Thursday, July 30, 2009

Series Preview - Houston

Back on track following a series win over Los Angeles, the Cardinals welcome Houston to town. And by welcome I mean shouting from the ramparts with swords bared. Houston swept the Cardinals 20-22 July.

Mostly Well-Known Tidbit: Houston was a charter member of the Continental League, which never played a game. The Houston franchise was originally nicknamed the 'Colt .45's', selected based on the results of a 'Name that Team' contest. This is why such contests are no longer held. For the 1965 season the team was re-named the Astros, based on their new ballpark (the Astrodome), which was so named based on Houston's role in the space program.

Now, the Colt 45's played in Colt Stadium, the Astros in the Astrodome. Houston baseball fans rejoice this trena didn't continue down the ages (Houston Enrons? Houston Squeezed Oranges?)

Current Snapshot

St Louis: 56-49, 2nd NL Central, 0.5 games behind Chicago. St Louis is 7-2 at home in July. They may have played Houston last week, but this is the Astros first trip into St Louis since the second series of the season (which the Cardinals swept).

Houston: 51-51, 3rd NL Central, 4 games behind. Roy Oswalt left his last start with a strained lower back; initially it was reported he would miss his next start, but now ESPN is reporting he might pitch Sunday after all. Since sweeping the Cardinals they've lost 5 of 7, including back to back blowout losses to the Cubs. Houston's staff has the reputation of being pretty good this season (Oswalt, Wandy, Hampton, etc). Interestingly, however, they lag the Redbirds in both FIP (3.96 to 4.36) and BABIP (.296 to .306). In terms of wOBA, the Cardinals and Astros are virtually the same going into Thursday's games (.321 to .322).

Pitching Matchups

31 July: Brian Moehler (7-6, 5.16) vs Mitchell Boggs (1-0, 3.22). Moehler's the righty who beat Kyle Lohse 3-2 last Monday (20 July). He's appeared in 16 games against the Cardinals (8 starts) and has never lost to St Louis (5-0). He's been tough on the club his last 3 starts (19 1/3 IP, 5 ER, 16 K). He hasn't started a game in St Louis since 2003. On that particular day, he gave up 5 earned and didn't survive the fifth (Brett Tomko started that game for St Louis, one Houston eventually prevailed in 6-5 (12).

Albert Pujols loves - LOVES - hitting against Moehler (9-17, 3 HR). Lugo enjoys the experience (7-19), Molina does not (2-12).

Boggs returns to the Cardinal rotation in place of the exiled Todd Wellemeyer. Fans around the country rejoice, not because they wish Wellemeyer ill (some probably do, I don't), but because it's been clear for a while Wellemeyer doesn't have it as a starter at the moment.

Boggs has appeared against the Astros only once, on the 64th anniversary of D-Day. He faced 7 hitters, and gave up a HR to Geoff Blum.

1 August: Wandy Rodriguez (10-6, 2.65) vs Carpenter. Rodriguez is having the finest year of his career. His ERA this season is over 2 runs lower than his career mark, yet all his other numbers are right in line with his career norms. Whatever. He's good this year.

Wandy went 7 on 21 July in beating the Cardinals 10-1. Well, actually Todd Wellemeyer got clobbered that night, but Rodriguez was pretty good. Oh, was that final 11-6? None of those other runs mattered. Wandy did pitch in Houston's first turn through St Louis, losing to Kyle Lohse 3-0 on 12 April.

Skip Schumaker is 3-9 off Wandy, and with that mark is the only starter hitting over .300 against him. AP is a pedestrian 3-23 against him. Mark DeRosa and Matt Holliday have reached the seats.

I'm running out of superlatives for Carpenter. He's fourth in the league in ERA. His last start against Houston in St Louis was 2006; he threw a 6 hit shutout and won 7-0. He's 5-3 in his career against Houston. He's handled the current Astros lineup pretty well, although Pudge is hitting .357 and El Cubbayo has homered off him.

2 August: David "Bud" Norris (no record) vs TBD (Wainwright's turn)? Norris is scheduled to make his starter debut Sunday in Oswalt's spot. Norris was Houston's 6th round pick in 2006 out of Cal Poly 'san luiz obeezbo' (or as the missus calls it, the REAL Cal Poly). Norris is unique amongst pitchers, in that he went to an Engineering school and can probably do complicated math in his head. He was Houston's #7 ranked prospect in 2008 and #2 in 2009. He's right-handed. He appeared in the 29 July blowout loss to Chicago, his actual Major League Debut.

We'll go with Adam for the series finale; he's 6-0 career against Houston, and earned his first win this year by beating them on 11 April at home. Hunter Pence and Kaz Matsui have homered off him, but everyone else on the club is reporting a fluke injury to not have to step in and face him.

Prognosis/Projection We owe these guys, and need to stay with Chicago (headed to Florida for 3 games). It's hard to predict Cards/Astros series. St Louis should win the finale, assuming Wainwright pitches and Oswalt doesn't. Let's say Carpenter handles Wandy, but Moehler wins over Boggs. Go with 2 of 3.

Go Cards!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Let Me Explain. . .No, There's Too Much. Let Me Sum Up.

I take a week off to travel and visit family, and all hell breaks loose. Most of the items covered below would deserve their own posts. Maybe later on. For now, some thoughts on the many recent news items from the Cardinals.

Julio Lugo acquired from Red Sox. Boston had a logjam at short, with the heir apparent (Jed Lowrie) and a serviceable journeyman (Nick Green) getting playing time ahead of Lugo. With Lowrie coming back from a wrist injury that's sidelined him most of this season, Lugo was expendable. Boston's SS position has been unsettled since trading Nomar away in 2004 (they've trotted Orlando Cabrera, Edgar Renteria, Alex Gonzalez, Lugo, Lowrie, and Green out there since that 31 July 04 trade), and Lugo hadn't been the player they thought he would be.

Essentially the Cardinals gave up their 4th string OF for Boston's 3rd string SS. Whatever. I didn't understand this move when it happened, because Brendan Ryan has played a servicable SS since Khalil went down, but it made more sense after...

Matt Holliday acquired from Athletics.St Louis has strip-mined its farm system trying to make the team stronger for the stretch drive. First there was DeRosa for Chris Perez and Jess Todd; now this trade that sent Brett Wallace, Clayton Mortenson, and Shane Peterson to Oakland.

With this move the Cardinals had the big bat for the lineup that many in Cardinal Fandom had been pining for, however, the team gave up an awful lot to get him. Initially I didn't like this trade (although that's par for the course with me, based on what I'm told: 'No, I don't want more cheesecake,' 'No, you can't give me a million dollars,' 'No, I don't want to fly to the All-Star Game'), but upon reflection, I am withholding final judgement pending two things: (a) whether or not St Louis makes the playoffs, and far more importantly, (b) whether or not Holliday signs an extension to stay with the team.

Early returns suggest these two moves, along with DeRosa being healthy, have made the team far more dangerous offensively (other than Blanton's start on Sunday, the team has scored at least 6 runs in every game since the Holliday trade), so that's good for their probability of making the playoffs.

Jason Motte should not throw any more high leverage innings...until he develops an off-speed pitch he can control. Its great to be able to throw 99-MPH gas whenever you want; I wish I could. ML hitters will catch up to it eventually, especially after watching you fire it to 5 straight hitters, as Rollins and Victorino (and Utley, although he only doubled) did on Saturday.

Cardinals fell out of first for two days, although they're back in first after beating Dodgers 10-0 last night. Some thoughts on that:

- Chicago is 2 games up on the loss side (46 losses to 48), thanks to the Cardinals playing 4 more games than the Cubs at this point. Winning percentage is great, but losses will determine who makes the playoffs.

- I anticipate it will take 88 wins to triumph in the Central. To get there, the Cardinals need to go 36-24 (.600 ball). Chicago would then have to go 38-26 (.593 ball). Doable, but difficult. Difficult because:

St Louis really needs pitching help. This remains my biggest heartache with the Holliday trade. DeRosa, although not the offensive presence Holliday is, is a capable bat, and with Ludwick's renaissance in progress, the Cardinals had enough protection in the lineup (Schu/Rasmus/AP/Lud/DeRosa) for AP before that trade. Middle relief is becoming pretty shaky, and after Carpenter/Wainwright/Piniero the rotation is a barren wasteland. To win 36 games implies that those 3 win every start for the rest of the year, which is a pipe dream. I would have preferred to see the team spend their prospects on a different Halladay.

Now that Wellemeyer has been removed from the rotation, a development that's about 4 weeks overdue, we're going to ask Mitchell Boggs to throw high leverage innings in the midst of a pennant race to get us to the finish line. He's a professional, and has the ability no doubt, but that's a lot to ask of a rookie.

If Lohse fixes himself and reverts to last year's form, well, this whole discussion is moot, and the Cardinals suddenly become a much better than 88-win team.

Finally, an interesting article by Erik Manning, and an equally interesting rebuttal from Rob Neyer.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Series Preview - Los Angeles

The Cardinals start a 7-game home stand with 4 against their old nemesis, and current best team in baseball, the Dodgers. St Louis took 4 of 6 from Los Angeles last year, winning both series 2-1.

Mostly well-known tidbit: St Louis leads the all time series (at least, since 1901) 946-917. Since the Dodgers moved to LA, however, they lead the all-time series 305-303. The Dodger franchise has won (since 1903) 18 NL pennants, but only 6 World Championships.

Can you name the numbers retired by the Dodgers franchise?

Current snapshot

St Louis: 53-48, 2nd NL Central, 0.5 games behind Chicago. Matt Holliday (7-11, 3 RBI) and Julio Lugo (8-14, HR, 2 RBI) are smoking hot; unfortunately the bullpen (6 1/3 IP, 12ER the last 2 games) are not.

Los Angeles: 62-36, 1st NL West, 8 games ahead of Colorado. They have the second best road record in the league (behind Philadelphia). 6-4 since the break, all at home.

Pitching match-ups

27 July: Randy Wolf (5-4, 3.45) vs Carpenter. Randy Wolf is 2-1 in July with a 2.81 ERA. The Dodgers are 2-2 in his starts this month. Wolf’s two wins were blowouts at New York and Cincinnati; the 2 losses were at the Padres (which isn’t too surprising, as he pitched for them part of last season) and against Houston (the other team he pitched for last year).

Wolf is 3-4 in 9 career starts against the Cardinals. He’s never won in St Louis. His last start in the Gateway city was 19 July 08 (as a Padre), when he went 5 2/3 and gave up 6 runs (4 earned). His last start overall against the Cardinals was 29 August 08 (as an Astro), when he went 6, allowed 2 runs (1 earned) and won 3-2.

Wolf has never squared off against Carpenter. AP (5-14, 4 RBI) and Holliday (4-14, HR, 5 RBI) have had the most success against him (min 10 PA). DeRosa is only 6-31 against him.

Carpenter? 1.86 ERA this month. Just tearing it up. Should have won the 22 July game against Houston. He’s never lost to the Dodgers (3-0 in 4 starts); his last start was the ND on August 5 last year (5 shutout innings). That was his second start back from the DL. No Dodger is hitting over .300 career against him, not even Manny, although Manny is hitting .292 (7-24, 2 HR).

28 July: Chad Billingsley (10-5, 3.72) vs Wainwright. Billingsley won his last start against the Reds 6-2. The team is 3-1 in his starts in July, but Billingsley hasn’t pitched all that well this month overall; opponents have a .344 OBP off him, and he’s surrendered 4 HR. Granted, his 5 out, 6 ER effort against Houston has skewed these statistics a little bit, but his start against Milwaukee (5 IP, 5 ER) wasn’t all that good either.

Billingsley’s never beaten the Cardinals (3 starts, 0-1, other 2 ND the team eventually lost). His last start was that 5 Aug 08 game opposite Carpenter; he went 6, gave up 1 ER, and didn’t figure in the decision. He’s also never faced Wainwright.

Current Cardinals are hitting .262 against him (11-42) and have a .380 OBP. Matt Holliday has only 4 hits in 16 AB, but three of them are home runs. Mark DeRosa has also homered in 6 plate appearances.

Wainwright just keeps rolling along. He got credit for a complete game in Thursday’s 6 inning win over the Nationals. He hasn’t given up more than 2 runs in a start since his 21 June game in Kansas City; the team is 4-1 in his starts since that day.

Adam’s started 3 games against the Dodgers, and is 1-2. In his only start at home vs LA, he hooked up with Brad Penny for 8 shutout innings but lost 2-1 when James Loney homered with one on in the ninth. Current Dodgers are hitting .257 with a .316 OBP, led by Russell Martin (5-8) and Rafael Furcal (5-9). Manny Ramirez has not faced Adam.

Statistical Oddity: James Loney’s lone hit off Wainwright is that home run. It’s also the only time he’s reached base against Adam.

29 July: Clayton Kershaw (8-5, 2.96) vs Piniero? Kershaw had won his last 3 starts before his ND Thursday vs Florida. He leads the NL in walks, making him this series’ winner of the ‘be patient at the plate when facing him’ sweepstakes. Despite all the walks (he’s surrendered 17 hits and 16 walks this month), his ERA is 0.90 in July and opponents are reaching base overall at a .284 clip.

In his short career he’s faced the Cardinals twice, once at Chavez Ravine and once on the banks of the Mississippi. He’s 1-0. The win came in St Louis last August 7 (he beat Lohse). Cardinal hitters are batting .233 combined against him, and no one has more than 9 plate appearances opposing him. Holliday (him again. I’m starting to like that trade a little bit) is 3-7 with 2 walks. AP - 2-4 with a double. Brendan Ryan is 1-2.

He’s not faced Joel Piniero

I’ve got Piniero penciled in here because it’s his turn in the rotation, although officially says the starter is TBD. Joel pitched great against the Phillies on Friday and evened his record. He’s faced the Dodgers twice and won both times, most recently last 6 Aug at home.

A lot of guys on the Dodgers have hit him really well, led by Manny (13-29, 4 HR), Casey Blake (8-18 with a HR) and Juan Castro (4-9, 2B and 3B).

30 July: Hiroki Kuroda (3-5, 4.57)? vs Lohse. As with Piniero above, no Dodger starter has been named for the finale (at least, according to The start Kershaw is to get would actually be Kuroda’s spot in the rotation, so I’ve slid him in here. The other option would be Jason Schmidt.

You can see the first 3 Dodger starters are very solid, which is expected given their overall record. Kuroda hasn’t been up to that standard. He spent most of the first 2 months this season on the DL. That said, the team is 4-1 when he starts this month, even though he hasn’t gotten a decision since his loss to the Mets on 8 July. For the month his ERA is a robust 6.14, and hitters are batting .284 against him.

Not only has he not faced Lohse, he’s never faced the Cardinals.

Lohse left after 4 innings in Saturday’s game, having thrown 90 pitches. Not sure what to make of that. There aren’t any reports out there regarding his health following that short outing, at least, none that I’ve found. In his career he’s 1-2 in 3 starts against LA, and his lone start in St Louis against them was last 7 August (lost 4-1).

There’s a lot of Dodgers who like to hit against Lohse, including Manny (5-12, 2 HR) and Blake (2 HR); Juan Pierre, Andre Ethier, Rafael Furcal, and Orlando Hudson all carry .350 or better career marks against Lohse.

Prognosis/prediction. The Cardinal bullpen is exhausted, so it’s good their two best two pitchers start this series. I think it reasonable to expect Carp and Wainwright to continue rolling against the Dodgers. Piniero is due for a clunker, but we’ll hope it’s another day. Because this is the best team in baseball, we’ll predict a split; however, 3 of 4 is definitely in play. A sweep, although nice, probably isn’t.

Go Cards!

Dodger retired numbers: 1 (Pee Wee Reese), 2 (Tommy Lasorda), 4 (Duke Snider), 19 (Jim Gilliam), 20 (Don Sutton), 24 (Walter Alston), 32 (Sandy Koufax), 39 (Roy Campanella), 42 (Jackie Robinson), and 53 (Don Drysdale). All but Jim Gilliam are in the Hall of Fame.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Too Funny Not To Share

A picture is worth 1000 words:

I have nothing to add.

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!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

All Star Game thoughts

- Albert Pujols signing autographs for the troops was awesome, and actually caused some misting to appear in front of my eyes.

- Stan Musial looked old. I know he's 88 years young, but that's the most frail I've seen him. They should have done a montage to remind the public just how good Musial was. It also would have been cool if the players huddled around him after he arrived, a la Ted Williams in 1999.

- When President Bush II threw out the first pitch before Game 3 of the 2001 World Series, he looked like this:

Photo from

Appropriate attire for the location and time in our history.

President Obama, tonight:

Photo by AP

I know he's from Chicago. The event was in St Louis. MLB couldn't find the President a Cardinal jacket? Or even better, a 'All Star 2009' jacket of some sort? My wife thinks I look cute naked, but I'm not throwing out the first pitch of the All Star game in my birthday suit.

- Kudos to the fans for loudly cheering Mark Buehrle (St Louis Native), Ryan Howard (ditto), Dan Haren (former Cardinal), Jason Marquis (former Cardinal), Joe Torre (Cardinal great), Zack Greinke (marooned in Royals hell), and booing Ted Lilly (Cub).

- I don't think this is an All-Star Game AP will look back on fondly, other than the ovation he got during the introductions. E-3 in the first that led to a run and extended the inning. Oh for 3, nothing out of the infield. At least he made several nice plays with the glove during the game.

- Who would have predicted the Cardinal driving in a run would be Yadier Molina?

- Ryan Franklin - Solid.

- Curse you Carl Crawford. But only this night; this weekend I expect you to continue carrying my Rotisserie League Team.

- Its hard to win when you get one hit after Fielder's ground-rule double in the second inning - and that hit could have been called an error.

- The NL hasn't won an All-Star Game since before the advent of interleague play. So this is all Bud Selig's fault! Do we need a more compelling reason to ban interleague play?

- Trevor Hoffman in 2006, Chris Young in 2007, Heath Bell tonight. I decree no Padre pitcher shall be selected to the All-Star Game until after the NL wins again. I don't care if the Padres have a guy that's 17-0, with 17 consecutive no hitters and every batter retired via strikeout; he doesn't pitch.

First Half Grades

The Cardinals finished the first half of the season 49-42, which means a lot has gone right. They also find themselves with a 2.5 game lead in the division, which means they've had some good fortune as well. As we break for the All-Star Game, just before the final 71 game push to the finish line, now seems a good time to look back on the season to date and hand out some grades for players on the roster.

We'll do this Bill Simmons Style.


Albert Pujols
. What else is there to say? He leads the league in HR, RBI, Runs, total bases, walks, on base percentage, slugging percentage, and grand slams. He's second in batting average, making the first Triple Crown in the NL since 1937 a possibility. There's no way this team is in contention without him.

Chris Carpenter. Despite a DL stint, he's exceeded all expectations. WHIP of under 1.00, strikeout to walk ratio of almost 5, ERA under 2.50. With up to 14 starts remaining, he could win 15-16 games this season. Welcome back, Chris.

Ryan Franklin. Twenty-one saves in 22 chances, a WHIP (0.794) as ridiculous as his ERA (0.79). He's been lights out at the back of the game. Well-deserved All Star selection.

Yadier Molina. Solid at the plate, so solid in fact, he's been the best hitter on the team not named Pujols. Leads the league in innings caught, and is second in fielding percentage ( doesn't do UZR for catchers).


Adam Wainwright. The ace of this staff. He's been the horse, and has pitched very well; he's the only Cardinal starter to have not missed a turn this season. Needs to walk fewer guys, but that's my only knock his first half performance.

Joel Piniero. Better than his record would indicate. Third best WHIP on the team, doesn't walk anyone, ERA of 3.20 - he's been quite solid.

Trever Miller. LaRussa has gone to Reyes more, but Miller's thrown more innings. Miller's also been the second best guy out of the pen, with a WHIP of 1.043 and an ERA+ of 179. Despite a rough start to the season, he's been excellent.

Colby Rasmus. Mid-year favorite for NL Rookie of the Year. Has played the excellent defense we all expected, and his bat has woken up since June 1st. His .807 OPS is third on the team to Pujols and Ludwick

Brendan Ryan. Solidified the short stop position, and has been a reasonable hitter low in the order.


Kyle McClellan. Workhorse of the bullpen. Walks way too many guys (21 in 41 innings).

Ryan Ludwick. Getting hurt set him back. Coming back before he was ready didn't help. Had been comatose until showing signs of life at Wrigley. Let's hope the thaw continues.

Skip Schumaker. Solid at the plate, and an adventure at second, which is what we expected out of spring training. Can't hold that against him.

Kyle Lohse. Started the year like gangbusters, then went into a prolonged funk following the Atlanta game April 28. Just returned from the DL. His start in Chicago wasn't what we or he wanted. Hopefully his next 14 starts will be better.

Brad Thompson. Let's face it, Brad is what he is. He's eaten innings and not complained. His results are what one expects from him. Even with all the runs he's surrendered in his last 4 starts, by many statistical measures he's been better than Todd Wellemeyer.

Jason Motte. He's recovered nicely from Opening Day to be a serviceable reliever.


Todd Wellemeyer. Somehow he's 7-7 despite walking 4 guys every 9 innings and giving up almost 2 baserunners an inning (1.724). Every time he starts I have to buckle up for the roller-coaster ride.

Joe Thurston. He tries hard, but isn't great defensively or with the bat.

Chris Duncan. See above. Although we drink more Maalox with him in left field than we do with Thurston at third.

Dennys Reyes. He's better than Kyle Farnsworth, so that's something.

Tyler Greene, Nick Stavinoha, Jason LaRue. Meh.


The rest of the Cardinal bullpen. Chris Perez, Mitchell Boggs, Blaine Boyer, et al, haven't exactly been lights out. This is probably why two of these guys are no longer with the team, and the other is in AAA.

Rick Ankiel. Can't hit a breaking ball anymore. Can't stop swinging at everything.


Khalil Greene, Mark DeRosa. Both currently on the DL. One we hope to see in August, the other I don't expect to see again this season.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Live Blog and Double Header Wrap Up

As predicted, I didn't make it into the Live Blog for the early game yesterday. Although I did watch part of it,just not a very good part of it.

First inning - Cardinals retired in order, Hoffpauir hits 3-R HR. Turned TV off.
Fourth inning - Cardinals have tied it; watched Zambrano hit HR. Turned TV off.

Managed to log in for the second game, at least for a while. Broke away to have dinner with the family, and never got back on line. Kids can be so demanding sometimes. I ended up watching the game in fast forward at about 10:30pm, but by that time the chat was long over.

Some thoughts:

- Figures Ludwick is heating up just in time for a 3-day break. But at least he's heating up. The return of his bat couldn't come at a better time, what with DeRosa on the DL and Ankiel admitting his shoulder is still bothering him.

- Ankiel should sit until he's completely healthy. If there's one thing this team/organization has an overabundance of, its outfielders.

- The play in the top of the fifth with Wainwright was interesting. The rule governing that play is Rule 7.09(f), which reads:

If, in the judgment of the umpire, a base runner willfully and deliberately interferes with a batted ball or a fielder in the act of fielding a batted ball with the obvious intent to break up a double play, the ball is dead. The umpire shall call the runner out for interference and also call out the batter-runner because of the action of his teammate. In no event may bases be run or runs scored because of such action by a runner.

On the replay it looked like Adam stuck his hand in the way of the throw. The fact he slid towards Theriot, and not towards the bag, seemed to bolster this. However, (a) Wainwright is 6'7", and Theriot 5'10", so even as he gets down he's still in the way, (b) Wainwright missed his calling as a volleyball middle-blocker if he's able to predict with that much accuracy where the ball will be before it leaves someone's hand, so it was probably a fluke, and (c) why on earth would a pitcher attempt to block a thrown ball (probably moving at what, 70+ MPH?) with his PITCHING HAND.

The umpire called it incidential contact and that (to my mind) was correct. Of course, if Zambrano had been hit on the pitching hand instead of Wainwright, it clearly would have been interference.

- Piniella's pitching/outfielder adventure was amusing, but didn't change the outcome. It would have much more fun if our Hoffpauir had lifted a fly ball to left. Although the result would have sucked, wouldn't it have been cool to see a pitcher catch a fly ball then throw out a runner at home plate? How many times has that ever happened?

At any rate, a split of the series will work. The Cardinals didn't bury the Cubs, like they could have with a 4-game sweep; we all knew that was a long shot, however, given how Thompson had struggled in his previous 3 starts (and validated by his effort on Saturday). And Lohse was not sharp in his first start off the DL, which I probably should have expected; drawing Zambrano didn't help either.

We'll look at it this way - a 10 game road trip, through (a) a pre-season favorite to win the Division, (b) a team that thinks it has a shot to contend, and (c) last year's defending Division champ, which ends 6-4, is a success. They left tied for first; they come to the break witha 2.5 game lead in the division, and having picked up ground on every team in the division except Houston (who were 3.5 back on 2 July and still are).

They play .540 ball the rest of the way they win 88 games. And that might just be enough this year in the Central.

HR Derby tonight, ASG tomorrow, off-day Wednesday.

Post plans for this week include first-half grades for the team, a Musial v Pujols article, and the next Series Preview. So stay tuned for that.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

UCB topic - Live Blog

Can't say yesterday's result was a surprise, because it wasn't. Althought hitting Bradley with an 0-2 pitch was a 'road less traveled' way to get into a big inning (as 3 runs ultimately scored in the home first).

Cardinals can still come out of here with a split, or even better if they sweep the double-dip today.

Slight pitching match-up change from the preview. Carlos Zambrano will throw the first game against Lohse, vice the night game. A curious decision, as Zambrano is a better pitcher at night over his career by any metric. Whatever. Wells has pitched slightly better at night, although with only 15 ML games under his belt it's hard to draw any conclusions from the data.

Today is the United Cardinal Blogger live blog. As promised, you can get there from here:

Enjoy the game! I hope to check in from time to time, although realistically I may only be available for the night game).

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Pujols vs Musial - Triple and HR in same game?

Yesterday marked the third time in his career Albert Pujols tripled and homered in the same game. Since the only other Cardinal (in my mind) he can be compared with, in terms of sustained superior hitting, is Musial, how many times did Musial do it?

When pondering a statistical question of any type, the place to go is Baseball Reference. However Baseball Reference is limited to games from 1954 to the present, so we can only look at the last 10 years of Musial's career. I'll add the game in 1949 he hit for the cycle, however (July 24 to be exact), since that's documented.

Musial tripled and homered in the same game 5 times from 1945-1963. Here are the dates, locations, and pitchers:

May 20, 1954 - Forbes Field (Pittsburgh) - 1st inning, off Bob Purkey
June 8, 1954 - Sportsman's Park - 4th inning, off Carl Erskine (Dodgers)
June 22, 1955 - Sportsman's Park - 8th inning, off Robin Roberts (Phillies)
June 27, 1957 - Sportsman's Park - 2nd inning, off Jack Sanford (Phillies)
July 4, 1961 - Sportsman's Park - 1st inning, off Don Ferrarese (Phillies)

Musial picked on the Phillies a lot.

In the 1955 game he homered twice. In the June 1954, 1955, and 1957 games he homered in his first at bat.

Since Musial hit 177 triples and 475 home runs in his career, I'm sure he did both in more games than just these 6. However, 5 games in 10 years highlights how difficult, and rare, this is to do.

Announcements and some trivia

First let's get to the announcements. And fun with type color.

Lou Brock talked about efforts MLB is making to combat hunger, in partnership with Bank of America. BofA created 'Hits for Hunger'; during the All-Star Game on Tuesday, Bank of America will donate $5000, for each batted ball that results in a safe hit, to the Food Bank of America. Obviously this effort will be talked about during the game.

Additionally, MLB and BofA have partnered with Feeding America, to raise more money for feeding the homeless. During the game, donations made to this organization will be matched by BofA. Donations can be made through the website if you're interested.

Next, the United Cardinal Bloggers are back, with another doozie of an event to close out the first half of 2009 with a flourish. For the doubleheader with Chicago on 12 July, the group will run a live blog courtesy of Cover It Live. You can join or monitor the discussion right here, as I will have the software on the site all that day. A number of the UCB members will be participating, and have the live blog enabled on their sites; also, the UCB home page will have it as well.

Finally, today the Cardinals defeated Chicago 8-3 in the series opener. St Louis has won the opener of all 3 games on this road trip, and eight of the 15 road series openers this season. I won't bore you with a recap.

However, in this game Albert Pujols' first 3 at bats were intentional walk, triple, and home run. His HR led off the fifth, so there was a fair chance he'd get two more at bats in the game. Which led one of my co-workers (fellow Cardinal fan) to wonder aloud, "Has Albert ever hit for the cycle?"

I did a little research, both on Albert's career and to find when the last Cardinal was to hit for the cycle.

Seventeen Cardinals have hit for the cycle. The first was Fred Dunlap, on May 24 1886, when the team was known as the St Louis Browns. The last was Mark Grudzielanek, four years ago (27 Apr 05). The list includes Hall of Famers (Stan Musial, Joe Medwick, Lou Brock, Jim Bottomley, Chick Hafey, and Johnny Mize), future HOFs (Joe Torre), a should be HOF (Ken Boyer), and some guys who surprise you (Lankford? Mabry?). Only Boyer turned the trick twice as a Cardinal.

Albert's hit 351 home runs, but only 14 triples, confirming (a) a triple is hard do, even for the best hitter in the game, and (b) a triple remains the most exciting offensive play in sports. Keep your HR. Give me a guy rounding second, digging for third, as the throw heads to the cutoff man and there's obviously going to be a play at third. And even though Soriano assisted a little bit today, it's still a triple.

Some facts about AP's triples. The first three he hit were in St Louis, but he hasn't hit one at home since 2004. He's victimized the Marlins three times, the Padres twice, and now the Cubs twice. Cardinals are 7-7 in games where he hits a triple, but have won 6 of the last seven.

Before today, AP had tripled and homered in the same game twice. Oddly, both games occurred within 5 days of each other in 2004.

He hasn't hit for the cycle. It's one of the few individual things Musial did that AP hasn't.

Maybe tomorrow. Although I'll settle for a statement start from Brad Thompson.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Random Ramblings

I had some fun with yesterday's game in an after-game post, however, that 5-run eighth fired me up. It was exciting to see the team explode like that at the plate. I'm sure out there somewhere are pessimists who will bemoan the Cardinals scoring in only 2 of their last 18 innings in Milwaukee, as if there's some requirement to not only win but to score in more innings than the opponent. That's crazy. They got 4 in the 4th on Wednesday and 5 in the 8th yesterday, and with a little bit better pitching from Todd Wellemeyer they win both games. And since won/loss record is how we measure success in this game, winning is important. So who cares in how many innings runs are scored.

Back to the point. I don't get swept up in the moment much anymore with the Cardinals. But I did in that eighth inning. It took some self-control not to start yelling when Ludwick's ball left the yard. That was awesome.

Momentum from the 10-1 win over Cincinnati carried over into Milwaukee. Let's hope momentum from yesterday's win will carry over into Chicago.

Steroids. Rick Hummel interviewed Bud Selig, I guess yesterday, about a variety of topics, and steroids came up again, as it always seems to when Selig talks to the media. The excerpt from that interview is here. A couple of thoughts on the article.

1. Bud talks about how much progress has been made in steroids testing. Well, yes, there's been progress. But when you start from no program at all, any program you put in place is progress. So I don't think all the glad-handing baseball does on this is warranted. The problem was willfully ignored by baseball for years, then callously fought by the union. The problem will never go away, because from now on what used to be called 'career years' by players will be accompanied by the 'how did he do it' whispers (see the Ibanez controversy earlier this season). Selig should be reminded of that fact from time to time.

2. Selig talked about the higher standard baseball is held to, when compared to other sports. That is true. I don't believe there's a rational reason for it either. Lots of talking heads discuss which sport is America's Pastime, and at this stage most agree football holds the public's attention more so than baseball. However baseball is so exalted in our culture any event that tarnishes it is met with an emotional response. Think about how many different ways baseball terminology is used every day. Can't get the pretty girl at the bar to talk to you? You tell your friends "I struck out." Succeed beyond expectations on a work project? Your boss might tell you "You knocked that one out of the park, Larry." Boss changes direction on a project without warning? "Thanks for the curveball, George." And so on.

Baseball occupies this high place largely because of its rich history, because we can connect players from different eras by statistical analysis and argument. Rob Neyer posted his "all-time All Star team yesterday" for the NL, and will post his AL team today. Who he included on the team becomes largely irrelevant. The fact he created a team at all allows fans to argue about whether or not he's right, and to suggest players that should have been there instead. For instance, he left Bob Gibson off the team, a glaring omission in my opinion.

The basic rules of baseball haven't changed in over 100 years, making these kinds of arguments possible. The way football is played has changed so radically since the 1930s (see today's emphasis on the short passing game) the same arguments can't be made; what was an important statistic in days gone by might not be so today. Also, the schedule for football continues to grow - it was 12 games when I was a kid, and might become 17 now, which is a 42% growth in the number of games; that would be equivalent to adding two months to the baseball schedule. This schedule growth waters down the statistics. For example, when the season was 10 games, rushing for 1000 yards was quite the accomplishment; in a 16 game season, more guys can reach the mark because they have more opportunities to play.

Is it fair to hold baseball to a higher standard? No. But it is what it is. And Selig was right when he said it wasn't fair. Since he understands it, and has since 1971, he should have been much more proactive in protecting the game from the cheats and drug users. And must be more proactive going forward.

Because at some point, guys like me will no longer get excited about games like yesterday's. When that happens, the game is dead. We'll all be watching football.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Series Preview - Cubs

The last series before the Break takes the Cardinals to the Obnoxious Confines for a four-game-in-three-day set with the Cubs. As with Milwaukee, this is their second trip into Chicago, although their first trip here didn’t go as well; they lost 2 of 3 in that April series. Mostly Well-Known Tidbit: Carlos Zambrano and Milton Bradley are crazy.

Current Snapshot:

St Louis: 47-40, 1st place NL Central. Have won 4 of 6 on this trip.

Chicago: 41-41, 3rd place NL Central, 3.5 back. I can’t believe they’ve played 5 fewer games than the Cardinals. Some of that is due to rainouts, but most of it has to be the scarcity of off-days St Louis got through the first 3 months of the season. Chicago just dropped 2 of 3 to Atlanta, but they’ve won 4 of 7 on this homestand.

Pitching Matchups:

10 July – Carpenter vs Rich Harden. Harden got clobbered on the Nation’s Birthday, retiring just 6 Brewers while allowing 7 runs and losing 11-2. That was the shortest start of his career. His next worst start (in which he didn’t leave the game due to injury) was 21 Aug 03; he followed that with a 5 inning no decision in which he gave up only 1 run. Hopefully he’ll do worse tomorrow. Harden’s 2-1 career vs St Louis, but he’s never faced them at Wrigley. He’s also never opposed Carpenter.

Current Cardinals are hitting .158 combined against him, paced by Ankiel’s 1-3 (the one hit was a HR).

Carp beat Cincinnati 10-1 on 5 July, throwing 7 sharp and striking out 5. The win snapped a personal 2 game losing streak. He beat Chicago 2-1 on 20 May in St Louis. In his career he’s 8-3 in 15 starts against them; he’s made 9 of those starts at Wrigley, and he’s 5-2 there. His last start in Chicago was August of last year (loss); his last win was almost exactly 2 years before.

Current Cubs are hitting .322 against him; Soriano (12-31, 2 HR) and D. Lee (13-40) lead the position hitters.

11 July – Thompson vs Ted Lilly. Although the Cardinals beat him 3-0 on 19 May in St Louis, Lilly has won 6 of his 12 starts against the club (3 losses and 3 ND make up the rest). He’s been somewhat erratic this season, but he won his last start against Milwaukee and historically he’s pitched very well at Wrigley (winning at a .636 clip). Cardinals are hitting .197 combined against him, which shouldn’t surprise anyone (Lilly being left-handed and all). Stavinoha has 1 hit in three AB against him, but AP has had the most success (9-31, 2 HR).

If Brad Thompson hopes to hold on to his rotation spot, this would be a good time for a statement start. Most likely it will be his last otherwise (and might be his last anyway). Brad has lost his last 3 starts and is getting scorched. He’s also given up at least a HR in four straight games. He’s never started against the Cubs and is 0-1 lifetime in 15 games.

Derrick Lee, who is on fire right now, is also hitting .500 against Thompson. You can bet he has Saturday circled on his calendar with happy smiles and stars around the circle.

12 July Game 1– Lohse vs Randy ‘I’m not Kip’ Wells. In some ways Wells is the Cubs hottest pitcher. He’s won 4 straight and is allowing just over 2 runs a game. He strikes out a lot of batters, although he’s prone to the long ball (3 in his last 4 games). He’s thrown one scoreless inning career vs the Cardinals on 21 Sept of last year, retiring Schumaker, walking Ludwick, and getting Pujols to hit into a double play.

Kyle Lohse makes his first start since June 3. I like the thought process here, in that Lohse will start the day game and not the nationally televised night tilt against Zambrano. He faced the Cubs on 18 April, not figuring in the decision of a game the Cardinals lost 7-5. Based on the 5 week layoff, any trend analysis is a waste of time, so I’ll just say he’s 1-2 lifetime against the Cubs, but that lone win was on the corner of Clark and Addison (2004).

Current Cubs are hitting .371 against him. I won’t depress you with the details, but Ryan Theriot and Aramis Ramirez are hitting over .500 each.

12 July Game 2 – Wainwright vs Carlos Zambrano. Zambrano has not pitched well against the Cardinals recently, giving up at least 7 runs in each of his last 3 starts. This is refreshing, since he went almost 3 years (from 20 Apr 05 to 4 July 08) without losing to them. Zambrano faced the Cardinals on 17 Apr; he gave up 7 ER in 7 innings, but didn’t get the loss (in fact the Cubs won that game). He hasn’t won a game since 5 June (4 ND and 2 losses in the interim).

Ryan Ludwick loves hitting against him (6-8, 2 HR), and Pujols loves homering off him (5 in 66 plate appearances).

Wainwright has won 6 of his last 10 starts, and pitched well enough to win his 1 July start against San Francisco (ND). With apologies to Chris Carpenter, he is the Cardinal Ace right now. Adam has already faced the Cubs 3 times this year; the team has won all 3 (and he got credit for 2 of those wins). He’s faced the Cubs more than any other team in baseball, and is 3-3 against them; he’s 2-0 at Wrigley, although he hasn’t pitched particularly well there historically based on his 6.14 ERA. Cubs are hitting .269 against him, with Ramirez again leading the way (.400).

Prognosis. St Louis delivered the statement hoped for at Miller Park, picking up ground on Milwaukee. The Cubs currently border on dysfunctional, between Bradley, Soriano’s pouting about being benched, Fukudome’s second consecutive summer disappearing act at the plate, and their starting pitching woes. It won’t take much of a nudge to push this club over the cliff and psychologically out of the race. Based on the matchups, a split would be more than acceptable, but to get that nudge, 3 of four will probably be required.

Stay hot, fellas.

Go Cards!

Mike Exits Meeting, Uses the Force to Power Cardinal Victory

Fox Sports Midwest had a live blog as part of their game coverage today. This is the third or fourth time they've done it, and although some hiccups remain, it made watching the game at work much more entertaining than just following along via ESPN Gamecast or some such tool.

Anyway, as I am expected to do my job while in my cube (vice spend time on line surfing baseball websites, although I tend to do that anyway) I dialed into a 90 minute meeting on a major aspect of my project. Unfortunately (a) this meeting was being run from the East Coast, which meant (b) it ran through lunch and (c) the start of the Cardinal/Brewer game.

So when it finally concluded, the game had zoomed right along and was in the bottom of the seventh. I happened to past a fellow fan in the hallway, who asked me if the score was still 1-0. I didn't know, but asked who was ahead.


Parra throwing a shutout? Crap. THIS WILL NOT DO.

I hurried over to the FSMW live blog and got in just as the seventh ended. I like to think my presence soothed any anxiety in the lineup, as immediately Schu singled, Ryan tripled, LaRue walked, and AP doubled in the go-ahead run. Which led to this:

(in chat: Excellent. Now let's pour it on.)

Followed by Ludwick's 3-run HR.

And this:

(From Brian Walton,, SMS_Mike, you called it.)

So by my heretofore untapped mystical power, I was able to inspire the team to victory.

Go me.

I had screen captures of this exchange, but the quality leaves something to be desired - the dialogue is unreadable as the jpeg is blown up. Just take my word for it, it was mystical.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

DeRosa Injury Far Worse than Hoped is reporting DeRosa has a partially torn ligament sheath in his left wrist. So much for a simple strain and rapid recovery.

This is bad. David Ortiz suffered a similar injury last year. He went on the DL 1 June and came back 25 July (7 weeks).

Assuming DeRosa's recovery follows a similar arc, he won't be back on the field until the last week of August.

Chris Perez has been so bad for the Cleveland Indians since the trade, you wonder if the fates intervened to even out the karma.

In any case, Rasmus needs to stay hot, and Ludwick needs to continue doing what he did last night (3-run shot after intentional walk to Pujols), since the team's big bat acquisition will only play in September, at best.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Some notes on the Brock Interview

Some notes/amplifying information before you listen to today's Special Edition show (if you haven't already).

1. I called in on a cell phone and it ran out of juice, which (a) qualifies me as an idiot, and (b) leads to an approximately 30-second dead spot at the 10 minute mark. So don't panic when the air goes dead; I'm back shortly thereafter to continue talking about nothing.

2. My wife says I like to hear myself talk. After listening to me discussing all kinds of odd topics for 27 minutes, I see why she says that.

3. There's a second dead spot around the 25 minute mark; this is because one of the ad agency guys called me on my other cell phone (long story, don't ask) to tell me they couldn't get through and to request assistance. Again, don't panic; the dead air lasts close to a minute.

4. Yes I am actually humming the old Tonight Show (starring Johnny Carson) theme at one point.

5. Lou comes on the phone at the 27 minute mark. The interview with him lasts just over 15 minutes.

6. Yes I do ask Lou about the MLB Banking promotion, and he answers about the Feed the Hungry in America project he was actually promoting. A slight hook up by the ad agency - they emailed me about the feed the hungry effort at 1306 (all times Pacific), but sent it to my work account - which I can't access from home.

All in all, after we worked through the technical issues, I thought the interview went quite well. I was struck by his comments regarding feet first/head first sliding, and how the game changed during his career. Also his comments about who the Cardinal rivals were when he played were interesting; I did expect he'd mention the Dodgers, since over a 6-year span in the 1960s (1963-68) either LA or STL won the NL pennant.

I enjoyed talking to him and hope you enjoyed the program.

Lou Brock Interview at 1300 Pacific Time

Reminder that I'll be talking to Hall-of-Famer Lou Brock today at 1300 Pacific (that's 1500 Central).

Here's a link to my original announcement.

Hope you have a chance to listen in!

Update 1346pm: I experienced the same technical difficulties that PHE had trying to talk to Al Hrabowsky. I had better luck, in that I was able to get Mr Brock on the phone. You'll have to wade through the first 30 min or so to get to the interview.

If you hung on for the whole 45 minutes, I don't know what to say other than wow. You're either hard core or reeeeaally bored at work. Email me and I'll send you something suitable as a memento to this august event.

Birds Eye View: Milwaukee

The Birds Eye View previews are a feature item at Cards Clubhouse. I also post them here, because they give me a free couple of posts each week.

St Louis pulls into Milwaukee for the middle series of a 10-game road trip. The Cardinals took 2 of 3 from the Brewers in May at Miller Park. This will be the second of three trips to the Badger State; the last to start on Labor Day. Mostly Well-Known Tidbit: The Brewers began life as the Seattle Pilots, moving to Milwaukee in 1970 after one season in Seattle. They are the only team to jump from the AL to the NL, a contingency not expected or planned for when baseball planned to expand again in the 1980. The motto of Wisconsin is ‘Forward’, which is one of the most ridiculous mottos in the union. Mottos should inspire, like “Live Free or Die” or “Salus Populi Suprema Lex Esto”. But ‘Forward’? Is it a direction? Are all the people of Wisconsin overly aggressive? Did they all move recently and this is a reminder of what to do with the mail? Yeesh.

Current Snapshot:

St Louis: 45-39, 1st place NL Central. Took 2 of 3 from Cincinnati to start the trip. They’ve won 4 of their last 5, after dropping 4 of their previous 5.

Milwaukee: 43-39. The Brewers (and the Cubs) are even in the loss column with the Cardinals, which is interesting. Dropped 2 of 3 in Chicago over the weekend. They are on the opposite trajectory of the Cardinals, having lost 4 of their last 5 after winning 4 of their previous 5. Milwaukee currently leads the season series 4-2.

Pitching Matchups:

7 July - Wainwight vs Yovani Gallardo. Gallardo threw 8 shutout innings on 25 May (vs Carpenter). He did not figure in the decision, but the Brewers won 1-0. He’s never beaten the Cardinals in 3 starts (0-1, 5.30). No one on the Cardinals has more than 10 plate appearances against this guy; of the current Cardinals Mark DeRosa has had the most success against him (2 for 6, HR, 2 RBI, 2 walks). Tyler Greene and Wainwright haven’t faced him. Pujols has also homered off him, which is like saying the sun will rise tomorrow.

Wainwright is 1-1 against the Brewers this year, but has pitched exceptionally well in both games. He lost 1-0 in St Louis and won 8-1 in Milwaukee. He’s thrown 15 innings and given up 2 ER on 10 hits, striking out 16 and walking 3. Those stats reflect his body of work against the Brewers (3-3, 2.59). Mike Cameron and Craig Counsell are the only Brewer starters hitting over .300 against him.

8 July - Wellemeyer vs Jeff Suppan (ESPN), TBD (MLB). For the purposes of the preview we’ll go with Suppan. Suppan opposed Wainwright in both of Adam’s starts. Jeff has really had his way with St Louis (7-3, 3.31) over his career. He’s also 18-11 in Miller Park. Albert (13-34 (.382), 3 RBI) enjoys hitting against him, but not as much as Chris Duncan (6-13 (.482), 2 RBI) does. Joe Thurston has enjoyed a lot of success in limited action (.750 BA).

Wellemeyer is also 1-1 against the Brewers, losing on 17 May and winning 10 days later. He’s had good success at Miller Park (1-0, 1.93 ERA in 5 appearances including 2 starts). Ryan Braun has killed him – 7 for 13 with a HR. JJ Hardy is hitting .500 against him. Although not to that extreme, Prince Fielder and the pesky Counsell also enjoy seeing him head to the mound.

9 July - Piniero vs Braden Looper (ESPN), TBD (MLB). Looper has won his last 2 starts overall, and bested St Louis 8-4 on 18 May. He’s dominated the Cardinals in his career (2-0, 0.93 in 17 appearances), but that 18 May start is the only one he’s made against them. His Miller Park numbers are quite pedestrian (4-5, 4.92 ERA). Colby Rasmus and Tyler Greene are both 1 for 2, but no one else on the team is hitting over .230 against him.

Piniero has gone 7 innings his last 2 starts, losing one (vs MIN) and getting a no decision in the other (at CIN). He hasn’t faced the Brewers this year. For his career he’s 1-0 with a 3.26 ERA in 3 starts. Two of those starts are at Miller Park; that’s where he got his win, and he carries a 2.70 ERA there. Jody Gerut (late of the Padres), Bill Hall and Corey Hart are all 3 for 9 against him; Jason Kendall’s driven in 6 off Good Ol’ Joel.

Prognosis. Cardinals didn’t get the sweep I predicted at Cincinnati, but they did win 2 of 3 and trounced the Reds 10-1 on Sunday. So they carry that momentum into this series, even after the off-day. Assuming DeRosa’s available for this series, the Cardinals are as loaded offensively as they can be. This will be a tough, hard fought series between two teams with playoff aspirations. Gallardo is their best pitcher, and Suppan/Looper have excellent track records against the Cardinals. The Redbirds will have to execute their game plans, both on the mound and at the plate, to prevail here.

Send a statement, fellas. Win 2 of 3.

Go Cards!

Friday, July 03, 2009

Birds Eye View: Cincinnati

The Birds Eye View previews are a feature item at Cards Clubhouse. I also post them here, because I'm lazy and they give me a free couple of posts each week.

The Cardinals start their July road odyssey with three games in Cincinnati. From now until 27 July they will play 15 of their next 18 away from Busch. Proving MLB uses a spin-the-random-wheel-of-cheese methodology to write the schedule, the team will have as many scheduled off-days in July (5) as they had the first 3 months of the season.

Since the millennium, the Cardinals have owned Cincinnati in St Louis, but are below .500 on the banks of the Ohio River (32-34). Last year they went 5-4 there. In their first foray to the Great American Ballpark (GAB) this season, they lost 2 of 3 (May 8-10).

Mostly well-known tidbit: Cincinnati is the oldest franchise in baseball, in terms of continuous play. They used to play the first game of the baseball season, until MLB threw tradition on the scrap heap (see play, interleague and All-Star Game, ‘this time it counts’). Also, the Reds didn’t believe in retiring numbers until 1998. Before that, only Fred Hutchinson (who died while working for the team in 1964, number retired in 1965) and Johnny Bench (1984) had been so honored. Since then they’ve retired another 7 numbers.

Current snapshot

St Louis: 42-38, 2nd NL Central, 1 game back of Milwaukee. Lost 7 of their last 10, and scored 22 runs in those games while allowing 49. Where would they be without Albert Pujols? He’s knocked in or scored 10 of those 22 runs.

Cincinnati: 38-38, 3rd NL Central, 3 games back. They’ve lost 6 of their last 10, although they’ve won 3 of their last 5 (albeit against hapless Cleveland and Arizona).

Pitching match-ups

3 July: Piniero vs Homer Bailey. Bailey (1-0, 8.68) is a ‘can’t miss’ prospect who’s struggled at the ML level. He is only 23, so he’s far from a bust; but time will tell if he lives up to expectations. Bailey has started 2 games this year, thrown an average of 100 pitches, and retired a total of 28 hitters. Bailey suffers from ‘walk-itis’ – he walked 6 and 7, respectively, in his two starts. Our not-so-patient club (see 29 June’s game vs Lincecum) would be well-served to take some pitches against this guy. He’s faced the Cardinals twice; he’s 0-2 with a 14+ ERA, and has never survived the fourth inning. His last start was 10 June 08.

Good Ol’ Joel followed his 2-hit masterpiece against the Mets with a loss to Minnesota, although he pitched fairly well (6 2/3, 3 ER). Cincinnati is a good match-up for him; they tend to beat the ball into the ground. They also tend to strike out a lot, so hopefully Piniero’s sinker will make for a short day. Joel’s had good success against the Reds (3-1, 2.97 ERA in 5 starts), though perhaps not at GAB (1-1, 4.76 in 3 starts). He did win in his only start at Riverfront, for what that’s worth.

4 July: Thompson vs Micah Owings. Micah Owings is one of the best hitting pitchers in baseball. His BABIP is a ridiculous .381. Thankfully his pitching isn’t quite so stellar (5-8, 4.63), although he’s won 2 of his last 3 starts, and he pitched well overall in June (2-2, 3.72). He’s only started one game against St Louis, and that was 2 years ago (Sept 07) when he was a Diamondback; he lasted 8 outs, but only gave up 2 ER (7 total) in an utterly forgettable game for St Louis.

Brad Thompson hasn’t had a run scored for him in his last 14 innings pitched. Although based on the scores of his last two starts, some run support wouldn’t have changed the outcome at all. Let’s hope the Cardinal offense shows up on the Fourth. His last start vs the Reds was 2 June, when he went 5 innings in a no-decision (the Cards won 5-2). Brad’s pitched against the Reds more than any other team in the league, and he’s 3-0, 3.69 in 20 appearances (5 starts). He’s 1-0 with a 2.14 ERA at GAB, and in his last start there (15 Aug 08) he went 5 and won 5-3.

Fourth of July Trivia: The Cardinals last played the Reds in 2000 (W), and in Cincinnati in 1998 (L). Until last year’s loss to the Cubs, they had won 8 straight on the Nation’s Birthday.

5 July: Carpenter vs Bronson Arroyo. Carp gets a break from his run of Cy Young-winner opponents, with the decidedly non-elite Bronson Arroyo. It’s not a good sign when you’re best known for long hair, guitar-playing, and a funky delivery, as opposed to actual pitching results. Arroyo is 8-7 with a stratospheric 5.69 ERA in 16 starts this year. He gives up a LOT of HR – in fact, the 20 he’s given up lead the league. Starting a day game in that bandbox? How many HR will Pujols hit – 3? 4?

Arroyo is 5-7 with a 4.57 ERA in 18 starts against St Louis. He is, however 3-2 against them in Cincinnati (and in games he’s started, the Reds are 4-3). His last home start against St Louis was in Sept 08, and he won 7-2.

Carpenter comes off his worst start of the year. He can’t help but be better, because that was truly awful. He threw a complete game 3 hitter against Cincinnati on June 4. He hasn’t appeared at the GAB since 2006; he went 7 and gave up 6 that day, but didn’t figure in the decision.

Prognosis. As the Cardinals careen towards .500, urgency is growing to stay in the race. This year’s NL Central is pretty weak and ripe for the taking; but the offense has to wake up. There is no better time than a 3-game series in Cincinnati. The ball park is a hitter’s park, and all the pitching match-ups favor the Cardinals. With Milwaukee and Chicago looming on this leg of the road trip, they need some momentum going into those games. Let’s be bold in our predictions.

Cards sweep this series.

Go Cards!

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Where's DeRosa? (and other ideas for the defense)

One of the reasons the Cardinals exceeded last season’s expectations was superior hitting and fielding. They stayed in the race even though their pitching was decidedly average. The team ranked fourth in the league in runs scored, and second in OPS. Defensively, they were third and fourth, respectively, in the NL in UZR and UZR/150. The biggest driver for their offensive success was the OF, which led baseball in OPS; one of their defensive drivers was vastly improved infield defense across the board, with Troy Glaus and Cesar Izturis having Gold Glove caliber seasons.

This year the team has experienced a significant drop off in both areas, despite improving overall in pitching. They are ninth in fielding (UZR and UZR/150). The stack up sixth in the league in runs scored, but eighth in OPS. And the outfield? They left their potency in 2008 (13th in OPS). They have been hurt by free agency (Izturis left for Baltimore), injury (Glaus), and social anxiety disorders.

Something needed to be done, so the team went out and got Mark DeRosa. His 13HR and 50RBI in Cleveland make him second on the Cardinals in both to Albert, so he’s going to play every day. But where?

I took a look at the Cardinals fielders, based on starters only, through Monday’s games. Here’s a listing of who’s started where, and what their UZR/150 numbers are, for the first 78 games of the year.

From this list, several folks are either in AAA or on the DL. So we remove them from the list.

Now we begin to understand why Thurston’s played a lot of third base this season. To spice things up, and because baseball isn’t just about defense, let’s add in each player’s OPS for 2009.

Granted, the small sample size in terms of games started hurts the statistical validity of the analysis, but some interesting things jump out.

- How far the mighty (read: the OF offensive) have actually fallen in 2009. This team will not contend for the playoffs unless it starts getting better production from all three outfield positions.

- Skip Schumaker has the second-best (less DeRosa) OPS on the club among guys who can play the outfield – better than Ludwick, Ankiel, and Duncan. So why is he still playing second?

- Joe Thurston’s OPS is about 40 points lower than Schumaker, but the swing in defensive ability is 25 on the UZR scale. Based on Wins Above Replacement (WAR), Schumaker has been spectacularly average this season (-0.1), as has Thurston (0.3). Thurston gets the nod for his defense.

- Ludwick’s WAR (0.7) is more valuable than Ankiel (0.4), although like 2B the difference is negligible. Ludwick is the better hitter to this point, although Ankiel’s LF defensive numbers jump out, most likely due to the small sample size. Would Ludwick be able to play LF and approach Ankiel’s defensive prowess? Likely.

- Chris Duncan? His big bat (.734 OPS is third in the OF) is overshadowed by his lousy glove (-8.9). He’s WAR is also spectacularly average (0.1), which for this analysis sends him to the pine.

- There really was a huge hole at 3B defensively, and there still is. DeRosa's bat helps, but he's not the answer with the glove.

Based on all this, some suggestions:

- Start Thurston at 2B, and close that hole.

- Start Ryan at SS, and leave him there.

- Start Ankiel, Schumaker, and Rasmus across the outfield. However, LaRussa should strongly consider moving Ludwick to LF, keep his bat in the lineup, and bench Ankiel.

- DeRosa is the best of the team’s current options at third.

Not mentioned anywhere here is Khalil Greene. He should be shut down for the season. He showed lots of improvement playing a bad KC team, but if his 0-16 stretch after that returned him to the depths of depression his mental issues won't be fixed with another 15-day DL stint. He needs professional help, and apparently intensive professional help. Best wishes and Godspeed to Khalil.

Other than the transcendent Albert Pujols, this team struggles mightily to score runs. They can’t afford to give away runs with sub-standard defense anymore. Once DeRosa’s wrist is healed, the starting lineup should reflect the best possible opportunity to win every night. That means the lineup should look something like this:

Schumaker CF
Rasmus RF
Pujols 1B
DeRosa 3B
Ludwick LF/Molina C
Molina C/Ankiel LF
Ryan SS
Thurston 2B
Pitcher’s spot

Obviously LaRussa will mix/match based on pitcher handed-ness and success/failure of his players against specific hitters. But, in my opinion, the base lineup from which all changes are made should be the one above.

Comments welcome.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Programming Note: Another Interview

The same Bank of America MLB banking promotion that brought the opportunity to interview Bruce Sutter has stuck again.

Another Hall of Famer. Another Icon of 1970s vintage baseball.

Lou Brock.

On Thursday 7 July, at 1 PM Pacific, I'll be speaking with Lou Brock for 15-20 minutes. Would that it could be longer, but one takes what one can get.

Here's a link to the show.

If you have any questions for Mr. Brock, send them to me before Monday 6 July and I'll try to work them in to the interview.