Tag Archive | "Cardinal"

Carpenter, Beltran and the Cardinal’s Pandora’s Box

The big question regarding the Cardinals going ahead is how will all of the assets they have fit into one roster. While there is no clear solution to that question yet, one thing that is for certain is that the biggest variable is the team’s most versatile player, Matt Carpenter.

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Whenever the 2013 season comes to a close, the season’s steadiest question will quickly become its loudest: what is going to happen with Carlos Beltran? The club’s most high profile free agent-to-be has made no secret of his desire to return with the team next spring, but while admitting that it is on the club’s radar of decisions to be made, John Mozeliak has not public committed to what extent the team would be willing to go to in order to pursue a continued relationship between player and team.

The reasons for this are simple; despite an unquestionably strong tenure in the Cardinal uniform, including two All-Star Games and 55 home runs, neither age (he will turn 37 next year) nor positional alignment fit easily into the picture going ahead. Reasons for this have included most prominently the presence of Oscar Taveras at Memphis, but perhaps more quietly the price tag of a potential part-time presence in the outfield. Add in the urge to find more at-bats for Matt Adams, while not sacrificing Allen Craig’s presence in the lineup as well, and there are a plethora of optimal situations that make a Beltran return a tough situation to imagine.

But on the other side of the equation, there is the question of if the team can afford to let him go as well. He has been a dependable power threat in a season where they have been few and far between for the team. And the issue of if Taveras both returns healthy from the nagging ankle issue that ended his 2012 early, as well as how he transitions to the Majors, loom as well. If either of those issues looms, an absence of Beltran could create quite a hole for the team, which could have been avoided.

However, the presence of Carpenter could alleviate any and all of these issues. While he has risen to his call as a second baseman in a resounding fashion, he is only a year removed from being the team’s ultimate utility man. In the upcoming years, the everyday lineup of the Cardinals has the potential to fluctuate on nearly a matchup-to-matchup basis, due to the meeting of the veterans and emerging farm system at the MLB level.

A regular feature of this mix will be Carpenter, who Mozeliak made it abundantly clear the team will be pursuing a long-term pact with soon. However, his position going ahead could best be considered being deployed again as an everyday utility weapon, in the style of how Tampa Bay’s Ben Zobrist has been used over the years.  The best starting spot for this could prove to be right field, where alternating Carpenter in a few times a week gets a chance to use himself, David Freese and Kolten Wong together, in addition to allowing Allen Craig or Matt Adams to stay in a first base. A move back to second or third gets the uber, “Coming Atractions” duo of Wong and Taveras on the field together as well.

While the possibilities of the Cardinal lineup are very diverse in the next few years, there is a chance that the full potential is oddly not reached by keeping one of its current All-Stars in the mix, while maximizing the abilities of another showcases more of the team’s full potential can currently being imagined.

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Sorting Out the Cardinal Pitching Scene

The upcoming week is a crucial time span for the Cardinals as a team, but the starting pitching staff, it is also a chance to earn their keep. With the postseason looming, the team must make a decision about who it will have comprise its starting rotation, a decision that has become a crowded scene in recent weeks. Yet it could hold the balance of the season in the candidates that come from it.

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While it is far from certain that the team has a place in the series round of the postseason yet, assessing how it stacks up for one is an important element to the next few weeks of the season. It could shape who gets starts when and how the club will line up arms headed into the last series’ of the year.

The organization has what could prove to be a tough decision in assessing who is in line for the starts, if not for what each candidate brings, but what they haven’t. Outside of just rounding out the rotation, it also impacts the bullpen and how moves into an already deep mix there. After the absolutes in Adam Wainwright and the now undeniable Joe Kelly, the trio of Lance Lynn, Michael Wacha and Shelby Miller each offer not only a different dynamic, but also a unique set of conditions headed into the last few weeks of the season. And the time is already underway to show and prove for each.

In the case of Miller, he would seem to be the biggest shoe in, and he may very well be. However, it is worth noting that he has struggled with his motion as a result of a bad back over his last few starts. Much can be tied to reaching a new career-high in innings pitched each time out, which is something the team could chose to manage over the next few weeks. His previous high was in 2011, when he threw 139 innings between the High-A and Double-A levels.

Yet, as he sits at 149 innings currently, his effort at repeating his mechanics and finishing innings has been noticeably tough for him. Despite a very good seven inning, three hit victory over Atlanta on August 24, in his 14 starts since June 17th, he has managed to complete six innings only four times and has seen his walk-to-strikeout ratio fall by over 1.00 in the second half. Regardless, the 12-game winner will be a part of a postseason rotation, but it would not seem to be a far-fetched idea that the team limits his innings if at all possible.

Then there is Lance Lynn, who has once again struggled through a second half that has ranged from average to completely unimpressive. After his second consecutive first half of double digit victories, he has only managed to post a 2-6 record post the All-Star Break, with an ERA over 5.00.

It was this same type of effort that cost Lynn his spot in the rotation last September, and there have not been many outings that have inspired much confidence in his ongoing role in the rotation recently. Despite the fact that he did turn his year around late last season once he came from the bullpen, the decision to not add an outside arm at the trade deadline had much weight on Lynn being able to add that experienced third arm in the rotation down the stretch. Yet now, reeling off four consecutive losses currently, his start on Wednesday against Milwaukee could very well be his most important of the season for his ongoing direction with the team this season.

Then there is the youngest of the group, as well as the hottest hand, in Michael Wacha. In his second trip joining the ranks of starting pitcher, he has been markedly better. His control has improved, as well as his pitch execution and assortment and due to this, his success has matched his potential. In his two starts in the past week, he has thrown 13 scoreless innings against the Reds and Pirates, yielding only five hits total. Add in the four innings he threw in relief of Wainwright versus Cincinnati on August 28th, where struck out seven while walking one, and he has been the most lights out of any St. Louis arm over the previous two weeks. He presents an unknown quantity to many teams, which is an added bonus.

Yet with that said, the bright lights of October are a different beast, and there is the matter of workload for Wacha as well. He has thrown a total of 131 2013 innings thus far, the most he has thrown in his pro and collegiate career, and eventually fatigue could factor into him as well. He has electric stuff, and the decision to best utilize him could see a return to the bullpen and employing him in the same late-inning capacity Trevor Rosenthal was so successful deployed in a year ago.

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Conversations With A Blogger: Mike Grabowski

The month of August is coming to a close which means the United Cardinal Bloggers have another assignment for their member blogs.  This month, the bloggers take time to get to know each other and share those thoughts with you.  It is everything you want to know about a blogger, even when you didn’t want to know us at all.

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Mike Grabowski is the guy you’ll read about here on i70baseball as he took some time to answer a few questions for me.

It is important to point out, first and foremost, that Mike is a successful salesperson in the Chicago area who has a girlfriend and does not live in his parent’s basement.  Take that, stereotypes!  It is also important to note that whether or not Mike actually lives in his parent’s basement or has a non-imaginary girlfriend is based strictly on him telling me otherwise and no fact-checking has been performed, I’m taking him at his word.

Mike writes for “Red Birds, Yellow Bat” which is part of the Cards Conclave.  He relies on sabermetrics to drive his discussions, though he doesn’t weigh his articles down with statistical analysis.  His style is easy to read, humorous and timely.  It’s nice to see him putting that English degree from University of Iowa to work in the lucrative world of blogging.

My singular qualification for being here is a short-lived blog entitled St. Louis Perfectos, where I once suggested the Cardinals provide Jaime Garcia sedatives before pitching on the road.  –Mike in his introduction for the Cards Conclave.

I asked Mike some questions.  Mike provided some answers.  Now we’ve come to share them with you:

Why blogging?

It’s a way for me to have some fun during the season and force myself to write a bit. It’s also nice to interact with the UCB members and have people to share the ups and downs of the season with.

Why the Cardinals?

Actually, when I decided to start a blog, I wanted to pick another team to write about or just focus on MLB in general. My feeling was that I’m too invested in the Cardinals and would just end up writing a bunch of post that made me sound like a crazed fan. Ultimately, I couldn’t deny my love of the Cardinals, so I just own my “Kozma has to go” posts.

Earliest baseball memory?

It’s probably not my earliest memory, but I remember the first time I saw Ozzie do the back flip in person. That type of thing will stick with you.

Favorite twitter account to follow?

I get a lot of enjoyment out of the feeds from various UCB members. My favorite non-Cardinal related Tweeter is Grant Brisbee (@mccoveychron).

You can spend time with one Cardinal, any Cardinal at all, and talk baseball. Who and why?

Stan. That’s the only answer, right? If it can’t be Stan, then Mozeliak pumped full of truth serum. Not that I think he’s hiding anything, but I want him to reveal his 5 year plan.

What should fans expect when they read something with your name in the byline?

Most of the time I have no idea what to expect.

Favorite current Cardinal?

Yadi. Duh.

Give Mike a follow on Twitter @RealGrabowski

You can read Mike’s work at Cards Conclave weekly.  Also, make sure to drop by the official United Cardinal Bloggers website and check out all the interviews being conducted, including Dan Buffa’s discussion with me.

Bill Ivie is the founder of i70baseball.
You can find his work on Yahoo!InsideSTL, and here on i70.
Talk baseball with him on Twitter @poisonwilliam

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Five Players For The New Cardinals Hall Of Fame

The United Cardinal Bloggers have requested that the member blogs weigh in with their choices for inductees into the St. Louis Cardinals Hall Of Fame.

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There are some rules to this little game, so let’s go over those first:

- Players or executives with their name/number retired by the Cardinals are assumed to already be in
- Players or executives who are enshrined in Cooperstown with significant St. Louis ties are not eligible
- Players, managers, coaches, front office and broadcasters are all eligible
- Current active players are not eligible, all players must be retired

The Cardinals are building a new physical Hall Of Fame as part of the Ballpark Village project across the street from Busch Stadium.  It figures to be a shrine to those that impacted the St. Louis Cardinals throughout their career.

That being said, here’s a look at five people that I believe deserve to be included in the St. Louis Cardinals Hall Of Fame.

Curt Flood – Outfielder - 1958-1969
Flood’s stats may not quite stack up to what most Hall Of Fame standards require but it is important to note the overall impact that Flood had on the game.  

Flood’s now famous challenge of the reserve clause gave the game the free agency that we know today.  It also led to a better environment for the players, allowing them to be able to share in the popularity of the sport by demanding higher salaries and greater rewards for being the reason the fans were coming to games anyway.

He doesn’t get in solely on his merits of changing the landscape of the game, however. The man wasn’t a push over on the field, either.  He posted a .293 batting average and 1,853 hits during his time in St. Louis.  He also earned seven Gold Glove awards and three All Star selections while wearing the birds-on-the-bat.

Ray Lankford – Outfielder – 1990-2001, 2004
The Cardinal teams of the 1990′s are long forgotten by many fans, especially the teams of the early 90′s before the arrival of Tony LaRussa.  Those teams were owned by a company that no longer wanted them and the product on the field showed that fact.  Ray Lankford was the bright spot of that entire era.

Lankford, who hit more homeruns than any other player inside of Busch Stadium II, was a well-rounded player that hit over 200 home runs and stole over 200 bases while a Cardinal.  He played the game hard and his body broke down towards the end of his career, but he was a product of the system being drafted and retiring as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals.  His production in the 1990′s places him in the Cardinals’ Hall Of Fame as the iconic member of an entire generation of Cardinal fans.

Ted Simmons – Catcher – 1968-1980
Possibly the easiest selection of the all, Ted Simmons draws attention from most Cardinal fans as being deserving of enshrinement in Cooperstown, not just in St. Louis.

Simmons is often remembered as the most prolific offensive catcher in the team’s history.  With 172 home runs while with the Cardinals and six All Star selections, it’s obvious that he was an integral part of the team during his tenure.  Simmons finished in the top-16 of MVP voting six times during his St. Louis career, though he would never win one.

He would play eight more years outside of St. Louis and compile almost 250 home runs total over his career.

Darryl Kile – Pitcher – 2000-2002
It is hard to believe that Kile was only with the Cardinals for such a short period of time.  There may not be a single player that left a more lasting impression on and off the field.

A loving father, devoted Christian, and leader in the clubhouse, Kile helped Cardinal fans remember what it was like to have a true “ace” on the mound in St. Louis again.  He nearly won a Cy Young award and found himself on the All Star roster his first year in St. Louis.  It was his work with his teammates, his visibility as a family man, and his untimely death that made him a part of Cardinal history forever.  His number adorns the wall of the bullpen inside a black circle with white lettering that reads “DK 57″, a symbol easily recognizable by most any Cardinal fan.

Jim Edmonds – Outfielder – 2000-2007
Jim Edmonds was a part of an extremely successful time in St. Louis, becoming one-third of the “MV3″ and engraving spots in people’s memories for years to come.

Under the guidelines of the project, Edmonds is the only one of the MV3 available for enshrinement, save possibly Scott Rolen due to expectations of his coming retirement.  Edmonds was famous for his game saving catches, his tremendous home runs and his charismatic style.  He won six gold gloves, a silver slugger award, and three All Star appearances while with the team.

A team level Hall Of Fame allows the franchise to honor players that fans remember fondly despite the overall concern of the numbers the Hall Of Fame in Cooperstown looks for.  These five players deserve enshrinement as some of the best Cardinals of all time.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at i70baseball.
You can follow him on Twitter by 
clicking here.

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This One’s For You: C70 Weighs In

Three years ago, when FOX Sports Midwest rolled out that year’s “This One’s For You” tribute, I wrote a little piece as part of the United Cardinal Bloggers’ related project.  As I stated then, I don’t come from a military family by any means, nor do I have any ties to the armed forces save a few friends who have served in the past.  The military just never was a big portion of my life.

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The reason for that is, of course, because of the military.  Their service and dedication to this country has allowed a large portion of the populace to live their lives under the banner of freedom without the daily reminders of armed guards or barbed wire fences.  They serve so that most of us don’t have to.  They give for our taking.

It seems quite unlikely that we fans, sitting behind the comfort of our keyboards and being up in arms about so many things such as the 25th man on the roster and whether the closer is being used to much, would still be doing that without the dedication of these amazing men and women.  Whether it is training and protecting close at home, on a relatively peaceful foreign base, or in the warmest of political hot spots, they keep the peace and allow us to do such silly things as writing about a baseball team’s inability to score runs.

Of course, there are correlating concepts between baseball and the military, most notably in the “team-first” philosophy.  A soldier who goes it alone has a worse survival rate for himself and his squad.  While it’s not as dramatic, baseball teams don’t win on the backs of one or two people, no matter how often you hear a player has “carried his team” to victory.  It takes everyone doing their part to have a successful team, whether it is at play or at deadly work.

There is some similar terminology as well, though it is always more serious for the people in fatigues.  A pitcher may throw bullets, but a soldier dodges them.  The batter that is in the hole is much more comfortable than one of America’s finest being in one.  And, most notably, a sacrifice in baseball is a temporary thing, but sacrifices by our military are most certainly permanent.

Tonight, FOX Sports Midwest again honors those men and women who are fighting to keep America free, who are fighting to allow us these luxuries of baseball and blogging and all the rest.  We stand and salute these incredible people most notably today, but we appreciate their work daily, whether we realize it or not.

This One’s For You, folks.  Hope you enjoy.

This post was brought to you by Daniel Shoptaw of Cards Conclave
You can follow Daniel on Twitter @C70

 

CardsConclave

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Picking the Biggest Bird on Bat isn’t Easy

Picking the best player in a particular league is never an easy task, but picking who is the most meaningful Cardinal is arguably and even tougher one. Between Yadier Molina, Matt Carpenter and Allen Craig, the team has three very viable MVP candidates, all of which could make a claim for the real deal by season’s end.

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More so than any other team in baseball, the Cardinals lean on the total team approach at the plate. There’s no one contributor that’s leaned on to carry the weight of the club individually. This delegation of responsibility is what makes determining just who’s the most valuable portion of the lineup that much more difficult this season. Even with the contributions of Carlos Beltran and Adam Wainwright, it is a three headed race for who is the Cardinals’ biggest regular impact this year. Each has been an irreplaceable catalyst in the timeliest lineup in baseball.

The Glue: The favorite in the clubhouse for most of the season has been Molina, and with good reason. The perennial Gold Glover and face of the organization has had his finest summer to date, on the heels of a 2012 season that carried that same honor. While his league-best (…) average is the most noticeable headline of his year, without a doubt he is perhaps the best intangibles player in the game today. He has guided the club’s young pitching staff to an outstanding year thus far, and has continued to change the way that teams approach attacking the Cardinals on the bases. In terms of most differences made, it is tough to make a case against Yadi.

The Catalyst: However, the biggest change in the team came when Carpenter truly took off out of the leadoff spot, solving a long-standing uncertainty for the club. And he the windfall of his production has spread throughout the entirety of the lineup beneath him. He leads all National Leaguers in doubles (31) and runs scored (75), while his 120 hits come in at second in the league as well.

While he is not the traditional leadoff man in a speed sense, the most important job of a lineup lead is to get on base, and he has that down pat. His .399 on-base percentage is the best on the club, and third best in the NL, and since moving up to the order in May, his .410 OBP has been the second best mark in the NL overall.

For a guy that started the calendar year with a new glove at a position he’d never played exclusively in his life, to find himself in his first All-Star Game just six months later, his impact combined with growth has been the most remarkable transformation the club has seen in years.

The Wrench: Craig’s impact has been predictable in a situation where it shouldn’t be. Simply put, he’s the most dependable player in baseball at the absolute best time to be that. While his 77 RBI overall are impressive, the fact that 67 have come with runners in scoring position is unreal. The batting average he carries in this position is a surreal .489 this year, which is nearly 50 points better than next most efficient producer in the situation. Digging even deeper into his clutch prowess, with runners in scoring position and two outs, Craig has produced 30 of his 77 runs driven in and carries a .467 average as well.

Timely hitting has been the Cardinals calling card, as they carry a .338 average as a team with runners waiting to be driven in, but Craig’s efforts go over and above. It’s truly one of the most efficiently productive years in recent history.

In the end, it is very possible that Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt, Colorado’s Carlos Gonzalez or another rising candidate from a contender takes the MVP crown for himself completely. It is also possible that another situation such as took place around the Cy Young Award in 2010, Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter cancelled each other out on the ballots, takes place and knocks each Cardinal down a notch. However, regardless of outcome, 2013 has plenty of potential to go down as one of the finest overall efforts of any offering the franchise has put forth, across the board. Where everybody gets their due…yet nobody can claim too much credit.

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How to be an Educated All Star Voter and a Loyal Hometown Fan (Part 1)

First Base and Second Base

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Fans take different philosophies when it comes to voting for the All-Star game. Some are complete homers. Your player can be worthless in every form of evaluation imaginable, and you will still vote for him over the player from the rival team who is on pace to shatter every single-season record set. The inverse of that is the fan who combs every stat to pick the best player, even diving in obscure stats to find the tie-breaking advantage. The second group will question the first group’s knowledge of the game; the first group will call the second group sociopaths.

So this article asks the questions: can you be both an educated viewer and a homer? Is there a margin of error where players can fall into that then allows you to pick your player? And what is that margin of error.

I’m going to use WAR (fangraph) to help decide. And since both this article and every position is subjective, I’m going to go through the positions and help decide how acceptable vs criminal it would be to vote for the Cardinal/Royal at that position. It’d be too easy to say “the margin of error is 0.5 WAR, now everyone have a good day.” And not nearly as fun.

I posed the question to some of my friends recently, and though none of them outright said they will vote for their player just because he is their player, they found ways to logically come up with that conclusion. And some just outright stated that the All Star game isn’t important and is a popularity contest to start with (even though it stupidly does count, thanks Selig).

Some fans just vote for whoever they’ve heard of, regardless of what’s going on with them. Like that year Nomar led the vote even though he was on the DL. Or there’s ballot stuffing in San Francisco. So the game is viewed as king of a joke by some to start with. But this is about you, the educated fan, and how you can partake in the game, and still hold your head up high as both an educated fan and a loyal Cardinals and/or Royals fan.

FIRST BASE

Royals: Eric Hosmer – .272/.331/.359. WAR: 0.3

Hosmer is actually not having that bad of a season, since he’s getting on base at a fairly consistent rate. It’s just his slugging is so pathetically low. His ability to take walks is similar to last year, but his higher average this year has kicked up his ops to an almost respectable number.

AL Leader: Chris Davis – .335/.414/.697/. WAR: 3.7

Davis is a monster having a monstrous season. It’s just insane. He’s leading everyone, including Prince Fielder, by at least a million votes. And it’s especially impressive since he’s pretty new to the scene (at least in terms of name recognition).

If you vote for Hosmer: COMPLETELY UNACCEPTABLE. In fact, voting for anyone except Davis is unacceptable. If you were to vote for Hosmer, you could maybe justify it by claiming this may be an outlier year for Davis, but in that case your vote should probably default to Fielder, not Hosmer. Maybe you can say that Hosmer was a top prospect, and he’ll put it together eventually (???), so you want him to represent the AL. Otherwise, I’d just leave this one alone.

Cardinals: Allen Craig – .313/.357/.458. WAR: 0.7

Craig has an incredibly low WAR for having a pretty impressive slash, due to poor fielding and base running metrics. He’s currently 3rd in the voting behind Votto and Goldschmidt.

NL Leader: Joey Votto – .318/.437/.498. WAR: 2.9. It’s basically a coin toss between Votto and Goldie. I vote Votto since Goldschmidt is more than likely playing over his head. I think he may be an improved player, but not this improved.

If you vote for Craig: MILDLY UNACCEPTABLE. If you go by offensive numbers alone, Votto has him beat. Though you can maybe say it’s within a margin of error of being a homer. But if you add the other metrics in, it’s not much of a competition. However, the offensive numbers are close enough that I can understand why someone would vote Craig. A narrative that further favors for Craig is the amount of RBIs he has. Craig has 51 versus Votto’s 33 (Goldschmidt has 59 though). If you look at RBIs (and you probably shouldn’t), I can see that edge. But those numbers are probably more due to the fact that Craig has the on base machine Matt Carpenter hitting in front of him, while Votto has Zack Cozart.

 

SECOND BASE

Royals: Chris Getz – .212/.273/.288 (wow). WAR: 0.0

I like Elliot Johnson more than Getz starting. But both aren’t exactly impressive options though. Getz is the kind of player who occasionally has okay games, and it causes a distraction and takes focus off that he isn’t good. Having him anywhere near the All Star Game seems like a travesty.

AL Leader: Robinson Cano – .278/.350/.511. WAR: 3.0

Cano is leading Pedro by almost a million votes, but Pedroia is arguably putting up similar numbers at .319/.401/.436 WAR: 2.7. But The Yanks and Sox can duke out their rivalry at second base and feel safe they will have no threat coming from KC.

If you vote for Getz: WORDS CANNOT EXPLAIN HOW UNACCEPTABLE THAT IS. Like there literally is no justification. Besides you are just a homer and don’t care about having the best player out there. If you want to be respected and not called a homer when you maybe vote for Salvy Perez at Catcher (we’ll get to that later), then this is the bone you throw to people who criticize you. You say, “yeah but at least I didn’t vote for Getz at Second.”

Cardinals: Matt Carpenter – .320/.405/.467. WAR: 3.5 (wow again)

Carpenter is having a monster year so far. Great average, getting on base like crazy, and hitting lots of extra base hits. Add that to the fact that Matheny is using him very wisely in the lineup, and it’s really allowing Carpenter to live up to his full potential. He’s not a household name yet, but with more seasons like what he’s doing this year, he will be soon.

NL Leader: Brandon Phillips – .278/.330/.444. WAR: 1.7.

Phillips is honsestly having a fairly average year offensively. His WAR is elevated by his base running and stellar defense. Not only is he paling in comparison to Carpenter offensively, but is also trailing Marco Scutaro in offensive numbers. Name recognition is helping him to a great degree.

If you vote for Carpenter: COMPLETELY ACCEPTABLE AND ABSOLUTELY ENCOURAGED. This is the time that being a homer is needed. When you are a homer, you may know of a player having a good year and the national media hasn’t quite caught up yet. Carpenter is that guy. It’s kind of crazy how good he’s beien and how much better he is than the competition. The argument can be made, I suppose, that taking the players career in consideration is okay, which would bode in Phillips favor. But even with that in his corner, Carpenter is your man.

Next up: Shortstop and Third base

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Springfield Cardinals To Honor Stan Musial

Springfield, MO – The Springfield Cardinals, Double-A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals, have unveiled the design for their Stan Musial Tribute Jerseys, which the team will wear onSunday, June 16 for the 6:09pm game against the Tulsa Drillers.

SpringCardsMusialJersey

The ultimate tribute to the greatest Cardinal of them all, the cream-colored Stan Musial Tribute Jerseys are exact replicas of the St. Louis Cardinals uniforms from 1941, the year that Stan “The Man” played in Springfield before making his St. Louis debut later in the season on Sept. 17.

On Sunday, June 16, every Springfield Cardinal will not only don the tribute jerseys, but the entire team will also wear #6, marking the first time in 50 years that a Cardinal has worn the revered number.

The Stan Musial Tribute Jerseys will feature the Stan Musial #6 Patch that both the St. Louis Cardinals and the Springfield Cardinals have been wearing on their left sleeves all season. The jerseys will also have a Stan Musial Tribute Jersey Patch on the bottom right, commemorating the day’s special celebration of the life and career of the Cardinals legend.

In line with both Musial’s excellence on the field and his dedication to the community, the game-worn jerseys will be auctioned off during the June 16 game to benefit the Humane Society of Southwest Missouri.

For more information, visit SpringfieldCardinals.com or call (417) 863-0395.

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Is Mujica Playing His Way Out of St. Louis?

The early season tailspin of the Cardinals season was due much in part the inability to close games out late. The struggles extended when the search to find the right arm to fill in to the final frame role. Yet, when Edward Mujica took the ball to close out for the first time on April 18 in Philadelphia, everything changed, because Mujica’s performance didn’t. He converted that save for the club, and hasn’t wasted a chance since, and it’s no coincidence that since he established himself even later in games, and this weekend he saved both of the Cardinal wins, running his season total to a perfect 13 for 13.

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“Chief” has taken the same lock down performance he brought to seventh inning a year ago over this season, and has firmly established himself as the club’s most reliable reliever. Since arriving in St. Louis last August, he has put up a 1.19 ERA in 45.1 Cardinal innings, an effort that has also seen him perform unflappably in two different roles in the Cardinal pen. “Adding Mujica was huge for us,” pitcher Mitchell Boggs stated regarding his impact upon arrival last year. “He stabilized our bullpen and gave us another proven arm that could go out there night in and night out. We took off as a bullpen when we got him.”

Historically, he was not a final inning arm before coming to St. Louis. His career ERA in the eighth inning is 4.96, while 3.16 in the ninth. Yet, with his success closing out games raising his profile, it makes him a sleeper candidate for a guy having a huge contract year.

Hitting the market with a ninth inning grade is much different than a seventh/eighth inning one. Mujica, who is bringing in just over $3 million for the 2013 season, which was due from his final arbitration year, is setting himself up for a bigger boost due to the presence of one of the most rewarded stats in baseball: saves. And with Jason Motte on the mend and with no easy date to say when he’ll be ready to go, there’s a chance the Cardinals will have to get very competitive to keep him in the stable.

As things stand now, he’s aligning himself to be among the best relievers in the National League this season, and if history shows anything, it’s that a big jump in saves can equal a very solid jump in pay grade. When Brandon League saved 37 games for the Mariners in 2011, he had never bettered six before in a season. He also had never bettered $2.2 million per season either, yet when he neared free agency this past winter, the Dodgers handed him $27.5 million over the next four seasons, much in part due to that breakout year only one season removed. Similar cases can be seen recently with Joel Hanrahan, Grant Balfour and Francisco Cordero. The closer market overall will be very open for “jump biding” this winter, meaning it’s ripe for the over pay, which damages the Cardinals chances at retaining Mujica at a manageable price, even in a setup capacity.

Yet, the need for a return to St. Louis will be highly influenced by the price, as well as the contingencies. Trevor Rosenthal is in the wings, and is being groomed to be the ninth inning arm of the future, regardless of Motte’s status. If the price for Mujica surpasses the $5 million mark annually (which it seems guaranteed to do), is there a chance the Cardinals bow out in favor of parking one of the promising arms within the system in the role for nearly 90% less? With Rosenthal as well as Joe Kelly, Carlos Martinez, and potentially Mitchell Boggs, in the wings, the Cardinals hold over until Motte returns at the back of the bullpen is solid. And while Mujica has been without a doubt one of the great coups of John Mozeliak’s tenure, his continued success could continue to draw his time to close at Busch.

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Cardinals/Brewers: Three thing to walk with

The Cardinals completed their most dominant weekend in recent years over the weekend, completing the rare four-game sweep of the Milwaukee Brewers. The potential of the team has never been in doubt, yet the reality of it had been. The team put that to rest for the moment, as the offense woke up in a major way, cranking out 48 hits across the series, while surrendering only 12 runs across the series. These runs surrendered actually came from the starting rotation mostly, as the bullpen, propelled by some new additions, became a strength for the team, holding the lead in a way that has been uncharacteristic far too often this season.

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All in all, the team leaves for the next stop on its current NL Central road spin, firmly ahead in the division and tied with the Boston Red Sox for the best record in baseball. The current six-game win streak the club is on is its second longest in the last four seasons, and also gives them four more road wins than any team in the National League. Here are three of the major factors that have played into the series that was.

1. Heart of lineup wakes up: Many of the struggles of the offense getting started this year has come at the heart of it. Matt Holliday has hit at a rate much lower than his average career output, and Allen Craig was a cleanup hitter than couldn’t hit the ball over the fence…or do much else of anything unless there was already somebody in place. And quite often, Holliday’s issue spilled into Craig’s, and it was just as frustrating to get them started as watching somebody try to bite their own ear.

Well, the power source of the club got to their job over the weekend, and it was no coincidence at all that the team had its best production of the year thus far as well. Holliday stepped into his usual role as a hammer, rocking the Brewers to the tone of a .333 average, 5 RBI and two home runs, including a monstrous 460 foot shot on Friday. Cardinal left fielder also scored seven runs in 3 games, and Craig is the cause of several of those. Craig had a prolific series, driving in seven runs on eight hits, including a double, triple and his first home run of the season. Overall, he hit .470 for the series, and got his clutch-hitting stats up to 22 RBI and a .412 average with runners in scoring position.

2. Baby Birds Hatched: The two most shocking moves of the season were both the comings and goings from the bullpen. In mercifully moving the struggling Mitchell Boggs and Marc Rzepczynski to Memphis to work out their issues, the club brought up two of its best minor league starters to boost the pen. Seth Maness and, more shockingly, Carlos Martinez came up and immediately showcased why they have the billing they brought with them.

Maness, the organization’s minor league pitcher of the year in 2012, made two appearances, and quickly earned his stripes. He induced a bases-loaded double play in the eighth inning in his second appearance to hold off the Brewers and set up the club’s third win of the series. Martinez made a stunning impact, showcasing the high-90’s fastball that made him a Top 25 prospect in all of baseball a year ago. Both showed that the potential of the much-hyped Cardinal system is living up to the eye test standard as well.

3. Thawing Out: After entering the series in the worst stretch of his career, David Freese joined the break out party as well. He had three multi-hit games to start the series, and looked much more comfortable than he had all season. It was an encouraging effort from the laboring Freese to come to life and beginning to bring the much needed balance to the lower half of the Cardinal lineup.

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