C70 At The Bat

It’s not been an easy road for the Cardinals as of late.  The offense has struggled, the bullpen has struggled, and the starting pitching can only do so much.  Things looked up a little bit yesterday, but before we get to all of that, we’ve got to tackle Tuesday night’s game.

Tuesday (9-4 loss)

Hero: Yadier Molina.  He drove in two runs in the “woo hoo, early lead” three run first, then hit a solo shot later on after the game was pretty much out of reach.  I’m glad Yadi is doing well at the plate, but sometimes I think some folks (perhaps the manager) get carried away.  For May, Yadi’s hitting .257/.278/.378, which is actually under what he did in April.  He’s hitting .236 over his last 13 games.  I’m not saying he doesn’t need to be in there, but hitting him about sixth isn’t exactly prime lineup construction.  It worked out in this one, I guess.

Goat: As folks on Twitter told me, you could pretty much throw a dart and find a Goat here.  Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons came in and had his issues, though it’d be nice if MLB enforced the “you have to try to get out of the way” rule.  It would have been interesting to see how that inning would have gone had Lyons gotten Chase Utley out instead of him standing right in the way of a pitch that nicked him.  Tommy Pham, Paul Dejong, and Aledmys Diaz combined to go 0-10 with a walk and a run by Pham.  Jonathan Broxton‘s last stand was pretty ugly as well.

All of those folks were worthy of the title, but I’m going to go with the main cause, which was Michael Wacha and him being unable to keep that 3-0 lead past the third.  Five hits and three walks (and an error behind) doesn’t make for a very great outing.  Wacha did only throw 77 pitches so he could have gone back out there for the fourth, but he wouldn’t have gone much further.  It could be the Dodgers have just figured him out, but there was a Tweet out there that showed that Wacha’s first seven starts of last year were very similar to his first seven starts this year, and after that the bottom fell out.  Hopefully that’s not the case.  His next outing is against a Cubs team that has been struggling offensively, so we’ll see if he wakes them up or he can keep them snoozing.

Notes: Dexter Fowler had two hits, which is nice to see from the top of the lineup.  However, he’s only walked twice since May 20 (with 11 strikeouts in that time).  The hits and the power–which we all saw was great in last night’s game–are nice, but Fowler’s not a .300 hitter.  To make this offense go, he needs to be drawing walks and getting on base.  Doesn’t much look like he’s doing that right now.

Another good outing from Brett Cecil when there was nothing on the line.  I’m not saying that as a snarky critique, mind you.  Cecil is going to have to work through whatever problems he’s having and he’s going to have to do that on a major league stage.  If he was blowing up in these situations as well, there’d be a lot more issues to deal with.  Over his last five appearances, he’s not been charged with any runs, allowed just two hits in a total of four innings, and stranded two-thirds of his inherited runners.  I’m not saying give him the eighth in a one-run game yet, but it’s starting to look like he’s making some progress.  If you can get him on some sort of reliable path, plus the recent bullpen shakeups, perhaps one of the weaknesses to the team as of late can become at least an average or not-hurtful part of the squad.

The same optimism can not be held for Kevin Siegrist, but he did strike out the side in this one, which is nice.  Irrelevant, given the four-run deficit, but nice.  Siegrist needs a few more outings like this before we start thinking he’s turned a corner, if he can turn one.  Some folks, like our pitching expert Mr. Schwartz, don’t believe he can.

All right, before the game Wednesday, as you all know by now, John Mozeliak announced the release of Broxton and the promotion of John Gant, who will make his Cardinal debut whenever he gets into a game.  There was a lot of stuff dumped on Broxton, but unfortunately most all of it was warranted.  When a reliever puts up an ERA close to seven and a WHIP of 2.17, it’s hard to say anything but that he wasn’t fooling anyone.  Broxton would have his occasional good game–did you know that 13 of his 20 appearances with the Cards he either didn’t allow a run or allow an inherited runner to score?–but when he was bad, he was bad.  Five of the six times he was charged with a run, it was a crooked number.  Even the scoreless outings weren’t always easy to watch.  It’s pretty clear that if Broxton has anything left in his tank, it’s not much.  He’s limping along with the E light lit up, trying to squeeze a few more miles out.

Mozeliak also pointed out that with this move, there’s more option flexibility with the bullpen.  Matthew Bowman, John Brebbia, and now Gant will all be able to be sent to Memphis without having to go through waivers, so you can send a tired arm down and bring up a fresh one a little easier than you could before.  Mo said that he “boxed in” the team with the contracts and the out-of-options guys, though I don’t know what else you could have done (besides not signing Broxton to a long-term deal a couple of years ago).  The bullpen, as constructed, seemed to be a pretty solid unit coming out of spring.  That just didn’t turn out to be the case.

OK, let’s look at last night’s game now.

Wednesday (2-1 win)

Hero: Carlos Martinez.  It’s pretty clear now that Carlos hasn’t pitched all year.  That guy with the hair extensions?  That was Larry Bartinez.  Martinez had another stellar outing last night, giving up just one run on a sacrifice fly in eight innings of work, reaching 100 in his final frame.  Thankfully, unlike some of his past outings, this one wasn’t wasted like it looked like it was going to be.  The month of May was a good one for Carlos, as he put up a 2.03 ERA, 41 K in 44 innings, and walked just 13.  This is the ace we thought the Cardinals had.  Let’s not bring back Bartinez anytime soon, all right?

Goat: Matt Carpenter.  The lineup got a little shakeup with Carpenter moving into that second spot than many of us thought we’d see all the time after Fowler was acquired.  Instead, Carp went 0-4 again in this one.  Fowler’s home run was the only hit from the top four of the lineup, which is a strong reason why they only got two runs.

Notes: Stephen Piscotty was back in the lineup after being home with his mother who had been diagnosed last week with ALS.  That’s a tough thing to have to deal with and our thoughts and prayers are with the family.  I don’t know how Piscotty was able to get back and focus on baseball, but he had two hits in this one, his first multi-hit game since May 2 before his DL stint.  This team really needs a reliable Piscotty in the lineup and it’d be nice if we’d start to see that going forward.

Tommy Pham and Paul Dejong had the other hits and thankfully they had them close together, putting the first Cardinal run on the board.  Over the past 11 games, the Cards are hitting .227 as a team, so you better put those hits together because there aren’t many more of them coming.

The Cards look to wrap this series up on a high note today, sending Adam Wainwright to the mound while facing Brandon McCarthy.  Waino’s been close to vintage Waino over the past few starts, so you start to like your chances with him on the mound.

vs. Batters Table
Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Adrian Gonzalez 28 25 5 2 0 0 3 3 7 .200 .286 .280 .566 0 0 0 0 1
Chase Utley 26 24 5 0 1 0 2 1 3 .208 .269 .292 .561 0 0 0 1 2
Yasiel Puig 13 12 5 1 1 0 2 0 5 .417 .462 .667 1.128 0 0 0 1 1
Clayton Kershaw 10 7 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 3 0 0 0 0
Logan Forsythe 9 9 2 1 0 0 2 0 0 .222 .222 .333 .556 0 0 0 0 1
Yasmani Grandal 6 6 2 0 0 0 0 0 2 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Franklin Gutierrez 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Hyun-Jin Ryu 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 98 89 19 4 2 0 9 4 19 .213 .263 .303 .567 3 0 0 2 5
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/1/2017.

I’d have thought Wainwright would have seen more of the Dodgers, but I guess they have had a little roster turnover recently and it doesn’t look like he faced them last year at all.  That’ll do it.

McCarthy is having a fine season (5-1, 3.28 ERA) but is dealing with some patella tendonitis in his knee.  In his last start, he threw six scoreless innings against the Cubs, which might be a pretty solid indicator of how he’ll do this afternoon.

vs. Batters Table
Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Jhonny Peralta 24 21 1 0 0 0 1 2 7 .048 .125 .048 .173 0 1 0 0 1
Jedd Gyorko 17 15 0 0 0 0 0 1 5 .000 .118 .000 .118 0 0 0 1 0
Dexter Fowler 10 10 2 1 0 0 0 0 4 .200 .200 .300 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 8 8 2 0 0 0 2 0 0 .250 .250 .250 .500 0 0 0 0 1
Matt Carpenter 6 6 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Michael Wacha 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Aledmys Diaz 3 3 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Tommy Pham 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .333 .000 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Stephen Piscotty 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Lance Lynn 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0
Mike Leake 1 1 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 1.000 1.000 2.000 3.000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 81 73 9 2 0 0 5 4 20 .123 .177 .151 .328 2 1 0 1 2
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/1/2017.

The Cardinals really need a win today.  The Cubs have lost six straight, which pretty much means they’ll win at least one this weekend as the Redbirds head to Wrigley.  Getting another half-game on them while they are idle would help in the goal of leaving Wrigley the way they arrived–ahead of those baby bears!

0 comments

Broxton Released

Per many Twitter reports, John Mozeliak announced the end of the Jonathan Broxton era before tonight’s game. John Gant, received from Atlanta in the Jaime Garcia trade, has been promoted.

0 comments

Back in the winter, I started looking at the history of John Mozeliak’s trades, what value he’d given up, what value he’d gotten, and how the players did before and after.  It’s been a while since we did one of these, so here are the links if you want to go back and refresh your memory.

2007-2008
2009
2010
2011
2012-2013
2014
2015-2016

Since we looked at these, of course, Matt Adams and cash got traded to Atlanta for minor leaguer Juan Yepez.  We’re not going to count that into this final evaluation, but we did miss one pretty obvious trade in our original pass, so let’s take a look at that one now.  I’m adding it to the end of our list, but if you wanted to do in the proper order, it would actually be trade 31 between the Steve Cishek and Jonathan Broxton deals.

Trade 36: Rob Kaminsky to Cleveland for Brandon Moss

Date Outgoing bWAR w/New Total bWAR Incoming bWAR w/SL Total bWAR
7/30/15 Rob Kaminsky 0.0^ 0.0* Brandon Moss 1.0 1.0*

*–Still active
^–Still active with same team

Reaction Post: I Picked the Wrong Week to….Go On Vacation

Usually, Mo is giving up outfielders to get relievers, but he went the other way in this one, in part due to the loss of Matt Holliday and an offense that seemed to need a kick start.  Unfortunately, 2015 Moss really wasn’t any great shakes as he was still recovering from offseason surgery.  He didn’t seem to have his legs under him and many a ball died on the warning track instead of creating that run-scoring power the team craved.  Mozeliak seemed to take that into consideration and went ahead and tendered him a contract for 2016.  Which was a great idea…until it wasn’t.

We vividly remember the horror that was the end of Moss’s 2016 season, when he went 9 for 91 in the month of September, with the only small saving grace being that three of those hits were home runs.  His OPS for September–OPS, mind you–was .387.  He struck out over a third of the time.  It was possibly the longest, most sustained inability to hit that this team has seen, and this is a team that had Pete Kozma for its shortstop for an entire year.  It was that bad.

Before that, though, the season was actually going quite well.  Moss had 25 homers, he was hitting .261, and had an OPS just at .900.  He struck out a lot, true, but for much of the season folks talked about maybe extending him the qualifying offer or trying to get him to sign another short-term deal.  He brought value to the club, even if he tried to wipe it all away with that miserable September, a September that–as we all know–saw the Cardinals miss a Game 163 by one game.

As for the other side of the deal, Rob Kaminsky was one of the talents in an organization known for pitching prospects.  He was having a fairly successful run at Palm Beach, even though he was about three years younger than the rest of the league, and folks were already thinking about the lefty being in St. Louis in a short span of time.  Which meant that dealing him off for a hulking, semi-effective slugger didn’t sit well with much of the fanbase.

That being said, Kaminsky has been in the Cleveland organization for almost two years now and still is pitching at AA Akron, though he is sidelined currently with a forearm issue.  His first time around the higher level was fine if not overwhelming.  Kaminsky’s K/IP rate isn’t anything spectacular but he does have the fact that he’s a lefty to keep him going.  Kaminsky slipped in the prospect lists this offseason, but he still may make it to Cleveland in the next couple of years.

Rating: How you evaluate this probably depends on if you want the instant gratification or the long-term payoff.  How you feel about the time value of prospects, basically.  Kaminsky may come up and help Cleveland, but it feels like even if he does, it’s going to be as a back-end starter and it’s not like the Cardinals don’t have plenty of folks that can be that or more.  Moss has already helped the Cardinals (or hurt them, if you want to focus on that last stretch) and it feels to me that Mo probably got the better end of this deal, much more than we thought when it was made.  We’ll chalk this one up as a win.

All right, now that we’ve rated all the deals, let’s take a look at the numbers.  For “WAR Given”, we’ll add up the WAR the players achieved after being dealt, while “WAR Received” is the same for those coming in.  Note that the latter number also includes teams they went to after leaving St. Louis.

Total Deals Wins Losses Tossups WAR Given WAR Received Difference
36 17 10 9 54.4 70.1 +15.7

The raw numbers look good, of course, but how often has Mo made one of those deals that really, for lack of a better term, “ripped off” the other side?  Here are the deals where the WAR for St. Louis was three or more wins greater than the WAR for the other team.

Received WAR for SL Traded WAR for Other Team Difference
Matt Holliday 23.1 Brett Wallace et al -0.9 24.0
David Freese 5.7 Jim Edmonds -1.0 6.7
John Lackey 5.4 Joe Kelly/Allen Craig 0.0 5.4
Jason Heyward + 7.1 Shelby Miller + 3.2 3.9

Out of 36 trades, only four have gained that much value for the Cardinals.  Which, perhaps if you did this for all the GMs, would be about right.  After all, trades these days seem to be less likely to be skewed.  There is a lot of information out there and folks may value players differently, but they don’t usually value them THAT differently.

On the flip side, has Mozeliak been “ripped off”?  Has he had any deals where he lost 3 WAR or more?

Received WAR for SL Traded WAR for Other Team Difference
Marc Rzepczynski et al 0.2 Colby Rasmus and others 6.3 -6.1
Khalil Greene -0.8 Luke Gregerson/Mark Worrell 3.9 -4.7
Mark DeRosa 0.4 Chris Perez/Jess Todd 3.7 -3.3
Scott Rolen 7.4 Troy Glaus 4.2 -3.2

So Mo’s lost big as often as he’s won, though the wins (mainly due to Holliday’s sustained excellence) are going to more than cover the losses.  What’s also interesting is that the last time Mo had a trade that had a large difference in WAR was 2014 and the back-to-back (for him) deals for Lackey and Heyward.  The trades in 2015 and 2016 netted the Cards a total of 1.9 WAR over eight deals.  Some of that is because WAR is a counting stat and some of those players haven’t been able to accumulate much in that short period of time, but I also feel like it’s a function of Mo’s cautiousness on the trade market.  Out of the 36 deals, 17 of them have a difference in WAR between the Cardinals and the receiving team of less than 1 WAR.  Those are coin flip trades that either work out for both sides or, more likely, are so immaterial that if you lose on them, it’s not a big deal.

When I initially started this project back in the dead of winter, I asked on Twitter what the general impression of the general manager was, just your initial thoughts.  I’ll admit, before digging into this I would have thought more highly of Mozeliak’s moves, because the big ones like Holliday and Freese really stand out, plus the Rasmus trade (though a net loss) has a legend around it given the results of 2011.  Here’s what people on Twitter had to say.

It was interesting to see the various opinions on Mozeliak’s trading history.  For the most part, it does seem like people thought he’d done a good job, though maybe not to the legendary status that he seemed to have after getting Freese or even some of those spare part trades like Edward Mujica.  It feels like more would trust him in the trade market than they would in the free agent market, especially after those close-but-no-cigar misses over the past couple of years.

Mo’s won more than he’s lost, which is a good thing, but he very rarely pushes all his chips to the table and tries for the big pot.  Which is probably a missed opportunity because he has built up this goodwill, enough that people would probably give him a little credit for trying even if the deal didn’t pan out (assuming it was a deal that made sense in the first place).  We’ll have to wait and see whether he decides to get a little more aggressive in his dealings or is comfortable trying for incremental gains.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this look at the trading history of the general manager.  If you’ve got any questions or comments, leave them here or hit me up on Twitter @C70 and I’ll see if I got an answer while I was compiling the data!

0 comments

Hey, remember when Rich Hill had no command and the Cardinals jumped on his stuff early?  Man, good times, so long ago.  You know, last week.

That certainly wasn’t the case yesterday as Hill pitched his normal five innings, but this time allowed only one run on two hits and two walks.  Whatever adjustments needed to be made, he made them.  The same can not be said for the Cardinals.

While this wasn’t Mike Leake‘s best outing, it’s tough to really lay it all on him.  He allowed a two-run homer to Chase Utley early, a solo blast (on a 3-0 count) to Cody Bellinger in the middle, then a fourth run (snapping his quality start streak) in the seventh.  In that situation, Jose Martinez overshot the cutoff man trying to get the ball back in, meaning Utley could move to second instead of staying at first and keeping the double play in order.  It’s possible that it wouldn’t have mattered given that Utley didn’t score (though the next batter got a sacrifice fly instead of Leake pitching for the double play), but the situation got Mike Shannon justifiably upset.  Kinda the straw that broke the camel’s back type of thing, you know.

It’s hard to feel like this club isn’t a second-division club a lot of days.  Yes, the Cardinals are tied for second and are just 1.5 games out of first, but they are also literally a .500 team blessed to be in a struggling division.  .500 would have them five games out in the AL East, 2.5 out in the AL Central, 10 out in the AL West, six in the NL East, and 6.5 in the NL West.  They couldn’t be in a better division and that does give a little bit of a cushion to them in case they can turn things around.  It’s probably going to be division or bust, though, as they are already 4.5 out of the last wild card spot.  Memorial Day is usually when you can stop saying “it’s early” and realize that this is what you have.  We’ll see if that inspires John Mozeliak at all, though given the roster movements of the last few days, it’s safe to say he knows the issues.

I hate to give Leake the Goat here, so I guess I’ll go with Jose Martinez not only for that throw, but also for going 0-3 and leaving three runners on base.  It could have easily been Dexter Fowler or Yadier Molina, both who went 0-4.  The club only mustered five hits, so it’s not like they had a lot of excitement going on here.  I’m giving the Hero to Paul Dejong, who in his first major league start went two for four, had the team’s only extra-base hit, and might have scored had Chris Maloney not sent him home on an error by the shortstop who was backed up by the left fielder.

It is good to see Brett Cecil threw a scoreless frame, albeit after everything had gone down the tubes.  A low pressure situation like that might help him get back on the right track.  We’ll have to wait and see what he does next time out.  He and Jonathan Broxton (who, to be fair, only faced one hitter) did their job.  Kevin Siegrist, who allowed a home run and another hit and a walk in his two-thirds of an inning, did not.  The trust level in Siegrist has dipped precipitously.  Then again, who down there do you trust?

Does it feel to you that if the Cardinals get down by more than a couple of runs, the game is over?  The last time the Cardinals rallied from any deficit and won the game was May 13 against the Cubs, and that was just a one-run deficit in the second.  You’d have to go back to that last Miami game on May 10 to find a large gap, when the Marlins scored four in the first but the Cards came back to win 7-5.  Since that game, they’ve only had two outings where the On the Run people have had to pay up.  They are averaging 3.4 runs scored in that 15 game stretch.  Unfortunately, they are averaging 4.1 runs allowed.

We talked about Randal Grichuk being sent down yesterday, but at the time I made the assumption that he was returning to Memphis.  That’s not the case as the Cards dropped him all the way down to Palm Beach to let him be close to Jupiter and really get a lot of work in.  It’s a different approach but probably a smart one, as we know he can hit in Memphis and you don’t have to worry about him taking up a spot in the outfield out there.  Last year a demotion got him going, so we’ll see if it happens this year.  However, he’s out of options now, I believe, so this won’t work in the future.  He’s going to have to figure it out.

Still no real word on Stephen Piscotty, though the expectation is that he’ll be back in a day or two.  It’s a strange situation, given that Major League Baseball does have a bereavement/family emergency “DL” that can be used for a three to seven day time period.  Piscotty has been gone four already, so you would think if his situation fit under the guidelines (which it seemed to, given there was talk about a replacement for him), there’s really no reason why they should keep playing short.  If nothing else, bring up Magneuris Sierra for a day or two.  Playing shorthanded, while a Cardinal tradition, really isn’t the best way to go about your business.

The Cardinals haven’t been under .500 since losing to Milwaukee on May 4, so they’ll try to avoid that fate this evening as Michael Wacha again faced the Dodgers and the Redbirds get another look at Kenta Maeda.  Wacha had a tough game against the Dodgers in LA, allowing six runs in four innings, and another outing like that would start to get you concerned a little bit (though you could chalk it up to the Dodgers having his number.)  Maeda allowed just two runs in five and two-thirds, but maybe having just seen him, the bats will wake up against him.  Never mind, I just realized what I was saying.

Come back this afternoon and check out the wrap-up to this past offseason’s series on the trades of John Mozeliak!

0 comments

West Coast trips are always tough on a team, though sometimes the results are better than others.  Going through Los Angeles, which has a quality team, and Colorado, who is leading the NL West, figured to be a tall order for the Cardinals.  Even a split of those six games would have been fine.  Instead, the Cards win just one of three in each place.  Thank goodness the NL Central is so weak that not only did the Cards stay in the hunt, they actually gained a game on the Cubs this weekend.

Friday (10-0 loss)

Hero: It’s really a tough one here.  The offense totaled five hits, only one for extra bases.  That double by Randal Grichuk was the only baserunner not erased on a double play.  The bullpen….oh, my.  So even though it wasn’t necessarily one of his greatest games, we’ll give the tag to Carlos Martinez.  He allowed just two runs in seven innings, but went out for the eighth and gave up a home run to Charlie Blackmon with one out.  Nine strikeouts in his outing, so it definitely was a game the Cardinals could have won, especially in the thin air of Denver.

Goat: While it wasn’t likely, given the offense’s inability to do much of anything, a 3-0 lead in Colorado isn’t necessarily insurmountable.  Matthew Bowman, though, is paying the price for his early season scoreless streak.  Bowman faced four batters, allowed three hits, all of which scored on his watch.  He left the game at 6-0 and Miguel Socolovich, in his final work for the Cards (as of right now) finished dumping out the gas can.

Notes: Again, the bullpen made this to be a moot point, but five hits in Colorado?  There’s often talk about how the Cardinals’ seemingly inability to hit new pitchers is just that–talk–but it really seems to happen more often than can be chalked up to observation bias.  This time it was Antonio Senzatela mesmerizing the Cards for eight innings.  Senzatela’s off to a good start this season, but a pitcher going eight scoreless innings in Colorado, while only striking out three?  That’s amazingly unexpected.

Other than that, there’s not much to say about this game.  Grichuk had the double.  Everyone else seemed to be part of a double play one way or another.  Oh, and the Rockies scored more in the eighth inning of this game than the Cards did in the entire series.  That’s some food for thought.

Saturday (3-0 win)

Hero: Tommy Pham.  Three hits, including the two-run homer that gave the club a bit of breathing room.  Pham also played some nice defense and while he didn’t do it all by himself, he definitely was the largest reason the Cardinals were able to pull out a victory.

Goat: It has been a tough run for Randal Grichuk.  In this one, he went 0-4, striking out three times and leaving four on base.  Since the beginning of the Miami series, he’s played in 16 games (14 starts) and is hitting .161/.213/.304 with 18 strikeouts in 56 at bats.  That’s a rough run.  He’ll have a good game or two here or there–that stretch includes a 3-4 against the Cubs and a 2-4 against the Giants, both with two doubles–but he’s never been able to establish a constant level of performance that rises above mediocre.  Tara and I talked about this last night on Gateway and given the club hasn’t committed to him like they have with Dexter Fowler and Stephen Piscotty, you have to wonder how secure his position is.

Notes: Adam Wainwright continues to take the words of those that thought he was done, put them on a plate of crow, add salt, and serve it back to them.  The night before, everyone was wondering what kind of team goes scoreless in Coors Field.  Wainwright just proved that even good teams–like the division leaders–can do it when they face the right pitcher.  Uncle Charlie only allowed three hits in seven frames and tossed in six strikeouts.  In his last three starts, Waino has a 0.44 ERA in 20.1 innings.  His K/BB rate still isn’t superb–15 K to 8 BB in those 20 innings–but it’s manageable.  His ERA is at the lowest point it’s been this season after his first start.  I don’t know if you can really expect Wainwright to keep this up, but it definitely makes it feel like, for once, he has figured it out somewhat.

Nice game for Fowler, who went two for four and drew a walk, scoring two of the three runs.  Aledmys Diaz also had two hits on the night.  Matt Carpenter had the night off (though he pinch-hit in the ninth) so Yadier Molina batted third.  Not exactly where I would have put him and he did leave four men on base, but it worked overall, I guess.

Sunday (8-4 loss)

Hero: While he didn’t hit any of the solo homers that accounted for the scoring, Dexter Fowler did go three for five.  He had two strikeouts and no walks, but it’s good to see the leadoff guy get a couple of multi-hit games in a row.

Goat: It’s a bad sign when you are the Goat twice in a three game span, but it’s hard not to give it to Matt Bowman here.  With the Cards just down one in the bottom of the eighth, Bowman came in and promptly allowed four runs.  I didn’t see the inning but looking at the plays, it doesn’t look like anything was hit all that hard, it was just numerous nicks and cuts that led to a huge inning.  These losses loom large and Bowman does have a 9.49 ERA since his scoreless inning streak to start the season was snapped at the end of April, but that’s 13 earned runs in 12.1 innings, seven of which came in these two games and six of which game in the first four appearances in this span.  In between, he pitched 7.1 innings and only gave up two unearned runs.  I don’t know what this means, if anything, but it sounds like Bowman isn’t completely broken, he’s just going to run into spurts where he can’t get hitters out.

Notes: Paul Dejong was called up before the game when Kolten Wong was placed on the disabled list and made the most of his first appearance, cracking a home run when he pinch hit in the ninth.  While there’s no guarantee that Dejong stays up here whenever Wong returns, this is a different situation than Magneuris Sierra was.  Dejong is right on the cusp of the majors anyway–he might be able to develop a little more in Memphis, but that development doesn’t obviously outweigh what he can do in the bigs, even if he’s not starting every day.  It’ll be interesting to see how he’s used over the next couple of weeks.  The good thing about writing this later in the morning of an afternoon game is that I can already see he’s in the starting lineup today, playing second base and hitting seventh.

Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons did a fine job of keeping the Cardinals in the game after Lance Lynn had some struggles, allowing four runs in five innings.  Lyons threw two scoreless frames and saw the Cards put up three home runs, getting it back to a close game.  Lyons continues to prove his worth to this team and should be able to help stabilize a bullpen that’s been kinda rocky, no pun intended.

Lynn’s work might have looked better had he not been dealing with a blister throughout the game.  Given that, I don’t think we’ll get too worked up about another rough start, but Lynn does have a 4.30 ERA over his last four, with two unearned runs keeping that total down a bit more than it could/should be.  It’s still something to look at, especially since his next start will be at Wrigley Field.  If he can have a good one there, that should help calm folks down.

Looks like there’s going to be another roster move today as Jose Martinez returns from the disabled list and, apparently, Grichuk is heading to Memphis.  As we said above, Grichuk is really struggling and a trip to Memphis worked last year for him.  Again, though, the club continues to carry just 12 hitters and Jonathan Broxton gets another reprieve.  Actually, Broxton might not be in as much danger anyway now that John Brebbia is up and, as such, has options.  Even if St. Louis did decide to go to 13 hitters (which seems unlikely any time soon), Brebbia could be the one that is the odd man out.

Mike Leake and Rich Hill both made their last starts against the Dodgers and Cardinals respectively and will do so again today.  Hill struggled against the Cardinals with limited command, while Leake did what Leake has done all year.  Hopefully both of those things continue today and the Cards can celebrate the holiday with a win!

 

 

0 comments

Off in LA LA Land

Well, at least they took one?

The Cardinals started off a road trip against the top teams in the NL West and looked a lot like the team that just had a miserable home stand.  All those that thought the 6-0 record on the trip to Atlanta and Miami was mainly due to the quality of the teams they were playing against still have a strong point.  Save for that nice series win against the Cubs, they’ve been flailing about trying to find purchase.  The club is 2-6 since Mother’s Day and have gone from first to third, now behind the Cubs by a game.  With Chicago now in first, it has a feeling like a basketball game where the underdog led for a long time, but the favorite finally took the lead.  Very rarely, it feels, does that underdog get the lead back.  Let’s hope it’s different here.

We talked about the first game in Dodger Stadium already, so let’s take a look at the last two.

Wednesday (6-1 win)

Hero: Mike Leake.  Just when you started to think maybe the great run of Leake could be coming to a close, he goes out and throws eight innings of one run ball.  No walks, five strikeouts, and only four hits.  We knew Leake’s traditional numbers might get better since the defense was supposed to improve, but that improvement hasn’t been as much as some thought and he’s still been outstanding.  If the season ended today, it would probably because of a major calamity and nobody would care about awards, but notwithstanding that he would be a frontrunner for the Cy Young Award.

Goat: Randal Grichuk.  Grichuk is such a streaky hitter.  Two games before he had two doubles, but in this one he’s 0-4 with three strikeouts and five left on base.  There’s a lot of talent there and he’s a fine player to have on a squad, but you have to start wondering if the outfield isn’t where John Mozeliak winds up improving this team.  You can’t do much with those under contract, but you could swap Grichuk and see if you could upgrade there.

Notes: Nice night for Kolten Wong.  He only had one hit, but it was a double in the second that put the Cards up 2-0.  An inning later, he started a smooth double play, the only one of the night for the Redbirds.  He also drew a walk and is hitting .281 on the season.  While he may have tailed off from some earlier heights, he’s proving to be a reliable, solid option at second base.

What is the club going to do about the top of the lineup?  You’ve seen the stats, you know that the top three positions have been some of the worst in baseball.  Dexter Fowler in this one went 0-4, struck out twice (though he did draw a walk), and left three on.  Maybe it’s the shoulder, though we’d feel better about that answer if he hadn’t struggled in April.  Stephen Piscotty, batting second and also going 0-4, struck out just once and actually scored a run, though he left four on.  In other words, it’s a little surprising this team could make it a serious game with the top of their lineup again sputtering.

Another good night for Jedd Gyorko, who really doesn’t want to be replaced by Josh Donaldson or anyone.  Three hits, two runs scored.  Matt Carpenter was the only other person with multiple hits, though with Rich Hill‘s control issues, most everyone got on base one way or another.  Yadier Molina went yard and Aledmys Diaz doubled for the only extra base hits on the night.

Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons got into this one, working a scoreless ninth.  Always good to see 70 back and contributing.

Thursday (7-3 loss)

Hero: Jedd Gyorko.  Two hits, two RBI.  Gyorko just keeps plugging along, showing that last year wasn’t quite the fluke we thought it might have been.  He’s not far off of being on pace for 30 homers yet again.

Goat: There were a few options, but I think you have to go with Michael Wacha.  Six runs in four innings, two of which come off the bat of the pitcher who is up with two outs in the inning, makes for a bad night.  Yaisel Puig hit a pitch in the dirt to bring Kenta Maeda to the plate, but Wacha had to be able to finish that off.  And, granted, a couple of those runs were allowed after he left the ballgame, but he put the runners on.

Notes: I do think Mike Matheny has done a better job over the last month or so, but that doesn’t mean that there still aren’t questions.  For instance, Wacha had given up four runs in four innings, letting that 3-0 lead get past him.  The last batter he faced was Maeda, who hit it hard enough that he tried for second.  Wacha’s close to 90 pitches.  Bullpen basically wasn’t used the night before, so pretty much everyone should be available.  However, Matheny runs him back out there.  Wacha allows a single and a walk, then gets pulled.

Now, I know that Brett Cecil had retired the last three men he’d faced.  I know that you have to use him sometimes if he’s going to stay on the roster.  I know that bringing him in with a deficit might be better than bringing him in with a lead and watching that lead slip away.  But if you think that you can win this game, you have to keep it at one run and bringing in Cecil’s not the best way to guarantee that.  Now, it wound up not mattering because the offense couldn’t do a lick more, but how much of that was a factor of it being a three (and then four) run game instead of one?  If nothing else, the Dodgers’ pitching decisions would have likely been different.

The Cards had four hits and two walks (one intentional) in the first frame.  They got five hits and one walk the rest of the way.  Two of those hits came in the third, when Gyorko and Molina singled to lead off the frame.  Two on, nobody out, your sixth place hitter up.  This should be a great spot to put some runs up.  Instead, inexplicably, Stephen Piscotty tried to bunt the runners over.  I know Piscotty is struggling, but really?  The team is up 3-1 trying to put Maeda on the ropes and instead you try to hand him an out.  And that doesn’t even work!  Piscotty winds up popping out, Diaz struck out, and Wong grounded out.  The runners never really moved.

There’s a lot of folks talking about how this team has regressed with Magneuris Sierra off the roster.  That seems a lot of weight to put on a guy that only played a couple of weeks, but it is interesting how things dropped off when the roster makeup wound up more like the beginning of the season when things weren’t going so well.  I don’t know if correlation is causation–again, we’ve talked about how the schedule is different as well–but maybe there’s something to it.  Again, the move with Sierra made sense and he’s doing well in Springfield, but you wonder if things continue to sputter if they won’t try to get him back up here one way or another.

Out of the frying pan and into the fire.  The Cards leave Los Angeles to go take on a team that is 2.5 games better in the standings, the NL West-leading Colorado Rockies.  Playing out in Coors Field is always an interesting task, of course, and we’ll see what the Cardinal hurlers are able to do with it.  Carlos Martinez will go up against a rookie in Antonio Senzatela, who seems to be having a good season.  His ERA of 3.67 has gone up about a run over his last two starts, though, so maybe the book is getting out on him.  As for Carlos, here’s his history against the Rockie hitters:

vs. Batters Table
Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Charlie Blackmon 11 11 4 1 0 0 0 0 3 .364 .364 .455 .818 0 0 0 0 0
DJ LeMahieu 11 9 6 1 0 0 1 1 0 .667 .727 .778 1.505 0 0 0 1 2
Nolan Arenado 10 10 3 1 0 0 2 0 2 .300 .300 .400 .700 0 0 0 0 0
Alexi Amarista 9 8 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 .375 .375 .375 .750 1 0 0 0 1
Carlos Gonzalez 9 8 2 1 0 0 0 1 2 .250 .333 .375 .708 0 0 0 0 0
Gerardo Parra 7 6 2 1 0 1 2 0 2 .333 .333 1.000 1.333 1 0 0 0 0
Ian Desmond 5 4 1 0 0 0 1 1 2 .250 .400 .250 .650 0 0 0 0 0
Tyler Anderson 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .500 .000 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Chris Rusin 2 2 2 0 0 1 2 0 0 1.000 1.000 2.500 3.500 0 0 0 0 0
Ryan Hanigan 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Mark Reynolds 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 68 61 23 5 0 2 8 4 12 .377 .424 .557 .982 2 0 0 1 3
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/26/2017.

That’s, uh, well not really what you want to see.  Small sample size, etc. and you just hope this is the time he turns it around against these guys.  Should be an interesting weekend!

0 comments

West Coast games do have a certain intrinsic charm, at least on the face of them.  You are watching baseball at hours that you normally don’t, seeing some teams that aren’t overly familiar.  That charm usually fades away about 11:00 or so, when the length of the day begins to grab at you.  So what do the Cardinals do?  They decide to do their favorite 2017 thing–play extra innings!

I’ll admit up front I saw the beginning of this game and what should have been the end, but everything else I’m going by box scores and recaps, which really isn’t that much different than a lot of my posts.  The entire reason this was actually a game is due to the pitching staff of the Cardinals, most notably Lance Lynn.  Lynn made a mistake in the first inning, allowing a solo shot to Yasmani Grandal, but put a lot of the current “hit a wall” fears to rest by going eight innings and allowing a total of two hits, the second of which game in the eighth along with one of his two walks.  So that mean from the homer with two outs in the first to Chase Utley‘s single with one out in the eighth, only one Dodger batter reached base.

An impressive feat, of course, but when you are going up against Clayton Kershaw, one mistake could be the difference in the ballgame.  For all of Kershaw’s vaunted failures against the Cardinals, that’s pretty much been confined to the postseason.  The regular season, he’s pretty much the same pitcher that’s considered the best in baseball.  Through eight innings, he had matched Lynn with allowing just two hits and had walked no one.  Unlike Lynn, however, he came out for the ninth and made his mistake.  Which cost a number of Cardinal fans some hours of sleep.

I’ll be honest–I had the TV and was watching to see how the game ended.  I had almost tweeted out an inning earlier that this might be the rare West Coast game that ended not long after a regular game, since both pitchers were mowing folks down.  (Glad I didn’t make that mistake!)  Randal Grichuk singled, but my eyes were getting heavy.  They opened to see Tommy Pham ground out, but closed again.  The next time they bounced open, Grichuk was scoring and I was really confused.  It took the replay to show that Grichuk had scored from second on Kershaw’s wild pitch, which is an incredible play helped by the generous foul ground at Dodger Stadium.  You wonder how much his commitment to score there was influenced by that game in New York against Aroldis Chapman, where he stopped at third and was stranded.

While it wound up working out in multiple ways, both the fact that Lynn got out of the jam and that you saved an out on a bullpen that was going to need it, I still think leaving Lynn out there in the eighth was a questionable call.  He started the frame with 99 pitches, I believe, and I understand him going out there given the way he was throwing.  He got an out, then allowed the single to Utley.  The bullpen was warming and while I wouldn’t necessarily have wanted to see Brett Cecil, Matthew Bowman was out there next to him.

He gets Yasiel Puig to ground out, but then walks, on four pitches, Kershaw.  At this point, he’s around 120 pitches, which is a load for anyone, but most especially someone coming off Tommy John surgery.  Walking the pitcher there would seem to indicate that he’s about out of gas.  Mike Matheny goes to the mound and I expect he’s going to bring in Bowman.  Instead, he leaves Lynn out there.  Lynn strikes out Logan Forsythe for his 10th strikeout and it all works out, but I’m not sure if that’s not an example of bad process, good results.

For as much praise as you can give the pitching staff–save maybe Jonathan Broxton, who got the first two he faced before a walk and a walk-off double, but when you get to the 13th, that’s going to happen I think–you can scorn the offense.  I get it, Kershaw’s tough.  You don’t expect to get much off of him.  However, to go four extra innings and manage one hit?  One single hit?  And no walks?  Again, I didn’t watch it–after Grichuk scored I knew I had to get some sleep–but was everyone going up there trying to end it in one swing?  That’s a pretty miserable showing.  I mean, I guess the Dodgers did basically the same thing, so maybe it was just a night where all the pitchers ate their Wheaties, but still, seems unlikely you are going to win if you can’t get runners on base.

We’ll give the Hero to Lynn (even though I was tempted to reward Grichuk’s, well, heroics) and the Goat will go to…man, when three guys have an 0-5 night, it’s not easy.  However, our typical rule of thumb here is that the leadoff man breaks ties, so we’ll give it to Dexter Fowler.  Fowler didn’t go last night–whether that was reflected in the rest of the outing or it wouldn’t have mattered, I don’t know.

(Can I also say it’s interesting–understandable, but interesting–to read our friend Scott saying the Dodgers can’t do anything with left-handers and not see any of the three lefties on the staff get into the game last night?  Again, I don’t question any choice of personnel Matheny made, save maybe Broxton, because that would seem to be a place to use Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons since he can go multiple frames, but it’s just an interesting point to make.)

Also, this was the seventh extra-inning game of the season, a season that is just over seven weeks old.  For a frame of reference, last year’s squad also played seven extra-inning games….in the ENTIRE YEAR.  Perhaps the 2015 season is more relevant, though.  They played 16 extra inning games that year.  That team had outstanding pitching, which kept the score low enough, but not enough offense to really take advantage of it.  This year isn’t that good, of course–no way this team wins 100 games–but you can probably blame the fact that this is the third 13-inning game this week on that.  Man, maybe MLB did know what they were doing when they put in all those off days!

You had to expect to lose the Kershaw game, but the Cards can still take the series.  That means that they’ll need a good start out of Mike Leake, which they’ve been fortunate to get most every time out this season.  Leake’s not gone less than six innings in any of his starts and gone seven four times, including his last outing against the Red Sox where he gave up two runs in his last inning of work.  Historically, he’s done pretty well against these LA hitters also.

vs. Batters Table
Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Chase Utley 29 27 4 1 0 2 4 1 1 .148 .179 .407 .586 1 0 0 0 0
Yasmani Grandal 17 16 3 1 0 0 0 1 2 .188 .235 .250 .485 0 0 0 0 2
Adrian Gonzalez 16 14 2 1 0 1 1 2 5 .143 .250 .429 .679 0 0 0 0 0
Joc Pederson 10 10 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 .200 .200 .200 .400 0 0 0 0 0
Corey Seager 10 10 2 0 0 1 2 0 1 .200 .200 .500 .700 0 0 0 0 2
Yasiel Puig 8 8 2 1 0 0 0 0 2 .250 .250 .375 .625 0 0 0 0 0
Logan Forsythe 6 5 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 .200 .333 .200 .533 0 0 0 0 0
Clayton Kershaw 5 4 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .250 .250 .250 .500 1 0 0 0 0
Austin Barnes 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .333 .000 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Alex Wood 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Brett Eibner 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Enrique Hernandez 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Brandon McCarthy 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 109 101 18 4 0 4 8 6 13 .178 .224 .337 .561 2 0 0 0 4
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/24/2017.

Rich Hill, whose full name may well be “oft-injured Rich Hill”, goes for the Dodgers.  Hill’s only made three starts this season and his last time out was his first after returning from the disabled list.  He limited the Giants to one run in five innings, so odds are he’s going to be good but also that the Cardinals will be getting into the Dodger bullpen pretty early.  We’ll see if that makes a difference!

vs. Batters Table
Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Yadier Molina 7 4 0 0 0 0 1 3 0 .000 .429 .000 .429 0 0 0 0 0
Dexter Fowler 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Jhonny Peralta 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 12 9 0 0 0 0 1 3 2 .000 .250 .000 .250 0 0 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/24/2017.

For a guy that’s been around the league a long time, the Cards don’t have much experience with him.  Surely that won’t be a problem, though, right?

0 comments

We got fairly serious and contemplative this morning, so let’s break that up with something more in line with what this blog usually provides: questions and answers with other bloggers!  Scott Andes from LAdodgerreport, a regular participant in the pre-season Playing Pepper series, contacted me since the Cardinals were heading into Chavez Ravine and asked if we could exchange some questions.  As you know, I’m always up for that!  You’ll find my answers over here, but here’s what I asked Scott about the Cardinals’ next opponent.  Enjoy!

Daniel: As we start this discussion, the Dodgers are 26-19, tied with Arizona for second behind Colorado. What’s gone right so far this season and what hasn’t?

Scott: What has gone right for the Dodgers this year has been their relief pitching which has been tremendously good for the most part. The middle relief has been great. Generally speaking the pitching is good. The defense has been poor, and the offense at times has been dreadful. The Dodgers win because their core group of players are very talented. Guys like Kershaw, Jansen, Puig, Pederson, Turner, Seager, and Grandal are very gifted players. The offense has definitely perked up in recent weeks. Relief pitching, on-base skills and the bench have been the strengths so far. The first few weeks of the season brutal though with one one or two series wins over the first five weeks.

As for what’s gone wrong I can just point you back to the 2016 season to have those questions answered. The Dodgers have the same problems from last year that were never addressed. They can’t hit left handed pitching, and the starting pitchers are unable to provide adequate innings.

When the starting staff is unable to go past the fifth inning it puts a great burden of work on the bullpen. By August or September everyone is gassed or hurt and nobody has anything left for the playoffs. Last year Kershaw and Jansen had to carry the club into the NLCS on their backs but they can’t do it alone. They need help. Unfortunately the front office is so small market minded they are unable to realize that there is an easier way of doing things where you are allowed to acquire healthy durable starting pitchers that can give you 6-8 innings per start.

Oh and also the injuries. Everyone gets hurt constantly on this club. But again when management continuously acquires injury riddled pitchers with long and established histories of injuries and inconsistency than it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody.

Daniel: Clayton Kershaw is still Clayton Kershaw, but the rest of the rotation seems a bit hit or miss. Is there anyone else that you trust when they take the ball every fifth day?

Scott: Not really. If I were to choose someone it would probably be southpaw Alex Wood. He’s been fantastic of late, (recently winning NL player of the week award). His domination over the last few weeks has been a lot of fun to watch as he builds arm strength and develops his command. Unfortunately like all of the rest of the starters, he is unable to pitch past the fifth inning. The rest of the starters are either unable to as well, or are not allowed to by management. No matter what in every game no starter by Kershaw the Dodger bullpen will be pitching 4-6 innings. This is every day.

Daniel: After Corey Seager last year, the Dodgers seem to have found another great young talent in Cody Bellinger. What are the thought on the rest of his season? Has he had to make adjustments yet or has the league still not caught up with him?

Scott: Not yet. But that’s coming soon. So far these first couple of months are going to be icing on the cake for the super kid. The National League has never seen him before, so for the first couple of months they’re going to challenge Bellinger. This is the time for him to be raking, and he is. The adjustments from the league will come soon, and so will his. But he is able to make those adjustments on the fly. We’ve seen him do it in the minors, and his instincts at the big league level are top notch. This kid is ridiculously talented, and I expect for him to continue to be scorching the ball during this initial period until the league makes the first adjustments.

Daniel: Justin Turner was off to a great start before landing on the DL. How much is his loss going to hurt the team?

Scott: Tremendously. Turner is the heart and soul of the Dodgers. Period. He’s beloved in the clubhouse, beloved by all fans, and one of the best third baseman in all of baseball. He hits, hits for power, plays amazing defense at third, and bats third in the lineup every day. He makes the Dodger’s offense go, and losing him for any extended amount of time is a huge crushing blow for the Dodgers. I get worked up just writing this. We miss our red dream.

Daniel: What’s the weak spot in the lineup, if there is one?

Scott: Lack of speed and athleticism, and mediocre power to start the season. The Dodgers rank in the middle of the pack in power (17th in home runs) slugging, OPS etc.

The problem has been that every time there is a left hander on the mound opposing them, management puts the bench guys in the lineup. Some of the lineups put out have been horrible, and it’s a huge weakness. I have always felt that the regulars can hit left handers if given the chance. I prefer a set lineup to all of this lineup shuffling anyways. However the front office loves triple-A castoffs and light hitting utility players. When a left hander is on the mound expect for all of them to be in the lineup.

I joke a little, but the bench has actually been very good. Chris Taylor has reinvented himself, Kike has finally stopped being an automatic out, and Austin Barnes is very good. Even Chase Utley has started to hit again. The Dodgers are still a good club.

Daniel: What’s your prediction for this series?

Scott: I’ll say the Dodgers take 2 of 3 since the series is at home. However if this was at Busch then it would probably be reversed. But the series could go either way because the Cards are pretty good too.

1 comment

Given all the things that happened on the diamond this weekend, we weren’t able yesterday to really look at the moves that happened–and didn’t happen–off the field on Saturday.  Hours after it was clear that the Cardinals had lost the Luis Robert sweepstakes, John Mozeliak traded Matt Adams to Atlanta for Juan Yepez, a 19-year-old third base prospect.  The Cards also sent cash to the Braves to help defray the $2.8 million (well, the pro-rated amount) that Big Fill-In-The-Blank was owed this season.

I have always been a pretty big Matt Adams fan, defending him against a lot of the slings and arrows that were thrown his way the last couple of years.  I know it’s a low bar to clear, but he was easily the best defensive first baseman that the club had.  He’d hit lefties a little bit better than some think, though it obviously still was a hole in his game.  I felt he had the ability to be an average to a little above-average first baseman, but it never quite came together.  Some of that is injury, some of that is just the way baseball goes.

Once the club moved Matt Carpenter to first base this offseason, Adams’s days were numbered.  Most of us were surprised when he started the season with the Cardinals.  In truth, Mozeliak did try to move him over the winter–there was a rumored deal with Kansas City that didn’t happen–but publicly said he was content having Adams as a viable bat off the bench and occasional fill-in at first.  (The less said about the idea of him playing outfield, the better.)

That works if Adams is a 33-35 year old guy who has had his shot in the big leagues.  Adams is just 28, though, and probably deserves to at least have a chance to play every day.  Once Freddie Freeman got hurt, many of us immediately thought about Atlanta as a landing place for the big guy.  (I’ll admit, the discussions a few of us had on Twitter didn’t factor in that Atlanta wouldn’t give up anything for a fill-in since they weren’t actually trying to win this year.  It’s one reason I’m terrible at trade scenarios.)  Mozeliak really gave him to Atlanta–while getting a Single-A prospect for Jim Edmonds worked out in historic fashion, it’s unlikely Yepez is going to follow the David Freese path–and that was fine.  He needed to play somewhere, but he couldn’t do that here with this roster construction.

Matt Adams did everything this team asked and did it (as far as we know) without grumbling or complaining.  He dealt with the uproar that was him in the outfield.  He pinch-hit and did what he could to help the team there.  I just wish it had worked out better for him overall, that he’d been able to establish himself enough at first that the Cards would have not been able to move Carpenter over, or at least not without sending him to a better situation than Atlanta.  Hopefully he has a great two months, builds up some value, and gets flipped to a contending team.  He went two for four last night with his first Braves long ball, so perhaps he’s on his way.

Some on Twitter suggested that Mozeliak finalized this deal on Saturday to take attention away from the fact that the club again was a runner-up on a major prize, this time Luis Robert.  That’s pretty silly in my book, one because it tied more to the timing of getting Stephen Piscotty off the DL but mainly because this wasn’t a big enough deal to push that failure off to the back burner, especially to folks that are plugged into the possibilities of this team.  Saturday was the first day that Robert could sign with a club and he wasted no time in making his decision, going with the other major competitor for his services, the White Sox.  Reports seem to differ on whether the White Sox were the top bid or not, but it seems pretty clear that they were right in the ballpark, signing Robert for $25 million after perhaps the personal touch won him over.

This post at Viva El Birdos helps outline why this was such a loss, but if you’ve read here or listened to Meet Me At Musial (especially Kyle Reis’s segments), you know all the reasons this was a perfect storm for the Cardinals.  Let’s quickly reiterate those:

–Robert was the equivalent of a top draft pick (if he didn’t go first overall this year if he was eligible, he’d have been really close) and the Cardinals never have a chance to pick that high.  Given how you get a pick like that, the plan is for them never to have that sort of draft pick and this sort of talent is never available when St. Louis gets to make its selection (save last year with Delvin Perez, but he had extenuating circumstances).

–None of the “big boys” (Chicago, Boston, New York) were in the mix for him, since they were capped at $300,000 this signing period due to overages in the past.

–The Cardinals were already over their cap for this year and are going to be unable to do much in the international market over the next couple of years.

–The international rules are changing and this is one of the last chances to flat out buy talent like Robert.

–The Cardinals will basically have no 2017 draft, what with losing their first pick due to signing Dexter Fowler and their next two picks due to the actions of Chris Correa.

–St. Louis has a lot of talent, but very little “superstar level” talent, again because there are rarely superstars around when they get a chance to pick.

–While the club would have had to pay a 100% tax to MLB since they were over their limit, the entire total of $50-$60 million would be much less than they gave Fowler this offseason.  Plus the Cardinals have often talked about “financial muscle” and the new TV contract kicks in next year.

There will never be another chance that lines up so perfectly for the Cardinals to bring in a young talent, which makes the fact that they didn’t get it done so frustrating.  Mozeliak and Bill DeWitt talked about stretching and being uncomfortable when they made a $200 million offer to David Price, an offer that looked to be successful until the last minute.  I don’t remember them saying so, but I’m sure it was the same sort of thing when they made an offer to Jason Heyward that had more guaranteed money (though a lower AAV) than the deal he took with Chicago.  Before Robert, the Cardinals also fell short on the last celebrated international signing, Lourdes Gurriel, who wound up signing with the Blue Jays for $22 million.  (Gurriel has played in only one game at High A Dunedin this year before getting hurt.)  You could go all the way back and add Albert Pujols into the list if you wanted.

When you continue to come short on bringing players in, whether it is free agents or these international prospects, a good self-evaluation should be in order.  Hopefully that’s what the club is doing.  As we continue to state, we don’t want to see them just throwing around money to throw around money.  Their smart baseball and thrifty spending habits has helped the club be successful for 20 years.  You get the feeling, from the outside looking in, that the club calculates a value and then doesn’t deviate from that high number.  They may stretch, they may get uncomfortable, but they aren’t going to risk it all and possibly hurt.  Which is a great policy from time to time, but eventually, you have to land someone like this.  Otherwise you get a lot of good, complementary players with no one to complement.

We’re a long way from the days of Mark McGwire and others who might have taken a “hometown discount” to stay in St. Louis.  Yadier Molina‘s $60 million extension and Heyward’s flight to Chicago pretty much proves that the idea of that baseball atmosphere making up for what dollars might be lacking is dead as a doornail.  To get talent to St. Louis, the club is either going to have to draft in a higher position, make trades that give up talent they may want to keep, or sign contracts that hurt.  Staying away from the extremes gets you good baseball.  It doesn’t help you have great baseball.

Again, I’m not saying they needed to win all of those bids.  While they might have had the financial resources to do that, tying up a lot of money like that really isn’t the Cardinal way.  What I am saying is that if they’d won just one of them, public opinion of their philosophy would be significantly different.  If you land Price, nobody expects you to land Heyward and you could argue that you didn’t want to spend a lot in the international market because of the big contract.  If you land Gurriel or Robert, the second place finishes on major MLB free agent talent is brushed aside as well.

There’s a lot of cynical folks out there that never thought the Cardinals would actually land Robert.  I’ll admit to being naive or optimistic enough to believe that it’d happen, because it made too much sense not too.  This really should have been a time when the Cardinals went over the top.  If nothing else, it would buy them a little better public opinion with some of those cynical folks as well as a top talent.  They didn’t, which gives more credence to what so many folks continue to say, that the Cards are more interested in looking like they are spending than actually spending.

I don’t tend to believe that ownership is lining its pockets at the expense of the fans and not trying to put the best product possible on the field.  I also realize that just because you offer a good deal doesn’t mean the player is going to take it.  While it doesn’t look like the Cardinals outbid the White Sox for Robert, even if they had Robert might have taken the Chicago deal due to other factors, such as players he knows or a comfort level with that organization.  Each one of these deals, in and of themselves, can be explained.  As a pattern, though, they are troubling.

I still believe that the Cardinals can be players for someone like Manny Machado in the next couple of years.  Perhaps these failures will give them the spur they need to get into that level where it hurts to prove that they can.  However, it’s becoming harder and harder to argue with folks that believe they’ll never be able to seal the deal.  “Coming in second” has replaced “low-hanging fruit” as the term associated with Mozeliak’s time here in St. Louis.  Unfortunately, the next opportunity to erase that mindset is probably over a year away.

What’s done is done, though.  The club has to just focus on beating the Dodgers, starting tonight.  Come back later on with a Q&A with one of my Dodger brethren!

1 comment

Inigo Montoya: Who are you?
Man in Black: No one of consequence.
Inigo Montoya: I must know.
Man in Black: Get used to disappointment.
The Princess Bride

It was about this time last year when I created the Cardinals Frustration Level Index.  It feels like over last few weeks, the Cardinals have really been riding along at FIL-4.  It wasn’t perfect, but there were a lot of things going right.  There was some positive feelings about the club and a bit of dreaming on them as well.

The last week has moved the club squarely into FIL-3.  If you didn’t click on the link, here’s the description of that level, labeled “Ankiel”:

This is where things start to unravel.  The club is up, then it’s down.  You get a great performance against a top opponent one day, only to see a meek showing against a cellar dweller the next.  The pitching is great while the offense struggles, then the offense comes around only to lose a 9-8 ballgame.  And if everything does come together, then the bullpen winds up losing the lead.  There’s no sort of consistency, good or bad.  Warning signs: a growing deficit in the standings, nightly Twitter spats, a series of “what’s wrong with this team” posts and articles, a focus on a player or two as a major problem.

Sound familiar?  The Cardinals took whatever hope and excitement there was from a 6-0 road trip and a series win against the Cubs and blew through it like my bank account at a Star Wars convention.  Not only has the on-the-field product been immensely frustrating, St. Louis also tossed in another second place finish on a major talent.  If you want to hear frustration in audio form, I think Tara and I did a fairly good job of expressing that last night on Gateway.  If you prefer your aggravation written, stay with me.

Friday (6-5 loss)

Hero: Dexter Fowler.  I considered not selecting him here given the game-ending double play that he grounded into by reaching for an outside pitch on a 3-2 count, but you don’t get to that point without Fowler’s three-run homer that gave the Cards the lead back and let them turn it over to their bullpen to squander.

Goat: Seung-hwan Oh.  While a blown save is likely to always get you here, there are sometimes mitigating factors.  That’s not the case in this one.  Oh did pitch two innings in the prior game, but there was a day off in between and he’d had four days off before that.  Fatigue shouldn’t have been an issue and, to his credit, Oh never suggested it was anything more than him not doing his job.  Losing a lead late after rallying to regain it is just one of the worst ways to lose a game.

Notes: Kolten Wong went 2-2 with two walks and was on base in the ninth when Fowler ended the game.  He and Fowler were the only two to have multiple hits in this one, as the rest of the team just combined for six, including a pinch-hit single by Jhonny Peralta.  Peralta was activated before the game and Magneuris Sierra sent down to Springfield, which was a step up from where he was before his MLB sojourn.  Sierra will be missed, but it’s best for his long-term prospects for him to get some more regular minor league at-bats to develop his game.  I don’t think this will be the last we’ll see of him this season.  If nothing else, another outfield injury and he’s the easiest person to recall for a short-term stay.

Michael Wacha continued his strong season, throwing a scoreless six innings and deserving a much better reward for his efforts.  I don’t know that I can get away from waiting for the other shoe to drop on Wacha, given the last couple of years, but that’s more my mentality than what should be reasonable.  Wacha’s not really done anything but be effective this year, even if he’s not necessarily Peak Wacha.  I probably should have more faith in his outings.  That said, his next one is in Colorado, so I’ll hold off on that for now.

What’s there to say about the bullpen?  At least, on a family-friendly blog?  With Trevor Rosenthal unavailable for this one due to soreness (something that was rectified by the next day, thankfully, but still a bit strange), the last three innings were an adventure.  Jonathan Broxton came in, gave up two hits, and was quickly yanked.  It’s fairly obvious there is no confidence in Broxton for anything serious, but if he’s on the roster, he’s going to have to pitch occasionally.  It feels like he’s either on or he’s not and give credit to Mike Matheny for not sticking with him and seeing if he can work his way out of it.  I’m not sure we’d have said that last year.

Still, putting Broxton into a two-run game at all when the rest of the ‘pen should be rested given the off day is fairly strange, especially when you are coming off a series sweep and a win would be nice to snap that.  Matthew Bowman came in to relieve Broxton, but why didn’t he come in to start the inning?  We’ve often talked about Bowman’s overuse, true, but it was obvious that Matheny already had this plan in mind to go to Bowman early.  He must have started warming up after the first batter, if not before.  I guess, given that Rosenthal was unavailable, maybe Matheny was hoping for a good inning for Broxton and then Bowman could cover the eighth, but it still feels like he could have made the call to Bowman first.

Assuming Bowman would have done better, of course, but some of the work against him in this wasn’t his fault.  He got the grounder to Jedd Gyorko, but Gyorko botched it.  The run would have scored anyway, but Bowman could have had two outs and the bases empty instead of nobody out and runners on first and second.  The wheels wobbled after that, most notably after the Giants tied up the game and put runners on the corners, Bowman fielded Joe Panik’s soft grounder and immediately went to first, not even looking at the runner coming home.  A throw to the plate there and Mac Williamson is dead to rights.  Even if you just look over there to hold him, you probably still have time to get the runner.  Fowler’s home run took Bowman off the hook, but it wasn’t a great outing for the young man.

Matt Adams pinch-hit in the ninth and, unknowingly, closed the book on his Cardinal career with a flyout to left.  Also, Brett Cecil made his first appearance since shaving his head and got a batter out.  It’s possible, after Martinez’s success removing the extensions, that what this team needs is just a good barber.

Saturday (3-1 loss in 13)

Hero: Carlos Martinez. If the Cardinals could have plated one measly run, Martinez would have had the first Maddux of his career.  For those of you unaware (a number that has significantly shrunk over the past few years, I believe), a Maddux (named after Greg Maddux, the master at this) is when a starter throws a nine-inning shutout in less than 100 pitches.  Martinez ran through nine frames in just 93 pitches, which is a remarkable achievement for anyone, but especially a pitcher that a few years ago we weren’t sure could be a starter because of his command.  Martinez was dominant all night long, striking out five and allowing just two hits.  It was an impressive performance and should have been the focus of the game discussion afterwards.  Unfortunately, it was almost forgotten by the end of this.

Goat: Matt Carpenter.  You may remember that about a month ago, Tara and I had a difference of opinion on who the worst Cardinal baserunner was.  She leaned (with good reason) toward Stephen Piscotty, while I stood firm with Carpenter.  I didn’t really need for him to continue to prove me right, but oh did he in this one.  Bottom of the ninth, scoreless game, Carpenter leads off with a shot.  When you are in this situation, a double is fine.  Yes, the Cardinals could waste it, because it’s the Cardinals, but a runner on second with nobody out is a fairly good shot at winning the game.  A groundout and a fly out and that’ll do it.  It doesn’t take anything dramatic.  I’m glad we’re all on the same page.

Problem is, Carpenter never read the book.  Even though he could see the play in front of him, even though he could see Eduardo Nunez had recovered well, Carpenter continued to plow toward second base and was out like….well, like Willie Mays Hays at the beginning of Major League.  You know the scene I’m talking about.  And you just CAN NOT do that in that situation.  It’s indefensible.  Maybe if it took a strong throw and it nipped him by an inch you could see what he was thinking, but it wasn’t even close.  Recently Tim McCarver talked about triples being “born in the batter’s box” and I have no doubt that Carpenter was thinking three when he hit the ball.  However, he’s got to be better about adjusting to the information he sees.  Instead, the Cardinals wind up not scoring, going to extras, and that didn’t exactly play into the strengths of this team.  We’re probably lucky it made it to the 13th, in all honestly.

Notes: While the team wound up with 10 hits on the night (which seems a little low for a 13-inning affair but was better than the Giants’ seven, four of which came in the last frame), three of them came from Greg Garcia, who had to fill in after Wong felt a “pop” in his elbow.  So far, there’s been no word on any injury for Wong, though he didn’t play in Sunday’s game.  It’s great to have a Garcia who can step in and be effective in short spurts, but I do hope Wong isn’t going to be out for an extended period.

Rosenthal was back for this one and did fine in his inning.  Bowman recovered from Friday night and did fine as well.  Kevin Siegrist got his first inning done in seven pitches, but then went back out there for a second and it didn’t work so well.  He got Brandon Belt to start the frame, but then allowed three straight singles to load the bases for Christian Arroyo, who had a heck of an at-bat, forcing Siegrist to throw 12 pitches before he roped a double that basically ended the game.  You could be concerned that Siegrist never was able to get strike three past him, but I think it was more that Arroyo just did everything he could get get a good pitch.  Sometimes the batter wins and it’s not really the pitcher’s fault.  (You do wonder if Siegrist maybe should have thrown more than two changeups in the sequence, but being that Arroyo crushed the second one, maybe not.)

The Cardinals did avoid being shut out in the bottom of the 13th when Piscotty, who was activated earlier in the day, singled in Fowler, but Carpenter flew out to end the game.  (Piscotty almost added to his bad baserunning case by coming close to being caught stealing second with two outs and a two run deficit.  Thankfully, he was safe.)

Sunday (8-3 win)

Hero: Randal Grichuk. Two doubles, including a big one in the second that plated three and helped make sure there’d be no repeat of Saturday night, and four RBI total.  Grichuk is streaky, as we all know, but when he has a game, he has a game.

Goat: Dexter Fowler.  Fowler did drive in one with a sacrifice fly, but went 0-4 otherwise with three left on and a double play hit into.  Thankfully these kind of games are becoming rarer for Fowler, unlike what we saw in April.

Notes: Craig asked me in our conversation where Adam Wainwright‘s last start, his scoreless outing against the Cubs, came from.  Wherever the source, Wainwright went shopping there again and picked up another good one.  Granted, the Giants offense hasn’t been all that great all year long, including this series, but it was still very good to see Wainwright seemingly on cruise control.  Waino struck out six, allowed just the one run, and made it into the seventh.  (Though, given that he was at almost 100 pitches before that frame started, might have had something to do with trying to rest the bullpen as much as possible as much as it did how he was pitching.)  Like we said after the last outing, it doesn’t mean that Wainwright is back or that we have full trust anytime he goes out there, but it’s nice to see that there’s still something there and we won’t have to continue having the “is Wainwright washed up” discussions that are so painful, at least for a while.

Carpenter didn’t really redeem himself, given that it was another game and we’re still holding that baserunning grudge, but he did smack a two-run homer to make this game serious.  Aledmys Diaz also had two hits and walked once as well.  Since moving out of the second spot on May 4, Diaz has hit .328/.371/.391 and has walked five times in 15 games, which still isn’t to the level he showed last year but is much better than the two walks he had in the first 24 games he played.  It felt like that Diaz would be a great fit between Fowler and Carpenter, but the results are showing that maybe his approach and comfort is lower in the lineup.  Which opens up another problem–who to hit in the second spot–but at least gets him back on a better track.

Two hits also for Jhonny Peralta in his first start since returning to squad Friday.  Peralta’s 4-5 since his return and while nobody expects nor wants him to replace Gyorko at third, hopefully he can at least be a veteran bench bat than can fill in from time to time, especially with Matt Adams now in Atlanta.  Lots of people would prefer a Peralta-free roster and I get that, but there seems to be a little bit left from the veteran.  If nothing else, he has to play to show if he has value to other teams.  I do not believe Matheny is going to get wrapped up in this small sample and decide to run him out there every day.  Matheny’s done better with his lineup decisions over the past month and I believe he knows that Gyorko should be out there regularly.  There are going to be days where Peralta plays, though, and folks are just going to have to come to terms with that.

Bullpen did its job for the most part, though it’s easier to do with a seven run lead.  Cecil got two guys out, making him three-for-three since the long hair went adios.  (Which, when you think about it, makes you wonder how the lusciously-locked Mike Leake is having such a strong season.)  Miguel Socolovich allowed two home runs, but he also struck out the side and you would rather see solo homers in that situation than walks.  It wasn’t the best, but I’m still very pro-Soco.

That wraps up the series.  I’ve already taken up a lot of your time, so I’ll try to break out the Matt Adams trade and the Luis Robert failure into another post.  (If you can’t wait for that, we talked about both on Gateway–link above–and the Adams deal and our last hopes on Robert on Meet Me at Musial.)  The Cards get another off day that they’ll probably wish they had next month today as they travel to Los Angeles for a tough West Coast trip through LA and Colorado.  Clayton Kershaw won’t mind that Adams is gone and for all the success the Cards have had against him, he’s still been tough against them in the regular season.

vs. Batters Table
Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Dexter Fowler 54 50 20 3 1 0 2 4 11 .400 .444 .500 .944 0 0 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 41 37 10 3 0 0 2 4 7 .270 .341 .351 .693 0 0 0 0 1
Matt Carpenter 34 32 9 3 1 1 5 1 9 .281 .324 .531 .855 0 0 0 1 1
Jedd Gyorko 20 15 3 1 0 1 1 5 3 .200 .400 .467 .867 0 0 0 0 1
Jhonny Peralta 20 18 4 0 0 0 0 2 8 .222 .300 .222 .522 0 0 0 0 1
Adam Wainwright 11 7 2 1 0 0 2 2 1 .286 .444 .429 .873 2 0 0 0 0
Randal Grichuk 9 9 3 0 0 1 1 0 4 .333 .333 .667 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Mike Leake 4 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0 0
Michael Wacha 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Kolten Wong 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Carlos Martinez 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 201 179 51 11 2 3 13 18 49 .285 .354 .419 .773 3 0 0 1 4
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/22/2017.

Interesting to see Fowler’s done so well against Kershaw as well.  All that said, it’s still probably good that the Cards stopped their losing streak last night, because the odds have to be against them on Tuesday.

Lance Lynn will go for St. Louis.  There’s been some chatter of concern around Lynn, given that he’s allowed eight runs (six earned) over his last two starts.  Lynn hasn’t indicated anything is wrong, so it might just be a little fatigue after missing last season, a down spot that he’s just going to have to fight through.  Or he’s just had two bad starts and could turn it around in this one.  Let’s hope for the latter.

vs. Batters Table
Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Adrian Gonzalez 19 17 4 2 0 0 3 2 4 .235 .316 .353 .669 0 0 0 0 0
Yasiel Puig 15 12 6 0 0 0 1 3 3 .500 .600 .500 1.100 0 0 0 0 0
Chase Utley 9 6 1 0 1 0 2 2 1 .167 .444 .500 .944 0 0 0 1 0
Yasmani Grandal 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Joc Pederson 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .333 .000 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Enrique Hernandez 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Brandon McCarthy 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .500 .000 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Total 53 43 11 2 1 0 6 9 12 .256 .396 .349 .745 0 0 0 1 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/22/2017.

The late night West Coast games are better on the weekend, when you can get some sleep the next day.  I don’t expect a lot of folks will make it to the end of these, so hopefully the Cardinals jump out early, hold the lead, and ease that frustration index a tad.  A man can dream, right?

0 comments

A Giant Discussion

Over the past few years, I’ve developed an affinity for the community that’s established around THE San Francisco Giants Blog.  Craig Vaughn is a passionate Giants fan and has an active and tight-knit group of commentors at the site.  They’ve always been great to interact with me, asking questions about the Cards and putting up with my questions about the Giants when the two teams meet.

As one of those meetings is coming in this weekend, I thought I’d spend some time this week in conversation with Craig.  We started emailing Monday and finished up this morning.  If you want to interact with a good group of fans this weekend, head over to the blog.  They also have a thread set up for today’s discussion that includes some of this back-and-forth.  Enjoy!

Daniel: All right, let’s go ahead and kick this off, if you are up for it.  The Giants have scuffled so far this year, though I’ll pass along thanks for sweeping the Reds this past weekend.  Back before the season I asked if this was going to be a pitching-focused, score-just-enough team.  Has that been the case and the scoring just hasn’t actually been enough?

Craig: Well, we are last in HR’s and OPS and runs scored. We are mid pack in SB’s but most of that was done with Nunez earlier in the season when he was still trying. I think I suggested we’d be screwed if Bum or Cueto got hurt and with Bum down I couldn’t be any less optimistic about the rest of this season.

The Cardinals started the season off horribly and then rebounded to be in first place. So which Cardinal team is it? The underperforming team that started out the season or the one that’s in first place today? I am not a believer in your SP by the way 🙂

Daniel: Believe, my friend! They may not be a classic Bumgarner, but I don’t think there’s any real regression coming for most of these guys. I mean, Mike Leake (I know, I know, you and your site just involuntarily twitched at the name) won’t continue to have an ERA under 2.00, but he did better last year than some of the traditional numbers indicated. I don’t know why he can’t have a 3.5 or so ERA the rest of the way and that’s pretty solid. Lance Lynn and Carlos Martinez are doing things that are well within their abilities. We have to worry about Michael Wacha’s health, of course, and Sunday’s shutout innings aside I’m not as confident in Adam Wainwright as in years past, but I’m not terribly worried about the starters overall. (That is, of course, subject to change with a bad run through the rotation.)

I think the true Cardinal team, as is normally the case in questions like this, is somewhere in between those two extremes. I mean, in the month since they returned from being swept by the Yankees, they’ve won at a .750 clip. That won’t continue, but I don’t think they’ll return to the 3-9 version that we saw earlier. Winning against the Cubs this weekend gave some confidence that this is a team that is pretty good, not just being propped up by a weak NL Central and a favorable schedule. The rest of the month should give us a good tell, with Boston, y’all, then a trip to LA and Colorado.

So who is doing well for the Giants? Is there a player or two that folks cling to as hope (or at least make the games more watchable)?

Craig: Giants fans are tired of the retreads getting forced down our throats. My pre-season fav, Huang, continues to languish in AAA while hitting over .300 but there really isn’t a spot for him right now. I think we’d take just about any low level prospect in the system and be excited to see him play in LF over the Ruggiano/Morse/Gorks/Stubbs/Hill nonsense that’s periodically gotten trotted out this year.

Arroyo is easily the most exciting at bat we have. And Belt too if you like betting with yourself if he’s going to walk or strike out. Oh my. Span is a fun at bat just because we’ve got so many guys who equally hate/love him. Makes for good banter no matter what he does.

What do Cardinal fans think of Matheny? Same general sustained frustration with his line ups/moves? Or has he gotten better?

Daniel: You know, winning does help a lot of things. There’s still a bit of frustration, but when the club came back from New York in April, there must have been a sit down with Matheny and John Mozeliak. After that, Matt Adams stopped playing outfield. Kolten Wong played every day until Saturday. Jhonny Peralta sat (and then was put on the DL). Lineups started looking better. There were fewer and fewer moves that made no sense. The last month might have been the best we’ve seen Matheny in a long time.

That doesn’t mean everyone is over the moon with him, of course, and some grudges and feelings run deep. Overall, though, I think there’s been a general easing of folks on his back. Because it was getting bad enough during that early stretch that you actually started wondering if he was safe in his job. I mean, we knew he was, but it was the first time you could actually start entertaining the question.

What about Bochy? From the outside looking in it seems like he should be one that is always well-received. Is that the case as the team struggles? Does he get some of the blame for the retreads or is most of that ire directed upstairs?

Craig: I think most Giants fans, at least at the blog, are worried about Bochy’s health and kinda wondering why he’s still sticking around for this night in and night out of absolute suckage. I highly doubt that run-of-the-mill Giants fans blame Bochy for any of this. The harder core guys probably wish he wasn’t so stubborn with his vet-love. But he’s mostly unscathed right now.

I watched an inning of Waino yesterday while we were waiting for our lunch table to open up. His ball seemed like it was really moving quite effectively. He struck Montero out and made him look helpless. Where did that start come from? Has his ball been moving like that all year? Also, the Cubs don’t look too hungry this year to me. Like they won it all, now they’re just out there being baseball stars. Thoughts?

Daniel: I’m not sure really where that start came from. He’s been able to have an inning or two of pretty good in most starts, but this was the most extended version we’ve seen this year. He’s starting to slide into the “crafty veteran” stage of his career, I think. We’ll get some games like this, where he’s prepped well and everything is working. We’ll also get a lot of ugly games where things just don’t move like he wants or he just gets overpowered. It’ll probably take 4-5 good starts in a row for any real confidence to accrue in Wainwright. Even last year, he had a couple of runs like that in an overall miserable year. We’ll see if he can this season.

I don’t know about the Cubs. It would only be natural to have a little less drive, a little less hunger after ending a drought like that. They also basically had everything go their way last year–even Schwarber’s injury was something they could fairly easily absorb–and we know baseball doesn’t do that two years in a row. Their pitching has always been a bit suspect in my mind. I think they’ll improve and odds are still in their favor to win the division, but the longer this mediocrity wears on the harder it is for them to get into the mindset of really pushing, I’d think.

If we’re talking rivals, the Dodgers seem to be off to a pretty good start. Y’all are hosting them for three games starting tonight–would taking two of three give some hope to this squad, especially after the sweep this weekend? The Dodgers are still the team to beat, right–or is anyone buying into Colorado or Arizona?

Craig: I think every team in the NL West is better than the Giants right now so whoever they beat should be considered a huge accomplishment.

Daniel: That’s a tough sentiment to have this early in the year. I’m not saying you are wrong, by any means, but it’s rough if that’s true before you even get to the traditional Memorial Day marker. It’s not something the Giants are all that familiar with over the past few years either, given all their success. How does that affect your watching and following the team the rest of the way? How do you stay sane?

Craig: Three WS trophies in the bank, in such a short period of time, go a long way to mellowing me out. I’m irritated at the front office for half-[blank] their way through last off season, but I can’t be frustrated with the team. They have given me too much over the last several years.

Daniel: A great attitude to have. Is there a point where the club will start, in fact if not in name, start waving the white flag and bring up whatever is on the farm? The All-Star break, perhaps?

Craig: I mean, they haven’t really ever done that. Same with the Cards, right? That’s one thing about our two teams that brass should get credit for. Remaining competitive counts for something. Unlike the 76ers in bball or even the Astros for nearly half a decade when they were basically trying to lose. Not sure how the fan base deals with that. My best friend is an A’s fan and he seems completely comfortable with Beane’s approach and focusing more on who they draft and who they get in mid season trades. I couldn’t be a fan of that. Just sitting around thinking about what the future could hold. And all the while never getting a *present*. Know what I mean?

Daniel: Completely agree. When the Cards started off so badly some of us wondered how bad it’d have to be to make the club a seller at the deadline. I’m not sure we ever figured it out. Smaller divisions help–some things might have been different if we were back in those old two-division leagues–but the club has an unspoken agreement with the fan base. Keep showing up, we’ll keep trying to win. With how they stand now, it’s much more likely Mo makes a deal to bring in some help (small is it may be) than to try to ship someone out.

And, if nothing else, you get to watch Buster Posey all the time. Looks like he’s off to another good start. Does he still occasionally play some first base and are there still conversations about when he’ll move more to the corner and less from behind the plate?

Craig: He won’t move to first base and that’s irritating. I feel (as most Giants fans feel) that he would hold up much better and have a more productive career going forward if he got out from behind the dish. I don’t like Belt at all. I would trade him in a nano second for an OFer and move Posey to first base.

Daniel: It sounds like Belt is a polarizing figure, if your comments and this article are compared. I remember when he was coming up as the hot prospect, then the guy that couldn’t get playing time. Did the club not develop him correctly or is this more on the player?

Craig: This is just who he is. I wouldn’t mind all the strikeouts if they came with more home runs. I wouldn’t mind all the walks if he was on a team where he was expected to be more complimentary. But on this team he needs to drive in runs and he strikes out and walks too much to do that.

Daniel: Reasonable enough. It’s one of the complaints we’ve had about the Cards is that there are a whole lot of complimentary pieces, good-if-not-great players, but no big star to go with them.

So what’s your prediction for this weekend? Right now it looks like Matt Moore vs. Michael Wacha on Friday, Jeff Samardzija vs. Carlos Martinez on Saturday, and TBA vs. Adam Wainwright on Sunday.

Craig: My prediction is….pain. Clubber Lang style. Enjoy the W’s coming your way…..

Again, if you have the time, go say hi to the folks over at THE San Francisco Giants Blog. Thanks to Craig for the chat!

4 comments

If you want to look for the silver lining, the Cardinals could have swept this small series and, at worst, were very competitive with a team that was expected (and still may) to have a deep playoff run.  When you factor in the normal thought that AL teams are better than NL teams overall, there probably should be less consternation about dropping two games to the Red Sox.

Nobody’s wanting a silver lining today, I don’t imagine.

Because the flip side of that lining is that the Cardinals not only lost two winnable games (especially last night’s) but also their hold on the top of the NL Central.  Milwaukee is up by a half-game and, given they play the Padres today while St. Louis rests at home, that lead could be a full game before the Redbirds get on the field.

Tuesday (6-3 loss)

Hero: Nobody really stands out in this one.  No starter had more than one hit, no pitcher had a particularly good outing.  We’ll give it to Dexter Fowler, who was the only player to score a run and drive one in, plus had the only extra-base hit of the night.

Goat: Lance Lynn.  While he did get charged with a couple of unearned runs due to a Jedd Gyorko error behind him, Lynn allowed four total, including two solo home runs to put the Cards behind early.  Lynn did his best to get around the error in the fifth, but Dustin Pedroia eventually drove in the go-ahead run.  It wasn’t a terrible outing for Lynn by any means, but it wasn’t what we’ve come to expect from him either.

Notes: A lot of folks would probably put Brett Cecil (or, more accurately, Mike Matheny using Brett Cecil) in that Goat slot.  Cecil came in with one on and one out and threw nine pitches, eight of which were balls, and walked two guys before being yanked.  One of those runners scored on Tommy Pham‘s misplay, but he nailed the other at the plate.  That took a one-run game to a three-run and probably eliminated much in the way of a comeback.

Many griped on Twitter about Cecil coming into that game.  I understand the consternation, but as long as Cecil’s on the roster (and Zach Gifford over at The Intrepid STL has a good look at Cecil, which doesn’t rule out him being hurt), he’s got to get into games.  I don’t know what Boston’s eighth inning reliever is necessarily like, but coming back against Craig Kimbrel in the ninth is typically not a successful proposition.  I guess what I’m saying is I’d rather use Cecil right now in a game they are trailing and less likely to come back in than a game where they are ahead or are rallying.  So I kinda understand why Matheny went to him there, especially with two lefties coming up.

That said, oof.  When you can only throw one strike to two left-handed batters, something is really wrong.  I know Cecil yesterday tried the Carlos Martinez plan for improvement and shaved his head, but I think if I was the club I’d try to get him checked out.  There almost has to be something wrong.  Otherwise it’s starting to look like the Cards bought a lemon on the free agent market this year.

As for Pham, it’s already hard to engender sympathy for the one percenters, but he didn’t help matters:

Granted, if Pham catches that, it’s still 5-3 because Miguel Socolovich, coming in with the bases loaded, allowed a sacrifice fly before Jackie Bradley Jr. sent one Pham’s way, but it’s still ridiculously frustrating, even though he recovered well.  Of course, that wasn’t the only defensive miscue of the night, either listed in the box score (we’ve talked about Pham and Gyorko, but Kolten Wong was charged with an error that was deserved, but a better first baseman than Matt Carpenter would have saved him from) or not.  When the defense becomes the story, it’s usually after a loss.

Again, some kudos to Socolovich.  Bases loaded one out and he gets two fly balls that were/should have been caught, then pitched a scoreless ninth.  He and Jonathan Broxton, who threw a scoreless frame, were the best Cardinal hurlers to take the mound that night.

Wednesday (5-4 loss in 13)

Hero: Mike Leake. Another very good outing from the Redbird hurler, allowing just two runs in seven innings, striking out five and walking none.  He allowed a two-run homer to Bradley in the seventh, otherwise his ERA would still be under 2.00 for the season.  Again, he deserved better than the outcome he received.

Goat: 

I’m giving the Goat to Trevor Rosenthal, but as you can see he had some help from the home plate umpire.  Rosenthal came out throwing smoke in the eighth inning, but after striking out Mookie Betts, he had this at bat against Pedroia.  It’s tough to throw five strikes to a guy, you know?  Pedroia should have been out twice, but wound up standing on first.

Maybe that shook Rosenthal, maybe he thought that he had to throw it down the middle to actually get a strike.  The next batter, Xander Bogaerts, was a thorn all series long and he tripled in Pedroia and scored on a sacrifice fly to tie the game.  How much different does this game turn out if one of those strikes is called?  You can’t assume the inning would have turned out exactly the same, but there would have been two outs and nobody on.  I feel better about the odds of taking the lead into the ninth.

The zone was made even more egregious later, when Randal Grichuk pinch-hit in the bottom of the inning with a runner on first and struck out looking on a pitch that was well out of the zone.  It’s bad enough when the zone is large or small, but when it’s not consistent, when it fluctuates based on the whims of the umpire, that’s a terrible thing to try to deal with.

Notes: Fowler started off this game with a home run, which is always a great thing to see.  I almost thought he was going to bookend the game with them when he launched a deep fly in the ninth, but ’twas not to be.  It’s been a while, at least in my memory, where the Cards have gone out and scored early (it was 4-0 after two) and then shut it down and the other team came back to win.  There are a number of games like that over the last few years, don’t get me wrong, it just doesn’t feel like it’s happened a whole lot of late.

Magneuris Sierra went 2-6, scored a run, drove in a run, and got his first major league stolen base.  I will say I’m a little glad the Cardinals finally lost while he was in the lineup.  Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing Sierra out there (though that likely was his last game for a while as Jhonny Peralta will probably be activated for Friday’s game, with Stephen Piscotty close behind) but there were some folks on Twitter that seemed to be clinging to him as a talisman, pointing out that the team hadn’t lost with him in the lineup.  I know Sierra has done some great things while he’s been up and there’s going to be a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth tomorrow when he likely returns to Palm Beach, but to say that he’s the reason the Cardinals have been winning is probably an overstatement.  Remember, the season had turned around a couple of weeks before Sierra and Pham made it up to the big leagues.

I’m disappointed that Sierra has to go down as well, but let’s not dumping on Matheny or John Mozeliak here.  Sierra needs some more time in the minors to develop his bat, though these weeks of MLB time have been invaluable to him.  The logistics of baseball aren’t always kind or what we want to see, but the idea that the club is just going to cut Peralta to keep Sierra in the bigs a few more days isn’t feasible.  (And, for what it’s worth, Peralta did go 4-11 with a double and a walk during his time in Memphis, which may mean there’s still a little bit in the tank.)  We’ll see Sierra again, perhaps even before September if injuries or trades do a number on the roster, but let’s not assume the team is going to spiral toward the basement now that he’s no longer on the club.  (And it’s possible that the Cards will send down Sam Tuivailala instead, but all this discussion then comes into play for Piscotty’s return.)

Gyorko had two hits in this one but saved the game (temporarily) in the 10th.  The frame started with Josh Rutledge, who fouled a pitch up over home plate.  Yadier Molina got under it….and flat missed it.  It’s something you never see out of Molina and it almost cost the squad.  Given new life, Rutledge singled and moved to second on a groundout.  This time Pedroia was called out on strikes and Seung-hwan Oh, in his second inning of work, intentionally passed Bogaerts.  Andrew Benintendi (go Hogs!) then smashed one toward third that looked like it might get through and drive in the go-ahead run, but Gyorko snared it and made a strong throw to nip Benintendi at first.  The defense might not have been great over the past couple of days, but there were still some shining moments.

A day off today, then the Giants come to town.  San Francisco has been scuffling and lost to Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers yesterday afternoon, putting them eight games under .500.  It would seem a good time for St. Louis to stop this slide quickly and get back to their winning ways.  Michael Wacha, fresh off a skipped turn in a rotation, will go up against Matt Moore in the first game of the series.  Moore is one of those lefties that you’d expect to befuddle the Cards, but the one time they saw him he allowed two runs in five innings.

vs. Batters Table
Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Dexter Fowler 7 4 1 0 0 0 0 2 2 .250 .500 .250 .750 1 0 0 0 0
Matt Carpenter 3 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 .667 .667 .667 1.333 0 0 0 0 0
Aledmys Diaz 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 1
Jedd Gyorko 3 2 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 .500 .667 .500 1.167 0 0 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 3 2 1 0 0 0 2 1 0 .500 .667 .500 1.167 0 0 0 0 0
Randal Grichuk 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Tommy Pham 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 23 18 6 0 0 0 2 4 4 .333 .455 .333 .788 1 0 0 0 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/18/2017.

Anytime you mention “Wacha” and “Giants” in the same sentence, there are immediate painful flashbacks to the 2014 NLCS.  If nothing else, we’re pretty sure Wacha will throw to more than one batter tomorrow evening.  And he’s done OK with the current makeup of the club:

vs. Batters Table
Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Denard Span 11 9 2 0 0 0 1 2 1 .222 .364 .222 .586 0 0 0 0 0
Brandon Belt 9 8 1 0 0 0 0 1 3 .125 .222 .125 .347 0 0 0 0 0
Buster Posey 6 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .167 .000 .167 0 0 0 1 0
Brandon Crawford 5 5 4 2 1 0 1 0 1 .800 .800 1.600 2.400 0 0 0 0 0
Johnny Cueto 5 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 2 0 0 0 0
Nick Hundley 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Mike Morse 3 3 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .667 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Eduardo Nunez 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Joe Panik 3 3 2 2 0 0 1 0 0 .667 .667 1.333 2.000 0 0 0 0 0
Justin Ruggiano 3 2 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 .500 .667 .500 1.167 0 0 0 0 0
Jeff Samardzija 2 2 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 53 46 12 5 1 0 4 4 11 .261 .333 .413 .746 2 0 0 1 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/18/2017.

It’s really a must-win series for St. Louis if they want to keep the momentum going before they head out to the West Coast next week.

Come back this afternoon when I’ll have a back-and-forth with Craig Vaughn from my favorite Giants site, THE San Francisco Giants Blog, as we talk about our respective teams!

0 comments

 

Archives

Subscribe to The Conclave via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 88 other subscribers