Please Mr. Mozeliak, Trade Peter Bourjos

Newly acquired center field whiz Peter Bourjos, doesn’t actually play for the Cardinals.  I mean, literally, he doesn’t play.  A mere two weeks into the season, at a time when Bourjos was just starting to put some wood on the ball at the plate, he disappeared.  I believe the exact moment that he ceased to play was after the Milwaukee series in Milwaukee.  It occurred after Jon Jay hit a home run that saved the game.  Jay (or who I also affectionately refer to as “Noodle Arm”), became the starting CFer at that point, and Bourjos was relegated to bench warming, with occasional appearances against lefties, which were few and far between.  Of course the sporadic play put a stop to any offensive surge for Bourjos, who couldn’t get into any kind of rhythm or timing at the plate.

Since that time Jay’s hot streak has seemingly ended, but never fear, Matheny was reinforced by GM John Mozeliak, who called up Memphis CFer Randal Grichuk to rescue Matheny from the appalling prospect of having to play a top 5 defensive center fielder in, you know, center field.  Grichuk has talent, no question about it, mostly of the offensive variety.  Grichuk has a pretty good arm, but has mostly been tagged throughout his career as a corner outfielder.    Here is what a recent profile of Grichuk by Baseball Prospectus had to say:

At the plate, Grichuk’s aggressiveness can get the better of him, as he swings early and often, and frequently chases breaking stuff out of the strike zone. When he remains patient, Grichuk can drive the ball to all fields and has the ability to hit the ball out of the park. He has enough bat speed to handle quality velocity and, over the last two years, his ability to hit breaking balls in the zone has improved. All told, his hit tool projects below-average, but it may still be enough for him to pop 10-12 home runs with regular playing time.

Though Grichuk has been playing mostly center field in Triple-A, he does not profile well at the position long term. His speed doesn’t play to an average level, even once underway, and while his instincts and effort can overcome some of that, he fits much better in right field than up the middle. His arm is above-average and accurate, and he can help prevent runners from taking an extra base.

Overall, Grichuk profiles as more of a second-division whose defense is inadequate for center field and who lacks the overall offensive profile to be a regular in a corner. He has the attitude, intensity, and tools to succeed in a part-time role, particularly one in which most of his at-bats come against left-handed pitching.

 

Saved by the guy who really doesn’t have the tools to play center field at a starting level.  Matheny must have been relieved.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Grichuk.  I say none of this to disparage him in any way.  I am excited to see what he can do offensively.  Bring it on.

So, now that Matheny has Grichuk, and he still has Jay, who could go on another one of his hot streaks sometime in the future, why does he need Bourjos?  I mean, no one really likes Bourjos anyway, because he hasn’t set the world on fire with his bat in those massive 55 plate appearances he has had.  I mean, who couldn’t hit like Babe Ruth in 55 PAs?  That’s a lot, right?

Okay, I am being snarky, but that’s what I do.  My mother was snarky, and I got it from her.

Seriously though, if the organization feels that Bourjos isn’t what they want, then I think it would be best for all concerned if he were traded.  Make some calls, find a team who could really use an elite defensive CFer, and get what you can for him.  That way he doesn’t clog up the roster, and he gets a chance to get some playing time with a team that actually wants him.

If he were traded, then the abuse he is getting for his lack of hitting would stop, and Fox Sports Midwest broadcaster Dan McLaughlin could get a respite from the disgust in his voice he imparts to the world whenever Bourjos comes to the plate to bat.  I won’t have to listen to all the disparaging remarks from other fans, and Bourjos can get on with his playing career for a team that wants him and with a manager who is not terrified of putting him in the lineup.

I think it is a win-win for everyone.

 

Thank you for reading.

 

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Roster Retribution

Cardinal Nation got quite a shock last night when it was announced that Kolten Wong and Shane Robinson had been optioned to AAA Memphis and Randal Grichuk and Greg Garcia had been called up to St. Louis.  The shock was not so much about the call ups as it was about the send downs, or one send down at least.  Kolten Wong being sent down was rather disturbing to say the least.  Yes, he has struggled at the plate of late, but he still is hands down the best 2nd baseman in the Cardinal organization, and it seems as though he should be given the opportunity to continue to play through his struggles as some of his also struggling teammates have been allowed to do.

Wong is currently batting .225, which though not good, is not as bad as several of his teammates.  Jhonny Peralta, Allen Craig, Peter Bourjos, Daniel Descalso, and Mark Ellis are all hitting below .200.  Peralta has 6 home runs, and has enough service time accrued that he couldn’t be sent down anyway;  same for Mark Ellis.  The others all have option years remaining and could technically be sent down as well.  It wouldn’t make sense to send Craig down, and Bourjos has played so sporadically that sending him down wouldn’t help much, because he wouldn’t get much playing time in Memphis either, with Taveras, Piscotty, Butler, Pham and now Robinson all vying for playing time as well.

The truly head scratching thing about this is that Daniel Descalso still remains on the roster, while the much better hitting and fielding Wong is gone.  Daniel Descalso is hitting .100 and is a poor fielder to boot.  He has no skills, other than a decent throwing arm, to recommend him.  Yet he remains taking up a space on the roster that could be better utilized by someone with more talent.  Descalso also has all 3 of his option years remaining, so sending him down would not create a problem.  With 3 years of service time he would have to go on waivers, but they are revocable, and seriously, what team would take him?  It would have to be a team desperate for a utility infielder with no talent.  Even if some team did take him, the Cardinals would not be losing anything. He really is that bad.

So, the team that John Mozeliak claimed he had “improved defensively”, now has 2/3rds of that improvement either gone, in the case of Wong, or culturing penicillin on the bench, in the case of Bourjos.  There goes all the speed too.  What a waste.

I have to wonder where all this came from all of a sudden.  Just Friday, Mozeliak told Jim Hayes of Fox Sports Midwest that roster changes at this time were premature, and that the young players were better off playing every day in Memphis.  What changed?  The offense showed signs of life in Sunday’s game, so I fail to see the sense of urgency from Friday to Sunday.  If Mozeliak believed the offense needed the jolt this soon, what accounts for his comments in Friday’s interview?  I have a lot of respect for Mozeliak, but it seems like talking out of both sides of his mouth.  I now have to wonder about his credibility in the future.

It seems like unnecessary panic to me.  I get that Grichuk and Garcia are hitting in Memphis, but it has been less than a month, and big league pitching is a whole lot different than AAA pitching.  Maybe they will both do well, but then what?  How long will Wong have to stay down?  Will we continue to be subjected to Daniel Descalso?  Will CF playing time now be apportioned among three players or will Bourjos just be permanently cemented to the bench?  Is it a good thing for Grichuk to not play everyday?  I have many thoughts jumbling through my mind and most of them are not good.

Perhaps this is all just a temporary move to add some offense for the Milwaukee series and the tough road trip after that.  I hope that is the case and not an omen of a major roster shakeup so early in the season.  Making permanent roster decisions based on less than a month of play seems like a drastic overreaction; even more so because the young players at Memphis haven’t had a single AB at the major league level.

I have never been a fan of playing musical chairs with lineups, and lately Mike Matheny has been making me dizzy with all of his tinkering.  I think the tinkering might do more harm than good in the long run.   Expecting players to perform like trained monkeys in such small amounts of plate appearances, to me, is short sighted and wrong.  Hit .3oo in a couple dozen chances or you’re done seems to be the theme, at least for some players.  That’s a lot of pressure to put on guys.  I just don’t like it.

I am an unhappy fan right now.  Not that John Mozeliak or Mike Matheny need to be concerned about what I think, but I don’t like any of this.  Not one bit.  Panic tends not to end well.  We shall see.

 

Thank you for reading.

Some Chicks Can Take or Leave the Long Ball

Amidst the concern over the Cardinals’ lack of offense, there is an additional hue and cry over a power drought as well.  The concern over the offense in general is understandable.  The games have been frustrating to say the least, especially because Cardinal fans are used to much more offense than they are seeing.   For me personally, I still have the confidence that the offense will return.  This team is just too good for this to go on much longer.

As for the cries of “where’s the power?”, I say “meh”.  Home runs are nice, but runs however you can get them are nicer.  The home run is not the only source of runs in baseball, but to hear some people talk, it should be.  I have noticed an increased obsession with the home run over the last two decades.  Perhaps it is a consequence of the Steroid Era, when the pharmaceutically-enhanced hit the long ball at record rates.  Many fans today grew up on that time and have come to expect the home run as the most exciting play in baseball.  Having entered my fifth decade of baseball watching, I can categorically opine that it is not.  Great pitching is better.  Speed is better.  The most exciting time of baseball for me was the 80s, the decade of Whitey Ball.

Now, I am not expecting a return to Whitey Ball.   I don’t think I will ever see that brand of baseball again.  However, a brand of baseball that over emphasizes the long ball would not make me happy in the least.  There is a reason I do not watch the Home Run Derby during the All Star Break.  It’s boring.

Station to station, swing for the fences type of baseball is a staple of the American League.  I hate the American League.  The designated hitter is the dumbest invention that mankind ever conceived.  I could write a treatise about how dumb it is and how much I hate it.  I won’t do that.  I can’t even imagine how I will be able stand to watch baseball if the DH ever comes to the NL.  My hatred is not of the traditionalist variety that many modern fans enjoy mocking.  My hatred is that the DH will take the magic out of baseball for me.  The magic of the unexpected.  My baseball will become the hated American League variety, where hitting is an assembly line of robotic, glassy eyed, home run obsessed mannequins.

Come on, who is not entertained watching Bartolo Colon try to hit?

No, the long ball is far from my favorite baseball play.  I like strikeouts.  I like stolen bases.  I like squeeze plays and triples from speed demons like Peter Bourjos.  I like good defensive plays.  The home run is more exciting when it is not expected, when it doesn’t happen a lot.   The maxim that you can have too much of a good thing couldn’t be more true when it comes to hitting home runs.  They may be the quickest way to score runs, but they are not the most exciting, not for me anyway.  Home runs are like a 5 second orgasm–over with quickly and then you just want to sleep.  Everything else is the foreplay, the good stuff.

So when I hear the constant griping and complaining from fans and the media about a power outage, I just want to scream, “Get a life!”.  I may not always agree with Mike Matheny, but he is unequivocally correct when he says trying to hit home runs will assure you hit nothing.  Putting pressure on Cardinal hitters to hit home runs is the worst thing you could possibly do.  I have just one thing to say to the writers at the Post Dispatch about their power outage whining.  Shut the hell up.

This chick doesn’t dig the long ball.  This chick digs baseball in all of it’s permutations and unexpected twists and turns.  This chick digs everything about baseball, and the long ball is just one small part of the greatness that is baseball.

 

Thank you for reading.

 

 

The Minor Leage Outfield Mambo

The Cardinals won last night against the Pirates.  Just barely.  The Pirates have been playing worse than the Cardinals (yes, that’s possible) or it may have been an entirely different ballgame.  The offense again was practically non existent, a run in the first inning was all they could muster.  Allen Craig shows sporadic signs of life, but then sinks into a coma again.  Jhonny Peralta went 2 for 4 last night; whether this is a sign of better things remains to be seen.  Kolten Wong continues to falter at the plate.  The bench currently consists of Daniel Descalso, who is hitting .115, Mark Ellis,  who is hitting .125, Shane Robinson, who is hitting .100 and the guy who never pinch hits, Tony Cruz, who is hitting .417.  Finally, there is the man formerly known as the Cardinals starting CFer, Peter Bourjos, who is hitting .174 in very limited time at the plate.  Which, if he actually were an official bench bat, would be better than the starting shortstop and the starting RFer, but I digress.

Yep, the bench, sans Tony Cruz, is pretty pathetic.  In fairness, Mark Ellis missed the first couple of weeks of the season on the DL and has only had 16 ABs, so I think a little leeway is in order.  Shane Robinson, usually a decent pinch hitter, has not fared well in only 20 ABs, and Daniel Descalso is, well, Daniel Descalso.  Cardinal Nation, however, in it’s yearly demonstration of panic and paranoia, has issued a fatwa against the bench, and is calling for an immediate call up of someone with a batting average from Memphis.  There is only room for an outfielder, since you couldn’t pry Daniel Descalso away from Mike Matheny with a crowbar and a blowtorch.  There are 5 outfielders to choose from at Memphis, but only 4 of them are hitting.  The 5th, Tommy Pham, is arguably the best defender of the bunch, but his bat has not reached it’s potential as of yet.  The remaining 4 are Oscar Taveras, Randal Grichuk, Stephen Piscotty, and Joey Butler.

Last night on the Fox Sports Midwest pre game broadcast, Cardinals GM John Mozeliak was asked about the possibility of a Memphis call up to shore up the bench, and his response was:  (a) it’s premature (thank you I have been vindicated); and (b) all of the Memphis outfielders except Joey Butler are young and developing and need to stay in Memphis and play everyday.  Mozeliak did not preclude the possibility of using Joey Butler, but he reiterated the premature part, indicating that for the the time being Butler will remain in Memphis.

There is some minor difficulty with the idea of bringing up Butler.  He is not on the 40 man roster, a fact which in and of itself is not particularly troubling if there is room on the roster.  However, Butler has the distinction of having formerly been on the 40 man roster, but he was removed recently by outright assignment to the minor leagues.  Now, it’s not impossible to restore Butler to the 4o man roster, but one of those pesky roster rules would then come into play and complicate matters. A player cannot be removed from the reserve roster by outright assignment more than once in his career without his permission.  If a player receives a second outright assignment, he has the right to refuse said assignment and elect free agency.  If the Cardinals restored Butler to the roster, he would then have the right to refuse being removed again and sent to the minor leagues.  This is significant only in the sense that if the Cardinals believe Butler has any future with the organization, they would be discouraged from removing Butler from the 40 man roster should a need arise for a spot for other reasons (for example, adding Stephen Piscotty, who is currently not on the 40 man roster).    Adding Butler would bring the roster total to a full 40, so any future 40 man roster moves would require someone to come off the roster.

Just as a side note, Shane Robinson, he of our current bench, and likely target of a trip to Memphis should Butler be added, has also had a prior outright assignment in his career.  He can be sent to Memphis without removing him from the 40 man roster, however, as he does have one option year remaining. Joey Butler also could be sent back to Memphis without removing him from the 40 man roster.

Taveras and Grichuk are already on the 40 man roster, as is Mike O’Neill, who is currently manning the outfield in AA Springfield.  Prospect James Ramsey, also at AA, is not on the 40 man roster.  Memphis outfielder Tommy Pham is in the same boat as Joey Butler, having been previously outrighted off of the 40 man roster.

So that is the current crop of outfielders from which to choose should a roster move be made.  Piscotty and Ramsey are pretty much not on the table at the present time due to their lack of 40 man roster status, and Butler and Pham have previous outright issues with which to deal.  Mozeliak has already indicated a desire to leave Taveras and Grichuk in Memphis.  O’Neill is also an option and he is hitting .333 at Springfield, but he doesn’t have any power, a fact which would likely make him a less attractive candidate among the Cardinal faithful.

The minor league revolving door is kind of squeaky.  Perhaps waiting a bit longer, as Mozeliak has suggested he intends to do, would not be such a bad thing.  You never know what might happen.  It is baseball, after all.

 

Thank you for reading.

 

Mets Series Post Mortem

Another miserable 4 game series.  The weather was miserable and the baseball was miserable.  The Cardinals dropped 3 out of 4 to the Mets, winning only the game started by Adam Wainwright.  No offense, and bad defense wasted the good pitching.  More people on the ledge getting ready to jump, more calls to empty out Memphis and send the current knuckleheads away.  Same crap, different year.  On to the post mortem.

 

Monday, April 21—Cards 0 Mets 2

Tyler Lyons made his 2014 debut.  He pitched a pretty good game, but the walks killed him.  The absent offense conducted his funeral and buried him.  Six hits was all the offense could muster; two each from Matt Carpenter, Allen Craig and Yadier Molina.  That’s all f-f-f-folks.

 

Tuesday, April 22—Cards 3 Mets 0

Adam Wainwright pitched another gem.  He might have gone all 9 if he hadn’t tweaked his knee on a ground ball play in the 7th inning.  Ten hits managed to score 3 runs.  Fortunately that was all Waino needed.  This was the only game worth watching.

 

Wednesday, April 23—Cards 2 Mets 3

Michael Wacha looked like he was going to break pitching records.  He had 9 strike outs in the first three innings.  Then, in the 4th inning, something went wrong, Goonies, Gremlins, the baseball gnarlies, don’t ask me I can’t tell you.  Wacha didn’t make it past the 4th inning,  Another error by the defense.  Last minute attempt to make up for the first 8 innings failed in the 9th.

 

Thursday, April 24—Cards 1 Mets 4

A lineup consisting of Daniel Descalso starting at shortstop and batting 6th was all I needed to know how this game was going to turn out.  Lance Lynn‘s magic didn’t stand a chance.  Defensive error number 3 in 4 games.  Some asked-where is the defense?  My answer is that it was sitting on the bench.  Kolten Wong got 8 ABs in 4 games, and was taken out in a double switch in the only game he actually got hits in.  Peter Bourjos got 3 ABs in 4 games.  I am about to put his face on a milk carton.  Yes, I’ve heard the hitting jokes about Bourjos already.  All I have to say about that is if you have written Bourjos off after 50 PAs, then you need to go back to baseball school, because you flunked the first time.  Jay made a nice—oh wait, no he didn’t–play in CF.  Single became a double faster than Jay could get up off his face.  Yep, he he’s hitting, for now.  I get that.  I also get that he giveth and he taketh away.  Pick your poison.

Daniel Descalso on the other hand mostly just taketh away.  But hey, he’s scrappy, amirite?

Sometimes you just have to be snarky.  It relieves the stress.

 

On to the Pirates, and back to Busch.

 

 

Thank you for reading.

Just Relax and Concentrate

It’s a frustrating time for Cardinal Nation.  The Cardinal offense as a whole is struggling, and many of us can’t figure out what the problem is.  That is often the case with slumping periods, there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to them.

There are many factors that could be in play.  Weather, for some players, can affect hitting.  Early baseball season tends to be chilly and often damp and windy.  These are not ideal conditions to hit in.

Some players take longer to get their timing back after the offseason.  For players who have switched leagues in the offseason, different ballparks and different pitchers than they are use to can create difficulty. (See:  Granderson, Curtis; Peralta, Jhonny; and Bourjos, Peter).

In some cases, opposing pitchers may be pitching to hitters differently.  Baseball is a game of adjustments.  Pitchers see tendencies of hitters, whether it is a weakness for the breaking ball, or difficulty hitting the inside fastball, or hitting an off speed pitch.  Those pitchers adjust accordingly and those hitters are going to see a lot more of those difficult to hit pitches.  Hitters must therefore adjust; lay off the breaking ball outside the zone, or adjust the hands and swing to hit the inside fastball.  The hitters who are more all-around hitters and can hit the pitch wherever it is thrown (See:  Molina, Yadier or Adams, Matt) tend to do better early in the season.

Sometimes teams will run up against a string of very good pitching, or very good defense, that makes scoring runs more difficult.  Luck plays a part as well; a hitter can hit the ball hard, but if it doesn’t travel into a hole or a gap, it is likely to become an out.

Whatever the reason for the offensive struggling, work, adjustment, and time usually sets thing to right.  Moving hitters around in the lineup sometimes helps.  For the Cardinals offense, one who has shown difficulty stringing hits together to score runs, perhaps placing the best hitters together in the lineup rather than spreading them out might help.  I have long been an advocate for putting Molina in the second spot in the lineup.  Speed is not the most important thing for a 2 hole hitter; that is a myth.  Getting on base is the most important tool, and Molina has that in spades.  Molina’s current OBP is .398, the highest of the starting 8 players.  Following Molina should be a guy with extra base hit potential, such as Holliday or Adams.  The idea of putting a struggling hitter in the 2 hole to help him get pitches to hit sounds good in theory, but in practice it seldom works, especially when run scoring is a problem.  I have espoused my Molina batting second theory multiple times, but have found little support for it among my peers.  Perhaps it’s because it is different than what people are used to; entrenched habits can be hard to break.

In any event, I have always found time to be the great equalizer.  I know it is something I preach constantly, and perhaps to excess, but that doesn’t make it less true.  The offense will get better with time.  I truly believe that.

 

 

Thank you for reading.

 

Stay Off The Bridge It’s A Long Way Down

I see a lot of panic in Cardinal Nation.   There is very little reason for it this early in the season, but every year like clockwork it’s there.  Something is always not quite right, whether it’s the starting rotation, the bullpen, the offense or any combination thereof. Fans panic, and start screaming for change.  The problem is real baseball is nothing like fantasy baseball, and a major league roster is not a chessboard.  There are rules and consequences to making roster moves.

“Send player X down”!  is a common cry.  It ain’t that simple.  If any or all of several rules apply to Player X, sending him down may be difficult and have unwanted consequences.   If Player X has no remaining option years, he will have to be placed on irrevocable waivers; if some team claims him, he gone.  If Player X has 3 or more years of service time, he has to be placed on revocable waivers; if a team claims him you can pull him back, but you have essentially foreclosed trying to send him down again for the rest of the season.  If player X has 5 or more years of service time, he can refuse to go down at all, and elect to be a free agent.

Even if none of the foregoing rules apply, sending a player down for other than a rehab assignment means possible roster changes for the minor league team you send him to and also for lower level minor league teams as well.  It’s a domino affect.   When the Cardinals called up Tyler Lyons, they had to promote Zach Petrick  from AA to replace Lyons at AAA. Sending down Pete Kozma required demoting Luis Mateo from AAA to AA. Sending Mateo to AA required sending Matt Williams to Palm Beach.   Like I said, dominoes.  So doing this kind of thing every time something goes wrong at the major league level creates chaos, and is a poor way to run a baseball franchise.

Most things that go wrong on the major league team resolve themselves over time.  Having the patience and self – discipline to wait for that resolution is what many fans find difficult.   Even when a roster move becomes necessary,  there needs to be much thought and preparation.  This kind of planning and strategy requires an expert behind it.  John Mozeliak knows what he is doing, and even if his actions (or non-actions) aren’t what you personally want, you need to understand there is a purpose behind it.  I don’t always like every move made, but I accept that it is what the organization thinks is best. They want to win as much as I do.

Now what the manager does from game to game is another issue entirely.   Managerial strategy can often be a mine field.  Moves can be head-scratching at times.  We all like to second guess the manager, and there is nothing wrong with that.   Managers make mistakes.   They also make decisions that rely on the execution of the players, and if the players don’t accomplish that execution that is hardly the manager’s fault.   Knowing the difference is the hard part.

Regardless of the issue, panic at this point in the season really accomplishes nothing.  Won/loss records are fluid and where the standings are now are likely nothing like what they will be at the end of the season.  It will get better.

 

Thank you for reading.

 

 

Nationals Series Post Mortem

I’m not crazy about 4 game series.  When you have to win 3 games in order to “win” a series, I think that is too much.  Longer series should be saved for the playoffs.  That is just my opinion.  Invariably, splitting the series becomes acceptable and that just doesn’t cut it with me.  The Cardinals realistically should have won all 4 games.  The Nationals never dominated at any point during this series.  Their offense was weak and their defense was bad.  The pitching of Gonzalez and Strasburg kept the Nats in games 2 and 4, but both were winnable by the Cards, but they handled them over to the Nats.  On to the post mortem.

 

Thursday, April 17—Cards 8 Nats 0

This was by far and away the best game of the series.  Not surprising given that Adam Wainwright was pitching.  He seemed to my eyes to be a little off the first two innings, thought he didn’t give up any runs.  He gave up two singles and walked two in the first 2 innings, and had the bases loaded in the 2nd, but got the strike out to get out of the jam.  After the first two, though, Wainwright was completely dominant.  He completed all 9 innings with ease, and the Nats could not get anything going against him.

The offense fared well against Taylor Jordan.  Even Wainwright got in on the fun, getting two hits, one a double.

A very enjoyable game.

 

Friday, April 18—Cards 1 Nats 3

Michael Wacha pitched this game, and he pitched it well.  Unfortunately, the Cardinal defense happened.  Uncharacteristically, Yadier Molina was in part responsible for the loss, letting a blocked wild pitch get away from him and then making a poor throw to Wacha at home plate that allowed the two winning runs to score.  The offense didn’t help, which is a common theme it seems.

You had to feel sorry for Wacha, but baseball happens.

 

Saturday, April 19—Cards 4 Nats 3

The Cardinals had to work hard for this one.  Lance Lynn started, with Tony Cruz once again behind the plate.  Other than a solo home run by Danny Espinosa, Lynn pitched well, although he couldn’t finish the 6th inning.  Siegrist followed and pitched a scoreless, but Martinez was a little shaky, allowing a run on two doubles.  Rosenthal came in to close it out, but gave up a run of his own.   A walk, a bad throw to second on an attempted double play and a balk by Rosenthal put two men in scoring position, and a ground out scored another run.  Rosenthal was able to get out of it by striking out Jayson Werth on 3 pitches.

Lance Lynn picked up his 4th win.

Bryce Harper got yanked out of the game by his manager for loafing on a ground ball.  We all got to hear about it ad nauseum from the media, blah, blah, blah.

 

 

Sunday, April 20—Cards 2 Nats 3

This was another game where the defense happened.  Between a couple of mistakes at 3B by Matt Carpenter and a botched double play ball by Descalso, the Nats were able to tie the game in the 7th inning, and then scored the winning run in the 9th off Seth Maness.

This was a Shelby Miller start, and he did okay, but he is still walking far too many hitters.  Even with that, the Cardinals could have won this game if it weren’t for the defense.

I don’t know what has gotten in to Matt Carpenter, but I wish he would snap out of it.

 

On to the Mets.

 

 

Thank you for reading.

 

Defense, Defense, Defense

Today’s Cardinals’ loss to the Nationals didn’t have to happen.  It happened because for the umpteenth time in this early part of the season, the Cardinals’ defense didn’t do its job.  Two mistakes at 3B by Matt Carpenter and a botched double play ball by Daniel Descalso led to the Cardinals’ loss.  One could try to pin it on the pitching—Carlos Martinez gave up some pretty hard hit singles— but what was a classic double play ball was misplayed by Daniel Descalso, and it kept Martinez from getting out of the inning unscathed, and allowed the tying runs to score.

The frustrating part in my mind is that Daniel Descalso was playing 2B at that time in the first place.  If Matheny had to take Ellis out, he had a much better defender in Kolten Wong sitting on the bench.  Why Matheny persists in his delusion that Descalso is a good fielder is beyond me.  Surely the Cardinals’ analytics department has pointed out that Descalso’s defensive metrics are very poor.  Descalso’s career UZR at 2B is -4.6.  That is below average.  He should never be relied upon for defense in a close game.  Ever.

I know some folks don’t like sabermetrics.  When I say that Descalso is a bad defender, I sometimes get people arguing with me using errors and fielding percentage as their authority.  I am willing to give some leeway to most traditional stats, because most of them have some merit, but two traditional stats that I think are completely worthless are errors and fielding percentage.  Errors are totally subjective.  They are based solely on the opinion of an untrained official scorer.  The only requirement to become an official scorer is to pass a test on baseball rules.  That’s it.  I know the baseball rules pretty well, why not create a stat based on my opinion?  It would be just as reliable as the errors stat.  Fielding percentage relies in part on errors, so as a stat it is just as unreliable.

So if you get into an argument with me about whether some player is a good or bad defender, and use errors and/or fielding percentage, please be warned that you will get nowhere.  You might as well tell me that the player is a good or bad defender based on the phases of the moon, because that is just as reliable an indicator as errors and fielding percentage.

Matt Carpenter is not a bad defender.  He has a career UZR at 3B of +3.  Why he has uncharacteristically made some major mistakes in the field in such a short time is a mystery to me.  Maybe it is related to why he has struck out 18 times, which is also out of character for him.   Hopefully it is just a bad stretch that will resolve itself with time.  I am patient enough to wait it out.

As we have painfully seen in several games in the last few weeks, bad defense will lose you games.  I know that many believe that a poor defender can make it up with offense, and in some cases that is true, but you have to be a superior offensive player for that to happen.  Not only that, you have to be a superior offensive player who doesn’t go through major slumps.  That is a tall order.  I tend to believe that relying on offense to overcome bad defense is a losing proposition over time.  You can have some poor defenders on your team and hide them with offense, but you can’t have bad defense overall and expect to win a ton of games.  Defense does matter.

I do believe the Cardinals’ defense on paper is an improvement over what they had last season.  The players just have to execute in relation to their abilities. Games like today cannot happen with any regularity.  I am sure the players know this and will take steps to correct the problem.  If they don’t, it is going to be ugly.

 

Thank you for reading.

 

The Little Stepbrother Gets No Respect

Lance Lynn got his 4th win yesterday.  He got his 3rd win in Milwaukee with Tony Cruz behind the plate.  It was Lynn’s best performance so far.  Many fans speculated then if maybe Lynn pitches better with Cruz behind the plate.  It seems like it should not be so, after all the Cardinals have the best catcher in baseball, Yadier Molina, well known for his ability to work with pitchers.  Perhaps there is something to it though, because Matheny again started Cruz yesterday with Lynn on the mound.  Lynn didn’t match his Milwaukee performance, not as many strikeouts, and he made one mistake pitch to Danny Espinosa for a solo home run.  Lynn appeared to run out of gas in the 6th and was taken out, but he pitched well, not having the frustrating “big inning” that often marks a Lance Lynn start.

Lynn was asked about working with Cruz in his post game interview.  He explained that he and Cruz have been together since A ball and that he was a good catcher.  He said he is the only one of the starting rotation who threw to Cruz in the minor leagues.  Perhaps that explains his apparent comfort with Cruz.  In any event, that battery appears to be working, so keeping it going may be worthwhile.

I will say it now, because I have said it before and I will continue to say it.  Tony Cruz does not get enough respect.  This guy has the hardest job in major league baseball—being the back up catcher for Yadier Molina.  Cruz is a good catcher, make no mistake about that.  He has never had enough playing time in the majors to show what he can do with the bat.  Many folks don’t seem to understand the concept that if you don’t play with any regularity, you are not going to hit.  When you don’t even pinch hit, the amount of ABs you end up getting is so miniscule as to make the idea of putting together any kind of hitting profile a near impossibility.  Yet Cruz manages to come through pretty well for someone who hardly ever plays.  Cruz was a decent hitter in the minor leagues, he had a career BA in the minors of .266 over 5 seasons.  On the defensive side, Cruz’s minor league career caught stealing percentage was 44%.  That is Yadier Molina territory.  With the tiny amount of playing time Cruz has received in the major leagues, he still has managed a caught stealing percentage  of 33%, which is well above league average.  The bottom line is that Tony Cruz could easily be the starting catcher on many major league teams.  Think about that.

As Molina ages, he is going to need more time off to stay fresh.  The Cardinals would be smart to start now giving him that time off and utilizing the talents of Tony Cruz.  Good back up catchers are hard to come by, and Cruz has the trust of the pitching staff and the skills to take the pressure off Molina.  As much as we all like to see Molina in the lineup every day, he is not going to maintain his level of excellence forever and it’s time to think about the future.  If the Cardinals want to get the most they can out of Molina’s remaining years, lessening his playing time behind the plate is the best way to accomplish that.  It’s time to stop being selfish about Molina and give Tony Cruz the playing time he has earned.

 

Thank you for reading.

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