Tag Archive | "Batting Average"

Rookie Kolten Wong Expected to Be St. Louis Cardinals’ Starting 2nd Baseman

Kolten Wong’s journey has traveled many directions in his short time establishing himself on the St. Louis Cardinals’ roster. He was the prospect who was poised to take the position over late last season. He became the heir apparent during the offseason. He struggled at the start of spring training.

KoltenWong4

Now he appears to be the starting second baseman when the season begins.

As spring training winds down for the Cardinals, most of their roster decisions have been made. One of the key positions that seemed to demand attention was second base.

General manager John Mozeliak acquired an insurance policy for his young prospect when he signed Mark Ellis to a contract in December 2013. Ellis would challenge the young Wong to produce immediately if he wanted to hold on to his starting role.

Wong responded early in spring training by pushing himself too hard and found himself without a hit in his first 10 at-bats. Speculation was rampant that Wong simply was not ready. The young man was doing very little to change the minds of his critics.

Then something clicked in his progress—Wong relaxed and started showing signs of the talent so many had talked about prior to this season. He finds himself leading the Cardinals this spring with a .372 batting average. He has an impressive .674 slugging percentage and is leading the team in OPS with a 1.100 mark. The offensive production that some predicted seems to have arrived.

Meanwhile, his challenger struggled to take the field often enough to truly create the competition that management seemed to want. Ellis was slowed by a left knee ailment that caused him to miss seven consecutive games, and now finds himself preparing for Opening Day.

Ellis is expected to be ready for the season opener on March 31. When discussing the situation with Rick Hummel the St. Louis Post-Dispatch,Ellis expressed frustration with the injury more than with not being the starter:

I’m always disappointed when I can’t play…. I never want to be the guy in the training room. I want to be the guy who nobody has to worry about. They don’t have to worry about, ‘Hey, is this guy going to be able to play today or not?’ That’s what is disappointing.

Wong seems ready to begin his rookie season, and Ellis is ready to be the veteran backup.

The Cardinals are ready to win with both of them.

Bill Ivie is the founder of i70baseball.com.
Follow him on Twitter to discuss all things baseball throughout the season.

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Matt Carpenter for MVP: Now it’s Getting Serious

MattCarpenter

Several months I wrote this article arguing that Matt Carpenter could win the MVP. In the article I pointed out how it wasn’t such a wild idea; how he had the numbers for the sabermetrics community along with being a professional workhorse who switched positions for the betterment of the team, which pleases the more traditionalist crowd. I finished the article with:

So all of this hopefully shows Carpenter’s name should be in the hat. With a consistent or even superior second half, he can be the first second baseman to win the MVP since Jeff Kent in 2000. And the first Cardinals second baseman to win it since Frankie Frisch in 1931.

Not bad for someone who was without a position last year.

While Carpenter didn’t necessarily have a “superior” second half, but he did have an equally exceptional second half.

Carpenter’s first half: .321/.394/.497

Carpenter’s second half: .328/.401/.480

Since then, talk has caught on. The Cardinals broadcasters mention almost every night there is an increasing chance he may win. There’s a Facebook group dedicated to him winning (full disclosure: due to my article I was asked to be an admin on the group).

There’s plenty of other articles dedicated to Carpenter winning. It’s been covered further on our site. Bernie Miklasz talked about it here.

The Bleacher Report on his MVP chances

The question of Matt Carpenter as a legitimate NL MVP candidate is not just fluff. This young man is the real deal.

He’s come through for the Cardinals with his bat, his glove and most of all, his grit.

Carpenter is a scrapper. He’s asked to learn second base and comes back as one of the game’s best active second baseman.

Rob Rains claiming he should be in the discussion

Carpenter’s .313 batting average after Sunday’s game ties him for sixth in the NL. He scored his league-leading 97th run on Sunday and his two hits increased his season total to 157, two ahead of Milwaukee’s Jean Segura for the most in the league. He also hit his league-high 43rd double and his total of 58 extra-base hits is tied with Goldschmidt and one behind league-leader Jay Bruce of the Reds.

Even beyond the regular statistics, Carpenter’s value to the Cardinals can be found in the success he has had as the team’s leadoff hitter, where his contribution can be measured in many different ways. The most important one is that when he hits and gets on base, the Cardinals have a much better chance of winning the game.

Rant Sports on the power of his hitting despite having to work over the offseason on switching positions

Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Matt Carpenter is quietly putting together an MVP-caliber year. He leads the NL in hits, doubles, and has the highest on-base percentage among lead-off hitters. He has 58 multi-hit games, the highest in baseball. 

Here, ESPN counts down the top 5 probable leaders for the NL MVP. They put Carpenter just outside the top 5, claiming

He’s been a huge unsung hero for the Cardinals, filling dual voids at second base and the leadoff spot. Carpenter is on track to become the first St. Louis hitter with 50 doubles in a season since Albert Pujols in 2004.

I do admit if I was a voter, I would have a hard time voting for him over McCutchen too, but Carpenter definitely has a strong case. Out of the top 5 on ESPN, here is his chance of beating all 5.

Andrew McCutchen – .319/.405/.510

Why Carpenter can beat him – As I said, McCutchen is going to be tough to beat. What may hold him back though is the same thing that may hurt Carpenter: neither excelled greatly at a traditional line. McCutchen only hit 20 homeruns. Didn’t hit the 100 RBI mark. Voters may see that and vote for another player who hit 30 homeruns or 100 RBIs.

Yadier Molina – .314/.355/.471

Why Carpenter can beat him – Along with having 150 more at bats, Carpenter simply had a better year.

Paul Goldschmidt – .304/.405/.556

Why Carpenter can beat him – Goldschmidt’s team won’t make the playoffs. Love or hate that unwritten rule, it’ll still deter some voters.

Freddie Freeman – .314/.392/.500

Why Carpenter can beat him – Freeman, like Carpenter, is a long shot. And when you get to long-shots, voters start to really study the stats more. And Carpenter has better stats.

Clayton Kershaw – 15-9 1.88 ERA

Why Carpenter can beat him – Pitchers can win the MVP, but they need to have exceptional numbers. Kershaw’s numbers are good enough to easily win the Cy Young. But don’t see him winning MVP.

The last second baseman to win the MVP was Dustin Pedroia in 2008. How do the numbers compare between Pedroia that year and Carpenter this year?

Carpenter has a higher batting average, higher on base percentage, higher OPS, more runs created, a higher WAR and will probably end the season with more RBIs while hitting leadoff behind the pitchers spot.

Things are getting serious in Carpenter’s MVP bid. And since the first article, my thought has changed from how Carpenter COULD win the MVP to how Carpenter SHOULD win the MVP.

Follow me on Twitter @pchibbard

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St. Louis Cardinals have MVP candidates, probably not MVP winner

The St. Louis Cardinals have had several players jump toward the front of the National League Most Valuable Player discussion throughout the season, but none of them are likely to win the award once the season is complete.

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Catcher Yadier Molina started the season on an incredible tear. He led the National League in batting average for much of the first half, peaking at .367 on June 18. He also has played his typically fantastic brand of defense and will likely win his sixth consecutive Gold Glove Award.

However, Molina’s right knee started to give him trouble at the end of July while the Cardinals were in the middle of their season-worst seven-game losing streak. Molina sat on the disabled list for the minimum 15 days and has continued to be a very valuable player for the Cardinals, but his batting average is now back down to .316, just one point better than his 2012 batting average when he finished fourth in the MVP voting.

Because defense is nearly always undervalued in the MVP vote, Molina probably will not win his first MVP award this season.

First baseman Allen Craig has his batting average at .315 and was near the league lead with 97 runs batted in through the beginning of September. He also has a league-leading .454 batting average with runners in scoring position, but he has hit just 13 homeruns and has not played since he hurt his right foot Sept. 4.

No player has hit fewer than 15 homeruns and won the National League MVP award since former Cardinals outfielder Willie McGee received the honor in 1985 with just 10 homers.

That precedent could also hurt the Cardinals third MVP candidate, Matt Carpenter, who has been incredibly consistent throughout the season and has started to draw attention as a possible recipient of postseason awards, but he has just 10 homeruns.

Of course, homeruns are not an important part of Carpenter’s game.

Carpenter leads the National League in runs scored (121), hits (193) and doubles (53). He is also third in the league in extra base hits, third in batting average, tied for fourth in singles and eighth in Wins Above Replacement (WAR), a sabremetric that incorporates data to spit out a number that says how many more wins a player adds to his team than an average major leaguer.

Unfortunately for Carpenter and the rest of the Cardinals MVP candidates, the man who will most likely win the award is first in WAR and has numbers across the board jus slightly better than the Cardinals players. Plus, he has a potentially wonderful storyline that will almost certainly help his chances.

The Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen will probably be the National League MVP if the Pirates don’t lose nearly all of their remaining games and fall from a playoff spot.

McCutchen has a better batting average (.323), more homeruns (20), more RBIs (82) and more stolen bases (27) than any of the Cardinals’ candidates.

And McCutchen is the leader of a team that has clinched its first winning season in 20 years and is on the verge of its first postseason appearance in that same time frame. Like it or not, some of the MVP voters will take that into consideration.

The Cardinals players can’t beat McCutchen with their numbers, and they cannot beat the story of his season in Pittsburgh.

But that’s how the MVP vote has gone for Cardinals players for a generation now. Chicago Cubs right fielder Sammy Sosa won the 1998 MVP even though Cardinals first baseman Mark McGwire set the single-season homerun record at 70 because the Cubs made the playoffs while the Cardinals finished third in the NL Central.

San Francisco Giants left fielder Barry Bonds’ assault on the Major League Baseball record books overshadowed the great seasons Albert Pujols, Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen had in 2004, and Bonds kept Pujols from winning the MVP in 2002 and 2003, as well.

The Cardinals have been blessed with players who have had seasons that rival the best in the game for much of the past 15 years, but sometimes a perennially good team with multiple players who have great seasons can keep any one of them from winning the ultimate individual award.

Of course, not many Cardinals fans or players would probably care if they get the chance to celebrate their third World Series championship in seven years in about six weeks.

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Home-field advantage could be vital for St. Louis Cardinals

Although the St. Louis Cardinals did not have full possession of first place in their own division heading into play Sunday, they were just three games away from having the best record in the National League, which could be a vital advantage come October.

Busch_Stadium Retired Numbers

The Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates had identical 86-62 records as of Sunday and both trailed the Atlanta Braves by three games for the best record in the league, which would guarantee them home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, until the World Series, of course, because the American League won the All-Star Game in July.

But that nonsense aside, home-field advantage is a strong reward for having the best record. The term includes the word “advantage” for a reason. Part of what doomed the Cardinals in the 2012 National League Championship Series against the San Francisco Giants was the same factor that helped St. Louis win the World Series the year before.

Those winning teams played games 6 and 7 at home where they felt more comfortable and could feed off of the energy from their fans and the home environment.

Now, home-field advantage certainly does not guarantee success. The Cardinals won every postseason series in 2006 despite never having home-field advantage, and they beat the Washington Nationals in the 2012 division series even though the final three games were in Washington, D.C.

But home-field advantage certainly does help, and it could help the Cardinals this year more than normal, especially with the glut of young pitchers on the roster and potential postseason starters in second-year pitchers Lance Lynn and Joe Kelly, and rookies Shelby Miller and Michael Wacha.

Along with a much better record against teams below the .500 mark, the Cardinals other lopsided record is their home and away splits.

St. Louis has played 20 games above .500 at Busch Stadium compared to four games above .500 on the road. Not surprisingly, their stats fall in line with those records.

The Cardinals hit for a .271 batting average at home compared to .260 on the road, but the bigger difference is how the pitching staff performs in away games. The Cardinals’ staff has a 3.29 earned-run average in home games but a 3.73 ERA on the road.

It would also be important for the Cardinals to finish with the best record in the National League because their potential postseason opponents have even more dramatic home and road splits.

The NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers pitch to a 3.13 ERA at home compared to 3.47 on the road, and the NL East-leading Braves have a National League-best 2.47 home ERA but a 3.70 ERA away from Turner Field.

The only aspect of the game that would benefit a road team is the Dodgers offense, which hits .258 at Dodger Stadium and a Major League Baseball-best .274 on the road.

The Cardinals also lost three of their four games at home to the Dodgers in early August, but that was also during a stretch when they lost 13 of 17 games that included a three-game sweep by the Braves in Atlanta.

Once the Cardinals got their season back together, they took three of four from the Braves in late August at Busch Stadium. They have also won six of nine games against the Pirates at home while losing seven of 10 in Pittsburgh. Against the third-place team in the NL Central, the Cincinnati Reds, the Cardinals have also won six of nine home games and split the away games 5-5.

The Cardinals are nearly guaranteed a spot in the 2013 playoffs and have an excellent chance to win the NL Central with just one opponent with a winning record, the Washington Nationals, remaining.

But they also still have a chance to catch the Braves for the best record in the National League, and that accomplishment could make a large difference in which team represents the league in the World Series.

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Moustakas and Hosmer giving hope to Kansas City Royals’ nation

Mike Moustakas blasted a walk-off homer in the 13th inning to give the Kansas City Royals a 7-6 win over the Mariners on Thursday. In the same game, Eric Hosmer had two hits, bringing his season average up to .300. The standout performance by the duo was more of the same in a post All-Star break campaign that has been marked by a vast improvement for the sluggers.

MooseAndHos

While a playoff spot this season is improbable for the Royals, a strong second half by Moustakas and Hosmer should have Royals fans feeling good about the future.

The start of the season was rough for the two young cornerstones for Kansas City. In 80 games before the All-Star break, Moustakas floundered to a slash line of .215/.271/.327, with six home runs and an embarrassing 17 RBI.

In just 36 second half games, the talented third-baseman is hitting .287/.333/.465 and the power has come around to the tune of five home runs and 19 RBI.

Hosmer didn’t even hit a home run until May 9 and in 344 first half at-bats only notched nine long-balls.

In just 193 at-bats after the All-Star break, Hosmer has six home runs and 30 RBI. His slash line is extremely impressive at .326/.391/.477.

These corner infielders should be fixtures in the Kansas City lineup for years to come. It was widely assumed that this would be a breakout year for the duo, but the slow start had Royals’ fans concerned about where these two would lead the team in the future. After trading Wil Myers to Tampa Bay, the Royals’ offense is counting on Moustakas and Hosmer to deliver in a big way.

The strong second half by Moustakas and Hosmer has been mirrored by the team as a whole. In the first half, the Royals were 24th in the MLB in runs and 14th in batting average. In the second half, the team is up to 6th in the majors in scoring and in batting average.

The Kansas City offense is often viewed as a weak point of the team. The rotation, led by James Shields and Ervin Santana, has been great the whole year. Greg Holland has been lights out as the closer and the bullpen as a whole has been dominant.

If Moustakas and Hosmer can lead a turnaround of the offense, the Royals should finish this year strong and have a lot to look forward to next season.

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St. Louis Cardinals can survive without Allen Craig until playoffs

After a season filled with injuries to the pitching staff, now the St. Louis Cardinals will have to deal with an injury to one of their starting fielders, who also happened to be one of their most important hitters.

AllenCraigHurt

First baseman and occasional right fielder Allen Craig suffered a sprained left foot Wednesday in Cincinnati during a game against the Reds that the Cardinals eventually won 5-4 in 16 innings.

Craig went back to St. Louis for further examination Thursday and at least found out he did not have any broken bones in his foot. That probably gives him a chance to return before the end of the season, which is significant.

The Cardinals can likely survive through the rest of September without Craig even though he leads the team with 97 runs batted in and is tied with second baseman Matt Carpenter for the second-best batting average on the team at .315, behind catcher Yadier Molina’s .322 average.

In the worst case scenario, the Cardinals offense would fall flat without Craig’s contributions, specifically his incredible .454 batting average with runners in scoring position, and the team would lose the division title to the Reds or Pittsburgh Pirates and have to play in the one-game Wild Card round for the second consecutive year.

However, the Cardinals do have a solid backup for Craig. Matt Adams has been the Cardinals best hitter off of the bench this season, he has a .269 average with 11 homeruns and 38 RBIs in just 212 at-bats, which is about half of an everyday player. Plus, fans have clamored for Adams to get more playing time through much of the season.

Well, here’s his chance.

He certainly made an impressive first impression Wednesday with homers in the 14th and 16th innings to help the Cardinals win, but becoming a consistent hitter in the middle of the lineup will be vital for Adams now that he will be the starting first baseman for the foreseeable future while Craig’s foot heals.

The Cardinals also have 13 consecutive games against teams with losing records after they finish a three-game series with the Pirates during this upcoming weekend, so they will likely face less-than-dominant pitching that could allow the Cardinals to win even when the offense is not clicking on all cylinders.

But the Cardinals will be in an entirely different scenario come the playoffs in October. Those games are often dominated by good pitchers, and timely hits determine the outcome.

Craig is perhaps the best timely hitter in Major League Baseball, and the Cardinals would sorely miss his bat in the lineup during the playoffs.

The team got good news Thursday when Craig’s X-Rays and MRI came back negative, but it should not push its luck and force him back onto the field during the regular season unless he truly is fully healed.

If Craig can’t play the rest of the regular season, fine. It would certainly be nice to have his production in the lineup during the final weeks of the race for the National League Central Division title, but that will not determine whether or not the Cardinals are considered champions at the end of the year.

The most important title is settled in late October, and that is when Craig will be the most valuable

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David Freese could be right-handed version of Matt Adams for St. Louis Cardinals

The moments of brilliance for St. Louis Cardinals third baseman David Freese come in flashes.

MLB: NLCS-San Francisco Giants at St. Louis Cardinals

He hit one of the most memorable home runs in franchise history in the 11th inning of Game 6 of the 2011 World Series against the Texas Rangers and just Monday he delivered a vital pinch-hit, two-run double to extend the Cardinals lead to 8-5 in the eighth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers.

But those moments are not enough for a player who the Cardinals have tried to make a cornerstone at the third base position. They are more fitting of a pinch hitter, such as first baseman Matt Adams, who has been a left-handed, pinch-hitting weapon for the 2013 Cardinals.

Sure, Freese is a good guy, he is considered a good teammate and he combined for a .295 batting average in 2011 and 2012, topping out with 20 home runs and 79 runs batted in during the 2012 season, but he has since become an average player, at best.

He started the 2013 season in a horrible rut. He bottomed out with a .163 batting average April 29 and a 20-game hitting streak between May 17 and June 11 raised his average to .284, but he is now back down to .265 with just six home runs and 46 RBIs.

Those aren’t horrible numbers and were good enough when the Cardinals did not have a replacement infielder outside of the .255-hitting Daniel Descalso, who also has a paltry .310 on-base percentage.

However, Freese also has a -0.4 Wins Above Replacement value, meaning he has played slightly worse than would be expected from a typical third baseman, and the Cardinals now have a replacement, although he comes in the form of a second baseman.

The team called up second baseman Kolten Wong from Triple-A Memphis last week, and manager Mike Matheny has started him in three of his first four games.

With Wong getting regular playing time at second, regular second baseman Matt Carpenter has had to move elsewhere. At first, Carpenter got a needed day off, but Matheny has continued to put Wong in the starting lineup so Carpenter has moved to his original position at third base and Freese has moved to the bench.

Freese isn’t buried on the bench, however. Matheny has given other regular starters extended time off throughout the season. He sat center fielder Jon Jay for several consecutive days in April and early May when he was struggling to fix his swing, and shortstop Pete Kozma didn’t play for several days in a row in late July and August when he went in an extended slump at the plate.

But a long-term view of the Cardinals infield suggests Freese could be the odd man out if Wong takes the starting job as second baseman and Carpenter becomes the everyday third baseman.

Carpenter plays solid defense and occasionally replaced Freese late in games in 2012 because Matheny wanted a stronger defensive player at that position in the late innings. Plus, Carpenter has hit .312 with 61 RBIs and has a WAR value of 5.1.

More than anything, the Cardinals figure to get more consistent production with Wong and Carpenter in the lineup than Freese, who has always been a streaky hitter.

Yes, he hit .390 in the 2011 postseason and was the Most Valuable Player in the National League Championship Series and World Series that year, but his batting average had also dropped from .326 to .297 in the six weeks that led up to the playoffs.

Instead of the everyday third baseman, Freese could take on the role Adams has for the Cardinals throughout the season. Adams has played in the field in just 46 of the 76 games he has played in during the 2013 season, but he has hit .277 with nine home runs and 34 RBIs while primarily coming off the bench.

Freese has some power and could give the Cardinals a reliable right-handed pinch hitter, which has been a lacking aspect of the team for much of the season.

Freese is a good player, but his value to the Cardinals might be higher in the late innings off the bench than throughout an entire game at third base.

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The Red Hot Royals

The Kansas City Royals have caught fire after the All-Star break, winning 11 of 13 games and nine in a row after a 7-2 victory over the Twins on Thursday afternoon. The only problem is that their AL Central foes, the Tigers and Indians, are also red hot. The Indians have won eight straight games and sit 2 games behind the division-leading Tigers. Kansas City is now 6.5 games back.

Mike_Moustakas

Royals fans now have a sense of excitement after the way the team has opened the second half. Keys to the Royals’ second half surge have included:

Stellar starting pitching

Jeremy Guthrie leads the Kansas City rotation with a 3-0 record in the second half. James Shields and Ervin Santana each have two wins. Wade Davis and Bruce Chen both have one win in two starts. Santana has a sparkling 1.21 ERA while Davis isn’t far behind at 1.80. Chen and Shields both have a 2.25 ERA and Jeremy Guthrie’s is the highest of the starters at 4.00. Chen has solidified his spot in the rotation for now and Davis has improved on what was a rough first half of the year.

A lights out bullpen

Four Royals’ relievers have yet to give up an earned run after appearing in at least four games. Luke Hochevar leads the group with 8.1 innings of scoreless relief. Tim Collins and Aaron Crow have 4+ innings without allowing a run and Louis Coleman has 3.2 innings without a run to his name. Not only has the bullpen been great, but they have also excelled in pressure situations, protecting six one-run wins for the Royals. When you combine the starters and the bullpen, Royals’ pitching sports an incredible 2.25 ERA since the break, good for second in the majors, ahead of the Tigers and behind only the Indians.

Mike Moustakas is heating up

Moustakas has struggled for most of the season, but he has recently found his swing. He has a team-leading three home runs and eight RBI in 12 games played in the second half. He even has a .325 batting average, bringing his season average up to .229. Moustakas had the big two-homer game against the Twins on July 30.

Royals batters are hitting for average

Jarrod Dyson is setting the pace for the Royals with a .389 average in 18 at-bats. Four other players are hitting above .300. Billy Butler is at .327, Moustakas and David Lough are in at .325 and Miguel Tejada owns a .313 average. As a team, the Royals are hitting .266, tied for fifth in the American League (up from .256 pre-All Star break).

Greg Holland is shutting the door

Holland has been great all year and has only continued his dominance after the break. He has converted all six of his save opportunities and has allowed only one earned run. Opponents are hitting .280 against the hard-throwing right-hander. If the Royals continue their amazing run, Holland should only have more opportunities to close out tight ball games.

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St. Louis Cardinals have terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week

The St. Louis Cardinals landed Friday in Atlanta ready to begin an 11-game, 10-day road trip against three of the best teams in the National League with the best record in Major League Baseball. They had a lead in the NL Central and the best hitter in the league.

YadierMolinaSafe

A week later, the Cardinals have yet to win another game, the Pittsburgh Pirates have passed them for the division lead, and catcher Yadier Molina is on the disabled list with a knee injury.

The Cardinals haven’t had many bad weeks in 2013, but this past week has been about as bad of a week as anyone could imagine.

The Atlanta Braves swept the Cardinals in a three-game series through the weekend, and the Pirates won four games in three days to take a 2.5-game lead in the division heading into play Wednesday. Now the Cardinals get the joy of facing the Cincinnati Reds for three games in Cincinnati.

Much of the problem has been the shutdown of the most productive offense in the game.

The Cardinals still lead the National League with a .271 team batting average and continue to lead baseball by an incredibly large .040 margin with a team batting average of .334 with runners in scoring position.

However, they have not scored more than two runs in six of their last seven games to go with a .158 batting average in the last week. Plus, they will be without Molina and his .330 batting average for at least the next 15 days.

Granted, those are terrible, horrible, no good, very bad numbers, but the Cardinals do have a legitimate excuse based on the pitchers they have faced in those seven games.

Braves starters Mike Minor, Julio Teheran and Kris Medlen have a combined earned-run average of 3.23, while the first four starters the Pirates threw against the Cardinals have a combined 2.49 ERA.

Those pitchers are going to shut down just about any team more often than not, and they put Cardinals hitters in their first slump of the season.

This won’t continue, of course. The Cardinals’ overall season numbers are some of the best in baseball for a reason. Just as the hot streak has mellowed (OK, plummeted), into a slump, the hitters will return to form before long.

If nothing else, Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati is a good hitters park, even though the Cardinals are scheduled to face Bronson Arroyo, Tony Cingrani and Mike Leake, who have a combined 23-13 record with a 2.92 ERA.

The schedule also doesn’t get easier after the road trip is complete, as the Los Angeles Dodgers come to St. Louis for a four-game series next week.

This is quite a test, especially with Molina on the disabled list, but the rough stretch could pay dividends later in the season and the playoffs.

The crowds in Atlanta and Pittsburgh were the most electric of any fan bases the Cardinals have played in front of this season outside of St. Louis, and it is important for the team’s large group of young players to play in that type of environment.

A 95-mph fastball and sharp breaking pitch are great pitches at any time, but men who throw those pitches are rarely as consistent, especially when they feel the pressure of an important game.

Right now it is easy to look at the Cardinals situation as if the proverbial glass is half empty, but the team was unlikely to succeed in the playoffs if it cruised through the entire regular season without a hiccup at some point.

Sure, the Texas Rangers and Oakland Athletics took five of six games from the Cardinals in late June, but the Braves, Pirates and Reds are the teams the Cardinals will likely face in the playoffs.

In any case, it is better to lose those games in July instead of October.

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Triple Play: Jake Peavy, Michael Young, Joe Nathan

The non-waiver trade deadline is less than a week away. In this week’s Triple Play, we look at some of the players who are being bandied about in trade rumors, plus a few players who SHOULD be traded, along with our weekly Wainwright Walk Watch.

JakePeavy2

Who’s Hot?

Jake Peavy, ???

It’s not his pitching that has Peavy in the “hot” category – it’s all the trade rumors. With Matt Garza already traded and Cliff Lee not being made available by the Phillies, Peavy has been considered the top starter on the trade market. MLB Trade Rumors reported over the weekend that Peavy packed his bags and it’s highly unlikely he will make another start for the White Sox. ESPN’s Buster Olney is predicting that Peavy will end up with Oakland, which actually makes that scenario most unlikely. Rumors also have the Cardinals and Orioles in pursuit, but the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that nothing is imminent, while the O’s are “tapped out” financially, according to Jon Heyman. Peavy hasn’t been dominant since being activated from the disabled list after the All-Star break, but he has a 10-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio and has held opponents to a .229 batting average. The most logical destination remains Atlanta, regardless of what some national writers are reporting. After Tim Hudson’s horrific injury last week, the Braves need another starter. I think they can get a deal done with the White Sox that does not include top pitching prospect Alex Wood. Boston is another team that could use a starter, thanks to Clay Buchholz’s absence. The Red Sox are fairly deep in young players who could (should) interest the prospect-poor White Sox.

Who’s Not?

Michael Young, Philadelphia

As mentioned in last week’s column, I do not understand the infatuation with Young. There are plenty of players who can put up the following batting line: .277/.342/.402, 7 HR, 32 RBI, 38 runs, 1 SB. Here are some examples: Drew Stubbs (not a full-time outfielder), Luke Scott, Stephen Drew (both injured for part of the season), John Mayberry (reserve outfielder), Eric Chavez (reserve infielder), and David DeJesus (platoon outfielder). Yet several teams, including Young’s former team (Texas), have shown interest in him, despite his lackluster July performance (.236/.333/.375 batting line). If deployed as part of a strict platoon, Young could have some value as a designated hitter for a contender, but players like that should not require much in trade. This seems a case where Young’s past hitting success will result in the Phillies being able to obtain a couple of prospects from a team. That being the case, this should a no-brainer situation for the Phillies, who are in dire need of an infusion of young talent. Then again, GM Ruben Amaro hasn’t always shown in inclination to do what’s in the best interest of his team’s future. I’d say the chances of Young actually being traded are about 60-40, at best.

Playing the Name Game

Player A: 6-6, 3.06 ERA, 1.077 WHIP, 7.0 K/9, 3.57 K/BB, 134 ERA+

Player B: .278/.366/.500, 13 HR, 44 RBI, 42 runs, 146 OPS+

Player A is Kansas City’s Ervin Santana. Player B is the Padres’ Carlos Quentin. Both are players who should be traded by Wednesday’s deadline. Given the Angels’ terrible pitching this season, they would probably like to have Santana back. He has been up-and-down this year, but his two starts since the All-Star break have been terrific (both wins): 15 1/3 IP, 0.59 ERA, nine hits, one run allowed, nine strikeouts, three walks. He’s younger than Peavy, much less of a health risk, and has the capability to dominate. Kansas City is hovering around .500, honestly not much of a threat to the Tigers or Indians in the AL Central (the current six-game win streak notwithstanding). Considering the return package the Cubs received for Matt Garza, who will be a free agent at season’s end, the Royals should be able to match that for Santana.

Quentin, meanwhile, would be a perfect fit for a team looking for an outfield bat or DH upgrade (Rangers, Pirates, Orioles, Athletics). When he isn’t starting brawls with opposing pitchers, Quentin offers plenty of power (.866 OPS) that would boost several contenders’ lineups. Once the Padres get Cameron Maybin and Kyle Blanks back from the disabled list, they will have a glut of outfielders who should play most every day. Quentin’s contract, which pays him a combined $17.5 million in 2014-15, is quite reasonable, making him an even more attractive commodity. Trading Quentin for some young pitching would help San Diego on two fronts. Failing to trade him would be a mistake.

Player A: 1-2, 33 Sv, 1.69 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 8.7 K/9

Player B: 1-1, 32 Sv, 1.73 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, 9.5 K/9

Player A is Mariano Rivera. Player B is the Rangers’ Joe Nathan, who could be on the block. At first blush, this would appear to drastically change the trade market. One of the premier closers in baseball suddenly being available would have contenders lining up, right? Teams like Detroit, Boston, and the L.A. Dodgers have dealt with bullpens in flux the entire season. But why would Texas trade Nathan to an AL contender? The Dodgers seem like a possibility, what with their bottomless wallets, but what do they have to offer the Rangers in exchange? The Pirates might have a need due to Jason Grilli’s injury, and they have the prospects to entice Texas, but if they are looking for hitters, not pitchers. With the Rangers chasing the Oakland Athletics in the NL West and several other teams in the wild-card hunt, it would seem like the Rangers would be better served to keep their closer. On the other hand, if they are determined to not exercise the $9 million team option for 2014 on the 38-year-old Nathan, that may be driving the decision to entertain trade offers.

Random Thoughts

  • Wainwright Walk Watch: Adam Wainwright went 37 innings before walking his first batter, so we are keeping track of how few free passes the Cardinals’ ace issues throughout the remainder of the season. After a fine start last Friday against the Braves (7 IP, 7 H, 3 ER) which resulted in a loss, Wainwright’s strikeout-to-walk ratio sits at 145-to-18 (8.06-to-1). That ratio is still the best in the majors. Wainwright’s main competition in the fewest-walks competition remains Oakland’s Bartolo Colon (also with 18 walks, but only 77 strikeouts). The next-best K/BB ratio belongs to Seattle’s Hisashi Iwakuma (5.86-to-1).
  • If Pittsburgh truly is considering a trade for Justin Morneau, I applaud the creative thinking. Garrett Jones can move to right field. Morneau’s experience might be just what the young, hungry Pirates need.
  • Another name that offense-starved teams should keep in mind: Kendrys Morales. Seattle seems to have about a half-team of first-base/DH types on the team; fan favorite Raul Ibanez probably isn’t going anywhere and Michael Morse wouldn’t bring as much in value. Morales, once an anchor for the Angels’ lineup, has belted 16 homers and driven in 58 runs this season. He would fit in well at first base in Pittsburgh, or at DH in Texas, Baltimore, Oakland, and Tampa Bay.
  • An ugly weekend for the Cardinals (getting broomed by the Braves in Atlanta) has some fans clamoring for a trade to either boost the rotation or replace shortstop Pete Kozma. If GM John Mozeliak can let Albert Pujols walk away after winning a World Series, I highly doubt one bad series is going to cause him to make a panic move.
  • Speaking of Pujols, the sight of him leaving the game Saturday night due to his plantar fasciitis was difficult to watch. Cardinals fans know how long that foot malady plagued Pujols in St. Louis, but he was able to play through it most of the time. If the condition is bad enough to force him to the disabled list, then the pain must be excruciating. His pain tolerance is one of the reasons he earned the nickname “The Machine.”
  • Beginning in 2014, the Angels have eight years and $212 left on his contract. Yikes.
  • News: Yahoo reported over the weekend that the Angels are “open for business.” Views: they really don’t have many marketable pieces; their middle infielders (Howard Kendrick, Erick Aybar) could attract some interest, but since they aren’t trading guys like Mike Trout or Mark Trumbo, they probably won’t be making very many deals.
  • Let’s see here: Jeter and Soriano homer, Rivera picks up win as Yankees rally to win. Is it 2013 or 2001?
  • A first-person review of Miami’s 20-year-old phenom Jose Fernandez as he shut down the Rockies at Coors Field last Tuesday night: he might not throw quite as hard as Justin Verlander or Aroldis Chapman, but Fernandez’s fastball absolutely explodes out of his hand. He is a much better pitcher already than Jeffrey Loria deserves.
  • Tino Martinez, fired over the weekend for alleged abusive conduct involving Marlins’ players, says he is “unsure” whether he will coach again. I think the rest of us are sure, Tino. You’re done. I wouldn’t count on a TV job anytime soon, either.
  • Series of the week: St. Louis at Pittsburgh. The Cardinals come to town with a one-game lead over the Pirates, who lost two of three to the Marlins. St. Louis is 2-3 against the Pirates this season. Pittsburgh is 32-18 at home in 2013.
  • Trade deadline prediction #1: the Orioles will find that they aren’t actually “tapped out” after all and make another deal for a pitcher.
  • Trade deadline prediction #2: Pittsburgh will find the additional hitter they need, along with another reliever to help cover the loss of Grilli.
  • Trade deadline prediction #3: Oakland, emboldened by their continued success without a big-name superstar, will make a big splash to bolster the team.
  • I guarantee at least a .333 average on these predictions. That, and 99 cents, will get you a Big Gulp.

Follow me on Twitter: @ccaylor10

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