Tag Archive | "Offensive Category"

George Brett Takes Over As Hitting Coach

GeorgeBrett2

KANSAS CITY, MO (May 30, 2013) – The Kansas City Royals announced today that George Brett and Pedro Grifol will assume the interim hitting coach and major league special assignment coach roles, respectively, effective tonight when the Royals play in St. Louis at 7:15 p.m.  In a corresponding move, the Royals have reassigned coaches Jack Maloof and Andre David to the minor league organization.

“Obviously things have not gone as we would have expected and in light of the downturn in offensive production and poor results we’ve decided to make a change,” said Dayton Moore, Royals’ Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations and General Manager.  “First of all, I can’t thank Jack and Andre enough for accepting this challenge with the Major League club.  They are both tremendously knowledgeable and hard working men who have already made our organization stronger by their work in the system.  I’m thankful that this organization has one of the greatest hitters and more importantly one of the greatest competitors our game has ever seen in George Brett and he has accepted our offer to join the coaching staff on an interim basis.  We’ve also added Pedro Grifol, who brings a wealth of knowledge to our staff and will work various aspects of the coaching staff.”

Brett, 60, is the Royals’ all-time hit leader with 3,154 during a playing career that spanned 1973-1993 and was capped with his induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1999.  His familiar #5 was retired by the organization on May 14, 1994.  He is the only player in Major League history to win batting titles in three different decades, winning the American League crown in 1976, 1980 and 1990.  His 1980 season will always be remembered for his run at the elusive .400 mark, finishing the campaign with a .390 average and winning the American League Most Valuable Player Award.  A 13-time All-Star, Brett is the club’s all-time leader in every offensive category with the exception of stolen bases.  He was also a Rawlings Gold Glove winner for his work at third base.  Retired as a player following the ’93 season, this is Brett’s first-ever in-season coaching role in baseball.  He has served as a Vice President of Baseball Operations since his retirement and has worked on the field during spring training for the organization.

Grifol, 43, is in his first year in the Royals’ organization, initially assigned as the hitting coach for the Surprise Royals.  He joined Kansas City after 13 seasons in the Seattle chain, serving most recently as manager for High Desert (A) in 2012.  Previous roles have included area scout, manager at Everett (2003-05), Coordinator of Instruction (2006-08) and Director of Minor League Operations (2008-11).  Pedro was also on the Mariners’ major league staff for the second half of the 2010 season.  He was also the Winter League manager this past year for the Venezuela squad where Alcides Escobar played.  A Florida native, Grifol was the Florida State High School Player of the Year in 1988 out of Christopher Columbus High School and then helped Florida State University to the College World Series in 1989 and 1991, earning All-America honors in ’91.

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Kansas City Royals Power Rankings

It’s week two of the I70 Baseball Royals Power Rankings, and to say this week didn’t go well would be an understatement.  The Royals defense was atrocious and their hitting and pitching weren’t too far behind. Let’s take a look at the power rankings through May 12.

JeremyGuthrie

#5 Ervin Santana- (Previously: #2) Santana saw his ERA “balloon” to 2.79 with a couple of mediocre starts this week. The right hander gave up seven runs on 15 hits in 12 1/3 innings of work against the Orioles and Yankees. On the positive side he only walked one in the two starts and now sports a 39-6 K-BB ratio.

#4 Lorenzo Cain- (Previously: #1) Cain was due for a cold streak, and boy did he find one. He was just 4/20 on the week with two walks and five strikeouts. Cain is still amongst the team leaders in most every offensive category, but he only has one RBI in his last seven games.

#3 James Shields- (Previously: #5) Shields moves up in the rankings after allowing two runs over 16 innings in two fantastic starts. The week started off in controversy for Shields when he was pulled after 8 shutout innings against the White Sox. Of course, the bullpen lost that game and set the tone for a treacherous week. Shields now sits at 2-3 with a 2.48 ERA and 53 Ks in 58 innings.

#2 Jeremy Guthrie- (Previously: #3) Guthrie didn’t have his best stuff against his former team, but still managed six innings with only one run allowed. He’s now gone 18 starts without a loss and leads the team with a 2.28 ERA. One concern for Guthrie moving forward is his recent control issues. He’s averaged nearly three walks per outing in his last four starts.

#1 Alex Gordon- (Previously: #4) Alex Gordon responded to being moved to the three-hole with a bang and a hot week rose his average from .306 to .320. The 29 year-old right fielder now leads the team in doubles (8), home runs (6), RBI (28), average (.320), and slugging % (.548). Gordon has been the lone bright spot in an increasingly bad offense.

Honorable mention: Luke Hochevar- Before you throw anything at me, yes Hochevar has been terrible at letting inherited runners score BUT he’s been outstanding outside of that. In 12 1/3 innings, Hochevar has allowed 10 baserunners and struck out 13 batters. He has an ERA of 0.73 and a WHIP of 0.81. If we could simply convince Ned Yost not to bring him in with runners on, Hochevar may actually be an asset.

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David Freese Cracks Top Ten Right Now

Fans of MLB Network know that they have been subjecting players to “The Shredder” for statistical analysis to determine the top ten players at each position right now.

In an episode of the show, hosted by Brian Kenny, that will air Friday night, i70baseball has learned from an MLB Network executive that St. Louis Cardinal David Freese will indeed be featured as one of the top 10 thirdbaseman in baseball.

Photo Courtesy of/Copyright Erika Lynn

Photo Courtesy of/Copyright Erika Lynn

The “Top Ten Right Now” series is enjoying it’s third incarnation and will feature a Cardinal third baseman for the first time when Freese’s name is revealed.  Sabermetric Godfather Bill James and former Oriole second baseman Bill Ripken will be on hand with Kenny to help analyze The Shredder’s results and provide their own lists for comparison.

Bill James:
“The only thing you like about him really is the bat. He [has] a terrific bat, quick bat, hits the ball hard [to] straightaway center. He’s not a defensive wonder, he’s not a base stealer, but he does hit.”

Freese has garnered some attention since his now famous heroics in the 2011 Post Season.  However, it was 2012 that helped solidify that Freese could be seen as a consistent contributor to the Cardinals roster.   A player that has battled injuries for most of his career, Freese was able to take the field for 144 games last season and show solid production while he was at it.

Bill Ripken:
“When King Albert left and went out to Los Angeles to play with the Angels, here’s one of the guys that picked up the slack.”

He would reach career highs in almost every offensive category, posting a .293/.372/.467 “slash line” while hitting 20 home runs and driving in 79.  He was a spark plug at times for the 2012 team and added much needed depth in the lower part of the lineup.  He would achie his first appearance in the midsummer classic after being voted in as the final roster spot by fans on the heels of a very successful social media campaign for the position.

Brian Kenny:
“Freese has established himself now as a solid contributor to the Cardinals.”

“He’s a player who isn’t great at any one thing, but is above average everywhere and that makes you an excellent player.”

“Last year, [he had] 20 homers, .293 batting average, 57 walks. Just enough power, average and plate selection to add up to sixth in OPS among qualifying third basemen last year.”

Freese’s future looks bright for the team and the team is currently in negotiations with the home town hero to avoid arbitration and possibly secure him to a long term deal.

The show will air at 8pm Central Time on MLB Network, Friday February 8th.

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

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How will Cards respond to adversity?

As I wrote last week in this space, everything was rainbow and lollipops in Cardinal Nation after such a fast start out of the gate, beating up on division foes.  The St. Louis Cardinals were the first defending World Series champions to win their first six series of the season since the 1922 New York Giants. That, as you know by now, came after a season of incredible turnover and uncertainty heading into 2012.

Going into Opening Day, this was the talk, “Yes this team has talent, how will they respond without Pujols, Duncan, and LaRussa?”  “Can the team hold up through injuries with so many veterans?”

Then something happened. The team started winning in convincing fashion. And subtly, expectations became reset.

Opponent Date W/L Runs For Runs Against Record Run Differential
Miami Apr 4 W 4 1 1-0 +3
Milwaukee Apr 6 W 11 5 2-0 +6
Milwaukee Apr 7 L 0 6 2-1 -6
Milwaukee Apr 8 W 9 3 3-1 +6
Cincy Apr 9 W 7 1 4-1 +8
Cincy Apr 10 W 3 1 5-1 +2
Cincy Apr 11 L 3 4 5-2 -1
Chicago Apr 13 L 5 9 5-3 -4
Chicago Apr 14 W 5 1 6-3 +4
Chicago Apr 15 W 10 3 7-3 +7
Cincy Apr 17 W 2 1 8-3 +1
Cincy Apr 18 W 11 1 9-3 +10
Cincy Apr 19 L 3 6 9-4 -3
Pitt Apr 20 W 4 1 10-4 +3
Pitt Apr 21 L 0 2 10-5 -2
Pitt Apr 22 W 5 1 11-5 +4
Total 82 46 +36

A tremendous start to the season. Heading into the Chicago series, the Cardinals led the NL in almost every offensive category and in run differential (second only in the league to Texas Murderer’s Row Rangers).

Then the first two games against the Cubs happened. Both 3-2 losses. Both 2-1 leads given up by the bullpens in the 9th inning. Now the team is 11-7 and only two games out in front of the Brewers. Now the team is dealing with the bats cooling off. Now they are dealing with fighting through blown calls by umpires and the bullpen giving up leads. They are dealing with multiple injuries that test not only their depth but their resolve. In a word, for the first time of the Mike Matheny era, they are dealing with significant adversity.

Making too much of a simple two game losing skid against Windy City Rivals? I am not so sure.

There are 9 more games in a row against the NL Central. As I have written many times before, these games are crucial. Even if they go 5-4, the fast start would ensure a 16-11 record, which is nothing to make light of. Personally, I think the team should be shooting for 17-10 or 18-9 through the NL Central start of the schedule. They still have the opportunity to run out to a good lead in the division, but it will depend on their ability to push through adversity, to push through a lack of run support for pitching over the last four games, the bullpen shaking off a couple of tough losses and blown saves.

This is the moment a lot of Cardinals fans have been waiting for. To seem what the team is truly made of. As my UCB co-host Dathan Brooks often says, every win in April is a win you don’t have to get in September. These April games really matter because they are all against the Central. And these next nine games will show us how the team handles its first bit of adversity on the young season.

It sure would be nice if they could give Wainwright a little bit of support as he is trying to get back to form. So far, he has had zero, that’s right zero, run support in his first four outings. That will change. His stuff still is not what it once was, but that is to be expected at least for a couple more months. He showed last night he will fight to make pitches and get outs with less than his best stuff. It is a move in the right direction. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Waino doesn’t go for another four games.

The first battle to get back on track and further the division lead is today at Wrigley Field at 1:20 Central Time. Can the Birds shake off a couple tough losses, and show the resolve and grit their new manager preaches? Or will they allow the sting of the last two nights to carry over and leave them in a division dogpile?….

It sure will be fun to watch and find out.

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Does Crime Pay?

If you’re looking for a hard hitting article that sheds light on crime in sports, you clicked on the wrong article. This article might be more to your liking.

Is stealing bases worth the risk?

This article is about a different crime; The Stolen Base. If you’ve watched the Royals for any amount of time this season, or previous seasons you’ve probably noticed that the Royals organization wants you to know that the Royals are pretty good at stealing bases. In fact as of this writing (mostly on Thursday 8/18/11, all stats referenced in this article are based off the games ending on 8/17. By the time today roles around they will have changed) they are tied with Yankees as league leaders in stolen bases at 120. The problem is the Yankees are tied with the Boston Red Sox in another statistic; Wins, 74. It’s nice that the Royals lead the league in a positive offensive category. However, as a fan I’d like to see that offensive category mean something. The Yankees are stealing bases and winning games. If the Yankees are doing it, it must be a good idea, right?

I’ve been writing for I70 Baseball for about six months. This will be my first attempt at using statistical analysis to make a point. Maybe I should clarify. I haven’t actually done the research yet we’ll find out together. The way I look at it, when a team is on offense the goal is to score runs. I do not fancy myself a Stathead, but I know one thing: Teams that score more runs than their opponents at the end of nine innings are undefeated. Because of this I’m going to look at the correlation between a team leading the league in stolen bases, and see if that means they end up near the stop of the league in runs scored.

To accomplish this I looked back five complete seasons; essentially the Dayton Moore era in Kansas City; and looked at the top five teams in stolen bases from the American League. Here is the Data:

2006:
1. LA Angels – 148 SB, 11th in RS, 766 R, 89 Wins, 2nd in ALW
2. NY Yankees – 139 SB, 1st in RS, 930 R, 97 Wins, Lost in ALDS
3. Tampay Bay – 134 SB, 14th in RS, 689 R, 61 Wins, 5th in ALE
4. Baltimore – 121 SB, 10th in RS, 768 R, 70 Wins, 4th in ALE
5. Seattle – 106 SB, 13th in RS, 756 R, 78 Wins, 4th ALW

2007:
1. Baltimore – 144 SB, 9th in RS, 756 R, 69 Wins, 4th in ALE
2. LA Angels – 139 SB, 4th in RS, 822 R, 94 Wins, Lost in ALDS
3. Tampa Bay – 131 SB, 8th in RS, 782 R, 66 Wins, 5th in ALE
4. NY Yankees – 123 SB, 1st in RS, 968 R, 94 Wins, Lost ALDS
5. Minnesota – 112 SB, 12th in RS, 718 R, 79 Wins, 3rd in ALC

2008:
1. Tampa Bay – 142 SB, 9th in RS, 774 R, 97 Wins, World Series Runner Up
2. LA Angels – 129 SB, 10th in RS, 765 R, 100 Wins, Lost ALDS
3. Boston – 120 SB, 2nd in RS, 845 R, 95 Wins, Lost ALCS
4. NY Yankee – 118 SB, 7th in RS, 789 R, 89 Wins, 3rd in ALE
5. Minnesota – 102 SB, 3rd in RS, 829 R, 88 Wins, 2nd in ALC

2009:
1. Tampa Bay – 194 SB, 5th in RS, 803 R, 84 Wins, 3rd in ALE
2. Texas – 149 SB, 7th in RS, 784 R, 87 Wins, 2nd in ALW
3. AL Angels – 148 SB, 2nd in RS, 883 R, 97 Wins, Lost ALCS
4. Oakland – 133 SB, 9th in RS, 759 R, 75 Wins, 4th in ALW
5. Boston – 126 SB, 3rd in RS, 872 R, 95 Wins, Lost ALDS

2010:
1. Tampa Bay – 172 SB, 3rd in RS, 802 R, 96 Wins, Lost ALDS
2. White Sox – 160 SB, 7th in RS, 752 R, 88 Wins, 2nd in ALC
3. Oakland – 156 SB, 11th in RS, 663 R, 81 Wins, 2nd in ALW
4. Seattle – 142 SB, 14th in RS, 513 R, 61 Wins, 4th in ALW
5. Texas – 123 SB, 4th in RS, 787 R, 90 Wins, World Series Runner-Up

The average rank in runs scored is 7.16, or a little worse than half. Average number of wins is 84.8, might win you a bad division. There are two World Series runner-ups in this group. There are the 2010 Mariners, who were one of the worst offensive teams in several years. Ten of the teams made the play-offs. There is no correlation between stealing bases and scoring runs, and there is even less correlation to overall team success. When I look at who the teams are on this list I make two observations. The first, teams with bad offenses use the stolen base to make up for their line-up’s weaknesses. As you can tell this doesn’t work that well. The stolen base will not make up for a weak offense. The second, is teams with good offenses do everything well, and will use the stolen base get better.

It’s obvious the Royals strategy to be aggressive on the base paths is coming from the front office. I thought the problem was a Trey Hillman thing, but Ned Yost has been even more aggressive. The Royals were 6th in stolen bases last season, see how well that worked out? Now that we have some evidence that stealing bases is a break even proposition at best. Let’s try and figure out if attempting a crime spree is hurting the offense.

I tried to find a statistic of caught stealing runners that would eventually score had they remained at first and their out not been recorded. But apparently I’m not smart enough to find it. If someone knows where I can find it send me an email. I find it hard to believe no one is tracking this. But no fear, we’ll see if the Royals have enough caught stealing numbers to impact their runs scored numbers.

Remember when I said the Yankees lead the league in stolen bases? They do NOT lead the league in caught stealing. The Royals do, 47. Right now the Royals are 6th in the league in runs scored, 540. Even if all the 47 caught base runners scored; which is preposterous; they would only move up to 4th in runs scored, 587. If you use the Pythagorean Expectation this is worth 2.33 wins for the Royals. But that is a best case scenario. Let’s say all of those guilty base runners were in scoring position. A base hit would score them. The Royals are batting .267 as a team. This would net the Royals another 12 runs. Throw that back into the Pythagorean Expectation and you’re looking at .60, just a little over half a win.

I’ve been concerned that the Royals aggressive base running has been hurting their chances of scoring more than it’s been helping. After going through these numbers I’m not sure it matters. Bad offenses will struggle to score no matter how many bases are stolen. If you want to increase wins, preventing runs is the best way to do that. But I don’t need to write an article to spell out the Royals shortcomings on that side of the equation.

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Cardinal Punch

It all comes down to production.

There are many reasons why the Saint Louis Cardinals are currently the third best team in Major League Baseball. Only two teams currently stand better, but not by much. The Cleveland Indians, and the San Francisco Giants.

The Cardinals are maintaining a win to loss ratio of almost 1.5 to 1, which is easily enough to compete in the 2011 National League Central. If you take a look at the overall team statistics, the Cardinals are finding ways to dominate.

Which team has the most runs at 250? The Cardinals.

Which team has the highest batting average at .281? The Cardinals

Which team has the highest on base percentage at .357? The Cardinals

Oh yeah, the Cardinals also stand fourth league wide in slugging percentage at .420!

It is awfully hard to lose games when you are leading baseball in nearly every vital offensive category. Sure this team has had struggles in the bullpen. Some are questioning how in the world Mitch Boggs gets sent down to the minors over Ryan Franklin. The question may never be solved. Call it politics I suppose.

What I do know is that Saint Louis is crushing the surface of the baseball. We witnessed it in the final two games of the series in Kansas City. Balls pelted off the outfield walls, some reaching the fountains. Not fun for a Royals fan to sit through.

Along with grinding pitching performances from Jaime Garcia alone, Chris Carpenter is seemingly heading back to his dominant ways. Albert Pujols is still on the treacherous climb back to a .300 average, but he is still backing up that statistic with eight homers and twenty-six RBI. That is more than enough production from a lineup in which a weakness is so hard to identify. Berkman, Rasmus, Molina, and my favorite, John Jay are all getting good work in. When the Cardinals score runs, a great pitching effort usually follows. In 2011, there has yet to be a more productive team that the Cards.

How does anybody expect to beat a team that is taking advantage of most it’s opportunities?

As far as the BEST team in Major League Baseball goes, you still have to give the Indians in Cleveland most of the credit. They have lost a few games recently, but still grasp the best record in the league. They have yet to go on a losing streak worth speculating, which at this point of the season, is a tell tale sign of a good team. As much as analysts and gurus what to turn this into a story of luck, I don’t buy it.

The Indians are good. They are for real. Visit www.battleofohiobaseball.com to get the inside scoop on why this team is the league’s best. They have played the Royals and have completely destroyed them. That’s not saying too much, but after watching every game in their series with KC, you can easily tell they are a team that is properly managed and put together- from an clubhouse and front office perspective. The Indians are for real.

The Giants success isn’t anything shocking. Coming off a World Series win, they didn’t lose anybody from last years roster that was an essential piece to their winning ways. Tim Lincecum doesn’t have the record to show it, but he is still putting up incredible numbers aside from the overall win/loss. Only problem now is Buster Posey. That injury looked horrible. Look for a shakeup in the momentum; he was a huge asset that now sees nothing more than the DL.

The Cardinals though, have put up a decent fight each time. They carry a 1-2 record against the Giants in three matchups this season. They look to respond more positively in their series next week.

The Cardinals next three opponents are interesting ones. They first make route to Colorado to take on the Rockies tonight for a three game set over the weekend. After fighting the altitude changes, its back home to the real fight when those pesky Giants visit Busch. After four grueling games against the defending champs, the Cubbies arrive to Saint Louis to round out the home stand.

The home stand comes at a great time as it gives the team a superb opportunity to really separate themselves from the Reds and then the Brewers, which of whom, are currently on fire. Expect the pitching to be there and the hitting to back it up. The Cardinals are in a real nice vibe right now and there is no better time for seven straight homes games than right now. The division still remains a tight one with a two and a half game lead over Milwaukee, but what a great chance to climb…

Colorado, losers of their last two games, are playing mediocre baseball of late and have really been slumping since the last week in April. Buster Posey is out for season in San Fran, and Cubs are the eye sore of the Central- all great matchups for a Cardinals team looking so vibrant of late.

An interesting Memorial Day weekend is ahead…Time to grill, enjoy the weather, gather with friends, and watch some good baseball.

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The Cardinals In Time: Turning Things Around

During the offseason we have been taking a look at the past, giving readers a timeline of St. Louis baseball throughout history. Last time we learned about Gussie Busch and the beginning of Bing Devine’s work with the Cardinal’s front office. Unfortunately the product on the field was not good at all, and the Cardinals were finding themselves at the bottom of the National League food chain. Things had to go up. Who would become the answer?

The Cardinals’ players just did not like Solly Hemus. Players knew he was not using his best lineup simply because he was not utilizing players like Curt Flood, Bill White, and Bob Gibson – all African American players – the way he should have. In 1960, he pushed All-Star and Gold Glove winning first baseman White out in the outfield, flipping him back and forth between leftfield, centerfield, and first base. Hemus also pushed Stan Musial around the diamond, never leaving him in one place for any length of time and seeing him find time in left, right, and first. Musial had his second “down” year in a row, hitting .275/.354/.486 and seeing the fewest number of at-bats in the season (378) than any other in his twenty-two year career. Of course, it is quite difficult to perform at the top of your game when you are constantly shifting your role and sliding up and down the lineup, but I digress…

Ken Boyer

Third baseman Ken Boyer won his third consecutive Gold Glove in 1960, and led the team in basically every major offensive category. On the pitching rubber Larry Jackson had arguably his best season wearing the birds on the bat, going 18-13 and leading the team with fourteen complete games on the year. Ernie Broglio rounded out a 21-9 record and 2.74 ERA by pitching twenty-eight games in relief to go with twenty-four starts. All of that combined to bring the Cardinals back up to a respectable 86-68 record, good enough for third place in the National League behind the upstart Pittsburgh Pirates, led by Bill Mazeroski, Roberto Clemente, and Dick Groat.

Things changed in 1961. Despite the assumption that Hemus was a “player’s manager,” the fact that he and Stan the Man obviously did not see eye to eye (not to mention any of the African American players) did not go unnoticed by the front office. Bing Devine had to make a change, and by the time he went to Gussie Busch and requested that the change be made Gussie was irritated by the Cardinals’ then 33-41 record. He told Bing that whatever he wanted to do was fine, so Bing made the switch, firing Hemus and bringing in coach Johnny Keane. Keane had been a minor league manager for the Cardinals’ farm system for many years and had worked his way up to an assistant coach for the big league squad when he took over the reins.

Keane knew what it would take to turn around several of the players on the team. He went to Stan Musial and told him that he was still a valued and productive member of the team. The 40-year-old Musial stepped it up and had something of a return to form. Keane went to Curt Flood and installed him as the permanent centerfielder, went to Bill White and made him the full-time first baseman, and went to Bob Gibson and changed his career.

Johnny Keane

Up until 1961 Bob Gibson had been on the outside looking in on the Cardinals’ pitching staff. He pitched, sure, but not particularly well, and was largely unknown by most. He had been bounced in and out of the rotation and bullpen, and was 2-6 on the season before Johnny Keane came in. The new manager was swift in righting Gibson’s career, handing him the ball for the first game in his control and informing the big pitcher that he trusted him to take care of business. That night Gibson threw a complete game and won 9-1 on the road against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The rest of the way he went 11-6 under Keane and finished with a respectable 13-12 record and 3.24 ERA. The Cardinals all dusted themselves off after a rough first half and went 47-33 with their new skipper. They wound up 80-74, good enough for only fifth place in the National League.

By now Gussie had owned the team for nearly a decade and had never even come within smelling distance of a pennant, much less a World Series win. He was impatient, and when Mr. Busch was impatient he was apt to fly by the seat of his pants. 1962 did nothing to improve his mood. The team finished 84-78. This record was only good enough for sixth place in the newly expanded ten team National League. Gibson and Jackson led the pitching staff, but the real story in 1962 was the resurgence of Stan Musial. “The Man” played in 135 games (the most for him since 1958) and hit a much more Musial-like .330/.416/.508.

Gussie’s impatience led to a big change after 1962. At the suggestion of one of his friends he decided Bing Devine was not getting the job done, so he brought in an old friend to be a “senior consultant” for the team. Who was that man? Why, none other than Branch Rickey. Suddenly Devine found himself having to get approval from a man who had left the team in the dust over 15 years prior. If he wanted to make a move, he had to go to Rickey, and if Rickey approved he would go to Busch and inform him what was going to happen under “his acceptance.”

Devine and Rickey, while having a mutual respect for each other, did not necessarily see eye to eye, and had to find creative ways to work around the other. The first real road block came before the 1963 season, when Devine wanted to make a trade with Pittsburgh, swapping shortstop Julio Gotay and pitcher Don Cardwell for Diomenes Olivo and Dick Groat. Rickey did not like the deal, stating that when he made deals, he got the younger players, not the older ones. Gotay was “up and coming” in his mind, while the 31-year-old Groat’s best years could be behind him.

Eventually Devine rounded up a crew of “baseball minds” and went to Rickey again to convince him to make the trade. When Rickey realized he was outnumbered and surrounded by a team that was firmly convinced that he should go through with the trade, he acquiesced. Groat became a Cardinal, and the team was starting to take shape. The infield especially was a fearsome thing to look at for an opposing batter. The entire starting infield of Ken Boyer (1B), Dick Groat (SS), Julian Javier (2B), and Bill White (1B) started in the 1963 All-Star game, the first time this had ever happened in the history of the game.

Tim McCarver

Another new face on the field in 1963 was 21-year-old Tim McCarver. McCarver was a hotshot rookie who had offers from sixteen different teams before finally taking the Cardinals’ $75,000 offer to sign at age seventeen. Behind the plate he was the captain of the team, even at such a young age. He called the game like a seasoned veteran, and had enough spitfire in him to set the clubhouse ablaze. Having him there working with Gibson, Broglio and Curt Simmons pushed the team to the brink of the pennant. A late push probably saved Bing Devine’s job from the ever increasingly antsy Gussie Busch, but when Gibson broke his leg taking batting practice in mid-September, it became too much. They finished 93-69, six games back of the Dodgers.

To begin explaining what happened in 1964, I turned to i70 Baseball’s historian Bob Netherton for help. He made my job easy by dropping some tidbits about this very team in a recent post on his own site. Here is what he said:

Of all the come-from-behind teams, the 1964 Cardinals may have been the best. Not only did they win many of their games in the late innings, it was an unbelievable surge in August and September that propelled them to the World Series. This was not the first time they had rallied late in the season either. Johnny Keane’s Cardinals almost pulled off a similar upset in 1963, falling just a few games short of the Dodgers in the end. If Branch Rickey had not played the role of puppet master in the summer of 1964, there might be more pennants blowing in the wind in St. Louis. ’64 was no fluke, and Johnny Keane is a very underrated (and unappreciated) manager.

The key to the ’64 Cardinals success? Mischief at the top of the batting order and then the big names coming up big. Curt Flood and newcomer Lou Brock terrorized National League pitchers with their hitting and base running. It would not be the only time they did this, but in 1964, the middle of the order was brutally consistent in the second half of the season. Ken Boyer and Bill White challenged each other down the stretch, with Boyer winning the NL MVP in the end. The few runners that this duo left on base were quickly driven in by Dick Groat, Tim McCarver or a new local kid named Shannon. There were some great role players on the team as well. Dal Maxvill, Carl Warwick and Bob Skinner all made big contributions, especially in the World Series, but it was the everyday players that brought the pennant to St. Louis in 1964.

Lou Brock

How about that newcomer in Brock? Devine knew around the trading deadline that something needed to happen – that spark to push the team over the top. He called Chicago. Yes, the Cubs. He had spoken with Cubs’ GM John Holland in the offseason about a kid named Lou Brock. The kid looked like he had talent, but had no clue what to do with it. The two sides agreed – Brock for Ernie Broglio.

The rest of the Cardinals were actually perplexed by the trade. Broglio had been an eighteen game winner in 1963 and Brock was a green knucklehead that tried to pull every ball out of the ballpark and ran the bases like a gazelle. It made no sense. There was no way for them to see what Brock would become. However, under Keane and the rest of the Cardinals’ management, their little speed demon would hit .348 the rest of the year and swipe thirty-three bases.

Gussie Busch was not satisfied with what Devine had been doing. Despite all his friends begging him not to do so (even Branch Rickey – who had realized that Devine actually knew what he was doing), Busch fired his GM and brought in Bob Howsam from Denver. Johnny Keane almost got the ax as well, but Busch had to back down. The season rode out dramatically, as the Phillies had to have one of the most grand collapses in the history of the game in order for the Cardinals to catch up, pass, and then capture the pennant away from them.

The World Series almost felt like an afterthought after the race to the finish of the regular season.

Almost.

The mighty New York Yankees were once again the foes awaiting the Cardinals in the World Series. By now the two teams had faced each other five times in the Fall Classic, but the last time had been 1943, and the Yanks had run away with that one 4-1. By the ninth inning of the third game, the score was 1-1, both in games won and in runs on the scoreboard. Barney Schultz, the knuckleballer that Bing Devine had brought in midway through the year, came in to hold down the score for the Cardinals. The first man he faced was the fearsome Mickey Mantle. Schultz threw his bread and butter knuckler to Mantle, but the pitch did not knuckle, and Mickey had a nice meatball to smash into the third deck of Yankee Stadium, giving the Yankees the win and the Series lead, both by a score of 2-1.

It felt back and forth the whole Series. In the fourth game the Yankees jumped out to a three run lead, but a grand slam blast by Ken Boyer in the sixth inning was all the firepower needed, and reliever Roger Craig helped finish out the win for the Cards. The score was tied again in game five and it led to extra innings. Bob Gibson pitched his heart out and ended up winning in ten innings thanks to a three run blast from battery mate Tim McCarver in the top of the inning. The tide had shifted and now the Cardinals were up 3-2.

The Yankees were not going away quietly, and tied the Series at three apiece with the deciding game seven left. Yanks manager Yogi Berra turned to Mel Stottlemyre, who lasted only three batters into the fifth before being pulled for a string of pitchers that paraded out from the Busch Stadium bullpen. Keane went with his ace, and Bob Gibson went out and pitched a complete game victory. The team staked their big right hander out to a 6-0 lead before Gibby gave up a three run home run to Mantle, but it was too little, too late. The Cardinals eventually won the game 7-5 and the Series 4-3.

Gussie Busch had his World Series ring, and the Cardinals were back on top, thanks to the strong arms of Gibson, Simmons and Ray Sadecki, the fleet feet of Brock, and the mighty bats of Boyer, White, and Flood. It was good to be a Cardinal again.

Angela Weinhold covers the Cardinals for i70baseball.com and writes at Cardinal Diamond Diaries. You may follow her on Twitter here or follow Cardinal Diamond Diaries here.

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Royals Farm Report

Clint Robinson
First Base
AA-Northwest Arkansas Naturals
25 years old
Bats: Left
Throws: Left
Height: 6’5″
Weight: 225 lbs
Drafted by Royals in the 25th round of the 2007 MLB Draft
Clint Robinson is a man in the shadows. In fact, he’s probably the only starting first baseman in the Royals’ upper minor league system you’ve never heard of. Robinson is overshadowed by the first baseman on the A+ Wilmington Blue Rocks, first-round pick Eric Hosmer, and he is blocked by two talented young first basemen above him: fan favorite Kila Ka’aihue and budding superstar Billy Butler.

But it doesn’t end there. Robinson is also in the background on his own team, the AA Northwest Arkansas Naturals. His teammates include high-profile pitchers Aaron Crow and Mike Montgomery and position players Derrick Robinson, Johnny Giavotella and above all, Mike Moustakas.

First-round pick Moustakas is leading the Naturals in every major offensive category, including home runs, RBI, slugging percentage and on-base percentage.

Who is second in each of those categories?

Clint Robinson.

The 25-year old Robinson was taken by the Royals in the 25th round of the 2007 draft. Robinson grew up just down the road in Jefferson City, Mo., and became a star at Northview High in Dothan, Alabama, and Troy University. He’s risen relatively fast through the Royals’ system, spending just a year each in rookie ball, low-A and high-A before shifting to the Naturals, and Robinson has done extremely well in Arkansas this season, compiling a .318 average plus 16 home runs, 29 doubles and a .990 OPS. It is likely Robinson will move up again next year, especially if Ka’aihue heads to the majors on a permanent basis.

But beyond that, it’s difficult to see where Robinson fits in the organization. But with the Royals, you never know. Remember, at one point Billy Butler was blocked by Mike Sweeney and Ryan Shealy.

MiLB WEEKLY ROUNDUP
AAA – Omaha Royals
Record to date: 46-39, second place in the PCL American North

The past week: 4-3. The O-Royals have won their last three games.

Transactions: Rick Ankiel’s rehab assignment in Omaha began; Edwin Bellorin was traded to Houston for a player to be named later; Louis Coleman and Manny Pina were promoted to Omaha from Northwest Arkansas; and Barry Bowden was sent down to the Naturals.

Coming up: The O-Royals finish up a series at home against Albany this weekend, then the team will enjoy two days off before the AAA All-Star Game in Allentown, Pa., on July 14. Then they end next week kicking off an eight-game road trip to Nashville and Memphis.

AA – Northwest Arkansas Naturals
Record to date: 11-2 in the second half (first place), 52-30 overall

The past week: The Naturals have won an impressive eight games in a row, including sweeps of San Antonio and Corpus Christi.

Transactions: Barry Bowden was sent down to the Naturals from Omaha and then quickly sent down again to high-A Wilmington; Louis Coleman and Manny Pina were promoted to the O-Royals; Ben Theriot, Chris Dwyer and Jamie Romak were promoted to the Naturals from Wilmington; and Mike Moustakas was placed on the Temporary Inactive List for the Futures Game.

Coming up: The Naturals begin the week with a three-game set on the road against Corpus Christi, then after an off day they return home to face Springfield.

A+ – Wilmington Blue Rocks
Record to date: 10-5 in the first half (first place), 42-43 overall

The past week: The Blue Rocks were 5-2 over the past week, including winning the last three in a row.

Transactions: Devon Lowery was promoted from Idaho Falls; Ben Theriot, Chris Dwyer and Jamie Romak were promoted to the Naturals from Wilmington; and William Myers was promoted from Burlington.

Coming up: The Blue Rocks begin a long homestand with three games against Myrtle Beach, followed by a four-game set with Frederick.

POSITION PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Scott Thorman, DH, Omaha Royals
.348 AVG (8-for-23), three runs, two doubles, two home runs, eight RBI, three walks
Thorman has been one of the O-Royals’ most consistent hitters this season, and he’s really ramped it up over the last 10 games, with a .333 average, three home runs and 11 RBIs. The 28-year-old Thorman is the typical Minor League lifer – he’s been shuffled around to various organizations and has spent parts of two seasons in the Show. Perhaps his recent hot streak will earn him another chance at Major League glory.
PITCHER OF THE WEEK
Christopher Dwyer, Northwest Arkansas Naturals
Five innings, three hits, no runs, two walks, four strikeouts
Dwyer began the season with A+ Wilmington, but a 6-3 record with a 2.99 ERA earned him a promotion to Northwest Arkansas. The lefty pitched his first game for the Naturals this week, and he continued to impress, allowing no earned runs in five innings and picking up a win against Corpus Christi.

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