[Pictured:  The accused, Mr. Charles Edward Cheese, and “just a friend.“]

A look at the St. Louis Dispatch’s top stories this evening reveals about what you’d expect in the “nothing happening state“:  a Chuck E. Cheese mascot faces sexual assault charges; some guy is suing Pepsi over a dead mouse in his Mountain Dew; there’s a delish recipe for St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake; and a study shows if you attend church you’ll live longer. The one story of interest to thinking men and women nationwide is the rightfully celebrated 50th anniversary of  ‘Wrestling at the Chase,’ with an impressive array of video and photography of promoter Sam Mushnick’s mat genius.

Then, of course, there’s some local interest in the Cardinals yet again closing an April in first place for the 4th time in 5 years “ not that it ranks in the top 10 stories.  For April 2009, Tony Walnuts and his crew offer an impressive .696, and that’s with Chris Carpenter DL’d for another month or so.  The NL Central is used to this, but the standings leave out some figures.  First, a healthy Cubs with a settled down bullpen won’t be splitting the year’s remaining games with the Tards as they did in April.  Second, The Dispatch notes, the Cardinals have some real weaknesses in their defense that an especially weak NL Central has helped obscure.   Also, after I don’t know how many years, I just realized they call Albert Pujols “El Hombre” in honor of Stan “The Man” Musial.  So, STL celebrates 50 years of Wrestling at the Chase and the Cards’ inventive use of the same nickname for the same amount of time.  Derrick Goold breaks down the good and the bad of the Boys of April here:

But there are signs of trouble, a muted mayday on May Day, that shouldn™t be hidden by big offense.

For No. 1 on the [email protected] today, consider the April numbers from the past five seasons, including the four first-place years:

YEAR ¦ W-L (pct.) ¦ ERA ¦ BlSaves ¦ BA ¦ SLG ¦ Runs (RPG)

2005 ¦. 15-7 (.682) ¦ 3.38 ¦ 1 ¦ .252 ¦ .418 ¦ 105 (4.77)

2006 ¦ 17-8 (.680) ¦ 3.35 ¦ 4 ¦ .264 ¦ .432 ¦ 125 (5.00)

2007 ¦ 10-14 (.417) ¦ 4.20 ¦ 2 ¦ .248 ¦ .359 ¦ 82 (3.42)

2008 ¦ 18-11 (.621) ¦ 3.41 ¦ 5 ¦ .279 ¦ .415 ¦ 135 (4.66)

¦ and then this year ¦

2009 ¦ 16-7 (.696) ¦ 3.65 ¦ 5 ¦ .285 ¦ .450 ¦ 133 (5.78)

The difference in runs scored per game and overall offense should be striking, because the difference in pitching isn™t all that great. Those numbers clearly only capture part of the strong start by the Cardinals through one of the month season. But they don™t reveal the whole picture. Ditto with the numbers from the starting rotation. Sure, their 3.26 ERA leads the National League, and that four home runs allowed is a remarkable low total for one month of work. They are also 13-2 and will start this month with three unbeaten full-time members of the staff. Yet, peel back the numbers.

The Cardinals starters are giving up a .275 batting average. Their 1.39 WHIP (or, simply, baserunners per inning) ranks 10th in the league. Runners are reaching base against the Cardinals, and that leads to more high-pitch innings and that leads to fewer innings from the starters. The team with the second-best rotation ERA is Pittsburgh at 3.38. The Pirates starters are averaging 6 1/3 innings per appearance. The Cardinals ¦ 5 2/3.