Breaking Out or Breaking the Monotony?

The St. Louis Cardinals scored nine runs yesterday.  They hit two home runs in the process.  I believe local schools are closed today to celebrate the historic nature of this achievement in relation to what the 2014 squad has accomplished this year.

That’s not fair, though.  The Cardinals have had a few other games this season where the offense was clicking.  They scored eight against Washington, ten against the Cubs, seven a couple of times.  They’ve teased breakouts before, looking like the team we all expected, the team that could go on a run and tear up the competition.

But that eight was followed up by one.  The ten was followed up by six, true, but it was the Cubs.  It’s been hard enough to have the offense show up two out of three games, much less for an extended run.  Will yesterday be any different?  Why should it be?

Well, for one thing, the Cardinals play the Cubs this weekend, so that’s usually a good way to keep a roll going, especially since they won’t face Jeff Samardzija over the three games.  You’ve also seen a resurgence of balls going over the wall, whether because the batters or the weather is heating up remains to be seen.  However, being able to put some home runs on the board is a great way to get the offense clicking.

The most important reason to think this outbreak could be what gets the wheels to catch is the fact that Allen Craig is starting to turn into the Allen Craig we all know and love.  Yesterday’s Hero put up a home run and two doubles as part of his four-hit day.  In the six games before this recent five-game hitting streak, he put up four hits.  He raised his average close to 30 points just yesterday.  We always felt Craig would hit eventually.  It looks like eventually is now.

You also have to give some kudos to the Big Fill In The Blank.  Matt Adams only had one hit, but it was a bomb that put the Cardinals on top to stay.  I know Adams has hit .300 in the minors and can probably do more than a .260 or so average, but as long as he can keep strafing the outfield seats, I’ll take the tradeoff.  His raw power may be more than anyone else on the team and that kind of pop is important to have in the lineup.

Jon Jay had three hits, which not only didn’t appease our friend Ben but also may have kept Oscar Taveras in Memphis for a bit longer.  Taveras is raking down in AAA (.322/.378/.544) and, if the offense sputters much longer, it’s going to be almost impossible to keep him there.  It’s getting tough as it is, since the idea has always been that Taveras’s bat is ready for the bigs, you just had to worry about his health.  That’s not a concern right now, as he’s riding a 14-game hitting streak and in the last 10 games has only put up a .400/.462/.714 line.

Most of us would like to see Jay not be the starter in center, given his defense and his streaky bat.  However, if he’s on the upward part of the streak, Taveras isn’t going to get the call.  Once he scuffles–and if Randal Grichuk doesn’t catch fire–then this discussion becomes a lot more immediate.

Not the best game from Shelby Miller, but we’ll take it.  He’s always going to struggle with the home run, most likely, and if he could keep it to a solo shot, I think we’d handle it fairly well.  Yesterday, he gave up the solo and the two-run version, which gets you a little antsy, especially since three runs has been a tough barrier for the Cards to clear.  It turned out not to be an issue, but for a while there, you were envisioning brooms.  His control wasn’t there either–three walks to just one strikeout–which is disappointing given how he’s been able to tear up the Brewers in the past.

If we have to give out a Goat–and we do, them’s the rules–I believe it’s going to Jhonny Peralta.  0-4 yesterday (though he did draw a walk) and three left on.  Tony Cruz also went hitless, but he threw out a runner as well as working (and I mean working) a walk, so Peralta gets the nod.

Cards get the day off today before opening up in Wrigley Field Friday afternoon.  St. Louis sends out Adam Wainwright, who well may be the best pitcher in baseball right now–I would not be surprised to hear he wins NL Pitcher of the Month today–in what would seem to be a mismatch, given the Cubs’ struggles.

Starlin Castro 32 28 8 1 1 0 4 2 3 .286 .344 .393 .737 0 1 1 1 2
Darwin Barney 29 29 8 2 0 1 5 0 5 .276 .276 .448 .724 0 0 0 0 0
Nate Schierholtz 19 19 6 4 0 0 1 0 5 .316 .316 .526 .842 0 0 0 0 0
Anthony Rizzo 17 16 4 0 0 0 0 1 3 .250 .294 .250 .544 0 0 0 0 2
Luis Valbuena 12 11 4 3 0 0 0 1 0 .364 .417 .636 1.053 0 0 0 0 0
John Baker 10 10 1 1 0 0 0 0 2 .100 .100 .200 .300 0 0 0 0 1
Welington Castillo 9 8 1 0 0 0 1 0 2 .125 .111 .125 .236 0 1 0 0 0
Junior Lake 9 9 3 1 0 1 2 0 4 .333 .333 .778 1.111 0 0 0 0 0
Ryan Sweeney 9 9 3 2 0 1 3 0 3 .333 .333 .889 1.222 0 0 0 0 0
Emilio Bonifacio 8 7 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 .143 .250 .143 .393 0 0 0 0 0
Jeff Samardzija 7 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0 0
Carlos Villanueva 7 7 0 0 0 0 0 0 5 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Travis Wood 6 5 2 0 0 1 1 0 1 .400 .400 1.000 1.400 1 0 0 0 0
Edwin Jackson 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .500 .000 .500 1 0 0 0 0
Total 177 165 41 14 1 4 17 6 36 .248 .276 .418 .694 3 2 1 1 5
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/1/2014.

While Chicago hasn’t owned Wainwright by any means, it’s interesting to see that there are a few players–perhaps even players that you wouldn’t think about–that have done pretty well against him.  That said, unless his approach changes when the calendar flips, this is a level that these guys have not seen Wainwright on and it likely will be a long afternoon.

Travis Wood goes for the baby bears, coming off an outing where he allowed five runs in 5.2 innings to the Brewers.  Wood, who have a bit of a soft spot for given he’s an Arkansas boy as well, hasn’t faced the Redbirds this season, but has been hit-or-miss against them in the past.

Matt Holliday 28 26 8 2 0 2 4 1 7 .308 .357 .615 .973 0 0 0 1 0
Yadier Molina 28 27 11 3 0 3 11 0 6 .407 .393 .852 1.245 0 1 0 0 0
Jon Jay 26 22 10 2 0 0 3 3 1 .455 .520 .545 1.065 1 0 0 0 0
Allen Craig 23 22 7 1 0 2 2 1 4 .318 .348 .636 .984 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Carpenter 19 16 4 1 0 1 2 2 3 .250 .316 .500 .816 0 1 0 0 0
Mark Ellis 10 9 2 1 0 0 0 1 1 .222 .300 .333 .633 0 0 0 0 0
Lance Lynn 8 5 0 0 0 0 1 1 5 .000 .143 .000 .143 1 1 0 0 0
Daniel Descalso 7 7 3 0 1 0 1 0 1 .429 .429 .714 1.143 0 0 0 0 0
Adam Wainwright 6 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0 0
Matt Adams 4 4 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Tony Cruz 3 3 1 1 0 0 2 0 0 .333 .333 .667 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Jhonny Peralta 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 2
Shelby Miller 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 166 150 49 11 1 8 26 9 30 .327 .362 .573 .935 3 3 0 1 2
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/1/2014.

OK, I guess more hit. I keep thinking of the one or two games that Wood was really sharp against the Cardinals, but they must be the exception.  On the face of it, this looks like a great place for the offense to keep that mojo rolling.  We’ll see if it turns out that way.

Enjoy the off day!  As you can tell, we’ve got some great new writers here at The Conclave so even if I don’t write tomorrow, there will still be plenty to read and discuss.  I’m kicking around a Star Wars post for Sunday, so maybe you’ll see me again before the weekend is through!

  • mrlyngreen May 1, 2014, 7:10 am

    If you don’t like Jon Jay in CF, you aren’t going to like Taveras there any better. Yes, I know defense is not prized as much as offense, but how many games have we lost so far because of poor defense? I still contend that over time the big offense makes up for bad defense theory doesn’t hold up. Taveras single-handedly gave up 2 runs with defense in last night’s game while getting one run home with his bat. That’s a -1 differential. He does that enough and it wouldn’t be pretty. All of this is why I have contended that he needs to play the corners, because his defense would do less damage there.

    I want him up with St. Louis just as much as anyone, but I want him played where his talents are maximized, and CF is the last place he needs to be.

    • Cardinal70 May 1, 2014, 8:32 am

      Not necessarily disagreeing, but if we are going to have a weak defensive centerfielder, I’d rather it be the weak defensive centerfielder that can actually provide consistent offense. It doesn’t seem like Bourjos is going to get back to a regular role with this team, at least there’s not a path I can see that happening. Perhaps if the rest of the offense gets on a role and they feel they can absorb his bat while he works out kinks, but that’s a stretch.

      Is Taveras in center ideal? Not at all. Is it better than what we have now? I think you could make the argument.

      • mrlyngreen May 1, 2014, 9:02 am

        Did you know that Bourjos was hitting at a .348 clip at the time he was benched for Jay? That his average didnt start to tank until AFTER he was benched? He has gotten only 17 PAs in the last 9 games. I believe that he would have been hitting as well as or better than Jay if Matheny had allowed him to continue. This is why I am not buying the narrative that is being sold.

        I have watched Peter Bourjos play for the last 3 seasons. He is an elite defender with a .270ish bat. He was written off after only two weeks in a new league. This is what frustrates me so much. This goes against any sort of baseball logic.

        • Cardinal70 May 1, 2014, 9:49 am

          Maybe, but how much of that is small sample size? He got five hits in two games in Cincinnati, he’s only gotten three the rest of the year. Was he in a groove or did he just have a couple of good games against the Reds?

          That .348 doesn’t take into account the 0-13 he put up to start the season (I know, I know, adjusting to the new league). It also obscures the fact that, if you take out the two Cincy games, he was hitting .214 during that span. Five hits can make that kind of difference.

          I’m not necessarily disputing you, though I think .270 bat might be a bit high. He’s hit that mark a couple of times, sure, but he’s also wallowed in the .220s. However, even if he hit .250, with his speed and defense, he’d be a valuable piece to this organization. I’m with you in the fact I’m surprised he’s been marginalized so quickly, but as I say, I think that has more to do with the need for offense with others not hitting their expected levels. And, to be fair, Jay has done a pretty good job with the time he’s been out there in that regard.

          • mrlyngreen May 1, 2014, 11:15 am

            My point is that his hitting was on the upswing, not the other way around at the time he was benched for Jay. The motivation for benching him makes no sense. Jay was not hitting any better at the time. The team has spent how long waiting for Craig and Peralta to catch fire, but they had to stop Bourjos’ from doing the same only to replace him with a guy who was hitting .200 at the time? Bourjos’ overall BA at the time was .222.

            In 2012 he got less than 200 ABs the entire season because he was benched for Mike Trout. In 2013 he started out hitting over .300 but was injured and missed the rest of the season. Those seasons obscure what he did with the bat in 2011 and in the minor leagues prior to that. Folks tend to focus on those seasons without understanding his history or looking at the bigger picture.

            He is not going to hit like Taveras, but his elite defense and speed is something that the team needs. Taveras will get his time but hopefully not in CF, where his defense is atrocious.

          • Cardinal70 May 1, 2014, 12:06 pm

            And I’d contest that Bourjos’ hitting was “on the upswing.” He had the two games in Cincy. The three games after that, he hit .214. In my opinion, it was more likely he had two good games rather than had figured something out and was on a roll.

            Jay’s work is completely relevant. If Jay hadn’t been hitting, Bourjos wouldn’t have been out as often. Did Matheny know Jay was going to hit that well when he started using him? No. Was that why Bourjos was initially pulled? No. But the fact that Jay hit .400 from when he started getting regular use (4/15) through the end of the Mets series is a significant factor in why Bourjos can count more splinters than ABs.

            Fair or not (and I’d probably lean toward not), Jay being the incumbent and the guy that Matheny knows is going to give him more leeway. Bourjos might be able to hit eventually–I’ll accept your comments about his past history and stipulate you’ve seen a lot more of him than I have–but he struggled at the wrong time and baseball is littered with folks that slumped at the exact wrong time and never got a shot again.

            Again, would I like to see Bourjos out there on a regular basis? Sure. But I can understand why he’s not. Not saying they are the same player, but it wasn’t that long ago that the conventional wisdom was to let Tyler Greene play all the time and he’d eventually hit. We know that didn’t work out. Bourjos could well be different and he brings the defense Greene didn’t, but he may have just slumped at the wrong time.

          • mrlyngreen May 1, 2014, 1:25 pm

            And during the time period that you are arguing against Bourjos for hitting .214, Jay hit .200. The difference between us is that you are trying to justify the decision by what happened after and I am arguing that there was no apparent performance justification for it at the time it was made. I do agree with you on one thing and that is that Matheny’s preference for Jay factored into the decision and may have been the sole factor.

            Comparing Bourjos to Greene is not justified because Greene never hit in the majors and Bourjos has. Lack of playing time and injury have held him back in the last two seasons.

            I imagine I am becoming annoying at this point and I appreciate you indulging me. I needed to get it out of my system and I think Peter deserves to have somebody to defend him and there aren’t many folks willing to do that. Myself, Ben, and Bob Netherton are perhaps the only ones who believe in Peter at this point. I have had conversations with Bob about this and he is just as frustrated as I am over this. But we both realize we can do nothing about it and will have to accept it. I wrote a post advocating trading Bourjos and allowing him to get the playing time he deserves somewhere else, as he is being wasted on the bench and all indications are that the org has written him off.

            I will stop arguing and you can get back to less annoying things than putting up with my rants. :>)

          • Cardinal70 May 1, 2014, 1:49 pm

            Not annoying at all. That’s what baseball’s about, good discussion, right? I hope this isn’t one of those pointless arguments that you were talking about on Twitter yesterday!

            True, Jay wasn’t doing anything either and that’s why I don’t think there was a concerted effort to put him out there. It was more of “let’s see what happens here” and Jay started to hit, so Matheny left him out there. Again, so much of baseball is just right place, right time, right club.

            I think it’s a little early to say the organization has written him off entirely. While I know that the cost wasn’t prohibitive to get him, they did give up a World Series hero (speaking of people that are turning things around). I know it’s a sunk cost and all of that, but I still think that there may be room for him here. It may take a trade of Craig or Adams, so that Taveras gets in every day at a corner spot, but if the offense clicks at a time when Jay struggles, he may get some time to see what he can do. I don’t think Mo would be entirely happy with just getting Grichuk out of the deal.

            I’m sure that if things haven’t changed by UCB Weekend, Bob will have some pointed questions for Mozeliak though. 🙂

          • mrlyngreen May 1, 2014, 1:59 pm

            No, a conversation with you could never be pointless.

            Bob did suggest to me that I call Mozeliak and pretend to be Dennis and ask to use his office to trade Bourjos. :>)

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