Tag Archive | "Road Games"

Triple Play: Michael Cuddyer, Jeff Francoeur, Lance Berkman

This week’s Triple Play finds us at the half-way point of the season. As the All-Star break comes into view, we look at a record-setting Rockies outfielder, the end of an error in Kansas City, our weekly Wainwright Walk Watch, and more. Off we go:

AndrewMcCutchen2

Who’s Hot?

Michael Cuddyer, Colorado Rockies

At first glance, it looks like Cuddyer picked a perfect time to go on an extended hot streak. With shortstop and team leader Troy Tulowitzki injured and not expected back until mid-to-late July, Cuddyer has set a Rockies franchise record for longest hitting streak (27 games). During that time, he has put up a .344/.370/.563 batting line, with five home runs, 14 RBI, and 15 runs scored. If you look a little closer, though, you see that Cuddyer has been hitting well all season:

  • April – .313/383/.563, .946 OPS
  • May – .396/.441/.660, 1.101 OPS
  • June – .352/.381/.593, .975

For the season, Cuddyer has mashed 14 home runs, 48 RBI, scored 38 runs and even swiped six bases. After injuries contributed to a disappointing 2012, Rockies fans are seeing why the team was willing to sign Cuddyer to a three-year, $31.5 million dollar deal before the 2012 season. He hasn’t just been a Coors Field hitter, either; he has more extra-base hits and RBI in road games. With the Rockies’ historical propensity to struggle on the road, that has been a godsend for the team. Cuddyer’s history (lifetime .275/.344/.462 hitter) suggests that he will not continue this pace, but given how the Rockies have scuffled without Tulo (6-10 while on the DL), they have to be thrilled with what Cuddyer has given them this season. If you own him in your fantasy league, it might be time to consider selling high; his value will never be higher.

Who’s Not?

Jeff Francoeur, Kansas City Royals

Royals fans rejoice! Your team has finally seen the light. You will no longer have to suffer through watching Jeff Francouer bumble his way through another terrible at-bat, as he was designated for assignment Saturday. Maybe it was the batting average (.209). Maybe it was the complete and utter lack of production since May 1 (2 HR, 6 RBI, 9 runs). Whatever the case, Frenchy’s time in Kansas City is over. Royals fans can look forward to watching David Lough and Jarrod Dyson share duties in right field for the remainder of the season (barring a trade, of course). For the season, Francoeur has tallied just 3 homers and 13 RBI in 182 at-bats over 58 games. As June went on, the Royals began to play Lough more and more while Francoeur found himself on the bench. Once the fleet-footed Dyson was activated from the DL, the choice became clear: the team would be far better served by giving extended playing time to the 27-year-old Lough and 28-year-old Dyson instead of the 29-year-old Francoeur. Seeing that Frenchy is only 29 made me do a double take. Doesn’t it seem like he has been around for about about 15 years? Maybe that’s just how it feels to watch him flail away helplessly at the plate night after night.

In any case, it has become clear that he does not belong in the major leagues. Naturally, the New York media immediately speculated that the Mets may be interested in bringing Francoeur back. Considering that the Mets’ outfield Saturday consisted of Eric Young Jr, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Marlon Byrd (and their signing of Rick Ankiel already this season), one can never be sure.

Playing the Name Game

Player A: 31 HR, 80 RBI, 60 runs, .329/.408/.724, 201 OPS+

Player B: 25 HR, 82 RBI, 64 runs, .373/.463/.676, 202 OPS+

Player A is Chris Davis. Like a certain commercial character, Davis just keeps going and going and…..well, you get the idea. After belting two more home runs in Saturday’s win over the Yankees, Davis became the first player in baseball history to belt at least 30 home runs and 25 doubles by the end of June (according to the Elias Sports Bureau). In addition to 50 doubles, he is on pace for 60 homers, 158 RBI, 118 runs scored and a .333 batting average. As it is, Davis has already met or exceeded many of the SEASON projections analysts forecasted for him. If things continue this way, the Davis/Tommy Hunter-for-Koji Uehara trade is going to go down as one of the greatest in Orioles history.

Meanwhile, Miguel Cabrera (Player B) has been so ridiculously good for so long now that we take it for granted. Going into Sunday’s games, Cabrera led the American League in the following categories: hits (118), runs scored, RBI, walks (48), on-base percentage, OPS (1.139), and park-adjusted OPS+. He is on pace for a 49-166-129-.374 batting line this season, which would actually surpass his Triple Crown-winning season in 2012. Watching these two players slug it out for the rest of the season is going to be great fun.

Player A: .324/.428/.351, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 2 SB, 9 runs

Player B: .466/.578/.889, 3 HR, 18 RBI, 5 SB, 11 runs

Player A is the Yankees’ Robinson Cano, generally considered the best second baseman in the American League (particularly in fantasy baseball). Player B is Cleveland’s Jason Kipnis. Over the past two weeks, nobody in baseball – not Chris Davis, not Miguel Cabrera, not Pedro Alvarez, not Michael Cuddyer – has been hotter than the Tribe’s 26-year-old middle sacker. Cano is on pace for a 30 HR-100 RBI-10 SB-90 run season, which is elite territory in fantasy baseball for second baseman. Kipnis is on pace for 25-105-39-90, which would better Cano in every category except home runs. Considering the dearth of speed in fantasy baseball these days, the extra steals give Kipnis a bump in value over Cano. At 26, Kipnis figures to only get better. As a fan of Kipnis going into the 2012 season, I’m calling it now: by the end of 2013, he will end the season as the top-rated fantasy second baseman in the American League. That’s not a knock on Cano, who remains the top power-hitting second baseman in either league. But a player who can offer 25-homer/40-steal potential is worth top dollar – and Kipnis is that guy.

Random Thoughts

  • Wainwright Walk Watch: Adam Wainwright pitched 37 innings this season before walking his first batter. Since then, he has continued to be the stingiest starting pitcher in baseball when it comes to issuing free passes. As such, we are tracking his total for the 2013 season. Saturday night, Wainwright rebounded from a couple of tough starts to handcuff the Oakland A’s in a 7-1 victory. The Cardinals’ ace fanned eight batters, allowed five hits and walked a pair while improving his record to 11-5. For the season, Wainwright has punched out 114 batters while walking just 12; that 9.5 ratio is still tops in the National League, although it has dropped from the double-digit ratio it had been throughout the season. In the American League, only Bartolo Colon has a similar walk total (13), but Colon has struck out barely half the hitters as Wainwright. The American League leader in K/BB ratio is Seattle’s Hisashi Iwakuma, at 5.94. That measure tells you just how in control Wainwright has been this season.
  • Scheduled pitchers for St. Louis against the Angels this week are Lance Lynn, Shelby Miller, and Wainwright. Wainwright vs. Pujols will be some must-see TV on Thursday. Get your popcorn ready.
  • Pittsburgh is the first team in 2013 to win 50 games, marking the first time that has happened since 1960. You might recall that the season ended pretty happily for the Pirates and their fans that year.
  • Speaking of the Pirates, here’s an idea: trade for Cliff Lee. The Phillies aren’t going anywhere this season and need to rebuild. Pittsburgh has a deep farm system and a real chance to play October baseball for the first time in 21 years. Lee would represent a huge financial commitment for the Pirates ($25 million per season through 2015) and would probably require the Pirates to surrender two or three of their best prospects. Yes, that is an exorbitant price. But it’s been 21 years. An entire generation of Pittsburgh fans has no idea what it is like for the local baseball team to be good. Acquiring Lee to anchor the rotation would send a message that there will be no collapse like 2011-12.
  • Incidentally, for those of you wondering why Dustin Pedroia wasn’t included in the Kipnis/Cano note above about the best second basemen in the AL, it’s very simple: you all get back to me when he has more home runs than Brian Dozier and we’ll talk. The laser show has gotten pretty lame.
  • There doesn’t seem to be much middle ground in a Derek Holland start. It’s either the penthouse or the outhouse. You either get the complete-game, two-hit shutout version like the Yankees saw last Thursday night, or you’re stuck with the version that allowed a combined 20 baserunners in 10 1/3 innings and eight runs earlier this month versus the Blue Jays and Indians. I’m sure Ron Washington wishes he knew which one he would get every fifth day.
  • All the Alex Rodriguez drama has overshadowed the Yankees’ tailspin. Since June 1, when New York was one game back in the AL East, they are 11-16 and have lost five in a row. They find themselves two games away from the division basement. Is that where they will be when Derek Jeter returns to the field?
  • The Giants are in trouble as well. After being swept by Colorado, the defending world champions have sunk to fourth in the NL West, only one game ahead of last-place Los Angeles. Guess who is headed to the bay for a weekend series?
  • Sunday’s win over the Rockies notwithstanding, the Giants’ offense has been putrid since losing outfielder Angel Pagan to injury. Buster Posey can’t carry the team by himself.
  • In related news, Francoeur’s agent already has called Giants’ GM Brian Sabean (NOTE: I have no more evidence of this than any other baseball writer).
  • Despite not playing since May 26, Bryce Harper ranks 2nd on the Nationals in home runs, 4th in RBI, and 5th in runs scored. No wonder Washington is 14th in the NL in hitting. Safe to say he’ll be welcomed back this week with open arms.
  • Lance Berkman Is A National Treasure, Volume 58: the Big Puma evidently slipped and fell down the stairs of the Rangers’ charter plane after returning home from New York last week, making for a sore knee and some missed games. A reporter asked Berkman if it was just a freak accident. “No,” Berkman replied, “Premeditated.”  How great is that?

Follow me on Twitter: @ccaylor10

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Triple Play: Oakland A’s, Rick Ankiel, Vernon Wells

Welcome to this week’s Triple Play. This week, we examine the hottest team in baseball, take a look at what could be the end of one of the most fascinating careers in recent baseball history, and more (including our weekly Wainwright Walk Watch). Off we go:

RickAnkiel

Who’s Hot?

Oakland Athletics

Here they go again. The A’s are on another one of their white-hot streaks. Since last losing two games in a row on May 14-15 versus the Rangers, the A’s have gone 18-5 and now sit a half-game behind first-place Texas in the AL West. It’s not just a home-field advantage, either; Oakland has played 15 road games during this stretch. Whereas previous A’s teams have had dominating starting pitching, it is the bullpen that has been the most dominating feature of the 2013 team. Closer Grant Balfour and setup men Sean Doolittle and Ryan Cook have slammed the door on the opposition, each boasting an ERA below 2.00 and park-adjusted ERA+ numbers over 200. The rotation is anchored by 40-year-old Bartolo Colon, who has walked six batters in 77 innings this season. He doesn’t strike out batters the way he used to, but he adapted quite well, as demonstrated by his two complete-game shutouts. Everyone else in the A’s rotation is 26 or younger. The oldest position player is 33-year-old outfielder Coco Crisp, who serves as the team’s spark plug, with a .383 on-base percentage, 13 steals, 40 runs scored and 22 RBI. The blossoming star of the team, though, is outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, who leads the team with 13 home runs, despite hitting only .236/.305/.492. The flashes of brilliance from the 27-year-old Cuban defector are tantalizing, to say the least. But the real revelation this season has been third baseman Josh Donaldson, who we discussed in last week’s Triple Play. His .328/.395/.528-9-42-2-33 hitting line has deepened the A’s lineup and eased pressure on Josh Reddick, who has battled injuries and an awful slump so far this season. Obviously, the A’s won’t continue to play at a .750-plus clip, but even if with the inevitable regression to the means, they have a strong enough team to be the challenger to the Texas Rangers that most analysts expected the Los Angeles Angels to be. Underestimate the Athletics at your own risk.

 

Who’s Not?

Rick Ankiel, New York Mets/???

Unfortunately, it looks like this might be the end of the line for one of the most intriguing players of the past 12-15 years. The Mets, desperate for competent outfielders, designated Ankiel for assignment prior to Sunday’s game against the Marlins. If this is in fact the end for Ankiel, Saturday’s game was not a satisfying conclusion: four at-bats in the 20-inning marathon, three strikeouts. Between his time this season with the Astros and Mets, Ankiel did manage to bash seven home runs and drive in 18, but he hit just .188/.235/.422 with 60 strikeouts in 136 plate appearances and drew only eight walks. His combined OPS+ was 79. That was just too far below replacement level for any team to accept. Since leaving the St. Louis Cardinals after the 2009 season, Ankiel played for the Royals, Braves, Nationals, Astros and Mets. He was a serviceable part-time player with Washington in 2011, but was overexposed due to too much playing time. Since then, his strike zone discipline, never great to begin with, has further deteriorated. The Mets are going nowhere this season and are much better served to give Kirk Nieuwenhuis, 25, and Juan Lagares, 24, a chance to stick in the majors. If it is in fact the end for Ankiel, he can look back at two distinctly different career paths – both of which ended up in the major leagues. From the dominating rookie year, to the shocking meltdown in the 2000 playoffs, to the switch from pitcher to outfielder, to the legendary home run in his first game back in the majors as an outfielder (all with the Cardinals), to the journey around baseball as a part-time player, Ankiel has had one of the most fascinating careers of any professional athlete. He will, and should, be remembered as one of the most unique baseball players of his generation.

Playing the Name Game

Player A: 4-6, 5.82 ERA, 1.59 WHIP, 78 ERA+

Player B: 2-4, 6.30 ERA, 1.65 WHIP, 72 ERA+

Talk about ugly. Player A is Jon Garland, who was designated for assignment Saturday by the Colorado Rockies. Player B is Jeff Francis, who replaced Garland in the rotation Saturday and pitched four largely ineffective innings in his return. Remember that scene in The Last Boy Scout, where Bruce Willis’ character catches his best friend hiding in his bedroom closet and asks him “head or gut?” That’s the kind of choice that Rockies fans have to endure with these two pitchers. Frankly, neither one has any business being on a major-league roster. Garland was tolerable in April, but has been shellacked regularly since then. Francis, who barely throws harder than knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, is hopefully just holding a place in the Rockies’ rotation until Roy Oswalt is ready to go (he is scheduled for two more starts at Double-A Tulsa). If you are a fantasy owner who actually had Garland or Francis on your team, your first move isn’t to dump them from your roster – it’s to ask yourself whether you should even be playing fantasy baseball in the first place.

Player A: .241/.285/.409, 10 HR, 25 RBI, 4 SB, 25 runs

Player B: .220/.364/.429, 10 HR, 31 RBI, 1 SB, 26 runs

Player A is the Yankees’ Vernon Wells. Player B is Josh Willingham of the Twins. Remember Wells’ fast start, where he smacked six homers and slugged .544 with a .911 OPS in April? Yeah, that’s just a fond memory now. Wells may as well be wearing concrete shoes with the way he is sinking. It started in May, when his average slumped to .221, but he hit four more homers and ended the month with 24 RBI. He was still being reasonably productive, especially considering what had been expected of him before the season started. The wheels have completely come off the wagon now. Wells is hitting a pathetic .115 in June with no extra-base hits. If fantasy owners haven’t dumped him yet, the time has probably come. Willingham, on the other hand, might be snapping out of a funk that dogged him the entire month of May. Since the calendar flipped to June, though, Willingham has hit a home run and driven in six. Despite the poor May, Willingham is still on pace to hit 28 dingers and drive in close to 90. Hopefully you weren’t expecting the 34-year-old to repeat the 35-110-85 line he put up in 2012, as that was clearly an outlier compared to the rest of his career. Isn’t it interesting, though, how similar these two stat lines are for these two players? One is slumping his way to the bench, while the other is showing signs of heating up.

Random Thoughts

  • Time for our weekly Wainwright Walk Watch. All season long, we are keeping track of how stingy the Cardinals’ ace is being with the free passes. In his most recent start Friday night against the rival Reds, Adam Wainwright tossed another seven brilliant innings, striking out seven Reds and issuing just one walk. That brings his season total to seven walks (in an NL-leading 96 innings), versus 91 strikeouts. His K/BB ratio is 13-to-1, still tops in either league. He has also allowed only two home runs this season.
  • Kyle Blanks, who looks like a defensive end trying his hand at baseball, is giving San Diego’s lineup a much needed jolt of power (6 HR, 21 RBI, 17 runs) since being recalled in mid-April. Chris Denorfia and Will Venable are acceptable 4th outfielders, but neither has any business playing regularly ahead of Blanks.
  • I don’t understand all the surprise about Jeff Baker and his 8 home runs for the Rangers this season. He’s not an unknown rookie, folks. In 2008, he thumped 12 long balls with the Rockies. He held the utility job with the Cubs from 2009-12 (until Theo Epstein started his Windy City rebuilding project). Always had some pop in his bat; now he’s in a great hitter’s park. Perfect situation for Baker.
  • Speaking of puzzling fantasy analysis, what’s with all the love for Casey Kotchman in Miami? He was the Opening Day first baseman, but was injured April 3 spent two months on the disabled list. Upon his return, he’s gone 0-for-16. He doesn’t have a hit this season. All he was doing is filling a roster spot until the REAL first baseman of the Marlins’ future returned: Logan Morrison (who was activated Sunday). That’s the name that smart fantasy analysts should have been filing away.
  • Tell me whether you recognize this feeling: you see a slugfest, like the Padres-Rockies 11-9 game Friday night and you think to yourself “Sweet! Lots of fantasy goodness here!” Then you check the boxscore and…..nothing. Your fantasy player contributed a big fat ZERO to the game (coughChaseHeadleycough). If there is a more annoying feeling in fantasy sports, I don’t know what it is.
  • Is the Frenchy love-fest finally over in Kansas City? It should be. Jeff Francoeur has been as terrible the past few weeks as well (one measly homer, four extra-base hits, five RBI since May 1). Never a player interested in drawing a walk, Frenchy has seen his OPS drop to a ghastly .375 in June. At least fans can take solace knowing that Wil Myers is on the way….er, um, wait. Never mind.
  • The 18-inning game, 5 ½-hour tilt between the Rangers and Blue Jays on Saturday was the longest game in the history of either franchise.
  • Here are some notes from the longest game of the season, the 20-inning marathon endured by fans Saturday between the Mets and Marlins (won by the Marlins 2-1):
    • The two teams combined to leave 32 men on base (22 by the Mets!) and whiff 35 times.
    • Four pitchers turned in quality starts: original starters Jose Fernandez (6 IP, 1 ER, 7 Ks), Matt Harvey (7 IP, 1 ER, 6 Ks), plus Miami’s Kevin Slowey (7 IP, 8 hits, 8 Ks) and New York’s Shaun Marcum (8 IP, 5 hits, 7 Ks). Despite his yeoman’s job out of the bullpen, Marcum was charged with the loss.
    • Daniel Murphy had two of the most eventful outs of the game: first, he was thrown out at home to end the 12th inning, then his potential game-tying homer was caught on the warning track to end the game.
    • Marlins’ rookie outfielder Marcell Ozuna’s throw to gun down Murphy at the plate was part of a beautiful double play to end the 12th. Ozuna sprinted to the right-field line to rob Marlon Byrd of a hit, then he fired a strike to catcher Rob Brantly, who held on to the ball despite a ferocious collision with Murphy.
    • Entering Sunday’s game, Ozuna is hitting .328 in 35 games since being called up. At 22, he is giving Marlins fans (all six of them) another reason to keep watching while Giancarlo Stanton is on the DL.
    • Mets fans have got to be holding their breath after their ace, Harvey, depart the game with back pain. Harvey and David Wright are all that separates the Mets from being Marlins Part 2.
  • How the Rockies remain above .500 is beyond me. In addition to trotting out Garland and Francis far too often this year, their bullpen (other than Rex Brothers) has been putrid. Friday night, some guy named Rob Scahill allowed five runs without retiring a batter, as the Rockies twice gagged away a six-run lead. I was there. It was one of the worst relief performances I have ever seen in quite some time. Sunday was just as bad. Juan Nicasio was perfect for 5 1/3 innings before tiring. By the time the bullpen finished pouring turpentine on the fire, the Padres had gone from trailing 4-0 to leading 7-4. Even with help on the way (Roy Oswalt, Tyler Chatwood), it’s probably time to start searching for relief help. If the bullpen doesn’t get upgraded soon, all the hitting heroics in the world won’t save the Rockies season.
  • Sending good thoughts to Diamondbacks pitcher Brandon McCarthy. Already on the DL with shoulder inflammation last week, McCarthy suffered a seizure that doctors said was related to his head injury last season. Scary stuff. McCarthy has told reporters that he is fine now. I hope that is truly the case.
  • Finally, heartfelt condolences to the family of legendary Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan, whose wife lost her battle with brain cancer last Thursday. She was just 64.

Follow me on Twitter: @ccaylor10

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St. Louis Cardinals road success could set stage for big summer

The St. Louis Cardinals notched their Major League Baseball-leading 14th road victory Wednesday with a 5-4 win over the Chicago Cubs and continued a trend that could pay off later in the season.

BuschStadiumRightFieldEntrance

The Cardinals are 14-7 away from Busch Stadium and have won more games on the road than eight teams have won at all this season. That’s partially because the Cardinals have also played the most road games in baseball, but it is also the type of record that could set the Cardinals up for a great summer stretch.

The team is just 7-5 at home this season, but they have also played just one team in those 12 games that is under .500 for the season, and that’s the Milwaukee Brewers, who are 15-16.

Coming up, the Kansas City Royals will be the only team above .500 the Cardinals will face at home in May before the San Francisco Giants and Arizona Diamondbacks visit during the first week of June.

So expectations have to be increasingly high for a team that has jumped to the best record in the National League while playing 21 of 33 games on the road and many of them being against quality opponents.

Their 21-12 record is also surprising, given the bullpen struggles throughout April, but the bullpen has improved significantly of late and hasn’t blown a lead since Joe Kelly imploded by giving up four runs April 27 to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the seventh inning of a 5-3 loss.

Since then, the team has won seven of its next 10 games and pulled out to a three-game lead over the Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates heading into play Thursday.

Not many people expected the Cardinals to be this good, especially this early in the season. If anything, the Reds were supposed to run away with the division, but they are 19-16, including a 6-10 record on the road.

In fact, the Cardinals are one of just seven teams to have a winning road record so far this season, but it is a large determining factor in success because all but two of those teams, the Diamondbacks and Cleveland Indians, are first or second in their division.

Now, however, the Cardinals will have to maintain their pace in upcoming games at Busch Stadium against the Colorado Rockies, New York Mets and the Brewers because this is a wonderful opportunity to bank wins while the team has a generally healthy roster, a starting rotation that is putting up historic numbers and a bullpen that looks as though it can hold a lead in the late innings.

Four relievers combined to give up no runs and just two hits in the final 3.2 innings Wednesday against the Cubs after Jake Westbrook allowed four runs and nine hits in his 5.1 innings.

That kind of relief performance is what it is going to take for the Cardinals to maintain their success. The starting rotation has combined for a historically low 2.25 earned-run average so far this season, but it is not going to be able to keep that pace throughout the season.

But, it saved the Cardinals through the first month and perhaps the bullpen is coming around at the perfect time.

That could make for a lot of fun summer nights this season at Busch Stadium.

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Changes continue to confound Jaime Garcia

St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Jaime Garcia is one of the most dominating pitchers on the team when everything around him is satisfactory. When it’s not, a team such as the Philadelphia Phillies can tag him for eight runs in three innings, as they did Friday in Philadelphia.

JaimeGarcia

Garcia has struggled on the road throughout his career. He has a 15-12 record with a 4.40 earned-run average in road games, but he is 20-11 with a 2.45 ERA in his career at Busch Stadium where he is more familiar with the surroundings and can comfortably prepare for a game the same way every time.

But one more change might have factored into Friday’s poor performance. Regular catcher Yadier Molina had a day off for the first time all season. Tony Cruz got the start instead.

So without his regular home routine and normal catcher, Garcia gave up eight runs on nine hits and two walks. Sure, third baseman Ty Wigginton made a throwing error in the first inning to make four of their eight runs unearned, but four of the Phillies hits went for extra bases, so Garcia got hit around regardless.

Unfortunately, Garcia has too many of those nights, and that keeps him from being one of the better pitchers on not only the Cardinals, but in Major League Baseball.

He has the stuff. He throws his fastball in the low 90s with movement, he has a knee-buckling curveball and owns a changeup that is as good as any top-tier left-handed starter in the game. And when he has those pitches working correctly, he has the potential to throw a no-hitter.

But he also has nights when he can’t command those pitches and simply gets crushed.

That has been the main problem Garcia has fought throughout his five-year career. He looks like a pitcher who can dominate, and at times he does, but mind games tend to get in the way of him being a consistent pitcher who can fill a spot near the top of the rotation.

The problem is Garcia now has five years of big-league experience, and he hasn’t been able to get over those issues.

The Cardinals are aware of these issues. They’ve even manipulated the rotation in recent years to try to minimize the times Garcia has to pitch on the road.

And while it’s great his team is trying to help him out, Garcia has to get past those concentration issues at some point or he is going to become the next Oliver Perez, a left-handed starter who came up with the San Diego Padres in 2002.

Perez, who is now a reliever for the Seattle Mariners, had electric stuff when he debuted and even posted a 2.98 ERA with 12 wins for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2004, but his inconsistency kept him from being Johan Santana or any number of other great left-handed starters.

For the most part, Garcia has had a good start to his 2013 season. He pitched well in spring training after recovering from a shoulder injury and started this season well in his first start on the road. He held the Arizona Diamondbacks to one run in 5.2 innings April 2 in Phoenix and then made two solid starts at home before the Phillies shelled him Friday.

Maybe Molina’s absence had more to do with the poor outing than anything, or perhaps he simply had an off night. All pitchers do. But Garcia is going to have to get beyond those relatively minor differences in each start if he is going to not only help the Cardinals in 2013, but also live up to his long-term potential.

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Fans Decide The Cap

CardsCap

ST. LOUIS, Mo. (March 26, 2013) – The Cardinals are giving fans the opportunity to put the finishing touch on the 2013 uniforms by allowing them to decide which color cap the players will wear during road games this season. The team is taking a new approach to gauging fan sentiment by adding a social media polling option to the more traditional web vote.

“We want to let our fans decide whether they want our players to wear red caps or blue caps when the team is on the road,” said William DeWitt III, President of the Cardinals. “We also wanted to have a little fun by getting our fans to engage via social media to gauge how intensely they feel about the options.”

For the next two days, fans can go online to cardinals.com/redvsblue to vote for their favorite cap and uniform combination. The team’s Twitter followers will have a chance to sway the final outcome in a one-day Twitter vote on Thursday. Fans may vote for any of the following four options:

1.      #AllBlueSTL:  Continue to wear blue STL caps during road games red STL caps at home

2.      #AllRedSTL: Wear red STL caps during both road and home games

3.      #BluevsRed: Wear blue STL caps on the road but only when playing against red teams

4.      #GetawayDays: Wear blue STL caps on road “getaway days” (the last game of each road series)

Throughout today and Wednesday, all fans may vote online at cardinals.com/redvsblue, opting to vote for as many of the options and as frequently as they’d like. After the polls close oncardinals.com/redvsblue, Cardinals Twitter followers will have the final say with tweeted votes all day Thursday. Fans may tweet using the designated hash tag for the cap color of their choice. Each tweet will be counted as a single vote. Fans may tweet as often as they like, but only one hashtag per tweet will be tallied. The Cardinals will add the Tweet tally to the rest of online voting, and the final result will be announced once all of the votes are tabulated.

The Cardinals have most currently worn navy blue STL caps during all road games and red STL caps at home – with the exception of Spring Training games in which they wear the traditional red home caps for both home and road games.

In November, the St. Louis Cardinals unveiled new uniforms for the 2013 season, the first update to the teams’ wardrobe in more than a decade. For the first time in more than 80 years, the team will wear an alternate uniform on Saturdays that will feature “St. Louis” in place of “Cardinals” on the jersey. In addition, all the team’s jerseys (home, road, home alternate) will feature more detail in the embroidery, consistent with the graphical logo used by the club since 1998. The cap color change marks the finishing touch on the 2013 uniform updates.

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Royals And Fox Sports KC Announce Schedule

KANSAS CITY, MO (January 31, 2013) – The Kansas City Royals and FOX Sports Kansas City today announced a 142-game television schedule for the 2013 season, featuring two exhibition games and 140 regular season games.

FSKC

The Royals and FOX Sports Kansas City are entering the sixth season of a long-term agreement in which FOX Sports Kansas City is the exclusive television home of Royals baseball.  The 140-game regular season television schedule features 67 road games and 73 from Kauffman Stadium.  Every game on FOX Sports Kansas City will be preceded by a 30-minute pre-game show, “Hy-Vee Royals Live,” and followed by the “Boulevard Royals Live” post-game show.  All 140 regular season telecasts will be presented in High Definition.

FOX Sports Kansas City’s coverage of Royals baseball kicks off with a Spring Training telecast from Surprise, Ariz., on Monday, March 25, when the Royals host the Los Angeles Dodgers at 8:05 p.m. (CDT).  A second exhibition game will be broadcast on Wednesday, March 27, when Kansas City hosts the Chicago Cubs, also at 8:05 p.m. (CDT).

FSKC will air Kansas City’s Opening Day contest on April 1 at Chicago as well as the April 8 home opener vs. Minnesota.

Ryan Lefebvre will call 90 regular season games and one exhibition for Fox Sports Kansas City and Steve Physioc will provide the play-by-play on 50 games during the season and one exhibition.  Rex Hudler will return for his second season as the analyst and Royals’ Hall of Famer, Jeff Montgomery, will provide analysis throughout the season on Royals Live with host Joel Goldberg.

The complete season schedule with telecasts is listed on the attached schedule, which you can download by clicking here.  All game times and the TV schedule are subject to change.

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Royals And Fox Sports Announce Schedule And Announcers

KANSAS CITY, MO (February 10, 2012) – The Kansas City Royals and FOX Sports Kansas City today announced a 142-game television schedule for the 2012 season, featuring two exhibition games and 140 regular season games.

The Royals and FOX Sports Kansas City are entering the fifth season of a long-term agreement in which FOX Sports Kansas City is the exclusive television home of Royals baseball.  The 140-game regular season television schedule features 66 road games and 74 from Kauffman Stadium.  Every game on FOX Sports Kansas City will be preceded by a 30-minute pre-game show, “Hy-Vee Royals Live,” and followed by the “Boulevard Royals Live” post-game show.  All 140 regular season telecasts will be presented in High Definition.

In the booth, Ryan Lefebvre returns for his fifth season as the play-by-play voice of the Royals on FOX Sports Kansas City and he will be joined in 2012 by former major leaguer Rex Hudler as the analyst.  Also joining the Royals’ broadcast booth this year is play-by-play announcer and Kansas State University alum, Steve Physioc.  Both Physioc and Hudler worked together in the television booth of the Angels for 11 seasons.  Lefebvre and Physioc have each agreed to multi-year contracts, with Ryan slated for 90 regular season telecasts while Steve provides the call on 50 games.

“During the winter months, Ryan relayed to us a desire to expand his responsibilities and have a larger presence in the radio booth, thus bringing in a strong veteran announcer like Steve Physioc enabled us to give Ryan that flexibility,” said Mike Swanson, Royals Vice President of Communications and Broadcasting.  “The addition of Steve brings a familiar voice back home to the Midwest and affords us the luxury of having both he and Ryan on radio and television throughout the season.  As for the addition of Rex, he was a ‘run through a wall’ type of player and brings that same high-energy style to the broadcast booth.  His enthusiasm for the game of baseball is infectious and it translates very well on the air.”

“This is a great day for our broadcast team,” said Lefebvre.  “For me professionally, I get to work with two of the most enthusiastic and respected men in our business, and personally, I’m grateful the Royals have allowed me to return to the Royals radio booth in a larger role.”

FOX Sports Kansas City’s coverage of Royals baseball kicks off with a Spring Training telecast from Surprise, Ariz., on Friday, March 30, when the Royals host the Chicago White Sox at 8:05 p.m. (CDT).  A second exhibition game will be broadcast on Tuesday, April 3, when Kansas City visits the San Diego Padres at PETCO Park in a 9:05 p.m. (CDT) start.

FSKC will air Kansas City’s Opening Day contest on April 6 at the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

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Royals Announce 2012 Regular Season Schedule

Royals Announce 2012 Regular Season Schedule
Home opener scheduled for April 13 vs. Cleveland

Kauffman

KANSAS CITY, MO (September 14, 2011) — In conjunction with Major League Baseball, the Kansas City Royals today announced their 2012 regular season schedule. Opening Day is scheduled for Friday, April 6 when the Royals visit the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium. It marks the fifth time in franchise history that the Royals have opened against the Angels (1971, 1973, 1975 and 2011), the fourth time in Anaheim. Kansas City will begin the home schedule on April 13 vs. Cleveland at 3:10 p.m.

Kansas City will host Interleague matchups against Arizona (May 18-20), Milwaukee (June 12-14) and St. Louis (June 22-24). The road Interleague schedule consists of visits to Pittsburgh (June 8-10), St. Louis (June 15-17) and Houston (June 18-20).

Kansas City’s holiday schedule sees the Royals at home on Labor Day vs. Texas (September 3), and on the road at the Angels on Easter (April 8), in Chicago on Mother’s Day (May 13), at Cleveland on Memorial Day (May 28), in St. Louis for Father’s Day (June 17) and in Toronto on July 4th.

The month-by-month home game features: April – 10; May – 12; June – 15; July – 11; August – 15; September – 15; October – 3. The Royals will host a pair of 10-game homestands, first from April 13 to 23 and again after the All-Star Game from July 13 to 22. The club’s longest road trip is a 10-game stretch from June 29 to July 8.

In addition to the 3:10 start for the home opener, the Royals host 1:10 weekday contests on May 17 vs. Baltimore, June 6 vs. Minnesota, June 27 vs. Tampa Bay and July 19 vs. Seattle.

Standard start times for all other contests at Kauffman Stadium in 2012 are:
Monday through Friday: 7:10 p.m.
Saturday: 6:10 p.m.
Sunday: 1:10 p.m.

The complete 2012 schedule is attached with game times for home contests. Times for road games will be announced at a later date. The game dates and times are subject to change.

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Prime Time Playing

Our generation of sports fan has been influenced immensely by the players that can dial it up another notch and perform at a higher level when the spotlight falls directly on their shoulders. Football great Deion Sanders made a career out of it and introduced a nation of sports fans to the term “primetime” in a whole new way.

ESPNMLB

The St. Louis Cardinals will play tonight against the Colorado Rockies in St. Louis. The game will mark the eleventh time this season that the Cardinals will find themselves aired on ESPN as a featured game. The spotlight has burned bright on the team with only the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, and Philadelphia Phillies having appeared more times on the national stage. Their Rockies will make their second appearance on the network this season, having lost in Philadelphia on May 18th.

The bright lights of center stage have not treated the Cardinals well, dealing them losses at home against the Padres on March 31, the Giants on June 1, the Phillies on June 22, and the rival Cubs on July 31. They have also lost road games in Chicago to the Cubs on May 11 and New York to the Mets on July 20. They have only managed to win four of the ten games broadcast by the sports network, all of which occurred at home, defeating the Reds on April 24, the Phillies on May 16, the Giants on May 31 and the Reds on July 5. Overall, the Cardinals are 4-6 when featured on the network with all four wins coming at home. Over the course of ten games, while it is a small sample size, we find much of the same story lines that have made up the Cardinals season.

Five different starters have taken the mound this season for the Cardinals in these situations with Jake Westbrook starting in half of them himself. Westbrook’s five starts have resulted in a 2-2 record with one no decision. To his credit, he has one start that lasted six innings of shutout ball and another that was seven innings with only one run crossing the plate for his wins. However, consistency has not been the Cardinals strong point this season and Westbrook has also put up a six inning-four run outing and a two and one third inning-six run debacle in his losses. In his no decision, he would give up three runs over five and a third innings.

Jaime Garcia holds the only other Cardinal victory for the starting rotation, having pitched well in the July 5 game against the Reds. Jaime would only go six innings in that game but would also only surrender one run, strike out four, and walk three gaining his eighth win of the season.

Kyle Lohse is the only other starter that has taken a decision, having taken a heart breaking loss to the Phillies on June 22. Lohse, who holds the best earned run average and longest start of any Cardinals pitcher this year during ESPN games, would go eight innings and surrender three runs and be saddled with his fourth loss of the season as the Cardinals would get shut out 4-0.

The remaining three games would be split between the team’s ace, Chris Carpenter, who started in two of them and the man that has been relocated to the bullpen, Kyle McClellan, who has appeared as a starter and a reliever. Carpenter has pitched well, giving up two runs in each game, one over five innings and the other over seven. While he has not been lights out on national broadcasts, he has been very impressive for a guy that does not get a win in either game. McClellan’s start looks very similar to the majority of his starts this season having lasted six innings and allowing four runs while walking two and striking out two.

A look at the starting pitching stats for ESPN games this season
Pitcher G IP H R ER BB SO HR ERA
Chris Carpenter 2 12 9 4 4 4 12 0 3.00
Jaime Garcia 1 6 2 1 1 3 4 0 3.23
Jake Westbrook 5 27 25 13 13 12 13 0 4.33
Kyle Lohse 1 8 7 3 3 0 0 2 2.91
Kyle McClellan 1 6 6 4 4 2 2 1 4.34

The bullpen has not been overly impressive but the also have not been overly disappointing in prime time games on ESPN. Due largely in part to solid performances from closer Fernando Salas and setup man Jason Motte, the bullpen has maintained a good presence when being showcased to the nation.

A look at the relief pitching stats for ESPN games this season
Pitcher G IP H R ER BB SO HR ERA
Fernando Salas 5 5.1 5 2 2 1 4 1 3.53
Jason Motte 4 4.1 4 2 1 1 4 0 2.20
Kyle McClellan 1 2 4 2 2 0 2 1 4.30
Mitchell Boggs 4 4 4 2 2 3 7 2 4.50

The offense has not exactly taken to the spotlight for a reason to break out of the funk fans have found it in all season long. Struggling superstars, surprising production elsewhere and mediocre numbers have littered the season and nationally broadcast ESPN games would be no different.

When you are on the big stage, you turn to your big stars to produce. There is little doubt who the big offensive stars of the St. Louis Cardinals are, the combination of Lance Berkman, Matt Holliday and Albert Pujols have had people talking off and on all season long. The biggest surprise of the season has been Lance Berkman. While his numbers on ESPN games are nothing to be laughed at, they are not quite as dominant as his season would suggest. He has managed a pair of home runs, five runs, five runs batted in, and a .265 batting average to go along with a disappointing 12 strikeouts. Albert Pujols has continued his frustrations in big spots this year and the national spotlight will show no difference. The best hitter in the game has only two extra base hits, both doubles, two runs scored, three runs batted in and an abysmal .207 batting average. The one stat that has seemed to haunt the big slugger this year rears its ugly head here as well, Albert has grounded into four double plays over the ten games in front of the world. Matt Holliday is the saving grace for the powerful trio, having hit .310 with a double, three home runs, seven runs, and eight runs batted in. Holliday went deep twice in the July 5 game with the Cincinnati Reds, driving in four runs in that game alone.

Sometimes, when faced with the big stage, players that are sometimes overlooked due to the stars on the team start to produce at a higher level. Sometimes they follow suit and under-perform themselves. David Freese, who was injured for much of the season during these games, has not been able to seize the opportunity to step out from the shadows a bit and show that he can be the clutch performer the Cardinals expect him to be. In seventeen at bats on ESPN this season, Freese has yet to notch a run batted in or a run scored and is hitting just .235. Yadier Molina has shown a consistent bat throughout this season and has managed to post a .344 batting average in front of the world this season. Add in three runs scored and four runs batted in to go with a home run and Molina seems to be enjoying the attention.

Delving deeper past the players considered to be stars and looking at the supporting staff finds a few guys that are performing well in the spotlight, namely, Ryan Theriot. Theriot has been very impressive on ESPN games this year, posting a .367 batting average while driving in five runs and scoring two more of his own. Meanwhile, his frequent partner in the middle infield Skip Schumaker has shown that he is not afraid of a little attention himself. Skip is hitting .304 during these games with a pair of doubles, three runs batted in and two runs scored. Finally, Jon Jay continues to try to break out of his shell and does well with a .286 batting average and three runs batted in of his own.

A look at the offensive stats for ESPN games this season
Player AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO Avg
Albert Pujols 29 2 6 2 0 0 3 3 2 .207
Allen Craig 14 2 3 1 1 0 3 0 2 .214
Daniel Descalso 21 2 5 0 1 0 0 4 6 .238
David Freese 17 0 4 1 0 0 0 2 3 .235
Gerald Laird 9 1 3 1 0 0 1 0 4 .333
Jon Jay 28 3 8 1 0 0 3 0 4 .286
Lance Berkman 34 5 9 2 0 2 5 5 12 .265
Matt Holiday 29 7 9 2 0 3 8 3 9 .310
Ryan Theriot 30 2 11 1 0 0 5 5 2 .367
Skip Schumaker 23 3 7 2 0 0 2 0 3 .304
Yadier Molina 32 3 11 0 0 1 4 2 3 .344

Overall, it is time for someone to step into the spotlight and claim their rightful spot in “Primetime” for the St. Louis Cardinals.

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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