Tag Archive | "Shape"

Sorting Out the Cardinal Pitching Scene

The upcoming week is a crucial time span for the Cardinals as a team, but the starting pitching staff, it is also a chance to earn their keep. With the postseason looming, the team must make a decision about who it will have comprise its starting rotation, a decision that has become a crowded scene in recent weeks. Yet it could hold the balance of the season in the candidates that come from it.

Lance-Lynn-St-Louis-Cardinals

While it is far from certain that the team has a place in the series round of the postseason yet, assessing how it stacks up for one is an important element to the next few weeks of the season. It could shape who gets starts when and how the club will line up arms headed into the last series’ of the year.

The organization has what could prove to be a tough decision in assessing who is in line for the starts, if not for what each candidate brings, but what they haven’t. Outside of just rounding out the rotation, it also impacts the bullpen and how moves into an already deep mix there. After the absolutes in Adam Wainwright and the now undeniable Joe Kelly, the trio of Lance Lynn, Michael Wacha and Shelby Miller each offer not only a different dynamic, but also a unique set of conditions headed into the last few weeks of the season. And the time is already underway to show and prove for each.

In the case of Miller, he would seem to be the biggest shoe in, and he may very well be. However, it is worth noting that he has struggled with his motion as a result of a bad back over his last few starts. Much can be tied to reaching a new career-high in innings pitched each time out, which is something the team could chose to manage over the next few weeks. His previous high was in 2011, when he threw 139 innings between the High-A and Double-A levels.

Yet, as he sits at 149 innings currently, his effort at repeating his mechanics and finishing innings has been noticeably tough for him. Despite a very good seven inning, three hit victory over Atlanta on August 24, in his 14 starts since June 17th, he has managed to complete six innings only four times and has seen his walk-to-strikeout ratio fall by over 1.00 in the second half. Regardless, the 12-game winner will be a part of a postseason rotation, but it would not seem to be a far-fetched idea that the team limits his innings if at all possible.

Then there is Lance Lynn, who has once again struggled through a second half that has ranged from average to completely unimpressive. After his second consecutive first half of double digit victories, he has only managed to post a 2-6 record post the All-Star Break, with an ERA over 5.00.

It was this same type of effort that cost Lynn his spot in the rotation last September, and there have not been many outings that have inspired much confidence in his ongoing role in the rotation recently. Despite the fact that he did turn his year around late last season once he came from the bullpen, the decision to not add an outside arm at the trade deadline had much weight on Lynn being able to add that experienced third arm in the rotation down the stretch. Yet now, reeling off four consecutive losses currently, his start on Wednesday against Milwaukee could very well be his most important of the season for his ongoing direction with the team this season.

Then there is the youngest of the group, as well as the hottest hand, in Michael Wacha. In his second trip joining the ranks of starting pitcher, he has been markedly better. His control has improved, as well as his pitch execution and assortment and due to this, his success has matched his potential. In his two starts in the past week, he has thrown 13 scoreless innings against the Reds and Pirates, yielding only five hits total. Add in the four innings he threw in relief of Wainwright versus Cincinnati on August 28th, where struck out seven while walking one, and he has been the most lights out of any St. Louis arm over the previous two weeks. He presents an unknown quantity to many teams, which is an added bonus.

Yet with that said, the bright lights of October are a different beast, and there is the matter of workload for Wacha as well. He has thrown a total of 131 2013 innings thus far, the most he has thrown in his pro and collegiate career, and eventually fatigue could factor into him as well. He has electric stuff, and the decision to best utilize him could see a return to the bullpen and employing him in the same late-inning capacity Trevor Rosenthal was so successful deployed in a year ago.

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Is Lance Lynn Out Of Line?

The St. Louis Cardinals opened camp on Tuesday morning with the traditional pitchers and catchers workouts.  It did not take long for the first quote to fire up the fan base to come out.

LanceLynn4

Lance Lynn has arrived at camp looking fit having dropped a reported 40 pounds.  He has successfully avoided using the phrase “best shape of my life”, is on the heels of an 18 win season, and addressed the one thing that critics had for him last year by improving his offseason diet to hopefully address the fatigue that set in at the end of 2013.  In the midst of losing starter Chris Carpenter and the buzz around three young rookies hoping for a rotation spot, Lynn is a bright spot in early camp.

Then, on Tuesday morning during a media scrum, a quote came flying out from Lance Lynn.  It may or may not be “out of context”, but it seemed to fire up the fanbase pretty quickly.  Via Twitter, beat writer Jenifer Langosch shared Lynn’s thoughts on the rotation competition this spring:

Lynn on rotation competition: "I was an 18-game winner last yr w/ an All-Star appearance. I have to do a lot of things to lose a spot, IMO."
@LangoschMLB
Jenifer Langosch

It is easy to see how that could rub some fans wrong.  That is not the way players tend to act around St. Louis.  Players that have been in the league for years, won multiple awards, and are solidified in their positions for years to come say “I’m here competing for my spot on the team”.  It shows a cockiness and brash attitude that this team, and it’s fans, are not accustomed to hearing.

The question here is: was it really wrong to say?

He is right, isn’t he?  I would say, due to the news of Chris Carpenter’s injury, that Lynn’s spot in the rotation is his to lose and in order to lose it, he would have to collapse pretty hard this spring.  His season last year was impressive, especially considering the second half issues he ran into.  The work he has already put in to attempt to fix that part of his game deserves accolades.

The St. Louis Post Dispatch ran an article on Tuesday as well, discussing Lynn with his manager.  Matheny had high praise for his starter and his offseason work.  The manager also had this to say about early perceptions that Lynn was not guaranteed a spot in the rotation this year:

“I know (that) made Lance a little frustrated,” said Matheny “I told him, ‘We want you coming in competing for a spot. We don’t want you rolling in thinking this is yours.’”

It is not easy to say if there is a right or wrong here.  Some will say “Carp would have never said anything like this.”  Others will point out that Lance Berkman was a breath of fresh air and would tend to be brutally honest with the media and the fans.  It is easy to see that type of quote being attributed to Berkman and fans would have applauded his honesty.  So why the outrage that Lynn is doing so?  Is it because of his age?

I freely admit that my immediate reaction was negative.  I don’t like it.  I don’t want a young player who, in my mind, still has some things to prove to sound so cocky.  I want him to talk about working hard to prove that last year was not a fluke.  I also admit that this is a personal preference.  Personally, I don’t like what Lynn said.  However, I also don’t feel what he said was incorrect.

The basic thought is there: an All Star pitcher made a statement that most of us were already thinking.

Is there anything really wrong with that?

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

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Time To Look At 2011

It is January. It is cold. The National Football League is chugging along through the playoffs. Baseball? It is right around the corner.

The National Pastime is gathering momentum, the “hot stove” is starting to simmer, and the teams are starting to take shape as we near those magical words: “Pitchers And Catchers Report”.

I-70 Baseball takes a look at the American League Central and the Royals this week. Throughout the week, expect to see in depth articles from our writers breaking down the Royals roster against each team in the Central Division. You will also find guest articles from writers of other sites, giving an in depth look at the team they write about the most. Tune in this week as we break down the American League Central here on I-70 Baseball.

Tune into I-70 Baseball Radio tonight as we welcome writers from around the AL Central to talk baseball, 2011, and the chances their team has going forward. You can catch us on Blog Talk Radio under the brand new Ivie League Productions banner. Stay tuned for new shows, websites, and New Media outlooks to be announced throughout the month.

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