The Inevitability of Death, Taxes, and Jaime Garcia’s Shoulder

“Like one, that on a lonesome road
Doth walk in fear and dread,
And having once turned round walks on,
And turns no more his head;
Because he knows, a frightful fiend
Doth close behind him tread.”

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

It was the 800 pound gorilla in the room, the one thing you knew was just around the corner, waiting to pounce.

Jaime Garcia has discomfort in his left shoulder and will not pitch tomorrow as scheduled.  Though described as a “setback”, we all know where this is leading.  We have all seen this movie before.

Will Garcia pitch for the Cardinals in 2014?  That Magic 8 ball would say “Outlook not so good”.  I wouldn’t count on it if I was a betting woman.

So the burning question of whether Carlos Martinez will get the 5th spot in the rotation has moved to the “probable” column.  Of course, the decision could be made to put Marco Gonzales in this spot instead, seeing as he is a lefty.  However, the course has been up to this point to see Martinez get the shot to start this year that he was denied last year. Gonzales can start in AAA and be available in the event another pitching injury occurs.

Martinez has never pitched above 107 innings in any season in his career.   Marco Gonzales pitched 150 innings in 2014, divided among high-A, AA, AAA and the big leagues.  So the question about endurance for Martinez is indeed real.  However, the question is not going to be answered by anything other than letting him pitch and see how he does.  Having Gonzales on hand to step in if Martinez falters gives the Cardinals some insurance to try it.  There is also Tim Cooney, another lefty, looming in the background should the need for him arise.

Martinez, with his 95+ velocity and wicked slider, has a ceiling that excites the senses.  How can you not give him a chance?  I would much rather see him try and fail, than to hide his light in the pen.  That to me is a waste.

Marco is a solid choice, but he doesn’t have the ceiling that Martinez has.  Moreover, he is not a certainty either.  I am solidly in the Martinez camp as the 5th starter.  Marco will have his day.

In other Cardinals news, Sam Freeman was traded to the Texas Rangers today for the Player To Be Named Later or cash.  This was not unexpected, as Freeman was out of options, and thus could not be sent back down to the minors without passing through irrevocable Outright Assignment Waivers.  The likelihood of Freeman being claimed through waivers is high, and rather than lose him and get nothing in return but a minimal waiver fee, the Cardinals wisely chose to trade him for something of more value, either in the form of a warm body or more money.  The Cardinals likely felt lefty Kevin Siegrist, who has pitched well in Spring Training, was a more attractive option for the other lefty in the pen besides Choate.

I wish Sam Freeman all the luck in the world. I truly like the guy, even though he was once an evil Kansas Jayhawk.  🙂

With only 5 Spring Training games left, we will soon know who the 25 will be who are going north.   My crystal ball tells me that Garcia will land on the DL and Martinez will get the 5th starting spot.  Am I right?  Stay tuned.

Thank you for reading.

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Beware the Speciousness of Spring Training

On Saturday the Cardinals played the first game of Spring Training that was available on television. If you had an MLB.TV subscription (or you get MASN) it was available live.  If you had access to MLB Network it was available on replay on Saturday evening.   This was the first opportunity for Cardinals fans to get a visual glimpse of their Cardinals playing a live game for the season.

It’s easy to get excited about watching Cardinals baseball after the long off season drought.  What’s also easy, as well as unfortunate, is the understandable tendency to read too much into the performance of our Cardinals players.  Spring Training games don’t count, of course, but they also don’t showcase the players in their regular season form.  For pitchers, you will likely see less velocity on their pitches, and less mixing up of pitches, as pitchers tend to spend more time on those pitches they feel they need more work on (this changes in the last week of spring training, where pitchers are getting closer to their regular season form).  As for position players, they are more concerned with conditioning, and fine tuning their hitting mechanics, than they are about the results of their plate appearances.

As a result, the performances of the players can be misleading.  A pitcher’s or hitter’s results may not seem in line with their past regular season performance or their expected performance.  If a pitcher gives up a lot of runs or walks a lot of hitters, or a hitter doesn’t hit or strikes out a lot, it is not a reflection of how they will perform in the regular season.  As an example, in Spring Training 2014, Jon Jay hit .188 and struck out 1o times in 48 ABs.

Players can overachieve in Spring Training as well.  Where you will see this happening more often is with the fringe players, those players who don’t have an assured spot on the 25 man regular season roster and are trying to get one.  Notable past Spring Training overachievers are Shane Robinson and Daniel Descalso.  If you see one of these fringe players hit like a Hall of Famer in Spring Training, beware.  It would be best to temper your excitement over one of these performances, lest you suffer disappointment when that player either doesn’t make the roster, or makes it but doesn’t meet your expectations in the regular season.

Keep in mind also that the caliber of pitching hitters are seeing in Spring Training is not close to what they will encounter in the regular season at the major league level.  Even good pitchers are not pitching at their regular season levels, especially in the early weeks.  A good hitter may seem bad because he is tinkering with his swing or his approach,  and a mediocre hitter may seem good because he is getting a lot more hittable pitches.  Bottom line—don’t believe what you see.

Spring Training results mean absolutely nothing.  Don’t be fooled.  Enjoy seeing baseball again and seeing your favorite players perform, but keep your head on straight.  You will be much happier when the regular season comes around.

 

 

Thank you for reading.

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