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,
What a roller coaster series. Taking the first game against the Reds was awesome. But the celebration couldn’t last too long because the next thing you know, the Cardinals bullpen is completely imploding in the 8th inning. A loss is never fun, but this one was a total group effort.
Quick: How many Cardinal pitchers does it take to blow a game?
And now the rubber match. And of course it was on national TV, so instead of enjoying a nice 1:05 start time, we had to wait until 7:15. I was still hanging out with my family for the holiday, so we turned the game on. And the next thing I know, Westbrook is neck deep in a pitchers duel. Being that Westbrook has a track record of pitching good for 3 innings or so before falling apart, I kept waiting for the bottom to drop out. But despite 3 walks, Westbrook managed to throw 6 scoreless innings. I’ll take it.
The real problem was that Reds starter, Edinson Volquez was matching Westbrook inning for inning. That is….until the bottom of the 6th. It was a small rally and short lived, but it would be more than enough against the non-producing offense of the Reds today. It started with a 1 out Matt Holliday double down the line, followed by the intentional pass to the red-hot Lance Berkman. And can you blame them? Berkman ended up 2 for 3 and continues to have multi-hit game after multi-hit game. Daniel Descalso popped up for the 2nd out and it looked like the Reds just might wiggle out of the jam. Then Yadier Molina stepped to the plate and cranked a 3 run shot for his first long ball of the season. And what a time to debut it. Yadi isn’t known for his immense power, but he is known for his great timing. He has a history of hitting well-timed home runs.
Funny how Phillips and Molina, the two guys who started the scuffle with each other last year have seemed to hit the other team well. Maybe their adrenaline gets up for these kind of series? Who knows? But on this one Yadi got the last word loud and clear. So Phillips can go back to playing around on Twitter. He seems to be more interested in hearing himself talk than playing baseball and that’s fine by me.
The bullpen pitched an uneventful 7th and 8th inning, including Eduardo Sanchez who continues to impress. We’ll see if he ends up being as great as he appears to be, but for now I can’t get enough of this guy. His scoreless inning today makes 6 innings over 4 games that he has pitched without a single run and only 2 hits. And the really ridiculous part? 10 strikeouts. Yup, 10 Ks over 6 innings. That’s a quality I like in a relief pitcher. No drama, no fuss, no mess.
The 9th inning came and Votto hit a 1 out double. Uh-oh. This sounds familiar. Luckily, the Reds don’t have the kind of protection that Votto deserves, so no free passes for the Reds team. With a runner on 2nd and one out….time to bring in Franklin! Oh wait. No just kidding. Boggs settled down and struck out two for the save. That’s how you do it!
Cool fact: The Cardinals were able to give the Reds their first shutout of the season!
Back to 1st place,
Last night’s game was about as intense of a playoff like contest that you’re going to have in April. If that same game was played in late September, it would have been crazy in that stadium. Luckily for us Cardinal fans, the victory came down on our side. But I had my doubts all the way through that we were going to maintain that slim lead.
The gamemanship started before even the first pitch was thrown. LaRussa made a last minute switch to put in a bullpen guy to start in case the rain caused a delay. With the same expert-like calling of a pitchout when you just know that other guy is running, he was 100% dead on for this one. Normally, LaRussa drives me crazy with his constant lineup tinkering, but for once I was happy about it and it paid off. He was able to bring McClellan in for “relief” after the delay, essentially giving him the start, while Dusty Baker had to dip into his bullpen after one batter.
McClellan continued the awesomeness that has been the Cardinal pitching (minus Westbrook) and good things happened all the way around. Not to say this game didn’t make me nervous. In the first inning, the Cardinals should have put up a few runs. Ramsus not advancing on a ball in the dirt and putting himself in scoring position for the next basehit resulted in only 1 run. As it turns out, the runs they did get were enough.
I hate to say it this early, but this team and especially this game is awfully reminiscent of the 2006 Redbirds. That team was never overpowering, but they always had enough to get the job done. And when it looked like they wouldn’t win, they always did. It always just seemed to happen. It’s not just because they’re winning, although that helps. Just their attitude and everything about the way they are playing is different. They have an intensity that was not there last season and wasn’t really there in the first week of this season. I don’t know if it’s chemistry, Berkman’s influence or what, but I’m liking what I’m seeing.
The bullpen was great finishing out a close game and Boggs getting his second save since Franklin was demoted. And of course Yadier Molina continued in his defensive prowess. I never get tired watching him pick guys off of 1st base. It’s hands down my favorite play of the Cardinals. Especially when he does it to end an inning. Or like last night, when he does it to end an inning in a 2 run ballgame with runners on 1st and 2nd. Beautiful.
So far today the Redbirds are up 2-0 on the Reds. Could Carp get his first win of the season?? Say it ain’t so.
1st place Cardinals,
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,
This afternoon, the Cardinals start their 10 day road trip to the West. It begins with the defending World Series championship, the San Francisco Giants. It’s kind of annoying to have to be the team that has to sit through their flag raising, their ring ceremony and all the other hoopla, but some team’s gotta to do it.
Now, if we could take 2 of 3 from them, it would certainly take the sting out of it.
Westbrook is going for us in game 1 of the series. While he’s certainly not one of our dominant pitchers, he’s going to be be better than he showed in his last outing, where he got clobbered. But to me the most important thing is that our offense gets going. It has been absolutely abhorrent these first few games. I know it’s only been six games and all that, blah blah blah, but it’s still hard to watch your teams hit so poorly game after game.
To give you an idea of how badly it’s been, in six games:
- We have three guys with any regular at-bats who are hitting over .300. Everyone else is under .200.
- The one guy who had been on fire (hitting .750) has only been able to play one game due to having an emergency appendectomy.
- We are 5th to last in the NL in team average and dead last in slugging, due to only having two guys who have gone deep all season and a mere 8 extra base hits.
- Our 9 time All-Star, 3 time MVP and 2 time gold glover is hitting .182 and slugging .318.
- We are dead last in RBIs with 14. 14!! 3 teams have twice as many as us and the Reds actually have 3x as many.
- We’ve averaged 2.5 runs scored per game, also dead last.
In short, it has not been pretty on the hitting side of things. At some point, it has to change. Hopefully, it will be sooner rather than later. On a positive the World Champs have an identical 2-4 record as us, so this might be the best time to play them, while they’re finding their groove as well.
Looking to be better on the road,
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,
Doesn’t it make you wonder what if the Cardinals has pursued Roy Oswalt? He was available prior to the trade deadline, had made it clear that he would like to be a Cardinal and that he would be willing to negotiate his price to make it happen. Obviously, I don’t know all the inner workings of the negotiations, but man, I wish that deal would have happened. I was fine with giving up Ludwick, but instead of Westbrook, to get Oswalt would have put us right there in serious competition with the Reds.
Look at the numbers. Since being a Phillie, Roy Oswalt…
- has a 6-1 record
- has posted a 1.98 ERA
- has struck out 54 in 9 games (average of 6 Ks per game)
- pitched 1 shutout
- posted a 0.93 WHIP
Roy Oswalt as our #4???? Are you kidding me? He would have given that extra punch that we have lacked since Brad Penny went down after game 9. Man, what if…..
Wishing Oswalt was wearing Cardinal red,
What will happen tonight? I honestly have no clue. The Cardinals have started playing a new game called, “Let’s stress out our fans as much as possible.” Back and forth, they have gone all season with the Reds between 1st and 2nd place. Finally, after slipping back to 2 games and being at the risk of going 5 games back, if they would get swept.
Instead, they do what very few thought was possible. They swept the Reds, once again claiming first place by themselves. Things are looking up! Wait, no, just kidding. False alarm. Now, the Cardinals go 1-4 in the next 5 games, losing 2 of 3 to Chicago and a 2 game sweep by the Brew Crew. Really? To make matters worse, the Reds go on a tear against their opponents (even when Votto wasn’t in the lineup) and we’re back in 2nd place. Not only that, but we’re back by
3 1/2 games, the most games that have separated us and the Reds all season.
Oh, but wait. Something is very different about this year. Most years, we’re contending for and fighting off opponents only for the NL Central. But for the first time in awhile, the Cardinals are actually in striking distance of the wild card as well. In fact, our opponent tonight is only a game ahead of us in that race.
So a lot going on. And I have no idea what’s going to happen. The Cardinals play good, they play poorly, then they rip multiple home runs in the same game, they they are getting shut out by some hack pitcher. Which Cardinal team will show up tonight? Your guess is as good as mine.
Add to the mix, a still fairly new Westbrook, a new guy at 3rd to go along with that ever-revolving door at 2nd base, Rasmus who may or may not be in the lineup, Brendan who still can’t hit, but suddenly looks like the Wizard out there with his defense, and a recent call-up of a backup catcher and it’s too much for me. All we can do is wait and see what will happen between us and the Giants and the Reds and the Dodgers.
All I know is that I don’t enjoy being 3 1/2 games back and I’d like the Cardinals to start playing like they’re capable of. There’s definitely talent on the team, but I’d like to see a little more desire. The will to win. What scares me is not the Reds lineup, their pitching or any of that. It’s the fact that they believe in themselves to win every game, even when they’re behind. Am I crazy or does that remind anybody of the ’06 Cardinals?
Takin’ down San Fran,
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?
The Cubs have a way of coming out all guns blazing against us. And then I found out that Derrek Lee was back in the lineup and he always plays tough against us as well. And the Cubs were true to those expectations for the first inning. After a leadoff out, they got four straight hits to go up 2-0. I’ll admit it. I was worried.
But luckily, it was only two runs as Westbrook wiggled out of that jam and the Cubs stranded two. Westbrook settled down after that though and ended up going 6 innings, giving up 2 earned runs and struck out 3 for his first Cardinal win. I am definitely happy with that. Surprisingly, he was not the “star of the game” tonight on the post-game show. Not only did he earn his first win with his new team, he had quite the day at the plate too. A guy who only had 2 career hits, hit a double down the line and scored his first ever career run. Probably pretty exciting for this life long American Leaguer.
His first win couldn’t have come at a better time as we take the first of this crucial 3 game set and hand Chicago their 10th loss of the year. The Reds made it clear tonight they have no plans in slowing down as they took being swept out on the Florida Marlins. I mentioned yesterday how they were going against a guy who’s competing for the NL Cy Young, Josh Johnson. He was leading the league in ERA. I say “was” because the Reds hung 6 runs on him and they did it early.
In fact, this is the only good news in the Cincinnati win. With Johnson’s ERA quickly rising, Cardinal star Adam Wainwright is now in possession of 1st place in ERA. Combine that with his 1st place wins and he looks better than ever to take home the Cy Young home trophy, as I argued for in this post.
We are still up 1 game in the central and with every game, the race intensifies more and more. You gotta feel good with Carp going tomorrow. I really can’t stand Carlos Zambrano (he’s a bigger idiot than Brandon Phillips in my book), so it would be nice to rough him up a bit. Although that could lead to another scuffle 🙂
Speaking of Phillips, one fan at the game tonight showed a sign addressed to him, saying “thank you” to him with love from Cardinal fans. Gotta love it. As expected, Yadier Molina got a standing ovation tonight from the crowd and he didn’t disappoint. He started off the night with a base hit and ended 1 for 2 with two RBI sac flies tonight.
Two other notes of interest: Colby Rasmus walked four times tonight, including one intentional pass. And the big guns, Pujols and Holiday combined to go 5 for 9, with 2 RBI and 4 runs scored. Pujols also went deep the first inning to give him 29 on the year and 495 lifetime home runs. A couple more and he’ll be in the top 50 of all-time. Crazy.
Wesbrook lookin’ good in Cardinal red,