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UCB Project: 2013 American League Predictions

Posted on March 25, 2013 at 1:00 PM
It's that time of year again.  When hope is new, the grass smells clean, and people foolishly put down what they think will happen in the baseball season to come.  The United Cardinal Bloggers are no different.

Every year we take a crack at these things.  Sometimes it goes pretty well--Pittsburgh's late fade last year kept me from nailing them being third and over the .500 mark.  Sometimes it goes disastrously--I had Boston winning the AL East last year.  Yeah, that was pretty much bad from the get-go.

However, terrible performances don't stop us from trying it again anyway.  (Kinda like Mike Matheny continuing to use Victor Marte last year.)  So we'll do it again on the same kinda schedule--the entire American League today, then each division in the National League gets a day before wrapping it up on Friday with postseason predictions and awards.

Since we hardly pay attention to the American League--we all know real baseball lets a pitcher hit, don't we?--let's try to make a quick pass through there today.  If you want to use these as a guide, odds are you better figure the opposite is really going to happen!
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Playing Pepper 2013: Detroit Tigers

Posted on March 1, 2013 at 3:00 PM
For the fifth straight year, Playing Pepper returns to C70 At The Bat.  If you aren't aware, this series helps get a feel for the other 29 teams in baseball by asking those that follow them the closest--their bloggers.  We've got spring training action going, so it's time to play a little pepper.  

Detroit Tigers 
88-74, first in the AL Central, lost in the World Series 

The end result wasn't unexpected, but the journey was.

After adding Prince Fielder to an already impressive lineup and with a division that was not quite as dominant as some others, it was well assumed that Detroit would run away and hide from the rest of the league.  There might be a bit of a fight in the first half, but after that there'd be no problems, right?

Instead, Detroit was tied for first with just eight games to go and that was after a battle to cut into the White Sox lead.  They were able to pull away down the stretch, but it was a close thing. Then Oakland took them to a deciding Game 5 before they swept the Yankees, only to run into what looked to be a team of destiny in Chicago.

Now the Tigers return, possibly even stronger than last season.  To see if that's the case, I've got a couple of great bloggers to chat about their team.  Shane Kay writes for the blog entitled (appropriately, for this series) Pepper Baseball.  He also Tweets @PepperBaseball.  Along with Shane, I've brought back Jennifer Cosey of Old English D.  Jennifer can be found on Twitter @VivaTigres.

After the jump, we'll talk about following up a Triple Crown and if any rookies can crack this squad.
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No Fans Of Interleague

Posted on June 21, 2012 at 8:21 PM
Another day, another frustrating interleague experience.

The Cards have played 12 games now against the American League.  In that span, they are 5-7, which is fairly fitting considering that this team has sat around .500 for quite some time.  It's not that they've been getting blown out--a number of these games could have easily gone the other way--it's that there's really no offense going on.  

Thirty-four runs in those dozen games, which is bad enough as it is (2.83 runs per game), but 10 of those came last Saturday against the Royals.  Toss that out and you are looking at 24 over 11, which is 2.18 runs per game.  It's a testament to  the starting pitching that they've been doing as well as they have.  They could have easily gone 2-10 during this span and have fallen completely out of the NL Central race.

Befitting the paragraph above, Thursday's Hero has to be Kyle Lohse.  Lohse made one mistake--a hanging pitch that Prince Fielder put into the next county--but otherwise threw a masterful game.  Four hits, one run, four strikeouts over seven innings?  That should be a winning line score with this theoretical offense.  Instead, it's a tough no-decision.

Rafael Furcal got two hits, but it was a missed sign that was his biggest "contribution".  Daniel Descalso took off on a hit-and-run but Furcal, who was still showing bunt, never moved the bat.  Descalso was out by a country mile and, when the rest of the inning unfolded into one that the Cards pushed across a run, that turned out to be a huge mistake.

Still, the Goat has to go to Victor Marte.  It wasn't his fault that he was in that situation and, indeed, he's usually been able to handle it.  But after getting one out in the 10th, he gave up two hits and hit a batter to load the bases, then allowed the game-winning single on the first pitch to Quintin Berry.  Even the two outs he got in the ninth to keep the game tied were big blasts that might have left other ballparks, at least according to the KMOX broadcast team that I was listening to at the time.

Furcal had two hits and the bottom of the lineup had three, but the middle of the order was completely punchless.  Carlos Beltran walked twice, but his small hitting streak came to an end.  Matt Holliday drove in the only run on a sacrifice fly.  That was it for three through six.  On those kinda days, well, odds are you aren't winning unless you have a guy hitting eighth who just goes off.

Right now, nobody's going off.  We tend to have these discussions about the home-run centricity of the offense and Bernie Miklasz talks about that today as well as the yucky running stats.  Nothing is clicking at all at the moment, which is causing some terrible days and nights at the yard.  Can things get better?  Surely.  However, it's almost like last year, needing that big shakeup to get people focused.  What John Mozeliak can do this year for an encore, though, is pretty hard to see.

It's a tough time right now, as those parallels to 2010 just keep getting stronger.  At least in '10 the Cards stayed close enough to take the lead back in August for a little while.  If they can stay that close again, I like their chances.  I'm just not sure how easily they can stay that close.

Second half of the home-and-home series with the Royals opens tomorrow night with Joe Kelly going against Vin Mazzaro.  Kelly took on these guys in his last start, so this will be the first team that will be seeing him for the second time.  Cards get another whack at Mazzaro, who has the following lines after seeing the Redbirds last weekend as well:

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS IBB HBP GDP
Matt Holliday 9 8 4 1 0 1 3 1 0 .500 .556 1.000 1.556 1 0 0
Yadier Molina 7 7 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .143 .143 .143 .286 0 0 0
Daniel Descalso 6 3 0 0 0 0 1 2 1 .000 .333 .000 .333 0 0 0
Skip Schumaker 5 5 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 .600 .600 .600 1.200 0 0 0
David Freese 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 1
Carlos Beltran 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0
Allen Craig 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Rafael Furcal 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Matt Adams 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0
Tyler Greene 2 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 0 0 0
Kyle Lohse 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 1
Jake Westbrook 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Total 48 43 13 1 0 1 4 3 7 .302 .340 .395 .736 1 0 2
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/21/2012.

Holliday looks like he should be ready to go and it'll be interesting to see if Tyler Greene gets a start based on these small numbers.  Also, while nothing's been officially determined, I'm expecting Matt Carpenter and Jon Jay to be activated sometime this weekend; Carpenter might be available for tomorrow's game.

Hopefully St. Louis can go across the state and put together some wins to finish up interleague play.  We can hope, at least!

Tomorrow is the 10th anniversary of the passing of Darryl Kile.  I'll have a memorial post up sometime during the day, so please check back for that as well.  If you missed it earlier, below is a post about Josh Hancock that I think is worth reading as well.  Have a great weekend!

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Stopping The Bleeding

Posted on June 21, 2012 at 6:54 AM
When your team needs a shot in the arm, a big stand from the mound, it's obvious that you are going to call......Jake Westbrook?

Believe it or not, Westbrook was the one that stood tall last night, throwing a complete game and allowing just one run.  A simple look at the box score proves that Westbrook was on his game last night, as he got 15 ground balls, which is key for him.  His sinker will eventually sink, but you like to see it on the way to the plate instead of after it's cleared the wall.  When Westbrook has command and is getting the ground balls, he can be a very dominant pitcher.  Problem is, you never know from start to start whether he'll have the feel for his favorite pitch.

It's interesting to see that Westbrook has better numbers with another day of rest.  The old theory on sinkerballers was that you threw them on shorter rest because a tired arm got more sink on the ball.  There doesn't seem to be any way to maximize this, though.  The team's not going to go to a six-man rotation, not even when Chris Carpenter returns (well, I guess it'd be theoretically possible if Jaime Garcia has returned by then as well, but I don't think any of us are counting on that) and this seems to rule out any of that talk about Westbrook going to the bullpen, as he'd pitch on shorter rest there than he would in the rotation.

Westbrook had to be that good last night because, again, the offense couldn't really help him out.  For all the troubles that Rick Porcello has had this year, he was able to keep things in check, even when he put all sorts of base runners on.  Every Cardinal had at least one hit last night, but they were spaced enough that they couldn't maximize the damage.  Getting three runs out of 12 hits and 2 walks isn't exactly efficient.  In fact, by my old formula, it'd go down as a frustration game save the Cards won.

Good night for Carlos Beltran, who went 2-2 with two walks and scored the insurance run in the eighth.  Other than that, all the offensive numbers look pretty similar.  I'll give the Goat to Skip Schumaker just because he got five at-bats with one hit, more than anyone else.  He also left three on base, which factors in.

Probably the best news outside of last night's win was that Carpenter is progressing well in his recovery.  Carp threw with full effort yesterday and had no complaints or complications, meaning that he gets to throw batting practice to the guys this weekend in Kansas City.  Knowing Carp's competitive nature, it could be the first batting practice on record where no one gets a hit.  If nothing else, it could make that day's opponent look that much easier by comparison!

A day game to wrap up this latest trip to Detroit.  (As often as the Cards have played the Tigers in the last few years, you'd think Detroit was part of the NL Central.)  Kyle Lohse takes the hill, trying to keep his strong June going.  

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS IBB HBP GDP
Prince Fielder 36 28 7 2 0 0 3 6 4 .250 .417 .321 .738 0 2 0
Jhonny Peralta 17 14 4 1 0 0 1 3 3 .286 .412 .357 .769 0 0 0
Miguel Cabrera 12 10 4 1 0 2 4 2 1 .400 .500 1.100 1.600 0 0 0
Ramon Santiago 10 10 3 1 0 0 1 0 2 .300 .300 .400 .700 0 0 0
Gerald Laird 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0
Total 78 65 19 5 0 2 9 11 10 .292 .410 .462 .872 0 2 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/21/2012.

Lohse has some experience against some of these guys, but it's not exactly positive.  Miguel Cabrera has dominated him, for instance, so he'll have to be extremely careful facing him, especially with runners on.

Jacob Turner goes for the Tigers.  Like fellow rotation mate Max Scherzer, Turner has some St. Louis ties and it will be interesting to see if facing his hometown team will cause any issues for him.  He's never faced any of the Cardinals, which doesn't seem to have been as much of a problem back in April has it has been the last few years, but with the offense kinda sputtering, it's a bit of an ominous sign.

Jon Jay had a very good day in Memphis, so I'm thinking his rehab won't be long.  Sounds like Matt Adams may go down when Matt Carpenter comes up (conservation of Matts, you know) and I'd guess Adron Chambers gets that news when Jay is ready to play in the bigs.  I'd guess there will be some roster turnover as early as this evening or tomorrow morning.  Something to keep an eye on!

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Expected Result In An Unexpected Way

Posted on June 20, 2012 at 7:04 AM
When going up against a pitcher the caliber of Justin Verlander, the last thing you want to do is quickly get behind.  The Cards failed that test, trailing 1-0 by the end of the first.

If you are going to get behind, you certainly don't want to get very far behind.  The Redbirds failed that one as well, being down 4-0 at the end of the second and 6-1 after six.

For all of that, though, St. Louis didn't cave.  They scored two more against the Tigers ace in the seventh and had the bases loaded with two outs.  Even though they had a guy up in Allen Craig that could have cut the lead or perhaps even tied it up, if not more, it's hard to blame him for not coming through when you see these pitches:

100 mph fastball (strike 1)
101 mph fastball (ball 1)
100 mph fastball (foul, strike 2)
82 mph curveball (ball 2)
87 mph slider (strike 3)

Honestly, I was impressed he held up on the curveball.  That kind of variation and that late in the game?  It's just about not fair.  There's a reason Verlander is at or near the top of most people's lists of best pitchers in baseball.

If you are laying blame, I think the Goat has to go to Lance Lynn.  It wasn't one of his better outings, but he was still close to getting much better results.  I thought he was going to strike out Austin Jackson and get out of the second-inning jam, but Jackson was able to put a ball in play and get two runs in.  If he does get Jackson out, maybe the game tilts differently, maybe he gets settled in.  Who knows.  But nine hits and five runs in five innings isn't going to work against a solid team like Detroit.

Unsurprisingly, there weren't a lot of great offensive performances off of Verlander.  Matt Holliday went 1-3 with a walk and an RBI, but I'll give the Hero to Daniel Descalso, the only player with two hits on the night and he scored two runs as well.

Cincinnati lost, so the Cardinals stay 4.5 games back, but it's getting to be time for them to start making some sort of move.  Playing .500 baseball isn't the way to October, even with the expanded wild card junk.  The Cards really need to show some life by winning this series and taking some momentum to Kansas City.

To do that, they are going to need a good outing from Jake Westbrook tonight.  Westbrook is making noises about having a better mechanical approach and he did look stronger against the White Sox last week.  That said, every start with Westbrook is a hold-your-breath-and-see-what-we've-got type of start, so you'll just have to watch tonight to see if these mechanical issues are the culprit.  Because history is not kind to Mr. Westbrook when it comes to these Tigers.

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS IBB HBP GDP
Ramon Santiago 25 22 9 0 0 0 2 1 2 .409 .458 .409 .867 0 1 0
Prince Fielder 18 14 5 1 0 1 4 3 0 .357 .444 .643 1.087 1 0 1
Delmon Young 18 18 3 1 0 0 1 0 1 .167 .167 .222 .389 0 0 0
Miguel Cabrera 11 10 6 1 0 1 3 1 0 .600 .636 1.000 1.636 0 0 0
Austin Jackson 11 10 4 0 1 0 0 1 1 .400 .455 .600 1.055 0 0 0
Gerald Laird 10 9 1 1 0 0 0 0 2 .111 .200 .222 .422 0 1 1
Brennan Boesch 5 4 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 .000 .200 .000 .200 0 1 0
Don Kelly 5 4 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .600 .500 1.100 0 1 0
Total 103 91 30 4 1 2 11 6 6 .330 .392 .462 .854 1 4 2
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/20/2012.

Not a lot of home runs, but he's been hit around the yard some.  Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera are tough for a lot of people, but if players like Ramon Santiago and Jackson get on base around them, there could be some crooked numbers.

The Cards get to play a little "what might have been" as they face Rick Porcello.  If you've followed recent Cardinal draft history, you know Porcello was a highly rated high school prospect who, due to his salary demands, slid down and down the first round of the 2007 draft, finally being available when the Cards selected.  Instead of taking the plunge on his talent, though, they went safe and selected Pete Kozma, something that has tailed Kozma throughout his career, especially since he's struggled while Porcello has been in the bigs for three years.

However, after a strong rookie year, Porcello has had his own problems.  He sports a 5.18 ERA right now and that's not a lot higher than it's been the last two years.  Most of the Cards haven't faced him, but those that have haven't regretted the experience.

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS IBB HBP GDP
Matt Holliday 6 5 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 .200 .333 .200 .533 0 1 1
Carlos Beltran 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0
Tyler Greene 3 3 2 1 0 0 1 0 0 .667 .667 1.000 1.667 0 0 0
Yadier Molina 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0
Total 15 14 5 1 0 0 2 0 0 .357 .400 .429 .829 0 1 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/20/2012.

Only Holliday has had any sort of trouble in the small sample of work against Porcello.  This could be a real American League game with runs scored everywhere if the numbers against these starters hold up.  Hopefully Westbrook can limit the damage and the Cards can come out on top!

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Not What The Doctor Ordered

Posted on June 19, 2012 at 9:15 AM
You've got an offense that's struggling.  I don't necessarily have a solution, but I gotta think facing last year's AL Cy Young and MVP isn't on the short list.

Cardinals had an off day yesterday and flew up to Detroit, reportedly adding Skip Schumaker to their roster along the way.  American League baseball, with the DH and all, seemed more appealing when there was an overabundance of good hitters.  Now, well, if Schumaker winds up being the DH, that's just wrong on so many levels.  Most likely it'll be Matt Adams, though, which is more palatable.

No matter what the lineup, Justin Verlander is waiting for anyone that might be wearing the birds on the bat.  Then again, past history with these guys isn't necessarily on his side.

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS IBB HBP GDP
Yadier Molina 13 13 9 3 0 0 4 0 1 .692 .692 .923 1.615 0 0 0
Matt Holliday 6 4 2 0 0 0 0 2 1 .500 .667 .500 1.167 0 0 0
Carlos Beltran 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Adam Wainwright 2 2 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 1.000 1.500 0 0 0
Total 24 22 12 4 0 0 4 2 4 .545 .583 .727 1.311 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/19/2012.

Of course, we're talking small sample size (because when aren't we?) and the fact that the last time he faced St. Louis was 2009, before he became an all-world pitcher (though he was still pretty good then).  I don't know exactly how relevant that these numbers are, though it's encouraging to see Yadier Molina at the top of that list since Yadi's only gotten better since those days as well.

Lance Lynn looks at Verlander's history with the Cardinals and says, "Dude, that's a lot of numbers."  Here's what Lynn has done against the current Tigers.
 
PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS IBB HBP GDP
Prince Fielder 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .333 .000 .333 1 0 0
Total 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000 .333 .000 .333 1 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/19/2012.

Lots of experience there, huh?  You know Prince Fielder is just getting peppered with questions about his time against Lynn.  Since two of the three came in the NLCS last season (the IBB in Game 1, a groundout--Fielder's last AB in Milwaukee--in Game 6), he might be able to remember them.

Other news from around Cardinal Nation......

Chris Carpenter looks to face hitters in batting practice this weekend.  This is a big step for the longtime ace and, if the timetable at the end of the article is correct, it should keep him in line for a return to the majors about the beginning of August.  With Lance Berkman hopefully returning around then, the Cards need to keep the NL Central race close because they could be primed for a strong finish.

Shelby Miller has been somewhat better than his numbers would indicate, but that doesn't mean there aren't going to be changes.  From now on, he's not allowed to shake off the catcher to hopefully help him develop his breaking pitches more effectively.  Triple-A is proving to him that you can't solve every problem in baseball by rearing back and throwing harder.  Miller's allowed 15 home runs in 66 innings, a rate that, like we saw with Adam Wainwright earlier this year, will likely start decreasing and making the other numbers look good as well. However, until some of those numbers look better (he's got a 12.57 ERA with runners in scoring position, which is just ugly) he'll be learning his craft in Memphis rather than St. Louis.

Matt Holliday is making adjustments, trying to fix what's been a rough year for him.  Holliday seems to be a polarizing figure in Cardinal Nation.  He's not seen as "clutch" (and his .224 average with runners in scoring position this season isn't helping) and I think some formed a negative opinion of him when he struggled immediately after signing the big deal with the Cards before the 2010 season.

Yet he's hit 62 home runs in 2 1/2 season in St. Louis.  He's scored 220 runs.  He's hit .301.  He's driven in 219.  All in all, while he slumps at times, he's been a very effective and productive player for the Cardinals since signing that deal.  He's not necessarily the first guy you want up at the plate--Molina has surpassed him there--but I'd much rather have him on our team than having to face him on a regular basis.

A couple of promotional things.  First off, the guys over at Stadium Journey have updated their review of Busch Stadium.  Having just been there, I can say that it's an accurate review and they have gone into a lot of details.  If you haven't been before and are planning on going, check this out to prepare you.  Most every stadium in sports is rated there, so if you've got another trip planned, head over there and find that stadium.

Secondly, you may have heard about Schumaker and his efforts in raising funds for Baby Reesa.  If you haven't (or even if you have), please head over to our friends at Pitchers Hit Eighth and read about the situation and what you can do to help.  It's a heartbreaking story and there's no way I could do it the justice that Dennis has.  If you can go, please do so.

Cards and Tigers tonight.  Let's see those highlights of 2006 again!

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UCB Prediction Week, Part I: American League

Posted on March 26, 2012 at 11:30 AM
Every year about this time, the United Cardinal Bloggers take aim at their predictions for the upcoming season.  It's a great way to look at the divisions, get a feel for what is going on, and write down picks that you will be trying to scrub from any internet search engine by probably July.

I'm far from an expert, so take all of these picks with a grain of salt.  There are few gut picks that don't have a lot of basis in reality, so feel free to take that into consideration when reading them.

Since the American League doesn't really matter as much, we at the UCB just lump it all into one day.  So keep reading to see how I pick the divisions to shake out.
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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!

Playing Pepper 2012: Detroit Tigers

Posted on March 2, 2012 at 11:30 AM
In 2009, I decided to get a feel for other teams around baseball by asking bloggers for those teams some questions about their squad.  Not only has this series been very popular, but it spawned the Baseball Bloggers Alliance.  With camps opening up again and spring training getting into gear, it's time once again to play a little pepper.

Detroit Tigers
95-67, first in the AL Central, lost to Texas in the ALCS

The Tigers were kind enough to spot the Indians some ground at the beginning of the season, but by the time the postseason came around, Detroit was standing on top of the AL Central heap.  Using a legendary season by Justin Verlander and the offensive heroics of Miguel Cabrera, Detroit rolled through New York as well in the playoffs before coming up short against the Rangers.

Not content to stay still, Detroit made a move this offseason.  You might have heard about it.  It happened late in the day, but it was still a move that likely cemented their position as the class of the division.

To talk about that move and other things Tigers-related, we've got a couple of great Detroit bloggers with us today.  Jennifer Cosey writes for Old English D and is a member of the BBA.  Not only can you read her at the site but you can also follow her on Twitter at VivaTigres.  

Until recently, Erin Saelzler was writing at Tigers Amateur Analysis, but now has moved on to contributing at Walkoff Woodard while working up a new site called Tigerology.  Erin is also a BBA member and can be found on Twitter at SabreRoseTiger.

After the jump, we'll talk about the new third baseman and if any rookies can make this squad in 2012.
  Continue Reading

Postseason Starts With A Curve

Posted on September 30, 2011 at 6:04 PM
Tony La Russa pulled out another of his sleight of hand tricks today, stating that Chris Carpenter would be the Game 2 starter in Philadelphia, sending Carpenter out just three days after throwing a complete game shutout.

There's no doubt Tony has his reasons.  We talked this morning about Jaime Garcia and how he does much better at home, ruling him out of the first couple of games.  It seemed fairly obvious, then, that Edwin Jackson would be the much better choice to go in the second game, until this announcement.  As you've probably heard, Carpenter has never--never, mind you--gone on three days' rest in his career.

Josh from Pitchers Hit Eighth and I were chatting on Google Talk this afternoon and he brought up a point that I hadn't considered, namely that Jackson is more of a fly ball pitcher.  I recall him going to extremes with that in one of his last starts, as balls continued to fly deeper and deeper, but stay in the ballpark.  With Philadelphia's bandbox, those balls would be much more likely to soar over the wall.

However, I wanted to see if that was actually true.  Pulling up his Baseball Reference page, I note that he has been a bit more likely to give up the longball since moving to the National League and that his strikeout rate has decreased.  His GB/FB is 0.64 and his HR/FB% is at 6%, higher than it has been in his last couple of teams.  How much of these numbers are skewed due to the beating he took in Milwaukee, I don't know, but that does have to be considered.  Nevertheless, it does look like he'd be an ill fit for Philadelphia.  He did not pitch in Citizens Bank Park this season and in his one career game there, he gave up five runs in five innings.

I also think this is a good way for TLR to keep the pressure off of Kyle Lohse.  We know that he likes to do that (look at the disastrous attempt back in 2000 with using Darryl Kile as a decoy for Rick Ankiel) and he loves to get the focus on him so that the players can do their jobs without concern.  People are talking about Carpenter and whether this decision is the right one.  They aren't talking about Lohse having to go up against Roy Halladay.

With Lohse and Carpenter, the latter of which treats 100 pitch games are like warmups, going in enemy territory it does seem like the best way for the Cards to steal a game there and have a chance to win it at home.  I'm a little worried that TLR is getting too cute with things and that these kind of moves have a tendency on backfiring, but I understand the logic and it's worth a shot.

Also, per the discussion earlier today, TLR has said that Jake Westbrook will be on the postseason roster, so you can probably go ahead and cross off Eduardo Sanchez, which is too bad because I really think he could make a difference.

Quick plug before I wrap this: you can hear my thoughts on the upcoming series and some on the season that's past on this Popblerd podcast.  Garrett and I have known each other for a couple of years, as internet people know each other at least, and it was good to sit down and talk to him about the squad.  I hope to have him on my podcast sometime this winter so we can have a chat about the San Francisco squad.

Before the 2006 postseason, I remember looking at the path the Cardinals were going to take and thinking that they really had a legitimate shot.  I felt like they could get past San Diego, in part because they always did.  I looked at the Mets and thought that the Cards had the pitching edge in that series because Pedro Martinez was unavailable.  I looked at Detroit and again thought the Cards had the edge because of their pitching and how they were playing, having everyone healthy and ready to go.

I look at this 2011 postseason and, while they don't necessarily have all the edges that the 2006 squad had, I really do like their chances.  Getting past Philadelphia will be tough, but it's a team that the Cards have beaten in the regular season so I don't think there will be as much of an intimidation factor as there might be with some other teams.  Couple that with a fairly experienced squad and I think they can beat Philadelphia in five.

I'm not sure who wins in the Arizona/Milwaukee series, but I think the Cardinals can hang with either of them.  The Cards went 4-3 against Arizona and 9-9 against Milwaukee.  Arizona has a big top two of Daniel Hudson and Ian Kennedy, but the Cards can counter those and have been able to get to those guys as well.  As for Milwaukee, a matchup against them in the NLCS would be epic.  You know it'd go seven games and all the stops would get pulled out.  The Cards have proven they can beat their aces (though Yovani Gallardo can give them fits) and the Brewers have done damage against the Cards.  Again, I'm not saying that the Cards would definitely win against either of those teams, but I think there's a legitimate case to be made that they could.

Finally, you get to the World Series, and I don't think any team that makes it that far out of the AL doesn't have their own weaknesses.  The Tigers can't throw Justin Verlander every night.  The Yankees drop off after CC Sabathia.  I'm not sold on the Rangers pitching (and, being that the Rays are now beating the Rangers 6-0 in a game that their ace started, there seems to be a reason) and the Rays....well, now, the Rays might make for an interesting time.  They have good pitching and a solid offense to go along with it.  Just on the face of it, I think Tampa Bay will be the toughest team the AL can send to the Series.

I know it's optimistic, I know it's red-colored glasses, but if the Cards can get past Philadelphia (which, admittedly, is a tough but possible chore), I really like their chances.  However, as the players say, we've got to take it one game at a time.  And that game is tomorrow afternoon.  Go Cards!

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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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