Tag Archive | "Diamondbacks"

Joe Kelly would be better choice to start during Jake Westbrook absence

The St. Louis Cardinals suffered the first crack in their best-in-baseball starting rotation Sunday when they placed Jake Westbrook on the 15-day disabled list with elbow inflammation. The team decided to give Westrbook’s start to rookie John Gast, but they might have been better off to let a more experienced pitcher fill that role.

JoeKelly2

Joe Kelly made his Major League Baseball debut in similar circumstances last season after Jaime Garcia suffered a shoulder injury in June. Kelly went on to make 16 starts and post a 4-6 record with a 3.53 earned-run average, overall.

Although he didn’t have a winning record, Kelly did an admirable job filling a hole in the rotation last summer. He pitched six or more innings in all but three of his starts, and the Cardinals offense scored two or fewer runs in five of his six losses, and they scored just three in the other.

Kelly moved to the bullpen when Garcia returned in September and pitched well. He allowed just two runs in six appearances, but he also had a consistent workload by pitching about every third day. Manager Mike Matheny has significantly dropped his workload this season, and it’s shown in his results.

Kelly pitched twice in the Cardinals’ season-opening series in Arizona against the Diamondbacks, but he pitched only six more times the rest of April and had the fewest outings for any Cardinals reliever.

And then he imploded when the Cardinals did bring him into ballgames. He has allowed 10 runs in 11.2 innings pitched, but he’s also appeared in just three games in May. Perhaps a bigger role would help him get comfortable again and start to pitch better.

That’s also why a move to the rotation might help. Kelly would be guaranteed to pitch every fifth day, and he would be able to extend his pitch total well beyond what he gets as a member of the bullpen. He hasn’t thrown more than 27 pitches in an appearance this season, and that could quadruple if he moved to the rotation.

Plus, the Cardinals management wouldn’t have to hold its breath with another rookie on the mound to start a game.

Gast has been good for the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds. He’s 3-1 with a 1.16 ERA in seven starts this season in the minors, but there is always an unknown factor that comes into play when a rookie makes a start, and they often don’t pitch very deep into a ballgame.

The Cardinals might have left Kelly in the bullpen because they don’t want to force him to shift between starting and relieving if Westbrook comes back soon, but that shouldn’t be much of a problem since Kelly bounced between the rotation and bullpen last season and worked as a starter in spring training because he was in contention for the fifth spot in the rotation with Shelby Miller.

The Cardinals have even set a precedent for bringing up young pitchers this season when they brought Seth Maness and Carlos Martinez up from the minors. Both of those pitchers went straight into the bullpen and have done well.

Martinez gave up three runs Sunday to the Colorado Rockies in his third appearance, but he had not allowed a run and given up just one hit in his previous two outings. Meanwhile, Maness already has two wins, has allowed just one hit hasn’t walked a hitter in 3.1 innings through three outings.

Martinez and Maness could certainly become starters at some point in their career, yet the Cardinals will still send Gast to the mound while Martinez, Maness and Kelly sit in the bullpen.

Maybe Gast will be great and pitch the way Kelly and Lance Lynn did last season as fill-in rookie starters when they went a combined 23-14 with a combined 3.66 ERA.

But if he’s not, the Cardinals will have wasted games by hoping yet another rookie will do well in the rotation while Kelly sits in the bullpen.

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Adam Moore Trying To Make His Case

The Kansas City Royals have very few “up for grabs” spots in Spring Training.  Some players are going to have to really impress to crack the opening day roster this year.

Catcher Adam Moore is making an early attempt at impressing.

Photo by Charles Sollars/i70baseball

Photo by Charles Sollars/i70baseball

Make no mistake, despite his soon to come departure to the World Baseball Classic, Salvador Perez is the Royals catcher and rightfully so.  However, the team has kept an open mind to who will travel with the team as his backup this season.  July of last year shows a waiver transaction that had the Royals claiming Moore from the Seattle  Mariners.  He would appear in four games last year and compiling only twelve plate appearances.

This Spring, Moore has appeared in three of the four games that the Royals have played.  He has shown consistent defense, which is his “calling card”.  A good glove, a strong arm, and a suspect bat.

Two out of three ain’t bad.

Moore forgot that he was supposed to have a suspect bat.  Small sample size and over-analyzing Spring stats will lead you down a dark path, but what you can see is a player that is playing with passion.  In Monday’s 16-4 drumming of the Diamondbacks, Moore hit is second home run of the young spring.  In addition, he held his batting average at .500 (again, small sample size, he has six at bats).  He came into today’s action as a designated hitter, replacing Billy Butler in the process.

None of this means a whole lot at this point, but it does give Royals fans something to pay attention to.  There is currently no guarantee who will be the backup catcher in a little over a month when the team breaks camp but one thing is for sure: starting catcher Salvador Perez leaves the team this week to represent his country in the World Baseball Classic.  That will leave a lot of at bats, as well as a lot of time to get to know the pitching staff, to another player.  That player will gain the opportunity to seize a roster spot and prove to manager Ned Yost why he deserves to be on the team.

Adam Moore can put a strong grip on that spot if he simply continues to do what he is doing right now.

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

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Rob Rains Inside Baseball: 10 Most Important Cardinals In The Second Half

The Cardinals have arrived at the All-Star break with a 49-43 record, tied with Milwaukee for first place in the NL Central. Considering all of the obstacles the team has had to endure in the first half of the season, it really is a remarkable achievement – even in a less-than-stellar division.

It will not be easy, however, for the Cardinals to stay in that spot the rest of the season. Whether or not that can happen will no doubt be a team, and an organization, effort – but there are some individuals whose performances likely will matter a little more than others.

Here then is the list of the 10 Most Important Cardinals for the second half of the season:

The Cardinals are used to having Pujols carry them, but that has not happened so far this year. If anything, it is the Cardinals who have carried Pujols. Even if Pujols’ poor start to the season and his absence for two weeks with a broken arm have left him in a tough spot to extend his streak of hitting 30 homers, driving in 100 runs and hitting .300 or better, he still can carry the Cardinals to a division title.

1. Albert Pujols.

What Pujols needs to do is forget about what has happened so far, forget about any statistical goals and forget about his contract status – none of which will be easy. He needs many more moments like his key eighth-inning home run on Saturday night. If Pujols can come out and let his talent and ability take over, he can be the dominating player the Cardinals need him to be – and then everything else will take care of itself.

 

2. Chris Carpenter.

His 1-7 start was well documented, even if he was pitching better than his record. A three-game winning streak followed, but then he was roughed up by the Diamondbacks on Saturday night.

For the Cardinals to win, they must have an ace in the starting rotation, a pitcher who can go out and stop losing streaks. With Adam Wainwright out for the year, Carpenter has to be that pitcher. Jaime Garcia does not have the experience to do it, even if he has the ability, and it isn’t fair to expect it from any of the team’s other three starters,

Carpenter does not have to have a John Tudor-like season from 1985, throwing 10 shutouts and finishing with a sub-2.00 ERA, but he has to be the leader and the hammer on the staff. Like Pujols, he can’t let his personal situation – wondering if the Cardinals will pick up his option for next year – get in the way of pitching, and winning, the way he can.

3. Fernando Salas.

Barring a trade for a more proven closer, Salas is going to be the guy. He had a solid first half, converting 16 of 18 save opportunities, and showed composure like a veteran. Trying to close out games in a pennant race in August and September, however, is a challenge he has never experienced before.

As the Cardinals saw when Ryan Franklin was struggling at the start of the year, nothing can deflate a team quicker than blowing leads in the ninth inning. Blowing one game is one thing, but a closer has to have the ability to forget about it immediately and not let it become a habit. Whether Salas has the ability to do that, as a rookie, will be one of the main factors determining the team’s success or failure the rest of the season.

 

4. David Freese.

When you look at the Cardinals’ lineup, and the performances of those players in the first half of the season, there are only three who really can be expected to produce at a higher level in the second half – and the most important to the team’s success might be Freese.

If he can stay healthy, and hit for a high average and drive in runs as he has done in the past, Freese will help take some of the pressure off the Cardinals’ main offensive threats in Pujols, Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman. Freese also should be able to pick up some of the slack if any of those should go into some kind of slumps.

 

5. Colby Rasmus.

The player other than Freese who needs to produce more in the second half of the season than he did in the first is Rasmus. He also has the pressure of worrying that he might lose some playing time to Jon Jay if he does not produce on a more consistent basis. If he struggles, he is also more likely to hear his name start to pop up in trade discussions, which might create a big distraction if he lets that bother him.

Hitting either second or sixth in the lineup most of the time, Rasmus will find himself at the plate in a lot of crucial situations. Hitting second, he has to be able to consistently get on base in fromt of Pujols, and if he is hitting sixth, RBIs have to become his major focus.

 

6. John Mozeliak.

The only non-player on the list is one of the Most Important Cardinals because he will be the person who determines what moves the team makes or doesn’t make before the July 31 trading deadline.

The team might try to add a proven closer, or they might decide to add a starting pitcher. For the first time in many years, the Cardinals have players in their farm system which other teams want. Mozeliak cannot be so short-sighted and focused on this season, however, that he makes a trade which will have a negative impact on the organization for years to come.

7. Kyle McClellan.

The converted reliever got off to a great start after moving into the starting rotation, but has struggled lately. He has to prove he can go deeper into games and come out on the winning side. Any struggles in the bullpen will increase the pressure on the Cardinals to move McClellan back to a relief role, and if he wants to remain a starter, for this year and beyond, he has to prove he can do the job.

8. A lefthanded reliever.

At the moment, the Cardinals do not have one on the roster who inspires confidence that he can come in and retire a lefthanded hitter at a key moment in the game. Whether Trever Miller, Raul Valdes, or Brian Tallet, when he comes off the disabled list, can become that reliever remains to be seen. More than likely, the pitcher who will be asked to fill that role in August and September is not currently on the roster.

9. Lance Berkman.

No doubt the biggest surprise of the first half for the Cardinals, there is little expectation that Berkman can repeat his success in the second half. He should not have to, if the team can get increased contributions from Pujols, Freese and Rasmus. What he will be called upon to do, however, is continue to be the motivating influence who has had such a positive impact on the team’s attitude and camaraderie.

10. Jon Jay.

He might be the player who puts the most pressure on manager Tony La Russa in the second half, trying to figure out a way to keep him in the lineup on a consistent basis. The fact he is a better defensive center fielder than Rasmus, at least right now, is going to make it even tougher to have him sitting on the bench. The battle for playing time between Rasmus and Jay could become one of the more intriguing story lines to watch the rest of the season.

Head over to RobRains.com to see Rob’s news from around Major and Minor League Baseball.

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Keep On Keepin’ On

After a slow, disheartening start the Cardinals have not lost a series since rolling into Arizona and taking two of three from the Diamondbacks April 11-13.

The level of competition from those teams has been diverse; the Cards are beating good teams AND bad teams, which is a nice change from constantly getting beat by inferior clubs last year. They used to play to the level of their competition and now they just play. But it’s the kind of play that doesn’t seem ridiculous and unsustainable. It would be a little suspect if the team was on a 15-2 tear; those are awesome but hot streaks like that end. And I realize no one expects Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman to flirt with a .400 batting average over all 162 games this year. But could the Cardinals continue to be in most games, win series, and hold off the other teams in the NL Central for the next five months? Sure they can.

The normal blueprint for such a run always seems to start with health. “If they can stay healthy, they will be good.” I buy into that line of thinking, and even say it myself practically every year. But have the Cards been truly healthy at all this season? Adam Wainwright barely even saw Spring Training before he went down for the year. Nick Punto also saw little preseason action before hitting the DL and didn’t make his debut until a couple of weeks ago. The Cardinals lost two bullpen arms in Brian Tallet and Bryan Augenstein, Allen Craig took a turn on the DL, Skip Schumaker has been out for a few weeks, and David Freese just checked in for his yearly visit to the unavailable ward.

And yet the Cards keep on winning.

The team has evidently adopted a “closer by committee” even though hot shot newbie Eduardo Sanchez has taken hold of the role with more regularity of late. Much has been said about the bullpen’s troubles this year, but take Ryan Franklin out of the picture and none of the relievers currently on the team has an ERA over 3.00 going into Friday’s action. But then again, taking Franklin out of the picture means the Cards likely would not have a major league-leading eight blown saves. Since Franklin was relieved of his closer duties, several other Redbird relievers have hit bumps in the road trying to maintain a perfect save percentage too.

And yet the Cards keep on winning.

The team defense is kind of the pits. The Cards are second in the majors in errors with 28. That’s almost one per game. They are near the bottom of the majors in team fielding percentage, too, with .938. Yadier Molina is only throwing out base burglars at a 38% clip (his career average is 46%) and he already has three errors on the year after a total of five each of the last two seasons. Ryan Theriot has never had more than 15 errors in a season, but he’s already more than halfway to that total. Albert Pujols has four errors, and he’s never had more than 14 in a season.

And yet the Cards keep on winning.

So far, what the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals have showed more than anything is resiliency. But they have to keep it up: last year, the Cards woke up on May 7 to find themselves in first place with an 18-11 record. The difference is the 2010 Cardinals had not yet been bitten by the injury bug. This year’s team clearly already has. Injuries are a part of the game; how the team responds to them tells a lot about who they are. Getting it out of the way early? Perhaps. The season is still young, having just entered its sixth week. And once again, the Cards will not have their starting third baseman for an extended period. But unlike last year, Freese will return to the lineup. Tallet is on his way back. The younger players are gaining experience through extra playing time. And the Cardinals don’t have the added burden of being the favorite anymore, so maybe the team is a little looser this time around. Maybe the front office was right about the attitude/chemistry/character adjustments that were needed last offseason.

I can buy into that, too…as long as the Cards keep on winning.

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

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Runs In Bunches

On Wednesday the Cardinals completed a 3-game series against Arizona in the desert. St Louis won 2 of the three games. That in and of itself is not remarkable; as mentioned last week, the Cardinals have had reasonable success in Tucson. What is unusual is how many runs the team scored in those three games.

To recap – St Louis won the opener 8-2 behind the resurgent Kyle Lohse, lost 8-13 behind surprisingly shaky Chris Carpenter, then bludgeoned their way to a 15-5 win in support of a grateful Jake Westbrook. Thirty-one runs in the series, with at least 8 runs in every game. Talk about runs in bunches. More perspective: they had scored only 27 runs total in their first nine games.

That many runs in a series has to be a rarity, right? How often have the Cardinals done that? Well, more often than I initially thought, but less often than one might expect.

Looking back over the past 50 seasons, the Cardinals have scored 8 or more runs in three consecutive games against the same opponent 17 times.

Season Dates Location Opponent Results Length of series
2011 4/11-13 Chase Field Diamondbacks WLW 3-game
2007 8/14-16 Miller Park Brewers WWW 3-game
2005 5/10-12 Busch II Dodgers WLW 4-game (won 1st game 4-2)
2003 6/3-5 Busch II Blue Jays WWW 3-game
2003 6/17-19 Miller Park Brewers WWW 3-game
2002 9/17-19 Coors Field Rockies WWW 3-game
2001 4/6-8 Bank One Ballpark Diamondbacks WWW 3-game
2001 6/15-17 Busch II White Sox WWW 3-game
2000 9/11-13 PNC Park Pirates WWW 3-game
1995 9/11-13 Busch II Giants WWW 3-game
1993 6/29-7/1 Busch II Phillies LWW 4-game (won 1st game 3-1)
1980 5/5-7 Busch II Giants WWW 3-game
1978 8/25-27 Fulton County Braves WWW 3-game
1977 4/7,9-10 Three Rivers Pirates WWW 3-game (off day 4/8)
1973 6/11-13 Riverfront Reds WWW 3-game
1963 8/16-17,19 Sportsman’s Park Giants WWW 3-game (off day 8/18)
1961 7/17-18 Sportsman’s Park Cubs WWW 4-game (won 1st game 7-5)

In 1961, two of the three games were played as part of a double-header (on 17 July 1961). The third game of that set was the first game of a double-header played the next day – yes, on July 17 and 18 the Cardinals and Cubs played back-to-back double headers.

Note that over half of these 3-game sets have happened in the last 10 years. If one needed more proof offensive production has taken off in the recent history of the game, here it is. Additionally the Cardinals have turned this trick before in Arizona, ten years ago to the week.

What is unique about the recently completed series is the Cardinals did not win all three games during this offensive explosion. While not a rarity if the series is scheduled for longer than 3 games, it is a rarity for a three game set. The data presented here only goes back to 1961, however, I searched on Baseball Reference to see if St Louis had ever played a 3-game series in which they scored 8 or more runs in all three games and failed to win all three games. Baseball Reference carries game results back to 1919, and I looked at 2300+ games.

Never before had the Cardinals scored 8 or more runs in a 3-game series and not swept until the recently completed Arizona series.

I counted 36 series where they had scored 8 or more runs in 3 consecutive games on consecutive days against the same opponent through the 1926 season, when I stopped writing them down. In each instance where they lost on of the 3 games the series was at least 4 games long (and in 2 instances, 5 games).

A footnote to history, to be sure. However as a wise man once said, the great thing about baseball is you might see something today you’ve never seen before. We did not know it at the time, but during this mid-week series we all saw the Cardinals do something they had never done before.

Mike Metzger blogs about the Cardinals at Stan Musial’s Stance.

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Cards Droppings Previews The Desert Showdown

Make sure you drop by our friends, Cards Droppings, for their analysis and generally solid baseball coverage. Thanks to them, we bring you a series preview for the Cardinals and Diamondbacks.

The Cardinals travel from San Francisco to Arizona, having dropped two of three to the Giants. If we had a decent closer, it’s very possible that we could have swept that series. Enough of that for now, as this is supposed to be a preview of the series with the Diamondbacks.

Arizona is off to a 4-4 start on the young season, but they just took two of three from the ’27 Yankees, er, I mean the Reds. They are led by manager Kirk Gibson, he of the “I don’t believe what I just saw” fame. The Cardinals really need their bats to wake up, and Arizona’s home stadium is a great place for offense. Hopefully with Matt Holliday back, we can finally begin to see the true potential of this team’s offense.

Our lineup tonight includes Holliday, Berkman, Pujols and Rasmus for the first time since Opening Day: Theriot 6, Rasmus 8, Pujols, 3, Holliday, 7, Berkman 9, Freese 5, Schumaker 7, Molina 2, McClellan 1. I sure wish TLR would consider swapping Berkman and Rasmus. I think Berkman is going to have a higher OBP at the end of the season and it would be nice to give guys like Pujols and Holliday chances to drive him in. Although, now that I say that, all it would do right now is give Albert more chances to ground into double plays…

Arizona has a lot of potential in its lineup, although it is one that can be pitched to. The offense is anchored by outfielders Justin Upton and Chris Young. Shortstop Stephen Drew, catcher Miguel Montero and second baseman Kelly Johnson are also threats, especially from the left side of the plate. All of these guys strike out at a pretty high rate, so hopefully our pitchers can avoid mistakes and give us a good shot at winning the series. The Diamondback bullpen is nothing too special, although JJ Putz and David Hernandez are going to be fairly tough at the back end of a game.

The Diamondbacks definitely figure to be one of the weaker teams in the National League this year, so it’s vital for the Redbirds to take two of three before they move onto a four game series at Dodger Stadium.

Check out the pitching matchups and in depth breakdown of each game by clicking here.

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Royals Schedule Outlook: June

The biggest story of June could be decisions facing the club regarding whether or not to call up any of their top prospects. Rookies called up in June or after do not qualify for “super two” status, thus delaying arbitration eligibility down the line. It will be an exciting month if one or more of the heralded prospects make their debut.

Besides that, the second half of the month will be entirely inter-league with series against the Cardinals, Diamondbacks, Cubs and Padres.

June Breakdown:

Total Games: 27

Home: 15

Road: 12

Vs teams with winning records in 2010: 14

Vs teams with losing records in 2010: 10

Vs teams in the AL Central: 4

Inter-league games: 12

Key Series:

June 2-5 vs. Minnesota – This is the only series against an AL Central opponent all month, but it will only be a key series if the Royals have a surprising start and are having dreams of contention.

June 17-19 @ St. Louis – After hosting the Cards in May, the Royals head across the state for the second part of the 2011 I-70 series.

Key To a Hot Start:

The first nine games of the month are home games, so the Royals will have to take full advantage of home cooking.

At the end of June:

If the Royals are above .500… The Royals will have beaten up on the National League, something that is not entirely out of the question.

If the Royals are .500… They will have significantly over-achieved.

If the Royals are below .500… No one will be surprised.

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9 Is The New 6!

He’s not gone, folks. He’s here for the entire 2011 season, at which point more negotiating will take place. Even if he does end up elsewhere next season, repeat after me, “It’s. Not. The. End. Of. The. World.” Personally, I like the Cardinals chances of getting an extension done once the season is over. But should that not happen, we will survive. Why? Glad you asked.

Albert’s been on the roster for 10 years, 2001-2010. During that time, we’ve won exactly one World Series championship, 2006. Ten minus one is nine. Nine’s the new six. Confused yet? Here’s what I’m getting at: Nine is a serious number!

Fortunately, “nine” has no impact on trying to rhyme with “thumbah”.

We’ve had the best player in baseball for a decade, and 9 of those 10 years, a team not named the “St. Louis Cardinals” won the World Series. Giants-2010, Yankees-2009, Phillies-2008, Red Sox-2007, Cardinals-2006, White Sox-2005, Red Sox-2004, Marlins-2003, Angels-2002, D-Backs-2001. We had Albert in each of those years and only won the World Series once?! Inconthievable!
Nine also happens to be the number of World Series championships the Cardinals have won WITHOUT Albert Pujols. 1926, ‘31, ‘34, 42, ‘44, ‘46, ‘64, ‘67, ‘82–nine different occasions when the Cards won it all, without Albert on the roster. Granted, those eras were more focused on pitching, speed…etc, and this era is more based on power-hitting RBI hitmen like Pujols, but as I just said, 9 other teams got the hardware in the past 10 years.

Ready for another nine? How about these nine teams: A’s, Giants, Red Sox, Pirates, Padres, Bluejays, Diamondbacks, Mets, & Royals. That’s a list of where Cardinal favorites went after playing with the redbirds. “Who?” you ask? How about Willie McGee, Matt Morris, Ryan Ludwick, David Eckstein, and Joe McEwing. (In fairness, Super Joe did have 6 plate appearances, wearing the collar with two Ks for Houston to end his MLB career.)

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing that would make me happier than for Pujols to be a Cardinal for life. It goes without saying that I don’t want that if it’s going to handcuff the team & not allow ownership to put a competitive team around him. I would love to go to games for the next 10 years and watch him make history wearing the birds on the bat. I’m just trying to make a point about this whole circus. It’s not like we’ve won 10 straight titles because of him, or only won titles when he was on the roster. His presence certainly helps, but when the Phillies won the 2008 World Series, they did so by defeating the sub-$44M payroll Rays (who won 97 games that year, btw). It’s baseball…not golf or tennis, where one man IS the team…not basketball where one guy can carry the team (even Jordan needed Pippen).

It takes nine. Nine guys, working in concert together, under the direction of good manager, a good front office, and a good ownership group, to have success. One man does not a team make. Nine, however, will do the trick. Coincidentally enough, nine may also be the number of years required to make Albert put pen to the paper next offseason.

This article marks Dathan Brooks debut here on I-70 Baseball.
You can read more of Dathan’s work over at his blog, “Good Morning, Good Afternoon, Good Night

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