Justin Masterson’s Mechanics Are Now AAA-Approved

Leading up to last night’s game, there was talk about how Justin Masterson may have tinkered with his mechanics, trying to improve on two dismal starts in Cardinal red that led folks to wonder if John Mozeliak had lost his touch.

Let’s just say Masterson is a pretty darn good tinkerer.

Seven scoreless innings on just three hits is not only remarkably different from what Masterson has done since he came to St. Louis, but it’s also a departure from everyone else in the rotation this time through.  Even those that pitched well gave up a lot of hits and some runs.  To have a dominant outing out of the starting pitcher is something this team hasn’t seen much of lately, which is why this team hasn’t seen the win column much lately either.

When you factor in that Masterson also had an RBI single (perhaps the pitchers are taking extra batting practice, knowing they may have to fend for themselves with this offense), he’s the easy Hero of the game.  The kicker is going to be whether he can have this kind of success going forward.  Was it just a good game or did those adjustments take hold?  We’ll find out for sure next week against the Reds, but there’s at least reason to believe that the Cards will get some good value out of Masterson after all.

Matt Adams might have only had one hit, which I don’t think means you can declare his recent skid over, but it was a big one at the right time, driving in the first two runs of the game.  Matt Carpenter had a Hero-level game as well, getting three hits and scoring two runs.  If it weren’t for Masterson, he’d easily have gotten the tag.  Jon Jay continues to hit, getting two of them and scoring a run as well.

Gotta find a Goat.  Let’s make it Kevin Siegrist.  Siegrist came into the ninth and allowed a two-run home run to Jeff Baker.  That made the game 5-2 and one out to get.  One out, in a three-run game.  You know what that means.

Trevor Rosenthal came in, got one out, and got to add to his save total.  Now, to be fair, Rosenthal hasn’t thrown since Sunday.  Still, if you were worried about that, you’d have let him throw the ninth even with a five run lead.  (That’s what happened Sunday, after all.)  If you don’t start the inning with him, I think it’s fair to say you can give Siegrist a chance to get out of it with just one out remaining.  If he puts another runner on, sure.  The heart of the order was coming up, but again, it’s a three run lead.  The Book of Matheny, though, says the closer must come in when it’s a save situation.

The Cardinals won the game like they won their last game–putting together a bunch of singles.  They had one extra base hit, a double by Jay, but everything else was single, single, single.  It’s all right when you can bunch them together, but so often this team can’t.  We know this team is dead last in the NL in home runs (well, I didn’t actually know that until I looked it up, but I knew they were down close to the bottom).  Right now they are fifth in doubles, though they are one out of fourth and five out of eighth.  In other words, their double count isn’t anything special.

That’s one of the differences between this year and last year.  Last year, they led the league by 20 doubles.  That helped make up for the fact they were one of the lowest home run hitting teams.  This year, they have the lack of home runs, but they aren’t getting the doubles to make up for it.  If the power started to brown out last year, it’s almost completely out this season.

Where do you look for answers?  Don’t be questioning the coaches.  At least, that’s Mike Matheny‘s philosophy, thinking some of the criticism of the staff is cheap.  Matheny says they have the same approach as they did last year, but it’s becoming more and more apparent that last year’s record-setting hitting with runners in scoring position might have papered over some flaws that could have been addressed.  Last year, the Cards scored more runs than Colorado and led the league by almost 80.  This year they are 14th and trail by 90.  Is the difference entirely not hitting .330 with RISP?  No, but you have to figure that’s a big factor.  If they had hit .270 with RISP last year, how would it have looked?  What decisions would have been made differently?  We’ll never know.  However, until people start hitting consistently, everyone is going to come under fire, and that includes the coaching staff.

Cards get to go home and face the only offense that might be worse than them in the National League.  Of course, that didn’t mean anything two weeks ago when St. Louis flew out to San Diego and promptly allowed 17 runs over three games, losing two of them.  The Redbirds really need to take three of four this weekend, because time keeps on slipping away.

Of course, John Lackey wasn’t on the Cardinals during the last Padres series.  (Well, he was acquired before the last game, but he never went out to California, of course.)  Lackey gets a chance to cleanse himself from his last ugly outing by taking on a team that is hitting .225 as a team with an OPS of .634.  (When you put it in that context, the 12 runs the Cards gave up last week against San Diego has to be the worst game of the year, doesn’t it?) Unsurprisingly, given his entire history in the American League, Lackey doesn’t have much of a history against these Padres batters.

Seth Smith 6 5 2 1 1 0 1 0 1 .400 .333 1.000 1.333 0 1 0 0 0
Alexi Amarista 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Yangervis Solarte 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Will Venable 3 2 1 0 0 1 2 1 0 .500 .667 2.000 2.667 0 0 0 0 0
Total 15 13 5 1 1 1 3 1 2 .385 .400 .846 1.246 0 1 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/14/2014.

Every day when we look at pitching history, it’s a small sample size that really can’t be used to project much. Today is even more so–Lackey faced the Padres once last year, which is where most of this comes from.

Eric Stults goes for the Padres.  For a journeyman that’s spent time in the bigs since 2006, it’s not a name I’m that familiar with.  Baseball-Reference has apparently gone down while I’m trying to put this post together, so I can’t tell you what his history against the Cardinal hitters is.  I can tell you that in his career he’s thrown two games against the Cards, one in 2012 and one in 2013.  Both games he gave up three runs, the first in 5.1 innings (a game he won), the second in six innings (a game he lost).  So he’s not likely completely unfamiliar to these guys, which may or may not mean anything.

This is a big weekend for this team.  They’ve got to win series like this to be considered a serious playoff team.  I know we are tempering expectations, but I think we all want to believe they can be a better team than they are showing.  Even a split this weekend would prove this is the team that we have–a slightly above average team that probably won’t play in October.  Let’s hope that’s not the case!

  • Buddhasillegitimatechild38

    Last year the Cards lead the NL in wRC+ so it certainly wasn’t all RISP mirage. That wRC+ is middle of tge pack this year

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