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Series Preview: Cardinals (10-13) at Brewers (15-9)

Alright, first things first.  If you've been camping in the Northwoods all weekend and just reconnected with the media, I'm sorry to be the first to tell you that Cardinals relief pitcher Josh Hancock died in a car accident this weekend.  My condolences to the family, the friends, and the Cardinals.

In baseball terms, which unfortunately the Cardinals have to shift right back to, that's not good news.  They have enough problems with their team full of (mostly) healthy players.  Taking Hancock's place is Dennis Dove, who will make his major league debut whenever he gets into a game.  You can check out his splits and career stats here, or read this profile at Beyond the Boxscore.  Dove is probably never going to be more than a big-league setup guy (at best), but he was very effective in high-A and double-A last year.

Here are your pitching matchups for this weekend:

It's odd how this shakes out: tonight's game will get all the attention outside of Milwaukee and St. Louis (first game after Cards lose Hancock; it's the ESPN game, etc.), the second game is the big one for Cards and Crew fans (is Sheets healthy? is Looper still for real?), while the third game might end up being the best matchup, despite Reyes's current numbers to the contrary.

The primary topic of discussion among Brewers statheads is our slightly alarming run differential.  It's great to be six games above .500, and no advanced statistic can take that away from us.  But, a team like the Brewers, who have a .625 winning percentage despite giving up a few more runs than we've scored, may be enjoying the calm before the storm: such things don't usually last.  Sal Baxamusa mentions this in today's Hardball Times:

Not to pick on Brewers, but they make a convenient example. Their Pythagorean winning percentage (as of early Saturday evening) is .510--not all that shabby--but their actual winning percentage is .636. They're sitting pretty atop the NL Central, and of course nobody can take away the wins that are already in the books, but they could just as easily have 11 or 12 wins and considerably less early-season buzz.

Now the pythag is actually below .500, but there are some mitigating factors.  First: teams with good late inning relief are more likely than not to outperform their pythag.  We've got that, and I'll think we'll keep getting that.  Second: BP gives the Crew a third order winning percentage of .528.  That's no .625, of course, but it reflects the fact that we've had a reasonably hard schedule so far...and come out of it well.  It also suggests that we should've scored a few more runs than we have.  Sure, the Brewers are no more a 101-win team than the Cubs are a 70-win team.  But we're also a lot better than the 80-win team our pythag hints that we are.

Now for your reading assignment, in the excellent Cardinals blogosphere.  I've tried to steer clear of the many moving Josh Hancock tributes; they're easy to find if you want to read them.

One of these days, the Brewers are bound to lose a series again, but I don't think it's going to happen this week.