Thursday, July 16, 2009

Series Preview - Arizona

The Cardinals open the second half of the season at home against Arizona. St Louis has owned the Diamondbacks since they joined the NL, beating them at an almost .600 clip; but they are barely .500 at home (22-20). Last year they took 3 of 4 at Busch. Unfortunately, Justin Upton usually plays right, so the team won’t be able to take advantage of his sloppy fielding in left. Although I’m sure he’s not too keen on playing the OF at Busch right now, what after Granderson's triple and all.

Mostly well-known tidbit: Arizona entered the league in 1998 and won the World Series in 2001, making them the fastest team to go from expansion to Champs. Except for the Red Sox, who, you know, won the first World Series in the first year it was contested, so they would be the fastest team to win a World Series (6 months). As if Red Sox fans needed another reason to be noxious.

St Louis: 49-42, 1st NL Central, 2 games ahead of Milwaukee. Coming off a 6-4 road trip and a home All-Star Game. St Louis also took 2 of 3 from Arizona back in April.

Arizona: 38-51, 4th NL West, 18.5 games back of Los Angeles. They’ve already fired one manager this season (Bob Melvin on 8 May). Melvin went 12-18 (.400). Melvin has since been hired by the Padres, one of only 2 “Major League” teams worse than the D-backs, to assist in evaluating minor league talent. Melvin’s replacement, AJ Hinch, has gone 26-33 (.440), an improvement of 2 games. So obviously it was Melvin’s fault AZ sucks this season. AZ is 22nd in baseball in OBP and 18th in SLG. They are 7th in FIP and 9th in UZR/150, proving their problem isn’t their pitching or defense.

Pitching match-ups

17 July: Jon Garland (5-8, 4.53) vs Carpenter. Garland was a mainstay of the White Sox rotation for years, posting consecutive 18-win campaigns in 2004-05. Although only 29, he appears to be on the slow decline. His ERA is right in line with years past, but his decision results are way down. Never a strikeout guy, his walks per 9 innings average has climbed for 3 consecutive seasons – and is up again (3.3) this year. Cardinals hitters need to be patient against him.

That said, his three July starts have been very good – 24 baserunners in 20 innings pitched, and an ERA of 2.25. He hasn’t had much luck against the Cardinals. In two career starts, he’s been torched for 10 ER in 8 2/3 innings (and is 0-2 as a result). He’s never pitched in St Louis. He lost the 15 April game 12-7, and only retired 8 hitters. He’s never faced Chris Carpenter.

Albert Pujols doesn’t have a hit off Garland in 6 plate appearances. No other current Cardinal has more than 3 PA’s against Garland.

Statistical oddity. There are only 19 guys that have faced Pujols 6 or more times and not surrendered a hit. Only 3 of those guys haven’t walked him either – Matt Mantei (0-8, 4K’s), and the immortals Robert Person (0-6, 2K’s) and Kyle Peterson (0-6, 2Ks). None of those guys have pitched in the Majors since 2005.

Carp comes off his 10 July win over the Cubs. He’s owned Arizona in his career (3-0, 2.23, 20K), but has surrendered 4 HR in 32 innings pitched. And, it was in his start against AZ this year that he hurt his oblique swinging a bat and subsequently missed a month. Swing easy, big fella. Carp’s last STL start vs AZ was in 2006 (ND). Another oddity – none of Carp’s victories over Arizona happened in St Louis.

Felipe Lopez has hit 2 of those aforementioned homers, and has a 1.109 OPS against Carpenter in his career. Chris Young and Miguel Montero have 3 hits in 4 combined plate appearances off Carpenter. No one else on the team is hitting over .200 against him.

18 July: Yusmerio Petit (0-3, 7.91) vs Wainwright. In a 4-year career Petit has made 26 total starts and never thrown more than 57 innings in a season. Petit has been on the yo-yo between Phoenix and Tucson, their AAA affiliate, in 2009. He hasn’t pitched more than 5 1/3 innings in any appearance this season. He’s also positively Wellemeyer-like in runners allowed per inning (1.758).

Despite all that, he’s 2-1 career against St Louis in 5 appearances (2 starts), and one of those wins was in St Louis (at the old stadium). Recent history with the Cardinals: he threw 2 innings in the 15 April game, and gave up 4 runs. He last started a game vs St Louis 2 Sept 08, didn’t get out of the fifth, and lost 12-3. His only start in St Louis was July 2007.

Ludwick, Molina, and Pujols are all hitting .400 or better against him. Ludwick has 2 HR off Petit.

Wainwright shut down the Cubs on Sunday, both before and after getting hit on this throwing hand by a throw in the fifth inning. He became more dominant after that, allowing 4 hits, a walk, a run, and striking out 5. Wainwright leads the NL in starts and innings pitched. The Cardinals have won 6 of his last 7 starts. He’s got a 1.39 ERA since June 21st. In summary: he’s the ace, and he’s pitching like an ace.

Adam is 3-2 lifetime against AZ and 3-1 as a starter. He won both his starts against them last year, the most recent one on 24 Sept in St Louis. Felipe Lopez has solved him as well, at a .444 clip. Mark Reynolds is the only other starter hitting over .300 against him.

19 July: Dan Haren (9-5, 2.01) vs Piniero. Tough matchup for Piniero. He’s facing the league’s ERA leader, and constant reminder of how bad the Mark Mulder trade turned out to be. Haren shut out Florida on 10 July, and hasn’t allowed a run in his last 14 1/3 innings. He’s allowing 0.808 runners per inning, which is ridiculous for a guy that’s thrown 130 innings already this season.

Haren has started one game against his former team, way back in 2007. He won 14-3 in Oakland. Of the current Cardinals only Pujols and Duncan have faced him. The good news is they had 2 of the team’s 6 hits that day.

Piniero’s no decision against Cincinnati on 3 July broke a 15-game consecutive decision string for him. His last start was a complete game 3 hitter at Milwaukee, which he won 3-1. Piniero leads or is tied for the league lead in complete games, shutouts, fewest home runs and walks per 9 innings, and losses. Just a weird statistical season for him.

Joel is 2-0 in 5 career appearances against the Snakes (3 starts). He got the win on April 15 this year in Arizona, and the other win was at home last 25 Sept by a 12-3 margin. Of the current D-backs with more than 6 plate appearances against him, Chris Young has had the most success (3-7, HR). Justin Upton and Stephen Drew are also hitting over .300 against Piniero. Felipe Lopez? A paltry .273.

Prognosis/prediction. The Cardinals have the pitching edge in the opener and a decided pitching edge in the Saturday tilt. Arizona gets the edge vote when Haren is on the mound. This is the type of team against which the Cardinals need to clean up. So let’s start the second half off right.

Cards take 2 of 3.

Go Cards!

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