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Solving the Left-Handed Crisis... I Hope

by : Brian F. Logush

This evening, the Cardinals (82-57) face off against the Milwaukee Brewers, hoping to shrink their magic number from 14 to 13. They face a lowly Brewer team, five games under .500, and one of eight teams in all of baseball that have a losing record at home (34-35). So, there is no reason the Cardinals should lose tonight's game, right? Especially coming off that Carpenter gem that solidified his chance at a second Cy Young?

On any normal night, I would say yes, and come ten o'clock this evening, the magic number should be 13. I say should because the Cardinals are facing a season-long nemeses on the bump. No, it isn't Manny Parra specifically, even though he is 2-1 against the Redbirds this season, with a no-decision. It's the threat that Parra represents: a left-handed pitcher. Shudder.

Parra is by no means having a great season. He is 10-10 with an ERA just below 6.50. But tonight, he could do what so many southpaws had done to the Cardinals this year. I wouldn't be surprised.

Do you know which Cardinal has had the most success this year against lefties? Pujols? Holliday? Rasmu.. yeah right. Nope. It's actually pitcher Kyle Lohse. Yes, in nine at-bats this year, the oft-injured righty is hitting .444, amounting to four hits, one RBI, and a massive OPS of .944. But again, it's only nine at-bats, so it doesn't really matter. He's not even pitching tonight. (For the record, John Smoltz is batting .000 this year against lefties in four at-bats. Again, not that it matters.)

If you take the Cardinals roster and pick players who have had at least fifty at-bats against lefties this season, the best is Pujols, hitting .326. In second, and lagging a bit behind is Ryan Ludwick, just under .290. Skip Schumaker, who is having an unbelievable season at the plate and in the field, is hitting .212 against left-handed pitching. Colby Rasmus is even worse, at a solid .140, not to mention his strikeout rate of 27 percent. So the question is, why does this offense, with all of its potency, fold to left-handed pitching like Notre Dame in any BCS Bowl? It may not be the answer, but I have a pretty good idea.

As documented in Buzz Bissinger's Three Nights in August, video is a huge tool. Players go in after an at-bat and watch what they just participated in, learning from it so the next time that slider comes, it can wind up in the visiting dugout. Chad Blair can cue video to a point and show it as often as he wants, but that is only video. Nothing, and I mean nothing, beats reality. Why do NFL franchises have scout teams? To prepare for their opponent. You need people to learn your opposition's moves and styles. That's what helps teams win. Except in New England's case. But I digress.

If it were that simple, the Cardinals would have a better average against lefties than their current .233. But, with apologies to Chad and everyone who thinks video is the best way to go, it isn't that simple. We're talking about what Allen Iverson made famous in one press conference: practice.

Who throws batting practice before games? Darin Hendrickson, coach of SLU's baseball team and batting practice pitcher since 1997. Darin also happens to be right-handed. So the players see nothing but pitches from a righty before games. Not a lefty. Anybody following along sense where I'm headed?

The best way to improve is to work over and over again. Repetition is the goal to success. But it appears the organization does not have a single left-handed thrower that can go out there and prepare them before games. Try and tell Tony that Reyes or Miller is going to throw some BP before a game with Ted Lilly or Randy Wolf facing you. He would have you thrown from the locker room, never to return. And I agree with that, to a certain extent. You can't have your two lefties throw extensive BP before a game. What happens if you need both in the game, but Trevor's arm is still sore from throwing?

It may be too late for this season, but if the Cardinals want a leg-up on next year, they need to find somebody, anybody, who can throw left-handed to the batters. Get a college player from the area. He's out of school anyway. Consider it early training. Besides, you won't need him that often anyway. But let him throw some from the left side to Albert and Holliday and every single Cardinal. It can't hurt.

Plus, he can tell his grandchildren about the time he struck out All-Star Colby Rasmus on three straight pitches. Hey, little kids don't need to know the specifics.


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Cardinals Mix blog featured writers LS Murphy,Brian F. Logush
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