Tag Archive | "Ryan Theriot"

The Cardinals Will Have a Strong Left Side of the Infield for Years to Come

AledmysDiaz

 

Over the last week, the Cardinals have made two moves that have locked up and solidified the left side of the infield for years to come. It has also, for the first time in years, guaranteed strength at two positions that have not always been the strongest positions on the team.

The Cards have had a sort of rotating door at shortstop for years. For the short period when Rafeal Furcal was healthy, the team was getting production. But when he was hurt, they had to rely on the likes of Ryan Theriot and Pete Kozma. Those experiments did not pan out and SS has remained a weak spot on the lineup.

Somewhat similarly at third base, David Freese has been good when healthy, but Cardinal fans are very privy on his health issues and it became impossible to rely on a full season from Freese, regardless of what kind of production he gave when he was at a hundred percent.

Last week, the Cardinals signed Matt Carpenter to a 6 year, $52 million dollar extension. The contract particulars per year include:

  • 6 years guaranteed
  • $52 million guaranteed (including a $1.5 million signing bonus)
  • 2014:  $1 million
  • 2015:  $3.5 million
  • 2016:  $6.25 million
  • 2017:  $9.75 million
  • 2018:  $13.5 million
  • 2019:  $14.5 million
  • 2020:  Club option for $18.5 million or $2 million buyout

Last year, Carpenter put up MVP numbers. He is 28  years old and his current contract will carry him until he is 34 years old. Those are some prime years the Cards will get from the third baseman, and hopefully some career stats will come with it.

Along with the extension, the Cards signed Cuban free-agent shortstop Aledmys Diaz to a 4 year, $8 million dollar contract. Diaz is a very promising signing, but isn’t quite the guarantee that Carpenter is. There are some major questions surrounding him. Can he stick at SS? Is his bat good enough to transfer to another position? Where does he start next season?

The signing is ultimately a good risk for the Cardinals, and in comparison to other recent Cuban defectors, is a bargain for the team.

Another benefit of the Diaz signing was the prior signing of Jhonny Peralta in the off-season. By signing Peralta to a 4 year, $52 million year contract, they have locked up the position for years to come. And that hasn’t changed at all. It does make the Diaz singing slightly confusing. But it is definitely a good problem for the team to have.

Other safety nets on the left side of the infield

Greg Garcia

The minor leaguer has been in the wings for years, waiting for his chance to come up. Last year with Memphis he hit an impressive .281/.386/.403. The high on base pct and the ability to steal bases positions Garcia to be a solid top-of-the-order player.

Pete Kozma

Most Cardinals’ fans would be happy to never see Kozma be a regular-day starter again. But desperate times may call for desperate measures. And with DL stints inevitable, Kozma could fill in at times. He is also still young, so development and improvement are possible.

Oscar Mercado

Mercado was drafted 57 overall last year by the Cards. The 18 year-old is a slender 6’2, 175 pounds. He is an option later down the road, but has promising upside. A Bleacher Report scouting report ranks him on the 80-point scale at:

Hitting: 35/55

Power: 30/40

Speed: 50/50

Defense: 45/60

Arm: 50/55

So a lot of questions remained unanswered. But they are good questions to have. Along with having two proven All-Stars at third and shortstop next year, the Cardinals also have many more options in the future.

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Peralta Signing Creates Best-Case Outcome

The aggressive Cardinal offseason continued this weekend, when the club came to terms with free agent shortstop Jhonny Peralta. It is a signing that seems contrary to how the team has operated in years past, but it certifies one thing above all others: the team is ready to get over the hump.

Peralta_Jhonny

The woes that the club had at shortstop began early in the year, and continued on through the fall. Pete Kozma gave everything he had, but could not recapture the regular effort at the plate he found in September of 2011. The reality of the situation was grim: Kozma was the worst regular in baseball at the plate last season, who’s defense was solid, but not to a transcendent level that would entice the team to give him another chance. So the team gritted through a lemons-to-lemonade style situation at the position, but made no secret that making an upgrade was of the most essential of priorities.

While virtually every shortstop in baseball was discussed in some fashion or another as being a fit with the team, and “how much is too much for Player X” has been the hottest water cooler talk in the city, it is clear that John Mozeliak’s commitment to keeping his homegrown talent in tow continues to be the highest priority for the future of the team. However, with such an immediate need, there had to be not another fill-in resolution; there had to be an end brought to any further concern about the position.

Peralta represents both middle ground between upgrade, compromise and a rescue. What he adds is another extra-base hit threat. At his worst, he’s an above replacement level player (which is a .255 hitter, with a .308 on-base percentage), which are both numbers that Peralta has regularly surpassed over the course of his career. For the better part of the past decade, with Kozma, Ryan Theriot, Brendan Ryan, Cesar Izturis, and even Rafeal Furcal, the Cardinals have hovered around or below those replacement level numbers, and now have a drastic increase in the balance of their everyday equation, and potentially an All-Star level performer, although the depth at shortstop in the NL surpasses that in the American League.

A clear advantage that he brings to the lineup is a much needed upgrade against the left-handed pitchers that plagued the club over the last two seasons regularly. As a team, the Cardinals hit .242 against left-handed starters, nearly 30 points beneath their team mark of .269. Peralta hit .352 in 2013 against southpaws. Also, while framed with an image of being an offense-only performer, he is capable currently of making more plays in the field than he is credited with, although the Cardinals will likely take a step backwards regarding infield defense with Matt Carpenter restricted to third base and Peralta being in the mix.

All of this was made available in the form of a four year, $53 million dollar pact, which pays him just north of $13 million per year. For a player that has proven to be an above average player at a premium position, it is a fair amount. The roundabout word is that Peralta actually left money on the table to join the Cardinals, which shows signs he is motivated to win as well. There are the rumblings about rewarding a player that was suspended last fall for performance enhancing drug usage, and what the deal represents regarding the acceptance of these players post-suspension. And it is true that the deal represents a departure from the club’s usual method of operation: cost-controlled, low-risk/high reward deals, as well as a preference for defense-first production up the middle. Yet, in the current state of the team, a change of course was needed.

The reality of the case is that Mozeliak is going all in to get the Cardinals past the last step on the mountain right now, while not compromising any of the young talent that is the nucleus of the organization. Peralta’s signing is a victory on all of those fronts; the team has addressed all of its biggest concerns, made a win-now decision that won’t cripple the team long-term and keeps all of its greatest assets in tow, with protection of the potential yet to be fulfilled.

 

Matt Whitener is a staff writer for I70, and can be followed on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan and contact directly at WhitenerCSP@gmail.com.

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If it wasn’t for bad luck…

The St. Louis Cardinals may be in some real trouble now.

An MRI on Rafael Furcal’s injured elbow Friday revealed the shortstop has a torn ligament and will be out for the rest of the season. In a season mired with injuries, the Cards may have finally taken a hit they cannot survive.
The Redbirds have been struggling this week, but the last several games are simply a reflection of a season-long issue they’ve had with sustaining offense. Sometimes they look like the best hitting team in all of baseball; sometimes—like the past few games, for instance—they look like the absolute worst. But they still found themselves holding on to a playoff spot, and as soon as last Sunday were only six games out of first place in the NL Central.

How are they doing it, in spite of such streaky offensive output? Pitching and defense, of course. And that’s going to be the problem going forward.

Furcal is on the wrong side of the prime of his career. Whether he is an elite defender anymore or not is certainly debatable. But he was certainly the best defender the Cardinals had on the infield when he was healthy. When the Cards acquired him at the trade deadline last July, Furcal immediately helped shore up a shaky defense up the middle. When a team’s pitchers are taught to pitch to contact, Ryan Theriot cannot be the everyday shortstop if the team expects to be successful. The Colby Rasmus trade may have been the “blockbuster” everyone drooled over, but without trading for Furcal there’s no way the Cardinal defense holds up for the stretch run.
Offensively, Furcal contributed as a solid leadoff hitter—something the Cards didn’t have up to that point. Again, his slash line wasn’t what it used to be in his prime. But Furcal set the table better than anyone they had before acquiring him, and he made the hitters behind him better.

His 2012 started off good, but recently health became an issue. Manager Mike Matheny started batting Furcal down in the lineup because his numbers nose-dived. He still made plays, but his ailing back had to have an effect on his range and defense. Then, on a throw across the diamond, his elbow gave out. The way things have gone for the Cards this year, their only possible reaction is “It figures.”

But now the Cards have more to worry about than ever before this season, even with Lance Berkman nearing a return and Chris Carpenter appearing to be ahead of schedule in his rehab. After unloading Brendan Ryan and Tyler Greene in the last few years, they have very little depth at shortstop. Pete Kozma has not been the answer before now; there is little reason to believe he’s the answer now. Daniel Descalso plays a decent short, but he is also needed at second base. Ryan Jackson may have a bright future, and it may be at shortstop. But he just made his major league debut a few weeks back.

The Cardinals still have that pitch to contact staff—but when contact is made, who’s going to catch the ball? Less range at short means third base and second base need to get to more balls. The entire infield gets a little more porous. And that is not a good thing for a team like the St. Louis Cardinals. Offensively, while Furcal was struggling, it certainly doesn’t appear anyone they replace him with will be tons better.

It certainly isn’t impossible to overcome this injury, but aside from losing Yadier Molina for an extended period this is just about the worst thing to happen to the Cards’ position players. They may not be chasing a playoff spot, but they have teams on their tail and some tough series yet to play in the final weeks of the season. They need something to break their way…soon.

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

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Get it together

The St. Louis Cardinals have fallen back into a bad habit they were plagued by early in 2011: giving away games.

Admittedly, it is hard to find much fault with a 16-10 start to the season. This is in no way meant to nit-pick or make up something to complain about. But when the Cardinals lose, it is often in sloppy fashion and lacking in fundamentals. That’s a big problem for a team stocked with so many veterans and in-house youngsters that cut their teeth in one of the greatest playoff runs in baseball history last year.

So let’s flash back to 2011—the bad parts, not the postseason parts we all relive over and over again on home video, DVR recordings, and YouTube. Remember the great Ryan Franklin meltdown? Yeah, that happened in 2011. Blown save after blown save led to a poor record early in the season and the eventual release of the veteran reliever and a revolving door at closer that did not stabilize until August. How about Starting Shortstop Ryan Theriot, or Colby Rasmus patrolling center field with all the enthusiasm of someone who just had a lobotomy? Sometimes watching Cardinal Baseball early in 2011 was like watching an old slapstick comedy featuring clowns instead of ballplayers.

Again, it’s far from that bad this season. But some of the same issues have cropped up again. A week and a half ago when the Cards lost their first series of the season by dropping two in a row to the Cubs, it was the bullpen coughing up the lead in the ninth inning both nights. In those two losses plus the loss to Pittsburgh the previous Saturday, the Cards were a combined 0 for 15 with runners in scoring position. They have been running into outs on the base paths. They have committed errors that led to runs, like in Friday’s game in Houston. And they have had trouble knocking guys in once they get on base. If you play your best game but lose to a team that plays just that much better, there is no shame in tipping your cap. Go get ‘em tomorrow. But these losses are borderline ugly, and definitely avoidable.

Fortunately it is still pretty early in the year and the fundamentals ship can be righted. The Cards hit better with RISP in their three losses this week, going 10-43. It isn’t a great number, but at least it isn’t an 0-fer. As regulars get healthy and back up to the speed of the game, defense will hopefully improve. And as we saw last season, any bullpen issue is fixable with the right moves.

It’s just tough to see some of these mental lapses and think, “Wow, this again?” The Cardinals are getting out of their softie, NL Central-dominated early schedule and will be playing some tougher teams real soon. They have the talent and drive to beat anybody in baseball. They just have to stay out of their own way and cut down on the dumb mistakes.

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

#RIPMCA

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It all starts with pitching…and ends with it too.

Our final look around the St. Louis Cardinals stops on the pitching staff. As games in Jupiter begin shortly here is a look at the make-up of said staff before they break camp.

 

The 2011 St. Louis Cardinals were admittedly built around their offense. The trade of Brendan Ryan coupled with the acquisition of Ryan Theriot meant a defensive sacrifice at one of the toughest spots in the field. Combining this with Skip Schumaker at second and the rather limited range of the outfield, the team surrendered 84 unearned runs, the most in the majors.

The pitching staff, initially, was thought to be somewhat of an asset, if not overly a huge strength. The tandem of Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright would be generally considered one of the strongest 1-2 combinations in the majors. As Murphy’s Law quickly pointed out, that wasn’t the case.

Heading into 2012 the Cardinals, with a healthy Wainwright, look to have the best rotation in the NL Central.

Chris Carpenter;  11-9, 3.45 ERA, 191 K, 105 ERA+, 1.256 WHIP

The first half of 2011 was a pretty rough one for Carpenter. As of June 17, he was 1-7 with an ERA of 4.47. After that, though, something clicked in his head, and he became the Chris Carpenter we’re accustomed to seeing, going 10-2 the rest of the way with a 2.73 ERA.

As an unforeseen consequence of the playoff run, however, Carpenter threw a total of 273.1 innings. Back when teams had four-man rotations, this wasn’t generally a big deal. Nowadays, especially for a pitcher who turns 37 in April and has had two surgeries on his throwing arm, it could be pretty significant. The Cardinals have already announced they will abbreviate his pitching schedule in spring training, and possibly beyond, in order to accommodate his arm. Carpenter signed a new two-year deal in the off-season, likely making the Cardinals the final team of his career.

Adam Wainwright; DNP

As soon as it was announced Wainwright would undergo Tommy John surgery, the season got a lot darker. There’s little question that even with Carpenter on the team, Wainwright had been the ace of the staff the last couple of seasons. In a two-year span, he’d gone 39-19 with a 2.53 ERA, 1.131 WHIP, and 3.48 K/BB ratio.

By all accounts, he’s throwing hard and able to snap off his curveball as effectively as before the surgery. Here’s hoping for a full season of health from him. The Cardinals picked up his option for 2012 and 2013, after which he’ll become a free agent. When he’s healthy, he’s one of the dominant starting pitchers in the league. This is, unfortunately, the second major injury he’s suffered in the last four years (he suffered a finger injury in 2008 that forced him to miss more than two months), so one has to wonder whether durability will become an issue.

Jaime Garcia; 13-7, 3.56 ERA, 156 K, 102 ERA+, 1.320 WHIP

Most likely the biggest factor was fatigue. After Garcia missed part of 2008 and most of 2009 due to Tommy John surgery, Garcia threw 163.1 innings in 2010 (previously, the most he’d thrown was 155 innings…in 2006). Typically, pitching coaches try to limit the increase in innings on a young arm to no more than 25 over the previous season, but Garcia blew past that in 2011: 194.2 in the regular season and another 25.2 in the playoffs.

Garcia has emerged as a legitimate above-average pitcher, and the return of Adam Wainwright should help alleviate some of the pressure on him. He signed an extension to his contract through 2015, with team options for 2016 and 2017, so he’ll be around a while. When his game is on, he’s on; he just has to improve the consistency of when he’s on.

Kyle Lohse; 14-8, 3.39 ERA, 111 K, 107 ERA+, 1.168 WHIP

Lohse is in the final year of his contract, and he was fully healthy last year and produced, unlike the first two years of his contract. He may not be as effective this year (his Batting Average for Balls in Play was an unusually low .269, a full 33 points below his career average), but if he stays healthy, he’s one of the better number four starters in the league. One interesting note about his career is that his best years tend to come every third year: 2002, 2005, 2008, and 2011 were all notable for being better than the rest of his career. Also, he’s the only member of the Cardinals’ starting rotation who hasn’t undergone Tommy John surgery.

Jake Westbrook; 12-9, 4.66 ERA, 104 K, 78 ERA+, 1.533 WHIP

Westbrook was the odd man out in the rotation during the playoffs, but he still played an important role. Westbrook pitched in two games and threw two scoreless innings, including the crucial 11th inning of Game 6. Facing four batters, two of which included Nelson Cruz and Mike Napoli, Westbrook limited the Rangers to a single base hit, setting the stage for David Freese’s heroics.

Other than the season he missed due to Tommy John, Westbrook’s been a generally durable pitcher. He reported to camp this year having lost about 25 lbs. in an effort to increase his endurance and lighten the workload on his legs. I won’t be so bold as to predict a 20 win, sub-3.00 ERA season, but if Furcal can stay healthy and the Greene/Descalso combination can perform adequately at second base, it’s not unreasonable to expect 13-14 wins and a solid 180-200 innings from him. Coming from a fifth starter, you can’t ask for too much more.

Bullpen

At the end of the 2011 regular season, the Cardinals ranked 17th in bullpen ERA. But this was a group that evolved during the course of the season, as young relievers settled in, and by the time the Cardinals got to the World Series, it was a very different bullpen than it was in the frustrating days of early September. Jason Motte was never formally named the closer under Tony La Russa; maybe he’ll get that title from Mike Matheny. Marc Rzepczynski is viewed as an untapped gem, and maybe with a full season working under pitching coach Dave Duncan, he’ll become a dominant setup man.

Injury Contingencies

Now, should one of the starters go down, the two most likely emergency starters would be Lance Lynn or Kyle McClellan. McClellan held his own as a starter last season for most of the first half, but eventually he faltered, perhaps due in part to lack of stamina (formerly a starter in the minors, he pitched the first three years and the last half of 2011 in the bullpen). Lynn is also a career starter in the minors who found his niche in the majors in the bullpen. He started two games last year, and other than his first rough outing, he was pretty lights out: in his final 17 games, he went 1-0 with a 2.15 ERA and allowed a slashline of just .204/.281/.301 while striking out 35 batters in 29.1 innings. During the playoffs, he was pretty solid. In the NLCS and World Series, apart from Game 6 (when he gave up three earned runs in 1.2 innings), he gave up a total of one earned run in 9.1 innings.

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An InsideStl Photo Gallery

Our friends over at InsideStl have run some fun and interesting Cardinal photos over time.  Recently, they sent out a post featuring all of those cover photos.

With their permission, here is the collection of Photoshopped images from the guys at InsideStl.

Baseball Blues

Picture 1 of 46

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Two Words: The Riot

Plain and simple, people ask me why I do not want to see Ryan Theriot come back next year. Here is your answer:

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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2011 Royals By The Numbers

• I noticed early in the season that Alcides Escobar was on pace to set a new low in win probability added (WPA) for not just the Royals but all of baseball history since 1950 (as far back as WPA has been figured by Baseball Reference). He had a hot streak out of nowhere in June that saved him from that record. The hot streak also lead to a lot of talk about Escobar having figured things out at the plate, and that narrative seemed to carry through the rest of the season. But Escobar actually turned right back into a pumpkin after June. His -4.8 WPA is second worst in Royals history, and the fifth worst in the last 62 MLB seasons:

Rk Player WPA Year Tm
1 Neifi Perez -6.8 2002 KCR
2 Sam Dente -5.2 1950 WSH
3 George Wright -5.1 1985 TEX
4 Gary Disarcina -5.1 1997 ANA
5 Alcides Escobar -4.8 2011 KCR
6 Ronny Cedeno -4.6 2006 CHC
7 Rob Picciolo -4.6 1977 OAK
8 Mario Mendoza -4.5 1979 SEA
9 Billy Hunter -4.4 1953 SLB
10 Mike Felder -4.4 1993 SEA
Here is how Neifi Perez‘s 2002 game-by-game WPA looks compared to Escobar’s 2011:
Escobar had the worst WPA in the majors for the second straight season. Add together 2010 and 2011, and here are the WPA trailers:
1. Alcides Escobar -8.6
2. Aaron Hill -4.5
3. Ronny Cedeno -4.5
4. Ryan Theriot -4.2
5. Jeff Mathis -3.7
Yikes. Escobar’s glove makes up for a lot, and the rest of the Royals lineup is strong enough to somewhat weather such a huge offensive hole, but it is still disconcerting to think Escobar might be the last player in the majors you want batting for your team.
• The Royals stolen base total ended at 153, falling to second most in the AL after the Rays stole three on the last day to bring their total to 155. So, great year for stolen bases by the Royals, right? Well, not necessarily. The team had a mediocre success rate (73% compared to the AL average of 72%). They did not so much do a great job swiping bases as just run a lot. Factor in the run values of stolen bases (around .2 runs) and and caught stealings (around -.4 runs), and the Yankees, Rangers and Mariners all had better years stealing bases. Still a good year by the Royals, but the overall impact was only about 7 runs. The rest of the AL Central was putrid, taking up the bottom four spots on this chart of AL stolen base runs:
Here is how the Royals did individually:
I hope you’ll forgive me if I can’t get too excited about Frenchy’s 20/20 season.

• Here are the final records for Royals starting pitchers if you give them a “win” for a quality start, positive WPA, or above average game score:
The biggest takeaway for me is that Royals starters had somewhere in the neighborhood of 72 acceptably okey-dokey starts. And in spite of a decent bullpen, offense and defense, the team still only managed to win 71 games. It’s almost like starting pitching is important and the biggest need for this team or something.
• Back in June, the starters were on their way to being the second worst unit in team history judged by FIP- (which measures strikeouts, walks and HR allowed against league average.) The improved second half by the starters slipped their total down to a tie for the ninth worst rotation in Royals history by FIP-. Here are the bottom 11 staffs:
So while the fielder independent numbers escaped being truly embarrassing, the starters adjusted ERA still managed to be about as bad as any in team history save for the dreadful ’05-’06 staffs.
Ned Yost leaned hard on Tim Collins out of the bullpen early in the year. He slowed down a bit in the second half, and Blake Wood actually snuck by Collins to face the most batters in relief:

• The outfield trio of Alex Gordon, Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francoeur was a major highlight through the year. This was only the third year in team history that the three most used outfielders achieved 2.0 rWAR or more. The combined rWAR of 11.8 is third best by a Royals OF trio, only behind 1999 and 2000:

• The Royals position player of the year is no-doubt, 100% slam dunk Alex Gordon. And that’s not just by the numbers. I watched the team all year, and Alex was clearly the man. Ryan Lefebvre said this week that Francoeur was the team’s MVP thanks to the witchcraft that Francoeur performs in the clubhouse that made the Royals such an incredibly awesome, 91 loss team this year. If the voters feel that way and do not recognize Alex’s season, I may go mental.

• The team pitcher of the year is much tougher to call. For me it comes down to Bruce Chen and Greg Holland, and they are so completely different it is hard to compare them. Pitch for pitch, there’s no contest. Holland was stinky filthy in his 60 IP. But Chen performed his magic act for 155 innings. They are both deserving.
• The team’s 105 OPS+ is the first above average mark since 1990, and the highest since 1982! Unreal. Here is how the Royals have fared each year since 2000 in OPS+ and ERA+:

2011 was just the fourth team with an above average OPS+ and subpar ERA+. It also happened in ’72, ’79 and ’90, and the 2011 squad had a higher OPS+ than any of those teams, making them something of an outlier:

• Finally, (with a nod to Justin Bopp) I’ve computed just how awesome Eric Hosmer is:

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Rob Rains Inside Baseball: 2012 Answers Needed

Inside Baseball: Cardinals need to use rest of season to get some answers for 2012

RobRains
Since all but a few diehard optimists can now agree the 2011 baseball season is over, at least for the Cardinals, it is time to begin looking ahead to 2012. There is perhaps no other team in baseball which knows so little about what their team will look like seven months from now.

With the futures of Albert Pujols, Chris Carpenter, Lance Berkman and others to be decided at some point this winter, there are only three positions in the regular lineup where the Cardinals can predict with any degree of certainty who will be at those spots next season – catcher, if the team picks up Yadier Molina’s 2012 option; third base, David Freese, and left field, Matt Holliday.

The other five positions, either because of free agency or performance questions, cannot be guaranteed. Which is why, beginning now, the Cardinals should use the remaining five weeks of this season to try to find some answers about who is deserving of a lineup spot in 2012.

There are four players currently on the roster, and a fifth in Memphis, who should play on an almost everyday basis between now and the end of the season if the Cardinals truly want answers about how much those players can be counted on in 2012.

Here are the five, listed in no particular order:

Daniel Descalso – He will be 25 before next season begins, and projects as a candidate for either the second base, most likely, or shortstop position. Much of his 71 starts this season came at third base in place of the injured Freese but with Skip Schumaker, Ryan Theriot and Rafael Furcal all possibly gone next year, the Cardinals will be looking for starters at both second and shortstop.

The left-handed hitting Descalso, who Sunday night started only his 15th game since the All-Star break, has a .284 average against right-handers and only a .167 mark against left-handers this season, meaning the Cardinals need to find out if can be a full-time starter or would be better suited to be part of a platoon arrangement.

In nine starts and 17 total games at second this year Descalso has not committed an error. At shortstop, he has two errors in 10 starts and 12 total games.

Jon Jay – Jay will turn 27 next March, so the time is over to stop thinking about him as a young player. What has to be concerning to the Cardinals is how much he has struggled offensively each of the past two years following a trade which almost guaranteed him a starting position in the outfield, Ryan Ludwick last year and Colby Rasmus this season.

In the last two months of the 2010 season, following the Ludwick trade, Jay hit .244 after hitting .383 to that point, albeit in a reduced role. This year, following the Rasmus trade, Jay was hitting the exact same average, .244, before getting his first home run since the trade on Sunday night, as he raised his overall average to .299. He also turned in several nice plays in center field in the win over the Cubs. Before the trade he was hitting .312 with an on-base percentage of .363.

He also has driven in only four runs over that 24-game stretch, while striking out 19 times.

Other than Schumaker, and expecting that Corey Patterson will not be back, the Cardinals have no other centerfield candidates on the current roster and do not appear to have any ready to move up from the minor leagues by 2012 either.

Allen Craig – He started three consecutive games, one at each outfield spot, before Sunday night but realistically if Craig figures in the Cardinals’ 2012 plans it has to be as either the right fielder or first baseman. Whether those spots will be open or not remains to be seen.

Craig missed almost two months of the year with a broken knee, which makes the remaining time very important for him to show the Cardinals they can indeed count on him to be an effective offensive player. He turned 27 in July, meaning he is the same age as Jay and also can’t be looked at any more as a young player.

In the last two partial seasons in the majors, Craig has hit 10 homers and driven in 44 runs in 91 games while hitting .281. In three consecutive years in the minors he hit at least 22 home runs and drove in 80 or more runs, and he deserves the chance to see if he can produce those kinds of numbers in the major leagues.

Fernando Salas – Considering nobody expected Salas to be the team’s closer in 2011, he has done an admirable job, converting 22 of 26 save opportunities. His lack of experience in the job, however, leaves many wondering if the team should look elsewhere for a veteran closer for 2012.

One of the reasons some people question Salas in the role is the fact he has given up six homers in 58 innings. Only three current closers in the NL have allowed more –Huston Street(10), Leo Nunez (8) and Drew Storen (7) and each of those closers has 29 or more saves.

There has been some suggesting that even Jason Motte, who has performed so well this year in a setup role, merits a chance as the team’s closer and it would not be a stretch to see him get some opportunities in September on days Salas is not available.

Tyler Greene – After having seen Greene on a part-time basis the previous three years, it is time to make a decision on his future. With almost 1,000 career at-bats at Triple A, he has nothing left to prove at that level, and at age 28, can no longer block a younger player, such as Ryan Jackson, who is ready to move up from Double A.

Greene has a .337 average at Memphis this season, with 12 homers and 15 stolen bases, but has only a combined .213 average in a little more than 300 career games in the majors. He can play shortstop and second base, but has to prove that he can hit at the major league level or else be labeled as a 4A type of player.

The Chicago mess

It will be interesting to see who Cubs owner Tom Ricketts hires as the replacement for general manager Jim Hendry. Hendry’s dismissal can be tied to the poor performance of several players he signed to long-term lucrative contracts, including Carlos Zambrano, Alfonso Soriano and Aramis Ramirez – one of the reasons why a lot of people expect the Cubs to proceed very cautiously this winter on pursuing free agent Albert Pujols.

The hottest name in Chicago’s job search will probably be Andrew Friedman, currently the GM of the Tampa Bay Rays. Ricketts has said he wants someone with GM experience who combines old-scout scouting techniques and the new sabermetrics approach to the game, and Friedman has done an admirable job with the low-budget Rays. He also is likely to receive a job offer from the Houston Astros once that team’s new ownership is in place. Friedman grew up inHouston.

One person who wants the Cubs job is Rick Hahn, currently the assistant GM of the White Sox. Hahn is a Chicago native who grew up living and dying with the Cubs. Whether he has enough experience for Ricketts, or if Ricketts is unable to talk a higher-profile candidate into the job, remains to be seen.

Head on over to RobRains.com to read the rest of Rob’s thoughts around the Major and Minor Leagues.

Rob Rains does his “Inside Baseball” column every Monday. “LIKE” us on Facebook for breaking news and features. Check back every day –we offer new content daily.

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October 15, 1964 – The Other Slide

July 30, 2011 – St. Louis 13, Chicago 5

On this Saturday afternoon, the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs were engaged in a rather entertaining game at Busch Stadium. The Cubs had jumped over Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse early, taking a blindingly fast 5-0 lead in the top of the first. In the bottom of that inning, the Cardinals got two of those runs back, thanks to a home run by Albert Pujols and timely hits by Matt Holliday and Skip Schumaker. Clearly, this was shaping up to be one of “those” games.

Or perhaps not, as the next four innings were played rather uneventfully. Of particular note was Lohse’s dominance as he allowed just a single base runner over the next four innings, on an error by David Freese. A complete turnaround from what looked to be a shaky outing from the veteran right hander.

The momentum of the game changed swiftly and completely in the home half of the sixth inning, and it was one aggressive play that made that happen.

With the score still 5-2 in favor of the Cubs, starter Rodrigo Lopez worked himself into a quick jam. After retiring his opposite number to start the inning, Ryan Theriot would hit a single, and Jon Jay would follow that up with a double. Given the Cardinals woes with the double play in 2011, walking Albert Pujols to load the bases seemed the wise decision, even if the next batter was Matt Holliday. Unfortunately, walking Holliday wasn’t such a good idea, and it would put an end to Lopez’s day.

Matt Holliday

Jeff Samardzija is now into the game to face David Freese, and he gets Freese to ground into an inning ending double play, or so we thought at the time. What nobody expected was a hard charging Matt Holliday, breaking up the play with an aggressive but legal near-slide into second base. Not only did it break up the double play, which would have ended the inning, it shook up Cubs shortstop Sterling Castro so much that Albert Pujols was also able to score on the play. Samaridzija and Cubs were clearly rattled, and before the final out was recorded in the inning, five additional runs had scored, giving the Cardinals a commanding 10-5 lead.

The Cardinals would go on to win the game 13-5, but that’s not the end of the story.

During the pre-game broadcast, and several times throughout the Sunday night game itself, ESPN broadcasters kept talking about Holliday’s slide and now dirty a play it was. Bobby Valentine went so far as to suggest that Holliday be hit with a pitch, making a special point of it when the Cardinals slugger came up to the plate with two outs and no runners on base.

Was it a dirty play ? Let’s take a look back at October 15, 1964 and see what they said about it back then.

Game 7 of the 1964 World Series

There is nothing like the seventh game of the World Series. Two teams have battled through 150 games or more, and just nine innings of baseball stand between the jubilation of a champtionship and the bitter disappointment of a loss.

Mel Stottlemyre

So it was with the Yankees and Cardinals on this beautiful October afternoon in St. Louis. There would be no excuses for either club, as they sent their best to do battle. Starting for the Yankees was young Mel Stottlemyre, who had turned heads in both leagues when he posted a 9-3 record in his rookie season, and a partial one at that. On the mound for the Cardinals was Bob Gibson, pitching some of the best baseball in his career. The two had met twice before with Stottlemyre earning the win in Game Two and Gibson in Game Five. Both pitchers were on the same rest, and this had the makings of being a legendary game.

And it was.

Each pitcher had escaped early trouble and were settling into a nice groove. The game was scoreless heading in to the home half of the fourth inning, where the outcome of the entire series was about to be determined.

National League Most Valuable Player, Ken Boyer, would lead things off with a single. Dick Groat would coax a walk out of Stottlemyre, putting runners at first and second base with nobody out. Defensive miscues had been haunting the Yankees throughout the series, and the next play would be one of the biggest. A tailor made double play ball looked like it might get Mel Stottlemyre out of the jam, but an errant throw by shortstop Phil Linz not only failed to retire the speedy Tim McCarver, it also allowed Ken Boyer to score the first run of the game. Mike Shannon follows that with a smart single, taking Stottlemyre’s pitch the other way. Tim McCarver was able to make take third base on the play.

This brings us to the play of the game.

Mike Shannon

With Dal Maxvill harmless waving at a Mel Stottlemyre delivery, Mike Shannon breaks off first base on something of a delayed steal. Elston Howard’s throw was well wide of the base, but a hard charging, and more barrel rolling than sliding Shannon was able to disrupt second baseman Bobby Richardson enough that Tim McCarver was able to beat his return throw home. Both runners were safe and absolutely nothing was said of Shannon’s aggressive, yet totally by the rules slide into second base. No complaints, no whines, no second guessing, because that was how the game was supposed to be played by teams that wanted to win championships. And if you were looking for a player who played the game hard, Mike Shannon was one of the best.

A Dal Maxvill single would give the Cardinals a 3-0 lead, but we are not quite through with the Moon Man.

Bob Gibson would wobble just a bit in the top of the fifth inning. A leadoff walk to Tom Tresh started a most promising rally from the Yankees. After getting Ken Boyer’s brother Clete to fly out, another walk brought the tying run up to the plate.

For a moment, it looked as it Phil Linz had delivered as he lines a rope into the right-center field gap. Out of nowhere comes a hard charging Mike Shannon, who not only makes the catch, but is able to keep himself upright long enough to get off a strong throw to Dick Groat, beating Tresh who had ventured too far off second base. That was an inning ending double play, and the end of the Yankees rally, the last they would muster in 1964.

The Cardinals would tack on three more runs in the bottom of the inning and one more later on a Ken Boyer home run. Those gave Gibson enough breathing room to survive home runs by Mickey Mantle, Phil Linz and Clete Boyer, and win the game and series.

Bob Gibson would take home MVP honors, but it might not have been that way if not for the hard play of Mike Shannon. That slide and subsequent defensive gem were the keys to taking an earlier lead, and maintaining it.

Just as Matt Holliday’s aggressive, but by the rules slide did in Saturday’s game. In fact, those are the plays that you expect from championship teams. It remains to be seen if the Cardinals are in deed worthy of that label, but for one afternoon in St. Louis, they did play a very hard, and by the rules game. And the fans really liked what they saw.

Bob Netherton covers Cardinals history for i70baseball.com and writes at On the Outside Corner. You may follow Bob on Twitter here or on Facebook here.

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