La Russa's First Post Season Managerial Blunder?

Has Tony La Russa made his first major error in managing the Cardinals in the playoffs before the regular season is even over? What would seem like a no-brainer...

If you ask me, its a no brainer - Matt Morris has no business being a part of the St. Louis Cardinals post season starting rotation.

Cardinal Manager Tony LaRussa, according to the St. Louis Cardinals' official website, was quoted Thursday as saying that Matt Morris will be one of his starters in the playoffs.

Chris Carpenter, Mark Mulder and Jeff Suppan are a given and you would think that would leave just Jason Marquis and Matt Morris in the hunt for that fourth spot in the rotation, with Morris a long shot at best to get the nod over Marquis.

Matt Morris at the start of the season looked as if he had finally gotten it all together. After a 15-10 won loss record with a high 4.72 ERA (thank God for run support) in 2004, at the All-Star break, Morris had an impressive 10-2 record with 3.10 ERA.

That was a better mark than Mark Mulder, who was supposed to be the new staff ace. Mulder, brought over to St. Louis in a trade with Oakland in the off-season, finished the first half of the season with a 10-5 record and a 4.34 ERA.

Then, as the Cardinals began the second half en-route to another 100+ win season and National League Central Division Championship, Morris' season began to take a turn for the worse each time he took his turn in the rotation.

Since the All-Star break, Morris has gone from that 10-2 record and 3.10 ERA, to a 4-7 record and 5.13 ERA in the second half. Morris is showing little signs of improvement in his recent outings. Over his last 10 starts, the struggling starter is 3-5 with a 4.72 ERA and he hasn't gotten a win since August the 25th when he went seven innings to earn a rare second-half win over Pittsburgh.

In spite of his poor second-half performance, La Russa appears set to go with Morris as a part of the four-man post season rotation.

After all, Matt Morris' .623 winning percentage is third all-time among Cardinals pitchers with more than 100 decisions. He trails only Mort Cooper (.677) and Dizzy Dean (.641), and that is pretty impressive company.

The Cardinals seem to win with Morris on the mound. They have gone 95-58 (.621 win pct.) in Matt's 154 starts since the beginning of the 2001 campaign, including a 16-13 mark this season. Matt's 79 wins from 2001-to-present are tied for eighth among active pitchers (Mark Mulder is first with 88).

The Cardinals will have home field advantage throughout the playoffs and that could be a factor in La Russa's decision to go with the older veteran over Jason Marquis.

Morris owns a 58-30 lifetime record and 3.29 ERA at Busch Stadium (126 games, 113 starts) and if you can get some run support, and Morris seems to always lead the National League in run support, your chances appear pretty good with Morris going to the mound in St. Louis.

His 58 wins at Busch are third all-time behind only Bob Forsch (93) and Bob Gibson (72) and if you don't catch yourself asking "What have you done for me lately?", you could find yourself in agreement with La Russa going with Morris over Marquis.

But, one has to wonder in spite of Morris' overall career numbers, how can Morris get the nod over Jason Marquis with how they are pitching in September?

In September, Marquis is 3-1 with a 1.80 ERA as compared to Matt's record of 0-3 and a 4.37 ERA. While Marquis seems to be putting it all together, Morris has struggled, going winless over the past month.

You would think La Russa would go with the hot hand.

It's not like Morris has an impressive post season record that would give him the edge over Marquis.

His cumulative postseason pitching stats - a 1-5 record and a 4.06 ERA in 13 games and nine starts - a record that doesn't inspire confidence.

In his only start in a World Series game (04), Morris is 0-1 with an 8.31 ERA.

The decision has probably already been made with the older veteran Matt Morris being chosen to start over the younger Jason Marquis. Hopefully Morris will reward his Manager for his confidence in letting him start.

Morris will be on the mound in St. Louis Tuesday night as the Cardinals will face the Houston Astros in a game that could mean the difference in Houston making it to the playoffs as the wild card or watching the playoffs at home. Fans will be watching this game closely, hoping the Matt Morris from the first half of the season will show up in time to help the Redbirds win a World Championship.

If history repeats itself as it often does, it appears that Cardinal Manager Tony La Russa may have made his first managerial error of the post season, a whole week in advance.


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