So the website was down for awhile, while MLBlogs was switching over to WordPress. So this is my first attempt to post with the new blog. I know it basically looks the same now, with a couple of minor changes, but if I can figure this thing out, I’ll add stuff as we go along.
Too much has gone on to catch up on, so I’ll make this short and sweet and just pick up where the Cardinals are now. And where they are is just having completed a two game sweep of the Phillies. Not too bad considering their mammoth rotation and that we had one of our worst starters (Jake Westbrook) going. But solid performances out of him and Garcia got the job done, together with a little bottom of the 9th excitement from Berkman. How many times has he done that against us in his career?
The only blemish on the game was once again poor defense. With the exception of a couple of guys, this is not a team that is going to be routinely making stellar plays. Which means making the routine plays is all that much more important. But that, too, has been a struggle this year. Tonight’s culprit? Tyler Greene. He booted the most routine pop-up ever in the 8th inning, which led to the game being tied up. Being that we won, I’m not as upset as I would normally be. Although these moments make me have visions of Matt Holiday dropping the ball in the postseason. Something needs to be done about this defense.
But in the end, it was another day, another win. Need another one tomorrow.
Let’s go ‘Birds,
I’ve never watched a perfect game or even a no-hitter live. And while I watch partial innings or games of various teams, I normally only watch complete Cardinal games. So I probably never will unless a Cardinal tosses one. Jaime Garcia sure thought about it last night. In the end he threw a 2-hit complete game, but I’ll take it.
One of the big keys this year for the Cardinals to be successful was Garcia being the same guy this year that he was his rookie year. And he has yet to disappoint. The southpaw has been nothing but dominant for the Redbirds this year, tied for 3rd in wins, 3rd in ERA and 9th in strikeouts in the NL. Not to mention being only one of two guys to throw to complete games and the only one to throw 2 shutouts.
The other big key was Lance Berkman. Could he stay healthy? Could he be the threat he once was? Check and check. Berkman has been tearing up the league, leading in RBIs (32), 2nd in average (.392), tied for 2nd in home runs (10), and 4th in runs scored (25) and the season is barely a month old. He easily has to be one of the most feared hitters in the NL right now. And it doesn’t hurt that the guy who is leading the league with a .410 average is hitting right in front of him. In fact the these two are also 1-2 in slugging percentage as well. What pitcher wants to face that? Albert’s not hitting like he once was, but having him be the 3rd best hitter on a team isn’t necessarily a bad thing. And at the end of the year, his numbers will be right there. The offense has been absolutely torrid.
Watching this team this year has certainly been frustrating at times (nearly every 9th inning), but it has also been a lot of fun, watching them hit well, score runs and have fun themselves. I rarely saw that last year. They are winning series after series (except when they split a 4 gamer with the Fish) and leading the league by 1 1/2 games. Time to sweep the Brew Crew and hope for a few more Cincinnati losses.
If you had told me prior to the season that the Cardinals would net a 5-0 win over the Nationals, I would have said, ‘Sounds about right.’ If you had told me that 4 of those 5 runs would come from a pair of 2 run homers from our big boys, Pujols and Holliday, I would have said, ‘Sounds about right.’ If you had told me that the shutout would be a result of going the distance? That’s where I would have stopped you.
Carp? For sure. Garcia? Yup. But Loshe? I wasn’t a believer. But he is quickly changing my mind. He has been so good this year. And then here against the Nationals….wow. A 9 inning shutout, striking out 6 against two walks. He is making me a Loshe believer for sure and dreams of pennant races and world championships are dancing through my mind.
Loshes’ #1 fan,
I drove to Kansas City and watched the Royals play the Indians on a very, very chilly night of baseball. Felt like I should’ve been watching the Chiefs, as cold as it was. I rooted for the home team, but they eventually fell in extras thanks to some poor work out of the bullpen. But I got to see my first Major League game of the season. I’ll be going soon to Busch.
On to Cardinal baseball.
Today was a double header, which the Cards ended up splitting with the Nationals. You always want to win 2 obviously, but I’ll take the split and hopefully tomorrow we will take the series win as well. As the saying goes, if you can win every series, you’re doing pretty good.
It was even better combined with the Cubs splitting their double header and losses by the Reds and Brewers. These four teams are now tied for first atop the central division, all at .500.
Both games with the Nats and the Cards, the teams were two runs apart. In the first game of the doubleheader, Westbrook was far from sharp. But he also didn’t get a lot of help behind him. The problem with the Cardinal defense is that it is simply ‘adequate.’ Sometimes things that aren’t recorded as “errors” is still sub-par defense. A ball that Theriot only knocks down that a better shortstop would record an out on. Tyler Greene making a poor throw to 2nd, allowing them only to get 1 out instead of the double play. And then the obvious errors: the drop balls, the missed catches, etc. We knew from the beginning that the defense would not be the best it’s ever been. And that’s why the pitching and the hitting needs to be as sharp as possible.
Ankiel getting his first plate appearance in the first inning of the first game got a nice round of appreciation applause, which was great to see. Ankiel took out a half page ad in the paper thanking them for their support. Great move, Rick.
In the second game, Jaime Garcia was again plagued by poor defense, but managed to pitch good enough to nail the win, both for himself and the team. Also in the night game was the first save opportunity since LaRussa announced that Ryan Franklin would no longer be his pitcher of choice in save situations. Mitchell Boggs got the nod and locked in the save. And all of Cardinal Nation breathed a sigh of relief.
In both games, the Cardinals continue to rake. Everyone was getting hits, even guys like Punto and Descalso. And the big guys continue to do what they’ve been doing. 23 hits among the two games is certainly not too shabby.
Two for one baseball,
Starting 0-2 was not the ideal way to start the season. Especially when the Reds are busy sweeping their way to the division lead.
Enter Jaime Garcia.
I’ve said previously that Garcia is a huge key to the Cardinals success this year. He was already an important piece in the Cardinal puzzle, but after Wainwright went out for the year, he became an even bigger piece. He had a very iffy spring, but today he was every bit dominant.
Garcia pitched his second career shutout and struck out a career high 9. And it was not luck. He was 100% in the zone, locating his pitches, changing speeds and basically keeping all of the Padres hitters off balance. It was a thing of beauty.
The Cardinals are still concerning me with not being able to string together a rally, but they are missing Matt Holliday right now. I hope that when this lineup is fully healthy they will be able to dominate any pitcher they face. It was nice to see Theriot get an RBI base hit, as he has been struggling a bit to the start of the season.
We’re only a few days into the season and there is still a lot of baseball left to be played. But Garcia’s performance today gave me a lot of confidence in our ability to compete this year. And also made me think of how unstoppable we would be if we still had Wainwright.
Steamrolled. That’s how the Cardinals had to feel after today’s contest against the Padres.
What was a 3-3 game in the 4th suddenly spun out of control real quick. The big culprit today was the pitching. St. Louis pitching combined for 8 walks, including a couple with the basis loaded. That simply cannot happen.
And today’s game showed even more strongly the painful loss that yesterday was. Games like today are going to happen. There will be games that we will lose and lose badly. There will also be games that we win easily. (Pittsburgh anyone?) It’s those in between games that could go either way that become even more important.
You have to win games like yesterday because sooner or later you will have games like today. Instead we dropped both and are now 0-2. Far from the end of the world, but disappointing to say the least.
To add insult to injury, Holliday is out now after having an emergency appendectomy. Seriously? That couldn’t have happened a month or two ago? Of course not. It has not happen now as we are already down players. I have to say though how pleased I am with Allen Craig. It was a mistake to play him at 3rd last year. He couldn’t handle the hot corner and I think that’s why he struggled at the plate. But now he seems to be more comfortable and he looks so much better at the plate, both in Spring Training and now during actual games.
All I know is the Cardinals better get there act together and quick. A big test will come in Jaime Garcia, to see if he is the Garcia of old. We will find out soon.
Many people are wondering if the Cardinal lineup will produce the runs it will inevitably need to this year. And while there are some question marks there, I feel confident in the lineup we have to put out there every day. I love Rasmus in the 2 spot. I think Berkman gets his swing back. I think Skip is better than a .200 hitter. I think Theriot finds his way as a leadoff guy.
But the pitching is the big unknown. Every year, every team wants more pitching it seems. And the breakout, unknown pitchers of the season are the ones who end up propelling their teams to the postseason.
Every one was excited about the prospect of trotting out Waino, Carp and Garcia out there every week. And then Wainwright went down. Wainwright was about as good as guaranteed every five days, so this is a tough situation.
The problem with people being excited about our top 3 is that Garcia is far from guaranteed. He had a great rookie campaign last year, no doubt. But now the hitters know him. And there is absolutely no way to know if he can repeat that success again this year. And as our number 3, we really needed him to. But now he’s our number 2. I have full confidence in Carpenter filling Wainwright’s spot. He’s been there and done it before. But Garcia now has to be what Carpenter was going to be. Guys like Loshe and McClellan have a little more slack as our 4 and 5 guys. They need to be decent, but they have some margin for error. Garcia, however, has to be consistently good if we’re going to have any kind of shot at this thing.
He has not shown that potential this spring. With a posted spring ERA of 7.94 ERA, I am tired of seeing title after title of, “Garcia looks to positives despite horrible performance” or some variation thereof. I get that the spring is the time to work out the kinks. I get that it’s about locating pitches more than the end result. But I haven’t always felt like he’s been locating real well. And I get that anything is possible until it starts counting. And that’s why I’m not grabbing my pitchfork yet. I’m willing to wait it out and see how he does come April. But I would be lying if I said Garcia doesn’t make me nervous. Let’s hope he can duplicate last year’s success and help make this a world championship team.
Garcia for the repeat,
This afternoon when I saw the words “Wainwright” and “elbow trouble” in an article, my stomach dropped. Second only to news about Pujols going down is the prospect of Adam missing an entire year as a Cardinal. I know one player does not make a team. But losing your ace right out of the gate? It’s going to be an uphill battle to try and win this thing. And unless someone (a la Ian Snell or Miguel Batista) steps up in a BIG way or we have another rookie sensation like Jaime was last year, consider this season a wash.
I won’t count them out as of yet and no matter what happens I’m a Cardinal fan to the bitter end, but it’s rather discouraging news for sure.
Hoping for an alternative in the second opinion,
I stated that a returning lineup that includes Albert, Holliday, Rasmus
and a hopefully healthy David Freese should be pretty formidable. Then
throw in the defense and occasional offensive spark of Yadier Molina and
a returning staff that includes Carp, Wainwright, Garcia and Franklin,
the Cardinals should be a force to be reckoned with. Yet, last year
they fell to the the Reds with all of these guys (except, of course, for
So what was missing? It’s hard to say. But with the Reds likely to
contend again and the Brewers making moves to show they want to contend,
the Cardinals better find that missing piece. They are hoping it’s in
one of the new guys they’ve added to the team. So let’s look at this
band of newcomers and see what the potential is there.
Lance Berkman – Arguably, the biggest name added to the Cardinal roster,
this is an interesting move on many levels. It was not long ago that
Lance Berkman struck fear into the hearts of Cardinal fans everywhere.
There are two guys over the years that I would classify as true
“Cardinal killers” and they are Lance Berkman and Carlos Beltran. As a
‘Stro Berkman had a big bat, under a team that always tragically
underperformed. Though he’s a 1st baseman by trade, Pujols has the
position well under lock and key. So they claim that he was brought
over as an outfielder. And outfield he will clearly play in 2011. But
we’re stupid here. He’s also provides a safety net. Should the Redbird
brass not be able to retain Albert’s services past this year, Berkman
could easily slide into that spot, while we look elsewhere for a right
fielder. Smart move, I say, with major upside. Berkman underperformed
with the Yankees, but I still believe he has some sting left in that big
bat of his.
Ryan Theriot – The Cardinals had a perfectly capable defensive shortstop
in Brendan Ryan. However, his offense last year was atrocious.
Moreover, he apparently clashed with LaRussa although they claim that’s
not why he was sent packing. In any case, I’m not in the clubhouse, I
don’t know if the criticism of Ryan was fair or not. I do know that if
getting rid of him and signing Theriot is what it takes for this team to
mesh, then I’m all for it. Though I will miss the socks.
Nick Punto – The utility infielder should be an great asset to the
Cardinals. Although, it was just learned today that he will be out for a
couple of months with a strained groin. So, he should be a great asset
if / when he is healthy. The problem for the Cardinals last year was
that if someone went down (Freese) or needed a day off (Ryan or
Schumaker) all that was left to fill the void was Tyler Greene. Greene
was able to fill that need in some areas, but certainly not in all.
Punto serves a great utility man. There are so many options here
LaRussa’s head will be spinning. Punto can play 3rd, should Freese need a back-up again, he could play 2nd, putting Skip in the outfield if one of the outfielders need a day off, he can fill in at short. And as long as everyone stays healthy I expect to see a lot of mix and match here.
Gerald Laird – I’ll be honest. I know nothing about Laird. The Cardinals have brought in him to be a back-up for Yadi. They would like to spell the often played catcher a little more often than they have in the best. From what I hear, his skill set is similar to Molina’s in the fact that he’s a backstop first, a hitter second. What’s really upsetting about this whole situation though is that we had to go find Laird in the first place. He’s a replacement for last year’s backup catcher, Jason LaRue. LaRue was forced into retirement when he suffered a concussion during an on-field altercation between the Reds and the Cards. The Reds’ Johnny Cueto bicycle-kicked LaRue in the head.
Newcomers + Returners = Solid Team,
Chris Carpenter – The once obvious clear ace in the Cardinals rotation, though some would now perhaps give that distinction to Wainwright, he is still a part of one of the better 1-2 punches in baseball (Philadelphia beastly rotation aside). Carp has always been a no-nosense type of guy with the media, fellow players, in pitching and it’s one of the things I love about him. He is going to have a lot to prove this year, namely that at 35 years old, he can still deliver the good stuff. Otherwise, it’s very conceivable that it may be his last year in a Cardinal uniform. And even if he does, that could still well be the case. The Cards have an option on him for 2012, but a lot of his future could depend on the Pujols situation. If they can’t sign Pujols and Carp is still healthy, I’m sure they pick up his option. If they do sign Pujols, Carpenter could be a guy that they buy out. They’ll have to save money somewhere and an aging pitcher, however, good, seems the first place to do that.
Adam Wainwright – Maybe Wainwright hasn’t been “the face of the franchise” in so much the same way Carpenter has been over the last few years, but he’s getting there. As I said above, many seem him as overtaking Carp in that ‘ace’ role. For my money, as soon as he K’ed the mighty Beltran to end the NLCS, I was a Wainwright fan for life. I love listening to Adam give interviews. Still a southern boy through and through (though not as much as Colby), he just seems to enjoy talking baseball and pitching. Nothing fancy about him, he just does his job. I fully expect to see him make another run at a possible Cy Young. And perhaps one of these years, the other pitchers will actually let him reach it.
Jake Wesbrook – Now this guy will be interesting to watch. He was a Cardinals for only a little while last year, but now has been signed for two additional seasons. He didn’t do anything spectacular last year, but he was also brought over only in time to try and save an already sinking Cardinal team. What will he be like sitting under Dave Duncan for an entire season? Will he crash and burn a la Brad Penny? Or will he be the latest Duncan testimony a la Jeff Weaver? Time will tell.
Jaime Garcia – Jaime is the player I am most excited to watch in 2011. He had a totally unexpected and awesome breakout season last year. The question on everyone’s minds will be whether or not it was a fluke thing or if he can step up again this year. The Cardinals need him to be as good as he was last year if they’re going to think about getting to October.
Kyle Loshe – The guy that the Cardinals for some reason badly want to be their 5th starter. I have no idea why. This guy is completely maddening to watch pitch. Maybe they feel they have invested too much into him, but at some point you have let him go. Even at his best, this guy’s not a front of the rotation type of guy.
Ryan Franklin – The solid closer. I trust him in a ballgame and he’s cheap for the Cardinals, considering the money they’re pouring in to a lot of other places. But the problem again is that this is his last year before free agency. The plus is that hopefully he’ll want to make a good impression, but the negative is that it serves as a distraction.
Mitchell Boggs / Kyle McClellan / Trevor Miller / Jason Motte / Fernando Salas / P.J. Walters
Various members of the Cardinal ‘pen that have pitched from a little to a lot. A lot of arbitration eligible players in this group and also unclear in what they have to offer. There’s a couple of exceptions to that, such as that Motte throws heat. But for the most part, it’s always hard to know what your set-up men and other various bullpen roles are going to do. We’ll see soon enough how this is going to all shake down.
The Cardinals have a returning starting rotation in Carp, Wainwright, Garcia, Westbrook and Loshe. But that is doubtful to be the starting rotation come the end of the season. There’s no guarantee for some of the staff who will be in St. Louis at the beginning of the season and who will have to work their way up there. Spring Training will help get all of that sorted out.
Next up are the newcomers.
One of the best 1-2 combos out there,