Good morning everyone, or early afternoon depending on when this hits the site. As we roll out of bed this morning we see the Cardinals sitting at the top of the NL Central with a 3 ½ game cushion on the Pirates. This season has the feel of ones in the not so distant past where the Cardinals would turn it on just enough. Last season they were pushed by the Pirates and Reds in route to 97 wins and as a whole the best division in baseball with 3 teams hitting the 90 win mark. This season though it appears only the Cardinals have any real shot of hitting 90 and if that happens it almost assures them of the division title and a spot in the division series round of the playoffs.
Speaking of the playoffs how is everyone liking the 2nd Wild Card spot now that it’s in year 3 of existence? I personally think it’s been great and has brought an enriched experience as a whole to late season baseball. From a business perspective it’s great in the fact that more teams are involved late ( As of today you can make a case for 10 teams being alive for the 4 spots in the 2 leagues) which generates revenue. At the same time it also brings the 1 game play in which I also really like. Win your division or face the elimination Game of Doom! This gives MLB two guaranteed game 7 type clashes regardless of how the playoffs go and everyone loves this type of atmosphere from a pure sports perspective. And lastly it calms down the trade deadline somewhat as more teams have realistic shots at the Postseason making it ever more important to have organizational depth for that late season run. Short version, I like it.
So back to the Cardinals let’s talk some starting pitching. How about that Shelby Miller guy and his new and improved curve ball huh? He’s out there droppin deuces (keep it clean it’s slang for curve ball) on unsuspecting victims. According to Brooks Baseball he toned it down last night and worked his two-seam/sinker into the mix more while still working off his four-seam bread and butter of course. Miller credits Yadier Molina returning from the DL as giving him the confidence in the curve by calling for it. Good on Yadi but credit goes to Miller for the performance and giving the Cardinals a boost in the rotation.
Miller’s emergence transitions us nicely into some playoff rotation predictions. Hopefully I’m not looking too far ahead but it’s fun to speculate so I’m gunna. Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn are locks and as long as Shelby Miller doesn’t explode with suck he’s also in. This leaves John Lackey and Michael Wacha for the 4th and final spot. Wacha continues to try and come back from the shoulder stress reaction. With the team skipping Wacha’s start today it’s hard to believe we’ll see him ready to go for the start of the playoffs and quite possibly not at all regardless of the team’s success. Lackey may be handed the spot by default and that’s fine. He has good postseason experience and is a guy you don’t mind giving the ball to in hopes of a big start on a big stage. It’s easy to blame it on some bad luck but it seems that everything put into play against Lackey lately has been finding holes, gaps and bleachers. Hopefully that turns to gloves sooner rather than later as I believe he’s going to be the guy.
I want to close on something that Rick Horton said during the game last night that really caught my ear in a good way. In case you don’t know I’m really fascinated by Matt Carpenter’s approach to hitting and his work the count get on base any way you can effect on an inning. Dan McLaughlin has had a pitches per plate appearance conversation with both Tim McCarver and Rick Horton this season with Tim dismissing the stat as worthless while Rick gave a good take during Carpenter’s plate appearance last night that supports my obsession of his AB’s so of course I want to point it out. Right now Matt Carpenter leads the NL in P/PA at 4.38. Now the key to this is not only is he the leader in this stat but is also 8th in the NL in OBP at .373. So what Rick Horton said during last night’s game is essentially he believes that on average when a pitcher gets to 15 pitches in an inning that’s where he really begins to fatigue and needs to sit down and re-charge. In last night’s game for example even though Matt Carpenter flew out in his 1st AB it was of the 9 pitch variety and on pitch 15 of the inning Matt Holliday put one on the grass hill in center. Just a fun bit o’ thought I guess.
Closing Arguments: I was at the game on Friday night sitting in the 2nd deck down the right field line and Matt Holliday’s laser beam into Big Mac land made my brain need a break as it couldn’t compute how the ball went from plate to seats at that trajectory that fast.
A few people were having a Cardinals MVP discussion on Twitter the other day. It’s always an interesting topic to discuss value but the answer almost has to be Jhonny Peralta right? What a difference maker he’s been both offensively and defensively with his quick hands and making the double play combo of him and Kolten Wong a sight of baseball awesomeness.
And lastly since I don’t know when my next post will be a large tip of the cap to Lance Lynn for his season. His metrics are very similar to last season with the exceptions of somehow improving on the HR/9 at .39 which is tops in the NL just ahead of Waino but was already a strength of his. The biggest thing for him this season though is his BABIP is sitting at .293 which is about a 10 point improvement from last season. A hint of luck combined with pitch execution is the key to this recipe. Here’s my post on Lynn last July which is kinda fun to reference: A Case For Lance Lynn – Until next time……