Pitching, Pitching, Pitching

You’ve heard the old saw that the three most important things in real estate are location, location, location?  While pitching doesn’t quite rate like that in baseball, it’s pretty close.  The way the Cardinals have been going lately, pitching isn’t something they’ll be worrying about.

Save for John Lackey‘s game on Sunday, where he admitted he was just throwing fastballs and going at about 75% for a season tune-up, the Cardinals haven’t allowed a run since last Friday.  Now, to be fair, there’s an off day in there and one rainout, though Lance Lynn had kept Boston scoreless for four innings before those rains came.  Still, it’s a nice run that’s seen them win two 1-0 games, something we saw a lot of last year.

Yesterday it was Michael Wacha‘s turn to shine and that’s exactly what he did.  Wacha went just shy of six innings, his longest outing of the spring, and allowed no runs on four hits, striking out four and walking one.  While I don’t know how long it’ll be before we can expect Wacha to go into the seventh or later, I think the Cards would take that outing just about every time, especially if the bullpen is as strong as we are hoping it is going to be.  More importantly, there’s been no signs of a recurrence of that stress reaction.  While that doesn’t mean that it’ll never happen–I expect that’ll be hanging over Wacha for the rest of his career–it does give credence to the idea that he’s going to be healthy for 2015.

If it’d been the regular season, maybe you read something into the fact that Jordan Walden got the save in a close game rather than Trevor Rosenthal, but even then probably not.  Rosenthal picked up a win on Sunday with a scoreless inning of relief, so most likely Mike Matheny was just getting some work for Walden as well as maybe trying to see if he can turn to him if the situation warrants.  We saw last year in the splits that it seemed like much of Rosenthal’s problems came when he pitched too many days in a row.  (OK, there were problems on back-to-back days, so it’s not like it required a lot.)  If Matheny feels confident enough in Walden, perhaps he can rest up Rosenthal some.  That said, knowing Matheny’s typical bullpen usage, Walden’s going to be working just as much as Rosenthal with his eighth inning work, so that might not be an option very often.

We’ve talked about the bullpen before, how it seems to be pretty locked down with Rosenthal, Walden, Seth Maness and Matt Belisle from the right side and Randy Choate and Kevin Siegrist from the left.  That leaves one more spot, which would likely be Carlos Martinez should Jaime Garcia, as expected, get the fifth starter spot.  (There have been many that suggest that Martinez should then go to Memphis, which is a reasonable thought, though I think the Cards would rather him on the big league roster.  Joe Schwarz and I talked about it last night for the next Conversations interview, which hopefully will go up today or tomorrow.)  If that’s the case, it makes life tough on Sam Freeman.  Freeman’s out of options and has been good, but not great, in the spring.  Good enough that you could put him on your roster, but not good enough that you have to with the arms that are available.  Still, you don’t want to give away a left-handed reliever by placing him on waivers.  It’s not going to be a blockbuster deal, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see John Mozeliak try to find him a home before April 5.

Tommy Pham is still nursing that injury that, at the time, looked to keep him out just a day or two.  That was almost two weeks ago and, unfortunately, fits in with Pham’s injury history.  It would seem to be this weekend at the earliest before we’d see him, giving him just a week to try to make an impact.  (If he’s good to go by Friday with the split-squad games, that would be a good time for him to get some play.)  With Randal Grichuk still leading this team in home runs, it seems unlikely a week would be enough for Pham to unseat him for the last bench outfielder role.  I expect we’ll see Pham some this season in St. Louis, but most likely he’ll be on the Memphis side when the Cardinals are down there for their exhibition on April 3.

Forbes came out with their list of most profitable MLB clubs and the Cardinals topped it.  They are also the sixth-most valuable franchise in baseball at $1.4 billion, which makes for a good return on the $150 million they spent to buy the team in 1995.  (It was actually less than that as they immediately turned around and sold the parking garages that came with the deal.)  That’s an amazing testament to what the DeWitt’s have accomplished in the Gateway City.  There’s no logical reason why a team in a market such as theirs should be able to be more valuable than the New York Mets (though, of course, the Mets have their own off-the-field issues) or the Los Angeles Angels.  Yet with smart moves and a dedicated fan base, that’s exactly where they are.

Now, some are going to look at the fact that they were the most profitable last season and say, “Well, see, they should be spending more.  They are just interested in lining their pockets.”  I’m not one to be critical, but there’s only one thing to say to folks like that.

Stuff it.

As much as we might like to think so in Cardinal Nation, baseball is not a public trust.  It’s a business, and just like any other business, it has to make money to stay afloat.  Now, if the team had been languishing in last or even in mediocrity while these kind of profits were made, sure, you’d have a case to say maybe they should try harder.  However, this is the most successful long-term run in the history of the Cardinals.  Do you realize that?  For much of their history, it was basically on-a-decade, off-a-decade.  Three World Series in the ’40s, nothing in the ’50s.  Three World Series in the ’60s, nothing in the ’70s.  You get the picture.

Now, though, it’s almost an unbroken line of success from 1996 to the present.  You have, what, three years under .500 in that stretch?  And one of those was 2007, when the Cards were coming off not only a World Series title but a three year run the likes of which we may not see again and lost Chris Carpenter on Opening Day.  Sure, the wild card and the three divisions have helped in this regard, but it’s still a wonderful run.  And the reason it’s been a run, the reason that it’s been sustainable, is because of the decisions made by ownership.  Even if that decision was hire the right people and get out of their way, which is more than a lot of owners can do.  They’ve provided money when necessary but they’ve not used that as their only weapon.  You should be proud to be a Cardinal fan right now and a large part of that comes directly from the top.

All right, enough of that.  Running out of time this morning and we still need to do the Cardinal Approval Ratings.  Today, we take a look at Jon Jay.  Jay, even though he has been sidelined much of the spring recovering from wrist surgery, should still be the main centerfielder this season.  Jay has had a lot of detractors throughout his career, though some of that eased last year as he recovered from a slow start and seemed to play better defense.  He checks in with a 77.1% mark this year, which is significantly better than last year, when he was around 65%.  In fact, that’s the second highest mark for him since we started polling him in 2012.

Our media focus today is Jenifer Langosch, the beat writer for MLB.com.  Jenifer’s been here since 2012, taking over for the well-loved Matthew Leach, and has done an admirable job with the role.  I still have yet to meet Jenifer, but perhaps this year at UCB Weekend we can fix that.  Jenifer gets a 78.3% rate this season, perfectly in line with what she’s received the past two years.

Finally, we look at FOX Sports Midwest, where most of us see the Cardinals on a regular basis.  You could argue that the product could be better, that the broadcast teams aren’t up to what you want, but I don’t think anyone will say that they wished FSMW didn’t carry the Cards.  They bring us baseball basically every day, so how bad can they really be?  Interestingly, they too get a 77.1% tally this season.  That’s down from last year’s 82% mark, but I’d still say the change in sample size likely was more the cause rather than any changes at the broadcaster.

The World Series Champions and perpetual playoff thorn in the Cardinals’ side will be our focus of Pepper today, so be sure to join us!

  • Susan McMurray

    Darn right. Happy to be a Cards fan. We are so fortunate to have an excellent ownership/management group. But FSMW needs to improve.

    • Cardinal70

      What would you like to see out of FSMW? Different voices? Different graphics?

      • Susan McMurray

        Change or improve broadcasters. I’m sure Al Hrabosky is a great human being but he is always under prepared as a broadcaster. He repeats the same questionable “insights” re: Cards players every single game. He tries to skate by on anecdotes from his playing days. It’s old. Freshen it up or find a new audience.

        That’s my beef. The other broadcasters are acceptable. Some more “acceptable” than others.

        • Cardinal70

          Pretty reasonable opinion. I agree, if you have to have a former player in that role, it might be time to look at someone else.

          • Susan McMurray

            Oh were you looking for unreasonable? 😉 More interesting to discuss. How do you feel about McCarver?

            I’m ok listening to him but he makes some fans nuts.

          • Cardinal70

            I like McCarver. I think he and Dan are the best team FSMW can put out there, honestly. Maybe that’s a low bar, though!

          • Susan McMurray

            Yes I prefer listening to those two paired together. It might get old after a while. We will have to see.

  • Buddhasillegitimatechild38

    I was at that opening day when the Cardinals lost Carp in 2007. It was an awful game, we got absolutely spanked, and the best performance on the team that day was Adam Kennedy and what seemed like our only XBH. It was awful but we were defending world champs and it was opening day damn it!

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