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Heroes and Goats: April 2009

Ending On A Down Note

Posted on April 27, 2009 at 2:11 PM
There are two games I need to write about.  One was a great game, one not so much.  Depends on your perspective which was which, but most of you are Cardinal fans, so Saturday was a blast and Sunday was a day to turn off the game early.

Saturday, anything else that happened was overshadowed by one swing of Albert Pujols's bat.  One of the best parts of that slam? Check out the reaction of the Cubs' catcher as soon as AP puts the ball into orbit.  It was almost like "Why do we bother?"

While that was the biggest thing to come out of Saturday, there were other highlights.  Mitchell Boggs did a little better job as a Chris Carpenter substitute than PJ Walters did on his first attempt.  Getting into the sixth with no earned runs is the best way to keep your slot in the rotation, which Boggs did as he's starting again on Thursday.

Khalil Greene had two hits, including a double, and Brian Barden continued to tear up my early season bashing of him, tallying three hits.  And while he only had one hit, Colby Rasmus did a good job of not being too aggressive with two on and two out, drawing the walk that helped set up the grand slam.

After a game like that, you hate to put a Goat up, but every game has to have one.  Blaine Boyer's Cardinal debut wasn't anything exciting, as he gave up an unearned run in his outing.  Chris Duncan went 0 for 3 with two strikeouts, but he did draw a walk.  So the title goes to Brendan Ryan, who was 0 for 4 from the leadoff slot.

Probably the less said about Sunday's game, the better.  I know the Cards won two out of three from the Cubbies and you are greedy if you expect more, but that was such a terrible game from the start.  You know that if Rich Harden is on, getting three runs is going to be tough, so you are in for it from the very beginning.  The Cards had won nine in a row at home, were going for the perfect homestand, then the bottom falls out.

Yadier Molina continued his hot hitting as he was the only Cardinal with two hits in the game, including a home run that got the Redbirds on the board.  Couple that with his defense and there's no way, at least right now, he's not representing the Cardinals at the All-Star Game, is there?

Other than Yadi, Rick Ankiel's bomb and maybe Pujols's three walks and a HBP (that really wasn't necessarily, in my book, though the manager didn't have a big beef with it), there wasn't much positive going on.

Which means coming up with a Goat is at least easier from the point of view that there are plenty of options.  Todd Wellemeyer has a lot of people concerned right now.  He seemed to come back at the end of his outing and start looking better, but we thought that after his strong Arizona start as well.  The Cardinals really need Wellemeyer to be back to his form last year, especially with Carpenter out.  If he gets on a roll, this rotation is so much more dangerous.

However, I think the Goat goes to Khalil Greene.  No hits in four trips and an error that allowed runs to score.  Not a day he was hoping for.  It makes you also wonder exactly where the slick-fielding Greene is, since he now has five errors and leads the league.

Still, the Cardinals wrap up the third week of the season leading the NL Central with a 13-6 mark.  Tony LaRussa has to get a good chunk of the credit, as his mixing and matching, plus his managerial style, seem to be getting everything they can out of the players they have.

It was expected that April would be the toughest part of the early schedule and May would be where the team could kick in the jets.  When you look at the teams on the schedule for May (Washington, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Cinncinati, Milwaukee, Kansas City, San Francisco) there's not a whole lot of reason to think that things have changed.  A three game set starting tonight with the Braves and the schedule seems to ease up.  Which could be bad news for the rest of the division.

Taking a look at tonight's starters, Joel Pineiro, who is coming off the strong outing against the Mets, goes up against Jair Jurrjens, who has had a strong outing against just about everyone.  Pineiro hasn't had a lot of success against Braves' hitters, while Jurrjens has hardly seen Cardinal ones.  If everyone's on, though, it should be a pretty good pitching duel.

The CardsClubhouse Bird's Eye View and YNOT are both up, so check them out and enjoy the game!

"Perfect Player" Keys Cardinal Victory

Posted on April 25, 2009 at 8:54 AM
As Cardinal fans, we've seen Albert Pujols for the last eight-plus years.  We've seen him do astounding things at the plate, whether it's walk-off shots or multi-homer games.  We've seen him be aggressive on the bases, famously scoring from second on an infield grounder last year in Colorado.  Now, apparently, we are seeing the evolution of him from Ted Williams to Rickey Henderson.

There's a reason Tony LaRussa called him a "perfect player" after the last game with the Mets and Buster Olney tends to agree.  Whatever needs to be done to win the game, Pujols is going to try to do.  And, lately, that means adding to his repertoire the stolen base.  Once that ball Ryan Ludwick hit passed the second baseman, there was no question Pujols was scoring.  Ryan Franklin locked it down and that was that.

There were a few others that had strong games.  Joe Thurston smashed a two-run double and went to second on the throw, scoring on a single by Skip Schumaker.  Franklin pitched a pretty solid ninth, with only the walk to pinch-hitting Milton Bradley blemishing the record.  Ludwick had two hits, counting the game winner.

Really liked the way Kyle McClellan looked last night before Franklin came in.  His spring struggles appear to be behind him and he's one of the few St. Louis can rely on coming out of the pen right now, it seems.

The person that made the most impact, though, was Adam Wainwright.  Wainwright hasn't looked like the ace he was becoming last year so far in 2009.  His command has been shaky and he's been good enough to keep the team in the game, but only by a thread.  Last night, though, he looked more like Adam Wainwright. His breaking ball was moving quite nicely, he didn't walk but one,  He wasn't able to get a decision due to a breakdown behind him, but he'll take that kind of game just about every time.

Can someone explain, though, what is going on with the Cardinal defense?  We knew going into the season that it was a little shakier than it has been in the past.  Still, there was Yadier Molina, Albert Pujols, Rick Ankiel, likely Colby Rasmus, Khalil Greene, guys with good defensive reputations.  So how come this team is leading not only the National League but the majors in errors?  Seventeen in seventeen games.

If you said two weeks ago that Skip Schumaker would make a crucial error that would help blow a Cardinal lead, you'd have probably railed that the second base experiment just wasn't working and the Cardinals needed sure hands at the keystone.  However, Schumaker makes this error after moving to left field to provide defensive support, replacing Chris Duncan.

The error virus seems to have infected everyone, with no real reason for it.  Pujols has four, which is totally unlike him.  Schumaker is supposed to be very strong in the outfield.  Hopefully this is just a concentrated streak and things will hit the other end of the pendulum very soon.

The Redbirds opened the last Cubs series with a win as well.  They hope to do better in the next two games than they did up in Chicago starting this afternoon.  Mitchell Boggs goes against Sean Marshall.  Marshall has done pretty well against the Redbirds in the past.  If it wasn't for LaRussa's assertion earlier in the week in the Fox Midwest pregame that Ludwick was going to play five of the six games this homestand, only sitting out the second Mets game, I'd think he'd take a pass today with his .182 mark against Marshall.  Rick Ankiel and Duncan seem to have good, if very small sample size, numbers against Marshall, so it's probably another day on the bench for Rasmus.

Boggs has a very small sample size against the Cubs, but the numbers are good for him.  It'll be like a new experience for most of the Chicago batters since they've only seen him once.  Hopefully he'll be able to show something to the national audience that will be tuning in on Fox!

Albert Pujols Reads This Blog!

Posted on April 23, 2009 at 10:49 PM
With an afternoon game tomorrow and before I check on how he's done against Livan Hernandez, I predict he puts one over the wall in the series finale.--C70 At The Bat, April 22.
So what happened? What do you think happened? [snip] There are things we do not know about Pujols, things we cannot know, but the question really is this: How much fun is it if you cannot believe?--Joe Posanski, SI
Extremely nice of Albert Pujols to check out my blog and decide, you know, let's get that home run out of the way early and tack on another one to boot. When Pujols gets into one of his grooves, all you can do is get out of his way.  His second multi-homer game and April isn't over yet?  It reminds me some of '06 when he came out on fire.  Now knock on wood history doesn't repeat itself (at least in the fact that he hit the DL that year).

Pujols was obviously the star of the show.  Not only does he smash the two homers, he drives in three runs, scores four times, and tosses in a stolen base.  He must be getting some amazing reads because that's the second time this week that he's gotten a steal and he seems to be making it not even close.  I don't know if he's picked up some mannerisms that are allowing him to get great jumps or what, but he's looking like a speed demon out there.

There's only one disturbing aspect of Pujols's game right now--he made his fourth error of the season today, which is very unlike him.  He's a stellar fielder, as we know, so I don't know exactly why his glove has been a little less golden this season.  Hopefully he can straighten that out.

Of course, in a 12 run game, there are probably a lot of people that could get into the Hero discussion.  Rick Ankiel is one of them, with an amazing catch and a home run of his own.  Rick is a streaky guy, but he may be starting to find a little bit of rhythm.  I know I was down on him recently for an 0-fer after the talk with Tony LaRussa, but if he can start putting a few games like this together, this season is going to become even more fun.

The other name that pops out of the agate type that is the boxscore is Colby Rasmus.  The rookie seems to be getting his legs underneath him at the major league level, as he went three for five and raised his average up to .310 and his OBP up to .408, which is great if he's going to be hitting in that #2 slot much.  Getting on in front of Albert is a great thing, as we saw with Pujols's second homer today.

Jason LaRue also had three hits.  It's not like he's going to take Yadier Molina's job anytime soon, but it's always good to see the backup contribute.

The pitching was better than you'd expect from seeing 8 runs on the board.  Kyle Lohse started and went five innings, allowing two runs, but only one was earned.  He did throw 90 pitches in that outing, which was not at all what you'd want to see, and had to leave the game after apparently jamming his knee.  Hopefully it's not serious, as the rotation doesn't need any more holes in it.

The real bad day came from PJ Walters, who allowed six runs (five earned) in a little over two innings to make this game appear a little closer than it really was.  If this outing is any indication, it's a good thing Mitchell Boggs is scheduled for the middle game against the Cubs.  The rest of the bullpen did their job in small doses and should still be ready to go for the Cubs series.

I've got another early day tomorrow, so let's quickly look at the pitching matchups for the first game against Chicago.  Adam Wainwright goes for the Redbirds.  Wainwright was moved around in the rotation after the rainout in part to make sure he went against St. Louis's traditional rival.  That said, he's had trouble with some of the Cub hitters in the past and he's 2-3 with a 6.08 ERA in 16 games (7 starts) against the little bears.  You have to hope we see the '08 version of Wainwright, who was 1-0 with a 2.38 ERA against Chicago.

The Cubs counter with Ryan Dempster.  The Cardinals have held their own against Dempster, who has been able to tame Pujols somewhat (.250 average) even if he's not completely corraled him (2 HR).  LaRue has hit him well, but there's no chance he'll play on back to back days, I don't think.

Should be a fun weekend of a great rivalry.  If the Cards can take two of three, they stay in first and send a bit of a message to the rest of the divisions.

I'm done predicting, though.  Don't want to stress Albert out.  

Immediate Reactions To Cards/Mets

Posted on April 22, 2009 at 10:54 PM
I won't be around in the morning, so as I listen to the UCB Radio Hour, ably covered by Mike and Josh, I thought I'd go ahead and give my initial thoughts on tonight's game and a look forward to tomorrow afternoon's.

First off, I think the Hero tag really should go to Joel Pineiro, not only because he was very successful tonight, but because he was very economical, being able to get into the ninth and really keep the bullpen off the field.  The more rested they are, the better, as they showed last night with four scoreless innings after two days off.

Pineiro really seems to have made some adjustments and has shown that he can bounce back from tough outings.  Will this last into the summer and fall?  I wouldn't want to be that it would.  However, I think we can safely say it won't be as bad as last year.

I commented on Daniel Murphy's left-field skills or lack thereof yesterday.  I think the most telling thing on him tonight was Pineiro not hesitating to score from second on a base hit to left.  It was close, but most of the time the pitcher is going to stop at third on that play.

There were numerous other good performances tonight.  I really was impressed with Colby Rasmus tonight.  Two for three, with the one out a deep opposite-field drive that was well-hit.  I understood why Tony LaRussa pinch-hit for him later in the game with the bases loaded and the Mets bringing in a lefty, especially since the pinch-hitter was Ryan Ludwick, but with a three-run lead at the time I would have liked to see what Rasmus could have done in that situation.

Albert Pujols was two for three with a sac fly RBI.  I thought he had gotten a hold of one in the first, but it died at the track, even though that did produce the RBI.  With an afternoon game tomorrow and before I check on how he's done against Livan Hernandez, I predict he puts one over the wall in the series finale.

Really, there weren't too many bad performances to sift through to find tonight's Goat.  Khalil Greene went 0 for 2, but drew two walks and scored a run.  So, unfortunately, that again leaves us with Rick Ankiel.  An 0 for 4 with a really bad looking at-bat against Casey Fossum especially.  I'm starting to be afraid that John Mozeliak may have missed his window to move Ankiel for the maximum amount of return.

I got a chance to see the segment on Fox Sports Midwest with Cal Eldred in LaRussa's office as he worked on the lineup.  I thought it was very fascinating to hear TLR explain when he starts thinking about things, why he sits players when he does and other things.  The announcers said that the second half of that would air tomorrow, the graphic said Friday.  I hope it's Friday because I'd love to see it, especially if he starts talking about why he bats certain players in certain slots.

Let's look at tomorrow's pitching matchups and get out of here.  As mentioned, Livan Hernandez is going for the Mets as they try to avoid the sweep.  He's had good success against the Cardinal batters, even keeping Pujols under .300.  I'm still holding to the Pujols homer prediction, though.

The Cardinals counter with Kyle Lohse.  If career numbers are any indication, this could be an ugly one.  Carlos Beltran has owned Lohse, smashing 4 homers off of him and hitting well over .500, and he's not the only one with gaudy numbers.  That said, Lohse has defied the career numbers already this year and has said he's got a different approach and is a different pitcher.  Tomorrow may be the strongest test of that this season.

Bullpen Decision Goes To The.....Cardinals?

Posted on April 22, 2009 at 9:41 AM
As the story line for this series goes, one team went out and spent oodles of money and talent remaking their bullpen into a fearsome force.  One team bargain shopped, made moderate adjustments, and didn't scare anyone with the talent they had assembled.

So why, when it came down to a battle of the bullpens, did the Cardinals win this one?  Beats me, but I'm glad that they did.

It's not hard to find the Hero for this gameRick Ankiel finally broke out of his extended slump with a three-hit game, including the game winning double.  Brendan Ryan got that inning started with a ball that turned into a triple by Daniel Murphy.  For all the talk about Chris Duncan's defense, how about this Murphy guy?  So far this year he's got two errors and is fielding at a .905 clip, not including misplays like last night.

It was actually a close call between Ankiel and Yadier Molina for the Hero of the game.  I know that the Fox Sports guys gave it to Molina and, with his three hits and stellar defense, including his now-famous pickoff of first move, I can't blame them.  Molina has had a great start to the season and hopefully it will continue.  I have to think that being able to talk hitting every day with Albert Pujols helps out some as well.

Of course, the Cardinals real hero might by Oliver Perez.  The Mets are able to build a 4-0 lead, but he gives it all back in one inning, including two runs on bases-loaded walks.  (OK, Casey Fossum walked one of them in, but the run goes to Perez.)

All in all, though, it was a great night for the bullpen after they got into the game following Goat Todd Wellemeyer.  When you put 12 runners on in 5 innings, you are probably just a bit lucky to only allow 4 runs.  I know Wellemeyer is on the Duncan train and is pitching to contact, but let that contact be at someone, OK?  29 hits in 17 innings is a tough load for a team to deal with.  At least he doesn't usually walk too many and, in other good news, his current BABIP is an astounding .453, so it's likely those balls will start finding gloves.

I do want to note that Adam Wainwright pinch-hit last night.  That means I just need one more pinch-hit appearance to be right on my comment yesterday.

Tonight's game pits Joel Pineiro against John Maine.  Pineiro has had some success against the Mets, though he's had trouble keeping Jose Reyes off the basepaths.  I know Yadi's good back there, but finding a way to get Reyes out would make tonight's game a lot easier.

Maine hasn't gotten a lot of time in against these Redbirds, but, as most pitchers, his worst problem is Albert Pujols, who is 4 for 9 with a couple of bombs against him.  I wouldn't be surprised to see Chris Duncan get the night off and Colby Rasmus get the start instead.

Chris Carpenter is getting better, but he's still quite a long way from getting back on the mound.  He says he's got to get to where stuff like coughing and sneezing don't bother him before he can think about baseball.  (If he's like me, he's getting plenty of practice with that sneezing bit.  Allergies are a bear, aren't they?)  At least he'll be able to keep his legs in shape, so that hopefully once he's healed up it won't take him long to get back to where he can pitch.

The Cardinals do seem to be high on Blane Boyer.  Sounds like there's a good chance we'll see him tonight and hopefully he'll start to repay that faith.  We'll just have to see, I guess, what Dave Duncan can do with him.

Joe Strauss has his regular chat today at noon, if you want to stop by there.  Also, this afternoon there will be a press conference with All-Star details, which should be pretty interesting.

Don't forget as well that the United Cardinal Bloggers Radio Hour is on tonight!  We'll have on Doug Feldmann, who's got a book out called St. Louis Cardinals: Past and Present. Should be fun to talk about.  Hope you can join us!

Three Days, Two Losses, One Rainout

Posted on April 20, 2009 at 10:12 AM
The problem with day games when I have other responsibilities that keep me from watching them is that the games seem like they never happened.  They are just recaps and numbers and you don't get a feel for how the team is going.  It'll likely be Wednesday before I get much of a chance to see this team again and it feels very strange.

Thankfully, I'm a blogger, which means I don't actually have to have any knowledge to talk about a topic.  Let's hit these last two games before discussing some issues that have come out of them.

Both of these losses to the Cubs have had the frustrating come-from-ahead quality that we saw out of this team last year.  Friday would have fit in well with 2008, as the Cards allowed a two-run home run to Alfonso Soriano in the bottom of the 8th to erase their lead and send them on to defeat.

When you give up such a homer, you have to expect to get the Goat tag, so I'll assign it to Chris Perez.  However, if I hadn't set the standards and limited it to players on the field, this one could be a Tony LaRussa game.

The fact that Trever Miller is not good against right-handed batters is not a secret.  It's not one of those things that you really have to dig and use advanced sabermetrics stats to see.  Right-handers have slugged almost 100 points higher against him in the last three years than lefties have.  He's a LOOGY and needs to be used that way.  So why does LaRussa have him face the heart of the Cubs order, three of which are right-handed batters?  The first one, Derrick Lee, made some sense as there was a lefty behind him.  But continuing to stick with Miller after he got out Micah Hoffpauir was asking for trouble, trouble that answered the call.

There is little doubt, however, who the Hero was.  Ryan Ludwick went three for five, hit two homers and drove in four.  You have to figure he'll be back to full-time pretty soon.  Nice to see such a strong start for him.

Wish I'd been able to see how PJ Walters looked in his career debut.  His line isn't all that impressive--three runs in four innings--but on a day where Carlos Zambrano gave up seven in seven innings, looking at the box score may not be the best way to judge how that went.  With the rainout on Sunday, the fifth starter won't be needed for a little while.  Hopefully Walters will get another crack at it.

Saturday's game was a little less frustrating, since the Cards took a lead, lost it, then battled back to tie.  Anytime you get into the ninth or extras on the road, you can't get too worked up about it (unless you had a big lead late) because any mistake can lose the ball game for you.  It only takes one swing when you are the home team in extras.

Ironically, the same thing I just took LaRussa to task for (letting the lefty guy face righties) he did to end the Saturday game, but when you hit the 11th, it's not like you have a lot of options.  And, honestly, if you had to have one of those guys face a righty lineup, I'd rather it be Dennys Reyes.

Even though, if you read the game story, you might go with Kyle Lohse, I think I have to go with Rick Ankiel and his 0 for 6 day.  It sounds like a couple of those could have been hits and that the manager thinks Rick could be coming out of it, but 0 for 6 just doesn't happen that often and when it does, it's not good.

Heroically on Saturday, you'd look to Ludwick again.  The only person with two hits, he drove in two runs....right now, he's the team MVP after two weeks.

So a team that had no off days the first two week now gets two with Sunday's rainout.  It wouldn't be surprising to see a few things juggled today.  In fact, it's already started, as the rotation has been moved around.  Todd Wellemeyer, who was pushed back to Sunday's game with the Chris Carpenter injury/Walters callup, moves to Tuesday night's opener with the Mets.  Lohse stays on Wednesday, while Adam Wainwright goes in the series finale on Thursday.

With the rainout, it looks like David Freese might get a reprieve.  When there were discussions about adding a 13th pitcher due to the worn-out pen, Freese looked like the most likely to return to Memphis now that Josh Kinney was sent down for Walters.  With two days off, that's much less likely to happen.

It's a wild week of work and I'm not sure where blogging will fit into it, but I should be back tomorrow to take a look at the Mets series as well as any moves that get made today.  

Two Teams, Two Places, Two Wins

Posted on April 16, 2009 at 11:25 PM
Work has kept me from blogging at my normal routine, but I wanted to hit the highs and lows of the last couple of days.  Thankfully, there have been plenty of highs and not too many of the lows as the Cardinals have beaten both Arizona and, much more important to Cardinal Nation, Chicago on back-to-back days.

First, the Cardinals had to finish off the desert.  It'd have been pretty easy for them to come out flat.  It was getaway day, a day game after a night game, and the day after such a crushing defeat and the loss of Chris Carpenter.  Instead, the bats were alive in a spring-training type game, where no lead was safe.

It seems like every day Yadier Molina is doing something to help the team win.  A three for three day with a run and two RBI definitely helped matters on Wednesday. 

Lots of bats were working in that game, though.  Ryan Ludwick allowed the peanut gallery of second-guessers (including yours truly) plenty of ammunition after his questionable lack of pinch-hitting on Tuesday with a two-run home run and an RBI single after a walk of Pujols.

The down side of that game would probably be Joel Pineiro.  Sure, it was pretty cool that he got a stolen base, but it was flashes of last year, as he was staked to a large lead and then did his best to fritter it away.  With his strong spring and good first start, there was hope that he had turned the corner and could have a productive year.  While he still may, this game was fodder for those that figure he hasn't changed at all.

Then the Cardinals got on a plane for Chicago to play the second in what will be four straight day games.  Of course, it's always fun with the Cards and Cubs get together.  More fun when the Cardinals win, of course, which they did today.

As I said, work has me out of my normal routine and so I didn't hear or see anything on this game today.  Reading the recaps and looking at the box score, though, I think Chris Duncan edges out the surprising Brian Barden (I've got to start writing players off sooner if they are going to respond like he has--Rick Ankiel, you're next!) for the Hero award.  As Casey Stengel said, "I don't like guys who drive in two runs and let in three."  However, if you drive in three runs and only let in one, I think you're OK in most people's books, at least on a short-term basis.

Barden went yard for the second time in his career and the second time this week.  Perhaps he really is getting the hang of this major league stuff.  He also had three hits and raised his average all the way to .412.  Nice to see Khalil Greene get his first Cardinal homer as well.

If it wasn't for his apparent heroics in the sixth, I'd have been tempted to give Adam Wainwright the Goat tag.  Wainwright just hasn't seemed to have his command yet this year, but he finds ways to keep the team in the game and, often enough, get himself the win as well.  Four walks in six innings isn't good, though, and if he can't find the plate more this season is going to get away from him in a hurry.

So the Goat came down to Ankiel and Ryan Ludwick, both who were 1 for 5.  I think I'll go with Ankiel, because even though Ludwick left more men on, he still drove in a run.  Maybe these Goat tags will get Rick motivated!

Tomorrow's game is the major league debut of PJ Walters.  I'm sure someone knows, but I wonder when a Cardinal pitcher made his debut against the Cubs and in Wrigley Field to boot.  It's going to be a pretty hostile environment, so if he's able to keep the Cards in the game, it'll be a great achievement.  Bernie Mikalsz is not a believer; he's got another one of his thinly disguised jabs at Jeff Luhnow and the minor leagues up at the Post-Dispatch.

In closing, having the All-Star Game in St. Louis means that Cardinal players get to be front and center in the promotions.  Albert Pujols will be part of the State Farm "Call Your Shot" promotion and Ozzie Smith will be dealing with FanFest.  Nice to see these guys on the national stage!

Two Losses For the Price of One

Posted on April 15, 2009 at 9:24 AM
The de facto #2 pitcher of the Cardinal rotation, after an offseason of hype and a strong beginning to the season, swung the bat wrong and strained his oblique.

That was 2002 and Woody Williams.

Last night in the Arizona desert, it happened again, this time with Chris Carpenter.  The Cardinals can only hope that Carp doesn't follow the same path that Woody did.  Williams spent months on the DL, then returned there after just a start or two for the same issue.  While he had a good year, it would have been better if he'd thrown more innings.

Carpenter was continuing to cruise last night, which at least was a good thing.  Granted, he gave up more hits in three innings than he did last time in seven, but that was to be expected.  In fact, it made me wonder about how Cardinal fans would handle a struggling Carpenter.  He's been built up to almost mythic status during his rehab.  Unconsiously, I think we expect close to perfection with him, that the only reason he would give up five runs or something like that would be because of injury.

So Carpenter is out, likely to the DL for an undetermined period of time.  All of those plans in the spring about having a backup for Carpenter, which had just been filed away, get pulled back out and examined.  Will Kyle McClellan get first crack?  If so, who takes his spot in the bullpen, Jess Todd?  Being that Todd has the starter background, he'd fit in McClellan's slot of a guy that can give multiple innings.  If you bring Chris Perez up, you only have Brad Thompson that's more than a one-inning guy and, if you've not figured it out by now, that's not a good thing.

As I write this, though, I checked Future Redbirds.  Apparently, both Mitchell Boggs and Perez are coming up, says Derrick Goold.  I can't get to that latter link at the moment, so I'm not sure who would be going down.  Though Thompson would seem to be the only choice, with Jason Motte looking like he's gotten things under control.

Enough about that depressing topic.  Let's move on to the next depressing topic.

  Continue Reading

A Gem In The Desert

Posted on April 14, 2009 at 10:06 AM
It was mentioned yesterday that Todd Wellemeyer was going to tinker with his mechanics.  I'd say he must have went to Mr. Goodwrench, because that apparently made a world of difference.

Wellemeyer looked much more like the pitcher he'd been since coming to St. Louis than the one that had a terrible spring training and first start.  If this carries over to his next few outings, this whole staff could be on a roll, which would be a dangerous thing for the American League.

Wellmeyer did allow a hit an inning, but you can afford that when you don't walk anyone.  In fact, the Cardinal staff is doing a great job of pitching to contact, since they've not issued a free pass since Lance Berkman walked in the top of the 8th on Saturday.  They also have issued the fewest walks in the majors, despite playing one more game than the team right behind them.

Rough night for Rick Ankiel, who went 0 for 4, striking out once and leaving two men on.  Rick's not really gotten on track so far this year.  Perhaps it is due to the number of lefties that the team has seen.

The closer derby continued last night as Ryan Franklin came in and got the save after an effective stint by Kyle McClellan and Dennys Reyes. Franklin may have had a perfect outing, but he didn't leave me reassured by very much.  Two of the three outs were fairly deep fly balls.  That's the kind of thing that worried me about him last year before he moved into the closer role.

I'm glad that the error by Chris Duncan in the eighth didn't affect the final outcome.  He did justify the fact that he was still out there with a double in his next at-bat, even if he didn't come around to score.

And I have to give credit where it's due.  I was watching the last few innings last night and Brian Barden came to the plate.  Which led to my internal (or perhaps external, though no one was in the room with me) monologue about how his days have to be numbered, how he's going down to Memphis as soon as Joe Mather is ready (which, actually, may be a while since he's right now hitting .083 in AAA), how Joe Thurston and even Brendan Ryan have really outplayed him for that middle infield/utility player role.  So then he pops his first ever home run to win the ballgame.  Yes, that's the way my analysis goes most of the time.  Then again, you probably knew that.

Oh, and Albert Pujols homered again.  At this rate, he'll hit 81, which would be a record or something.

In off the field news, the Cardinals have declared that Troy Glaus's past steroid use, which was to speed his recovery from a prior surgery, a "dead issue".  As long as it is steroids they are talking about and not his 2009 season, that's OK.  The Cards knew he'd used in the past, but I'm sure were a little concerned that he'd slip back into bad habits trying to return to this team quickly.  Also noted in that article, the Mark McGwire Steroid Response.  Always nice to see that get a fresh airing.

The sad news that Harry Kalas passed away yesterday touched many Cardinal fans, who know what it's like to lose the voice of the franchise.  It's still hard to believe that it will be seven years this June that Jack Buck left us.  John Rooney and Mike Shannon, two guys who knew Kalas as well as the business that he was in, give their thoughts on the man.

Tonight, the Cardinals have an intriguing pitching matchup on their hands, and I'm not just saying that because both of the starters are on one of my rotisseries teams.  Chris Carpenter, coming off his dominating first outing, heads to the mound for the Redbirds.  Carp's had pretty good success against most of the Diamondback hitters, though interestingly former Cardinal Felipe Lopez has two home runs against him.

The Diamondbacks send out Max Scherzer, a St. Louis native who is making his first start of the year.  Scherzer is a hyped prospect who had some success last year.  He faced the Cardinals once, but there's not much record of it.  Both of tonight's pitchers are well capable of throwing a shutout, so runs could be at a premium.

And I want to make note of another debut.  Yesterday was my son's first T-ball game.  It went as you'd expect for a bunch of four year olds running around, but I was proud of his hitting and fielding.  Now if he just figures out what to do with the ball once he gets it, he'll be doing great!

The First Cardinal Sweep Of The Year

Posted on April 13, 2009 at 9:03 AM
I don't think anyone could have asked for more on this Easter weekend.  I hope you and yours had a meaningful and enjoyable holiday.  I'm pretty sure the Cardinals did their part for you.

Hey, wonder who the Hero of Saturday's game should be?  Joe Thurston went three for four with an RBI and two runs, maybe him?  Colby Rasmus may have had his best game yet, with two hits and a walk and a couple of runs, does he get consideration?  Rick Ankiel went three for five, is that enough?  Adam Wainwright threw five scoreless innings--does anyone remember that?

Of course not.  Because when Albert Pujols makes a statement, he gets the Hero award.  I was listening to the game as I came back from a family outing and knew the slam must have been a monster when Mike Shannon said immediately, "Grand slam!"  No "Get up, baby, get up" means that it's a no-doubter.

The next at-bat, I was on the street in front of my house.  Knowing I couldn't hurry and get in to see it, I slowed down because I just knew he was going to do it again.  (Apparently, I wasn't that subtle about it because the wife commented on that fact.)  Sure enough, another long ball.  A wonderful day for Pujols, though that won't cut down on the machine theory.  (Nice coincidence--the two anchors in that spot were anchoring Saturday night's SportsCenter, which led off with Pujols's big day.)

So who do you give the Goat to on a day when the team pounds out 19 hits and doesn't allow any runs until the ninth?  Almost every starter got at least two hits, so I think you have to go with Brad Thompson, who threw two innings but did allow those two in the ninth, unimportant as they might be.  All Heros and all Goats are not necessarily created equal.

One other thing that was notable about Saturday's game was that Jason Motte came into the game in the sixth.  After Friday's game, Tony LaRussa made this a possibility and didn't waste time having it happen, especially in a game where there was no pressure.  It seemed to be effective, as he struck out two in his inning and I believe at least one of them was on the breaking ball.  A few more outings like that and they may try him again in the ninth.

If the Hero was obvious on Saturday's game, it wasn't that much more difficult to find one on Sunday either.  There was at least one solid alternate choice, with Khalil Greene having his first three-hit day in over a year, including a run, an RBI and a steal in a close ballgame, but I think you have to go with Kyle Lohse on this one.

Lohse was tremendous and, coupled with his first start, has invigorated the fan base that was a little tepid on his resigning.  After seeing Kaz Matsui single on the first pitch of the ballgame, I wasn't sure what the Cards were in for.  Lohse didn't falter, though, and didn't allow another hit until the ninth.  So, in the first week, we've seen a pitcher twice thrown one-hit ball through at least seven innings.  That's a good sign for the pitching staff, isn't it?

The interesting thing is that Houston had a lineup of hitters that had pounded Lohse in the past, though that was mostly in the not-so-recent past.  It lends some credence to the theory that Dave Duncan has really changed his style and approach, that last year's career year could be relied on instead of seen as a complete outlier.  If the first two starts of this year are any indication, last year was a sign of a new Lohse.

I was a little surprised to see LaRussa leave Lohse in after a runner got on in the ninth.  I was really surprised to see Lohse face Lance Berkman as the tying run.  That could have ruined the afternoon real quickly had he tied into one.  I'm glad that it worked out, but I think I might have been tempted to bring in Ryan Franklin or Kyle McClellan to finish that off.

The Goat for this game would be David Freese, I think.  0-3 with two strikeouts and three left on base.  Granted, there wasn't much offense against Wandy Rodriguez, but that seems to be the worst line.  Rodriguez is reliving '08 again, where he holds the Cardinals in check but still can't get a win.
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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)

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%)

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%)

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%

Rick Ankiel 83.9%
Chris Duncan 69.1%

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