The Roller Coaster Heads Back Down

Frustrate [fruhs-treyt]: to make (plans, efforts, etc.) worthless or of no avail; defeat; nullify: to disappoint or thwart (a person): see St. Louis Cardinals.

This is baseball, I guess, when a team isn’t a dominant team.  A team just good enough to play with the big boys, but inconsistent enough not to be able to beat up on the little guys.  Maybe this team really is too nice and feels sorry for teams so well under .500.  It’s as good of a theory as anything else, though they didn’t let that sympathy hold them back against a reeling Cincinnati team.  (Though, when you think about it, they did as much as they could, the Cincy bullpen just wouldn’t take their charity.)

After a sweep of the Reds left them 1.5, the Cardinals then go into last-place Philadelphia and….barely avoid being swept.  Really.  Most Redbird fans are going to be bald soon after pulling out all their hair over this team.  We’ve got to look them over due to my fully developed completion malady, but it’s not necessarily going to be fun.

Friday (5-4 loss)

Hero: I don’t know, it all seems so futile, you know?  Nothing stands out, nothing seems worthy of mention.  I’ll go with Matt Holliday, since even though he just had one hit, he drove in two and scored another.  But I can’t work up a lot of enthusiasm for it.

Goat: When you give a 4-1 lead to Adam Wainwright, he should hold it.  If the pen had gotten wobbly and given up the lead, it’d been more understandable.  Wainwright, though….  Then again, for all the grief that we give Lance Lynn about fading in the second half of seasons, Wainwright’s had some similar issues.  For his career, his second half ERA is higher by .17 and his winning percentage is about 20 points lower.  It’s not drastic and it’s not consistent (August of 2012 he was 5-1, 2.75, though in September he fell to 1-2, 4.20) but there is a little bit there.

Looking at Steve’s piece from yesterday, it looks to me that Wainwright, along with whatever else is going on, hasn’t made adjustments.  He’s still targeting that off-the-corner spot, but folks for whatever reason–the pitches aren’t as sharp, the scouting report has gone around, whatever–aren’t biting at it anymore, forcing him into deeper counts.  He’s walked 17 in seven games since the break compared to 27 in 19 games before it.  He says he’s not hurt and there’s no reason not to believe him, but something is definitely off.  He says he’ll make adjustments and hopefully they’ll be effective, but he seems to say that after every rough start.  Sometimes they take, sometimes they don’t.

Tara and I discussed last night the impact Yadier Molina‘s absence might be having on Waino as well.  Look at the difference.

Before Yadi’s injury: 11-4, 1.79 ERA, 131 IP, 111 K, 27 BB, .530 OPS against.
Since Yadi’s injury: 4-4, 4.41 ERA, 51 IP, 34 K, 17 BB, .696 OPS against.

It’s a pretty stark difference and it’s hard to write that all off to coincidence.  The last two games he threw to Molina, Wainwright allowed no runs.  He’s only done that once in the eight games that Tony Cruz and A.J. Pierzynski have been behind the plate.

Does that mean that Wainwright is overrated if the best catcher in baseball makes him better?  I don’t think so, or if it does take him down a notch, it’s a small one.  Yes, you’d like to think that a dominant pitcher is a dominant pitcher no matter who is catching him and that’s a fairly reasonable line of thought.  However, especially since Waino isn’t a flamethrower but relies on command, having a catcher back there that is so good at framing pitches can only help.  Sherlock Holmes solved cases on his own, but he did his best work with Watson.  That didn’t downgrade Holmes in the least.

(BTW, here’s a pretty interesting look at Yadi that I missed when it came out last month, trying to quantify what the Cards are missing with him out.)

Notes: Matt Adams went deep, which was very good to see.  He’s been hitting the ball well, but it’s not been leaving the yard.  He had a couple of others this weekend that I thought were going out but didn’t quite make it.  Matt Carpenter had a couple of hits and Oscar Taveras got him a knock as well.

Saturday (6-5 win in 12)

Hero: Oscar Taveras.  Kinda surprising to pick a guy that got removed early for the Hero of an extra-inning game.  However, Taveras had two hits and a walk in his four plate appearances, plus scored a run.  Making the move to swap in Peter Bourjos as a defensive replacement made sense when the Cards were up two and, giving Bourjos had a hit in his three tries, it didn’t hurt them too much, but in a game where nobody just was overly outstanding offensively, Taveras gets the nod.

Goat: Randy Choate.  It probably wasn’t that much of Choate’s fault, really.  He threw a perfect seventh, but for whatever reason–and I didn’t watch this one so I don’t know what the rationale was–Mike Matheny decided to run Choate out there for another inning.  I’m guessing he wanted Choate to face Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, but I think I’d have brought him in then instead of using him against the bottom of the lineup in the seventh.  Choate gave up two singles and hit Howard with a pitch, leaving a bases-loaded, nobody out jam for Pat Neshek to try to clean up.  Neshek got out of it without too much damage, but he was greeted by a game-tying single by Marlon Byrd.  It’s hard to get out of that without something–can’t fault Neshek at all.

Notes: Shelby Miller had a tolerable start, but you have the nagging feeling if it’d been a better team he might have been beat up a bit more.  Two walks and five hits in six innings isn’t bad, but it’s not great either.  Still, it fit the criteria of a quality start perfectly and we don’t always get that out of Miller, so hopefully it’s a step in the right direction.  Good work out of the rest of the bullpen, especially Seth Maness who threw two scoreless innings.  Jhonny Peralta also extended his club record for home runs by a shortstop to 18, which was nice.

Sunday (7-1 loss)

Hero: Nick Greenwood.  Greenwood gave up a two-run home run to Jimmy Rollins at the end of his outing, but before that he’d thrown 3.1 scoreless innings and, if the Cardinals had been able to muster any offense, would have kept them in the game after the starter flamed out.  Greenwood has had some real good moments since being called up and I’ve been impressed with what he brings to the team.  He’s not a guy you necessarily want to have in there in a close game late, but he’s got a role of long relief and he’s doing well with it.  For a guy I thought would be back in the minors about as soon as he was called up, it’s been impressive and I tip my cap to him.

Goat: Justin Masterson is the obvious choice here.  It’s a good thing that James Ramsey was so blocked in this organization, because it’s looking more and more that this was a rare whiff from John Mozeliak and it’d hurt much more if there was a need for Ramsey soon.  Masterson was, in theory, supposed to be an “innings eater” but he’s averaged less than five since he’s been a Cardinal.  He had the one good game against Miami, but other than that he’s given up five runs an outing (save the game against the Reds, where he “just” allowed four).  With rosters expanding soon and Michael Wacha hopefully starting his comeback, Masterson’s time in the rotation should be quite limited.  He’ll probably get a start in the Cubs series coming up, especially since there’s a double header in the mix, but that might be his last shot.  Then again, Jeff Weaver had a ERA around 7 for his first five starts for the Cards in ’06.  Lightning could strike at any time, though that’s not really the way to bet.

Notes: Of course, Masterson would have had to pitch like Clayton Kershaw to have had a chance yesterday as the offense was completely shut down by….Jerome Williams.  Well, THAT makes sense, right?  The top of the order was extremely frustrating, as only a late single by Matt Holliday kept the top four from going 0-for-Sunday.  Yes, there were a couple of walks in there, but that only goes so far.  The lineup had been clicking a bit more lately and seeing it shut down by a journeyman pitcher having his best game in years is….well, there’s a reason I led this post off with a definition.

Scorecard824

Sunday’s gruesome results again brought to us by @Cardinal_50.

Going into Philadelphia, the Cards were 1.5 games behind the Brewers.  Leaving the City of Brotherly Love (yeah, the Phils treated the Redbirds like my brother and I used to treat each other when we were younger) and heading to Pittsburgh, the Cardinals are still 1.5 games out, though given they went into Sunday with a chance to take over first, that’s a frustrating thing in and of itself.

At least the pitching lines up well for what might be Pittsburgh’s last stand.  The Pirates are five games behind the Brewers and losing the series to the Cards could push them back close to .500.  If they want to be taken seriously in the next month, they probably need to make a statement this week.

They’ll have to do it against St. Louis’s starting front line of hurlers, starting with John Lackey.  Lackey has had one outing since coming over from Boston that he’s allowed more than two runs (though in all the other outings, he’s allowed exactly two runs) and obviously been the more successful Mozeliak move.  He’s not faced the Pirates this year and they don’t have a lot of familiarity with him.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Russell Martin 16 12 2 1 0 0 2 4 2 .167 .375 .250 .625 0 0 0 0 2
Jayson Nix 9 7 0 0 0 0 0 2 2 .000 .222 .000 .222 0 0 0 0 0
Chris Stewart 9 7 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 .286 .375 .429 .804 1 0 0 1 0
Travis Snider 8 8 4 2 0 0 3 0 1 .500 .500 .750 1.250 0 0 0 0 1
Vance Worley 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 44 36 8 4 0 0 5 6 5 .222 .349 .333 .682 1 0 0 1 3
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/25/2014.

You hope that the small sample will continue to be accurate after this one as well.  While there’s no guarantee, you have to like the chances of Lackey throwing a pretty good game.

Of course, on the other side is that bogeyman from last season, Francisco Liriano.  Liriano has struggled more this year, going 3-10 with a 4.18 ERA.  He’s even been hit by the Cardinals this year, allowing four runs in six innings back in April and three runs in five innings in May.  (He also threw two scoreless innings in a different game before having to leave the contest.)  Still, given Liriano’s history against the Cards, a good bit of trepidation is in order.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Jhonny Peralta 50 42 14 1 0 2 6 8 13 .333 .440 .500 .940 0 0 1 0 0
A.J. Pierzynski 27 25 6 2 0 0 2 2 7 .240 .296 .320 .616 0 0 0 0 2
Matt Carpenter 22 20 4 2 0 0 1 1 7 .200 .273 .300 .573 0 0 0 1 0
Matt Holliday 22 18 6 1 0 0 1 3 0 .333 .455 .389 .843 0 0 0 1 2
Peter Bourjos 19 17 6 2 1 0 3 1 3 .353 .368 .588 .957 0 1 0 0 0
Matt Adams 10 10 3 0 0 0 1 0 1 .300 .300 .300 .600 0 0 0 0 1
Shane Robinson 6 4 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 .000 .333 .000 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Jon Jay 5 5 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 .400 .400 .400 .800 0 0 0 0 0
Tony Cruz 4 4 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 .250 .250 .750 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Kolten Wong 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Shelby Miller 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 172 152 42 8 2 2 14 17 35 .276 .355 .395 .749 0 1 1 2 5
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/25/2014.

You’d expect that table to be worse than it is, though Peralta surely helps it a lot.  Liriano’s last start was a disaster as he allowed seven runs to the Braves in just four innings, but had been on a pretty good roll before that.  Given that it’s St. Louis coming to town, he might be thinking he can get back on it.

Then again, since the Cards just got shut down by Williams, they’ll probably come out and destroy Liriano.  Because that’d be pretty much how this season has gone, wouldn’t it?

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