The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

The Cardinals spent a weekend in Pittsburgh, a place that used to be a home away from home but lately has been much more difficult.  There, we saw sporadic offense and Pedro Alvarez played Babe Ruth, things that we’ve come to expect from a trip to the Iron City.  But, hey, at least they figured out Francisco Liriano, sort of!

Friday (12-2 loss)

Hero: Matt Carpenter.  After a slow start to the season in Cincinnati, Carpenter finally flashed a little of that ’13 version of himself, going 2-3 with a run and both RBI.  His two-run homer against Gerrit Cole was the only scoring and much of the only offense, so it’s pretty obvious he’s got to get this tag.

Goat: Shelby Miller.  I had high expectations going into the season for Miller, but apparently the Pirates still have his number.  It wasn’t surprising when he allowed Alvarez’s first long ball, given that one of the few issues he had in the spring was giving up home runs.  To give up three, though, and five runs in the process is not a good night.  Hopefully we can just chalk it up to Pittsburgh being a tough team for Miller and we’ll see better the next time out.

Notes: If there was ever any doubt that the last spot in the bullpen was a temporary position, Keith Butler put that to rest with a five-run eighth inning.  Going to be a long time before that ERA of his comes down after that start.  Seth Maness had a rough outing as well, allowing four hits and a walk in 1.2 innings and giving up a run plus letting his inherited runner score.  Seems like every year the bullpen needs some focus and this year doesn’t look like it’s going to be any different.

Saturday (6-1 win)

Hero: Carlos Martinez.  With a 4-1 lead and two runners on in the sixth, Martinez was summoned to replace Joe Kelly.  He promptly got two ground balls to get out of that threat, then worked a quick seventh that was only marred by a leadoff walk to Andrew McCutchen.  Given some of the bullpen work this weekend, it was appropriate to highlight a job done well.

Goat: Kolten Wong.  Rough night for Wong, as he went 0-4 with a strikeout and four left on base.  Of course, it was a bit of a coin flip between him, Peter Bourjos (0-3, walk, 2 K), and Allen Craig (0-3, RBI, strikeout).

Notes: While you could say the Cards got to Liriano, they didn’t solve him.  After Kelly’s double in the second, Liriano didn’t allow another baserunner until Yadier Molina‘s homer in the sixth.  Save for the number of runs, his line was comparable if not better to Kelly’s…..Speaking of the Cardinal starter, he did his best Houdini impression–and he’s had a good bit of practice doing that, so you know it’s good.  10 base runners in 5.1 innings is usually a recipe for disaster, but Kelly was able to work out of jams of his own creation, at least until Martinez helped him out of the last one…..Jhonny Peralta‘s quest to only hit home runs continued with his only hit of the game being a two-run blast in the 9th that made the game serious.  So two hits, two home runs.  That’s the way to salvage a rough starting week, I guess.

Sunday (2-1 loss)

Hero: Jon Jay.  Not a huge crop of players to consider for this one and Jay made his one hit count by tripling in the Cardinals’ only run and briefly tying the game up.  If Bourjos can’t find some semblance of offense, we are going to see Jay get more time out in center field, I expect.  Bourjos’s defense is as advertised and it won’t take much to keep him out there permanently, but he is going to have to get a hit eventually.

Goat: Matt Adams.  While the game story (and I’ll confess, I was doing home projects and was unable to actually watch the game) points out that Peralta and Craig had hits stolen by the shift, there’s no such notation for Adams, which means his 0-4, 2 K day is going to get this one with much less competition.  Big Fill In The Blank is still leading the team in average, which is a nice thing, even when part of that team are hitting under .100.

Notes: Tough game for Adam Wainwright.  He pitches extremely well, finally gets to the tie game, is careful with Alvarez given his production, and that walk comes back to bite him.  Waino’s already walked four batters this year.  It was May 11 when he walked his fourth batter last season.  Which, honestly, just shows out great he was last year with his control.  It’s not like he’s having command issues this season….Shut down by Edinson Volquez?  Really?  The last time they saw him, as a member of the Padres, they scored three runs in five innings.  Before that, five runs in six innings.  So, of course, yesterday they can only muster three hits off a guy that had a rough spring.  Because, of course.

Save for Friday’s game, the bullpen wasn’t a huge issue for the Redbirds this weekend, but it’s still a weak spot.  Pat Neshek might be settling in–he pitched a scoreless eighth in a tight ballgame yesterday–but there are still guys out there that you can’t quite trust yet.

However, I’m not sure that Mike Matheny‘s going about this problem the right way.  Over the weekend, there was a story that Matheny wants Randy Choate to be “more than a specialist“, to be able to go full or multiple innings.  While Choate did have some full innings last year, let’s look at his career splits:

Versus righties: .278/.397/.394, 0.77 K/BB, tOPS+ 142
Versus lefties: .198/.277/.278, 3.36 K/BB, tOPS+ 70

There’s a pretty distinct difference there.  The idea behind signing Choate was that he’d probably be worth the money and perhaps the years as long as his exposure against righthanders was limited.  And in case you wonder if perhaps the split is less pronounced these days, in 2013 his tOPS+ against righties was 137, against lefties 83.  It might have narrowed a little, but not enough to notice.

Matheny’s got the right idea, however.  You can’t keep running specialists out there when there are so many untrustworthy arms in your pen.  You can’t burn a guy that’s doing well just on one batter and then get stuck waving Maness or Butler in.  However, it’d seem to be better if he replaced Choate in this experiment with Kevin Siegrist.  Granted, Siegrist doesn’t have the body of work to draw great conclusions from, but so far in his career, he’s handled right-handers in a comparable fashion.

Versus righties: .130/.221/.232, 3.57 K/BB, tOPS+ 115
Versus lefties: .125/.250/.153, 2.25 K/BB, tOPS+86

Not only is that comparable, but Choate seems to be more dominant against lefties than Siegrist is, while Siegrist can get righties out more regularly.  It would seem better to make Siegrist your full-inning guy than to try to stretch Choate’s boundaries this late in his career.

Today’s Opening Day in St. Louis, which is going to be a wonderful and insane time.  The Hall of Famers, the Clydesdales, the parade of players in cars and trucks.  Today gets a little added jolt by the official opening of Ballpark Village, including the dedication of the Cardinal Hall of Fame.  Plus Chris Carpenter is going to throw out the first pitch (and hopefully not immediately leave due to arm numbness).  Today, St. Louis is the center of the baseball universe.

The Cards get to see the Reds again after visiting them in Cincinnati this past weekend.  (They won’t see them again until Memorial Day weekend.)  Michael Wacha, who pitched 6.2 scoreless innings against the Redlegs last week, gets to take the mound in a game that, while it won’t compare to World Series starts or anything, he’ll still probably get a kick out of.

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Jay Bruce 8 8 0 0 0 0 0 0 5 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Brandon Phillips 8 8 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 1
Joey Votto 8 7 4 2 0 0 0 1 0 .571 .625 .857 1.482 0 0 0 0 0
Ryan Ludwick 7 6 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .167 .286 .167 .452 0 0 0 1 0
Zack Cozart 6 6 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Todd Frazier 6 5 0 0 0 0 0 1 2 .000 .167 .000 .167 0 0 0 0 0
Homer Bailey 4 4 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .250 .250 .250 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Billy Hamilton 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Brayan Pena 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Tony Cingrani 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 55 52 8 2 0 0 0 2 15 .154 .200 .192 .392 0 0 0 1 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/7/2014.

Those numbers didn’t get any better last week.  If he can figure out Joey Votto while keeping the rest of the team down, it’s going to be quite a show.  The Cards were really good about keeping Billy Hamilton off the basepaths–that again will be a key to this series.

He again faces off against Tony Cingrani, who did his own shutdown stuff last week.  With the offense for the most part sputtering, this could be another game that goes down to the last at-bat.  At least the Cards get that this time.

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Matt Holliday 9 6 2 1 0 0 0 3 1 .333 .556 .500 1.056 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Carpenter 7 7 3 0 1 0 1 0 3 .429 .429 .714 1.143 0 0 0 0 0
Allen Craig 6 6 1 0 0 0 0 0 3 .167 .167 .167 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Adams 5 4 0 0 0 0 0 1 3 .000 .200 .000 .200 0 0 0 0 0
Tony Cruz 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Daniel Descalso 3 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 1 0 0 0 0
Jon Jay 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .333 .000 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Jhonny Peralta 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .333 .000 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Shane Robinson 3 2 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 .500 .667 .500 1.167 0 0 0 0 0
Peter Bourjos 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Pete Kozma 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .500 .000 .500 0 0 1 0 0
Michael Wacha 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Kolten Wong 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Lance Lynn 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 54 45 8 1 1 0 1 8 18 .178 .302 .244 .546 1 0 1 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/7/2014.

It’s going to be a wonderful day to be a Cardinal fan, win or lose. I just hope that, if you are working outside of the area, you don’t need anything from a St. Louis company. I have a feeling productivity is going to be extremely low today in the area. Fox Sports Midwest will have coverage all day long, so if you aren’t going to the stadium, I hope you’ll get to watch some of that. Happy (real) Opening Day!

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