Last year, the Cardinals started off 3-1 in route to a 20-win spring schedule. Then they came out of the gate 3-9 and barely were a .500 team for the season as a whole.
So starting the spring 1-3 should mean for an exciting and winning summer, right?
OK, probably not. I mean, not that they won’t have an exciting or winning summer, just that whatever they do in the spring probably isn’t an indicator of how things are going to go. I mean, last spring Tommy Pham was terrible and Jose Martinez was great. Then the season came and Tommy Pham was outstanding and Jose Martinez was pretty good. As we said on Musial and I said last night on Periscope, you just can’t do much with any spring training stat this early on, good or bad.
Which of course means we are going to get excited about Michael Wacha‘s outing yesterday. Given the way the starters have looked so far, Jack Flaherty excepted, it’s not surprising that two scoreless and hitless innings demands attention. It will be interesting to see how the pitchers that have been in the Cardinal system adjust to the new Mike Maddux philosophy of pitching up in the zone after years of the Dave Duncan-inspired pounding of the bottom of it. (I don’t know that was the reason for Carlos Martinez‘s wildness on Saturday but I imagine having to think differently on the mound can’t help.) Wacha looked sharp–apparently, for like most of the spring games I didn’t get to see it–and it sounds like this approach won’t be a big deal for him.
I can’t remember where I heard it, either on the broadcast or one on of the myriad of Cardinal podcasts I’ve listened to recently (did you know Bernie Miklasz and Will Leitch have a show now? I’m going to have to update my podcast post), but someone pointed out that if Maddux does bring this sabermetric philosophy and is allowed to implement it, we may rarely see Wacha face hitters more than twice, which plays to his strengths. (Now that I type this, I think it might have been Rick Hummel on a recent Best Podcast in Baseball.) If the bullpen can become a strength, and given the arms that are down there that’s a pretty decent possibility, Wacha could be in for what would be a career season had his rookie year not gone so great.
Speaking of that bullpen, the Cardinals are taking that idea they’ve had in the past about easing folks into the water and applying it to most of their bullpen arms this spring. I think it was 2016 that this was a big talking point, then the club came out flat and folks wondered if they didn’t get enough work. That was more the starters and position players, though. I think with relievers and their natural tendency toward smaller outings that this approach is a pretty solid thing. Matthew Bowman just got into a game yesterday and everyone wants to see his workload reduced. Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons still hasn’t gotten into a game and I don’t think that’s really due to the knee surgery given that we saw him throwing free and easy earlier in the spring. It’s likely these guys are going to get called on a lot this season so letting them wait until later in the spring before really ramping up is probably a good thing.
Jordan Schafer again struggled yesterday, giving up two runs in a third of an inning, which is actually a little better than his first outing. I’ve said it on various mediums, but I don’t get the fascination the front office seems to have with Schafer. It’s doubtful he’ll ever be a pitching option you want to go to over the other possibilities. His hitting isn’t unworldly. It feels like a guy that, if he made the team, would be useful maybe once or twice a year and there’s a lot of effort going into this possibility for what it’s worth. He obviously isn’t going to get much outfield time in Memphis (where I assume he’ll be stationed) with Oscar Mercado, Jose Aroldis Garcia (JAG), and Tyler O’Neill being out there. He may get bullpen opportunities but he’s never shown that to be a huge strength. It’s spring and it’s not hurting anything to see what he has, but especially coming off of Tommy John surgery, the upside just doesn’t seem that high to me. However, I’m often wrong.
Tough outing for Connor Greene as well. Greene, who came back in the Randal Grichuk trade along with Dominic Leone (whom I also don’t believe we’ve seen yet, though I might have missed his appearance), gave up a home run in his first time as a Cardinal and gave up two runs in this one, losing a seventh-inning lead. It’s still going to be interesting to see if the Cardinals put him in the bullpen, maybe at Memphis, or in the Springfield rotation. So far, it’s looking like whatever they do, he’s going to need a little more seasoning. Which is fine–he wasn’t expected to contribute this season so even if he comes up in August or September, he’s ahead of schedule.
Cards take on the Red Sox this afternoon as Luke Weaver makes his 2018 debut. Hopefully we have good things to say about his outing as well next time we get together!