Shifting into High Gear

Who would have thought it? The Cards were limping along even as late as Sept 7 with a low gear 69-68 record. Their team didn’t seem to be able to turn up the speed to escape the .500 malaise. But.. suddenly, it was shifted into high gear.
…..looking back as the Cards trudged along through 2021, the erratic performances of the bullpen stymied any real “speed” forward. Crushing losses like on July 20 losing 7-6 to the Cubbies as they scored 6 runs in the 9th; or the following Fri, July 23 as Cincy scored 3 runs in the last 2 innings to grab a come-from-behind win, 6-5 or Sat, Aug 8 as Kansas City…yes KC….scored a run in the 9th to beat us 6-5 or on Aug 29, the Pirates scored 3x in their last at-bat to come-from-behind (again) with a 4-3 win. The bullpen had us driving in low gear while the offense seemed to unable to stay in high gear.
….Suddenly, the Cards did shift into high gear. As I write this, they’ve won 11 straight and 13 of 14 games. The first 2 wins of this streak were badly needed. In a 4 game series, the Dodgers had won the 1st 2 games easily …5-1 & 7-2. Then, it was Cy Young candidate (Adam Wainwright)— yes…I’ve been converted… he’s a genuine candidate… won a huge game as the new closer, Giovanni Gallegos wrapped it up. This shoved the team into high gear.
….Moving into high gear wasn’t just the bullpen or Wainwright, the Cards went with their 8 best players every day in the last 2 weeks! This sounds unusual but it isn’t– I don’tcompletely understand it. These athletes (performers) are paid handsomely to perform….not 4 or 5x a week but as often as possible. They are in the prime years of their life, yet rarely did a week pass that one of the starting 8 wasn’t being rested. These starters don’t need to be rested on rare occasions…..and …we don’t need the seemingly ”obligatory” games for Carpenter, DeJong or Knizner. We’re in September…playing to reach the playoffs. If we don’t win…. everyone can start resting daily in just over 2 weeks. Recently, the Cards have gone with their same starting 8 daily each day. This has kept the Cards in high gear. At SS, Edmundo Sosa has snatched the starting role. He’s added more speed, offensive and some dazzling defense. During the last 30 days, Sosa is batting .319 with 6 extra base hits and an OPS of .946.
….Another asset seen flourishing, almost daily, that kept us in high gear was both the terrific defense and the consistent batting of the OF’ers! This outfield is probably the best defensive OF in the MLB. They all have range, good speed getting to the ball, decent arms. Leading the way is Tyler O’Neill. At the plate, it’s been much more startling. In just the last 30 days, O’Neill had 27 hits, 7 HR, 18 RBI’s, avg .318 with an OPS 1.04. Even though he isn’t an Outfielder, don’t overlook 1b Paul Goldschmidt! Goldy has the best stats of the last 30 days with 8 HR, 17 x-base hits, 17 RBI, avg-.333 and an OPS 1.14 with several key, late inning hits!!! His quiet, unassuming field demeanor doesn’t always draw much attention.
…Another lesson that has kept us in high gear is using a new corp of pitchers. When the Cards went out and signed veterans, Jon Lister & JA Happ, and added unproven bullpen performers TJ McFarland , Kodi Whitley & Luis Garcia, frankly I thought that the Cards management was waving the “Yellow” flag (slow down—we’re done). But…this Castaway Corp propelled us into high gear by throwing strikes, not walking batters and keeping the ball low. For the first several months of the season, the Cards were parading out to the mound, all these younger, “hard firing”, “lots of stuff” pitchers who a) either couldn’t throw strikes or b) throw it in good location over the plate. That’s what you learn in the minor leagues….not the major leagues.
….Switching sports but not gears…..playing in High Gear throughout the game, the Oregon Ducks upended Ohio State @ Columbus, Ohio 35-28 in a non-conference game(Buckeyes were a 2-TD favorite!). It may have been the biggest win ever during the tenure of Duck Head Coach Mario Cristobal. Oregon did it WITHOUT possibly their 2 best defensive players—a potential No. 1 overall draft pick, Kayvon Thibodeaux & Justin Flowe, who had 14 tackles in the opener. Meanwhile, CJ Verdell showed his High Gear repeatedly as a running back with several scintillating plays!
…in remarkably High Gear but missed by many fans has been the play of Bryce Harper. The Phillies have stayed close enough to the Wild Card (4.5 games out) to have a chance but not close enough for fans to really zero in on their play. Harper has really been in “Over-drive” during this stretch. His traditional stats of 33 home runs, 1.053 OPS are remarkably impressive, but they don’t capture what he is doing lately. Harper leads the MLB in wRC @ 217. What is the wRC? It takes the Runs Created stat from Bill James and adjusts the number to account for external factors, such as ballpark effects. The league average wRC+ sits at 100, so a player who notches a wRC+ of 200 would be 100% above league average!! WOW!!
… traveling in very low gear is the Kansas Jayhawks football program(seems like they’re stuck in that gear 😊. With the hiring of Les Miles in 2019, hopes jumped up after his championship @ LSU ! He was 3-9 in his 1st season there and when a 0-9 mark followed, he was in trouble. The final blow was the allegations of sexual harassment while @ LSU that led to his departure. New Coach Lance Leipold has a challenge of elevating the Jayhawks out to this football doldrums. KU has lost 54 straight Big 12 road games and has finished dead last in the Big 12 in 9 of its last 10 seasons. He’s trying to get out of 1st gear!!
…attempting to move out of low gear nationally and raise to a higher gear is the Big 12. The Big 12 has just announced plans to expand (after OU & Texas gave them the quick “getaway”). New teams will be from around the country—University of Cen Florida, Brigham Young University, Cincinnati University and the University of Houston will become members no later than 24-25 year. The Big 12…which once was the Big 8..last expanded in 2011 when TCU & W. Virginia joined the conference.
….trying to get into a higher gear and receive more of the sports fans interest(at least in this blog)… the College Soccer rankings look entirely different than other College rankings. The rankings of the best schools come from all sizes, different conferences, various levels and are from all over the USA. Ranked #1 in NCAA soccer polls this week was Marshall University (Conf-USA) 12-2-2, #2 is Georgetown (Big East) 10-2-2, at #3 is Pittsburgh 16-4 (ACC), #4 is New Hampshire of the American East Conf 8-1-1, Lafayette is #5 @ 7-1 from Patriot Conference. 6-10 rankings look like this—Clemson, American, Indiana, Monmouth and Washington!
….well…I’m putting it into “Park” gear! Check out the thoughts (responses) on Bob Ryan Facebook page and if you’re so inclined…drop in a thought yourself! If you’ve missed a recent blog or just want to go back and see some of the “ideas” that I’ve had in the past 6 years go to http://www.bobryansportsblog.com. Or…of course…send me YOUR thoughts & I’ll publish them on my Facebook! Thanks! Bob

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