Tag Archive | "Carp"

Winter Warm Up Day 1 Recap

Here are a few player notes and info from thus far into the Cardinals Winter Warm Up. Besides the updates provided by John Mozeliak yesterday, there was a bit of player provided news as well. As for below, here is yesterday’s info:

Wainwright

  • Jamie Garcia said that while he was mentioned in association with Team Mexico for the upcoming World Baseball Classic, which he never intended to participate in the tournament and wasn’t asked to. “It’s a tough decision. It’s an honor to represent your country, but now is not the right time.”
  • Garcia also has not thrown off a mound yet, but is on schedule with his preparation.

 

  • Matt Adams, who had elbow surgery during the offseason, said he is rehabbing well. He also dropped 10-15 pounds as part of new nutrition plan he undertook as well.

 

  • Marc Rzepczynski described his season last year as an up and down affair, leaning on a philosophy that Tony LaRussa described in saying “The season is a roller coaster, and the goal is to keep the rollercoaster as small as you can. And it got a little big last year.”

 

  • Chris Carpenter says he is feeling as good as he does any season at this point, and does not anticipate any adjusted spring regime. In response to the competition for the pitching staff amongst the young arms, he is excited to work with them all, and no singular one impresses him more than any other. “Everyone in this community and organization should be excited about what the team has.” He joked that he will show up “ready to compete for the rotation when
  • About his future after this season, Carp has no plans yet and will decide on if he will continue to play after this year. However, if he has more health issues he doubts he would undergo any more rehab to keep playing.

 

  • Adam Wainwright reported that he’s undergoing a completely normal offseason in the fashion that he did before his Tommy John surgery. He is stated that he was forced to alter his approach at times last season, including throwing a four-seam fastball for the first time since 2006.
  • His breakthrough moment was his May 27th, complete game win versus the San Diego Padres. “That was when I really felt like I was back”, said Wainwright. As for season goals, he does not see 200 inning as a personal mile marker (he threw 198 in 2012), but that “when you get to the Roy Halladay, 250 to 260 inning mark is when it’s an achievement.
  • He was not contacted to participate in the World Baseball Classic, and would have declined due to resuming his normal training regime. However he did state he would be very interested in participating next time, as it is a great honor.

CheapSeatsPlease

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United Cardinal Blogger Awards Ballot 2012

Every year the group known as the United Cardinal Bloggers (UCB) come together to vote for a bevy or year-end awards.  In the interest of transparency  each member posts their ballot live to the masses with explanations for their choices.  What follows is i70baseball’s entry in the 2012 awards voting.

Player Of The Year
Nominated: Allen Craig, Yadier Molina, Matt Holliday

The nod from i70 goes to Yadier Molina.  Not only a presence behind the plate as the field general for the team, but his offense has steadily increased and this year was no exception.  He became a middle of the order hitter that more teams feared while continuing to be the catcher that baserunners refused to steal against.

Pitcher Of The Year
Nominated: Kyle Lohse, Lance Lynn, Jason Motte

I am going with Jason Motte here.  For the first time in years, there was confidence at the end of the game.  With Motte locking down the ninth inning, this team was able to shorten the starters and have clear, defined roles for the bullpen guys.  Motte at the back end of ball games improved the entire pitching staff.

Game Of The Year
Nominated: 6/13 vs. White Sox (1-0 Lynn win), 7/16 vs. Brewers (9th inning rally), 7/21 vs. Cubs (12-run inning)

I’m going with the 7/16 contest with the Brewers.  It’s not that the other games were not impressive, but this team needed a come-from-behind victory against a legitimate foe in a big way.  The team proved that it could win games even when trailing, that it could pick up a pitcher from a loss, and that it could do so against a team that seemed to have their number.

Performance Of The Year
Nominated: Chris Carpenter’s five innings against Chicago, Adam Wainwright’s shutout of San Diego, Shelby Miller’s first start vs. Cincinnati, Carlos Beltran 3-4, 2 HR, 5 RBI vs. Washington

I want to go with Carp, I mean the guy did give a rib for this season.  But, I cannot deny my excitement watching rookie Shelby Miller take a no-no five innings deep in his first start in The Bigs.  The future with this kid looks bright and that game, though utterly meaningless, gave us just a small glimpse.

Surprise Player Of The Year
Nominated: David Freese, Jon Jay, Pete Kozma, Lance Lynn

Personally, I have to go with Jon Jay.  I really felt this guy was destined to continue to be a fourth outfielder and not quite able to grab the opportunity in front of him.  For the first time, Jay solidified himself as a legitimate starter in this lineup.  It was something I didn’t think he was capable of.

Disappointing Player Of The Year
Nominated: Lance Berkman, Daniel Descalso, Rafael Furcal, Marc Rzepczynski

I don’t know that I was really disappointed with any of the Cardinals this year.  Honestly, most of them performed as I anticipated.  If I was forced to choose, and in this case I am, I would have to go with Lance Berkman simply due to his extended injury time this year.  He remained a positive influence on the youth of this team and a refreshingly honest product of the game, but the team would have been much better if he would have remained on the field throughout the season.

Rookie Of The Year
Nominated: Matt Adams, Joe Kelly, Trevor Rosenthal

This is a close race between Joe Kelly and Trevor Rosenthal, but my vote goes to Kelly.  He had a greater impact on the team for a longer period of time.  Otherwise, I don’t think Rosenthal even lost his rookie status this year, so I hold off to include him next year with a full season under his belt.

Acquisition Of The Year
Nominated: Carlos Beltran, Edward Mujica

I was surprised that the team was as quiet as it was this year.  Given his production, his leadership, and the amount of pressure put on him to produce in the wake of Albert Pujols leaving the franchise, Carlos Beltran has to be the acquisition of the year.  If he produces well in the second year of his contract and avoids being the next Berkman, he will quickly become one of the best moves that John Mozeliak has made for this team.

Most Anticipated Cardinal
Nominated: Carlos Martinez, Oscar Taveras, Kolten Wong

The future Cardinals may be one of the most exciting things in Cardinal baseball right now.  The two that jump out at me are Taveras and Wong, both for different reasons.

First of all, Wong is a player that this franchise needs.  The second base position has been a merry go round of sorts that has featured players from all over the diamond in the last few years.  If Wong can become a solid option at second for many years to come, he has a profound impact.

That being said, the most exciting of these options and my pick for Most Anticipated Cardinal is Oscar Taveras.  He projects as a corner outfielder with speed and a middle of the order presence.  He could give the team the flexibility to deal from a core of talent that shows some power to supplement the team in other places.  If he is as good as the hype, St. Louis will have a new star to fall in love with very soon.

The rest of the ballot is devoted to our fellow blogs around the United Cardinal Bloggers, recognizing the hard work that we all put into the sites that you enjoy.  The passion among this group for baseball, for the Cardinals, and for sharing those thoughts is nothing short of extraordinary.  I am proud to share my thoughts on some of my contemporaries.

Best Individual Blog

My vote has to go to The Godfather himself and C70 At The Bat.  While it can easily be brushed off as being an easy choice to pick the leader of our group, it truly is the best choice out there.

Over the last few years, Daniel Shoptaw and I have joined forces on multiple projects and have changed places in the “leadership” chair more than once.  When it comes down to it, the content, the frequency, the passion and the quality of Daniel’s work inspires me on a regular basis to continue doing what I love and to do it to the best of my ability.

Best Team Blog

If Daniel has inspired me individually as a writer, the group of guys at Pitchers Hit Eighth inspired the creation of i70baseball in the first place.  They continue to produce funny, informative, and on-point content on a regular basis utilizing some of the best voices of all of baseball writing.

Best Cardinal Media Blog

The fine work by Derrick Goold at Bird Land for the St. Louis Post Dispatch is funny, personal, and informative.  He finds a way to connect with his audience on a personal level, something very rarely seen in today’s media.

Best Cardinal Rookie Blog

Though I personally don’t delve into the subject matter often, advanced statistics are a big part of the game of baseball.  The guys at StanGraphs have brought advanced statistics and “Sabermetrics” to the Cardinal corner of the internet in a fresh and fun way.

Post Of The Year

I strive to connect with my audience, to let them see into my life and to utilize the bridge of baseball to bring it all together.  When I look for a “post of the year”, I want that special something that jumps out from the normal posts and transcends into life and baseball.  To me, “We Don’t Get To Write The Endings” from C70 At The Bat was precisely this type of post.

Best UCB Project

It is a mainstay for years now and happens before and after the season, but I personally enjoy the roundtable discussions that circulate through multiple blogs, polling the “pulse” of so many of us on everything from the stadium to the jerseys to the prospects and veterans on the field.

Most Optimistic Cardinal Blog

Throughout the season, as discussions and frustrations reach their highest points, we are consistently reminded of the history of the game and how this franchise has overcome situations of surprising similarity in the past.  Our resident historian is quick to spin a Twitter tale or a quick post and for that, I give the most Optimistic Blog to Bob Netherton at On The Outside Corner.

Best UCB Podcast

It almost comes across as a “cop-out”, but the UCB Radio Hour pulls together a large amount of bloggers from the UCB and puts a high-quality discussion together consistently every week.

Best UCB Twitterer

This was a tough one for me.  What goes into this decision?  Talking great baseball?  Of course.  Humor and being able to back up your arguments is another quality I admire.  Being able to get your point across in the briefest of settings is another.

All things considered, Dennis Lawson, better known as gr33nazn on Twitter is a good follow that has become a good friend over the years.

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How bueno is Waino 2.0?

Last night, May 1st, Adam Wainwright got his first victory of the year against the Pittsburgh Pirates, as the Cardinals bats lashed out for 10 runs and 13 hits. The Pirates and their inept defense can always be counted on as a cure for any offensive slump! But more important to the long-term outlook of St. Louis season, is the progress made by Wainwright in his recovery from Tommy John surgery that caused him to miss all of the 2011 season. Wainwright pitched seven innings with the following line: 5 hits, 4 ER, 1 BB, 6 K’s. Not a bad outing. The million dollar question is, what is the new standard of expectation for post-TJ Waino, or Waino 2.0, as I like to call him.

Concerns abounded when Wainwright had several less than stellar starts. Questions arose such as, “will he ever get his velocity back?”, “why isn’t his breaking ball working like it used to?”, “should he go to the bullpen until he gets ‘right’”? Certainly all reasonable questions based on his early performance, made more alarming by his stellar spring training. Everyone thought the Cardinals were getting Waino 1.0 back. The problem is no two pitchers are exactly the same, and no two pitchers respond to TJ surgery in the same manner, or on the same timetable.

So far in 2012, Wainwright has pitched 27 innings with an ERA of 6.75, WHIP of 1.31, and only 1 win against 3 losses. His numbers are worse than any other pitcher on the Cardinals staff using the above metrics. A deeper look into the numbers will reveal that things are not quite as “bad” as they may seem through his first five starts.

A quick qualitative observation before we dig into the numbers…

Wainwright looks extremely focused every time I have seen him. He definitely has the Carp death stare down to a science since his return. The other thing I have noticed while watching him pitch, however, is that he seems to be laboring on the mound pretty heavily. Watch his breathing as he pitches, he is really huffing and puffing out there. Part of it I attribute to adrenaline, and part to getting back into the routine of pitching every five days when the games actually matter. I do not believe he has fully re-accustomed to the physical demands of pitching and it is affecting his stuff. Each time out, his game conditioning and strength will improve, and as a result make it easier to locate his pitches and his breaking ball to break like it should.

In regards to his numbers….

Through his first 27 innings, he has struck out 27 batters. That is a very encouraging sign. In addition, he has only walked 6 batters. His 4.5 K/BB ratio is better than any season of his career (yes I know, small sample size and all that), but Wainwright’s struggles can not be attributed to no longer being able to strike batters out or an inability to throw strikes. He is doing better than ever in that category.

He has a ground ball rate of 54%, which is tremendous. Line drive rate of 18% is also very good. His babip (batting average balls in play) is 31%, which is right near league-average. The main area of concern for Wainwright so far has been % of flyballs that leave the yard. So far this season, 33% of flyballs hit against him have been home runs, and in his last two starts, 50%.

That is an astounding percentage, and I fully expect that number to return to league average 10% in his coming starts. Had that been the case, his ERA would actually be 2.80 this season instead of 6.75. As a matter of fact, that is his xERA (2.80) to date.

No one fully knows what “normal” looks like for Waino 2.0. What we do know is that all the metrics are very good, save home run/fly ball percentage. Once that is corrected, Wainwright should be a sub-3 ERA pitcher again, and the Cardinals pitching staff will be even better.

Scary thought.

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Suds & Duds: Here’s To The High Life, Buds

Game. Five. (see what I did there?)

Last week, I wrote about how saying, reading or hearing the words, “Game five” doesn’t quite carry the same weight at “Game seven”. Last Friday, “Game 5” meant the final and elimination game in the series between the Cardinals and Phillies: Carpenter vs. Halladay, season on the line, loser goes fishing…etc, etc. This week, it’s a different story-more about the momentum than anything.

Tonight, Zack Greinke and Jamie Garcia square off at Busch Stadium to determine which team will take a 3-2 series lead into Miller Park on Sunday. In game 1, Greinke continued his streak of not losing a game at home, despite giving up 6 earned runs, and posting an ERA of 9.00 on Saturday. A 16-6 record during the regular season, all six of Greinke’s losses came on the road in 2011, the most recent one being on September 7th in, where else but in St. Louis. That night, Zack Greinke and Chris Carpenter went head-to-head for the third time of the season, and Carp finally got the win. Hard telling who, if anyone, could’ve beaten him that night, as the Cardinals’ right-handed workhorse went 9 innings, threw 97 pitches, scattering a meager 4 hits.

But that’s ancient history now.

Metaphoric future photography at work: Jason Motte at Miller Park this coming Sunday

Garcia must bring his “A game” tonight, and must keep his mind about him. I cannot overstate this. Jamie generally pitches well in home games, and the Cardinals are going to need that tonight. The Brewers own the best home record in all of baseball, and the redbirds will have their work cut out for them as they head north following tonight’s game, even if the trip is a “happy flight”. (The redbirds are on a ridiculous streak of winning on getaway day. The last time they lost on getaway day? August 3rd.) I’d say even taking a 3-2 series lead into Miller Park for the Cards is akin to a firefighter walking into a burning house. Sure, there’s some protection and certain safety measures in place. But in a burning house, anything can happen–the safest bet is to get in, do your job, and get out as quickly as possible.
That said, the Cardinals are more than capable of winning in Milwaukee, and I’m no more or less scared of elimination by playing a game or two in Miller Park than I’ve been scared of elimination at any point over the last two months. The good news is that it seems the Cardinals have become quite comfortable playing with their collective backs against the wall.
So, headed into tonight’s action, here are a few things I think could be big:
  • Garcia HAS to give the Cardinals some innings tonight

St. Louis starters have not gone deep into games this series, and even with an extra arm out in the bullpen, I’d rather not see every guy every night, if at all possible. Six innings is the absolute bare minimum for Garcia tonight, between seven and eight is ideal, pitch counts be damned. The World Series starts on Wednesday, so Garcia won’t pitch for at least another week. I say let him throw ‘til his arm (or head) simply can’t take anymore.

  • Keep men off base in front of Braun & Fielder

The Cards’ staff has done a decent job of this so far in the series, and I think that’s a big key to continued success, and sustained life in this series.

  • A lineup shuffle may be in order

Tony LaRussa is well-known among Cardinals fans and others in baseball for several things, not the least of which is an unpredictable lineup card every night. A friend and I were texting Thursday night, and the topic of Molina’s spot in the lineup came up. He’s obviously a great candidate for double-plays, given his lack of speed. One could make the argument that everyone in the Cardinals lineup is a good candidate, though, citing 169 reasons as to why. I could understand the mentality of not wanting to bat him 8th, as “having the pitcher bunt Molina over” doesn’t even sound right, let alone make sense in a lot of situations. But, I think if we’ve seen nothing else during this series, an average of nearly eleven runs scored per game thus far in the NLCS tells us that these games will probably not come down to the need to play for one run. These two teams each have a very capable offense, and having Molina clogging up the bases could turn out to possibly stifle a rally in those middle innings, and end up being the difference in the game. How much bigger could the first inning of game 3 been, had Yadi not hit into that 4-6-3? Fortunately the 4 runs held up, and were enough.

Either way, tonight’s contest will be big for momentum, no matter which team comes out on top. As a side note: it feels kind of good that we’ve made it through this much of Friday without being bombarded with all the “this could be the last time we see Pujols at Busch wearing the birds on the bat” stuff that we’ll surely hear on the broadcasts tonight. One thing is for sure about the eventual National League Champions: we will all be able to point to 2011 the next time someone refers to our division as the “Comedy Central”.

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Playoffs Provide Endless Possible Ironies For Cardinals, And That’s A Good Thing

Thanks to an improbable come-from-behind victory in Game 2 of the NLDS, the Cardinals now arguably have the upper-hand in this best-of-five series against the team that helped get the Redbirds into the playoffs to begin with. It’s an ironic twist of fate that everyone knew was possible when the Phillies went toe to toe with the Atlanta Braves during the last three games of the regular season, who the Cardinals were desperately trying to catch in the National League Wild Card race.

The Phillies had a couple of things to consider that series: 1) Do we want to rest our star players for the playoff run? 2) Do we want to knock the struggling Braves out of the playoffs and face the red hot Cardinals in the 1st round? We could just keep the Braves in and play the Arizona Diamondbacks. 3) Do we need to step it up and right the ship before the playoffs begin (Phillies had lost 8 of 9 games since clinching the NL East title)?

Fortunately for the Cardinals, the Phillies chose No, Yes, and Yes… and the Cardinals squeaked into the playoffs on the last day of the season. Ironically, the Cardinals now have a chance to come back to Busch Stadium with a chance to knock Philadelphia out. But the ironies don’t end there.

Rematch with Milwaukee

Raise your hand if you’d like to see the Cardinals get another shot at their division rivals to the north? The Brewers played a role helping the Cardinals back into the playoffs, too… going 1-5 against St. Louis down the stretch run when they had all but locked up the division title. When the Brew Crew last played St. Louis September 7th, the Cardinals were still 7 ½ games out of a playoff spot with 19 games to go. Resident pest, Nyjer Morgan, lit a fire under the Cardinals, apparently yelling and taunting them so much that ace Chris Carpenter finally decided to yell back after striking him out. Morgan then threw chewing tobacco in Carp’s direction, leading to a benches-clearing situation. After the brief encounter, Morgan called Albert Pujols “Alberta” and Cardinals’ Manager Tony La Russa said Morgan needed to “Get a clue.” Much of the trash talk from Morgan, one would think, came with the assumption that it would be the last time the Brewers played the Cardinals this season. But now, who knows.

In early August, you might recall LaRussa going off at the Brewers, accusing them of pitching dangerously to Albert Pujols after he was hit in the hand with a pitch high and tight. Later in the game, Ryan Braun was thrown at twice by Jason Motte, who drilled the Brewers slugger square in the back with his second pitch.

Overall, the Brewers and Cardinals split a season series of 18 games with 9 wins apiece? Who wouldn’t want to see this epic battle between two division rivals continue for another 7 games to settle the score once and for all?

World Series Possibilities

There would also be an number of storylines worth following no matter who the Cardinals face in the World Series, should the team get that far. The most ironic matchup would be with the Texas Rangers, who had a chance to add a huge bat to their lineup and give the Cardinals a knockout punch once and for all. I’m talking, of course, about the Lance Berkman trade that wasn’t. Berkman was the talk of the Major League Baseball trade rumors in late August. Texas was looking to add an impact bat, and the Cardinals were seemingly sellers who were out of the race and would be willing to deal a soon-to-be free agent. The Cardinals put Berkman on waivers at the 11th hour, but Texas wouldn’t up the ante enough and the deal never happened. The trade would’ve almost certainly kept the Cardinals out of the playoffs, and obviously would’ve kept Texas pitchers from facing Berkman in the World Series.

Adding to the ironies, the New York Yankees, who as you might recall can buy pretty much any baseball free-agent they want, elected not to resign Berkman in the offseason after Lance had a disappointing stretch run with the club. Meeting New York in the World Series would give Berkman a chance for some payback, and to prove himself, against his former team.

Should the Tampa Bay Rays square off with the Cardinals, it would be a matchup of the two miracle teams from the regular season. These teams have already become the teams with the biggest (Rays) and second biggest (Cardinals) September comebacks in baseball history, so why not become the first 2 wildcard teams ever to meet in the Fall Classic?

And the Detroit Tigers, of course, would provide a rematch of the 2006 World Series… a year in which, like this season, nearly everyone gave up on the Cardinals’ chances.

Pujols’ Prime

Much has been written over the past couple months about how the Cardinals’ have essentially “wasted” the Prime Years of the best player in baseball. “How,” they asked, “could the Cardinals only make the playoffs once in 5 years and not win a playoff game with Albert Pujols anchoring their lineup?”

The Cardinals, who are locked in a 1-1 series tie with the Phillies, obviously have a long way to go in the playoffs before they reach the World Series, but image how the tune would change if they pulled off the unthinkable and made it back to the Fall Classic. What was just months ago considered a “wasted opportunity” suddenly sounds like this:

“The Cardinals are back in the World Series for the 3rd time in 8 seasons.”

“Pujols and the Cardinals have won their second World Championship in 6 seasons.”

Funny how one miraculous 5-week playoff run could change everyone’s perspective on the past half-decade.

Winning Streaks

Like the “Pujols’ Prime” discussion, the Cardinals inability to win games in bunches has also been highlighted time and time again. The team put together just one 5-game winning streak all season, and swept only 4 series all season long (not including two 2-game sweeps). But with the way this team is playing right now, I don’t know, it just feels like a 6-game winning streak is coming. Maybe they were just saving it for the playoffs all along? Maybe not. Time will tell.

Got Rings?

Colby Rasmus, Ryan Franklin, Trevor Miller. These names are among those who would be eligible for championship rings. Yes, really.

Injuries and Champions

Injuries to the Cardinals have been a story since virtually Day 1. From Adam Wainwright to David Freese to Matt Holliday to Albert Pujols to Matt Holliday again and about a dozen other key players in between, this Cardinals team had found a way to will itself into the playoffs. It reminds me of another team that did they exact same thing earlier this year, the Green Bay Packers, who won the Super Bowl despite having 19 players on injured reserve (more than a third of the opening day roster).

I’m pretty sure you all have the idea by now. The Cardinals’ playoff run and potential road to the World Series features more irony than the work of William Shakespeare.

As we head into Games 3 and 4 at Busch Stadium, the Cardinals will be looking for their first home playoff win since clinching the team’s last World Series Championship in October of 2006. Jaime Garcia will take on Philadelphia’s former #1 and now #3 ace, Cole Hamel’s, who was roughed up in his final appearance of the season vs the Atlanta Braves. Game 4, Edwin Jackson will take the hill vs I’m assuming Roy Halladay if the Cardinals lead 2-1 and Roy Oswalt if the Phillies lead 2-1.

It should be another heart-stopping, nerve-wracking week of baseball for Cardinals fans as St. Louis continues its series with the National League’s best team. Of course, if the Cardinals go out and breeze by the Phillies, that would just be another thing we could add to our list of ironies.

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What Strong Finish Means For 2012

Regardless of what happens over the next nine games there is a lot to be taken away from this last month of Cardinal baseball.

This is not a team filled with mercenaries. Sure there are a few guys under 1 year deals who may be gone and a few others acquired last in the year that are free agents. But out of that group only Lance Berkman and Rafael Furcal should be invited back. Barring Albert Pujols leaving (and yes I know he’s a big piece) the Cardinals are not having to fill in a lot of pieces.

John Mozeliak is at his September best again with the signing of Chris Carpenter to a two-year extension. Using my fuzzy math this saves the Cardinals roughly $6 million next year. Money that can be…and hopefully will be well spent. And by giving him that second year the Birds protect themselves from going after a 1-year deal elsewhere on the free agent market. With Carp, you know what you get.

All indications are that Berkman wants to come back and that the Cardinals want the 1B/RF back. Bringing Berkman back serves two functions. It gives the Cardinals a veteran switch-hitter who is still capable of hitting 30 HR’s and driving in 100. What is really does is serve to give the team a fallback option should Pujols take his services elsewhere for the 2012 season.

Based on everything I have read and heard from Joe Strauss and Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch this should be finalized before if not shortly following the end of the season. The Cardinals also appear to be moving to lock up Furcal for 2012. The situation with Furcal is trickier than Berkman’s. One, Furcal has not been here that long so how he feels about St. Louis to start 2012 is unknown. Complicating it as well is Furcal’s health. A proven defensive wizard at short-stop and he seems to have found some of his power again in his short time here he does have a history of injury.

Quick note: Both Berkman and Furcal have been willing to discuss their upcoming free agency and contracts with the club and it has not been a distraction. Since the discussion have opened up the team has closed to within 2.5 games of the Wild Card. Just saying.

If Furcal is not the answer, there are in-house options in Tyler Greene and Daniel Descalso. One thing is for certain. After the teams horrendous year defensively at short one has to think the Cards don’t go the Theriot route again. His double-play partner Skip Schumaker is the other wild card out there. What does the team do with him? As I wrote in a previous post they can do a lot. For that reason I have to imagine they would like to bring him back.

That being said the Cardinals are heading into the offseason with most of their 2012 roster already present and in place. Their bullpen is set if they decide to go with Motte as Closer and Wainwright coming back fills out the rest of the rotation as Carp, Garcia, Lohse and Westbrook are all under contract for 2012.

Beyond pitching most of the position players or potential replacements are in place as well. Allen Craig has shown with at bats comes results. He is an option in both RF and 1B if need be for 2012. Getting him 500 AB’s should by a priority for LaRussa next year. Oh yeah, after this run he’s coming back, Pujols or no Pujols. Jon Jay will be, and should be, your starting CF next year. After a brief slump upon taking over full time Jay has shown he can deliver on an everyday basis. David Freese has 20 HR 85 RBI potential at 3B, assuming health which is a reach for him. But the Cardinals have new super-sub Daniel Descalso to fill in around the infield if need be. And of course your Gold Glove Catcher will be back behind the plate managing the game.

What is most impressive to me is the proactive approach the team is taking in addressing their needs. Pujols’ contract situation is not going to play itself out quickly. And the Cardinals cannot afford to wait to and see what he decides before acting on the rest their needs. Remember the bad situation the Cardinals put themselves in with Edgar Renteria’s free agency following the 2004 season.

The next eight games are going to be very exciting and hopefully a glimpse of what is to come next year

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What About Carp?

Chris Carpenter looks back while the homerun he just gave up to Pirates second baseman Neil Walker flies over the fence. He is taken out of the game, which would eventually end 7-0.

Carp

These are tough times for Cards fans to be sure. After all, their team is over 10 games out and recently has played with questionable effort. But some of the backlash Carp got after his five inning, six run outing was completely uncalled for, regardless of how their team as a whole is doing. Some in Cardinal Nation, both the usual brilliant philosophers and fans who can actually think, were drilling Carp, even saying that they hated the idea of having him back after this season. What?

He had a rough start to the year that consisted of either bad pitching on his part or bad backup on the part of his offense, but he righted the ship and has been amazing of late–minus Saturday’s start, of course.

Bottom line, he’s the best pitcher on the team this year. Sure, that doesn’t mean a whole lot this year, but let’s take a step back. Next year’s rotation will read like this:

Adam Wainwright
Jaime Garcia
?????
Kyle Lohse
Jake Westbrook

Waino will most likely be a beast, Jaime can be great but has to pick it up after this season, Lohse could be good but may continue to stink, and Westbrook will most likely stink or be par at best. The next person can either be Kyle McClellan, Edwin Jackson, Marc Rzepczynski, a free agent, a minor-leaguer, or Carp. With a pretty suspect rotation that won’t be as lucky with injuries, don’t you want the second-best pitcher on the team?

You can make the argument that $15 million is too much, especially with all the players that need to be re-upped this offseason. But besides all of that, Carp doesn’t deserve to get smacked around by an ever-corroding fan base that, I believe, has been weakened by social media.

He has become one of the best Cards pitchers ever and there’s no denying he has more fire than any guy out there–a common complaint that ‘fans’ file against every other player on the team at some point. It’s possible he’s approaching the horizon year of being a dominant starter, but don’t give him the Derek Jeter treatment and act like he’s dirt after all he’s done for your team. Instead, enjoy him while you can.

He may only have five starts left.

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Four Steps To October

Heading into this weekend, the Cardinals trail the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central standings by 4 games. After losing the first two games in the series, the redbirds came back to avoid the sweep last night behind heretofore elusive solid performances by Chris Carpenter & Albert Pujols. Carp went 8 innings strong, and though he surrendered 10 hits, only 2 of those clowns crossed the plate. He didn’t have the level of masterful control that we’ve seen from him at times, walking 3, and striking out 4, but I’ll definitely take last night’s 119-pitch performance. Albert went deep for his 28th bomb of the year as part of his 4 – 4 night, with 2 RBI & 2 runs scored. There were other contributing factors by other players too, Furcal’s 1st inning HR for example. In order to win, and play in October, however, there are four things that must happen.

Albert Pujols celebrates the Cardinals postseason by ruining an expensive camera

  1. Starting pitching must show up, go deep, and pitch effectively. Every night. Chris Carpenter has improved over the version of him we saw during the first half of the season. In his last 10 starts, he’s 7-1 with a 2.60 ERA, averaging more than 7IP over that span. I’m not ready to call him John Tudor just yet, though. This recent turn-around is key, and as the ace of the staff, the Cardinals will need his leadership if they want to make a run at another division championship. There are a lot of questions surrounding Kyle Lohse and his finger right now, and while Jake Westbrook is capable of pitching well, he’s not done so consistently. Jamie Garcia has cooled off a bit, but is still pitching well, and Edwin Jackson has shown that he can be a tremendous asset as well. That said, there isn’t one of these guys that we haven’t seen go out there and get annihilated at one point or another this year. But trailing in the division in this final ⅓ of the season means there is less and less room for sub-par performances by the starting staff.
  2. The pillars of this team need to act like the pillars of this team. Last night was a perfect example of that with teams leaders like Pujols & Carpenter stepping up and leading. Thus far, Berkman & Holliday have “done what they’re supposed to do” offensively, Berkman far exceeding expectations, in fact. Both of these men were brought to this team for their presence in the lineup. The Cardinals wanted to make it clear: If you’re going to pitch around Albert, then you’re going to have to face Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman. As it turns out though, going right after Pujols hasn’t really turned out to hurt opposing pitchers all that much. I mentioned Carpenter, but the other key pieces of this team are going to have to man up as we head into the middle of August if they want to be playing when the calendar turns to October.
  3. “Other guys” have to come out of nowhere with clutch hits (I know, I know, no such thing, right?) and other big plays that make a difference in games. I’m talking about Ronnie Belliard-type stuff. Reggie Sanders. Guys that 5 years from now, you’d have forgotten were even on the club without “those plays”. Remember Cesar Izturis? Me either, and that was ‘08. If players like Corey Patterson, Ryan Theriot, or Gerald Laird can step up when they get opportunities to help this club win, it’s going to be a difference-maker. If not, winter starts in September.
  4. Gonna have to have a little bit of luck. Let me clarify: The Cardinals will need good luck…even if that means the Brewers running into a little bad luck. Luck might be related to health (of, say, Lance Lynn or Kyle Lohse) or a blown call by an umpire, which, by the way, should NOT be hard to imagine happening these days. Having things go the Cards way may result in a winning of streak of more than (are you ready for this, their longest of the season) 4 games.
I believe that, barring injuries (to other clubs, like the Braves), the Cardinals are going to have to win the division to make the playoffs, and Milwaukee is the only team standing between them and that opportunity. Atlanta has been absolutely stellar this year, and are possibly the most overlooked team in all of baseball this season. (They’d be in first place in every other division in baseball, save the AL East) Couple that with a MLB environment that plays host to a meager one wildcard playoff spot, and I think the redbirds know what they need to do.

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Albert And Carp

When a fan asks a question and we can find time to provide a in depth answer, we jump at the chance here on i70. Such an instance jumped out at me while on Twitter.

Carp and Pujols

Shortly after the game ended Saturday night and the Cardinals had put the finishing touches on a two to one victory over the Florida Marlins, a tweet came across my screen that caught my eye.

I'd like to know how many times Albert has hit a home run and Carp has gotten a win in the same game over the years. Its a lot. #stlcards
@FishSTL
Michael Fisher

Michael, I am glad you asked. It is a valid question and caused a little digging into some stats.

The two superstars of the St. Louis Cardinals have played together in St. Louis since 2004. There have been injuries over that time but when you put two players of their caliber together, you expect some results. Those results are not disappointing.

Chris Carpenter has pitched in 184 Games for the St. Louis Cardinals and according to Baseball-Reference, posts an impressive record. The Cardinals veteran ace has won 91 games as a Cardinal while losing only 41. A 3.09 career earned run average since joining the team, 19 complete games, 8 shutouts, and 276 walks to 1003 strikeouts makes him one of the most dominant pitchers in recent memory for the Cardinals. As dominant as he can be, does it mean that a player like Albert Pujols performs at a higher level for him? Maybe not, but the team certainly benefits when the two are on the same page.

The simple answer here is 47. That would be the number of regular season games that Chris Carpenter has pitched in since joining the Cardinals that Albert Pujols has also hit a home run in. Slightly more than 25% of the time when Carpenter takes the mound, Pujols will leave the yard in the same game. What may be most impressive is a deeper look into the stats.

Albert seems to be on his “A Game” during these 47 games, for sure. Over the course of regular season games that Carpenter pitches and Albert homers, Pujols is hitting .460 with 54 home runs, 86 runs batted in, and 76 runs scored. Carpenter is no slouch, when the Cardinals first baseman puts one over the fences, Carpenter posts a 3.34 earned run average with 260 strikeouts, 31 wins and 5 losses.

The Cardinals as a whole enjoy it when Carpenter is pitching and Albert goes deep, they have won 39 games and only lost 8 when this occurs.

The post-season has only seen this occur twice, though one of them was memorable. Both times that Carpenter has pitched on a day when Albert homered in the post-season, the Cardinals would win. Carpenter would receive the win in the contest with the Padres on October 3, 2006. Perhaps the most memorable post-season game for this to occur would put a win in the Cardinals hands, if not their starting pitcher’s. That game happened on October 17, 2005 when Albert ruined Brad Lidge‘s night in Houston and quieted the home town crowd who thought they were witnessing their team reaching the World Series, just to see that postponed due to a long home run from the Cardinals’ Most Valuable Player.

There were a few notable games that popped up while digging through box scores for the information on the two superstars.

- April 9, 2004 - Carpenter would go six innings, giving up five runs, walking one and striking out three. Albert would hit a solo home run but go on to score three times on one hit and two walks. When the dust settled, the Cardinals would beat the Diamondbacks 13-6 and Chris Carpenter would gain his first victory while wearing the birds on the bat.
- June 14, 2005 - Pujols would hit a two run home run in the contest against the Blue Jays in Toronto. Carpenter would show his old team just how dominant he could be as he posted his first double-digit strikeout total in a game where Pujols would homer, striking out 10 Blue Jays. He would also grab his first shutout and throw his first complete game in such a game.
- June 25, 2005 - It would not take long for Carpenter to repeat that feat and do it one better as the Cardinals played the Pirates in front of the sea of red in Busch Stadium. Carpenter would once again throw a shutout, going the distance and striking out eleven while Pujols would hit a three run shot in the seventh inning of that contest, his 20th of the season.
- September 8, 2005 - The two superstars were well on their way to winning a Cy Young Award and a Most Valuable Player Award in the 2005 season when September rolled around. This time, the Busch fans would witness the first multi-home run game for Albert while Carpenter was on the mound. In addition to seeing Albert leave the yard twice, the fans would also see Carpenter throw seven shut out innings, striking out seven Mets, and winning his 21st game of the year.
- June 4, 2009 - Our final game to point out was one that seen Carpenter go toe-to-toe with Reds hurler Aaron Harang in a pitcher’s duel that would see both starters go the distance for their teams. Carpenter would only surrender one run and Harang would only struggle with one hitter. Albert would hit a two run home run in the bottom of the third and add another run batted in on a double in the sixth giving the Cardinals the only three runs they would get that day. It was the only three runs Carpenter would need.

With two top quality players on the field for their eighth season together, it seems it would do the team a lot of good if they could match up on a few more games down the stretch of the 2011 season.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball as well as the Assignment Editor for BaseballDigest.com.
He is the host of I-70 Radio, hosted every week on BlogTalkRadio.com.
Follow him on Twitter here.

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The Unflappable Chris Carpenter

After a rough start to the season, an ace has re-emerged in the St. Louis Cardinals’ rotation: Chris Carpenter.

Carp

Remember when we were all worried about Carpenter? He didn’t log his first victory until the sixth week of the season; his second, June 23. His ERA pushed toward five. His outings lasted under seven innings as much as they lasted over. Questions about Carpenter’s health and durability started popping up, though his desire and resolve should never be in doubt.

But as the summer weather heated up, so did Carp’s pitching. In June he went 2-2 with a 3.00 ERA. So far in July, he is 3-0 with a 2.70 ERA. His strikeouts are down a little—Carpenter only has 17 this month with likely one July start remaining, compared to 29 in June and 32 in May—but his durability is at its peak: he has thrown less than eight innings only three times over his nine starts since June 1. He has been the stopper the Cards need.

And Carpenter’s return to form could not have come at a better time. The Cardinals have seen Kyle Lohse, Kyle McClellan and Jake Westbrook all struggle off and on. Lohse and McClellan have both regressed since torrid starts. Westbrook, aside from a couple flashes of effectiveness, has yet to really get it going at all this season. And while Jaime Garcia absolutely dominates at Busch Stadium, he still struggles in road starts.

But Carpenter just chugs along, most recently at the expense of the NL Central. His three wins this month have come against the Cincinnati Reds and the Pittsburgh Pirates. After dropping two of three to the New York Mets this week, the Cardinals kicked off the important series against the—hard as it is to believe—first-place Bucs Friday night with a 6-4 win. Carpenter was not brilliant, but he toughed through the victory, giving up four earned runs on 10 hits through eight innings to pull the Cardinals even with the Pirates in the standings. Set the team up for their second win in a row? Check. Start off a series with the team immediately ahead of the Cards in the Central on the right foot? Check. Pitch deep into the game, preserving the bullpen? Check. Classic Carpenter.

Before this season started, speculation on Carp’s possible availability at the trade deadline—pending the Cardinals’ status in the standings by the end of July, of course—was not without merit. His option for 2011 is an expensive one. He turned 36 years old in April. And the Cards had a lot of early questions with Albert Pujols not signing, Adam Wainwright being lost for the season, and Lance Berkman being an unknown commodity starting in a position he had not played in years. But neither the team nor Pujols seem deterred by his walk year, the Cards are playing well in spite of Wainwright’s absence, and Berkman has been a revelation. Consequently, the Cardinals are again knocking on the door of first place in the division and it’s hard to imagine them being anything but buyers at the deadline. Likewise, it’s hard to imagine them continuing to be competitive without Carpenter taking the ball every five days.

His contract situation beyond this year is still uncertain, but Carpenter is proving he still has a lot left. The risk of injury is always present. Age will eventually catch up to him. But Carpenter knows knows what he means to this team and will never give an inch as long as he’s physically able. Perhaps the Cards re-negotiate to keep him wearing the Birds on the Bat a little longer. Perhaps this is his final year with the Cardinals. Either way, Carpenter has again assumed the role of ace pitcher on a team that sorely needed one.

Chris Reed also writes for InsideSTL Mondays and Bird Brained whenever he feels like it. Follow him on Twitter at @birdbrained.

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