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Two Men Enter, But Which One Leaves?

Posted on March 15, 2013 at 6:59 AM
Filed Under: Approval Ratings | Atlanta Braves | St. Louis Cardinals
Yesterday's game was billed as the deciding factor for the fifth starter slot.  Joe Kelly would start the game, Shelby Miller would come in afterwards, and we'd all get a good idea of who was going to take the last place in the rotation.  Mano a mano.  Let's get it on.  Mike Matheny even provided what could be the opening day lineup, save that Oscar Taveras and Tony Cruz were in for the World Baseball Classic guys.

And after all of that, we know....about as much as we did before.  Kelly was a hair better than Miller, if it was to come down to what they did yesterday.  He allowed a run, but didn't walk anyone (which was his major issue coming into the game) and went four innings with his pitch count.  Miller wasn't quite as sharp, going only 2 2/3 with his pitch count and being charged with three runs, though two came when Trevor Rosenthal allowed the runners he left on to score.  He did strike out four and was working on his changeup during the game.

Even though we still don't know who the pitcher will be (though Matheny is talking a lot about what Kelly did last year, which may mean he's in the lead), this had to be a fun game to watch and Fox Sports Midwest couldn't have gotten any luckier with the game that was their first broadcast.  You had Kelly, followed by Miller, followed by Rosenthal, followed by Michael Wacha.  All of the young guns of the spring in the same game makes for some wonderful baseball watching.

That's the last time that'll happen, though, as Wacha was reassigned after the game to the minor league camp.  We knew that was going to happen and with the minor league games starting up, it makes sense, but there's no doubt Wacha is moving up the lists with a bullet.  Springfield seemed to be the default place for him when the spring started, but now Memphis isn't out of the question at all.  It was an incredible spring for him, as he finished with 11.2 scoreless innings (well, OK, he had one unearned run against him) and struck out 15 against one walk.  If he can keep that up at whatever level he's at, he'll be in St. Louis before the end of the season.

Derrick Goold writes that the moves help clarify the Cardinals' plan for the hurlers this season.  He writes that it seems it's down to Fernando Salas versus the loser of the competition for the last spot in the 'pen.  To me, that means that Kelly has the lead, because I'm pretty sure they'd take Salas north and I don't think they'd send Kelly to Memphis.  It would make sense to see Kelly as the fifth starter (to at least start the season), Salas in the 'pen and Miller to Memphis, much more than Miller in the rotation and Kelly to the 'pen and Salas to Memphis or vice versa.

Miller's the exciting one, there's no doubt about that, and part of me starts to feel disappointed that Kelly is going to get the slot (apparently).  Really looking at it, though, as much as it is going to be fun to see Miller eventually in St. Louis, Kelly isn't a bad hurler at all.  He may not be quite as exciting, but he's proved he belongs in the big leagues and the rotation doesn't take a hit with him in there.  This isn't one of those cases as we saw during the La Russa era with a boring, mediocre veteran getting the time over an exciting prospect. Kelly has a legitimate claim on the spot and should be fun to watch as well.

Also being reassigned, according to the article, were Victor Marte and Eduardo Sanchez.  There's not much to say about Marte--if he were going north, the bullpen was in more trouble than we thought--and I don't think it's a big surprise about Sanchez either.  While he's looked better in the spring than he did last year, he needs to prove he can do it on a regular basis down in Memphis before trying his luck in the big leagues.  If his command really is back, though, he could well be the first callup from the minors this season.

For all the focus on the pitching during yesterday's game, the Cards did hit the ball a little bit against the Braves.  The Cards scored four runs in the fifth inning, batting around and featuring a two-run triple by Matt Carpenter (who also had a double in the game).  After the Braves came back to tie it, Matt Adams pinch-hit in the eighth and doubled in the winning run.  As Matheny said after the game, "The guy can hit.  He doesn't really have to prove that to us."  More and more, it looks reasonable for Adams to be on the bench this season as he's proving he can pinch-hit with the best of them.  It's not likely a coincidence they keep using him as a pinch-hitter in big slots.

Being that I've taken a couple of days off this week, let's double up and finish off the approval ratings, what do you say?  Our first player up is the closer, Jason Motte.  Motte's had a busy offseason, getting a new contract and becoming a new dad, and there's no doubt that his 2012 season was a great one as well.  This is Motte's first year on the ballot and he checks in with a very respectable 86.9%.  Of course, closer opinions can fluctuate depending on the last outing, but Motte's got a lot of goodwill built up.

Our last player is Adam Wainwright.  Looking back over things, Albert Pujols lost 8% of his approval rating the spring that he came into camp looking for a contract.  Contract talks didn't affect Yadier Molina last year, though, as he upped his by 3.5%.  So how will people view Wainwright as he is in the midst of negotiations?  He slipped last year (due to missing a year, I'd guess) but still ranks very highly.

This year, he checks in with a 88.2%, his lowest mark yet and down 3.7% from last year.  While one commenter said that Waino still hadn't proven in his mind that he was back from surgery, I'm not sure what the rest of the decrease is from, unless it is the vagaries of a smaller sample this year or maybe there is a little downgrading because he hasn't gotten a contract.  I would hope that people aren't just knocking him for last year's bottom line and I think that the fan base is smarter than that.

On the media side of things, somehow I miscounted and only got eight of them in there instead of the expected nine, so all we are looking at today is Joe Strauss.  Which might be appropriate, because I don't know of anyone outside of the FSMW booth that engenders more angst than Strauss does.  Commenters said things like "goes too far trying to play the heel" and "how does he still have a job?"  One, though, summed up my feelings on Mr. Strauss pretty well: "Strauss has a huge network of contacts inside the organization and lands a lot of scoops. As an internet presence and team writer, he is/was a hateful troll. As a columnist, he's been surprisingly good."

I don't think there's any doubt that Strauss is able to break news and to write well, but his snark doesn't always play well when you are trying to read a game story and heaven forbid you get on the wrong side of him on Twitter.  I do think a lot of it is an act--those bloggers that covered the Warmup in 2012 said that he was nice enough to them--but it still is a wearying one.  Strauss did get a few high marks, but the overall negativity toward him brought him down to a 54.3%.

Some people wondered why I put Albert Pujols on the list this year.  After all, he's not a Cardinal anymore and we should all move on.  That's really what I wanted to see.  Last year's voting was taken while the move to Anaheim was still fresh, as evidenced by the plunge from around 90% to Straussian levels.  (Heck, Joe rated OVER Pujols last year.)  I wanted to see if the wounds had healed some, if people were able to appreciate what Albert did in St. Louis and separate that from the way he left.

For the most part, it seems people still are holding a grudge, at least the ones that voted here.  There were some high marks, an 100 and some 90s, but there were a good number of single digits and more than one 0.  All of that summed up to a 59.2% mark, which is about five percent better than last year, so maybe there is a bit of thawing.  I'll probably wait a couple of years before returning Pujols to the ballot for another check of the temperature.

The final one on the ballot is the United Cardinal Bloggers.  Now, obviously, this is a personal favorite of mine (and, since it's my ballot, I get to put it on here).  I always want to see if the UCB name is getting out there and getting favorable reviews.  I don't know about the former--fewer people expressed an opinion on this than any other, and being that we had less than 60 to start with, that may say something--but the latter seems to be coming along well.  The UCB is up to an 85.2% mark this year, something that we'll continue to try to improve on during the year.

Cards host the Nationals today in another game that'll be on Fox Sports Midwest. Should be able to see just about every game between now and the end of the spring!

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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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