2011 Revisited: A Game of Inches

As I’m prepping these, I realize that I was much more prolific in my younger blogger days.  Sure, I write pretty regularly now, but it’s harder to get out of bed to write about spring games than it apparently was back then!

A Game of Inches

Often it’s said that baseball is a game of inches.  Sometimes, life is as well.

Yesterday, in the Braves/Cardinals game, Brian McCann hit a rocket of a foul ball into the Braves dugout.  We see that often–everyone scurries, then jokes about how close it game.  Not this time.

Luis Salazar, a former player and now coach in the Braves organization, didn’t have time to react.  The ball hit him square and he dropped to the ground.  For a while, everyone feared the worst.  Later, Chipper Jones would admit that he thought Salazar was dead and that he “wishes he hadn’t looked”.  Thankfully, that wasn’t the case, though Salazar did wind up with multiple facial fractures and was airlifted unconscious to a hospital.

The Cardinals, of course, had seen this before.  Juan Encarnacion was hit by a foul ball a couple of years ago, ending his career.  The images of that night will never leave those that were there or that saw it on TV.  Of course, the Cardinals have also dealt with their share of tragedy in the last decade, with the deaths of Darryl Kile and Josh Hancock.  They haven’t had them put together, though, and thankfully they weren’t associated with that this time as well.

It seemed to me listening to that part of the game that it was a tossup on whether it would continue or not.  Chipper Jones said they probably shouldn’t, as everyone’s mind was on Salazar.  They did, though, and Kyle Lohse had a good one, allowing only one run in four innings.  He struck out three and walked none, but how much you temper that with a distracted team (McCann struck out on the next pitch after the foul ball, not caring what happened.  He left the game immediately afterwards.)  However, I think what was more telling was that Lohse’s velocity is up.  He was throwing at speeds he hasn’t thrown at since before his injury-plagued ’09 year.

I think that is a sign, coupled with a solid spring so far, that Lohse might be turning a corner.  He isn’t going to be an ace, he probably isn’t even going to be ’08 Lohse, but he could be an above-average third starter.  Being that he’ll likely be the fourth starter for the Cardinals, that deepens the rotation and helps take some of the blow of losing Adam Wainwright.

On the offensive side of things, David Freese had his second straight strong start, going two for three with a home run.  The home run was more telling when you factor in that the wind was blowing in, and the Braves announcers were very impressed with it.  Normal caveats apply, but it’s hard not to get excited about a team with an actual third baseman, rather than the hole that was there last year after he went down.

Chris Carpenter will throw live BP Friday and plans to start again next week.  Sounds like everything is going well there, and Mitchell Boggs will be back in a game Friday or Saturday, so perhaps the injury bug has packed up and moved on.  We can hope, at least!

Today’s approval ratings are a mix of fairly unpopular people.  But just how unpopular, you may be wondering?  Well, our media member ranks the highest, and that’s really saying something.

Kyle Lohse hasn’t been extremely well-liked in Cardinal Nation since signing that long-term, no-trade deal.  He’s had his problems with injuries as well, but that’s not given him a pass in the hearts and minds of Cardinal fans.  Lohse had a high of just under 78% two years ago, but dropped last year to 67%.  This year, he drops significantly again, posting a 56.1% mark.

Some of the comments on Lohse: He has “disappointed me more than any,” “been disappointing,” “has a shot of upping his stock this year”  As I have said, I’m a fairly lenient grader, so factoring in all the injury stuff he got a 75 from me.  I still have hope that he’ll be something this year.

Our management representative isn’t actually management; far from it.  However, there just wasn’t any where to put Dan Lozano otherwise and, being that he is in the midst of the highest profile negotiations in Cardinal history, I thought it was appropriate to add him to the list.

Lozano’s in a difficult position.  He’s an agent, which is already a strike against him.  Then, if he’s successful, it’s possible the best player since Stan Musial goes somewhere else.  That’s not going to win you many friends either.  Over all, Lozano wound up with a 59.8%.  Some gave him credit for just doing his job, while others gave him very low marks for not getting the negotiations done.  Comments ranged from “he certainly recognizes his gravy train is here with AP” to “I think they [Lozano and Bill DeWitt] handled the situation well.”  I gave him a 92, because he did keep things out of the press and I believe he’ll keep Albert Pujols in St. Louis when it is all said and done.

Finally, we get to that media member.  After reading the above, I think you can probably guess that today is Al Hrabosky‘s turn in the tank.  Al gets a lot of abuse across the internets as the newer and more informed fan sometimes gets frustrated or aggravated with his style of color commentary.  That said, I found him to be engaging when we met with him in person and that has led me to revising my opinion of him upward.  (For the record, my score was a 87).

For whatever reason, it seems like I wasn’t the only one.  Al’s score this year is 65.8%, which is easily his highest mark in the last three years.  His score actually increased over 20%.  Whether that was because people are more forgiving these days, he looks better when compared to Ricky Horton, or people were just excited that he was going to be doing less games this year, I don’t know.  Comments still tended toward the negative, with “give him something else to do; he’s repetitive” and “annoying” being fairly representative.

Cards and Braves are going at it again today.  Here’s the lineup, which has the dreaded Skip Schumaker/Ryan Theriot 1-2 punch.  I sincerely hope that’s just because of the personnel available and not something TLR will take into the season.

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