Tag Archive | "David Wright"

Pull Together, NL East

We all know that the Braves have been hot this season. And by hot… I mean insanely hot. It is hard to ignore the intensity they have right now. No matter what team they are up against, they are all in it until the very last out. But what about the rest of the NL East?

One-Ball

If you just glance at this division you would see the Braves completely dominating, and then all the other teams left looking weak and helpless in a path of destruction. But if you take away the magnificence of the Braves this year, the rest of that division is actually not as pathetic as Atlanta is making them look. It is only comparatively, do they seem that no one knows what they are doing.

The Nationals, on paper, should be a brilliant team. They have Bryce Harper, one of the most promising young All-Stars, who has blasted 17 home runs and is on his way to completing another productive season. Adam LaRoche, Ian Desmond, and Ryan Zimmerman, have done their fair share at the plate. And outfielder, Jayson Werth, is contributing with an average of .334. Their pitching has not been quite as dominating as it was last year with the starting rotation not as consistent. But again, if you take away the Braves, the Nationals really have not been much of a let down this year. They are just engrossed in a raging fight against seemingly one of the greatest teams in baseball at the moment. That is what a team wants, right? To go against the best of the best? But I am sure they would like to be winning.

The Phillies and the Nationals are close competitors. The teams average out to be somewhat similar in overall strength. Outfielder, Domonic Brown, is pulling in some wicked numbers right now with 27 homers already this season, and knocking in 78 RBIs. And the rest of the team as a whole seems fairly consistent.

The Mets granted David Wright the honor of being the Face of the Mets this season. As difficult as it is to live up to a title like that, Wright is handling it with class and precision. He has raked in 54 RBIs with an average of .309, all while winning the hearts of the fans over with those pearly whites. His teammate outfielder, Marlon Byrd does not get quite the recognition as Wright does, but he has knocked in even more runs this season, and blasted even more long balls. And the All-Star Matt Harvey with the potential for a Cy Young award, brightens up the Mets’ pitching future. They have always been a quieter team, but are certainly able to make some noise… especially if Atlanta cools off.

And the Marlins? They could use a little help. The monstrous Braves have made them look even smaller, although, they have had their good moments this year. A semi-average team with some sparks here and there, the Marlins have some work to do if they want to make any kind of dent in this division and leave the season with some pride.

Atlanta is charging full speed at the head of the NL East leaving the rest of the division in their dust, and not one of these teams are even close to winning the wild card. If the rest of the division wants a shot at the playoffs, or maybe even just a chance to hold their heads up a little higher, they are going to have to do something to stop Atlanta. They will have to work together to slowly tear down the confidence of the first place Braves.

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Chicago at the All-Star Game

The 84th edition of the Major League Baseball All-Star Game is in the books. For Chicago baseball fans, going into the game the bar for expectations were low. When the rosters were released, the two Chicago teams had a combined three representatives. For the White Sox they were pitchers Chris Sale and injured reliever Jesse Crain. For the Cubs it was pitcher Travis Wood.

ChrisSale

With Wood pitching Sunday night for the Cubs in the final game of the first half and Crain currently injured, the introductions likely would be the highlight of the night for Chicago. But then, enter lefty Chris Sale from the bullpen. Sale entered the game as a relief pitcher after the starter of the game Max Scherzer only pitched one inning. Sale then pitched the second and third innings facing six batters and retiring all six.

In the second, he retired David Wright on a groundout to third, struck out Carlos Gonzalez on an impressive slider, and got Yadier Molina on a fly out. Then in the third, struck out Troy Tulowitzki, got Michael Cuddyer on a weak ground out, and finally got Home Run derby runner up Bryce Harper on a line out.

They were an impressive two innings of work for Sale. With little to look forward to, he represented the city well. At the break, Sale is fifth in the American League in ERA and Strike outs. On the flip side is record is just 6-8 on the season. That is the result of little run support and a bad team supporting him.

Tuesday night was an excellent showcase for Chris. As the game progresses, the American League ended up shutting out the National League 3-0 with the National League only putting together three hits for the game. The winning pitcher was Sale. Come October, because of the victory, the American League will have home field advantage for the World Series. As it stands right now, that may have even less action from Chicago teams then the All-Star game featured.

For a few innings, Chicago baseball impressed. A tip of the cap goes to Chris Sale as he is one of the best young arms around the league. Sale is a former first round pick back in 2010 by the White Sox out of the college Florida Gulf Coast. Tuesday night was a nice victory and resume builder for the lefty from Lakeland Florida. Here is to the second half of the season building off of the mid summer classic.

 

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Can Matt Carpenter Win the MVP This Year?

MattCarpenter1

 

It’s official, the Matt Carpenter experience has worked. And having his bat in the lineup every day has helped the Cardinals go into the All Star Break with the best record in baseball.

Carpenter has ascended in the consciousness of fans, from becoming a utility player, to one of the best second basemen in the NL, and eventually on the All Star team. There is another step he needs to be considered for, an MVP candidate.

If the season was over today, would Carpenter deserve the MVP award? Possibly. Is he in the conversation? Absolutely. Can he win it? Yes. And for these reasons.

Carpenter is a darling of the stats crowd.

Carpenter is an on-base machine. His on base pct. is currently .393. His slugging pct. is .499. He has the 6th highest WAR in the MLB, and the 3rd highest WAR in the NL at 4.4 (only David Wright and Carlos Gomez are ahead of him). He is 6th in the NL with wRC+ at 152.

Carpenter takes a slight hit on wOBA, where he ranks 8th in the NL, which may undermine the fact he is 6th in on base. Also Carpenter’s ISO is under .200.

Regardless, Carpenter has the numbers to garner support from those in the sabermetrics community.

Carpenter has excelled at lead-off.

Matheny has brilliantly ignored any prototype of what a lead-off hitter is supposed to be. He has hit Carpenter lead-off, and Carpenter has excelled in that role. Derrick Goold pointed this out in the Post-Dispatch that even though Carpenter has an impressive slash of .320/.393/.499 on the season, he has an even more impressive slash in the lead-off role of .326/.417/.437. I’m not going to give any narratives that he has a special ability to excel in that role, but the truth remains, when given the lead-off role, he has filled in beyond expectations.

Carpenter could have the best second half of the season.

His OPS has continued to grow each month. In May it was .914, in June .933 and in July .979. His obs has been good all year, but what’s really effecting his OPS is his rising slugging pct, which hit .532 in July.

Along with that, he is 5th in batting avg in the NL (behind other players including Yadi and Craig for the Cardinals), he has a lower BABIP than any of them besides Posey. This shows a less amount of luck going his way which supports the hypothesis that he can maintain what he’s doing in the second half over his competition.

Narratives are in his corner. Like The Cardinals are going to the post season.

Though Carpenter is only on pace to hit 18 homeruns this year, and MLB hasn’t elected an MVP with that few of homeruns since Barry Larkin in 1995, Carpenter has traditions behind him. For instance, if the season was to end today, The Cards would be a playoff team. The old (and silly) unofficial rule that you have to be on a playoff team to win the MVP would eliminate much of the competition including David Wright and Buster Posey.

Another narrative. Carpenter switched positions.

Hey it worked for Cabrera last year. The “moving to a new position to help his team” narrative can help him quite a bit. I’m in favor of eliminating that school of thought altogether, as you can either play a position well or not. And like Cabrera last year, if you don’t play the position well, you’re not exactly helping your team. But if any of these narratives can help cancel out other narratives, like homeruns mattering in spite of slugging, then I’m all for them crossing each other out.

Which brings us to Carpenter’s defense. He has been at the least serviceable at second base. He has a fielding runs above average of 2.1. He looks comfortable with his range and turning double plays.  He is an athlete, and a good one at that, and has taken very well to his new position.

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

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

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Wacha Wacha Wow

The St. Louis Cardinals have shown offensive prowess over the last week, racking up the run support and showing midseason form at the plate.  The offense was impressive, but may have been overshadowed by the presence of pitching prospect Michael Wacha.

MichaelWacha

Wacha took the mound behind starter Lance Lynn on Wednesday against the Mets.  The young prospect was making his second appearance in a Spring Training that has had many Cardinal officials raving about his work.  On the heels of Wednesday’s performance, I doubt the hype will be dying down anytime soon.

Mets announcers seem to be uttering the same phrase repeatedly in that highlight, “Oh Boy” seemed to be the order of the day.

The Cardinal farmhand took over for Lance Lynn to start the third inning and went right to work striking out Mets’ shortstop Ruben Tejada.  Superstar David Wright would follow with a base hit, the only blemish on Wacha’s day, before Ike Davis and Marlon Byrd would send fly balls into left field for an easy inning.

If the third inning was easy, the fourth was borderline dominant.  Lucas Duda and Justin Turner would both strike out, the former looking and the latter swinging, before John Buck would ground out weakly to second baseman Daniel Descalso.

The fifth inning would be more of the same with different names at the plate.   Matthew den Dekker, who’s name is familiar thanks to his home run robbing catch earlier in the week (seen below), would watch strike three while Mike Baxter would take his chances swinging even though he would come up empty.  Ruben Tejada, seeing the Cards right hander for a second time, would also ground out to Descalso, though the Cardinals infielder had moved across the diamond to third base.

Wacha seemed dominant, at least on paper, but watching the young man pitch made it obvious that he was pitching smart.  His fastball was in the lower 90′s, but it was also in the lower part of the strike zone.  His changeup was pinpointed and seemed to keep guys off balance while his “third best pitch” as the Mets’ announcers pointed out, his breaking ball was sharp and kicked up dirt.  He truly stepped on the mound to pitch, not throw, and it was clear by the outcome that he was successful.

Most impressive might have been his efficiency.  Wright’s base hit was the only ball struck hard, and even that one was not crushed.

Fans have been hearing for some time now that this is a great farm system.  Spring training gives them their first chance to see this first hand.

Michael Wacha is the future of the organization.

The future looks really, really good.

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

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David Freese and the time value of money

The St. Louis Cardinals reached an agreement with third baseman David Freese on Friday on a deal for the 2013 season. The deal will be for a reported $3.1 million dollars, and with it, the team avoided heading to arbitration to settle the deal. However, the deal represents the just beginning of potentially difficult decision making process over the next few years. And the relationship between the 30-year old and the club could be put the test as well.

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

Freese represents a paradox in several areas. He’s a late bloomer that’s coming into his own during his prime seasons. While his 2011 postseason heroics and honors set the tone, he really put his stamp on his future in what he delivered in the follow up season. In 2012, he played a career-high 144 games, while hitting for a .293 average, along with 25 home runs, 79 RBI, 25 doubles and 70 runs scored, all career highs as well. He took this into his first arbitration-eligible season, and the Cardinals responded with a $2.4 offer, while Freese’s agent countered with a $3.75 million offer. While they settled at about the middle point between the offers, he’s in a position to get some substantial jumps up the ladder in the next few years.

Freese is entering into his negotiation years at an interesting time, for both player and club. The third base market has seen the majority of its top flight players locked to contracts the last two years. Ryan Zimmerman, David Wright, Evan Longoria and Martin Prado have all received new contracts at the position in recent memory, essentially setting the bar for money at the position for the near future. These deals average at around $15 million per year over the life of a five year deal, and each represents a franchise cornerstone. However, it’s Prado’s deal from last month that is the most intriguing when accessing what Freese’s worth could be.

The 29 year old Prado signed a four-year, $40 million extension with the Arizona Diamondbacks shortly after being traded from Atlanta last month. This deal represents what he will play at through his majority prime years (it will expire when he’s 330. It is a cut below the massive deals that aforementioned group received, but still a very a solid value-to-length deal. The similarities between the Freese and Prado are there as well: both are one-time All-Stars, with similar career batting numbers (Prado a .295 career hitter, Freese .296). Prado is a more versatile option in the field, but Freese carries a .345 career postseason batting average, a place where much of his value comes into play.

Freese is a large part of the foundation of the Cardinals going ahead, although he’s a notch below the type of cornerstone performer Wright or Zimmerman is. He’ll play this season at age 30, and is past the type of deal that either a young player or a player with longer resume would get at his age. While a medium-length/annual salary deal such as Prado received makes sense, it’s also hindered by his arbitration status. More likely than not, the Prado-like extension wouldn’t be approached until terms are exchanged next year, and for good reason. The raise he will play at this season is a raise of $2.6 million. If he continues to play at the level he established last year, a comparable raise could continue along, rising at close to the $7 million per year level by the time he is eligible to hit the open market in two years.

The Cardinals could very easily continue to maintain Freese through his arbitration seasons as a cost controlled option that continues to be a “wait and see” property. But if the subtle, yet hard line he stood this winter is any indication of what’s to come, Freese understands his value, and he won’t be long for having non-committal terms. Especially as he’s playing through his highest earning potential seasons, and the team is showing a willingness to put money up early to avoid arbitration, such as they did with closer Jason Motte last month.

There are several lines of legit questioning that can go into such a deal, many of which will be answered this year. Can he have another healthy summer? Will he continue to grow as an offensive presence, has he did a year ago or plateau? Obviously, the franchise won’t be forced into having to make a deal for two more years, which will serve as a fair measuring ground of what to do. A deal over five years would be difficult, which age as a primary consideration. Also, there’s the fact that much of the core of the team is in a similar place, with year-to-year deals with Allen Craig, Jon Jay and Lance Lynn to tend to.

But locking Freese up to a deal has some urgency to it that cannot be denied either. He’s a productive and already showing his prime level of play, but the Cardinals are also evolving as a team regularly now, and will be on the verge of a mini-youth movement over the next two years, as their top shelf prospects begin to push into the picture at the Major League level. Finding the right deal to keep Freese situated in St. Louis is important, and provides face and play value stability to the team at difficult position to do so at. However, timing is everything. And there is nobody wearing the birds on bat has a more bi-polar relationship with time than Freese does now.

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