I don’t know about you, but the Bud (Chuck) Norris jokes are about as much fun as Dana Carvey doing The Church Lady. Again. And Again. Yes, it was clever once, but the humor has long run its course, and needs to be filed away in same manner as the script for Wayne’s World 3.
Coming into the game tonight, he is 5-1 against St. Louis with a 1.97 ERA over 7 starts. More telling is the 45 2/3 innings he pitched in those 7 games. OK, that probably needs some more explanation.
Prior to 2011, Norris has pitched seven or more innings just seven times. Three of those were in games where he faced the Cardinals. The reason for Bud’s early exit in his other starts ? Excessive pitch count.
Why as he been so effective against the Cardinals ? Aggressiveness on the part of the Cardinals hitters, swinging at just about every pitch he throws. The Cardinals strike out less than most of the other teams that face Norris. They also walk even less often. Only the San Diego Padres hit Norris less often than the Cardinals. I’ll let that last point trail off into the silence without any additional explanation.
Add all of those together and you have a failed game plan on the part of St. Louis. Instead of letting Norris get himself into trouble, they are taking undisciplined swings and putting balls in play that they shouldn’t. Instead of driving the ball, they hit a lot of harmless fly balls and weak grounders. Credit Norris for a good approach against the Cardinals, but shame on the Redbirds for creating opportunity for Bud (Chuck) Norris jokes in the first place.
Why will the Cardinals do better this year ?
That’s right. Patience at the plate is a refreshing trend in the 2011 Cardinals. A tip of the cap to Nick over at Pitchers Hit Eighth who nicely quantified this after the Cliff Lee loss. In addition to taking more pitches, the Cardinals have significantly improved their walk rate over the last two seasons. Walks serve two purposes: they put runners on base and they increase the opponent’s pitch count.
What was the Bud’s biggest problem ? That’s right – pitch count.
It will not be a cake walk in 2011 because Mr. Norris is off to a very good start in 2011. Although he is only sporting a 2-2 record, he has shaved a run and a half off his ERA and his average innings per start is now over six. Both are good trends to show that the young man is developing into a bona fide pitcher in the major leagues.
That improvement is dwarfed by what a healthy Kyle Lohse has done for the Cardinals so far in 2011. The Loshe-o-meter has him at 4-2 with a 2.31 ERA and a league leading WHIP of 0.926.
Yeah, I’m ready for the Bud (Chuck) Norris jokes to go away. The best way for that to happen is for the Cardinals to defeat him and the Astros.