Simply put, the Cardinals are playing good baseball right now. No doubt you have heard either on last night’s broadcast or by reading it today, that the Cardinals 5th game in a row with 14 or more hits is something they have not done since the 1930s. While that’s an excellent accomplishment, it has nothing to do with the assessment that they are playing good baseball at the moment.
Anyone who follows this team is able to see that there is something very different about this year’s team than last year’s. There is a spark that is happening, a chemistry with guys feeding off of one another. There was not a shortage of hits last year. But there was a shortage of hits at the right time. I have yet to go back to look at the exact numbers, but the Cardinals have been getting an extraordinary amount of 2 out hits, something they couldn’t must in 2010. Not only that, but in the last week they have been getting runners in when they are in scoring position. My biggest complaint last year was when they were within a run or two ahead or behind the other team, they could never get the “big hit” to blow the game open. It might be 5-4 with bases loaded, they would strand those runners and blow the game in the 8th or 9th. And that’s what we were seeing in the beginning of this season. But these days they are getting that big hit and then some. And it sure is fun to watch.
Some of the differences may be the intangibles. Personalities of teammates, a certain chemistry you can’t really put your finger on. But I think some of it can certainly be traced to the performance of a few individuals.
Lance Berkman – Berkman has been the biggest contributor to the “big hit” that we so desperately needed last year. He has been consistent through Pujols’ early season struggles and seems to have even sparked him to start getting hot. This 3-4-5 is as good as any we have had since the days of Rolen and Edmonds when they were in their prime. It’s nice to have this ex-Cardinal killer finally doing the damage for the good guys.
Colby Rasmus – We had Rasmus on the team last year, but this is a different Rasmus. Last year he was often platooned, not allowed to hit against all pitchers and seemed to be constantly worried about his job. He ran his mouth to the media about a trade and was still working his way from being an inexperienced kid to a star player. Once Ludwick was traded and he was handed over every day duties, we saw him start to excel. This year he seems very comfortable and we knew going into this that his success at the #2 role would be a huge factor in the Cardinal lineup. He has proved himself admirably. Whether he’s bunting his way on and stealing 2nd, hitting a leadoff double or smacking a triple, the guy is a beast this year. Look for him to have his highest run total of his career this year.
David Freese – After he was hurt last year, the Cardinals never really recovered. There was a constant band-aid put on 3rd base, where we had always had star caliber players before. With Holliday’s huge contract and Albert’s looming on the horizon, we didn’t have the funds to go get someone with that kind of bang. So Freese being back this year and healthy thus far has been huge for these Redbirds. A guy would probably would have been a #5 hitter for the Cardinals is an even bigger asset at #6.
Tony LaRussa – Yes, the manager. A guy that is known for always tinkering with the lineup has actually controlled himself in this area. Granted, when Matt Holliday was out of the lineup, some tinkering was necessary. But since that time, as long as the main guys have started, the lineup 1-6 has been:
The only change has been Molina and Schumaker swapping back and forth in the 7 and 8 positions and then the pitcher hitting 9th. This has only changed on days when Freese is sitting or when Molina or Berkman are given a day of rest. This is the ideal lineup and for the first time ever LaRussa seems to be aligning to the mantra, “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”
This ride will inevitably only last so long. They will eventually stop getting 14+ hits a game and they will eventually lose. But as for now, I’ll just be enjoying it for as long as possible.
Enjoying the ride,
After an extended absence of the St. Louis Cardinal bats, when they finally started showing up again, no one wanted to get too excited. Was it permanent? Was it lucky? It was hard to know what to make of the situation. Fluke or For Real? That’s what I asked a week ago. But after a few more games with the same result, I would say it is safe to say that the Cardinal offense has indeed found it’s way back.
Does that mean that we won’t ever have an off game? No. Does it mean that we won’t ever get shutout? No. Does it mean that we couldn’t possibly get no-hit? No.
What it does mean is that the first week or so of games was not indicative of the potential of this Cardinal line-up. Everyone struggled to find their place in the Cardinal line-up, Holliday was out for a bit and it was just plain ugly for awhile. But once they broke out, they broke out in a huge way and they haven’t looked back since.
Not every game will be the 15-5 lashing they gave Arizona two games ago, but I think it shows what the Cardinals are capable of. Tonight’s victim were the Dodgers as they’ve now had 14 or more hits in 4 straight games and are getting production from literally ever part of the lineup, even from guys who had previously been “slumping.”
Although, I think it is safe to say that no one is hotter right now than Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday. These guys are absolutely on fire. Multiple hit games are a regular occurrence as Holliday is hitting .391 and Berkman .311. Berkman also had 4 home runs in 3 games.
One important key this year will be the triple threat of Pujols, Holliday and Berkman. Last year the Cardinals were only a threat when both Pujols and Holiday were hitting. When either got into a mini-slump, it became too easy for a pitcher to pitch around one of them and go after the other. There was no one in that 5 spot consistently for that extra protection. And the guy we did have (Ludwick) got traded away for the just as important need of pitching. This year, as long as 2 of 3 can stay hot, the Cardinals will always be a threat. And if all 3 ever get really going at the same time…..look out.
Garcia wasn’t as sharp as he was his first time out, but was more than good enough to get the job done. And since he’s 2-0 with a sub 2.00 ERA…well I’m not going to complain. Franklin is still the worrisome part of all of this. Coming in with a gigantic lead, he still gives up a home run. What if this had been another 1 run game he was trying to save? Blown again. Hopefully the Cardinals keep the games so far apart that he won’t have the chance to blow too many saves.
Keep the hits coming,
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,
Do you remember right after the Ludwick trade that I said if Ludwick came back to beat us in a big game that suddenly this trade wouldn’t look so hot? It was one of those “intangibles” that you just can’t predict when you trade a guy.
Well, here’s the situation.
4-4 game in the top of the 9th inning. Runner on 2nd. The Cardinals intentionally walk Adrien Gonzalez to get to Ryan Ludwick. What. Seriously? It’s not secret that old Cardinals traditionally do a great job of beating up on the former team. (Scott Rolen, anybody??) I saw that 3 home run coming a mile away.
The Padres ended up tacking on 1 more run, making it 8-4. Ahhhhh. Come on.
Only 3 more outs to try and come back. Holliday, Rasmus and Molina. Time to show some fight.
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,
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?
A 3 games series against the Cubs. A series that we could have
swept, just as easily as we could have lost all 3. So I am somewhat
thankful to escape with at least 1 win against the boys from
The odd thing was that the games were remarkably similar. Let's have
a recap, shall we?
- Cubs go up 3-0 within in the first 2 innings.
- Cardinals tie it 3-3, thanks to a 3 run shot by Albert.
- Cardinals go on to win the game in the bottom of the 9th thanks to small good old-fashioned small ball
- Final Score: 4-3 Cardinals
- Cubs go up 4-1 within the first 2 innings.
- In the bottom of the 9th, Albert gets things going with a double and is followed by a Ryan Ludwick home run, which leaves them just shy of a game-tying run.
- Final Score: 4-3 Cubs
- Cubs go up 3-0.
- Pujols gets things going with a run-scoring double, following a walk by Aaron Miles.
- In the bottom of the 9th, the Cards had 3 different runners on, but couldn’t seal the deal.
- Final Score: 3-2 Cubs
In all 3 games...
1)...the Cubs started out with a 3 run lead.
2)...the Cardinals mounted a comeback; 1 of them successful, two of
3)...the Cardinals made the 9th inning worth watching.
4)...the difference one tiny run.
5)...Albert Pujols was the rallying point, either the
first to score an RBI or a run and in one game, both.
Pujols went 5 for 13 (.385 AVG), with two doubles, a home run, 4 RBI
& 2 runs. Not surprising. He's always hit well against Chicago.
If only we could get him a little help. Yeah, Ludwick hit that
dinger and Miles was scrappy as always, scratching out walks and
infield hits, but come on. A couple of doubles by ANYBODY and we
could have had these games. The injuries are not helping.
Glaus has this shoulder problem now, which really isn't a big deal
for this series. The Cubs have had his number all year, save the 2
home run game he had after going like 1 in 500. But we could really
use him the rest of the series.
Add to that Ankiel, Molina and a host of other guys bit by the injury
bug and it's really a wonder we're still in this thing. It makes you
wonder that even if we do make it to October, how healthy of a team
we could put on the field. We know we're practically useless in the
postseason without Carpenter on the team and now it looks like he
won't even be back in a bullpen role, as previously thought.
The one really bright spot of the series? (Besides Albert,
of course.) I can't believe I'm going to say it, but the pitching.
They really came through. They were far from perfect, but they kept
us in it the entire game. The starters and the relievers teamed up
to pitch some pretty good ball. They got out of countless jams:
bases loaded, runners on the corners, you name it.
5 pitchers allowed 3 ER over 9 innings.
The Cubs left 8 on base.
5 pitchers allowed 3 ER over 9 innings.
The Cubs left 18 on base.
4 pitchers teamed up for 1 ER over 9 innings.
The Cubs left 9 on base.
The relief corps were especially impressive, with only 1 of those
runs being charged to a reliever.
Now what? Well, the Brewers fell to the Phils, so we keep pace
with them, but lose a game to the Phillies and the still streaking
Astros who crushed Pittsburgh 6-0 thanks to another outstanding
showing by Roy Oswalt. He went the distance in a shutout
performance, where he only allowed 3 hits.
Hopefully the Pittsburgh bats stay ice cold because we start our
next series against them tonight. And if we can't beat this last
place team, in the midst of a 6 game losing streak, then we don't
deserve to see October ball. We MUST take 2 of 3, if not a sweep or
I will declare it to be over for the Redbirds.
Moving on to Pittsburgh,