Tag Archive | "Second Half"

Matt Carpenter for MVP: Now it’s Getting Serious

MattCarpenter

Several months I wrote this article arguing that Matt Carpenter could win the MVP. In the article I pointed out how it wasn’t such a wild idea; how he had the numbers for the sabermetrics community along with being a professional workhorse who switched positions for the betterment of the team, which pleases the more traditionalist crowd. I finished the article with:

So all of this hopefully shows Carpenter’s name should be in the hat. With a consistent or even superior second half, he can be the first second baseman to win the MVP since Jeff Kent in 2000. And the first Cardinals second baseman to win it since Frankie Frisch in 1931.

Not bad for someone who was without a position last year.

While Carpenter didn’t necessarily have a “superior” second half, but he did have an equally exceptional second half.

Carpenter’s first half: .321/.394/.497

Carpenter’s second half: .328/.401/.480

Since then, talk has caught on. The Cardinals broadcasters mention almost every night there is an increasing chance he may win. There’s a Facebook group dedicated to him winning (full disclosure: due to my article I was asked to be an admin on the group).

There’s plenty of other articles dedicated to Carpenter winning. It’s been covered further on our site. Bernie Miklasz talked about it here.

The Bleacher Report on his MVP chances

The question of Matt Carpenter as a legitimate NL MVP candidate is not just fluff. This young man is the real deal.

He’s come through for the Cardinals with his bat, his glove and most of all, his grit.

Carpenter is a scrapper. He’s asked to learn second base and comes back as one of the game’s best active second baseman.

Rob Rains claiming he should be in the discussion

Carpenter’s .313 batting average after Sunday’s game ties him for sixth in the NL. He scored his league-leading 97th run on Sunday and his two hits increased his season total to 157, two ahead of Milwaukee’s Jean Segura for the most in the league. He also hit his league-high 43rd double and his total of 58 extra-base hits is tied with Goldschmidt and one behind league-leader Jay Bruce of the Reds.

Even beyond the regular statistics, Carpenter’s value to the Cardinals can be found in the success he has had as the team’s leadoff hitter, where his contribution can be measured in many different ways. The most important one is that when he hits and gets on base, the Cardinals have a much better chance of winning the game.

Rant Sports on the power of his hitting despite having to work over the offseason on switching positions

Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Matt Carpenter is quietly putting together an MVP-caliber year. He leads the NL in hits, doubles, and has the highest on-base percentage among lead-off hitters. He has 58 multi-hit games, the highest in baseball. 

Here, ESPN counts down the top 5 probable leaders for the NL MVP. They put Carpenter just outside the top 5, claiming

He’s been a huge unsung hero for the Cardinals, filling dual voids at second base and the leadoff spot. Carpenter is on track to become the first St. Louis hitter with 50 doubles in a season since Albert Pujols in 2004.

I do admit if I was a voter, I would have a hard time voting for him over McCutchen too, but Carpenter definitely has a strong case. Out of the top 5 on ESPN, here is his chance of beating all 5.

Andrew McCutchen – .319/.405/.510

Why Carpenter can beat him – As I said, McCutchen is going to be tough to beat. What may hold him back though is the same thing that may hurt Carpenter: neither excelled greatly at a traditional line. McCutchen only hit 20 homeruns. Didn’t hit the 100 RBI mark. Voters may see that and vote for another player who hit 30 homeruns or 100 RBIs.

Yadier Molina – .314/.355/.471

Why Carpenter can beat him – Along with having 150 more at bats, Carpenter simply had a better year.

Paul Goldschmidt – .304/.405/.556

Why Carpenter can beat him – Goldschmidt’s team won’t make the playoffs. Love or hate that unwritten rule, it’ll still deter some voters.

Freddie Freeman – .314/.392/.500

Why Carpenter can beat him – Freeman, like Carpenter, is a long shot. And when you get to long-shots, voters start to really study the stats more. And Carpenter has better stats.

Clayton Kershaw – 15-9 1.88 ERA

Why Carpenter can beat him – Pitchers can win the MVP, but they need to have exceptional numbers. Kershaw’s numbers are good enough to easily win the Cy Young. But don’t see him winning MVP.

The last second baseman to win the MVP was Dustin Pedroia in 2008. How do the numbers compare between Pedroia that year and Carpenter this year?

Carpenter has a higher batting average, higher on base percentage, higher OPS, more runs created, a higher WAR and will probably end the season with more RBIs while hitting leadoff behind the pitchers spot.

Things are getting serious in Carpenter’s MVP bid. And since the first article, my thought has changed from how Carpenter COULD win the MVP to how Carpenter SHOULD win the MVP.

Follow me on Twitter @pchibbard

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St. Louis Cardinals will be fine, maybe better, without Jake Westbrook

The St. Louis Cardinals have used 10 different starting pitchers in the first four-and-a-half months of the 2013 season, and they will now likely have to play the rest of the season without Jake Westbrook, who started the pitching carousel when he originally went on the disabled list in May with elbow inflammation.

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However, the Cardinals have shown they can withstand injuries to just about any position outside of catcher, where Yadier Molina has an incredibly large influence on the team, and they should be able to make it through the rest of the season and playoffs without Westbrook.

In fact, there’s a decent chance they could be better.

Westbrook has been the Cardinals worst starter by far in the second half of the season. He won his first two starts after the All-Star Break, but then the proverbial wheels fell off. Westbrook allowed 28 runs in his next five starts, all of them losses except the final game against the Milwaukee Brewers when the Cardinals won 8-6 even though Westbrook nearly gave up a 7-0 lead in fewer than five innings.

Now Westbrook is on the disabled list again, this time with a back injury that could keep him out for the rest of the season and end his career with the Cardinals, because his contract has a mutual option for 2014 the Cardinals might not pick up.

Westbrook’s injury is not nearly as blatant of an excuse to remove a struggling pitcher as when Jason Isringhausen supposedly injured his pitching hand in 2008 by punching a television in the clubhouse, but it could have similarly unexpected, positive consequences.

Isringhausen had struggled to a 5.70 earned-run average with just 12 saves through 42.2 innings that season before he went on the disabled list in August, which led Ryan Franklin to the job, and he went on to save 65 games the next two seasons, including a trip to the postseason in 2009.

The 2013 Cardinals are probably in an even better situation to replace a struggling veteran because they have a pool of talented young pitchers that would easily surpass any of the team’s minor-league reserves during the Isringhausen Era that lasted from 2001-08.

Second-year pitcher Joe Kelly has already become a force in the rotation since manager Mike Matheny finally released him from bullpen purgatory and let him start July 6 against the Miami Marlins.

Kelly allowed four runs through six innings that day against Miami, but he has allowed more than two runs in a start just once since and has improved his record from 0-3 to 5-3 after another stellar performance Thursday against the National League East Division-leading Atlanta Braves when he held them to two runs through six innings as the Cardinals won 6-2.

Rookie starter Shelby Miller has also pitched well, going 11-8 with a 2.94 ERA in 24 starts, and second-year starter Lance Lynn has been in the rotation all season, posting a 13-7 record with a 3.97 ERA.

But now the Cardinals will need one more inexperienced pitcher to exceed expectations as the team enters the final month of the season in a three-way race for the NL Central title with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds.

Its first option will be rookie left-hander Tyler Lyons.

The Cardinals first called up Lyons from Triple-A Memphis in May to fill in for injured starter Jaime Garcia, who underwent season-ending shoulder surgery. Lyons was good in his first two starts, but his ERA exploded from 1.29 to 5.51 in his next four starts before the Cardinals sent him back to the minors.

Lyons came back to pitch the second game of a doubleheader July 30 against the Pirates and allowed three earned runs through six innings in a 6-0. It wasn’t a bad outing, and the Cardinals were in the middle of a seven-game losing streak at the time, but Lyons will get his third opportunity of the season when he takes the mound to start Monday against the Reds.

Plenty of uncertainty will surround that start and probably each of the rest of his starts through September, if the Cardinals stick with Lyons and don’t move to Carlos Martinez or Michael Wacha, but he now has both positive and negative experiences as a big-league player that should help him this time around.

And if he pitches well, he could add his name to the list of pitchers that includes Adam Wainwright and Shelby Miller who turned late-season call-ups into steady jobs at the top of the Cardinals rotation.

If nothing else, Lyons at least might be able to say he became a large contributor to a team that has a chance to make a deep run in the playoffs.

It might be an unlikely scenario, but as Tony La Russa learned in 2008, the decision to put Westbrook on the disabled list might be the best one Matheny could have made for the long-term health of his team.

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I Guess it is Time To Start Paying Attention to the Pirates

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The Pirates are a team that tend to just go away. They play well the first half of the season, getting Pittsburgh fans excited they may make the playoffs, or at least hit the .500 mark, and they end up imploding in the second half like no other team. It’s come to the point where I don’t really pay attention to them in the standings. If they are in first and the Cardinals are second, it means the Cardinals are in first. If the Reds are in first, the Pirates are 2 games back and the Cardinals are 3 games back, it means the Cardinals are in second place and just 3 games back.

But I don’t necessarily look at past seasons for this. Regardless of what has happened in the past, the Pirates this year are a team playing over their heads. Players who have struggled in the past don’t all just suddenly become good, do they?

Well the Pirates have a few cases where this seems to be case.

Francisco Liriano – Career era: 4.20. Career WHIP: 1.34. Career FIP: 3.63.

Prior seasons:

2012: era: 5.34, WHIP: 1.47, FIP: 4.34

2011: era: 5.09, WHIP: 1.49, FIP: 4.54

2009: era: 5.80, WHIP: 1.55, FIP: 4.87

Compare all of that to 2013: era: 2.68, WHIP: 1.20, FIP: 2.81

 

A.J. Burnett – Career era: 4.00. Career WHIP: 1.32. Career FIP: 3.90

Prior seasons:

2011: era: 5.15, WHIP:1.43, FIP: 4.77

2010: era: 5.26, WHIP: 1.51, FIP: 4.83

Compare that to 2013: era: 3.18, WHIP: 1.25, FIP: 2.86.

 

Russell Martin – Career slash: .259/.352/.399, wRC+: 104

Prior seasons:

2012: .211/.311/.403, wRC+: 96, WAR: 2.0

2011: .237/.324/.408, wRC+:100, WAR: 2.8

Compare that to 2013: .252/.352/.407, wRC+: 117, WAR: 4.0

 

So several players on The Pirates are definitely playing over their heads. But if you look at their advanced stats, especially FIP for both Liriano and Burnett, you can see they aren’t just getting lucky. Which doesn’t mean they still can’t regress greatly. But for now, being the middle of August, it may be best to assume they won’t regress. For some reason, a few players on The Pirates who have not been very good for quite a while, have become good.

So why are The Pirates so good? Some articles have chronicled why the Pirates are playing so well.

The only problem is, The Pirates have not really been playing that well. If you look deeper, even going by the generous assumption that none of these players are going to regress from just having a fluke season, The Pirates are not better than The Cardinals and possibly not even The Reds.

In many ways, The Pirates are what The Orioles were last year. A team that’s squeaking out wins. That’s much less a skill and more just luck. The Cardinals run differential is +140. That’s the best in the National League and second best in all of baseball behind The Tigers. The Pirates run differential  is +42. That’s worse than The Reds +87. The Pirates have only scored 478 runs this year, compared to The Cardinals 595 and The Reds 533. The Pirates RS/G is 3.93 compared to The Cardinals 4.67 and The Reds 4.19.

So The Pirates can’t score runs. But they can prevent runs. Their Runs Against is 436, which for all of the talk about their rotation and amazing bullpen versus the chatter about The Cardinals problems with keeping starting pitcher healthy, The Cardinals Runs Against is a very comparable 455.

So what do The Pirates do well? They win 1-run games. This year in 1-run games, their record is 23-18. Compared to The Cardinals at 15-14 and The Reds at 19-19.

The only thing The Pirates have going for them is a weak schedule the rest of the year. They have series gainst bottom feeding teams like The Giants, The Cubs and The Brewers. Besides The Cardinals, The Rangers and several series against The Reds, they don’t have it too bad. The Cardinals however have a similarly easy schedule. They too have several games with The Reds and the extremely tough Braves, but have some pretty weak teams like The Mariners and Cubs to beat up on too.

Per Fangraphs, The Cardinals are projected to have a better record and a better run differential the rest of the year. Per ESPN, The Cardinals still have a higher percentage of making the playoffs than The Pirates (though both teams are projected over 90% to make it).

But The Pirates need two things to happen for the rest of this season: 1) all of the players playing over their heads to continue to do so. There is zero room for any of them to regress to who they were before this season. And 2) The Pirates continue to win 1-run games against teams that score more runs than them. In other words, they need to keep getting very lucky.

There are still 38 games left to go. The Cardinals are 1 game behind The Pirates as of Tuesday morning. That is a lot of games remaining for those things to happen to go just right for The Pirates. So maybe for the first time, it’s time for me to acknowledge The Pirates. But only to an extent, as I expect The Cardinals to be on top of the standings for the NL Central come October 1st.

So like the title states, it is time to start paying attention to The Pirates.

A little.

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Extra rest might have helped Yadier Molina, definitely benefitted Shelby Miller

St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny has taken plenty of criticism in the past week for possibly playing catcher Yadier Molina so much that he eventually succumbed to a knee injury and a trip to the disabled list Tuesday, but Matheny made an equally smart move by resting one of the team’s other top players.

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Right-handed rookie starting pitcher Shelby Miller won the fifth spot in the rotation in spring training and pitched brilliantly for much of the first half of the season, but the 22-year-old’s performance began to drop in mid-June.

Miller started the season 7-3 with a 1.91 earned-run average through his first 12 starts, but he went 3-3 in his final seven starts of the first half, giving up three or more runs five times in that stretch.

Matheny indicated in late-June he would keep Miller on his regular schedule despite the rookie’s obvious struggles with command and ability to work deep into games.

Miller’s ERA jumped to 2.92 by the all-star break, but Matheny’s actions spoke louder than his words as he shifted the rotation to have Adam Wainwright work the final game before the all-star break instead of Miller.

That gave Miller an extra two days of rest between his last two starts of the first half and another 12 days off before he made his first start of the second half.

And Miller looked much more similar to the pitcher who started the season by giving up more than two runs just once in his first eight starts. Miller allowed no runs and three hits while walking one hitter and striking out six Philadelphia Phillies on July 23 to kick off his second half of the season.

He struck out six more hitters through 5.2 innings in his next start July 28 in a 5-2 loss to the Atlanta Braves, although Miller gave up just two earned runs, and he struck out eight Cincinnati Reds hitters in five innings Friday while allowing three runs as the Cardinals pounded the Reds 13-3.

Similar to Lance Lynn the year before, Miller hit a wall toward the end of the first half and needed the breaks during the first half of July to rejuvenate him for the pennant chase.

Miller is a pitcher who relies heavily on his fastball, and he doesn’t leave much room for error when that pitch doesn’t have its typical movement and explosiveness.

Miller threw 69 four-seam fastballs, 46 of them strikes, out of his 97-pitch total Friday against the Reds. That means Miller brought the heat 71-percent of the time, which is nearly exactly his average for the season. He will mix in a curveball and change-up in about one-quarter of his pitches, but Miller lives and dies by the fastball at this point in his career.

Of course, Miller also continues to learn at the major-league level and is becoming a smarter pitcher as the season progresses. He has begun to use his off-speed pitches more effectively in recent starts.

To that point, batters have swung and missed on Miller’s off-speed pitches more in his last two starts (eight times) than they did in his previous four starts (six whiffs) combined.

Matheny will have to closely monitor Miller’s workload through the rest of the season to make sure he doesn’t start to fall apart as he did approaching the all-star break because, as Molina sits on the disabled list with a sprained right knee, Miller has shown how much a little extra rest from time to time can help a player throughout the course of the long regular season.

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St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates battles could be best of second half

The St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates have rarely played meaningful games against one another after the All-Star Break in the past 20 years, but this year their second-half matchups could be the most intriguing of the year.

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The Cardinals lead the Pirates by one game in the National League Central Division at the break, but the two teams have played just five times in the first half of the season, which leaves 14 games for the final two-and-a-half months of the season that could decide the NL Central.

Those games might not have the intensity of the 2003 and 2004 battles between the Cardinals and Chicago Cubs or the rivalry games in recent years between the Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds, but for once the late-season trips to Pittsburgh will be highlights on the schedule rather than afterthoughts.

The Pirates have had good first halves the past two seasons. They were four games above .500 at this point in 2011 and nine games above .500 at the same time in 2012, but each time they fell back dramatically. They finished 18 games under .500 in 2011 and four games below .500 in 2012.

This time the Pirates are 19 games above .500 with 69 games left in the season.

Five of those games will be against the Cardinals at the end of July at PNC Park in Pittsburgh in a series that will likely set the tone for the second half.

The Cardinals and Pirates were scheduled to play a four-game series July 29 through Aug. 1, but a rainout April 16 added another game to the series and created a doubleheader July 30.

This could be a series similar to the five-game battle the Cardinals and Cubs played to begin September a decade ago in Chicago. The Cardinals entered that series in first place, one game ahead of the Cubs. They left Wrigley Field a game behind the Cubs after losing four of five. The Cubs went on to win the division, and the Cardinals finished third.

The Cardinals and Pirates will have nine games left against each other after the five-game series, but what is sure to be a hard-fought, nearly weeklong battle will likely go a long way toward determining the NL Central champion in 2013.

The Pirates have met crucial points in their seasons the past two years, and each time they fell apart afterward.

They lost a 19-inning game 4-3 to the Atlanta Braves July 26, 2011, which kicked of a 3-16 stretch that killed the Pirates’ chances. The next season they beat the Cardinals 6-3 in 19 innings Aug. 19, but they lost 10 of their next 13 games and again fell out of contention.

But this year the Pirates have a team with more depth in both the pitching staff and lineup.

The Pittsburgh staff has been one of the best in baseball through the first half of 2013. It has compiled the best team earned-run average at 3.07 to carry a lineup that has hit just .243, good for 26th in Major League Baseball.

Pirates starters A.J. Burnett, Jeff Locke and Francisco Liriano have combined for a 21-11 record with a 2.40 ERA while rookie Gerrit Cole joined the team in June and promptly won his first four starts, although he dropped his next three and has a 3.89 ERA. But the Pittsburgh bullpen has been just as good.

Closer Jason Grilli came from obscurity to save 29 games with a 1.99 ERA in the first half, and the team has just one reliever, Tony Watson, who has appeared in more than 15 games and has an ERA above 2.72.

Even if the pitching staff doesn’t maintain those terrific numbers in the second half, the Pirates finally have a lineup with legitimate hitters, including all-stars Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez, along with veteran catcher Russell Martin and promising second-year leadoff hitter Sterling Marte, who should keep the team from free-falling through the standings in the second half of the season.

However, the Cardinals are as good as they’ve ever been. They have arguably the best pitcher in the game, Adam Wainwright, who is 12-5 with a 2.45 ERA; and the best hitter, Yadier Molina, who leads the National League with a .341 batting average.

The Cardinals’ 57-36 record through 93 games is also their best start since they were 51-42 in 2008, they have baseball’s third-best pitching staff and third-best offense.

Yes, the Reds are five games behind the Cardinals and could certainly put together a second-half run to overtake both St. Louis and Pittsburgh, but right now the team from western Pennsylvania is the Cardinals biggest threat.

Luckily for baseball fans, two of the best teams in baseball will play about one-third of their remaining games against one another in what could be the best division race of 2013.

Enjoy.

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Kansas City Royals: Rating The First Half

The All Star break is almost upon us.  We have already played through half of the 2013 season.  This provides us with a great opportunity to evaluate the performance of the Royals thus far and see how they measure up to the rest of the league and explore the possibilities for a second half run at the playoffs.  Coming in at just over the eighty-one game halfway mark of the season, the Royals remain six games out of first place in the American League Central Division and two and a half games behind the Cleveland Indians, putting them in 3rd place.

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The Royal’s record is a slightly disappointing 43-45.  It’s not a very pretty number to look at but still, being only two games below .500 means that they have at least been able to keep pace with the league so far.  Compare this with the Twins and the White Sox who sit at the bottom of the division and below .500 by fourteen and eighteen games respectively and things don’t seem that bad at all.

Rating:  Average

The Tigers have a record of 27-17 playing at home in Detroit.  This is a big reason why they sit atop the Central Division.  Kansas City, on the other hand, has a 22-22 record at home, incredibly unspectacular and perfectly even.  The thing about having home field advantage is that it’s supposed to be…well, an advantage.   Unfortunately the Royals have not been able to capitalize on playing in friendly territory.  This is something that will need to change in a big way in the second half.  Playing at home shouldn’t be a break even scenario if you want to lead your division.  Their record on the road is only two losses worse at 21-23.  Once again, not very inspirational but not the end of the world either.

Rating:  Almost Completely Average

The Royals have given up a total of 351 runs this year to opposing teams.  They have scored a total of 354 runs off of opponents pitching.  That’s a run differential of +3 whole runs.  Comparing the Royals again to the first place Tigers, Detroit has a run differential of +88 but has given up 22 more runs than Kansas City.  So what do the Royals need to improve upon, scoring runs or giving them up?  Well, the Royals currently have a team batting average of .256.  The American League as a whole has a combined batting average of, are you ready for this, .256.  Incredible.  In this particular instance, the Royals literally define the term average.  Every team in the American League can accurately gauge their offensive performance in this category by comparing themselves to the Royals.  Batting average aside, the rest of the offensive numbers for Kansas City align very closely to league averages.

 

Statistic

Royals

MLB

OPS

.691

.719

SLG

.379

.402

OBP

.312

.317

Hits

769

786

2B

150

156

3B

19

15

 

Rating:  Astoundingly Average

Pitching has been one of the better improvements for the Royals this year.  Halfway through the season, the Royals have the 3rd best ERA in the American League at 3.73, well ahead of the league average of 4.10.  Combine this with the fact that the Royals pitchers have pitched the fewest amount of innings than any other team in the American League and that their strikeout totals are below average (not that that’s a good thing) and what you get is a pitching staff that’s efficient and getting ground balls and keeping the damage to a minimum.  Giving up the long ball was a big problem early in the year for Royals pitching but they seem to have that under control now as well as they have only given up 96 home runs on the season compared to the American League average of 98.  Overall, pitching remains a positive in Kansas City.

Rating:  Thankfully, Above Average

Alex Gordon and Salvador Perez will soon be heading to New York for the All Star game.  The team they are representing has been consistently keeping pace but not excelling.  There is still a lot of season left to play and there is nothing stopping the Royals from having an excellent second half and to their credit they are still in contention.  However, average teams don’t typically make the playoffs.

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Yahoo: Is The Time Right To Trade Freese?

Recently, I took the time to look into the scenario of trading hometown hero David Freese while the time is right for the St. Louis Cardinals.

MLB: NLCS-San Francisco Giants at St. Louis Cardinals

To say the idea is not well received, especially by Yahoo fans, would be an understatement.  However, the reasons to move now are compelling and the idea seems to be a popular one around the internet these days.  In the article, I explain:

The Cardinals have a few needs as they enter the second half of the season. While the bullpen has seemed to calm down and settle into their roles quite nicely, the rotation has been battered by injuries and could use an inning-eater of a pitcher to help hold it down. In addition, despite his ability to hit with runners in scoring position, the team could utilize a substantial upgrade at shortstop over Pete Kozma. A combination of Freese and a prospect could yield a starting pitcher and above-average shortstop in most scenarios.

The team wants to upgrade at a few spots as they enter the second-half of the season.  If you expect to get something in return, you will have to give something up.  Freese may be the right piece given all the variables.

Do I want to see Freese traded away? No.

Am I willing to entertain the idea if it improves this team? You bet.

Read the Yahoo piece here and feel free to use the comments there or here to let me know your thoughts.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at i70baseball.
You can follow him on Twitter by 
clicking here.

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Could another Cardinal arm be needed?

Pitching has been the strength of the Cardinals throughout their league-best season opening. But as the trade deadline approaches, could adding to their greatest asset be necessary? And if so, how would they go about doing so? One thing is for certain: the team has the assets and the market would be open to listening on what they could offer.

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So far, so good has been the order of the year for the Cardinals starting rotation. Coming into today, they have a MLB-best 38 wins and a 2.97 ERA. Yet, looking a bit deeper, and the forecast may not be as good as the moment. Only Adam Wainwright and Jake Westbrook have more than one season of 30 plus starts among the current staff, and as a year ago showed, the pitfalls of a youthful staff become more evident the later it gets. Lance Lynn noticeably wore down by last August, and while he has become more economical in his approach recently, he is still has to show he can breakthrough over the full course of the year. Add into the equation the presence of Shelby Miller, who has never topped 139 innings in his pro career, and some combination of  Tyler Lyons (152 inning career-best) and potentially Joe Kelly (179.1 innings total a year ago), and there’s not much long-term experience that September and October bound seasons can lean upon.

This bring into question if the presence of another proven arm is a must to ensure the club has the legs to run the full marathon of the season. With the loss of Jaime Garcia and the uncertainty of Chris Carpenter injury: Cardinals right-hander gacing live batters” href=”http://www.sbnation.com/mlb/2013/6/4/4395400/chris-carpenter-injury-cardinals-rehab-shoulder-neck-return”>the availability of Chris Carpenter, there is a definite forced youth movement to the bottom half of the rotation. If Lyons, Lynn or Miller falters over the second half, the presence of another arm could be necessitated.

However, the question begs, to what extent could the club pursue an outside addition? In recent weeks, there have been rumors of the potential availability of the Phillies’ Cliff Lee, as well as the Blue Jays’ Mark Buehrle. Both veteran lefties have been tied to the club before, and could be highly sought after if their respective clubs stay far enough outside of the pennant race to concede. Lee has a limited no-trade clause, yet the Cardinals are not a team listed on it. The Arkansas native is 8-2 with a 2.55 ERA in 14 starts this season, and grew up a fan of the team, and would provide a much needed left-handed presence to the rotation. However, he is due another $50 million guaranteed over the next two years of his contract, in addition to likely costing multiple high-potential prospects, an approach GM John Mozeliak has balked at engaging with in recent history.

Buehrle, who was dealt to the Blue Jays this past winter, is also a battle-tested lefty that would provide a similar presence in the rotation, at a slightly friendlier price to both acquire and maintain. The 34-year-old is due $37 million over the final two years of his deal, carrying through 2015. He also would probably not carry quite as steep of a price to acquire from the young talent pool, but wouldn’t be a discount acquisition either. The St. Charles native does not have any trade restrictions on his deal, and has stated publicly before his desire to pitch in his hometown.

Other potential targets could include a group of expiring contracts after the season in Ted Lilly, Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco and Edison Volquez. All would fit into the scheme of short-term arms, that wouldn’t cost much in regards to top tier talent being moved to acquire, and having contracts that will come off the books after the season.

Potentially, nothing could come of this as well. The team could choose to stick with what’s in the fold, and rotate in the bevy of internal to fill in space. For a team that’s 20 games over .500, blockbuster moves may seem like the ultimate vanity play, but digging a bit deeper, it could truly be an investment in staying where they started.

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Patience is the only option for Cardinal pen

Entering the season, one of the easy strengths for the Cardinals was the bullpen. It was a group that had a phenomenal second half and postseason a year ago, and was getting a boost from a few of the promising prospects in the organization finally reaching St. Louis as well. However, what’s gold doesn’t always glitter, and the bullpen has been remarkably dull in the early season, and already has the team search for new answers on a daily basis.

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Coming into Tuesday, the parallels between the Cardinal staff were huge. While the team’s overall ERA is third in the National League at 3.24, the bullpen’s effort still drug the total down. It has been responsible for three Cardinals losses and had the worst overall ERA in the National League at 5.92. With five of the seven bullpen arms with ERAs over 4.00, it’s been a group effort to drag down every level of the bullpen’s effectiveness.

The current standing of the organization’s roster has created this idea of infinite options to solve every problem the team faces, but in reality facing the situation in the bullpen is the toughest issue for the organization to solve. The quick fix of plugging in a new (fill in the blank uber-prospect) truly denies the complexities of constructing a well-rounded roster, and especially bullpen. The Cardinals early struggles have been because it is a mixture of arms that are searching for new identities on the run. The loss of closer Jason Motte late in spring training is quickly showing to be the worst possible loss for the pitching staff, as there is no easy successor to his role. Even replacing Chris Carpenter and Kyle Lohse has gone much smoother than finding an answer for the one-inning door closer. Motte was responsible for the most important inning of them all, and has truly shown why not just anybody can be a closer.

But the scramble to find out how to account for the loss of the one absolute part of the pen from a year ago has been rough. Mitchell Boggs, while only truly blowing one save, has not inspired late game confidence. He is sporting an ERA over 9.00 in seven games, and managed to strikeout only one more batter than he’s walked. For whatever reason, he has not shown the same calm execution that he did an inning earlier a year ago, when he set the club record for holds with 34.

Yet he still is the clearest choice of the crowd in the pen for the job. The most frequent name that is clamored for is Trevor Rosenthal, who has in effect become the bridge to Boggs thus far. And while he’s got all the tools of a stereotypical closer (chiefly, the 100 mph fastball), he is absolutely not the answer right now. He’s still working out his arsenal so that he’s not all fastball, and it’s taking some time. In seven games this year, he’s surrendered runs in five of his appearances, and has struggled some with pitch count and location with runners on. These are the same issues Boggs is facing, yet they just aren’t magnified by the spotlight of the ninth inning yet, and are also cushioned by the optimism his promise brings. Although he is a member of the big league squad now, his development is still taking place and that is much better off not being burdened by the ninth inning quite yet.

So what else is there currently? Not much really. Edward Mujica has struggled mightily in his career the later on he has pitched (4.79 and 3.69 8th and 9th inning ERAs). Mark Rzepczynski and Randy Choate aren’t the type, and have an essential to keeping the situational management that eluded the team a year ago. That leaves the undesirable idea of moving a middle reliever to the back end of the bullpen in an ultimate trial run, promoting a new arm to the mix that isn’t ready for the pressure, or the absolute worst option, making a trade. Teams would hang the Cardinals out to dry for prospects and developing Major Leaguers to accommodate such a request, so it seems unlikely that route is taken, especially with the uncertain return date (and recent multi-year contract extension) of Motte still in the picture.

So where does this leave it all at? Boggs may very well not be closer material; he’s labored through nearly every outing thus far. Ultimately, a decision will have to be made, even if it means truly not making one. Is it a committee, based on who is the most capable at the moment, a la 2011? Maybe it’s Rosenthal ascending the role early. Or perhaps it’s Mujica by process of elimination (Matheny had him ready to enter on Monday if the game would have pulled within three). Or maybe it remains Boggs, simply by pulling himself together. Regardless, there’s no other choice that makes clear sense now, and really, “thus far” isn’t that far at all. All of this could be for naught, but for better or worse in the time being, this is what there is to roll with. So affairs will have to straighten themselves out, because there’s no other choice but for them to do so.

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Video: Royals Harlem Shake

Some of the Kansas City Royals players, including Salvador Perez and Bruce Chen, have posted a “Harlem Shake” video.

From Wikipedia: The videos last between 30 and 32 seconds and feature an excerpt from the song “Harlem Shake” by electronic musician Baauer. Usually, a video begins with one person (often helmeted or masked) dancing to the song alone for 15 seconds, surrounded by other people not paying attention or unaware of the dancing individual. When the bass drops, the video cuts to the entire crowd doing a crazy convulsive dance for the next 15 seconds. Moreover, in the second half of the video, people often wear a minimum of clothes or crazy outfits or costumes while wielding strange props.

It was only a matter of time.

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

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