So, I mentioned in previous post (here) that it makes you wonder “what if” Roy Oswalt was a St. Louis Cardinal instead of a Philadelphia Phillie. Now, today, i read a story on MLB.com, that makes you wonder that same “what if” about Scott Rolen.
Now, I am a little more biased here. If you read my blog back in the day (like, say in 2006), you would know that as a Cardinal, Scott Rolen was my favorite player. Still, this MLB.com article backs up something that does not surprise me in the least.
The young, upstart Reds are .608 when their veteran, Scott Rolen, is in the lineup. When he’s not? They’re not even playing .500 ball. That is HUGE. It’s no secret that 3rd base has been a struggle for the Redbirds this year. At the beginning of the year we looked to have a great 3rd baseman in Rookie of the Year candidate, David Frese. Then we turned the position over to Tyler Greene. Then he got hurt. Then we suffered and screamed and yelled, as we saw guys who didn’t belong there flub play after play at the position. Yeah, I’m looking at you Felipe Lopez.
At least now we have an adequate player there in Pedro Feliz. He makes the routine plays. He’s good. But he’s no Scott Rolen. Rolen was literally a human vacuum cleaner at 3rd. He ate up everything that was hit to him and some things that weren’t. He was a big man, but he could dive for a ball on the line and jump up to throw him out faster than anybody. His arm was a cannon.
To have someone in that spot like Scott Rolen? It would be incredible. That says nothing about his bat. There have been some offense struggles this year. And I have no doubt that when Pujols or Holliday have struggled, Rolen would have been there to pick up the slack. Instead of Pujols, Edmonds & Rolen of ’06, we could have Pujols, Holliday & Rolen in ’10. But that never would have happened. It’s no secret that Rolen and LaRussa did not like each other very much. And now there’s the same sort of thing being said of LaRussa and Rasmus. Personally, I’m not much of a LaRussa fan and I wouldn’t be sad to see him leave after this year. But that’s for another blog.
In the end, I am sad. I am sad that we do not have Rolen on this team. We could use another veteran force. Yes, he’s a quiet guy, but that strong, silent type might be exactly what was needed to kick the Cardinal’s butts into gear. Rolen would never sluff off. He’s in it to play hard and to win. He hits a home run, puts his head down and runs the bases. That’s what I wish these young Cardinal guys had to look up to this year.
Another what if day,
This was a highly disappointing 13th inning game of many things that went right and many things that went very, very wrong. The unfortunate part is that more went wrong than right. So let’s look at both.
What Went Right
- As I stated in my last post, Albert hit his 400th career home run. Quite an accomplishment for someone just over 30.
- Pedro Feliz continues to impress. He has a hit for every game as a Cardinal (7 game hitting streak), which means he’s hitting .367 as a Redbird and playing solid defense at 3rd.
- Brendan Ryan made an incredible diving catch, on the right side of the 2nd base bag, to stop the Nationals from winning much earlier in the game.
- Aaron Miles continues to deliver off the bench. I don’t care what anybody says. I feel comfortable with him stepping in as a pinch hitter in a clutch situation.
- The Cardinals rallied for 4 innings in the 9th, whereas in the past couple of weeks, their last minute rallies had fallen just short.
What Went Wrong
- The two biggest superstars on the team hurt themselves. Matt Holliday was hit in the wrist by a pitch and Albert Pujols rolled his ankle. Supposedly, they’re both ok though.
- Felipe Lopez showed he should be nowhere but a pinch hitter or possibly 2nd base. He does not belong on the left side of the infield. His plays cost us the game more than any other play.
- Though Carp was good, because of poor defense, could not be as sharp as he normally is.
- Ryan Franklin, flawless in the 8th inning, gave up the tying home run in the 9th.
- Ultimately, the biggest thing, is that we dropped yet another game to a very weak team and in not putting the game away early, almost lost our two biggest components to get us to the postseason.
Jaime Garcia goes tonight or, “The Mexecutioner,” as stl_cardinals_fan73 affectionally called him on a previous post. But it’s hard to get up for the game. How many times can the Redbirds squander these opportunities before they take themselves out of the race completely? The wild card is absolutely there for the taking, even if we don’t play well enough to get the central. Regardless, I’m a Cardinal fan to the bitter end. Come on Cardinals….let’s get it going!
Rooting for the wild card,
Make no mistake about who the ace of the Cardinals staff is. His name? Chris Carpenter. That is not a sleight to Adam Wainwright. Waino has been awesome for us this year and so far this year, has been the more dominant of the two. He has a better ERA, more wins and more Ks (although to be fair, even in his best years, Carp tends to get the groundball out more than the strikeout), and is the leading favorite right now in the Cy Young vote.
So what makes Carp, “the ace?” Simple. He’s a stopper. Tonight, the Cardinals had their backs against the wall. They just suffered a five game losing streak, dropping them a season high 4 1/2 games behind the division leading Reds. We put hurler after hurler on the mound, most of whom pitched well. Very well, in fact. But a struggling offense was not able to help out. And any runs given up seemed to make it that much harder for the Redbirds to score.
And then Chris Carpenter strolls to the mound. I described him once in this very blog, as cold, methodic and calculating. He’s intense and knows how to pitch. And that’s why, although I might pick Wainwright over Carp, if I had one game to win, there’s nobody in the league I would pick over Carp, if I needed a guy to be a stopper. He’s proven time and time again that he is up to the task. Basically, it’s what I would call “clutch pitching.” If a hitter can constantly get hits when it counts, when runners are on, he gets a lot of attention as being a clutch hitter. Pitching doesn’t get the same notoriety, but I think a pitcher that gets wins at the right time—say when you’re team just had it’s longest losing streak of the season—that’s pretty clutch in my book.
Hopefully, this little debacle is now behind us and the Cardinals start cruising back to 1st place, where they belong. The Reds have already fallen behind LA 7-1. And while I would never count those feisty Reds out until the last pitch is thrown, things are definitely looking promising for us to gain a game in the standings. Beating the Giants, coupled with the Phillies loss to the Nats, means we also made up ground in the wild card race.
In other news, recent acquisition Pedro Feliz has gone 4 for 8 for the Cardinals so far. Obviously, it’s still quite early, but that’s a big plus right now. His defense is certainly not spectacular, but it’s adequate. He can field a routine ground ball, which is more than I can say for the efforts of Allen Craig or Felipe Lopez whenever they manned the hot corner.
Albert upped his hitting streak to 7 games, giving him a batting average of .414 for August. In fact, since July 30th, Albert has only not gotten a hit in one game. Yesterday, he hit his 8th home run this month, sitting just 2 away from the 400 milestone and giving him 1200 career RBI. I’ve heard some say he has “peaked,” but to me, he looks to have no signs of slowing down. I can’t wait to see where he ends up at the end of his career.
A poster, by the name of, “fixisin” recently left comments that he (or she…..no idea without a name) was not pleased about the Cardinals recent two losses, especially the 3-2 loss to the Cubs. After we got the leadoff runner on 2nd, the next 3 Redbirds were Brendan Ryan, Felipe Lopez and Allen Craig. Miles never even got to 3rd. Here’s my take on the game if you would like to read it.
While I was equally disgusted about the loss, he blamed it on Ryan Ludwick being traded to the San Diego Padres. I was sad to see Ludwick go, but I don’t know that this particular trade is to blame here. In fact, this was the first game since Ludwick was traded at the deadline (July 31st) that the Cardinals didn’t score 4 runs.
But I appreciate comments (I respond to every one) and I equally love stats, so I thought, hey, let’s look at the numbers and see what they say about the situation. Let me preface my findings though by saying that it’s still way too early to tell if the Ludwick / Westbrook trade is going to be to our advantage or not, but here are what the numbers say so far.
In 14 games with the Padres, Ryan Ludwick has batted .275, slugged .510 and driven in 8.
In that same span, Ludwick’s replacement in RF, Jon Jay, has hit .317, slugged .415 and driven in 4.
Jake Wesbrook, who we got in the deal for Luddy, has started 3 times for the Cardinals. In those 3 games, he has a 1-0 record, pitched 19 innings (average of 6 1/3 innings per game), a 3.32 ERA, walked only 2, while striking out 19.
Looking at all of this, Ludwick has decent numbers. It’s not MVP territory, but good solid numbers for a RF. At the moment, John Jay is outhitting him, (even with having an 0 for 3 yesterday), but as I said, it’s still early. There’s no way to know if Jay will cool off down the stretch run, while Ludwick, as a veteran with the experience, may continue to stay hot from time to time.
Westbrook has proven to be a good performer so far, but 3 games is a very small sample size. What will he be like down the stretch? Can he be that postseason wildcard that Jeff Weaver was for us in 2006?
As always, there are the intangibles that numbers don’t give you. Some in the Cardinal organization feel that Ludwick gone has taken the pressure of Colby Rasmus, now that he knows he will be starting every day instead of being platooned. Whether or not our favorite southern boy, Colby, is feeling more relaxed or not, in the 3 games following Ludwick’s departure west, he went 6 for 12. Ludwick is also known to be a very streaky hitter and the problem with that is there’s no way to tell right now whether that’s good or bad in considering the trade. Will he heat up at just the right time in the playoff push or slump a little bit in the upcoming month?
There’s also the salary considerations. Ryan Ludwick was going to be a free agent at the end of this year and likely to get traded anyway. He would be eligible for arbitration and going to be able to demand quite a bit more money. Something we are pretty tight on at the moment, considering the money we plunked down for Matt Holliday and the money you would HOPE they are ready to plunk down for Pujols, who is approaching the end of his contract, after the club option next year. So you really have to consider his benefit to the club this year and not what he would do next year.
And one of the greatest intangibles of all at this point…..we could potentially see the Padres and Ryan Ludwick in a post season game. If he hits a series winning home run against us, suddenly the trade isn’t looking so good.
So according to the numbers it’s working out for us so far, but my gut still says we should have gotten more for Ludwick. I know it was probably time for him to go since he’d be gone at the end of the season anyway and Westbrook has been solid thus far, but I wish we would have gotten more thrown in besides “cash considerations.” A decent 3rd baseman would have gone a long way to alleviate my concerns about the trade.
The game that started this discussion in the first place showed us that…..what we’re lacking is a quality 3rd baseman not a right fielder. Holliday, Rasmus and Jay are a very solid outfield. But there is not one decent 3rd baseman in the bunch. Felipe Lopez has been ok, but he’s not an ideal big league 3rd baseman by a long shot. Plus, if he slumps (as he has been) or needs a rest, who are his backups? Allen Craig? Aaron Miles? Come on. These are great bench players or for filling in at 2nd, but we need someone with an arm that can hit for average.
With David Freese and Tyler Greene out, a 3rd baseman has been a desperate need for the Cardinals and I don’t know how that’s going to improve. Freese is gone for the season and Greene’s return is unknown. And expanding the rosters in September is not likely to bring in the calvary.
I definitely was sad to see Ludwick go though. He seemed to be a great player and a great person in general. I was able to meet him once in a restaurant in Missouri after he had been signing autographs locally with some other Redbirds and he was really nice.
Thoughts? Are you still missing Ludwick or have you come to terms with the deal? Do you think Westbrook will be the starter we need or do you think we were fine with the Loshe / Suppan / Hawksworth combo?