Who Are These Cardinals?

It’s early in the season, and yet things with the Cardinals are not looking particularly good.  It happens.  It’s baseball.  The sample sizes are small so the numbers will tell you very little if anything useful about the future.

Invariably every season, however, if things are bad for any length of time, the amateur general managing begins.  It is as predictable as sunrise and sunset.  Something is wrong and someone or multiple someones are to blame.  Finger pointing begins.  Moves that are made are criticized and alleged to be the cause.  On and on, yada, yada.

Hey, we as fans really become emotional about these things.  We want to believe we know how to do better if the Cardinals would just listen to us.  I can’t say how many fans actually believe this, or just act like they do because it’s fun or their bored or whatever.  Having something to analyze and discuss with other fans is part of the experience, with the internet even more so than it used to be because the avenues for discussion are widespread.  It’s a good time be a sports fan.

I am no different than any other fan.  I have a blog, so that reinforces that I have opinions and I am not hesitant to express them to anyone who is willing to listen.  Maybe not so many people are willing to listen, but I can live with that.  It won’t stop me from expressing said opinions as often and as forcefully as I choose.

Okay, so get to the point you are saying to yourself.  As much as I have strong opinions and am willing to exclaim them to the entire universe, I don’t for one millisecond think I have the answers or know more than those in the Cardinals organization who are paid to make the decisions.   Not that they are always right, they are human just like me and make mistakes.  At the end of the day, however, in the aggregate those folks are going to make better decisions than I would likely make if I were in their shoes.

Nevertheless, here is what I think.  The 2016 Cardinals are a less talented team than the 2012-2015 versions were.  I believed at the start of the season that this was not a division winning team and I continue to stand by that assessment.  The “core” players like Wainwright, Holliday and Molina are aging and will never be the players they once were.  The young players are finding their way, and the jury is still out as to whether any of them will reach their potential.  Players like Carpenter are peaking, still have good years left and I suspect will continue to be the stalwarts for a couple of years.  Wong has room to improve, and Matt Adams is, well, an enigma.  I don’t see much improvement in his future, though I could be wrong.  Maybe call this a transition year if you will.  This team is going to be overshadowed by the Cubs, and perhaps the Pirates if they can get their starting rotation to work.

I am a fan of John Mozeliak. I think he has done great things for this organization.  He is fallible, however, as even he, I imagine, would admit.  I think he whiffed on some things in the offseason, to be frank.  The Heyward situation is somewhat murky, as there is some evidence, if you believe what Heyward says, that he was bound and determined to be a Cub, and nothing Mozeliak did was going to change that.

On the David Price matter, however, I think Mozeliak could have done better.  Yes, it is a lot of money to pay for a pitcher, and maybe the Red Sox were going to  be insane and keep bidding until they got what they wanted.  It wouldn’t surprise me, the Red Sox have done many stupid things with their money.  But I think the Cardinals could have, and should have offered more.  Sometimes I think they are a little too conservative for their own good.

I also think the outfield situation could have been handled better.  Once Heyward was a thing of the past, resorting to the “do nothing further” approach didn’t sit well with me.  I think Piscotty, Grichuk and Pham are fine players, Piscotty I like better than the other two, but all are still fine players.  Grichuk and Pham are injury prone, and Grichuk is a weird player who one cannot really count on to be consistent, in my opinion.  I am not saying that keeping Jay and/or Bourjos was the answer either.  I have never  considered Jay to be more than an average player at best, and Bourjos, though I think he was mishandled and undervalued, as he is a better player than most give him credit for, he was not going to work out, as it was clear that Mike Matheny had no use for him.  In an organization that appears to value offense over defense and speed, Bourjos was not a good fit.

As for Matheny, well, he makes bad decisions.  I think he will keep making bad decisions, because I think he is too stubborn and set in his philosophy to take direction from others and change his approach.  Having said that, I don’t think his bad decisions in the aggregate  have a large effect on the performance of the team.  In individual games the bad decisions can make a difference; over the long haul, not so much.  The organization, however, seems satisfied with him and that is what matters.  It is the overall talent of the team that will make a bigger difference, and as I said, I think this is a less talented team.

I am coming to a conclusion, I promise.  My conclusion is that this is not a talented enough team to win the division, perhaps not talented enough to even make the postseason.  I don’t see this as the end of the world, however.  These things tend to come and go in cycles; no team, not even the Yankees, have been able to keep a run of success forever, it just doesn’t happen.  The down times were coming, and as one who lived through the Cardinals of the 1970s, that is not something that I am going to freak out about.  Others can do as they please.

 

Thank you for reading.

 

 

Advertisements

In Search of First

Good morning, good afternoon, good night, gentle readers (I want to be apropos to my readers in whatever time zone they may be).  I haven’t been posting as often as I have in the past, partly because I have been somewhat busy, but more so because I have found myself searching for something new to talk about.  It’s not that I don’t have concerns or frustrations with this year’s Cardinals team, I do. It’s that those concerns and frustrations are virtually the same as I have always had.  After a while, even I get tired of listening to myself.

So, the one clear difference so far this season from last season, is the changes at the top of the Cardinals’ lineup.  Last season, no matter what lineup shenanigans were pulled by Mike Matheny, the one thing Cardinal Nation COULD count on was the comforting presence of Matt Carpenter in the first place spot.  Well, no longer.  Carpenter has been moved down one spot to number 2.  That change was welcomed by some, not so welcomed by others.  For myself, I don’t have an issue with Carpenter batting second, it’s a good spot for him, but moving him leaves the important spot of lead off bereft of a natural occupant.  Matheny has played musical chairs with the top spot ever since, and the last one standing each time has left much to be desired.

There have been as many difference of opinion as to who should be in that spot, as there have been bodies in that spot.  We have had Jon Jay, Kolten Wong, Peter Bourjos, Randal Grichuk, and Jason Heyward.  Jon Jay is now on the DL and the rest have not cemented themselves in that spot.  The differences in opinion have been differences in approach more than anything else.  There is the old school thought that speed should be at the top of the lineup; 4 of the 5 aforementioned occupants fit that mold.  There are those who view OBP as the deciding factor.  Others want a combination of both speed and OBP.  Still others look at the offensive profile of the hitter; the top spot gets the most PAs of any other spot in the lineup, so it follows that that post should be occupied by one of your best hitters.

For myself, I see speed as the least important factor of these to consider.  Speed is nice to have and it certainly makes a big difference in scoring runs.   But speed only matters once that speed is on base.  If it doesn’t get on base at a healthy clip, it’s wasted.

I see the ideal lead off candidate as a hybrid of getting on base and getting on base with a vengeance.  That means consistency, for one, and getting into scoring position as quickly as possible, for another.  It’s one thing to get on base, but you have to get on the right base to score runs.  This is where speed can be helpful, if you can stretch a hit into extra bases, or steal a base.  Doing this has its dangers, however, as we have so painfully seen with our bunch of base runners.  The other way to do it is to hit for extra bases, meaning hit the ball hard and far.  So my criteria is two fold: OBP and hitting profile.

Matt Carpenter fits my ideal lead off candidate better than anyone else on the squad.  He both gets on base and gets on base with a vengeance.  He is also the most consistent hitter on the team.  Prolonged slumps are very rare for Carpenter.  Unfortunately, Carpenter no longer occupies that spot.  I would like for him to move back there, but it doesn’t look like that is going to happen. Therefore, another candidate must be found.  So let’s look at who we have.

I am going to start by addressing those who have been occupying that spot in Carpenter’s stead.  Jon Jay is currently on the DL, but is expected back soon.  I don’t like Jay in the lead off spot for one clear reason, he doesn’t get on base with a vengeance.  He gets on base with a whimper.  When Jay gets an extra base hit, it is cause for a National Day of Thanks.  Jay has the distinction of having the least amount of power of pretty much anyone in major league baseball who qualifies as an everyday player.  Jon Jay has an ISO (Isolated power) of .020.  There isn’t a word in the English language for how awful that is.  Jay’s ISO has steadily declined for several seasons, and with the issues he has with his wrist, the likelihood of it getting any better is pretty slim.  So, NIX on Jay as a lead off hitter.

Kolten Wong, Peter Bourjos, and Randal Grichuk all have the same problem; they don’t get on base enough.  Career OBP for each:  Wong .297, Bourjos .306, Grichuk .282.  Is it possible for their OBP to improve?  Sure, it’s possible, more so for Wong and Grichuk because they are young.  Is it likely?  I wouldn’t count on it.  I give Wong a better shot than Grichuk, because Grichuk, though he has plenty of raw power,  has very poor contact skills.  He is basically a mistake hitter, throw him a juicy fastball and he is going to hit the crap out of it.  Otherwise, he is going to strike out, or hit a weak grounder.

Jason Heyward is an intriguing possibility, he has a career OBP of.349, good speed, and the ability to hit for extra bases.  The issues with Heyward are that he is currently struggling quite badly, and he has demonstrated an aversion to hitting lead off.   Neither of those things are immutable, so he remains an option, if not now, perhaps at a later time.

So who does that leave?  Well, someone who doesn’t seem at all like a lead off hitter, and one who is probably not going to get that spot as long as Mike Matheny is the manager.  That person is Matt Holliday.  Yes, Matt Holliday.  Matt Holliday both gets on base and gets on base with a vengeance.  Blessed with a career OBP of a whopping .386, and enough power to hit for extra bases, Matt Holliday is my candidate for lead off hitter in the place of Matt Carpenter.  Holliday’s  power has declined somewhat, but he still has enough to fill the role.

I imagine a lot of people think I’m crazy, but a lot of people are mired in the past ways of thinking about baseball.  IT FITS, people.  Get with the program.  You want to win lots of baseball games?  Then stop thinking like you can’t wait to drive your Edsel to the General Store.

My work is done here.

 

 

Thank you for reading.

 

It’s Just Getting Started

Day 4 of the MLB regular season has come and gone, and the Cardinals have played 2 games.  With an off day on Monday after the opening game on Sunday, and then a weather postponement on Tuesday (weather that didn’t materialize), the Cardinals played their second game against the Cubs on Wednesday afternoon. Game #2 didn’t end so well, not as well as Game #1 did on Sunday night.

Starting pitcher Lance Lynn looked sharp up until the 7th inning.  Lynn struck out 9 and walked only one, while giving up only 2 hits, a triple to Jorge Soler and an RBI single to Starlin Castro.  Though the Soler triple was ugly, aided by a poor route to the ball by Jon Jay and a weak throw (what else is new), Soler was thankfully left stranded.  What happened in the 7th inning is another story.

Lynn started off the 7th by hitting Anthony Rizzo with a pitch.  Rizzo is not a huge threat to steal, and he didn’t have a very large lead off the base.  So why Lynn threw over to first is a mystery to me.  Generally, throw overs to 1st base are called by the dugout and signaled by the catcher.  If Matheny called the attempted pick off, I am at a loss to understand why.  Nevertheless, Lynn threw to first, threw it wide, and the ball sailed past Matt Adams.  Rizzo advanced into scoring position easily.  Lynn then preceded to throw a hanging slider to Starlin Castro, who tattoed it over Jhonny Peralta’s head into left field, whereby Matt Holliday threw the ball into the infield to a cutoff man who was nowhere to be found. Rizzo scored easily.  Because of the Holliday throw to nowhere, Castro was able to advance into scoring position.  A sac bunt moved Castro to third, and a sac fly brought him home. putting the Cubs up 2-0.

Had the Cardinal offense been able to make any headway off of Jake Arrieta, things might have been different.  The Cardinals managed all of 3 hits, one of them coming from Lynn, and none of them scoring runs.   By the bottom of the 9th, it looked like the Cardinals hitters wanted to get the hell out of Dodge, as both Jon Jay and Yadier Molina swung at the first pitch for outs.

It was only the second game of 162, so the loss is not a big deal (at least for me).  But I do have some thoughts to share.

Lynn pitched a very good game, despite the error on the throw to first.  Anyone who says   different is just picking nits or is a chronic complainer.  Unfortunately there is a lot of that in Cardinal Nation, more so than there should be.  It seems among some fans that the entitlement is so strong that perfection is demanded.  That’s not an enjoyable way to watch baseball.  It’s also annoying as hell for those of us forced to listen to it.

Next thought is that two games is no indication of how the offense is going to perform this season.  Today looked a lot like what we have seen before, granted, but it is too early for panic.  Baseball has it’s ups and downs, and under the circumstances, with two idle days between games and not so habitable weather to play in, the results were nothing to be concerned about.  It isn’t like the Cubs looked all that great either; an error, some defensive miscues, and a little bit of luck were responsible for the Cubs only two runs.

Once the season gets well under way, and the weather cooperates, I suspect things will look much better.  Cardinal Nation needs to get it’s whining under control and let the season play out.

Let’s play ball.

 

 

Thank you for reading.

It’s Time For Some NoDoz

ZZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzz…………..

 

Wha?  Sorry, I was napping there.  I was thinking about the St. Louis Cardinals and just dozed off.

 

Lost to the Marlins against last night.  No offense, no runs.  Adam Wainwright tried, Donovan Solano muscled a home run just inside the foul pole.  Casey McGehee wouldn’t have been on second base after a base hit, if Matt Holliday hadn’t played that base hit with his head up his….. well, where it shouldn’t have been.    Garrett Jones then ground out and if McGehee was on first base instead of second, that likely would have been a double play.  The third out would have then been made before Solano came to bat, and no home run would have happened.

Who knows what would have happened after that though.  The Cardinals couldn’t score any runs.  Maybe the Marlins would have scored eventually anyway and won the game.

What to do?  I don’t know, that’s Mozeliak’s job.  I just watch em, I don’t fix em.  That is I watch them as long as I can stay awake.  Or until catatonia sets in.

Has anyone checked some of these guys for a pulse lately?

It’s just sad, it really is.  Such promise at the start of the season and we now have this.  Whatever this is.  It doesn’t look much like a baseball team.  I look forward to watching some of the Little League World Series, where I might actually see some baseball worth watching.  I mean, there is a girl pitcher and everything.  There is also some baseball being played in Memphis, I hear.  Need to watch more of that.

One more game in Miami.  Justin Masterson is pitching.  Can’t wait to see what brilliant lineup Mike Matheny comes up with.  Well, yes I can, that was just sarcasm.  Need to see more of Daniel Descalso…….nope, more sarcasm.   I got nothing.

San Diego Padres back at Busch Stadium.  Already lost a series to them.  That doesn’t look promising.  Reds at Busch after that.  Maybe we can stir up some of that rivalry.  Get the competitive juices flowing. Stick pins in some Brandon Phillips dolls.  Wait, he’s on the DL.  Never mind.  Joey Votto?  DL also.  Johnny Cueto?  He might not pitch in that series.  I give up.

The thing is, fans are getting pretty tired of this team and its underachieving.  Blame Matheny, blame Mozeliak, blame John Mabry, blame (insert player here), it doesn’t matter.  What matters is that this team is boring, lifeless, and they stink (not the malodorous type, the you play baseball not so very good type).  Only so many ground ball outs a person can tolerate before the eyes glaze over.

Yeah, yeah, there is still plenty of baseball left to play, and we are not that far out, and yada, yada, yada.  I get it.  Have to keep the hopes up that the savior (or saviors) will ride in on the white horses and save the day.  Huzzah!

I am about cheerleaded out I have to tell you.  My positiveliness (I make up words, it keeps me awake) is about to run dry.  So sue me, I’m a lawyer and I need the work.

Now, about that girl pitcher………

 

 

Thank you for reading.

 

 

 

The Week That Could Be

After the initial disappointment on Friday of losing to the Cubs, the Cardinals regrouped and took the last two games of the series.  Sunday’s game was a nail biter to the end.  Despite a bounceback showing from Cardinal ace Adam Wainwright (following his worst start of the season against Tampa Bay), the Redbird offense didn’t give him much help.  A solo home run by Matt Holliday was the only scoring the team accomplished.  Once again the offense looked flat, as they have over and over again throughout this season.

The Cardinals are off today and start a three games series tomorrow in San Diego against the 46-58 Padres.  The vast spaces of Petco Park are always a challenge; it’s a whole lot of ground to cover for a less than stellar outfield defense (the Cardinals 2013 outfield of Holliday, Jay and Beltran/Craig was the third worst outfield defense in baseball).   For an offense, Petco is not a home run friendly venue.

With the Cardinals a measly 2 games back in the division, feasting upon the Padres is a must.  The Brewers start a series with the Tampa Bay Rays today; though the Rays lost yesterday against the Red Sox, they have been red hot in the month of July.  A good showing in San Diego (and the Brewers obliging us by losing to the Rays), will put the Cardinals in excellent position to take over first place when they come back to St. Louis this weekend to take on the Brewers.  One could venture to say that this week is a pivotal one for the outlook on the remainder of the season.

The Cardinals send Lance Lynn, Joe Kelly, and Shelby Miller to the mound against the Padres in this series.  Tyson Ross (9-10 2.65 ERA) , Jesse Hahn (6-2 2.12 ERA), and Odrisamer Despaigne (2-2 1.66 ERA) go for the Padres.  The pitching will be a challenge for the Cardinals, as no one on the team has seen either Hahn or Despaigne, and only a handful have a tiny amount of ABs against Ross (Peter Bourjos and Matt Carpenter each have one hit against Ross, Mark Ellis has two).

The Cardinals have been operating with a four man rotation for the last few series (multiple off days have permitted this).  That will have to come to an end this weekend, as a fifth starter will have to be employed for the Brewers series.  It could be Carlos Martinez, or Tyler Lyons or Marco Gonzales could be brought up from Memphis.  The trade deadline is on Thursday, and it is possible John Mozeliak could make a deal for a starting pitcher before this weekend.  However, based on some of his recent comments concerning the difficulties of making trades in this market, I really doubt that will be the case.  I believe A.J. Pierzynski may be the totality of the acquisitions made by the Cardinals in July.

However it all shakes out, the Cardinals have the opportunity this week to really turn things around for this season.  I hope they make the most of this opportunity.  After the lackluster season the Cardinals have had thus far, the fans deserve it.

 

Thank you for reading.

 

 

 

 

MGL on Baseball

The Baseball Analysis "no spin" zone!

A Blog of Their Own

Because chicks dig more than just the long ball

The Cardinal Nation blog

Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

On the Outside Corner

A (mostly) historical blog dedicated to the St. Louis Cardinals

Aaron Miles' Fastball

A blog on the St. Louis Cardinals

The view from here.

My thoughts and views on all things St. Louis Cardinals.

%d bloggers like this: