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Cardinals Still Searching

Posted on June 30, 2009 at 9:17 AM
Filed Under: Heroes and Goats | Minnesota Twins | San Francisco Giants | St. Louis Cardinals
After a weekend (and a Monday) where the Cardinals scored eight runs in four games, it's obvious that there are still some issues.  A quick rundown of the games, in the typical style:

Friday vs. Minnesota (3-1 loss)
Hero: Rick Ankiel.  Two hits and drove in the only run.  You know it's probably been a rough day when Rick's almost all the offense you can muster.
Goat: Ryan Ludwick.  Zero for four and left three on.  To be fair, there were a number that contended for this.
Notes: Adam Wainwright pitched better than he has in some outings this year, but he still walked too many people and, unfortunately, the smallest glitch and the Cards are in trouble.  There have been too many games where the Cards are down after one and you don't feel like they can come back.

Saturday vs. Minnesota (5-3 win)
Hero: Albert Pujols.  The only thing keeping the Cards from being in the midst of a six-game losing streak.
Goat: Todd Wellemeyer.  When you get the hook after 2.1 innings when you know your job is on the line, it's not a good day.
Notes: Lost in the Pujols furor was the fact that Skip Schumaker was on both times Pujols went yard as part of his three for four day.  Lost in the Wellemeyer furor was the fact that Colby Rasmus went 0 for 5 and left 6 on.

Sunday vs. Minnesota (6-2 loss)
Hero: Jason LaRue.  Two hits and an RBI.  If he was just a little faster, he could have probably scored a run as well.
Goat: Joel Pineiro.  You hate to give it to a guy who basically made one mistake, but when the Cards have only come back from three down twice this season, being down 3-0 before they get an at-bat makes for a long afternoon.
Notes: Neither ends of the lineup were very good.  Skip as leadoff was 0-4 and Tyler Greene at the 9 hole was 0-3.  So that doesn't really help the lineup turn over when those guys aren't getting on.  Nice to see a solid inning out of Blake Hawksworth.

Monday vs. San Francisco (10-0 loss)
Hero: Albert Pujols, basically by default.  He got one of two hits and the only extra-base hit.
Goat: Chris Duncan, who had two of the eight strikeouts.  But it was Tim Lincecum--the whole team looked bad.
Notes: What can you say besides glad they didn't get no-hit?  I didn't get to see Clayton Mortensen's debut, but it sounds like there were some positives out of it.

Of course, the biggest news from the weekend was the trade for Mark DeRosa.  While it's obvious that it wasn't an immediate impact on the offense (he's 0-7 since slipping on the Birds on the Bat), it was a pretty nice move for John Mozeliak.  The team may regret losing Chris Perez in the future (though, perhaps, not as much as a couple of White Sox batters regret the Indians getting him) but it was a move that needed to be done and right-handed relief pitching is one of the strengths of the organization.  If Jason Motte ever develops a good secondary pitch, chances are he'll take over that closer of the future designation anyway.  I will say I am a bit concerned about the player to be named later, though.

Khalil Greene returned to the disabled list just a little over a week after he was activated from it.  Those that said that he wasn't ready, that the team was rushing him, definitely have more ammunition now.  After that Kansas City series, things looked pretty good, but apparently something triggered a relapse. I would hope that they will be a little more cautious in his return next time.  It's possible, though I expect unlikely, that we won't see him again this season.

So what is it about this offense?  Like I've noted above (and many other times), they've rallied from three runs down twice this season and none since April.  The Cards are 2-19 (.095) when they are behind at the start of the second inning.  Compare that to the other NL Central teams:

Milwaukee 9-12 (.429)
Chicago 7-13 (.350)
Cincinnati 4-20 (.167)
Houston 6-16 (.273)
Pittsburgh 6-16 (.273)

All the teams have roughly 20-25 games like this, where they've trailed going into the second.  Yet all the other teams, even Pittsburgh, are able to at least occasionally make a run and come back in the game.  The Cards have really struggled in this regard.

When the offense is clicking, the team is good.  If they score the serious number or more, they are 18-3.  But the Brewers are 21-3, the Cubs 24-3, the Reds 19-5 in those situations, again showing that they are able to put up the runs on a more consistent basis.

I don't know what the answer is.  I do think that perhaps the aggressive approach isn't quite cutting it.  I know Tim Lincecum is good, but to throw a complete game in 95 pitches?  The Cardinals have seen the fourth-fewest pitches in the National League.  Houston, Atlanta and the Giants are the only teams below them, and only the Giants are being very successful, which is because of their dominating pitching, not their offensive prowness (last night's result notwithstanding).

When you break it down into pitches per plate appearance, it gets even worse, as only the Giants have seen fewer than the 3.63 St. Louis has.  Obviously, that's not necessarily the be-all and end-all since Washington leads the pack, but the second and third teams are the Rockies and Dodgers, two teams that have had quite a bit of success this year.

I understand the theory about being aggressive and you may only get one pitch, but on the whole, the pitches that the Cardinals are facing aren't necessarily that good.  Just because you take one good pitch doesn't mean you won't be getting another one.  Last night, with Lincecum, OK, but people like Francisco Liriano, who has struggled so much this season?  Tim Redding, who held the Cards in check during the Mets series?

Some links and a preview of today's matchup of Cy Youngs after the jump.   


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Many of you in the St. Louis area have seen the commemorative arches that have been scattered around the town to honor the upcoming All-Star Game.  If you want to make sure you see them all, Pip at Fungoes has compiled a map for you.  I'll be consulting this when the family heads to FanFest next week.

Speaking of FanFest, if you haven't gotten your tickets for it yet, how about buying them from Albert Pujols?  The first 100 get to have theirs handed to them by the Cardinal slugger.  No autographs or pictures, so basically just a "Thanks, Albert" will be the limit of your interaction, it appears.  Still, pretty neat if you were going anyway.

More Hardball takes a look at Lee Smith and wonders exactly why he isn't in the Hall of Fame.  Bruce Sutter talked a little about that with Mike on last week's special UCB Radio Hour.

Another special UCB show is on tap for today, as Nick from Pitchers Hit Eighth gets to interview the Mad One himself, Al Hrbrosky.  Click here for the interview that should be happening around 12:15 Central time.  And, of course, our regular show is still on tap for tomorrow night.

If you are in St. Louis, you can meet Hrbrosky and race car driver Kenny Wallace at a couple of Bank of Americas today.  Concord Village from 11-12 and Fenton Commons from 12:30 to 1:30.  I'm guessing Al will be doing the interview with Nick in transit between the two locales.

Chris Carpenter's run of facing stud pitchers continues today as he takes on Randy Johnson.  Carpenter has been pretty tough on the Giants in his career, though Aaron Rowand has done well in limited time against him. Taking Pujols and Ludwick out of the equation, Johnson's been just as tough on the Cardinals.  However, Ludwick's 2 for 5 with a HR and Albert, well, Albert's been tough on the Unit since his second at-bat against him.  He's hitting .429 with 3 HR, so I'm sure the Giants won't pitch to him at all if they can help it.

Hopefully the Cardinals will able to put together a good offensive showing.  With Matt Cain and Barry Zito still looming in this series, there aren't going to be too many chances to put up crooked numbers.


1 Comments

1 Comment | Leave a comment

Well, here's hoping we can reschedule Al. Sorry to those who had to sit through my rambling this afternoon.

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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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