A Giant Step for Cardkind

I tried to write this post yesterday, but after an hour and 1700 words, WordPress ate it like a fat guy at a buffet.  (I should know from experience.)  Given the recent move of the Cardinals, it’s probably a good thing at least some of it never could be read.  Let’s try to quickly review the Giants series and then discuss the demotion of Kolten Wong.

Friday (5-1 loss)

Hero: Adam Wainwright.  Wainwright continues to say that he’s back, that he’s making the adjustments and getting into the rhythm he needs to be at least much closer to the ace that he was.  Whether he can get all the way back to that is up for some manner of debate, but this game was a point in his favor.  He ran into trouble in the fourth as some hits fell, but four of his five hits allowed came in that frame.  We’d take two runs over seven from Uncle Charlie any time out, it’s just too bad he didn’t get the offensive support he needed to take a win.  His last four starts, he’s 2-1 with an ERA a shade over 3, which is much more like the Waino we know.

Goat: Randal Grichuk. Other folks had a claim here as well, but Grichuk’s at bat in the third inning broke any sort of ties.  With the bases loaded, a full count and one run in, Grichuk reached for ball 4 and tapped it back to the mound, ending the threat.  With Wainwright then giving up his two runs immediately after that, the inability to come through even with a walk there was magnified.  It might not be fair to give him the Goat based on that AB, but it’s my blog and I can be as unfair as I want to be.

Notes: Matt Carpenter had two of the club’s five hits, continuing the rampage that saw him named NL Player of the Week on Monday.  He drew a walk as well, putting him on base three out of four times.  However, he was one of the few bright spots.  Aledmys Diaz went 0-4 with five left on, continuing to have some issues since he’s been moved up in the lineup.  I don’t think it’s as much the lineup shift as it is teams making adjustments to him that kinda coincided with his move up, but it’s not surprising that a young player is having to figure things out.  The club obviously, given their recent actions, believes he can and he’ll get a lot of rope, which he should.

It’s a 2-1 game in the ninth and Mike Matheny goes to Trevor Rosenthal, who hadn’t pitched in just a couple of days. The move to put Rosie in the game there wasn’t a bad one at all.  You aren’t going to have a save situation, you need to keep the game where it is, and in theory your closer is the best pitcher to do that.  Instead, for the second time this year, Rosenthal walked all three batters he faced.

It’s like you can’t really fool Rosenthal into believing that non-save situations can be just as important and need him just as much as save situations.  Look at the numbers for this season:

in Sv Situ 1 0 1.000 0.00 12 0 11 0 0 10 11.1 6 2 0 0 9 0 17 0 0 0 48 1.324 13.5 1.89
in non-Sv 1 1 .500 8.22 9 0 6 0 0 0 7.2 10 7 7 2 7 0 13 0 0 0 38 2.217 15.3 1.86
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/7/2016.

In save situations, Rosie’s not been charged with a run and while the control isn’t quite there, I think that does include the first three-walk outing as well in there, which had Kevin Siegrist come bail him out.  When it’s not a save situation, though, things are pretty rough.  He’s striking out more in those innings, but he’s allowing much more as well.  Small sample size means there’s not necessarily a conclusion to draw from this, but if there were it might be that Rosie does more throwing than pitching in non-save situations, meaning he’s challenging folks and losing.  It’s something to continue to watch as the season goes by.

Anyway, then when the bases are loaded with nobody out, Matheny goes to Dean Kiekhefer, which has become a bit of a white flag waving in the breeze.  Kiekhefer has only had two at bats that were classified medium leverage by Baseball-Reference, but in those two AB hitters have an OPS of 3.500.  I get that you wanted a lefty-lefty matchup up there and perhaps you didn’t want to go to Siegrist given you might need him later (well, no, I don’t really get that though I could see Matheny thinking it) or you were doing all you can to give him a day off, but you could still go with the Patron Pitcher there.  I’m not really excited about the idea of Lyons as a lefty specialist, as I don’t think it’s his forte, but I might have done that over Kiekhefer, who has had a penchant of dumping gasoline on fires in late situations like this.

It’s probably a moot point, given the Cards were down to their final three outs and even with their power were not real likely to come back, but it’s easier to get one run than four.

Saturday (7-4 win)

Hero: Aledmys Diaz. A few days ago, with Jake Arrieta on the ropes, Kolten Wong swung at a 3-0 pitch with two outs and two on and popped up, ending the threat and letting Arrieta get off the hook.  (The Cardinals did have more chances against him, but that’s not the point now.)  Here, Diaz faced Jeff Samardzija with an inning unraveling, two outs and two on, and swung at a 3-0 pitch.  This had much better results, banging off the foul pole for a three-run homer.

As much as folks celebrated Diaz’s bold choice to swing away at 3-0 (and some did discuss Matheny’s role in letting him do that), what if that ball goes foul or, worse, doesn’t go as far, ending the threat?  Would Diaz get the grief that Wong did?  Possibly.  There’s an argument that Diaz has shown more of late and should have more leeway in swinging in that situation than Wong did, which is a fair tack to take.  However, the winners write the histories and how things are perceived are almost always tied into how they work out.  Thankfully, this one did.

Goat: Yadier Molina.  0-4 here, though he was able to drive in a run with a groundout.  I’ll talk more about Molina in the discussion of the next game, but it’s been a rough go for Yadi of late.

Notes: Patron Pitcher Tyler Lyons came in and pitched the sixth, keeping the score tied at 4.  I asked on Twitter for some offense to get the Patron Pitcher the win and thankfully Stephen Piscotty and Matt Adams heard me, with back-to-back solo shots to give Lyons the needed cushion to win.  Somehow my Tweets for $10 million and an all-expense-paid trip to the Star Wars Episode VIII set didn’t have the same results.

Brandon Moss really had the big night, going three for four with the home run that started Samardzija’s downward descent.  Moss had a triple as well as an outfield assist, proving that even though Adams is going to get the bulk of the playing time with his good numbers, Moss can still contribute to this team as well.  It seems to come in spurts, but it’s very welcome when he gets the bat going.

Michael Wacha continues not to be the pitcher we would hope for, with his ERA now over 5 this late in the season.  In this one, he allowed four runs in five innings, though it was more of the water torture drips and drops style than a deluge, as the Giants scored one run in four of the five innings he pitched.  While four in five is much better than the six in four rate that he was going at for a while, he’s still got a lot of road to cover before we can get back to trusting him for a solid start every time out, much less to compare him favorably with his former self.

Sunday (6-3 win)

Hero: Matt Carpenter.  Obviously being a father agrees with Mr. Carpenter.  As noted above, he was Player of the Week, which coincided with his return from paternity leave.  Three hits, including a double, plus a run and an RBI.  His average has gone from .249 to .281 in the past eight games.  Hopefully shifting to the other side of the infield won’t affect his hitting and there’s no reason to really think it will.

Goat: Greg Garcia.  The offense was pretty well spread out in this one, with everyone making some contribution.  Garcia went 0-3 and left three men on, but he did drive in the first insurance run with a groundout.

Notes: Carlos Martinez got tagged for a surprising two-run homer, but on the whole was a fairly dominant pitcher for the six innings he was out on the mound.  Three runs isn’t stellar, but I think the look that Martinez gave after Jarrett Parker’s home run was matched by Giants fans as well (if the folks at THE San Francisco Giants Blog are any indication).  Martinez struck out seven, walked two, and seems to be over that three-start bump in the road that started with his flu bug.  If nothing else, there’s less concern with him going out there than there is with Wacha.

Two more hits by Diaz, perhaps showing that he’s starting to adjust to the adjustments.  He has four multi-hit games in his last six starts, a strong indication that he’s not a flash in the pan.  Adams also had two hits and you can tell there’s more trust in him of late.  The Giants brought in a left-handed reliever with the bases loaded and the Cards still trailing by one, but Matheny didn’t pinch-hit for Adams, trusting him to make enough contact to get that tying run home and, indeed, he hit a hot smash that Brandon Belt couldn’t corral and did just that.  Adams this year (in significantly small sample of 23 plate appearances) is hitting .364/.348/.591 against left-handers.  I’m not saying he needs to start against Clayton Kershaw (though that postseason home run is a great argument for it) or other top lefties, but I don’t think it’s always automatic to remove him when the other team tries to get the same-side advantage.

Yadier Molina was able to get a hit and an RBI in this game, but by no logical or rational argument should he have been playing in this game.  Molina has had two complete games off this season and only two other games where he didn’t start but got into the game late.  For a comparison, his opposite number in this one, Buster Posey, sat Sunday for the ninth time this season, and I don’t know how many games he just pinch-hit or played first base.  Even if you had Molina sit once a week, which doesn’t seem extreme, he’d have about the same number as Posey.  Even six or seven games off by now would seem reasonable.

We know that Matheny knows about using the off days as well.  If Molina sits Sunday, he has Monday off and it is two days of rest.  This would be a huge thing for a guy that isn’t getting any younger (like any of us are) and has a ton of miles on that body.  It’s hard to believe, but Molina is not an actual superhuman that can stand up to the wear and tear of the position indefinitely.  Getting him some breathers always seems to be a spring training goal that they just somehow never have met by time October rolls around.

I get that it made more sense in the past, when Tony Diaz and Jason LaRue were Yadi’s backups and you lost a lot when he was out of the lineup because he was hitting .300 with 20 homers or thereabouts.  I get that plans changed when Brayan Pena went down with an injury and we’ll see if they modify things in the second half of the season when he returns.  Right now, though, Eric Fryer is more than adequate for a day once a week and Molina’s offense isn’t to the point where it’s sincerely missed either.  Yadi’s dropped almost 90 points of batting average in less than a month.  While that’s not everything, of course, it’s pretty telling for Molina, who doesn’t have a lot of power anymore to go along with that average.

It seemed pretty telling in this one that Molina might be getting worn down because the Cardinal pitchers were charged with four wild pitches, something that is extremely rare in the Yadi era.  I’m not saying that Yadi would have gotten to all of those or that the pitchers weren’t to blame, but there were at least one or two that you’d think a more rested Molina with a little more spring in his step would have smothered.  Wild pitches don’t show up in catcher stats, so it’s hard to compare that to the past, but that was just very un-Molina like.

Now, to be fair, Matheny could get the two days rest by starting Fryer tonight in Cincinnati, given the fact that the Reds are a lesser opponent than the Giants and Molina’s always so warmly welcomed in the Queen City.  If that’s the case, I’ll retract a little of this rant, but Molina still needs more than one day off a month.

As I said, I was going to write yesterday about the Jhonny Peralta situation, but the positive side of the ravenous WordPress is that I didn’t have a lot of wrong guesses written down.  (Though you can pretty much hear the same thing both on Gateway and Meet Me At Musial.)  I was very surprised that the Cardinals went the direction of sending Wong down to Memphis, expecting it to be Garcia due to other factors.  There’s no doubt that Garcia had outplayed Wong and had done enough to deserve to stay, but that doesn’t always keep you in the big leagues.  Given Wong’s contract and the focus on his mindset at times, I did not expect him to be the one heading down to Memphis.

That’s the case, though, and it really solves most everything.  Peralta will play third when he’s restored to the roster today, Carpenter will shift over to second, and Adams will get to stay at first.  If Adams isn’t playing as well, you wonder if they’d have tried to keep Wong here and let Carp spend more time at first, but that’s a moot point now.  Wong will get a chance to play regularly at Memphis, which would have been difficult in St. Louis given the current roster configuration, and we’ll have to see when we’ll see him again.  It’s not going to be soon (meaning that Wong won’t be around for his Hawaiian jersey giveaway night) and other things will have to be solved first before we can.

We got into a discussion yesterday on Twitter about one of those possibilities, the trade of Peralta before the deadline.  I think that’s significantly possible in one scenario, where Peralta comes back and shows he has no ill effects from the thumb injury, having a strong six weeks of play before the July 31st (or is it August 1 this year?) date.  In this scenario, you’d also need a strong showing from Wong in Memphis and for Garcia to continue to contribute at the big league level.  If all that happens–which is a lot of ifs, I’ll grant you–Peralta might be the one most likely to draw a return from a contending team, hopefully in the American League.  I’m not saying that this is a sell-off of Peralta, because I think you could use him or him in a package and get something that helps the 2016 squad.  I don’t expect John Mozeliak to be selling at the deadline, because the Cardinals should be in the wild card race.  (The division, that’s another story.  That’ll take this Cubs team to be like most of the other Cubs teams in history and I’m not sure that they are.)  However, there are log jams on this roster that need to be cleared up to make it work a little better.  We’ve said that before, that Mo has to make a deal, and he’s proven that he doesn’t actually have to do what we think.  This feels a little more pressing than some of the pitching depth issues in the past, though, so we’ll see.

Mike Leake gets to face Cincinnati for the first time, having been a Red all his career until the deadline last year.  Given that, and given the fact that Cincy hasn’t imported many bats of late, his experience against those Reds hitters is very limited.

Adam Duvall 3 3 1 0 0 1 1 0 1 .333 .333 1.333 1.667 0 0 0 0 0
Jordan Pacheco 3 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.333 2.333 0 0 0 0 0
Total 6 6 4 1 0 1 1 0 1 .667 .667 1.333 2.000 0 0 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/7/2016.

John Lamb faced the Cardinals twice in September last year, throwing a total of 11 scoreless innings in a couple of those generally frustrating games where the guy comes in with a high ERA and the Redbirds can’t do anything with him in part because they’ve never seen him before.  (In between his starts against St. Louis, he allowed three runs in four innings against the Giants.)  In 2016, Lamb has had two terrible starts, one mediocre one, and about three good ones, including his last outing when he allowed just one run in seven innings in Colorado.

Matt Carpenter 6 3 1 0 0 0 0 2 1 .333 .667 .333 1.000 0 0 0 1 0
Stephen Piscotty 6 5 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 .200 .333 .200 .533 0 0 0 0 1
Jaime Garcia 4 3 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 .333 .500 .333 .833 0 0 0 0 0
Randal Grichuk 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .500 .000 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Brandon Moss 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .500 .000 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Total 23 16 3 0 0 0 0 6 4 .188 .435 .188 .622 0 0 0 1 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/7/2016.

With the way the Cards have beaten up on sub-.500 teams, the way they’ve scored late in games, the way calling Cincinnati’s bullpen a dumpster fire is an insult to dumpster fires, this should be a series where the bats get going and momentum gets rolling.  We’ve seen enough, though, to realize that what should be isn’t always what is.  Let’s hope expectation meets reality in a positive way!

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