Bleed Cardinal Red With Me

Like I continue to say, I feel more confidence when Matt Carpenter comes to the plate than I do when anyone else on the 2013 Cardinals comes to the plate.  I think most of us feel that way.  He works the count and grinds out AB’s like few others.  Many players fear the 1-2 or 0-2 count, Carpenter doesn’t.  Carpenter currently ranks 5th in the NL in P/PA (pitches per plate appearance) at 4.10.  Shin-Soo Choo (4.20 P/PA), Paul Goldschmidt (4.18 P/PA) and Joey Votto (4.13 P/PA) are the top 3 in the NL.  That’s good company to be in.  It’s not that Carpenter just works the count, it’s his ability to continue to get hits with 2 strikes regardless of the type of pitch thrown, never fearing being down in the count.  When he makes outs, many of them are line drive outs.

The one thing the Cards have lacked is speed.  With the addition of Kolten Wong, the team is able to add a new dimension to the team.  I didn’t understand the move last night to pinch hit David Freese for Wong for a few reasons.  One, Wong hit lefties almost as well as righties in the minors.  The other is that when you remove Wong, you’re losing defensive range at 2 positions.  It worked out that the Cards won the game in 9 innings with Descalso moving over to 3B, which made it just straight pinch hit of Freese for Wong.  I’m getting off point a bit here, but Kolten shouldn’t be replaced.  The only way to know if he’s going to hit LHP’s in MLB as well as he did in MiLB is stick with him and give it time to find out.

Getting back to the point of Wong adding speed to the team now.

Like I said, I love little Carp, and it’s clear he’s one of if not the best leadoff hitter in MLB.  He does everything but steal bases.  Because of the incredible plate discipline of Carpenter, Wong leading off seems to make the most sense with the way this team is constructed.  Carpenter would go from the best leadoff hitter to the best two-hole hitter in the NL.  Wong would see a steady diet of fastballs hitting ahead of Carpenter, and when he gets on he would have pitch after pitch to steal 2B.  That threat alone would more than likely give Carpenter better pitches to hit, and on and on we go.  Carpenter has 64 RBI’s, 52 as the leadoff hitter.  How many would he have hitting 2nd?

As much as I’d like to see the Cards go ahead and put this plan into action, I’m not sure if we’ll see this in 2013.  The Cards are hot again, Wong only has a few games in MLB and this could also work in a negative way by putting more pressure on him in his young career.  If Jon Jay can stay hot, having Wong hitting lower in the order isn’t the worst thing.  Having his speed at the bottom of the order isn’t exactly a waste, but it won’t take full advantage of it either.

The other thing is you want to give your best players the most AB’s over the course of a season.  Until Wong proves that he’s the real deal, it also makes sense to stick with what’s working.  I do think Wong is the real deal and is here to stay with Carpenter as our 3B going forward.  I can see a scenario in which Freese is on the Cards in 2014, but I think he would get about as many AB’s as Matt Adams is getting this year.  I’ll be surprised if the Cards don’t try and move him in the offseason.

Whether it’s his lower back or his ankles or both with a few other things, Freese just isn’t getting it done.  He’s stiff on defense and doesn’t cover much ground.  On offense, Freese just doesn’t work to his strength by hitting the ball consistently the other way anymore.  He’ll always be loved in St. Louis, but I’m not sure he’ll be a Cardinal much longer.  If he’s here in 2014, it will be in a limited role unless there’s an injury to Carpenter or Wong.  Daniel Descalso has to factor into that discussion as well.

We may not see Wong as the leadoff hitter in 2013, but I do think that’ll be the plan in the long run.

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Some of you think it’s important to go all in when you have a team a piece or two away.  Others think that holding on to the prospects the Cards have in the system are worth keeping for the potential in years ahead.  Some of you see the bigger picture and I’m with you on that.  With the second wildcard introduced last year, more teams are in the race longer, which means more teams are looking to add players.  The teams that are the sellers are going to ask for too much, especially when dealing with the Cards.  Any conversation was going to start with Oscar Taveras and end with Michael Wacha or Carlos Martinez.

Being in the middle of a long losing streak didn’t help the fans feelings towards what they thought GM John Mozeliak should have done at the trade deadline.  These things happen though.  Even with a 7-game losing streak, the Cards are still in the middle of NL Central race, ½ game behind the Pirates.  I heard it all during the losing streak.  Some said Adam Wainwright wasn’t an ace.  Others claimed…well, there’s just too many to list.

I’d rather the Cards ride it out with the team they currently have and hold on to the important pieces of the future.  I’m not sure which players out of the Cards top prospects that may be and neither do you.  That’s why it’s a good idea to keep them in the system and see which ones work out, because more than likely all of them won’t.  If the Cards don’t win it all, there will be many fans that will claim that a certain player would have put us over the top.  For a team that won the World Series in 2011 and was one game of going back a year later under a new regime, you’d think they’d have the benefit of the doubt.  If you think you know more about what the Cards need than Mike Matheny and Mo, you can always turn in your resume at Busch Stadium.  Let me know how that works out.

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There are a lot of rumors floating around about who the St. Louis Cardinals might be interested in to be a solid #2 starter behind Adam Wainwright.  Cardinal scouts have been watching Jake Peavy, Ervin Santana, James Shields, Bud Norris and a few others.  Norris is having a fine year for the Astros in the AL West without the benefit of beating up on the Cardinals (although the Cards have played better ball against Norris the last few years).  If the Cards do make a move to acquire Norris, it would be interesting to see Norris working with Yadier Molina and how good of a pitcher he could become.

It’s hard to get a feel for how good Norris really is.  He’s only 28 and has played for some awful teams in Houston.  The 1.40 career WHIP has a bit of a buyer beware attached to it, but he does have durability and some life on his pitches.  He’s not as bad as many seem to think.  Now in his 5th full year, he’s played on teams that have won 74, 76, 56 and 55 games.  The Astros are 34-68 this year.  The thing to really like about Norris is his career 8.4 SO/9.

I’m mentioning Norris because I don’t think the Cards will go beyond that.  Peavy is nowhere near the pitcher he once was.  The Royals are going to ask for too much for both Shields and Santana.  The Cards don’t want to deal Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha, Kolten Wong, Oscar Taveras, Matt Adams and many others.  Another player I’d like to see the Cards hang on to is Tyler Lyons.  I really think Lyons has a bright future ahead in MLB as at least a solid #4 starter and maybe a bit better.

Dealing for Norris allows the Cards to do business with former Cardinal Jeff Luhnow.  In 8 years with the Cards, Luhnow moved up to the VP of scouting and player development, and is partly responsible for many of the current players on the 25 man roster and the Cards #1 farm system in MLB.  Now, as the GM of the Astros, Luhnow might find more value in some of the players he drafted that other teams wouldn’t be quite as aware of.

I think the Cards could stand pat at the trading deadline and cruise into the playoffs.  More importantly, I think the Cards could stand pat and win the World Series.  It doesn’t appear Chris Carpenter is coming back after suffering another setback.  The Cards were also without Carpenter in the 2004 playoffs, and made it to the WS with a rotation of Matt Morris (not the ace Morris either, the Morris with the 4.72 ERA in 2004), Jason Marquis, Woody Williams and Jeff Suppan.  In 2006, the Cards won it all with Jeff Weaver, Anthony Reyes, Suppan and Carpenter.

In 2011, the Cards won it all with Edwin Jackson, Jaime Garcia, Kyle Lohse and Carpenter.  The point is, the Cards have a top 5 starting pitching staff in 2013, and I don’t feel that trading away what could be a huge piece of the future for a chance to go for it all in 2013 is worth the risk.  That is, unless they can swing a deal where they don’t give away the top prospects mentioned before.

If you were a regular reader of mine, this might seem to contradict everything I’ve ever said.  I have, and always will talk about pitching, pitching and more pitching.  Dominant pitching wins in the playoffs.  Go back and look at the last 20 World Series winning teams and you’ll find that the Cards SP’s of ’06 and ’11 were among the bottom in strikeouts.  Power pitching wins championships.  The thing is, the Cards have that in Lance Lynn (8.5 SO/9), Shelby Miller (9.6 SO/9) and Adam Wainwright (8.1 SO/9).  More than likely, someone is going to emerge out of Lyons, Wacha and Martinez to be that next guy in line.  Joe Kelly probably won’t be starting much longer, and I certainly don’t see him as a starter in the playoffs.  I’m not ripping on Kelly and I think he has a bright future, but nothing about him screams dominance.

When you have the ability to go for it all, the argument can be made that you make every opportunity to do whatever it takes to do so.  That applies to most teams.  The 2013 Cards are not one of those teams though.  The Cards have a plan that will put them in the mix every year for the next 5-10 years.  Martinez is commonly referred to as the “little Pedro”, meaning Pedro Martinez.  I understand that line of thinking, but to say it’s a bit premature is an understatement.  If the Cards really do feel that way though, trading him for anyone at all makes little sense.  If nothing else, since the Cards have limited his innings this year, I think they should go ahead and slide him into that 5th starter’s spot and see what he can do.

I’d like to see the Cards roll into the postseason with a rotation of Wainwright, Miller, Lynn and one of Lyons, Wacha or Martinez and see what they can do.  Getting their feet wet in October baseball, regardless of the outcome, would go a long way the next time they get there.  With the current plan they have in place that they’re sticking with, that’ll be in 2014.  What the Cards have is something very special.  Not many teams that are contenders every year are able to build up a farm system like the Cards have because of picking so low in the draft.  The Cards are doing it in the draft and have a great plan that is working in South America as well.

For all of those who are screaming for a trade just for the sake of the Cards making a trade, I ask you to reconsider.  If the Royals would happen to part with Shields, it won’t be for a bag of balls.  He’s the best of the bunch, but how much further can he really take the Cards?  He got the nickname “Big Game James”, but if you look at his postseason stats, there’s nothing great about them.  In 6 GS, he’s 2-4 with a 4.98 ERA, a 1.39 WHIP and 25 K’s in 34 1/3 IP.  If trading away what could be a cost controlled future ace for that is worth the gamble to you, I’d like to hear why you feel that way.

Would I like to have Shields…you bet.  However, I just don’t think the risk is worth taking.  Not with the cost of pitching, the time it takes to develop them, how often they get injured and the long term potential of what the Cards have in the pitchers like Martinez, Wacha, Lyons as well as the newly drafted ones who will be knocking on the door soon enough.  Some of you will call it a pitching surplus, and I’ll continue to say there’s no such thing.

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Things didn’t go the way Chris Carpenter wanted them to tonight in Memphis.  In 3 1/3 IP, Carpenter gave up 9 hits, 4 earned runs and 2 walks against the Oklahoma City RedHawks.  Carpenter, not pleased with his performance, stated after the game that he won’t make the comeback to St. Louis if he isn’t going to help the team.

I’m not as worried about the results in the minors from Carp as much as I am the velocity and location of his pitches.  The velocity is there.  We need to remember that this is only his second start in what is his spring training.  I’m neither counting on Carpenter nor writing him off.  He’s a warrior, but he’s also 38.  I hope for the best, but I think the most important thing right now is to see if he can continue to pitch without pain and start to worry about results in his 4th or 5th start.  If he’s healthy, I have no doubt everything will fall into place in the end.

A lot of worry is going around Cardinal Nation right now about all the SP’s not named Adam WainwrightLance Lynn labored tonight.  Shelby Miller hasn’t been sharp lately.  Jake Westbrook continues to get decent results despite an alarming WHIP of 1.40.  I understand wanting to get Wainwright as many starts as possible, but I haven’t agreed with Mike Matheny skipping a spot in the rotation which the Cards will do again Monday.  I think the extra day for Miller and Lynn here and there outweigh getting AW an extra start or two.  I’d also think it would be wise to have a fewer innings for AW when the playoffs arrive.  It’s hard to criticize any moves by the team with the best record in baseball, but this is only a little bit of second guessing.

The Cards are in for a tough stretch twice in the next month and a half.  After an off day on Monday, the Phillies come to town for 3, and they’re playing better ball lately.  After that, the Cards have 3 at the Braves, 5 at the Pirates, 3 at the Reds and then back home for the Dodgers for 4-game series.  Starting on August 22nd, the Cards are at home for 4 with Braves, 3 with the Reds and then after an off day on the 29th are right back at it with 3 at the Pirates, 4 at the Reds and finish with 3 at home vs. the Pirates.

A lot of folks are pointing to the Pirates play right here after the ASG and claiming the end is again near for Pittsburgh.  I’m not one of them.  Like I’ve said before, I still think the Cards and Reds are better and will finish ahead of Pitt, but I expect a good battle to the end between the three clubs.

I’m not going to get down on Lynn and Miller.  They’re both still young and battling through some tough times at the moment.  In no way do I think Lynn should be moved the bullpen.  I do think a spot start here and there by Carlos Martinez, Tyler Lyons and/or Michael Wacha would be wise, but I’m sure Matheny and John Mozeliak have a good plan.  Many don’t want to hear this, but I don’t think the Cards need to make a trade just because the SP’s are going through a rough stretch.  It’s a long season, these things happen and the Cards have plenty of arms worth holding onto.  There’s a bigger plan in place than just the results of 2013 and I’ll be pleased if the Cards stick with it.

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Some will point to his BABIP of .353 and say he’s going to regress.  I say Matt Carpenter is just getting started.  I’m sure Keith Law doesn’t say the same thing about Dustin Pedroia, or worry about his BABIP.  Here’s a link to Law on Carpenter.   Obviously, when people like Law talk about Carpenter you can tell they don’t watch him play on an everyday basis.  This is the problem I have with analysts who only look at the stats and don’t watch enough of the games actually being played.  Not only is Carpenter doing great by the numbers, he just doesn’t look overmatched….ever.  He consistently makes hard contact and works the count in his favor with plate discipline.  Even when he makes outs, he generally makes hard contact and puts the ball in play.

Carpenter is a great leadoff hitter for the Cards, but he would be an even better two-hole hitter if the Cards had some speed at the top of the lineup. That 4.06 P/PA to go along with his great numbers across the board would take him from the best leadoff hitter in the game to the best two-hole hitter in the game.

Because of the potential to upgrade over Jon Jay, I think that’s what GM John Mozeliak will target at the trade deadline if any move is made at all.  The reason I would think the upgrade would occur with Jay over Pete Kozma is based a couple of reasons.  One, Kozma plays great defense.  You can argue that point if you want, but any defensive metric you look at has Kozma in the top 5 or 6 among all MLB shortstops.  The eye test should confirm that as well.  Another great thing about Kozma is he doesn’t let his offensive struggles carry out to the field.  Next, if the Cards do decide to try someone else at shortstop, I think they’ll go with Ryan Jackson, exhausting all in-house options first.

I don’t normally like to speculate about trades, but it’s that time of the season and the Cards have the trade options because of the play of Carpenter.  The Cards will have a decision to make in 2014 with Kolten Wong because of Carpenter unless they use him as a trade chip now.  Personally, I feel the Cards may end up keeping Wong as well as Freese, at least until 2015.  Having Wong playing a role in 2014 similar to what Matt Adams is doing this year makes a lot of sense and keeps some depth in case of an injury.  He wouldn’t be the power bat, but he’d be a threat off the bench and as a spot starter.  I simply don’t think the Cards will trade Wong.

My focus on writing this is only because of the play of Carpenter.  I’m not saying the Cards should move him from the leadoff spot.  What I am saying is that if the Cards make a trade, putting a legitimate base stealing threat at the top of lineup ahead of Carpenter could change this offense from a great one to one that’s head and shoulders above all others.  You have to wonder how many more opportunities a player that’s a threat on the bases would get to steal bases hitting ahead of Carpenter as well as how many more good pitches that player would get to hit.

If Mo decides to make a trade, I think he’ll have to be blown away by an offer.  Any other organization is going to want Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez, Oscar Taveras or Wong.  Tyler Lyons name will probably come up as well.  I still think Lyons is going to be more than a serviceable 4th or 5th starter.  The problem with trying to upgrade CF is that Carlos Gomez is the only available CF’er that plays for a team that is out of the race and that’s worth trading young talent for.  Lorenzo Cain would be an upgrade on defense, but he doesn’t offer the bat or the speed to make hitting in front of Carpenter a lineup change worth making.  There are many players that would offer an upgrade on defense in CF, but at what cost?

If the Cards did decide to try and make a change at shortstop, the only option I really see is Everth Cabrera.  Cabrera plays a plus defense and gives you that speed on the bases.

The Cards could obviously make a trade for either a SS or CF’er and not worry about them being a prototypical leadoff hitter and stick them towards the bottom of the order.  The definition of that has changed over the years anyway as speed has become less of a priority around the league.  Carpenter is doing a great job of leading off for the Cards and it’s hard to argue against him being the best leadoff hitter in the game.  If Mo does decide the pull the trigger on a deal though, it’s exciting to think of a player that can hit in front of Carpenter and utilize his skills a little bit more.  However, with a 2nd WC being in play now, fewer teams are going to be sellers at the trade deadline.

It seems most Cards fans have a strong opinion about whether it should be Jay or Kozma that a move is made for to replace.  I would like to upgrade for Jay.  Kozma has a steady glove at shortstop.  Jay doesn’t cover enough ground, has the weakest arm among all CF’ers in MLB and is lost at the plate.  It’s not just that he’s lost, it’s the weak contact on balls in play.  Rolling over on a pitch to 2B for an out happens way too often.  If the Cards come down to a game 5 or 7 and a runner needs to be thrown out at home on a ball hit to Jay, the Cards will lose if that’s the winning run.  The same could not be said if Shane Robinson were in CF.

Mo is in a good position.  The Cards farm system is still deep, and even though there is room for improvement, this team is good enough to win it all.  Unless the Cards are blown away with a good offer, I’m not expecting an impact trade.  If a player were available to hit in front of Carpenter and utilize his skills better that played SS or CF though, I’d like to see it happen if the price were right.  Because of how great Carpenter has been leading off, Mo can look to upgrade the Cards in CF on offense or defense as well as on offense at SS without worrying about a leadoff hitter, but adding someone who can steal bases ahead of Carpenter would be fun to watch.

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Last night I was having a conversation with a friend on whether or not the Pirates could keep up their pace and if they would be there at the end of the 2013 season.  Even though a lot of the numbers say they won’t and that things will catch up with them, my answer was that they would be.  There are many different angles to this, but the Pirates have a couple of things that are different from the last two years.  The first is obvious, the pitching, both SP’s and in the BP.  Another big thing being overlooked is Russell Martin and what he’s meant to that pitching staff.  While this entry will mostly focus on pitching, the Pirates also have a little speed, and while they’re certainly not the Cards of the ‘80’s, it’s enough to overcome some of their offensive holes by both speed on the bases and covering ground on defense.

If you were a regular reader of mine in the past, you would know that I like to talk about pitching, particularly starting pitching.  Any team can overcome and hide a lot of flaws if they have it.  In 2013, the Pirates are one of those teams.  For those who think that the Pirates are overusing their BP….not so fast.

As a whole, the Pirates are 1st in the NL in IP by the BP with 305.  That appears to be a problem until you look at the innings logged by closer Jason Grilli and setup man Mark Melancon.  Grilli has 37.2 IP.  Melancon has 41.1 IP.  Let’s compare that against the Cards BP.  As a team, the Cards have only used the BP for 230.1 IP.  Closer Edward Mujica has 35.1 and our setup man Trevor Rosenthal has 40 IP.  Even though it appears that Melancon and Grilli are finishing off victories for the Pirates every day, that’s not the case.  So, Melancon and Grilli have just 4 more IP combined over Rosenthal and Mujica.  Maybe Pirates manager Clint Hurdle has some Keyser Soze in him, I don’t know.

To go along with his catcher Martin, Francisco Liriano has to be the biggest free agent acquisition so far in 2013.  Liriano is pitching like it’s 2006, when it looked like he and Johan Santana would eventually lead the Minnesota Twins back to the World Series.  In 11 starts, Liriano is 8-3 with a 2.20 ERA, a 1.23 WHIP and 74 K’s in 69.2 IP.

LHP Jeff Locke is 8-1 with a 2.12 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP in 17 starts.  Rookie Gerrit Cole has looked very good in his short MLB career.  Locke was a second round pick by the Braves in 2006 and traded to the Pirates along with Charlie Morton for Nate McLouth in 2009.  When you throw in A.J. Burnett and what he’s done in Pittsburgh, as well as Melancon, who was so bad in 2012 with the Red Sox (6.20 ERA in 2012) that they optioned him to Pawtucket, there has to be something more going on there.

I thought most of the credit would fall on the shoulders of Martin, the last catcher to win the Gold Glove Award in the NL before Yadier Molina.  That’s a big part of it, but another is the Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage.  Every one of these pitchers attributes their success this year to the work that Searage has done with them, whether it be a slight change in mechanics or confidence.  It’s something Searage has been building, and now he has the catcher in Martin to work with and help carry out his plan.  Just type in Searage and Pirates on Google and you’ll find many interesting links.  He’s not the new Dave Duncan, but he’s doing some good things.

Of course, the man behind all of it is manager Hurdle.  He’s building this thing by putting the right pieces around him and taking chances on players nobody wanted and a pitching coach he works well with.  Hurdle kept Searage as his pitching coach after he took the job in Pittsburgh (Searage had just become pitching coach at the end of the 2010 season).  Of course a little credit has to go to the Pirates front office, but the Pirates have only become relevant in the past few years under Hurdle.

A lot of fans will say that the Pirates run differential isn’t enough to keep them on top for very long.  Right now, the Pirates are a +46 with the best record in MLB.  The last two years they’ve come undone after the ASB.  I just don’t see it happening again this year.  The Pirates have the pitching, but they’ve also added just enough on offense to keep them dangerous and out of extended slumps.

Starling Marte has a nice power and speed combination (8 HR/25 SB) at the top of the lineup, Pedro Alvarez is hitting HR’s (21) against teams other than the Cardinals and Andrew McCutchen is just heating up.  Jose Tabata is an up and coming player that just got off the DL and Neil Walker has an OBP over 100 points higher than his BA (.349/.246).  And again, the Pirates now have one of the best signal callers and pitch framers in the game in catcher Martin, who the Yankees gave up on after a down year.

Another thing the Pirates do is cover ground.  As a team, they’re the 3rd best in MLB with a RngR of 19.3 (The Cards are 24th at -12).  In UZR/150, the Pirates are 4th at 5.5 and the Cards are 28th at -9.1.

I could go on and on about the Pirates and what they’ve become.  In short, I think they’ve become a team that will be in the mix for years to come if they stick with their current plan.  It’s amazing it takes teams so long to figure out that pitching is the mainstay in this game.  IMO, the Pirates aren’t going away in 2013.  They have enough pitching to hang around this year (especially if Wandy Rodriguez makes it back from the DL).  I still think either the Cards or Reds will walk away as the victors of the NLC, but I expect the Pirates to be in the mix until the end and at least get in as a WC.  Many will continue to say they haven’t seen enough from the Pirates that would convince them they won’t have another second half collapse, but I’m saying I have.  The only thing I could see that would bring down the Pirates is injuries.

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A lot is being said about the Cardinals defense in that they make the routine plays and make up for a lack of range by good positioning on defense.  That’s fine, but it’s selling Pete Kozma a bit short.  When talking about the Cardinals on defense, the general consensus is that only Yadier Molina is a plus defender.  Molina is in another world at his position defensively, and we all know it by watching him routinely.  What the stats are saying here at the halfway point in the season is that the Cards have another very good defender, and that’s Kozma.  Matt Carpenter is doing more than holding his own at 2B, but that’s a subject for another day.

Last week, I thought the things I said about Jon Jay were spot on.  The stats and the eye test both tell us that Jay is a below average CF’er.  In 2013, he’s been especially awful, both with the bat and the glove.  Jay is at the bottom of every list, and watching him day in and day out only confirms what the stats say.  Having a good defensive club up the middle (C, SS, 2B, CF) is going to win teams a lot of games if they have the good pitching to go with it.  The Cardinals have most of that covered, but because of Kozma’s recent struggles with the bat, fans are calling for the wrong player to be upgraded.

Here’s how Kozma ranks among NL shortstops in 2013 so far:

UZR: 5.7—3rd (Simmons is 1st at 9.9)

UZR/150: 11.9—3rd (Simmons is 1st at 19.4)

RngR: 2.4—4th (Simmons is 1st at 7.6)

Out Of Zone (OOZ): 45—2nd (Segura is first at 55)

Revised Zone Rating (RZR): .869—2nd (Tulowitzki is first at .888)

Most of the advanced defensive metrics put Kozma right there with Andrelton Simmons of the Braves and Troy Tulowitzki of the Rockies.  Kozma has about the same numbers across the board as Yunel Escobar of the Rays, and it’s a tossup between Escobar and Stephen Drew for the best defensive SS in the AL right now.

I know many fans are calling for Ryan Jackson because of Kozma’s struggles at the plate.  I guess I’m in the minority, but I want to see the Cards ride out the rest of the year with Kozma and see how he responds and what his numbers look like at the end.  Having a good glove up the middle isn’t something that’s easy to trade for and I hope the folks that wanted John Mozeliak to trade for Jed Lowrie or Asdrubal Cabrera know that they are among worst defensive SS’s in the game.  Lowrie is dead last by the numbers.

If the Cards are going to make an upgrade, I would again suggest that the player to try and upgrade is Jay.  You may not like Kozma’s bat, but Jay isn’t doing any better on offense and with his below average defense he’s the one player hurting the Cards more than any other right now.

The Cards must know something about Jackson that we don’t.  If they really thought he could handle SS better than Kozma, he would have been here by now.  As long as the Cards SP’s keep getting weak grounders, I want Kozma in there and I’ll take whatever he can give from the 8 hole.  When he’s hitting .190, it may be time to try something….maybe.  Until then, there’s no need to make a move.  The Cardinals should view Kozma the same way the Giants do Brandon Crawford.  Kozma’s numbers on offense right now are almost identical to what Crawford did for the Giants in 2012.  The only difference is that Kozma is actually a better defender.  The Giants aren’t making a change with the 26 year old Crawford who won them a championship behind their dominant pitching, and the Cards should stick with the 25 year old Kozma and play it the same way.

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The UCB project for this month is to talk about the things you’d like to see in the soon to be Cardinals HOF and museum.  This is an easy one and one that will have many different opinions from which to choose from.  Any combination that starts with Stan Musial and ends with some of the key members of the 2011 WS Champs would be fine, and I expect there will be a lot of it.  One player I’d like to see as much as possible on though is Rogers Hornsby.

When I started my own blog, one of the first things I wrote about was Hornsby being the most underrated Cardinal of all time.  It’s still amazing when you look at his stats today.  Hornsby won the Triple Crown twice, in 1922 and 1925.  In 1922 and 1923, the NL didn’t have the MVP award.  Winning it in 1922 would have put Hornsby in elite company as he would have ended up with three career MVP’s.

There’s not a lot of Hornsby memorabilia floating around out there today.  Hopefully the Cardinals make it a priority and make a nice section on Hornsby with some of it.  There’s no question that Hornsby is the second greatest Cardinal of all time.  If you think I’m taking a swipe at Albert Pujols, then you don’t know enough about Hornsby.  What he did as a 2B somehow has gotten lost when talking about the great players of the past.  Hornsby’s lifetime BA of .358 is only second to Ty Cobb’s .366.  Only four NL players have ever won the Triple Crown, and only Hornsby and Ted Williams have won it more than once in the history of MLB.

So again, the Cardinals HOF should be a nice tribute to Musial, Pujols, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Ozzie Smith, Bruce SutterRed Schoendienst, Whitey HerzogDizzy Dean and Enos SlaughterTony LaRussa will be in soon, so I expect a nice tribute to him in there.  The Cards might want to dedicate a wall to starting pitchers that were .500 before they found new life with Dave Duncan, and put a picture of him right in the middle of them.  It should also recognize HOF’ers that spent significant time with the Cardinals like Orlando Cepeda (Cepeda won his only MVP and WS as a Cardinal in 1967), Steve Carlton (left over $5,000, what the ’70’s could have been) and many others, but the one player who should have the most wall space next to Musial is Hornsby.

I’d also like to see a section for those players in the Hall of Very Good, starting with Jim EdmondsWillie McGee, Ted SimmonsKen Boyer, Chris Carpenter and Scott Rolen should be in that group as well.  I think Edmonds will eventually get in the HOF someday as there are not 10 CF’ers to ever play the position on offense on defense as well as he did.  When defensive metrics catch up and the voters start to pay attention to them, Edmonds will get in.  I think the Cards should consider that.

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I’m not writing today to bash Jon Jay.  What I am saying is that I think Oscar Taveras can’t get here soon enough.  If he wasn’t slowed by a bad ankle, I think he already would be in St. Louis and playing CF right about now.  Many say that Taveras won’t stick in CF.  His body type projects him to fill out and be a RF’er in the long run.   That may be true 5 or 6 years down the road, but that’s not the case now or in the near future.

I find it funny that no one ever seems to think about Jim Edmonds when they say this.  Edmonds wasn’t blessed with speed and he also had a thick body type like Taveras is projected to have.  What Edmonds did do was make up for these shortcomings with great jumps on balls, playing a shallow CF and yet could still get back to the wall (and over it) to rob opposing hitters.  We probably won’t ever see another player in CF for the Cards that can do it all like Edmonds did.  The numbers and the eye test both said the same thing.  The only thing that will keep Edmonds out of Cooperstown will be the lack of padded numbers due to injuries at the end of his career and a late start.  I have my own feelings about that, but that’s not a topic I want to get sidetracked by today.  The point of writing this is to inform even the loyalist of Jay fans that if he’s not hitting, he has very little value.

I like Jay.  Mike Matheny and Tony LaRussa do as well.  He works hard and is a good clubhouse guy.  However, when I watch Jay I see a player who gets bad jumps on the ball, allows too many balls to fall in front of him and behind him and more often than not he doesn’t take charge in CF.  When it’s a question of an infielder going back on a ball, Jay never seems to be assertive in calling that player off to make the catch himself, like a CF’er should.  Jay uses his throwing arm to wave off Carlos Beltran or Matt Holliday on balls in between them instead of screaming “I got it.”  I always wonder why he thinks when a ball is in the air in between them that they would be looking at his arm and not at the ball.

There are a lot of Jay defenders out there and the constant reminding from the FSMW crew that Jay hasn’t made an error since 2011.  Because Jay was a .300 hitter in the past, that seems to give him a free pass for his defense.  I’ll say this as easy as I can, which is if Jay isn’t at or close to a .300 hitter, he doesn’t have a lot of value, and he has become a tremendous liability.  The problem now is that Jay’s .282 BABIP has caught up with him and suggest this is more the player on offense than what we’ve seen in the past when it was in the .343 heading into this year.  The league average BABIP is normally .290 to .310.

Jay had value as a nice complementary player on some great teams when he was hitting.  It’s possible Jay will find his stroke at the plate and get on track.  A problem with that is that his BABIP is about where it should be, so I think it’s fair to say Jay has had some lucky breaks in the past.  Another problem with that is that he is in between batting stances right now.  Jay saw immediate results when John Mabry had Jay change his helicopter hands into a more steady position at the plate.  Now, it looks as if Jay is going back and forth between his old and new stance, even between AB’s in the same game.

Moving along to his defensive play, let’s start with Jay’s arm.  Using the stats from Fangraphs, Jay has the worst arm among all qualifying CF’ers.  While you’ll hear constant praise for him not making an error, the one thing you won’t hear is that he has the weakest arm in CF in MLB.  Since the start of the 2012 season when Jay became the full time starter in CF, his arm ranks as a -4.8, which is dead last among the 20 players that have enough innings to qualify.  Here are some other defensive metrics and where Jay ranks out of the 20 MLB CF’ers that qualify since the start of 2012:

UZR: -3.4 (13th out of 20)

UZR/150: -3.0 (12th out of 20)

RngR: -0.6 (11th out of 20)

If you look at the 2013 stats for Jay, it’s looks even worse:

UZR: -7.0 (18th out of 20)

UZR/150: -18.1 (18th out of 20)

RngR: -5.0 (16th out of 20)

Arm: -2.8 (20th out of 20)

In 2013, Jay is just ahead of Shin-Soo Choo in all of these categories, except for his arm.  The problem with that is that Choo is playing out of position in CF so the Reds can get the offense they need and sacrifice a lot of defense in doing so.  That’s fine for the Reds, but Jay has been playing CF his entire career and is in his prime.  Jay shouldn’t be trending downward.  If Jay continues to struggle on offense, the Cards might as well bring up Taveras when he’s fully healed and see what he can do with the bat and the glove.

When you listen to other teams broadcast, the announcers say the same thing about Jay as they do Juan Pierre, which is that they’re going to run on him all day.  Whether it’s first to third, second to home, or even a case like the other night in Miami when a runner went from the first to home on a single just to the left of Jay.  The book is out on Jay and his arm, and it’s not good for the Cardinals.

The point is, if the Cards are going to let a player continue to be tested and ran against at will and who also possesses terrible range by taking bad routes to balls, let’s put a player in there like Taveras and see what he can do with the bat and the glove.  Taveras has a strong arm.  There may be a bit of a learning curve, but if his offense will carry over from what he’s done in the minors to MLB, I think it’s a risk worth taking and an easy call to make.  He’s the #1 prospect in MLB.  Of course we don’t know what he’ll do at this level until he gets here, but I can’t imagine a better time to address the weak production that Jay provides.  If nothing else, I say it’s time to give it a try.

On the Cardinals, Jay should be the 4th OF’er when Taveras arrives.  Jay may be a starter on a few clubs, but not on the one that has the best record in MLB and has the #1 prospect in the minors that has played the majority of his games in CF in the minors the last 2 years.  Again, I’m not bashing Jay, I’m just stating what seems obvious to me and I think many others without even looking at the numbers.

Every team needs to have a few cost controlled players that perform at the average league level.  I’m not suggesting the Cards need to go out and make a trade to replace Jay.  I think it’s important to have a nice balance with these types of guys, especially for a team like the Cards and their payroll limitations.  What I am saying is that the Cards have another option that may be ready to make the jump to MLB in another month or so and that the Cards are playing him in CF in the minors.  The people who have already pegged Taveras as a RF’er haven’t been keeping up with the strides he’s making on defense.

I know many think Taveras is only playing CF in the minors because of a lack of options down there at that position.  I think the Cards are grooming him to be the starter in CF for the Cards in 2014.  Adding Taveras to the 2013 club is something I think will happen soon, I just hope the Cards give Taveras a chance to start in CF if Jay continues to struggle.  If Taveras is even close to the player Jay is on defense as far as the amount of ground he covers, combined with a much better throwing arm, I think it only comes down to one question.  That question is whose bat do you want to see in the lineup, Taveras or Jay?  When the Cards are playing ball in October, having Taveras in there instead of Jay can take the Cards great offense to another level.  The problem with Jay now is that his throwing arm is being tested about as often as he rolls over on a pitch and routinely grounds out to 2B.

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Matt Carpenter and Michael Wacha

A few things happened last night that grabbed my attention.  One of them was not Michael Wacha and his departure back to Memphis, that was what I expected and was the right move for him and the Cards, but more on that later.  What grabbed my attention was Matt Carpenter actually looking a little lost at the plate and expanding his zone, as well as the calmness that Mike Matheny displayed on the Phil Cuzzi call.

Starting with the Cuzzi call, I can’t say I’ve really seen a manager come out of the dugout to argue a call and change an umpire’s mind.  If Cuzzi heard the ball hit the bat, it doesn’t matter if it also caught the finger.  I only make a stink about umpires 3 or 4 times a year, but that call just can’t be made.  Then again, it’s Phil Cuzzi.  There’s a reason he’s always on the top 5 list of the worst umpires in MLB along with the usual suspects in Angel Hernandez, Joe West and C.B. Bucknor.

Jake Westbrook didn’t look ready last night.  I think another start or two in the minors where the Cards could have stretched him out more would have been the best thing to do.  The Cards can’t afford to lose games like that to the Marlins, but it’s hard to argue against anything they’re doing right now.

I was all set to write about how great Carpenter has been this year.  I’m still going to, and I’m going to chalk up his performance on offense and defense last night to him being human, because until last night, I was starting to have doubts.  I think Carpenter took more swings out of the zone last night than he has over the entire year.

Right now, the talk surrounding the Cards is what they will do with Kolten Wong in the future.  I can see two different scenarios.  One is moving Carpenter to 3B and bringing up Wong to play 2B.  The other is trading Wong for a future need and keeping David Freese, allowing Carpenter to stay at 2B.  Yet another may be to play Wong like the Cards have been doing with Matt Adams, and then go from there.  These things normally have a way of working themselves out.

So getting back to Carpenter, his failures and awkwardness at the plate last night made most fans realize just how good he’s been.  Without his plate discipline and setting the table for the heart of the order, the Cards would more than likely be trailing both the Reds and the Pirates in the standings right now.

I look forward to MC’s AB’s more than anyone.  If the playoffs started today, I can’t think of any other player I would want at the plate, regardless of the situation.  It’s not often when you can say a guy is a grinder and an All-Star, in which Carpenter will likely be both.

Getting to the numbers, the offensive stats are pretty clear.  Carpenter is 2nd among NL 2B in AVG at .324 (Scutaro .332), 1st in OBP at .408, 1st in SLG at .473 and 1st in OPS at .880.  Carpenter is also the MLB leader at 2B in WAR at 3.5 as well as wRC+ at 150.

The defensive metrics are a bit surprising, especially considering this is Carpenter’s first year at 2B.  I would have thought he was in the top third of the league before looking, but it’s better than that.  3-time Gold Glove Award Winner Brandon Phillips has a UZR of 3.9, a UZR/150 of 9.7, and a RngR of 2.8.  Carpenter actually leads Phillips in UZR/150 at 11.8 and also has a UZR of 3.3 and RngR of 1.6.

Obviously, Yadier Molina is the Cards MVP.  If we just talk about position players, Carpenter would easily be second though.  Factor in that Carpenter is in the top 10 in the NL in P/PA at 4.10, and it makes for a pretty good debate.  Because of his approach at the plate,  I just don’t see Carpenter going into a long slump at any point unless an injury occurs.

Keeping Tyler Lyons and sending Michael Wacha down was the right choice for both the team and Wacha.  I have no doubt that Wacha will be back in the rotation for good next year, but there are a few things he needs to work on, and Memphis is the place for that as he continues to adjust to the rigors of pitching every 5th day.  It’s hard to remember a time in which so much hype was placed on a rookie by both the media and the fans.

Right now Wacha is a good two pitch pitcher with his fastball and changeup.  When he develops his curveball, he’ll be ready to live up that hype.  We shouldn’t pay too much attention to the numbers he puts up at AAA because I think the Cards are going to have him throw a high percentage of curveballs just to keep on developing that pitch.  He’ll probably be back up in September if the Cards can stay injury free.  I would actually expect Carlos Martinez to be up before Wacha if a starter is needed.

Fans have heard it before but they do need to remember that Wacha was still pitching in college just over a year ago in which he started every 7-8 days.  Limiting his innings on a 5 day schedule isn’t the something the Cards could have continually done.  Wacha is a big piece of the future, and I’m sure the time he spent with Adam Wainwright while he was here will pay huge dividends when he returns, which won’t be long.

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