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July 2010

Series Preview: Pirates at Cardinals

Posted on July 30, 2010 at 3:44 PM
Hello Cardinals fans! I'm Brian from RaiseTheJollyRoger.com, your friendly Pirates blog way down there at the bottom of the standings. Since Daniel's away, he asked me to put together a quick series preview for this weekend's three-game set between the Bucs and Cards, so here goes:

Pirates' probable starters:

When Jeff Karstens is your team's most consistent, reliable starter, you know your rotation's got problems. Things are looking up around the rest of the team, but the starters are a mess at the moment. Anyway, Karstens--tonight's starter--has been decent of late, throwing strikes, being aggressive, and getting plenty of quick outs, but that aggressiveness combined with average stuff and control usually yields a big homer or two per start. The same pretty much goes for Zach Duke, Sunday's starter. To be fair, Duke's been better since the All-Star break, but he's a perennial league-leader in hits allowed for a reason.

Daniel McCutchen, Saturday's likely starter, will be called up to replace Brad Lincoln--a prospect who disappointed early on after good showing in the minor leagues. D-Cutch is not quite as good as the team's other McCutchen, as he's sporting a 1-4, 8.58 mark for a reason. The Bucs were hopeful that he could be a serviceable fifth starter, and well, he isn't. If he gets out of the third inning tomorrow, I'll be surprised.

What to watch:

The Pirates and Cards have only played three times so far this year, so you probably don't know much about the Bucs' young guns. The top of the lineup should be around for many years to come; you'll remember Andrew McCutchen, of course, but Jose Tabata, Neil Walker, and most importantly Pedro Alvarez are all relatively new to the scene.
 
Tabata is a very young outfielder that was acquired via trade with the Yankees a few years ago, and he's looked very solid at the plate and seems to be a very encouraging leadoff or #2 hitter. Walker, a Pittsburgh native, was a top draft pick many years ago but disappointed in the minors until this season. Since discovering he could play second base, the Pirates have been playing Neil every day and, well, he's been quite the improvement over Aki Iwamura. Walker's incredible line of .306/.341/.469 is sure to come down a bit, but he's established himself as a solid part of the club for the foreseeable future. Lastly, Alvarez is the highly touted savior draft-choice that the Pirates have so desperately needed for the last 17 years. Since breaking into the majors in June, he's been OK--striking out a lot as expected and not getting on base as much as we'd like, but the power is most definitely there.

They may not be lighting the world on fire yet, but take a close look at these three youngsters (along with late-inning relievers Evan Meek and Joel Hanrahan) as they'll hopefully emerge into key pieces of a team that can contend with the Cards in a few years. Now if only we could get some starting pitching... 

Series outlook:

The Bucs have been playing better since the break, but they will face a really tough test this weekend keeping St. Louis off the scoreboard and dealing with Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright. The Pirates are also absolutely miserable on the road, despite coming off a series win at Coors Field. I'd be happy if they manage to take one of the three games.

While the Cat is away...

Posted on July 30, 2010 at 1:07 AM
As you ran down your bookmarks this morning and clicked on C70 At The Bat, I'm sure you had no idea what you were about to find.

Hello, my name is Bill Ivie and I am the Executive Editor of i70baseball.com, a Baseball Digest affiliate site dedicated to all things Cardinals and Royals related.  I also work for BaseballDigest.com and can be found regularly on Blog Talk Radio hosting the United Cardinal Blogger Radio Hour as well as my own I-70 Baseball Radio.

Wait...where you going?  I promise, you are in the right place.  Don't leave just yet.

Now that introductions are over, let me explain.

Daniel, your normally gracious host, has gone on vacation.  In an effort to ensure that his fans, both of you, would not be bored this week without him, he left the keys in the care of some faithful friends and bloggers that promised to provide some crap for you to read great content that will keep you from missing Daniel too awful much.

It is more than a pleasure for most of us to help out Daniel and we can only hope that you are pleased with what we bring. 

What should we talk about this morning, you ask?  Well...

I Can't Even Feel Frustrated Anymore

This team is not serious, are they?  I sit down every day and read about how the team under performs, fails to deliver, and how everyone seems completely surprised by this.  I do not think you can be surprised by this anymore.  The only surprise I get everyday is when I get up in the morning and do not see a headline that begins with "Cardinals Trade For" in the Post Dispatch.

Seriously, people, this is no longer a surprise.  This team is struggling offensively and has all season long.  Do we need pitching help to get to October?  Yes.  Suppan and Hawksworth are not going to cut it.  But the bigger need here is to produce runs. 

It is a simple rule in sports.  To win, you must score more than the other guy.  To outscore your opponent you must first score.  The 2010 roster of guys wearing the Birds on the Bat have been shut out 10 times this season as of today.  That equals the total for 2009.  They were shut out in back-to-back games for the first time since the first half of this decade.  I would love to see a rotation for the next few years that consisted of Carpenter, Wainwright and Oswalt, but it does not fix the obvious problem.  This team needs help producing runs.

More than that, this team needs a shake-up.  The trade deadline is just under two days at this point.  If this team is to produce the World Series that we were all crowing about at the beginning of the year, changes need to be made.  I think most players, within reason, should be available.  Can we grab a known commodity for Colby Rasmus?  Then do it.  Does Skip Schumaker have a future on another club that can bring us a solid run producer?  The deal should be done.  Can we get a solid return for the rights to golden child Shelby Miller?  Then ship him away.  I would much rather be writing a column three years from now about how we traded the great Shelby Miller for a trophy in 2010 then finish this season writing about how we let the 11th Championship in team history get away because we would not part with a player that has yet to prove himself.

Tune in for the rest of the week as we hijack this site and bring you some commentary from different voices.  Do everyone that writes a favor and visit the site that they come from.  I promise, before Daniel returns (and kills all of us), you will find a few new additions to your daily bookmarks because of it.  I will see you again on Thursday.

Have a great weekend and, as always, thanks for reading.

Doing It The Hard Way

Posted on July 29, 2010 at 8:07 AM
When I turned on the game a little late last night, I was well-pleased to see that the Cards had already been serious, putting up six in the top of the inning.  And even though Jaime Garcia allowed two runs of his own in the bottom of the frame, I figured the Cards were well on their way to a routine victory.

What I should have realized is, for the 2010 Cardinals, nothing is routine.

A meltdown by the bullpen in the eighth gave the Mets the tie, but the Cardinals were able to pull out an 8-7 win with an Albert Pujols single in the 13th.  Maybe the next time Garcia and Johan Santana match up, the teams can get it done in regulation.

Pujols played the latter innings with a calf muscle that was bothering him, as evidenced by him pulling up on a grounder to first and not breaking up a double play.  Between that and the long flyout that he had in the first inning, a ball he felt like he hit harder than many in his career, it was shaping up to be a very frustrating night.  Still, he hung in there and got the base hit when the Cards needed it.  A 3-7 night got him up to .298, so a good game this afternoon and he'll be back over .300.

Also good to see Matt Holliday go deep and for the Cardinals to put together a solid rally against a top pitcher, especially with two outs.  Garcia had a solid base hit in that inning with the bases loaded (it's almost mind-boggling that they walked Brendan Ryan to get to him) and, save for his first inning, had another very good outing.  I was hearing on ESPN Radio yesterday afternoon that he was the frontrunner for the Rookie of the Year, so it's nice to see that he's getting recognition outside the Gateway City.

The Goat, in my mind, is Dennys Reyes.  I know Tony La Russa has his reasons for the move, but with the ineffectiveness of Reyes against lefthanders, I don't think I'd have brought him into the game last night with a 7-5 lead.  You only needed one out in the eighth, so I think I'd have used Ryan Franklin for the save.  Reyes walked his first batter and gave up a two run single to the next, forcing TLR to then bring in Kyle McClellan.  That seemed risky to me as well, knowing McClellan's history in tie games, but it worked out.

Taking stock of the Redbirds, it's pretty clear they could use another starter, some more effective lefthanded relief (though I will say Trever Miller pitched a good game last night, going two innings and allowing just a hit), and a middle infielder than can hit.  That's a lot to ask for, especially since there aren't a lot of chips to trade.  In fact, there seems a distinct possibility that no trade will get done at all.

This really wouldn't surprise me any.  Save for Roy Oswalt, I wasn't sure who the Cardinals might get, and it seems that Oswalt is headed to Philadelphia now.  There's been no talk that the Diamondbacks are willing to move Stephen Drew, so I'm not sure who would be out there that'd help out in the middle infield.  The Cards were briefly linked to Miguel Tejada yesterday, but sadly he's not even that much of a step up from what the Redbirds currently have.

So it may be hold the line, wait for Kyle Lohse and David Freese to get healthy, and hope that the team finds some sort of consistency.  It's a plan.  Maybe not the best plan, but it may be the best possible plan.

Today, it's a matchup of pitchers that, if you are in public relations, you promote the hitters.  Blake Hawksworth goes for the Cardinals, which means that a night after running through a lot of the bullpen, they'll probably be needed again today.  Yesterday, the Cardinals sent down Fernando Salas and brought up Mike MacDougal, who got the win in the game last night.  They can't bring Salas back for 10 days, so I don't know if they have any more procedural moves they can make or if they'll just limp by.  Hawksworth may have to take one for the team if he gets behind early, which could be ugly.

The Mets send out R.A. Dickey.  Dickey is having probably his career year, with an ERA around two and a half and a K/BB rate around 3.  The knuckleballer hasn't been getting support, but the way the Mets play at home (and the Cardinals play on the road), he may not need much.  Could be a tough one today.

Don't forget that, starting tomorrow, guest bloggers take over this space for a week.  Tomorrow you have Bill in the morning and Brian previewing the Pittsburgh series in the afternoon.  Hope you make them feel welcome and comment often on their posts.  Then, when you've gotten in that habit, you can comment on mine when I return!

Frustration Revisted

Posted on July 28, 2010 at 8:47 AM
I thought this was behind us.

Whatever corner the Cardinals turned after the All-Star break, they've turned another one or two and seem to be back where they started from--a frustrating team that can't get anything going.  And when the big gun has an off night, you know things aren't going your way.

I guess you could see it coming, though.  There was a lot of talk about the return of Adam Wainwright to New York for the first time since the '06 Series.  There was also the possibility that he could set the record for best ERA ever in the month of July.  With enough hype and focus, it seems like things come crashing down, which is what happened last night.

Sounds like Waino just couldn't get comfortable last night, and I guess nights like that are going to happen.  They aren't anything to distress over, save the fact that it means the Cards have now lost four out of five since their eight-game winning streak and there's a good possibility they'll lose this NY series as well.  Jaime Garcia goes tonight, which is good, but then Blake Hawksworth is Thursday and you never feel completely confident when it's not one of the big three on the mound.

There wasn't much to write home about with the offense, either.  Albert Pujols went 0-5 and dropped his average to .297.  I'm still about 50% certain that AP's streak ends this year and he doesn't hit .300.  If he does read this blog, maybe that'll get him fired up, but he's not looked quite himself at all this season.  He's still putting up good numbers, but if the year ended today, would you necessarily give him the team MVP award?

When Brendan Ryan is the hero of the game, odds are it wasn't a great offensive night.  Ryan, though, went 2-4 and got that average back up over .200, which is pretty impressive since just three days ago it was around .185.  He's been streaky all year, though--getting up to over .200, then slumping off.  He was at .220 at the middle of June, then tailed off.  Still, that's his third multi-hit game, all coming since that trade rumor of him to Houston came out.  Maybe that lit a fire under him.

There doesn't seem to be much stirring on the trade front, here just four days before the deadline.  John Mozeliak went on record as saying they don't want a band-aid solution in the middle infield, so that would seem to rule out much of a deal there, though I guess they could still target Stephen Drew if the Diamondbacks are willing to move him.  They might get a innings-eater type of pitcher, but it doesn't sound like anything too exciting.  

The best news out of the whole thing is that they are pretty close to signing Seth Blair, their second pick (first of the supplemental round) in this most recent draft.  Blair isn't the most exciting name that people are looking at--Zack Cox and Austin Wilson fit that bill--but he's still a very good arm and it's always good to have young pitching in the minors.  I think we are seeing the results of what happens when you don't have that right now.

The newest Sports Illustrated comes out today and Stan Musial graces the cover.  I am very interested in reading the article, especially since it is written by the great Joe Posnanski.  It's unfathomable to me that this is the seventh Musial cover but the first that he hasn't had to share with someone.  Then again, that seems to be Musial's lot in life on the national stage, always sharing, always being overshadowed.  Baseball is going to lose a lot when he goes.

Cards and Mets try it again tonight.  Jaime Garcia goes against the Mets for the second time this year, both times on national television.  Hopefully this time he doesn't have to wait 13 innings after he leaves the game to see how it turns out.  He's facing off against Hisanori Takahashi, who also pitched in that 20 inning game as a reliever.  He's gone back and forth between the rotation and the pen, but last time out allowed two runs in seven innings against the Dodgers.  Could be another long night for the bats.

It's Wednesday, which means United Cardinal Blogger Radio Hour!  Tune in tonight to hear me talk with Dave Doyle from The Mets Report about the series, what the Mets need to do, and how long until they start talking about The Curse of Yadier Molina.  Always appreciate having callers, so if you are around from 9:30 to 10:30 Central tonight, listen in or call in at 646-929-1758!

Gaining On The Off Day

Posted on July 27, 2010 at 8:56 AM
The Cardinals hit the Big Apple yesterday.  They saw the sites (Ryan Franklin went to the Statue of Liberty with his family, according to the official Cardinal Twitter feed), made some appearances (more on Albert Pujols in a bit) and picked up a half-game on the Reds when Milwaukee beat them 3-2.  In other words, just a fine day over all.

Stayed up and watched Pujols on David Letterman last night.  It was interesting to see him out of his normal environment, as it were.  He seemed to be trying to hide his nervousness, but overall came off well, talking about some of the Mets players and his son playing baseball and wearing him out before games.  Then he went out and hit some dingers.  Well, maybe not dingers, but he did show his batting eye, not swinging at a lot of Denis Leary's junk.  He got plunked once and made like he was charging the mound, which was great.  (BTW, while Dave is batting, you can see intrepid St. Louis reporter Derrick Goold taking pictures.  He's in the grey shirt and shorts.)

The odds of Roy Oswalt continue to dim, as now he has come out and said that location isn't a big deal, meaning Philadelphia is, at least publicly, still in the mix.  He also has stated that the option for 2012 needs to be picked up, though some of the money can be deferred.  That could be another draw back for the club.

Bernie Miklasz thinks it was a good thing that John Mozeliak stated that the Cardinals probably couldn't get him and that he didn't think there'd be a deal.  The thought is that Houston may come down on their demands if people start backing off.  That's a possibility, because having an unhappy Oswalt in the Houston clubhouse after the deadline may be a problem, not only for this year but for the years to come.  Houston could still deal him in the offseason, but you'd figure they'd get more for him right now.

From what I hear on Twitter, there's not any plans to move him before his start Friday in Houston.  I think about the only way St. Louis will get him is if 1) Houston decides he has to be dealt at all costs and 2) Philadelphia falls out of the race this week or decides to go in a different direction.  I don't know if either of those will come to play.  For the record, Matthew Leach doesn't expect the club to get him either.

Which may mean that the reinforcements may have to come from within.  The first step on that path was taken last night, as Kyle Lohse made his first rehab start for Memphis.  The results were pretty strong (3 IP, 3K, 0 BB, 2 R, only one earned) and Lohse reported none of the swelling/pain issues that he'd been having prior to surgery.  It very rarely pays to be optimistic about a return to health of a Cardinal, especially a pitcher--just look at Brad Penny--but I feel that if Lohse is recovered, he can get to something approaching 2008 levels.  Which would be a huge boost for the back of the rotation.

Further dampening any big trade talk was last night's performance by Shelby Miller.  Miller went seven innings, allowing only three hits.  If the front office was iffy on his potential, if they were thinking that he might not pan out and so they should ship him off, that kind of dominance would make them think twice.  Miller has had some exciting peripherals this season, so it'd be a shame to lose him and I think the Cardinals are going to be very, very hesitant to put him in any kind of deal.

A couple of links for you.  First off, More Hardball has a look at Double J (yes, I'm going to keep using that until it sticks or someone tells me not to) on their blog today.  I think they overestimate Jay just a bit, but it's nice to see him getting a little attention.  You have to figure he's one of the biggest trade chips the Cardinals have.

Also, keep an eye out over at Mets Gazette today.  I answered some questions for them about the Cardinals and the upcoming series this weekend for my fellow BBA member.  I expect they'll be up later this morning.

Cards get the Mets tonight, looking to put together another winning streak.  Adam Wainwright pitching in New York, even if it's a different stadium, brings this memory to our minds.  You think Carlos Beltran might ask for the night off?  Jonathan Niese goes for the Mets.  He looks to be having a good year, and in his career he's thrown 1.2 scoreless innings at the Redbirds. Could be a good matchup.  We'll see if Dave passed along any hitting tips to Albert last night!

A Weekend In Chicago

Posted on July 26, 2010 at 2:15 PM
You know, one loss doesn't necessarily take the excitement out of a winning streak.  Three straight losses, including two to the Cubs?  That'll do it.  Quick look at the three games:

Friday (5-0 loss)
Hero: Jon Jay.  One for two with two walks.  In a game where the Cards don't score, it wasn't his fault.
Goat: Jeff Suppan.  It wasn't all his fault.  Soriano should have never come up with a runner on in the fifth; Skip Schumaker should have been able to turn that double play.  The wind-blown popup that fell between Suppan and Jason LaRue should have been caught.  That said, he did give up three home runs, including a leadoff shot.  Not exactly the best way to kick off a game.
Notes: The defense was very sloppy in this one, as I said.  When the Post-Dispatch hints that perhaps the team didn't play very hard, it's not a good game.  Good to see PJ Walters, albeit briefly, come in and have a quality game.  Of course, that didn't do him much good since he was sent to Memphis right afterwards.

Saturday (6-5 loss)
Hero: It should go to Tyler Greene.  Two hits, two RBI, scored a run....but that double play with two on and one out in the eighth is tough to swallow.  So, because of that and because I've been so rough on him, I'll give it to Brendan Ryan.  Two hits, plus reached on a fielder's choice due to an error.  I think those trade rumors got to Ryan, because he played much better this weekend than he's been playing.
Goat: Blake Hawksworth.  Six runs (five earned) in just over four innings isn't going to win a lot of ballgames.  True, two of those runs scored when Mitchell Boggs wild-pitched them home, which turned out to be the deciding factor in the game, but they shouldn't have been on in the first place.
Notes: It was good to at least see some fight in the team, never giving up and continuing to work its way back.  That doesn't always happens, as was shown Friday.  Another two hit day for Jay with a double, which is now my non-creative nickname for him, Double Jay.

Sunday (4-3 win in 11)
Hero: Felipe Lopez.  If nothing else, that might be the coolest bat flip ever.  That said, kudos to Skip Schumaker for his four for four night.  Be nice to see his bat going as well.
Goat: Yadier Molina.  That double play in the 10th could have been a killer.  Then again, it'd have been nice if Matt Holliday could have score on Schumaker's hit as well.
Notes: Another important home run for Albert Pujols.  This isn't going to be any sort of career year for him--I'm almost convinced he'll ruin his streak by hitting .298 or something--but he'll still be 30/100/100 runs and that's pretty good for a bad year.

The Cardinals do at least salvage the end of that series and, with the Mets, Pirates and Astros coming up, they have a chance to put some distance between them and Cincinnati before they go Great American Ballpark two weeks from tonight.

When they go to GAB, though, they'll likely do it without The Man From Houston.  John Mozeliak downplayed a lot the chances of getting Roy Oswalt, and everything that I read across the internets seems to point in the same direction.  While if it was up to the player he'd have been in St. Louis yesterday--word is he was talking to an unnamed Cardinal player before Oswalt's start on Saturday--he doesn't necessarily have the last word.  Houston's demands are on the extravagant side and, as I noted months ago, dealing within the division means they are asking for even more.

Jayson Stark this morning indicated that Drayton McLane has to be able to brag that he won the deal, which means that the Cardinals are in trouble.  If it was more about salary relief, I think that the two clubs could match up.  Jon Jay and others not named Shelby Miller could work if the Cardinals are taking on a large chunk of the payroll.  If that's not the motivation, though, I don't see it happening.  It sounds to me that Philadelphia is working to get him but I'm not sure that Oswalt will approve the deal.  I expect we'll see him in a Houston jersey when they come to town next week.

As for other options, I don't know what they'd be.  The team will be closely watching Kyle Lohse's rehab start tonight in Memphis.  If Lohse looks strong, chances are the pressure is off somewhat for a quick move.  If something happens to him or he gets beat around the yard, Mozeliak may be working the phones a little harder.  I'm not sure what he'd come up with, as there's not been really any linking between the Cardinals and anyone but Oswalt, but you have to figure he has a few irons in the fire, even if none of them are red hot yet.

There was other Cardinal-related news this weekend as Whitey Herzog made it into the Hall of Fame and his #24 will be retired by the Cardinals on Saturday.  As a fan that grew up under Whitey's tenure with the club, I say it's an honor well deserved.  No one else defined a decade like he did with his strategy and tactics.  Congrats to the White Rat!  Here in a few years, he'll be joined by the current Cardinal manager and there will be a long discussion about who the best manager was.

No game tonight, unless you are monitoring Memphis.  Albert's on David Letterman tonight, so be sure to catch that.  Derrick Goold has been posting pictures on Twitter of the outside of the studio where Albert is going to do a little hitting.  Don't know if he gets the interview inside first or that's all he'll be doing, but he can ask his hitting coach for some tips.

If you didn't catch it, the schedule for some guest bloggers during my vacation is below.  Check it out and please support them over the next week!

Good News For My Readers (Both Of You!)

Posted on July 26, 2010 at 1:28 PM
A regular post looking at the weekend will be up later on, but I wanted to go ahead and make a scheduling announcement.

Every year, my vacation consists of a trip to Ohio, where my wife grew up, to see her family and nowadays let the grandparents see the grandkids.  The first year of this blog (and I can't believe that I let the three year anniversary of this place get past me), Mike from Stan Musial's Stance was nice enough to write both here and his blog during that time.  Last year, I just let the blog sit quiet while I was gone.

This year, I've tapped into some of my connections in the United Cardinal Bloggers and the Baseball Bloggers Alliance to bring you what I think will be quality coverage during my time away.  Honestly, I'm pretty excited to read all the posts myself!

This Friday, July 30, Bill from i70baseball will kick it all off.  Bill's a member of the UCB as well as the BBA and you've probably heard him in his role as part of the UCB Radio Hour.  i70baseball is now starting its third week and is going strong, with the website and its own podcast.

Friday afternoon, we'll have the first of our series previews.  Brian from Raise the Jolly Roger! will be looking at the weekend tilt between the Cardinals and the Pirates.  RTJR is a quality Pirates site and Brian should be able to give us an unique perspective on that three-game matchup.

A week from today is actually my 35th birthday, so it's another day of double posting here at CATB.  First off, Joe Teterault from the BBA blog Teterault Vision will be taking the outsider's view of the NL Central race after the trading deadline has passed.  I look forward to seeing what Joe's opinion is on one of the tightest races in baseball.

Monday afternoon, our friend James from Astros County will stop by and give us the preview of the Houston/St. Louis series.  I'm sure there will be a lot of discussion about Roy Oswalt, whether a trade is made or not.

Tuesday, we'll continue with the NL Central theme as Shawn, another friend of this blog that writes regularly at Cincinnati Reds Blog, will venture into enemy territory to give his perspective on the pennant race.  I'm sure he'll discuss what has to go right for the Reds to stay alive, what worries him about the Cardinals, various things of that nature.

Wednesday, Mike Lynch from the incredibly well-respected blog Seamheads will be in charge.  Mike plans to talk about Austin McHenry, a outfielder on the Cardinal teams back in the early twenties who died during his playing career.  Always good to get a dose of Cardinal history, as rich as it is.

Thursday, Bill will get a second dose of guest blogging, most likely talking about whatever has happened that week and hopefully about a good long winning streak that the Redbirds are on.

The last day of the guest bloggers is another great one.  Friday morning will have Erik Manning, well-known throughout the Cardinal internet universe for his founding of Future Redbirds and his work at many places, including Play A Hard 9.  Whatever Erik will be discussing, it'll be good and backed up with quality stat work.

Our guests wrap up with the last of our previews.  Michael from Marlin Maniac will be breaking down the in-season matchup of the Feathers and Fins spring training rivalry.  There might even be some Josh Johnson vs. Adam Wainwright for Cy Young discussion....the pitching matchups don't go out that far, but if those two match up, it better be on Saturday or Sunday when I am home to see it.

I hope that you will enjoy the talented writers that will be filling this space during my absence.  I also hope you'll come back to this talentless hack when I return with a minimum of complaining!

Streak Stopped, Talk Just Starting

Posted on July 23, 2010 at 9:42 AM
You know that, when Cole Hamels is pitching against your team, you are going to likely have a long night (or, in this case, afternoon).  However, I'm not sure you expect it to be that long.

However, this loss was different than most of the other losses this season--the Cards just got beat.  They have a whole lot of situations where they threatened.  When you only get one hit, you are pretty lucky to get into the 11th with a chance to win.  I believe I saw where it was the first road one-hit, 11 inning game since 1900.  That's dicing it up pretty slim, but you get the idea--when it's historic, there's not a lot you can say about it.

Being that there wasn't just a whole lot of offense, you probably give the Hero tag to Adam Wainwright again.  Six scoreless and, while he wasn't as sharp as he's been in the past, he still made the pitches he needed to make to get out of jams.  It was pretty obvious early that one run would be enough to win this thing, and Wainwright made sure not to give up that run.

I thought it'd be interesting to compare the Wagonmaker's numbers to those of the other pitchers most likely to be mentioned in the Cy Young voting.  I've never quite figured out tables on here, but here are the numbers.

Wainwright: 14-5, 1.94 ERA in 148.1 innings, 136 K, 1.00 WHIP
Josh Johnson: 10-3, 1.61 ERA in 134.1 innings, 141 K, 0.97 WHIP
Ubaldo Jimenez: 15-1, 2.38 ERA in 132.1 innings, 118 K, 1.07 WHIP
Roy Halladay: 10-8, 2.40 ERA in 154 innings, 131 K, 1.06 WHIP
Tim Lincecum: 10-4, 3.18 ERA in 130.1 innings, 138 K, 1.27 WHIP

Looking at that, the first thing that stands out is that Lincecum's Cy streak is probably over, because it's going to be very tough for him to pass up all those guys in the second half of the season.  The second thing is that, to me, it's a two-man race for the most part.  Jimenez does have the gaudy record, but he's slumped lately and that's the only thing he has on Wainwright or Johnson, and Waino's almost right there in wins anyway.

On the downside yesterday, I wanted to go with Aaron Miles, whose defensive maneuvering added pitches to Wainwright's total, but I don't think you can avoid Kyle McClellan.  When you give up the game-winner, you are often going to be the Goat.  Matthew Leach had some amazing stats up on Twitter yesterday, showing that McClellan has very good numbers in games where he comes in ahead or behind, even one-run affairs, but he's given up as many home runs in tie games as any other type of game in about a third of the at-bats.  Don't know what it is, but maybe Tony La Russa should keep him on the bench in those situations for a bit.

The buzz continues to swirl, though, about Roy Oswalt.  He still wants to play for St. Louis, St. Louis still wants him.  But matching up Houston's demands against St. Louis's resources may be a difficult task.  There's a lot of thought that the option is not going to be exercised, that Oswalt wants out of Houston and will drop that if it makes a deal happen.

Since St. Louis reportedly offered two young players from their current major league roster, it's fun to speculate who they were.  You figure one of the was either Jon Jay or Allen Craig, that's a given.  The Cardinals need to free up some room in the outfield and that's the logical way of doing it.  The second is a little more up in the air.  You'd think it'd probably be someone like Blake Hawksworth, perhaps McClellan (though I'd be very surprised if so), but what if they offered Brendan Ryan in that trade?  It'd probably more likely be Tyler Greene, but if Houston had thoughts that Ryan's offense would come back around, that'd have to be at least an intriguing notion.

To throw another log on the fire, apparently the Diamondbacks are now committed to moving Dan Haren before the deadline, and the Cardinals at least have their hand in on those discussions.  Again, I don't know how it works into the payroll and I don't see how the Cards have the prospects to get him, but it'll lead to some interesting talk.  Many people seem to prefer Haren to Oswalt, and while I like both, Arizona is going to have to come off their demands for him if they plan to move him.

Cards and Cubs match up this afternoon.  Cardinals send out Jeff Suppan, Cubs Randy Wells.  As you remember, last time the Cards faced Wells in Wrigley on a Friday afternoon, he didn't get a single out.  You have to figure he'll be better this time, but the offense really is going to have to be active today if they are going to start a new winning streak with Suppan on the mound.

Exciting Times In Cardinal Nation

Posted on July 22, 2010 at 8:20 AM
You know things are going good when a late-inning win to extend a lengthy winning streak is the second most talked about story today.

Let's take the game first, though, before we get into the trade rumor that popped up last night.  We've talked about it before, but one of the great things about this winning streak is the fact that they are starting to beat pitchers that have given them trouble in the past.  It wasn't part of the streak, but they beat Bud Norris right before it started.  They've beaten Kyle Kendrick.  Jamie Moyer didn't beat them, though that was at least in part due to his injury forcing his early exit.

Last night, they took out Joe Blanton.  Even with his rough numbers for this year, Blanton still was able to curtail the offense for a while before Matt Holliday went deep to break the tie.  The Cards tacked on--another thing they've been doing well lately--and padded the lead in the eighth, which was great to see.

Jaime Garcia put a lot of doubts to rest, at least for a while, with a stellar performance.  His off-day discussions with Dave Duncan seemed to help him focus on what makes him effective.  To see him go into the seventh against an offense that is one of the top ones in the National League with only one run given up is very impressive.  While there's talk of other pitching options, it's not because of Garcia.  He's already an amazing #3 starter.  If a trade were to happen and move him back to #4, can you just imagine how strong this team would be?

The down side to last night's game was Skip Schumaker, who went 0-3 with two strikeouts.  It may be a credit to Skip that these games are now noticeable, instead of being considered more of the same.  That said, you don't want to have too many of those kind of games this close to the trading deadline.

With the offense and the pitching both clicking, it's not surprising the Cards have run off an eight game winning streak now, with the possibility of more.  Besides the settling of nerves that Garcia provided last night, there were more stories on the pitching front.

The more prosaic of them was the fact that Kyle Lohse threw a simulated couple of innings yesterday and will start his rehab assignment in Memphis on Monday.  I'm one of those that didn't believe we'd see Lohse again, so this is pretty impressive news.  We'll see if the arm can handle regular pitching, but it could be that Lohse can get back to something approximating 2008 now that he's healthy.  I don't know that you hold your breath on that, but no matter what, he'd be a pretty solid #4 starter for the Redbirds right now.  Or, perhaps, a dominant number five.....

That's because the most earthshaking story came out last night, when Hardball Talk stated that, according to a source, the Cards were the front-runners for Roy Oswalt.  If you've ever wanted to hear someone get completely floored when going on the radio, catch last night's UCB Radio Hour about thirty minutes in, when I call up and Josh hits me with that piece of knowledge.  It was the last thing I was expecting to hear and it shows.

Matthew Leach then came back and added to the report, saying that the Jayson Stark report from earlier in the day, that Oswalt was going to force whatever team to trade for him to pick up his 2012 option, didn't necessarily apply to the Cardinals.  Oswalt could make the money work better by working out a deferral or could ignore the issue all together.  If this is true, it makes a deal a bit more feasible.

Joe Strauss chimes in on the report as well, but nothing indicates that anything will happen soon or even that it is inevitable.  It seems a real long shot, but let's think about this some.

First off, the upside is pretty obvious.  Putting a rotation of Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Roy Oswalt and Jaime Garcia in the postseason, coupled with a lineup like the one St. Louis has, would probably make them the favorites to win the whole thing.  It should be enough to counteract the improving Reds rotation as well as any moves Walt Jocketty could make.

I've been a fan of Oswalt's for a long time and would love to see him in Cardinal red.  From all these reports, indications are that he's respected in the clubhouse and should fit into the Cardinal culture pretty well.  Being that he won the first Darryl Kile Award in Houston back in 2003, I think it's safe to say he'd be a positive for clubhouse chemistry, something John Mozeliak had been looking for.  Oswalt's had no major injury history, he is still having a solid year (even if his record doesn't reflect it) and should be able to provide value both this year and next, plus that option year if necessary.

The downside is trying to figure out exactly how he works into the payroll structure.  If the 2012 option isn't required, that helps a lot.  Bill DeWitt has said they have money for a deal, but would be leery of trading off top talent for a rental.  Oswalt's 2010 salary is $15 million, so for the rest of the year it'd be, what, $7 million or so, maybe a little less?  It's $16 million next year, then it's possible the Cards could decline his '12 option, which would be the first year of the new Pujols deal (assuming he re-signs).  Monetarily, perhaps it works.

The talent's the thing, not the play.  More directly, who would the Cardinals have to give up?  You'd expect that one of Jon Jay or Allen Craig would go, because there's not enough room for everyone with the return of Ryan Ludwick.  That's not a problem.  Lance Lynn might also be in the discussion--again, that's feasible.  The kicker is, will the Cardinals have to include Shelby Miller?

I'm of two minds on his inclusion.  On the one hand, TNSTAAPP.  Erik Manning on Twitter last night posted some interesting stats, which basically came down to only 2.5% of pitching prospects become stars.  The odds of Shelby Miller fronting a rotation someday are against him.

Even if he does turn out to be an ace, FFF--flags fly forever.  Would it be painful to see Miller pitching for a divisional rival, pitching against the Cards, maybe even leading the Astros to a title?  Sure it would.  But if you are able to wipe those tears on your 2010 or 2011 Official World Series Champion handkerchief, doesn't that ease that pain a little bit?  You do have to give something to get something.  As I said last night, if Mark Mulder had turned out to be what we thought we were getting and had put that team over the top in 2005, the loss of Dan Haren would not be nearly as painful as it is today.

On the other hand, payroll has to be a consideration.  The Cards are going to need good, young players to give maximum value for minimal dollars in the coming years when they sign up Pujols.  Perhaps they think that they have a good line on signing some of this year's prospects.  That'd help the payroll in a couple of years, especially if they were able to nab Austin Wilson and Zack Cox.  However, to give up a possible front-line starter, even a mid-rotation guy, that can give you quality at a minimum salary, that's a tough sell.

It's going to be a long week and a half, it appears.  Oswalt's next start is Saturday against the Reds, so I don't expect any move will get made before then (let him beat the closest competition!).  If a deal was made Sunday or Monday, Oswalt could pitch the last game of the Mets series in CitiField.  One way or another, he'll be pitching in the Houston series August 2-4.  It just remains to be seen in which uniform.

Cards have the first of three straight afternoon games today, sending out Adam Wainwright to see if they can finish off the sweep.  Waino's been pretty good against the Phillies in his career, holding them to a .225 team average.  Shane Victorino's been tough on him (5-17, HR) but he's kept Ryan Howard in check (2-11).

If they are going to sweep, however, St. Louis is going to have to beat another pitcher that's been extremely tough on them in the past.  Cole Hamels has a .194 BAA against the players on the current roster.  Albert's had issues (3-17, HR) while Yadier Molina is about as good as it gets (4-13).

Wainwright's been dominant at home this season.  Hopefully he can keep it up and we can discuss his Cy Young chances tomorrow!

Cardinals Continue To Roll

Posted on July 21, 2010 at 8:51 AM
What's been the most encouraging thing during this current Cardinal winning streak is that they keep winning in different ways.  The first couple of games, they slugged.  They've had good pitching performances.  They've had comebacks.  They've beaten pitchers that normally give them fits.

Everything save the comebacks came into play last night.  OK, they didn't really beat Jaime Moyer, as he left early with an elbow strain, but they won the game that he started, so that's something.  Even if Moyer had stayed in, though, I think the way that Chris Carpenter was dealing last night, St. Louis would have won the game anyway.

Carpenter has seemed to figure out his delivery problems and is looking more like his 2009 self.  These two games after the All-Star Break are the first time he's put back-to-back solid starts together since he had a three game run from May 28 to June 8.  He's been more efficient with his pitches as well, which is another reason to think things are improving.

Obviously Carp was the story last night, but you have to give some attention to what Randy Winn is doing.  His second home run in as many nights has to make the decisions a little tougher for when Ryan Ludwick returns.  As much grief and outrage there was at Winn's signing (and I was part of it, I admit), he's turned into a pretty solid bench option.  I think I'd rather him than Nick Stavinoha on a regular basis.  If Ludwick does return this weekend, though, what happens?  Does Allen Craig, who gets last night's Goat since he was the only starter not to get a hit, get sent down since he still has options?  I'm guessing that's the case, assuming John Mozeliak doesn't make a trade between now and then.

If Mo is going to make a trade, who is it going to be for and who is it going to be with?  According to the Post-Dispatch, scouts from Baltimore, Tampa Bay, Arizona, Florida and Anaheim were at the game last night.  I'd guess the Cards were interested in Kevin Millwood or Jeremy Guthrie from Baltimore and there's talk that they still are considering Dan Haren, which would explain Arizona, but the others?

Tampa Bay does seem to have some pitching to spare, with their top prospect ready to go, and if they were in the mood to move Wade Davis, I think the Cardinals would jump on it due to his low salary and the length of time they'd have him under control.  That said, it's more likely that TB is trying to move Matt Garza.  Garza's a fly-ball pitcher already making $3.5 million and in line for arbitration.  That might not be exactly the best fit for the Redbirds.

The interest in Florida is likely Dan Uggla.  Uggla's having a solid offensive year and would obviously be an upgrade from Skip Schumaker in that regard.  However, his defense is as bad as it has always been and, with a ground ball staff, is that the kind of trade-off that you want to make?  With Skip's improvement recently, I think I'd be inclined to let him pass, especially at almost $8 million and, I believe, one more year of arbitration eligibility.

Not really sure who the Angels have that the Cards would be interested in.  Maybe they think they can get something out of Brandon Wood?  I know he started as a shortstop, though I don't think he has the range to play there now.  I don't see LAA moving any of their pitchers, so maybe that was something that LAA would be initiating or just doing some research.

Looks like David Freese is going to wind up being out longer due to that toe after all.  If it turns out he won't be back until mid to late August, what does that mean for his return?  Does he automatically go back in at third, especially if the team is still rolling along?  Will he get back to health in time to do some minor league rehab?  You'd like to think he'd make the team just that much stronger, but if they cruise along without him, would it affect the chemistry of the team, something that Mozeliak and La Russa have acknowledged is important?

Tonight, the Cards go with Jaime Garcia while the Phillies counter with Joe Blanton.  Blanton is another one of those pitchers that has done a number on the Cardinals in the past, but with his 6.21 ERA this season and considering the hot streak the hitters are on, you like St. Louis's chances more than you would have even two weeks ago.  Garcia, on the other hand, is struggling.  He only got into the fourth last time out and probably will have a close eye on him tonight.  If he can get through the first inning or two OK, hopefully the team will have been able to put some runs on the board and he can coast with a lead.

While you are waiting around for the game this evening, play with the Albert Pujols Home Run Tracker.  Should make for some interesting results, though sadly it is only regular season home runs.  Brad Lidge somewhere breathes a sigh of relief.




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Heroes
Carlos Beltran (6)
Yadier Molina (5)
Matt Holliday (4)
Jon Jay (4)
Matt Carpenter (3)
Daniel Descalso (3)
Jaime Garcia (3)
Pete Kozma (3)
Shelby Miller (3)
Adam Wainwright (3)
Allen Craig (2)
Lance Lynn (2)
Tyler Lyons (2)
Edward Mujica (2)
Jake Westbrook (2)
David Freese (1)
Joe Kelly (1)
Seth Maness (1)
Trevor Rosenthal (1)
Michael Wacha (1)
Ty Wigginton (1)

2012 Top Hero: Matt Holliday (17)
2011 Top Hero: Lance Berkman (24)
2010 Top Heroes: Matt Holliday and Albert Pujols (24)
2009 Top Hero: Albert Pujols (28)
2008 Top Hero: Albert Pujols (25)

Goats
Jon Jay (6)
David Freese (5)
Mitchell Boggs (4)
Joe Kelly (4)
Pete Kozma (4)
Matt Carpenter (3)
Allen Craig (3)
Daniel Descalso (3)
Jaime Garcia (3)
Yadier Molina (3)
Matt Adams (2)
Carlos Beltran (2)
Matt Carpenter (2)
Matt Holliday (2)
Lance Lynn (2)
Seth Maness (1)
Shane Robinson (1)
Fernando Salas (1)
Adam Wainwright (1)
Jake Westbrook (1)

2012 Top Goat: Rafael Furcal (11)
2011 Top Goat: Ryan Theriot (12)
2010 Top Goat: Brendan Ryan (14)
2009 Top Goats: Rick Ankiel and Todd Wellemeyer (13)
2008 Top Goat: Troy Glaus (13)

Cardinal Nation Approval Ratings (March 2013)
Yadier Molina 96.2% (up 8.8%)
Chris Carpenter 89.8% (down 0.3%)
Derrick Goold 89.1% (up 6.3%)
Matt Holliday 88.4% (up 0.9%)
Allen Craig 88.3%
Adam Wainwright 88.2% (down 3.7%)
Jose Oquendo 87.1% (up 2.4%)
Jason Motte 86.9%
John Mozeliak 86.5% (up 1.1%)
United Cardinal Bloggers 85.2% (up 6.3%)
Bill DeWitt 85.1% (up 5.3%)
Mike Shannon 85.1% (down 0.2%)
John Rooney 84.5% (up 3.0%)
Mike Matheny 84.4% (up 3.3%)
David Freese 82.9% (down 2.6%)
Jon Jay 81.8% (up 10.7%)
Lance Berkman 80.6% (down 8.0%)
Jenifer Langosch 79.5%
Lance Lynn 79.5%
Dan McLaughlin 76.0% (up 8.0%)
Jim Hayes 73.0% (up 1.1%)
Ricky Horton 65.5% (down 2.0%)
Jaime Garcia 64.1%
Albert Pujols 59.2% (up 4.3%)
Ballpark Village 58.3%
Joe Strauss 54.3% (down 13.4%)

2012
Tony La Russa 88.2% (up 17.4%)
Mark McGwire 82.6% (up 20.1%)
Skip Schumaker 73.3% (up 9.2%)
B.J. Rains 69.5% (down 0.9%)
Kyle Lohse 68.9% (up 13.8%)
Al Hrabosky 66.4% (up 3.2%)
Colby Rasmus 46.5% (down 35.3%)

2011
Dave Duncan 87.9% (up 0.9%)
Matthew Leach 85.5%
Pop Warner 76.7%
Ryan Franklin 72.8% (up 3.1%)
John Vuch 68.9%
Jeff Luhnow 66.4%
Dan Lozano 58.7%

2009
Rick Ankiel 83.9%
Chris Duncan 69.1%


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