Tag Archive | "Arm Injury"

Difficult Start To Second Half Could Help St. Louis Cardinals In October

The St. Louis Cardinals have unquestionably played their worst baseball of the season the past three weeks, going 4-11 against the four best teams in the National League, but that rough stretch could be a large dose of the medicine the team needs to be ready for the playoffs.

MikeMathenyArguing

Despite the awful finish to July and start to August, the Cardinals still entered play Saturday in the first wild-card spot and 6.5 games from falling out of a playoff position. Therefore, they have little reason to stress over making the playoffs, but a little frustration could add an edge any team needs to succeed in the postseason.

Sure, the Cardinals had their fair share of injuries during the first half of the season. Starting pitcher Chris Carpenter never recovered from his arm injury, closer Jason Motte underwent Tommy John surgery during spring training, Jaime Garcia had season-ending shoulder surgery in May and Jake Westbrook missed significant time while on the disabled list, but none of those problems were big enough to keep St. Louis from jumping out to the best record in Major League Baseball.

The Cardinals cruised to a 57-36 record in the first half while primarily playing teams that are not going to come anywhere close to making the playoffs. Their combined 28-11 record against the Milwaukee Brewers, Houston Astros, Miami Marlins, San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants largely accounts for why the team was more than 20 games above .500 by the All-Star Break.

They began the second half of the season 5-1 in six games against the lowly Padres and Philadelphia Phillies, who were each 11 games under .500 heading into play Saturday, but then they went out to play the good teams in the National League.

And they got smoked.

The Atlanta Braves, Pittsburgh Pirates, Cincinnati Reds and Los Angeles Dodgers would fill out the postseason bracket along with the Cardinals if the season ended anytime soon, and those teams won 11 of 15 games against St. Louis.

Of course, catcher Yadier Molina went on the disabled list with a sprained right knee less than a week into that stretch and that has certainly affected the offense considering he was second in the league with a .330 batting average when he got hurt.

Yet, the Cardinals’ problems have been bigger than just Molina’s absence. The team has hit .260 since the All-Star break, which is 16 points lower than it hit before the break.

The pitching staff’s earned-run average has ballooned from 3.40 to 3.98 in the second half as the team struggles to mix and match starters to fill in gaps left by an intense schedule and more injury problems such as Shelby Miller’s sore elbow that could cause him to miss a start after he took a line drive directly off it on the second pitch of his outing Wednesday against the Dodgers.

But more than anything, the team needs to relearn how to win, particular against good teams it will likely face in the playoffs.

Remember, the 2013 Cardinals are a young team. They have a second baseman (Matt Carpenter) and shortstop (Pete Kozma), who are in their first seasons at those positions at the major-league level, and they have used 11 rookie pitchers. All but four of those 13 players were on the postseason roster in 2012 and many had never spent a day in the big leagues until earlier this season.

Also, every team, good or bad, goes through a rough patch in their season. The 2006 World Series championship Cardinals team lost eight games in a row in late June, and the 2011 world championship team lost seven in a row in early June, along with a 3-8 stretch in mid-August before it caught fire through the rest of the season.

The 2013 team had not had a losing streak of more than three games in a row at any point before the seven-game losing streak a couple of weeks ago. The team had battled around injuries, but it had yet to develop the resilience that only a stretch of losing baseball can provide.

Plus, the team now knows the level of play required to compete with the best teams in the league.

It certainly isn’t fun for Cardinals fans to watch their team struggle, but the recent run of losses seemingly night after night could help the team develop the mental and emotional toughness it will need to make a run at the 2013 World Series championship.

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Felix Hernandez megadeal should actually help St. Louis Cardinals in Adam Wainwright negotiations

The St. Louis Cardinals enter spring training this week with another star player entering the final year of his contract just two years after the Albert Pujols contract circus. But the Cardinals suddenly have leverage in these negotiations they never got with Pujols.

AlbertPujolsAdamWainwright

Adam Wainwright will be a free agent at the end of the season if he and the Cardinals can’t agree on a long-term contract before the end of the season. This sounds similar to the Pujols situation, but the Cardinals should suddenly be more optimistic this time around thanks to an American League team on the West Coast.

The Seattle Mariners are close to signing pitcher Felix Hernandez to a huge contract that could range from five to seven years and $135 million to $175 million. Either way, Hernandez is going to be a very rich man, but he probably helped the Cardinals in negotiations with their own ace pitcher.

Hernandez could make somewhere in the neighborhood of $25 million to $27 million annually, which is close to the price tag many people figured it would take to keep Wainwright in St. Louis beyond this season. However, the Cardinals have a few good reasons not to pay Wainwright that much money, or at least not for that long.

See, Hernandez is just 26 years old even though he’s pitched in the big leagues for eight seasons, but he has never had a major arm injury. Wainwright is 31 years old, missed the entire 2011 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow and struggled at times in 2012 to regain his dominant form.

The bigger concern for the Cardinals was when the San Francisco Giants signed righthanded pitcher Matt Cain to a six-year, $127.5-million contract extension before the beginning of the 2012 season. Cain was 27 years old at the time he signed the deal, but he also had a career record of 69-73.

Granted, the deal worked out last year as Cain led the Giants to a World Series title with a 16-5 record and a perfect game along the way, but Wainwright still looked like the better pitcher at the time.

Maybe it’s been good for the Cardinals to let negotiations with Wainwright drag on into the final year. The constant questions about the contract won’t be pleasant if they don’t get a deal done before the season begins, but the Cardinals would’ve certainly had to pay more for Wainwright if they had signed him to an extension two years ago, and probably even last year. There was a chance Wainwright could have made between $25-30 million per year up until the Hernandez deal.

Wainwright could still shoot for that type of money as a free agent in the offseason if he has a Cy Young Award-caliber 2013 season, but teams will likely be much more unwilling to give a 31-year-old pitcher with a history of arm problems more money than a 26-year-old pitcher who has never spent an appreciable amount of time on the disabled list.

Of course, time will determine if the Mariners made the right decision to sign their righthanded star pitcher. Hernandez could have a Cain-type season, or he could turn into Barry Zito, who hasn’t pitched above .500 since the Giants signed him to a $126-million deal in 2007.

No matter the long-term outcome, news of the Hernandez deal should make Cardinals fans more optimistic their team’s own righthanded star pitcher will take the mound at Busch Stadium in a Cardinals uniform to open the 2014 season, and God-willing, several more seasons beyond that.

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Tub-slumping

The six-hour, 19-inning marathon that took place on Sunday was just another kink in the chain that is the 2012 St. Louis Cardinals’ season. The Cardinals’ heart of the order, the one so dominant when they are all hitting well, was a combined 2 for 22.Matt Holliday was 0 for 7, Carlos Beltran 2 for 7 and David Freese 0 for 8.   A game that saw Jaime Garcia dominate in his return from an arm injury, looking like the Garcia of 2010, was marred by poor offense and some strange decision-making.

 

St. Louis had chance after chance to end the game with a W. The biggest opportunity came in the 17th. Skip Schumaker‘s single to center, the one that Andrew McCutchen bobbled, turned out to be the deciding moment of the game. Had Schumaker seen McCutchen fumble the ball and advanced to 2nd as Cutch threw to 3rd, Jon Jay”s base hit likely would’ve been the game-winning hit.

But, instead of a wild and entertaining 17-inning win, Cardinal fans find themselves talking about a heartbreaking 19-inning loss. Instead of being tied for the second Wild Card spot, St. Louis remains two games back of Pittsburgh.

Manager Mike Matheny is right when he said earlier this week that the team is struggling to get the one timely hit that can get the Cardinals a victory. The Cardinals’ offense may be the best in the league statistically, but it also one of the streakiest in baseball. Take the 8-2 win over San Francisco on August 6th, for example. Two days later, the Cardinals were embarrassed by the Giants in a 15-0 loss.

The Cards have had a string of rough losses as of late. The blown save by closer Jason Motte on Thursday and struggling offense on Friday led to two very frustrating one-run losses. St. Louis is 13-21 in one-run games in 2012. By comparison, Cincinnati is 20-17, while Pittsburgh is 25-20. With Sunday’s extra inning loss, the Cardinals’ record in such games fell to 3-9. The Pirates are now 4-0 in extras, while the Reds are 4-5.

Starting with tonight’s game against the Astros, the Redbirds will play 16 straight games before their next off day. Ten of them will be on the road – against the division-leading Reds, Pirates, and NL East-leading Nationals respectively. This stretch – particularly the games on the road – will likely determine whether the team will have what it takes to make the playoffs, or roll over and be watching from home once the regular season ends.

In order for the Cards to prove themselves, they must get everything clicking at once. That means that the heart of the order must get out of their respective slumps, the bullpen must right the ship, the offense must be consistent, and Motte needs to return to his old self. In addition, the team must win more one-run ballgames and win more in extras. It might be too much to ask at this point in the season. The Cards were able to find their way late last year, however, and have to do that if they want to play baseball in October.

Last year, St. Louis pulled off an improbable feat. The circumstances in 2012 are not near what they were a season ago, but some of that magic needs to rub off on this team. It’s not necessarily time to panic just yet, but time is running out. The good news is, the Cards have all the tools. All we can do now is just watch and wait.

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Jeff Francoeur: Royals Recruiter

Note: I wrote this before learning of Frank White’s firing by the Royals. I have to prepare for some other stuff and don’t have time to write another article. Frank White’s firing is on the business and PR side of the house and will not have an impact on baseball operations. However, what I wrote below is about organizational culture change. Changing the culture into a winner. However, if an organization is willing to blow out one of three people in the organization to have their number retired, I have to assume that the culture of Buffoonery is still winning the day in the front office. Might as well put a trash can back in front of the 1985 World Series Trophy.

On Tuesday of this week it was announced that Jonathan Broxton signed a one-year, $4 Million contract with the Royals. Broxton is coming off an arm injury. However, Dayton Moore has made a name for himself in signing reclamation projects and then turning them for something of value. Sort of like those house flipping shows that were popular in the latter half of the Aught Decade, except with baseball players, not houses.

Broxton will add depth to the bullpen, allows Aaron Crow to take another shot at the rotation, and open up some trade options. At least that’s the theory. This thing could blow up. To you and me a $4 Million gamble is a big deal, but for an MLB payroll I think it’s defiantly worth the risk.

photo by Minda Haas

I could go into all the ways the Royals could/should/will use Broxton and the other options that this will create. That stuff is too far away to really think about. What I find most interesting about this Broxton situation is how the signing came about. Recruiting is something that isn’t typically talked about in the professional sporting world because everyone assumes the paycheck is the biggest decision to make. However, In professional sports teams often offer similar contracts. What the decision comes down to is quality of life. Will I be happy living in this city or that city? If a guy is smart he’ll discuss these things with his family. Cliff Lee signing with Philadelphia is a good example of this. It was publicized that Lee’s family liked their time in Philadelphia, so they signed there. I dare say it, whether a team gets or doesn’t sign a player often comes down to intangibles of the team or city.

The term intangibles often makes fans cringe when learning a player on their team has intangibles. Let’s be honest: intangibles is the sunshine a team’s PR Department throws out when they know they just signed or traded for a player that sucks. Jeff Francoeur has been mentioned in the same sentence as intangibles a few times in his career. Francoeur had an excellent season last year. His plate production might, and probably will regress next year. However, I enjoy watching Francoeur play defense more than anything. After reading this Kevin Kernan article in New York Post about the Broxton signing I realized Jeff Francouer brings another intangible to the Royals that the Royals have needed for years. A Recruiter! (This hunting trip has been mocked by bloggers and media types in more urban areas. However, Royals Nation is mostly rural and knowing that hunting was used to lure a player to the Royals probably does more to endear the players to the fan base, than say…. firing Frank White)

I wonder if Raul Ibanez or Tori Hunter would be on the Royals roster if the Royals had a good recruiter and winning culture during their free agency. Rumor has it the money was there to sign these guys, but Kansas City didn’t offer what these players wanted, and it certainly did not offer a winning culture.

From watching the games on TV last season you could tell Francoeur genuinely enjoys playing for the Royals. From the playful sucker-punches during walk off celebrations, to pointing and smiling to teammates who made spectacular plays, Frenchy established himself as a leader on this team. It also helps that he put his money where his mouth is and signed a contact extension during the season.

Aside from actually winning games what the Royals need most is a change of culture. Frenchy seems to be leading the way in that process. His on field production will have to stay somewhat relevant for him to have any credibility. Eric Homser, Mike Moustakas and the other young guys appear to have the same chemistry from coming up through the system together. But Frenchy is the veteran and should display some leadership. If (see, I wasn’t completely sold even before the Frank White news.) we are witnessing a true culture change within the Royals Club House, you have to give Jeff Francoeur some credit for giving this transformation some traction. Maybe he’ll be remembered as a better recruiter than a player.

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Hometown Starters

On Monday night, April 5, 2011, Kyle McClellan reached an important career milestone. After two arm surgeries and three years in the Cardinals bullpen, the Hazelwood West graduate was finally making his first major league start. When Adam Wainwright went down to an elbow injury early in spring training, a spot in the rotation opened it. Throughout all of spring training, McClellan out-pitched both Lance Lynn and Brandon Dickson, forcing the managers hand in the same manner as Jaime Garcia did in 2010.

Shortly before McClellan took the mound, sportswriter Rob Rains shared this interesting piece of information.

There will be history tonight at Busch:. Kyle McClellan is only the 10th StL born and raised pitcher to start for the Cardinals in 100 yrs.
@RobRains
Rob Rains

A few moments later, Rob gave us the first two names on this list: Cliff Politte (1998) and Al Omsted (1980). You knew we couldn’t leave it at that, right ? Of course not.

Looking back at the last 100 years of Cardinals history, and perhaps casting a wider net over the St. Louis area to include De Soto, Missouri and Batchtown, Illinois, here is the list of those home town starters for the St. Louis Cardinals.

Kyle McClellan

Kyle McClellan – Hazelwood West (Hazelwood, Mo). 1 start in 2011, and counting. And what an impressive start it was. In six innings of work, McClellan put aside any concerns about his ability to work through the opponents batting order more than once. He would face all but the bottom of the order three times, and over that span he would allow just six hits while striking out seven. The two Pirates runs came on a Lyle Overbay home run in the first inning, teaching the youngster a valuable lesson – veteran power hitters can smack a flat curve ball a long way. To his credit, McClellan adapted, and Overbay never saw another mediocre breaking ball. The bullpen would combine for three more scoreless innings, allowing a late rally to give the Cardinals a much needed win. McClellan would not get a decision, but earned the admiration of the big hometown crowd that was in attendance.

Cliff Politte

Cliff Politte – Vianney (Kirkwood). Cliff Politte would compile a 2-3 record in 8 starts for the Cardinals in 1998. He would then be traded to the Philadelphia Phillies where he would get a few more starts before being moved to the bullpen. That’s where Politte enjoyed his greatest success as a major leaguer, the best being with the Chicago White Sox in 2005. Politte would return to the Cardinals, pitching for Memphis (AAA) before retiring from baseball in 2008.

There was another Cliff Politte in the Cardinals farm system in the early 1960s. He too was from St. Louis, and a pitcher, although from the port side. This Cliff Politte made it as far as AA, appearing in 10 games with the Tulsa Oilers in 1964. His minor league numbers suggest that he struggled with his control, but yet was impressive at both the A and AA levels. When a lefty like that disappears suddenly, an arm injury seems the most likely culprit.

What are the odds of two unrelated Cliff Politte’s from the St. Louis area, both pitching for the Cardinals ? Although I can find nothing linking the two of them, their ages are consistent for a father and son twosome.

Al Olmsted

Al Olmsted – Hazelwood East (Hazelwood, Mo). The big left-hander had a monster season for the Springfield Redbirds (AAA) in 1980, which prompted a September callup with the big club. He would make five starts in September, including an impressive 9 1/3 scoreless inning effort against the Philadelphia Phillies in his debut.

Olmsted would become part of Whitey Herzog’s team overhaul in 1981, being sent to the San Diego Padres in the Rollie Fingers deal. What makes this interesting is Olmsted would return to St. Louis a year later as the “player to be named later” in the Ozzie Smith trade. Injuries, including a torn triceps muscle, would keep Olmsted from returning to the major leagues after that impressive September in 1980.

John Fulgham

John Fulgham – Pattonville (NW St. Louis County, Mo). Fulgham was part of a core of young pitchers, including Silvio Martinez, Al Olmsted and Andy Rincon, that the Cardinals hoped would take them back into post-season play. Injuries shut all of them down far too early in their career, but in their brief time with the Cardinals, all were impressive. Especially Fulgham. The big right-hander has a most distinctive career statistic – all 14 of his career wins were complete games. His last start would come against the Houston Astros on August 27, 1980. He would be taken out of the game after just one inning. He would miss the entire 1981 season before trying to make a comeback in 1982. After struggling for two years in the Cardinals minor league system, Fulgham would retire from baseball in 1983.

Sonny Siebert – Bayless (St. Louis, Mo). The big right-hander had been an All Star starter in the American League with the Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox, earning one mid-season classic invitation with each club. He made a brief stop through his home town at the tail end of his career. At age 37, Siebert made 20 starts for the St. Louis in 1974. His last Cardinals win would come in relief, pitching the last 2 1/3 of the 25 inning marathon with the Mets, on September 11. In that game, another aging veteran turned back the clock when Claude Osteen threw 9 1/3 scoreless innings to set up the win for Seibert.

Jerry Reuss

Jerry Reuss – Ritenour (Overland, Mo). Jerry Reuss was a tall left-hander that the Cardinals drafted out of high school in 1967. He went on to a long and productive career, winning 220 games over his 22 year career. Those 220 wins puts Reuss at #75 on the major league wins list with Tim Wakefield (193) and Roy Halladay (169) being the closest active pitchers. Not known as a strikeout pitcher, his 1,907 is good enough for #79 on the all time list, although he will soon be passed by Johan Santana (1,877), Livan Hernandez (1,832) and CC Sabathia (1,794). To learn more about the career of Jerry Reuss, listen to the United Cardinal Bloggers show from Feb 19, 2011 where Daniel Shoptaw and I interview the former Cardinal hurler.

Harry Parker

Harry Parker – Collinsville (Collinsville, Il). Primarily a reliever in his major league career with the Cardinals, Mets and Indians, Parker did make four starts with the Cardinals in 1970. All three of his decisions in St. Louis (1-2) would come in relief. Parker pitched a brilliant came against Carl Morton and the Montreal Expos on September 27, 1970. In nine innings of work, he would hold the Expos scoreless. Unfortunately for Parker, Morton was even better, throwing 11 scoreless innings. Tom Hilgendorf would take the loss in relief when Adolpho Phillips (remember that name?) singled with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 11th inning to give the Expos a 1-0 victory.

Bob Miller

Bob Miller – Beaumont (St. Louis). Bob Miller had a long and productive career as a reliever, playing for many teams over his 17 seasons. From 1957 to 1961, Miller would get 22 starts for the Cardinals, before being the first player selected by the New York Mets in the 1962 expansion draft. After one season in New York, Miller would be traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers, where he would enjoy his best years in the majors.

Jack Faszholz was born in St. Louis, but grew up in Berkeley, California. He did get one start for the Cardinals in 1953, but should probably not be on this list. At least not without an asterisk.

Eldred “Bud” Byerly – Webster Groves (Webster Groves, Mo). Bud Byerly pitched for the Cardinals between 1943 and 1945, making 14 starts. He would go on to pitch for Cincinnati, Washington, Boston and San Francisco. In addition to 237 major league appearances, Bud also pitched in 509 minor league games, as late as 1961.

Bill McGee

Bill McGee – Batchtown Il. Bill is another pitcher that probably didn’t make Rob Rains’ list. Batchtown is a small community on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River. It is west of Pere Marquette Park and Grafton and due north of St. Peters. In the 1930′s, they might not have considered themselves part of the St. Louis metro area, but they are close enough for me.

McGee pitched for the Cardinals for between 1935 and 1941 before being traded to the New York Giants where he would spend his last two seasons. While in St. Louis, he would make 144 starts. He had a career high of 16 wins in 1940.

Bill Walker

Bill Walker – East St. Louis (East St. Louis, Il). Bill Walker was a left handed pitcher who was originally signed by the New York Giants. He would be traded to St. Louis in 1933. In 4 years, Walker would make 77 starts with his last being against his former club on September 14, 1936.

Leo Dickerman – De Soto, Mo. Like Bill Walker, Dickerman started his major league career in New York, but with the other National League team – the Brooklyn Dodgers. He would spend the last 2 years of his rather short major league career in St. Louis (1924-1925) where he would start 31 games.

Henry “Hi” Jasper – St. Louis, Mo. In his short major league career, Jasper would pitch for the White Sox, Cardinals and Indians. In 1916, Jasper would start 9 games for his home town team.

Gene Dale – St. Louis, Mo. Gene Dale was a tall right hander who pitched for the Cardinals in 1911 and 1912. He would start 5 games over that two year period.

Bob Netherton covers Cardinals history for i70baseball.com and writes at On the Outside Corner. You may follow Bob on Twitter here or on Facebook here.

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