Tag Archive | "Waivers"

Royals Claim Kottaras Off Waivers

GeorgeKottaras

KANSAS CITY, MO (January 25, 2013) – The Kansas City Royals today have claimed catcher George Kottaras on Outright Waivers from the Oakland Athletics.  To create room on the 40-man roster, the club designated infielder Tony Abreu for assignment.

The 29-year-old Kottaras (kuh-tar-us) has played for the Red Sox (2008-09), Brewers (2010-12) and Athletics (2012), batting .220 with 24 home runs and 84 RBI in 249 Major League contests.  The left-handed hitter posted a .351 on-base percentage while drawing a career-high 37 walks in 85 games for Milwaukee and Oakland in 2012 while helping the A’s win the American League West after being acquired on July 29.  He blasted six home runs for Oakland in just 27 games and then appeared in four games during the A’s Divisional Series vs. Detroit.  Born in Scarbourough, Ontario, Canada, Kottaras now resides in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Abreu, 28, hit .257 in 22 games for the Royals in 2012 after spending a majority of the campaign at Triple-A Omaha.

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Making their impressions early in Spring Training

This early in spring training, it’s sort of unusual for the Kansas City Royals to have so many lineup and pitching positions already set with potentially good players. In springs past, the Royals usually had several players fighting for roster spots and many times the players who made the roster were marginal at best.

Even though spring training games just started, a few of the lesser-known Royals players have made their impressions. Some are good. Some, not so good.

Starting pitcher Luis Mendoza is making his case for a spot in the starting rotation. In last Sunday’s Cactus League debut against the Texas Rangers, Mendoza threw 36 pitches, giving up an infield hit, a walk and no runs over two innings, contributing to a Royals 6-1 victory.

Mendoza, 28, bounced around with the Boston Red Sox, San Diego Padres and Texas Rangers over an 11-year professional career before figuring it out in AAA Omaha last year. Mendoza is out of options and the Royals are taking a long look to see if he can fill a spot in the starting rotation. What happens over the next few starts will determine if he makes the starting rotation, goes to Omaha or another Major League club picks him up if he goes on waivers.

Another Royals player making the most of his opportunities is third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff. In the second game against the Rangers, Kouzmanoff came off the bench and hit a walk-off two-run double in the bottom of the ninth to give the Royals a 7-6 win over the Rangers.

A year or two ago, Kouzmanoff might have been the Royals starting third baseman, especially with Alex Gordon’s struggles at third. But with Mike Moustakas solidly at third base, the 30 year-old Kouzmanoff knows he’ll likely be in Omaha unless Moustakas gets hurt. Kouzmanoff can opt out of his contract if he’s not on the Major League roster by May 1. If he has a good spring and returns to his early career form, another Major League team might give Kouzmanoff a chance.

In the Tuesday split-squad game against the San Diego Padres, catcher Max Ramirez belted two home runs as the designated hitter, contributing to the Royals 7-4 win. Then in Wednesday’s 6-4 loss to the Chicago Cubs, Ramirez smacked a two-run single in the ninth.

With Manny Pina recovering from knee surgery, the 27 year-old Ramirez has an opportunity to be the Royals backup catcher over current incumbent Brayan Pena. Being a non-roster invitee, Ramirez will need to keep playing well to make the Royals roster.

Another player who wants to make a good impression is starting pitcher Zach Miner. Well, maybe next time. In Miner’s spring training debut, the right-hander gave up a three-run homer, three hits, a walk and threw two strikeouts over 1.2 innings in a 3-2 loss to the Cleveland Indians. It’s only Miner’s first start and he will have plenty of chances to win a spot in the Royals starting rotation. And if not, there’s always Omaha.

Reliever Jeremy Jeffress pitched a scoreless inning in the Tuesday split-squad game against the Indians. While Jeffress had a solid outing, it’s his off-field issues which are a concern. This January, Jeffress was charged with three counts of domestic assault, criminal damage and disorderly conduct after an argument with his girlfriend in Surprise, AZ. The first two charges were dismissed and Jeffress was sentenced to 20 hours of community service for the disorderly conduct charge and required to attend a domestic-violence counseling class. Jeffress did not physically assault his girlfriend and apologized to the Royals and their fans for the incident.

Everyone makes mistakes and the best way to overcome mistakes is to learn from them. But Jeffress has already served a 50 game suspension in 2007 and a 100 game suspension in 2009 for testing positive for marijuana. Another failed drug test will be a lifetime ban from baseball. The 24 year old right-hander will need to make a good impression this spring to make the Royals bullpen. For now, the Royals stand behind Jeffress and he appears to be making the effort to do better on and off the field. For Jeffress sake, let’s hope he does.

To be honest, these players could have one of the best springs in their careers and still not break camp with the Royals. In past years, these players would have a good chance to make the Major League roster. But with the Royals depth, it’s likely these players will end up in Omaha. And for the Royals and their fans, that’s a good thing.

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Concluding The WAR On The Trades Of The GMDM Era

In the final piece of this series, we use the WAR data to finish taking a look at the trades that Dayton pulled off in 2010, and try to determine what all of this really means.

August 13, 2010: The Kansas City Royals traded Jose Guillen to the San Francisco Giants for a player to be named later and cash. The San Francisco Giants sent Kevin Pucetas (minors) (October 14, 2010) to the Kansas City Royals to complete the trade.

By this point in Jose Guillen‘s tenure with the Royals, they were just looking to get rid of him and unload a portion of his salary.  Guillen was in the last year of his deal, had (obviously) cleared waivers, and it was time for the Royals to get a look at some of the guys who had a chance to be part of their future.  And if they could get something in return, well all the better.  Along came Brian Sabean and the San Francisco Giants, who were in the middle of a pennant race and needed a bat.  Pucetas is a 27 year old career minor leaguer, who is unlikely to ever crack the Big Leagues.  However, this trade has to be considered a huge success for Moore considering their desperation to unload Guillen at the time.  It is telling that in Guillen’s almost 3 years with the Royals, he managed to post a cumulative WAR of -1.0.  That’s what $36 million of David Glass’ money bought the Royals in 2007.  Guillen did little after going to the Giants and was not even included on their playoff roster, which was the year they won the World Series.  I’m not sure if Jose has officially announced his retirement, but it is safe to say he is done.

Guillen: -0.7 WAR with Giants (2 months of 2010)

Pucetas: 0.0 WAR (has yet to reach Majors)

Royals win trade by 0.7 WAR

November 10, 2010: The Kansas City Royals traded David DeJesus to the Oakland Athletics for Justin Marks (minors) and Vin Mazzaro.

Yikes!  While DeJesus had a down year in 2011, he did not come close to falling on his face with the fervor that good ole Vinny Mazzaro did.  Royals fans likely have one memory of Mazzaro from the 2011 season and it is this:

IP     H     R    ER    BB   SO   HR   HBP
2.1   11   14   14     3      2      1        0

That was his line as he appeared in relief against Cleveland on May 16.  At least he didn’t hit anyone.  While Mazzaro did appear for the Royals a few more times before the 2011 season came to an end, it is that game and that game alone that Royals fans remember.  It is still unclear what exactly it was that Moore saw in Mazzaro when making this deal.  He showed very little in 2 seasons with the A’s, and managed to make that look amazing compared to what he did in 2011.  As for Justin Marks, he is a 24 year old pitcher who logged a 3.98 ERA in Wilmington, the Royals’ Single A affiliate last year.  Considering how much of a pitcher’s league the Carolina league is known to be, along with his age, it is unlikely he ever has any meaningful impact on the big league roster.  The Royals were shopping DeJesus at the time, and one would have thought they could have gotten more than they did.  So either the market was much softer for him than first thought, or Billy Beane somehow pulled yet another fast one on the Royals.  I would tend to believe the latter, considering that even after an extremely down 2011 season for DeJesus, the Cubs still decided to invest $10 million in him over 2 years to make him their Opening Day right-fielder.  After consistently putting up WAR’s in the 3′s with the Royals (with a 4.4 in 2005), he regressed to a 0.6 WAR in 2011.  I expect DeJesus to rebound nicely in Chicago.

DeJesus: 0.6 WAR with A’s (2011)

Mazzaro: -0.7 WAR with Royals (2011)

Marks: 0.0 WAR (has not reached majors)

A’s win trade by 1.3 WAR

December 19, 2010: The Kansas City Royals traded Yuniesky Betancourt, Zack Greinke and cash to the Milwaukee Brewers for Jake Odorizzi (minors), Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar and Jeremy Jeffress.

Moreso than any other trade analyzed in this study, time will tell whether this one will work out in the Royals’ favor or not.  And if this trade ends up working out well for the Royals, the impact of it will trump the impact of all of the aforementioned failed trades combined.  But for fun, we will take a look at how it worked out in the 2011 season.

After Zack Greinke‘s 2009 Cy Young campaign, it appeared the Royals had their staff ace that would lead the starting rotation into the youth movement we are watching today.  But in 2010, Greinke was not the same.  At times he would show the stuff that made him so electrifying in 2009, but overall he looked disinterested.  Royals fans were in denial about it at the time, but looking back, it was very clear that with 2 years left on his deal, Zack no longer wanted to be in Kansas City.  So the Royals were faced with a decision: keep an unhappy Zack Greinke around in a clubhouse full of young impressionable players and worry about his negativity rubbing off on them, or trade him.  In hindsight, it is clear that trading Greinke was Moore’s only option.  It is even more clear after reading the following quote from Greinke.  When asked, in Feb. 2011, if he ever asked the Royals for a trade, Zack replied:

“I guess I kind of did right before the Trade Deadline last year because we were trading all our players. … When I signed, I was led to believe we were building around the guys we had, and we were getting rid of all of them,” he said. “So I sort of did then. Then at the end of the year, I sort of did again. And then during the offseason, I sort of did again. And then the media got the one where I think my agent must have said it somehow. … So I guess I sort of did about four times.”

Hence, in December of 2010, the Royals and the Brewers came to agreement on this deal.  Greinke proceeded to go to Milwaukee and pitch (and act) like Greinke.  First, he hurt himself playing basketball during Spring Training and missed the first month of the season.  Then he comes out in May and posts an out of this world K/W ratio while somehow managing to have an ERA hovering around 5.  Eventually though, he settled down and pitched like a Cy Young candidate the rest of the way for the NL Central Division Champion Brewers.  Betancourt, who was a throw-in in the deal after the Royals received Escobar in return, actually had a solid season for the Brewers in 2011. And now, ironically,he will wear a Royals uniform in 2012 albeit as a utility infielder.

As for what the Royals received in return, so much is tied up in the future.  But in just last year, it became clear that Escobar is something extremely special with the glove.  While he wasn’t useless with the bat, he is still a light hitter.  If this part of his game can continue to come around, you have yourself an elite ballplayer.  Cain came up for a quick audition at the end of the year and did fine.  The Royals clearly believe he is ready to take over as the everyday centerfielder, as they have traded away Melky Cabrera to the Giants to make room for an everyday role for Lorenzo.  Jeffress began the season on the big league roster, and while he displayed a very live arm and the ability to strike batters out, he struggled badly with his control and was sent down for the majority of the rest of the season.  It remainst to be seen what his role might be in 2012, but it is likely he begins the season in Omaha.  And after all of that, we have not even discussed the player who was stated to be the biggest grab in this trade for the Royals, 21 year-old righthander Jake Odorizzi.  Odorizzi spent last season split between Single A Wimington and Double A Northwest Arkansas.  He figures to begin this season either in Northwest Arkansas or Omaha, with a chance at a September callup to Kansas City.  So while the Royals clearly gave up a bit of production in the short term in this trade, the long term looks extremely bright.

Greinke: 1.7 WAR with Brewers (2011)

Betancourt: 0.7 WAR with Brewers (2011)

Escobar: 2.0 WAR with Royals (2011)

Cain: 0.1 WAR with Royals (23 September 2011 plate appearances)

Jeremy Jeffress: 0.0 WAR with Royals (2011)

Jake Odorizzi: 0.0 WAR (has not reached majors)

Brewers win trade by 0.3 WAR

So…what does all of this mean?

Strictly looking at WAR, Dayton Moore has clearly come out on the short end of the trades that he made in the years of 2006-2010.  Overall, these trades negatively impacted the Royals performance of the Royals through the 2011 season.  However, having reviewed all of these trades, it is very difficult to find one anywhere that set the fanchise back in the long term.  There are no atrocities such as Johnny Damon for Roberto Hernandez, Jermaine Dye for Neifi Perez, or Carlos Beltran for John Buck and Mark Teahen.  Granted, there weren’t any Damons, Dyes, or Beltrans on the roster when Moore took over.  But the point is that it is clear there was a strategy.  Until the Greinke trade, there is a very conservative theme to the trades that Moore has made.  And it is this Greinke trade that will be the biggest indicator as to whether Moore will be able trade effectively when he needs to.  When Dayton took over the job in June 2006, he stated this his primary mission was to rebuild the farm system so as to get to a point where the majority of the big league roster is homegrown talent.  It has taken awhile, but the Royals are now just about there.  Moore should be applauded for not taking his eye off of the ball.  The Royals are almost there.  “The Process” is almost complete.

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Naturals’ INF Bianchi Claimed By Cubs

Naturals’ INF Bianchi claimed by Cubs

KANSAS CITY, MO – The Kansas City Royals announced Friday that Naturals infielder Jeff Bianchi has been claimed off waivers by the Chicago Cubs.

A second-round pick by the Royals in 2005, the 25-year old Bianchi spent the entire 2011 season with the Naturals, where he batted .259 with two home runs and 48 RBI in 119 games. The Lancaster, PA resident also spent the second half of the 2009 season with the Naturals and batted .315 with five homers and 42 RBI in 68 games but missed the 2010 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow during Spring Training.

Bianchi, who will occupy a spot on the Cubs’ 40-man Major League roster, was designated for assignment by the Royals on November 30th to clear a space for new reliever Jonathan Broxton. In 2012, Bianchi is likely to draw an assignment to the Cubs’ Triple-A affiliate, the Iowa Cubs, or their Double-A Tennessee affiliate in the Southern League.

He departs the Naturals organization ranking sixth all-time on the franchise list of games played (187), sixth in at-bats (714), sixth in runs scored (105), tied for fifth in hits (200), third in doubles (40), and seventh in RBI (90). In 490 career minor league games over six seasons, Bianchi has a .281 average with 31 homers and 251 runs batted in.

The Northwest Arkansas Naturals are the Double-A Texas League affiliate of the Kansas City Royals and play at state-of-the-art Arvest Ballpark, located in Springdale. Visit our website, nwanaturals.com, for information on season tickets and ticket plans.

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Giavotella Surgery Chavez Claimed

Royals Second Baseman Giavotella Undergoes Arthroscopic Hip Surgery
Pitcher Jesse Chavez Claimed on Outright Waivers by Toronto Blue Jays

KANSAS CITY, MO (October 21, 2011) – The Kansas City Royals announced today that second baseman Johnny Giavotella underwent arthroscopic surgery yesterday to correct a labral tear in his right hip. The surgery was performed by Dr. Marc Philippon in Vail, Colo. Recovery time is estimated at 10-12 weeks, meaning Giavotella is expected to be available for the start of Spring Training in February, 2012.

In addition, the Royals also announced that right-handed pitcher Jesse Chavez was claimed on Outright Waivers by the Toronto Blue Jays. Chavez was designated for assignment by the Royals on October 11.

 

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Will Royals Get the Last Laugh with Laffey?

The first post-season addition by the Royals was to collect Aaron Laffey off the waivers scrapheap.

Those hoping KC will add significant starting pitching help won’t bat an eye at this signing. But what does the addition of Laffey mean for the 2012 Royals, if anything?

Laffey was waived twice at the end of the season. Neither of those moves speaks well for the lefthander – he was let go by the horrible Mariners, then he was deemed unworthy of the late-season expanded roster of the Yankees.

But things haven’t always been so bleak for Laffey. His career started well enough. In 2007, at just 22, he went 4-2 as a starter for the Indians, and even pitched four scoreless innings of relief in a playoff game that fall.

Laffey spent two more full season with Cleveland pitching as a starter. His ERA and WHIP were decent. But he moved to the bullpen and soon his walks to strikeouts were about even, while his WHIP continued to climb.

At just 25, Cleveland gave up on him.

The Indians thought so little of Laffey, they traded him just prior to last season for an unknown minor leaguer. He pitched unspectacularly out of the pen for Seattle, until they let him go. The Yankees scooped him up for the playoff push in August. He was used sparingly and unceremoniously dumped before the playoffs.

Laffey has strangely gotten worse with every season. While his ERA in 2011 (3.88) was lower than his career ERA going into the season (4.41) he did pitch fewer innings than in any season before. His WHIP has, remarkably, increased every season.

Does that mean he offers nothing to the Royals?

Well, the Royals may hope Laffey can be an improvement over their lefty relief options from last year – Tim Collins and Everett Teaford. But Laffey’s typical numbers are not as good as what Collins and Teaford posted last season.

The one thing he does bring, however, is experience. Laffey has pitched in 126 games in his career, logging 373.2 innings. Collins and Teaford together combined for 111 shaky innings in 2011.

When Laffey was regarded as a top prospect, scouts liked his ability to induce ground balls with his offspeed stuff. Never overpowering – he traditionally allows better than three base runners per strikeout – Laffey will have to bring crafty situational stuff to the table to compete with Collins and Teaford.

Since the Royals will be reluctant to spend much money this off-season, Laffey will probably find a role in the KC pen. But if you asked Cleveland, Seattle and the Yankees, they don’t figure the addition will be of significance.

We’ll see if they’re right.

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Andrew Brown Claimed

Andrew Brown put together an impressive season for the Memphis Redbirds this year, being chosen as a Pacific Coast League All Star in the process.

Photo Courtesy of Erika Lynn

 

The corner outfielder would post a .284/.382/.501 slash line while driving in 73 runs and hitting 20 home runs. He had become a strong hitting prospect within the organization since his 18th round selection in the 2007 amateur draft.

Brown was also involved in a collision with Shane Robinson shortly after the season began in 2011. Both players have recovered since then, with Robinson taking the more severe injuries. You can read (and see) more about that in i70baseball’s early article found by clicking here.

Before the beginning of the 2011 National League Championship Series, the Cardinals made some roster adjustments. In one of those moves, Andrew Brown was placed on waivers and Lance Lynn was added to the 40-man roster.

According to MLB Trade Rumors, Brown has been claimed by the Colorado Rockies organization. Their report can be found by clicking here.

Brown joins former Cardinal outfielder Joe Mather in Colorado for the 2012 season.

Brown’s career minor league numbers:

Year Age Tm Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2007 22 Batavia A- 66 276 239 34 57 14 7 7 40 31 52 .238 .330 .444 .773 106
2008 23 3 Teams AA-A-A+ 126 518 452 68 123 32 0 21 76 58 136 .272 .361 .482 .843 218
2008 23 Quad Cities A 34 136 117 18 32 10 0 5 23 17 30 .274 .368 .487 .855 57
2008 23 Palm Beach A+ 24 100 88 14 29 8 0 4 15 11 25 .330 .410 .557 .967 49
2008 23 Springfield AA 68 282 247 36 62 14 0 12 38 30 81 .251 .340 .453 .794 112
2009 24 3 Teams AA-A+-Rk 79 319 277 42 79 12 3 13 44 33 53 .285 .373 .491 .864 136
2009 24 Cardinals Rk 1 3 3 1 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 .667 .667 .667 1.333 2
2009 24 Palm Beach A+ 4 14 11 1 2 1 1 0 2 2 4 .182 .357 .455 .812 5
2009 24 Springfield AA 74 302 263 40 75 11 2 13 42 31 49 .285 .371 .490 .861 129
2010 25 Springfield AA 98 407 361 65 105 17 1 22 63 41 98 .291 .371 .526 .897 190
2011 26 Memphis AAA 107 428 359 67 102 12 3 20 73 56 105 .284 .382 .501 .883 180
5 Seasons 476 1948 1688 276 466 87 14 83 296 219 444 .276 .365 .492 .857 830
AA (3 seasons) AA 240 991 871 141 242 42 3 47 143 102 228 .278 .362 .495 .857 431
A+ (2 seasons) A+ 28 114 99 15 31 9 1 4 17 13 29 .313 .404 .545 .949 54
A (1 season) A 34 136 117 18 32 10 0 5 23 17 30 .274 .368 .487 .855 57
Rk (1 season) Rk 1 3 3 1 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 .667 .667 .667 1.333 2
A- (1 season) A- 66 276 239 34 57 14 7 7 40 31 52 .238 .330 .444 .773 106
AAA (1 season) AAA 107 428 359 67 102 12 3 20 73 56 105 .284 .382 .501 .883 180

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball as well as the Assignment Editor for BaseballDigest.com.
He is the host of I-70 Radio, hosted every week on BlogTalkRadio.com.
Follow him on Twitter here.

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Royals Claim Pitcher Aaron Laffey On Outright Waivers From The Yankees

Royals Claim Pitcher Aaron Laffey On Outright Waivers From The Yankees
Pitcher Jesse Chavez Designated for Assignment

KANSAS CITY, MO (October 11, 2011) – The Kansas City Royals today announced that the club has claimed left-handed pitcher Aaron Laffeyon Outright Waivers from the New York Yankees. To create room on the 40-man roster, the club designated right-handed pitcher Jesse Chavez for assignment.

The 26-year-old Laffey was acquired by the Seattle Mariners from the Cleveland Indians on March 2 of this year and made 36 relief appearances out of the Mariners bullpen, going 1-1 with a 4.01 ERA. The Yankees then claimed Laffey on waivers on August 19 and he went 2-1 with a 3.38 ERA in 11 relief appearances down the stretch. He did not appear on the Yankees playoff roster. The 6-foot, 200-pounder is 21-23 with a 4.34 ERA in 126 career Major League appearances, including 49 starts. Laffey debuted with the Indians, who originally selected him in the 16th round of the 2003 Draft, as a 22-year-old in 2007.

Laffey and his wife, Jackie, have one son, Braeden, and reside in Cumberland, Md.

Chavez, 28, spent a majority of the 2011 campaign with Triple-A Omaha, but also posted a 10.57 ERA in four relief appearances over two stints with the Royals.

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It Has Officially Gotten Interesting

Remember when the Cardinals’ front office was toying with the idea of trading away outfielder, Lance Berkman, to the playoff-bound Texas Rangers? They even went so far as to put him on waivers, but never pulled the trigger on the deal.

That, believe it or not, was August 31st… exactly 3 weeks ago. The Cardinals, who were as many as 10.5 games back of the wild card leading Atlanta Braves just days earlier, were still 9.5 games back and seemingly had nothing to play for but pride. At the time, many baseball analysts in St. Louis suggested the Cardinals had only kept Berkman on the team to ensure they could negotiate with him over the next couple months and perhaps lock him in for a contract extension. Few thought Lance would be a driving force behind a desperate surge towards post season play in the season’s final month.

But here we are, exactly 3 weeks later, and the Cardinals are now just 2.5 games behind the Braves in the wild card race. Berkman has hit a mere .385 this month, and the Cardinals have gone 12-5 including the team’s first 5 game winning streak of the season. Atlanta, meanwhile, has gone 5-12 and can’t seem to be able to buy a win, including Monday night’s giveaway in Florida where they were one out away from a win only to have it slip away.

Breaking Down the Next 9 Days
With 9 days to go in the regular season, a lot still has to go right for the Cardinals to make the playoffs… but the schedule does line up in their favor.

Tuesday through Thursday
The Cardinals will take on the New York Mets. They come in with a record of 73-80, good for 8th in the National League, and have dropped 9 of their past 12 games. The Braves, meanwhile, are in Florida for two more games before an off day on Thursday. The Marlins (70-84) have won 7 of their last 12.

Friday through Sunday
The Cardinals host the National League’s 3rd worst team, Chicago Cubs. The Cubs currently hold a record of (68-86) and have won 7 of their past 12, but should cool off in Milwaukee, where the Brewers are closing in on the Central Division title. Atlanta will jet off to the Nation’s Capital, where they’ll be greeted by the untouchable Stephen Strasburg. The Nationals currently sit at 72-79 and have won 6 of their past 8 games.

*Important note: If the Cardinals can at least keep pace with the Braves over these six games and stay within 3 games, then it’s anyone’s race at that point, because…

Monday through Wednesday, September 26-28
The Cardinals travel to Houston for a 3-game series vs the bottom-feeders of Major League Baseball, the Astros, while the Braves host baseball’s best team and division rival, the Philadelphia Phillies. Houston is 53-100, and will be looking to be put out of their misery once and for all. And while the Phillies (98-54) won’t be sending Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee to the hill vs the Braves with their playoff destiny already wrapped up, their lineup can still out-slug anyone (and need I remind you, the “bottom” of their rotation features Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt).

What it All Comes Down to
Weighing the Braves’ recent struggles with their schedule, I’d say it’s fair to assume they’ll split their final 8 games and finish with a record of 91-71. That would mean the Cardinals would have to go 7-2 down the stretch just to force a 1-game playoff vs the Braves. That’s a tall order, but given their opponents, it’s not an impossible one. Also helping matters, the Cardinals top-3 starting pitchers – Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia, and Edwin Jackson – will take the hill 6 of those 9 games.

It will be fun to see if the Cardinals can find a way to pull off the unthinkable. Regardless of the outcome, you have to give the team credit for making this interesting considering all they’ve been through this season (raise your hand if you thought the season was a complete loss the moment Adam Wainwright went down in Spring Training). But forget the injuries, blown saves, costly errors, and questionable managing decisions. There are 9 games left… and only 2.5 separating the Cardinals from a chance at ending the franchise’s 5 year playoff winless drought.

Play ball.

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Series Preview – Cards vs Cubs

Motivated by a bulletin-board ready quote, St Louis steamrolled through Cincinnati and swept the Reds. They hope to carry that momentum home for their next series with the Cubs.

Current Snapshot

St Louis: 64-49, first place NL Central, 1 game ahead of Cincinnati. I’m not sure if Brandon Phillips’ comments woke the team up or not. St Louis is hot; not only are they back in first place, they are riding a three-game winning streak, have won 5 of their last 6, and 9 of their last 12 overall.

Chicago: 48-67, fifth place NL Central, 17 games behind. The Cubs took two of three from St Louis in July, then turned around and lost 11 of their next 13 games. They’ve played the Giants tough this week, but still lost three of four to the NL Wild Card leaders (all three losses in San Francisco’s last at bat).

Probable Pitching Matchups

Friday 13 August: Thomas Diamond (0-2, 4.67 xFIP) vs Jake Westbrook (no record, 1.53 xFIP). Diamond was the #10 overall pick in the 2004 amateur draft by the Texas Rangers. He has spent most of his time since then at AA in the Texas farm system. Diamond was claimed off waivers by the Cubs near the end of last season. He was pretty good this season at AAA Iowa, posting a 3.16 ERA and striking out 104 in 108.2 innings. He’s continued the strikeout trend, fanning 11 in 9 major league innings.

Diamond features a fastball, slider, curveball, and change. According to his Fangraphs page, he mostly uses his fastball (67%, 89 MPH) and changeup (20%, 80 MPH). The changeup is his best pitch, probably set up by his fastball.

Westbrook’s ridiculous xFIP is only for his time with the Cardinals. He has never faced the Cubs, which shocks me given all the years he pitched in Cleveland. He does have a history with some of the Cub bats; 3 current Cubs have 21 total plate appearances against him. Sixteen of those belong to Alfonso Soriano, and he’s not enjoyed the experience, posting a .133/.188/.133 line against the right hander.

Saturday 14 August: Carlos Zambrano (3-6, 4.53 xFIP) vs Kyle Lohse (1-4, 5.13 xFIP). If Reggie Jackson was ‘the straw that stirs the drink‘, then Carlos Zambrano is ‘the reason for the drink in the first place’. Zambrano started the year in the rotation, was demoted to the bullpen, reinstated as a starter, banned from the clubhouse after an anger-fueled mid-first inning tirade, returned briefly to the bullpen, and is now back in the rotation. No wonder Lou Piniella never shaves anymore. Tuesday was Zambrano’s first start since June 25. He survived five innings, allowed only two earned runs despite walking 7, and did not factor in the decision.

There was a time when Zambrano owned the Cardinals. For almost three full years (12 August 05 to 9 Aug 08) the Cubs beat St Louis every time Zambrano took the mound. Last year he seemed to return to that form; the Cubs won all three games he started against St Louis (Zambrano was credited with the win in only one of those games). This year he has not started a game versus the Cardinals. Both his 2010 appearances have been in relief, once in a blow out loss, and once in a blow out win.

Zambrano throws a fastball, cutter, and split-finger. He is also known to throw a curveball, but rarely. He can still bring the fastball (averages 91 MPH). Only his cutter is a plus pitch anymore. Lots of Cardinals have lots of PA’s against Zambrano, and as a team (in 347 PA) they are hitting .265/.341/.444 off him. Albert Pujols has about 20% of those plate appearances, posting a .272/.347/.574 line in 72 PA.

It is difficult to evaluate Kyle Lohse since his last appearance was 22 May 10. He did throw seven effective innings Tuesday night in AAA, but that gets thrown out the window at the major league level. Lohse better be right, because his career numbers against Chicago are not encouraging (176 PA; .366/.406/.610 allowed). Lohse is 1-3 career vs the Small Bears.

Sunday 15 August: Ryan Dempster (10-8, 4.02 xFIP) vs Chris Carpenter (13-3, 3.79 xFIP). This will be a rematch of the 25 July game in Chicago. Neither hurler factored in the decision, and both had almost the same line (7 IP, 9 H, 3R, 3 ER, 4 K) – the difference being Dempster walked 3 more hitters and gave up a HR (to Pujols). More info on Dempster and Carpenter can be found in this preview.

St Louis has won Carpenter’s last 5 starts in St Louis against the Cubs, dating back to 2005. Ryan Dempster has lost his last 4 starts in St Louis; in fact, his team has only won twice along the Mississippi River when he starts (in 11 tries), and it’s been nine years since the last win.

Prognosis

St Louis is hot, and the team left Cincinnati with a chip on its shoulder. The offense has woken up since the trade deadline, while the pitching remains strong. Chicago is really struggling right now, but playing their arch-rivals might help them snap out of the funk. Based solely on the pitching matchups, St Louis should win Friday and Sunday, and Saturday’s game could be a Wild West-style shootout.

Let’s go with Cardinals win 2 of 3 this weekend. Cincinnati hosts Florida, so this is an opportunity to widen the division lead.

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