Tag Archive | "Mechanics"

Sorting Out the Cardinal Pitching Scene

The upcoming week is a crucial time span for the Cardinals as a team, but the starting pitching staff, it is also a chance to earn their keep. With the postseason looming, the team must make a decision about who it will have comprise its starting rotation, a decision that has become a crowded scene in recent weeks. Yet it could hold the balance of the season in the candidates that come from it.

Lance-Lynn-St-Louis-Cardinals

While it is far from certain that the team has a place in the series round of the postseason yet, assessing how it stacks up for one is an important element to the next few weeks of the season. It could shape who gets starts when and how the club will line up arms headed into the last series’ of the year.

The organization has what could prove to be a tough decision in assessing who is in line for the starts, if not for what each candidate brings, but what they haven’t. Outside of just rounding out the rotation, it also impacts the bullpen and how moves into an already deep mix there. After the absolutes in Adam Wainwright and the now undeniable Joe Kelly, the trio of Lance Lynn, Michael Wacha and Shelby Miller each offer not only a different dynamic, but also a unique set of conditions headed into the last few weeks of the season. And the time is already underway to show and prove for each.

In the case of Miller, he would seem to be the biggest shoe in, and he may very well be. However, it is worth noting that he has struggled with his motion as a result of a bad back over his last few starts. Much can be tied to reaching a new career-high in innings pitched each time out, which is something the team could chose to manage over the next few weeks. His previous high was in 2011, when he threw 139 innings between the High-A and Double-A levels.

Yet, as he sits at 149 innings currently, his effort at repeating his mechanics and finishing innings has been noticeably tough for him. Despite a very good seven inning, three hit victory over Atlanta on August 24, in his 14 starts since June 17th, he has managed to complete six innings only four times and has seen his walk-to-strikeout ratio fall by over 1.00 in the second half. Regardless, the 12-game winner will be a part of a postseason rotation, but it would not seem to be a far-fetched idea that the team limits his innings if at all possible.

Then there is Lance Lynn, who has once again struggled through a second half that has ranged from average to completely unimpressive. After his second consecutive first half of double digit victories, he has only managed to post a 2-6 record post the All-Star Break, with an ERA over 5.00.

It was this same type of effort that cost Lynn his spot in the rotation last September, and there have not been many outings that have inspired much confidence in his ongoing role in the rotation recently. Despite the fact that he did turn his year around late last season once he came from the bullpen, the decision to not add an outside arm at the trade deadline had much weight on Lynn being able to add that experienced third arm in the rotation down the stretch. Yet now, reeling off four consecutive losses currently, his start on Wednesday against Milwaukee could very well be his most important of the season for his ongoing direction with the team this season.

Then there is the youngest of the group, as well as the hottest hand, in Michael Wacha. In his second trip joining the ranks of starting pitcher, he has been markedly better. His control has improved, as well as his pitch execution and assortment and due to this, his success has matched his potential. In his two starts in the past week, he has thrown 13 scoreless innings against the Reds and Pirates, yielding only five hits total. Add in the four innings he threw in relief of Wainwright versus Cincinnati on August 28th, where struck out seven while walking one, and he has been the most lights out of any St. Louis arm over the previous two weeks. He presents an unknown quantity to many teams, which is an added bonus.

Yet with that said, the bright lights of October are a different beast, and there is the matter of workload for Wacha as well. He has thrown a total of 131 2013 innings thus far, the most he has thrown in his pro and collegiate career, and eventually fatigue could factor into him as well. He has electric stuff, and the decision to best utilize him could see a return to the bullpen and employing him in the same late-inning capacity Trevor Rosenthal was so successful deployed in a year ago.

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Is Hands Off Best For Jaime?

Jaime Garcia has, at times, been one of the best pitchers the St. Louis Cardinals have on staff.  At other times, he has been erratic.

JaimeGarcia

It is a subject that has been poured over many times, but Jaime Garcia can go from “lights out” to “nobody’s home” with just a bad call or missed play behind him.  The lefty has shown moments of brilliance and moments of complete confusion, sometimes in the same game.  Much has been said about it and, behind the scenes, much has been analyzed about it.

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny has said in interviews that he fully believes that he could have helped prevent the amazing collapse of Rick Ankiel on the mound had he not been hurt and not on the field during the 2000 playoff run.  He has stated that earlier in that season, Ankiel had struggled and he was able to bring him back into focus and get through the situation.

Thirteen years later, Jaime Garcia has Matheny for a manager and the two are trying to find the best way to help the pitcher overcome mental lapses and realize his potential on the mound.

During a recent interview, Matheny has revealed that the team will attempt to take some pressure off of Garcia by not looking into every detail of the starter’s games.  It seems there is some concern that he tries to adjust his mechanics too often, becoming too much of a perfectionist and getting inside his own head.

“I’m not dissecting everything he’s doing,” Matheny insisted after the win. “I know everybody else likes to right now. I’m just watching him go out there and do his thing. He did a nice job of pitching without reading into every situation that he gets into or out of. … I made a commitment to myself not to microscope him.” –from StlToday.com

Garcia will need to continue to pitch at the level he projects at in 2013 for the Cardinals to remain successful.  In addition, with the young talent being developed in the system, Garcia may be pitching to secure a spot on this team in the near future.

Either way, getting Garcia out of his head and into a routine will be a good thing for everyone involved.

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

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Star in the making

Spring training is full of proclamations about “renewed focus” and “tweaked mechanics” for pitchers around the country. If you didn’t know any better you might just get the idea that every young pitcher around baseball is ready to make “the leap”. Danny Duffy, the 23 year-old starter for the Kansas City Royals, is no different, at least not in that regard. But Duffy is different in many ways, and that may just turn him into a star if he figures out how keep the ball in the strike zone.

After being drafted by the Royals in the 3rd round of the 2007 draft, Duffy spent the next two and a half years looking like every bit the star Royals hoped he would become. In rookie ball the 18 year-old struck out 63 in 37 1/3 innings while compiling a 1.45 ERA. In 2008 he moved up to low-A Burlington and after initially struggling, finished the year with a 0.99 ERA over his last 54 innings. 2009 saw a slight uptick in his ERA and a lowering of both his K/BB and K/9 innings ratio, but still he was a 20 year-old in high-A with a sub 3 ERA. At that point in his career you could see so many possibilities, but probably not what came next.

On March 23, 2010 Duffy took a leave from baseball. Fans in Kansas City did not exactly react well. There were questions about his heart and rumors that a girlfriend was responsible. I’m not here to speculate on rumors, but I would like to think the reaction was more evidence of our longing for a winner than a statement on the decency of our fans. Regardless, it seems the Royals handled the situation perfectly and Duffy returned on June 2 to resume his career. For many players, 2010 might have been a lost season after such a rocky start but Duffy finished the year by pitching the AA Naturals to a Texas League Title with a 1.69 ERA in postseason starts. He was back.

We all know what happened last year, when Duffy looked like he may have the best stuff on the this staff at times, and struggled to find the strike zone at others. He was the quintessential nibbler, and he got bit. Still, it would be foolish to think that he has control problems. In 5 minor league season he walked 2.8 batters per 9 innings.  That number shrunk when combining only AA and AAA to just 2.05. Control is one thing Duffy has never struggled with, which should bode well for the idea that he will exhibit more of it in 2012. With an improved defense behind him and the belief that he belongs, it is easy to see why many are predicting a breakout season, but I am not sure many are recognizing just how popular this kid will become if that happens.

Danny Duffy (@dduffkc23) has already become a star on Twitter, and his #BuryMeaRoyal tweet is legendary amongst fans. He says all the right things, and he interacts with fans in a way that few professional athletes do. Duffy’s second most famous hash tag, #Godovereverything may actually contribute more to his local fame, when and if it comes.

We have all seen the enormous popularity of Tim Tebow driven to ridiculous heights by his faith and his refusal to hide it. Duffy does not have the same following or back story, but he seems to be no less committed to using his role as a professional athlete as a platform to share his faith. We saw that with Mike Sweeney, and it is a double edged sword. When you are successful you are a great role model and parents gobble up your jerseys, when you aren’t you are too soft and you get mocked for not drinking tequila.

With all the excitement and projections it is easy to forget that Duffy has not officially made the 2012 Royals yet. He is locked in a 3 man battle with Luis Mendoza and Felipe Paulino for the 4th and 5th spots in the rotation. That last sentence should tell you all you need to know about what stage of his development he is at.  Still, he’s the only man in this battle with the opportunity to make the kind of impact on Kansas City that another 23 made not long ago. Only Duffy looks far better equipped to embrace it.

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Cardinals Farm Report

Lance Lynn
Starting Pitcher
AAA-Memphis
23-years-old
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Height: 6’5″
Weight: 250 lbs
Drafted by the Cardinals in the 1st round (39th pick) of the 2008 MLB June Amateur Draft
Just like every Saturday here on i70baseball, the Cardinal Farm Report spotlights one of the prized Cardinal minor leaguers. This week, it is Lance Lynn, the struggling (yet promising) Cardinal prospect.

YEAR AGE TEAM W L ERA GS IP SO WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2008 21 2 1 1 1.35 6 26.2 29 0.975 6.8 0.7 2.0 9.8 4.83
2008 21 BAT 1 0 0.96 4 18.2 22 0.857 5.8 0.0 1.9 10.6 5.50
2008 21 QC 0 1 2.25 2 8.0 7 1.250 9.0 2.2 2.2 7.9 3.50
2009 22 3 11 4 2.85 25 148.2 124 1.312 8.4 0.3 3.5 7.5 2.18
2009 22 PB 0 0 2.30 2 15.2 17 1.213 9.2 0.0 1.7 9.8 5.67
2009 22 SPR 11 4 2.92 22 126.1 98 1.330 8.3 0.4 3.6 7.0 1.92
2009 22 MEM 0 0 2.70 1 6.2 9 1.200 6.8 0.0 4.0 12.2 3.00
2010 23 MEM 10 8 5.17 24 134.0 110 1.418 9.4 1.1 3.4 7.4 2.20

As you can see, Lynn had great seasons in 2008 and 2009. Combining both years, he went 12-5 with a 2.61 ERA and 153 strikeouts in 175 1/3 innings. If you want to put that into perspective, Jaime Garcia is on pace to pitch 181 innings with St. Louis this season. So you can make of that what you wish.

2010 has obviously been a different story for Mr. Lynn. Inconsistent is the best word to use. Disappointing would be the next.

Why is he struggling? Nobody really knows. His coaches are saying his “stuff” is as good as ever, there are no real flaws in his mechanics, and his command has not gotten any worse.

Was he brought up too quickly? This is only his second full Minor League season, and he’s already in Triple-A. But then again, he’s 23 and he did pitch in college for three seasons. You can’t hardly blame the organization for not being afraid to promote him. After all, he did dominate every league he played in until this year.

When the Cardinals drafted him in the first round two years ago, everybody said the main thing he needed to improve on was his control. However, his BB/9 rates in 2010 aren’t horrible, and he’s actually walking less this year compared to last. The stat that really pops out to me is the HR/9 rate. In over 148 innings last season, he gave up only five home runs in 25 starts. So far this year, through 24 starts, Lynn has already given up 17 big flies. Something is obviously wrong there.

I suppose it could go back to control. Some pitchers focus so intently on throwing strikes, they forget to think about where exactly the ball is going to end up in the strike zone. This could very well be what’s happening in Lynn’s case.

The biggest problem though, is that every once in a while he goes out on the mound and gives up seven or eight runs. I was talking to a guy on twitter who watched Lynn throw seven innings of no-hit baseball against Oklahoma City. I on the other hand, was at the New Orleans game when he gave up eight runs in three innings. Again, inconsistency.

Four games in particular (he allowed eight runs once, seven runs twice, and six runs once) are killing his numbers. Taking those four games out, his ERA is hovering right around 3.40. That’s great and all, but never knowing which pitcher is going to show up is never good. Maybe he is suffering from Kyle Lohse - syndrome, who knows?

Nevertheless, we are dealing with a 23-year-old, 6’5″, first-round starting pitcher that is in Triple-A already. That has “top-prospect” written all over it.

Lynn’s still very young, and extremely raw. If he can figure out whatever is holding him back this year, expect him to be in the big leagues after a successful 2011 season in Memphis.

MiLB WEEKLY ROUNDUP
AAA-Memphis Redbirds
Record to date: 69-57, second place in the PCL American North, 3 games behind Iowa.This past week: 4-2, including two series wins (Colorado Springs and Salt Lake)Transactions: Matt Scherer was assigned to Palm Beach from Memphis (3-1, 4.58 ERA, 29 SO, 37.1 IP in AAA), Tyler Greene was optioned to Memphis from Palm Beach (.297, 55 R, 10 SB, 64 AB in AAA), Steven Hill was optioned to Memphis from St. Louis (.280, 22 HR, 86 RBI, 361 AB in AA), Bryan Anderson was optioned to St. Louis from Memphis (.270, 12 HR, 42 RBI, 270 AB in AAA), Fernando Salas was optioned to Memphis from St. Louis (18 SV, 3.89 ERA, 44 SO, 34.2 IP in AAA)Coming up: The Redbirds will start a four-game set in Omaha before heading home for a long five-game series with Round Rock.
AA-Springfield Cardinals
Record to date: 30-23 in the second half (68-55 overall), third place in the TEX North, 5 games behind NW Arkansas.This past week: 5-1, won the San Antonio series 2-1, and swept Corpus Christi (four-game win streak)Transactions: Jermaine Curtis was assigned to Springfield from Palm Beach (.267, 34 R, 24 RBI, 191 AB in A), Thomas Pham was placed on the 7-day disabled list.Coming up: The Cardinals will head down to San Antonio before coming home to host NW Arkansas.
A-Palm Beach
Record to date: 31-23 in the second half (70-54 overall), first place in the FSL South.This past week: 4-4, including a crucial 1-3 series loss to BradentonTransactions: C.J. Beatty was assigned to Palm Beach from Quad Cities (.259, 40 R, 37 RBI, 251 AB in A-), Jermaine Curtis was assigned to Springfield from Palm Beach (.267, 34 R, 24 RBI, 191 AB in A), Matt Scherer was assigned to Palm Beach from Memphis (3-1, 4.58 ERA, 29 SO, 37.1 IP in AAA),Coming up: The Baby Birds will take on Charlotte and Fort Myers in a three-game sets.
POSITION PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Amaury Cazana, OF, Memphis
.480 AVG (12-for-25), .567 OBP, 8 runs, 3 home runs, 8 RBI, 5 walks
Amaury Cazana… the most interesting man in the world. He has been raking ever since being brought to the United States. On the season, Amaury is hitting .330/.370/.537 with 25 runs, 10 home runs, and 47 RBI in 207 at bats.
PITCHER OF THE WEEK
Kevin Thomas, SP, Palm Beach
W, 7 innings pitched, 3 hits, 1 run, 1 walks, 7 strikeouts
Thomas has had an amazing season and could have gotten this award several times, but this week he finally gets it. In 26 games this season, Thomas is 10-1 with a 2.27 ERA and 80 SO in 91 innings.

Justin Hulsey covers the Cardinals for i70baseball.com and his blog, Cardinals Front Office, that is also dedicated to Cardinal baseball.You may follow him on Twitter @JayHulsey by clicking here.

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