Tag Archive | "Counterpart"

2013 UCB Progressive Game Blog: The Fourth Inning

For the sixth consecutive year, the United Cardinal Bloggers, one of the premier organized blogging communities in all of baseball, will be conducting one of their signature projects, the progressive game blog.  This year, the organization has selected the May 4 game in Milwaukee for their focus.

As is the case every year, each blogger is assigned a portion (usually an inning) of the game.  The blogger will not only describe the action but will use what happens in that portion as a jumping-off point for other ideas and topics.  Each blogger will link to the previous portion and the next portion of the game, forming a circular chain that will allow people to see the game through various eyes.

UCBLogoBig

Following the third inning over at Pitchers Hit Eighth, the fourth inning comes to rest here at i70baseball.

Ho Hum Pitcher’s Duel
The progressive game blog almost always begins with the excitement of a fantasy baseball draft.  The writers anxiously await the official press release from UCB founder Daniel Shoptaw to tell us what inning we have drawn.  The storylines flow through our heads ahead of time as we look forward to our inning and anticipate what we may be able to write about.

Imagine my thrill when I drew the fourth inning of a Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals.  A game that pits Adam Wainwright against his counterpart in blue, Yovani Gallardo.  Drawing the fourth inning when two aces are taking the mound is not a desirable position as you would expect both hurlers to be settling in and a fairly easy inning to flow from either of them.

That’s exactly what happened.

The top of the inning would see the Cardinals send the heart of the order to the plate, with cleanup hitter Allen Craig due to leadoff.  The Fox Sports announce team was kind enough to remind the fans at home that Craig has not produced a home run this season, though his runs batted in should more than make up for the perceived lack of power.  Craig, who has been impressive with runners in scoring position, did not have that luxury when leading off the inning.  After two quick outs from Craig and Yadier Molina, a struggling David Freese stepped in and produced his second hit of the ballgame.  Jon Jay ended the inning with the next at bat and an uneventful top of the fourth came to a close.

Wainwright took to the mound in the bottom of the fourth finding a groove that many were worried wouldn’t exist today after a nearly disastrous first inning (you can read about that inning over at Aaron Miles Fastball).   Shadows were creeping in and Wainwright was taking advantage of it as it put the Brewers down in order.

Material for a blog post is hard to come by when pitchers are performing well and the game is simply moving along.  One of the biggest points to take away from the fourth inning is the fact that David Freese seems to be finding his stroke and driving the ball.  Over the last few games he has been hitting the ball with authority and you can tell that he is starting to come out of the slump and timing issues that have plagued the beginning of this season for him.  Additionally, seeing Wainwright settle in, especially after struggling early, and produce shutout innings to keep his team in the game makes it very apparent why he is the ace of this staff.

Stay tuned and check in with On The Outside Corner for the fifth inning of this year’s Progressive Game Blog.

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

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King Felix Is Not Adam Wainwright

The Seattle Mariners extended Felix Hernandez‘s contract on Thursday and many St. Louis Cardinal fans reacted quickly, feeling Adam Wainwright‘s price tag just went up.  The problem with that thought is simple, Hernandez is no Wainwright, he’s much, much better.

Cardinals Spring Baseball

Hernandez agreed to a deal that will keep him in Seattle for a reported financial windfall to the tune of seven years and $175 million.

That is not to say that Adam Wainwright is not a very good pitcher, we all know that he is.  It is not to say that Adam Wainwright will not be a very wealthy man when his contract is resolved, he most likely will.  But to say that Wainwright’s price will be based off of Hernandez’s price is a bit absurd.

Both of them debuted in the same year for the team they still play for, the Mariners and Cardinals respectively, and both were due to hit free agency at the same time, after the 2013 season.  That is where the comparisons end, however.

We can start with the obvious point of age.  Hernandez (26) is five years a junior to Wainwright (31).  If you are giving a seven year deal to a pitcher, you would do so to a pitcher Hernandez’s age, not Wanwright’s.  Beyond that, Hernandez has not spent any significant time on the disabled list, has substantially better career numbers, and has earned many more accolades than his St. Louis counterpart.

Tale Of The Tape
Wainwright Hernandez
80 Wins 98
1 20 Win Seasons 0
3.15 ERA 3.22
908 Strikeouts 1487
1073 Innings Pitched 1620.1
214 Games 238
11 Complete Games 23
4 Shutouts 9
1 All Star Selections 3
0 Cy Youngs 1
1 Arm Surgeries 0
1 Missed Seasons 0

That graph shows two very good pitchers.  It also shows one with an injury history, that is older, and is not quite on the same level.

Hernandez translated his career into a $25 million a year payout.  Wainwright will probably look to translate his into $20 million a year for a much shorter period of time.

Calm down, Cardinal Fans, the price of King Felix had little to no impact on the cost of Adam Wainwright.  That price was set before and I highly doubt it moved at all with this news.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball
Follow him on Twitter here.

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Best Defensive Team In AL Might Be In KC

The Kansas City Royals have built a team through the draft and player development, turning home grown players into Major League mainstays.  Many of the accolades afforded to the players coming through the system, as well as some players acquired from elsewhere, is focused on the offensive production they have produced.  Quietly the players that make up the starting eight have shown that they are a force to be reckoned with on the defensive side of the ball as well.

Catches like this one earned Gordon a 2nd consecutive Gold Glove.

Catches like this one earned Gordon a 2nd consecutive Gold Glove.

The voting for last year’s Gold Glove Awards consisted of votes cast by each manager and up to six coaches from each team.  Voters were given a list of players they could vote for and were restricted from voting for anyone on their own team.  When the dust settled, the Royals had four players finish in the top three of their position, more than any other team in the American League.  Only the Cincinnati Reds can claim more, having six players finish in the top three at the respective positions.  Beyond those four, a good case can be made for two more Royals to have received consideration.

During a recent interview with a local radio station, Royals manager Ned Yost made sure to point out the hard work and effort that third baseman Mike Moustakas had put forth in getting better defensively.  Long before the remainder of the team would report for batting and fielding practice prior to a game, Yost stated that you could find the man known as “Moose” taking ground balls at third base, determined to make himself a asset to the team when in the field.

Moustakas and his counterpart across the diamond, Eric Hosmer, both finished second in American League voting results for Gold Gloves at the close of the 2012 season.  The two talented infielders have represented the youth movement of this franchise for many years now and seeing them develop into strong defenders in 2012 has got to please the manager.

In addition to the corners, the Royals enjoy one of the most dynamic and talented shortstops in all of baseball.  Alcides Escobar was not recognized this year for his defensive talent, but most scouts and players will tell you that he is widely respected as one of the best at his trade.  His appearances on the nightly highlight reels across the country would support this claim as Escobar continues to become a large part of the Royals future success.

Behind the plate, another home grown talent patrols the field with a highly impressive arm and an ability to control the field the way most teams hope their backstop will.  Salvador Perez was given a substantial contract extension last year and, while his production at the plate is impressive enough, the way he controls the field and works with his pitching staff leaves very little doubt as to why the team extended the young man who had barely seen major league service before then.

The outfield reveals another player who finished close to a Gold Glove Award and one that took home a second consecutive Gold Glove of his own.  Alex Gordon has become one of the best left fielders in the game today and his counterparts rewarded him as such in 2011 and 2012.  His range, arm, and ability have solidified him as an outfielder that commands a lot of respect around the league.  He has quickly become known as a player that runners do not try to advance on and has established a presence that makes the fans pay close attention to any ball hit to left field.  Any ball that ends up within the range of Gordon quickly becomes capable of becoming that day’s “did you see that?” play.

The opposite corner of the outfield finds a player that many fans are ready to see the team cut ties with.  Offensively speaking, Jeff Francoeur is statistically speaking one of the worst players in Major League Baseball.  His veteran leadership, his glove, and his arm keep him on the field every day.  One of the most impressive throwing arms in recent memory, “Frenchy” routinely makes up for a lack of range with an impressive accuracy that holds runners at bay.

Six positions on the field are capable of amazing plays that everyday players can only dream of.  Four of those positions were considered to be one of the best three at their position in the American League last season.  The other two figure to be in that discussion for a long time coming.

While the Royals continue to find themselves offensively and with a rebuilt pitching staff, they know what they have on defense.  What they have is, in fact, golden.

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Testing the Depth

Questions about the health of the 2012 St. Louis Cardinals started popping up before the ink was dry on the contracts signed by Rafael Furcal and Carlos Beltran.

But those two players were not at the front of the line for treatment from the Cards medical staff. That spot belonged to Chris Carpenter, much like his rotation counterpart Adam Wainwright in 2011. Losing Ace 1A certainly make Cardinals fans nervous, and considering the injury histories of guys like Furcal, Beltran, Lance Berkman, and the recent knee injury to Allen Craig, tensions were understandably high. And then the Cards got off to a great start, and it seemed like this team may just be poised to make a serious run at a return to the postseason.

Now, the Cards look like a combination of the team we hoped for—one that scores a lot and pitches well—and the team we feared the most: a group of great players suffering one injury after another.

Friday, the Cards announced Allen Craig (hamstring) and Kyle McClellan (elbow) would be joining Carpenter (nerve damage), Scott Linebrink (shoulder) and Jon Jay (shoulder) on the team’s disabled list. Of the group, Craig and Jay are likely to return first, but it’s no secret the Cards are missing some key players right now. And this comes on the heels of a Berkman DL stint and Beltran’s ongoing leg issues.

Are the Cardinals injury-prone? It certainly appears that way. But it’s not all that surprising. And now more than ever this year, the Cards must lean on their depth in the minor leagues.

The plan has been pretty successful so far. Lance Lynn filled the rotation spot Carpenter would normally occupy; all Lynn has done so far is lead the team in wins, strikeouts, and ERA. Matt Carpenter has filled in quite well at all four corner positions, and before cooling off recently was far and away the best hitting rookie in the league. Since Craig and McClellan went down, the Cards recalled Adron Chambers and Brandon Dickson, two guys who have some experience at the major league level.

But it’s almost time to start wondering how close the Cardinals are to having to add someone to the 40 man roster. One, maybe two more injuries would be borderline devastating to this team; not because of the number of guys out, but because someone may have to have their “clock” started by coming into Major League Baseball earlier than the Cards hoped.

It is the toughest thing to plan for in sports, because you just never know who is going to come up lame. It may make logical sense to look at someone like Furcal, Wainwright, or David Freese based on their history. But how can a team prepare for that? If they stockpile corner infielders or starting pitchers and they end up needing a shortstop or shut-down reliever, how is that planning worth anything?

The Cardinals have been bitten hard lately by the injury bug, and the two-way conveyor belt between St. Louis and Memphis has been fired up, and right now it is sending more players north than south. Is it time to panic? No. But concern is legitimate.

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Cardinals, & Squirrels & Torty’s…Oh My

What makes up a winner? Talent? Sure. Good team chemistry? Maybe. A great Manager? Overrated. No, it all comes down to the intangibles that “it” factor. You know turtles, squirrels and what not.

Okay, well maybe not entirely. The players do their part and the rest just seems to sort itself out. But if you look at the post season success of some recent World Series teams they all have one thing in common. They all seem to have a certain flair or element to them that adds to the story and sets them apart from the other contenders.

The 2002 Angels had the Rally Monkey, the 2004 Red Sox were a bunch of drunken idiots (their words not mine…okay I may have added the drunken part) and the Giants, last year’s champs, had Brian Wilson’s beard and whatever is living in there. These teams didn’t just win, they were and are remembered. Quick, without looking it up, who won the 1973 World Series?

My point exactly. I am not saying that what the 1973 Athletics accomplished was not impressive, just that it’s not the kind of story you remember and tell over and over again. Hell, even the 2006 Cardinals team is still talked about. Granted it is usually in conversation as the worst team to ever win a World Series, but they are still talked about. Take that ’73 A’s.

Let’s take a look at this year’s run by the Cardinals. Impressive, yes. But after their September comeback for the ages culminated in Houston whose name was being shouted throughout the clubhouse amidst all the champagne…you guessed it. Torty Craig. For those out of the loop, Torty is Allen Craig’s pet turtle.

Next up, and not to be out done was the Busch Squirrel. Out doing his wild kingdom counterpart by actually making multiple on-field appearances in the NLDS. To follow was twitter accounts for both, credits and mentions on SportsCenter and even a press conference. Not convinced of the impact and relevancy of @tortycraig and @buschsquirrel? Look no further than Philly for game five of the NLDS to see fans hanging fake squirrels from nooses in the stands or the nearly 40,000 followers between the both of them on Twitter.

Long known for the serious approach TLR’s teams take and the perception they don’t have a lighter side or any fun on the field this is a welcome addition. Whether or not it has anything to do with the team the players seem to have embraced it and as evidenced by their chants of “torty” upon clinching the Wild Card even seem to be enjoying the irreverence.

A manager wants and needs his players to be loose and relaxed during the playoff run. The 162 grind of the regular season takes its toll and teams that hold on too tight often seem to fall short. See this year’s Phillies and Yankees.

So here’s to you Cardinals, enjoy the ride, have some fun, go ahead and win the World Series. You’ve already started writing the story so why not finish it. Leave it up to me to explain to my daughter in 15 years my strange affection for a squirrel named Busch and a turtle named Torty much the same way my dad explained to me the importance of “The Heat is On.”

As always 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

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Inside Baseball With Rob Rains: The Trade Market

If, and that still is a very big two-letter word, the Cardinals decide to try to trade Colby Rasmus — in the next two weeks, over the winter, or a year from now — there are two things which will have to happen. One, the Cardinals will have to find a team willing to trade for Rasmus, and two, that team must be willing to give the Cardinals players who they consider either equal or of greater value than Rasmus.

The Marlins' Randy Choate may be of great interest to the Cardinals

The first part should be easy. There are at least nine teams in need of a center fielder, and Rasmus, even with his inconsistencies and defensive issues, would provide an immediate upgrade at the position for all nine of those teams. It’s the second part which becomes the tricky issue for the Cardinals. If Rasmus could be convinced that it might be in his best interest long-term to become a leftfielder, the list probably expands to more than nine teams which would be interested in him.

The Cardinals’ biggest need right now appears to be for a left-handed reliever who can retire a left-handed batter at a key moment in the game. With 12 games to play against Milwaukee, and Prince Fielder, and three games left against the Reds, and Joey Votto, that one factor might be the one which decides the pennant race in the NL Central.

That player alone, however, no matter his importance to the current makeup of the Cardinals, would not be sufficient value to obtain in a trade for Rasmus. More than likely, the Cardinals need to pick up a couple of high-level prospects, probably pitchers or a shortstop, if they are going to part with their former number-one draft pick, who people forget, is still only 24 years old.

If the Cardinals want to talk now about a possible trade for Rasmus, it would seem to make the most sense for GM John Mozeliak to be calling his counterpart on these teams, which are listed in alphabetical order:

Atlanta – Through the All-Star break, the Braves had the worst batting average for centerfielders in the NL (.222) and had only four home runs and 18 RBIs combined between Jordan Schaffer and Nate McLouth. The Braves actually have two quality left-handed relief specialists in All-Star Jonny Venters and Eric O’Flaherty. They also have a promising left-handed starter, Mike Minor, in Triple A, and their 2010 No. 1 draft pick, shortstop Matt Lipka, playing in Class A.

Chicago White Sox – The White Sox owe Alex Rios a lot of money, but he is having a terrible year. Their combined centerfielders hit even worse than the Braves, .210, before the All-Star break and Rios was only slightly better with a .213 average with six homers and 21 RBIs. When John Danks comes back off the disabled list, the White Sox will have six starting pitchers. Most observers believe they will trade Edwin Jackson, who threw a shutout on Saturday in front of several scouts, including one from the Cardinals. Another starter might interest the Cardinals more, however. How about left-hander and St. Charles native Mark Buehrle, now 32, who has talked openly about one day wanting to pitch for the Cardinals before he retires. He is a free agent after the season and would have to approve any trade.

Florida – The Marlins traded for veteran Mike Cameron before the All-Star break, but he is not the team’s long-term answer. Putting Rasmus in the middle of Logan Morrison and Mike Stanton would give Florida a talented young outfield for years to come. Combined, the Marlins’ centerfielders hit .234 before the All-Star break and had just seven home runs. The Marlins have pitching to trade, both starters and relievers, and names such as Ricky Nolasco, Annabel Sanchez and Leo Nunez certainly should come up in any discussion about Rasmus.

San Diego – The Padres like Cameron Maybin, which is why they might be included to move Rasmus to left field. Everyone knows about Heath Bell and Mike Adams in their bullpen, but another name to consider is former Cardinal prospect Luke Gregerson, and they also have a young flamethrower in the minors, right-hander Brad Broch, who was just promoted from Double A to Triple A. The Padres actually think they might get more in return for Adams than Bell since he is under contract through next season.

Seattle – The Mariners’ centerfielders had the worst average in the majors before the All-Star break, .196, with five homers and only 21 RBIs. The Mariners don’t really have the pitching depth to trade off the major-league roster, but they do have two young talented shortstops in the minors, Nick Franklin and Marcus Littlewood, who might interest the Cardinals.

San Francisco – A lot was said and written before the break about the Giants’ interest in Carlos Beltran, but the asking price for the Mets’ outfielder is going to be very high and will attract interest from a lot of teams. The Giants do need a centerfielder after posting only a .248 average with 3 homers and 24 RBIs before the All-Star break. If the asking price for Beltran gets too high, maybe the Giants would look at Rasmus. They have quality left-handed relief specialist in Javier Lopez, another very good setup reliever in Sergio Romos and two young minor leaguers, a left-handed starter named Eric Suskemp and an outfielder named Francisco Peguero.

Tampa Bay – Like the Beltran talks, the buzz about Rasmus before the break seemed to center on the Rays. Their only interest in Rasmus would seem to be if they could also move B.J. Upton at the same time, either in that or another trade. There would seem to be no incentive for them to trade starter Jeremy Hellickson, although James Shield would appear to be a more likely target for the Cardinals. They also have left-handed reliever Jake McGee, who was just promoted to the majors this week from Triple A.

Toronto – The Blue Jays centerfielders had a combined .244 average before the All-Star break with only four home runs, although Rajah Davis had 24 stolen bases. Toronto has several relievers who are said to be available, but the Cardinals would likely want a higher return for Rasmus.

Washington – The Nationals primary centerfielder before the break was former Cardinal Rick Ankiel, who is struggling and without former Cardinal connection Jim Riggleman there, his playing time could start to diminish, B.J. Upton’s name has been linked to the Nationals for some time, but it isn’t known the actual level of their interest. What would or should interest the Cardinals would be if the Nationals would consider trading All-Star Tyler Clippard, a right-hander who also has been very effective against left-handed batters.

The market for left-handed specialists

With or without bringing up Rasmus, the Cardinals are expected to be exploring the market for a left-handed specialist between now and the July 31 trading deadline. These six would appear to be the best of the lot, and again, at least worthy of a phone conversation:

Jonny Venters, Atlanta – There probably is no way the Braves would consider trading the All-Star, but they do have another lefthanded reliever in Eric O’Flaherty and rookie Craig Kimbrel gets the bulk of the save opportunities. Through Saturday he had allowed only seven hits in 51 at-bats to left-handed batters, a 137 average, and had four walks and 20 strikeouts. For his two-year career, lefthanded batters have only posted a .177 average against Venters.

Randy Choate, Florida — The 35-year-old veteran is a target for several teams, including the Yankees, which figures to bring up the asking price. He has allowed only five hits in 53 at-bats to lefthanded hitters this season before Saturday, a .053 average, with one walk and 23 strikeouts. For his career, Choate has held left-handers to a .205 average.

Marc Rzepczynski, Toronto – The 25-year-old has been outstanding this season for the Blue Jays, holding left-handed batters to a .152 average (10-of-66) with six walks and 21 strikeouts. He has held opposing left-handers to a .209 average for his career.

Eric O’Flaherty, Atlanta – He is the same age as Venters, 26, but has not received the same level of attention. Quietly, however, he has been very effective, holding left-handed batters to a .182 average this season (10-of-55) with two walks and 12 strikeouts. O’Flaherty actually has more experience than Venters and for his career has held left-handed opponents to a .219 average.

Cory Luebke, San Diego – The Padres moved Luebke into their starting rotation in late June, but before then he was very effective against left-handed batters, holding them to a .152 average. For his career, opponents are hitting only .181 against the 26-year-old Luebke.

Javier Lopez, San Francisco – The 34-year-old left-hander has been a key setup man for Brian Wilson with the Giants, holding opponents to a .111 average (7-of-63) while issuing seven walks and 20 strikeouts. Left-handers have a career .220 average against Lopez.

Check out news from around Major League Baseball in this rest of this article over at RobRains.com.

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