Tag Archive | "Nick Punto"

Waiting On…Something.

The St. Louis Cardinals’ offseason remains—to this point— defined more by subtraction than addition, at least when talking about the big names. Perhaps they are simply waiting for players’ markets to continue to develop. But in the meantime, are they missing out on what could be key contributors?

JCRomero

There still is a lot of time left before pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training. The Cards did decide to bring back shortstop Rafael Furcal, adding him on a two-year deal that will hopefully bring stability to the position in the short-term. They also signed lefty J.C. Romero this week, solidifying that side of the bullpen.

Nick Punto will not be returning to the Cardinals for 2012; he signed with the Boston Red Sox this week. “The Shredder” made an impact on the 2011 team, and not just in the laundry room. Punto is definitely a positive personality in the clubhouse, and a defensive beast on the field. With the re-signing of Skip Schumaker and the emergence of Daniel Descalso, Punto would have again been a bench player in St. Louis. But that’s also the role he will likely play in Boston. So why was he not brought back? This may be a bigger loss than the Cards realize. It’s tough to understate the value of a 5th or 6th infielder, but a positive clubhouse presence coupled with veteran leadership is never unwelcome on a major league roster. Punto will be missed.

This likely means the Cardinals are looking more to the outfield for roster additions. Carlos Beltran remains an interesting possibility, but as players like Josh Willingham and Michael Cuddyer get snatched up the price will only go higher for a hitter like Beltran. He will turn 35 not long after the 2012 season starts, and has been making about $19 million per year for a while now. What will he be looking for? Five years? $15 million, or more? If the Cardinals had a problem paying Albert Pujols for 10 years, they certainly shouldn’t seriously consider paying Beltran for five.

According to reports from Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the team may also have an interest in upgrading the rotation and Kyle Lohse and Jake Westbrook are still in play. These are all intriguing possibilities; meanwhile, the number of viable players is starting to dwindle. Are the Cardinals going to make a “big splash?”

Signing Pujols would have been the biggest deal—in more ways than one—in franchise history for the Cards. But he’s gone now. So is a different big deal necessary, or even desirable? The Cards do get Adam Wainwright back at some point in 2012, presumably early in the season. Allen Craig may be down for a while as he recovers from offseason knee surgery, but does the team want to block him by adding a long-term solution in right field? Sure, there can always be mixing and matching in the outfield. But adding another long-term veteran when capable young players are beating down the door certainly doesn’t seem like the best idea in the world.

But that’s not to say the Cards are without needs for 2012. Can Wainwright really be effective, especially early in the season? How will Jon Jay’s numbers play out as the everyday center fielder? Who will fill in while Craig is recovering, and where will that player go once Craig rejoins the big club in St. Louis? Do the Cards have enough pitching? Who is the backup catcher? How is the organizational depth in case the injury bug hits the team? These are not easy questions to answer, but they need to be addressed regardless.

The Cardinals have a good team returning for 2012, but they need more. The Brewers, Reds, and Cubs are salivating no that Pujols is gone. His productivity will be impossible to replace, but several really good acquisitions can certainly help. If this team has any designs on being the first repeat World Series Champion since the 99-00 season, they are going to have to be over-the-top good.

Chris Reed is a freelance writer who also writes for InsideSTL Mondays and at Bird Brained whenever he feels like it. Follow him on Twitter @birdbrained.

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The Winner Is: Mike Matheny?

In just a few short hours, the Cardinals will convene a press conference to announce the 33rd manager in the history of the franchise.

The keys to the family sports car are about to be handed to the sixteen year old.

There were six managerial candidates that were interviewed for the vacant spot atop the St. Louis Cardinals team on the field. Only one, Terry Francona, had major league management experience. Two, Ryne Sandberg and Chris Maloney, were highly regarded managers at the Triple A level. Two, Jose Oquendo and Joe McEwing, are former Cardinals and major league coaches that have gained a lot of respect (even if players don’t listen to “stop” signs). The final one is a former Cardinal catcher, a roaming instructor in the Cardinals system, and has no coaching or managerial experience.

Yep, that’s the one everyone would pick.

By no means am I saying that I do not support this move. Mike Matheny is a class act, a baseball mind, a good guy, and was definitively in charge of a field when it stood behind the plate. He is a player that is ingrained in the traditions of Cardinal nation. He obviously interviewed very well and said everything that the Cardinals’ upper management needed to hear. But it is a certain gamble for one of baseball’s most historic and traditional franchises to go with an inexperienced manager at the helm.

There are a ton of questions that will not be answered until 2012 and some that will be answered soon. We will not know until the season progresses how Matheny manages. We will not know if he will prefer a veteran arm to a young rookie. We will not know if players like Daniel Descalso and Nick Punto are the types of guys we will see a lot of or if he tends to run the same lineup out there 140 games a year. The biggest question on the mind of some is simple: Will the pitcher ever hit eighth again?

Some questions are about to be answered soon. One of the most important will be the appointment of the bench coach. With a manager with little experience, you would think the Cardinals will put a strong bench coach next to him to help alleviate some of the concern. The rest of the coaching staff will start to fall into place, the Pujols negotiations will heat up, and the Cardinals will delve into free agency and trades to solidify the few shortcomings they have entering the new season. Some of these moves will make it evident what type of team Matheny will prefer.

One thing is for certain. As of eleven o’clock central time this morning, all eyes are now on number 22.

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Moving Forward Up The Middle

Going in to tonight’s matchup against Houston the Cardinals sit tied with Pittsburg atop the NL Central at 54-48. Anyone watching last night’s contest say some stellar defense that went a long way towards helping the Cardinals “hold-on” for a 10-5 victory. Ryan Theriot, Yadier Molina, Colby Rasmus and Skip Schumaker all made important defensive stops behind Kyle McClellan and company.

Skip and Colby each made diving catches in the outfield, Molina threw out Hunter Pence attempting to steal second and Theriot came through with a handful of solid if not spectacular plays at short-stop. Each play came at a critical moment in the game and each came with Houston looking to gain momentum.

After McClellan’s went seven strong and the bullpen tried to give it back, the 5-6 plays by the afore mentioned group made the difference. It has been said for years and we have seen it often here in St. Louis. How a team plays up the middle, from Catcher on through to your Center Fielder has as much impact on a season as offense or pitching. Cardinal fans became accustom for many seasons watching the likes of Edmonds, Matheny, Vina, Molina, Eckstein and Renteria shut down opposing teams with their Gold Gloves.

The play of the year’s Cardinals squad up the middle has left a great deal to be desired. Numerous games have been lost or made far too close as a result of the play of Theriot, Schumaker and yes, even Rasmus. Our manger keeps his guys out there. TLR is loyal, often to a fault. We have seen it with Izzy and earlier this season with Franklin. Tony LaRussa sticks with his veterans and defends them at all costs, again often to a fault.

 

This is not the time for that. The play of Jon Jay, Daniel Descalso and Nick Punto has forced the issue. The reality is this, there are roughly 60 games to go and the Cardinals are in the midst of 2-month long pennant chase. This is not a time for loyalty this is a time to address an issue we can all see holding back the 2011 Cardinals. Plain and simple the up-the-middle-defense in an issue needs TLR’s immediate attention. With David Freese back at third and Punto seemingly healthy it is time for a platoon, a three position platoon.

 

When Theriot was hitting right at the 300 mark I understood running him out there every day. When Rasmus started off the 2011 campaign on a tear it made sense to firmly pen him in as your every day Center Fielder. And while Descalso lingered around a 235 batting average just using him as a late inning defensive replacement was the right move.

 

Take another look at the numbers and one can see that is not the case anymore. What was once three is now six as Jay, Descalso and Punto have performed extremely well and need to see significantly more time.

Ryan Theriot .269 BA .315 OBP .956 Fld % -0.8 WAR

Jon Jay .313 BA .364 OBP .993 Fld % 1.0 WAR

Colby Rasmus .245 BA .332 OBP .987 Fld % 1.0 WAR

Skip Schumaker .284 BA .330 OBP .988 Fld % 0.3WAR

Daniel Descalso .263 BA .341 OBP .973 Fld % 1.4 WAR

Nick Punto .275 BA .370 .986 Fld % 1.2 WAR

Tony LaRussa owes it to himself and more importantly the rest of the St. Louis Cardinals to put the best line-up out on a game-by-game basis. Both offensively and DEFENSIVELY. And more often than not, moving forward that line-up should have Descalso, Jay and Punto…penciled in of course.

As usual these are just my thoughts…keep on reading and you’ll get up to speed.

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Let’s Make A (Big) Deal

It is time to talk trades. They certainly have become a hot button topic around St. Louis two weeks before the deadline. As the unofficial second half gets underway, the needs for every team in the playoff hunt have started to come into focus. The Cardinals are no exception.

The biggest rumors about the Cards currently swirl around Colby Rasmus. He is clearly struggling this year both at the plate and in the field. He continues to appear aloof at times, and when he needs to get right he apparently only finds solace working with his dad. Are the Cardinals fed up with the drama? Perhaps. But Rasmus does have a ton of talent and makes little money. That makes him two things: a valuable player to hold onto, and a valuable trade chip.

The Cards have two glaring needs at the moment: better defense, and pitching. The team seems set on the middle infield of Ryan Theriot and Skip Schumaker, which can be adventurous. But with Nick Punto and Daniel Descalso as backups, things don’t look too terrible in the late innings. Ditto the outfield when Jon Jay comes in. And Friday the team announced reliever Eduardo Sanchez will be shut down indefinitely. So as far as the bullpen is concerned, what you currently see is what you get. The rotation has shown to be dicey at times, but the Cards do have all five starters healthy. That’s more than they could say this time last year.

If the Cards make a deal without giving up much, it will likely be to shore up the bullpen. No shame in that at all. But if they truly want to trade Rasmus, it really is only worth their while to turn any potential deal into a blockbuster. To do that, and get value in return, the Cards may have to part with more than one big name.

For instance, the Tampa Bay Rays are in third place in the AL East behind—who else—the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees. The Rays may not yet feel like they are out of the race, but realistically they will have a pretty good idea where they stand by the trade deadline. They have a strong group of pitchers in both the big leagues and their system, and they rely on young, cost-controlled players year in and year out. The Cards and Rays have supposedly discussed Rasmus in the past, so it seems a fit may be there. But something as simplistic as swapping Rasmus for the Rays’ current center fielder BJ Upton one for one doesn’t really benefit the Cards. The phrase “six of one, half a dozen of the other” comes to mind.

So what if the Cards up the stakes and try to pry one of Tampa’s stud starting pitchers away? Let’s think big, here: James Shields or David Price. Shields is signed to a deal that pays him $4.25 million this year, but includes three years of options worth $7, $9, and $12 million through 2014. One could easily see where the payroll-conscious Rays may want to get out from under such numbers. Price, the ace of the staff (or, at the very least, co-ace with Shields), is still arbitration-eligible but has a contract he can opt-out of should he want to go to the bargaining table. Though the current dollars are team-friendly, Price could very easily make tons more cash if he really wanted to.

Of course, regardless of what these players make, the Rays won’t let either of them get away cheap. Rasmus, on his own, would likely not be enough to land one of these hurlers. But the Cards have two valuable young pitchers of their own in Shelby Miller and Carlos Martinez who have recently rocketed up the prospect value charts. And before the screams of “HOW CAN YOU MORTGAGE THE FUTURE” come out, take a deep breath and consider what the Cards would receive. Obtaining Shields or Price would give the Cards a proven #2-type starter (or better) they could control for several years. Imagine how that improves the team this year, then imagine it with Adam Wainwright for the next two years or more. A top three of Wainwright, Shields or Price, and Garcia would stack up against any team in the league…the Phillies included. And while it’s true the team could also have that with Miller and Martinez, they obviously offer no guarantees. Neither do Shields or Price, for that matter. No pitcher does. But guys who have shown they can do it at the big league level will always be more valuable. That is what the Cardinals need now, and that is what they will need in the future. Shields or Price offer both. Miller and Martinez do not.

The Cards may view Miller and Martinez as “untouchable” but they would almost certainly pause and think if the Rays dangled someone like Price. That is the beauty of this time of year; whether it’s a pipe dream or a realistic possibility, all options are on the table. If the Cards truly feel they need to move Rasmus, they must receive value back for him. Going after rentals and role players is not the answer. And maybe trading away Miller or Martinez isn’t the answer, either. But this team, as currently constructed, has weaknesses that will prevent it from going deep in the playoffs if they make it that far. So the question the Cardinals have to answer is one of commitment: are they in, or are they all in?

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

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How About That Farm System Now?

The St. Louis Cardinals called up Matt Carpenter and Mark Hamilton before Friday night’s tilt against the Chicago Cubs. That pushes the number of Minor League call-ups to four this week alone. The active 25-man roster now contains 16 players who were drafted/signed and developed by the Cardinals, and a couple others (Mitchell Boggs, Kyle McClellan) figure to be back in short order. And the Cards remain in first place, having just lost their first series since mid-April.

The bad news, of course, is that this influx is partially necessary because of injuries to key players like Adam Wainwright before the season started and Nick Punto, Matt Holliday, Gerald Laird, and David Freese currently. But those four will return at some point this season, and the experience their Baby Bird replacements gain now will only serve them and the franchise well.

The knock on the Cards’ farm system has always been that aside from guys like Albert Pujols, Yadier Molina, and Colby Rasmus, the Minor League ranks lacked true star-producing power. Recently, players like Brett Wallace and Chris Perez had to be moved elsewhere—sometimes, as in the case of Wallace, multiple times—before they could make the leap to Major League success. And there are some high-ceiling bright spots in the system now; Shelby Miller, Carlos Martinez, and Zack Cox come to mind. But everyone else projected as a role player, or a back-of-the-rotation/bullpen pitcher.

Surprisingly enough, those were exactly the types of players the Cardinals have needed in 2011. It never seemed right that baseball people would rank the Cards’ farm system in the lower third of Major League Baseball, but then the Memphis Redbirds would win their league championship. Something didn’t add up. And now it seems the answer is clear: even though the Cardinals’ Minor Leaguers lacked star power and name recognition, they still have Major League skills and know how to win as a team.

Obviously not every call-up this season has been crazy good, and it’s probably unrealistic to expect Allen Craig to continue to hit around .350 with a .970-ish OPS for four more months. But this team, as a whole, continues to battle adversity while numerous veteran stars are on the DL and a couple more (Pujols, Chris Carpenter, Ryan Franklin) continue to search for their groove more than two months into the season.

And perhaps some of the success of these players can be attributed to the environment. They have been thrust into a situation of being on a Major League team in first place in the division with a couple of teams in hot pursuit. Not exactly getting called up to the Baltimore Orioles in September, is it? That’s not to say prospects affiliated with bad teams dog it when they get the call-up. But coming into a situation where they are playing for a team in contention certainly ratchets up the stakes a bit.

As summer weather bears down on Cardinal Nation, the baseball mentality will heat up in parallel. It will be interesting to see what, if any, moves the front office makes as the trade deadline approaches. Because it goes without saying this Cardinals team has needs, and the blockbuster trade always captivates the fan base. But no one should be ashamed of this franchise’s minor league depth. What they lack in star power and name recognition, they make up for with the ability to win. And that bodes well for the St. Louis Cardinals both now and in the future.

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

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Beat Up ‘Birds Rock Colorado

The St. Louis Cardinals started their last West Coast(-ish) series of the 2011 season the right way by smashing the Colorado Rockies 10-3 behind another decent outing by Jake Westbrook and four no-hit innings from the bullpen.

The Cards banged out 19 hits, led by Colby Rasmus who was 4 for 5 with two triples and three RBI. Every position player in the starting lineup had at least one hit.

But not all was positive in the game for St. Louis. Lefty reliever Brian Tallet left the game with what Tony LaRussa characterized as feeling “something in his forearm” in the middle of a 3-2 count in the eighth. One of the reasons the bullpen struggled the way it did earlier in the season was an injury to Tallet, forcing Trever Miller to shoulder extra load and have other pitchers work in unfamiliar roles. Yadier Molina also came out of the game early after taking a foul tip off his foot while behind the plate. But Molina stayed in the game immediately after the incident, and LaRussa gave no indication it was anything serious.

——

Does this team have a breaking point?

It really is unbelievable that the Cardinals are 10 games over .500 and enjoy a three and a half game lead in the NL Central considering all the adversity they have already had to overcome this season. Yes, it is still early. But here is a quick list of the bad:

-Adam Wainwright goes down for the season before the season even starts.

-Super Sub Nick Punto missed close to two months of Spring Training and the beginning of the regular season, then goes down again only a few weeks later.

-Ryan Franklin is completely ineffective this year and has not gotten better.

-Matt Holliday required an emergency appendectomy during Opening Week and injures a quadriceps muscle a couple of weeks ago, severely limiting his playing time recently.

-Skip Schumaker spends time on the DL with an injury.

-Tallet goes on the DL with an injury.

-David Freese is once again out and probably won’t be back until after the All Star Break.

-Ryan Theriot is on pace for a career high number of errors.

-Chris Carpenter has only one win in the first two months of the season.

-Gerald Laird goes down with an injury that will keep him out for maybe another month.

-Albert Pujols is off to statistically the worst start of his career and has by far grounded into more double plays that any other player in the Majors.

And the hits just keep on coming. Tallet and Molina will certainly be re-evaluated Saturday. Holliday is only available to swing the bat, and can only speed-walk to first base if he does put the ball in play. But the Cards just keep winning.

At this point, the team has to be thinking about their needs. The obvious one is to get healthy. But there is a lot more to that than simply playing at 100%. Holliday is not likely to go on the DL, so it really is only a matter of days before he returns to the lineup full-time. They do not need a starter, and the everyday lineup seems tight. And imagine when Punto and Freese return; the whole “it’s like making a trade” cliché will certainly apply. Bullpen additions are always welcome, but the current mix has done well overall. Add in the likelihood that Pujols’ and Carpenter’s numbers normalize, and the team should be playing even better than it has been. If they “need” anything, maybe it’s just to be allowed to go out and play their way.

I have to wonder what kind of team the St. Louis Cardinals really are. At the beginning of the year, they appeared average. Then things started rolling. They could be overachieving, or they could just be lucky. But they also could be a team of destiny. Because average teams do not overcome obstacles like this; great ones do. They are almost 1/3 of the way through the season. What reason do we have to think this run will end anytime soon?

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

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UCB Progressive Game Blog: The First Inning

Today marks the fourth season for a very unique project known as The Progressive Game Blog. Here is a description for the founder of the group, Daniel Shoptaw:

The Progressive Game Blog is (as far as we know) a UCB exclusive, in which one game can be seen through many different sets of eyes. Each blog will take an inning (or half-inning, in two cases) and fill you in on what happened in their own unique way.

This year, I-70 Baseball has drawn the first inning and it is my pleasure to bring you coverage for the site.

Head by the official site to get a run down of the entire game, the pre-game warm up, as well as each blog’s post by clicking here.

With clear skies and temperatures in the mid 70′s, the Cardinals will take on the division rival Brewers in a Saturday afternoon showdown in beautiful Busch Stadium. Let’s take a look at the lineups for today’s game:

Brewers at Cardinals
Rickie Weeks 2B Nick Punto 2B
Craig Counsell SS Colby Rasmus CF
Ryan Braun LF Albert Pujols 1B
Prince Fielder 1B Matt Holliday LF
Casey McGehee 3B Lance Berkman RF
Mark Kotsay RF Yadier Molina C
Jonathan Lucroy C Daniel Descalso 3B
Carlos Gomez CF Tyler Greene SS
Yovani Gallardo P Kyle Lohse P

 

Notable in the lineup is the absence of Ryan Theriot, who joined the banged up infield on the bench after getting hit by a pitch in his first at bat Friday night and left the game with a bruised shin.

Tyler Greene gets the start at short

Kyle Lohse to the hill today looking to continue his dominant form and possibly forget his last game. Thus far into the season, Lohse has appeared like the young hurler that earned this contract as opposed to the player that has struggled through some injuries the last few years.

On the opposite end, Yovani Gallardo was the Brewers ace last season and has two wins and two losses as well as a complete game shutout already in 2011. The Brewers themselves have been struggling, especially at the plate. In response to this, I-70′s own Angela Weinhold shot out a tweet while watching the Fox Sports Wisconsin coverage of the game:

#Brewers did not take BP today in hopes that it will wake up bats. Should be fun doing UCB progressive game blog w/FSWI insights! #stlcards
@CardsChic
Angela W

You can find Angela’s coverage of the Progressive Game Blog on Diamond Diaries in the seventh inning.

The key to this game will most likely be in the first inning for the Cardinals offense and later in the game for the Brewers. Gallardo is a pitcher that looks to get out the gate strong and the Cardinals will need to jump on him early before he finds his groove. Lohse, on the other hand, is a pitcher that does well to start and begins to taper off. The Brewers may look to get to him in the fifth inning or later.

The top of the first did not see Kyle Lohse look particularly sharp, but he stayed effective. Weeks would ground out to shortstop Tyler Greene’s left that the young fielder made a solid play on, making me wonder if Ryan Theriot being out of this game had not already paid dividends. A base hit from Counsel erased any thoughts of a repeat performance of last night’s near perfection. Ryan Braun would hit a scorcher that Descalso would knock down at third base and erase Counsel on a fielder’s choice at second base. Finally, Prince Fielder would sky a changeup into shallow left field that Matt Holliday put away easily.

The Cardinals may have one of the most defensive sound teams they can put on the field right now taking the field in this game and it shows early on that they are focused with solid plays by Greene and Descalso early on.

Defense may be the order of the day if the bottom of the first is any indication. After Nick Punto drove an excuse me swing into left field near the line that was caught by Braun, it was Colby Rasmus that put a charge into a ball into deep left center. Gallardo would drift back and leap at the wall, slamming hard into the padding, and bring the ball down with him. In a show of concentration, the ball appeared to be coming out of the glove but Gallardo adjusted as he was falling to the ground to hold onto the ball and ensure his spot in tomorrow’s highlight reel. Albert Pujols would hit a chopper to the middle infield that Craig Counsel scooped up and made a solid running throw to get the Cardinal superstar.

An uneventful first inning bodes well for the Brewers right now and par for the course for the Cardinals. I’m sure the game will not stay in shutout mode for long and the roster of blogs from the United Cardinal Bloggers will keep you all apprised of the action in their own unique ways.

For now, that wraps up I-70′s coverage and we turn you over to our friends at Aerys Sports to continue from here.

Drop over to Aerys Sports Cardinal site Aaron Miles’ Fastball to catch the coverage of the second inning of today’s game.

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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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Does Anyone Miss Skip Schumaker

The Cardinals are a team that are built to be role players at every position. When one player is hurt, the lineup, the pitching rotation, or the bullpen have to be adjusted and typically someone does not perform as well in their new found duties as fans and coaches would hope they would. That is, in most cases.

When Matt Holliday went down to a bad appendix early on in the season, the Cardinals struggled to score runs in his absence. Players like David Freese, Lance Berkman, and Colby Rasmus failed to produce in places in the batting order that they were not accustomed to hitting. Pressure situations were handled differently and it effected most everyone on the roster.

Ryan Franklin has recently been removed from the closer role in the bullpen. With the adjustments, now it has become a bullpen by committee that is resulting in multiple pitchers not knowing their true roles when coming into the game. Effectiveness has gone down, both in the middle innings and when closing the game.

Skip Schumaker, however, has been absent from this lineup for almost two weeks now. In his absence, the Cardinals have used a hodgepodge of players to feel the gap left by someone that the Cardinals feel is a clubhouse and on field leader. Surprisingly, the group of players that has featured Nick Punto, Daniel Descalso, and Tyler Greene has performed almost identical to Skip.

AB Runs Hits RBI HR
Skip 54 5 13 8 1
Punto/Greene/Descalso 50 5 11 8 0

The problem here may not be the production on the offensive side, but the overall play of all the players involved. The combination of Punto/Greene/Descalso gives the Cardinals a much more stable option in the field at second base.

It would seem that Skip Schumaker does not bring enough offense to this team to warrant his position and downgrade in defense. It begs the question, “Have you been missing Skip Schumaker?”.

It does not seem the Cardinals have been.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball as well as the Assignment Editor for BaseballDigest.com.
He is the host of I-70 Radio, hosted every week on BlogTalkRadio.com.
Follow him on Twitter here.

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St. Louis Cardinals Fantasy Report Week 5

It’s a good thing defense doesn’t count in most fantasy circles. If so, you’d have to think twice before you start a Cardinal. Their defense is really holding the club back. Even so, the Cards won each of their series this week taking 2 out of 3 from the Astros and Braves and could have swept both series.

This week the Cards head home to play seven with four against Florida and three against division rival Milwaukee. The offense is hitting on all cylinders and will look to continue against a decent pitching force this week. The Marlins will throw Volstad, Sanchez, Vasquez and Johnson while the Brewers will send Wolf (L), Gallardo, and Narveson (L). Johnson and Wolf have been two of the best pitchers in the NL to start the season but the other five have been up and down in performances.

Photo Courtesy of Erika Lynn

Injury Front:

Skip Schumaker continues to recover and is still two weeks or more away from returning.

David Freese left Sunday’s game with a broken third metacarpal in his left hand. He’ll head to the DL and might need surgery.

Nick Punto also left Sunday’s game with tightness in his hamstring.

Playing Time:

Daniel Descalso will see his already increasing role grow this week with the injury to Freese. Matt Carpenter might get the call to replace Freese on the roster. He had a great spring but was ice cold to start the season at AAA. He now is getting back on track. He has great plate discipline and is an interesting one to watch but not worth owning at this juncture. He was the organization’s Minor League Player of the Year in 2010.

The bullpen is an ultra-committee right now. Boggs blew a save, Sanchez grabbed one, Miller grabbed one and Salas got two. There’s no way to tell who will get the call at this point and until a clear option presents itself it’s best to stay away.

HOT:

It feels like Lance Berkman has been on this list every week. Last week he made Houston fans remember what they loved about him and made them want to forget why they let him go. This week he went 11-24 with a gigantic performance at Houston on Thursday going 4-5 with 2 HR and 5 RBI. Over his last ten, he’s hitting .526 with 2 HR and 10 RBI with 9 Runs scored. Not too shabby.

David Freese was hot but finds himself with a frustrating trip to the DL ahead. In his last ten he’s hit .351 with 5 RBI. He’s worth stashing away ‘til he gets healthy but the lack of power is somewhat concerning, of his 31 hits this season only 6 are for extra bases. It feels like he is younger than he really is (he turned 28 on Thursday) so expecting a breakout in power is not reasonable. If he stays healthy, his HR ceiling may be around 12-15.

Matt Holliday continues to rake and has an 8 game hitting streak. Usually a slow starter, Matt looks locked in and could experience a year closer to his career best in 2007.

Kyle Lohse has now thrown 4 straight quality starts. He’s going deep into ball games displaying good control and decent strikeout rates. Opposing hitters are only managing a .173 average. He’s a must start against Florida and with the way he’s going it would be worth considering him against Milwaukee, only because he is at home.

NOT:

No one really warrants be named on this list this week. We’ve already surmised that Ryan Franklin is done and praised the heavens because defense is not a problem in fantasy baseball.

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