I've been asked a lot lately how long I think it is going to take until fans start to blame Mark McGwire for the Cardinals hitting woes.
And the only answer I can give -- besides that I don't think it's Big Mac's fault -- is that if people are asking that question, the thought is already starting to creep into people's heads...
I don't think McGwire is to blame because it's not as if everyone on the club has adjusted their swing in the same way and then started to suffer the same problems. Brendan Ryan is lunging at the ball, which is suspect has more to do with his surgically repaired wrist changing the way he swings than McGwire changing the way he swings. Skip Schumaker worked out with McGwire before the 2009 season and had a great year. So why would McGwire be to blame for him slumping now?
Ironically, one of the best Cardinals hitters this season is David Freese, probably the hitter that McGwire has worked with the most.
Maybe it's not just a Cardinals problem. You may have noticed that some St. Louis pitchers have ridiculously low earned run averages at this point. Brad Penny has a microscopic 1.70 earned run average... And that's not even good enough for the lead on the team. Jaime Garcia holds that distinction with a 1.42 mark -- which is almost exactly where Bob Gibson's ERA stood at this point in 1968. And THAT'S not even good enough for the best mark in the National League. Garcia actually third in the senior circuit in NL earned run average and fourth overall in Major League baseball.
A total of 10 starting pitchers in the American League and 10 more in the National League have ERAs under 2.50. Maybe the pendulum has just swung back from being an offensive period to something that's a little bit more pitcher friendly.
While some players are putting up pretty good hitting statistics, it seems like there is an unusual number of hitters having subpar seasons. Almost every team has one or more underachievers:
Veteran hitter Raul Ibanez of the Phillies is hitting .243, about 40 points below his career average. The Braves are suffering through a .196 start from left fielder Melky Cabrera and a .172 start from centerfielder Nate McLouth. Aramis Ramirez is hitting .168 for the Cubs and Derek Lee is hitting .220. The White Sox have three starters -- A.J. Pierzynski, Gordon Beckham and Carlos Quentin hitting .196 or worse and two more hitting in the .220 range. The Mariners have five starters hitting .220 or less.
Maybe we're just going to have to adjust to a new kind of baseball. And, if that is the case, the Cardinals need to worry less about what McGwire is doing and maybe call Whitey Herzog to help them remember how to play small ball and score runs in other ways.
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