UglyBall

I haven’t watched, talked, tweeted, or written much about Cardinals baseball this season.  I won’t bore you with the roll-call of excuses.  This week’s series in my adopted hometown provided a good opportunity to hit the reset button.  The team’s annual trip to Petco is always circled on my calendar, and I look forward to the three days in May – or, in the case of this year’s schedule, July – when St Louis comes to town.

After watching the last two games, I’m wondering if I should have stayed home.  Oh who am I kidding – I couldn’t stay home.  Some random thoughts about the first 2 games of the Padres series. 

Lineup Woes

Matt Carpenter is still a beast.  Matt Holliday still hits the ball hard.  Matt Adams hits everything hard.  Maybe the Cardinals need to go with an all “Matt” lineup.  Outside those 3 guys, there isn’t anyone in the order that scares me. Jhonny Peralta has been a definite upgrade offensively from last year but he’s not a guy you circle in the order saying, ‘we can’t let this dude beat us.’  Everyone else can be pitched to effectively at present.

You could say the Cardinals hit into some bad luck.  Adams missed a HR in the first game by that much, Allen Craig by a little more later in the same game.  Except it’s hot in San Diego this week, and the ball typically carries well this time of year when it’s hot, so I’m not sure those flyouts failing to reach the seats can be blamed on Petco National Park.

This team misses Yadi’s bat, and really misses Allen Craig.  We ought to put Allen’s picture on a milk carton (Have You Seen My Offense?  Call 1-314-HIT-HELP). Some drop-off was expected after he hit .454 with RISP last year, the best rate in almost 20 years, but not this big a regression.  Others are either still trying to figure it out at the ML level or just having bad years at the plate.  Tough to watch.

Defense

St Louis ranked 1st in MLB in defense coming into the series based on Dewan Runs Saved.  One wouldn’t know it from watching these two games.  They’ve had a miserable series in the field.  Peralta with a throwing error (although, to be fair, Adams didn’t do much to try and corral that ball – looked like Roger ‘don’t give me that OLE B**LS**T’ Dorn on the play).  Kolten Wong airmails a throw that led to the Padres first run Tuesday.  The ‘Husband and Wife’ (beach volleyball term) play last night between Wong and Oscar Taveras.  Peralta’s error that was generously scored a double. From Someone In The Know: the drawn-in infield, sharply hit ball, and Jhonny’s having to move to his right led to the scoring decision.  In case you wondered.  These Cardinals struggle to hit; relying heavily on their pitching and defense is how they’ve stayed in the playoff race.  When the hitting and defense struggle, we get games like the last 2 nights.  The lapses are at least fixable in short order.

Pitching

Lance Lynn deserved a better fate, Joe Kelly probably got what he deserved, given he couldn’t command his fastball, and the bullpen got smoked.  All over the map.  Again, given St Louis’ offense and a surprisingly competent Padre bullpen (even with Street now in Anaheim) the Cardinals probably weren’t coming back from 4-1 down last night; getting torched removed all doubt, didn’t it?  I was equal parts surprised to see Carlos Martinez struggle like he did, and amazed he can throw pitches that break away from left handed hitters while his whole body moves towards the first-base line.  I didn’t notice that last year.

Some of the damage taken last night would not have happened if the infield was normal depth.  With the Cardinal infield either in or half-way, San Diego went 3-3 with an intentional walk, driving in 3 runs.  Venable’s single doesn’t get through and Smith’s ‘double’ probably doesn’t get through with the infield back.  I’m not disputing Matheny’s decisions to play the infield in for any of those at-bats, just pointing it out.  Hat-tip to the Padres for successfully exploiting those situations.

Everth Cabrera was pretty upset he got hit by a pitch.  Two thoughts on that.  It appeared to me he made very little effort to get out of the way of Seth Maness‘s errant fastball. Next time try a little harder not to get hit in the calf, Everth.  Why won’t umpires enforce the ‘reasonable effort to get out of the way’ rule?  Keeping your feet in the same place while turning your body a little bit is not reasonable effort IMHO.  Then again, I haven’t stood in to face 90+ heat in a while so maybe I’m out of line here.

The Cardinals have hit 3 Padres so far.  None of the HBP struck me as deliberate, and Maness certainly isn’t trying to put more runners on down 11 in the seventh. With the other HBP as context maybe his reaction is less over the top?  Just throwing it out there. Descalso also got drilled Tuesday, perhaps appeasing the Baseball Gods of Unwritten Rules.  No, I’m sticking with my original opinion – that was a stupid reaction by Cabrera.

Matheny called last night’s game ‘ugly’, an assessment I totally agree with.  Tuesday’s game wasn’t much prettier.  The Cardinals will try to salvage one of these three games this afternoon.  Odrisamer Despaigne is the kind of pitcher that gives St Louis fits, with a variety of speeds and arm angles coming at you, so don’t be surprised if they get swept.

Yes, West Coast Redbird still exists.  Expect posts on a more frequent basis moving forward. That’s not a threat; it’s a promise.

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