I Picked The Wrong Week To….Go On Vacation

“Jeez, I’m out of it for a little while, everyone gets delusions of grandeur!”–Han Solo

I should know by now not to go anywhere at this time of year.  I still remember finding out about the Ryan Ludwick trade sitting in a McDonald’s in Ohio, for instance.  Sadly, given my work schedule, it seems the end of July is often when I can get away and this year our short jaunt to St. Louis was based around Star Wars Night, so I didn’t have much choice in the matter.  Still, when I can’t write things up, that’s when the magic happens.  (I expect some zealous fan to come hide me in a cave until the deadline today to see if that gets John Mozeliak to make another move.)  Anyway, lots to discuss.  Let’s do the game recaps first.  (Please note that while I was putting this together the Cardinals traded for Jonathan Broxton.  So you’ll have to scroll down for that at the end of the post.)

Monday (4-1 win vs. Cincinnati)

Hero: Kolten Wong.  His one swing in this one was pretty much the offense for the entire Cincinnati series.  With two outs and the bases loaded, so often we’d see a ground ball or a fly out that produced nothing but the end of the inning.  It was good to get a bit of a jolt for the first time in a while.

Goat: Jhonny Peralta.  0-4, one strikeout, four left on.  The offense wasn’t exactly prolific, with three of their seven hits coming in that fourth inning that was capped by the slam, but Peralta’s line looks the worst.

Notes: Lance Lynn just continues to keep holding the line, doing what he can to see if the offense will come around for him.  He allowed one run in seven innings and continued to just be a guy you can rely on to give you quality every time out.  The rotation needed a rock with Adam Wainwright out and Lynn has definitely provided it.

Two hits for Matt Carpenter in this one and, given how this set of games I’m recapping ends, perhaps he was starting to come out of whatever funk he was in anyway.  More on Carp in a little bit, though.

Tuesday (4-0 loss vs. Cincinnati)

Hero: Stephen Piscotty.  I was at this game, a miserably hot and muggy affair with absolutely no breeze.  To watch this slog in those conditions was pretty brutal.  The only real saving grace was watching Piscotty.  He had the first hit, which meant I wasn’t going to see the Cards get no-hit thankfully, and drew a walk.  All in all, I was impressed with him in this one and the next one and it raised my estimation of him a bit.

Goat: Matt Carpenter.  I know, I know, I just said that he might have been coming around.  That said, 0-4 with two strikeouts isn’t exactly a resume-enhancer.  Mike Leake is a tough customer (and we’ll have to see him again when the Cards take on the Giants late in August) but it still wasn’t Carp’s finest hour.

Notes: Jaime Garcia looked pretty good, but Joey Votto was not to be denied that night.  One mistake at the wrong time and the Cards are down 3-0 with no signs of being able to cut into that deficit.  Other than that, Garcia looked as good as he did before he went on the disabled list, so there’s no reason to believe he can’t be strong down the stretch.  We’ll see how he does against the Rockies on Sunday.

Wednesday (1-0 loss vs. Cincinnati)

Hero: John Lackey.  He allowed only a solo home run to Jay Bruce and deserved so much better than a loss in this one.  The only other hit he gave up was a bunt hit to Billy Hamilton (who is so blazing fast, as we all know, but it seemed different in person) and yet this offense couldn’t do a thing to help him out.  This game is one of those great examples of why win-loss record doesn’t mean much when looking at a pitcher.

Goat: Yadier Molina.  0-4 including a double play and a strikeout.  It’s not like he didn’t have a lot of competition here (the team only got four hits) but that’s the line that stands out.

Notes: Of course, what stands out about this game is Matt Holliday crumpling to the ground in the dugout after barely getting off the field.  I’m honestly stunned that he’s not done for the season, which is what I immediately expected after that play.  We’ll see if that optimistic outlook actually comes to fruition, though.  Even though the new injury is apparently not as severe as the old one, it still was five weeks or so on the first one.  Even if it takes four, that gets you through the month of August, so that would give him time to try to get right before the playoffs.  (And would make an interesting bench for postseason–you could have a bench of Tony Cruz, Pete Kozma, Mark Reynolds, Stephen Piscotty, Peter Bourjos. Who knows, if Greg Garcia makes an impression, perhaps he replaces Kozma, though that seems unlikely.  No matter, having at least two solid bats on the bench would be nice to have in pinch-hitting spots.)

Losing Holliday is a tough thing, though, and there’s no doubt that was a big impetus on Mozeliak finishing that deal with Cleveland so quickly.  You wonder if it had gone to today whether the price would have been a little bit less.

It was also Star Wars Night at the ballpark, which was a lot of fun for my son and I.  The folks that did the costuming, which I assume were from the local 501st Legion garrison and the related organizations, were top notch.  Plus seeing a working R2-D2 was pretty nice as well.  If you are a Star Wars fan (which, granted, given the low numbers of reads on this piece might not be my core audience) you really should go to one of these at some point.  Of course, you need to make sure your insurance is paid up because there seems to be a lot of Dark Side energy that gets released on these.  Three straight SW nights, three straight injuries.  Shelby Miller the first one (though that turned out to be nothing more than taking him out of the game early), Molina last year and Holliday this year.  I don’t think they’ll stop having them–there were a lot of folks that paid a lot of extra money there–but it depends on how superstitious the front office gets, I guess!

Thursday (9-8 win vs. Colorado)

Hero: Matt Carpenter.  When I was at the game Tuesday, I asked my daughter to pick a player she thought might hit a home run.  She went with Molina, who did hit at least one ball fairly deep.  Wednesday night, I did the same with my son and he took Carpenter.  Carp drew a couple of walks but then came just feet shy of making his pick right.  (He threw up his hands last night when I told him Carpenter went deep twice the day after he picked him.)  Save for the game against Leake, Carpenter’s at bats and results were looking much better than the half-swings and tentative nature of what he’d been doing for a while.

Moving back to the leadoff spot may just jump-start that recovery.  Carpenter admitted after the game that he feels comfortable in that position.  You’d think that lineup position wouldn’t matter that much, but we’ve heard how leading off forced Jason Heyward to hit differently and it seems pretty obvious that he likes it farther down in the lineup.  Given the fact that the Cards scored nine with this lineup (granted, against a team that’s not known for their pitching, but then again the quality of opposition hasn’t really mattered in the past), there’s little doubt Mike Matheny will stick with it for a few games at least.  We’ll get a chance to see if Carp really does respond to being back on top.

Goat: Mark Reynolds.  0-3 and got removed from the game so we could see the new acquisition.  Reynolds is most likely going to be the fill-in bench bat that we expected him to be when he was signed now, which is probably for the best.

Notes: This is probably the wildest game of the year and possibly for quite some time.  I mean, how often do the Cardinals rally in the ninth at all?  Not often–after this one they are now 3-28 when trailing in the last inning.  Then to see two Carpenter home runs, the opposing pitcher go yard, lead changes all over the place….. Nine runs by itself makes for an anomaly, but put all that stuff together and it’s insane.  Heck, now Greg Garcia has two walkoffs where he never had to swing.  Crazy!

And that’s not even talking about Carlos Martinez, who stepped off the rising path he was on after those blowups early in May.  This was the worst game we’ve seen out of him, which of course got everyone talking about him controlling his emotions.  Nobody worries about his emotions when he’s shutting down a club, of course, at least not nearly as much.  There’s no doubt that Carlos got worked up last night–flipping off the opponent’s dugout tends to not be high on the control list–but some of that is going to happen.  Nobody worried about Bob Gibson getting emotional.  Get results and you can pitch (to some degree; I’m not saying antagonizing the opposition with trash talk or gestures is a good or worthy idea) how you want.

Besides, how can you not enjoy the playfulness of a guy like this?

All right, let’s talk trade.  As you know, Brandon Moss came to the Cardinals (costing Dan Johnson his job as he had to be designated for assignment to fit Moss onto the roster, though Johnson was quite redundant with Moss around anyway) and Rob Kaminsky, one of the fine pitching prospects of St. Louis, went to the Indians in a deal that was pretty much immediately derided.  Kaminsky was a pretty steep price to pay for a guy that wasn’t a more established bat.  I think that, if it had been Adam Lind, folks would have hated to see Kaminsky go but I think they’d have felt the Cardinals were at least getting value for what they were giving up.

I was talking to someone over at FOX Sports Midwest on Wednesday as I was looking at their Ballpark Village studio and he said something (and remember, this is pre-deal) that I’ve always ascribed to:  “They have more information than we do.”  I tend to give the front office and John Mozeliak in particular the benefit of the doubt because not only do they have statistics and analytics that we don’t have access to, they also know how things work inside baseball, they know how this current team is likely to react or change with the addition of this person or that person.

It was also encouraging to me that Mozeliak, in his public comments, seemed to base this on much more than “well, he’s hit 15 homers this year”.  They are talking bat speed and exit velocity and things that are just now really becoming currency in evaluating players, at least in the public, with the release of some of the Statcast information.  I don’t know if the results will be there, but it’s good to see them really looking at all facets of this thing, not just the obvious batting average and other stats, to see if it works.

That said, it still seems like a lot to give up for a guy that can help the team but isn’t likely to light the league on fire.  Even with all the other information, even with the idea that he could hit somewhat better outside of Cleveland, you put him and Reynolds together and tell folks to find the differences and it can be tough.  Especially when Piscotty was starting to get his feet wet and showing some promise.  When Holliday returns, what happens to Piscotty?  He’s got to play, but where?

In Mo We Trust is a mantra that’s done us well in the past, but you also look at last year when he acquired Justin Masterson for James Ramsey.  Mo did all the due diligence and had reasons why Masterson should improve in St. Louis, but it never happened.  Granted, at the end of the season Mo admitted Masterson was more hurt than they knew, but that’s not necessarily an excuse nor does it help erase any doubts that this Moss trade engenders.

One last point on this before I can start talking about the most recent trade.  I don’t think the club valued Kaminsky as high as some outside evaluators did, for whatever reason.  They could be wrong, they could be right.  Many of us didn’t care for Brett Wallace going for Holliday and even though evaluations are more sophisticated now, that doesn’t mean that they are infallible.

All right, as I’m taking my time with this post, the Cards have gone out and gotten Broxton from the Brewers for minor league outfielder Malik Collymore.  Again, this one looks like a headscratcher or like Mozeliak is taking a tour around some of his favorite trade memories.  I know that he got John Axford from the Brewers a few years back and that worked well, but I’m not seeing the real need.  I do remember hearing a mention that Jordan Walden had a setback (something I need to look into though this one is going on long enough) so perhaps that’s worse than expected, but the bullpen isn’t really a huge need, especially with Steve Cishek out there now.  Then again, if there’s some idea that neither Walden nor Matt Belisle is going to return this season, maybe they do need another veteran arm. [Edit: Per Twitter looks like Walden left early Wednesday, but blamed it on the heat.  Unless there’s more that we don’t know–always possible–it doesn’t seem like it’ll be a real long time before he’s ready.  Which is strange, but we’ll see.]

Broxton’s a guy that, since his heyday with the Dodgers, I’ve always like to see come into a game to face the Cardinals, as they seem to be able to get to him.  I’m not sure that I’m going to be quite as excited about him coming in FOR the Cardinals, though.  He has been strong in July, though (eight total innings, seven strikeouts, .185 BAA) and he won’t have to be anything more than a sixth/seventh inning guy in St. Louis, so maybe it’ll work out.  It’s a low-risk deal, so if it doesn’t pan out, it’s not like the Moss deal.  No idea how they make room on the 40-man or the 25-man (though Miguel Socolovich may go down), but we’ll find out soon enough.

Does Mo have anything else up his sleeve?  I would be surprised, but if he does it’d have to be big because the club is running out of ways to get folks onto the roster.  He’s about to the point where he’d have to trade folks from the major league roster, which would make for a larger deal.  It also doesn’t seem like Mo’s really interested in that, so I’d be surprised if they do anything more today.  Then again, I wouldn’t have thought they would go after Broxton, so take it for all that it’s worth.

In whatever shape they will be in, the Cardinals will play ball tonight against the Rockies again.  Michael Wacha looks for better results this time out after being kinda middling over his last few, though as we’ve noted that may be more about some bad luck/regression than anything concerning.

Charlie Blackmon 7 7 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 .571 .571 .571 1.143 0 0 0 0 0
DJ LeMahieu 7 7 3 1 0 0 1 0 2 .429 .429 .571 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Nolan Arenado 3 3 2 0 0 1 2 0 0 .667 .667 1.667 2.333 0 0 0 0 0
Brandon Barnes 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Corey Dickerson 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Carlos Gonzalez 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Michael McKenry 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Ben Paulsen 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Jorge De La Rosa 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 34 34 11 1 0 1 3 0 12 .324 .324 .441 .765 0 0 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/31/2015.

Small sample size, of course, but the Rockies haven’t really been cowed that much by Wacha in the past.  At least they are playing in St. Louis, though it was tough to remember that when watching last night’s game.

Kyle Kendrick goes for Colorado.  Kendrick’s had a rough year, but he’s always held his own against the Cardinals.

Jason Heyward 37 33 7 3 0 0 2 4 7 .212 .297 .303 .600 0 0 0 0 1
Yadier Molina 22 20 4 1 0 0 0 1 2 .200 .273 .250 .523 0 0 0 1 0
Mark Reynolds 13 12 4 0 0 2 6 1 2 .333 .385 .833 1.218 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Carpenter 12 12 4 0 0 1 2 0 2 .333 .333 .583 .917 0 0 0 0 0
Jhonny Peralta 11 11 3 0 0 0 2 0 0 .273 .273 .273 .545 0 0 0 0 0
Tony Cruz 8 8 1 0 0 0 1 0 2 .125 .125 .125 .250 0 0 0 0 0
Pete Kozma 5 5 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 .400 .400 .400 .800 0 0 0 0 0
Kolten Wong 3 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 .667 .667 .667 1.333 0 0 0 0 1
Jaime Garcia 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
John Lackey 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0 0
Lance Lynn 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0
Carlos Martinez 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0 0
Brandon Moss 1 1 1 0 0 0 2 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 120 109 28 4 0 3 15 6 15 .257 .302 .376 .678 4 0 0 1 2
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/31/2015.

Hey, Moss is 1-1 against him with two RBI, so maybe he knows the secret!  (Maybe not.)  Don’t expect another wild game tonight but you can’t predict baseball!

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