Torches To The Left, Pitchforks To The Right

When you have a game like last night’s game, it doesn’t take long for Twitter and other places around the Internet to erupt with Cardinal fans not exactly happy with those involved.

Some blamed Peter Bourjos, believing he misplayed the hit that led to the eventual winning run.  Some blamed Trevor Rosenthal for giving up that hit.  Some blamed the offense, including and especially Matt Carpenter, for having the team in that position.  Some blamed Carlos Martinez for an overall outing that will go in the “what not to do” example pile.

Most, though, took aim at Mike Matheny.

Adam Wainwright goes tonight, trying to extend his scoreless streak and get the Cards back on track……sorry about that.  Matheny just tried to double-switch my paragraphs to get the closer into the game.

The arrows at Matheny centered around two major points.  One, using Martinez, who has struggled, instead of Pat Neshek or even Sam Freeman in the eighth inning.  Two, double-switching out Kolten Wong to get Rosenthal into the game, which brought along Daniel Descalso as well.  It’s possible to at least make an argument pro-Matheny on each of those, even though I’m not sure that I’d believe them.

Let’s look at the first point.  Martinez has been the eighth inning guy pretty much all season long and that seems to be where the Cards want to see him.  His last two outings before this, he went 1.1 and 2.0 innings without giving up a run, so he wasn’t scuffling as much as we’ve seen him.  Granted, he’d given up three hits in those outings, but he’d also struck out five.  If that Carlos Martinez shows up last night, I don’t think we complain much about him pitching and it means we wouldn’t have to worry about the second point.

You could make the argument that, when the lead was gone and there were runners on the corners, Neshek should have been the call instead of Rosenthal.  I’d get behind that argument, but Rosenthal really hasn’t had any issues since the Braves series and we tend to approve when managers use their closers in tight situations that aren’t just the ninth.  I think the biggest argument for using someone besides Rosenthal to get that last out is that you wouldn’t have to double-switch.

Which brings us to the second point.  Rosenthal comes into the eighth and bats second, removing Wong.  Descalso goes into the ninth spot.  Here’s the thing, though.  The game is tied, sure, and you want to make sure Rosenthal can pitch the ninth if necessary.  However, if you just make the straight substitution, Rosenthal comes up seventh in the bottom of the eighth inning.  Odds are you’ve already taken the lead by then–it’s possible his spot would come up with two outs and bases loaded, but fairly unlikely–and you could then pinch-hit to help the inning keep going.  If he doesn’t come up, you still have Rosenthal in the game to pitch the ninth.

It’d be different if the pitcher’s spot was coming up first or second in the next inning.  That would make sense, but then you wouldn’t be replacing Wong, you’d be replacing someone like Jon Jay and you’d swap in Shane Robinson.  Bob Netherton made a point on Twitter last night that I’d never completely thought about, though it intuitively make sense and that’s why we have so many issues with Matheny’s double-switching: you should basically never take your 1-4 hitters out of a close game.  If they are good enough to be in that part of the lineup, they are the ones you want hitting if you are tied or behind or even just slightly ahead.  You weaken your lineup–and, in this case, your defense–significantly by removing them.  (I think the Cardinals are the only team I’ve ever seen that so often double-switch to get worse defenders into the late innings instead of better ones.)

I can’t blame Matheny as much for then not using Rosenthal for a second inning after going through such machinations to be able to do so.  When Matheny made the moves, it was a tie game and he was hoping to keep it as such.  It was a sunk cost after getting down by two and there was no real reason to run Rosenthal out there again.  Just be glad he didn’t double-switch again to get Freeman out there, though with the limited bench last night, that probably wasn’t an option anyway.

Of course, because baseball always finds the weak spot, the Cards rally somewhat in the ninth, scoring a run and putting the tying run on third with two outs for what would have been Wong, who hadn’t been having the best night anyway (0-3 with two strikeouts before his removal) but still would have been a better shot than having to pinch hit Robinson.  Then again, we complained about Descalso coming in and he actually drew a walk to put the winning run on, so it would have been very baseball-like for Robinson to get that big hit.  Unfortunately, the height of his hit was much greater than the depth of it and the Cards go home frustrated.

The fact that Robinson was the pinch-hitter–indeed, the fact that Descalso got to hit anyway, though with Mark Ellis already being burned as a pinch-hitter to bunt a runner over in the seventh–which has its own issues, most notably why not send up a pitcher if that’s what you want to do–there was no one to play second if you did pinch-hit for Dirty Dan–gives major credence to the fact that Matt Adams‘s calf is worse than he or the club has been talking about.

(Started well, that sentence.)

Which is the biggest issue with using Ellis in such a way.  If you know your bench is short, if you aren’t going to use Tony Cruz (because a backup catcher just can’t be touched, you know), then why waste Ellis to do something a pitcher can do and not cost you a bench player?  Ellis may not be Brandon Phillips or anything, but he can occasionally get you a hit when you need it.  Seems a frustrating use of resources.

I’ll give Martinez the Goat in this one because not only did he pitch his way into trouble, he gave up the lead by not positioning himself in the way that pitchers from the beginning of time have known to position themselves on a throw in from the outfield.  To back up the catcher, you actually have to be behind the catcher.  Even that faux pas would have been just a casual discussion point had he actually been able to field Bourjos’s throw from the outfield.  Once it bounced off his glove, Yadier Molina didn’t have much of a chance and the tying run scampered in.  That was about the time the torches started flickering to life and the rest of the game didn’t douse them.

What’s sad is that for much of the game, there was a lot of good stuff.  Jaime Garcia had another strong outing save for a couple of solo home runs.  Seven strikeouts and no walks in seven innings is definitely a winnable game and every game that goes by means less and less concern about Garcia when he takes the mound.  He’ll have his stumbles, but he’s done an outstanding job so far coming off the disabled list and hopefully he’ll keep that up while staying healthy.

The Hero tag, though, goes to Allen Craig.  Two hits and a walk, including breaking the 3-3 tie with a home run.  Craig’s hitting .375 with two homers over the last 10 games, indicating that whatever he lost, he’s now found, which is good if Adams is going to be on the shelf for a while.

As Dan Buffa writes, if Adams is down for an extended period of time, it may well be time for Oscar Taveras.  Taveras got the night off last night, meaning he had a prime seat for Tim Cooney‘s run at a no-hitter that was derailed with one out remaining.  He’s got an OPS of about .900 down there right now and given the fact that right field would be open, it would make a ton of sense to bring him up.  While Randal Grichuk hit another home run last night and could come up to play DH during the interleague portion, needing someone in right removes a lot of the roadblocks to a Taveras promotion.

Adam Wainwright goes tonight, trying to extend his scoreless streak and get the Cards back on track, which is the best way to wash some frustration away.  Wainwright’s been on another level this season and if he stays there, this series will likely be tied up.

Hunter Pence 48 48 14 4 0 2 2 0 12 .292 .292 .500 .792 0 0 0 0 0
Angel Pagan 21 18 8 1 2 0 3 3 4 .444 .524 .722 1.246 0 0 0 0 0
Pablo Sandoval 17 16 5 0 0 0 2 1 2 .313 .353 .313 .665 0 0 0 0 2
Gregor Blanco 16 15 2 0 0 0 0 1 2 .133 .188 .133 .321 0 0 0 0 0
Brandon Crawford 15 15 4 2 0 0 2 0 4 .267 .267 .400 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Mike Morse 13 13 4 0 0 2 4 0 4 .308 .308 .769 1.077 0 0 0 0 0
Buster Posey 12 11 2 0 0 0 1 1 0 .182 .250 .182 .432 0 0 0 0 1
Tyler Colvin 8 7 3 1 0 0 0 1 2 .429 .500 .571 1.071 0 0 0 0 0
Joaquin Arias 7 7 2 0 0 0 0 0 2 .286 .286 .286 .571 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Cain 5 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0 0
Madison Bumgarner 4 4 2 0 0 0 0 0 2 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Hector Sanchez 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Tim Lincecum 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Yusmeiro Petit 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 171 163 46 8 2 4 14 7 42 .282 .312 .429 .741 1 0 0 0 3
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/30/2014.

Interestingly enough, the Giants have done OK off of Waino in the past. However, the last few times he’s faced them, including the 2012 NLCS, he’s brought home wins with minimal runs scored.  In his last outing against San Francisco, he threw a complete game, struck out 10, and allowed only one run.  I think we’d take that tonight, wouldn’t we?

In that game, he went up against Madison Bumgarner, who is also his opponent tonight.  Bumgarner has been solid if not completely spectacular this season, just another one of those good pitchers the Giants have to run out there.  He’s only had one scoreless outing this season–six innings against the Braves–but is coming off a seven-inning affair against the Twins where he allowed three hits, one run, and struck out 10.

Mark Ellis 19 18 2 0 0 0 0 0 4 .111 .111 .111 .222 1 0 0 0 0
Allen Craig 16 15 3 2 0 0 3 0 3 .200 .188 .333 .521 0 1 0 0 0
Matt Holliday 14 14 3 0 0 0 0 0 3 .214 .214 .214 .429 0 0 0 0 1
Jon Jay 13 12 5 2 0 0 2 1 3 .417 .462 .583 1.045 0 0 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 13 12 3 0 0 0 0 1 0 .250 .308 .250 .558 0 0 0 0 0
Daniel Descalso 9 9 3 1 0 0 1 0 2 .333 .333 .444 .778 0 0 0 0 0
Shane Robinson 6 5 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 1 0 0 0
Jhonny Peralta 5 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Adam Wainwright 5 5 1 1 0 0 0 0 4 .200 .200 .400 .600 0 0 0 0 0
Tony Cruz 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Jaime Garcia 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Lance Lynn 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .500 .000 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Total 109 103 21 6 0 0 7 3 24 .204 .222 .262 .484 1 2 0 0 1
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/30/2014.

At least according to the numbers, this isn’t a matchup that the Cards really want to see.  I expect that 5-12 is enough to get Jay into the lineup, though if Adams is still out–and I can’t believe he won’t be–Jay will be there anyway.  Unless John Mozeliak makes a call this morning to the land of the Delta blues……..

  • mrlyngreen

    Ah, so much stuff. I was kind of surprised that there were folks claiming Bourjos misplayed that ball. When it happened, neither Ricky or Al made any comment that Bourjos did anything wrong. Al even said that he did what he could. They were all over CMart for his mistake though. I watched the post game show to see if Edmonds would say anything about the Bourjos play (after all if anyone would criticize it it would be Edmonds, right?). They showed the play, but Jimmy didn’t say a word about there being anything wrong with the way Bourjos played that. He did say he was upset Bourjos was charged with an error on the throw to home. So, I don’t get where folks say Bourjos screwed up.

    Blame Rosenthal? Really?

    The offense is a common target, and early in the season they deserved it. Not last night.

    Now to Matheny. There’s a list. Bunting Ellis was dumb, there’s no two ways around that one. Ellis was 7 for 18 against Vogelsong, and you’d think that in Matheny World that would be the signal to swing away. I didn’t like putting in Martinez with all the lefties and switch hitters coming up. Matheny needs to pay more attention to pitcher splits than he does to all those SSS batter matchups. The pitcher splits actually have merit, The double switch, what more can you say that hasn’t already been said? Matheny is obsessed with the double switch. It’s like he is on autopilot.

    CMart deserves the goat. That just can’t happen.

    As a side note regarding the Taveras or Grichuk question, Grichuk is a better RFer than he is a CFer. RF is the position for which he won his minor league Gold Glove. He’s better than Taveras there. But for the bat, I would go with Taveras.

    • Cardinal70

      I didn’t think there was any reason to blame Bourjos either. That ball was getting past him either way–maybe he could have stayed on his feet and gotten to it faster, but that’s probably iffy. The only chance to keep the runner at first from scoring was to dive to get in front of it. That’s what I thought at the time, though. I’m not an expert in such matters.

      As for Rosenthal, that’s probably more my personal bias. I mean, he only needed to get one out, yet he gave up a rope on his second pitch. Which goes to the struggles he’s been having, I guess, but still, he could have gotten the club out of that still tied without it being an unforeseen occurrence. There’s not much fault to be laid at his feet, but he could have a slice.

      I don’t know that I’d completely agree the offense didn’t get away unscathed in this one. They did get two out of a bases loaded, nobody out situation, so you hate to ask for more, but it was possible. And what sticks out in my mind is Carpenter having two infield groundouts with a runner on third and just one out, keeping the runner from scoring. Either one of those happen and the game might play out a bit differently.

      Matheny and Martinez deserve the lion’s share, don’t get me wrong, but it was possible to win in spite of them last night, which means there’s got to be a couple of other spots for a “loss share”, as it were.

      • mrlyngreen

        The folks who blamed Bourjos aren’t experts in the matter either. The expert would be Edmonds, who has never had any problem with criticizing a player’s performance if he thought he deserved it. He has criticized Bourjos before. He said nothing in the post game show and he had an opportunity to do so.

        I can’t get too upset about a pitcher giving up a hit. Rosenthal has pitched much worse earlier in the season.

        I agree that there were missed opportunities last night, not getting Bourjos home from third twice were two of them. I just think in the big picture, the offense wasn’t the primary problem, they were hitting and scoring runs. Matheny did hinder scoring more with some of his moves (the Ellis bunt being one). The Cmart bungle was an even bigger issue.

  • CardsCards

    Here is the problem with the Carlos Martinez insertion:

    Lefties are hitting .318/.423/.523 off him this year.
    Lefties hit .326/.373/.391 off him last year.

    Carlos Martinez has not figured out how to get lefties out.

    4 out of 5 of the batters he faced were from the left side.

    This is extremely basic analysis and probability that tells a clear story that when a lefty is up, you don’t want him out there. Even stltoday mentioned a scout who talked about how this isn’t a fluke, Martinez is going to be killed by lefties until he makes an adjustment.

    Hiding him from lefties is not a realistic scenario for his career. He is going to have to get lefties out, which means he is going to have to face them. However, when you are talking about 4 out of 5 batters while protecting a 1 run lead against the best team in the league, not putting him in becomes basic common sense.

    What is worse is that I can see a very basic argument for having Martinez in there. That is you have two lefties, Freeman and Choate, that send chills up most Cardinals fans when it comes to holding leads. Choate, for one, has a 7.20 ERA this season.

    So what has Choate done wrong? Simple, he has been crushed by right handers.

    RH: .407/.448/.481
    LH: .138/.235/.241

    Randy Choate could be having an amazing season if his manager used him correctly.

    But the scariest part of all is WHY Matheny doesn’t use him correctly.

    He said before the season that the bullpen couldn’t have two OOGYs, if both Choate and Neshek were going to be on the team, then Choate was going to have to get right handers out as well.

    This is as though Choate has simple been choosing not to get right handers out. This is as though he was too lazy to face right handers. This is as thought a near 40 player whom has made a career of of having the sole dimension of getting left handers out could suddenly change over spring training and become a complete pitcher.

    This is the same logic as Matheny declaring that the OF is over crowded, so Holliday is just going to have to suck it up and play short stop,

    Matheny has a fantastically talented roster that he routinely sets up for failure in ways that should be basic knowledge to anyone involved in the game. And when the failures happen, he has shown no ability to learn from his mistakes. This means we can expect to continue to see Martinez punished by lefties, and Choate punished by righties along with a litany of other common sense errors that are acting as quicksand for this 2014 team.

    Forget smart baseball, when it comes to average common sense baseball, Matheny just doesn’t get it.

    • Cardinal70

      It really is surprising that Matheny didn’t bring Choate out there. I know he threw an inning on Wednesday but that shouldn’t put him out of commission for this situation. The lefty-lefty thing is pretty obvious and, like you say, Martinez’s struggles with lefties this year is not a well-kept secret.

      I’m really wondering if it might not be time to send Martinez back to Memphis and let him be that starter that we thought we were getting. It’s a different mindset and a different approach. Let him see if he can get back to it that way and, if he can, the Cards might have to move someone so he can get into the rotation.

  • Buddhasillegitimatechild38

    The Ellis pinch hit was mind boggling. Bunting with Ellis is stupid, ever. Garcia can bunt, or even better Ellis can actually hit. Then, to do it with a particularly short bench and a risk aversion that keep you from basically ever using using you back up catcher? It was nonsense.

    • Cardinal70

      Agreed, there’s no point ever to pinch-hit for a pitcher and have the PH bunt. That’s just nonsensical. And yet I don’t feel like this is the first time we’ve seen it, though I couldn’t point out another instance if pressed.

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