Keene On MLB

Our long national nightmare is finally over. Baseball is back, and not just in the form of pictures from reporters depicting players “in the best shape of their lives”. Writing full game recaps for Spring Training would be a particularly gruesome affair, so I’ll avoid that.

Instead, here are some bullet points that reflect mental notes I took while watching/listening to the games up till now. Take them for what they’re worth: some short notes on the first two games of a meaningless exhibition season.

Thursday March 5th – Cards at Miami Marlins (Roger Dean Stadium)

– MLB’s pace of play rules seem to be very effective. The first game of the Spring for the Cards clocked in at 2:17. This writer would submit that most of the improvement appears to come from making hitters stay in the box during the at-bat, rather than the pitch clock.

– Martinez pitched very well in his first Spring Training outing. In his two perfect innings, he K’d two. He has come with something to prove. If the Cards put someone else in the fifth spot of the rotation, it won’t be because Martinez didn’t want it.

– Ty Kelly had some neat glove-work at third base, and went 1 for 2 in his first appearance with the Cardinals.

– Jason Heyward made the most of his first at-bat with his new team, by smacking a solid single and eventually coming around to score.

– The Cards punished former Cardinal Dan Haren with a Spring opener loss and a 9.00 ERA.

Friday March 6th – Cards vs Houston Astros (Roger Dean Stadium)

– The Cards offense is impressive early in Spring. This is a different look.

– Jason Heyward again made an impact with a steal of 3rd early in the game.

– Tommy Pham went 4 for 4, trying to make his case for a spot on the Opening Day roster. For what it’s worth, Astros radio took note, and said he should be there.

– Gonzales put together two scoreless frames, but walked his first batter. He seemed to struggle with control a bit, early, but allowed just one hit. The results say it all.

– Nick Greenwood got roughed up and was charged for both Astros runs. The rest of the staff combined to allow just four hits.

 

These are exciting times for Cardinal Nation. Everyone is excited to see what the Cards can produce this year, especially in the offensive department. So far, everything is coming up roses.

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Like many others, I’m deeply affected by the offseason. I go through all the same phases of depression waiting on more baseball that everyone else does. I sometimes feel insecure, wondering if I’m the only one who has a noticeable big chunk missing out of his life just because there’s no game on. I suspect I’m not. On the other hand, I sometimes feel guilty if I find something else to occupy my time. Now that’s just sickness.

As this offseason progresses, I’m feeling more confident about the upcoming season. There are things I see the Cardinals doing that reinforce John Mozeliak as the GM superstar that he is. I’d point to the aggressive trade to get Jason Heyward, and dropping the old guard like Shane Robinson and Daniel Descalso. No disrespect is intended toward either one, but Descalso was never going to have pop off the bench, and Robinson’s toolset didn’t enhance anything the Cards already have either in the field or on the bench. Letting them go was the right thing to do.

He continues to make smart moves by taking small risks that could pay big dividends (a la Pat Neshek in 2014). Taking an inexpensive flier on Matt Belisle won’t break the bank, but he could only improve from what he’s done in Colorado. Dean Anna could be an exciting addition to the team. Even if he spends the year in Memphis, so what? We paid next to nothing for him. Dumpster diving is no way to build a baseball club, but that isn’t what Mo is doing. He’s enhancing, finishing off some details, putting on a fresh coat of paint, if you will. The team’s core is already in place, and it is returning next year.

I still want to see the Cards do something to get some pop off the bench next season. I think that’s a critical area that made the team weak last year. Late in games, when the pitcher’s spot came up, the opposition didn’t need to make a pitching change. Their approach didn’t even have to get altered. No need to put Descalso on to avoid pitching to him. I think the Cards can fix this. I also think they can find a platoon partner for Matt Adams. If that person also ended up being a better backup catcher than Tony Cruz, my heart wouldn’t be broken.

So yes, I’m bumming hard this offsesason, but I’m also thinking about how good this team can be next year and it gets me through.

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I want my baseball back

This may sound surprising, but I’m not mad. You won’t find me on Twitter being upset about some trade. I’m not incredulous about a free agent signing. There won’t be any angst from me when the Cards fail to get rid of every player I don’t care for. Nor will there be any when they fail to sign a power bat I know they so desperately need. So if you want a rage-ridden diatribe, or to read a lot of fool’s dreams about fantasy trades, I’m sorry to disappoint you.

I have just one simple message: I want my baseball back.

I miss seeing my guys, yes “my” guys, take the field almost every night (and unfortunately sometimes during the daytime) to play my favorite sport. I’m not sure which five guys are going to be on the hill to start Cards games, but whoever they are, I’ll be thrilled to see them. I’ve got no clue whether Randal Grichuk will man right, or Stephen Piscotty, or some player I haven’t watched before. He might not even be good at baseball. It doesn’t matter. They’ll be my new best friend as soon as their feet hit the grass at Wrigley.

Distance makes the heart grow fonder, they say — it’s definitely making me more fond of baseball. Bring it back.

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The stars of our night sky do not gently fade out when their time is up. They go out with a spectacular light that illuminates the galaxy. Out of their destruction, countless amounts of energy are released distributing necessary life-building elements to reaches of space far from their point of origin. Sunday, one bright young Cardinal tragically reached his end, but in kind, he didn’t fade quietly away. He displayed a blinding light of hope across fans across the globe.

Here’s but a small collection of the outpouring of emotion we experienced from Sunday onward:

“If life was baseball, this would be a foul. An error. A balk. A play under review that should be reversed because this should not happen.” – The Redbird Menace

“That’s why without risking his life for us, or even personally knowing us, a baseball player can be called our hero. But that’s what Oscar was to thousands of us in Cardinal red. The man was a hero. And heroes aren’t supposed to die.” – Fredbird Follys

“I like many others would check the lineup everday to see if he was in it. You get a little extra excited seeing him play the game” – @jimmy32villier

“I was at Game 2 of the NLCS, and you could just tell something about someone when they come up so big in a huge moment.” – @ZachIsSoWhite

“Heart hurts losing Oscar. I will always remember that smile. Prayers for both families through this tough time.” – @ShelbyMiller19

“God needed a power hitting outfielder to complete his dream team.” – @haleeb_19

Here we are, almost a week after we lost Oscar Taveras and I’m still not myself. I had to travel for work, put on my happy face, and make like everything was alright with people who couldn’t understand the loss we’re suffering. It didn’t make it go away. His departure has left a hole in my heart that no baseball game will fill. A couple of days off Twitter won’t help, and daydreaming about next season will do little to make me whole. It’s been said that time heals all. But as a friend of mine is quick to point out, it really doesn’t.

Seeing the love and compassion that not only Cardinals fans had for one another, but that his teammates, Cards management, other teams, and even his competitors in the game have for those affected by this tragedy is heartwarming. We’ve witnessed support coming from all corners of baseball to show sympathy because of a very special person lost far too early.

It’s going to be a tough Spring for fans, but nothing will compare to the pain and loss experienced one Sunday in October when two families lost their most precious gift. We can serve only to honor his brief legacy, and to show as many as possible that beaming glow of a smile Oscar had was indeed enough to light this universe both in life and beyond.

Number 18, you never could have known the joy you brought so many people. I hope you’re giving pitchers a ton of grief up there. While you’re taking heavenly at bats, know there is a world you touched down here in ways you might never have dreamed of. You are sorely missed.

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The St. Louis Cardinals’ season ended weeks after most teams’ seasons did. It did end, though, and any conclusion short of a championship is usually declared a loss by fans. This year was no exception. Fans struggling to come to grips with the lack of baseball programming on their television were treated this week to a post-mortem presser held by John Mozeliak and Mike Matheny. Spoiler: not everyone was happy with what they heard.

The team finds itself in a good position. They’re a mostly young team with little payroll pressure, and enough free cash to go after the pieces they’ll need once this year’s free agents depart (if they depart) and anyone that’s non-tendered. In that sense, offseason decisions primarily center around planning for next year’s squad. It’s a matter of which young Cardinal-controlled player will man a position, rather than who the team will try to target for acquisition.

As a result, the presser is pretty much a proclamation that next year’s team will very strongly resemble this year’s squad. For some that’s where the rub starts. Others found themselves frustrated that Mo (and later Mike) had no trouble publicly commenting on areas (conditioning, fitness) they feel Oscar Taveras needs to work on before spring. While such a comment isn’t terribly abnormal, it rubs St. Louis fans the wrong way because of the perception that he wasn’t given a fair shake in his rookie season.

It’s true that Oscar came up, went down, and came up again. It’s also true that despite hitting well late in the season, he was benched in the postseason permanently for Randall Grichuk. The flip side of that coin is that his defense is sub-par. Both John and Mike were clear that his problems with defense are the main reason he didn’t play late. It also wasn’t the first time that internal grumblings about Taveras made their way into the public awareness, and that’s a source of frustration for fans who want one of the Cards’ top prospects to be given a legitimate shot at doing what he’s historically done in the minors. Mozeliak’s added comment that Oscar needs to work on his “passion” for defense likely also rubbed many the wrong way.

Fans have long struggled to figure out why Mozeliak permits much of the alleged mismanagement of the team from Mike Matheny. Such confusion is predicated on one very tenuous conclusion: that John finds his management skill to be lacking. The press conference confirmed his faith in Mike and the tone is decidedly: “Sure, Mike has things to learn, but he’s coming along nicely.” That’s paraphrased, but it’s the gist of what we’ve learned about their relationship over the last three seasons. This presser did little to convince fans that the general manager is just as irritated by his manager’s controversial decisions as fans.

After good news on a slew of players still recovering from injury (Michael Wacha, Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina), which we later learn is a major miscommunication with respect to Wainwright. we also learn that Jon Jay is having offseason surgery to correct an issue plaguing his left wrist since mid-summer. That announcement itself wouldn’t raise many eyebrows, but it did underline that Jay’s impressive second half and monster postseason hitting were all done while he was struggling with an injury. For some, however, Mo’s proclamation that Jay would be next year’s starting centerfielder was far more unsettling. For some, Jay’s high value right now should make him the ultimate trade candidate. Mo’s position appears to be that Jay’s value is extremely high…in Busch stadium’s outfield. This contentious issue appears likely to divide Cards fans for at least another year.

No set of answers the manager and general manager can give after being eliminated can really make fans happy. Certain aspects of this post-mortem presser appear to have upset fans well beyond the normal frustration of having to wait four more months before watching more Cardinals baseball. At least both of them came out to face the music, and that’s worth something.

 

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Cardinals fans love their team. They’ll do anything to trumpet their accomplishments and downplays their shortcomings. That’s called being a good fan. The best fans? Well, I’ll leave that to someone else to dissect. Being a “fan” isn’t the insulting barb most of the BFIB writers intend for it to be, so I’ll lump myself right in there with everyone else. I’m a big fan, and here are some good reasons to feel upbeat about this team and this season.

  • The Cards have now demonstrated they can win extra-innings games.
  • They’ve shown that after the 6th inning, the game isn’t necessarily over. In particular, lucky number seven seems to be on their side.
  • Maybe it happened a little too late, but they can hit homeruns. To be more precise, they can hit them at an alarming pace, but only in October.
  • Shelby Miller figured it out late this season. That bodes well for next season.
  • Lance Lynn shed his various nicknames and became a lights-out pitcher.
  • Jon Jay silenced his detractors with a remarkable season, and an even more incredible postseason.
  • Wainwright had another 20-win season, and in his last appearance of the year, he was strong.
  • Wong found his stride in the big leagues.
  • Peralta proved not to be a bad investment. His above-expected defensive skills complimented his bat quite nicely.

That’s the shortlist I can think of with no preparation. That’s a pretty impressive list of feats for a club in one season. Do you want to feel sad about this team not making it to the big dance? Me too. It’s the tragedy of sports. There can only be one winner in the end. While the Cards make it deeper into postseason than almost any other team on a consistent basis, they’re far from perfect. This year, they fell short of the goal line (no pun intended). They’re still a fantastic team that has fewer offseason issues to work through than they had one year ago at this time. I’ll take that deal.

As for the short remainder of this year’s MLB season? I follow the old adage “my enemy’s enemy is my friend.” To that end, Go Royals!

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You’d have to be living under a rock to not know the front-runners in this year’s NLDS. The Nationals and the Dodgers were the obvious picks. The exorbitant payroll of the Dodgers would make a congressman blush. The Nationals were runaway winners in their division. What else is there to know? We were to see these two teams face off in the NLCS and then go face the Tigers or (hopefully) the Angels. The St. Louis Cardinals need not apply. That national media narrative is annoying for fans of smaller market teams, but it’s also annoying for anyone who really pays attention to baseball.

Sure, the Dodgers finished with a 6 game lead in the NL West. Sure, the Nationals finished with a 17 game lead in the NL East. Of course, what the national media won’t fixate on is the relatively weak divisions those two teams play in. The Dodgers play in a division where there is essentially one competitor, the Giants. In fact, the city by the bay was the only other team in the NL West to post a winning record. The rest ranged from eight games below .500 to 34 games under.

The Nationals also play in a division with no real competition. The Mets and Braves tied for second place and both finished four games below .500. The Marlins and Phillies were eight and 16 games under .500 respectively. The two teams ordained by baseball pundits to proceed to the NLCS lost in four games and are currently setting up tee times.

The Cardinals are a small market team – a small market team that has one brand name pitcher in Adam Wainwright. They’re a team that traded away Allen Craig. I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but he hit pretty well with runners in scoring position last season. They don’t have a Yasiel Puig. They have Oscar Taveras, and when he doesn’t start a game, ESPN won’t have a stand-up and seven minute package to roll. Also, the Cardinals don’t have Albert Pujols anymore…so there’s that.

The Cardinals have something that everyone in the business hates and fears a lot more than four Cy Young caliber pitchers for their postseason rotation. They’ve got something a lot more formidable than a middle of the order that can go yard with ease. They have a track record of success. By now, you’ve no doubt heard the new narrative: the Cards have gone to the NLCS for the last four years. You’ve probably heard that since 2000, they’ve seen the postseason 11 times. For the mathematically challenged, that means that since 2000, they’ve only not made the postseason four times.

Of particular concern for deadline-driven writers, they have a track record for beating up otherwise stellar pitchers in the postseason, notably Clayton Kershaw. Oh, and there’s some else irritating about this little team from a little city: they refuse to just take the losses handed to them, even when they trail late in games. Everyone knows the Dodgers have a hole in their bullpen big enough to drive a truck through. All they need to do is get from Kershaw to Kenley Jansen and the Cardinals are so rude that they insert themselves into a seventh inning against a guy on short rest at 100 pitches, who obviously doesn’t have his best stuff. The gall.

All kidding aside, this is a team who you just cannot write off, count out, or otherwise discount. Their fourth starter could go out and toss a gem. Their pinch hitter, who few have heard of, could come up with a clutch hit to put the team ahead in the seventh inning. You just never know. That’s what makes October great, but it’s especially great for Cardinals fans.

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Last week I wrote a letter, really a cry for help, to the St. Louis Cardinals begging them to improve their play. Clearly, the joke wasn’t understood by all who read it. What matter is that the team saw it, and of course, they do exactly what blogs tell them to do. A quick aside: Everything in that letter was tongue-in-cheek, as is most of this first paragraph…except for this note indicating that the rest of what I’ve said was tongue-in-cheek. Blogs representing the views of frustrated fans are from just that, frustrated fans. We’ve all been frustrated at times this season, but the team is starting to really work some things out. They’re also getting some help from unlikely places.

After I wrote that letter, the Cards went on to drop the first game of a doubleheader against the Cubs. However, since then, they won six straight. They include: the final two against the Cubs, a three-game sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates, and the first game in a critical series against the Brewers. At the same time, the Crew has really been scuffling. They’ve won just one of their last 10, including dropping two of three to the Padres, being swept by the Giants, and being swept by the Cubs. The loss of Carlos Gomez for at least a week, combined with the other injuries that team has suffered is part of this plot. Another part of this plot involves the return of Yadier Molina, and the return of Michael Wacha. Throw in a couple of expanded roster spots and some minor league call-ups, and you’ve got a recipe for a surge into a commanding three game lead atop the NL Central.

So who’s hot? No surprise, NL Player of the Week Matt Holliday is hitting the cover off the ball. Jon Jay refuses to stop his hot streak. Daniel Descalso’s sudden and inexplicable explosion at the plate had not yet subsided (until Friday when he went 0-3), call-up Randal Grichuk is getting some timely hits, and Peter Bourjos has picked up a couple of very timely knocks and has raised his average on the season to .245. Then there’s the matter of who is dominating on the hill. Lance Lynn (yep, that Lance) continues to be the go-to guy for must-win games. Shelby Miller has had a few good starts ruined by a lack of batting from the Cards — that wasn’t the case on Wednesday. He was lights out, and while he didn’t get the win (Trevor Rosenthal did), it was his fantastic start that shredded the Pirates hopes at avoiding the sweep. Speaking of the Cardinals’ closer, I’d be remiss not to mention the performance of Rosenthal. I’d be lying if I said his appearances don’t give me heartburn. Maybe they always will, but he has been shutting down bats with a changeup he can locate (and get a swing and miss from). Watching him take down the first two batters he faced on Monday’s contest, I’m not sure I saw more than one fastball.

Who’s not so hot? Matt Adams is struggling at the dish. At least for one game, that struggle even found its way to the field. Luckily, that appears to be an outlier. Adam Wainwright won his 16th game of the season on Tuesday, but he wasn’t sharp — except when he had a bat in his hands. The Cards ace drove in three, but let as many homeruns go in the same game. It’s an interesting bit of baseball trivia, but for fans of St. Louis baseball, it’s troubling. Justin Masterson, who is no longer in the Cards rotation, has been a rare miss for John Mozeliak. Luckily, the team spent very little for him, because he has been a dismal failure so far. The era of Dave Duncan is over, but I’m not sure he could even help this guy. He’s not struggling the second or third time through the order, the opposition is getting to him practically from the very first at bat — and it doesn’t stop until he’s removed from the game.

With the exception of the ace of the pitching staff, and one of the team’s better power hitters, the team is firing on all cylinders. That’s equating to wins. Granted, five in a row isn’t huge yet. Those five wins could not have come at a better time. All signs point toward this trend continuing. The hitters who are performing well have, for the most part, always performed very well. I wouldn’t look for them to backslide much. On the downside, there are important pieces that need to step up. Again, I don’t expect that guys like Wainwright and Adams can be kept from doing what they do for very long, either.

A Friday loss was tough, but these are humans. A string of six wins in a row was incredible, but the most valuable win the Cards have picked up was finally learning to make it all click.

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In this frustrating season, I feel like the negativity has reached an all-time high. So I’m taking a page out of a few other bloggers’ books and trying to lighten the mood. I’m not going to waste a bunch of time try to spin stats in a way that make losing both series out East look good. It’s bad, and we all know it. I hope you’ll be able to step back from the ledge for a moment and enjoy this analogy.

Dear St. Louis Cardinals,

You’re such a tease. You are always leading me on. We go out for a baseball game and it starts out fun. After a few innings, though, you’re back to your old tricks: giving up runs, making fools out of yourselves at the plate, and making sloppy defensive plays. I feel like I’ve been dating you for five months and you’re never ready to get more serious. I am committed to making this work. I’m there for you all the time on Twitter, being the loving devoted fan that I am. I don’t complain to my friends about you…OK maybe just a little bit. I’m tired of lots of flirting every night, but then just a peck on the cheek on the end of the night.

My friends at Fox Sports Midwest keep telling me what a great team you are. I just feel like they don’t see the team I see when I get home at night. Every night you’re stinking up the place, and you don’t even apologize. I can’t tear myself away, though. I know you’re going to break my heart, and yet I just can’t spend a night without you. It’s time to just have the talk: where do you see us in October. Are we going to be together?

What difference does it make what I say, though? Why should you change? I’m not going anywhere.

I need more out of this relationship. I need a team that can play good teams well, and not get shutdown by some floozy pitcher. But I also need you to be able to dominate lesser teams. I saw how you acted with the Padres, and I wasn’t impressed. I need you to take this relationship seriously. When you’ve got someone on in the 9th and you send Daniel Descalso up to bat, it tells me you don’t care about us. Is that how you really feel about me?

Show me you care. When your starter is getting tired, but it’s only the 4th, don’t keep him out there just to get a win. How selfish is that? I want your best reliever on the mound, too. When you send Randy Choate out there, it tells me you don’t care about us. I just want you to play your best nine every day. I do care about your career, I want this to work for you…for us.

Let’s make this right. I want to have a real special night when you get home. We can work this out. Right?

 

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Daniel Descalso has been busy doing what he does best: Frustrating lots of St. Louis Cardinals fans. This time around, he’s back to his old tricks, namely getting clutch hits late in important games that ultimately set the team up to win games. What a jerk. I’ve been a fairly vocal critic of his, but with big hits this week, I thought maybe it was time to give him another look.

The usual talking points from those that don’t like Descalso relate to his defensive abilities, and his batting skills. You know, all the things a position player needs to be able to do well to be useful to a team. While his defensive skills haven’t been upgraded much in the past week, he’s also not playing more the last couple of weeks because the team wants a defensive boost. His bat, however, is certainly out of character of late. So let’s look at exactly how good it has been.

Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB Pos Awards
2010 23 STL NL 11 37 34 6 9 2 0 0 4 1 0 2 6 .265 .324 .324 .648 78 11 0 1 0 0 0 /56
2011 24 STL NL 148 375 326 35 86 20 3 1 28 2 2 33 65 .264 .334 .353 .687 91 115 3 3 10 3 9 *546
2012 25 STL NL 143 426 374 41 85 10 7 4 26 6 3 37 83 .227 .303 .324 .627 72 121 5 5 7 3 3 465/3
2013 26 STL NL 123 358 328 43 78 25 1 5 43 6 3 22 56 .238 .290 .366 .656 80 120 7 3 3 2 5 645
2014 27 STL NL 79 128 115 10 25 9 0 0 9 1 1 10 26 .217 .291 .296 .587 65 34 2 2 1 0 0 645/1
5 Yrs 504 1324 1177 135 283 66 11 10 110 16 9 104 236 .240 .308 .341 .648 79 401 17 14 21 8 17
162 Game Avg. 162 426 378 43 91 21 4 3 35 5 3 33 76 .240 .308 .341 .648 79 129 5 5 7 3 5
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/21/2014.

That’s a pretty bleak picture of a pretty weak bat. In fairness, he has 234 fewer plate appearances in 2014 than last year. Let’s say he could rise to his career numbers, would fans be satisfied with a career .240 hitter whose best season was three years ago? Surely, that’s a big old “no.” Are the last few weeks really something new? Let’s have a glance.

Split G GS PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB ROE BAbip tOPS+ sOPS+
Last 7 days 6 1 9 7 1 3 3 0 0 2 0 0 2 0 .429 .556 .857 1.413 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 .429 381 297
Last 14 days 13 3 24 19 3 8 4 0 0 4 0 0 5 2 .421 .542 .632 1.173 12 0 0 0 0 0 0 .471 300 241
Last 28 days 20 3 31 25 3 9 4 0 0 4 0 0 5 4 .360 .484 .520 1.004 13 0 1 0 0 0 0 .429 242 192
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/21/2014.

Well, something has clearly changed. The .212 hitter has caught fire in the last month and is now hitting .348 over the previous 28 days. Hallelujah! He’s turned the corner. Not so fast. This edition of small sample theater is brought to you courtesy of just 27 plate appearances and two starts. It isn’t a lefty vs. righty issue either. He’s been very consistent over his career in this regard, always about .100 worse against a RHP, whether it’s a starter or a reliever. He isn’t getting lucky on match-ups.

Split G GS PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB ROE BAbip tOPS+ sOPS+
vs RHP 63 101 93 5 18 6 0 0 7 1 0 6 23 .194 .250 .258 .508 24 0 1 1 0 0 0 .257 82 46
vs LHP 18 23 20 4 6 2 0 0 2 0 1 2 3 .300 .391 .400 .791 8 2 1 0 0 0 1 .353 183 125
vs LH Starter 17 1 16 13 5 4 3 0 0 2 0 0 2 2 .308 .438 .538 .976 7 1 1 0 0 0 1 .364 249 175
vs RH Starter 61 16 108 100 4 20 5 0 0 7 1 1 6 24 .200 .252 .250 .502 25 1 1 1 0 0 0 .263 80 45
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/20/2014.

This magic streak will require us to dig a little deeper into some game logs.

  • In April, Descalso hit .125 in 35 plate appearances. He started in five of the 21 games he appeared in. He had two separate streaks going where he failed to get a hit in consecutive games in that month. He had two pinch hits, and went 2 for 4 in one game. That was the sum of his offense in April.
  • May was kinder to Daniel, where he hit .250 in 22 plate appearances and three starts. He compiled five hits in the month.
  • In June, he regressed a little, to .238 in (again) 22 plate appearances with four starts. He collected five hits.
  • In July, he went .150 collecting just three hits in (again) 22 plate appearances.

What is it about the number 22? I’ll leave it to the reader to decide on that one.  Alas, our numbers game comes to an end in August. Descalso has had 23 plate appearances this month and is .350, starting in two games.

Now, let’s look at those August at bats.

Rk Gcar Gtm Date Tm Opp Rslt Inngs PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB IBB SO HBP SH SF ROE GDP SB CS BA OBP SLG OPS BOP aLI WPA RE24 Pos
August Tm Opp Rslt Inngs PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB IBB SO HBP SH SF ROE GDP SB CS BA OBP SLG OPS BOP aLI WPA RE24 Pos
64 489 108 Aug 1 STL MIL L,4-7 7-8 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .181 .238 .234 .472 9 .26 -0.007 -0.30 PH
65 490 109 Aug 2 STL MIL W,9-7 7-8 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .179 .235 .232 .467 9 .71 -0.017 -0.41 PH
66 491 110 Aug 3 STL MIL W,3-2 7-8 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .177 .233 .229 .462 9 1.59 -0.045 -0.56 PH
67 492 114 (3) Aug 8 STL @ BAL L,2-12 6-GF 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .173 .229 .224 .453 1 .04 -0.002 -0.50 PH SS
68 493 115 Aug 9 STL @ BAL L,3-10 CG 4 3 0 3 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .198 .257 .248 .504 9 .35 0.042 0.95 SS
69 494 116 Aug 10 STL @ BAL W,8-3 CG 5 5 1 2 1 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .208 .263 .264 .527 9 .80 0.109 0.94 3B
70 495 117 Aug 11 STL @ MIA L,5-6 6-6 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .206 .261 .262 .523 9 2.83 -0.082 -0.57 PH
71 496 118 Aug 12 STL @ MIA L,0-3 8-8 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .204 .259 .259 .518 9 .49 -0.012 -0.15 PH
72 497 119 Aug 13 STL @ MIA W,5-2 8-8 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .204 .265 .259 .524 9 .31 0.010 1.00 PH
73 498 120 Aug 14 STL SDP W,4-3 8-9 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .204 .271 .259 .530 9 2.74 0.093 0.60 PH
74 499 121 Aug 15 STL SDP W,4-2 6-7 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .202 .269 .257 .526 9 .45 -0.011 -0.21 PH
75 500 122 Aug 16 STL SDP L,5-9 8-9 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .200 .267 .255 .521 9 .84 -0.023 -0.47 PH
76 501 123 Aug 17 STL SDP W,7-6 8-9 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .198 .264 .252 .517 9 .05 -0.001 -0.09 PH
77 502 124 Aug 18 STL CIN W,6-5 7-8 1 1 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .205 .270 .268 .538 9 2.60 0.275 1.16 PH
78 503 125 Aug 19 STL CIN W,5-4 8-9 1 1 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .212 .276 .283 .560 9 5.15 0.323 1.10 PH
79 504 126 Aug 20 STL CIN W,7-3 CG 4 2 1 1 1 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .217 .291 .296 .587 8 .37 0.028 1.57 2B 3B
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/21/2014.

Descalso has eight hits so far this month. For a guy who got three to five hits in every other month, seven might seem like a lot through August 19th. Really, with his limited exposure, eight hits is nothing. It will inflate the numbers on a temporary basis, but is hardly the basis on which to derive your starting lineup. What he really did right was going 3 for 3 on August 9th, and 2 for 5 the next day. Add a couple of pinch hits on the 18th and 19th, and you’ve got the very definition of riding the hot hand. Really, that’s all it is. Still, if we were to play everyday, he would likely cool off, but ultimately raise his season average to something resembling his career numbers. Perhaps, just a tad south of them.

Having said all of that, Descalso’s hits lately have been timely. When you play a lot of close games, and you’re a pinch hitter, your chances of getting a “timely” hit go up a lot. Either way, the Cards will take them. I’m happy to see anyone contribute to this offense that finally seems to be pulling it all together.

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I’m a life long Cards fan. Before we get started, let’s get that out of the way. The St. Louis Cardinals are who I grew up watching, and good fans don’t stop caring or watching just because the team hits some rough spots. With that disclaimer in place, this team is really frustrating to watch this year.

As of this writing, 10 teams in Major League Baseball have a better win percentage than the Cardinals. One is tied with them. That means 18 teams are actually worse than the Cardinals, in terms of wins. Analysis of wins and losses should be weighed against the toughness of the division that teams plays in, and the Cards are in one of two coveted divisions in baseball. The other being the AL West. Teams in the NL Central and AL West routinely face the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros with their perennially poor play. Being in the division with the Cubs (or Astros) also artifically inflates the records of every other team in that division. For instance, where might the now .500 Reds be without the Cubs to beat up on?

Division quality also, of course, plays a role in the wild card race. It’s no surprise that two of the three teams currently in the NL wild card come from the Central division. In the AL, the exact same situation plays out, where two of three teams currently leading the wild card race come from the Western division. These days, you don’t need to be much over .500 to be in the hunt late in the season.

All the changing dynamics of baseball’s postseason can’t take away from what a viewer sees on an average day when they watch the Cardinals play, however. On both Monday and Tuesday, fans were treated to terrible at bats from Matt Adams to end both games. They were also treated to some lackluster play from Matt Holliday that gave the Marlins an extra base. They were shutout in one game, and came up just short after Adams ended the rally (and the game) in the other.

Fans also get treated to relentless questionable bullpen management and lineup construction. Guys who can run are placed behind the guys who can hit. Reverse splits are a foreign concept to the Cardinals’ manager, instead playing to traditional lefty-right matchups, even when they’re proven not to work. A closer who has struggled all season gets trotted out every night, despite the miracle that is Pat Neshek being available and virtually unhittable.

The strength of the Cardinals is generally perceived to be pitching. However, bullpen woes, and heavy demands placed on the rotation by the poor offense, are even starting to show their wear on the Cards’ prized assets. The batters are far and away the most frustrating aspect of the team, and Matt Adams is just the latest victim in a systemtic breakdown in approach at the plate. Outside of Matt Holliday, who really can be counted on? Well, Jon Jay is on the upswing again. He’s batting right around his career average of .292, so that’s a big plus, especially against RHP.

Actually, I could go down the line and find some positive attributes of almost every player’s record at the dish. The problem is that while their collective and individual stats aren’t terrible, they just can’t string anything together on a regular basis. Timely hitting, situational hitting, and working the count are things the team is visibly struggling with most nights. It’s hard to watch it. I can’t think of a time that the team has played with less energy, enthusiasm, and fight than in 2014. They’re hanging on in this race, thanks to the Cubs, but you’ll excuse me if I don’t get too excited.

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Understanding John Mozeliak

The title is a little misleading. I’m not writing a book about how to understand another human. Heck, I barely understand me. I do think we learn about a man through his work, and Mr. Mozeliak is no exception. Since we just witnessed the epic trade deadline madness, we can add a little more knowledge to our cannon. If I may summarize what I believe to be his thought process as I understand it:

– Good hitters will hit. Those hitters will be given ample time to get it together, if they fail to do so.

– Pitchers will fail. They’ll become ineffective or injured at a rate greater than other players. They cannot be given chances at the Major League level to correct themselves.

– Pitchers (especially high ceiling ones) are harder to come by than position players. Stock up on as many as you can in the farm system.

– Prospects are extremely valuable, and especially the ones at the AAA level should not be quickly traded.

– When a good hitter doesn’t hit for long enough, he becomes expendable. His replacement may also hit poorly, but he’ll be cheaper, younger, and easier to get rid of.

– Chemistry counts in the clubhouse, but it isn’t worth much.

– Past performance is worth something. Specifically, it’s worth about one year of bad performance — if the team is performing well. If not, it’s worth about half a season.

– Even when making moves out of desperation, consider cost.

– A mediocre pitcher is still better than a bad one.

– Offense just has to happen on its own. Unless a Matt Holliday falls in your lap mid-season, you’re stuck with what you have. All management can do is lock down the pitching rotation as much as possible.

I don’t think I’m at 100% yet, but I think I’m getting close.

Mozeliak is frugal, very frugal. Of course, it isn’t really his money he’s playing with. He’s on to something. Most MLB players are overpriced, and St. Louis is a small market in baseball terms. That means they simply don’t have the media dollars to go after overpriced talent the way the Yankees can. Mo rolls the dice on minor league talent, buys out arbitration years, and reserves big free agent deals for proven winners. Seems like smart business to me.

He falls prey to overvaluing prospects. This week, we saw prospects become the important piece of multiple deals for big name current talent, but the closest the Cards got was dealing James Ramsey for Justin Masterson. It wasn’t much of a sacrifice to deal Ramsey as he was blocked from getting to St. Louis multiple times over. So Mo stays consistent, he is resistant to trading a prospect.

Judging by the draft, the team clearly favors pitching over any other position — including ones the team has very little depth at. This year’s draft is no exception. For a while, I thought the Cards were treating them as currency. But no, Mo really is just hoarding them. They simply fail too often not to have tons of extras laying around.

To be honest, his lack of moves frustrate me sometimes. I have to admit, however, that he is extremely successful…much more successful than I would likely be in his place. Having said that, it would really be nice to aggressively shop a bat. Holliday isn’t going to last forever. I think he’ll probably come down off his career average a little this year, but going beyond 2015 it becomes a real concern. Allen Craig proved to us that you can be amazing at the dish one year, and a total flop the next. If I were Mo, I’d like to believe I’d do a better job managing offense vs. defense. In reality, I probably wouldn’t.  His prevailing logic seems to be: here’s a core of guys who have proven they can hit the ball. It’s up to them to actually do it. If they don’t, they be dealt in due time. Mo isn’t going out and buying Matheny a new bat every time his coaching staff breaks one.

I don’t buy for a second that no bats were available at the trade deadline, or that there were no places to put them. Right field, center field, the bench, and even second base come to mind as possible candidates for upgrade. There is a fringe group on the net that believes no upgrades are possible. The team is simply as good as it can get. I don’t believe Mo thinks that for a minute. I do believe that he knows it and, for budgetary reasons, will ignore it in 2014.

Do we really understand Mo? Of course, not. But we can glean nuggets about his character based on the moves he’s made, and the ones he hasn’t.

 

 

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