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Atlanta Braves: March 2012

UCB Prediction Week, Part II: National League East

Posted on March 27, 2012 at 9:37 AM
As part of the ongoing United Cardinal Bloggers prediction week, as seen here with links to people that know much more than me in this area, today I'll attempt to tackle the NL East.  There's been a lot surrounding most every team in this division, whether it is ownership issues for the Mets or injury issues for the Phillies or a spending splash by the Marlins.  So come along as I quickly look at these teams and try to sort them into some sort of order.  Continue Reading

Getting The Work In

Posted on March 20, 2012 at 7:27 AM
It's getting to the part of spring training where the newness of seeing baseball scores and highlights is starting to wear off and you start glancing ahead to Opening Day, when everything starts to actually matter.  So while it was nice that the Cards won yesterday over Atlanta 4-3, there wasn't necessarily anything that just stood out.

Let me take that back.  I think the work of Lance Lynn needs to be highlighted.  In his second start of the spring, Lynn looked as good as he did the first time out, not allowing anything until the fifth, when he gave up a run on a couple of hits.  With all the usual caveats (small sample size, spring training games, etc.), Lynn is going to make any decision on Chris Carpenter be a lot easier.  The team isn't going to have to rush Carp at all, because if he's not ready Lynn is showing that he can handle the role for a while with minimal repercussions.

About the only thing off about Lynn's day was the fact that he unexpectedly was pressed into hitting after the Braves wanted to use their pitcher and not a DH.  Of course, hitting might be a misnomer, since he struck out looking twice.  He wasn't there to hit, though, so it's a lighthearted story.  Too bad he didn't crack an extra-base shot with that borrowed equipment!

Nice to see Carlos Beltran get his first Cardinal home run and Matt Carpenter hit one as well, continuing to make that press to start with the big club this season.  I think that he'll probably go north, especially since it sounds like Skip Schumaker is going to be headed to the DL.  Schumaker was diagnosed with a torn oblique and we should find out today the general timetable for his recovery.  Suffice it to say, though, the odds of him being healthy by Opening Day are really, really small.  I'd rather navigate an asteroid field than put money on that proposition.

Reading this story about Mitchell Boggs, you feel like Derrick Goold had this cued up for today, but then had to rewrite the beginning when Boggs stumbled and allowed a home run to Brian McCann.  It somewhat illustrates the contrast between what players say in the spring and what they are going to actually do when the bell rings.  The idea is that Boggs has this new split-finger fastball, but in a game situation (especially a game that didn't even count), he still didn't use it.  

It does sound like Boggs is earning the confidence of Mike Matheny and it seems unlikely that he'll see Memphis again, at least for a while.  If Boggs can step up and be that pitcher people think he can be, that bullpen is just overflowing with strong, young arms that we as fans will be happy with.  Early last year we cringed when Ryan Franklin or Miguel Batista came into the game.  This year, I think Matheny might be able to point blindly down to the 'pen and we'd be happy with whomever came out.

Carp's got another BP scheduled for tomorrow.  In Jenifer Langosch's story, she notes he threw 40 pitches in his last one on Sunday.  I heard the Fox Sports MW guys say at one time that he'd thrown 60, but I think I'll stick with Langosch's number.  Either way, he's ramping up his workload and it's still not inconceivable (see, I do know what that word means) that he'd be the Opening Day guy.  I don't think it's very likely, but I will not be surprised if he avoids the DL and gets into the rotation the second time through.

Speaking of interesting Langosch's articles, there's one on the main site today about Shelby Miller and the weight he lost this offseason.  While we have lauded Jake Westbrook for dropping poundage, it's a little different when it's your top prospect.  The Cards were afraid that he would lose some durability without having that weight to fall back on and they've got him working with the strength and conditioning coaches.  Just another example of how we are all different.  If Shelby still wants to lose weight, though, I've got some extra here I don't mind if he takes.

Finally, Tony La Russa is picking up his pen and writing his memoirs.  At least, some of them.  With a working title of One Last Strike: Fifty Years In Baseball, Ten and a Half Games Back, and One Final Championship Season, not only is it an overly wordy title, it seems to be going to give more focus on 2011 than the whole of his career.  I'd think that a really good book about La Russa's career would take longer than a few months to write, so I'm not overly optimistic about a detailed account.  Still, I'm sure the book will be interesting to Cardinal fans and reliving the 2011 season, well, there's nothing wrong with that.  Nothing at all.

Cards face the Astros today, a game that'll be on Fox Sports Midwest and delayed on MLB Network.  I think it's Kyle Lohse's turn to get back out on the hill, but I can't seem to find that anywhere.

Today's Playing Pepper will be up in a bit, focusing on the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Also, you'll get Round 2 of the Smith Regional here today, with voting staying open until Thursday night.  You can already vote over at Pitchers Hit Eighth and I70 Baseball, so do so!

A Busy Spring Weekend

Posted on March 19, 2012 at 7:18 AM
As Opening Day continues to close in on us (just 17 more days!) the games become more important and more and more relevant news comes out of Jupiter.  Such was the case this weekend, as there were a number of things that may impact the club.

First and foremost may be the oblique injury to Skip Schumaker.  Schumaker, who of course wasn't expected to be a starter but was pretty valuable insurance to the club in various places, hurt that muscle on Friday and nothing about the outlook has improved with the passage of time.  According to Mike Matheny, it's worse than the oblique injury that Schmaker had last year in the playoffs, an injury that left him off the NLCS roster and very limited in the World Series.

So what exactly does that mean?  It seems unlikely that Schumaker won't start the season on the disabled list, so a roster spot has opened up.  Who will take it is a pretty solid question.

There could be the case for taking Alex Cora north.  Cora would give another infield presence and he's a veteran guy, but he's not ever shown that he can do much in the way of hitting.  This spring, for example, he's hitting .231 in 13 at-bats.  With Daniel Descalso available to play about any infield position, I'm not sure having an extra insurance policy in Cora is really what the Cardinals need.

I'm guessing that the biggest beneficiary in this might be Erik Komatsu.  Komatsu is hitting .250 this spring, but has four steals and five RBI.  He's been playing regularly and it sounds like Matheny likes what he sees there.  As Komatsu has to be on the roster all year long or offered back to Washington due to his Rule 5 status, I'm thinking this gives the club longer to have him on the roster and see what he can do in the bigs.

So you have Yadier Molina and his backup, Lance Berkman, David Freese, Tyler Greene, Rafael Furcal and Daniel Descalso for the infield positions, leaving you six more slots for the outfielders.  Jon Jay, Carlos Beltran, Matt Holliday are going.  Hmm, even with Komatsu and maybe Adron Chambers, there's another spot here until Allen Craig is healthy.

With the versatility he's shown this spring, it might very well be that Matt Carpenter gets to head to St. Louis again this season.  Carpenter's hitting .292 this spring with four walks and five runs scored, plus he can play outfield, third base and I believe he took some balls at second base as well.  Having someone like that on the bench is pretty valuable, so if the Cards don't want a true shortstop backup like Cora, Carpenter might be the way to go.

Of course, I'm not sold on Chambers starting the year in the bigs either, figuring the club may want him playing every day.  However, I don't think they'd take another outfield type over him, so he's probably going at least until Craig returns.  Then again, the idea that they'd take Matt Adams north to help him absorb the atmosphere and get his feet wet in the bigs is still on the table.  With Allen Craig making noises about being ready before May, having Adams on the big league squad for a while wouldn't necessarily hinder his growth.  I still think there's only about a 5% chance of that happening, but it'd be intriguing, wouldn't it?  Of course, there's always the possibility that Craig would be ready by Opening Day, rendering that whole discussion (like so many of mine) moot.

On a more positive injury note, Chris Carpenter threw a bullpen session this weekend and pronounced himself pretty "all right" and ready to move on to the next step.  There was an indication he might throw another one on Sunday, but if he did I'm not seeing any reporting of it.  He might go today instead, but I'm thinking that, if he's as good as it sounds, he'll be starting by the end of the week.

If that's the case, and being that the Cards really don't need a fifth starter until almost the end of April due to the off days, it's very possible the Cards go north with eight relievers, put Carp on the DL, and have him come off before the end of the month.  It's also possible that, if he's close, he goes north with the team but misses the first time through the rotation, giving him a little extra time to throw bullpens, etc. to get ready.

Whatever the case, it sounds like Opening Day is out.  Could be that he'll wind up throwing in that Springfield game then, though, which would be a real treat for the fans there.

Cardinals beat the Marlins, had trouble with the Tigers, then beat the Marlins again.  In the latter of those Marlins' games, Adam Wainwright went four innings, allowed only an earned run, and was very happy with the outing.  Bill mentioned last night on Gateway To Baseball Heaven that there was some indications that his velocity dropped in his last inning of work, leading to speculation that he was having some fatigue.  That doesn't seem to have been the case, but it's definitely worth keeping an eye on the next time out as he should go at least five in that start.  However, it sounds like he had his curveball working and when Wainwright has that going, the hitters aren't going to have much fun.

In Saturday's game, the fourth inning was the undoing of Jaime Garcia, who had one of those off Garcia days that we have seen from time to time.  Garcia got out of the fourth when a liner was rocketed to Descalso, who stepped on second to double off the runner.  That was after loading the bases in the second and not allowing a runner.  When the leadoff batter reached in the fifth, that was all for Garcia.

These are the kind of outings that were frustratingly regular for Jaime last year and ones that he's going to have to not have if he's going to be more consistent and take the next step in his career.  Hopefully it was just a spring glitch and I look forward to seeing what he'll do next time out.

After looking at the link above, I realize it's time for, if I were doing Freddie's podcast, would be the "what the heck" segment.  Can I tell you how much I dislike the St. Patrick's Day green jerseys?  Why does baseball decide to go all out for that holiday?  I mean, I'd give you that when a couple of teams had green hats, it was kinda a neat quirk.  Then everyone had green hats and, honestly, not every team looks good in that.  Then they went to the full-blown green jerseys, which looks disastrous with the red and yellow birds on the bat logo sitting on it.  Yet every team now has officially issued St. Patrick's Day jerseys so that MLB can make a few bucks selling them to people that apparently have more money than sense.  What's next, a gold home plate and green bases?  Wearing a whole flag uniform instead of just the caps on Memorial Day and the Fourth of July?  It's ridiculous and it really needs to go.

Cards take on the Braves today with Lance Lynn getting his second start in case he's needed in that role.  The game is on Fox Sports Midwest and, if you have the MLB GameDay Audio option (or live down Atlanta way), on their radio network.

Thanks to everyone that participated in the All-Time Cardinal Team Tournament Round 1.  All the top seeds advance and tomorrow we'll do the Round of 32.  I70 Baseball and Pitchers Hit Eighth should have their regionals up today, so be sure to check back to vote there.  Today's Playing Pepper is the Phillies, so be sure to come back and read it!




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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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