HOPE…comes & goes!

We all need HOPE in our life….HOPE for ourselves, our family, our business, etc. Many HOPES come & go. Similarly in the Lou, after falling back in June, the Cards regained some HOPE by winning 8 of 9 games.
…..winning 8 of 9 is always good no matter which teams were the victims.  The Cards were blessed with 6 games v Royals & 3 v the Pirates in succession. So….while it was not a complete shock….that type of result was needed to bring back HOPE.
… better, consistent batting elevated the level of our play. Sure….we were facing KC & Pitt but they ARE MLB pitchers. During August, the Cards upgraded their 2021  batting. In the NL they are 3rd in batting average, 5th lowest # of strikeouts as batters,  6th in OPS, 8th in runs scored, even 9th in Home runs during August. That’s a huge step up from many stats for the season—9th in batting average, 10th in HR, 10th in OPS. The outlier is a shocker—for 2021 in the NL, the Cards are 1st in lowest number of strikeouts!!! These stats should give you even more hope.
…Clearly a very important reason for HOPE is the return of ace Jack Flaherty. Flaherty sparkled in his return from the IL against KC on Friday, the 13th. He went 6 inn, gave up 2 hits and elevated his record to 9-1.  Flaherty has pitched 68 innings in 2021 after a scant 40.1 innings in 2021.Flaherty’s fabulous strikeout career rate—554 Ks as he’s faced 1925 batters is a fabulous 29% strikeout rate!
…the Cards were in high HOPES that the 13 games remaining against the Brewers that they could bolster their playoff chances. However, in their first 2 games against Milwaukee the HOPE seemed to disappear. The Brewers 1st game starter dominated for 6 innings then the Brewers paraded in their three 1-inning specialists to close it down. Last night the Brewers rallied to beat the Cards in the 2nd game in a very painful loss. Milwaukee tied it in the 9th on a HR off Card closer-Reyes. Then the Cards leaky defense played one of its worst defensive innings of the season in the 10th as Milwaukee scored 3 runs and held on for a 6-4 over the Cards. Adding salt to the wound….the Cards lose late when their ace, Jack Flaherty, was the starter for that game…ugh!  
….Maybe our HOPES had skyrocketed too quickly. According to Fan Graphs (a truly terrific site), here are some sobering numbers about the Cards  when compared to the other NL Central teams—they have the toughest remaining schedule @ .516 ; they have 1.2% chance of winning the division; a 9% chance of making the playoffs, 7.8 % chance of winning the wild Card and a tiny 0.2% chance of winning the Series. Meanwhile, the team directly aheada of us, Cincinnati holds numbers with much more HOPE. Reds have a softer schedule @ .460; a 55.2% chance of making the playoffs and 49.1% of winning the Wild Card. Btw..the only team in the MLB predicted to have a 100% chance to win their division is the Chicago White Sox…Tony’s has brought back plenty of HOPE to Chi-town.
…its very clear that many Card fans have lost HOPE for 2021. The absence of a genuine efforts in mid-season to improve the club by management with high quality players, the fans are talking with their feet. Currently, the Cards are averaging an attendance slightly over 22, 800/game. Discounting last year’s mandate of prohibiting fans, that’s the lowest average since 1981 (19,000+ fans). 2021 Cardinal games have seen too many walks (2nd highest in MLB), a middle-of-the-road defense (15th in MLB with 67 errors),not enough baserunners (21st in MLB in OBP), not enough action-25th in runs scored in 2021. 
Further, with school starting very soon, if not already, attendance generally sinks a bit. While some of senior castaways have performed well, many fans felt disappointed that management’s “hands off” approach at the tail end of the trading deadline while other teams (like Milwaukee) actually improved their team with solid additions without robbing from the future.
….relying on HOPE alone… I felt that the Cards bullpen was overtaxed…or overused….through much of June/July. You just can’t keep using 5 pitchers every night and expect their arms to maintain its same strength & arm speed. The Cards could ease that issue my using relief pitchersfor 2 innings? Don’t tell me… because they can’t! Well….that would bolster the bullpens w/o any additions. Since the entire staff has issued far too many walks (2nd highest in the National League, they see too many batters. Hence…too many pitches. That’s what’s been refreshing with the southpaw “seniors” castaways…they throw strikes.
…Moving outside the Cards nest….. The Indian fan base still has the HOPE of seeing a Perfect  game or a No-Hitter. Last week, was a big tease…. Cleveland Indian’s pitcher, Triston McKenzie retired the first 23 Tigers and needed  just 4 more outs to record a perfect game.  Harold Castro ripped a single to RF with 2 outs in the 8th to break up the no-no. The last Indian no-hitter was May 15, 1981! Len Barker twirled the 2nd perfect game in Indian history & the 14th no-no as Cleveland beat Toronto 3-0.
…one team w/o HOPE right now is the Cubs. Sending off the 3-some of Rizzo, Baez, Bryant at the trading deadline after sending Schwarber to the Nats earlier has left them not only Star-less but really bad. Look at the players used recently—familiar names—Wilson Conteras-C-.226 avg; David Bote 2B–  199; Patrick Wisdom-.255; Ian Happ LF .186. Then the “not so familiar” names–Raefael Ortega CF  30 years old, .325, 176 plate app; Frank Schwindel 1B  29 years old,.382 in 58 plate App; Matt Duffy 30 years old 3B-.261; Michael Hermosillo RF  0/1; Robinson Chirinos, Catcher-37 years old-.286; Sergio Alcantara SS .192.  And….we think we have it BAD….have some HOPE!! I anticipate the Cubbies will be active in the off-season in the free-agent market
…YOUR thoughts are always welcomed. You can reach me in several ways….directly on my Facebook page, under this blog. Post it on my web site…www.bobryansportsblog.com. Or, send it to me directly & I’ll post it using your initials (unless you indicate that its OK to use your name. I HOPE to hear from you!

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