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Playing The Ace

Posted on April 24, 2013 at 6:47 AM
Filed Under: Houston Astros | St. Louis Cardinals | Washington Nationals
Every five days, Adam Wainwright goes to the mound.  Which means every five days, we have the chance to see something special.

Last night Jeff Passan tweeted out that you could argue Wainwright has been the best pitcher in baseball so far this season.  While some contrarians immediately jumped on that, it does certainly seem that he's in the argument with a very small number of other pitchers.  In all of baseball, he's fourth in pitcher wins above replacement, first in wins, (obviously) first in walks per nine innings (and just walks in general), first in innings pitched, third in strikeouts, owner of one of the six shutouts so far this season, (again, obviously) first in strikeout to walk ratio, has yet to give up a home run while facing more batters than anyone save CC Sabathia (who has faced the same number), has a WHIP under one (though that puts him just 20th in baseball right now), an ERA under 2 (15th), the most quality starts in baseball, seventh in average game score.....OK, I guess you get the picture.  Has he been unquestionably the best pitcher in baseball?  No, I wouldn't say that.  Matt Harvey, Clay Buchholz, and Matt Moore (among others) have their names scattered about the leaderboards just like Waino does.  Is he a strong contender in the conversation?  I can't see a reasonable person saying differently.

All of those stats do reflect that Waino was Waino yet again last night, going 8.1 scoreless innings before being lifted for Edward Mujica, who got his second save in as many nights.  Wainwright's walkless streak stopped at 34.1 when he walked Bryce Harper, but there's no shame in that one.  It set him up to get Adam LaRoche to strike out again and got Wainwright out of really the only jam he had all night.

So obviously he's the Hero of our piece.  It was a good thing that he was on his game, because Ross Detwiler was no friend to the Cardinal offense.  It was almost like they were on a break or something, because even though they mustered eight hits on the night, they could only get a couple of them in, hitting into double plays like they were back in 2011.  Wainwright twice bunted into double plays, which is pretty hard to do.  The latter came when Pete Kozma tried to catch the Nationals napping and go first to third on a bunt.  Not exactly the smartest move that the shortstop has ever made, but perhaps he just wanted to hear some more boos from the crowd.

Kozma did get two hits, which was more output than we've seen from him in a while.  Perhaps being in Washington did get him focused or motivated.  It's too bad that didn't work for David Freese, our Goat of the evening.  Freese went 0-4 and left five men on base, something that could have loomed even larger had it not been the ace of the staff on the mound.

Jon Jay got a night off and Shane Robinson responded in the leadoff role with a hit and a walk.  It's not enough to have Jay lose the job outright, but I wouldn't be stunned if Robinson is out there again this afternoon.  With a very tough pitcher on the mound for the other side, it's not the kind of situation that screams confidence-builder.

Take it with a grain of salt, because you know the track record of the Cardinals and injuries, but it looks like Matt Adams might avoid the disabled list.  He'll not play today, but hopefully will be ready to get back out there during the Cardinals' series with Pittsburgh this weekend.  Selfishly I hope so, because I'll be there Sunday and would like to get a chance to see him at least pinch-hit.

Afternoon matchup in our nation's capital.  Looking for the sweep, something they've not been able to do yet this year, the Cards send out Jaime Garcia to the hill.  Garcia was atrocious in his last start in Philadelphia, but beyond that had pitched pretty well this year with little to show for it.  We can only hope last week was a blip and an aberration, but anytime Garcia is on a road mound, you get a little concerned.

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP
Jayson Werth 16 13 4 1 0 1 2 3 2 .308 .438 .615 1.053 0 0 0 0
Ian Desmond 12 11 5 0 0 0 0 1 1 .455 .500 .455 .955 0 0 0 0
Adam LaRoche 12 8 1 1 0 0 2 3 2 .125 .333 .250 .583 0 1 0 0
Danny Espinosa 10 9 4 0 0 0 1 1 3 .444 .500 .444 .944 0 0 0 0
Roger Bernadina 6 6 3 0 0 0 1 0 1 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0 0
Bryce Harper 5 5 1 0 0 1 2 0 2 .200 .200 .800 1.000 0 0 0 0
Jordan Zimmermann 3 2 1 0 0 0 1 0 1 .500 .500 .500 1.000 1 0 0 0
Zach Duke 2 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 0 0 0 0
Kurt Suzuki 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0
Total 67 56 20 2 0 2 9 9 13 .357 .439 .500 .939 1 1 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/24/2013.

There's not much there to be encouraged about. Of course, last time he faced these guys he was pitching hurt in the playoffs, but that doesn't account for all of those numbers.  It's going to be a challenge for him, but perhaps Yadier Molina and Tony Cruz can work up a plan like they did for Wainwright last night, who had struggled against the Nationals as well in his career.

They better figure out something, because Washington is bringing their ace out to stop the broom.  Stephen Strasburg hasn't been overwhelming in the early going, with a 1-3 record and three home runs allowed, but his ERA is still a hair under 3 and his K/BB ratio is right at that mark.  It's not going to be a walk in the park here.

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP
Carlos Beltran 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0
Allen Craig 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0
Matt Holliday 3 3 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 .667 .667 1.000 1.667 0 0 0 0
Jon Jay 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0
Daniel Descalso 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0
David Freese 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .500 .000 .500 0 0 0 0
Pete Kozma 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0
Jake Westbrook 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0
Total 20 19 2 1 0 0 0 1 8 .105 .150 .158 .308 0 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/24/2013.

Those numbers don't give you a ton of confidence either.  Granted, they are all from just one game, an early September matchup between the two teams last year.  Cards lost that game 4-3 but neither starter factored into the decision.  Hopefully we'll see Good Jaime and this could be another enjoyable pitching matchup.  We can hope!


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Heroes
Carlos Beltran (6)
Yadier Molina (5)
Matt Holliday (4)
Jon Jay (4)
Matt Carpenter (3)
Daniel Descalso (3)
Jaime Garcia (3)
Pete Kozma (3)
Shelby Miller (3)
Adam Wainwright (3)
Allen Craig (2)
Lance Lynn (2)
Tyler Lyons (2)
Edward Mujica (2)
Jake Westbrook (2)
David Freese (1)
Joe Kelly (1)
Seth Maness (1)
Trevor Rosenthal (1)
Michael Wacha (1)
Ty Wigginton (1)

2012 Top Hero: Matt Holliday (17)
2011 Top Hero: Lance Berkman (24)
2010 Top Heroes: Matt Holliday and Albert Pujols (24)
2009 Top Hero: Albert Pujols (28)
2008 Top Hero: Albert Pujols (25)

Goats
Jon Jay (6)
David Freese (5)
Mitchell Boggs (4)
Joe Kelly (4)
Pete Kozma (4)
Matt Carpenter (3)
Allen Craig (3)
Daniel Descalso (3)
Jaime Garcia (3)
Yadier Molina (3)
Matt Adams (2)
Carlos Beltran (2)
Matt Carpenter (2)
Matt Holliday (2)
Lance Lynn (2)
Seth Maness (1)
Shane Robinson (1)
Fernando Salas (1)
Adam Wainwright (1)
Jake Westbrook (1)

2012 Top Goat: Rafael Furcal (11)
2011 Top Goat: Ryan Theriot (12)
2010 Top Goat: Brendan Ryan (14)
2009 Top Goats: Rick Ankiel and Todd Wellemeyer (13)
2008 Top Goat: Troy Glaus (13)

Cardinal Nation Approval Ratings (March 2013)
Yadier Molina 96.2% (up 8.8%)
Chris Carpenter 89.8% (down 0.3%)
Derrick Goold 89.1% (up 6.3%)
Matt Holliday 88.4% (up 0.9%)
Allen Craig 88.3%
Adam Wainwright 88.2% (down 3.7%)
Jose Oquendo 87.1% (up 2.4%)
Jason Motte 86.9%
John Mozeliak 86.5% (up 1.1%)
United Cardinal Bloggers 85.2% (up 6.3%)
Bill DeWitt 85.1% (up 5.3%)
Mike Shannon 85.1% (down 0.2%)
John Rooney 84.5% (up 3.0%)
Mike Matheny 84.4% (up 3.3%)
David Freese 82.9% (down 2.6%)
Jon Jay 81.8% (up 10.7%)
Lance Berkman 80.6% (down 8.0%)
Jenifer Langosch 79.5%
Lance Lynn 79.5%
Dan McLaughlin 76.0% (up 8.0%)
Jim Hayes 73.0% (up 1.1%)
Ricky Horton 65.5% (down 2.0%)
Jaime Garcia 64.1%
Albert Pujols 59.2% (up 4.3%)
Ballpark Village 58.3%
Joe Strauss 54.3% (down 13.4%)

2012
Tony La Russa 88.2% (up 17.4%)
Mark McGwire 82.6% (up 20.1%)
Skip Schumaker 73.3% (up 9.2%)
B.J. Rains 69.5% (down 0.9%)
Kyle Lohse 68.9% (up 13.8%)
Al Hrabosky 66.4% (up 3.2%)
Colby Rasmus 46.5% (down 35.3%)

2011
Dave Duncan 87.9% (up 0.9%)
Matthew Leach 85.5%
Pop Warner 76.7%
Ryan Franklin 72.8% (up 3.1%)
John Vuch 68.9%
Jeff Luhnow 66.4%
Dan Lozano 58.7%

2009
Rick Ankiel 83.9%
Chris Duncan 69.1%


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