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Friday, August 05, 2005

 

Another Mulder Win, yawn...

Seven innings, seven hits against, 3K, 2BB and 1ER, it's a game line more like one would have associated with Jeff Suppan in 2004, but it has quickly become the signature line for Mark Mulder. The feelings of Cardinal fandom, particularly here in blogland, have been all over the map this year, marked with some venom in June, they morphed into a state of perplexity through July. Making his first start of August tonight against the Braves, acceptance and perhaps even an approach to appreciation is the norm when the former Oakland ace takes the mound for the Birds on bat. If you've come to the Diaspora for answers, as you may have realized by now, I don't have them. However, I do have some thoughts to share. First and foremost, I have confidence when he takes the mound. Not anything like a Carpenter start, but if you remove June (or just look back at the last month) the Birds have a pretty good shot at winning when Mulder starts. There are a lot of other factors in there, defense, offensive support, etc., but the numbers give Mulder some credit too. His VORP is 25.1, second best on the Cardinals, and 36th overall in the league. Comparatively, Carpenter's VORP is 58.7 (2nd in MLB) and Morris' is at 20.3 (60th). He's got a 3.91 ERA (prior to this evening) and his RA is 4.11. The stumper is the effectiveness in the wake of a 2.97 K/9 ratio in July. For his part he's winning games relying almost exclusively on his ability to get ground balls. His velocity is gone, but his mechanics are settling. During the Braves game tonight I noticed a lot of late movement on his pitches, a break or a sink or little extra pop at the right moment. This in spite of fastballs being clocked in the upper 80s, nothing particularly impressive in terms of sheer speed. Earlier in his career, circa 2003, he could reach the 90s. He was never a fireballer or even a high strikeout guy, but he was putting up K/9 ratios over 6. He was even getting a few games here and there where he'd get 10 or 12 Ks. What do we discern from this? Well, he's locating pitches well, and with the help of Duncan's notes and the video room this is helping face lineups. He's getting the ground outs. He's also allowing a fair number of hits, but they're the kind that tend to find the right spots taking the low road out of the infield. Last year, after the All-Star break, Mulder was leaving pitches up in the zone, and his sinker disappeared along with the velocity. This year, mostly, location and control seem to be there, otherwise there's little the defense behind him could do to help his numbers. If the sinker could tell us where the velocity is hiding out, we're in business. Seriously, there was a lot of speculation last year that he was tired, hurt late in 2003, working out too hard in the off-season and then throwing 226+ innings in 2004. Is this still the case? I've also heard more than one person note the climate adjustment. Maybe, doesn't strike me as the best rationale, but I am a Missourian, hence bias. I will say that adjusting to the heat and humidity in DC has been an ordeal, especially after the 2004 summer in MO and two years before that in Western Colorado. It really drains the energy, and we never feel much like getting out and moving around in the heat after a day at work. Of course, I'm not a professional athlete. There is one other explanation, and I'm loathe to even mention it. However, given what has happened around the league in the last few years, it's not out of line or beyond the realm of imagination. Could he be adjusting to life after some kind of, you know, stuff you inject or rub on that helps one perform a little better... I hate to suggest it, like I say, but if you're not a little cynical now after all that's happened then the next Pollyanna book is waiting for you. I once thought that the juicers all had to have the huge necks and giant build, but we know that's not always the case. Ryan Franklin certainly didn't have a size 20 neck. What's next? Well, that's the $6 million question. If he can work on his mechanics and strength maybe some of that velocity can come back. That's still my bet. The guy is 28 years old as of today, and it's not out of the ordinary for a player to have a slump year or year and a half. I don't know, but given that he's signed to play here for awhile I have to hope that's the case. Even so, it's hard to be disappointed with results he's getting.
Comments:
Yep--I'm starting to come around on Mulder. Mainly cause he (his stance, body language, reactions) is looking comfortable and in command on the hill again. Yes, his K/9 ratio is still too low for my taste, but hey, if it works it works. For awhile he looked kinda lost and desperate even when he won. I think he's working out the confidence problems, and that's more than half the battle. Didn't think I'd be saying this back in june, but when he gives up some hits, I'm now confident he can right himself and get those DP's to end troublesome innings. Here's to the guy!
 
i agree. what ever he's doing, keep doing it. still would like to see that fastball come around for 06.
 
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