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April 2011

Bullpen Troubles Strike Kiddie Corps

Posted on April 28, 2011 at 10:12 AM
Well, then, that was fun, wasn't it?

Being that this has a reputation for a positive part of the internet, let's take a look at what went right first.  First off, the Hero tag will go to Kyle Lohse, as he continues his remarkable run of pitching.  Coming off of his complete game shutout of Washington, he throws another seven scoreless in just under 100 pitches, coming out in part due to a head cold (that apparently is making its way around the clubhouse--better that than Tony La Russa's conjunctivitis/shingles, though!).  Lohse continues to provide outstanding results and really has eased some of the questions we had around this rotation.  It is a long season and we are only a month into it, but there doesn't seem to be any reason why he can't keep contributing throughout the year.

There were a lot of offensive highlights last night, with Yadier Molina being the only player that didn't get a hit.  Two hit nights were common as well, and Matt Holliday got three hits, including a home run.  It wasn't the most orthodox lineup, with Nick Punto and David Freese 1-2 and Jon Jay hitting eighth, but it was definitely effective.

It was interesting that before the game we were talking on Twitter about Tyler Greene.  I was of the impression that he hadn't done much in the majors this year, until it was pointed out that, in a small sample, he was hitting close to .300 and had 5 steals.  We agreed that perhaps Greene needed a better PR firm (or that I should pay more attention, but like THAT'S going to happen) and Greene apparently agreed, having one of those two hit nights and parking a home run in the Crawford Boxes as well.  

On the down side, the team did hit into five double plays.  Albert Pujols added to his total and Holliday, who had other issues in the late innings, rapped into one in his last at-bat, the only time he didn't reach base last night.

However, the real problems came from the bullpen.  A team that's up 6-0 in the eighth really shouldn't get down to having the tying run at second in the ninth, you know?  Where do you place the blame there?

I originally was going to give the Goat to Ryan Franklin.  I mean, the man threw a grand total of four pitches in the game, two of which were hit hard.  That said, one of those balls really should have been caught by Holliday and if that happens, it might have made for a completely different inning.  Besides, Franklin's already the Goat leader, no need to pile on.

I was surprised that La Russa went and got him after just two batters.  I realize the lefty was coming up, but Franklin's gotten them out before.  That's why I'm going with Trever Miller as my Goat, because for the fourth straight outing, Miller came in to face one man and was unable to retire him.  Last night, it was a walk, which at least temporarily kept a run from scoring, but that's really just not acceptable.  However, since Brian Tallet is still a week or so away from returning, we're going to see Miller in these situations often.  It just reminds me of how Dennys Reyes was last year, completely incapable at times of being an effective LOOGY.

Fernando Salas came in and mainly got out of the inning, though the two runners scored and Salas allowed one of his own as well.  His first out was on a ground ball that just couldn't get turned, so things might have been different if it'd been a runner on third with two out instead of the corners with one gone, but who knows.  For the most part, Salas did a fine job with the situation he was in.

Eduardo Sanchez came in for the save in the ninth since Mitchell Boggs had thrown so many pitches the night before.  The phenom hadn't been dinged this season, but that changed quickly.  He struck out his first batter, so it seemed like everything was proceeding as planned, but then after a one-out single, Jason Bourgeois drove one into the gap in left center for a triple.  Sanchez got out of that with a sac fly, but then a double over Lance Berkman's head, which Berkman admitted after the game he'd have gotten if they hadn't been playing "in in", put the tying run on.  Sanchez got noted Cardinal killer Hunter Pence to strike out on a nasty pitch and preserved the win, though with a lot of angst.

Watching the game last night, it really seemed like the bullpen was falling apart.  Going through the play-by-play, though, it seems apparent that if Salas hadn't had bases loaded when he came in or a double play could have been turned, he would have gotten out of it relatively fine.  Sanchez gave up the triple, but other than that it was a normal single and a double that should have been caught.  In other words, I don't think we have to worry too much about these guys based on this outing.  I'd still rather the young guns in the game than the grizzled vets.

Speaking of those grizzled vets, it was interesting to note that Miguel Batista, along with his many other talents, is now the translator for Sanchez.  If you ever think the Renaissance Man concept is dead, talk to Batista.

One of the reasons for the different-looking lineup was that Ryan Theriot was out with a rib cage issue.  Theriot doesn't seem to think it really is a problem and, if things go well in workouts today, he could be back in the lineup tonight.  If not, well, I'm sure Greene wouldn't mind another start.

Today, Kyle McClellan goes up against Nelson Figueroa.  I forgot to get the Baseball Reference charts before getting behind my work firewall, but they probably wouldn't tell us much about McClellan vs. the Astros anyway.  Figueroa last faced the Cards last September, when he threw five innings and allowed only two runs in route to a win.  He also faced them some out of the bullpen back in August and was able to corral them.  We'll see if this new offense can solve him a little better.

This is most likely the last you'll hear from me this week.  Tomorrow is the annual BBQ at my church, which I will get to before the crack of dawn and leave not long before sunset.  It's a lot of fun, but obviously it doesn't leave much for blogging.

My next post will be a special one as well.  Right now, according to the monthly totals on the left side of this blog, counting this there have been 1,015 entries.  However, 16 of those are tagged with "guest bloggers", meaning I really didn't have anything to do with it.  So, when next I come to you, it'll be post 1,000.  We'll look back a little then, perhaps.  Enjoy your weekend!

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A Loss, But Not A 2010 Loss

Posted on April 27, 2011 at 10:27 AM
I missed a lot of last night's game, since our TV was on the local weather instead of more enjoyable pursuits.  (For the record, lot of time spent huddled in the safe area and according to some pictures, there were some ugly clouds right around our place, but no damage done.) I did get to see the end of the game, though, and experience the high of the comeback and the low of the blown save.

All that aside, I said yesterday that this series and, in particular, last night's game was a good test to see how different the 2011 team was from the 2010 version.  Last year, the team would have never shown up and perhaps mustered a run or so against Bud Norris.  Instead, they took the lead, then even rallied back after losing it.

First of all, you have to say last night's hero was Daniel Descalso.  Not only did he have three hits, but they all went for extra bases.  A two-run triple in the third and then a run-scoring double in the eighth that tied up the game.  I've mentioned before that I'd like to see Descalso make it so that there's a discussion when Skip Schumaker comes back on who should play, and more games like that will do it.

It was also nice to see Lance Berkman do well in his return to Houston. He should have had the game winning hit (though Carlos Lee looked foolish trying to make that catch) and for the most part got a nice reception from the crowd, if not the local radio voice.   (Speaking of, I can't imagine John Rooney or Mike Shannon saying things like that, but I can well imagine Marty Brennaman doing it!)

Also, Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina had two hits, as the offense wasn't really the problem last night, though the scoring efficiency number was 3.00, which is on the high side of things.  However, when you score five runs with this pitching staff, that should be enough. (By the way, if you are curious the Cards' season SE mark is now at 2.63, well down from when I wrote that original post.)

Unfortunately, for the fifth time this season, the Cards blew a ninth inning lead.  This time, the goat was Mitchell Boggs instead of Ryan Franklin, but it didn't make it any more palatable.  It might be one thing if Boggs had not gotten a close call to walk a guy then gave up a double on a good pitch.  Instead, Boggs had a complete implosion.

Boggs came in with a fresh slate and a one run lead, a lead the Cards had just acquired.  He immediately gives up a base hit, which isn't huge.  You can get around that.  The problem really started when he apparently crossed up Yadier Molina, whose passed ball allowed the runner to go to second, then mishandled Michael Bourn's bunt (which everyone knew was coming, so it wasn't a surprise) and both runners were safe at the corners.  According to FanGraphs, at that moment the Win Probability for the Astros went from 41.9% to 64.4%.  That was before Boggs uncorked the wild pitch, which tied the game.

Now, I've got to say, Bourn did his darnest to make sure the Astros didn't win this game, and for a while there I thought it was going to work.  You've got the fastest guy on their team, but he doesn't go to second on the wild pitch.  He doesn't go to third on the next hit.  He doesn't go home on a base hit to the outfield, even though there were no outs and, at worst, he's thrown out and there are two on with one out.  Instead, he goes station to station and, when Carlos Lee popped up for the first out, I was almost expecting Bill Hall to ground into a double play and get Boggs out of it.  Instead, Hall hit it to short, but with the infield in (and that's a question as well, why weren't the middle infielders back for the double play?) it got past and won the ball game.

However, Boggs wasn't the only one with a disappointing outing in this one.  It turned out not to affect the scoring, but for the third straight outing, Trever Miller has come into the game as a LOOGY and missed the most important part of that description--the one-out part.  A week ago Sunday, he allowed the double to Andre Ethier before Matt Kemp took Ryan Franklin deep.  Saturday, he walked Jay Bruce, forcing in the tying run.  Last night, he gave up a single to Brett Wallace to lead off the eighth in a tie game.  The runner got erased when Molina did his patented pickoff of first move and Jason Motte did a fine job with the rest of the inning, but still, you've got to be getting these guys out if you are Miller.

I missed most of his time in the game, but apparently it wasn't one of Jaime Garcia's best nights either.  He didn't get out of the sixth and was charged with four runs (three earned) in that time.  He struck out six and was only at around 90 pitches, so it wasn't a disaster, especially since two of those runs scored after he was out of the game.  Another David Freese error played into his demise, just another indication that the Cardinal defense is not what it used to be.

Miguel Batista came into a tough situation, with bases loaded and one out, but he allowed a two-run single before getting the next two batters.  If you go by leverage and all those type of situations, that probably was the time to bring in Eduardo Sanchez or Fernando Salas to get the strikeout.  Batista, well, his appearances are usually just good for a poem.  At least he couldn't stop the game with rain last night.

Albert Pujols sat out most of last night's game nursing that hamstring, but then pinch-hit in a strange situation.  After Desclaso's double had tied up the game, he was at second with two outs when Tony La Russa sent up Pujols.  Now, everyone in the stadium knew that Pujols was going to get walked.  There was nothing that he could do to help the team in that situation.  Sure, it got Colby Rasmus to the plate, but with two outs it also set up a force at any base.  

While Tyler Greene is no great shakes as a hitter, I'd have just about rather seen him try to get a hit (and drive in Descalso) while saving Pujols for a better situation than wasting him in that situation.  You had Holliday and Berkman coming up in the ninth, but if it came down to it you could have used Pujols in Freese's spot or kept him for the 10th.  Albert did stay in the game, which means that if extras had rolled around he'd have still been in there, but I thought that was a pretty curious decision by the manager.

Cards have to shake that one off and go at it again tonight.  Here's what tonight's starter, Kyle Lohse, has done against the Astros:

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS IBB HBP GDP
Carlos Lee 71 64 20 6 0 5 9 5 7 .313 .366 .641 1.007 0 1 3
Hunter Pence 33 31 11 2 1 0 2 2 5 .355 .394 .484 .878 0 0 1
Michael Bourn 25 24 4 0 0 0 0 1 2 .167 .200 .167 .367 0 0 0
Bill Hall 15 15 1 0 0 0 1 0 3 .067 .067 .067 .133 0 0 0
Humberto Quintero 10 10 3 1 0 0 1 0 0 .300 .300 .400 .700 0 0 0
Wandy Rodriguez 8 7 1 0 0 0 1 0 2 .143 .125 .143 .268 0 0 0
Nelson Figueroa 2 1 1 0 1 0 2 1 0 1.000 1.000 3.000 4.000 0 0 0
Chris Johnson 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0
Bud Norris 2 2 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0
J.R. Towles 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Total 170 158 43 9 2 5 17 9 20 .272 .312 .449 .761 0 1 4
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/27/2011.

Historically, this team has been able to get to Lohse.  You look especially at Hunter Pence, who probably hasn't faced a healthy Lohse, and Carlos Lee.  This may be a good test to see if his health and new confidence will continue.  

J.A. Happ goes for the 'Stros.  Here's what he's done versus the Redbirds:

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS IBB HBP GDP
Albert Pujols 11 10 4 1 0 1 3 1 0 .400 .455 .800 1.255 1 0 1
Matt Holliday 7 7 3 0 0 0 2 0 1 .429 .429 .429 .857 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 7 7 3 0 0 0 2 0 1 .429 .429 .429 .857 0 0 0
Colby Rasmus 5 3 0 0 0 0 0 2 1 .000 .400 .000 .400 0 0 0
Lance Berkman 3 2 1 0 0 1 1 0 1 .500 .500 2.000 2.500 0 0 0
Ryan Theriot 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0
Jake Westbrook 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Chris Carpenter 1 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 0 0 0
Total 39 34 13 1 0 2 9 3 5 .382 .432 .588 1.021 1 0 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/27/2011.

Pujols has had some success against him and I believe will be back in the lineup tonight.  Other than that, not a lot of sample size, but most of it is positive for the Cards.  It's been a while since they lost a series, so hopefully they'll get a win tonight and keep that alive.
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Cardinals Head To Houston

Posted on April 26, 2011 at 10:00 AM
I can't remember the last time a simple April series against a non-contender had so many different storylines, at least for the beginning of the series.

Of course, the overarching one is that Lance Berkman is returning to his roots.  After spending all but a couple of months of his career in a Houston uniform, he comes back to Minute Maid Park as a visitor for the first time.  Houston fans are trying to come to grips with what this means and how they are supposed to feel about it.  

I don't know that Cardinal fans have had quite that kind of situation lately.  Perhaps the first time Matt Morris pitched against the team would have been a good analogy, since Morris, like Berkman, was brought up through the organization and was the face of the franchise for a while.  While the Cardinals have had other fan favorites return (such as Ryan Ludwick most recently), none of them quite hit the level that Berkman did for Houston.

That said, Card fans should have some sympathy for our Houston brethren in this matter.  It might be this time next year when Albert Pujols comes into Busch as a visitor, and while it won't be completely the same situation, some of the same emotions that Astro fans are dealing with would be present for St. Louis fans as well.

Even past that, though, there are other things to watch for.  This is a great opportunity to see how much different the 2011 team is than last year's version.  We all know how the Cardinals struggled against sub-.500 teams last year, teams that they should have beaten on a regular basis.  Can they turn that around this year?  They've already done a fairly good job of that, beating teams like Arizona and Washington, but this will be a good test for them, especially coming off the high off winning the series against the Reds.

Then, tonight, it's Bud Norris.  The man, the myth, the legend.  A player that apparently got to choose which team he would beat to the exclusion of all others and, for some unknown reason, picked St. Louis.  

Here are the numbers offensively that the Cardinals have put up against Norris.

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS IBB HBP GDP
Matt Holliday 19 19 5 1 0 2 5 0 3 .263 .263 .632 .895 0 0 0
Albert Pujols 19 17 4 2 0 0 1 2 3 .235 .316 .353 .669 1 0 0
Colby Rasmus 18 16 4 2 0 1 1 2 5 .250 .333 .563 .896 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 16 14 4 0 0 0 0 1 2 .286 .375 .286 .661 0 1 1
Ryan Theriot 7 7 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 .286 .286 .286 .571 0 0 0
Tyler Greene 6 6 2 1 0 0 0 0 2 .333 .333 .500 .833 0 0 0
David Freese 5 5 1 0 0 0 1 0 3 .200 .200 .200 .400 0 0 0
Jon Jay 4 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0
Chris Carpenter 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Jaime Garcia 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Kyle Lohse 2 2 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 .500 .500 1.000 1.500 0 0 0
Total 100 93 24 7 0 3 8 5 21 .258 .303 .430 .733 1 1 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/26/2011.

As you can see, there are just not great results there.  That said, this is the line Norris has put up against the Cards in his last two outings against them:

13.2 IP, 14 H, 9 ER, 10 K, 3 BB, 5.93 ERA

Those two games were actually significant as well.  The first was the July 9th game in Houston where Adam Wainwright pitched eight scoreless innings and said afterwards that Norris "wasn't going to beat me", that he was determined not to lose to him again.  The second was an 18-4 win for the Astros in St. Louis on August 3, which was actually a matchup of Norris versus his opponent for tonight, Jaime Garcia.  (Also, the Diamond Diaries girls were at that one, so we completely blame it all on them.)

The way the offense has been going this season, I feel a bit more confident that Norris won't handcuff the team as he has in the past.  Then again, that also may be determined with how Albert Pujols's hamstring is doing.  The team reports no concerns about it, but there's also a possibility he sits tonight or longer.  While Pujols hasn't necessarily had strong numbers against Norris, taking a piece out of this lineup can throw things out of balance, as we saw with Matt Holliday's absence earlier in the month.

Here's what Garcia's done against the Astros:

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS IBB HBP GDP
Jason Bourgeois 3 3 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 .333 .333 .667 1.000 0 0 0
Matt Downs 3 2 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 .500 .667 .500 1.167 0 0 0
Chris Johnson 3 2 1 0 0 0 1 0 1 .500 .333 .500 .833 0 0 0
Carlos Lee 3 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 .667 .667 .667 1.333 0 0 0
Hunter Pence 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Angel Sanchez 3 3 2 1 0 0 2 0 1 .667 .667 1.000 1.667 0 0 0
Bud Norris 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0
Bill Hall 1 1 1 0 0 1 2 0 0 1.000 1.000 4.000 5.000 0 0 0
Jason Michaels 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 0 0 0
Total 22 20 10 2 0 1 6 1 4 .500 .500 .750 1.250 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/26/2011.

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Trying Something Out: Houston YNOT

Posted on April 25, 2011 at 4:17 PM
For those of you that know about YNOT, you can skip this bit right here and jump right into making your picks, if you want.  For those of you that wonder where this is coming from, let me give you a little background.  I think I've done it before on this blog, but it's been a while and I'm sure William would like to know what's going on.

When I first started my Internet career, as it were, I spent time at a site that, while it went through numerous changes, was mainly known as FanHome.  Obviously, I spent a lot of time in the Cardinal forum there, but I'd read other forums as well, most notably the Montreal Expos forum.  (Side note: Popular baseball writer Jonah Keri, before he was a star, was one of the regular posters in there.)  They had this game they called YNOT, because the poster that started it was named YNOT Us, YNOT Now, I believe.

YNOT is a simple prediction game.  10 questions of differing point value are asked about an upcoming series.  At the end of it, it was graded, scores were kept, etc.  After playing the Montreal version for a while, I asked if I could move it over to the Cardinal board.  I ran the Cardinal YNOT from 2001-2005, I believe, at that board.  In the meantime, I moved over to CardsClubhouse and ran it there from 2003 forward.  Roark, the owner of the Clubhouse, even designed a fancy submission tool over there.  Things were great.

The last couple of years, I've gotten busy with this blog, the UCB, and various other things and let YNOT slide somewhat, but a great poster over at the Clubhouse has been helping me the last couple of years.  This year, with a pending upgrade to CCH upcoming, we've taken YNOT off the board system and are using Google Forms to record submissions.  The winners are still posted over at the Clubhouse, however.

While I was setting up the Houston one this afternoon, I realized that I could embed this form straight into here, saving my readers some effort and perhaps expanding the pool of participants for this series.  If you are so inclined, go ahead and fill it out.  I'll try to link the results here when I post them at CCH.  If you want me to continue to do this in the future, let me know in the comments or via some method (e-mail, Twitter, etc.)

Have fun!

Cards Win, Come Tantalizingly Close To Sweep

Posted on April 25, 2011 at 10:31 AM
It was a wet weekend in St. Louis, but they got all the games in.  After Friday's sleight-of-hand, as it were, with the start times and starting pitchers (the details of which can be found here), the Cards and Reds hooked up for two more games.  Both of them should have been Cardinal wins, but they wound up splitting the set.  Let's take a look.

Saturday (5-3 loss)
Hero: Lance Berkman kept the fan club happy with two hits and a walk, being one of the more productive Cardinals.  While it's true Berkman's splits are a bit one-sided, his production has been a welcome jolt to an offense that could stagnate last year.

Goat: Trever Miller.  We'll get into the rest of the bullpen issues later, but what it boils down to is that Miller, for the second time this week, was asked to come in and get one batter out and he was unable to do it.  If he gets Jay Bruce, the inning is over and the Cards still have a lead.  Instead, the game was tied and Ryan Franklin got the call to try to finish it off.

Notes: You know that old saw in baseball, that a pitcher "just knows how to win"?  While many have tossed that out of consideration anyway, there needs to be a complete moratorium on using it.  If there's any pitcher on this staff that knows how to win, it is Chris Carpenter, yet now Carp sits 0-2 on the season.

Take out that off-game against Arizona in a series where a lot of pitchers got battered, and Carpenter has a 1.73 ERA.  If he'd gotten some bullpen support, he'd have at least two wins and there wouldn't be anybody saying, "What's wrong with Carpenter?"  (Not many are saying that anyway, but I did see someone ask that question in the most recent chat with Matthew Leach over at MLB.com.)

Before we move on to the downside of this game, do want to note that it was nice to see Albert Pujols get not only a home run, but one that was in a crucial situation.  It didn't hold up, but it was a good answer to Joey Votto's shot the inning before.  Also, another fine outing by Fernando Salas

It seems like the young guns in the pen are getting the job done--something that was on display on Sunday--while the old guard is struggling.  There was a lot of talk after the game about Ryan Franklin and how he had failed again, and that's a legitimate point.  Franklin came into a situation that was more pressure-filled than a lot of his save opportunities and allowed a two-run single that put the Reds on top and created the final margin.  There's no doubt that Franklin needs to be kept away from high-leverage situations until (and, honestly, if) he can get some sort of successful run going.  Franklin shaved his chin this weekend, so we'll see if the non-chinchilla era is a success.

However, let's talk about some of the other issues in that inning, issues that, if they had been dealt with appropriately, would mean that Franklin never would have gotten in the game.  First, you have to consider the error by David Freese.  The two-base throwing error with one out turned out to be a very costly thing.  However, Miguel Batista gets the next guy and, after a perfectly reasonable intentional walk to Votto, has Jonny Gomes 0-2.  If he gets Gomes, the Cards are out of the inning still clinging to a one run lead.

Instead, Batista hits Gomes to load the bases, which brings in Miller and starts the dominoes falling.  So many chances in that eighth inning for the Cardinals to get out of it unscathed, even as the trouble started to mount.  It's just interesting that the old guys couldn't do it, whereas so far the young guys seem to be able to answer the challenge.

Hero: Yadier Molina.  I'm pretty sure that three-run home run felt really good to Yadi.

Goat: Colby Rasmus.  Rough night for Rasmus with three strikeouts during his 0-4.  If it wasn't for the off-day today, I might suggest that he get a night off, since he's one of only two players that have played every game for the Cards so far.

Notes: Is that what the problem has been?  Jake Westbrook has been TOO rested?  Coming back on three days' rest after his disastrous start against the Nationals, Westbrook looked more like the guy we thought the Cardinals were signing.  Six innings, only three walks and three hits, plus being more efficient with his pitches.  Hopefully he'll take this into his next start as well, even as it'll be on the regular schedule (plus a day, really, since there's the off day today).  

The young guns of Salas, Eduardo Sanchez, and Mitchell Boggs closed it out in fine fashion, showing that having power arms in the pen is a wonderful thing.  The three combined to allow no runs and six strikeouts against the 10 batters they faced.  There's a lot to be excited about with this team, but the young guys in the late innings is one of them.  I hope that it won't be broken up when Brian Tallet or Bryan Augenstein are ready to return.

Not everything was rosy for the Cardinals last night, though, as Pujols left with a hamstring injury.  It sounds like it was more precautionary than anything and those some think Pujols should rest through the Houston series, you know that if he can go, he'll be out there.  It is nice to know that Berkman can slide to first and Jon Jay can move into the outfield and there's not a huge dropoff, at least not like there would have been in the past.

As most everyone knows, ESPN was at the game last night as part of Sunday Night Baseball, with the whole road crew and everything.  It's nice to see the whole team out at the ballpark and I'd have probably appreciated it more if I'd gotten to watch more of it instead of monitoring the weather for a good portion of the evening.

A couple of articles on the Post-Dispatch site.  First off, while they may not list him as the "c" word, even Dave Duncan is admitting that Boggs is the closer.  Will he come in for every save opportunity?  Possibly not.  It's just worth noting that he has in every case since Franklin's loss against the Dodgers.  I could see a day where Boggs needs rest or they want to give someone else a chance in a lower-pressure (say, three-run lead) situation, but for the most part, the ninth is his.

Also, a good story on how Kyle Lohse is making the most of his second chance.  We all were on Lohse because he wasn't producing, and that's fair, but it is interesting to read how much pain and discomfort he was in, how he couldn't make it through the third before being in excruciating pain, but yet he kept trying to go out there, seeing if he could do something to help.  We dog on ballplayers that don't play through injuries and then we dog on those that do when they don't produce.  Just glad that Lohse's surgery seems to have corrected the problem and look forward to more of these results as the season goes along.

Off day today, so we'll talk about that Houston pitching matchup, with a familiar name haunting it, in tomorrow's entry. 


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The FSMW/U-Verse Battle

Posted on April 23, 2011 at 8:24 PM
If you've read through my comments, you know that I have one loyal reader in WilliamInMaine, who has become almost an honorary UCB member with his time in the chat rooms on our numerous shows and reading our blogs.  However, you may not know that I have more than just him reading this blog! (I know, I was a bit surprised as well.)

I got an e-mail from this reader earlier this week, asking if I'd write a little about the Fox Sports Midwest and AT&T U-Verse dispute that is going on.  Always willing to try to accommodate a reader, I said I would.  I know a couple of our bloggers in the UCB have touched on this as well, as they have been personally affected by it, and I've seen a lot of the Twitterverse talking about it as well.  It doesn't affect me personally, but darned if that'd stop me from writing anything.

Of course, when you look at the parties at hand it meant I had to check in with my friend Geoff at FSMW to see what he can tell me about the situation.  Any errors in this discussion are mine, but here's what I understand of the whole brouhaha.  

Last year, FSMW aired about 130 games, with the rest being on another station.  U-Verse carried all those games per their agreement with FSMW.  In 2011, though, Fox Sports Midwest was able to carry all the remaining non-nationally televised games (basically adding in the number of games KSDK carried last year) to bump their total up to 152 games.

With this increase in games came an increase in what FSMW was charging the video providers.  Most of them went along without any issue, being that they were getting more content.  There were a small number, U-Verse and CableOne being the largest of them, who balked at the idea.  I would guess that they believed they had a deal in place that covered all Cardinal games covered by FSMW for a set price.  The fact that FSMW increased the number of games they covered was not relevant from their point of view.  When they couldn't come to an agreement on a deal for the extra 20, FSMW blacked them out on U-Verse as they did not have the rights to those games.  You can read some quotes from both sides in this Dan Caesar column.

When I talked with Geoff, he pointed out that Fox Sports Midwest had to pay additional rights fees and increased their production costs when they took on these extra 20 games.  Raising prices to recoup some of those costs is an expected part of doing business, because FSMW isn't a non-profit entity.

Apparently, since the blackouts have started at the beginning of the year, six other providers that had initially not signed the new contract have now done so, allowing for Cardinal baseball to be seen in those areas.  U-Verse, however, is holding firm to their position.

What can you do as a person affected by this?  The main thing is to contact U-Verse (or, if you are covered by another provider that isn't airing the games, that provider) and let them know what you want.  If they hear from enough people, they have to consider if the market out there is big enough to warrant picking up the games.

Also, my reader let me know that she contacted AT&T and ranted about this situation.  When she did that, AT&T offered her numerous deals, such as free upgrades to HD, discounts off her bill, and faster internet service.  I've also seen where they've given free movie channels, at least for a period of time.  So if you aren't happy, let them know.  You might not get the games, but you'd at least get something for your time, trouble and aggravation.

For reference, here's a link to the providers who are and aren't carrying the extra games and here's a list of the games affected.  The next game on the list is the May 1 matchup against the Atlanta Braves. Perhaps soon the two sides will be able to come to an agreement before then and all of Cardinal Nation can watch all of the games.  We can only wait and see.

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Keeping You Informed: Cardinals Aid Tornado Relief

Posted on April 23, 2011 at 6:44 PM
Yesterday's tornado was a devastating thing for the St. Louis area.  Pictures of the destruction both at the airport and in some neighborhoods is a tough thing to look at, with only the fact that no one was killed easing that somewhat.  Today, the Cardinals have announced that they will aid in the recovery efforts by pledging money to the Red Cross, a very nice gesture.


CARDINALS TO HELP WITH TORNADO RELIEF EFFORTS 
Team Pledges $30,000 to the American Red Cross to Help Families 

ST. LOUIS (April 23, 2011) - The St. Louis Cardinals announced this afternoon that the team and its charitable foundation Cardinals Care will make donations to the American Red Cross to assist them with their efforts to help the families devastated by yesterday's tornados in the St. Louis area. 

"Our thoughts and prayers are with our friends and neighbors tonight," said Bill DeWitt III, the President of the Cardinals. "We want to do our part to immediately help these families begin the process of rebuilding their lives." 

The team has pledged $30,000 to the American Red Cross, with $20,000 coming directly from the Cardinals and $10,000 from the team's charitable foundation Cardinals Care. The team will make a formal check presentation to representatives of the American Red Cross prior to tomorrow night's game. 

"Our hearts go out to each of these families and particularly the children," said Michael Hall, Vice President of Cardinals Care and Community Relations. 

Cardinals Care is dedicated to caring for kids. Since it was founded in 1997, Cardinals Care has distributed over $17 million to area non-profit youth organizations, built 19 youth ball fields in local disadvantaged neighborhoods and currently serves over 4,000 kids as part of the Redbird Rookies program. 

Fans are encouraged to assist with the relief efforts and can learn more about helping the American Red Cross at www.redcrossstl.org or calling 314.516.2800.

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Forces of Nature, Both Cardinal and Otherwise

Posted on April 23, 2011 at 11:13 AM
The last two days, we've seen Kyle Lohse mow through the Washington Nationals and then a natural storm mow through St. Louis.  Let's look at both games, but first my thoughts and prayers are with those affected by the storms last night.  Springtime can be a wonderful time, but it has its darker edge as well.

Thursday (5-0 win)
Hero: Kyle Lohse. This is what the Cardinals thought they were getting when they signed Lohse to the long-term contract.  And, when he's been healthy, this is pretty close to what they've gotten.  People tend to forget that, before being plunked by a Ron Mahay pitch in a game against Kansas City, Lohse's 2009 was very strong as well.  After that pitch, he never was quite the same until the surgery he had late last season.  Now, he looks very, very good and could easily slide into that third starter role if Jake Westbrook continues to struggle.

Goat: Ryan Theriot.  A number of guys got shut down in this one, as the offense was pretty dormant between Matt Holliday's home run in the first and Albert Pujols's home run in the eighth.  My natural bias in those situations is to penalize the leadoff hitter, because his job really is to get on base.  Tie goes to the leadoff guy, as it were.

Notes: Holliday continues to rake, getting two hits and having his average well over .400.  Nice to see Albert get into one as well, as he continues to look more Albert-ish.

Friday (4-2 win)
Hero: Ryan Theriot.  This guy is going to dominate the charts this year, it looks like.  After a couple of 0-fer games, he breaks out with three hits and scores two of the teams runs.  He may be a streaky player, but so far it's been pretty effective for what the team needs.  I'm still not excited about the infield defense, but I will admit having offense in those slots makes up for some of it.

Goat: I'm going to slap this one on Daniel Descalso because he did go 0-3 and I'd like to see him produce enough to make it at least a controversy when Skip Schumaker returns.  That said, he did have a couple of nice plays in the field, getting a double play started on one.

Notes: Kudos to Tony La Russa.  You can question whether or not the game should have started, but if he did that to burn Edinson Volquez, it worked like a charm.  I was shocked when my MLB At Bat let me know that Miguel Batista was on the mound to start the game, but when the delay came and the reasoning behind all of that was made clear, it was a very smart tactical decision.  Reds fans are probably calling it dirty, but as I said on Twitter last night, sometimes the difference between dirty and smart is whether it is your team.  I think some of us would have been disappointed if this had happened in Cincinnati, but I also think we'd have been willing to give credit where credit was due if it'd happened to us.

Also, very solid game out of Kyle McClellan.  Getting to use him instead of making it a bullpen game was probably the difference in a win and a loss.  McClellan wasn't the sharpest he's been--three walks against only two strikeouts in six innings--but he was able to get out of most of the jams and keep the Cards in the lead.  I'm sure he wasn't thrilled about letting up a home run to Brandon Phillips though.  Of all people to go yard.....

Liked what we saw out of Eduardo Sanchez last night as well.  To come into his most pressure-filled outing of his young career and to work out of that jam was very impressive.  He added to the degree of difficulty by throwing a couple of wild pitches, though they looked like ones that Yadier Molina might have gotten to on most nights.  Still, he only allowed one run and kept the Cards ahead, which makes for a successful outing.

Good to see Jason Motte do fairly well, though he struggled at the end of it.  The differences between him and Mitchell Boggs, who came in for his second save, are pretty apparent.  Motte's a great guy to have start the eighth of a game you are winning, but once he starts to get into trouble, he doesn't seem to have enough command to use anything other than his fastball.  Boggs came in following him with some different looks and it really confused the Reds hitters.

Gotta wrap this up as I'm about to head out to a family gathering, but it's Chris Carpenter vs. Travis Wood today on Fox.  It's a good matchup for the Cards, though I think they struggled some with Wood last year.  The way this offense is going, though, I don't think that'll be much of an issue today.  Assuming we get the real Chris Carpenter, there's a strong chance the Redbirds can win the series today.

 
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Keeping You Informed: Heroes In The Classroom

Posted on April 22, 2011 at 2:14 PM
I'm not a lottery person.  If I'm going to throw away my money, I prefer it to be at the biweekly poker game with friends because at least then I get some comraderie (and numerous insults not pleasant enough to be printed here) to go with the loss of my money plus a few hours out of the house.

However, I know a number of people are ones to take a shot and play the lottery, so if you are in the St. Louis area, it might please you to know that the Cardinals have teamed up with the Missouri Lottery to recognize worthy teachers in the region.  It's great that some of these teachers are going to get this kind of recognition!


THE CARDINALS TEAM UP WITH MISSOURI LOTTERY 
"Heroes in the Classroom" will Recognize Excellence in Missouri Education 

ST. LOUIS (April 22, 2011) - The St. Louis Cardinals announced a partnership with the Missouri Lottery for the 2011 season that will recognize and showcase excellence in Missouri education. The new "Heroes in the Classroom" program will feature one educator a month who has demonstrated excellence in education. The selected educator will be honored for their work in the classroom with a special pre-game ceremony at a Cardinals home game, VIP tickets to the game for their family and an opportunity to throw out a ceremonial first pitch.

"We are proud to partner with Missouri Lottery to celebrate teachers," said William DeWitt III, President of the Cardinals. "Through our partnership we will recognize some of the unsung heroes who are making a difference in the lives of students throughout the state." 

The Missouri Lottery is an important source of funding for the state's public schools, with nearly $4 billion provided to support Missouri schools since it was established in 1986. Last year alone, the lottery provided over $255 million for elementary, secondary and higher education. Since 1993, Missouri Lottery proceeds have gone solely to the state's public education system, and currently 26.6 cents of every dollar spent on the Missouri Lottery benefits Missouri's public education system. In addition to celebrating excellence in education, the new partnership is designed to increase Cardinals fans exposure to the Missouri Lottery. 

"We are delighted to partner with the Cardinals," said May Scheve Reardon, executive director of the Missouri Lottery. "The additional exposure for the Missouri Lottery that comes with partnering with a team that has one of the largest and most loyal fan bases in Major League Baseball is a great opportunity." 

As part of the "Heroes in the Classroom" partnership, the Missouri Lottery will be provided with signage at Busch Stadium, print and radio advertising on the team's game broadcasts and timely in-stadium announcements of Mega Millions and Powerball game payouts.
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Social Media Night Returns!

Posted on April 22, 2011 at 11:36 AM
If you're a long-time reader of this blog, you'll remember last year when the Cardinals had their Social Media NIght (which, to be fair, got overshadowed a bit with the whole FSMW stuff I was doing that day in the writeup) and that, when we were up there for UCB Weekend, the Cardinals mentioned they were going to be doing that again this year.

Just had the details of this year's sent to me and I wanted to get them out there so you could make your plans.  Here's what I know:

Date: Tuesday, May 17th vs. the Phillies
Price: $20, which gets you a field box seat, a Tweet Me In St. Louis shirt (that you can see on the above link--very nice shirts!), and access to the pre-game event.

The pre-game event will give a chance to socialize with others that do Twitter, blog or follow the team on Facebook.  Last year there was a presentation to go with, with some talks from John Mozeliak and others, but I don't know if that's the plan this year.

I won't be able to make this one, unfortunately, but if you are in the area at all, I encourage you to plan to attend!




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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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