C70 At The Bat

This time of year, it’s all about tradition.  From now until then end of the calendar year, we’ll do a lot of the same things we’ve always done, get together with the same people we’ve always gotten together with, eat the same foods that we always eat, and expect nothing less, getting irate if things are just a little bit off.  (OK, maybe that’s just me.)  One of the traditions around this blog, besides Playing Pepper and Exit Interviews and Star Wars mashups, is taking time at Thanksgiving to talk about what we, as Cardinal fans, have to be thankful for.  I’m not talking family or health or anything like that–we all know we are thankful for those things–but things specific to us as fans of the St. Louis club.

In no particular order…..

I’m thankful for at least a year of Jason Heyward.  I’m hopeful that we’ll have more years of his play to be thankful for in the future, but even if it was just one year, it was great to see him wearing the birds on the bat.  His defense was outstanding, his baserunning was inspired, and he could hit a little bit as well.  There’s a reason most everyone is on the #SignJasonHeyward bandwagon.  It was something wonderful to watch.

I’m thankful for the leadership of Adam Wainwright.  Sometimes it manifests itself in strange ways–I expect Lance Lynn thought he was being “like Waino” when he tried to play through his arm issues–but I think it’s an attitude that has pervaded the clubhouse.  To see a staff ace work his tail off to come back and contribute out of the bullpen has to make an impact on some of the younger players.  I’m not saying anyone on the club isn’t working hard, but that’s a high bar for folks to try to attain.  Mix in that determination with his playfulness and his wisdom and he’s the perfect person to lead this team.

I’m thankful for the consistent winning.  Yes, getting a World Series title again would be nice, but what I want out of baseball is the everyday wins.  This is the background of our lives for half a year (the games are–the Game is all year long) and wanting to watch this team, expecting a win or at least some quality play, can’t be minimized.  I’m sure that there were Reds fans and Brewers fans that were watching every night down the stretch, but it had to be at least somewhat more of an obligation than a joy.  The Cardinals, for a long while now, have given us meaningful games all the way through September, which means that more often than not, the day ends on a positive note.  It’s a joy to be able to say that.

I’m thankful for Yadier Molina and his defensive abilities.  It’s not quite the same as it used to be–I never tired of that pickoff play he and Albert Pujols ran–but to hear people continue to rave over Yadi and his pitch calling is a great aspect of being a Cardinals fan.  Some people may think that Yadi gets overrated by us and perhaps that’s somewhat true, but Molina is still a rare talent and likely the last person to wear #4 in St. Louis.

I’m thankful for the emergence of Carlos Martinez.  This time last year we wondered what he really could do as a big league starter.  Now, we’ve got an idea and it’s pretty great.  He’s a dominant force in the rotation and his absence in the postseason left a hole that no one could truly fill.  Then, to add into that mix, he’s got more personality than we’ve seen out of most of this Cardinal prospects.  (I think one cup stacking incident was more personality than Stephen Piscotty showed all year–I don’t say that to bash Piscotty, just to underscore how stoic he was!)  He’s a guy, as I’ve said numerous times, that would get plenty of attention if he wasn’t on the “fun hating” Cardinals.  I really look forward to him getting back out there again next season, cups and all.

I’m thankful for solid and committed ownership.  There are going to be those that point the finger at Bill DeWitt should Heyward get away or they don’t sign someone like David Price or Zack Greinke.  However, DeWitt has consistently been a force for good in St. Louis baseball, providing money when necessary (look at the payroll versus market size) and allowing those in management to do their job without having a micromanager hanging over their shoulder.  In February, The Cardinals Way comes out.  I’ve read a preview copy of it and once you get a chance to read it, I think you’ll see just how innovative and risk-taking DeWitt has been at times, even when he seemingly had every reason to stay the course.  Even when things have gone wrong, DeWitt and company haven’t panic but have trusted in what they’ve built.  So far, so very good.

I’m thankful to be a fan of a team that’s held to such a high standard, especially since they so often meet it.  There’s no doubt there’s a lot of folks around the Internet that roll their eyes whenever the Cardinals are mentioned.  I remember when that used to be the Yankees.  People were always so frustrated with them because they won and won a lot.  Now it’s St. Louis’s turn.  Sure, they toss in “the Cardinal Way” like it’s some new slogan only this team would come up with (spoiler alert–many other teams have had a Way in the past and in the present) or think the club is some sanctimonious group, but really, most of that has passed with Tony La Russa leaving town, folks just haven’t caught up yet.  (Plus, if their team does something similar, it probably gets glossed over.)  We’ve got BestFansStLouis on Twitter and folks just itching to bring any Cardinal fan down a peg.  It’s OK.  You can’t bring someone down if they aren’t up high in the first place.

I’m thankful that Tyler Lyons not only still wears #70, but is becoming more and more relevant to this team.  What started almost as a joke has become a real rooting interest and it’s great to see him continue to develop.

I’m thankful that we get to see Matt Carpenter hit every day.  He had a different style this year–more power, more strikeouts–but he’s still an impact hitter on a team that doesn’t have many of them.  He’s also fairly adept afield, even if he has to shift to second or first for some reason.  He’s probably going to be a core player in this squad for a long time to come and it’s fun to get to see him out there every day.

I’m thankful that the organization treats the bloggers so well.  Whether it’s the annual Blogger Day at the ballpark or the more recent ability to ask John Mozeliak questions that he’ll actually answer, the club makes sure to listen to us and interact with us.  It’s a small thing on their part but it means a lot to myself and the others.

I’m thankful for the friends that I’ve made while talking and writing about this team.  Whether it’s fellow bloggers in the United Cardinal Bloggers, a commenter here on the blog, or folks that have interacted on Twitter with me, it’s always enjoyable to talk about the Cardinals with like-minded (or at least reasonable if not like-minded) fans.  I’ve been doing this for over eight years now and I know that I might have given it up if it hadn’t been for those that encourage, those that like what I do and tell me so.  I hope I can be as encouraging to them as they have been to me!

I hope all of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving and if you are traveling, you can do so safely.  For those of you dealing with family that are Cub fans, remember, be kind and gracious if at all possible.  They don’t have years like this very often.  The least we can do is smile and humor them.


A Little Chat With Mo

Last year, John Mozeliak was kind enough to take questions from the United Cardinal Bloggers.  Apparently, we did a fine job because this year he was willing to do it again.  Unsurprisingly, given the fact that he answered everything last year, many more questions came his way this year.  (I sent 10, because you know how I get going.)  He wasn’t able to answer all of them, due to various issues (likely mainly because he had a few other things to do, like talk to Jason Heyward’s agents or something) but he did take a crack at some of them.

We’ll have a full transcript up on the UCB site sometime in early December, but you can see some of his answers at RetroSimba and The Redbird Retreat already.

As for my questions, Mo took three of mine and combined one of my other ones (about the Patron Pitcher) with a question of Dan Buffa’s.  Below is what the general manager had to say.

C70: How would you grade your trading deadline moves of acquiring Brandon Moss, Jonathan Broxton, and Steve Cishek?

Mo: It’s always tough to be a self-evaluator, but I feel there are two things: one, we wanted to find offense that we would have control over for more than just the two-month rental, and we felt Moss gave us that. Now, clearly from a pure production standpoint, he did not have the year, especially the impact, for the St. Louis Cardinals that he’d hoped, but I do think being almost two years removed from surgery when we see him this spring, he’ll benefit from it. In terms of the bullpen, when you look at our usage on what was happening with Rosie, Siegrist and Maness, we felt like we had to add some arms to make sure that they had reasonable rest, so I think we were able to accomplish that. From a strategic standpoint, I think we met what we were looking to do. How I would grade it overall? I would say probably a B-.

C70: What goes into the decision to retain coaches, such as the hitting or pitching coach? Are there internal benchmarks that they need to attain or is it more intangible than that?

Mo: Well, first off, the manager has a lot of input in our coaching staff. Also, the feedback we get from our players is vitally important. In terms of just pure metrics to determine success or failure, we’re not that rigid. But there are things that we look at and try to improve upon. I feel like our current staff recognizes that and in my mind, have met or exceeded.

C70 (and Buffa): Do you see Tyler Lyons as a significant contributor to the 2016 club? Can you also share your thoughts on Marco Gonzales, Jordan Walden, and Greg Garcia?

Mo: Well I think Tyler Lyons, depending on what we do in the free agent and trade market will either have an opportunity to come in as a starter, or I could certainly see him as a part of our bullpen moving forward. Marco Gonzales will also see similar opportunities – missed a lot of time due to shoulder soreness last year, so our expectation from him is to have a normal offseason but to come prepared and ready to go for really the unknown. Either way, we do have options on him so if necessary he could pitch in Memphis. Jordan Walden clearly did not have a great year from a physical standpoint. He obviously got off to a good start, but I think the key question for him is ‘will he have the strength in his shoulder to come out and be someone we can count on this year.’ There are a lot of question marks going into 2016 with him, but I do know our medical staff and he are working in concert to prepare for next year. I think Greg [Garcia] did a nice job of showing he has value at the Major League level this year; extremely good teammate, hard worker. Any versatility he could create for himself would be of value. Whether that means catching to even taking fly balls in the outfield, but clearly from an infield standpoint he checks a lot of boxes for us.

C70: When did you become aware that Lance Lynn was having elbow problems and, if before the end of the season, what went into waiting on the surgery versus having it at the time? Did you know the full extent of the problem?

Mo: We were first aware of his elbow injury in a game in LA in June. Based on MRIs and how he felt, obviously he went on the DL, but ultimately was still able to pitch. I think it was something that he understood was eventually going to happen but did try to give us the innings and starts we needed. Unfortunately, in this game when you’re a pitcher at the Major League level, or any level, there’s risk and it caught up to him. I think it’s more volume than acute but ultimately he’s going to miss 2016.

My general takeaways, besides a sense of gratitude for Mozeliak taking the time to talk with us:

1) While we’ve kicked this around a lot, it really sounds to me that Mo is planning for Brandon Moss to be part of this 2016 squad.  “When we see him in the spring” seems like a telling phrase to use.  I’m not at all opposed to bringing Moss back, but I wonder how that is going to be done.  Is he going to be paid in line with the $6.5 million that he got this year?  What does that mean for Matt Adams?  Both are lefty swingers at first base.  While Moss can play some outfield, you’d hope that Heyward is back and the outfield is pretty full.  Even without Heyward, with Stephen Piscotty and Tommy Pham on the roster, how often are you going to need Moss to patrol that position?  Moss or Adams makes sense to backup the right-handed Piscotty, but not necessarily both of them.

2) While the idea of getting Cishek and Broxton was to ease the load on the main three relievers, I don’t know if it was as successful as Mo was hoping.  Maness and Rosenthal had 30% of their appearances after August 1, Siegrist 33%.  That means all the workloads were in line with what the usage rate was before the trades were made.  Of course, that’s more on the manager and the way he uses the pen than Mozeliak for acquiring those folks.  At the time and for the goals, they were reasonable moves.

3) For those of you that want to know where to point the finger regarding the continued employment of John Mabry, now you know.  It’s not surprising that Mike Matheny would be in favor of keeping him around, but it sounds like if the players really wanted him gone or didn’t feel like he was effective, that would definitely be a big factor.  Being that this is a team that tends to mix the sabermetric with the subjective, the fact that folks like Mabry may be enough to keep him around.  As we’ve said before, the credit or blame toward any coaches may be somewhat overblown by any fan base.

4) Tyler Lyons is in the plans. That’s all I needed to know.  (That said, I also realize that he could be an attractive trade chip and could be part of that “what we do in the trade market.”  But I’ll not think about that right now.)

5) I’m still not sure how much Mo know about Lynn’s injury, but that well may be because, as has come out since I sent the question off to the GM, Lynn was pretty determined to keep pitching with so many other folks out and, as such, probably wasn’t as forthcoming to his manager and the front office as he could have been.  I do wonder if they’d have done something different around the trade deadline if they knew (though other folks didn’t) that Lynn was compromised to that extent.

Again, much thanks to Mr. Mozeliak for taking the time to answer our questions!


Every offseason, the United Cardinal Bloggers have a roundtable discussion where folks ask questions and folks answer them.  My question, which finished up the scheduled discussion, was last week and I posed the following to the group:

Who is the player most likely to get traded this offseason?

Now, as you read this, remember that it was last Tuesday when this question was asked.  There was a bit of news that came out later in the day, a small thing like Lance Lynn being done for the 2016 season, so remember that wasn’t known when the question was asked.

Diane (Women Who Love Cardinal Baseball): I think Matt Adams will be traded away this off-season. His ship has sailed. Stephen Piscotty has proven that he can play first base, and he’s a better hitter too. The Cards have bench players that can fill in at first if Piscotty needs to relieve Holliday in the outfield. Perhaps Adams could be traded for a young catcher that can be trained by Yadier Molina to take over when he retires.

Jon (Redbird Dugout): I feel like it’s a toss up between Matt Adams and Lance Lynn. And I lean towards Lynn simply because of the depth at the starting pitcher position and the return power that Lynn may have thanks t his contract situation. Though I think I do agree that it should be Adams. I have been ready to move on for a few months now and hopefully Mozeliak feels the same.

Dan (St. Louis Sports Minute): Who is getting traded? Jaime Garcia. John Mozeliak picked up his option quickly without trying to restructure his contract into some more future oriented. I think the Cards are done playing Jaime roulette. Yes, he is a bargain if he makes 20 starts and pitches like he did in 2015 but the odds of that happening aren’t that great. I don’t think Mo can trust the guy and as he reaches 30 years old, it may be time to cut bait and get something in return for Jaime. He has a moderate salary in 2016 and an affordable option for 2017. Teams like that. I’m not in the “lefties are great” band like everything else. I think good pitchers are great and especially ones that offer more consistency than Jaime. If Mo wants to go big, he can go out and sign David Price and doesn’t have to trade anyone. For all the people pointing out Price’s postseason woes, look no further than Garcia. I’m not saying it is going to happen, but I think Mo shops Garcia and that option. Matt Adams (in favor) is also on the block and Lance Lynn (not in favor) could also be shopped.

Mark (RetroSimba): The Cardinals player most likely to be traded is Peter Bourjos. He doesn’t have a role with the team any longer, but could be of value to a club seeking an extra outfielder. Perhaps a return to the American League is in his future.

Steven (Redbird Rants): For me I think that there could be a couple deals made. Depending on what happens with Heyward, I could see Bourjos, Moss, Adams, and Lynn all get traded this offseason.

(This is about where the Lynn news broke, changing the focus of some.)

Ben (The View From Here): Well, I think it’s fair to say that Lynn won’t be traded now that he’s had Tommy John, but Adams or Jay will likely be on the trade block.

Jon: Is it too late for me to change my answer?

Matt (The Sports Fan Journal): Jon Jay is the most obvious candidate for that, although they would likely have to swallow a bit of the $6M plus he’s owed this year. There’s no place for him any more with the expectation of Grichuk playing an everyday role and the emergence of Tommy Pham. Peter Bourjos will be a non-tender candidate, so his presence moving forward is null and void. Jay carries a big price and doesn’t have a clear space, so it makes the most sense to deal there.

Josh (Pitchers Hit Eighth): Ouch, I thought someone was pulling a way too early birthday present on me… (Editor’s note: Josh’s birthday is April 1.)

Can’t see any pitcher traded now so have to think Adams makes a prime target to acquire an arm if the free agent market looks unappealing.

That could take time to develop, however, and getting anything back for Bourjos has to be job number one. I do wonder about Trevor or that agent of his making one final push to join the rotation as it seems every team has put closers on the market!

Josey (The Redbird Retreat): I’d say Jon Jay is definitely on the trade block. With Piscotty, Grichuk, Holliday, Pham, and (hopefully) Heyward, Jay would receive very little playing time. We may think it’s easy to just trade Jay, and I guess it may be. Who really wants Jon Jay, though? He’d likely have to be a small part of a large package deal. With the Reyes suspension and now Lynn’s surgery, trading a few pitchers for offensive help just doesn’t seem as easy of a thing to do as it did 48 hours ago.

Doug (Baseball Geek in Galveston): I think Matt Adams or Jon Jay. Both have provided value, but their stars have faded as we have much better options at those positions.

All those pieces would seem reasonable to be moved, though you have to wonder if you could find the other side of the equation, someone that wants to give something up for them.  My feeling was Garcia was going to be dealt and possibly still could be if the Cardinals sign a big free agent, but it’s much less likely now.  You wonder if someone like Tim Cooney wouldn’t be attractive in the right package, though.  Thanks to everyone for participating!


Exit Interview: The Index

For the last couple of weeks, we’ve been taking a look at every player that was on the St. Louis Cardinals roster this season, plus the manager and the general manager.  That’s a lot of posts, so here is your handy-dandy index to all of them, in case you missed someone or want to reread one that you caught the first time.  This series always gets a lot of response and I appreciate all of you who have told me how much you enjoy it!


Exit Interview: John Mozeliak

For the fourth straight year, we’re taking some time in that time between the end of the season and the winter meetings to discuss each player that made an appearance on the St. Louis roster this season.  Whether they played almost every day or never actually got into a game, they get covered in this series.  All stats are exclusively their time in St. Louis.   Just think of this as them stopping by Mike Matheny‘s (or, in this case, Bill DeWitt’s) office for a quick evaluation before heading home for the winter.

GM: John Mozeliak

Overall grade: B

Positives: Continued to be proactive in filling needs of the club….didn’t hesitate to make the Jason Heyward for Shelby Miller deal last November….seemed to read the market well, signing nice complementary pieces such as Mark Reynolds and Carlos Villanueva and seeing them produce in line with expectations….used the Memphis shuttle well to help out a club ravaged by injuries….didn’t panic when Adam Wainwright went down, instead filling the slot with internal options….was proactive moving Stephen Piscotty to first and then bringing him up to the big leagues.

Negatives: His trading hand was a little rusty, as it is possible none of Steve Cishek, Brandon Moss, or Jonathan Broxton will return to the club in 2016….folks were also stunned to see Rob Kaminsky be the one heading to Cleveland for Moss, even though he was just in Class A ball….left Jon Jay on the postseason roster, though perhaps with the knowledge that Matheny wasn’t going to use him frequently….made the trades for Cishek and Broxton rather than forcing Matheny to use the talent on hand.

Overview: We use the hashtag #InMoWeTrust a lot, but that took some hits this year.  There were some that were even criticizing the Heyward deal early in the season when Miller was on a run to the Cy Young (it appeared) while Heyward was hitting .217 and Jordan Walden went down with an injury.  The deadline deals, which weren’t flashy by any means, also didn’t seem to produce that Cardinal Devil Magic, as it were.  Broxton and Cishek were better than they’d been in their prior stops and Moss was improving as well, but none of them just lit the world on fire a la Will Clark in 2001 or Edward Mujica a few years back.  Which may be a high standard to hold Mo to (especially since the Clark deal wasn’t even his), but one that we tend to use nonetheless.  That Colby Rasmus deal leading to a World Series title may have spoiled us.

Through it all, though, Mo has been one of the more accessible and open general managers in the game.  He’s always been great to come talk to the bloggers during Blogger Night at the ballpark and he did so again this April, with his major trade acquisition scuffling.  He’s already agreed to answer some emailed questions from the bloggers in the next week or two, and while he’ll not likely break any news in his answers, he’ll come at them with as much explanation and knowledge as he can share.  He also did not let the hacking scandal cause chaos, but he and Mr. DeWitt met it head on and dealt with it openly, even when it cost a high-ranking official.

Outlook: Mo’s on the short list for greatest Cardinal general managers already and another title might get him into Branch Rickey/Bing Devine territory, given all the other aspects to his job.  This is going to be a challenging offseason for him, what with the need to resign Heyward, the hole created by Lance Lynn‘s injury to fill, and an offense that could use a jump start.  There is money to use, but that won’t be the only tool in Mo’s arsenal and I, as well as most fans, can’t wait to see what he does next.

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Exit Interview: Mike Matheny

For the fourth straight year, we’re taking some time in that time between the end of the season and the winter meetings to discuss each player that made an appearance on the St. Louis roster this season.  Whether they played almost every day or never actually got into a game, they get covered in this series.  All stats are exclusively their time in St. Louis.   Just think of this as them stopping by Mike Matheny‘s (or, in this case, John Mozeliak’s) office for a quick evaluation before heading home for the winter.

Manager: Mike Matheny

Overall grade: B

Positives: Seemed to rely on the bunt less and less, especially with runners on second and nobody out….was able to get Trevor Rosenthal more rest, which helped him be more effective….made up some solid lineups in the postseason….didn’t necessarily have “his guys” as much as in past years, though that was still somewhat of a concern….was a little more flexible with his bullpen, though there were some arms that got favored….was willing to tinker with the lineup, at least in part….seemed to appreciate the Patron Pitcher Tyler Lyons.

Negatives: Still held to some core beliefs more stubbornly than necessary….was incapable of writing Matt Holliday‘s name anywhere but third in the lineup….also had Yadier Molina batting in the middle of the order when his production seemed more like the bottom third….Kevin Siegrist and Seth Maness were used so much that Mozeliak traded for Jonathan Broxton and Steve Cishek to see if they could get a break….plenty of Jon Jay love and playing time while Peter Bourjos went missing….an inexplicable urge to not use Miguel Socolovich more….rushed John Lackey to pitch on three days’ rest in the playoffs.

Overview: Matheny came into this season with a cloud over his head with the passing of Oscar Taveras.  If he is given credit for nothing else, he kept his team focused on the game and not on their grief.  He also endured injury after injury, most notably Holliday, Matt Adams, and Adam Wainwright, and yet the team continued to win for him.  How much of that is due his leadership and how much is due the players, that could be debatable, but there’s got to be something about being comfortable at work bringing out the best in a player.

When Matheny was hired four years ago, the idea was that he could manage the clubhouse and then learn the tactics.  Four trips to the playoffs later, it seems like that plan is still in play, though perhaps not as quickly as some in the fanbase would like to see it implemented.  There are still many places where the fans don’t agree with the manager and his though process.  Was the tight pennant race really the time to see what Jay had left in the tank?  Why would you ever start Randal Grichuk in center when he couldn’t physically throw?  While there are always going to be questions like that, I felt like even the iffy ones at least had some sort of rationale behind them, which we couldn’t always say in the past.

Outlook: Matheny is one of the three finalists for manager of the year.  He’s not going to win it, not with Terry Collins and Joe Maddon also nominated, but given the injuries, you can make a strong case that he deserves it and it’s a bit of prediction bias since the Cards were supposed to be good working against him.  No matter, he’ll be back on the field next year with his seat comfortably cool.


Exit Interview: Kolten Wong

For the fourth straight year, we’re taking some time in that time between the end of the season and the winter meetings to discuss each player that made an appearance on the St. Louis roster this season.  Whether they played almost every day or never actually got into a game, they get covered in this series.  All stats are exclusively their time in St. Louis.   Just think of this as them stopping by Mike Matheny‘s office for a quick evaluation before heading home for the winter.

Player: Kolten Wong

Season stats: 150 games, 613 PA, 71 R, 28 2B, 4 3B, 11 HR, 61 RBI, 15 SB, 8 CS, 36 BB, 95 K, .262/.321/.386, 92 OPS+, 2.2 bWAR

Hero/Goat: Hero 7, Goat 12

Overall grade: B

Positives: Played a full season in the majors and increased his OPS yet again….had a home run in his third straight postseason series….hit .280 with nine of his 11 homers in the first half….hit .318 with five home runs in May….went 3 for 7 as a pinch hitter….hit .277 with a homer as the first batter in the game….had a .924 OPS on the first pitch of an at-bat….hit .278 with nobody out in an inning….hit .327 with three homers in high-leverage situations….hit over .300 against both the Cubs and the Pirates.

Negatives: Had a terrible second half, hitting just .238 with a .614 OPS….hit .229 and had a sub-.600 OPS against left-handed pitching….had just a .233 mark with there were two outs in an inning….hit just .214/.313/.375 with two outs and runners in scoring position….hit just .224 against the Milwaukee Brewers….went 2-for-14 with five strikeouts in the NLDS.

Overview: Wong played more this past season than he had in other years, though I don’t know if the increase was significant enough to explain his sharp decline in the second half.  After all, things started settling as early as June, when he hit .250, and August was his worst month (.202/.255/.253) which should have still been within his normal parameters of playing time.  Wong can go on some amazing streaks–he had a six game run in May where he hit .571 and had two homers–but he can also slump pretty hard as well.  He doesn’t usually go a long time without a hit–it looks like his longest stretch like that was three games last year–but 1 for 10 and such are a little more frequent with him.

You’d like to think that Wong is still developing and will continue to be a solid offensive force.  He’s still not a leadoff guy, as he’s not got the patience to get his OBP up very high, but he fits in nicely at the bottom of the order to give thump where there usually isn’t any.

Outlook: It seems unlikely that St. Louis would try to move Wong, given his youth and talent, though I guess depending on the deal you couldn’t rule it out.  It’s much more likely we’ll see Wong playing second and hitting seventh next season on a regular basis.


Exit Interview: Jordan Walden

For the fourth straight year, we’re taking some time in that time between the end of the season and the winter meetings to discuss each player that made an appearance on the St. Louis roster this season.  Whether they played almost every day or never actually got into a game, they get covered in this series.  All stats are exclusively their time in St. Louis.  Just think of this as them stopping by Mike Matheny‘s office for a quick evaluation before heading home for the winter.

Player: Jordan Walden

Season stats: 0-1, 1 SV, 0.87 ERA, 12 games, 10.1 IP, 7 H, 4 BB, 12 K, 1.065 WHIP, 1.97 FIP, 0.6 bWAR

Hero/Goat: Goat 1

Overall grade: A-

Positives: Was fairly dominant in his brief healthy time, allowing a run in just one outing….had a stretch of seven outings (spanning 5.1 innings) without a walk….his last outing indicated no problems, as he retired the side in order for his eighth hold….lefties hit just .125 with a .425 OPS against him….did not allow a single run at home (4.1 innings)….batters hit .167 on his first pitch.

Negatives: Got hurt at the end of April and, despite reports that he might be close to returning, never made it back to St. Louis this season….the first batter against him hit .333 and leadoff batters of an inning hit .400….allowed a .286 average when nobody was out in an inning….batters hit .308 in the medium-leverage situations….that .286 pops up again as hitters hit that against him in day games.

Overview: You have to wonder how much less work folks like Kevin Siegrist and Seth Maness would have had to go through had Walden been healthy all year long.  (Maybe none, actually–Siegrist was on pace to pitch in 84 games at the end of April, Maness 77.)  That potent end of the pen would have been even more dangerous had Walden stayed pitching the way we saw him that first month of the year.  Sadly, it didn’t happen.  It probably wasn’t a huge turning point in the season to have him lost, but it sure didn’t help matters any.  Then again, with a healthy Walden, perhaps Jonathan Broxton or Steve Cishek don’t make it to St. Louis.  We’ll never know.

Outlook: In theory, Walden should be back and ready to go by spring training.  Given that he’ll be in the second year of his two-year contract, the Cards sincerely hope he is.  He should strengthen the back end of the bullpen, like he was supposed to do this year.  Going Siegrist/Walden/Trevor Rosenthal to end games will be mean that the Cards can let their starters rest an inning or two here or there if they want to, because the game will be in good hands.


For the fourth straight year, we’re taking some time in that time between the end of the season and the winter meetings to discuss each player that made an appearance on the St. Louis roster this season.  Whether they played almost every day or never actually got into a game, they get covered in this series.  All stats are exclusively their time in St. Louis.  Just think of this as them stopping by Mike Matheny‘s office for a quick evaluation before heading home for the winter.

Player: Adam Wainwright

Season stats: 2-1, 1.61 ERA, 7 games, 28 IP, 25 H, 4 BB, 20 K, 1.036 WHIP, 2.13 FIP, 0.9 bWAR

Hero/Goat: Hero 3

Overall grade: A

Positives: The fact that he made it back to the field after his tore his Achilles at the end of April was truly remarkable….allowed just one run (a homer) in 5.1 postseason innings, working his way back into starting contention if the season had continued….had a 1.44 ERA in 25 starting innings before his injury….had a 5 K/BB ratio, which granted is a function of the lesser innings….spoke out against ED ads completely saturating the postseason airwaves.

Negatives: Was hurt and the Cardinals had to do without him for much of the season….allowed five runs (three earned) to Milwaukee in his second start of the season….basically, his season was short and that was no fun for us fans.

Overview: At least it wasn’t his arm.  While none of us would want to lose Adam Wainwright for a significant portion of any season, at least this time there was a good possibility that he could come back without much issue since there was nothing wrong with his pitching arm.  Waino proved that with his late-season comeback to the Cardinal bullpen, just another in a long line of quick healing Cardinals.  It was very good to see him return to the hill and pitch well enough to get on the postseason roster, especially as others were starting to stumble around that time.  It’s just too bad the postseason didn’t go long enough (or the team didn’t start stretching him out early enough) for him to get a postseason start.

Outlook: There’s no reason to think that Waino won’t be fronting the Cardinal rotation again in 2016.  Even though he’s starting to get a little older, if he stays healthy, he’s probably going to be in the Cy Young discussion yet again and the Cardinals are going to win a lot of games that have him starting on the mound.


Exit Interview: Michael Wacha

For the fourth straight year, we’re taking some time in that time between the end of the season and the winter meetings to discuss each player that made an appearance on the St. Louis roster this season.  Whether they played almost every day or never actually got into a game, they get covered in this series.  All stats are exclusively their time in St. Louis.  Just think of this as them stopping by Mike Matheny‘s office for a quick evaluation before heading home for the winter.

Player: Michael Wacha

Season stats: 17-7, 3.38 ERA, 30 games, 181.1 IP, 162 H, 19 HR, 58 BB, 153 K, 1.213 WHIP, 3.87 FIP, 3.0 bWAR

Hero/Goat: Hero 5, Goat 4

Overall grade: B

Positives: Pitched his first full MLB season, making 30 starts….lefties were kept to a .215 average against him….had 10 wins and a 2.93 ERA at the All-Star Break, getting him his first All-Star selection….started the season strong, going 4-0 with a 2.42 ERA in April….for all the worry about his second half, went 3-0 with a 1.13 ERA in August….batters hit just .208 with runners in scoring position….limited hitters to a .579 OPS in high-leverage situations….went 4-0 with a 1.37 ERA against the Cincinnati Reds.

Negatives: Looked terrible down the stretch, posting a 7.88 ERA in five September starts….struggled in his postseason start as well, giving up four runs in less than five innings….batters had a .962 OPS against him in September, basically 300 points higher than any other month during the season….his K/BB ratio slipped under 2 for the second half of the season….besides his bad September, also had a 4.06 ERA in July….had an ERA of almost 8 in his seven losses.

Overview: Tired or injured?  That’s the question that seems to hover around Michael Wacha during the offseason.  There’s no doubt that he wasn’t the Wacha we’re used as the season came to a close and didn’t even approach his 2013 postseason heroics when it came to October.  It’s reasonably possible that fatigues was a large part of the equation.  After all, he’d threw more innings than the last two years (in the majors) combined.  Even when you look at 2012 and the minor league innings, this year’s burden was much more than he’d ever dealt with before.

With the stress reaction from last year, though, it makes you worried that there is more to it than just being tired.  Is something affecting his mechanics?  Is there still some residual effects from that reaction?  Or is it just an issue of not being able to fool folks with the changeup as much?  I’d think if that was the case that we’d have seen some of that reflected earlier in the year.  As he got tired and didn’t have the command later on, it made it easier for hitters to lay off of the pitch and wait for the fastball.  That’s fatigue, though, not injury.  We hope.

Outlook: Assuming that he is just worn out, I expect there will be some more conditioning going on this year with the expectation that he will be strong as the season winds down in 2016.  With Lance Lynn now out, they’ll need Wacha to step into the gap, even if they play the free agent market.  We know that Wacha can do that and there’s no real reason right now (barring some injury we don’t know about) to think he can’t be right there at the front of the rotation again next season.


For the fourth straight year, we’re taking some time in that time between the end of the season and the winter meetings to discuss each player that made an appearance on the St. Louis roster this season.  Whether they played almost every day or never actually got into a game, they get covered in this series.  All stats are exclusively their time in St. Louis.  Just think of this as them stopping by Mike Matheny‘s office for a quick evaluation before heading home for the winter.

Player: Carlos Villanueva

Season stats: 4-3, 2 SV, 2.95 ERA, 35 games, 61 IP, 50 H, 6 HR, 21 BB, 55 K, 1.164 WHIP, 3.74 FIP, 0.9 bWAR

Hero/Goat: Hero 2, Goat 1

Overall grade: B+

Positives: Posted a career-best ERA and tied for his second-best FIP….six times he threw three or more innings and only gave up a total of three runs in those situations….had a stretch of 11 straight appearances without giving up a run….allowed only one home run in 35 innings at home….had a 1.72 ERA in the first half….limited hitters to a .074 average in April….batters hit .214 leading off an inning….opposing hitters were kept to a .449 OPS when there was one out in an inning….batters hit .185 with runners in scoring position….only had one appearance in the NLDS, throwing two scoreless innings.

Negatives: Righties hit .252 against him….gave up five of his six homers on the road….struggled to end the season, putting up a 5.73 ERA in September….batters had a 1.417 OPS on his first pitch….the first batter he faced in an outing had a .710 OPS against him….five of his six homers were allowed with two outs, leading to hitters having a .918 OPS in that situation….significant dropoff after 25 pitches, with a .958 OPS after that mark compared to a .595 OPS before it.

Overview: Villanueva, for the most part, was just what this team needed, a veteran long man that Matheny could turn to in extra inning situations or if a starter had to leave early.  When he was signed, it was noted how much better his numbers were in relief than as a starter and that certainly paid off for St. Louis in 2015.  Even with those late struggles, which was mainly four runs in an inning against Pittsburgh in one September outing, he still was a huge addition to the bullpen.  There were times where Villanueva didn’t get much work (and rust could have contributed some to a bad end of August), but he was usually there when he was needed and it helped fans not panic when yet another extra inning game rolled around.  All in all, a very shrewd move by John Mozeliak.

Outlook: The Cards have already talked about not having specialists in the bullpen next season, using players like Tyler Lyons in similar ways as they did Villanueva.  While Villanueva is a free agent, it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility for the Cardinals to talk to him about coming back for a similar type of gig next year.  Then again, if they are going to have more long men in the bullpen, they may decide not to push their luck and let Villanueva move on to his next stop.


Exit Interview: Sam Tuivailala

For the fourth straight year, we’re taking some time in that time between the end of the season and the winter meetings to discuss each player that made an appearance on the St. Louis roster this season.  Whether they played almost every day or never actually got into a game, they get covered in this series.  All stats are exclusively their time in St. Louis.  Just think of this as them stopping by Mike Matheny‘s office for a quick evaluation before heading home for the winter.

Player: Sam Tuivailala

Season stats: 0-1, 3.07 ERA, 14 games, 14.2 IP, 13 H, 2 HR, 8 BB, 20 K, 1.432 WHIP, 3.82 FIP, 0.3 bWAR

Hero/Goat: None

Overall grade: B

Positives: Improved on his one inning of MLB service in 2014, when he posted a 36.00 ERA….had a stretch of nine scoreless outings from May 19 to August 29 (with some trips to Memphis mixed in there)….was dominant at Memphis, putting up a 1.60 ERA, striking out almost one an inning, and getting 23 saves in 28 opportunities….struck out two or more in seven of his major league appearances, including the last four in a row….limited lefties to a .217 average in the majors….batters hit .118 when they swung at the first pitch.

Negatives: Scuffled a bit in September, allowing three runs in 3.2 major league innings that month….had a K/BB ratio of less than 2 in Memphis….batters hit .389 against him in September….if hitters took his first pitch, they hit .275….batters had a .400 average against him with two outs in an inning….his low-leverage line was .310/.394/.586….batters hit .257 against him at night.

Overview: Tui, along with Miguel Socolovich, never seemed to get the chances that he should have.  I can understand a little bit more Matheny’s hesitancy in this situation, given that Tuivailala did still have some command issues.  Eight walks in 14 innings isn’t exactly what you want to see when you’re in a close and late situation.  Still, that explosive fastball is such a weapon and just a little more command and Trevor Rosenthal might have to look over his shoulder.

For a sixth/seventh inning option, Tuivaiala seemed to be a very reasonable choice.  Instead, Matheny went with the vets, Mo made the trades, and Tui stayed in Memphis for a large part of the summer.  Not exactly optimal, it wouldn’t appear.

Outlook: Tuivailala will probably bounce between Memphis and St. Louis again as he has one more option left.  The club’s been waiting on that command for a while now and he’ll need to make that next step in 2016 to be that real true bullpen weapon.  Otherwise, he may have to go elsewhere to see if he can harness his control.

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