Checking In With The Cardinals

Talking about the Cardinals has become nearly second nature to me. Whether it’s discussing their troubles via the written commentary on various sites or interacting with a fellow Cards addict in public, this team has a stranglehold on my soul and it’s not just a seasonal thing. It’s a 365-24-7 march that never ends. The best thing and the worst thing about being a sports writer is you will always homework or an assignment to finish. This is my first post for the Conclave and I intend to sprinkle in little bits of prose mixed with blunt analysis. Today, I will offer up a few different takes on the team. After a sweep of a very good Washington Nationals team, this may sound more optimistic than usual.  As The Black Rebel Motorcycle Club plays in the background and a hot cup of joe flows through my system, let’s launch.

  • Take a bow, Starting Pitching. The mere thought of losing Adam Wainwright for an extended period of time has been quieted, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the group can’t go out there and prove their worth. After solid turns in Toronto, Shelby Miller and Jaime Garcia provided fantastic work over the weekend against a dangerous Nationals lineup. Lance Lynn pitched eight brilliant innings on Friday night and did it in a little over 2 hours with only the support of a Matt Adams home run(more on that man in a moment). Lynn, Miller, and Garcia are talented young pitchers with tons of promise and the runts of the litter at the same time. When you find yourself in a rotation equipped with two aces in Wainwright and Michael Wacha, labels can be harsh and social media will drop the hammer very quickly. Over the weekend, the starters for the Cards did this.

312 pitches, 21.2 innings pitched, 2 earned runs, 11 hits, 6 walks and 21 strikeouts.

Among league leaders, the Cardinals starting pitching ranks near the top in wins, earned run average, innings pitched and quality starts. Once again, I don’t think this team needs a starting pitcher at the deadline, especially with Carlos Martinez and Joe Kelly sitting in the chamber.

  • Speaking of Baby Carlos, he will make the start tonight against the New York Mets. Martinez is scheduled to throw close to 60 pitches, so 3-4 innings should be expected. This is a positive step for the young righthander. He was always meant for the rotation in my mind. His makeup, arsenal of pitches and young energy requires more than a couple innings to unfold. His changeup will improve because he doesn’t have to hold the ball like a grenade when he tries to squeeze it into his one inning of work. With more pitches to work with, a young arm can stretch out his array of weapons and attack a lineup in many ways. It would be beneficial for the Cards to keep Martinez stretched out even if it means sending him to Memphis for a couple starts and calling up a man named David Aardsma who is kind of pitching very well in Memphis.
  • Thank you Matt Adams for quieting those power critics. Before Adams hurt his calf, fans were irate about his “empty” .325 average and his measly .437 slugging percentage(which ranked higher than Allen Craig and Matt Holliday at the time). This explains the short term memory of millions of sports fans. Adams cranked 17 home runs in 296 at bats in 2013 and was merely sacrificing a little bit of power to beat the shift for the first two months of the 2014 season. When he came back Friday, Adams simply decided to let it rip. To put it into comfort food terms, beating the shift is gravy. Cranking it over the 9 bodies and into the stands comes with the country fried steak as well. Adams hit the same number of  home runs over the course of the weekend(3) as he had in the first 52 games of the season.  He now has six bombs on the season, 21 RBI and a sweet .327 average to go with the heroic activity. Now, the hard core baseball fans and the baseball card mafia are pleased.
  • Matt Holliday isn’t wanted for murder after his vicious line drive home run Sunday, but it was nice to see the Twitter gang hop off his back. First, Holliday made a great play on a scorched line drive in the second inning, blasted the solo HR, hit a sacrifice fly and walked. Sunday was a buffet of roses for all the virtues Matt Holliday can provide.
  • Trevor Rosenthal has looked better of late and earned two saves over the weekend. The Lees Summit, Missouri native now has 20 on the season and is starting to use his changeup effectively because he isn’t falling behind in the count. Sure, Rosenthal has drank an Izzy red bull far too many times before pitching this season and has nearly as many walks (19) this season as he did last season in less than half the amount of innings. However, in his last 10 outings (chronicling 9 innings pitched), Rosenthal has only allowed 1 run and has 13 strikeouts to 5 walks. He is 20-23 in save opportunities and is the right man for the job. As much as I admire and love the work of Jason Motte, the 2014 closer role is Rosenthal’s to lose. When he is even close to 100 percent on the mound, he is the perfect specimen to attack hitters late in games. He is doing just fine and will only get better. Sometimes, a changeup is the secret weapon and not a propane fastball.
  • Just checking..will we ever see Joe Kelly again this season?
  • Who do I have to pay to get Tim McCarver into the booth more often next season? His work and chemistry with Danny Mac is priceless and a comfort to listen to. Instead of the two inning/30 minute rambling Mad Hungarian tale, Tim actually gives sharp analysis as a color man and offers real tales. Please, in 2015, give us more than 30 games of Danny and Timmy Mac.
  • Michael Wacha was bound to come back to earth, but it would be foolish to think he is suddenly going to start getting hammered by opposing ballclubs. While he did blow back to back leads in his starts on the road in Kansas City and Tampa Bay, Wacha still finds a way to limit the damage. “The Weather Man”, a nickname that reminds fans of the fact that the young hurler literally brings the rain in most of his starts, hasn’t pitched terribly in his last 10 starts. His 4-5 record compares him more to Felix Hernandez than a struggling pitcher due to his lack of run support. While his ERA has risen from 2.10 to 2.88 in those same 10 starts, Wacha holds hitters in check. His K/BB is very good and he doesn’t give up home runs that often. His lack of strikeouts during his past 2 starts are simply revealing a pitcher who does pitch to contact. You will see a lot of fly balls and some stung baseballs off the likes of Wacha, and these past few starts are just another reminder that the kid is 23 years old and was pitching to men carrying aluminum bats two years ago. With Wacha, patience is best.
  • I unleashed my reasons and rage in relation to the Oscar Taveras demotion on Thursday and Friday so I will spare you most of it here. I will just attack the Cardinals front office’s excuse a little for sending him down. A mechanical flaw simply doesn’t pan out. I didn’t see a mechanical flaw when Taveras launched a ball halfway to Graceland in a Memphis Redbirds outing on Sunday. The team can spin that nonsense somewhere else.  The kid has nothing else to learn there. He can learn plenty with the big league club, and that includes things that have more to do with the mental part of the game rather than the physical. There’s my four cents on that.

I will close with this. Don’t worry about the standings until the trading deadline, folks. Don’t put yourself through that stressful misery. The Brewers aren’t running away with the division and it’s best to keep your eyes on this team and the day to day activity. The Cardinals are showing a sharper blend of action these days, shutting down the likes of The Blue Jays and the Nationals while giving charity to inferior talent like the Royals and Rays. Baseball is a game of attrition. Don’t get too fed up until it’s really time to lose it. Just watch, observe and enjoy the action. Judgement day will come for every baseball team sooner or later.

Thanks for reading.

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