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July 2011

Crazy Day In Cardinal Nation

Posted on July 30, 2011 at 11:53 PM
Lots of stuff floating around today, as the Cards made some moves on the field and off of them.  Let's hit the game first, followed by the cavalry.

Sometimes I think Kyle Lohse just shouldn't be allowed to pitch against the Cubs.  I've noted before that he seems to get beat around by them in our UCB Progressive Game Blog days.  Today wasn't much different, at least to start with.  The error by Daniel Descalso to start the game didn't help, of course, save that it kept Lohse from getting any earned runs.  We pointed out that Alfonso Soriano had done well against him in the past and that showed again today with the big three-run bomb.

Something funny happened on the way to that rout, though.  Lohse settled down and kept the Cubs off the scoreboard while the Cardinal bats started to come alive.  They got two quick ones back, then they blew up in the fifth.

Which is why I'm giving the Hero tag to Matt Holliday for his takeout slide at second, knocking Starlin Castro not only to his knees, but also rattling him enough that an extra run scored on the play.  Watching it live, I thought it was a perfectly clean slide, aggressive to be sure, but clean.  He didn't go out of the baseline, going straight to second base with his hands going over it after the slide.  He dropped down late, sure, and threw his legs out, but that's the way you are taught to go into second, isn't it?  He didn't chase Castro down to get in his way.

Everything went south from there for the Cubs and the Cards put on a trouncing.  A win tomorrow and they can have that 5-2 homestand that I thought was the minimum they had to do against the Astros and Cubs.

Other positives: Being that his job was in jeopardy (and more on that in a bit) it was good to see Ryan Theriot 1) start at second base (where he should have been all year) and 2) get a couple of big hits in his 4-5 day.  He looked a lot better and could be on the rebound after his terrible stretch.  That said, if he plans to play he better get happy at second.

Also, Albert Pujols went 2-4 with a home run.  I can take days like that, can't you?

Lohse's line was pretty good all the way around.  For the second straight start, though, he had to be pinch-hit for in the fifth with a great scoring opportunity.  This time, Tony Cruz came through and kept the inning going and the runs flowing.  It'd still be nice to see if Lohse could keep his good starts past the fifth, though.

Not sure why Tony La Russa feels the need to throw Octavio Dotel every single day.  He's gone three in a row, which should mean he's unavailable tomorrow night.  As long as we get him ready for Milwaukee, though, that'll be OK.  Bullpen all around was solid with Lance Lynn and Fernando Salas also throwing scoreless and efficient frames.

Looking for a Goat and I guess it has to be Daniel Descalso.  No hits, two strikeouts and that error in the first.  Did score a run after an intentional walk, though, so it wasn't completely wasted, just not that good in comparison to pretty much everyone else.

Then, late tonight, the Cards finalized a deal with the Dodgers that is sending Rafael Furcal here to lead off and play shortstop.  Like I said this morning, it looks like he's got a good case for a rebound and has been hitting much better of late.  He should be able to catch what comes to him and give the team a bit of a different look in the leadoff slot.  Apparently the cost was pretty cheap--a minor league outfielder not on the 40-man roster (name still not identified, though it's been confirmed it's not Thomas Pham) and the Dodgers are even kicking in some cash.

I like the deal.  Seems like it's a low-risk way to improve a pretty glaring hole.  At worst, it's a Mark DeRosa-type deal with less of a cost in players.  (Much less of a cost in players!)  At best, it revitalizes the top of the lineup and gives another dimension to this offense.  It looks like Furcal should make it to St. Louis in time for tomorrow night's game against the Cubs, so we won't have to wait long to see what he can do in Cardinal red.

According to the rumor mill, the Cards are still in the picture for Heath Bell as well.  I'm not so excited about that, due to Bell's declining production and the fact that the bullpen has already been made over.  Texas looked like the sure-fire winner in that derby, though, but they traded for Koji Uehara and are reportedly not close to any other deal.  If that's true, San Diego might have to drop their asking price and maybe the Cards could meet it.  Then again, it seems just as likely that the Padres would keep Bell and get the two picks when he walks in the offseason, but sometimes getting sure things is better than the gambles two picks could be.  I don't think the Cards will do it, but you never know.

All of this activity this week has reminded me of the 2000 trading deadline.  I think that might have been the first time the deadline was moved to 3 PM Central rather than 11 PM.  Anyway, I remember being at work monitoring the deals and it seemed like Walt Jocketty was making a ton of them.  First Will Clark, then Carlos Hernandez.  Seems like there was at least one other move as well.  It's always fun to see the Cardinals not only tied to rumors but actively doing some work as well.  Even if they are done, it's been a fun week and will give Bill and I plenty to talk about on tomorrow's Gateway to Baseball Heaven.

Let's preview the Sunday night ESPN game.  Jake Westbrook tries to keep his current run going.  What's he done against the Cubbies in the past?

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS IBB HBP GDP
Carlos Pena 38 33 11 6 0 4 10 4 10 .333 .395 .879 1.274 0 0 0
Alfonso Soriano 23 22 3 0 0 0 1 1 2 .136 .174 .136 .310 0 0 2
Marlon Byrd 8 7 1 0 0 0 2 0 1 .143 .250 .143 .393 0 1 0
Starlin Castro 7 7 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 .286 .286 .286 .571 0 0 0
Reed Johnson 7 7 2 0 0 0 2 0 1 .286 .286 .286 .571 0 0 0
Blake DeWitt 6 6 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .500 .833 0 0 0
Darwin Barney 5 5 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .200 .200 .200 .400 0 0 0
Aramis Ramirez 4 4 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 1
Koyie Hill 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0
Matt Garza 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Jeff Samardzija 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1.000 0 0 0
Total 103 95 25 7 0 4 16 6 16 .263 .311 .463 .774 0 1 3
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/30/2011.

I hate to mention it, seeing as how pointing out Soriano's numbers this morning didn't work out well, but Carlos Pena has owned Westbrook. I didn't know it was possible for Pena to hit anyone for a high average, but he's done it against Westbrook. Some intentional walks may be in order. 

Ryan Dempster for the little bears. His numbers:
 
PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS IBB HBP GDP
Lance Berkman 72 58 16 1 0 5 12 14 17 .276 .417 .552 .968 0 0 1
Albert Pujols 61 49 16 2 0 7 14 11 1 .327 .443 .796 1.239 2 0 2
Skip Schumaker 44 43 18 3 0 0 5 1 7 .419 .432 .488 .920 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 38 31 10 2 0 0 0 5 1 .323 .417 .387 .804 1 0 3
Matt Holliday 18 18 6 0 0 0 1 0 1 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 1
Corey Patterson 17 17 5 2 0 0 1 0 1 .294 .294 .412 .706 0 0 1
Chris Carpenter 13 12 2 1 0 0 0 0 4 .167 .167 .250 .417 0 0 0
Jon Jay 12 10 2 0 1 0 0 1 4 .200 .273 .400 .673 0 0 0
Kyle Lohse 5 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
David Freese 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0
Ryan Theriot 3 3 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .667 1.000 0 0 0
Daniel Descalso 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0
Octavio Dotel 2 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 1 .000 .500 .000 .500 0 0 0
Jaime Garcia 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Edwin Jackson 2 2 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0
Gerald Laird 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Total 295 256 79 12 1 12 35 33 42 .309 .386 .504 .890 3 0 8
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/30/2011.

It'd be really nice if Lance Berkman could get back out there for this one. He and Pujols have done quite well against the Cubbie pitcher.  Then again, looks like a lot of the team has, which is funny, because I had it in my head Dempster gave the Cardinals some trouble.

Break out the brooms and get out the welcome mat, tomorrow night should be a lot of fun!

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Major Milestones

Posted on July 30, 2011 at 11:23 AM
This year, the Cubs have gotten an early jump on their acronym (Completely Useless By September) and walked into Busch to face a team that really need to take care of business.  At least on Friday, that business was taken care of.

You have to figure there was a ton of pressure on Edwin Jackson last night, but he held up under the strain beautifully.  There had to be a segment of the fan base there ready to boo if he didn't pitch well, taking out their frustrations of a trade that they didn't approve of.

Jackson, save a bit of trouble in the second, never really gave them the opportunity.  How can you not like seven innings, one run, four strikeouts and two walks?  It was interesting to see a flamethrower on the mound to start a game as well.  We've seen 97 or so out of the pen often enough from Jason Motte in particular, but that's not exactly Jake Westbrook's game, for example.

Of course, again, you don't want to read too much into one start.  The Cubs aren't exactly a dominant force, as noted, and they lost one of their bigger weapons earlier in the week when they traded Kosuke Fukudome.  Jackson will go again in the Milwaukee series and we'll get a better feel for what we have then.

Even though the game was well in hand after a eighth inning uprising (more on that in a second), there was still a reason to hang around.  After doubling in the second, Albert Pujols needed one hit to get to the nice, round number of 2000.  There seemed little doubt that, when the man puts his mind to it, it's going to happen and he smoked another double off of Carlos Marmol in his last at-bat, creating prolonged cheers and a couple of tips of his batting helmet to the fans.  Who knows if Cardinal fans will be able to help him mark other occasions.  Reactions like that, though, can't hurt when it comes this offseason.  Congrats to Pujols on such a milestone.  Now, go get 1631 more in a Cardinal uni--I think Stan Musial would be OK with that.

There really was only one blemish on last night's game, and that was Kyle McClellan's season debut from the bullpen.  McClellan only got one out, allowed a run, and left with runners on second and third.  A base hit in that situation would have made it 6-4 with the tying run at the plate, but Motte came in and snuffed out the rally.  I'm sure it'll take a little bit of time for McClellan to get back into the reliever mindset.  I wouldn't be surprised to see him either this afternoon or Sunday night, to get him back on the horse and get him realizing that he can come in at any time.

Apparently the Cards aren't quite done dealing, though it seems that, even though they had scouts in Baltimore to watch Jeremy Guthrie last night and are still talking with the Padres about Heath Bell (who, apparently, would like to come to St. Louis, but he doesn't have the clout Ken Griffey Jr. had to get to Cincinnati and we remember what happened to Roy Oswalt, who wanted to come to St. Louis as well), the focus has shifted to the middle infield slot.  

Joe Strauss has Tweeted that the Cards are likely to make a "difference-maker" move before the deadline.  That apparently means (assuming John Mozeliak isn't in super-secret stealth mode) Rafael Furcal, who is having an off year but some of the sabermetric types believe that the underlying numbers are solid and he should be in line for a bounce back.  That's well beyond my knowledge and ability, so I'll take their word for it.  I would think that Furcal would be a fairly low-cost option, plus Milwaukee has been looking in on him, so if they are able to swipe him before the Brewers do, that could be a double win.

Now, apparently those talks may have lit a fire under the incumbent, because Ryan Theriot got two hits last night (though he also played some second base).  Could this be a lot of talk just to see what happens?  I'd be surprised.  It's obvious that the Cardinals are pushing hard to win this year.  I don't think they are gambling that some sort of psychological warfare will help them get the Theriot they hoped they were trading for in the offseason.  I'd be a little surprised if the Cards don't wind up with Furcal, but we have about 29 hours to find out.

(Interestingly, though, Theriot didn't play shortstop last night, getting in at second base after pinch hitting, his first time on that side of the bag.  Daniel Descalso started there and eventually Tyler Greene, who came up when the Cards put Nick Punto on the DL yesterday, got some time there.  Take that for what it's worth.)

Cards and Cubs are the Fox Game of the Week, meaning a nice 3:10 start on a July afternoon in St. Louis.  Glad I'll watch that one from my air-conditioned home, I've got to say.  Kyle Lohse was pushed back a day and makes the start here, as we'll see whether the finger is going to be much of an issue.  Lohse looked pretty good last time out, but was only out there five innings.  Here's his line against the Cubbies:

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS IBB HBP GDP
Alfonso Soriano 44 42 15 3 0 2 7 2 5 .357 .386 .571 .958 0 0 0
Carlos Pena 36 34 9 1 1 2 7 2 13 .265 .306 .529 .835 0 0 0
Aramis Ramirez 16 15 7 3 0 1 5 0 0 .467 .500 .867 1.367 0 1 0
Geovany Soto 14 13 4 2 0 0 2 1 2 .308 .357 .462 .819 0 0 0
Reed Johnson 10 9 3 0 0 0 1 1 0 .333 .400 .333 .733 1 0 0
Blake DeWitt 7 5 2 0 0 0 0 2 1 .400 .571 .400 .971 0 0 0
Ryan Dempster 6 6 2 0 0 0 1 0 1 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0
Jeff Baker 5 5 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .200 .200 .200 .400 0 0 2
Starlin Castro 5 5 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .200 .200 .200 .400 0 0 0
Koyie Hill 5 5 1 1 0 0 2 0 0 .200 .200 .400 .600 0 0 0
Carlos Zambrano 4 4 2 0 0 2 2 0 0 .500 .500 2.000 2.500 0 0 0
Darwin Barney 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0
Tyler Colvin 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Randy Wells 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0
Marlon Byrd 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0
Rodrigo Lopez 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Total 165 156 50 10 1 7 27 8 27 .321 .358 .532 .890 1 1 2
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/30/2011.

Alfonso Soriano has done well against him in the past, though some of those numbers might be from back when Soriano was a force. Aramis Ramirez will be the one to really focus on, but since he's the biggest problem in the lineup anyway, that's not a big surprise.

Rodrigo Lopez goes for the Cubs. He's only thrown one inning against the Birds this year and they scored against him, so maybe they can pile up some more runs today. Here's his career numbers:
 
PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS IBB HBP GDP
Albert Pujols 15 13 1 0 0 1 2 1 3 .077 .133 .308 .441 0 0 1
Lance Berkman 11 9 2 1 0 0 2 2 2 .222 .364 .333 .697 1 0 0
Yadier Molina 11 11 3 0 0 0 1 0 1 .273 .273 .273 .545 0 0 2
Matt Holliday 10 10 4 3 0 1 2 0 1 .400 .400 1.000 1.400 0 0 0
Skip Schumaker 10 10 4 2 0 0 1 0 0 .400 .400 .600 1.000 0 0 0
Ryan Theriot 8 6 2 0 0 0 1 2 1 .333 .500 .333 .833 0 0 0
Corey Patterson 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .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 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Kyle McClellan 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Total 72 66 16 6 0 2 9 5 9 .242 .292 .424 .716 1 0 3
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/30/2011.

Albert has really struggled against him, so we'll have to see if that will change. Matt Holliday and Skip Schumaker look like the guys that have seen him the best.

Cards still have the potential for a sweep and may shake the roster up today as well.  Good day to stick by Twitter while you are watching the game!

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Is It Too Late?

Posted on July 29, 2011 at 10:29 AM
The idea at the trade deadline is to give a team an added boost to push them to the finish line.  While it's way too early to determine whether it worked or not here, the last couple of nights have reinforced an idea that has been floating around, that it may be not enough for this team.

Let's look at last night first before examining the bigger picture.  In his first outing, Marc Rzepczynksi gets the Hero tag, throwing two very impressive innings in relief.  Not limited to just LOOGY status, he struck out four of the seven batters he faced, allowing just a solitary hit.  On Twitter, there was some discussion about why he was allowed to throw two innings (the pitch count was a season high), but he handled it well.  I'd suggest that either Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan wanted to really see what they had in Rzepczynski or the stretching him out process has already begun.  Whatever the case, he looks like a good addition to the bullpen, if last night is representative of what he can do.

Corey Patterson and Octavio Dotel also got into the action with positive marks on the scoreboard.  Patterson drove in the first run of the game while Dotel threw a scoreless ninth.  At least for one night, there wasn't much complaining about what came back in the deal.

Among the regulars, it was good to see Albert Pujols have a couple of doubles, but there just wasn't much else going from the offensive side of things.  If Houston trades Wandy Rodriguez, I hope it's to the American League so the Cards don't have to face him nearly as often.

Flipping the focus, Jaime Garcia was off last night.  I don't know if the law of averages is catching up to him, but his last two road starts--where he had been struggling--were excellent, while he comes home--a place where he'd been dominant--and allowed five runs and was generally inefficient, throwing just under 100 pitches in six innings.

Really, that's the key.  If it's a good night for Garcia, he throws about 8 innings in that many pitches.  If he starts scuffling early, it's probably going to be a short night for him.  That's the way it was last night.  Granted, he had some complications and one of the charges against Garcia has been his ability to lose focus at times, but on the whole, not what we wanted to see out of him in a game that was a needed win.

So the Cardinals reach the midway point in this series against one of the worst teams in the NL with two wins and their top two pitchers going next.  They wind up with an unsatisfying split, which seems to be par for the course for this team.

Since June 1, this team is 22-27 by my count.  Granted, there were some injuries that played a part in that, but the idea coming out of the All-Star break was that this team was ready to rock and roll, ready to put up a strong second half.  Instead, they are just 6-7 so far since the game out in Arizona.  While the competition has been better than doormats, they still should be better than that.  Right now, this team feels like mediocrity.

Of course, mediocrity might be enough to win the NL Central, but I'd be a little surprised.  The Cards sit tied for second, 1.5 games behind Milwaukee for the division lead.  It's not like Milwaukee or Pittsburgh is tearing things up either, but right now all it'll take is one medium-sized winning streak from either team and the Cardinals might be too far out to worry about it.

This team, from a fan's point of view, still just feels out of sync.  Last night was an example--as soon as the team shores up its pitching staff, three position players leave because of injury.  Tony Cruz and Gerald Laird sound like they should be ready tonight or tomorrow, but Nick Punto, who is working on that "oft-injured" descriptor to go in front of his name, may wind up back on the DL.  While the manager continues to say that Allen Craig may not be ready yet, if Punto hits the DL (and with Craig getting two hits in Memphis last night), I'd be surprised if that's not the move that's made.

We know if the offense gets clicking and starting working with a pitching staff on a roll, very good things can happen in St. Louis.  All the parts are here (though one right now, Lance Berkman, apparently is still not likely to play tonight either) to make a run.  Whether they'll all get on the same page is a question that is likely to linger for some time, and the longer it lingers, the less likely it is to happen or, at least, happen in time.

Just as a passing note, a Chicago columnist has suggested that the White Sox didn't take Colby Rasmus because they wanted Tony La Russa to manage for them next year.  I'm thinking that if Cardinal management didn't have a strong feeling TLR was coming back next year, they'd have been more likely to tell them to deal with each other for a couple of months. It was the fact that La Russa was going to be around for longer than this season that gave the club the impetus to trade him.

Edwin Jackson makes his Cardinal debut tonight and gets to jump straight into the Cards/Cubs rivalry.  He's had some experience against the North Siders, but has it been good?

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS IBB HBP GDP
Marlon Byrd 13 13 3 1 0 1 4 0 2 .231 .231 .538 .769 0 0 0
Alfonso Soriano 13 12 4 1 0 1 3 0 4 .333 .385 .667 1.051 0 1 0
Carlos Pena 11 7 0 0 0 0 0 4 2 .000 .364 .000 .364 1 0 0
Geovany Soto 10 7 0 0 0 0 2 2 2 .000 .200 .000 .200 1 0 0
Blake DeWitt 7 7 2 0 0 0 2 0 2 .286 .286 .286 .571 0 0 0
Starlin Castro 6 6 1 0 0 0 2 0 0 .167 .167 .167 .333 0 0 0
Aramis Ramirez 6 5 2 0 0 1 2 0 1 .400 .333 1.000 1.333 0 0 0
Reed Johnson 5 4 1 1 0 0 0 1 1 .250 .400 .500 .900 0 0 1
Darwin Barney 3 3 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 .333 .333 .667 1.000 0 0 0
Ryan Dempster 3 3 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Randy Wells 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Total 79 69 14 4 0 3 17 7 14 .203 .278 .391 .670 2 1 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/29/2011.

Not as much experience against them as I thought, but it has been pretty positive. Looks like Alfonso Soriano is the guy Jackson needs to be the most aware of. 

For the Cubbies, Matt Garza takes the hill. He's a pretty new face to most of the Cardinals.
 
PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS IBB HBP GDP
Lance Berkman 18 15 2 0 0 0 1 2 4 .133 .222 .133 .356 0 0 0
Gerald Laird 15 12 2 1 0 0 2 2 5 .167 .333 .250 .583 0 1 0
Matt Holliday 12 11 2 0 0 0 0 1 3 .182 .250 .182 .432 0 0 0
Corey Patterson 11 10 6 1 0 1 1 1 2 .600 .636 1.000 1.636 0 0 0
Albert Pujols 5 4 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 .250 .400 .250 .650 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 3 3 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0
Skip Schumaker 3 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 .667 .667 .667 1.333 0 0 0
Ryan Theriot 3 2 1 0 0 0 1 1 1 .500 .667 .500 1.167 0 0 0
Daniel Descalso 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .500 .000 .500 0 0 0
Nick Punto 2 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.500 2.500 0 0 0
Jake Westbrook 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 75 63 19 3 0 1 7 9 15 .302 .392 .397 .789 0 1 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/29/2011.

Interesting that former Cub and new Cardinal Patterson has possibly the best line against Garza. With Berkman still hurting, you figure he'll get another start tonight.

I said at the outset of this homestand than anything less than 5-2 would be a disappointment.  The Cards now have to sweep the Cubs to get to that level.  First step to a sweep tonight!

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Cardinals Move On

Posted on July 28, 2011 at 9:15 AM
After all the news of the day, it was almost anti-climactic when the Cards had to go out and actually play a game.  Unfortunately, the ending was of the same mold.

There weren't a lot of positive performances to go on, as Bud Norris was at it again.  I'll give the Hero tag to Matt Holliday for his two-for-three performance last night.  You could have also gone with Chris Carpenter, who pitched well again, with eight strikeouts and two runs in seven innings.  Carpenter is showing no signs of turning back into a pumpkin, as it were, so he should give the Cards a significant weapon down the stretch of what is turning into a three-way race.

The Goat would be Mitchell Boggs.  Not only did he give up the deciding two runs in the game, but he was very shaky in his first inning of work as well, being a bit lucky not to have allowed any runs there as he loaded the bases with one out.  Boggs seems to have these kind of games, going from very effective at times to very iffy.  With the new arms coming for the pen and with Boggs having options, it'll be interesting to see if he goes down to make room.  I don't know that he will or that he should, but that doesn't mean much.

Really thought the Cards were going to be able to at least force extras with Albert Pujols up, runners on second and third, and two outs.  A base hit would have been enough, but instead he struck out to end the game and cap his 0-5 night.  It seems to me that Pujols, save for his 4-5 game in Pittsburgh, has been fine with the long ball but isn't hitting for much average.  His season number now is .274, at least seven points off of his season high.  As much as I like the homers, a 3-4 night with a double on a semi-regular basis would not go amiss either.  

Last night the top three hitters in the lineup combined for 0-13.  It's a good thing Carpenter was on his game, because it's not easy to score many runs when that happens.

Of course, today is still a reaction day as the trade continues to be analyzed and discussed. It was interesting to see some of the comments from the people involved.

For example, the main piece in the deal, Colby Rasmus.  I think the takeaway from everything that he said yesterday, besides the boilerplate "It happens, enjoyed my time here, etc." was "I hope he's happy" in reference to Tony La Russa.  

If nothing else, the Rasmus family seems to think that it was La Russa that got Colby out of town.  Cole over at Redbird Report picked up some comments from Tony Rasmus in a Toronto paper that paint a different picture than the official line.  While I think you take some of Papa Rasmus's comments with a grain of salt--he's been known to admit that he likes to stir the pot on line, and I expect an interview would be no different--that combined with Colby's brother (not the one recently drafted by the Cards) Tweeting about "unfair treatment" makes you wonder exactly how things were playing out over there.

One of the other pieces that left was Trever Miller.  Miller made some comments on his way out, and took most of the blame, with the caveat that he though if he'd pitched regularly he'd have been better.  

There's only one problem with that.  When he was pitching regularly, he wasn't getting people out, which is why TLR lost confidence in him and stopped using him.   For example, let's look back at that five-appearance, no-out streak he ran in April.  He threw on 4/17, then 4/23, then three straight days 4/26-4/28.  You can't get much more regular than that for a LOOGY.  It wasn't until July until he really didn't get regular work, but by then the damage was done.

Kyle McClellan was affected by the deal and he says he's fine with going to the bullpen.  Fine might be an overstatement, really.  Watching him on FSMW yesterday it seemed like he was going to take one for the team and he couldn't really complain about it, but he wasn't thrilled.  You can't blame him--he's wanted to be a starter for a long time now and got a chance to do it this year.  He didn't completely pitch himself out of the job (though if he was still going like he was going in April, the Cards either don't make this move or don't get him out of the rotation) and has to be pleased that he at least showed the team (and other teams) that he could do it.

He strengthens the bullpen now, though, and that's a positive from this situation.  Most likely, with a rotation of Adam Wainwright, Jaime Garcia, Kyle Lohse and Jake Westbrook next year already set with Chris Carpenter looking like he might return and the Cards talking about making new guy Marc Rzepczynski a starter, McClellan could become a trade chip in the offseason and he's done nothing to damage his value.

Tony La Russa continues to insist that the team shouldn't choose a manager over a player and that he had nothing to do with the deal.  Perhaps that's true, but there have been a number of players (J.D. Drew, Adam Kennedy, Scott Rolen, Brendan Ryan) that got into that doghouse and none of them are still here while the manager is.  With the comments from Tony Rasmus and the fact that the Cards were working on an extension with Rasmus before TLR ruined it with his public comments, there's no doubt that he's been significantly involved in this decision.  For some, that's a failure of being a manager and I'm not going to say I disagree.

I do want to take issue with one point, though, that was brought up in the UCB Radio Hour last night and probably will be mentioned by a number of people aggravated with La Russa's actions.  Tony La Russa is a very good manager.  Doesn't mean he's always right, doesn't mean that he was right in this case.  However, a person doesn't stay in the game managing 30+ years with no gaps without knowing what he is doing.

You look at the two teams that were affected by the death of a teammate, in '02 and '07.  Both of those teams were able to overcome that, though the '07 team fell short of the playoffs.  Look at this year.  With all the injuries, most Cardinal fans would have been ecstatic with second place if you'd told them all of these players would go down before the season.  No matter the personnel, the TLR era in St. Louis has been a rousing success and we should remember that.

Does that mean that it's not time for TLR to go, that he should continue to be manager in perpetuity?  I don't know about that.  I think there should be some sort of accountability when comments are made that change the whole course of an organization.  What that should be is up to the powers that be.

Finally, this from John Mozeliak: "Was there a chance he [Colby] was going in the wrong direction?  I'll let you answer that."  It seems that the club realized there was a chance that he wasn't going to get any better.  If he doesn't, if he doesn't come out of his shell being outside of St. Louis, perhaps we'll look back on this trade much differently in 4-5 years.  I remember the outcry when the Mark Mulder deal was made.  People were so worked up about it because they couldn't believe the Cards would trade such a prospect.  Of course, that was Daric Barton, who has done little to warrant that gnashing of teeth in his career.  If it wasn't for the fact Dan Haren blossomed, that trade would just be a footnote.

One last point I want to make about the deal.  While there seems to be little thought that these players to be named later will be much of anything (they've been described as low-level prospects), either they or the "significant" cash that are coming back must be key.  I feel like there's a player in Toronto's system that Mozeliak really wants, and he did pretty well picking out David Freese from San Diego for Jim Edmonds and Makiel Cleto from Seattle for Brendan Ryan.  

To me, that's the only reason you turn down the Tampa Bay offer of Jeff Niemann and JP Howell and a prospect.  The story is that Mo was holding out for James Shields or Jeremy Hellickson, which I understand, but that's not the quality he got from Toronto.  I don't think anyone puts Edwin Jackson in the same class as those two, and the differences in contracts is significant as well.  Niemann would be under team control for five more years at a fairly minimum salary, something that'd be good when you are budgeting for Albert Pujols.  It's true Howell would have a free agent at the end of the year, but easier to resign him than Jackson.

Tampa Bay's package, on the face of it, was a much better blend of the now and the not yet.  I have to believe that the PTBNL will give us some of that "not yet" out of this deal as well.

Lance Berkman got an injection in his shoulder yesterday and should be back in the lineup today.  The outfield depth has taken a hit, so we really need Berkman to be healthy down the stretch.  Hopefully that will be the case.

Couple of lefties go today.  Jaime Garcia at home is a good thing, as we all know.  Here's him against the Houston club:

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS IBB HBP GDP
Carlos Lee 9 7 2 0 0 0 1 2 0 .286 .444 .286 .730 0 0 0
Hunter Pence 9 9 2 0 1 1 2 0 2 .222 .222 .778 1.000 0 0 0
Chris Johnson 8 7 3 1 0 0 1 0 2 .429 .375 .571 .946 0 0 0
Jason Bourgeois 6 6 3 2 0 0 1 0 0 .500 .500 .833 1.333 0 0 0
Bud Norris 6 5 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .200 .200 .200 .400 0 0 0
Angel Sanchez 6 6 3 1 0 0 2 0 1 .500 .500 .667 1.167 0 0 0
Clint Barmes 5 5 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .200 .200 .200 .400 0 0 0
Jason Michaels 4 4 3 0 0 0 1 0 0 .750 .750 .750 1.500 0 0 0
Michael Bourn 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Matt Downs 3 2 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 .500 .667 .500 1.167 0 0 0
Brett Wallace 3 3 2 0 0 0 1 0 1 .667 .667 .667 1.333 0 0 0
Humberto Quintero 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0
Total 64 59 22 4 1 1 9 3 9 .373 .397 .525 .922 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/28/2011.

These guys have hit Garcia hard. Not a lot of extra base hits and a small sample size, but that average jumps out. 

Wandy Rodriguez vs. Cardinals has always been a tough matchup.

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS IBB HBP GDP
Albert Pujols 49 40 9 3 0 1 6 9 1 .225 .367 .375 .742 2 0 2
Yadier Molina 38 37 8 2 0 0 3 1 6 .216 .237 .270 .507 0 0 1
Ryan Theriot 33 31 10 4 0 1 1 2 0 .323 .364 .548 .912 0 0 0
Matt Holliday 31 29 8 1 1 3 7 2 6 .276 .323 .690 1.012 0 0 1
Skip Schumaker 24 24 6 0 0 0 1 0 2 .250 .250 .250 .500 0 0 1
Colby Rasmus 13 12 0 0 0 0 0 1 3 .000 .077 .000 .077 0 0 0
David Freese 8 7 1 1 0 0 1 1 2 .143 .250 .286 .536 0 0 1
Kyle Lohse 8 6 1 0 0 0 0 0 3 .167 .167 .167 .333 0 0 0
Gerald Laird 7 6 3 1 0 0 1 1 0 .500 .571 .667 1.238 0 0 0
Jon Jay 6 6 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0
Nick Punto 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Chris Carpenter 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
P.J. Walters 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Total 225 206 48 12 1 5 20 17 26 .233 .291 .374 .665 2 0 6
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/28/2011.

Albert's always had his troubles against Rodriguez, though it's been better lately. Rodriguez has often been a Cardinal killer and they'll have to step up their game tonight.  It won't look good to their new teammates if they lose the first two games after the trade, would it?

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Keeping You Informed: Rasmus To Jays

Posted on July 27, 2011 at 3:32 PM
Here's the official release:

 

CARDINALS & BLUE JAYS ANNOUNCE MULTI-PLAYER DEAL;

ST. LOUIS  ACQUIRES  EDWIN JACKSON, DOTEL, RZEPCZYNSKI  & OUTFIELDER PATTERSON

           

ST. LOUIS, Mo., July 27, 2011 - With Major League Baseball's non-waiver deadline approaching this Sunday, July 31, the St. Louis Cardinals today announced a multi-player trade with the Toronto Blue Jays. 

The Cardinals have acquired right handed pitcher Edwin Jackson, right handed reliever Octavio Dotel, left handed reliever Marc Rzepczynski (pronounced Zep-CHIN-ski), outfielder Corey Patterson and three players to be named later or cash considerations.   St. Louis sends outfielder Colby Rasmus, pitchers P.J. Walters, Trever Miller and Brian Tallet to Toronto.   The Jays acquired Jackson earlier today in a deal with the Chicago White Sox.

"We feel that this deal strengthens us in a number of key areas," said Cardinals' Senior Vice President/ General Manager John Mozeliak.  "Trades of this nature are never easy to make, but we felt that it was important to solidify a number of areas on our ball club to better position ourselves for what looks to be a highly competitive divisional race."

Jackson, 27, was 7-7 with a 3.92 ERA for the White Sox this season.  He's compiled a career mark of 55-58 with a 4.53 ERA, winning 14 games in 2008 for Tampa Bay and 13 games in 2009 for Detroit.  He threw a no-hitter for Arizona on June 25, 2010 at Tampa Bay.

Rzepczynski, 25, was 2-3 with a 2.97 ERA and 10 Holds for Toronto this season and he has been used as both a reliever and starter since debuting with Toronto in 2009.

Dotel, 37, had a 2-1 mark, one save, four Holds and a 3.68 ERA in 36 games for the Jays this season and he has 106 career saves, combining for a career-high 36 in 2004 with Houston and Oakland.

Patterson, 31, was batting .252 this year with 6 homers, 33 RBI and 13 steals.  His career marks include a .253 BA with 118 HR's, 428 RBI and 218 steals.  Patterson hit a career-high 24 homers for the Cubs in 2004 and he swiped a career-best 45 steals for Baltimore in 2006.

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Worldview Shaking

Posted on July 27, 2011 at 3:23 PM
I'm a positive guy.  I give people the benefit of the doubt, figure there are things that aren't in evidence that I don't know, and generally expect that people running a business or a baseball team or anything of that nature know what they are doing.

Which is why the earth has apparently tilted on its axis today.

I was waiting to write anything until it was official.  Lots of rumors and talk out there, especially as the deadline gets closer.  You never want to come out and talk about something that doesn't actually happen.  However, with PJ Walters tweeting about Toronto and Colby Rasmus's brother doing the same, it's a pretty safe bet that the trade, as we know it, will be happening.

So it's Colby Rasmus, Trever Miller (who is expected to be flipped to the White Sox), Brian Tallet, and PJ Walters for Edwin Jackson (whom the Jays received earlier today from the White Sox), Marc Rzepczynski (whose name I will never spell right without looking it up), Octavio Dotel and Corey Patterson.  There is apparently money changing hands as the commish has to approve it (as he does with any trade involving more than $1 million), but so far, nothing has changed to indicate that isn't the case.  (Late note: Apparently the Cards could get another reliever from the White Sox if Miller is dealt.)

That's the deal.  That's what John Mozeliak has apparently signed off on.  Then it was like a million voices cried out at once on Twitter and nothing is going to silence them.

The blog posts are already being written and keep trickling in.  Colby Rasmus is a trending topic.  And I have to agree with the prevailing sentiment, which is, "That's it?  That's the deal?"

The Cardinals have traded a young, cost-controlled (to a degree--Rasmus will be arbitration eligible after this year, I believe), quality player at a premium position for a rental pitcher and some relievers?  You trade a guy that could have been part of the core of the team for three more years for, at best, a LOOGY and a draft pick past this season?

There is just not that much to like about this deal.  Yes, the Cardinals needed left-handed relief help.  We get that and I agree wholeheartedly.  Rzepcynski has been very effective against lefties this year and he's not been that bad against righties, either.  However, if you go into this year's splits (and it's small sample size, true), he's been worse away from Rogers Center and been worse on grass by significant margins.  For his career it's the same way, though it isn't as pronounced.  I'll give you that he fits a need, but he's not worth giving up Rasmus for.  Apparently, the club thinks he can be a starter (he's been one in the minors) because they've determined that no matter what your position in the majors, it's the wrong one.

Pip did a great breakdown of why you don't trade Rasmus for Jackson yesterday, showing that yet again the man is on the bleeding edge of things and that apparently the front office isn't reading the blogs as much as we thought they might.  To get someone that projects, as Pip says, "between Lohse and Westbrook" for the rest of the year isn't exactly the impact player that we thought the team was looking for before it moved the centerfielder.  With Scott Boras as his agent and the state of the pitching staff in the next couple of years, I can't imagine any way Jackson is back with this team next year unless someone gets traded.

As for Octavio Dotel and Corey Patterson.....nobody told me we'd gotten into a time machine and shown up in 2004.  Dotel's been passable this year, I guess, but he's 37 years old and has been up and down.  Not sure who he'd be an upgrade on.  He's not going to take Lance Lynn's place in the 8th, I don't think.  He's not better than Jason Motte or Mitchell Boggs.  Where does he fit?

Corey Patterson, well, ugh.  Besides the whole "former Cub" thing, he's one of those guys that's hung around long enough to get the "veteran" tag that apparently is so appealing to some parts of the Cardinal decision making tree.  He's been better the last couple of years, but the last time he was in the NL Central, with both the Reds and the Brewers, he was a disaster.  He's filler, a guy that plays once a week or so on a lot of teams (which means he'll likely start tonight, but that's another story.)

(Now, since things move fast and I don't write that way, a couple of things have happened since I started this.  The first is that it has been officially announced.  I'll post the press release when I get it--actually, just got it so it'll go up after this post.  The second is that the Cards get either three players to be named later or cash.  If they are able to get some quality from the PTBNL list, perhaps this deal doesn't look as bad.  Flip side of that is if there were top prospects on that list, chances are the Cards get them now rather than later.)

As Bernie Miklasz Tweeted, there's little upside to this deal.  Does it help the Cards this season?  There's an argument there, I would guess.  It depends on what Jackson does in the starting rotation, because I don't think the bullpen was as bad as it was earlier in the year and so the moves probably not do much for it.  It's a gamble, though.  Can Jon Jay hit like he's been hitting on a regular basis?  Remember his tail spin last year after Ryan Ludwick was moved.  Can Allen Craig step in and be a dependable fourth outfielder?  There's a chance the offense is a bit weaker, especially if Rasmus still had a positive streak in him.

This was not an overwhelming trade, which is what Mozeliak said would need to happen to move Rasmus.  This, for all intents and purposes, was Scott Rolen all over again.  (We could hope that it's JD Drew and that one of the PTBNL is an Adam Wainwright, but I think that's pushing it.)  Rolen had to leave because he and TLR couldn't get along anymore.  It happened with Brendan Ryan this last season.  Which means that it begs the question: who actually is running this team?

I've been a La Russa fan for a long while, but I said back with Rolen that you can't let the manager get a situation to the point where you have to give up on a player that can help you.  Especially in this situation, when TLR might not be back next year and Rasmus could be a future contributor, you don't give him away for spare parts.  Yet that seems, right now, exactly what they've done.  There's a dynamic in play in St. Louis decision making that doesn't seem to be anywhere else and I don't think it's a positive one for the club.

We knew Rasmus was going to leave sometime, though.  If nothing else, he'd have walked as a free agent in a few years and he probably did need to go somewhere else to have his potential realized.  It's just....this way?  When the reports are you could have gotten a starter, a lefty reliever, and a prospect from Tampa Bay?  Are the draft picks that apparently were such a focus better than current young talent?

However, what's done is done.  Harping on it won't help anything, won't get it undone.  Years later there are still people talking about the Mark Mulder deal and, while this one has the potential of that one, there's nothing the fan base can do about it.

Although Joe Strauss now suggests the Cardinals could move Motte and Boggs for Heath Bell.  We might be doing this same up-in-arms reaction again before it's all said and done.  It's not over until the buzzer sounds on Sunday.  Remember, though, you can talk about it tonight during the UCB Radio Hour!

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Continuing The Roll

Posted on July 27, 2011 at 10:42 AM

The Cardinals have a home stand against the two worst teams in the division and they've been taking advantage of it.  They didn't really capitalize on their offensive showing last night, getting only three runs out of 11 hits (no walks, not sure if that meant Houston pitching was around the plate or patience wasn't in force last night) but they didn't have to since the hot-weather Jake Westbrook showed up.

Again, you have to take some excitement with a grain of salt, since Houston is struggling, but being that these batters had a good career history against Westbrook, I think it's a good sign.  I remember that Westbrook was very solid down the stretch last year (including the mid-September game that was the first Social Media Night) and if he can do that again this year, it increases the odds of the Cards making the playoffs significantly.

All the scoring came via the long ball, as Albert Pujols hit a disputed home run in the first inning, giving the Cards a 2-0 lead, then David Freese added insurance with home run number 5, a career-high for him in the big.  We've all expected more pop out of Freese and hopefully we are getting it.  Last year all of his home runs were centered in a two-week span before his injury.  If he can start hitting for a little more regular power, that'd be a good thing.

The bullpen was also stellar last night.  Fernando Salas was fairly dominating, striking out the side in the ninth (though he did walk a batter) and Lance Lynn showed that he can be an eighth inning guy now that it appears Eduardo Sanchez isn't going to make it back this season.  All in all, it seemed to alleviate some worries about the pen, even as John Mozeliak said there were more opportunities to bring in a reliever.

Of course, there is still a pen issue, and that's the left-handed "relief".  Trever Miller again allowed the only runner he faced to get on last night.  It was pointed out that he's not been used much, throwing only 1 1/3 innings in July.  However, in three different appearances in July, he did not get a batter out.  In fact, nine of his 39 appearances this year have a 0.0 in the innings column.  More to the point, he's faced 77 batters and allowed 29 of them to reach via hit or walk.  When 38% of the time you can't get the couple of guys out that you are supposed to, it becomes a major issue.  I still expect Mozeliak to bring in a lefty if he can find one, but we'll have to wait and see what's going to be available.

Lance Berkman gets the Goat as the only hitter with no hits.  He also had to leave early due to the shoulder strain that initially looked like it would keep him out of the starting lineup last night as well.  Reports are he's going to get an MRI on it today, which may be a wrench in any trade discussions.  Matt Holliday was also out of the lineup battling illness, but should be back in a day or so.

Also, it didn't escape anyone's notice that Daniel Descalso started at short and got two hits.  However, there's nothing like a platoon with him and Ryan Theriot because that would be "oversimplifying" and we all know there is nothing, NOTHING simple about the way TLR manages.  I'm sure Theriot will still see a lion's share of the playing time, but he's really going to have to get right before he plays every day.  Nice of TLR to at least acknowledge that.

The biggest point of discussion, of course, is the trade talk surrounding the centerfielder.  Take it for what it's worth (and that's going to be at various levels for different members of the UCB) but Joe Strauss indicates the Colby Rasmus situation might be untenable.  Tony La Russa indicates that Rasmus isn't listening to the coaches, even though he was pretty supportive and happy with Rasmus overall in the interview.  That, to me, was more of a shot at Papa Rasmus than an indication he wanted Colby out of the organization.

Lots of teams are sniffing around on Rasmus, of course, because they smell a deal.  It seems obvious that, unless the Cards can get a lot for him, they should keep him around.  I don't figure that Seattle would give up Michael Pineda for him or anything of that nature.  If all you are going to do is collect some spare part, some players that might or might not help this year and be gone later, then that's doing a disservice to both Rasmus and the fan base.

However, if Berkman's going to be out of any length of time, the talks have to come to a halt.  Do we really want to see an outfield of Holliday, Jay and Schumaker on a regular basis?  Perhaps Holliday, Jay and Allen Craig when he returns, but that's assuming he can get right back into the swing of things after the layoff.  Hopefully it's a moot point and Berkman will be fine, but it's something to keep in mind.

Still four days plus until the trading deadline.  The first dominoes haven't fallen yet, but once they do (if they do), things could get busy in a hurry.  According to Twitter, the White Sox and Jays are close to a deal that would put Edwin Jackson in Canada and some Cardinal minds at ease.  We'll see if it pans out and if that starts the wildfire.

Cards look to take the series tonight and it may be another low-scoring affair.  For the Birds,  Chris Carpenter is on the mound.  Surprisingly enough, he's not faced the Astros yet this year.  Here's what he's done in his career:

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS IBB HBP GDP
Carlos Lee 46 43 7 0 0 2 5 2 12 .163 .196 .302 .498 0 0 1
Michael Bourn 22 19 5 0 0 0 1 2 5 .263 .364 .263 .627 0 1 0
Hunter Pence 18 18 3 0 1 1 5 0 6 .167 .167 .444 .611 0 0 1
Clint Barmes 16 14 2 1 0 0 0 1 0 .143 .200 .214 .414 0 0 1
Angel Sanchez 7 7 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 .286 .286 .286 .571 0 0 1
Chris Johnson 6 5 2 0 0 1 3 1 1 .400 .500 1.000 1.500 0 0 0
Humberto Quintero 6 6 3 0 0 0 0 0 1 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0
Brett Wallace 6 4 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .333 .000 .333 0 1 0
Wandy Rodriguez 4 4 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .250 .250 .250 .500 0 0 0
Bud Norris 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Jason Michaels 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 1
Brett Myers 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
J.A. Happ 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Total 139 128 25 1 1 4 14 7 27 .195 .246 .313 .559 0 2 5
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/27/2011.

Looks like he's fared very well.  Still have to keep Carlos Lee in the park, but other than that, should be good to go.

On the other side, it's Cardinal killer Bud Norris. He's faced the Cards three times this year, and he's 1-1 with a 2.84 ERA against them. Sadly, that's progress from his earlier stints against the club.  Here are the numbers:

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS IBB HBP GDP
Albert Pujols 25 23 5 2 0 0 2 2 3 .217 .280 .304 .584 1 0 1
Yadier Molina 24 21 6 0 0 0 0 2 3 .286 .375 .286 .661 0 1 2
Colby Rasmus 24 22 4 2 0 1 1 2 6 .182 .250 .409 .659 0 0 0
Matt Holliday 23 23 6 1 0 2 5 0 4 .261 .261 .565 .826 0 0 0
Skip Schumaker 22 19 3 0 0 0 2 3 3 .158 .273 .158 .431 0 0 0
Jon Jay 13 12 2 0 0 0 2 0 1 .167 .167 .167 .333 0 0 1
Ryan Theriot 13 11 4 0 0 0 0 2 0 .364 .462 .364 .825 0 0 0
Lance Berkman 8 6 2 0 0 1 1 2 1 .333 .500 .833 1.333 1 0 0
David Freese 8 8 2 1 0 0 1 0 4 .250 .250 .375 .625 0 0 0
Daniel Descalso 6 4 3 2 1 0 2 2 1 .750 .833 1.750 2.583 1 0 0
Jaime Garcia 6 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Kyle Lohse 4 3 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .667 1.000 0 0 0
Nick Punto 3 3 1 1 0 0 1 0 1 .333 .333 .667 1.000 0 0 0
Chris Carpenter 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Total 181 163 39 10 1 4 17 15 31 .239 .307 .387 .694 3 1 4
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/27/2011.

Nobody really stands out, but Descalso will probably be in the lineup somewhere with that 3 for 4 line.  Berkman has done OK as well, but again doesn't sound like he'll be in the lineup.  Here's hoping to keep the roll going!

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According To Plan

Posted on July 26, 2011 at 10:13 AM
Looking at the schedule, the Cardinals needed this week to be a successful one.  Four games against the woeful Astros and a weekend series against the struggling Cubs meant that a team that planned on playing in October should be making some hay.  Last night, it went basically according to script.

I'm not sure what has gotten into Yadier Molina, but whatever it is Yadi needs to keep it around.  For the second time recently, Yadi fell a triple shy of the cycle, smacking three hits including tying his career high in home runs with eight.  I felt that some of the disparagement of Molina's offensive skill set in the offseason was unjustified, as he had a very strong second half last year, but this is more than anyone expected.  Perhaps it's a coincidence, but I don't remember as many gaffes and miscues recently either, unlike what we saw in the first half of the season.  If his defense is strong, he doesn't have to hit as much.  Which means that what he's giving the team right now is just a huge, wonderful bonus.

On the down side, P.J. Walters may never pitch to Carlos Lee again.  For the second time in as many at bats, Lee took Walters deep for a grand slam.  Walters made his own trouble, though, getting one out before loading--and then unloading--the bases.  After praising him in yesterday's post, it's rough to see him struggle like that.  Then again, as we all know, there are days like that for most everyone in the bullpen.

Colby Rasmus continues to shake off trade talk, apparently going into the up cycle of his streakiness.  We've all known it was going to happen, just glad it happened this week, where it can only be good for the Cardinals.  Either it raises his trade value or, more likely, reminds the organization what they have and they are much less likely to trade him off for pennies on the dollar.  I don't know that Rasmus's future in St. Louis is that much stronger and I can almost guarantee that, at some time in his career, he'll wear another uniform, but for right now and for this season, I think he stays with the Cards and they'll be glad that he did.

Kyle McClellan had a much-needed good game, but even it came with qualifiers.  How much of that outing was due to McClellan pitching well, making adjustments, things that can last, and how much of it was the fact that the Astros are almost historically bad?  They've not lost 16 in a row like Seattle, but they are on pace for 110 losses or so, which is tough to do.  Being that McClellan's last win was against these guys, is he really able to stay in the rotation the rest of the year.  His next outing may not tell us much more--it's also a home start, this time against the Cubs--but the one after that is on the road in Florida, which would be a tougher test.  That's also after the trading deadline, though, so it could be a moot point.  Either he'll be in the bullpen or he's going to be the rotation the rest of the year.  There aren't many other options.  

Ryan Theriot continues to struggle, putting up an 0-5 line on a night when the rest of the team piled up 12 hits and four walks.  It seems pretty obvious that a change should be made in the top of the lineup, at least for a while.  Theriot's July has been abysmal, with a .172/.184/.241 slash line.  When your slugging percentage wouldn't make an acceptable on-base percentage, there are issues.  If Theriot isn't getting on base but 20% of the time, that's a pretty big drag for the offense.  So far, at least the last few days, they've been able to get around it, but for a team in a heated pennant race, every drawback could end a season in September.

As Theriot has struggled, Daniel Descalso has gotten hot.  Granted he's had fewer at-bats, but his July line is .342/.457/.421.  He's not going to hit for much power, with only three doubles in the month, but he's going to get on base.  We saw how he could draw walks in the game Sunday against Pittsburgh.  It seems like Descalso, at least for a while, should get a lot more time at the top of the lineup and Theriot get a chance to sit.

Two more hits for Jon Jay and David Freese went one-for-two with a walk before being subbed out for Descalso when the game well in hand.  Some solid work up and down the lineup last night.

Lance Berkman has a rotator cuff strain, which kept him from participating in last night's festivities.  We worried and worried all spring long about Berkman's legs, about his injury history, about whether he'd be able to handle the grind of the season.  So far, though, those worries have been unfounded, as this is just one of those nagging injuries that players get from time to time.  If Berkman has to sit 10 or less games during the season with things like this, it's a major victory for the Cardinals.  I'm pretty sure Berkman's going to do that off-season workout like he did last year again after seeing these results!

The field became an issue last night, as the new sod has been laid after the entire field was taken up for the U2 concert.  While it may be down, it hasn't necessarily taken hold though, as Hunter Pence might attest to.  There could be some slipping and sliding, some interesting plays during this homestand.  

I was disappointed not to see the mowed arch in the outfield.  The team added that as a wonderful trademark decoration for the All-Star Game in 2009 and it has been there ever since.  Thankfully, it was quickly announced that the arch would be returning on the next homestand, but that the grounds crew wanted to give the sod more time to take root before they got out there with the mowers.  Good to know!

Adam Wainwright is moving along in his rehab.  He's throwing from flat ground 60 feet 6 inches and plans to move to a mound in September.  He's still hoping to be ready for October, but even if he was, would you want a rusty Wainwright out there in the middle or late innings of a close playoff game?  That's an interesting question.  Compared to some of the bullpen, it'd be a resounding yes.  Most likely, though, it'd be better to wait and have him ready to go in the spring.

Allen Craig should be on rehab another week or so, as Tony La Russa says he's a bit rusty still.  That coincides with the trade deadline, which means two things to me.  One, the odds are Craig isn't traded.  He's a pretty solid trade chip and I guess it's possible that if he shows that he's over the affects of the cracked kneecap, another team would take him but I think he sticking with the club.  Secondly, it may mean that we don't have to worry much about the offsetting roster move, as a trade might wind up clearing a slot for him anyway.  Probably not, since it'd have to be a two-for-one in terms of major league players, but it could happen.

Jake Westbrook is on the hill tonight, looking to build off of that strong start in New York.  How has he done against the Astros in his career?  I'm so glad you asked.

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS IBB HBP GDP
Carlos Lee 40 36 15 4 0 2 7 4 2 .417 .475 .694 1.169 0 0 3
Michael Bourn 9 9 2 0 0 0 0 0 2 .222 .222 .222 .444 0 0 0
Hunter Pence 9 8 5 0 0 0 0 1 1 .625 .667 .625 1.292 0 0 0
Brett Wallace 9 7 5 1 0 0 2 1 2 .714 .778 .857 1.635 0 1 0
Chris Johnson 8 8 2 0 0 0 0 0 3 .250 .250 .250 .500 0 0 0
Brett Myers 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Clint Barmes 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
J.A. Happ 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Angel Sanchez 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 1
Humberto Quintero 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Total 90 83 29 5 0 2 9 6 12 .349 .400 .482 .882 0 1 4
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/26/2011.

Carlos Lee has done a lot of damage in the past and has to be licking his chops after getting in a slam last night.  Pence and budding Cardinal killer Brett Wallace have been successful as well, though in much smaller sample sizes.

Brett Myers goes against the Redbirds.  Cards got to him for five runs in six innings the last time he faced them, back in early June.  Here's the career chart:
 
PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS IBB HBP GDP
Albert Pujols 46 44 15 1 1 3 6 2 4 .341 .370 .614 .983 0 0 2
Yadier Molina 29 28 6 0 0 1 4 1 4 .214 .241 .321 .563 0 0 2
Lance Berkman 28 21 4 0 0 2 5 7 5 .190 .393 .476 .869 1 0 0
Skip Schumaker 28 26 9 1 0 2 2 2 4 .346 .393 .615 1.008 0 0 1
Matt Holliday 23 20 7 2 0 2 6 3 1 .350 .435 .750 1.185 0 0 3
Ryan Theriot 18 18 4 0 0 0 0 0 2 .222 .222 .222 .444 0 0 0
Colby Rasmus 15 14 2 0 0 0 0 0 2 .143 .200 .143 .343 0 1 0
Jon Jay 8 8 2 0 0 0 0 0 3 .250 .250 .250 .500 0 0 0
Jake Westbrook 4 4 1 1 0 0 3 0 2 .250 .250 .500 .750 0 0 0
David Freese 3 2 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 .500 .667 .500 1.167 0 0 0
Mitchell Boggs 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Chris Carpenter 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Daniel Descalso 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .500 .000 .500 1 0 0
Total 208 190 51 5 1 10 27 17 31 .268 .332 .463 .795 2 1 8
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/26/2011.

Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday are looking forward to his outing, it would seem.  It probably isn't a bad thing that Berkman will need to rest that sprain a little longer, either, with his record against Myers.

I said that the Cards needed to go 5-2 on this homestand.  One win down, hopefully another one coming tonight!


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Treading Water

Posted on July 25, 2011 at 11:45 AM
We keep waiting and hoping for the Cardinals to catch fire, to pull away from the pack and start to pile win on top of win.  So far, it's two steps forward, two steps back in the second half, and this weekend, while generally positive, just reinforced that trend.  Recaps:

Thursday (6-2 win at New York)
Hero: Jake Westbrook. He had the advantages of a larger than normal park, playing in Citi Field, and the heat of the day game possibly sapping the opposition, but even with all of those advantages, he went eight innings and allowed only two runs.  He's said before that he heats up as the weather does, and the weather doesn't get any hotter than what we have now.  (If it does, please don't tell me.)  His August and September ERAs have been good the last three years, so perhaps he'll be a plus down the stretch.

Goat: Nick Punto.  While we still give him credit for playing hurt, going 0-5 in the leadoff slot isn't really helping the offense much.  Was able to score a run, which is good, but struck out three times.  That's something the team will have to keep an eye on, to see if he's hurting the team more by playing than by being on the DL.

Notes: Albert Pujols went yard, stirring his bat just a bit and giving the team an early lead. Jon Jay had two hits and continued to put pressure on other members of the team (as we'll discuss later). Daniel Descalso filled in at shortstop in a late lineup switch, when Ryan Theriot found out he could reduce the suspension to one game if he served it immediately.  It's something (Descalso at short, not Theriot suspended) that we might see more going forward.

Hero: Albert Pujols.  Four hits, including another first inning home run.  It's pretty obvious Pujols will make it to 30 home runs again this season.  He's at 60 RBI, which means that he's still got an outside shot at 100 of those.  However, the third leg of his personal triple crown looks less and less likely.  He's at .276 after Sunday's 0-5, meaning he likely needs to hit around .338 (assuming 550 at-bats) over the rest of the season just to reach .300.  While that'd be great, I think we'll see the first blemish on AP's baseball card this year.

Goat: Ryan Theriot.  0-5 in the leadoff slot, dropping his average to .274.  It dropped another point over the weekend and his OBP is .319, which is not really what the Cards had in mind when they were exchanging offense for defense.  (As has been pointed out a lot this weekend, Brendan Ryan now is hitting .264 with an OBP of .324 and is continuing to play stellar defense.  Perhaps this swap didn't work out exactly the way the Cardinals planned.)

As I mentioned on Gateway To Baseball Heaven last night (and fair warning if you click that link, our guest wasn't able to make it and Bill had some conflicts, so it's 30 minutes of a C70 monologue), I thought it was pretty telling that Descalso started at short on Saturday, even though there was no reason for Theriot not to be out there.  He'd just sat out Thursday, so it wasn't that he needed the rest.  It wasn't a lefty on the mound.  And yet Descalso was starting and Tony La Russa made the comment this weekend that it was tough not to put Daniel out there on a more regular basis.  That has to concern Theriot a bit.

Notes: David Freese had a couple of hits, including a home run.  Lance Berkman continued to be the best free agent signing of the offseason, having two hits and raising his average to .288 to go along with his large number of home runs.  Chris Carpenter wasn't completely on his game, giving up four runs, but pitched eight innings and made pitches when he needed to.  He pitched around his troubles, but this is the kind of game he'd have lost earlier in the year due to no run support, so maybe things are evening out a bit.

Hero: Jaime Garcia.  After so much talk about how Garcia struggled on the road, he's thrown back-to-back solid outings away from Busch.  This time he didn't quite get through the eighth, but still allowed only one run and limited the damage of eight hits by only walking one and striking out five.  When Garcia can get into the eighth with less than 100 pitches, you know it's a good game and Garcia seems to be able to do that more than most anyone currently in the rotation.

Goat: Matt Holliday.  The whole team got into this game, so it's tougher to name a Goat, but Holliday, while having a hit and a walk, did strike out three times as well.  Kind of a rough stretch for Number 7, as he's only hit .231 since the break with two doubles his only extra-base hits.  Not that it's a concern at all, but when it's coupled with the other slumps on the offense, it can hurt.  Not so much this weekend in Pittsburgh, though.

Notes: Yadier Molina and Berkman both went yard in the Cards' big inning.  Good to see some production from Molina, who has been scuffling for a while. PJ Walters had a very nice outing in relief, continuing to show that he can handle some of the less-stressful innings, saving some of the bigger guns for later or closer in games. Skip Schumaker had a couple of hits in the leadoff slot and, while I still wouldn't want him there regularly, he's made the decision of what to do with Allen Craig when Craig returns.  Early on, you'd have thought Craig would play a lot at second.  Now, Skip's made you at least think about that call.  Of course, if there's an open slot in the outfield....

Hero: Colby Rasmus. To come out with all the trade talk swirling around you, the fact that the manager has apparently lost confidence in you (witness Colby not starting Saturday against a righty) and slumping as well and get two hits, including what could have been the game-winning home run, speaks well for Rasmus's frame of mind.  Hopefully if Colby is going to have a surge, it'll come wearing the birds on the bat.  We'll get to that, though.

Goat: Gerald Laird. First, he gets picked off of second base while Descalso is trying to bunt him over in the late innings, taking the go-ahead run off the basepaths.  Then, he overthrows second and allows the winning run in the 10th to move to third.  Not exactly the kind of game you want to have when you only get in once a week, especially with a guy like Tony Cruz on the bench willing to go in as well.

Notes: Kyle Lohse has fallen from those lofty heights of the early season, but he's still not gotten to the point where Bill can send his crow back to Bob.  Lohse only went five innings, partly because there was a good scoring opportunity in the sixth when his turn came up to bat, but also likely to monitor the finger issue that had flared up earlier in the week.  Lohse only threw 64 pitches and was in line for a solid start, though things have started falling apart for him in the sixth lately, so perhaps that was on Tony's mind.

Lance Lynn gave up the tying run in his second inning of work, but didn't pitch that badly.  A leadoff double is always an issue to have to deal with.  Lynn's command is a little shaky, as he walked two, but he's still providing good innings.  Same could be said for Mitchell Boggs, who threw two scoreless frames and kept the team tied.

As it stands right now, there is less than a week to go before the trading deadline, which means a lot of things are going to be coming out and thrown against the wall this week.  The biggest one made its presence known on Sunday, as there was a story that the Cardinals and White Sox were talking about Rasmus.  Coming back to the Cards would be Edwin Jackson or Matt Thornton along with some quality prospects.

My thought is that, depending on the prospects, if that's all you can get for Rasmus then you might as well keep him.  Jackson is a free agent and, as we know, is erratic enough to not be a definitive upgrade over the current staff.  Thornton would be nice to have as a lefty reliever, but those aren't the kind of guys you trade quality centerfielders for, and even with Rasmus's struggles, he's a quality centerfielder.

I really don't see how this improves the team that much.  While Jon Jay is hitting now, we have to remember that he tailed off after Ryan Ludwick was traded last year.  Will he do that again?  Even if he doesn't, Jay doesn't really have the power that Rasmus has, so it's not an even exchange.

Jeremy Guthrie is another name that is making the rounds.  I would sincerely hope that Guthrie wouldn't cost Rasmus, as he's putting up middling numbers and has never been a big-time pitcher.  That said, Guthrie does pile up innings and has held his own in the AL East this year (save his record, which you can ignore), so I could see him being a good fit in St. Louis if the price is not extravagant.  With other teams apparently in on him as well, the Cards could get priced out.

If you are wanting to guess when John Mozeliak will pull the trigger on something, I'd lean toward Wednesday.  I'd give you some solid reasoning behind that, but it's mainly because the Cards tend to make news on the same day as the UCB Radio Hour.  I know Jon would appreciate having something like that to talk about!

The Cardinals have a big homestand coming up, as they face the bottom of the division.  Anything less than 5-2 would probably be a disappointment going against the Astros and Cubs.  Some interesting promotions as well, including tonight's Christmas in July.  The Salvation Army will have the bell ringers at the stadium, so if you are going to the game, be sure to have some loose change or bills with you.

Kyle McClellan takes the hill for the Redbirds tonight.  Here's what he's done against the Astros in his career.

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS IBB HBP GDP
Hunter Pence 17 16 8 0 0 0 2 1 1 .500 .529 .500 1.029 0 0 0
Michael Bourn 14 13 2 1 0 0 1 1 3 .154 .214 .231 .445 0 0 0
Carlos Lee 14 13 3 1 0 0 2 0 2 .231 .214 .308 .522 0 0 0
Chris Johnson 8 8 1 0 0 1 2 0 2 .125 .125 .500 .625 0 0 0
Brett Wallace 7 6 1 1 0 0 0 1 2 .167 .286 .333 .619 0 0 0
Humberto Quintero 6 6 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 .667 1.167 0 0 0
Clint Barmes 5 5 2 2 0 0 2 0 0 .400 .400 .800 1.200 0 0 0
Angel Sanchez 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Jason Michaels 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
J.A. Happ 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Brett Myers 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Total 81 76 20 6 0 1 9 3 13 .263 .288 .382 .669 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/25/2011.

Not exactly dominant, but again, you never know what you are going to get with McClellan. He gave up just two runs in eight innings against the 'Stros back in May, running his record to 6-1.  He has not tallied a win since then. 

J.A. Happ is who the Cards have to face.  Here are his numbers:

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS IBB HBP GDP
Albert Pujols 19 16 4 1 0 1 4 3 0 .250 .368 .500 .868 1 0 2
Colby Rasmus 11 7 1 1 0 0 0 4 1 .143 .455 .286 .740 0 0 0
Matt Holliday 9 8 4 0 0 1 3 1 1 .500 .556 .875 1.431 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 9 9 3 0 0 0 2 0 2 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0
Ryan Theriot 9 9 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 .222 .222 .333 .556 0 0 0
Lance Berkman 8 7 2 0 0 1 2 0 3 .286 .286 .714 1.000 0 0 0
Jon Jay 8 6 3 0 0 0 0 1 1 .500 .571 .500 1.071 0 0 0
Skip Schumaker 7 6 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 .167 .286 .333 .619 0 0 0
David Freese 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0
Gerald Laird 3 3 1 1 0 0 2 0 1 .333 .333 .667 1.000 0 0 0
Nick Punto 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 1
Daniel Descalso 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .500 .000 .500 1 0 0
Kyle Lohse 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Kyle McClellan 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 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 98 84 24 5 0 3 14 11 16 .286 .368 .452 .821 2 0 3
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/25/2011.

Not as bad as I thought, as Happ is one of those lefties that would typically give St. Louis fits.    Cards lit him up for six runs in five and a third back at the beginning of June down in Houston, so perhaps they'll get the fireworks going again tonight!

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Time For A Shakeup?

Posted on July 21, 2011 at 6:49 AM
I was admittedly not terribly concerned after the Cardinals dropped two of three in Cincinnati to start off the All-Star Break.  Now that they've dropped four of five, though, it's a bit more disconcerting.

After losing a game where they could get nothing going against a pitcher they'd not seen before, the Cardinals went out and built a 4-0 lead, but Kyle McClellan again couldn't hold it.  McClellan went six innings, but he gave up a two-run home run to Carlos Beltran to leave with the game tied.  (Granted, he's not the first Cardinal pitcher to give up a big hit to Beltran.  It's likely this is the only time he didn't come through.)  Having a six-inning pitcher in your #5 slot is fine when you are getting good innings out of the rest of the staff, but Jake Westbrook and Kyle Lohse aren't necessarily holding up that end of the bargain.

That said, I don't really hold McClellan responsible for last night.  Four runs in six is about what you should expect from him and the team should be able to win a good number of those kind of games.  Indeed, it looked good for them when Hero Gerald Laird dropped down that bunt which completely caught everyone in the park and watching the game by surprise, driving in the fifth run in amazing fashion.  Had the Cardinals gone on to win, it might have gone into Cardinal lore right next to Glenn Brummer's steal of home in catcher-related excitement, trailing only Yadier Molina's NLCS home run.

However, the Cardinals couldn't hold the lead even one inning.  I'm not quite sure why, when Lance Lynn was pitching the way he was, you swap him out for another righty in the middle of an inning.  Lynn hadn't allowed a hit, though he had walked two, and the only reason he was in trouble in that inning was Daniel Descalso had made an error that allowed Angel Pagan to get on base to start the inning.  Pagan was on third, but there were two outs, so it's not that you needed a strikeout.  Tony La Russa said that he thought Lynn's stuff was changing, which is a manager's call.  Most of the time, you want to get a pitcher out a batter too soon than a pitcher too late.

Still, Lynn's gone two innings a number of times and, with a guy like Josh Thole who, while no push over, isn't the heart of the lineup, I think I'd have stuck with Lynn.  If nothing else, swap out for a lefty (even though that's problematic enough) since Thole has issues with hitting them.  Instead, Jason Motte got the call and allowed a single to tie the game, getting the Goat for the night.

Fernando Salas might have gotten the Goat, seeing that he gave up a home run to lose the game in the bottom of the 10th, but he pitched a solid inning before that and when you get into extra innings on the road, you walk a fine line.  However, the Cards never should have been there for him to lose it.

Are two game-winning home runs enough to worry about the end of games?  I don't know.  Again, Salas has had some good innings as well, getting a save in the second Cincinnati game while pitching a solid ninth last night.  Then again, June was a pretty rough month for him and if he slides back into those kind of results, a change might have to be made.  Don't know who it'd be, though, as Eduardo Sanchez is likely out for the year and all of the rest of the pen has had their hit-and-miss times as well.

Right now, the team seems to be in the dog days doldrums.  Not a lot of the excitement and good baseball that we saw right before the break.  That's why, if John Mozeliak is going to make a deal in the next week-plus, I'd recommend that he does it earlier rather than later.  This team could use a bit of a shakeup, and even if he doesn't bring in a hitter, it might be enough to get them going before they blow more opportunities.

Skip Schumaker did a good job in the leadoff slot last night, getting two hits, and it's possible we'll see him up there more with Ryan Theriot having issues getting on base.  When the offense was going, Theriot and company were getting on for the middle of the lineup.  That has to happen again.

Albert Pujols is now 0 for his last 11.  Not a major slump, obviously, but he can't afford really any of these if he's going to get his average to .300.  We're also not used to seeing Pujols do this when it looks like he's heating up, as he usually goes on a tear and stays hitting.  If he's sliding back into April form, the Cards are going to have a lot of issues.

Jake Westbrook tries to build on his last outing and to get his ERA under 5.00 for the second time this season.  Here's what he's done against the current Met squad:

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS IBB HBP GDP
Willie Harris 11 10 2 0 0 0 1 1 1 .200 .273 .200 .473 0 0 0
Carlos Beltran 7 7 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 .286 .286 .286 .571 0 0 0
Angel Pagan 4 3 2 0 0 0 0 1 0 .667 .750 .667 1.417 1 0 0
Jose Reyes 4 4 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 .750 1.250 0 0 0
Ronny Paulino 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Ruben Tejada 3 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0
Total 32 29 9 1 0 0 1 2 6 .310 .355 .345 .700 1 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/21/2011.

While the player with the most exposure, Willie Harris, hasn't done much, the rest of the Mets haven't had a lot of an issue with Westbrook. Last night's Met hero Angel Pagan looks to make it two games in a row. 

The Mets counter with Jonathon Niese. He's a lefty that's faced the Cards once. This isn't likely a positive thing. Numbers:
   
PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS IBB HBP GDP
Ryan Theriot 5 3 1 0 0 0 0 2 2 .333 .600 .333 .933 1 0 0
Matt Holliday 4 4 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .250 .250 .250 .500 0 0 0
Jon Jay 4 4 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .250 .250 .250 .500 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 4 3 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .250 .000 .250 0 0 0
Albert Pujols 4 4 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 .250 .250 .500 .750 0 0 0
Gerald Laird 3 3 1 0 0 0 1 0 1 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0
Nick Punto 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Total 26 23 5 1 0 0 1 3 4 .217 .308 .261 .569 1 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/21/2011.

Doesn't look like the offense will be doing much today. Which means now they'll score 8 runs or so. We can hope!

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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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