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Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

Was it Holliday, the schedule or the pitching?

Much has been written about the perceived impact the addition of outfielder Matt Holliday has provided the St. Louis Cardinals.

After all, during the week prior to his arrival, the club had been swept in Houston and their cushion in the National League Central had eroded to 1.5 games.

Holliday’s numbers while wearing the uniform have been nothing short of spectacular. Coming into Sunday’s action, he leads the Cardinals in RBI (43), hits (63), batting average (.373) and slugging (.686) since his first game with them on July 24. He has hit safely in 36 of his 45 games with St. Louis, including 18 multi-hit contests.

In his 24 home games, Holliday has been even better with an average of .413 (38-for-92), with eight home runs and 24 RBI.

The offense improved accordingly, scoring 4.53 runs per game during the 45 games with Holliday on board compared to 4.15 over the 98 contests prior. That translates to an increase of better than 1/3 run per game on average, .38 runs per game to be precise.

Finally, look at the bottom line. Coming into Sunday’s action, St. Louis was a major league-best 32-13 (.711) since Holliday’s July 24 arrival. Their lead in the NL Central grew by nine games, to 10.5-game lead.

End of discussion, right?

Not exactly. All of the above was intended to set up my real intention for writing this.

Put aside for a moment the reality that the Cardinals had a relatively-easy schedule during August with eight of nine series coming against teams with losing records. Fact is they won the games they needed to win.

Here’s the rub.

Since Holliday’s arrival, Cardinals pitching has improved more than the offense.

In other words, the numbers say the impact of better pitching has been greater in terms of runs per game saved than the Holliday-driven offense has provided since July 24.

Since Holliday is known for his bat, not his defense, one cannot assign him any measurable credit for an improvement in mound performance.

Prior to the trade, the staff ERA was 3.95. Since, it has been 3.36, an improvement of .59 runs per game. Compare that to the offensive surge of .38 more runs per game noted above and I rest my case.

Of course the good news is that both the hitting and the pitching have combined to make hay during an easier stretch of the Cardinals schedule. Holliday has been an important part of that.

Yet assuming the offense, driven by Holliday’s gaudy personal numbers, has been the primary reason for the team’s recent surge would seem an inaccurate conclusion to draw.

Perhaps this means that the hitting can still reach its peak efficiency heading into October, but one does have to wonder if the pitching will correspondingly backslide.

This weekend’s sweep by the Braves at Busch Stadium indicates reason for concern as 2009 pitching stalwarts Ryan Franklin and Chris Carpenter both suffered through subpar outings.

They weren’t alone. Holliday just went 3-for-12 (.250) and Albert Pujols 2-for-12 (.167) over the just-completed three-game series as the offense could do little with Atlanta pitching in games one and three.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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