Tag Archive | "Cardinal Team"

Statement

If teams thought the St Louis Cardinals would flop without Albert Pujols, they should think again.

The scheduler did this team no favors.  Opening Day in Miami, ushering in a new era in Florida and a new ballpark.  Then a 1300 mile flight to Milwaukee, the team’s biggest rival, for their home opener.  Finally a 300 mile drive to Cincinnati, the Cardinals’ OTHER big NL Central rival.  Seven games in 3 cities over a little more than a week.  Lots of teams would limp back home under .500.  Or worse.

With last night’s win the Cardinals will open at home over .500 no matter how the last two games in Cincinnati go. They have done it with solid pitching and torrid hitting.  St Louis currently leads the NL in hits, runs, doubles, home runs, average, OPS, and total bases.  After a horrible spring training Rafael Furcal reached base 11 times in his first 20 plate appearances.  Carlos Beltran, David Freese, Matt Holliday, and Yadier Molina all have 2 HR so far, and the Cardinals have blown out their opponent in 3 of their first 4 wins, scoring at least 7 runs in those games.   They have been equal opportunity assassins, bludgeoning both aces (Josh Johnson, Yovanni Gallardo) and back of the rotation guys (Randy Wolf, Homer Bailey).

The pitching has been good – 3.86 ERA, 0.886 WHIP, 34K against 4 walks and 2 HBP. Kyle Lohse set the tone with six no-hit innings in that opener near South Beach.  Jamie Garcia survived a 2-run first inning to work 6 effective innings, Lance Lynn shut down the Brewers while striking out 8, and Jake Westbrook had his own no-hitter for 4 2/3 innings in Cincinnati.  Heck, when the starter who had the worst line the first time through was Adam Wainwright you know the team’s going well.  And Wainwright, just back from Tommy John surgery, will continue to round back into form the first month of this season.

Some prognosticators predicted this Cardinal team would be at least as dangerous as last year’s World Champs.  If the first time through is any indication that was an accurate prediction.  With 27 of their first 28 games against NL Central opponents, St Louis can make a real statement in this year’s divisional race, putting some distance between themselves and the rest of the field.  Three wins in their first 4 intra-divisional games is the start of a major statement, and should rightly put a shudder through the rest of the division.

St Louis is on pace to win 130 games, which of course is unrealistic.  Or is it?

Mike Metzger is a freelance writer based in San Diego.  He blogs about the Padres.  Follow him on Twitter @metzgermg.

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March Madness Cardinal Tourney – Round One

Earlier today we introduced the UCB All Time Cardinal Team Tournament.

This tournament of 64 different Cardinal franchises will start today here on i70baseball and on Pitchers Hit Eighth.

The Buck Region belongs to us and our match-ups follow below.  Please take the time to vote on the various games and help us determine who the best of the best really is.

Voting for this round will close on Saturday, March 17, at 8:00 p.m. Central Time

The 1942Cardinals hold the record for the most wins in franchise history (106). They won the World Series, only losing one game to the Yankees. Enos Slaughter was the team’s top performing player posting a 7.1 WAR.

The 1917 Cardinals finished 3rd in the National League with a 82-70 record. Rogers Hornsby led the team in WAR, posting a 9.2.

Round 1 Game

  • (1) 1942 (100%, 26 Votes)
  • (16) 1917 (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 26

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The 1947Cards posted a 89-65 record while finishing second in the National League. Whitey Kurowski was the best on the team, posting a 6.2 WAR.

The 1957 team was also a second place finisher, posting a 87-67 record. Stan Musial would lead the team with a 6.6 WAR.

Round 1 Game 2

  • (9) 1957 (69%, 18 Votes)
  • (8) 1947 (31%, 8 Votes)

Total Voters: 26

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 The 2005 team won 100 games, yet lost in the NLCS to the Houston Astros.  Albert Pujols led the team with a 8.2 WAR.

The 2008 team would finish in 4th place while posting a 86-76 record.  Albert Pujols would lead this team with a 9.6 WAR.

Round 1 Game 3

  • (5) 2005 (100%, 26 Votes)
  • (12) 2008 (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 26

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The 1943 team would win 105 games and lose the World Series to the New York Yankees.  Stan Musial led the boys with a 8.9 WAR.

1977 was a sentimental pick.  The year I was born, the Cards went 83-79 and finished 3rd in the National League East.  Ted Simmons led the team with a 6.3 WAR.

Round 1 Game 4

  • (4) 1943 (92%, 24 Votes)
  • (13) 1977 (8%, 2 Votes)

Total Voters: 26

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 In 1944 Cardinals won a World Series title after winning a second consecutive 105 win season.  Stan Musial would post a 9.1 WAR to lead the team.

The 14th seed is the 1914 club.  They finished 81-72, 3rd in the league.  Pitcher Harry “Slim” Sallee led the team with a 4.8 WAR.

Round 1 Game 5

  • (3) 1944 (96%, 25 Votes)
  • (14) 1914 (4%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 26

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 2009 would see the Cardinals finish at 91-71 and lose the NLDS to the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Albert Pujols would led the team with a 8.8 WAR.

The 1991 Cardinals would finish in 2nd place, their highest finish under Joe Torre.  Ozzie Smith would led the team with a 4.7 WAR.

Round 1 Game 6

  • (6) 2009 (65%, 17 Votes)
  • (11) 1991 (35%, 9 Votes)

Total Voters: 26

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The 1935 Cardinals would finish second in the league despite a 96-58 record.  Dizzy Dean posted a 7.6 WAR.

1989 would give the Cardinals a 86-76 record, good enough to finish third.  Ozzie Smith would lead the team with a 6.3 WAR.

Round 1 Game 7

  • (7) 1935 (88%, 22 Votes)
  • (10) 1989 (12%, 3 Votes)

Total Voters: 25

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The number two seed represents the site well, coming from 1985.  The team won 101 games and lost the World Series to the Royals.

The 15th seed comes from the year prior, in 1984.  They would finish 84-78 and third in the division.  Bruce Sutter’s 4.5 WAR would lead the team.

Round 1 Game 8

  • (2) 1985 (100%, 24 Votes)
  • (15) 1984 (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 24

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Please vote and share the brackets with your friends.  The polls will close on Saturday and the winners will move on to next week’s rounds.

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March Madness – UCB style

March Madness has arrived.  64 teams will battle for the title of National Champion.

You can catch all of that basketball action live on various television channels.  I assure you, I will be watching with you.  But between games, we hope to remind you that baseball is, in fact, in full swing.

Friend of the site, and fellow United Cardinal Blogger member, Nick reached out to i70 yesterday to participate in a March Madness tournament.  The goal?  To crown the greatest St. Louis Cardinal Team of all time.

Yesterday, a draft was held.  Four websites chose the 64 teams for this year’s tournament.  Each site will represent a region for this tournament.

Aaron Miles Fastball – Gibson Region
Pitchers Hit Eighth – Musial Region
C70 – Smith Region
i70 – Buck Region

Each region will post a poll for the readers to determine the winners.  Each match-up will run over the course of a weekend, with the next round beginning the following week.  The Final Four will be held on the United Cardinal Bloggers official site.  The Buck Region bracket is below.

Later today, polls will be posted for the initial round of this tournament.  We ask that our readers vote on these rounds and help us determine who will represent i70baseball in the finals of the tournament.  Also, make sure you drop by the other sites that are participating and vote on their brackets as well.

Bill Ivie is the founder of i70baseball.com

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The Winter Warm Up: Day Two And A Numbers Game

Today at the St. Louis Cardinals Winter Warm Up, a slow morning turned rapid-fire with Matt Adams, Brandon Dickson, Daniel Descalso, and J.C. Romero all taking turns in front of reporters in a short span of time.

Adams and Dickson will enter Spring Training trying to break camp with the big league club, having built reputations as important pieces of the Cardinal farm system already. Descalso, after making a name for himself in 2011 as a versatile player whether starting or coming off the bench, expects to be in the thick of the competition for the second base job. And Romero comes to the Cards looking for redemption both personally and professionally.

The afternoon promises to be exciting as well. Former manager (weird) Tony LaRussa has been in the house all morning signing autographs and talking with fans. But he’s not the only star from the 2011 World Series Champions making the rounds today. Jason Motte, Jake Westbrook, Jon Jay, Jaime Garcia, Lance Berkman, and Matt Holliday are among the big leaguers still scheduled to appear. A formidable lineup indeed.

Not to be outdone, the Cardinal alumni will be out in force today as well. Tom Lawless, Chris Duncan, Danny Cox, Todd Worrell, and Tom Henke are just some of the former Redbirds scheduled to appear. And the Cards’ radio broadcast team of Mike Shannon and John Rooney will also be entertaining fans this afternoon.

But the biggest drama to unfold today may be the resolution of just which number new Cardinal Carlos Beltran will wear. Historically, Beltran has worn #15 and on last year’s Cardinal team, that number belonged to Rafael Furcal. Even though Beltran has a little more tenure as a Major Leaguer (which may normally sway a player to give up his number), Furcal has obviously been a Cardinal longer. And yesterday, the Cardinal shortstop told reporters he was not giving up #15…after all, he did win a World Championship with the number on his back. Apparently that information made it to Beltran because last night he tweeted (@carlosbeltran15) a request for input on what his new number should be. So perhaps Beltran will make his decision before his scheduled Winter Warm Up appearance Monday, or maybe he and Furcal can come to some kind of agreement on a swap. Or maybe someone will solicit a decision from former Cardinal Jim Edmonds (@Jedmonds15), clearly the franchise’s most famous #15 from the last decade.

Oh, the suspense. Stay tuned.

Chris Reed is covering the 2012 Winter Warm Up all weekend for I-70 Baseball. Follow him on Twitter @birdbrained.

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Flare For The Dramatic

Leave it to THIS Cardinal team to leave the season hanging in the balance with only two games remaining. 160 down, 2 to go and still multiple scenarios where the Cardinals make the playoffs. Yet as I sit here writing this with the Braves seemingly giving the Wild Card to the Cardinals they trail 100 loss Houston 0-5 in the 3rd inning. Why, because this team has a flair for the dramatic.

Since Ryan Franklin started the blown save parade eight games into the season the Cardinals have found a way to make sure things not so sure, turn wins into losses and inspire hope only to douse out the passionate burning flames of Cardinal Nation with their underachieving play. Franklin gave way to Boggs, who gave way to Sanchez who gave way to Salas who gave way to Motte who all totaled 26 blown saves.

Still the Cardinals sit one game out of the playoffs. After losing 13 games in their opponents last at bat the Cardinals may still host a playoff game. A team that has played in 49 one run games, losing 23 games by another 21 in extra innings, losing 13 could still be playing in October. Nothing is as it seems with the 2011 Cardinals. Not winning, not losing.

Proving my point the Cardinals have now pulled to within one run…down 4-5 in the 4th inning. A team that was written off by all. If you’re one of the 3 people alive who thought the at 10.5 games out they still had a chance well then good for you…and you’re lying.

After losing nine of fourteen between August 13th and 27th, the Cardinals began would could end up as the greatest comeback in MLB history. Erasing a 10.5 game deficit to win the Wild Card by winning 19 or their next 28.

Even is this game the back and forth is almost too much to take. 0-5 became 5-5 just as quick and even quicker again became 5-6. Do the Cardinals not like momentum on their side? Our starting pitching adds to the drama in their own way by not even getting though seven innings combine through two games in Houston. Again, against a 100 loss team.

As a result Tony LaRussa must puzzle together his bullpen to find another six innings of availability. Six innings out of a bullpen that is more than taxed…mostly due to TLR’s insistence on tinkering within every game, playing the match-ups to a fault and going to the Motte well perhaps once too often.

Regardless of Tuesday’s result the Cardinals will still have a chance to force a one game playoff for the Wild Card by winning on Wednesday. Who else would start such a game but, yep…Chris Carpenter.

As I save this the Cardinals have tied it at six with two outs in the 7th…If only I were making this stuff up I could have a great career writing fiction. But fact is this is the reality of the 2011 Cardinal season.

These are just my thoughts…keep on reading and you’ll get up to speed.

Derek is on Twitter @SportsbyWeeze and also writes for the Rams at RamsHerd.com

Also on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/SportsByWeeze

Posted in Cardinals, FeaturedComments (2)

Sweep In Milwaukee A Good Thing For Cardinals

For starters, I cannot tell you how badly I wanted to write an article about who was a worse closer: Ryan Franklin or LeBron James. But considering this is a baseball site and we’ve beaten the Franklin (no longer an) issue to death, I exercised a bit of self-control. You’re welcome.

What I do want to talk about is the Brewers sweep of the Cardinals in Milwaukee this past weekend and why it’s actually a good thing for the Red Birds. Think back to last season when the Cardinals went into Cincinnati in mid-August, snatched first place from the Reds, then immediately tanked… winning just 11 of their next 31 ballgames. The Reds simultaneously got hot, and it was game over. Now recall what happened when the Reds paid them back with a sweep of their own last month. The Cardinals won 16 of their next 23 while the Reds won just 11 of 27. Now why is that? Well…

The 2010 Cardinals and 2011 Reds have a couple things in common: huge egos, and a sense of entitlement. After winning the NL Central back in 2009, last year’s Cardinal team went into Cincy, beat down the “little brother” of the division, took first place and assumed it would be smooth sailing into the playoffs. They took everything for granted and suddenly couldn’t buy a win. Likewise with the Reds this year, they too felt some entitlement after winning the division, then sweeping 1st place away from the Cardinals in May. At just a game over .500 on June 13, I think the Reds are what they are: a .500 team. Cardinal fans should not have to worry about the Reds making a serious run at the division title again this September.

The Cardinals and Brewers have some things in common as well: ridiculous offenses, and a big chip on their shoulders. The Cardinals got the proverbial “punch in the mouth” last summer when the Reds took the NL Central from them. Then in spring training, everyone (and I mean everyone) counted them out of the 2011 playoff race when they lost ace, Adam Wainwright, for the season to an elbow injury. The Brewers were the forgotten child, lost in the shuffle of the Cards-Reds hype. But after a slow start, they’ve heated up FAST (24-8 record since Mother’s Day). That should make the NL Central race should be a very hard-fought, TWO-horse race deep into September.

So why is the weekend sweep and expected strong challenge from the Brewers a good thing for the Cardinals? Well, the reason is two-fold. First, there’s the natural tendency to push yourself harder when there’s someone right there with you, neck and neck, running for the finish line. An example: It’s hard to imagine Mark McGwire would’ve tacked on 8 more home runs in 3 weeks in the summer of ’98 without Sammy Sosa right there with him. The benchmark had been set at 62, McGwire’s own son said he wanted to see him get to 65…but 70? Oh no… not without Sammy pushing him by hitting 66. No chance. So with the Brewers making a serious run at the division title (a run that could very well see win totals climb into the mid to upper 90s) will keep the Cardinals focused all year, and will likely help BOTH ball clubs distance themselves from the rest of the field in the wildcard race. The second reason is more of a long-term one, but the Brewers being in the thick of the race right now means they are going to take a major hit when Prince Fielder walks at the end of the season. The Brewers’ plan from Day 1 of this season has been simple: If we have a shot, we’re going “all-in” this year, and if we don’t, we’re going to unload Prince. Right now, it’s safe to say the Brew Crew will be shoving all their chips into the middle of the table come July 31st, baseball’s trade deadline. Not only will they fail to receive any value for Fielder when he walks at year’s end, but they’ll probably end up overpaying for outside help. Can you say depleted farm system?

There’s a couple reasons why the Brewers have only been to the playoffs once in the past 30 years while the Cardinals have made it 10 times: Market size and management savvy. One of those things will certainly not be changing for Milwaukee, while the Cardinals continue to have the edge in both categories.

Let’s play worst case scenario and say the Brewers win the NL Central. A) That means they still have Prince Fielder and will therefore lose him for nothing in free agency. Advantage: Cardinals in the long term. B) The Cardinals could still very well earn the wild card spot in their efforts to catch and surpass Milwaukee. Aside from possibly having one less home playoff game, that’s still a good thing for the Cardinals.

As for the best case scenario, the Brewers could fall off the pace and miss the playoffs, but that drop-off likely won’t happen before the trade deadline. So they could lose the division race and get no value back in exchange for Prince Fielder. Advantage: Cardinals (in the short AND long term).

So while the weekend sweep at the hands of the Brewers might still sting a like that breakup with your high school girlfriend, it’s actually a good thing in the long run. You just might not realize it yet.

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Grading Mark McGwire as Hitting Coach

How does one evaluate a hitting coach? Most guys on a Major League roster already know how to hit, otherwise they would not be on a Major League roster (there are execptions, of course; we’re talking about the every day players here). Coaching hitting at that level seems to be more of an investigative and cheerleading effort. Sure it helps if your coach has the chops of a George Sisler, but he needs to be equal parts Jack Ryan and Stuart Smalley: Ryan to figure out what’s gone wrong with your approach if a slump develops, and Stuart to be relentlessly positive.

Into this position stepped Mark McGwire. He seems to have a sunny disposition, uses video to break down the swings of his charges, and was a hitter of some renown during his playing days. Based on the opening paragraph of this treatise, he was a good fit and we are done with the discussion. However baseball is a results based business, so let’s take a look at some offensive numbers.

Cardinal Team Offensive Production

Comparing traditional statistical metrics for 2010 with 2009, we find they are quite similar.

  • 2009: 4.51 runs/game, 294 2B, 29 3B, 160 HR, 528 BB, 1041 K, .263/.322/.415.
  • 2010: 4.54 runs/game, 285 2B, 18 3B, 150 HR, 541 BB, 1027 K, .263/.322/.402.

The Cardinals as a team had 76 more plate appearances in 2010 than 2009, or 1.2% more; that’s not statistically significant. The one trend we can pull from this small data set is the Cardinals hit for less power in 2010 than 2009 across the board (based on extra base hits); the caveat to that statement has to be their 2009 2B total was the highest since 2004, the 2009 3B total was the highest since 2003, and 2010 marked the second consecutive season the team’s HR total dropped when compared to the previous season.

I calculated the team’s average XBH production (a) since Albert Pujols joined the team, and (b) since they moved into Neo-Busch, as well as the standard deviation for each metric.

  • Average (2000-2010, 2B/3B/HR): 291/25/182; 1 standard deviation for each is 22.4/5.6/27.9 (rounded)
  • Average (2006-2010): 287/23/162; 1 standard deviation for each is 6.3/6.8/17.4 (rounded)

What does that tell us despite the small sample size? That the 2010 team was right where we would expect them to be XBH production wise when compared to previous teams (within 1 standard deviation of the average calculated). So McGwire’s hiring neither helped nor hindered the team’s offensive production.

Cardinal Individual Offensive Production

Although team strikeouts dropped a small amount from 2009 to 2010, among the individual starters strikeouts went up. Cardinal starters struck out more often in 2010 than 2009. The Cardinals walked slightly more frequently in 2010, but other than Rasmus’ big jump the starting 8′s walk rates seem to have gone down. Yadier Molina’s stats look worse in 2010 than 2009, but he did miss the last 2 weeks due to his knee; really his numbers look the same. Albert Pujols numbers were down but he still had a good year. Skip Schumaker and Brendan Ryan, as was highlighted in this Post-Dispatch article, had bad years. Colby Rasmus seems the only player upon whom McGwire had a positive influence based solely on the numbers, but how much of that was McGwire’s coaching and how much was the advice Colby’s dad gave him will probably never be known.

The argument can be made Mark McGwire did not help nor hinder the Cardinals offensive production as a TEAM, but may have negatively impacted INDIVIDUAL players based on these counting statistics.

Conclusion

More data is obviously better, and it is unfair to rate McGwire as a failed hitting coach after only 1 season. As was also pointed out in that Dispatch article, some of McGwire’s philosophies, like adjusting in-game to what the pitcher is doing without running to the video room, are significant departures from previous philosophies and it will take time to change that behavior. It is easier to focus on one individual hitter and evaluate his strengths/weaknesses; it is somewhat more difficult to juggle 25+ hitters over the course of the season and give them the same attention to detail. Hopefully Mark learned how to do that over the course of last season and will apply whatever lessons he learned to 2011.

McGwire deserves a passing grade if only because the Cardinal offense did not regress in 2010. Improvement in how well they drive the ball should be a focus area for the 2011 team, and we as observers should evaluate how well he’s doing that as the 2011 season progresses.

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