C70 At The Bat

For the second straight night, the Cardinals put up double digits in hits.  We talked yesterday about St. Louis not getting hits at the right time and last night proved it.  They scored seven runs on 11 hits instead of one run on 12.  When and what kind matter.

There’s no doubt that Kolten Wong was the Hero.  It was his second straight night with three hits, though this time instead of a bunch of singles, he powered up for a three-run homer and a tie-breaking double.  He didn’t neglect the defensive side of things either, putting together a highlight reel to show folks in case they ever doubt he can make the plays.  Wong has made some adjustments recently and it’s shown.  It seems like he was a streaky player last year and that might just be who he is, a guy that gets into a rut, figures out what the problem is, goes on a tear, eventually lets things slide and then starts the cycle over again.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  Jim Edmonds was a guy that seemed to have the same type of streakiness and he’s in the Cardinal Hall of Fame.  I’m just glad that Wong is starting on the upside of that cycle now.

It was nice to see some power last night.  Matt Carpenter led off the game with a home run and Matt Adams (who also had a double and at least one nice play at first, hopefully silencing those complainers for a while) provided some cushion that Trevor Rosenthal didn’t need with a blast in the ninth.

The Cards got out to a nice 5-0 lead and, given the way the pitching staff has been destroying hitters lately, you’d have expected this to be a sleeper.  You would not expect for them to give back all five runs in a single frame.  That was the case though, which gets John Lackey our Goat tag.  I didn’t see the play, but it sounds like Lackey didn’t cover first on a ground ball.  As you know, I like Adams and I think he’s more than competent as a fielder (plus he’s a bit spryer than you’d expect for a big man) but if you are asking him to win a footrace, you are asking him to do something out of his skill set.  Lackey could have been out of the inning with just one run allowed, but a run scored when Ryan Zimmerman was safe, leading to a bases-clearing double by Yunel Escobar.  Lackey also made two errors on a play in the next inning, which just added to the problems though that runner didn’t wind up scoring.  In fact, save that one inning, Lackey really wasn’t that bad.  That inning, though.

I think that’s a little of what we are going to be worried about with Lackey this year, especially when he’s pitching on the road.  He’s getting to that point in his career where he’s probably not going to give you a great outing almost every time out.  He can give you great outings, don’t get me wrong, but they are more scattered than they were when he was in his prime.  I’d expect he’ll be the worst pitcher statistically in this rotation this season, though with the competition, that’s not a big insult.  I’m also hoping that the Cards take this into account before engaging with him on any sort of extension talks.  Lackey could be useful in 2016 and going forward, but probably not at the rates he’s going to want.

The bullpen did a fabulous job last night, with Kevin Siegrist, Seth Maness and Rosenthal allowing no hits and one walk between them.  Rosenthal especially looked sharp, going right after hitters and striking out two.  Tim McCarver commented last night that Rosenthal seems to have a better approach this year and it seems that way to me as well.  Saves aren’t the long drawn-out affairs they were last year, at least not as often.  It’s still going to take some time before we are completely confident when Rosie trots in, but at least it’s trending in the right direction.

Marco Gonzales goes on the minor league disabled list with a tight shoulder.  Now, throw in all the caveats about it being precautionary and the shorter DL time in the minors might mean he just misses one start.  This tends to concern me because we’ve seen stories like this in the past wind up being extensive injuries.  It’s possible that, with the competition in the spring, he’s just thrown more than he should have at this time of the year, but I’m going to be anxious to hear the next injury report on him.  If Gonzales is out for any length of time, that pitching depth the Cards have takes a hit.

Michael Wacha is on the mound this afternoon looking for the series win.  Wacha’s been excellent so far this season and there’s no reason to expect any differently today, especially when you look at what the Nats have done with him over the past couple of years.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Ian Desmond 6 6 1 0 0 0 0 0 3 .167 .167 .167 .333 0 0 0 0 1
Bryce Harper 6 6 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 .167 .167 .167 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Jayson Werth 6 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Gio Gonzalez 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Denard Span 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Ryan Zimmerman 4 3 1 0 0 0 0 1 2 .333 .500 .333 .833 0 0 0 0 0
Danny Espinosa 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Jose Lobaton 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Wilson Ramos 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 1
Yunel Escobar 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .500 .000 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Total 41 39 4 0 0 0 0 2 13 .103 .146 .103 .249 0 0 0 0 2
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/23/2015.

Max Scherzer goes for Washington today.  You all know the story behind Scherzer by now.  St. Louis native, big free agent acquisition that some thought the Cardinals really should get (and while I wouldn’t say I was ever gung-ho for it or that I thought it should happen, I understood the rationale for that move).  Scherzer’s been as good as advertised so far for the Nationals, putting up a 0.83 ERA in three starts with 25 strikeouts in 21.1 innings.  With an offense that can go into hibernation like St. Louis’s, this could be another 1-0 matchup.

St. Louis hasn’t seen much of Scherzer, so add that into the blender as well.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Mark Reynolds 15 14 1 0 0 0 1 1 7 .071 .133 .071 .205 0 0 0 0 1
Peter Bourjos 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Holliday 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 2 2 1 1 0 0 2 0 0 .500 .500 1.000 1.500 0 0 0 0 0
Adam Wainwright 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0 0
Total 25 23 2 1 0 0 3 1 12 .087 .125 .130 .255 1 0 0 0 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/23/2015.

Betting on another quick game today!

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Needing The Big Hit

Sometimes it’s more about when than what.

Last night in Washington, the Cardinals tallied 12 hits.  In most reasonable situations, that’s good for two to three runs at least.  I had that old scoring efficiency stat that I played around with earlier in my blogging career and if I remember correctly, average was about a run every three baserunners, so the Cards should have gotten five via that theory when you factor in their four walks.  That’d have been plenty–the way the pitching staff is going, get them two and you have a strong chance to win.  Five is like a luxury.

However, being that none of those hits came at a good time, that all of them were singles save a Yadier Molina double, the meager St. Louis offense could only muster one run and that wasn’t until the ninth, when Cardinal favorite Drew Storen did his best to hand a run to the Redbirds.  The Cards accepted it, but wouldn’t take any more, ending that inning on a strike-‘em-out, throw-‘em-out double play.  I don’t think you can fault Mike Matheny too much there–it was obvious you couldn’t wait around for three hits in a row to drive in a run.

That’s the problem with a lack of power.  It takes so much to get a run in, plus runners on first can be wiped out by double plays, as we saw twice last night.  While you’d rather have a runner on first than no runners at all, getting some extra base pop would have done wonders for run-scoring last night.  Credit Gio Gonzalez for some of that, but if folks were making that much contact on him, you’d think they’d have more to show for it.

Looking through the play-by-play, there’s not a single inning the Cardinals went 1-2-3, though a number of those innings are due to our Hero, Matt Holliday.  Holliday went 4-4, drew a walk, and singled in the only run in the ninth.  There’s not much more you could ask out of the outfielder and I gotta say I think those calls of “not clutch” have quieted down over the past couple of years.  Either that or I’m not looking in the right places.

Kudos also to Kolten Wong, who had three hits and stole a base.  Molina was the only other person to have multiple hits.  Which was also part of the problem–the Cardinals might have had 12 hits, but nine of them were concentrated on those three players.

Our Goat will be Carlos Villanueva, because if you allow a home run in extras that’s typically what happens.  Villanueva hadn’t pitched much, but that’s part of his job description.  He’s only going to come into games where innings need to be eaten, such as when a starter is knocked out early (and given this rotation’s ERA is now 1.88, that doesn’t happen) or extra innings are necessary.  Villanueva didn’t blame being rusty, which was good to hear.  When you are tied on the road in extra innings, the longball is a ever present threat.  These things happen, though obviously they’ll happen a little more often with a guy like Villanueva.  That said, Yunel Escobar is known for having power, so it’s not like he was taken yard by a rinky-dink guy.  (And I’ll be honest, I thought Escobar’s slide into home underneath the waiting mob was pretty good.  I don’t think I’ve seen that before.)

I was tempted to put Jon Jay in the Goat spot given his offensive results, where he grounded into a double play after a leadoff walk by Mark Reynolds as well as grounding out with the bases loaded and two outs in the fifth, but his defense made up for it.  That’s not something you always say about Jay, but he made a number of solid catches that kept runs from scoring, including one in the ninth.  He also looked like he might have sent the game to the 11th with a great grab for the second out of the 10th, right before Escobar went yard.  From the eye test, he had a great night out there.  I wasn’t able to see the Statcast broadcast–it was blacked out here, which you’d think MLB would have figured out for such a big deal how to do it without blackouts–so I don’t know what those numbers said.

Our season-long YOU HAD ONE JOB following of Randy Choate got another data point last night, as Choate came into the game in the eighth.  He had a ball hit right back to him and he had trouble with it for a moment, but retired the man at first.  So, for those keeping track, that’s six opportunities, three outs.

We knew that pitching was going to dominate this series, so last night’s game wasn’t a huge surprise.  Bernie Miklasz points out that while the offense has scuffled in the early going, it’s not that much off the averages of the rest of the league.  Right now, pitching is dominating all across the board most nights, save those occasional football-like scores that happen.

I want to take a quick moment to talk about Matt Adams.  Adams didn’t start last night’s game but came in later on.  In the eighth, he dropped an easy foul popup by Jayson Werth, who of course then singled.  He made another error in the ninth, which allowed the Nationals to load the bases with one out.  Neither error came back to haunt the Cardinals, but there seemed to be a lot of outrage focused on the first baseman even after the first error.  There seems to be a portion of the fan base–I have no idea how big, but they were definitely audible last night–that are done with Adams.

That makes little sense to me.  OK, so he had a rough night in the field.  That happens.  On the whole, though, I’ve found him to be fairly agile and effective around the bag, especially for a guy his size.  And yes, he’s not hitting much this season, but look above in this post.  Not many people are.  Adams has significant power and is still learning how to tap into it.  He’s also at basically the league minimum.  There’s little not to like about him being at first base for the Cardinals and those that want to take pot shots at him should step back and ask themselves if they’d rather have Mark Reynolds playing out there every day.

I still need to finish up these Cardinal Approval Ratings.  On this pace, I should be done about the All-Star Game.  Let’s get three more of them done.

Today’s player is Trevor Rosenthal.  Given the frustration level that Rosenthal inspired last season, I wasn’t sure how he would fare in this survey.  It was his first year in front of the “voters”, as it were, so there was nothing to base a guess on.  Given that, Rosie’s 76.1% mark isn’t all that bad.  I would have thought those wild ninths would have pushed him down a little farther.

On the media side of things, we have John Rooney, who has become a fixture on the radio side of things, as this is his 10th season of pairing with Mike Shannon on KTRS and KMOX.  Rooney usually winds up in the low 80s, but this year he dropped to 77.3%.  I don’t think there’s anything that could be tied to that particularly, since he’s doing the same old thing in his broadcasts.  I will say that, no matter your opinion of Rooney’s broadcasting, he does seem to have one of those old-time radio voices.

Our miscellaneous focus of the day is the Secret Weapon, Jose Oquendo.  Oquendo, as we talked about when we were counting down toward the season opener, has been wearing the Cardinal birds on the bat for longer than most anyone that’s not named Red.  If he doesn’t get a managerial job somewhere, buzz around which has noticeably been quieter of late, he could be having his own honoring ceremony at some time in the future.  Oquendo clocked in at 85.5%, which is pretty much in line with what he gets every year.  He’d have to blow a lot of waving runners to drop much, I’d think.

John Lackey goes for St. Louis tonight, trying to keep that run of good starting pitching going.  Lackey struggled at Cincinnati in his first start before putting together a great one in Busch against the Brewers (which, to be fair, could be discounted on the basis of the Brewers being pretty awful).  Lackey’s done better in St. Louis than away from it since his trade from the Red Sox,

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Yunel Escobar 31 27 11 3 0 0 2 3 5 .407 .452 .519 .970 0 1 0 0 0
Reed Johnson 13 13 2 1 0 0 1 0 0 .154 .154 .231 .385 0 0 0 0 0
Jose Lobaton 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Total 47 43 14 4 0 0 3 3 5 .326 .362 .419 .780 0 1 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/22/2015.

Not a lot of exposure there. Escobar has seen him a lot, since they were both in the AL East, so Lackey’s going to have to be careful with him.  He’s got to have some pressure on him, knowing that if he gives up three runs, he might lose the game.  We’ll see if that pressure shows up.

Doug Fister goes for the Nationals, as they are like the Redbirds in that they can continue to throw good pitcher after good pitcher at folks.  St. Louis put up four runs in six innings against him in St. Louis last June, but that’s pretty much the extent of their experience with him.  Of course, that makes the table look good.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Mark Reynolds 13 13 3 0 0 1 1 0 2 .231 .231 .462 .692 0 0 0 0 0
Jhonny Peralta 12 12 3 0 0 0 1 0 0 .250 .250 .250 .500 0 0 0 0 1
Peter Bourjos 10 8 4 1 0 0 1 0 2 .500 .556 .625 1.181 1 0 0 1 0
Jason Heyward 6 5 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .167 .000 .167 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Adams 3 3 1 0 0 1 2 0 1 .333 .333 1.333 1.667 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Carpenter 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Tony Cruz 3 2 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 .500 .667 .500 1.167 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Holliday 3 2 1 0 0 1 2 0 1 .500 .333 2.000 2.333 0 1 0 0 0
Jon Jay 3 2 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 .500 .667 .500 1.167 0 0 0 0 0
Kolten Wong 3 3 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 1.000 1.333 0 0 0 0 0
Total 59 53 15 1 1 3 7 3 7 .283 .328 .509 .837 1 1 0 1 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/22/2015.

Small sample, but Jason Heyward has never gotten a hit off of him.  I’d say it might be a chance to give Heyward a break, as I believe he’s played in every game, but since there aren’t any outfielders on the bench, I don’t think that’d happen.  So hopefully he breaks that 0-5 tonight!

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Sweeping Things Clean

It was a great weekend of baseball in St. Louis, one like we’ve not seen in a little while.  Then again, it was the Reds and if there’s one thing the Cards have been able to do over the past few years, it’s beat the Reds.

Friday (6-1 win)

Hero: Yadier Molina.  Yadi only had one hit, but he made it count, a bases-clearing double that broke a 1-1 tie and sent Johnny Cueto home with a loss.  We’re never going to be too sad about that.

Goat: Jon Jay.  The only starter without a hit, though he did draw a walk and score a run.  Not all Goats are created equal, as I’ve said many times.

Notes: Michael Wacha continued to show that there’s no reason to worry about him, throwing seven innings and allowing only a first-inning home run to Joey Votto.  (After this game, Votto had four home runs.  Three of them were off Cardinal pitchers.)  Wacha struck out four, which was better than his initial start but still not to the levels that we expect out of him.  That’s a nit, though, not a real problem.  As he continues to get comfortable, we’ll probably see the strikeout numbers go up a little, though as long as he keeps being this successful, it’s not a huge deal.

Matt Carpenter continued his ridiculous hot streak, but we’ll probably talk more about that in one of the other games where he ALSO continued that streak.

Matt Holliday is off to a pretty good start as well, going 1-2 and driving in the first run of the game in this one.  To some degree it’s feast or famine with this lineup, not just day-to-day but slot-to-slot.  Holliday and Carpenter are helping offset the slower starts of Matt Adams and Jason Heyward.  If they all started clicking at the same time, life would be really good.

This was only the second time the Cards had reached serious levels with their run total.  The first was against the Reds in extra innings in Cincinnati.  Mobil On-The-Run isn’t sweating things just yet, but hopefully they’ll have a run on 50-cent drinks as the weather warms.

Saturday (5-2 win)

Hero: Matt Adams.  Adams went 2-for-3 and drew a walk plus drove in the first run of the game to set the tone.  The big guy isn’t stroking it yet, with his lone home run his only extra base hit, but it’s nice to see him contribute even without the power.

Goat: Jhonny Peralta.  While Peralta’s had a nice start to the 2015 season, everyone has off days.  Peralta did score a run, but went 0-4 and left four men on base, including two with two outs in the fifth.  The Cards got a cushion the next inning, but a hit there would have been nice to see.

Notes: Heyward broke the home run seal, depositing one into the Cardinal bullpen to make it a 2-0 game.  He also made at least one sensational catch as well, showing what the whole package will look like once he gets it completely unwrapped.  Hopefully this run of games coming up will help him find a rhythm.  If not, it might be time for Mike Matheny to think about dropping him down in the lineup and letting him get into that mindset.

Carlos Martinez continues to show that he wants to be a starter and he’s got the stuff to prove it.  Six innings and he might have been able to get an out or two in the seventh had his spot in the lineup not come up in the bottom of the sixth.  He only allowed three hits and two walks while striking out four.  He did get touched by Zack Cozart for a home run, but I think we’d take a solo home run or two if that’s all he’s going to allow.

Carpenter doubled as one of his two hits and drove in two runs.  You know, just another day at the office.

Randy Choate came in.  As you know, HE HAS ONE JOB.  He again wasn’t able to do it.  He has pitched in five games.  He has faced five batters.  He has gotten two outs.  While I appreciate that Matheny is limiting him to true LOOGY status (perhaps more than anyone ever!) he’s got to, you know, actually get the out or he just becomes a LGY.  Which becomes UGLY real quick.

Sunday (2-1 win)

Hero: Adam Wainwright.  Pitching without a cushion for much of the game, all the ace did was go eight innings and allow only one run.  He ran into a bit of trouble in the eighth, perhaps tiring as he reached 100 pitches, but he got the out he needed to and the team picked him up with a run in the bottom of the inning to get him a win.  The starting pitching on this staff is just incredible, with everyone having an ERA under 2.80.

Goat: Lots of 0-fers to choose from here.  We’ll go with Jason Heyward, because he mixed in a double play along with his hitless night.  With a game like that, though, there were a number of possibilities.

Notes: This was the annual Bloggers’ Day game (though at night this time).  While I was unable to attend, I know in the past that these games seem like they fly by anyway.  You are talking with people, you are eating, and all the sudden you look up and it’s the seventh.  So I can only imagine what those bloggers felt like when the game ACTUALLY went that fast.

I was going to go with a high school friend of mine that lives in St. Louis.  When I couldn’t make it, he went without me and he told me before the game in the question-and-answer session that Bill DeWitt III addressed the pace of the game and he was glad things were going quicker “but we don’t want to get it down to two hours or anything.”  Then, of course, the teams got it down to two hours.  While some of the rule changes (most notably the commercial breaks, I think) obviously have helped, a game like this would have been very quick anyway.  Good, aggressive pitching means that there are fewer hits and all that go along with it.  I think that’s been the reason game times are down more than the rule changes, though there’s no doubt a few minutes have been shaved by those as well.

Carpenter led this one off with a home run, giving him seven straight games with an extra base hit.  Pitchers that are expecting him to go deep in the count and as such throw up strikes to start the at-bat are finding out that Carp’s a bit more aggressive this year.  We’ll see how the pitchers adjust and then how he adjusts in response, but it’s a nice thing to have going right now.

Jordan Walden got the save as Trevor Rosenthal had worked a little too much the day before (which, given it was a three-run game, isn’t exactly optimal).  Walden made sure that people didn’t forget about Rosie, allowing a hit to the leadoff batter and running a three-ball count on the next hitter before finally settling in and locking it down.  Getting just an easy 1-2-3 just isn’t in the cards anymore, is it?

Some transactional news as well since last we spoke.  Randal Grichuk went on the DL Sunday with a back issue and Dean Anna was called up to take his place.  Given that the other transaction also involves an outfielder–Peter Bourjos is going on the paternity list for three days due to the birth of his first child (congrats, Peter!)–the outfield is going to be pretty thin during this series in Washington.  Granted, Matheny’s not been doing a lot of playing the bench anyway and Holliday, Jay and Heyward were going to get almost all the time, but it does raise some questions if something happens.  I assume Anna could play out there for a game or two until Bourjos is back–it seems unlikely they’d make a move with Stephen Piscotty with Bourjos only gone the few days.

With Bourjos being unavailable, the Cards have gone ahead and brought up reliever Mitch Harris to give themselves bullpen depth.  I knew we’d see Harris at some time this season, even if it was just a September callup to thank him for his dedication and get him a little time in the bigs so his story could be told.  That was at the minimum–I don’t want anyone thinking that Harris doesn’t deserve to be here, because he certainly does.  He’s put together a great minor league career for starting so late and he’s doing fine at Memphis again this season.  It wouldn’t be a surprise at all if we see Harris again this summer, but I hope the Cards are able to get him into a game in Washington.

The Redbirds get to face what is probably the odds-on favorite to represent the National League in the World Series.  The Nationals might have stumbled out of the gate, but they have righted the ship somewhat and now are just a game under .500 and in third in the NL East.  Tonight’s game will also be the first televised on MLB Network that has the Statcast technology, so that should bring an interesting wrinkle to things if you want to check that out.   The Nationals, of course, have plenty of good pitchers to turn to and St. Louis will first have to face Gio Gonzalez.  Gonzalez has scuffled a bit this year, with a 5.11 ERA in the young season.  However, the Cards haven’t exactly had his number.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP missG
Jason Heyward 27 25 6 1 0 0 4 2 4 .240 .296 .280 .576 0 0 0 0 1
Jhonny Peralta 22 16 3 1 0 1 2 5 4 .188 .364 .438 .801 0 1 0 0 1
Peter Bourjos 16 16 2 0 0 0 0 0 5 .125 .125 .125 .250 0 0 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 14 13 3 2 0 0 1 1 1 .231 .286 .385 .670 0 0 0 0 0
Mark Reynolds 14 9 1 0 0 0 1 5 5 .111 .429 .111 .540 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Holliday 13 11 1 1 0 0 1 2 3 .091 .231 .182 .413 0 0 0 0 2
Jon Jay 13 10 3 0 0 0 1 2 2 .300 .385 .300 .685 0 1 0 0 0
Pete Kozma 9 8 1 0 0 0 0 1 3 .125 .222 .125 .347 0 0 0 0 1
Matt Carpenter 6 6 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 .167 .167 .333 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Michael Wacha 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Adam Wainwright 4 3 0 0 0 0 0 1 3 .000 .250 .000 .250 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Adams 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Tony Cruz 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Carlos Villanueva 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 147 126 22 6 0 1 10 19 37 .175 .279 .246 .525 0 2 0 0 5
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/21/2015.

Jay’s 3-10, Peralta has the only home run against him.  Given how this offense can sputter anyway, this could be a pretty quiet game for the bats.

At least the Cards have the pitching to match, as Lance Lynn goes to the mound.  It’s amazing that, since there have been rainouts and off days, Lynn is only making his third start even though we are two weeks into the season.  The first two have been very good outings and there’s no real reason to think this would be any different.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP missG
Ian Desmond 13 11 3 1 0 0 2 1 6 .273 .385 .364 .748 0 0 0 1 0
Danny Espinosa 10 9 3 0 0 2 4 1 1 .333 .400 1.000 1.400 0 0 0 0 0
Ryan Zimmerman 9 9 1 0 0 1 1 0 4 .111 .111 .444 .556 0 0 0 0 2
Bryce Harper 8 7 1 0 0 1 1 1 1 .143 .250 .571 .821 0 0 0 0 1
Dan Uggla 6 5 1 0 0 0 0 1 3 .200 .333 .200 .533 0 0 0 0 0
Yunel Escobar 4 4 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .250 .250 .250 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Jordan Zimmermann 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Jose Lobaton 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 56 51 11 1 0 4 8 4 18 .216 .286 .471 .756 0 0 0 1 3
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/21/2015.

The Nats haven’t faced Lynn much, what with them being in a different division and all.  If he keeps Danny Espinosa in check, he just might do OK, though Bryce Harper is a threat no matter what the career numbers are.

This entire series should be a pitching-rich environment.  Let’s hope the Cards come out on top!

1 comment

Michael Grueser, 1952-2015

Michael Grueser, age 63, passed away early this morning after battling cancer for two years.

For 99% of you, that means absolutely nothing.  You may be wondering if he was some obscure Cardinal player or had something to do with the Cards.  He didn’t.  However, he was my father-in-law and since baseball was so much to him, I wanted to use my corner of the Internet to pay tribute to him.

It was somewhat fitting that Mike passed this weekend, when my Cardinals were facing his Reds.  He grew up in southeast Ohio, where he lived all of his life.  That area is Reds country and he followed them as far back as he could remember.  (Actually, I don’t remember him telling me when he became a fan, but knowing him, I imagine that he knew exactly when he picked up a love for the game.)  He thrilled to the Big Red Machine and enjoyed his last championship with the Nasty Boys of 1990.

That being said, while Mike would identify as a Reds fan, he’d tell you that he was a fan of the game more than anything.  He followed the Twins from a distance and, even before I came into the picture, would get the signal from the Mighty ‘MOX and listen to Cardinal baseball, appreciating their history and the way they played the game.  It honestly didn’t matter what game was on, Mike would be happy listening to it.

Baseball was a radio game for Mike, mostly.  He was a big radio guy anyway, loving the history of those mega stations.  He owned a small carryout out in the middle of nowhere and was the sole employee, so almost every day you could find him standing behind the counter, waiting on those customers that came through.  He tried out XM Radio for a couple of years, enjoying the fact that he could get a clear signal for any game he wanted, but when they started shifting spring training games and the like online, he cancelled it and went back to his regular radio, trying to get the various AM signals to come in.

My wife and I met over the Internet, in one of those early text-only bulletin boards run by a Christian college in Ohio.  When I visited the first time, of course I had to meet her parents.  (They were divorced and Mike had remarried.)  So we went out to that little carryout.  I don’t remember a lot about that first visit, but I do remember that we immediately bonded over the great game.  We talked for hours as my wife made small talk with her stepmother.  He showed me his set of 1962 Topps that he’d collected card-by-card back in his childhood (and beyond).  Since this was 1997, we of course talked about Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa.  We talked about the Reds, we talked about the Cardinals.  And by the end of that evening, I knew there would be no problems if I ever wanted to marry his daughter.  I was right.

The back room of his store, which was off-limits to customers but where the family could stay out of sight when customers did come in, was papered with various things, most of them relating to baseball.  Included in that was a flyer for a 1990 card show.  Mike helped put that show on–he was a big baseball card seller during those boom years–and the featured guest was a local boy that had made good.  Jeff Montgomery, who was mainly a Royal though he did start his career with the Reds, grew up about 30 miles from Mike.  He still had a picture of him and Montgomery and the others involved on his wall.  In fact, it’s probably still there today.  I contacted Montgomery a few years ago and he still remembered that card show, which made Mike pretty happy.

Every year we traveled back to Ohio, every year we’d step into that carryout, and every year he and I would talk baseball.  He was genuinely happy when the Cards won in 2006 and 2011.  We never had any problems talking about the Fight of 2010.  Baseball was always that underlying connection that we had.

Mike never spent a day on the Internet, though he was appreciative of what I’d been able to do with this blog.  I don’t know that much made him prouder (outside of his family, including his grandchildren) than when I was able to play for him an interview I had on KMOX.  To hear his son-in-law (indirectly) on one of the big radio stations almost left him speechless.  He also was a regular listener to myself and first Bill Ivie, then Tara Wellman on Gateway to Baseball Heaven.  He did it old-school, calling in and putting it on speaker so he and his wife could hear what we were saying.  I’ll admit it right now, it might be a little tough to do the show tonight.

There’s sorrow this morning, for sure.  I would have liked to talk to Mike more about Billy Hamilton and whether he’d hit enough to make that speed a real weapon.  I was looking forward to telling him about seeing the Reds this evening for UCB Weekend, though when he deteriorated this week, my wife flew to see him and I cancelled my trip to St. Louis.  I know I’ll always keep an eye on Cincinnati because of his influence and respect for his love of the game.  However, the best thing out of this whole cancer ordeal (and, to my deep regret, I never did buy him a K Cancer shirt from Jason Motte‘s foundation) was that we found out he’d come to Christ a year or so before the diagnosis after never being overly religious before.  That makes today an easier day for my wife and I, knowing that we’ll see him again.

If I know Mike, if he’s got his choice, right now he’s watching Christy Mathewson pitch to Stan Musial.  We’ll miss you, Mike.

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Given the sloppiness and general disappointment of the home opener, it was nice to see the Redbirds come out and play a couple of stronger games to take the series against the Brewers.  Let’s take a look at both games quickly.

Wednesday (4-2 win)

Hero: Matt Holliday.  His two-run single in the first put the Cardinals out in front early, something that was nice to see after a lot of come-from-behindness in the first game.  That stunned Wily Peralta and likely kept him off his game, as St. Louis had more success with him last night than they did all season last year combined, it felt like.

Goat: Kolten Wong.  0-4 and the only starter not to tally something in the hit column.  Wong’s off to a bit of a slow start, though it wouldn’t take much for his season numbers to turn around pretty sharply.

Notes: Yadier Molina went 3-4, quieting concerns about his bat for another day or so.  Given his off-season weight loss, the early struggles both offensively and defensively were–and probably still are–being traced to him being much lighter.  Bernie Miklasz had a nice article recently that showed Molina tends to have a bit of trouble with early season baserunners before getting to his normal vacuum cleaner levels, so that part of the season is right on target.  If the bat is coming around, the weight issue probably will be a footnote fairly soon.

Lance Lynn didn’t have his best game, but he did allow only one run in five innings.  He ran some deep counts, though, and was gone after 100 pitches.  Which then told us something about Mike Matheny’s opinion on Carlos Villenueva, I believe.  With four innings to get and a bullpen that had been used a good bit recently (though, granted, there had been an off day on Tuesday), Matheny used six relievers to finish the job instead of turning to Villenueva for a multiple-inning outing.  You wonder if the score had been 6-1 or something of that nature when Lynn left Matheny would have had more confidence in putting him in.  Instead, he burned through all the main guys in the pen.  I don’t think it was terribly egregious yet, given the off day and some of the other usage, but Matheny’s going to have to be careful not to overwork one or two arms down there.

Trevor Rosenthal allowed his first run of the season and people immediately started asking questions about him.  Now, I didn’t see the whole inning, but what I saw didn’t really concern me.  The leadoff walk (which I didn’t see) probably got people stirred up, but then he got a ground ball that would have doubled up most people not named Carlos Gomez (and Gomez had to bust it so hard he pulled a hamstring and is now on the DL, so he probably wished he’d just let them get him out).  Of course, a wild pitch doesn’t help, but allowing a single to Ryan Braun isn’t unheard of.  All in all, Rosenthal worked around some gaffes instead of letting them build like he did last year.  I don’t see any reason yet to think that he was returning to the walk-prone, tightrope-walking pitcher of 2014.

Thursday (4-0 win)

Hero: John Lackey.  On a day when the bullpen could use some rest, Lackey went seven scoreless, striking out eight and allowing just five hits.  Lackey never really was in danger, which was good because it took the offense a while to get going.  I saw running across the crawl for MLB Network last night that Lackey had had six starts in Busch since being a Cardinal.  The club is 6-0 in those starts and he has an ERA under 2.00.  Perhaps we should make sure to juggle the rotation to get him more starts under the Arch?

Goat: I hate to give it to him, but I think I’m going to have to pick Jason Heyward.  0-3, though he did draw a walk.  He went fishing hard during his one strikeout, though, and you wonder if he’s pressing at times, trying to get going for his new team.  Then again, he’s not the only one on the team with a low .200 average.

Notes: OK, do you remember during the spring when there was a lot of talk about Molina resting, not playing in so many games, getting him out of there whether he liked it or not?  Yeah, not so much.  The Cards have played eight games and Molina has started all of them.  Yesterday, the day game after the night game, would have seemed to be the best time to rest Molina, but it was not to be.  Matt Adams has now sat twice against righthanders this season, including yesterday, but Molina can’t get a day on the bench.  You’d think he’d probably rest Saturday against the Reds, but I wouldn’t put any money on it.

Not starting Adams against the righthander was a strange (though completely believable, given the whole #BecauseMatheny idea) sight, but Mark Reynolds made the most of it.  Two for four with an RBI, putting up a similar line as Matt Carpenter.  When you are matching Marp, you are probably having a good day.  I guess Matheny wanted to get him in there since Reynolds hadn’t played since he started on Sunday, but so far I have as many at-bats as Tony Cruz does this season.  Reynolds knew coming in he wouldn’t start very often, though I guess given the fact the Reds aren’t scheduled to throw any lefties meant yesterday was as good a day as any to put him in there.

Next time someone tries to tell you spring training stats matter, just mention the name Pete Kozma.  Kozma was the hottest hitter in the spring, yet has only one at-bat this season and has only made it into two games, including yesterday as a second baseman after a double-switch to start the ninth.  Basically, the Cards have a three-man bench right now in Randal Grichuk, Reynolds and Peter Bourjos, and Bourjos just has two AB, though he’s appeared in five games.  I’m not sure when or where you’d have used Kozma, given that Jhonny Peralta is one of the better hitters on the team right now, but it seems in the early going there’s not been much attempt to mix in those bench guys.  Of course, with the various off days and the rainout, it’s not like the starters have been overtaxed, so it’s a fine line to walk.  I’m not saying Matheny is wrong in how he’s deploying folks, just that it’s worth noting.

Tonight, 70 means something more than Mark McGwire’s homers or Tyler Lyons’s number.  70 years ago, Red Schoendienst put on a Cardinal uniform for the first time.  Save for those few misguided years in New York and Milwaukee, he’s never taken it off since.  At 92, Red still looks like he could take some grounders and it’s great that he’s still so involved in the organization.  He was often overshadowed by his good friend Stan Musial, but with Musial’s passing it allows us to show some appreciation to a guy that has given so much to the organization.  Here’s to you, Red!

Perhaps fittingly, it’s all Red tonight as Cincinnati comes in to take on the Cardinals.  Which means we have to see Kickin’ Johnny Cueto again.  Cueto has started two games, allowed a total of one earned run, and has a 0-1 record to show for it.  St. Louis, of course, pinned that loss on him on Saturday, though they just scraped by to do so.  Four hits in seven innings isn’t usually going to win you a ball game.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Matt Holliday 45 38 11 4 0 0 6 5 8 .289 .378 .395 .773 0 1 0 1 2
Yadier Molina 38 34 9 1 0 2 5 0 4 .265 .297 .471 .768 1 1 0 2 1
Jon Jay 32 27 12 1 0 3 7 1 4 .444 .516 .815 1.331 1 0 0 3 1
Jhonny Peralta 21 20 3 0 0 1 3 1 7 .150 .190 .300 .490 0 0 0 0 1
Matt Carpenter 15 13 3 1 0 0 0 2 2 .231 .333 .308 .641 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Adams 12 11 4 1 0 1 1 1 1 .364 .417 .727 1.144 0 0 0 0 0
Jason Heyward 12 12 2 2 0 0 1 0 2 .167 .167 .333 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Mark Reynolds 11 11 2 0 0 1 1 0 4 .182 .182 .455 .636 0 0 0 0 0
Kolten Wong 9 7 1 0 0 0 1 1 1 .143 .222 .143 .365 0 1 0 0 0
Lance Lynn 6 5 1 0 0 0 0 1 2 .200 .333 .200 .533 0 0 0 0 0
Adam Wainwright 5 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Peter Bourjos 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Michael Wacha 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Belisle 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Tony Cruz 1 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 212 189 49 10 0 8 26 12 38 .259 .319 .439 .758 2 3 0 6 5
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/17/2015.

Adams should be starting this one, of course.  For as much trouble as the Cards seem to have against Cueto, there are some good numbers there.  Then again, it was pointed out on MLB.com’s preview that Cueto has a 5.80 ERA in Busch Stadium, so maybe that’s why and perhaps that trend will continue tonight.

Michael Wacha makes his second start of the season, his second start against the Reds, and his second start against Cueto.  If it wasn’t for the location you’d forgive him for thinking perhaps he’d replaced Bill Murray in Groundhog Day.  Then again, being that he went 6.1 innings and allowed just one run against them last time, perhaps he wouldn’t mind reliving that start over and over.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Brandon Phillips 18 16 2 0 0 0 1 1 3 .125 .176 .125 .301 1 0 0 0 2
Todd Frazier 17 16 4 0 0 1 1 1 3 .250 .294 .438 .732 0 0 0 0 0
Jay Bruce 16 16 0 0 0 0 0 0 8 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Billy Hamilton 15 14 1 1 0 0 0 1 1 .071 .133 .143 .276 0 0 0 0 0
Zack Cozart 14 14 6 1 1 0 0 0 1 .429 .429 .643 1.071 0 0 0 0 1
Joey Votto 14 12 4 2 0 0 0 2 0 .333 .429 .500 .929 0 0 0 0 0
Marlon Byrd 12 10 0 0 0 0 1 1 3 .000 .083 .000 .083 0 1 0 0 0
Devin Mesoraco 8 8 3 1 0 1 3 0 2 .375 .375 .875 1.250 0 0 0 0 0
Brayan Pena 8 6 2 2 0 0 0 2 1 .333 .500 .667 1.167 0 0 0 0 0
Mike Leake 4 4 1 1 0 0 1 0 2 .250 .250 .500 .750 0 0 0 0 0
Skip Schumaker 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Tony Cingrani 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Kristopher Negron 3 3 2 2 0 0 1 0 0 .667 .667 1.333 2.000 0 0 0 0 0
Johnny Cueto 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0 0
Total 138 127 26 10 1 2 8 8 25 .205 .250 .346 .596 2 1 0 0 3
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/17/2015.

Zack Cozart is the only one that’s had significant success against Wacha, though obviously Joey Votto is always a threat.  Odds are it’s going to be another fun, low-scoring affair tonight.  Hopefully the Cards come out on the winning side!

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Appearance 1, Substance 0

Have you ever bought one of those real fancy fireworks?  You know, the big kind that promises a lot of color and noise, probably with some great or unique packaging.  And then you light it up and nothing really happens?  That was yesterday in Busch Stadium.

Whatever else happens, you know the home opener is going to bring the pomp and circumstance.  There’s the Hall of Famers in their red jackets coming in via convertible.  There’s the World Series trophies on display at home plate.  There are the Clydesdales trotting around the field.  There’s the sea of red, a full ballpark in the middle of the afternoon.  Yesterday even included a moving tribute to Oscar Taveras (I’ve not seen it, though a quick search finds someone recorded it off their TV and put it on YouTube), a tribute that really hit the players hard, and a moment of silence for him and Bryan Burwell.  It had all the trappings of a great day.

Then the game happened.

To be fair, the game wasn’t entirely miserable.  I mean, it’s not like the Brewers came out and beat them 10-0 or anything.  The Cardinals had their chances, had some rallies, made it close.  However, neither side seemed to be really ready to get a game going, as sloppy play was the order of the day.

After his first start where he continually started off innings with men on base, Adam Wainwright had similar issues this time, with the leadoff man reaching in four of his seven innings.  Granted, one of those was the first batter of the game, which was because of Kolten Wong’s first error of the day, but it still wasn’t classic Wainwright.  Now, he did have a stretch where he showed his normal form, retiring 10 in a row from the second to the fifth, but may have stuck around too long, allowing the deciding runs in the seventh.  Given how stretched the bullpen was in the Cincy series, however, Mike Matheny probably wanted to go with Wainwright as far as he could, and Waino was just at 85 pitches going into the seventh, so most of us probably would have made the same call, though the leadoff hit in the inning might have changed some minds.

Jhonny Peralta gets to be our Hero of the day again, getting two hits including a huge two-run double in the bottom of the seventh that cut the lead to 5-4 with nobody out.  It probably was only going to take one hit to tie the game up, giving us the rally we desperately wanted.  Jon Jay looked to bunt (which drove much of the Internet insane) but finally flew out on five pitches.  Yadier Molina grounded out on the first pitch.  Then, after an intentional walk to Wong to get Wainwright out of the game, Randal Grichuk pinch-hit and jumped on the first pitch.  Unfortunately, it didn’t go as far after he hit it as it did when it was pitched.  An easy out, an opportunity spoiled, and a game effectively over, as the Cards just managed one single in the last two innings.

I think the Goat has to be Yadier Molina.  0-4, though he did draw a walk.  Molina’s now hitting .143 on the season, which is surprising because he’s a career .270 hitter in the first month of the season.  It has been only a week and it’s probably just a little slump to start the year–heaven knows the Cardinals have enough of those guys–but given his weight loss and just the mileage on him, you do wonder if he’s slowing down some.  I think he’s going to be someone to really keep an eye on for the next few series and we’ll hopefully see him start to break out soon.

Jason Heyward is also struggling.  After getting a warm ovation in his first appearance, he was just 1-5 on the day, with the hit coming in the eighth inning.  He’d have traded it for one of his other at-bats, as he could have used it in the third after a Matt Carpenter double or in the fourth when Wainwright was at second with two outs.  We keep waiting for him to catch fire and perhaps he will as the others do, when the rhythms of the game are more regular.  With openers and rainouts, it’s been tough to get to where you feel like you are really playing ball, but that should happen soon as, starting Wednesday, there’s less pomp and more playing.

One Job Randy Choate actually did his job this time, getting a lefty batter out.  That makes him 1 for 3 in those situations this year, something we’ll keep tracking if only to use the “YOU HAD ONE JOB” meme.  The bullpen as a whole did well yesterday afternoon, though they only had to cover two innings.  Good to see Matt Belisle get into the home opener and rebound from a rough outing as well.

Jaime Garcia is looking to face hitters pretty soon, as he threw a bullpen session on Sunday and might pitch batting practice on Friday.  It still doesn’t sound like his return is imminent, though.  It’s pointed out that at extended spring training he can throw games on his schedule, whether that’s five days or eight days, as he tries to make sure he can regularly go at least 80-90 pitches without repercussions.  Once he can do that, they’ll have him get on a regular five-day rotation, then see how that goes.  It really sounds like June would be the earliest we’d see Garcia, especially since there’s no reason to rush him back.  If there was a need, that might be different.

A day off today–you know the Cards are really going to want these days later in the season, though there doesn’t seem to be a terrible run right now in August or September–and then Jackie Robinson day on Wednesday, with everyone wearing 42.  Lance Lynn will be on the mound, making his second start of the year.  Last year, Lynn was 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA in four starts against the Brewers, so they probably aren’t all that excited to see him, no matter what his number is.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Aramis Ramirez 26 24 2 0 0 0 0 2 4 .083 .154 .083 .237 0 0 0 0 1
Jonathan Lucroy 25 21 6 2 0 0 0 4 6 .286 .400 .381 .781 0 0 0 0 3
Ryan Braun 22 22 6 0 0 1 4 0 6 .273 .273 .409 .682 0 0 0 0 2
Carlos Gomez 22 20 3 0 0 0 0 2 11 .150 .227 .150 .377 0 0 0 0 0
Scooter Gennett 20 16 6 2 0 0 1 4 2 .375 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Jean Segura 19 18 8 1 1 0 2 1 3 .444 .474 .611 1.085 0 0 0 0 0
Gerardo Parra 18 17 8 2 2 2 2 1 2 .471 .500 1.176 1.676 0 0 0 0 0
Khris Davis 12 12 1 0 0 0 1 0 3 .083 .083 .083 .167 0 0 0 0 0
Logan Schafer 9 8 3 1 0 0 1 1 1 .375 .444 .500 .944 0 0 0 0 0
Kyle Lohse 5 2 1 0 0 0 2 0 1 .500 .500 .500 1.000 3 0 0 0 0
Martin Maldonado 5 4 2 0 0 0 0 1 2 .500 .600 .500 1.100 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Garza 4 4 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 .250 .250 .250 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Adam Lind 4 3 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .250 .000 .250 0 0 0 0 0
Mike Fiers 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Wily Peralta 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 195 175 47 8 3 3 13 17 46 .269 .333 .400 .733 3 0 0 0 6
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/14/2015.

He’s been able to corral the Sith Lord (who didn’t do a lot of damage yesterday, though he did drive in a run with a ground out), which is probably why he’s had some success against the Brew Crew.  If he’s able to limit Carlos Gomez as well, there’s a good chance this will be a low-scoring affair.

Wily Peralta goes for the Brewers.  The Cards had trouble with him last year, as he was 3-1 with a 2.18 ERA in five starts.  That’s 33 innings, which is a pretty good sample.  We can only hope that 2015 goes a whole lot differently.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Matt Carpenter 25 21 9 1 0 1 2 4 2 .429 .520 .619 1.139 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Holliday 24 21 9 0 0 2 5 1 2 .429 .500 .714 1.214 0 0 0 2 1
Jon Jay 23 23 7 0 0 0 1 0 4 .304 .304 .304 .609 0 0 0 0 2
Yadier Molina 21 19 5 0 0 0 3 2 2 .263 .333 .263 .596 0 0 0 0 1
Matt Adams 18 16 2 0 0 0 2 2 3 .125 .222 .125 .347 0 0 0 0 1
Jhonny Peralta 15 14 2 0 0 0 0 1 2 .143 .200 .143 .343 0 0 0 0 1
Kolten Wong 15 14 3 0 0 0 1 1 5 .214 .267 .214 .481 0 0 0 0 0
Jason Heyward 9 8 4 0 0 0 0 1 1 .500 .556 .500 1.056 0 0 0 0 0
Pete Kozma 9 8 3 0 0 0 2 1 2 .375 .444 .375 .819 0 0 0 0 0
Peter Bourjos 8 6 2 1 0 0 0 2 2 .333 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Tony Cruz 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Lance Lynn 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Adam Wainwright 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0 0
Carlos Martinez 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Michael Wacha 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 175 157 46 2 0 3 16 15 28 .293 .362 .363 .725 1 0 0 2 6
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/14/2015.

For someone that shut them down last year, there are some gaudy numbers on that table.  It’d be nice if Heyward could break out or the Matt Attack kicked in tomorrow evening.  Treading water in April isn’t exactly how we expected this season to start and now that all the formalities are out of the way, it’s time to get after it!

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The Cardinals actually got to play three consecutive games this weekend.  No off days, no rainouts, no nothing.  It was a rare find for the first week and the Redbirds took advantage, winning two of three in the Queen City.  Let’s hit the highlights.

Friday (5-4 loss)

Hero: This game saw the offense spread around a bit, so I’m going to go with Randal Grichuk.  He only had one hit, compared to two for a few others, but that one was a two-run home run after the Cards had gotten down by a run early.  It was good not to have to play catch-up, though the Cards did have to do so later in the game.  It also gave another data point toward Grichuk eventually playing some more center field and perhaps making one of the other guys out there expendable.  There’s still a good ways to go in that argument, though.  It was the Cardinals’ first homer of the season.  (They now have four, meaning they are just one behind Adrian Gonzalez.)

Goat: The perils of being a late-inning reliever is that if you stumble at all, there’s a good chance your name is going to go here.  Jordan Walden didn’t have a bad outing, but once you walk Billy Hamilton, especially late in a tie game, you are going to have problems.  Hamilton stole second, which meant Walden had to intentionally pass Joey Votto.  Then he threw a wild pitch, which compounded things even more.  He allowed the tie-breaking sacrifice fly and that was all Cincinnati needed.  It wasn’t a meltdown by any means, just one of those things that happens.  We’ve seen much worse.

Notes: Jason Heyward just had one hit, but it was key as he drove in the tying run in the seventh….Matt Carpenter, Jhonny Peralta and Kolten Wong all had two hits in this one….John Lackey had the worst start of any Cardinal starter the first time through the rotation, allowing four runs in six innings.  Of course, they all came via two-run shots by Votto, so at least the damage was limited and you can rationalize the small ballpark (and very good hitter) for the problems.  Lackey did walk two and only struck out one, which is something to keep an eye on.  I don’t want to say Lackey is pitching for his job, but if Jaime Garcia heals quickly, someone’s got to be displaced to get him into the rotation and I’m not sure Carlos Martinez is going to be that person.

Saturday (4-1 win)

Hero: Matt Adams.  Michael Wacha threw a great game and I really thought about putting him here, but Adams’s home run in the fourth gave the Cardinals the lead that they’d not relinquish and you’d rather go to the late innings with a run lead than being tied.  The game changes a lot for St. Louis if they are tied in that situation, I think, and it’s nice that they didn’t have to worry about it.  Plus the home run came off of Johnny Cueto, which is never going to cause a Cardinal fan to shed a tear.  Adams had a single as well for a two-hit day, making him a worthy selection.

Goat: Jason Heyward.  The only starter without a hit, Heyward seems to have hit the ball well (three of the four at-bats have the word “sharply” listed in the MLB play-by-play) but had nothing to show for it.  He also grounded into a double play in the eighth after the Cards had a replay go their way and Grichuk reached base on an error.  At the time it was still 2-1, so an insurance run would have been nice.

Notes: Wacha was exactly what we were hoping he’d be after his stellar spring.  He allowed a first-inning long ball to Todd Frazier but other than that was completely in control, making it to the seventh before Mike Matheny went to get him.  He didn’t strike out batters–he only had two on the night–which could be concerning, given that we traced his low strikeouts last year right before it was announced he was hurt.  There’s not enough here to draw that conclusion, though, and Cincy seemed to do pretty well about getting the bat on the ball (well, until Sunday).  It was good to see him effective again….Matheny did the Dance of 1000 Relievers as well as Tony La Russa ever did in this one, using five relievers for eight outs.  Trevor Rosenthal went 1.2 innings to get the save and has been much less worrisome this year, something Tara and I talked about last night on Gateway to Baseball Heaven.

Sunday (7-5 win in 11)

Hero: Matt Carpenter.  Extra-inning home runs tend to get you in this spot.  Sure, it was nice that Kevin Gregg, who like Friday’s starter Jason Marquis I can’t believe is still in the big leagues, was in instead of Aroldis Chapman, but it doesn’t matter who you hit them against.  They count the same either way.  Carpenter also had a big hit in the fifth inning, driving in two to get the Cards on the board and have them take an early lead.

Goat: It was kind of a team effort in the seventh inning to blow the lead, so it’s tough to single out just one of the relief pitchers.  I guess I’ll go with Matt Belisle, who was the most immediate culprit, allowing back-to-back RBI hits when one out would have gotten them out of the jam.  That said, Belisle did walk into a bases-loaded situation, which is never a comfortable place to be.  Seth Maness put those two runners on, but he did get two outs before turning it over to Randy Choate and Belisle.  Kevin Siegrist finally had to come in and shut the door, keeping it close enough for the Cards to rally.

Speaking of Choate, he’s faced two batters this season, one on Saturday, one on Sunday.  Both times he’s allowed the batter to reach, either by a hit or a walk.  Choate’s going to lead the league in YOU HAD ONE JOB comments in 2015, I have a feeling.  I know he struggled to start last season and came back to be a much more effective pitcher, so hopefully we’ll see that as well.  Still, it’s very frustrating when the LOOGY becomes just a LGY.

Notes: Carlos Martinez showed that he didn’t have any inclination to give up his starting spot, striking out eight and allowing two runs (both solo homers in a ballpark designed for them) over six innings.  My hesitation with Martinez has always been is he going to have enough control to go deep in games.  While six innings isn’t necessarily a terribly great return on 100 pitches, Martinez’s count was run up by the strikeouts and not walks, of which he had just two.  It was a fine outing and I’m looking forward to seeing if he can do it again when he faces the Reds again on Saturday.  Will they be able to adjust to him?….Also, major kudos to Peralta for his huge two-run home run that tied the game up.  It was another two hit day for Peralta, who is quietly leading the team in hits and had a nice first week, which is a stark contrast to how he started last season, when it was basically long ball or nothing.  It’s nice to see him start off as a more productive part of the lineup.

So the first road trip of the season is in the books and the Cardinals are coming home for what is always a civic holiday, the home opener.  Very little work will get done in St. Louis today, I imagine, and it would be a wonderful thing to be there for today’s game.

We’ll talk about the matchup in a moment, but first let’s continue on the Cardinal Approval Ratings quickly.  Our player today is the catcher, Yadier Molina, who got his first hits of the season this weekend in Cincy.  Molina is, of course, one of the faces of the franchise now and likely will be the last to wear #4 in Cardinal history.  His reputation among the fans is similarly sterling, as he clocked in at 89.9% this season.  That’s actually one of his lowest scores and I expect it’s a function of the one or two that gave all the players terrible marks in a small sample.  There’s no reason to think Yadi has slipped much in the eyes of most reasonable folks.

For our media member, we focus on Bernie Miklasz.  Bernie hasn’t been on our poll before but it seems to me he’s doing more and more covering the Cardinals nowadays.  Sure, he always has and he still is talking about the Blues and Rams as well, but his podcast with Derrick Goold about the Redbirds was a huge addition to last year’s coverage of the Cards.  Bernie makes his debut at 82.3%, a fine showing.

We stay in the Ms for our management type and it’s the definition of management as we look at John Mozeliak, the Cardinal GM.  Mo has a well-deserved reputation for being one of the smartest general managers in the game and there’s a reason we use the #inmowetrust hashtag often, especially around the trade deadline.  That said, things didn’t necessarily go Mo’s way as much last year, what with the Justin Masterson trade being a disaster.  Mo comes in at 86.3%, which is hindered by a couple of zero marks, including one by someone who made the comment that he’s an “overrated GM”.  Your mileage, of course, may vary.  While the 86% is a marked decrease from last year, that’s actually pretty in line with historical trends for the GM, so it’s not the outlier you might expect.

Adam Wainwright gets the rare honor of opening the season and opening the home season as well (when those two things don’t coincide, of course, which they haven’t much lately).  As his manager said, “We started off with two cities that don’t really like us a whole lot. We’re going back to a place that loves us.”  There will be plenty of love shown Waino today by the red-clad faithful, no matter what the results.  However, if Wainwright goes at the Brewers like he did last year, there could be many more reasons to shower affection on him.  Wainwright went 3-1 with two complete games (one shutout) and a 2.97 ERA against the Brew Crew last season, limiting them to a .639 OPS.  Historically, he’s not done all that badly either.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Ryan Braun 70 65 14 4 0 2 7 2 19 .215 .257 .369 .626 0 1 0 2 2
Aramis Ramirez 65 60 23 8 0 3 8 3 10 .383 .431 .667 1.097 0 0 1 2 1
Carlos Gomez 24 22 7 1 0 1 2 0 4 .318 .375 .500 .875 0 0 0 2 0
Jonathan Lucroy 24 22 6 1 0 0 5 2 0 .273 .333 .318 .652 0 0 0 0 1
Gerardo Parra 21 21 6 1 0 0 0 0 3 .286 .286 .333 .619 0 0 0 0 2
Jean Segura 15 14 5 0 0 1 2 0 1 .357 .357 .571 .929 1 0 0 0 1
Scooter Gennett 11 11 2 1 0 0 0 0 2 .182 .182 .273 .455 0 0 0 0 0
Martin Maldonado 11 11 2 0 0 0 0 0 2 .182 .182 .182 .364 0 0 0 0 1
Khris Davis 10 10 3 0 0 0 1 0 3 .300 .300 .300 .600 0 0 0 0 1
Logan Schafer 5 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Kyle Lohse 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Mike Fiers 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Wily Peralta 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0 0
Matt Garza 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0 0
Adam Lind 2 2 2 0 0 1 1 0 0 1.000 1.000 2.500 3.500 0 0 0 0 0
Jimmy Nelson 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Tyler Thornburg 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 274 257 70 16 0 8 26 7 53 .272 .306 .428 .734 3 1 1 6 9
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/13/2015.

Of course, you have to watch out for Aramis Ramirez, because the Sith Lord has hit all the Cardinal pitchers basically, but he’s been OK with many of the other big bats.  Hopefully he can continue his fine work and make sure today’s a happy day all the way around for the St. Louis faithful.

Milwaukee has had a slow start to the season, going 1-5 in their first six with a sweep by the Rockies and losing two of three to Pittsburgh.  They’ve already given up 10 runs in two games and have given up at least five in every one of their losses (their one win, they shut out the Pirates).  Matt Garza takes the mound for the Brew Crew, looking to do better than his first start against Colorado, where he allowed four runs in five innings.  He can’t even blame the thin air as the game was in Milwaukee.  Garza struggled against St. Louis last year, going 0-2 in three starts with a 5.06 ERA.  Interestingly enough, he’s never won at Busch Stadium and his ERA is almost 7 there.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Jhonny Peralta 32 32 13 2 0 1 4 0 8 .406 .406 .563 .969 0 0 0 0 2
Matt Holliday 28 26 9 2 0 0 1 2 5 .346 .393 .423 .816 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Carpenter 16 11 1 0 0 0 0 5 1 .091 .375 .091 .466 0 0 0 0 0
Jon Jay 15 13 8 2 0 1 3 2 1 .615 .667 1.000 1.667 0 0 0 0 0
Jason Heyward 13 12 2 0 0 1 4 0 3 .167 .154 .417 .571 0 1 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 13 12 2 0 0 0 3 0 1 .167 .154 .167 .321 0 1 0 0 0
Matt Adams 10 9 7 2 0 1 3 0 2 .778 .800 1.333 2.133 0 0 0 1 0
Tony Cruz 8 5 3 0 0 0 1 3 1 .600 .750 .600 1.350 0 0 1 0 0
Kolten Wong 6 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Lance Lynn 5 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0 0
Peter Bourjos 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
John Lackey 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Carlos Villanueva 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0 0
Adam Wainwright 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 154 137 45 8 0 4 19 12 27 .328 .382 .474 .856 2 2 1 1 2
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/13/2015.

Peralta’s hot streak looks to continue today as he seems to love seeing Garza.  Interestingly, it’s not a great matchup for Carpenter, though he does have five walks against him.  Small sample sizes and all that, but everything seems to be pointing toward St. Louis in this one.  Which is usually when the script gets flipped, but let’s hope that’s not the case today.  It’s a great day for baseball in St. Louis–but when is it not?  Let’s open up the home schedule right!

1 comment

New Year, Same Results

In 2014, the Cardinals shut out their opponent 23 times.  They were also shut out 12 times.  So far, 2015 looks like they took 2014, kept it in the fridge all winter, then thawed it out for use this season.  An Opening Day shutout gave us the good side of the equation, while yesterday in Wrigley Field brought the bad.

Now, let’s be fair, many teams would have had trouble scoring in the conditions found in Chicago yesterday.  It was cold, damp and foggy, none of which are really conducive to an explosion of runs.  As Matt Holliday pointed out, who would have guessed Chicago in early April would have been miserable?  What the schedule makers were thinking by starting the season on the North Side, given construction as well, is unfathomable.

Mix in a pitcher that the Cardinals can’t hit and you have the recipe for a miserable afternoon.  Jake Arrieta had a career 0.92 ERA against the Redbirds going into the matchup, a number that only got better when he left it.  St. Louis had a number of chances early, including a first inning that featured two walks, but couldn’t capitalize on any of them.  If you let a pitcher get away with things, chances are he’ll accept the gift and then stop letting you have opportunities.  That was the case in this one, as the Cards had two on in both the first and the third, but were unable to finish things off with a big hit.  Yes, it was quite the familiar scenario.

Even though he was the one that made the crucial error, I’ve still got to give the Hero tag to Lance Lynn.  Lynn pitched superbly for six innings, giving the Cubs nothing.  The seventh would be his undoing, as he plunked Anthony Rizzo, then threw the ball away while trying to keep him close at first.  Lynn then gave up only his second hit of the ballgame, but that was enough to do him in.  Kevin Siegrist came in to limit the damage, but he was unable to do so completely, allowing a sacrifice fly that gave the club the final 2-0 margin.

Lynn really did look good, though, showing that, if anyone doubted, last year’s maturity and growth as a pitcher was no mirage.  In the fourth, Jorge Solar got the first hit of the game, a triple.  Lynn worked carefully and walked Rizzo and, this time last year, we’d have thought we were on the verge of a Lynning.  Instead, like we’ve now come to expect, Lynn worked out of the jam like a pro.  If he doesn’t hit Rizzo, could be that game is still going on.

Like Derrick Goold pointed out in his game recap, the Cards really haven’t been able to get into a rhythm, what with a game, then two days off, a game, and now another day off.  The early sputtering of the schedule (the Redbirds have another day off on Tuesday after the home opener), compounded with a rainout, does make it difficult to find footing.  The weather hasn’t helped at all.  If it wasn’t for last year’s struggles, I don’t think anyone would even think twice about scoring three runs in two games.  Heck, that’s a buffet for the Twins, who have two games under their belts and no runs to show for it.  (On the flip side, Adrian Gonzalez now has five home runs.  When do you think the Cardinal team will have five home runs?  I know they are going to Cincinnati but it has to be middle of next week, right?)

You can’t draw many conclusions from 18 innings, save that perhaps the pitching is going to be all right, which we already knew.  Three starters have yet to get a hit, including Yadier Molina.  Jason Heyward got hits in his first three at-bats, but now is riding an 0-6.  Holliday is 3-8, but with no extra base hits.  Again, it’s two games.  It’s something to point out, it’s something to watch, but it’s not anything that means anything yet.  A weekend in Cincinnati facing the back of the Reds rotation and everything may be all right.

If I’m giving the Hero to Lynn, I’ve got to find someone to take the Goat.  It was a tossup, but I’m going to take Jon Jay over Heyward.  Both went 0-4, but Heyward did reach on an error while Jay came up with two on and two out in the sixth and couldn’t get anyone in, which proved costly.  Again, both struggled (Heyward had opportunities with runners on as well) but that’s where the coin flip lands.

MLB’s started asking fans to vote for the Franchise Four of their favorite team, with the winners being announced at the All-Star Game.  It caused quite a bit of discussion on my Twitter feed yesterday, mainly because of Rogers Hornsby.  There’s no doubt he’s one of, if not the best second basemen ever and he would definitely be a worthy choice for this honor.  He’s second in career WAR to Stan Musial (though just two ahead of Bob Gibson).  In fact, if you go by WAR it’s Musial, Hornsby, Gibson and Albert Pujols, which is a pretty solid ballot right there.

However, there’s no way I could leave off Ozzie Smith, who is fifth in WAR.  Granted, much of Ozzie’s number is coming from his defensive side, but he redefined shortstop play, which ought to be taken into account.  Hornsby’s defense was (according to the metrics, which obviously are tough to use accurately on games from back then) pretty rough, with negative values assigned.  In other words, should defense take a back seat to offense?  If Ozzie’s head and shoulders above in the field and Hornsby’s the same at the plate, where do you draw the line?

Plus, Hornsby played for the Cubs after leaving St. Louis.  That’s got to have some negative cache, doesn’t it?

I’ve always thought of St. Louis’ Mount Rushmore as Musial (the hitter), Gibson (the pitcher), Ozzie (the defender) and Lou Brock (the speedster), but more for what they represent than the fact they are the top four players ever to wear the birds on the bat.  It’s a fun discussion and there was a lot of back and forth over it.  I don’t fault anyone with their choices, not even if they pick Dizzy Dean and Red Schoendienst, though I think you really have to stretch to include Dizzy.  Red’s got a lot of different things going for him so I can see that case, but as much as I’m a fan of the Arkansas boy, Dizzy’s qualifications come up a little short, especially when Gibson’s in the discussion.

I realize that I’ve still not released all the Cardinal Approval Ratings.  Let’s quickly do that for three more.  Ironically, Lynn is our player for today.  Over the last couple of years, he’s been in the mid-70s for the most part, as folks liked him but weren’t completely enamored with him.  After seeming to turn a corner last season, I expected that to grow.  It did, soaring to a career-high 85.0%.  Our media focus today is Dan McLaughlin, who we finally got to hear yesterday for the first time this season.  (Well, those of you that weren’t working and could watch the game did.)  Dan’s had his ups and downs, of course, but save for his first year on this sheet he’s stayed pretty consistent in the upper 70s.  This year is no exception, as he clocks in with a 75.6%.  Which may not seem that high, but when you think of what his partners come in at, that’s fairly nice.  Finally, we look at the manager.  Mike Matheny has not necessarily been a polarizing figure, but he’s taken his share of the heat in the past.  However, his numbers here have been pretty good since he was announced as manager before the 2012 season, never dropping below 85%.  That is, until this year, when his decisions caught up with him and he posted a low water mark of 70.1%.

After this off day (which, I will say, works for me because I don’t usually write on the days after off days, meaning I can sleep in some tomorrow), John Lackey will take the mound for the Cardinals in Cincinnati.  (That’s slightly disappointing because I started writing about Michael Wacha before confirming that Lackey was supposed to get the start.  I assumed Wacha would be number three in the rotation, but I guess this is another way to space out innings for him.)  Lackey faced the Reds twice last year, getting himself tossed out of the first game after two innings, then coming back his next time out and allowing just one run in 7.2 innings.  That one was in Busch, so we’ll see if Great American Ball Park is what gets him worked up or if he can stay in the game a little longer this time.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP missG
Marlon Byrd 29 27 10 2 0 2 8 1 7 .370 .379 .667 1.046 0 1 0 0 0
Brayan Pena 14 13 4 1 0 0 0 1 1 .308 .357 .385 .742 0 0 0 0 0
Brandon Phillips 13 12 2 0 0 0 0 0 4 .167 .231 .167 .397 0 0 0 1 0
Jay Bruce 7 7 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 .143 .143 .143 .286 0 0 0 0 0
Todd Frazier 7 6 2 0 0 1 3 1 1 .333 .429 .833 1.262 0 0 0 0 0
Billy Hamilton 7 7 2 0 0 0 0 0 2 .286 .286 .286 .571 0 0 0 0 0
Devin Mesoraco 7 7 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 .143 .143 .143 .286 0 0 0 0 1
Zack Cozart 6 6 2 0 0 0 1 0 1 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Brennan Boesch 4 4 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .250 .250 .250 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Total 94 89 25 3 0 3 12 3 21 .281 .309 .416 .724 0 1 0 1 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/9/2015.

He’s had some problems with Marlon Byrd in the past, it appears, and playing in that smaller ballpark isn’t going to help matters.  That said, he’s done OK in the limited exposure to the rest of the Reds so hopefully he can just work around Byrd.  Looks like it’s going to be wet in Cincy today but clear out by tomorrow night.  It might be chilly, but it won’t be Chicago chilly, so we’ll see if the bats can warm up.

If they do, they’ll do it against a familiar face in Jason Marquis (assuming the Reds get this afternoon’s game at least started, which looks likely).  Marquis, who as you remember was part of the deal that brought Adam Wainwright to St. Louis, pitched for St. Louis from 2004-2006 and got himself a ring even though he was left off the postseason roster that final year a 14-16, 6.02 ERA mark will do that).  Marquis has bounced around since then, never being anything but average, and last year was hurt and didn’t play in the big leagues, spending time in the Phillies organization before their release.  The fact that he’s found himself a starting job is actually a bit hard to believe, but a great perseverance story, I guess.  Either that or it tells you just how hard up the Reds were for pitching after making trades this offseason (though odds are, Marquis will have a better first start than Mat Latos did in Miami).  I know we said you shouldn’t draw conclusions this early, but if the Cards can’t hit Marquis, we need to talk.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP missG
Matt Holliday 25 23 5 0 0 2 3 1 5 .217 .280 .478 .758 0 0 0 1 1
Yadier Molina 20 18 4 1 0 1 2 2 1 .222 .300 .444 .744 0 0 0 0 0
Mark Reynolds 19 16 5 1 0 1 3 3 3 .313 .421 .563 .984 0 0 0 0 0
Jason Heyward 10 10 3 1 0 2 2 0 3 .300 .300 1.000 1.300 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Carpenter 6 4 1 1 0 0 1 2 1 .250 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Jon Jay 5 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .333 .667 2 0 0 0 0
Pete Kozma 5 4 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 .250 .400 .250 .650 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Adams 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Peter Bourjos 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Jhonny Peralta 3 3 1 0 1 0 2 0 0 .333 .333 1.000 1.333 0 0 0 0 0
Total 99 87 23 4 1 6 13 9 15 .264 .340 .540 .880 2 0 0 1 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/9/2015.

Nothing in this historical numbers really stands out as thinking they’d punish him, though.  Like I said, Marquis been middling for much of his career, so I guess it’s not surprising that people have had success but not domination against him.  I’d say maybe this was a time to let Mark Reynolds get a start, but as little as the Cards have been able to play this week, I think the starters will play unless there is a lefty on the mound.

Really tough to feel like the season has started with all these starts and stops, isn’t it?  Hope you enjoy yet another off day!

6 comments

Cubs Cry Uncle (Charlie)

There are many ways that the 2015 season could have started.  Few would have been more pleasant than what we got last night.

I don’t think any of us had major concerns about Adam Wainwright, at least overall.  However, he did have a shorter spring training than most and he’s had problems at times on the high visibility stage.  Tara and I talked about it last night and agreed that it seemed like he sometimes gets too amped, too excited for the big games.  That said, with experience comes maturity and this is the second opener in a row where he’s not allowed a run.  Wainwright would allow leadoff runners in four of his six innings.  Three of those were doubles and the one single wound up at second with a stolen base anyway.  Yet Wainwright never let that bother him, working the strike zone and getting some help to keep the Cubbies off the board.  You and I have as many hits with runners in scoring position as the Cubs have this year so far and much of that was Wainwright knowing exactly how to get the outs he needed.

There was a lot of talk before the game about Mike Matheny running out a regular lineup, complete with lefties, to face left-handed Jon Lester.  I think there were a couple of reasons for that.  One, we know Matheny is all about honoring the players, giving them the chance to have an experience if they’ve earned it.  It’s one reason we’ve seen him go so long with a struggling starter or be slow to take someone out of the lineup.  I think Matheny wanted these guys to playing Opening Day because it was Opening Day.  If Matt Adams is going to be your regular starter, he should get to be out there when they announce the lineups.

Secondly, if the Cards are going to be successful this year, these lefties need to be able to step it up against those of the same persuasion.  What better time than the opener to give them a crack at it?  Yes, I know, a game in April means as much as a game in September.  However, with a game in April, you have a lot more time to make it up than you do later in the year.  Put it this way, if the Cards had lost this game and lost the division by one game, I think there would have been plenty of places to look for that extra game, not just the first game of the season.

(I also was thinking that Jake Arrieta, whom the Cardinals face Tuesday, was a lefty and as such Matheny might not have wanted to bench his big guys two games in a row.  Then I double-checked and found out I was mistaken, so scratch that.)

Of course, either because Matheny knew something or he lives a charmed life, the left-handed bats were critical last night.  (It’s well possible Matheny knew something, as last year Lester did worse against lefties than righties.)  Jason Heyward made his Cardinal debut with three straight hits, including two doubles.  The second double was kinda Cub-aided, as we saw first hand last night that, no matter the star manager or the young guns coming, these Cubs still have trouble making plays.  Still, Heyward couldn’t have asked for much more in his debut, scoring the first Cardinal run of the season on a Matt Holliday single and driving in the third one with a line drive past the third baseman.  If Heyward has similar production against other lefties, this could be a lot of fun.

Heyward also was the lead runner in a double steal, part of a night that apparently saw the club start their year-long honoring of the 1985 Cardinals.  Matt Carpenter was thrown out in the Runnin’ Redbirds first attempt, but then stole four more, including that double steal.  Heyward and Holliday were the pair of thieves, while Kolten Wong took second later on (and moved to third on an overthrow by David Ross) and Peter Bourjos stole third in the ninth, also moving to third on a catcher error, this time by Miguel Montero.  We’ve heard them talk about stealing more and if this night is any indication, they may be serious about it.  That said, Lester (whom everyone but Bourjos swiped their bag against) is becoming legendary for not throwing over to first and that makes it much easier.  We’ll see if they have the same amount of success or try quite as much when there’s a pitcher better against the running game on the mound.

If you are new to this blog, first of all, welcome, and second of all let me explain my hook here.  Every game I pick the Hero and the Goat of the game.  There are many different things that go into this selection, but basically it’s my opinion, as there are no real hard and fast rules.  (When there’s a tie, a bad game by the leadoff batter usually weighs more since that impacts the rest of the lineup so much, but that’s about it.)  Last night, I’m going to go with Adam Wainwright as the Hero, just because his ability to work out of a jam (even though they were of his making) was pretty impressive and if he stumbles once, that game could be different.  Heyward was a close runner-up on that one.

The Goat will go to Matt Adams, as much as I hate to do it.  Adams was the only starter not to reach base last night and he struck out twice, leaving five men on.  That said, at least in his first at-bat against Lester he looked pretty good, extending the at-bat and fouling off some pitches before striking out.  It would have been nice to see him break through, but he was in a tough position last night.  Hopefully he’ll have a better game on Tuesday.

Also, once a week we are going to try to showcase the work of Twitter @Cardinal_50 here.  We did this some last year as well after I found him Tweeting out some really nice-looking scorecards after games.  He’s allowed us to feature them here and I appreciate his willingness, because these are some nice looking scorebooks!  Click on them to see them in all their glory.

The Cardinals' work last night, courtesy of Cardinal_50.

The Cardinals’ work last night, courtesy of Cardinal_50.

 

The Cubs' work on Opening Night, care of Cardinal_50.

The Cubs’ work on Opening Night, care of Cardinal_50.

The Cardinals, right now, are quantifiably the best team in baseball.  The only team with a win, they get to sit back and enjoy the first day of the season before getting back at it Tuesday night.  It’s nice to know that we’re the only fanbase that’s 1-0 for a few hours, isn’t it?  When they do play again, they’ll face Arrieta, as noted above.  Arrieta was extremely tough on St. Louis last year, facing them four times and limiting them to a .183/.272/.207 line while putting up a 1.21 ERA.  The last time they saw him, September 24th, he gave up two hits in seven innings, striking out 10.  So it’s not like they figured him out while the season went along.  Which means this preview chart isn’t going to be pretty.

 

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP missG
Jhonny Peralta 17 16 5 2 0 0 1 1 2 .313 .353 .438 .790 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Carpenter 15 11 0 0 0 0 0 4 3 .000 .267 .000 .267 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Holliday 14 12 0 0 0 0 0 2 5 .000 .143 .000 .143 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Adams 11 11 5 1 0 0 3 0 3 .455 .455 .545 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Peter Bourjos 9 7 1 1 0 0 0 2 3 .143 .333 .286 .619 0 0 0 0 0
Kolten Wong 9 9 2 0 0 0 0 0 3 .222 .222 .222 .444 0 0 0 0 1
Jon Jay 7 6 0 0 0 0 0 1 2 .000 .143 .000 .143 0 0 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 7 7 2 0 0 0 0 0 3 .286 .286 .286 .571 0 0 0 0 0
Jason Heyward 6 6 2 1 0 0 0 0 2 .333 .333 .500 .833 0 0 0 0 0
Mark Reynolds 3 3 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 .333 .333 1.333 1.667 0 0 0 0 0
John Lackey 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Michael Wacha 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Adam Wainwright 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .500 .000 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Total 104 93 18 5 0 1 5 11 28 .194 .279 .280 .558 0 0 0 0 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/6/2015.

Jhonny Peralta and Adams have done OK against him, but a couple of the Matts are still looking for their first base knock versus Arrieta in more than 10 ABs.  Maybe Arrieta won’t be on the top of his game, but the Cards have their work cut out for them.

Going for the Redbirds is Lance Lynn.  Lynn took the next step last year, shaking off his “Lynning” tag and putting up the finest season he’s had so far.  Rewarded with a contract extension during the winter, Lynn looks to keep that going against a Cubs team that he only faced once last year, giving up two runs in six innings back on May 4th.  (It’s a little surprising, given the amount of games these two teams play against each other, he only saw them once.  Quirk in the schedule, I guess.)  In his career, he’s had mixed success against the baby bears.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP missG
Starlin Castro 31 30 10 3 1 0 3 0 5 .333 .333 .500 .833 1 0 0 0 0
Anthony Rizzo 24 22 5 0 0 1 3 2 5 .227 .292 .364 .655 0 0 0 0 0
Miguel Montero 10 7 0 0 0 0 0 3 1 .000 .300 .000 .300 0 0 0 0 0
Welington Castillo 8 6 4 0 0 1 1 1 1 .667 .750 1.167 1.917 0 0 0 1 0
Dexter Fowler 6 4 2 0 0 0 0 2 0 .500 .667 .500 1.167 0 0 0 0 0
David Ross 6 6 1 1 0 0 0 0 4 .167 .167 .333 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Travis Wood 6 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Ryan Sweeney 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Jason Hammel 2 1 1 0 0 0 2 1 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 0 0 0 0 0
Edwin Jackson 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 98 87 23 4 1 2 9 9 19 .264 .340 .402 .743 1 0 0 1 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/6/2015.

It’s nice that he’s been able to handle Anthony Rizzo and I don’t expect he’ll see much of Welington Castillo, so this could be another pitcher’s duel.  Then again, with this pitching staff, almost every game could be a pitcher’s duel, at least until we see if the offense comes around.

Enjoy the off-day!  I hope you have a chance to watch some other baseball.  If you’ve got MLB.tv, you can feast all day.  I think some like DirecTV are running free previews of MLB Extra Innings, so maybe you can see some baseball that way as well.  Baseball is back!

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All right, we’ve flawlessly* picked how the divisions will shake out.  However, that’s not the way the season ends.  It ends with one team holding the trophy.  So let’s try to figure out who that might be.

*–Flawlessly might not be accurate.  Flawful, maybe so.

American League

Wild card game: Detroit vs. Chicago

ALDS: Seattle over Chicago in 4, Baltimore over Cleveland in 3

ALCS: Seattle over Baltimore in 7

National League

Wild card game: Pittsburgh vs. San Diego

NLDS: Washington over Pittsburgh in 4, St. Louis over Los Angeles in 5

NLCS: Washington over St. Louis in 6

World Series: Washington over Seattle in 5

Please note the last time I picked the Nationals to win it all, they didn’t even make the playoffs.  I don’t think we have to worry about that this time, but you should be warned just in case.

Now, let’s throw some darts and figure out awards.  These are just about impossible to do, but that’s never stopped us before.

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The end of spring training also brings an end to our Playing Pepper series.  I’ve always felt these posts help the time between pitchers and catchers reporting and Opening Day go by so much quicker and I hope that you feel the same.  If you missed any of these posts or just want to revisit them, they are all listed below.  I again want to thank all of the bloggers that participated in this.  Your help was invaluable and I’m glad you agreed to help showcase your team.  Until next year!

 

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It’s one of the annual traditions here at C70 At The Bat, our trip around the majors in blog form. Since 2009, I’ve been asking bloggers from other teams about what’s going to happen with their squad in the coming season. It’s always fun to see what the opposition is thinking and how optimistic some of their most devoted and intelligent fans are. This year, the Pepper series is brought to you by Out of the Park Baseball 16, coming soon for PC. Order this outstanding baseball simulation today!

St. Louis Cardinals
90-72, first in the NL Central, lost in the NLCS

Normally, when I do the Pepper series, I skip the Cardinals. After all, you pretty much know what I think of what’s going on with the club and you’re probably reading a lot of the other Cardinal bloggers as well, so it would seem fairly anti-climactic to rehash a lot of the questions that we’ve been bandying about for the past few months. (In truth, the annual UCB roundtable does a superb job of giving you similar insight to these posts.)

This year, however, I had an idea. There are some notable Cardinal fans out there on the Internet. They don’t always write about the Cardinals because they may be at more general sites, but they’ve made no bones about their fandom. What if we posed Pepper questions to them and let them expound on their favorite team?  I don’t often have great ideas, but this one had promise.

So I contacted four luminaries of the Internet and they all graciously accepted.  So here’s our distinguished panel:

–Will Leitch, who has “founder of Deadspin, senior writer of Sports on Earth, published author” among his many achievements.  He’s on Twitter @williamfleitch.
–Dayn Perry,  writer for CBSSports.com, especially their Eye on Baseball blog and one of the few people I know with a dedicated Facebook page. He Tweets @daynperry.
–Drew Silva, who pulls double duty at Rotoworld.com and at NBC’s Hardball Talk.  His Twitter handle is @drewsilv.
–Larry Borowsky, better known as lboros, the founder and long-time author of Viva El Birdos, the largest Cardinals blog on the net.  (For those that know Larry’s work, the following capital letters may throw you.)

Let’s have at it!

C70: What are your thoughts on the team’€™s offseason? Did they do what they needed to do?

WL: For the fourth or fifth consecutive year, I a€™m pleased. I a€™m glad they didn’€™t go after a big-name starter — frankly, national media reports aside, I never thought they would –€“ and the Heyward trade was one of those great John Mozeliak moves that are a total shock when they happen and then seem inevitable once you think about them. I understand the idea behind the Mark Reynolds move even if I don’€™t think it’€™ll work. I’€™ve even calmed down from October and don’€™t mind that they kept the manager.

DP: I like the decision to deal from a position of depth to get Heyward, even though they lost a good bit of player control in the process. Heyward has such broad value — there’s his stellar defense and plus base-running, of course — that he doesn’t necessarily have to rebound with the bat in order to be very valuable (although we’re of course hoping he does rebound with the bat). As well, it presumably gives the Cardinals the inside track on re-signing Heyward, who’s been a 3.5-6.5-win player and is still what should be a prime or even pre-prime age. If he walks, then the Cardinals make the obvious qualifying offer, net a high draft pick and maybe install Randal Grichuk or Stephen Piscotty in right at minimal cost.

Elsewhere, I like the addition of Reynolds as a right-handed caddy to Matt Carpenter and Matt Adams. I don’t like Tony Cruz‘s continued presence on the roster, especially with Yadi’s being another year older and presumably less durable. I’d really like a better backup catcher moving forward. Let’s end on a positive note: I really like the Dean Anna pickup.

DS:  I think so. Right field obviously had to be addressed after the death of Oscar Taveras and I can’t think of a better fit than Jason Heyward. I also liked the Mark Reynolds pickup — a nice bench bat who can spell Matt Adams at first base against tough left-handers. My one gripe would be that they didn’t upgrade at backup catcher, but that’s a pretty minor gripe. There weren’t many massive holes on the roster heading into the winter.

LB: It was a terrible offseason, of course, because of Oscar’€™s death. In addition to the incalculable human cost, his loss forced the Cardinals into a risky trade they never would have made otherwise. Given the difficult circumstances, Mozeliak did extraordinarily well –€” he picked up a rightfielder who’€™s almost as young as Oscar and has almost as much upside as a hitter, and he did it in less than a month without creating a gaping new hole on the roster. Impressive.

It was a trade he had to make, but it’€™s one the Cards can’€™t win. It’€™s almost the direct inverse of the Cards’€™ transaction with the Braves in 2003, which the Cards won handily and are still profiting from a decade later. In that deal St Louis gave up one year of control over a young, multitalented rightfielder who still hadn’€™t reached his potential (€”J.D. Drew)€” for three years of control over a hard-throwing but one-dimensional 25-year-old starting pitcher (Jason Marquis) and a projectable pitching prospect recovering from an arm injury — Adam Wainwright. The current deal casts Jason Heyward in Drew’€™s role, with Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins in the roles of (respectively) Marquis and Wainwright. It puts the Braves in position to reap a long-term windfall, while the Cards can only avoid a big drubbing in this trade by making the biggest payroll commitment in their history to keep Heyward here beyond 2015.

Here’€™s hoping that Heyward’€™s performance justifies the latter.

I like the additions of Jordan Walden and Ty Kelly. But the Cards are still too thin at catcher and shortstop;€” Tony Cruz and Pete Kozma still constitute 40 percent of the bench, as they did last October. And the left side of the bullpen could still cause some problems. If Kevin Siegrist doesn’€™t return to form, they’€™ll likely have to turn to Marco Gonzales, which in turn will deflate the cushion for the starting rotation in case of an injury. It’€™s mildly disappointing that Mozeliak didn’€™t give the team better options in these support roles.

C70: What kind of season will Jason Heyward have and will the club sign him to an extension before the end of the year?

WL: Certainly feels like these questions are related. It stands to reason that Heyward will be a lot more comfortable here than he was at least in his last couple of years in Atlanta, if just because all we’€™re really asking him to do is hit the ball either off or over every wall he sees in front of him. But listen: As much as Braves fans loved him, they understood that he underachieved as well, no matter what WAR might or might not tell us. What’s a number of homers that would excite you? 30? What’€™s a number of homers that would disappoint you? 10? I’€™ll go with 19, an OBP that’€™s down a little from last year and continued magic defense in right. The extension is of course up to him. Some of the numbers seem crazy, and honesty, even though we stat nerds see him as close to equal to Stanton, no one else does. If he will take, say, eight years, $168 million, I think this gets done during the season. If he wants to get more –€“ and I would think he could get more, but not that much more –€“ he’€™ll go to free agency. My bet right now: He goes to free agency.

DP: I’ll say Heyward has a moderate rebound offensively, puts up a 5.5-win season and decides to test the market.

DS: I’ll guess that he reaches his full potential — or something close to it — with 20-plus homers, an OPS above .850, and another Gold Glove. And if he bats second all year, he’ll score more than 120 runs. That’s going to make him a $200 million player on the open market, but I think the Cardinals will buck up. They need a player to build around, and Heyward would only be 35 years old at the end of a 10-year deal. The money is absolutely flowing in at Busch Stadium, and a big boost is coming in 2017 in the form of a new local television contract.

LB: Heyward this year will be the same age (25) that Matt Carpenter was when he reached AAA; the same age Allen Craig and Jon Jay were as midseason callups in 2010; and two years younger than David Freese was as a rookie that same year. He is, today, a year younger than Matt Adams and two years younger than Pete Kozma. The only younger position players on the Cards’€™ opening day roster will be Kolten Wong and, perhaps, Randal Grichuk.

All of which is to say that Heyward still has a ton of upside. He’s at the same age Gregg Jefferies was when the Cards acquired him back in 1993, and at about the same point in his career,€” a highly touted player who broke in very young and managed to disappoint by being merely good, rather than great, in his early 20s. Jefferies had his career year at age 25 and another great year at 26. I think it’s more likely than not that Heyward will follow suit.

It’€™s worth noting that Heyward has always been a 2nd-half hitter, with a career OPS 50 points higher after the All-Star break than before it. If he only matches his 1st half career averages — .248 / .339 / .419 — we’€™ll probably see him reach free agency.

C70: Will Trevor Rosenthal be the closer all year long?

WL: Yes. People freak out too much about Rosenthal. Sure, he makes it scary sometimes. He still does the job as well as almost anyone in the game, and he’s cheap, and it’€™s in his (and Scott Boras’s€™) interests to hang onto the job. I think he’s the closer at the end of next season too.

DP: I think so. I have some concerns, though. He struggled with his control last season, didn’t miss bats as much, didn’t get first-pitch strikes as much and didn’t get hitters to bite on stuff outside the zone as much. However, I think the underlying skill is there, and his velo was fine. I don’t see him as shutdown guy, but he’s got enough to keep a job.

DS: I’ll say yes. Relievers are so year-to-year (the nature of the small sample size) and Rosenthal has shown better control this spring. I don’t see him walking 40-plus batters again. I do see him tallying 40-plus saves for a second consecutive season. Rosey’s velocity is no longer in the 98-100 mph territory, so maybe he can make better use of his off-speed stuff. I really like the changeup.

LB: I sure hope so. He only walked one of the first 25 batters he faced this spring, which is very encouraging. I don’€™t know what his velocity’€™s been like this spring. I’€™m glad Walden’€™s on hand as an insurance policy; hope they don’€™t need it.

Kind of amazing to think that out of the three hugely promising starters the Cards promoted in 2012 –€” Joe Kelly, Shelby Miller, and Trevor Rosenthal –€” none has a spot in their rotation three years later.

C70: What player do you expect to make the greatest strides this year?

WL: Wong’€™s the obvious answer, but am I a simp for thinking Peter Bourjos has one last run in him? I know the spring was tough and there’s a general Frustration vibe about him –€“ particularly in the dugout –€“ but there’€™s still a ton, ton of talent here. I still think he’€™s more than a defensive replacement/pinch runner type, and this might well be the last chance he ever has to show it. Talent has to eventually emerge, doesn’€™t it?

DP: This isn’t a particularly novel choice, but I think Wong takes the next step. I’ll tab him for a .740 or so OPS, 15 homers, capable defense at the keystone and a lot of value on the bases.

DS: Kolten Wong. His production level seems to be tied closely to his confidence level, and I’d have to think he’s feeling good about his standing within the organization at this point. Mark him down for 20-plus home runs and 20-plus stolen bases, and I think we see a big uptick in his on-base percentage. The 24-year-old second baseman will flirt with an .800 OPS.

LB: I expect Heyward and Kolten Wong to take strides. But my money’€™s on Matt Adams to take the biggest ones.

He took Clayton Kershaw AND Madison Bumgarner deep in big situations last October, while posting an .875 postseason OPS. He’€™s an intelligent hitter who makes pretty good adjustments. He still hasn’€™t conquered his weakness for breaking balls down and in, but if can learn to resist those –€” and if he can keep his elbow healthy all season –€” I think Big City will hit 30 homers and slug over .500.

C70: What’€™s your projection of the team’s record and where will they finish in the division?

WL: 93-69, first in the National League Central. I also think both wildcards are coming from the division: Pirates and Cubs.

DP: 89-73. First place, two games ahead of the Pirates.

DS: I just wrapped up my National League Central previews on HardballTalk and predicted the Cardinals will finish in first place. From this early-April vantage point, I think it all comes down to the health of Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha. If they’re both 200-inning guys, I honestly think this is a 100-win team.

LB: The Cards have more paths to first place than any other NL Central team. Their veterans could carry them, or their young players could; they could plausibly score the most runs in the division or allow the fewest. They have enough depth to weather injuries and/or to fill a hole or two via trade.

They suffered more than their share of injuries and slumps last season, yet still managed 90 wins. I’€™ll pencil them in for 92 wins this year in anticipation of some better luck. While that might not seem like great progress, recall that the Cards were only 83-79 last year by Pythagorean record. They’€™ll face tougher competition within the division, and they have a tougher interleague draw (the AL Central) than they got last year. And they still have a manager who, while terrific at managing people, has not shown himself to be particularly good at managing baseball games or rosters.

Mike Matheny –€” and the team as a whole –€” will have to be a lot better this year than last to improve to 92 wins.

C70: What do you like best about being a Cardinals fan?

WL: It’€™s the one place I always know I can go to be with my family, blood-related and otherwise.

DP: I grew up in Mississippi and inherited Cardinals fandom from my Dad, who was a Cardinals fan from back in the days when they were baseball’s southernmost team (he grew up in Alabama). Because of that, I’ve always appreciated the broad geographical appeal that the Cardinals have. That of course traces back to when they were baseball’s farthest-flung outpost. That powerful radio signal back in the day served them well. Our summer trips to St. Louis when I was growing up are memories that I go beyond cherishing, especially now that my Dad is 80 and in failing health.

I love watching Cardinal road games and seeing swaths of red in the stands. When I was a kid, I probably went to see them play at Fulton County or the Astrodome as much as I saw them play at Busch. The “Nation” phenomenon is deliriously overplayed in sports these days, but there’s some truth to it insofar as the Cardinals are concerned. I adore that to this day.

DS: That they’re always good. Gives me something to look forward to, something to watch, something to discuss with friends at least 162 days a year.

LB: Listening to Mike Shannon do play-by-play on the Mighty ‘€™MOX.

It was truly an honor to have all of these guys in one place–well, at least one post–at the same time.  Enjoy the season, folks.  It’s going to be a great ride from here on!

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