Tag Archive | "Walks"

St. Louis Cardinals should choose Jorge Rondon for final bullpen spot

Now that St. Louis Cardinals management has decided which pitcher it wants to begin the season in the fifth and final spot in the starting rotation, its focus can shift to a similar dilemma that exists for the last spot in the bullpen.

JorgeRondon

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny announced Sunday that Joe Kelly would begin the season in the No. 5 spot in the rotation, while rookie Carlos Martinez would move back to the either-inning setup relief role he had at the end of the 2013 season and postseason.

The Cardinals decided to reward Kelly’s experience rather than Martinez’s stellar spring training numbers. Kelly has a 6.28 earned-run average in four starts, while Martinez posted a 1.76 ERA in his four starts.

Despite those contradictory numbers, the Cardinals made a sound decision to go with Kelly instead of Martinez.

Kelly has the experience of two Major League Baseball seasons where he showed the organization he could be a consistent contributor, given his 3.08 career ERA.

Plus, Martinez proved to be a dynamic setup reliever during the 2013 playoffs when he had 11 strikeouts in 12.2 innings during a run that ended in Game 6 of the World Series in a loss to the Boston Red Sox.

However, the Cardinals should make the opposite decision when they determine which pitcher will receive the last open spot in the bullpen.

Jorge Rondon, Keith Butler and Scott McGregor are the three candidates, and the two losers will likely begin the season with the Triple A Memphis Redbirds.

Butler is the pitcher with the most major-league experience. He pitched in 16 games with the Cardinals in 2013 and had an ERA of 4.08, with 11 walks and 16 strikeouts, but the team sent him back to the minors after he pitched Aug. 7 and he did not make the postseason roster.

McGregor and Rondon have never appeared in a big-league game, but Rondon has been far superior in spring training. McGregor has allowed three runs in four innings of work with two walks and two strikeouts. Rondon has yet to allow an earned run in 8.1 innings, and he has three walks compared to seven strikeouts.

Each of those three pitchers is in competition to likely be the right-handed option for the Cardinals in the seventh inning of games in which they have a lead.

That is certainly an important role, and the Cardinals would have nearly as complete of a roster as they ever have if the winner of this three-way battle excels once the regular season begins.

Rondon would figure to be in the lead to win the spot because he has shown the most potential, even though Butler has the most experience.

Rondon throws harder than Butler, but he too has struggled with his command during his seven years in the minor leagues, as he has racked up 230 walks compared to 338 strikeouts and had 37 walks to 42 strikeouts in 2013 at Memphis.

Still, Butler’s potential appears to be limited if he can’t locate his pitches because he does not have the electric action on his pitches that several of the Cardinals top young pitchers do, and McGregor has not done much with his limited opportunities.

The Cardinals need a middle reliever who can consistently throw strikes more than anything, and they might not need the winner of this battle for long anyway.

They already have groundball-specialist Seth Maness penciled into a bullpen spot, and former closer Jason Motte is on schedule to return to the big-league team in late April or early May, and he could take the spot of Rondon, McGregor or Butler because he has the experience and the ability to consistently throw strikes.

Still, the team needs a reliever to fill in during the meantime because the Mitchell Boggs disaster of April 2013 showed how important a reliever is even in the first few weeks of the season.

The Cardinals have a dynamic duo to finish games with Martinez and closer Trevor Rosenthal, but they’ll need someone to carry leads the starter gives them and hand them off for the eighth and ninth innings.

As of now, Rondon looks to be the man for that job.

Posted in CardinalsComments (0)

Avoiding a Red October for Wainwright

The struggles of Adam Wainwright have caused for a red alert about if the Cardinals rotation can hold up to the demands of the remaining pennant chase. Amid his worst back-to-back starts in his career, finding there is a common denominator to his struggles: the Cincinnati Reds. Finding an answer to his approach to facing the club on a collision course with the Cardinals this October is key to the immediate, and final, success of the 2013 Cardinals.

Wainwright_

There’s no easy to put it: the Reds have owned Wainwright in the past week. In two outings, he’s thrown a total of eight innings, but has surrendered a brutal 15 earned runs on 18 hits, five walks and 150 pitches. It has been a study of opposites in his usual habits, his location has been off, he has worked deep into counts and has had back-to-back starts with multiple walks, something that has only happened one other time this year.

Wainwright’s focus pitch is his curveball. It is the pitch he throws more than any other pitcher in the game, and with a success rate that favors why this is his weapon of choice. Yet, regardless of how often he uses it, no breaking pitch can be fully successful without a fastball to work off of. And in recent starts, the problem has been simple: he has not been able to get his fastball over and the Reds batters know this, and have been able to wait on it.

The mysterious part of it is how he has lost his location. Wainwright at his best lives in the bottom of the strike zone, and on either side of the plate. But has he’s reached to find ways to work for outs versus the Reds batters, he’s began to lose the ball inside and up, and the Reds batters response to it has been brutal. Just a sample size of their core versus Wainwright comes off like this:

Jay Bruce: 4 for 4, three doubles, home run, walk and four RBI

Shin-Soo Choo: 3 for 6, HR and 2 RBI

Joey Votto: 1 for 3, HR and two walks

Ryan Ludwick: 2 for 5, 2 RBI

Obviously, that will not suffice for success against the Reds. In light of his last two outings, Wainwright’s line on the season versus the Reds features a 1-2 record, with a 7.31 ERA and 13 runs in 16 innings, spurred by a .308 Reds batting average. These are all high marks on the year for an opponent he has faced more than once.

Considering the situation that the club finds itself in, it begins to beg the question of if Wainwright would be the right choice for a potential one game Wild Card playoff that the two clubs would be on track to face off in if the season ended today. On one hand, not pitching one of the best arms in the National League in a winner takes all scenario seems unreasonable, but considering what the match up as brought thus far, the idea that he is not the ideal option to take the ball if the club is pitted against Cincinnati is more than realistic, it should be deemed as likely.

There’s a month of season to go before that scenario becomes a potential reality, but the match up game is not a favorable one for the Cardinals when it comes to facing their divisional foes recently, and finding a way to separate Wainwright from the Reds for the remainder of the year would be more than just ideal at this point; it could be a matter of seasonal life and death.

Posted in Cardinals, FeaturedComments (1)

Now is the time for Kansas City Royals’ Duffy

After missing much of the year recovering from Tommy John surgery, it appears that Danny Duffy is ready to claim a spot in the Kansas City Royals’ rotation for the rest of this season and possibly next season as well.

DannyDuffy

Duffy, who has replaced the struggling Wade Davis in the starting rotation, shut down the Twins in his latest start. He pitched 6.2 innings, allowing just five hits and no runs, while striking out seven. Perhaps the most important stat from that start, however, was that Duffy did not allow a walk. It was the first start in his career that he didn’t issue a free pass.

The knock on Duffy has always been his lack of control. And pitchers that come back from Tommy John surgery tend to struggle finding a feel for the strike zone initially. In his only other two starts this season, Duffy walked two batters in 3.2 innings and three batters in 6 innings.

In Duffy’s three years pitching in the majors, he has a walk rate of 4.5/9. While the walks tend to pile up for the talented southpaw, he has always shown strike out potential, with a strike out rate of 8.0/9 for his career.

Duffy was drafted in the third round of the 2007 draft and coming into the 2011 season, he was ranked as the 68th best prospect in baseball according to Baseball America. So the potential has always been there.

The 6-foot-3 lefty spent six years in the minor leagues, earning 30-16 record, with an impressive 2.88 ERA and 1.15 WHIP. His minor league K/9 is 10.6 and his BB/9 is 3.0, considerably less than his 4.5 mark in the majors.

Duffy debuted in 2011, starting 20 games and finishing with a 4-8 record and a 5.64 ERA. He showed improvement in 2012 before his injury. He started six games and recorded a 3.90 ERA.

While the Tommy John injury delayed his development, Duffy appears to be back on track. He has a chance to show that he is a big part of the Royals’ future. If he can finish this season strong and continue to improve with his control, he should lock up a spot in next year’s starting five and perhaps beyond.

Posted in RoyalsComments (0)

Here Comes Duffy

The Kansas City Royals were poised to make it “Our Time” in 2012 before star pitcher Danny Duffy found his way to Tommy John surgery.  The 2013 Royals, who are now four games back of both the division and the wild card, have suddenly taken on a successful feel.  Danny Duffy is set to return.

Photo Courtesy of Minda Haas

Photo Courtesy of Minda Haas

May 13, 2012 would be the most recent time that Danny Duffy, once believed to be the future ace of the ballclub, would take the mound as a Kansas City Royal.  Not long after that, it was determined that Duffy would require “Tommy John” surgery and his season plus most of the next one, would be lost.

Duffy would begin the long process of recovery.  Physical therapy would lead to soft tossing a ball.  Eventually, playing catch on level ground and long toss would assist the young lefty in building up the strength that he needed to get back on the mound.  On May 26, 2013, just over a year since his last pitch, he would throw his first one in a AA rehab assignment with the Northwest Arkansas Naturals.  The initial outings were short but productive, seeing Duffy rack up 15 strikeouts in his first three appearances, spanning just 10 innings, while only walking four.  He would allow 12 hits but would limit his early opponents to five earned-runs.  He was on his way to AAA Omaha to continue his work with the Stormchasers.

Success was moderate but noticeable as he continued his walk back to the majors.  His second appearance in Omaha on June 10 would be his worst yet, yielding seven runs on seven hits and two walks without striking out a batter.  He would only last two-and-one-third of an inning and many started to wonder if he was rushing back.  His next start would only last three innings, allowing two runs on four hits and three walks, though he would strike out five this time around.  Concerns began to mount.

Concerns were laid to rest shortly thereafter as Duffy proved that those two outings would be the shortest of his season, never failing to reach five innings again through his next eight starts.  He would never walk more than three batters the rest of the season, strike out fewer than four hitters only one time, and never yield more than four runs, which he only did twice.  His season reached a pinnacle as he made one more rehab start at AA on July 17.  That day, Duffy would last five-and-one-third of an inning, striking out a season best 13 batters and walking only one.

Duffy would return to AAA to make two more starts, both impressive, and seemingly rounded out his minor league stint for 2013.

Duffy’s season thus far has given seen him surrender seven home runs, walk 27, strikeout 77, surrender 59 hits and allow opposing batters to hit .250 against him over 64 innings pitched.

Tomorrow, August 7, 2013 is opening day for Danny Duffy.  He will return to the mound at Kauffman Stadium for the first time in almost 15 months.  He will take the ball as the starter for the Royals in the middle of a playoff run and look to solidify the rotation.

Duffy is back.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at i70baseball.
You can talk baseball with him on Twitter or read more of his St. Louis Cardinals analysis on Yahoo!.

Posted in RoyalsComments (0)

How to be an Educated All Star Voter and a Loyal Hometown Fan (Part 3)

AllStarGame

 

I previously covered first and second base in part one of the series, and short and third base in part two. Here is part three.

 

CATCHER

Royals: Salvador Perez .293/.316/.401. WAR: 1.1

Perez’s inability to take walks has been discussed quite a bit. His decent batting average keeps him a very respectable player, but if he could draw more walks, he would be in the discussion as one of the better catchers in the game.

AL Leader: Joe Mauer .330/.413/.504. WAR: 3.4

Mauer is a really good player who is having a really, really good year. Even though he is benefitting from a high BABIP, he is having a very good year offensively, along with having a good year defensively; which comes after last year where he fared poorly defensively. Catcher voting appears similar to the situation at third base, where there just happens to be an exceptional player in the competition at the position, crushing everyone else statistically and with votes. Besides Matt Weiters, who is almost a million votes behind him, the next closest player in votes is two million votes behind Mauer.

If you vote for Perez? PRETTY UNNACCEPTABLE BASED ON THE YEAR MAUER IS HAVING. He is just that good so far. I do think though, Perez will be in the All Star game someday. He is just an adjustment or two away from being that good. And maybe Brett can help him with that adjustment.

Cardinals: Yadier Molina .353/.397/.502. WAR: 3.3

Molina is neck and neck with Mauer (and Posey of course) as best catcher in baseball. He has very similar numbers to Mauer offensively and defensively. It would be interesting seeing those two players battling it out in the same league.

Molina is both a fan favorite and just a great player. Joe Buck says he is the most irreplaceable player on any team in either league (though I’m not sure if that’s true or how you necessarily evaluate that). Molina has gone from a free swinging, slap-hitter to a player who draws many walks and occasionally crushes the ball. He is known now possibly more for his hitting than his defense and is the heart of the Cardinals.

NL Leader: Molina by 90 votes (they each have over 5 million cast for them) over Buster Posey

Posey .307/.383/.488. WAR: 2.7.

Molina is having a better year than Posey. The debate between the two of them really gets to the core of how you vote for the All Star Game. Do you just use this year’s states? Do you take their past in consideration at all? Do you go back to last year to see more? Last year Posey had a slightly better year and led Molina in WAR. Same for 2010, his rookie year (’11 he was out most of the year due to the collision at home).

If you vote for Molina? VERY VERY ACCEPTABLE. Molina deserves it this year. His numbers are better, and even if Giant fans want to argue that it may be a different situation by the end of the year, as of now, Molina deserves the support from the home-town voters along with other educated voters.

OUTFIELD

Royals:

Alex Gordon .288/.345/.413 WAR: 1.7

Lorenzo Cain .262/.325/.380 WAR: 1.4

Jeff Francoeur .212/.254/.330 WAR: -0.7

Gordon has a great on base pct, but his slugging is low (though, there’s a reason for that, according to Dayton Moore). But on inspection, his slugging pretty much matches up with previous years. He’s always a reliable fielder and great on the bases. Gordon is far from a great player, but in certain ways, is one of the best all-around players we have in the game.

Cain is better than I thought. I haven’t looked at his slash in quite a while, but I fell into the conventional wisdom that he never took walks. Maybe that monster swing he has leads to the idea that he is a free-swinging hacker. But that impressive slash with great fielding metrics, and Cain is pretty much on par with Gordon this year.

Frenchy is just awful. Possibly the worst starter in baseball. His on base is worse than most bad hitter’s batting average. He is respected slightly more than he should be because of his cannon of a throwing arm. He is a right fielder who throws like a pitcher. Unfortunately, he hits like one too.

AL Leaders:

Adam Jones .290/.322/.483 WAR: 1.9

Mike Trout .306/.384/.534 WAR: 4.1

Nick Markakis .289/.341/.414 WAR: 0.7

Markakis third in voting is just pitiful. Have offensive numbers just become that weak? Trout is a beast, like always. I didn’t realize he was so on pace to repeat his stats from last year, but he is. Easy MVP candidate. Jones is overrated, but having him up there is not nearly as sinful as Markakis.

If you vote for Gordon? ACCEPTABLE

If you vote for Cain? ACCEPTABLE

If you vote for Francoeur? UNACCEPTABLE

Gordon and Cain, two players better than the traditional stats will indicate, versus some weak competition and poor voting, gives them a chance. Heck they both deserve it more than Markakis. Francoeur has no business even close to the All Star Game. Not even over Markakis.

Cardinals:

Matt Holliday .268/.350/.439 WAR: 1.4

Jon Jay .247/.326/.335 WAR: -0.2

Carlos Beltran .305/.345/.495 WAR: 1.2

 

Because of being a defensive liability, Beltran is pretty overrated. I mean if you just look at his offensive numbers you assume he’s a superstar. But that defense really pulls him down.

Jay is having a very bad year. I don’t think this is who he is as a player, but so far this year there is something wrong. Last year I would have argued he was underrated. This year, overrated.

Holliday needs to get his slugging up a little more. Hit some more gappers for doubles. He’s having a mildly disappointing year so far, but would still feel comfortable if I was managing the All Star Game and he was my starting left fielder.

NL Leaders

Beltran

Justin Upton .240/.350/.454 WAR: 1.4

Bryce Harper .287/.386/.587 WAR: 1.7

Upton’s hot start has given him the reputation that helped him get votes. Harper’s name alone got him votes. Harper probably has the best slash of the 3. Upton hardly gets any extra base hits. If these three start, I would love to see a study (or maybe do the study myself) on if this is the weakest statistical outfield to start the All Star Game.

If you vote for Beltran? ACCEPTABLE

If you vote for Jay? UNACCEPTABLE

If you vote for Holliday? MILDLY ACCEPTABLE

Bernie Micklasz wrote a column for the Post-Dispatch surmising if this is the beginning of the decline for Holliday. He points out the almost 100 point drop in his slugging pct from his career slugging. He also points to his very weak numbers against left handed pitchers.

He also criticizes his amount of double plays he has grounded into. Holliday’s 20 double plays leads the majors. Though Micklasz does forgive him for the myth he is a bad “clutch” hitter, calling “clutch” a stupid concept. I would agree with that, but then find it confusing as to why he would criticize Holliday for grounding into double plays if he is going to exonerate his clutch performance. How you hit with runners at second and third is a myth but how you hit with a runner at first is to be evaluated?

Beltran will start, and if people want to criticize looking at defense at all in terms of All Star voting, they would probably have a point. His offense definitely make him worthy.

Don’t vote for Jay. Cargo of the Rockies deserves to start. He’s too good of a player not to. Transfer your vote for Jay to him. He’s much better than any of the current vote leaders

 

Next up: Pitching and warp-up

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

Triple Play: Domonic Brown, Justin Upton, Wainwright Walk Watch

Welcome to this week’s Triple Play. This week, we turn our focus to an outfielder finally meeting expectations, a one-time red-hot slugger who has cooled WAY off, and more – including our weekly Wainwright Walk Watch. Off we go:

ChrisDavis

Who’s Hot?

Domonic Brown, Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies finally are finding out what Brown can do for them. In what is becoming a dismal slog of a season in Philadelphia, Brown has been the brightest spot. After a scorching two-week stretch, during which he hit .400/.423/1.060, Brown has taken over the NL home-run lead with 16 (along with 40 RBI). Many fantasy analysts are saying “it’s about time,” but it’s easy to forget that Brown is just 25. During auditions in the 2010-12 season, Brown was never given much of a chance to get comfortable, never compiling more than 212 plate appearances in a season. Here, in early June, Brown has already exceeded that total and has entrenched himself as an everyday player for the Phillies. I do wonder, though, if the power binge is sustainable. Brown became the first player to hit at least 10 homers and draw zero walks in a calendar month. That tells me that the plate discipline isn’t quite there yet. Pitchers will adjust to Brown’s power stroke, and then he will need to adjust to them. Also, Brown has stolen only four bases so far this season. For a player with above-average speed, as Brown possesses, that number needs to improve. However, fantasy owners shouldn’t complain too much yet. This month-long surge has allowed Brown to meet or exceed most season projections for Brown that I have seen. It’s always a welcome surprise for fantasy owners when a late-round pick like Brown can offer them more than they expect. It will be interesting to see how much more he can deliver this season for Phillies fans and fantasy owners.

Who’s Not?

Justin Upton, Atlanta Braves

It’s always hilarious to read baseball articles making “bold” proclamations – in April. I recall one such article, in which Atlanta’s front office was lauded for fleecing the Arizona Diamondbacks in the Justin Upton trade. The article mocked Arizona for trading away a superstar player for what amounted to spare parts. I didn’t agree with that article at the time – and I still don’t. Arizona traded from a position of strength – outfield talent – to shore up areas that were weak (infield, pitching). For the season’s first month, it may have looked like a monumental blunder – Upton smashed 12 home runs and won the NL Player of the Month award, but look now. Upton launched just two long balls in May and has fallen into a ghastly slump. Including his three-hit day Sunday against Washington, Upton has hit only .175 over his past 10 games with no homers, one lone RBI and two steals. He may still be on pace to hit 40+ home runs, but the projected RBI total is now below 90. Stolen bases? Forget them. He’s on pace to pilfer just 12 bases. Are those the numbers of a mega-star outfielder? Arizona obviously didn’t think so. Atlanta fans may have thought they were the beneficiaries of a modern-day Brock-for-Broglio trade, but the numbers say otherwise. Fantasy owners may want to send out some feelers to see what they could get for the junior Upton brother, but don’t sell low. He’s not as good as he was in April, but he’s also not as bad as he was in May.

Playing the Name Game

Player A: ..305/.361/.527, 10 HR, 34 RBI, 38 runs, 0 SB
Player B: .319/.392/.529, 8 HR, 34 RBI, 31 runs, 2 SB

Player A is Evan Longoria of the Rays. Player B is Oakland’s Josh Donaldson. As you can see, their stats are very similar. Longoria, of course, was a high draft pick in fantasy leagues, despite a lengthy injury history. Donaldson was, um, not a high draft pick, due to a history of not being a very effective player. Look at them now. Longoria is on pace for 30 HRs, 100 RBI, close to 100 runs scored – all numbers of an elite fantasy third baseman. Donaldson is on a similar pace in those three categories. Is this to say that Donaldson is Longoria’s equal as a player? Well, no. Longoria has established a track record as one of the best third baseman in either league. Donaldson, however, is in his age 27 season – when many a player enjoys his breakout season (incidentally, so is Longoria). Is it within the realm of possibility that the Donaldson we are seeing now is for real? Sure. It’s also within the realm of possibility (and much more likely) that Donaldson is on an extended hot streak, with a big regression coming. One positive on which to focus is that his walk rate is up, while his strikeout rate is down. That’s a sign of an evolving hitter, one who is providing his fantasy owners with more bang for the buck than Longoria. That is not to say Longoria has been a disappointment. On the contrary, given good health, Longoria could challenge his career-high numbers set in 2009. But fantasy owners paid for Longoria, whether it was with an early draft choice or big bucks at their fantasy auctions. Donaldson has been a revelation for fantasy owners thus far in 2013. The only question is if he will continue to be.

Player A: 17 saves, 31 strikeouts, 2.01 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 12.5 K/9 ratio
Player B: 22 saves, 41 strikeouts, 1.05 ERA, 0.66 WHIP, 14.4 K/9 ratio

Player A is Atlanta’s Craig Kimbrel. Player B is Jason Grilli of the Pirates. This is Exhibit A for why you should not use high draft picks or use big auction dollars on closers in fantasy baseball. Kimbrel was the clear-cut top closer (especially in NL-only leagues) coming into the 2013 season. Grilli was handed the closer’s job in Pittsburgh after Joel Hanrahan was traded to Boston. Prior to that, Grilli had a grand total of five saves in his career. So far this season, he is 22-for-22 in save chances, with 41 strikeouts in 25 2/3 dominating innings. Kimbrel, who has saved 17 games for the Braves, was the first closer off the board in two of my fantasy leagues; Grilli wasn’t drafted in my mixed league and was a late-round $1 pickup in the other (not by me, unfortunately). Now, is Grilli going to continue to be this untouchable for the entire season? Probably not. Relievers in their mid-30s don’t generally become shutdown closers. But you shouldn’t dismiss Grilli as a fluke, either. His WHIP and K/9 ratios have been excellent since joining the Pirates in 2011. Kimbrel should continue to excel as a closer, but that’s to be expected by his owners, who paid market value for his services. Grilli was a golden ticket plucked off the scrap heap. Once again, this is why it has become conventional wisdom to say “never pay for saves.”

Random Thoughts

  • Wainwright Walk Watch: all season long, we are looking at how many free passes the Cardinals’ ace is NOT issuing to opposing hitters. After his most recent gem of a start, a complete-game manhandling of the San Francisco Giants in which he allowed one run and struck out 10, here are Wainwright’s stats: 84 strikeouts, 6 walks, 2.33 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 8-3 record, three complete games in 12 starts. The 14-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio is so far beyond ridiculous I can’t even quantify it. He’s on pace to walk 18 batters this season (or, as many batters as Jason Marquis walks in three starts).
  • The American League version of Wainwright is Oakland’s Bartolo Colon. Through 11 starts, Colon has walked only four batters in 11 starts (70 1/3 innings), albeit in about three fewer games than Wainwright. The thing is with the 40-year-old Colon: you just don’t know how much more he has in the tank. Can he hold up, or will he blow?
  • Follow-up to last week’s column: after the Rockies’ painful-to-watch loss to the Giants in extra innings on May 25, on Angel Pagan’s walkoff inside-the-park home run, I noted that Colorado has had a long history of letting such gut-wrenching losses affect them for days. That loss was no exception. The Rockies promptly lost the next game to the Giants (thereby losing the series), then followed that up by dropping three of four to the Quadruple-A Astros. They did manage to take two-of-three from the last-place Dodgers, but lost closer Rafael Betancourt to the disabled list.
  • Some baseball fans and analysts were pretty rough on the Nationals for their extra-TLC approach with Stephen Strasburg last season. Seems to me they should really be on their case this season for their bungled handling of Bryce Harper. After his collision with the Dodger Stadium outfield wall in mid-May, Harper should immediately have gone on the DL to allow his knee to heal. Instead, the offense-starved Nationals kept running him out there in hopes that he could spark the offense. Finally, Harper was placed on the DL last Saturday and we discover that he also was injured in another outfield-wall crash (in April against the Braves). If you’re going to coddle a prized pitcher with innings limits, shouldn’t you also take some precautions with a prized outfielder who is blossoming at age 20?
  • Garrett Jones of the Pirates becomes the second player (and the first in 11 years) to launch a home run into the Allegheny River on the fly. Distance measurement was an estimated 463 feet. Yowza.
  • Speaking of yowza, Chris Davis is on pace for 55 home runs, 150 RBI and 120 runs scored this season.
  • Who am I? I am the only regular active starter in the majors who has more walks than strikeouts. Despite this being only the second season in which I have made more than 6 appearances, I am developing a reputation as a me-first guy on a team that should have no “me” guys whatsoever (as reported by Ken Rosenthal). Who am I? I am Lucas Harrell of the Astros.
  • A day after Shelby Miller and Wainwright absolutely dominated the Giants and swept a doubleheader by a combined score of 15-1, the Cardinals are shut down by 62-year-old Chad Gaudin, who hadn’t started a game since 2009, when he played for the Yankees. Baseball is a really strange game sometimes.
  • As further evidence of this deep observation, I offer you the New York Mets. From the penthouse of a four-game, home-and-home sweep of the Yankees to the outhouse of a three-game sweep at the hands of the Miami Marlins. Gotta be tough to be a Mets fan these days.
  • Josh Hamilton is getting lots nominations for “worst free-agent signing” award. Here’s another candidate: Edwin Jackson. Since signing his $52 million-dollar deal with the rebuilding Cubs, E-Jax has put together a 1-8 record with a 6.29 ERA. The Cubs could have paid someone the major-league minimum salary to do that. I’d be willing to wager that thought has crossed Theo Epstein’s mind a time or two.

Follow me on Twitter: @ccaylor10

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

No Shields Support

James Shields can’t buy a win.  A look at his last few starts highlights the problems that are plaguing the Royals.  Over his last 4 starts, Shields’ ERA is sitting at 2.48.  During this time, Shields has pitched 31 innings, walked only 5 batters and struck-out one shy of a batter per inning.  Fairly impressive numbers thus far in the month of May for the Royals newly acquired ace.  Despite his performance, James hasn’t won a game since April.  A lack of run support and a struggling bullpen is keeping the Royals from getting wins out of their best arm in the rotation.

JamesShields3

Going back to the May 6th start against the struggling Chicago White Sox, Shields gave up just 2 hits, 2 walks and no runs while striking out 9.  The Royals scored off of a double by Butler in the first and that would be all that Shields would need, shutting the Sox down for 8 innings.  Holland would come in to close off the game in the 9th and give up a walk and 4 hits allowing the Sox to tie the game and send it to extra innings.  Two innings and one home run later, the Royals lose a very winnable game.

Shields’ next start was against the Yankees who would score first off of a throwing error by Moustakas in the 3rd.  The Royals answered back with a run in the top of the third and a solo home run by Butler in the 4th, but that would be it for the Royals offense for the day.  A 2 run shot by Vernon Wells in the 5th handed Shields another tough loss in yet another very close game.

May 17th sent the Royals to Oakland.  The Athletics sent the very hittable Jarrod Parker to the mound.  David Lough doubled in what would be the Royals only run of the game in the 3rd.  Shields carried a shutout into the 7th inning when he gave up a solo shot to Josh Donaldson and then another in the 8th to Adam Rosales.  Game over.

Shields got his next start against the last place Houston Astros.  He gave up a 2 run homer in the 1st to J.D. Martinez.  Despite going on to strike out 7 Astros in the game, the 2 run lead would be enough to carry Houston through the game.  The Royals scored once in the third.

The Royals acquired James Shields to do exactly what he has been doing, keeping the runs to a minimum.  They aren’t paying him to score runs, that’s something the rest of the team can and should be doing.  Scoring 5 runs in 4 games behind their ace isn’t going to cut it.  The Royals have to win these close games to contend.  That means not letting the bull pen give away the win and it means scoring more than once a game.

Posted in FeaturedComments (0)

Cardinals/Reds: Three Things To Walk With

The Cardinals brought an end to a brief slide over the weekend with a series win over the Cincinnati Reds. Despite still not getting the offense going on all cylinders, the strong starting pitching staff continued to hold the fort down in the mean time. After dropping the first game of the series 2-1, club surrendered only three runs over the next two contests to pull itself out of a three-game losing streak, and back atop the National League Central.

media_efd9b9c5c5464586a987672f8d8e4ba2_t607

Yet, as the club moves back onto the road for a four-game series in Milwaukee beginning this evening, they are grinding out wins in an efficient style, but are still giving the vibe that there is more to come. They finished the home stand at an even 3-3, and take back to the road where they have a NL-high nine wins on the year. Yet before that gets underway, let’s look at three deciding factors in the series that just was against their toughest recent rival:

 

1. Lynn-sanity: Lance Lynn would be a sprinter’s favorite pitcher. For the second year in a row, he’s opened up a season 5-0. And while he doesn’t have last season’s insane 1.60 ERA that he carried through April, he’s on currently enjoying the best stretch of his career to date. Over his last three starts, he is sporting a 0.85 ERA, surrendering only two earned runs over his last three starts, which have each gone seven innings. Over this same stretch, he’s surrendered only eight hits and eight walks, and has not surrendered a home run since April 15.

However, what’s most telling for Lynn is how much better he’s controlled the ballgame via his work rate. In his first three starts, he crossed over at least 94 pitches in each start, despite not getting out of the fifth inning. Now he is staying at a slightly higher pitch count (averaging 107 per outing), but he’s going two innings longer, and working at a much more efficient rate. Efficiency is what escaped Lynn throughout the late stages of 2012, and half of the first month of the year. While the results of his last few outings aren’t sustainable throughout a full year, the more economical approach is, and that is the next step in Lynn’s evolution as a starting pitcher.

2. Freese Frame: 2012 has not been David Freese’s year so far. After starting the spring swinging a very good bat, he was sidelined by a back injury that kept him out of action through the beginning of the regular season. So far, it’s like he hasn’t shown up yet either. He is hitting only .163 on the year through 49 at-bats, with only two extra base hits. Freese has been held out of the lineup the last two games, and could continue to be out of the everyday lineup while he works out his slump. Whether it’s the fact he’s never quite mended from the injury, or is just plain having the worst breaks possible, him breaking out of his issues is key to the offense balancing out.

3. Stressing the Division: The Cardinals are faring well inside the NL Central thus far. They are tied with Pittsburgh for the most wins inside the division with eight, but they have had particular success with the Reds so far. They have outscored the Reds 26-19 on the season, while working to a 4-2 record early on. Yet looking inside of that breakout doesn’t tell the true story of the Cardinals dominance over the Reds so far. The Reds scored all but six of those runs in one game, and otherwise the Cardinals have dominated the series thus far. The Cardinals have only lost one series at home on the season, and have gone 32-3 vs. the Reds in their last 35 series in St. Louis.

Posted in Cardinals, FeaturedComments (0)

St. Louis Cardinals need more Joe Kelly, less Mitchell Boggs

The St. Louis Cardinals beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 9-1 Friday, but they had to survive another bad performance from reliever Mitchell Boggs while Joe Kelly once again proved he should be used more often.

JoeKelly2

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny didn’t give Boggs a chance to completely blow the 5-1 lead he had when he entered the game to start the eighth inning, but he did load the bases while recording just one out.

Left-handed specialist Randy Choate bailed him out by forcing Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez to hit into an inning-ending double play, but the Cardinals could have avoided the entire situation if they’d used Joe Kelly to start the inning.

In fact, the Cardinals might not have had to suffer through nearly as many lousy bullpen outings if they had used Kelly more in the first three weeks of the season. Matheny has instead used him in situations such as Friday’s ninth inning when the Cardinals had already opened an eight-run lead.

The bullpen has been the Achilles’ heel of the team so far this season. It had a collective 4.84 earned-run average through 22 games and blew four leads for a starting rotation that has a 2.12 ERA and has kept the team in all but one game so far this season.

Part of the problem is the Cardinals lost their regular closer, Jason Motte, to an elbow injury during spring training and had to scramble to fill his spot right before the regular season started.

Boggs was a logical choice to open the season as the Cardinals’ closer after a great 2012 season when he was the eighth-inning setup reliever. He had career-best 2.21 ERA while pitching in 78 games and earning 34 holds.

But he was a completely different pitcher as the closer. He has allowed 12 runs with eight walks and two blown saves in 11 appearances through the team’s first 22 games. Meanwhile, Kelly has pitched in seven games and allowed four runs with no walks. However, he hasn’t pitched in many high-leverage situations.

Now, that’s not to say Kelly should be the Cardinals closer. Edward Mujica stepped into that role nicely by earning two saves each on recent road series in Philadelphia and Washington.

That move has settled the bullpen, for now, but Kelly must have a larger role in the late innings if the Cardinals are going to consistently keep teams from completing late-inning comebacks.

Matheny recently referred to Kelly as “a Ferrari” that is a nice luxury to have in the bullpen, but that resource is nearly useless if it only sits in the garage.

Instead, Boggs and rookie reliever Trevor Rosenthal have come out of the bullpen seemingly every single day. Rosenthal has pitched in 12 games already, the most of any pitcher on the team despite also being the youngest.

That’s a lot of pressure to put on a young pitcher and his arm so early into his first full big-league season. Yes, Rosenthal throws really hard and can be an effective weapon out of the bullpen, but flamethrowers don’t always last that long.

For example, the Detroit Tigers had a bullpen that included 100 mph-plus throwers Joel Zumaya Fernando Rodney, but both suffered injuries within two years.

The Cardinals have excellent pitching depth in the minor leagues, but Rosenthal is a prized possession and should be treated as such. Kelly also throws really hard and has enormous potential, but he pitched in the starting rotation much of 2012 and is more accustomed to the demands of a Major League Baseball season.

However, Matheny continues to bring in Rosenthal nearly every night, and Boggs pitches in game after game as the team waits for him to fix his motion while Kelly sits out in the bullpen.

And that type of bullpen management could continue to cost the Cardinals ballgames before Mujica ever reaches the mound until Kelly receives a larger role in the late innings.

Posted in Cardinals, FeaturedComments (2)

I really like this Lorenzo Cain fellow

In a way, the 2013 performance of center fielder Lorenzo Cain is bittersweet. On one hand, I’m glad he’s playing well, especially with the struggling Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas in the lineup. But if Cain stayed healthy last year, would he play as well in 2012 as he is now? It’s hard to say, but Cain played well before various leg injuries limited him to 61 games, ending up with a .266/.316/.419 line with 222 at-bats, 31 RBI, nine doubles, seven home runs, striking out 56 times, drawing 15 walks and stealing 10 bases.

Lorenzo_Cain

Cain knew a good 2013 performance would decide if he was the Royals center fielder of the future or another has-been. In the offseason, Cain worked on strengthening his legs to avoid the leg and hip injuries that plagued him last year. And so far, it’s paying off. He’s played 17 of 18 games with a .350/.420/.483 line, 60 at-bats, nine RBI, five doubles, a home run with 14 strikeouts, six walks and two stolen bases.

Against lefties, Cain has a .357/.500/.357 line with 14 at-bats, four RBI, two strikeouts and three walks. Against righties, Cain has a .348/.392/.522 line with 46 at-bats, five RBI, five doubles, a home run with 12 strikeouts and three walks. He’s hitting and scoring well against left and right handed pitching, though he’s faced more righties than lefties.

Among regular staring position players, Cain leads the team in batting average (.350), on-base percentage (.420), on-base percentage with slugging (.904) and he’s got caught stealing three times. Actually, he leads the American League in being caught stealing, so his running game needs some work.

Cain has a .970 fielding percentage in center field, with the league fielding percentage being .990. His range factor per nine innings as a center fielder is 2.41, with the league range factor per nine innings is at 2.66. He’s only committed one error in 119.2 innings of play, so while his current defense is below league average, he’s far from a defensive liability in the field.

It’s unlikely Cain will keep up his high batting average and he won’t hit a lot of home runs. But so far, Cain is a good center fielder who can hit, get on base and play average defense. If he stays healthy (and there’s still a question if he can) and works on his running game, Cain will be a solid center fielder for the Royals. And at 27, he’s got the potential to improve. With the Royals offense being what it is, let’s hope he does improve.

Posted in Featured, RoyalsComments (0)

Buy OOTP Baseball 14 PC & Mac