Monday, June 30, 2008

It's Opposite Weekend

Just when I thought this year's version of the Cardinals would never beat KC, they turn around from a 7-2 Friday night loss and take 2 of 3 from the Royals.

Just when I thought the Cubs would never lose a series, they get swept in Comiskey (nee US Cellular Field) by the White Sox.

The Cardinals now stand just 2.5 games out of first, as close as they've been since 11 June. Not to mention they complete a 9-game road trip against the defending World Champs, the pre-season favorite to succeed the World Champs, and a team just killing the NL this season 5-4. Which I didn't think would be possible after they dropped those 2 winnable games in Detroit last week.

Joe Strauss at the Post-Dispatch does a good job summarizing the last 51 games for the Cardinals in yesterday's game summary.

One other thing I want to bring to your attention. Larry over at Viva El Birdos lays out some starting pitching options the Cardinals may be considering trading for, given the flux the rotation has been in all year due to injuries (Wainwright, Piniero, Wellemeyer, etc). One name that came up was Jarrod Washburn, currently of the Mariners.

Now, if you're not perusing USS Mariner on your forays through the internets - and I recommend reading them daily, by the way, for general baseball knowledge - you should be. Dave and DMZ have been particularly vocal about Mr. Washburn. Allow me to highlight two posts on the pitcher:

This one from May 12;
And this one from Saturday.

I would rather watch Mark Mulder labor through 4 innings, giving up 6 ER a start, than bring this clubhouse cancer to St Louis. Jarrod Washburn should not be considered under any circumstances. He sucks.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


Folks - I've been writing all week over at C70 at the bat. Here are the links to what I've written so far:

Friday 20 June
Sunday 22 June
Tuesday 24 June
Wednesday 25 June
Thursday 26 June

Also, we won the work softball tournament. I bear the scars, having left skin from my left shin, left knee, left hip, and left elbow at the field (aggressive baserunning or poor sliding techinque? you be the judge). More on that to follow, if my sons ever decide to go to sleep at night without histrionics, tantrums, and in less than 2 hours.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Apparently I'm technically challenged

I can't figure out how to get my post over at C70 at the bat to post. So here it is. I've emailed tech support there, hopefully he'll answer soon and I can do what I told Dan I'd do.

You Can't Win If You Don't Score - Cardinal70 Version

Well hello everyone. Perhaps some of you have perused my blog at one time or another; if not, I'm Mike, and I'll be minding the store while Dan takes some much deserved vacation time over the next week.

Continuing a running thought from over at the Stance, the Cardinals again managed one measly run and got swept out of Busch by the Royals, 4-1. KC scored as many runs in this game as they allowed St Louis in the series, and that's just not going to get the job done. Heroes and Goats for this game are pretty simple. For driving in the lone Cardinal Run, Rick Ankiel gets the nod as Hero; and the Anemic Offense is the Goat. I suppose I could saddle Brad Thompson or Chris Perez with the goat label, but since Brad came up on short notice and worked 5 solid innings, and since the Cardinals would still have lost 2-1 if Perez hadn't served up that gopher ball to Mark Teahen, it just didn't seem fair.

We all knew the offense would struggle without AP in the #3 slot. There's no way you can adequately fill the shoes of a future HOF. But to hit .154 against KC with RISP? To not get anyone to second today? Albert would have raised those figures a little bit, but it still points to some major problems surfacing offensively. The same Post-Dispatch article I linked to above points out the Cardinals aren't taking walks like they were at the beginning of the season. Viva El Birdos took it a step further, showing the Cardinals are a lot less disciplined at the plate since the calendar flipped over into May, a trend that has become worse recently (see lboros post from Thursday; that site is down as I write this at 11:18 PDT, so I don't have a link to it). You would think that plate discipline and patience would be things they really need to focus on now that the NL's second leading hitter is out of the lineup, as opposed to trying to do too much, which appears to be what they're doing.

One other thing: Bernie Miklasz suggests the Cardinals should utilize the speed they have on the roster while they struggle to score runs, as a way to generate some offense. It's a good suggestion. Brendan Ryan and Brian Barton are two guys worth plugging into the lineup to see what they can create; it's not as if second base has been a font of offensive prowess this season, and the OF has really cooled off recently (witness Ankiel's 2 RBI on the homestand as an example).

Because I'm obligated to disagree with at least one thing in every article/post Bernie writes, sitting Chris Duncan really isn't an option, as he's the first baseman. The two guys he suggests bringing up to help the offense wouldn't displace Chris at first.

We limp into Boston next. They have the best home record in the majors (28-7), and will send Wakefield, Dice-K, and Lester to the hill to face our boys. Might be a loooong weekend; keep your fingers crossed.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

You Can't Win If You Don't Score - III

1 Friggin run, lose 4-1. To quote Snoopy: "BLEAH!"

I'm posting for Dan over at C70 at the bat, and have some comments there for your amusement.

Not going to do an in-depth post here for today, because tomorrow is the second annual work Softball tournament; it will be an all day affair, and my team is the defending champions, so I must get a good night's rest so I can rake tomorrow.

Wish me luck. Scores and highlights if events warrant.

You Can't Win If You Don't Score II

Same story as last night - little run support, great start, bullpen gives up the lead. 3-2 loss.

It's frustrating, as the Cubs have dropped 2 in Tampa to the Rays. As a side note, James Shields is on my fantasy team, and pitches today against Chicago, all but guaranteeing the Cubs will win.

Kyle McClellan had given up only 2 HR in 35 and 2/3 innings going into last night. As the Cardinals only gave him 2 runs to work with, it's hard to lay the blame on the bullpen; but it is frustrating to watch, especially considering the Royals hadn't won in 37 tries when trailing after 7.

And Brian Bannister hadn't won a night game since Aug 2007.

So on to today. I was pumped for Reyes' start, only to learn he's on the DL with an 'irritated elbow'. Odd that the team would announce him as the starter then place him on the DL. Anthony Reyes' strange trip through Cardinal land continues. Brad Thompson takes the hill in his place against arguably the best Royals starter this season, Zach Greinke.

We gotta salvage one.

I hate to give credence to any blather about the AL being better than the NL, but when the worst team in the American League is 6-2 against the National, like the Royals currently are, you got to wonder.

I'll be posting over at C70 at the bat starting tomorrow morning through next week; stop by and see me there. There will still be content here, if you just can't live without your daily Stance fix. It's like Starbucks, but without the Borg-like business model, smarmy attendants, and shitty coffee.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

You Can't Win If You Don't Score

So the boys lost 2-1 to KC. Saw only the highlights on ESPN. Nice catch by Schumaker to end the sixth.

Then they got to Aviles' HR that ultimately won the game. He hit it in the eighth...OFF VILLONE! My favorite whipping boy! AARGH!

Why does LaRussa insist on pitching this clown in close games?

Well, here's why: Villone's actually pitched pretty well this season. Aside from 2 bad outings against Pittsburgh last month (May 13 and 15, 7ER in 2 and 2/3 innings), and his 6 ER effort in the 20-2 bludgeoning the Phillies administered last Friday, he's pitched well. He has 6 holds. He's not been as bad as his ERA would indicate.

And ultimately, losing a game 2-1 isn't the pitching staff's fault; it's very hard to win when you only score one run.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Out For A Little Bit

The Mrs has strep, so I'm minding the kids today as she recovers. Actually watching them this weekend was much like the Cardinals series with Philadelphia - the kids run roughshod over you, then you wrest control from them, but inevitably someone gets hurt and the Tylenol and ice cubes come out.

Thankfully no one here at the homestead has maimed themselves as badly as Molina appeared to get hurt yesterday.

Anyways, short post. And those remembering the Royals' recent 12-game losing streak, that's a thing of the past; the team is hot, and Jose Guillen is tearing the cover off the ball right now.

I know, because he's on my wife's fantasy team. Which is in second. I currently languish in sixth. That explains why there haven't been many fantasy baseball posts this season.

Friday, June 13, 2008

I'm Right, but Not Really

Well he didn't toss a 2-hit shutout, but Joel Piniero did acquit him self well, working 5 innings and allowing only 2 ER. Giving up a HR to Bronson Arroyo is a little bit disconcerting, but whatever.

Piniero was quoted in the Post Dispatch as saying his body didn't feel 100%. No kidding, really? I'm shocked to read that.

Cardinals had a look at the game until the seventh when the bullpen blew up. Flores walking Griffey to force in a run and then giving up a bases-clearing triple to Brandon Phillips summarily ended the game. It also allows me to wallow in the second-guess mud hole again. If Phillips kills left-handed pitching, why o why was Flores left in there to face him? Granted, if he could have gotten the light-hitting Jarish out instead of walking him in front of Griffey none of this happens, but still.

In other news, Adam Kennedy is not happy about his playing time being cut down in favor of Aaron Miles/Brendan Ryan. It was reported that he met with LaRussa about his playing time, but there probably won't be any substantive changes coming out of that meeting. LaRussa manages a certain way, and Miles is (for whatever reason) his guy. I thought the last line of the article was telling:

I think with Brendan and Aaron it’s not that big of a difference," La Russa
said. "Adam has always been a core guy, so it’s more of an adjustment for him. I think he can handle it. When he plays, he needs to play his tail
(emphasis mine)
Wow. I guess there's a perceived 'lack of effort' issue there. I'll throw it to my limited audience - has there been any instances of Kennedy not playing hard during the first part of this season? Because I can't remember any.

So they come home to play the Phillies for 3. Philadelphia is the other really good NL team right now (with our Cards and the Cubs). Should be interesting without AP anchoring the lineup against a good team.

As for the Padre game, it wasn't much of a game. Peavy gave up a leadoff hit, then retired the side in the first; the Padre home half of the inning went single, single, 3-R bomb from Giles, solo shot from Adrain Gonzalez (the opposite way; man is that guy strong), and the rout was on. 9-0 Padres.

The most interesting thing that happened was in the top of the third. A foul pop was hit down the third base line, and in trying to get out of the way, the security guard actually ran to the spot and got hit by the ball. Calls to have him escorted out of the game for interfering with a ball in play went unacknowledged.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Today's word: R-O-U-T

Not much to say after the 10-0 shallacking the Cardinals laid on Cincinnati last night. Congrats to Braden Looper on his first career complete game shutout.

I'll be at the 1235 Dodgers/Padres game today, if anything interesting happens (besides Peavy's first start back from the DL) I'll discuss it tonight.

Also, a programming note: Cardinal70 over at C70 at the bat is taking some vacation time starting the end of next week, and I will be covering his blog while he's gone. This is all part of my nefarious plan to become the only Cardinal blogger authorized to post to the world wide web (first step - COMPLETE). I have not fully worked out how I will be posting over here; most likely, I will be writing similar things on both sites, but saving my more acerbic comments for this forum, as opposed to polluting Dan's site with bad grammar, run-on sentences, and 'Why does he care about that?' content.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Cardinals Win; Pujols Sidelined

I'm minding the store for my boss this week, as he is on travel, so this will have to be brief. Cardinals won last night in Cincinnati 7-2. The big news should have been Mitchell Boggs' first ML win, but instead it's AP's strained calf.

I saw the replay of him running out of the box on this morning; I wouldn't characterize it as 'pretty bad,' as Mozeliak said, but it certainly won't be something that he bounces back from before this weekend.

If he does have to go on the DL, what a crappy way to start the week - first Wainwright with his finger, now AP and his calf. I can't help but wonder, based on AP sitting most of the Washington series out last week with the calf, if he didn't rush himself back into the lineup too soon and do more damage.

And Rolen's calf injury in Sept 2004 immediately leapt to mind as I watched that replay. Rolen sat most of that month with the injury and (other than a superlative effort in the LCS against Houston, which was mostly driven by anger against LaRussa) wasn't himself the rest of that season.

Yikes. Keep a good thought.

Larry over at Vivaelbirdos has a great article on Wainwright's finger prognosis, which I won't try and top here; it's worth the read if you haven't seen it yet.

One final thought - the Cardinals announced Piniero will start tomorrow against Cincinnati, as he comes off the DL after a groin injury. I can't help but think this is a case of LaRussa hard-headedness and Piniero is going out there too soon after the injury. Here's why. As you know, I play a little softball in my spare time. About 5 years ago I strained my groin going after a fly ball in RC (which approximates how Piniero strained his). I sat out the rest of that game because I couldn't push off with my left leg; it took me a month to feel like I could run again comfortably, and another two weeks before I was willing to test it running full speed.

Clearly, although I'm in reasonable shape, I'm not a professional athlete in prime physical condition with access to virtually unlimited resources for medical care and rehabilitation. However, I play the outfield, where the action is somewhat sparse. I was playing 2-3 times a week at that point, and ended up not playing for almost a month. Piniero is a pitcher, at the center of each and every play in the game, and he's only been sidelined 3 weeks. He's going to put a lot more stress on that muscle immediately, and if it's a little bit tender he's going to damage it again.

Wouldn't Reyes be a better option in the short-term to protect Piniero long-term? Is LaRussa's anti-Anthony stance blinded him to his options here? If Reyes is considered that low of a prospect at this point, maybe the Cardinals would be better off DFA-ing him and moving on.

(When Piniero throws a 2-hit shutout today forget we had this conversation)

Monday, June 09, 2008

Gifts are Always Welcome

Nothing like getting a game gift-wrapped for you by the opposing defense. A big West Coast "Thank You" to Ty Wigginton and Michael (don't call me Jason) Bourn; their miscues directly led to the Cardinals winning this game.

Cardinals have won both series on this road trip, and have a well-deserved off-day today before starting 3 in Cincinnati. St Louis will miss Cincinnati's two best starters (Harang and Volquez) in this series, but get previously hyped Homer Bailey in the opener, followed by Cueto and the always tough Bronson Arroyo. The Reds, who have shown improvement recently (especially after the callup of Jay Bruce), are still 4 games under and 10 back of the division leading Cubs.

Speaking of the Cubs, I was beginning to wonder if they would ever lose again, until Maddux pitched against them last Wednesday here in SD; since that game they've gone 2-3, having split 4 in LA over the weekend. As the week starts, the Cardinals are 2.5 games back of the Cubs, at 38-27.

You know MLB is rooting for the Cubs (and to a lesser extent, the Red Sox) when the lead story on their site today is "Cubs, Red Sox first to 40 wins". Who cares? That's not even a metric that holds water for the playoffs.

Mitchell Boggs gets the start tomorrow, I believe it's his ML debut. So much for Reyes being called up to take Parisi's spot in the rotation.

Enjoy the off-day. After the Cincinnati series, we begin anew the nonsense that is interleague play.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Split Decision

Didn't get a chance to post yesterday. I have an off-site class on Thursday mornings, so it's tough; when I have to turn over the duty and then run to class, it's impossible. But, since the weather washed out Wednesday's game, no harm done.

Cardinals worked a split of the double-dip yesterday, winning 4-1 in the opener and dropping a heartbreaker 10-9 in the nightcap.

It's been said elsewhere, but boy were we wrong about Wellemeyer. He's turned out to be a legitimate major league starter. Once Carpenter gets back on the bump I'd slot Wellemeyer as the #3 on the staff, although he's pitching as well as anyone on the club right now.

Parisi? Not ready to start at this level. I think, after watching him get hammered in two starts (even before the Cardinals defense started leaking last night), that's obvious. Give the team a lot of credit for fighting out of the 7-0 hole they dug to tie the game in the ninth and be in position to win in the tenth. Other cool things from yesterday's games:

- AP homers as a pinch hitter. First time he's done that.
- Glaus homers in each game. Does this mean the power outage is over? Let's hope so.
- Congratulations to Mark Worrell on his ML debut. What better way to cap that off then by hitting a 3-R HR in his first plate appearance. If it was me, I'd replay that at bat every 5 June for the rest of my life (or until my wife burned the tape).

Couple of things to ponder as we go to the weekend:

- Joe Strauss reports a roster move is in the offing after the significant work the bullpen did yesterday. Since the Cardinals also need a #5 starter, could Reyes be on his way back to the big club? If not Anthony, who's most likely to come up?

- Assuming Matt Clement's rehab goes according to form, who does he knock out of the rotation when he debuts in July? My money's on Piniero for now.

- Why do clubs insist on the day/night doubleheader (actually I already know the answer to that one)? Isn't an actual double header better for all involved (players, fans, worker bees, the like)?

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Cardinals win; AP removed in fourth

A quick post today - I have the duty again, so I'm on my way to turn over and take it. Looks like it was a little soggy in the Nation's Capital last night, although the team jumped on Washington early and held on for a 6-1 win.

AP was taken out in the fourth for a pinch runner; the Post-Dispatch reported the reason as tightness in his leg, but no additional amplifying information was provided. Hopefully it wasn't serious. The ESPN ticker made it seem like he was hit by a pitch and that was the reason he left the game (shoulder is what they actually reported), but that doesn't appear to be true this morning.

Cubs beat San Diego 9-6. Some quick comments from the little bit of that game I watched:

Jason Marquis still sucks. He walked at least 5 and hit a batter in 5 innings of work. At one point in the fourth, Lou Piniella came out to the mound (after he walked McAnulty on 5 pitches) and chewed his ass. I'm not a lip reader, but it looked like Lou told him "I'll take you out now if you want to f***ing quit. OK." That's not a joke - that's what it looked like.

Chicago leads the league in on base percentage for a reason. They had baserunners all over the place last night. They could have scored a lot more than 9 runs.

The Padres had one look at this game - only it was the eighth inning, and Chicago had a 9-3 lead by that time. San Diego loaded the bases with 1 out. Tony Clark walked to drive in a run. Jody Gerut singled another. Tadahito Iguchi hit into a 6-4 force to drive in a third. So, with runners on the corners, Brian Giles stepped in as the tying run. Adrain Gonzalez loomed on deck.

Brian worked the count to 3-2, then TOOK a fastball RIGHT DOWN THE MIDDLE for strike three. I ask you: What pitch could you possibly be looking for in that situation that you would take a thigh-high fastball right down broadway?

Yeesh. Cubs have won 9 straight.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

More Pitching Staff Follies

You want a definition for multi-tasking? Here's one:

- Playing with two highly energetic kids under the age of 2
- Watching Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals (why? Because if Detroit wins, they present the Cup)
- Monitoring the Cardinals/Pirates game

The highly energetic (also known as the Not-So-Gentle-Folk, and hereafter dubbed NSGF) refused to go to bed at a reasonable hour, so the multi-tasking continued deep into the night; in fact, my oldest finally gave up and went to bed just before the double minor penalty was called on Detroit in the third OT.

For most of this, the Cardinals led 4-0. At least, that was the score in the second, sixth, and seventh innings. I flip the TV over to ESPN to catch the end of the Yanks/Twins game (Nathan is my fantasy guy, remember), and across the bottom of the screen crawls this score:

Pirates 5, Cardinals 4.

What the hell?

At first, I thought the bullpen blew up again. Then I figure out that Wainwright was saddled with the loss. It looked like he was cruising! So I check the box score on Wainwright gave up 4 in the seventh and 1 in the eighth. Nuts.

But that's not the disturbing part. Apparently, at least to the wire report sportsline carries, Wainwright tired in the sixth inning, although he worked out of a jam. LaRussa sent him back out there for the seventh, where he gave up double-walk-walk before the game tying Grand Slam. Smells like LaRussa had a gassed bullpen AGAIN.

So let's look at their usage since 5/27 to see who was available:

Perez: 5/28: 1 inning (11 pitches) , 5/29: 2/3 (9). AVAILABLE (and in fact, pitched the ninth last night).
McClellan: 5/29: 1 (10), 5/31: 1 (17), 6/1: 1 1/3 (18). NOT AVAILABLE.
Flores: 5/30: 2/3 (16), 6/1: 1/3 (4). AVAILABLE.
Franklin: 5/29: 1 (10), 5/30: 1/3 (10), 1 (17). AVAILABLE to close only.
Jimenez: 5/31: 3 1/3 (67). NOT AVAILABLE.
Villone: 5/29: 1/3 (8), 5/30: 1/3 (3), 5/31: 1 (34). NOT AVAILABLE.
Springer: 5/30: 1/3 (8), 5/31: 1 (6). AVAILABLE.

Two conclusions here. One: Parisi's clunker on Saturday stressed the bullpen so much that 29% of it wasn't available last night. Two: LaRussa had more options than just Perez available to him last night. This comment is made without a detailed review of where they were in the batting order, what hands the hitters are, relative success levels against the pitchers in his bullpen, but wouldn't you think Flores could have pitched the seventh and Springer the eighth? Or Perez one of those innings and Franklin the ninth? Or something like that?

With the Cubs playing as well as they are (eight in a row now), these Cardinals can't afford to give away games. And LaRussa does have a propensity to stick a little too long with his aces; as I've stated before, he's done it with Carpenter on numerous occasions over the past 3 years.


POSTSCRIPT: Jimmy E is in town with the Cubs right now. Last night: 2/4, 2 doubles, 2 RBI. He's hitting over .200 (which is awful, but given where he started, is a positive step). He now plays on a team I don't have a lot of love for, but Jim Edmonds remains one of my favorite players, so I'm glad to see him start doing well. Also, there was an interesting interview of him on XX 1090 AM (local radio) this morning; he clearly doesn't like talking about his Padre experience, although he (at least, according to the shock jock Scott on the radio's interpretation which I kind of agree with) took a veiled shot at the San Diego clubhouse with his last comments to the interviewer.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Pitching and Defense, Boys, Pitching and Defense

First, I've made some improvements to the blog by finally figuring out how to upload pictures to my layout. This only took 20 months. You want to know how to do it? Layout -- Add page element -- select Photo. Yep, a real technical challenge there.

Cardinals won yesterday 7-4 behind adequate pitching from Braden Looper, Yeoman's work out of the bullpen, and more stellar defense. Cardinals will do no worse than split with Pittsburgh; they go for the series win tonight.

(By the way, why are 4 game series over the weekend now running Fri-Mon? What happened to Thurs-Sun, which was the standard for at least 3 decades? What idiot came up with this schedule? Three-game road trips (ex: Padres completed a 10 game homestand, spent the weekend in San Fran, and are home for 6 more), and weird series scheduling? I'd like to slap the scheduler. Mondays and Thursdays should be travel days, and this should be inviolate. Also, there should only be day games on Thursdays. And every game at Wrigley before 1 July should be played in the sunshine.)

Back to the column.

It's so nice to see this Cardinal team return to the standards that marked the successful Cardinal teams of my lifetime, in emphasizing pitching and defense. There are lots of metrics out there to measure performance on the baseball diamond, and it seems to me the decision makers in MLB have gone way, way overboard trying to quantify offensive production in order to build a winner. USSMariner recently put up their opinion on how much offense (50%), pitching (35%), and defense (15%) contribute to a team's winning. I don't give a hoot how well you hit the ball. If you can't throw strikes, and you can't catch the ball, you will be mediocre - period.

This team's pitching, I think, will never be compared with the great staffs of the past. But their defense makes up for a lot of the failings of the pitching staff. The Cardinals don't give up unearned runs (13 so far this season). Yesterday the Pirates did a good job of putting the ball in play and getting their hits, but the Cardinal defense on more than one occasion snuffed out the rally by making the play on a batted ball (Ankiel, Izturis, et al).

This is the major reason the team is 10 games over .500, especially considering Ludwick and Pujols have been the only consistently dangerous bats in the lineup.

You give me a team of passable major league hitters than can play defense, and I'll contend for a playoff spot every single year. Mozeliak deserves a lot of credit for re-emphasizing this part of the game, something the Cardinals had gotten away from in 2006 and 2007.

The Cubs are in SD for a 3-game set starting tonight, so I'll get a good look at them on the TV over the next 3 days. I may sully this blog with some Cub analysis; you need to know your adversary (and the Cubs are the class of the NL right now, as much as it pains me to say that).