Tag Archive | "Strikeout"

Kansas City Royals’ Rotation Finalized: What About Danny Duffy?

The Kansas City Royals have put the final touches on their starting rotation.  Throughout the spring, a competition was formed between Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura for the final spot in the rotation.  On Monday, that competition officially came to a close.

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Manager Ned Yost announced on Monday to a group of reporters, including Barry M. Bloom of MLB.com, that there was no reason to hold back the announcement of the decision for the fifth starter.  With Duffy struggling this spring and Ventura being downright dominant, the time had come to make the decision official.

Ventura had thrown six shutout innings, striking out six Texas Rangers, on Monday night to solidify the decision.  That performance lowered Ventura’s spring ERA to 1.76 while elevating his strikeout total to 15 in just over 15 innings pitched.  The hard-throwing youngster did everything to prove that he was ready for this opportunity.

Competitions have winners and losers, however, and Duffy now finds himself on the outside looking in.  Early indications of the competition were that the loser would likely find himself in the starting rotation at Triple-A Omaha.  Due to the injury sustained by Luke Hochevar, now Duffy will be given the opportunity to claim the last bullpen spot.

The subject at hand is now which role better benefits Duffy in the long term?  He may be capable of claiming the final bullpen role but, despite his oddly weak spring performance, he has traditionally been a more than capable starter.

Ultimately, Duffy could see time as a starter this year and likely stands as the first player to receive a start should any of the current staff falter or become injured.  While sending him to Omaha may not be the best choice for his confidence, it may be the best option the team has for utilizing him efficiently later. Should someone find themselves hurt, it may be harder to slide Duffy out of the bullpen and into the rotation than it would to simply call him up from the minors.

Ventura pitched well enough to prove that he was ready.  He is likely the right man for the job.  Duffy carries the confidence of past success.  He has proven he can win at this level.

Both men will likely be in the rotation before the end of the season.  Until then, the question remains, what should be done with Duffy?

 

Bill Ivie is the founder of i70baseball.com
Follow him on Twitter to discuss all things baseball throughout the season

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John Axford not enough for St. Louis Cardinals to give up Michael Blazek

St. Louis Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak made his first and only trade of the season Friday when he got right-handed reliever John Axford from the Milwaukee Brewers.

Jun 25, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; St. Louis Cardinals center fielder Jon Jay (19) celebrates with relief pitcher Michael Blazek (67) after defeating the Houston Astros 13-5 at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Axford is a nice pickup for the Cardinals. He brings a veteran presence to the team’s young bullpen and has shown flashes of dominance in the past. The problem is the Cardinals gave up right-handed rookie Michael Blazek in return.

Blazek pitched in 11 games for the Cardinals this season and gave up eight runs in 10.1 innings, but he is the 24-year-old who has the tools to be an effective major-league reliever for years to come.

Sure, he had an earned-run average of 6.97 with the Cardinals, but Blazek allowed runs in just four of his 11 appearances and allowed more than one run in only two of those games. Otherwise, he averaged a strikeout per inning while he dealt with getting called up to the big leagues and sent down to the minors three times in one season.

It would be tough for any young pitcher to find consistent success while in such a tenuous position. Even highly touted rookies such as Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha have struggled at times as they’ve taken the road back and forth between St. Louis and Memphis several times this season.

Yes, Blazek also walked 10 hitters to nearly match his number of strikeouts, but the Cardinals have had plenty of pitchers who struggled with their control but steadily improved as they matured at the big-league level.

For example, Jason Motte came to St. Louis as a 26-year-old in 2008, and it wasn’t until 2010 that he got his career ERA below four. However, the Cardinals stuck with Motte and he became the pitcher who not only closed out the 2011 World Series but also the team’s closer who saved every one of the team’s 42 save opportunities in 2012.

But, perhaps the Cardinals though Blazek would not grow out of his control issues and decided to cut their losses. Unfortunately, they got a pitcher who is not substantially better.

Axford was much better at one time, but not anymore. He broke into the big leagues with Milwaukee in 2009 and by 2011 was one of the best closers in Major League Baseball, with 46 saves, a 1.95 ERA and 86 strikeouts in 73.2 innings.

Those were the good days. The more recent days have not been so nice.

Axford’s ERA ballooned to 4.67 in 2012, and he gave up twice as many homeruns (10) during that season than he had in his entire career (five) and lost the closing job in the process as the Berwers fell from a team two games from the World Series in 2011 to a third-place team that barely finished above .500 in 2012.

Axford has given up long balls even more frequently in 2013. He already allowed 10 in 62 appearances for the Brewers with a month yet to play.

Cardinals officials figured they needed veteran depth in the bullpen, and that’s exactly what they got. Axford is nothing more nor nothing less at this point in his career.

Maybe he will fill the role Octavio Dotel held during the 2011 run to the World Series championship. He could be a knowledgeable reliever who gets crucial outs during the late stages of a ballgame that is packed with the pressure that is certain to come with September games when the top three teams in the division are separated by fewer than three games.

But he could also be the 4.50-ERA pitcher who gives up back-breaking homeruns late in those same games while Blazek becomes an integral part of the bullpen renaissance the Brewers sorely need to return to relevance in the National League Central Division.

The Cardinals took a gamble not only for the rest of the 2013 season but also for many years to come.

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The St. Louis Cardinals Acquire Reliever From Milwaukee

BREAKING - The St. Louis Cardinals have acquired John Axford from the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for a player to be named later, according to the team and first noted by Kary Booher of the Springfield News Leader.

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Axford, the once mighty closer for the Brewers, has served as the team’s eighth-inning guy for the majority of the 2013 season.  His performance has been far from his former, dominant self.  He is allowing greater than 1.5 runners per inning pitched and has already surrendered as many home runs this year as he has in any other year.  His strikeout rates are down, though his walk rates appear to be steady.  He is a work horse type pitcher that has already appeared in 62 games this season and does add some veteran relief to the back end of the bullpen.  He does produce a solid ground ball rate just below 44% and the Cardinals are probably hoping to catch lightning in a bottle by putting him back into meaningful ball games.

Axford is in his arbitration years as a “Super Two” player, which leaves him under team control through 2016.

Far from the move that most fans or pundits believe to be the one the Cardinals needed to make, it does inject a new and steady arm to the bullpen for a relatively low cost, depending on the prospect heading to Milwaukee.

Bill Ivie is the founder of i70baseball.
You can find his work on Yahoo!InsideSTL, and here on i70.
Talk baseball with him on Twitter @poisonwilliam

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Triple Play: Clayton Kershaw, Edinson Volquez, Ichiro

In this edition of the Triple Play, we look at the best starting pitcher in baseball, an amazing career achievement that unexpectedly is drawing some controversy, and more (including our weekly Wainwright Walk Watch). Off we go:

IchiroSuzuki

Who’s Hot?

Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers

Just as people are running out of superlatives for Miguel Cabrera’s hitting; so too are we struggling to find the words to accurately describe just how sensational Kershaw has been for the Dodgers this season. You’ve seen the ERA (1.72) that is far and away the best in baseball, but Kershaw also leads the National League in the following categories:

  • Games started (27)
  • Shutouts (2, tied with Adam Wainwright)
  • WHIP (0.857)
  • Hits per nine innings (5.8)
  • ERA+ (207)

He has surrendered just nine home runs in 198 1/3 innings pitched and is on pace for 240 strikeouts. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is 188/32. The last time he allowed more than two runs in a start was July 10 against the Rockies. His ERA hasn’t been above two since June 26. The only thing separating him from a second 20-win season in three years is the Dodgers’ slow start to the season. Barring an incomprehensible late-season collapse, he looks like a shoo-in to win the NL Cy Young Award. The only questions left are whether the voting will be unanimous, and if he will win the MVP award as well.

Who’s Not?

Edinson Volquez, San Diego Padres

Edinson Volquez has been part of two major trades in his career. The first saw him dealt from the Rangers to the Reds in the Josh Hamilton deal; he was traded from the Reds to the Padres as part of the package for Mat Latos. He teased everyone with an impressive rookie year in 2008, going 17-6, with a 3.21 ERA and 206 strikeouts. But the warning signs were there even then: he walked 93 batters, hit 14 more (which led the NL), and threw 10 wild pitches. His WHIP was a career-best 1.327 and his strikeout-to-walk ratio was just 2.22-to-1.

After being plagued by injuries for several years, Volquez made 32 starts with San Diego in 2012. He was credited with 11 wins, but led the league with a staggering 105 walks. If you owned him in your fantasy league, you either dropped him or watched your ERA/WHIP categories sink lower and lower thanks to his lack of control.

The Padres finally ran out of patience with Volquez on Saturday, designating him for assignment one day after failing a ghastly start that saw him fail to make it out of the first inning in a no-decision versus the anemic Cubs. This season, he went 9-10 with a 6.01 ERA, 1.67 WHIP and 95 earned runs allowed (worst in the NL). He averaged less than 5 1/3 innings per start this season. There are a few teams out there desperate for pitching, but they would be wise to look elsewhere.

Playing the Name Game

Player A: .266/.358/.484, 24 HR, 64 RBI, 80 runs, 7 SB, 128 OPS+

Player B: .182/.263/.292, 8 HR, 21 RBI, 27 runs, 11 SB, 52 OPS+

Player C: .253/.347/.423, 13 HR, 37 RBI, 60 runs, 2 SB, 109 OPS+

Player A started the 2013 like a house afire, leading his league in home runs. Then he fell into a two and a half-month slump that had fantasy owners wondering if they should sell low on him just to rid themselves of the headache. Since the All-Star break, though, he has been much better; not quite the beast he was in April, but still an elite outfielder. In a recent game, he was tossed out of a game while running out a ground ball to first base.

Player B has had a season to forget, despite being one of the big free-agent signings of this past offseason. Never one to hit for a high average, he had always been able to provide power and great speed for fantasy owners. This season, he hasn’t provided much of either. His struggles have resulted in more frequent days off, even when healthy. The extra rest hasn’t helped, however, as he has 1-for-34 in his past 13 games.

Player C is the player who was recently injured, and may miss the rest of the regular season. The timing couldn’t be worse, either, as he was punishing the ball to the tune of a .348/.419/.621 slash line this month. In his place is a player who has never produced an OPS+ greater than 75 nor had more than 360 at-bats for the season.

Player A is Justin Upton, Player B is B.J. Upton, and Player C is Jason Heyward. Their up-and-down seasons (or in BJ’s case, just down) illustrate just how good Freddie Freeman, Chris Johnson, and Brian McCann have been in anchoring the Braves lineup this season. The bullpen has been stellar as well, despite the injuries to stalwarts Eric O’Flaherty and Jonny Venters. The Braves’ biggest benefactor, though, has been the putrid NL East division. If they were in any other division, they would be in a dogfight for first place. Instead, though, the Braves can worry about getting their players healthy and ready for October baseball.

Random Thoughts

  • Wainwright Walk Watch: Once Adam Wainwright started the 2013 season by pitching 37 innings before allowing his first walk of the season, we started a weekly tracker to keep track of how few free passes the Cardinals’ ace hands out this season. He has led the majors in strikeout-to-walk ratio all season, and it hasn’t been close. After handcuffing the Cubs last week, Wainwright was even better last Friday night versus the Braves: he spun a six-hit, complete-game victory in which he walked no one and fanned nine. The start was Wainwright’s ninth this season in which he hasn’t issued a free pass (by comparison, Kershaw has six starts where he didn’t allow a walk). It also was his fifth complete game this season, most in the majors (Kershaw has three). Wainwright’s strikeout-to-walk ratio is back up to 7.24-to-1, still far and away the best in the majors. He is on a big-time roll at the perfect time, as the Cardinals go into a crucial stretch where their next 13 games are against the Reds and Pirates.
  • Jose Fernandez has allowed a total of eight runs in his seven starts since the All-Star break, with an ERA of 1.31. Opponents are slugging .225 against him in those games, and he has a 62-to-11 strikeout/walk ratio. He turned 21 on July 31. Mercy.
  • Meanwhile, the clock has struck midnight for Royals pitcher Bruce Chen. From July 12-August 13, he turned in six consecutive quality starts as the Royals elevated themselves into wild-card contention. His past two starts, however, have been brutal. After allowing just four runs total in those previous six starts, he has allowed 13 runs in just nine innings. Detroit and Washington both knocked him around like a piñata. He may get another opportunity or two, but Kansas City can’t afford any more clunkers if they want to hang in the wild card race.
  • If Miguel Cabrera is still feeling the effects of his abdominal injury, he’s doing a whale of a job covering it up. The past two weeks, he’s bashed seven home runs, with 19 RBI and .689 slugging percentage. For the season, his batting line is a ridiculous .360/.450/.685 (all of which lead the AL). He is on pace for 51 homers, 159 RBI, and 115 runs scored. If Chris Davis slows down at all, Cabrera has a terrific chance to become the major leagues’ first back-to-back Triple Crown winner.
  • The aforementioned Davis is showing little signs of slowing down, however. He has 46 homers on the season (five more than Cabrera), to go with 117 RBI. After seeing his strikeout totals soar in June and July, Davis is back to being more selective at the plate and he is reaping the benefits, as shown by his 1.119 OPS this month.
  • Then there’s the other Davis – Khris Davis, that is. The Brewers’ rookie outfielder is having himself a fine August as well. He entered August with a .231/.310/.538 slash line; now it looks like this: .338/.416/.727. It’s a small sample size, to be sure, but the Brewers will take any bright spot they can get right now.
  • Boston’s win over the Dodgers yesterday marked the first time that a team has beaten the Dodgers in a series since June 14-16, when Pittsburgh won two of three from L.A.
  • Jordan Danks hit a home run Sunday in a game that his brother John started. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that was the first time a player hit a home run in support of his brother since Billy and Bobby Shantz achieved the feat for the Kansas City A’s in 1955.
  • Sadly, that is probably the highlight of the White Sox’s season.
  • Sunday’s Diamondbacks-Phillies day game started just 11 ½ hours after Saturday’s 18-inning marathon ended. Casper Wells was unavailable to pitch.
  • Welcome back, Roy Halladay.
  • If you haven’t read the story about the eight-year-old Indians fan with cerebral palsy who asked Carlos Santana and Jason Kipnis to hit home runs for him Sunday (they both did, by the way), do yourself a favor and read it. Here’s to you, Niko Lanzarotta.
  • We wrap up this week with our final Ichiro Hit Tracker. On Wednesday, Aug. 21, Ichiro collected career hit #4,000, a single off Blue Jays starter R.A. Dickey. As more and more national writers started taking note of this milestone (AFTER I started noting it in the Triple Play), there was a major backlash by many fans and media members. While the 1,872 hits from his career in Japan obviously don’t count towards the major-league numbers, it is still a noteworthy achievement. Some writers grumbled that Japanese baseball was of no better quality than the minor leagues, which is an apples-to-oranges argument. The point that Ichiro is one of the greatest pure hitters ever to play the game still holds. As such, here are a few more numbers that illustrate just that:
    • He has compiled ten 200-hit seasons. The only other player to do that? Pete Rose.
    • Ichiro has done that in 13 years. It took Rose 17 years to do that.
    • Ichiro has five seasons with more than 220 hits. Rogers Hornsby has four. Rose has one.
    • With 2,533 hits, Ichiro is the all-time leader in Mariners history (more than Edgar Martinez or Ken Griffey Jr.)
    • Ichiro has hit successfully off 756 pitchers in his major-league career.
    • Since 2001, the player with the second-most hits is Albert Pujols (2,347).

Let’s just appreciate the greatness we have had the privilege of watching for the past 13 seasons. There will be plenty of time to debate Ichiro’s place in history after he has retired.

Follow me on Twitter: @ccaylor10

Posted in Cardinals, I-70 Baseball Exclusives, MLB, RoyalsComments (0)

Very Impressive Weekend for the Cubs

Chicago Cubs fans know that their team will always keep them on their toes. In the last week the team traded away ace pitcher Matt Garza for a handful of prospects, and also traded away slugger Alfonso Soriano in a peculiar deal. That same trade left only Jeff Samardzija as the only remaining member from the 2008 team that won 97 games. Also, the team welcomed prospect Junior Lake to the mix. A brief summary of Lake, he is tall, strong, and quick. In a single game, he showcased his speed with two bunt singles and then showed the power with a crushing home run. Soriano himself said he saw a younger him in Lake. The changing of the guard was unfolding.

AlfonsoSoriano

If that was not enough, the Cubs had to make a weekend trip to the World Series Champion San Francisco Giants to end a ten game west coast trip. Not much could have been expected from that. But then in true Cub fashion, they kept the faithful on their toes and ended up sweeping the champions in arguably their most impressive three consecutive games in the last two seasons.

Friday night saw a great effort by Edwin Jackson nearly lost. Jackson was cruising for six innings until finding trouble in the seventh. Trailing 2-1 and down to the final strike, Anthony Rizzo hit a rocket down the first base line through the legs of Brandon Belt that scored two runs to take the lead and ultimately win the game.

Saturday’s game saw another great pitching performance by unlikely Chris Rusin who pitched seven shutout innings. But the pitching performance may have been by Pedro Strop. In the eight, Strop loaded the bases without recording an out and due up were MVP Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, and Hunter Pence. Cub fans likely had to turn away at that time. But with two infield ground outs to force runners at home and a strikeout of Pence, Strop got out of the inning without allowing a run. Nate Schierholtz proceeded to smack a home run in the top of the ninth and the Cubs won 1-0. That also happened to be the final score of three other Major League games that day as well.

No way could the Cubs sweep the defending champions on the road, right? Wrong. Sunday, saw lone all-star Travis Wood launch a homerun of his own and also pitch seven strong innings. Strop did his thing again in the eighth and Kevin Gregg recorded his third save in as many days with the Cubs winning the finale 2-1 and capping off the winning streak.

The way the team seemingly banded together out by the bay was impressive. It was a collective effort and everyone did their part. It was a team to tip your cap to. The Cubs now come back to Chicago to face the last place Brewers. A key point in the clubhouse will have to be keeping the momentum going. All the great work done out west will be all for not if they cannot beat the Brew Crew.

Following that series, they face the red hot Dodgers, struggling Phillies and a few divisional games. If the team can put a few weeks of good play together the record is getting close to the 500 mark. It is still a long shot, but can this unlikely bunch catch the Reds or Pirates and at least be in the consideration for a Wild Card spot? This past weekend was a great building block for that. Stay on your toes.

 

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Triple Play: Jake Peavy, Michael Young, Joe Nathan

The non-waiver trade deadline is less than a week away. In this week’s Triple Play, we look at some of the players who are being bandied about in trade rumors, plus a few players who SHOULD be traded, along with our weekly Wainwright Walk Watch.

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Who’s Hot?

Jake Peavy, ???

It’s not his pitching that has Peavy in the “hot” category – it’s all the trade rumors. With Matt Garza already traded and Cliff Lee not being made available by the Phillies, Peavy has been considered the top starter on the trade market. MLB Trade Rumors reported over the weekend that Peavy packed his bags and it’s highly unlikely he will make another start for the White Sox. ESPN’s Buster Olney is predicting that Peavy will end up with Oakland, which actually makes that scenario most unlikely. Rumors also have the Cardinals and Orioles in pursuit, but the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that nothing is imminent, while the O’s are “tapped out” financially, according to Jon Heyman. Peavy hasn’t been dominant since being activated from the disabled list after the All-Star break, but he has a 10-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio and has held opponents to a .229 batting average. The most logical destination remains Atlanta, regardless of what some national writers are reporting. After Tim Hudson’s horrific injury last week, the Braves need another starter. I think they can get a deal done with the White Sox that does not include top pitching prospect Alex Wood. Boston is another team that could use a starter, thanks to Clay Buchholz’s absence. The Red Sox are fairly deep in young players who could (should) interest the prospect-poor White Sox.

Who’s Not?

Michael Young, Philadelphia

As mentioned in last week’s column, I do not understand the infatuation with Young. There are plenty of players who can put up the following batting line: .277/.342/.402, 7 HR, 32 RBI, 38 runs, 1 SB. Here are some examples: Drew Stubbs (not a full-time outfielder), Luke Scott, Stephen Drew (both injured for part of the season), John Mayberry (reserve outfielder), Eric Chavez (reserve infielder), and David DeJesus (platoon outfielder). Yet several teams, including Young’s former team (Texas), have shown interest in him, despite his lackluster July performance (.236/.333/.375 batting line). If deployed as part of a strict platoon, Young could have some value as a designated hitter for a contender, but players like that should not require much in trade. This seems a case where Young’s past hitting success will result in the Phillies being able to obtain a couple of prospects from a team. That being the case, this should a no-brainer situation for the Phillies, who are in dire need of an infusion of young talent. Then again, GM Ruben Amaro hasn’t always shown in inclination to do what’s in the best interest of his team’s future. I’d say the chances of Young actually being traded are about 60-40, at best.

Playing the Name Game

Player A: 6-6, 3.06 ERA, 1.077 WHIP, 7.0 K/9, 3.57 K/BB, 134 ERA+

Player B: .278/.366/.500, 13 HR, 44 RBI, 42 runs, 146 OPS+

Player A is Kansas City’s Ervin Santana. Player B is the Padres’ Carlos Quentin. Both are players who should be traded by Wednesday’s deadline. Given the Angels’ terrible pitching this season, they would probably like to have Santana back. He has been up-and-down this year, but his two starts since the All-Star break have been terrific (both wins): 15 1/3 IP, 0.59 ERA, nine hits, one run allowed, nine strikeouts, three walks. He’s younger than Peavy, much less of a health risk, and has the capability to dominate. Kansas City is hovering around .500, honestly not much of a threat to the Tigers or Indians in the AL Central (the current six-game win streak notwithstanding). Considering the return package the Cubs received for Matt Garza, who will be a free agent at season’s end, the Royals should be able to match that for Santana.

Quentin, meanwhile, would be a perfect fit for a team looking for an outfield bat or DH upgrade (Rangers, Pirates, Orioles, Athletics). When he isn’t starting brawls with opposing pitchers, Quentin offers plenty of power (.866 OPS) that would boost several contenders’ lineups. Once the Padres get Cameron Maybin and Kyle Blanks back from the disabled list, they will have a glut of outfielders who should play most every day. Quentin’s contract, which pays him a combined $17.5 million in 2014-15, is quite reasonable, making him an even more attractive commodity. Trading Quentin for some young pitching would help San Diego on two fronts. Failing to trade him would be a mistake.

Player A: 1-2, 33 Sv, 1.69 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 8.7 K/9

Player B: 1-1, 32 Sv, 1.73 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, 9.5 K/9

Player A is Mariano Rivera. Player B is the Rangers’ Joe Nathan, who could be on the block. At first blush, this would appear to drastically change the trade market. One of the premier closers in baseball suddenly being available would have contenders lining up, right? Teams like Detroit, Boston, and the L.A. Dodgers have dealt with bullpens in flux the entire season. But why would Texas trade Nathan to an AL contender? The Dodgers seem like a possibility, what with their bottomless wallets, but what do they have to offer the Rangers in exchange? The Pirates might have a need due to Jason Grilli’s injury, and they have the prospects to entice Texas, but if they are looking for hitters, not pitchers. With the Rangers chasing the Oakland Athletics in the NL West and several other teams in the wild-card hunt, it would seem like the Rangers would be better served to keep their closer. On the other hand, if they are determined to not exercise the $9 million team option for 2014 on the 38-year-old Nathan, that may be driving the decision to entertain trade offers.

Random Thoughts

  • Wainwright Walk Watch: Adam Wainwright went 37 innings before walking his first batter, so we are keeping track of how few free passes the Cardinals’ ace issues throughout the remainder of the season. After a fine start last Friday against the Braves (7 IP, 7 H, 3 ER) which resulted in a loss, Wainwright’s strikeout-to-walk ratio sits at 145-to-18 (8.06-to-1). That ratio is still the best in the majors. Wainwright’s main competition in the fewest-walks competition remains Oakland’s Bartolo Colon (also with 18 walks, but only 77 strikeouts). The next-best K/BB ratio belongs to Seattle’s Hisashi Iwakuma (5.86-to-1).
  • If Pittsburgh truly is considering a trade for Justin Morneau, I applaud the creative thinking. Garrett Jones can move to right field. Morneau’s experience might be just what the young, hungry Pirates need.
  • Another name that offense-starved teams should keep in mind: Kendrys Morales. Seattle seems to have about a half-team of first-base/DH types on the team; fan favorite Raul Ibanez probably isn’t going anywhere and Michael Morse wouldn’t bring as much in value. Morales, once an anchor for the Angels’ lineup, has belted 16 homers and driven in 58 runs this season. He would fit in well at first base in Pittsburgh, or at DH in Texas, Baltimore, Oakland, and Tampa Bay.
  • An ugly weekend for the Cardinals (getting broomed by the Braves in Atlanta) has some fans clamoring for a trade to either boost the rotation or replace shortstop Pete Kozma. If GM John Mozeliak can let Albert Pujols walk away after winning a World Series, I highly doubt one bad series is going to cause him to make a panic move.
  • Speaking of Pujols, the sight of him leaving the game Saturday night due to his plantar fasciitis was difficult to watch. Cardinals fans know how long that foot malady plagued Pujols in St. Louis, but he was able to play through it most of the time. If the condition is bad enough to force him to the disabled list, then the pain must be excruciating. His pain tolerance is one of the reasons he earned the nickname “The Machine.”
  • Beginning in 2014, the Angels have eight years and $212 left on his contract. Yikes.
  • News: Yahoo reported over the weekend that the Angels are “open for business.” Views: they really don’t have many marketable pieces; their middle infielders (Howard Kendrick, Erick Aybar) could attract some interest, but since they aren’t trading guys like Mike Trout or Mark Trumbo, they probably won’t be making very many deals.
  • Let’s see here: Jeter and Soriano homer, Rivera picks up win as Yankees rally to win. Is it 2013 or 2001?
  • A first-person review of Miami’s 20-year-old phenom Jose Fernandez as he shut down the Rockies at Coors Field last Tuesday night: he might not throw quite as hard as Justin Verlander or Aroldis Chapman, but Fernandez’s fastball absolutely explodes out of his hand. He is a much better pitcher already than Jeffrey Loria deserves.
  • Tino Martinez, fired over the weekend for alleged abusive conduct involving Marlins’ players, says he is “unsure” whether he will coach again. I think the rest of us are sure, Tino. You’re done. I wouldn’t count on a TV job anytime soon, either.
  • Series of the week: St. Louis at Pittsburgh. The Cardinals come to town with a one-game lead over the Pirates, who lost two of three to the Marlins. St. Louis is 2-3 against the Pirates this season. Pittsburgh is 32-18 at home in 2013.
  • Trade deadline prediction #1: the Orioles will find that they aren’t actually “tapped out” after all and make another deal for a pitcher.
  • Trade deadline prediction #2: Pittsburgh will find the additional hitter they need, along with another reliever to help cover the loss of Grilli.
  • Trade deadline prediction #3: Oakland, emboldened by their continued success without a big-name superstar, will make a big splash to bolster the team.
  • I guarantee at least a .333 average on these predictions. That, and 99 cents, will get you a Big Gulp.

Follow me on Twitter: @ccaylor10

Posted in Cardinals, MLB, RoyalsComments (0)

Triple Play: Chris Sale, Lance Berkman, Brandon McCarthy

Welcome to this week’s Triple Play. This week, we examine an ace lefty, a couple of Giant pitchers who are anything but, a pitcher rebounding nicely from a horrific injury, and more. Here we go:

San Francisco Giants' Tim Lincecum works against the San Diego Padres in the first inning of a baseball game Saturday, April 20, 2013, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Who’s Hot?

Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox

Sale has been breezing through opposing lineups. Since getting rocked for eight earned runs against Cleveland on April 13, Sale has allowed a total on seven earned runs in his next six starts. In fact, he hasn’t allowed a run in 23 innings. The Angels are certainly tired of facing him. In Sale’s past two starts (both against the punchless Halos), Sale shut them down for 16 2/3 innings, allowing four hits and four walks, while punching out 19. For the season, the lanky lefty is 5-2 with a 2.53 ERA and a glowing 0.92 WHIP. That puts him on pace to win 20 games with 240-plus strikeouts, and a 4-to-a strikeout-to-walk ratio – all numbers are pure gold for fantasy owners. His Fielder Independent Pitching (FIP) ratio is 3.19, which indicates that a small regression may be on the way, but it would be unreasonable to expect Sale to continue his current pace. Make no mistake, though. Sale is a stud, and you should be ready to pay accordingly if you’re looking to deal for him in your fantasy league.

Who’s Not?

Ryan Vogelsong, San Francisco Giants

It’s safe to say that whatever magic spell that turned Vogelsong into such an effective pitcher in 2011-12 has expired and he has turned back into a pumpkin. Simply put, Vogelsong has been terrible. How terrible, you ask? In eight starts, he has allowed an NL-worst 37 earned runs – that’s more than half the earned runs he allowed the entire 2012 season in 190 innings. He currently sports an ERA over 8 and a 2.67 WHIP. Stats like that will kill an entire fantasy pitching staff. But manager Bruce Bochy is going to stick with Vogelsong for the time being. You should not. The rest of the NL West is a muddled mess, so the first-place Giants don’t seem to believe finding a replacement is a priority. You should, however, if you’re stuck with Vogelsong on your fantasy team. You’d be better off with a middle reliever who isn’t single-handedly destroying your ERA and WHIP categories. A middle reliever might also vulture the occasional win or save.

Playing the Name Game

Player A: .121 avg, .319 OPS
Player B: .123 avg, .319 OPS

Player A is actually the collective batting average and OPS for the Seattle Mariners’ shortstops so far this season. Player B represents the same stats for National League pitchers. NBC Sports HardballTalk reported this hilariously eye-popping stat a few days ago. Upon closer review, Seattle’s Brendan Ryan and Robert Andino have combined for 1 homer (plus 11 RBI, two steals, and 12 runs scored). Meanwhile, the following NL pitchers have homered: Clayton Kershaw, Wade Miley, Tim Hudson, Gio Gonzalez, Jeff Samardzjia, and Eric Stults. All of this leads me to ask: how much longer are the Mariners going to wait to call up Nick Franklin? He’s hitting .328/.451/.509 with 4 homers, 17 RBI, 5 steals and 26 runs scored at Triple-A Tacoma. Talk about an instant upgrade. This should be a no-brainer. Come on, Jack Zduriencik. Fantasy owners are waiting, rather impatiently.

Player A: .210/.258/.347, 5 HR, 12 RBI, 17 runs, 1 SB
Player B: .293/.416/.455, 3 HR, 21 RBI, 18 runs, 0 SB

Player A is Josh Hamilton. Player B is Lance Berkman, the man the Texas Rangers signed to replace Hamilton after his defection to Los Angeles. Thanks to the DH, the Big Puma has been able to avoid playing the field – thus keeping his legs healthier than during his injury-plagued 2012 – and focus on hitting. At 37, Berkman remains a terrific hitter. His OPS+ of 130 ranks second on the team (to Mitch Moreland), and he is on pace to hit close to .300 and drive in 80 runs. Hamilton, meanwhile, is on pace for 46 RBI and an average below the Mendoza Line. Advantage: Texas. Fantasy-wise, Berkman was most likely had in your league at a bargain-basement price or a late round due to his injuries last season. He is on pace for around 15 homers and 75 runs scored in addition to those 80 RBI. Hamilton is on pace to hit just 19 home runs this season, plus 65 runs scored and a handful of stolen bases. After clubbing a career-high 43 long balls in 2012, fantasy owners no doubt paid big bucks to land Hamilton on their team. Barring a huge turnaround, he’s going to leave owners and Angel fans wishing they had picked up the Berkman instead.

Random Thoughts

  • After Baltimore closer Jim Johnson saw his team record of 35 consecutive saves snapped last week, he really imploded in spectacular fashion Saturday against the Rays: six batters faced, three hits, two walks, FIVE earned runs, one out. Yeesh.
  • Raise your hand if you predicted that the Rockies would be supplying the Yankees with a consistent supply of infielders this season (first Chris Nelson, then Reid Brignac over the weekend). Notice I left the word “quality” out of the previous sentence.
  • And yet, the Yankees keep winning. How long before the New York media starts touting Vernon Wells as an MVP candidate?
  • Tony Cingrani made six starts, pitching 33 innings with a 41-to-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a 1.02 WHIP. Mike Leake has made eight starts with a 34-to-13 K-to-BB ratio and a 1.49 WHIP. Naturally, it’s Cingrani being sent to the minors to make room for Johnny Cueto instead of Leake. Brilliant move, Cincinnati.
  • Wainwright Walk Watch: The Cardinals’ ace pitched 37 innings this season before issuing his first walk. So far this season, he has walked six batters while striking out 71. Among NL starters who have tossed at least 50 innings, only Washington’s Jordan Zimmermann (9) has walked fewer than 10 batters.
  • Conversely, Boston’s Ryan Dempster walked six Minnesota batters in less than five innings Saturday. Guess that little glove shake before he throws the ball doesn’t fool the umpires any more than it does the hitters.
  • Did you see Tim Lincecum lose his balance and fall off the mound while winding up Saturday night against the Rockies? It resulted in the runner on first being balked to second, then the runner came around to score on a single by Tyler Chatwood (the opposing pitcher). A train wreck of an inning – and a perfect summation of Lincecum’s career the past few years.
  • It’s not yet Memorial Day, but it might be time to stick a fork (phork?) in the Phillies. Getting a runner to third ONCE against a salad tosser like Bronson Arroyo? That’s ugly. I would suggest that Philly unload their veterans and rebuild, but outside of Cliff Lee, who would want them?
  • It appears that Braves lefty specialist Eric O’Flaherty is going to join teammate Jonny Venters in elbow-surgery land soon. Last one in the Atlanta bullpen, please turn out the lights.
  • What a great sight Saturday night, watching Brandon McCarthy spin a complete-game, three-hit shutout of the Marlins. Although it’s his first win of the season, McCarthy has been pitching pretty well this season. His 37-to-8 K-to-BB ratio is stellar, and his FIP rating of 3.74 indicates that he has been better than the results show. Focus on that if you’re thinking of picking him up in your fantasy league. In any case, Saturday night had to be extra satisfying for McCarthy, even if it was against the worst team in baseball. After that horrifying skull fracture last September, I’ll bet he doesn’t care who his opponent is, as long as he is out there able to play in good health. Here’s to continued success for him. Baseball is better with guys like McCarthy on the field.

Follow me on Twitter: @ccaylor10

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Triple Play: Shelby Miller, Adam Wainwright, Ubaldo Jimenez

It was definitely a Happy Mother’s Day at our house. Hope it was at yours as well. This week, we’re looking back at the gems the Cardinals’ pitched against the Rockies this weekend, a marquee outfielder who can’t get going, and more. Here we go:

Molina r1

Who’s Hot?

Shelby Miller, St. Louis Cardinals

How do you pick which start was more impressive? I finally had to choose Miller’s since I’ve seen Adam Wainwright’s greatness before. I don’t think it’s a stretch at all to say that the 22-year-old pitched the single best game by a rookie starter since Kerry Wood’s 20-strikeout masterpiece against the Astros in 1998. Miller struck out 13, walked NONE and allowed only a broken-bat base hit against the Rockies. Some of the strikeouts were absolutely jaw-dropping. Perfectly placed fastballs. Breaking balls that dropped right over the plate. You name it. Miller had it all working for him. He said after the game on MLB Network that it was the best game he had ever pitched. Among the many stats and charts I’ve seen over the weekend about the pure greatness of this start, this one really jumped out at me: in the past 10 years, how many starts have there been where the pitcher allowed one hit (or none), struck out at least 13 batters, while walking none? Three. That’s it.  Here they are:

  • 5/18/2004 – Randy Johnson, age 40, Arizona vs. Atlanta (perfect game)
  • 6/13/2012 – Matt Cain, age 27, SF vs. Houston (perfect game)
  • 5/10/2013 – Miller

The fact that the Big Unit pitched a perfect game at age 40 quite a feat as well, but a subject for another day. This is a damn impressive list. Miller is 22 and just scratching the surface of his abilities. If you own Miller on your fantasy team, here are a couple of other stats that will have you patting yourself on the back: he has yet to allow more than three earned runs in a start and his strikeout-to-walk ratio is 51-to-11. That is dominating for any starter. Of course, it is important to remember that Miller has less than a dozen major-league starts under his belt and there is bound to be some adjustment as opposing teams become more familiar with him. It would be unrealistic to expect no regression. Then again, as he matures, he figures to get even better. So far, it appears that the #1 starter-like projections predicted for Miller are right on target. After Friday night, Rockies hitters are in position to argue that point.

Who’s Not?

Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers

When your most noteworthy accomplishment of the season is a post-game altercation with another player, you know you’re off to a bad start. Someone please alert Kemp that the 2013 season started over a month ago. Entering Sunday’s games, Kemp’s batting line looked like that of a fourth outfielder on a good team: 1 HR, 14 RBI, 5 SB, .268 average. Okay, the RBI total is a little better than that of a reserve, but that’s about it. He just can’t get on track. How much longer can fantasy owners keep saying, “it’s early – he’ll be fine”? Fantasy owners cannot be happy to see that he is on pace for 4 HRs and 71 runs scored. Kemp has driven in one measly run and stolen a single base since Cinco de Mayo. He might have had an 11-game hitting streak going, but those hits aren’t translating to other stats for fantasy owners (or the Dodgers). Since you likely paid big auction dollars or used a high draft pick on Kemp, you really have no realistic choice but to wait and hope that he gets going soon. Trading him now would be a pennies-on-the-dollar move.

Playing the Name Game

Player A: .298/.365/.632, 4 HR, 13 RBI, 10 runs, 1 SB

Player B: .285/.379/.551, 4 HR, 12 RBI, 10 runs, 0 SB

Player A is the Angels’ Mike Trout. Player B is the Indians’ Mark Reynolds. Trout is being viewed by some baseball analysts as a bust, while Reynolds is being hailed as the best bargain free-agent signing of the year. Both are incorrect. Trout is on pace for 27 homers, 112 RBI, 22 steals and 100 runs scored. Reynolds is not going to hit 50 homers and drive in 150, as he is currently on pace to do. But it’s a mighty nice hot streak for the Sons of Geronimo and fantasy owners to enjoy. Anyone who considers Trout a bust, or who thinks Reynolds is going to maintain his current numbers, is an idiot. Let’s check back in a month.

Player A: 1-0, 3.85 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 22 Ks, 14 IP

Player B: 2-0, 2.31 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 16 Ks, 11 2/3 IP

Player A is Yu Darvish of the Rangers. Player B is Ubaldo Jimenez of the Indians. I had to read those numbers three times to make sure I wasn’t mixing them up with, say, James Shields or another front-line AL starter. Jimenez has actually put together back-to-back quality starts for the Tribe. In fact, Jimenez out-pitched Justin Verlander on Saturday, his third straight win.  Results like that are more in line with what the Indians had in mind when they dealt two of their top pitching prospects to the Rockies for the former All-Star starter in  July 2011. Personally, I wouldn’t trust that Jimenez has made some sort of breakthrough, but his success and that of Scott Kazmir, Cleveland is on a roll the past couple weeks and is bearing down on Detroit for first in the AL Central. The Indians have plenty of hitting. If, by chance, Jimenez can continue pitching this effectively, the Indians will be a big step closer to being a genuine contender.

Random Thoughts

  • One final note on Shelby Miller: he has been quoted as saying that he has not shaken off a single pitch Yadier Molina has called for all season. Not only do you not run on Yadi, you don’t shake off Yadi, either.
  • Let’s not forget Jon Lester. He pitched a beauty of his own last Friday night against the Blue Jays. He allowed just one hit, a double by Maicer Izturis in the 6th inning. For the season, Lester is 5-0 with a 2.73 ERA and 0.98 WHIP. It’s not a coincidence that he is pitching like an ace and the Red Sox are winning again.
  • Wainwright’s shutout of the Rockies on Saturday was no slouch, either. He didn’t strike out as many batters as Miller did Friday, but he had dazzling command of that 12-to-6 bender that gets hitters bailing out of the batter’s box, only to watch the ball drop right in the zone. When he gets that pitch going, he’s as fun to watch as any dominant ace.
  • Wainwright Walk Watch: 4. That’s four batters that Wainwright has walked this season (in a National League-high 58 2/3 innings), compared with 55 strikeouts. That’s a 13.75 strikeout-to-walk ratio, which is so far beyond ridiculously good that it’s, well, ridiculous.
  • On the other hand, there’s poor Philip Humber of the Astros. First he was banished to the bullpen by Houston. Then, after getting hammered out of the pen Saturday night, his stats sit thusly: 0-8, a ghastly 9.59 ERA, 2.02 WHIP, 43 ERA+. When you see that Humber has allowed 14 hits and nearly four walks per nine innings, it’s no wonder he has been charged with the loss in eight of his nine appearances this season. How did he ever pitch a perfect game?
  • I think enough has been said and written about how terrible Angel Hernandez as an umpire. On second thought, no, it hasn’t been enough – his continued employment in an embarrassment to baseball. Likewise with Bob Davidson. A scientific poll (read: not scientific at all) reveals that the overall quality of umpiring would double if just those two were pink-slipped.
  • As incompetent as Hernandez’s blown home run call was, it pales in comparison to the fiasco the following night with Astros manager Bo Porter just making up rules regarding pitching changes. Botching a call is nothing compared to not knowing the stinking rule book. My idea for an outside-the-box punishment for those umpires? Having to umpire a game while wearing dunce caps.
  • They could borrow them from the ESPN executives who think it’s a good idea to pay John Kruk a salary to talk about baseball on TV.

Follow me on Twitter: @ccaylor10

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Cardinals vs. Diamondbacks: Three Points to Walk With

The St. Louis Cardinals opened the season in a competitive fashion in Arizona, splitting the first two games of the series, before dropping the final contest in a long, 16 inning affair last night. It was fight throughout with a Diamondbacks club that shows a lot of potential, but still is a frustrating effort, because of some of the details that led to the verdict. And while the season is young, there are a few things to pull away from the series, inside of the box score. Here is a wrap on the series with three details from inside the series to walk away with:

Craig-Descalso

1. Trevor Rosenthal learns a lesson: One day it’s more than enough, the next day it isn’t. The temptation is real to go after guys with pure fastballs at any point when your stuff is as good as Rosenthal’s. However one of the lessons that will be learned this year is that it’s not about how hard he throws it, rather it’s where he throws it that hard. A day after blazing through a 13-pitch, two strikeout performance in Tuesday’s win, the next day wasn’t as kind.

In the course of surrendering three consecutive hits, which pulled the Diamondbacks even in the bottom of the eighth inning, Rosenthal didn’t struggle with his velocity (as he kept every pitch at 96 mph and up), but he kept the decisive deliveries high, and two veteran bats in Martin Prado and Aaron Hill made him pay. Yet he showed that he can learn on the run, as he began to change locations with regularity the next two at-bats to Miguel Montero and Paul Goldschmidt and worked his way out the inning. While his potential and heat check digits will be exciting, the road for Rosenthal meeting his potential will be lined with him learning to trust the method as much as his power.

2. Jaime stepped up. After letting the first game get away from Adam Wainwright and Fernando Salas, the Cardinals dropped their first contest of the year. Yet the troubled lefty delivered a solid effort in the subsequent game to support the staff ace, and help the club pull out a solid victory. Jaime Garcia threw a very solid 5.2 innings, surrendering one run and two hits in route to his and the club’s first win of the year. It’s early of course, but when combined with his solid spring effort (2.48 ERA in 29 innings over six starts) along with the encouraging road start, a promising rebound campaign could be in store.

3. Allen Craig is a gamer. It was an interesting series for Craig. In what could become a familiar scenario for him throughout the year, he started the first two games of the series at first base, and then shifted to right in game three to spell Carlos Beltran. But what truly showed what Craig is all about was the bottom-top 2nd/3rd inning stretch he had. After taking a rough slide into foul territory in pursuit of a foul ball, and in the process bloodying his knee through his pants, he noticeably limped through the outfield. Yet for the final out of the inning, with his banged up knee, was forced to break back and make a tough over the head catch to save a run and end the inning.

Back at the plate shortly afterwards, he ripped an RBI double down the left field line to bring in Jon Jay and put the team ahead. He scored on the next pitch as the second run brought in via a Yadier Molina base hit. That combination of flexibility and grit goes a long way in proving his mettle on the field, as well as inspiring the club.

Where to Next: San Francisco for weekend series vs. Giants (2-1), who are on a quite notable 3-game winning streak against the Cards from last season’s National League Championship Series.

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Cardinals Get Their LOOGY

The St. Louis Cardinals have been looking for a left handed relief pitcher this off season.  Today, they got their man.

Cards sign Choate to 3 years, $75 million contract

Randy Choate is a 37-year old left handed relief pitcher that has pitched for five teams in his twelve year major league career, spanning back to his rookie season in 2000 with the New York Yankees.

Choate is a true LOOGY (Left-handed One Out GuY) and exactly what the Cardinals were looking for.  He has lead the league in appearances two of the last three seasons with 85 in 2010 and 80 in 2012.  As the term suggests, however, many appearances do not lead to a ton of innings.  Choate threw just 38.2 innings last season.

Tough against lefties, he has held them to a .201 batting average over his career while compiling a 3.52 strikeout to walk ratio as well.

He split time last year between Florida and the Dodgers, having been part of the Hanley Ramirez trade.

Here’s a quick look at his career statistics, as well as his 2012 splits, courtesy of Baseball Reference:

Year Tm W L ERA G GF SV IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO HBP BF ERA+ WHIP H/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2000 NYY 0 1 4.76 22 6 0 17.0 14 10 9 3 8 0 12 1 75 103 1.294 7.4 4.2 6.4 1.50
2001 NYY 3 1 3.35 37 13 0 48.1 34 21 18 0 27 2 35 9 207 135 1.262 6.3 5.0 6.5 1.30
2002 NYY 0 0 6.04 18 11 0 22.1 18 18 15 1 15 0 17 3 101 74 1.478 7.3 6.0 6.9 1.13
2003 NYY 0 0 7.36 5 2 0 3.2 7 3 3 0 1 0 0 0 16 65 2.182 17.2 2.5 0.0 0.00
2004 ARI 2 4 4.62 74 17 0 50.2 52 26 26 1 28 11 49 5 232 100 1.579 9.2 5.0 8.7 1.75
2005 ARI 0 0 9.00 8 0 0 7.0 8 7 7 0 5 1 4 1 35 51 1.857 10.3 6.4 5.1 0.80
2006 ARI 0 1 3.94 30 3 0 16.0 21 9 7 0 3 0 12 3 75 122 1.500 11.8 1.7 6.8 4.00
2007 ARI 0 0 2 0 0 0.0 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3
2009 TBR 1 0 3.47 61 13 5 36.1 28 15 14 4 11 3 28 0 142 126 1.073 6.9 2.7 6.9 2.55
2010 TBR 4 3 4.23 85 8 0 44.2 41 23 21 3 17 5 40 3 187 93 1.299 8.3 3.4 8.1 2.35
2011 FLA 1 1 1.82 54 6 0 24.2 13 7 5 3 13 5 31 2 103 217 1.054 4.7 4.7 11.3 2.38
2012 TOT 0 0 3.03 80 4 1 38.2 29 18 13 1 18 3 38 5 168 131 1.216 6.8 4.2 8.8 2.11
2012 MIA 0 0 2.49 44 4 1 25.1 16 11 7 0 9 0 27 3 104 161 0.987 5.7 3.2 9.6 3.00
2012 LAD 0 0 4.05 36 0 0 13.1 13 7 6 1 9 3 11 2 64 96 1.650 8.8 6.1 7.4 1.22
12 Yrs 11 11 4.02 476 83 6 309.1 268 157 138 16 146 30 266 32 1344 109 1.338 7.8 4.2 7.7 1.82
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/5/2012.

Career Splits:

I Split G R H 2B 3B HR BB SO SO/BB BA OBP SLG OPS GDP HBP IBB BAbip tOPS+
vs RHB as LHP 272 74 134 30 1 9 88 62 0.70 .279 .404 .401 .806 22 15 25 .303 141
vs LHB as LHP 446 85 134 33 1 7 58 204 3.52 .201 .278 .284 .563 13 17 5 .273 68
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/5/2012.

2012 Splits:

Split G R H 2B 3B HR BB SO SO/BB BA OBP SLG OPS TB GDP HBP IBB BAbip tOPS+
vs RHB as LHP 38 3 13 1 0 0 9 8 0.89 .325 .471 .350 .821 14 1 2 1 .406 188
vs LHB as LHP 72 13 16 3 0 1 9 30 3.33 .158 .243 .218 .461 22 2 3 2 .208 63
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/5/2012.

The Cardinals will turn their focus to the middle infield now, where there appear to be shopping for an upgrade at second base or a long term answer at shortstop.

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