a welcome surprise to date, helping to quelsh some fears about the infield production outside of Big Al. All told, they’re team .371 wOBA is fourth best entering play today.

More than the hitting though, it’s been the pitching, especially in the rotation, that has fueled the Gateway city. A 3.23 staff FIP is good for third in all of baseball to date. The unit seemed shaky at the start of the year and though one week should not alleviate those fears, Chris Carpenter looking healthy and dominant is a big weight off the backs of the other members of the rotation. You weren’t going to build a playoff rotation with the likes of Kyle Lohse, Todd Wellemeyer and Joel Pineiro, but having Carpenter front and center gives everyone else a little more margin for error.

Kansas City Royals

Staying in the same state (sort of), but moving leagues, how about those Royals? On one hand, they’re the most impotent offense in the leauge by a wide margin, with just a .269 wOBA with both Arizona and Oakland next worst at .290. It’s just a woeful collection that was never expected to score many runs. Granted, it seems unlikely that they will stay this bad (378 run pace) but it might accelerate the Royals on the subjects of Eric Hosmer and Mike Moutaskas down in the low minors and might even get them to admit that Kila Ka’aihue might be a better idea than Mike Jacobs.

On the other hand, they boast the league’s best pitching staff with a 2.78 FIP, almost a full half run better than the second place Padres who are at 3.23. The bullpen has been boosted with the addition of Juan Cruz to the already dominant Joakim Soria and he’ll hopefully replace the production of Ramon Ramirez. The rotation has seen some solid first performances from Sidney Ponson and Kyle Davies which you will have to excuse my skepticism of sustainability, but Luke Hochevar is hanging around in Triple-A. Given the dearth of offense and the questionable back end of the rotation, it seems unlikely that the Royals will contend for the playoffs, but the AL Central is looking weak this year and the Royals could find themselves pushing .500 and a spot in the middle of the pack.




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Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.


18 Responses to “Surprising in Missouri”

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  1. Russell says:

    I’m pretty sure “portend to be true” isn’t acceptable English, but besides the annoyed–and annoying–grammar Nazi-ing, I’d like to add the Rox pitching and Fowler’s hitting to “SSS heroes of the weak”.

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  2. Hero 3 says:

    Sounds like KC plays a lot of low-scoring games.

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  3. vivaelpujols says:

    You should also mention that the “Skip Schumaker Experiment” looks like it is working out. He has made quite a few nice plays at second, and is hitting pretty well too.

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    • JI says:

      I haven’t been able to see many games, but he did single handedly cost Carptener a no hitter.

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      • Scott says:

        You realize you need nine innings for a no-hitter, right?

        Just checking.

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      • cpebbles says:

        Carp was being pretty economical. Even with the injury history, I don’t see Tony lifting him if the no-hitter was intact, despite what he said afterwards.

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      • JI says:

        You realize that once a pitcher gives up a hit the no hitter is over? Correct? How about if your pitcher is working on a pitch count and has to face several extra batters because of bad defense? Am I making sense here? I admit I am new to this Based Ball. It seems that not only was Scott’s comment needlessly dickish, but it was of poor intellectual quality as well.

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      • vivaelpujols says:

        I didn’t see Carp’s start, but I’ve seen him make some good plays. As much as it sucks that he cost him the no hitter, that one play doesn’t really mean anything.

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      • Scott says:

        Needlessly dickish and of poor intellectual quality? Like unequivocally placing the blame for “Carptener” failing to pitch a no-hitter solely on the shoulders of Skip Schumaker when it was far from a given that Carptener, had he remained in the game, would have been able to record the two additional hitless innings required for a no-hitter? Is that the kind of unintellectual dickishness you’re talking about?

        If you’re incapable of taking light sarcasm, maybe the internet isn’t the place for you.

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  4. KingKirkpatrick says:

    Royals pitching is legit. Offense will be below average, but should be better than last year. I say 79 wins. Some on here were saying the Royals were the worst team in the bigs before the season started. Very silly…I guess it just takes a little longer for some to realize that things are moving the right direction in KC. Some questionable moves, no doubt, but as far as the big picture goes…KC keeps getting better.

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  5. Brett says:

    “Staying in the same state (sort of)”

    There’s no “sort of” about it. Despite what people on the coasts might think (if they think about the “flyover states” at all), the majority of Kansas City is in Missouri, not Kansas. Kauffman Stadium in in MO, Arrowhead Stadium is in MO, the airport is in MO… obviously there are lots of people in the KC metro area who live in Kansas, but pretty much anything you wanna talk about from Kansas City is in Missouri.

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    • Shaun says:

      Do you even live here? Yes, the major sports and airport are in MO, but otherwise things are distributed evenly between the states. What state is the racetrack (even though I can stand racing), as well as the independent baseball and MLS Wizards? What about the only KC Masterpiece BBQ restaurant? There are plenty of things to do on both sides of the state line, and its really annoying when people think that the KS part is useless.

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      • Missourian says:

        I’m not normally compelled to comment here. But Shaun, you’re wrong. There is no true argument for stating Kansas City, Kan., is anything close to Kansas City, Mo. And I’m no fan of KC, Mo. Kansas is home to a suburb of the main city in Missouri. The Kansas version has about 1/4 the population. Sure, it has a GM plant and a racetrack, like many suburbs do. But it’s not even a St. Paul or a Tacoma. As for “even distribution?” The only “even” I’d say is that even Overland Park offers more to sports fans than Kansas City, Kan.

        And I cannot believe the Royals’ pitching is legit so long as Sidney Ponson is wearing Royal blue.

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      • Shaun says:

        Sorry, you are correct when referring to the cities of KC, MO and KC, KS. I was referring to the Metro Area as a whole, which some people here (not you) think is blasphemous. This includes Overland Park, Lee’s Summit, Independence, and all the other tiny towns that make up the area.

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  6. Sean Brown says:

    But why even say “sort of”? The Royals are located in MO and the Cardinals are located in MO. There is not “sort of” about it. You can argue about KS vs MO all day but in the end the two teams we are talking about both reside in MO.

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  7. tom s. says:

    the question for the cardinals is what here is sustainable? lohse is not going to throw three hit complete game shutouts all year. pineiro is going to regress.

    i think it’s realistic to say wainwright and carpenter, provided they remain healthy could be excellent pitchers all year. lohse will not likely stick to his current form, but could be more than adequate. while statistically, we would anticipate a fair amount of regression for lohse, there’s some possibility that the adjustments he has made are going to lead to a long-term improvement. given his four-year contract, that’s a crucial issue going forward.

    duncan (apparently recovered from an injury dating to june 2007) and ludwick are legit. thurston is not; his babip is a sky high .700.

    the cards will not look like this all year, but they could definitely surprise some people.

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  8. Chris H. says:

    “Portend to be true”?

    “quelsh”?

    Can we get an editor in here, stat?

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