Go Crazy, Big Boy

5 ways to improve the game

I am of the belief that Allen H. “Bud” Selig is one of, if not the undisputed greatest commissioner our beloved game has ever had.   Is that disputable and up for debate?  Sure, it is.

What, pray tell, about this game, isn’t?

Those who have read my musings here, and at blog sites past, know I’m a TLR fan.  I’m also big on Bud.  (The recently retired commissioner of baseball, not the frosty cold beverage, big boy.  Heh heh heh)  I don’t think Selig’s reign was without blemish, or that he’s some infallible god of the game.  I support a lot of his bold decisions that helped grow the game to move it forward, even if I didn’t like them at the time.  Interleague play, wild card, the other wild card, anyone?  I will also be among the first in line to admit that when he missed his spots, they were “juuuust a bit outside”.

The end of that ’02 ASG was bad.  Bad enough that the Barry/Torii catch “moment” is about the only other thing most folks remember.

What followed, perhaps, was even worse:  The ASG determining HFA for the WS.  I’ve written about this before, but am frankly too lazy to search for that piece, and link back to it.  (Editor’s note: Not only is he too lazy, but he tasked me with the job, which of course I succeeded at.–C70)

My intent today is not to provide a list of bullet points of accomplishments, lauding Commissioner Selig’s greatness.  Nor is it to gush about how Commissioner Manfred has such huge shoes to fill.  Rather, I have decided to take a proactive approach, and try to assist Mr. Manfred in his approach to helping our poor, broken, nearly defunct league that is barely being propped up by the over 30,000 fans that come out night after night to watch 30 teams play a 162-game schedule.

For Pete’s sake (#RoseHOFReference), the game has only seen a paltry 70,000,000 or more fans pay for tickets to watch live games (not including zillions of dollars from TV & MLBAM-related media money) for 15 of the last 17 years.  This includes 2007, when those of us who know how to perform non-common-core arithmetic might round up to a cool 80,000,000 (actual 2007 MLB tickets sold: 79,503,175, according to Forbes’ Maury Brown).

 

Billions of dollars for teams in LOCAL TV deals?

Owners making more money than ever?

Players making more money than ever?

More fans than ever paying to see a game, whether in person, via subscription, or on their mobile device?

Popularity the game has never seen?

Truckloads of money for local economies all over this country and others, for when the season starts in Japan, Australia, or elsewhere?

 

O.  M.  G.   —   Somebody had better fix this. . . and fast!

 

 

Commission Selig supposes the result of the 2002 All-Star Game must be a 7-7 tie.

 

Not to worry, Robbie.   Ol’ Dathan has your back with a couple more ideas to help fix what is apparently oh-so-broken, in addition to that nifty little pitch clock thing you’ve got.

 

  • Suggestion #1:  Eliminate balls and fouls.

Everything is either a strike or a BIP.  No more of those time-sucking walks that we all hate so much.  Sorry, Matt Carpenter, I don’t know what to tell ya about going deep into counts.  That was then, this is now.  In fact, to help offset the imbalance this might bring, I have an additional, and related suggestion…

 

  • Suggestion #2:  Replace intentional walks with intentional strikeouts.  “IK” is the new “IBB”, folks.  It’s simple.  Just ring ‘em up.  Manger of the team in the field puts up three fingers, and that’s that.  Let me give you some solid examples of when this might come into play:

Are the bases loaded with only one out?  IK.

Is your starter running out of gas, bullpen tired, and a guy in scoring position, with 3-4-5  due up?  IK.

Is your name Dave Stieb?  IK.

Are you the 2011 Texas Rangers?  IK.

 

  • Suggestion #3:  Reconfigure the diamond by eliminating 1st and 3rd bases.

The foul lines would experimentally remain where they currently are unless it was determined that one of two conditions was not satisfactorily being met:  Either the offense wasn’t producing enough runs or the pace of game was still unacceptably slow.  Eliminating 1st and 3rd also ties nicely into my next suggestion.

 

  • Suggestion #4:  Allow a run to be scored when a runner reaches home from second base.  (May also require changing the name of “second base” to simply, “base”.)

Seemingly intuitive, this rule would require implementation to ensure that a batter could hit an inside-the-park-homerun by driving a ball into the gap, and basically running a suicide sprint to second base and back.

…And finally, perhaps the biggest no-brainer in the history of the game, and one that I AM CERTAIN is already in the process of being implemented behind the scenes:

 

  • Suggestion #5:  Bring the DH to the National League.

 

 

Clearly, the tail has begun to wag the dog.

 

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Super Bowl Sunday is nearly here, and I couldn’t possibly be any more excited!

Not because of the game, or the halftime show, or even the commercials.  Even though, last time I checked, Katy Perry looked pretty good, and an ice cold Bud Light was rather refreshing.  I feel like I can recognize a Patriot when I see or talk to one, but what’s a Seahawk, anyway?

No, I’m excited about the big game being over, and subsequently, the NFL season.  It’s the second checkpoint in my baseball offseason calendar benchmark system, falling right after “Holiday season” (one “L”), and right before March Madness.  Once those three hurdles are cleared, it’s time to play ball!

The 2015 season is one that I expect to be one of transitions for the Cardinals, but on a larger scale, for the NL Central, and for all of baseball, really.  The Cardinals will be transitioning towards the end of the Holliday contract (most underrated Cardinal of the past 5 years?), and presumably transitioning into the beginning of a Heyward extension.  They’ll transition away from what many thought would be “the norm” by 2015–seeing the name Shelby Miller on the lineup card every fifth day (and Garcia a few times a year?), and continue transitioning towards a youth movement with guys like Matt Carpenter and Kolten Wong.

The central division will undergo a transition or two of its own in 2015, as the Reds will have to decide what they’re going to do about a Cueto offer, which could largely determine the course that franchise heads over the next couple of seasons.  The friendly confines have been getting a major face lift, with a lot of construction over the past few months (uninterrupted by any of that “October baseball” nonsense, I might add), particularly in the outfield.  The 2015 Brewers continue to transition towards becoming the 2010 Pirates, and vice versa, for that matter.

Perhaps the biggest transition, however, is all across baseball, as 2015 introduces us to Major League Baseball’s 10th commissioner.  Rob Manfred has taken the helm from Allan H., and his first week has been as quiet and mundane as that guy who’s “just here so he doesn’t get fined”.  In other words, not at all.

Open to the idea of putting a ban on defensive shifts?  Interested in “helping offense”?  I don’t know about you, but those words sound like what I imagine the Anti-Christ would say, once in a position to curtail such strategic, thinking aspects of the game.  More in-depth thoughts and opinions are for another post, but I don’t like either idea.  At all.

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I took a stroll around the hotel, to see the sights, and sounds of what was to going on outside the media area.   (As a result, I missed the Randal Grichuk interview.  #RookieMistake)   I spotted Tony LaRussa walking around, though, not aimlessly–he was obviously headed to some destination, escorted by a member of security.

As I walked around the place, I caught a few scenes that I took note of.

There’s a significant area dedicated to kids.  There’s a bounce house, play area, an area where kids (or, I guess adults too) can make little craft projects, and performers too.  While I was down there, I saw “Jeff the Juggler”.  Dude was juggling swords while balancing on a big red ball or something.  Pretty wild stuff.  I like the idea behind it, though–get those kids interested at a young age.

As you may expect, there was booth after booth after booth of companies selling memorabilia, calendars, bats, balls…etc.  There was no shortage of Cardinals Heyward jerseys and shirseys for sale throughout the place, as well.  Everywhere you turned, there are fans carrying bags of merchandise, souvenirs, and items they’d brought from home to have autographed.  I saw bats, baseball cards, helmets, I saw one kid carrying a base, and one man walking around with a home plate.

A pretty wide variety of fans, if I do say so.  #BFIB, baby!  (I considered a post, complete with pics, of all the, ahem, different fashion statements, of the fan base, but decided to leave that to the guys at JSF.)

 

 

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Winter Warm-up 1.0

Prior to this year’s Cardinals winter warmup, I was made aware of the opportunity to cover the event from a media/blogger standpoint.  Given the exceptionally busy schedule I’ve found myself having over the past year or so (which you might’ve noticed by the collection of dust on my blog here at the Conclave), I didn’t anticipate being able to participate.  In short, I didn’t bother replying to the email that went out to the group about covering the event.

Long story short: Another email came in about a week ago, there’d been some changes to my schedule, and it worked out that I was able to attend…at least a portion of the event.

So, late Saturday morning, I left the house, and headed downtown to the Hyatt to the event.  Not so much nervous, as just anxious and interested to see how everything works behind the curtain.  (literally)  Obviously, there’d been other colleagues who’d had the experience, two of which, Matt Whitener and Kevin Reynolds, would be there this year…and helpful for keeping me from embarrassing myself.

I’d been to this event numerous times as a fan (one particular pass is among my more favorite pieces of my collection of “stuff”).  This will be my first time covering it at all.  So, I’ll try to do some stuff, post a few things, and not take any of it too seriously along the way.

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2014 Annual UCB Awards

Well, it’s that time of the year again–time for the annual UCB Awards.  If you aren’t familiar by now, each blogger casts his/her vote for a number of Cardinals-related categories, and the votes are counted at the end of November.  We’ve recently added a feature allowing fans/readers to vote for the awards too (which you can do here before November 30th).  My votes are below, though I did abstain from a few categories.  Stay tuned to see who takes home the hardware*.

 

*There’s no actual hardware.

 

1) Player of the Year – Matt Carpenter
Nominees: Matt Carpenter, Matt Holliday, Jhonny Peralta

2) Pitcher of the Year – Adam Wainwright
Nominees: Lance Lynn, Pat Neshek, Adam Wainwright

3) Game of the Year – Game 4 NLDS
Nominees: May 20 (Wainwright one-hitter), May 31 (Taveras debut), Game 1 NLDS, Game 4 NLDS, Game 2 NLCS

4) Surprising Player of the Year – Pat Neshek
Nominees: Jon Jay, Lance Lynn, Pat Neshek

5) Disappointing Player of the Year – Peter Bourjos
Nominees: Peter Bourjos, Justin Masterson, Kevin Siegrist

6) Cardinal Rookie of the Year – Kolten Wong
Nominees: Marco Gonzales, Randal Grichuk, Oscar Taveras, Kolten Wong

7) Acquisition of the Year – John Lackey
Nominees: John Lackey, Pat Neshek, Jhonny Peralta

8) Most Anticipated Cardinal - Stephen Piscotty
Nominees: Rob Kaminsky, Stephen Piscotty, Luke Weaver

9) Cardinal Moment of the Year – “Big City Leap”
Nominees: Taveras’s first home run as the rains came, “The Big City Leap” in Game 4 of the NLDS, Wong’s walkoff in Game 2 of the NLCS

10) Best Individual Cardinal Blog – Abstained

11) Best Team Cardinal Blog* – Abstained

*–All members of The Cardinal Conclave are considered individual blogs.  No votes for “The Cardinal Conclave” as a whole should be done here.

12) Best Media Coverage – Derrick Goold
Nominees: Derrick Goold, Jenifer Langosch, Stan McNeal, Bernie Miklasz

13) Best Rookie Cardinal Blog – Abstained
Nominees: Baseball Geek In Galveston, Bird Tales, Cajun Cardinal, Gateway Sports Connection, High Sock Sunday, Red Cleat Diaries

14) Post of the Year – Abstained
Nominees: The Dawn of the Stephen Piscotty Era in Right Field (Daniel Solzman),Doctor’s Prescription: A Daily Dose of Baseball (Doug Vollet), The End of a Love and a Season (Marilyn Green), The Lynning: Fact or Fiction? (Daniel Shoptaw), The Outfield Chronicles: A Conversation (Christine Coleman), Thinking of Playoff Baseball (Dan Buffa)

15) Best UCB Project – Cardinals HOF
Nominees: Bloggers As Players, Cardinal Hall of Fame Voting, Mailbag, Roundtables

16) Best UCB Podcast – UCB Radio Hour
Nominees: Conversations With C70, Gateway To Baseball Heaven, UCB Radio Hour

17) Best Non-UCB Podcast – BPIB
Nominees: Best Podcast In Baseball, St. Louis Cardinals Extras (MLB.com), Viva El Birdos Podcast

18) Best Twitterer – @dgoold

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Recently, several of us were given another opportunity to pose questions to John Mozeliak.  Some of us had multiple questions for him, others not as many.  The timing was a couple of weeks ago, just as the GM meetings in Arizona were concluding.  I had just one question for the Cardinals Senior Vice President and General Manager, and thought I’d share that with you here.

 

D7:   Are you aware of any consensus among the various organizations concerning further rule modifications?  The “experimental” pitch clock, requiring a batter to stay in/close to the batter’s box and other tweaks have been widely discussed and speculated about.  What’s the sentiment on such things from those, like you, closer to the situation?

 

Mo:   Pace of game: the idea of pace of game is to broaden the fan base.  We understand that the die-hard baseball fan isn’t overly concerned with how long a game takes.  But if we can have more people interested because it’s easy to watch and more enjoyable, then the game of baseball will enhance their experience.

I am in favor of looking at ways to speed up the game.  I think initiatives like pitch clocks are going to be very difficult to see happen at the Major League level.  But from a more organic approach you could see initiatives happen at the minor league level.  

 

Nothing earth-shattering or terribly surprising about his response, that’s for sure.  But, and maybe it’s just me, if you read between the lines, it almost sounds like that whole experimental pitch clock thing (which I vacillate back-and-forth as to whether I hate it more or less than the DH) may just be an attempt to “Pavlov” kids who take the mound to step up the pace of the game.  Perhaps the minor league systems across baseball will implement this “experiment”, and it achieves MLB’s goal of quickening the pace of the game.   I just hope it doesn’t last as long as the “experimental” designated hitter, at forty-some years and counting.

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UCB Roundtable 11.05.14

As you’re probably aware by now, our UCB November project is the roundtable.  It’s always good for sparking discussion, and provoking some thoughts among the group.   November 5th was my day to pose the question, and here’s how that all shook out:

DATHAN – 

Although, on the surface, you may think it kind of cheap, and like somewhat of a cop out to simply ask, “If it were up to you, how would you memorialize Oscar, as the Cardinals organization?”.

But, give it some serious thought, and suddenly it isn’t so “cheap” of a question.

He wasn’t the veteran presence and leader that Kile was, he was “more than” Hancock in terms of expectations, and fan recognition, but at the end of the day, he lost his life too soon.  How would you honor his memory?
  • I think I would start with the black “OT18″ patch over the heart, (as was done w/ Adenhart), but on the left sleeve at the very least, if for some reason MLB wouldn’t allow the patch over the heart.
  • I would definitely mow “18” into the outfield for the opening series.
  • This is a little different than the previous two, because he wasn’t a pitcher, but I suppose a black circle with “OT18″ should permanently go up on the wall at the end of the dugout.  Undecided about whether something should go up on the OF wall or not.

BILL IVIE:

Good thought, good question, worth waiting for…

I have a hard time with this because he wasn’t with the team too long. His impact was felt, but it’s hard to make a lasting tribute, in my opinion.
I like your first two options. A patch on the jersey and a tribute day/weekend at the park is a good one.
I don’t think you do anything “permanent” to remember him by. A spot on the wall, a plaque, a statue…it’s all a bit too much to me.
Here’s where I would be willing to go a step further:
Build a park in the Dominican Republic and name it “Taveras Memorial Field”. He was such a popular figure there, utilize that to memorialize him. Agree to pay for upkeep for the park. Let his memory possibly cultivate the next great Dominican prospect.

A.J. BLANKENSHIP:

I think a patch on the jersey is all but a given. I’m all for that patch being put on the bullpen wall as well, even if temporary. My only other thought would be to start opening day against the Cubs with no right fielder. I think it is pretty safe to say that Oscar would have been out there if not for this tragedy, so just for one batter, just one. Leave RF empty, let Oscar claim his spot out there on opening day.

DANIEL SHOPTAW:

Extremely tough question.  The patch is pretty much a given, I think.  (AJ said exactly the same thing while I was trying to get this written!)  Mowing 18 in the right field grass would be pretty appropriate as well.
I think, like with Hancock, you want to keep any permanent marker (if you have one) a little less obvious.  Because eventually someone is going to wear 18, maybe sooner rather than later, and it’s going to be a bit awkward (in the short term, maybe a teaching moment 20+ years from now) if you have that 18 out there while it’s being worn.
I liked Matt Sebek’s idea (I believe it was him) that they leave the lights on after home games in right field all season long.

 

DOUG VOLLET:

Good question.

I agree on the patch.
Work with the topps or donruss people, whoever is the big baseball card company these days, and produce a limited edition Oscar Card to be handed out on an “Oscar Day” early in the season.
Also on that “Oscar Day”, invite his family, and tell them that the Cards are starting a charity in Oscar’s name. The Cards know Oscar better than I do, so I’ll leave the charity specifics to them, but the important thing is it would create a legacy, something associated with his name, without having to erect a statue or anything like that.
DAN BUFFA:
Excellent question.

I like the patch because it’s the right thing to do. Teammates can remember him every day when they put the jersey on.
The bullpen sign is also a given. These two ways he won’t be forgotten but it isn’t over the top.
I extremely approve of Bill’s ballpark in the DR idea. That is perfect. A baseball fanatic country where the Cards are heavily invested in would be a great gesture to his family and friends and also keep him alive in a way. Young kids could hope to be like Oscar and always keep smiling.
I thought we would be crafting a different status 10-15 years down the road. One outside next to Bob, Lou and Enos. That isn’t possible with the tragic loss of Taveras but I like the ideas suggested here this morning.
This is going to be a tough transition and the hardest thing is when we finally do “begin” to get over his death, the band aide will be ripped off in March when spring training starts and in April at the home opener. It’s going to be a lot of sad days that hopefully lead to triumphant memories.
One more thing. If they really wanted to carve a piece of their park out for Oscar, they could name a section in right field(bleachers or terrace) Taveras Corner or Alley. Or they could make a small statue of that beautiful legendary swing. I don’t know. Maybe I am reaching.

MARILYN GREEN:

I loved Oscar, but he wasn’t with us long enough to honor him in more memorable ways.  I think the patch is a good idea.  Also perhaps the Cardinals could set up a fund or scholarship in his name to help kids in the Dominican.  Some kind of remembrance ceremony on opening day would be good too.

DANIEL SOLZMAN:

An OT18 patch, as others have commented is a no-brainer to start off the 2015 season.
Mowing 18 into the outfield grass or placing up a OT18 sign sounds fine to me but I really think that Bill’s suggestion was perfect.  Building a Taveras Memorial Field in the Dominican Republic in the perfect tribute to Oscar.
TOM KNUPPEL:
I agree with many others. The patch is likely and then memorialize him in the Dominican with something that has a lasting effect on the young players in that region.

I don’t think anything permanent is needed. Also, a remembrance on opening day at home.
MARK TOMASIK:
My suggestion is to fund a youth baseball academy through Cardinal Care in the Dominican Republic and call it the Oscar Taveras Cardinals Baseball Academy.
COLE CLAYBOURN:
I think the Cardinals have already done a nice job of memorializing Oscar despite not being in season. Leaving the light on in right field was a great touch, along with the flat page they set up on cardinals.com dedicated to him. There’s also a graphic on the right side of the page commemorating him.

I’m a little surprised there hasn’t been some sort of a memorial service, but my guess is that it’s just not feasible during the off season. I’m sure there will be something done prior to the first home game, and of course a patch on the jersey or hat and in the bullpen. I wouldn’t be surprised if they have his jersey hanging in the dugout like they did with Darryl Kile.
This would never happen, but it would be incredibly touching if the Cardinals played the first batter, or inning, in the first home game without a right fielder.
Either way, the Cardinals unfortunately have experience in this department, so I’m sure we’ll see a great memorial next season

 

IN CLOSING:  (that’s my way of indicating the end of this piece, not another blogger with a strange name)

The only thing that truly remains to be seen on this topic is what the DeWitts ultimately decide to do to honor Oscar.  One thing can be assured, though, whatever they do, it will be just right.

 

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Dathan’s four thoughts

First things first:  Olbermann is an idiot.

 

In this month’s installment of “four thoughts” (forethoughts), I’m going to take a look a few of the topics that seem to be on the minds of a lot of Cardinals fans lately.  Let’s jump right in!

 

1. Adam Wainwright has a legit shot at winning the 2014 NL Cy Young Award

Yeah, I said it.  And I believe it.

Pop quiz:  Who won the NL MVP award in 2010?   If you don’t know, I’ll save you the trouble of looking it up.  It was Votto.  Joey Votto took home the NL MVP award over Albert Pujols in 2010, but compare the numbers they each put up that season:

 

 AP                       JV

115       Runs     106

183       Hits       177

39           2B          36

42           HR         37

118        RBI       113

103         BB         91

.312        BA      .324

173      OPS+     171

350        TB        328

76           Ks        125

 

I intentionally used OPS+ because of GABP, but I won’t deny that without that adjustment, Votto edged Pujols by .013 (1.024 to 1.011 in slugging and .424 to .414 in OBP) in straight OPS.   But any way you slice it, Albert had the better numbers that season.  Votto likely won because his Reds made the playoffs that year.  Remember when Halladay no-hit them, and Brandon Phillips was crying on National Television?  That was awesome.  #DustyBakerSucks

Pujols settled for the oh-so-coveted silver slugger award that year.

I don’t think I’m alone, being of the opinion that the writers essentially have Albert the Silver Slugger as a consolation prize, because even though slugging was one of the few categories Votto actually bested Pujols in that season, it would be too much of an impropriety to grant Votto both the MVP and the Silver Slugger awards.

See where I’m going with this?

Even had Giancarlo Stanton not had a premature end to his season with that nasty HBP, I believe that Kershaw would have still been, perhaps, the candidate to beat for the NL MVP.   Assuming he’s the lead candidate, which I think is a pretty safe assumption, I expect that the writers will give some serious thought to giving one player both the NL MVP and the NL Cy Young awards, and ultimately won’t do it.  That leaves Waino as the most logical (only) choice for the NL Cy Young.

…and if you’re thinking about Verlander in 2011, let me just briefly explain why I think that’s different.

In 2011, Justin Verlander was head and shoulders above almost every other pitchers in the AL, in almost every other category.  He led in ERA, Wins, Ks, WHIP, BAA, IP, Win%, and H/9.  He was  3rd in K/BB, 3rd in K/9.   Kershaw’s 2014 campaign, while clearly better than Wainwright’s, isn’t as much of a runaway as Kate Upton’s boyfriend’s 2011 season was.  (Verlander had 5 more wins than Sabathia’s 19.  Incidentally, 5 is also the number of total losses JV took in ’11.)

I didn’t say it was a lock for Wainwright to get the Cy Young.  I said he’s got a legit shot.

 

2. It just depends

As usual, Cardinal Nation, sports talk radio, the blogosphere, twitterverse, and others start to debate and speculate about postseason rotations, lineups, bullpens, and roster spots.  Should they carry 13 pitchers?  Who gets bumped out of the bullpen?  What about a long man?  How many lefties? Grichuk?  Oscar?  Jay?  Kozma?  A third catcher on the roster to get Pierzynski in?

Dude.  The answer is easy:  It just depends.

See, the beauty of the rules surrounding postseason rosters are that you can change them up between each series.  So, if, for example, Shelby Miller owns the Giants and Nationals, but the Dodgers seem to have his number, then you prepare accordingly.  If Jon Jay rakes against Nationals pitching, but struggles against Pittsburgh (Dear God, please don’t let it come to that), then you prepare accordingly.   It all just depends.   We’ll know more by the end of the weekend, and it’s never too soon to start playing what-if scenarios, but until the games are set, and opponents/venues are known for sure, not much can be certain from a roster standpoint.

 

3.  Now that the first 159 games are out of the way…

They say you should dance with the girl you brought.  You should go to war with the army you have.  [insert other cliche here]  The army the Cardinals have battled with in 2014 haven’t had much heavy artillery.  Not many “fights at the bat rack”, if you will.  This team has had an incredibly difficult time scoring actual runs.  A glance at NL team rankings reveals the Redbirds are:

Last in HR

10th in SLG

13th in XBH

Not exactly full of thump.  But, consider that they’re:

1st in K%

5th in Avg

4th in OBP

4th in Sac hits

…and you’d expect that they’re finding other ways to get on base, and get runners moved along.   Except that, they’re:

14th in SB (one fewer, they’d be tied w SF for last)

10th in Runs scored

11th in RBI

12th in Sac Flies

 

Suddenly, the unfortunate picture starts to become a bit more clear.  This Cardinals team seems to be ok, but not great, at getting singles, and getting men on base.  (They’re in the middle of the pack for NL rankings for hits and BB%)  It’s just pushing runs across that seems to be elusive–not that that’s anything new.  It’s a down year for offense all across baseball, but the Cards seem to be particularly anemic in that category this year.  It’s my fear that that anemic offense is who they’ll be forced to dance with this October…and that,  if that doesn’t change, it might not be a long dance.  /c:

 

4.  Pitching, pitching, pitching

There’s been more than enough written lately on Wacha, Lackey, Miller, and others that Matheny & Mozeliak could consider for the postseason.

Here’s what I say: Ride the hot hand.

I understand the respect factor, when it comes to putting guys on the postseason roster, and I’m not completely opposed to that.  However, one of my chief complaints about the way this club handled the postseason journey last season (behind pitching to Papi—don’t get me started), was that they essentially pursued their 12th World Series championship with a 23-man roster.  Miller threw one inning, and Mujica threw two.  Both men pitched an inning in the NLDS, and Mujica threw one in the NLCS.  To me, that was a waste, and poor roster management.  I’d hate to see something similar repeated this fall.

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Four thoughts (forethoughts)

Like many, I don’t have the time to devote to blogging that I once did.  I wish I could spend more time writing about my beloved game, team, and my opinions of both, but alas it just isn’t in the cards right now.  As such, my monthly blog posts here at CardsConclave will likely often feature a handful of small bursts on topics.  Nothing overly in-depth, but a few highlights of ideas, and just enough opinion to (hopefully) intrigue you a bit.  This month, I’ve got 4 topics I’m covering.  Hope you enjoy!

 

Jon Jay: Professional baseball player

Sometimes I apologize to my kids.  Not in the “I’m sorry, but you have to eat all your meat, or you can’t have any pudding” kind of way.  I mean, like, genuine apology…when I feel they deserve one.  See, sometimes as a parent, I let the stress of everyday life, work, school, etc impair my judgement, and I act unfairly towards my kids.  You know, get on their case about something that’s really not important…like I just need something to gripe about?  THAT’S when I apologize to them, just like I would to any person.  When I’m wrong, I try to own up, and apologize for it.  (most of the time, anyway)

 

With that, I’d like to say I was wrong.  And have been wrong, especially lately.  Though I maintain that he’s still prone to taking bad routes to balls, Jon Jay is becoming such a big part of keeping this Cardinals team alive and in the race right now, and I can no longer not like him.

 

Do I prefer PB to Jay, defensively in Center?  Yes.

Does this club need offense in the worst way, justifying more starts for Jay?  Yes.

Do I peel the crust off a PB & J sandwich like I’m 5?  No.

 

I don’t know what’s gotten into him, but I hope it sticks through the last game of the season.

 

Jay came out of the All-Star break batting .291, with an on-base clip of .349, and a .723 OPS.  Since then, he’s played in 28 games, usually starting in CF, and has been more of a presence at the plate.  Only once in his last 20 games has he failed to get a hit (8.22 @ PHI), but he did pick up a RBI in that game, so it wasn’t a completely unproductive day at the dish.  As I write this tonight, WELL after a win over the Pirates in the series opener (haven’t been able to say THAT in a while!), Jay has raised his offensive numbers since the break, as we head into the stretch.  His average now stands at a healthy .312, his on-base mark is a very nice .384, and he’s boosted his OPS more than 50 points to .785.

 

Keep up the good work, sir.  I’m happy to eat crow if I can do so while watching my favorite team play in October.

Rosenthal: Too much, too soon = too little, too late?

 

I’m gonna go all “stat guy” on you here for a minute.  I try not to over-do it when it comes to presenting statistics and/or metrics.  God knows there are a zillion ways to present a zillion different stat lines, to prove just about any kind of point you want to prove.  As I’ve said for years, “Numbers never lie…but they don’t always tell the whole story.”.

 

I’m of the opinion that any Cardinals fan who isn’t concerned about the back end of the bullpen simply isn’t paying attention.  Rosenthal is gassed (Gast?), and I sure hope MM & DL have a backup plan for if/when Rosey simply breaks down.  More than that, I hope MM is willing to stray ever-so-slightly from his loyalty, and use someone else to close, should it come to that…and, personally, I think it will.

 

Many Cardinals fans share the belief that Rosenthal is being overworked this season.  That, natually, leads to a concern that he won’t have enough gas in the tank come playoff push and/or postseason, and will basically turn into Byung-Hyun Kim. (co-starring Mike Matheny as Bob Brenly)

 

But just how concerned should we all be?  I mean, is it really all that serious?

 

My take:  Find that panic button and DANCE on it!!

 

(Supporting statistics in 3…2…1…)

 

I took a look at all the closers across baseball this season, and narrowed it down to guys who had at least 25 save opportunities this season.  We know that there have been really, really hot closers, and others who have gone (or always been) really, really cold.  Guys like Koji Uehara, Sergio Romo, and Joe Nathan to name a few.  Among those with at least 25 save opportunities this season, here’s how Trevor Rosenthal stacks up:

 

  • 1.43 – Worst WHIP
  • 6 – Most losses
  • 60 – Most innings pitched
  • 61 – Most games
  • 1 win (only Chapman-CIN, and Kimbrel-ATL have 0, all others have at least 1)
  • 1,092 – Most pitches (2nd place is K-Rod with nearly 200 fewer, 903)
  • 18.20 – Most pitches per inning pitched in NL (trails only Joe Nathan, DET, with 18.57)
  • 5.40 – Highest BB/9 in MLB (Joe Nathan, DET, is 2nd overall with 4.79)
  • 36 – Most BB (2nd place is, you guessed it, Joe Nathan, DET, with 25)

 

Pretty ugly, no?  If that doesn’t scare you, it should.

 

Listen, my point is not fully to demonstrate just how bad Trevor Rosenthal is–I don’t believe that.  When I see him come into a game lately, I generally question Matheny’s decision to use him more than I question Rosey’s ability to get guys out.  I think he’s got the “stuff”, I just don’t know how much gas is left in the tank, and I’m concerned because finding out in mid-Septemeber that you need a closer isn’t good, to put it lightly.

 

Matt Holliday: Aging, and is losing power every time that foot doesn’t get down.

 

Holliday has been somewhat of a disappointment this season, offensively speaking (which, I guess, kind of goes without saying–we didn’t sign him for his glove).  One thing I’ve noticed about Holliday’s at-bats lately is that he seems to have an extraordinarily hard time reaching outside pitches, like a good slider.  The difference this year (and I’ve done exactly zero research, this is all gut/speculation) seems to be that he’s having a devil of a time squaring up just about every other pitch in any pitcher’s arsenal.

 

The timing just doesn’t seem to be there.  I’m no Mabry, but next time you’re watching the game, tell me if you don’t think that getting that front foot down a little sooner might help solve some of the issues of getting around on pitches, and keeping the barrel in the zone to get good wood on the ball.  He’s still among the strongest players in the game, but the power numbers just aren’t  there, which narrows the possible reasons considerably.  I’m not sure his leg-kick is any different than it was 5 or 6 years ago, and at age 34, maybe it’s time to take a look at that.

 

Randal Grichuk: Don’t look now…

 

Not that a guy making $17MM+ per year is in danger of losing a roster spot anytime soon (at least, not as a Cardinal.  As a Dodger?  Maybe a different story), but if you’ve not noticed his performance lately, let me just brag on Mr. Randal Grichuk for a moment.  Keeping in mind, he’s on a very good Memphis team that may very well be headed to the postseason (yet again), his numbers, particularly those of the power variety, are enough to make one take note.

 

The good news, as an overall Cardinals fan, is that, while he’s doing quite well compared to the rest of the league, there are multiple categories where he isn’t even the top hitter for that category on his team.  Scruggs & Piscotty are rather formidable, make no mistake…and the PCL rankings show it.  Mr. Grichuk, however, does rank in the top 25 of Pacific Coast League batters in the following (mostly power) categories:

 

  • 25 Bombs (6th)
  • 73 Runs scored (11th)
  • 71 Ribs (23rd)
  • .493 SLG (18th)
  • 215 Total Bases (13th)

 

Just a little food for thought.  As always, comments are welcome and you can always follow me on twitter: @Dathan7

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Deadline dilemma

Baseball is many things, but it is very much a business, and there are times when we are harshly reminded of that fact.  Losing fan favorites like Joe Kelly or Allen Craig stings a little bit…maybe more than a little for some.  But the reality is, that’s the world we live in, and if you’re not getting better, your competitors are (ask the Pirates and Brewers today).  Willie McGee spent time as a Giant, just like Matt Morris, and the Cards current manager, Mike Matheny.  Edmonds played for the Padres, the Brewers, and cubs, for cryin’ out loud, after leaving St. Louis.  Joe McEwing went to the Mets.  History tells us that it’s common for “good guys” to move on, when it comes to baseball.  Sometimes it even works out to be something we look back on, and feel good about (Colby Rasmus went to Toronto in 2011).

Today’s moves, sending Allen Craig and Joe Kelly to Boston for John Lackey accomplishes a few things.  First of all, it adds another “J-O-H-N” version to the clubhouse.  (Sorry, Jay.  Sorry, Peralta.  What’s up, Mabry?)  But it also clears up some of the logjam that having an overabundance of talent can bring.  Much has been written today about all of this, so I’ll skip right to the bottom line, because I pulled out an old piece I wrote, that I wanted to share again today.

The bottom line is that the Cardinals got more for Craig than most other teams probably would’ve given.  We will now find out what the Redbirds have in O.T., as he (finally) gets playing time enough to either produce or not.  Oscar is in a much more club-friendly situation, given service time, club control, and outright potential–I believe his ceiling is higher than the occasionally-injured Craig’s.  Kelly had a hard time going deep into games, and that can overtax a bullpen, which may not come back to bite you until late September/early October.  And while it’s true that all he did last year was win and stop losing streaks the Cardinals would go on, I’m not sure he had a place, long-term in this rotation or in the bullpen.  Not to mention, he’s another guy who is one of several at a given position in this organization.

Depth: Sometimes it’s a two-edged sword.

 

I wrote this piece a few years ago, w hen I was writing at i70baseball.com, and, if I do say so myself, I think much of it is still relevant today.

 

Maybe especially today.

 

On Wednesday Cardinals GM, John Mozeliak pulled the trigger on a deal that sent Colby Rasmus, Trever Miller, Brian Tallett, and P.J. Walters packing. As part of the deal, Toronto sent Edwin Jackson (who had been a Bluejay for only a few hours, after coming over from the White Sox in a deal made earlier), Corey Patterson, Octavio Dotel, and Marc Rzepczynski. “Rzepczynski”? I had a hard enough time teaching my phone that there’s nothing to autocorrect when I type “Mozeliak”. Hell, “Dathan” STILL gets a red squiggly line.

 General Mangers (L to R): John Mozeliak (STL), Alex Anthopoulos (TOR), Kenny Williams (CWS)

 

No doubt by this point you’ve read up on the incoming players, and surely you’ve got your own opinions on the Cardinals players who have moved on. Everybody has an opinion on this one, and I’m guessing you didn’t come here to read one more of those. (FYI: The i70baseball rant threat level has just been raised from blue, or “guarded” to yellow, or “elevated”.) Though what you’re about to read isn’t even really a full-blown rant, more like a single-A version of one.

Some things about baseball will never change. It will always be 90 feet between first and second base, for example. The ball will always be 9 inches, 5 ounces (or close enough to be within spec). And second-guessers, armchair GMs, and hindsight specialists will always, ALWAYS be among the most vocal groups, particularly around this time of year.I posted about this on (my personal) facebook, because it really just gets under my skin the way the “best, most knowledgeable fans in baseball” know everything. I mean, these people know it all, and aren’t afraid to tell. The office manager who “knew” signing Mark Mulder was a mistake. (after the fact, of course) The auto mechanic who “still doesn’t understand why Bo Hart isn’t a Cardinal”. The employee at the grocery store who “never agreed with getting rid of Ryan Ludwick.” Well, Mr. produce pusher, you should worry more about your banana-handling skills, and less about topics about which you’re ignorant. Luddy’s average is under .250, his strikeouts are up 30% over this time last year, his OBP is barely above .300, and I can’t keep a straight face when I say he’s, um, slugging .376.Sure he plays in one of the friendliest of pitcher-friendly ballparks. Sure he was only in the same lineup as Adrian Gonzalez for two months. And sure, he’s basically got zero protection in a lineup that regularly faces the reigning World Champion Giants pitching staff of guys like Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez, Bumgarner, and Brian Wilson. Chase Headly & Jason Bartlett can’t protect a guy the same way Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday can. Let’s face it, you could put me in a lineup that includes Pujols & Holliday, and I’ve got a chance to make a name for myself with all the pitches I’m sure to see.But I’m not here to point out all the reasons why Ryan Ludwick is awful…which, by the way, I don’t entirely believe. What I do believe is this: Had the Cardinals not dealt Ryan Ludwick last year at the trade deadline, they likely would not have brought him back for the 2011 season anyway…and still wouldn’t have Westbrook. Or Berkman. You know, Lance “27HR, .993 OPS, 69 RBI & more” Berkman. Big fat puma Elvis himself admits (along with any Cardinals fan I know) that his mid-season numbers would’ve made for optimistic season total projections.My point is that it’s a darn good thing none of us are running the St. Louis Cardinals. So many things that you or I wouldn’t realize, consider, or even think to think about exist in reality. I think we all want the Cardinals to be successful, and win baseball games. I also think that no less than 75% of the information that goes into evaluating & making trades eludes 99% of fans. Crunch those numbers, and you get an awful lot of reasons to stop second-guessing everything…though, as I said before, won’t happen. It’s part of being a fan, and I accept that.All I know is that there are reasons behind everything the team does. Sometimes the fans will get some of that info from the organization, and sometimes not. Sometimes the moves work out well, sometimes they don’t. And sometimes the primary goal might be money, with secondary objectives to follow. You can do a lot when you have money, you know.Let me throw this hypothetical out there: You’ve got a Cardinals team that absolutely blows during a particular decade, and attendance is weak, particularly by St. Louis standards. Then there’s a strike (the work-stoppage kind, not the knee-buckling kind) right in the middle of said decade of suckiness. Along with the other MLB teams, the team’s value declines. Some old rich white guys see a buying opportunity, and they take it, buying the club from a local brewery for $150MM. They fire the manager (who once played for the team), and let another former player finish out the season as manager. The next season, they bring a new manager, and pretty much his entire coaching staff over from another team.With me so far? I know, hard to use so much imagination, right?By this point, almost everything that can change about a ballclub has, and has done so in a relatively short timeframe. Let’s say the first year under all these new circumstances, the team makes the playoffs. For argument’s sake, we’ll assume they go up three games to one on a very beatable team, and are knocking on the door to the World Series before they implode, and are outscored 2,500 to 4 over the final three games of the series. The year after that, at the trade deadline, they acquire a prolific power hitter from the team that formerly employed the manager, general manager, and coaching staff.Now follow me on this path of actual events that occurred starting in the summer of 1997:

  • Cards acquire McGwire at trade deadline
  • Some fans come out to see him, attendance perks up
  • Cards & “Big Mac” reach agreement on a contract in the offseason
  • McGwire returns for the 1998 season in a Cards uniform
  • Fans attend Cards batting practice (home & road) in droves
  • “Home Run Chase” ensues, fans pack the ballparks night-in, night-out
  • Revenue increases

During that 1998 season, truckloads of cash poured into St. Louis as a direct result of the hype. In 1999, the Cards finished in 4th place–they would not finish that low in the standings again until 2008. The Cardinals went to the playoffs in six of the next seven years, including their first World Championship in 24 years in 2006, the year they inaugurated a brand new stadium.

Am I saying Mark McGwire is single-handedly responsible for the success the team has had under the current ownership? Of course not. It’s a team effort, and as much as people want to praise Jocketty, bash LaRussa, kiss ownership’s collective rear end, or curse the way Mark Lamping drinks his morning coffee, no single person is responsible for the success or failure of this team.

Here’s what I am saying: More often than not, when the Cardinals make a move, you & I don’t know the half of what’s going on behind the scenes. There are so many things we simply don’t know, and plans ownership may have that they’re not even communicating with the front office. We rely on folks like Matthew Leach, Derrick Goold & others to help glean some insight into these things. The truth is, no one knows everything that goes into particular deals, trades, and even some roster moves (though, those are usually much easier to figure out). So let’s all just stop suggesting the Cardinals trade Tyler Green for Roy Halladay, watch the next couple of days unfold, go back to our actual jobs, and enjoy this NL Central race. After all, the Cubs are in town.

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UCB Roundtable: Day 5

As you probably know by now, the roundtable is the UCB’s February project.  As such, we’ve been asking each other Cardinals-related questions, and often some good discussion follows.  Sometimes nit-picking also follows.  Here’s how it unfolded on Friday, when it was my turn to pose a question for the group.

Dathan:
If you’d have told me that we’d be nit-picking each other about spelling of players’ names AFTER Marc Rzepczynski left the team, I’m not sure I’d have believed you.  We must all be tired of a long, cold winter and ready for some baseball!!

All kidding aside, I’ve got a question for the group about the starting rotation.  With the exception of Waino and possibly Lynn, this is a group of guys that won’t reach 200 innings this year.  Fortunately, much like we saw when Wacha stepped up as Miller sat down, there seem to be enough arms to share the workload over the course of 162 (and hopefully more).

But as we head into August and September, guys may be approaching their innings limit (publicly stated or not).  How would you handle this issue?

I’d be inclined to use Memphis as an incubator, and keep guys who I believe will help the club by starting stretched out down there, rather than often idle in the ‘pen up here.  Between all the young arms, if everyone stays healthy, there are different approaches that could work.  Would 22 run a six-man rotation out there?  Shut certain guys down early, and ‘next man up’ a fresh arm?

What say you?

Daniel Solzman (Redbird Rants)
I would not be surprised to see Joe Kelly used as a spot starter throughout the season and using someone from Memphis every now and then isn’t out of the picture either.

Come September, if the team has the division locked up, I’d be inclined to use spot starters throughout the month if it means saving Wacha for the postseason.  This will be his first full season at the major league level—granted he did split time between Memphis and STL last year—and there are very high expectations for Wacha.

There are more arms than spots to fill…

Christine Coleman (Aaron Miles’ Fastball)
What Daniel says is true, there are definitely more arms than spots to fill. But look at how the unpredictable — injuries — impact things even when the best laid plans are out there. Not that any of us ever want that to happen, but as Cards fans we know all too well how they unfortunately do.

Since there are more arms than rotation or even bullpen slots, using Memphis as an incubator like Dathan termed it definitely makes sense. It’s worked out well before, with those who are at Memphis getting the chance to start regularly and be available as needed. I can’t see Matheny going with a six-man rotation, although that would certainly be intriguing.

Mark Tomasik (RetroSimba)
Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn and Shelby Miller all are capable of pitching 200 innings in 2014. Joe Kelly, Tyler Lyons and Carlos Martinez provide the safety net to move into the rotation and eat up the innings not used by Michael Wacha and Jaime Garcia, or if Wainwright, Lynn or Miller falters.

A couple of minor-league prospects, left-hander Tim Cooney (26 starts in 2013) and Zach Petrick (13 starts in 2013), could be effective call-ups in the summer if needed.

Cardinals also have the trade chips _ Jon Jay, or prospects Mike O’Neill and James Ramsey _ to deal for a veteran starter if the sky is falling.

Corey Rudd (StL Sports Minute)
I wonder if Shelby Miller can make it to 200 innings this year. He really only missed one start last season (Crawford liner off elbow to lead off game) and still fell well short. I know they pulled him early a few times and were careful, but at over 4 pitches per batter faced, he will need to become more efficient to get to the 200 inning mark.

I think the Memphis shuffle will be alive and well in 2014 and used early and often too.

Let’s remember that this will not only help the big clubs young starters, but also the teams carousel of young relievers, who they need to be careful not to overwork.

I may be in the minority here, but I want to see Seth Maness in the Memphis rotation to start the season as extra insurance and to display his potential flexibility as a possible trade chip as well.

I would handicap it a 50% chance Marco Gonzales gets a start or two in STL late in the season as well.

Ben Chambers (The View From Here)
I have to agree with most of the comments that have already been said. Matheny already said that he didn’t want to do a 6 man rotation, but I think that he may use the long reliever (or a call up – then immediate send back down) for a spot start for Wacha.

The reason that I specifically point out Wacha is that I think he’s the only guy who will be on an “innings limit” whether publicly or privately. I think Wainwright will be the only pitcher to get to 200 innings this year for the Cardinals. Lynn is a workhorse, but I don’t think he’ll stay in the rotation, because of either a trade or a meltdown mid-season. Miller has a chance to get to 200, but I won’t believe it until I see it. Plus, based on the number of innings that he got last year, I think they won’t be too worried about his arm. Garcia should be ok, and he’s been able to eat a lot of innings when healthy, but is he going to stay healthy?

I say all that to say: I think that Wacha is the only one that needs his innings monitored. If they can take away 1 start a month, possibly 2, by using spot starters, and then do like what they did with Miller at the All-Star Break last year (I think Miller had 12 days without a start, if I remember right), then they will have him available for the October run that we all hope the Cardinals will make.

Dan Buffa (Sports Rants)
The rotation is a place of monstrous ridiculous depth that still has this Cards addict pinching his arm today.  We have around 8-9 guys in our system who can probably deliver a quality start this season.

I believe Waino and Lance “I am as good as Homer Bailey but don’t make 12 million yet” Lynn are a lock for 200 innings this year.  Also, don’t forget about Shelby Miller hitting the 200 inning plateau in 2014.  He matured wonderfully last season and will come into camp in amazing shape and ready to pitch. He needs to solidify a third pitch but he has a fastball that was confusing and overpowering hitters in September.  I like his chances.

From there, you have the raw armed Wacha and the fragile limb of Garcia.  Both can give you maybe 160-175 innings if they don’t self destruct.  The good thing for them is you have the secret weapon in Joe Kelly sitting for a 6th man role. Say what you want about his sabermetrics(one day those numbers may catch up to Jelly but what if they don’t) but Kelly has produced rescue missions two years in a row. He is your go to spot starter.

Carlos Martinez will start in the pen as a strikeout pitcher or 2 inning guy even though he still has the pitching arsenal and attitude to start in this league.  You can’t start him at Memphis to keep his arm stretched out but I can see him making a spot start or even entering the rotation at some point in 2014.

From there you have the aforementioned rookies at Memphis that include Tyler Lyons and John Gast, a pair of lefties who turned heads in 2013.  There are your nine arms that don’t even include Tim Cooney and Zach Petrick, who were stated in The Tomasik’s response.

My method is this.  Roll with your opening 5 and keep Kelly and Martinez in versatile roles with the lefty duo waiting on the farm. The Cards have loads of depth in the rotation and may use it to fuel their playoff run again in 2014. As we know too well, things always go wrong in a 162 game season.

John Nagel (CardinalsFarm)
I dont think there is anyway a 6-man rotation will be used. Leo Mazzone is on local radio here in Atlanta and he always talks about how pitchers and pitching coaches hate it.

Like many of the others have said, I-55 will be the Cardinal Expressway again this year. Their starting staff could compete with many MLB teams. Carlos Martinez, Tyler Lyons, John Gast (if healthy), Boone Whiting, and Tim Cooney.

Mark Sherrard (Cardinals Fan In Cubs Land)
Here’s how I see it playing out.If the Cardinals need an extra starter in the first half of the season, then either Tyler Lyons or Joe Kelly will step in.But the one to watch is Carlos Martinez. I think that the Cardinals will use Martinez a lot like they did Wacha last year.

First, he will start the season in the pen until Jason Motte is healthy.  This serves two purposes, it keeps Martinez’ innings down and it gives Matheny a nice 8th inning option.

Once Motte is healthy, he will take over the 8th inning role and Martinez will be sent down to be stretched out as a starter (and to work on his changeup).  Then, when Wacha has reached his innings limit, Martinez will get the call to start down the stretch and in the postseason, if necessary (the Cards will have Wainwright, Garcia, Miller and Lynn as well), while Wacha becomes the forgotten man (much like Shelby Miller in 2013).

Cardinals fans may not like this approach, but since it worked so well in 2013 with Wacha, I think the Cardinals brass will follow the same approach in 2014 with Martinez (and 2015 with Tim Cooney and 2016 with Marco Gonzalez, etc…).

Matthew Philip (Fungoes)
Oh, you know I love it when you give me a perfect opportunity to resurrect my 10-man rotation idea!

But more realistically, I think that Matheny can apply some of the same principles of that plan. That is, he can save some innings on the starters by keeping them on a five-man rotation but not requiring guys to go very deep in games (e.g., five innings). The quality of innings will be better, and by giving middle relievers extended outings (two to three innings), he can keep some of those good arms in starter shape.

Daniel Solzman
6 or 7 man would be ideal in September when rosters expand!

Kevin Reynolds (STL Cards ‘N Stuff)

I think the idea that no one can go 200 innings is a bit extreme, but I get your point. Assuming Garcia makes the rotation, there’s no way he’s allowed to toss 200+ innings on a repaired shoulder after sitting out most of last season. For a different reason, Wacha is going to also be protected from innings overload. The club will monitor him like the future ace he is — protect his innings load and high intensity pitch count while looking to just cobble together a full year at one level, something he hasn’t done since his days at Texas A&M (and his last college year doesn’t count ’cause he went to the minors at the end of the year). At some point, the world has to slow down for Wacha.

I think the one goal for Miller may very well be to get him to that “innings eater” designation, targeting perhaps 180 – 200 innings or so. He got his “protection year” out of the way at the end of last season. It’s time for him to make the jump. You can’t protect these guys forever. That said, Wainwright logged so many innings last season, he may also get protected a bit just due to sheer workload on that arm over the last 365 days. But make no mistake — the club and Waino fully expect a typical 200 inning season from Adam. Anything less is a failure.

That leaves Lance Lynn as the one, solitary pitcher who absolutely needs to throw 200 innings to prove his worth. Lynn, right or wrong, is on the bubble for a long-term spot in the rotation considering all the talent coming up behind him. He’s shown he can pitch well and dominate at times, and he’s shown he can be an innings eater of a sort…but he needs to show the club can stop worrying about him in August and September. Throwing 200+ innings and maintaining consistency throughout is a great way to do that. A 3/4 caliber starter the organization can produce, arguably, right now. A 3/4 starter that can throw at that level for 200+ innings? That may take a few years.

And why did I give that run down? To show that while the club has one, two, or three guys that could be horses, there’s too many “ifs” and “should bes” to not have backup plans come August/September, especially if the club wants to give Wacha a breather in July/August to keep him fresh for October (knock on wood). That means pitchers like Carlos Martinez, Joe Kelly, and Tyler Lyons. Here’s how I see it playing out:

If the club needs a guy — injury, aches, etc. — in May or June (or before), I think Joe Kelly gets the nod for as long as he can hold down the spot. If the rotation makes it intact through June and into July, then I could see guys like Lyons getting some spot starts to give the starters an intentional break here and there through August and into September. The problem there…it’s not like we have a lot of expendable position players to send up and down to create room. It would have to be some magical bullpen/Memphis work. But I could see the Cardinals finding a way to skip each starter twice during the month of August and into September over time, then give them the end of September to ramp it back up. Of course, this is subject to whatever is currently taking place in the division/playoff race.

But if the Cardinals have a starter go down in August…it’s C-Mart time. I think Matheny and Mozeliak would love to see Carlos Martinez prepare as a starter in August/September/October if needed. If someone like Garcia, Lynn, etc. goes down at the end of the season, Martinez could be this year’s Michael Wacha — not in the rotation at the beginning of the year, but rescuing it and dominating in September and October.

Go Cards!!!

Ben Chambers
I firmly believe that Waino will get to 200. I am just not confident that anyone else will. I’m not sure why any of them need to, to be honest. The average pitcher will get 30-33 starts in a healthy season. Waino got 34 last year, but he was only 1 of only 4 that did, and most sat around 32.

If a pitcher goes 6 innings in every start, and they get 32 (which is what I would expect from a pitcher), then they will get 192 innings. If you assume that they get a couple of deep starts and a couple of early exits, then that will probably even itself out. I don’t think it’s a bad deal to get a solid 6 innings from a starter and then expect the bullpen to get the other 3.

Let’s just look at Lynn vs. Kelly because that’s the typical argument, and I have the numbers handy.

A lot of the talk about Lynn is that he is an innings eater and that works in his favor, but in Kelly’s starts, he averaged only 1 batter less per start than Lynn did in his starts. Would you rather have a guy with an ERA of 2.28 out there for 5.8 innings (Kelly’s average innings/start) over a guy with an ERA of 3.97 for 6.1 innings (Lynn’s average innings/start).

What I’m really getting at is that I would rather have quality over quantity. When a guy going 191 innings (what Kelly would have made with Lynn’s number of starts: 33) and do it with a significantly lower ERA than a guy going 200 innings, I pick the guy going 191. With that in mind, how important is it for a guy to hit 200 innings if there is a guy who can go 10 less and do it much better?

Joe Schwarz (Viva El Birdos)
Like most people have said, Wacha will likely get the Shelby treatment. I would like to see CMart get the Wacha treatment and be fresh for the stretch run in the rotation if necessary. Lyons, Gast, and maybe some sleepers will likely see spot starts along the way.

Lastly, I don’t think there will really be a battle between Lynn and Kelly for that last spot like some people think. Lynn has been a healthy horse in his two seasons as a starter, and nothing about his mechanics points to that changing in the near future (knocks on wood). Garcia has not. Jaime has to prove himself more than Lynn does at this point, so I honestly see Garcia and Wacha near the back of the rotation this season. When Jaime is healthy, he’s nails (at home, not so much on the road), but I want him to prove that he can stay healthy and prove he has returned to form first. Thus, I think the battle for that last spot in the rotation actually consists of Kelly and Garcia (and CMart down the road). Not Lynn.

It will be fun to watch. That’s for sure!

Daniel Shoptaw (C70 At The Bat)
Nothing I can add that’d be groundbreaking.  No way they go six man rotation, but they’ll look for opportunities to spot start.  (I better get to see Tyler Lyons sport that big 70 on the field again this year.)  Wainwright might get his innings reduced in September, if the Cards (knock on wood) lock things up early (or are comfortably ahead).  Letting him skip a turn a couple of times through the rotation, especially with the expanded rosters, seems like a reasonable idea.

I’m leery of having Carlos Martinez in the bullpen, because I’m thinking if they don’t start letting him get innings under his belt soon, he’s not going to be a starter.  Ben at VEB had a nice piece that shows that C-Mart hasn’t averaged 100 innings yet in his four year career.  While I understand protecting those arms, eventually you’ve got to get them up to starter levels if you want them to be a starter.  I’d rather see him getting some innings in Memphis than being the one-inning relief guy this year, because I think he could easily go the Rosenthal route and be there for a long period of time.

It’s a great problem to have, but baseball does tend to find its balance.  What looks like depth now can be tested later on.  Hopefully we don’t find that out!

Ben Chambers
It’s not about the people and more about the numbers. Let’s say a starter has 32 starts in one season. Would you rather have a pitcher go 192 innings with an ERA of 3.00 or 202 and 2/3 innings with an ERA of 4.26?

The first guy (192 innings, 3.00 ERA) would average 6 innings a start, and give up an average 2 runs per game. The second guy (202 2/3 innings, 4.26 ERA) would average 6 1/3 innings per game and give up an average 3 runs per game. Which would you rather have?

I’d personally take the guy with less innings over the guy who pitched 200+. Let the ‘pen take the 1 extra batter each start. The guy with the lower ERA gives the team a better chance to win.

Dathan

Not disagreeing, Ben.  I think we’d all prefer “Player A”, but pitching fewer innings doesn’t assure, or even suggest that a lower ERA is to follow.  Same holds true for more IP & a higher ERA.  Mitchell Boggs & Doc Halladay (circa ’09) can attest.

Ben Chambers
I agree. There is no direct correlation, but my point is just that I’d rather take quality innings over hitting 200 innings. If someone can do both (have quality innings and get to 200), I’ll take that, easily!

But that’s why I’m not impressed with Lynn’s 200 innings. He had the highest ERA of the starters last year who pitched more than a couple starts and weren’t named Westbrook. Lynn needs to put in quality innings more than he needs to put in a lot of innings, in my opinion at least.

John Nagel
I think the problem is that you are assuming 2013 Joe Kelly will be 2014 Joe Kelly and we don’t know that.

What we do know is Kelly was pretty lucky last year (I know how you feel about FIP but it is a great measure) and bullpens love innings eaters and Lynn is one of those.

Ben Chambers
I understand that. And Lynn’s 2014 numbers won’t be his 2013 numbers, but for argument’s sake, let’s just assume that Lynn gets about 200 innings and his career ERA of 3.82 in 2014. I would much rather have any guy who can come in and get 10-15 less innings and an ERA of 3.00 or better.

Do I think Kelly can get that? Possibly. I agree that his 2013 numbers will be hard to duplicate, but I think he could have an ERA around 3 for a season. But I’d rather have any pitcher who can put in 185-190 innings with an ERA around 3 out there. I’d take any of the young arms if they could hit that many innings, but they can’t. I think Carlos Martinez or Marco Gonzalez in a year. Seth Maness or Kevin Siegrist if they get back into a starting role (although I don’t see that happening).

Kelly is the only option right now that I think could hit 185 innings, and that’s why I advocate for him, however, I would in reality take any of those guys if they could put up a solid 185 with an ERA of 3, because although the bullpen would have to take 15 more innings in a year, the team will win more games when the other team scores less runs.

Kevin Reynolds
The reality is that a “200 innings guy” helps the bullpen, even if that just means 1 batter per game, that’s one batter/one pitcher appearance/etc the pen doesn’t have to cover per game. Think about how gassed certain guys have been throughout the season. One less appearance per game week after week makes a difference. It keeps your best pen arms fresher longer which gives the team that much more of a chance to win. In addition, how many times have we said Matheny left a pitcher in 1 batter too long because of the damage he did? Often, the ability to hang in there and keep your team in the game one more hitter or one more inning is reflected in the 200 innings stat. And it’s rarely just 1 more hitter per game – that’s just spreading the numbers mathematically – it’s usually 2 more innings in 6 starts or 3 more hitters in 15 starts. Other days, they may get pulled early or at an average innings point for multiple reasons – big lead, just don’t have it, etc.

200 innings itself is just a number, but what it means and indicates at the individual game level and as a cascade effect for a gassed bullpen trying to go all season long is huge. And we’ve seen why every season.And that doesn’t even address the matchup effect having to go to your pen 1 hitter or more too early can have on your lefties/setup guy/closer/pen roles/etc.

Dan Buffa (as news…and Jamie’s shoulder…broke)
Down goes Jaime. Up goes Carlos Martinez???

Kevin Reynolds
By the way…comparing Martinez and, say, Wacha to guys like Lynn, Kelly, or even Garcia when talking 200 innings is apples and oranges. You’re talking about a group of guys not yet physically or mentally prepared to go 200 innings but likely will be in the near future versus a group that doesn’t appear likely to stay in enough games long enough to log 200 innings even at their peak. It’s a question of ability versus readiness. Lynn needs to show this year that he has the ability or else someone else who has it will pass him on the roster soon.

Corey Rudd
The Jaime injury is not a blow to the rotation. It is a blow to the bullpen. Theoretically CMart or Kelly will take his spot, leaving the pen looking like this..

Rosenthal
Kelly or CMart
Motte (when he is ready)
Maness
Choate
Siegrist
Neshak

Who fills the hole until Motte is fully ready to go, which may be awhile considering he is not firing 100 percent yet? Do we really want to overuse and rely on Neshak?

Will they use Freeman and make Siegrist the 8th inning guy? Butler, who looks very average?  Or, do they find another veteran, which would be my preference.

Going back to the innings debate, do you really want this bully exposed to 3 or more innings 4 out of 5 nights?

I certainly don’t…

Of course, Jaime could claw his way back, but I have my doubts after another set back.

Kelly and CMart may be the favorites to take this spot in the rotation, but don’t discount Lyons as an option so it can keep the bullpen strong as well

Dan Buffa
Caging Martinez with this rotation opening would be stupid. Let the young mustang ride. See what he’s got because now is the time.

Siegrist is good against lefties and righties and can serve in Martinez’s fireman position. Unleash Freeman’s raw arm to lefties. Neshek can get time when there are no lefties coming up because they shred him.

When Motte returns all won’t be well until the wolf proves himself effective.

Joe Kelly is your long man when needed until Wacha tries to throw a baseball with a boulder of expectations on his shoulder and crumbles. Ha I kid!!

It wouldn’t be spring training without an injury to the rotation. Game on ladies and gents.

Ben Chambers
Having Martinez start the year in the rotation would mean that he’d be done by the end of July. The guy hasn’t pitched more than 104 innings in a season. Going back to the original question that was posted, he’d need his innings monitored. If the Cardinals want to maximize a rotation and keep everyone available in October to pitch, then I think they should start with Kelly and Wacha with Martinez getting a few of Wacha’s starts. Then, around the All-Star Break, (if nobody else gets hurt) you swap Kelly and Martinez, making Kelly the long man and taking a couple of Wacha’s starts, and Martinez in the rotation for the last 2 months. That’ll keep everyone able to pitch in October and not have to shut them down like a certain someone last year.

Dan Buffa
Why throw Martinez to sharks closer to a pennant chase? Test him early and have Kelly as your safety valve. Or use Kelly as a 6th arm. He takes every third start to keep Martinez healthy. You have to see what Carlos has got. Untested and full of talent.

Dathan
I see.  Yes, totally agree.  Fortunately the Cards are in a spot with so many arms that such a luxury exists.  With an over abundance of pitching, quality innings are way more desirable.  If we were short-staffed, or had a horrible bullpen bridge to the closer, we might be placing a higher value on starters going deeper into game.  And now that 54 is out of the way, the picture has become just slightly clearer.

Daniel Shoptaw
And I’ll put on the rose-colored glasses: Garcia’s not yet been ruled out for the season.  If things aren’t as dire as some of the reporting would seem to indicate–not on the side of probability, I grant you, but possible–this might actually allow for some of those inning issues to work out.  For example, Martinez could start if Garcia’s just out a month, then go to Memphis for starting on an more elongated schedule, then return later in the year.

John Nagel
If thats the timeline, I like that idea. If its the season, I am leaning towards Lyons. Martinez and Kelly may be needed to stabilize the pen.

Corey Rudd
Glad somebody else is worried about the pen John. How soon we forget how awful the pen was to start 2013. Without Mujica stepping up, this may not have been a playoff team and with the injury to Garcia, Mozeliak and Matheny might be wise to use Lyons to keep the pen intact.

I think Carlos Martinez will be a dynamite starter. I also think Rosy could be an all-star caliber starter. But let’s be honest for ourselves, what role for each of them gives this team the best chance to win in 2014?

I think they need to find a veteran reliever.. Either in free agency or via trade.

Ben Chambers
I don’t feel like the ‘pen is too big of a worry, at least in my mind. Yes, the Cardinals will have to take a guy out of there to take Garcia’s spot. If Kelly goes in for Garcia, Lyons may take the long man spot, and I don’t know how good he’ll be there.

Other than that, I think that Freeman could take that spot, and I think he’ll do well. Butler doesn’t look great, but can step in for a little, and pitch low leverage spots. What about Lee Stoppelman or Eric Fornataro? Could they step in for a short time?

3 comments

Offseason journal: Day 91

Day 91: Baseball, hotdogs, apple pie, and various baseball-related hallucinations

It’s reached the point where I’m literally substituting baseball words & story lines into the lyrics of songs I hear playing on the radio.

“Only pick him off if he starts to go, only call a balk if he lifts his toe, only take a fastball when it’s 3-0. . . and it’s 3-0.”

The countdowns to “truck day” have begun, and only a few more days until the big football game is over (and we don’t have to hear the “word” PHYSICALITY until next football season the NFL draft).

 

I feel like Tyrone Biggums.  Absolutely jonesing for baseball right now.  We had a warm day in St. Louis a week or so ago, when temps approached 70 degrees.  I could almost smell the $2,400 beers, and taste the $500 “ultimate ballpark nachos”.  I was talking to a colleague at work yesterday, and was talking about how I was so ready to watch a game, I didn’t care if it was the Padres & Orioles squaring off.   And as the words “Padres and Orioles” came out of my mouth, a smile came across my face that six UFC fighters and four crowbars couldn’t remove.

I’m SO ready!

Driving around the county this afternoon, I glanced at the time, and realized that, at 7:06pm, it was dark outside.  I couldn’t help but think about how it wouldn’t be long and 7:06pm would be the start of a regular tradition, born anew.  My mind started to wander to the nights from April to September, when, after the Cards game, I need just a LITTLE more, so I’d watch the A’s or Mariners (I know, right?) on MLB.TV.  Or, if the schedule worked out just right, lie in bed and fall asleep watching the Dodgers on my iPad, listening to the legendary Vin Scully.  Thank God he’s coming back again this year.  Count your blessings, folks, after Harwell, Kalas, Buck, and others of that ilk, there aren’t many left!

But I say unto you this day, fear not, for the days of Old Man Winter are numbered.  That icy S.O.B. will soon have no choice but to give way to the sights & sounds of spring training…you know the ones:

  • The sounds of “pop!” in catchers mitts all across Florida and Arizona
  • Veterans on the brink of retirement telling us they’re “in the best shape of their life”
  • Managers talking about all the competition for spots on the roster, and how “nobody is guaranteed a roster spot”
  • Shaky iPhone videos of a pitcher throwing a few pitches (from 30 or 40 feet away)
  • And, of course, the interviews you can barely hear because of the wind blowing over the microphone the whole time

 

I.         Cant.         Wait.

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