Tag Archive | "Marlon Byrd"

Pirates Gear Up For Playoff Run

A day after major changes for both franchises, the Pittsburgh Pirates and New York Mets completed a trade that alters the remainder of the season for both.

Marlon Byrd

The Mets were told their ace pitcher, Matt Harvey, would miss the remainder of the season due to a UCL tear.  Meanwhile, the Pirates fell out of first place when the St. Louis Cardinals defeated the Cincinnati Reds in dramatic fashion.  The events of yesterday got the gears turning for both clubs and an agreement was reached.

The news was first reported by Anthony DiComo, the Mets beat writer for MLB.com.

The Pirates have acquired Marlon Byrd and John Buck from the Mets in exchange for second base prospect Dilson Herrera and a player to be named later.

Byrd is the notable piece of the deal for the Pirates as his stellar play this season shores up an outfield that has struggled for consistency.  His bat plugs nicely into the heart of the Pirates order and he brings with him 21 home runs and 71 runs batted in.  He has continued to produce in a season that was all but written off before it started.  Byrd was not expected to be a key piece at his age but he has provided a consistent bat and above-average defense to Pittsburgh and, more than likely, play right field alongside Andrew McCutchen while Starling Marte continues to recover from hand issues.

Buck, meanwhile, is a depth move that adds veteran leadership, solid defense, and a inconsistent bat to the bench.  He continues to throw out 30 percent of would-be base stealers and can drive in runs from time to time when he is playing well.

The Pirates part ways with a minor league second baseman who projects to be a decent hitter when he arrives at the big league level.  Herrera is only 19 years old and ranks just outside of the top ten prospects in the Pirates organization.  He benefits well from above average speed and surprising power, according to Baseball America, who ranked him 20th among Pirates prospects prior to this season.

The Pirates added two veteran pieces and a solid bat to their lineup as they enter the final push of a playoff run.  It is the type of mood that the Cardinals would have made under the Tony LaRussa leadership.

Cardinals fans hope it is not worthy of the same results LaRussa normally found.

Bill Ivie is the founder of i70baseball.
You can find his work on Yahoo!InsideSTL, and here on i70.
Talk baseball with him on Twitter @poisonwilliam

Posted in Cardinals, MLBComments (0)

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.


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.

Posted in Cardinals, MinorsComments (0)

Opportunity In Center Field

Last week we began taking a look around the National League Central position by position to see where how the St. Louis Cardinals stack up heading into the 2012 season. We started with right field where St. Louis has the decided edge in both starting talent and depth. This week we slide over to what is for sure the most crucial position in the outfield and possibly on the diamond altogether…center field.

Cardinal nation has grown accustom to excellence in center field over the years. From the likes of Willie McGee to Jim Edmonds it was not just about All-Star selections, batting titles and Gold Gloves. Okay well it was, but it was also about longevity. Since Edmonds left St. Louis following the 2007 the Cardinals have had a revolving door out in center usually reserved for second base. Rick Ankiel, Colby Rasmus and Jon Jay have shagged most of the balls out there over the last four seasons.

Going into this spring Jay looks to solidify the spot and make it his own. For the Cardinals this presents the weakest of the three outfield positions. But perhaps the one with the most upside. Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak views Jon Jay as the team’s everyday center fielder rather than the left-handed half of a platoon.

Jay has certainly held his own against southpaws in his career, sporting a .296/.356/.377 batting line as compared to a .298/.348/.436 line against right-handers. The splits evidently have Mozeliak and the Cards prepared to run Jay out there every day rather than find a right-handed hitting complement for him, which enhances his value.

Here is a look around the National League Central and how Jon Jay stacks up against his peers.


Cubs outfielder Marlon Byrd finished 2011 with nine homers, three steals, 35 RBIs, 51 runs scored and a .276 batting average. Byrd can supply a solid batting average but his lack of power and speed makes him a weak everyday outfielder. At age 34, it’s hard to predict any improvement in his 2012 numbers.

Reds outfielder Drew Stubbs swiped 40 bases in 2011, to go along with 15 homers, 44 RBIs, 92 runs scored and a .243 batting average. Stubbs reached the 40-steal level for the first time. But, the 27-year-old hit just .233 with four homers in the second half. This isn’t the profile of a leadoff hitter and the Reds could look for other options at that spot for 2012. The first Reds player with 40 steals in a season since Deion Sanders had 56 steals in 1997. Unfortunately, it can’t hide Stubbs’ struggles at the dish.

Astros outfielder Jordan Schafer hit .242 with two homers, 13 RBIs, 46 runs scored and 22 stolen bases in 2011. Schafer was traded to the Astros for Michael Bourn after failing to meet expectations in the Braves organization. The 25-year-old former top prospect had mixed results in limited time last season but remains the club’s best in-house option. Jason Bourgeois will continue to fill-in at all three outfield positions, while J.B. Shuck and Brian Bogusevic are also in the hunt . Schafer has enough speed (24 steals in 469 career at-bats) to warrant attention if he can get a full-time role in 2012. But he can’t steal first base and Schafer’s .228 career batting average could keep the 25-year-old from securing regular work.

Brewers center fielder Nyjer Morgan hit .304 in 2011, stole 13 homers, went deep four times, drove in 37 runs and scored 61 times. Morgan continued to be one of the game’s loudest players also let his bat do the talking with the second highest batting average on his team. Surprisingly, the Brewers didn’t let Morgan run the bases aggressively, as he stole 21 bases fewer than in 2009 despite collecting nearly as many hits.

Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen smacked 23 homers, swiped 23 bases, drove in 89 runs, scored 87 times and hit .259 in 2011. McCutchen posted his first 20-20 season but his other numbers weren’t as rosy. The 25-year-old was caught stealing 10 times, the same number as in 2010, despite attempting 10 fewer base swipes. He also hit .216 in the second half. There is still plenty of upside here, but several holes too.

Cardinals outfielder Jon Jay smacked 10 long balls, drove in 37 runs, scored 56 times, swiped six bases and hit .297 in 2011. Jay’s development was a key factor in the midseason trade of Colby Rasmus, as manager Tony La Russa wanted to get Jay into the lineup more often. Despite struggling at the dish in the postseason, the 26-year-old could be a big asset if he can exceed 500 at-bats in 2012.

Here is how I rank the center fielders heading into 2012.

  1. Andrew McCutchen
  2. Nyjer Morgan
  3. Drew Stubbs
  4. Jon Jay
  5. Marlon Byrd
  6. Jordan Schafer

Looking Ahead

Jon Jay will not be relied on to match the offensive numbers of his outfield mates Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran. Rather Jay will be looked to for defensive support, which he proved more than capable of providing in 2011. However In part-time at-bats, Jay has proven to be a solid offensive player, hitting for a high batting average with at least serviceable pop. If he can average his production out over a full season it will mean good things for the 2012 Cardinals.

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Could The Cubs Make A Run At Pujols?

For many Cardinals fans, the thought of Albert Pujols wearing a Cub uniform is only okay as part of a bad Halloween gag. Could this nightmare actually come to pass?

Friday 18 Feb 2011 looms not as a happy day bringing the start of 2011 Spring Training activities, but as Armageddon. It is the deadline proposed by Albert Pujols for his reps and the Cardinal front office to conclude a new contract. If a deal is not done by that date, he has committed to not negotiating again until after the season. Free Agency for this generation’s greatest hitter looms ever larger on the horizon.

Many teams have been thrown about as potential suitors for Pujols should he reach the free agent market. The most prominent examples are the Yankees, Red Sox, and Angels. The Cubs are also mentioned, which beings varying levels of derision and apprehension to the Cardinal faithful.

  • Fan 1: “Albert wouldn’t go to the CUBS, would he?”
  • Fan 2: “No way he leaves St Louis. That’s just a negotiation tactic. He’s trying to scare the front office.”
  • Fan 1: (not convinced) “I guess you’re right.”

Well, how about it – do the Cubs have the cash to make a run at Pujols?

Cot’s Baseball Contracts list the Cubs with a $126 million (M) payroll for 2011, and $65.6M already obligated for 2012. That 2012 money is owed to the following players.

  • Alfonso Soriano $19M
  • Carlos Zambrano $19M
  • Aramis Ramirez $2M (buyout; if he comes back, it’s $16M)
  • Ryan Dempster $14M
  • Carlos Silva $2M (buyout; if he comes back, it’s $12M)
  • Marlon Byrd $6.5M
  • Sean Marshall $3.1M

I would expect the Cubs to buy out Silva; to make a run at Pujols, they’ll probably buy out Ramirez as well. Who would YOU rather pay $14M – 34 year old Ramirez or 32 year old Pujols?

There is still the majority of the roster to fill out. Starlin Castro (SS), Tyler Colvin (CF), Jeff Baker (2B), Blake DeWitt (3B), and either Koyie Hall or Geovany Soto (C) will hold down the rest of the everyday positions (for the sake of this discussion I’ve put DeWitt at third in place of Ramirez), and each of them is either not arbitration eligible (therefore making just above the ML minimum), or still in their arbitration years, so affordable for minimal cost.

Let’s assign some notional 2012 salaries to the arbitration players. Suppose Soto gets a $1M raise (from $3M to $4M), Baker gets a $1M raise (from $1.175 to $2.175), DeWitt gets a $600K bump (to $1.1M), and Hill $250K (from $850K to $1.1M). That takes the roter to $74M. With the modest increase for the non-arbitration eligible players, let’s further suppose the roster sits at $77M.

There will be three arbitration eligible pitchers on the 2011 Cub roster – Matt Garza, Randy Wells, and Carlos Marmol. Based on past performance they would all be due for a hefty raise during next winter’ s negotiations. So, let’s further suppose Garza makes $9M in 2012 (up from $5.9M), Wells $3.1M (up from $427K), and Marmol $7.5M (up from $5.5M in 2011, the high arbitration value submitted). Now the roster sits at $96.6M for 14 players.

Ten years, $300M has been bandied about informally as what Pujols is seeking. Truthfully we have no idea what his contract demands are, as both his negotiating team and the Cardinals agreed to a media blackout about the discussions and have stuck to it. But assuming he is really looking for $30M per, and the Cubs decide to pay him just that, it would push the Cub payroll to $126.6M with 10 more players needed to fill out the team. Note the Cubs spent $144M-plus on the 2010 team. If our final supposition is they will leave the roster at 2010 levels (like the federal government is currently doing with defense spending) at $126.6M they are still $18M short of that. And considering they could sign a couple of modest free-agents to fill out the bench or bullpen, and use their farm system to supply the rest, that’s an easily achievable for Chicago.

Not only have we shown the Cubs could sign Pujols, but do so and save money when compared to their 2010 payroll. Signing Carlos Pena to a one-year deal gave them the roster flexibility to try, and they clearly have the cash.

Could the Cubs make a run at Pujols? You bet they could.

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Series Preview: Cards at Wrigley

In the midst of their hottest streak this season, St Louis charges into Chicago to battle the Cubs.

Current Snapshot:

St Louis: 54-42, First Place NL Central, 1.5 games ahead of Cincinnati. The Cardinals had their season best 8-game winning streak snapped in extra innings on Thursday by Philadelphia. St Louis took 2 of 3 from the Cubs in Chicago back in May.

Chicago: 43-53, Third place NL Central, 11 games back. They have split their last 10 games (5-5). Since last meeting the Cardinals, Aramis Ramirez found his stroke, Carlos Zambrano melted down (again) and was held accountable for once, and Lou Piniella announced his retirement at the end of the season.

Pitching Matchups:

23 July: Jeff Suppan (0-3, 5.45 xFIP) vs Randy Wells (4-7, 3.72 xFIP). These two have never faced each other. Suppan pitched very well in his last outing against Los Angeles and threw six full innings for the first time this season. He’s already pitched at Wrigley this season, a game Milwaukee eventually won. Suppan is 4-4 career in Chicago, with his last win coming in 2008. Jeff has a lot of history against the guys in Chicago’s line-up; of the players who have faced Suppan 20 or more times (Marlon Byrd, Kosuke Fukudome, Ryan Theriot, Alfonso Soriano, Ramirez, Derrek Lee), only Theriot hasn’t homered, and only Soriano and Ramirez are hitting under .300. If the wind is blowing out, look out. Lee has absolutely killed Suppan in his career (6 HR; .429/.529/.875 in 68 plate appearances).

Wells has only faced the Cardinals three times, all at Wrigley, and his last start is one he likely wants to forget. Wells features a fastball about half the time, and mixes a slider or changeup in the other half. His slider is his best pitch, and one of the better sliders in the league. Given the three appearances, Cardinal hitting statistics against him are the epitome of small sample size; no one has more than seven plate appearances. They do lead to some interesting data, though – Wells has never retired Matt Holliday (1 for 1) or Colby Rasmus (2 for 2 with 2 walks). Only Yadier Molina has an extra base hit off him, and Randy Winn has never reached base (0 for 3).

24 July: Blake Hawksworth (4-5, 4.49 xFIP) vs Tom Gorzelanny (5-5, 4.03 xFIP). No one foresaw this as a mid-July matchup back in April, but here we are. Hawksworth will make his seventh career start and none of the previous six were against Chicago. He’s thrown 3 2/3 innings total against the Small Bears in his career, most recently on 29 May in Adam Ottavino’s first career start. Blake throws his fastball about 60% off the time, mixing in a changeup, curveball, and cutter for the rest. According to Fangraphs his cutter is his best pitch, but he only throws it 5% of the time. One wonders if some cutters were mis-identified as fastballs by Pitch f/x. No Cub has faced him more than twice. Hawksworth benefited from St Louis’ power surge on Monday night as he didn’t pitch well but came away with the win. That said, he has pitched better his last four games (ERA under 4.00), but his BABIP has been high (.333), so perhaps he is pitching even better than that.

Gorzelanny will make his first career start as a Cub against the Cardinals. He did make six starts opposing the St Louis Nine while a Pirate, the last time in June 2008, which also was the last time he pitched to the Redbirds. Pittsburgh was 2-4 in those six games (Gorzelanny went 1-3). He has pitched pretty well in those appearances; 16 ER in 37 2/3 innings (3.82 ERA). Fastball-slider-changeup are his weapons of choice, with the fastball and changeup being his best pitches.

Only Aaron Miles and Albert Pujols have more than 15 plate appearances against Gorzelanny. Miles is slashing a robust .467/.529/.533, so expect to see him in the lineup on Saturday. AP has a .979 career OPS against Gorzelanny.

25 July: Chris Carpenter (11-3, 3.73 xFIP) vs Ryan Dempster (8-7, xFIP 3.86). ESPN’s Sunday Night game promises to be a good one. Dempster has pitched better this season than his record indicates, and Carpenter has been lights out (16 IP, 10 K, 1.13 ERA, 2-0) in both starts since the All-Star break. Carpenter has been one of the best pitchers in baseball since 2004, and his record in Chicago is no exception (7-2, 3.66 ERA career). Chris has already beaten the Cubs at Wrigley this season. Oddly only a trio of current Cubs has more than 20 plate appearances against him (Lee, Ramirez, and Soriano). Soriano leads the way (.333/.351/.528) with 2 HR. Lee and Ramirez have also homered off him in their careers.

Dempster faced the Cardinals on 30 May and got smacked around, surrendering 6 in 6 2/3 innings pitched of a game the Cubs eventually lost 9-1. He’s made three other starts versus St Louis at Wrigley and had not lost before this year. Dempster throws a fastball and slider, with the occasional split finger as well for flavor. His slider is also excellent, though it is not quite as good as Wells.

Expect AP to chomp at the bit for this game to start. Pujols has tortured Dempster during his career (4 HR; .310/.412/.643). Expect Randy Winn to have something else to do while Ryan’s on the mound (2-22, 3 walks career). Skip Schumaker (.400 average) and Holliday (1.000 OPS) have enjoyed success as well.

Prognosis. No matter where these teams sit in the standings, this series is taut and well played. The Cardinals are hot; the Cubs are not, but it will not matter come first pitch Friday. Based on the matchups, I would expect Chicago to win Friday, St Louis Sunday, and Saturday’s game to be a toss-up.

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