Tag Archive | "Injury History"

Five reasons the Cardinals should say no to Jake Peavy

There have been numerous reports recently that the St. Louis Cardinals are interested in White Sox starter Jake Peavy. At first, I thought to myself “That would be great!” The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that it was just the “Shiny New Toy” part of my brain talking. Once the rational part of my brain took over, I realized they should take a pass on the former Padre, and here are five reasons why:

JakePeavy2

 Cost. Unlike the recently-dealt Matt Garza, Peavy is not a free agent after the 2013 season. Garza will cost the Texas Rangers either three or four players for, at most, three months of value (unless they re-sign him during the offseason). The current collective bargaining agreement prevents the Rangers from collecting any draft-pick compensation if he departs as a free agent after the season. If Peavy is under contract for 2014, it stands to reason that the White Sox are going to expect as big a return (if not bigger) than what the Chicago Cubs obtained for Garza. That’s an exorbitant price for a 3X-year-old starter who is due to make $14.5 million in 2014 (which would make him the 2nd-highest paid pitcher on staff). And did I mention his injury history? That brings me to reason #2:

Injury-prone. Peavy was once a workhorse of several competitive Padres teams. But since 2007, he has made more than 30 starts (the standard of a consistent, healthy starter) exactly once – in 2012. He hit the DL with elbow trouble in 2008. When the White Sox traded for him in 2009, he was on the DL with an ankle injury. In 2010, he ruptured the tendon that ties the latissimus dorsi muscle to the rear of his pitching shoulder and missed significant time in 2011 as well. He has already missed several weeks in 2013 due to a rib injury.  Giving up multiple prospects (Carlos Martinez has been rumored recently) for a player with such a spotty health record? PASS.

Playoff-tested? Not so much. In the Walt Jocketty days, Peavy might have been the perfect trade-deadline acquisition for the Cardinals. But Peavy’s playoff history does not sparkle. He reached the postseason twice, in 2005-06 while with the Padres. Both seasons, the Padres faced the Cardinals; both times, they pounded him like a drum In those two starts, Peavy lasted a combined 9 2/3 innings and surrendered 19 hits, 13 runs, three home runs and struck out just five hitters. He hasn’t been close to the playoffs since then. Once again, PASS.

Lateral move? Although Peavy is a former Cy Young Award-winner, does he really represent a big upgrade over their current fifth starter? Pitching for an awful White Sox team this season, Peavy’s park-adjusted ERA+ is 104 (a tad above replacement level). St. Louis’ current fifth starter, Joe Kelly, has an ERA+ of 95, but most of his appearances this season have been out of the bullpen. In his past four appearances (all at least five innings), Kelly has pitched to a 2.49 ERA – which is more than acceptable for a fifth starter on a strong offensive club. If he falters, the Cardinals have Martinez, Tyler Lyons, Michael Wacha, and others ready to fill in. Peavy might stay healthy and pitch effectively, but how ill would club management (and fans) feel if they traded away Martinez, for example, only to watch Peavy go down with an injury in his third start? Think about Mark DeRosa in 2009. I don’t think any Cardinal fan is anxious to re-live that deal.

Other alternatives: I would argue that the Cardinals would be better off bolstering their bullpen. Acquiring a reliever such as Jim Henderson, Luke Gregerson, Glen Perkins, or the like would be less expensive in trade, yet it could have just as powerful an impact on the pitching staff. Remember how well Edward Mujica worked out last season? Adding another arm (or two) would alleviate pressure on young flamethrower Trevor Rosenthal and the other young arms in the pen.

While he’s not the power strikeout machine he was in his Padres heyday, he could be an effective pitcher for a contender. He could even show flashes of dominance on a good day. But, given the health risks, expensive salary and talent cost, is he worth the gamble? I don’t think so. I hope John Mozeliak agrees with me.

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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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Injury woes 2012

It would not be a St. Louis Cardinals Spring Training without health questions surrounding a key player, and once again a member of the starting rotation is awaiting test results analysis and a diagnosis before throwing again. But the name attached this time is all too familiar to these situations: Chris Carpenter.

All the facts of this story can be found in Joe Strauss’s STLtoday piece from Friday. Right now, no one really knows much about the cause of Carpenter’s neck discomfort, but updates should start trickling in this weekend as the information makes its way back to Florida from St. Louis.

The real question on everyone’s minds is simple, though. What now?

It’s hard to get too panicked over this news because, honestly, it cannot be that big of a surprise. Carpenter’s injury history is checkered, to say the least, and he threw over 270 innings in 2011 (including the postseason). No one should claim they saw this coming, but when the word came in how many had a reaction similar to “Ah…Carpenter has an injury? OK then.” Hearing about Carpenter battling through something is different than hearing about Adam Wainwright last year. Wainwright was young and durable. Carpenter is neither. But speaking of Wainwright, the Cardinals certainly managed to right the ship after his departure and ended the 2011 season on a bit of a high note. Who says they can’t do the same thing in 2012 if Carpenter ends up having to miss significant time?

Unfortunately, it may be an even longer shot this time around. Last year, the Cards had a healthy Carpenter ready to step in and take the ace role in Wainwright’s absence. This year, the Cards have Wainwright back—but he is not 100% yet. He may not be at any time in 2012. So the team cannot and should not expect him to pick up all of the slack and toss 200+ innings this season. If he ends up doing that, great. But counting on it would be a mistake.

One more thing the Cards should absolutely, positively stay away from at all costs is another bullpen-to-rotation-to-bullpen song and dance with Kyle McClellan. Last year, McClellan started off pretty well as a starter. But once Edwin Jackson was acquired, McClellan was no longer needed for the rotation. Back to the bullpen he went, but the innings had already taken a toll. By the end of 2011 McClellan was gassed. They really need to let him stick with one thing, and he has proven several times he can handle a full season as a reliever.

Remember the Roy Oswalt sweepstakes of a couple months ago? Still going on, except now no one is trying. Oswalt is a free agent and perhaps could be a candidate for a spot in the Cards’ rotation if Carpenter can’t go for a while. The Redbirds could also look internally for a young pitcher to step in for some starts if Carpenter is only expected to miss a few weeks. But, again, messing with the integrity of the bullpen by “promoting” a reliever to the rotation could prove to be a mistake with the potential of affecting both sections of the pitching staff. Maybe a Triple A pitcher chomping at the bit gets a look at Busch Stadium this year…

No one has all the answers yet, but you can bet the questions will continue to mount. Perhaps this is just a minor speed bump with little to no effect on the regular season. Or perhaps it is more. Hopefully the news over the weekend into next week is good news.

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

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The Winter Warm Up Files: Spring Has Almost Sprung

Spring Training is about a month or so away for the St. Louis Cardinals, and plenty of intrigue surrounds the team as they head for Florida. Last weekend at the Winter Warm Up, much of that was discussed with Cardinal players, coaches, and members of the front office. But the fact of the matter is, much of the 2012 team promises to also have to answer questions of “living up” to predecessors. For instance, exactly how does one improve on a World Series Championship? And just for good measure, some competition for pivotal roles will be thrown into the mix as well.

Obviously, one of the major departures is Albert Pujols. And while that subject has been beaten to death from every possible angle, the Cards do have a quite capable replacement at first base in Lance Berkman. After proving he still had plenty left in the tank with a monster comeback season in 2011, Berkman is ready, willing and able to step back into the post he held for so many years in Houston. So with the on-field hole filled, what about the offensive production missing with Pujols’ bat no longer in the lineup? The Cards went out and signed Carlos Beltran, and he certainly will contribute power to the lineup. But he also brings an element of speed—albeit not what he once had in his prime—and versatility as a switch-hitter. Beltran can be dangerous and effective hitting anywhere from 2nd to 6th in the lineup.

Of course, Beltran and Berkman are not spring chickens any more, and both have a recent injury history that cannot be ignored. Such is the case with Matt Holliday, David Freese, and Allen Craig. All these players are expected to have major roles on the field for the 2012 St. Louis Cardinals, and every season’s success is dependent on the old axiom, “Well, if everyone can stay healthy…” No one can guarantee the health of any player or players. But with the lineup the Cards at least expect to run out onto the field on a daily basis, they have to stack up favorably with any team in the league.

What could be bigger than losing a Hall of Fame player? Why, losing a Hall of Fame coaching tandem, of course. And it just so happens the Cardinals lost both in the same offseason. Replacing Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan is impossible. But the Cards must find a way to move on, because they are not coming back but there are still games to be played.

Mike Matheny takes over as the team’s skipper and says he is ready to learn a lot. He has already spoken to most of the players and tinkers with potential lineups every day. He also appears to have a grasp on some of the Cards’ shortcomings from 2011 and wants to formulate a plan to remedy those issues for 2012 starting in Spring Training. “There’s going to be a lot of bunting going on,” Matheny said, when asked about his approach. “There’s going to be a lot of fundamental situational hitting. There’s going to be team fundamentals that are going to have a focus. I think it’s going to cover the whole gamut…We’re going to have some guys come in from the past who have been extremely good baserunners and are going to help us out for the first part of spring.”

Derek Lilliquist has some tough shoes to fill, too, taking over for Duncan as pitching coach. Adam Wainwright spoke of Duncan in glowing terms echoed by the rest of the staff: “Dave Duncan is the best big league pitching coach I’ve ever had. Dave’s philosophy has just been bred into us…Not that we don’t need Dave, but we understand what we want do out there now. I think Carpenter and myself, Lohse, Westbrook, Jaime…I think we’ve got five guys who have learned from the best in the business, and continue to learn from each other, too.” But he also thinks Lilliquist understands pitching really well, and believes his philosophy is a lot like that of Duncan. “When you look at what Lilly brings, we’re still really excited about our pitching coach,” Wainwright said.

Arguably the biggest unknown on the field going into Spring Training is the second base position. Both Matheny and John Mozeliak anticipate an open competition between Tyler Greene, Skip Schumaker, and Daniel Descalso for the starting job. Matheny spoke numerous times about “healthy competition” and how it would benefit the team and the players involved. Mozeliak also expects all three to challenge for the job, but feels the opportunity is Greene’s to seize. “We do want to see Tyler Greene get a strong opportunity there,” Mozeliak said. “We look at his athleticism and what he’s capable of doing and I do know we want to give Tyler a very good chance at playing and getting a lot of AB’s in Spring Training…(Greene) has never really had an opportunity at the ML level to be given that job. It’s understandable because we’ve always had competitive clubs and players that were playing better than him. So it’s just about opportunity.” But the GM stopped short of giving Greene any sort of leg up before the preseason gets underway. “It’s a different situation this year—second base is open so that’s where we’re going to try to give him a shot.”

Other positions remain unsettled until the team heads to Florida. Beltran, Craig, and Jon Jay figure to be a part of some sort of rotation or platoon in center and right. The Cards signed Koyie Hill to a minor league deal, and he figures to be the defensive dark horse for the backup catcher job. But the team already has two younger backstops in Tony Cruz and Bryan Anderson who have had a taste of the majors and are no doubt chomping at the bit to win that supporting role. And the bullpen has a lot of returning faces staring at a young corps who makes it increasingly difficult for the Cardinals to keep sending them back to the minors.

Expectations will be high for the Cards in 2012, but that is normal after a World Series win. These players have already proven they can execute. Now they have to go out and stay healthy enough to do it again. The NL Central appears weaker on paper than it did last season, aside from the overhauled Cincinnati Reds. But not many picked the Redbirds to make the playoffs last year, either. The Cardinals appear poised to make another serious run at the division title. Getting into the playoffs is tough for any team, but once you’re in…well, you know.

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

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Tommy Herr And Scott Rolen

Many theories have been advanced as to why the Cardinals seem to swoon late in seasons these days. I can’t help but wonder if the root cause is in how the roster has changed.

Rolen

At the end of the 2006 season, the Cardinals had been in the playoffs three consecutive years, the NLCS every year, the World Series twice, and were the reigning World Champions. Since, they have not won a playoff game. The 2007 team saw a lot of injuries, and after that season two stalwarts of those mid-decade juggernauts left via trade: Jim Edmonds (to San Diego) and Scott Rolen (to exile, er, Toronto).

Looking back, St Louis had seen this before. In 1987 the Cardinals concluded their most successful run of sustained superior baseball since the El Birdos teams 20 years earlier. In six years, they had won the National League three times, the World Series once, and narrowly missed two other titles. But times were changing in St Louis, and with Gussie Busch taking a back seat to Fred Kuhlmann cost became the primary driver on roster decisions. Jack Clark, a free agent after the 1987 season, was not re-signed; he went to the Yankees. Tommy Herr, in his last year with the club, was traded to Minnesota for Tom Brunansky.

Herr

It should be emphasized the drivers for these sets of roster moves were different. Edmonds was traded because his injury history had caught up to him, and he was no longer the productive player he had been in 2005. Rolen’s significant shoulder injuries sapped him of his power; although the primary driver for his relocation north of the border can be traced to his acerbic relationship with manager Tony LaRussa. Clark and Herr left because the club did not want to pay them.

But the impact on the roster of losing these players was immediate and long-lasting. Clark was the lone power threat on the Whiteyball teams of the 1980s; St Louis never really did replace his production. Herr was a clubhouse leader. His departure was hugely unpopular in St Louis, and the team suffered for his loss. Save the 1989 season, the Cardinals didn’t finish within 10 games of first place in their division until they won the NL Central in 1996.

And today’s Cardinals? The 2008-2010 teams have been more competitive than their forebears of 20 years ago, but they have not succeeded either. Third base has been a revolving door since Rolen left. Colby Rasmus appeared the heir apparent to Edmonds in center until this July. Despite having strong personalities on the roster like Albert Pujols, Chris Carpenter, and Adam Wainwright, the Cardinals seem to suffer from a lack of leadership in the clubhouse – a role Scott Rolen certainly filled, and Jim Edmonds definitely did (look no further than his actions during the 2006 playoff run).

Every team, every assemblage of people working towards a common goal, needs leadership. Senior leadership can drive the problem, but only so far. The manager cannot be everywhere all the time. Peer leadership is required; and in important ways, essential. The manager can set the standard, but he is unable to lead by example. When a player is dogging it, the manager can call that guy into his office and talk to him, but it is that player’s peers that drive the message home. Men like Jim Edmonds, Jack Clark, Tommy Herr, and Scott Rolen led by example. They drove the message home.

When they left the St Louis Cardinals lost something special, and something essential. It was true 20 years ago until management and the roster rolled completely over. It is true today. The Cardinals did not replace Tommy Herr’s leadership until LaRussa brought character guys over from his Oakland A’s teams. These Cardinals have not found a replacement to Scott Rolen’s example. Until they do we will continue to see swoons in August.

Thanks to Bob Netherton for his assistance with this post.

Mike Metzger is a life-long Cardinals fan who currently blogs about the San Diego Padres.

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The Chris Carpenter Conundrum

The St. Louis Cardinals have more than one contract concern going into this season. This is the last guaranteed year of Chris Carpenter’s contract. The team does hold a $15 million option for 2012, with a $1 million buyout.

Carpenter, who will turn 36 in April, has already stated he is not concerned with his contract status. But regardless of how the Albert Pujols saga ends for the Cards, $15 million is an awful lot of money to pay a 37 year old pitcher with an injury history as checkered as Carpenter’s. If the Cards do end up signing Pujols, it does not seem even possible they could afford to pay Carpenter that kind of money.

The easy answer, of course, would be for the Cards to decline Carpenter’s 2012 option and re-sign him for more money spread over another year or two. Think two years at somewhere in the $8-$11 million range annually, and maybe an option year. The numbers are hypothetical, of course, and would be based on a number of variables. And it also hinges on just how long Carpenter wants to extend his career, let alone his time as a Cardinal.

But there is another scenario in play here. Could the Cardinals actually trade Carpenter this season?

It sounds ridiculous and blasphemous, and I hate even bringing it up. But let’s say the NL Central is just as tough as some think it could be. Maybe the Cards sustain a major injury to one or two key players; it certainly happened last year and could happen any year. Some combination of those two forces would easily make things difficult for this team to compete in 2011. If the Cards find themselves out of the race early, they could turn into sellers at the trade deadline. And if Carpenter is healthy and producing, he would be as attractive a target as any team in contention could hope for. He is talented, he is a fighter, and he is a winner. A team with deep pockets who needs an extra bump for the playoff push (think New York Yankees) would snatch up Carpenter in a heartbeat if he became available.

Not that such a move is likely. Carpenter is still widely considered the co-ace of the Cards pitching staff with Adam Wainwright. He is a leader in the clubhouse and on the field. He is a core player on this team, and even if the Cards were forced into a position to move him they would almost certainly make the other team overpay. But it does add another layer of intrigue to a season that is shaping up to be pivotal for the future of the entire franchise in a number of ways.

Yes it would take the perfect storm of suck for the Cardinals to need to trade Carpenter this season. If the Cards are successful throughout 2011, all of this is moot until next off-season. But it is much less far-fetched to think he could be playing somewhere else by the start of the 2012 season, especially if escalating payroll becomes a concern. And as other contracts close in on expiration—namely those of guys like Wainwright and Yadier Molina—these decisions will only become tougher to make.

Chris Reed is a freelance writer from Belleville, IL who also writes about the Cardinals for InsideSTL Mondays and at Bird Brained whenver he feels like it.

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Comparing Cardinal And Phillie Starting Pitching

Philadelphia has four outstanding pitchers forming the core of their 2011 rotation – can the Cardinals quartet compete?

Most prognosticators have already ceded the Philadelphia Phillies the NL East, NL Pennant, and World Series Championship in 2011. This is based on the team being able to send a formidable foursome of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels to the hill on a recurring basis. No other team, as the logic goes, can match that rotation for quality and depth.

Well, perhaps Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Baumgarner, and Jonathan Sanchez. But let’s not sell Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter, Jake Westbrook, and Jamie Garcia short – they can pitch too. How close are these Cardinal hurlers to the new National League gold standard?

Looking at Wins Above Replacement for each pitcher over the past three years, one is amazed at how durable the Phillie starters are. Consider:

  • Roy Halladay WAR (2010-2008): 6.8, 6.6, 7.3
  • Cliff Lee WAR : 6.7, 7.1, 6.6
  • Roy Oswalt WAR: 4.2, 4.7, 3.0
  • Cole Hamels WAR: 4.2, 3.8, 3.6

Now compare that to the Cardinal starters over the same period.

  • Chris Carpenter WAR (2010-2008): 3.7, 5.6, 0.4
  • Adam Wainwright: 6.7, 6.1, 5.7
  • Jake Westbrook: 2.3, missed all of 2009, 0.4
  • Jamie Garcia, 3.2 (rookie season).

Wainwright is as good as any pitcher in the league, and was every bit as good as both Halladay and Lee in 2010. After him there is a significant drop-off. Carpenter was hurt in 2008, Westbrook missed most of 2008 and all of 2009 to injury, and Garcia just completed his first full season in the bigs (after missing 2009 to arm surgery). And let’s not get into Kyle Lohse’s injury history since his bit 2008 season.

Carpenter is certainly still capable of putting up another season close to his 2009 effort, but will probably be in the 3.7-4.2 WAR region for 2011. He is a warrior, but he will also turn 36 next season and has a lot of miles on his right arm (not to mention injuries). Garcia will improve in his second season and will probably be close to Carpenter, perhaps 3.5-4.0 WAR. Westbrook is 33; his best years were 2004-2006, and his best WAR was 4.5 (2006). If he is able to stay healthy all season, he’s probably a Carpenter-level guy (3.7-4.2 WAR). Wainwright will remain one of the best pitchers in the league (6.4-7.2 WAR).

Figure Halladay and Lee to post between 6.3-7.0 WAR, and Oswalt/Hamels to post similar numbers (somewhere in the 4.0-4.7 range).

What does it all mean? It means pitching-wise, this team is still good enough to win the NL Central and make a run in the post-season. It means Cardinal pitchers are pretty good too – perhaps not quite as vaunted a rotation as the Phillies have, but certainly good enough to win 90+ games.

Granted, should they make it to the NLCS, having to face Halladay, Lee, and Oswalt twice each in a 7-game series is a tough task. If the 2006 post-season taught us anything, however, it’s that the playoffs are a crapshoot. In 2010, that lesson was reinforced – who seriously thought the Giants would beat Cliff Lee twice in the World Series?

So let’s not mail Ruben Amaro Jr the National League pennant for 2011 just yet. There’s a pretty good staff working alongside the banks of the Mississippi too.

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