Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL


July 15, 2014

Czachorski: Can't count out the Cards

EFFINGHAM — Here we are again. To completely change the lyrics of a beloved Christmas tune, it’s the least wonderful time of the year.

The All-Star break is here, bringing with it the deadest period in the sports calendar one can find all year.

Most of the basketball free agents have made up their mind (hello LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony, Pau Gasol, etc.), football’s still too far off for any real news to spread, and baseball takes a break for four days for a silly home run contest and what should be a fun but meaningless exhibition. The British Open starts Thursday, but the time difference makes it difficult and by the time the end of the tournament is here, baseball is back.

It’s like the local weather took its cue from the professional lull, with rain taking out the senior legion district tournament in Robinson Monday afternoon as well.

So with half (or half-ish) of the season down, it seems like a perfect time to make some midway review marks on the MLB season.

I’ll spare you my thoughts on the Cubs. They’re kind of okay, but not really good at all and frustrating to think about.

What has been the most impressive is the play of the St. Louis Cardinals. Last year’s run to the World Series was predicated on a world-beating offense, a high-efficiency machine that seemingly always came through with runners in scoring position.

According to MLB.com, the Cardinals hit .330 with runners in scoring position last year, with a .402 on-base percentage and a slugging percentage of .463, blowing away the rest of the league.

The Cardinals have plummeted in all those departments this year, hitting .248 with a .328 on-base percentage and a .356 slugging percentage. Even with that fall, that’s still good for 16th in batting average but 24th in on-base plus slugging percentage.

St. Louis ranks 29th in runs scored, 15th in on-base, 14th in batting average and 26th in slugging. Simply put, this is not a good offensive club.

And yet, because of course, the Cardinals are a game out of first base.

It’s easy to see why. They rank top 10 in ERA (8th), WHIP (8th) and batting average against (sixth), despite injuries to Michael Wacha and Jaime Garcia, with All-Star starting pitcher Adam Wainwright leading the way. (I think it should have been Clayton Kershaw, but that’s another story.)

Milwaukee’s hot start has seemed to fade, but the NL Central has easily been the best division in baseball this season, with the Cubs even playing .500 ball for more than a month and gaining no ground on the rest of the pack.

But it won’t get easier. With Yadier Molina’s thumb injury the only player who hasn’t taken a dramatic statistical downturn in the lineup is Matt Adams, who is on fire as of late but may be due to come back down to earth, especially with Molina’s bat out of the order.

The offensive numbers say this team shouldn’t be competing. They are.

The injury to Molina says this team could fall apart without the heart and soul of the Cardinals offense.

I still wouldn’t count on it. I called them the closest thing to a perpetual motion machine almost a year ago to this day.

It hasn’t been as a smooth as a treadmill like I said then, but to continue the running analogy, it seems at the end of every marathon, they’re first to finish the race in the NL Central.

Let the race continue, and let it resume quickly after the least wonderful time of the year.


Text Only
  • Ryan.jpg Czachorski: Lunt the right man at QB

    There haven't been many times I've put pen to paper — or I guess more fittingly finger to keyboard — and written about the Illinois Fighting Illini.
    Part of it is due to their football team's struggles, as it's hard to have an opinion on them outside of "man, they went 1-7 in the Big 10 last year" or "I remember that one time they went to the Rose Bowl, but that's about it." Part of it is staying in my wheelhouse, which is MAC football and my alma mater Central Michigan Chippewas, a topic that doesn't concern many, if any, around here.

    August 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • NeogaGresens.jpg Neoga prepares for upcoming volleyball season

    Another area team finds themselves with a new coach holding the clipboard this season.
    Susan Hutchinson is the new volleyball coach for the Neoga Indians, but she isn't new to the game of volleyball. Hutchinson coached at Mattoon for seven years when they were still in the Big 12 Conference. She said her new players had to get used to her coaching style very quickly.

    August 21, 2014 2 Photos

  • Bulldogs fifth at ISU

    St. Anthony took to the links for the second-straight day and had a strong showing at the Raider/Redbird Classic.
    The Bulldogs finished fifth among a 20-team field, shooting a 318. East Peoria shot a 312 to win it, Normal U-High and Lincoln each shot 315s with Normal winning the tie-breaker, and Bloomington took fourth with a 317.

    August 21, 2014

  • DonovanHammer.jpg St. Anthony will lead with speed

    For the last five years, Eric Morales has been the assistant coach of the St. Anthony Bulldogs soccer team. But this season he will have his chance at the helm and try to help lead the Bulldogs to their first regional title since 2010.
    St. Anthony is missing six seniors from last years team, including its leading goal scorer and starting goalie.

    August 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • JakeLinders.jpg Flaming Hearts win St. Anthony Invitational

    The Flaming Hearts of Effingham were the overall winners and also had the medalist. Effingham shot a team score of 312 to beat the host Bulldogs by nine shots. Hearts senior Jackson Wendling finished with a 72 to take medalist honors.

    August 19, 2014 2 Photos

  • Willenborg.jpg Teutopolis takes opener against St. Thomas More

    Teutopolis took the course with a new coach and four players, but as coach Becky Probst said, it takes four to score.
    And those four Lady Shoes took their first match of the year, topping Champaign St. Thomas More 216-227 in both teams' openers at Cardinal Golf Course in Effingham.

    August 19, 2014 2 Photos

  • callawaysmith.jpg Time to tee off, golf season starts fall sports campaign today

    The fall sports campaign kicks off in earnest Monday afternoon, with the first area varsity contests being held in Windsor and Effingham this afternoon.
    The St. Anthony Invitational boys golf tournament will be held at Fox Prairie Golf Course at 1 p.m. in Windsor, while the Teutopolis Lady Shoes host St. Thomas More at Cardinal Golf Course at 4 p.m.

    August 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • AndrewBingham.jpg Flaming Hearts' flexibility a plus; Effingham prepping for upcoming soccer season

    Three days into the practice season, Effingham soccer coach Aaron Witges sees a lot of flexibility.
    It was something his squad had last year, with 10 seniors but young players forcing their way into the lineup as well.
    Coming off a 10-8-3 season, some of those young players will find themselves in new positions for the Flaming Hearts this season.

    August 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • 8-16 eff volleyball.jpg Flaming Hearts set with new coach

    The Effingham Flaming Hearts volleyball team will have a new but familiar face leading them on the sideline this season.
    As a former player for the Hearts, coach Mindy McCollum-Boswell will look to lead her team to their first regional title since 2008.

    August 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ryan.jpg Czachorski: Bears backups worrisome

    This might sound shockingly similar to a number of columns I've written in the past, but it bears repeating (excusing a terrible pun).
    The quarterback situation is worrisome.

    August 15, 2014 1 Photo

AP Video

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.