There’s no doubt about it – the Redbirds are struggling right now. Not “it’s time to hit the panic button struggling,” but struggling nonetheless. No matter what they do these days, they seem to fall just a bit short. And it’s frustrating to watch.
Yesterday, they were foiled by good defense and Stanton’s 2 homers to lose by a run. Today, a decent outing by Wainwright is spoiled, as they get shutout. Adams, is slumping big time and struck out to end 2 games in a row. It’s frustrating.
I have to remind myself that back in 2006 the Cardinals did everything they could to not make the postseason before catching fire and winning it all. The main difference this time is not having that big bat that you know is just going to come through. For years it was Albert and even last year Beltran always seemed like a sure thing. Holliday has been on a tear, but he’s such a streaky hitter that you never know how long that will last. Taveraz hasn’t materialized into that big power bat yet either.
Once again, as I mentioned in a previous post, as a normal bench player (Mark Ellis) got the start, he went 2 for 3. But ask him to get a hit of the bench? Impossible. The same as been true for Descalso, Jay, when he was hitting off the bench and so many others.
Bad mangerial move of the day: putting in Adams to pinch-hit for Taveras.
There’s two problems with this. You say you’re giving Adams a “mental and physical break,” by giving him a day off. He got the physical break, but not the mental one. In fact, it was probably made worse. He had already struck out to end the game the day before. So basically unless he homers, you are setting him up to fail again. It doesn’t matter that he had no control of the rest of the game. What he’s going to be thinking about tonight was ending two games in a row via the K.
The second problem is Taveras. Both he and Adams are left hitters. So by subtituting one lefty for another, you are flat out telling Taveras, you don’t have the confidence in him coming through in a big situation. And of course, we don’t, but don’t tell him that! There’s no other explanation for that move unless you think Adams is more likely to get the big hit.
Every game I think, maybe this is when they break out of their slump. But it just hasn’t been happening. And unless something magical happens, I’m just not having my normal confidence in this team making a long post-season run. At least without Wacha and Molina returning pronto. Their hitting, their pitching has all been mediocre. I’ll give them credit for their defense.
It just feels like the whole team has been in a funk and it’s time for them to snap out of it real fast!
Break the slump,
Looks like Theriot is out of the lineup again tonight as he was a late scratch from last night’s lineup. It scares me when our guys are breaking down and it’s only April. But Pujols is back in, so perhaps, some of these “injuries” are not as bad as they first appear.
This does mean another lineup shakeup though, especially because Rasmus is sitting tonight as well. Theriot and Rasmus have consistently been the 1-2 punch all year. There’s no word on him being injured, so I’m guessing it’s just a preventative day for him. I’m sure LaRussa loves to have an excuse to shuffle his lineup because even when he’s got all of his regulars starting, he’s known for shuffling his lineup more times than a blackjack dealer in Vegas.
So today Punto (still filling in for the injured Schumaker) is our leadoff guy and Freese sits in the 2 hole. 3-4-5 look standard. Other notable changes are Jay is batting 8th and playing CF and Greene is batting 7th, playing shortstop. I truly believe our lineup is the best thing we have going for us and very deep, so even with a few key guys down, I still think we have the pop to get it done.
And we sure need this win after yesterday’s ugly loss. Every team is going to have those games that are in your reach, but you end up losing, but what you do after it is what’s important. If we can come back now and take 2 of 3 and still win the series, I can live with an ugly loss here or there. (Though I still don’t have to like it.)
It will be interesting to see who gets the 9th inning if a save situation presents itself. Who would you give it to if you were LaRussa? Franklin? Bogss? Someone else? And remember, Miles is not an option anymore. 🙂
Glad Pujols is back,
You know the Redbirds have seen better days when they have to scratch, bite and claw their way to a 4-3 win over the Pirates. But hey, I’ll take it.
It looked bleak at the beginning. A decent start by McClellan (2 ER over 6 innings) and good pitching by the bullpen looked like it would be wasted by the absence of hitting once again. The Cardinals were already 2-0 by the time I turned the game on in the bottom of the 1st thanks to another Pirate home run. This time the culprit was Lyle Overbay.
But slowly and surely the Cardinals fought their way back. It was one run at a time and every run was hard fought and earned. No home runs to show for our guys. The first run was the easiest. It came by way of a Lance Berkman leadoff double followed by an Allen Craig base hit. Berkman seems to be running great and I have to say this surprises me. He’s faster than I thought he’d be. And Craig just continues to impress. He’s been driving in runs left and right, hitting .364 on the season with 4 RBI on the young season. He seems to be who Jon Jay was last year and I like what I’m seeing from him.
In the 5th, the Cardinals manufactured their second run. Theriot and Rasmus got back to back bases hits putting runners on the corners and Albert came through with a sac fly which tied the game at two runs a piece.
The 7th inning ended up being the decider. Theriot drew a one out walk and Rasmus moved him into scoring position with a base hit and again it was Pujols with the RBI. He hit a ‘just enough’ ground ball that was perfectly placed between short and third to score Theriot.
The only moment of worry after that came in….what else? The 9th. Franklin got his first two outs easy before giving up a hit to Ryan Doumit. Flashes of a 2 out Padres comeback went through my mind, but this time he settled down and struck out the final Pirate batter to secure the win as well as his first save of the season.
Now many people might think Albert deserves all the credit for this game, but I would disagree. Albert was important, but to me the hero was Ryan Theriot, so I was happy to hear him on ‘star of the game’ afterwards. After all, all Pujols really did was get an out and a lucky base hit. If Theriot is not on base, those amount to nothing. Theriot did just what the leadoff guy is supposed to do; get on base however he can. And he did that tonight by getting on base 3 times. He hasn’t been particularly productive so far this season (than again, what Cardinal has?) but if he can continue to get on base at a high clip, there is no doubt runs will be scored. The Cardinals have plenty of guys who don’t strike out and can get the sac flies or the base hits to score those runs if he can get on and get into scoring position.
Nearing .500 ball,
So I recently came across Daniel Descalso’s blog here on MLBlogs.
Descalso is an infielder who has been a September call-up with the Redbirds. He’s in Spring Training camp right now, blogging about his experiences. He only has two posts right now, but I definitely hope he posts more now and during the season because he is funny, as well as having a great inside look at what goes on at Spring Training. For instance who would have guessed that Jon Jay likes to rap every morning on the way to the park?
Blogging with Descalso,
Albert Pujols – The most obvious and most talked about returner to the Cardinals lineup. Pujols represents the “no doubter” in the Cardinals lineup. Plays first and bats third. So automatic that even with all of LaRussa’s lineup tinkering, this isn’t likely to change. The only exception to that would be if LaRussa decided to flip flop him with Matt Holliday, if Holliday is slumping. Pujols is also one of the few guarantees in the lineup when it comes to production. Pujols slump lasts long and when he comes out of one, it’s usually with a bang. He’s also never been injury prone in his career. Some minor flare ups here and there, but nothing major. We all know it’s up in the air if Pujols is going to be a Cardinals in 2012 and beyond, so for now, just enjoy him while we got him.
Matt Holliday – This was the guy they shelled all the money into last year as a free agent, in order to form a solid team around Pujols. He serves as protection at the dish and a decent defender in left field. This is an all-star caliber player and when he’s hot, he’s HOT, but like many a Cardinal outfielder before him, he can be prone to a cold streak or two. His consistency in protecting Albert will be huge to the success of 2011 Cardinals.
Yadier Molina – Believe it or not, Yadi is now a griseled veteran with seven years under his belt. His season ended a couple weeks early last year due to injury and what else can you expect? He had already caught way more games than pretty much every other catcher in the league. Yadi’s a gamer, no doubt about it and the pitching staff has expressed their appreciation. They trust Yadi behind the plate and having a guy like that back there makes our pitchers that much better. They don’t pay him for his offense, but I’d like to see him bump it up a touch this year. On a completely other note, I’d also like to see him kick the crap out of Brandon Phillips. 🙂
Colby Rasmus – It’s hard to fully appreciate Colby when a guy like Jimmy Edmonds is retiring. But he’s also still very young and making a name for himself. He’s a good hitter and fielder, but I don’t believe he’s reached his potential yet. He needs to be a tad more patient at the plate and lower his strikeout rate. Part of the problem is probably his lack of focus. Last year, he made headlines for comments about “wanting a trade.” Hopefully, he can learn from a guy like Pujols when it comes to that sort of thing. There’s a time to talk and during the season is not it. Put your head down, shut up and play the game. If he can do that, he has the makings of being a big time player. If he can’t, just call him J.D. Drew and trade him already.
Skip Schumaker – It’s still unclear what Skip’s going to be in the world of baseball. Infielder? Outfielder? Lifetime utility guy? Journeyman? Whatever it is, I have enjoyed his contributions to the Cardinal team. He always seems to be working hard at whatever role is thrown his way. And when he asked, he turned himself to a pretty good 2nd baseman. He also had a down year at the plate in 2010, hitting well below the .300 mark he had reached in his previous three seasons. With a plethora of utility type players on the lineup, it’s likely that Skip will see some time at a variety of positions and places in the lineup, but you have to think that he’s going to see a lot of time as the leadoff guy. But in LaRussa’s crazy world, nothing is guaranteed.
David Freese – Though he hasn’t spent much time as a Cardinal due to injury, I’m still including him in the returning players, as he was THE 3rd baseman for the first part of last year. The Cardinals are needing much longer from him this year. Reports have been that he is taking it easy during Spring Training so as not to re-injure anything. During his brief stint, however, he did show a lot of promise. He has the potential to be a great contributor this year and years to come, especially as we inevitably lose higher paid players.
Jon Jay / Daniel Descalso / Tyler Greene / Allen Craig – Four guys who saw various amounts of playing time last year at the Major League level. Where they fit this year remains to be determined. Right field that became a platoon on the departure of Ryan Ludwick last year is back to probably a one-man show upon the acquisition of Lance Berkman. It remains to be seen who is in St. Louis and who is elsewhere upon the arrival of Opening Day. At least a couple of these guys will find themselves filling utility roles and backups for starting guys. Greene was used quite a bit last year when Freese went down. And rumor has it that he might even see some time at center. But that shouldn’t be surprising. LaRussa has a tendency to want a team of guys that can play multiple positions to allow for creative lineups and subbing situations. My main hope is that Jay gets another hot streak going like he had last year and is a force off the bench.
On paper, the returning guys are pretty solid. But injuries and down seasons can certainly change things. This team is built around Pujols and Hollliday and I expect both of these guys to deliver what we’re used to seeing. If the other guys like Molina, Freese and Skip can up their game, it looks to be a good year for the Cardinals.
Next up will be the returning pitching staff.
Solid veteran lineup,
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?