2014 Cardinal Blogger Awards

It’s that time of year again. Well, a little past that time of year baseball-wise, but music just had the AMA’s and didn’t they have some kind of film awards recently? So, I’m still claiming it’s awards season. Every year, the bloggers put together a ballot mixed with moments from the season, and some for the bloggers themselves. Last year, my post might have been one of the longest out there at a few words over 2000, let’s see if I can keep this one shorter, but I make absolutely no promises!

1) Player of the year: Jhonny Peralta
This might be because he’s one of my personal favorites, but I really wanted to give Matt Carpenter this award. I was trying to think of ways to give it to him over Peralta, and the more I tried to find a way that Peralta wasn’t worth it, I just couldn’t find anything. Jhonny Peralta had a good year. In fact, a much better year than I had originally anticipated. The power was there in the beginning of the year, and the average eventually caught up, even if he didn’t get as high as I like. Ge had much better defense that I thought he would have, too. Depending on what metric you wanted to look at, possibly the best year defensively he’s ever had.

2) Pitcher of the year: Adam Wainwright
If this was a different category, the other two would have been a better fit. Lance Lynn and Pat Neshek (like Peralta above) were both very, very much better than I expected, but if you’re looking for the best pitcher on the staff, it’s still the ace. He had a bit of a dead-arm period that hurt his stats a bit, even though I don’t think anyone would have beaten the season that Clayton Kershaw had, Wainwright still was the third best pitcher in the NL according to the Cy Young vote….or second best according to the MVP vote…. That’s not confusing.

3) Game of the Year: NLDS Game 1
I really wanted to pick Oscar’s debut, as his tragic death is still fresh and raw in my mind and probably will be for a while, but it really came down to the NLDS games. It was hard to choose between the two, but I knew they were the ones mainly because it was when the Cardinals knocked down the NL MVP and Cy Young winner. I am choosing Game 1 over game 4 because two reasons. 1. They were down 6-1 before they came back on Kershaw, and 2. I can barely remember many games (if any) that the Cardinals scored 10 runs in any game, much less one against Kershaw.

4) Surprise Player of the Year: Pat Neshek
Neshek’s contract barely made me think it was much of anything at all when it was signed. The guy got a minor league contract, and I just assumed he would be insurance on the bullpen. Didn’t think his numbers were that impressive or anything. Then he goes out and has the year that he did. His end of the year numbers were great, but if you look at how he did for most of the year, it’s even better. Until August 25th, he had a 0.81 ERA and a WHIP of 0.596. That’s incredible.

5)Disappointing Player of the Year: Kevin Siegrist
This one was relatively easy because of the company that Siegrist was in with the other nominees. Justin Masterson was a terrible pitcher, but to say that he was disappointing is a small stretch because I already had such low expectations when he came over to the club. That was a HUGE head-scratcher because I didn’t think he was good before getting him and then he wasn’t doing good after, either. Peter Bourjos was pretty good when he was getting consistent playing time after his early-season woes. He was far from being utilized correctly, and it’s hard to say that the player who I consider to be the best center overall center fielder on the team really disappointing. I had big expectations for Siegrist going into the season and although he was injured, it was really disappointing to see his year be wasted.

6) Rookie of the Year: Kolten Wong
Wong is the clear choice here. Although he had a couple of times that he went to Memphis (once by injury and once by Matheny’s choice), he came back, and he came back strong. I did expect his average to be a bit higher, but I think that’ll come in time. He just finished his first full season as a major leaguer. There’s plenty of time to improve. 12 home runs was nothing to scoff at, and he was pretty solid defensively. Also, getting third in rookie of the year voting has to count for something here, too.

7) Acquisition of the Year: Pat Neshek
If you go look at two of the people on the nominees for this award – Peralta and Neshek – that I also voted for other awards in this ballot, then you’d think it comes down to those two. The reason I picked Neshek over Peralta is $$$$. Both had fantastic years, but Peralta was paid so much that he needed to have at least a marginally good year or he wouldn’t have been worth his contract. Neshek was paid little and played well above his contract. That’s a great acquisition!

8) Most Anticipated Cardinal: Stephen Piscotty
I am a huge fan of Piscotty. I liked him a ton in last year’s spring training. Part of it is his hitting, but much of it is having something out there that other than Beltran, we haven’t had much of in the outfield: a cannon for an arm. It’ll be great to have someone that people who are at least a little afraid to take the extra base on to tag up against. And other than a poor July where he hit .200 last year, he hit .308 the rest of the year in Memphis. With Heyward taking right field, it’s a bit more up in the air on when we’ll see him as Heyward will be a free agent in 2016, but they say they want to sign him to a long-term contract. Holliday won’t be a free agent until 2018 and has a no-trade clause, but they could see if he’d waive it. Piscotty is the team’s top-rated prospect, so I don’t know if they’ll just let him rot on the bench or in AAA, so let’s see what the plan is.

9) Cardinal Moment of the Year: “The Big City Leap”
I really, really wanted to vote for when Oscar brought the rain. It was the most iconic moment from his career that I will always cherish. That said, the knock-out blow to Kershaw in NLDS game 4 was a beauty of a moment. Not only that but it was the moment where he initially thought it was gone, but then started running a little thinking he hadn’t gotten all of it, and finally the euphoria of watching it go over the wall. I think it was the giddy jump and the big smile on his face that clinched it for him. A big man jumping around like a little kid with so much excitement was too fun not to smile along with him.

10) Best Individual Cardinal Blog: C70 at the Bat
It’s hard to vote against the Godfather. He’s a great writer and his passion comes through when he puts his pieces together. It’s hard to even try and live up to the gold standard that he sets. His blog is what my grandparents would call “an oldie but a goodie”. Or at least it’s an oldie in our realm.

11) Best Team Cardinal Blog: Redbird Rants
I still really enjoy the blog that got my vote last year – Aaron Miles’ Fastball – but now that Tara has branched out and gotten her own individual blog, it’s no longer a team blog. So, now my vote shifts to Redbird Rants. Daniel Solzman always does a great job over there, and his piece that was nominated for best post of the year on Piscotty was not only a great read, but a well-researched article. He’s really good about reaching out to people for his pieces as well. Adding on Miranda Remaklus and Doug Vollet is just adding to the good work they do over there. Definitely worth going and reading.

12) Best Media Coverage: Derrick Goold
I’m a big fan of Jennifer Langosch. She’s a great writer, and before I really branched out to the other people in the Cardinals Media, I got most or all of my news from the Cardinals website and her work. That said, when I followed Goold on Twitter, that all changed, and much of it has to do with the fact that he’s good about interacting with fans on Twitter. If I had a question, more times than not if I asked him, he’d at least give me a short reply. I also did have one extended discourse with him on Facebook over I can’t even remember what it was so long ago. That, along with the quality of his work, helps to put him over the top and get my vote.

13) Best Rookie Cardinal Blog: Baseball Geek in Galveston
There were alot of good blogs on here, including ones that I completely forgot that are only a year old. Red Cleat Diaries is one of my favorites. Cajun Cardinal and Gateway Sports Connection are run by a couple of young guys that have some great talent. Bird Tales and High Sock Sunday both seem like pillars of Cards Conclave in their short time there. If you don’t know me, though, then you don’t know that I’m always rooting for the underdog. This is one of those times. Doug Vollet may not be the most active guy on Twitter or the most social in general, but he puts out consistently good work. He’s worked his way from his own blog to Redbird Rants and onto the Cards Conclave as well in just these short few years.

14) Post of the Year: The Outfield Chronicles: A Conversation
As much as each one of the nominees were deserving, I felt this one kinda stood above the rest. You have a personal and moving story from Doug, the Piscotty article by Daniel Solzman that I alluded to earlier, and many others, each worth mentioning. This piece by Christine had it all, I thought. An interesting fantasy conversation that came from a candid moment in a baseball game that just seemed like it could have just been two guys hanging out. I loved it. Made me chuckle a little, and also pretty smart way to get your thoughts out there. I could never pull it off myself, but Christine did a great job with it.

15) Best UCB Project: Mailbag
I think that of all the projects, the mailbag was probably the best one because we got to ask some questions where you could get to know each other and some of the questions were able to get to know people as a person and not just what their thoughts are about Cardinals baseball. The Roundtables are great to find out what people think about specific questions about the team, but we don’t make the connection past their views on baseball and see there is a person behind those things, if we can do that, it can change your perspective completely.

16) Best UCB Podcast: UCB Radio
This is the only one that I’m on, and so that made me not want to vote for it because I don’t like voting for myself, but I like it for so many reasons. One of the biggest is that the rotation of hosts and guests can be nice to see the wide range of views within the blogosphere. There is no wrong vote here, though. All of the podcasts are great.

17) Best non-UCB Podcast: Best Podcast in Baseball
Goold and Bernie are two of the smartest minds in the Cardinals media-sphere (I mean if there’s a blogosphere, is there a media-0-sphere or something?). They have the access to the Cardinals that lets them have a unique perspective on the things that are happening on the inside as well. Goold has also been great with his weekly chats, but this takes it to a new level. I can’t say I listen every time, but I try to listen when I can.

18) Best UCB Twitterer – Wes Keene
Wes is one of the most active guys during the year, and especially during games. Although we may disagree sometimes, he’s a nice guy who understands me most of the time, has the same sense of humor, and just gives an all-around nice Twitter game.

And look at that, I was shorter-ish. Last year, you had to suffer through 2571 words, and this year you only get 2158. Good luck trying to get me to go much shorter than that. I can go on and on about pretty much anything.

Questions with Mo

The Cardinals are a great organization and I feel like we as bloggers are very blessed to be fans of and cover such a great organization. Not only because of the team, but because the front office recognizes us and what we do. They give us opportunities to speak with the top brass and give us a great game experience for free once each year. This year, John Mozeliak gave us the opportunity to do a sort of “mailbag” type of project with him. We gave our questions to the leader of the UCB, Daniel Shoptaw, with the promise that he would try to make sure and answer a question from every blogger. In the end, he commented on not only a single question for every blogger, but answered all our questions to the best of his ability. Below are the answers he gave to my questions.

Ben Chambers: What is your general approach to an offseason?

John Mozeliak: Typically in August we build our offseason strategy, understanding we have to be flexible and subject to change.  Then once we understand what our strategy looks like we try to execute.  And what that means is we have to understand the trade market, free agent market and understand how to arbitrage each one to better position our club for the following year.  

BC: Yadier Molina is one of the team’s most valuable players. He’s starting to get older and has spent significant time on the disabled list the last couple years. Some catchers around the league get a few starts at first base throughout the year and we’ve seen Molina play there before. Is there any chance he gets some starts in a semi-platoon with Adams and possibly save some wear on Molina’s lower body during the season?

JM: A perfect question for the manager.  I would say that is a good idea.

My final thoughts: I didn’t realize that prepping for an offseason started so early, but it does make sense. I bet for those guys in the front office, there is little to no down time. I know there are deadlines and meetings all throughout the winter, but it sounds like it’s a full time job all year round.

As for the question on Molina, I’m not surprised that he pointed me towards Matheny. Mo sounds like a guy that doesn’t like to meddle with in-game decisions and lineup decisions. I was mainly just hoping that asking the question would maybe let the question trickle down to the manager. I don’t have access to Matheny and was hoping that the opportunity to ask Mo would open that door.

Heyward’s a Cardinal.

I live only a 2 hour drive from Atlanta. Needless to say, that means that I see a lot of and talk quite a bit about Braves baseball. Each of the last two years when the Cardinals had their series in Atlanta, I’ve been there to see at least 1 of the 3 games. Not gonna say that I haven’t picked up some peaches on the way down there either a couple times.

I’ve been big fan of Heyward. He’s an above average defender who can get on base at the top of the lineup and set the table for the rest of the lineup. His slugging was down this last year, but his average and on base percentage were right on track with what you would expect. He did have a few less home runs last year, but that could have just been for the one year, and it may come back.

As much as I do like what he gives the lineup, I love his defense even more. If you have read anything from me, you know that I’m a Bourjos fan because I like defense. Heyward brings alot of value to the team on both offense and defense.

Let’s not forget about the other part of the deal. Jordan Walden is a quality reliever that can fill the hole that losing Neshek will open up. I’m certainly glad that they got a right-handed arm because the team is stacked with lefties, more than many other teams in the league are. They needed to pick up another solid right-hander and they did.

And Mo took the players for the trade out of the Cardinals’ excess. The Cardinals have more starters than they have spots for, and even more coming. I will hate to lose a fan favorite like Miller and I don’t have much of an idea what Jenkins will look like, but heard mostly good things about him. That said, I was asking the question earlier this month of who is going to be left out of the rotation because of how many arms they have, and I think now we have an answer.

The other part of the trade is that the Cardinals gave up many years of control of young guys to get a couple guys that will hit free agency soon and the payroll got a big hit. Miller has 4 years until he hit free agency. Jenkins will have 6 if and when he makes his debut. Heyward is in the last year of his contract, and Walden has 2 left in arbitration.

The big deal to me is what to do with Stephen Piscotty. There’s been talk of re-signing Heyward already. Some people think it’s as good as done. He’s young, he’s talented. Just the kind of guy who I would love to have on the team long-term. But you also have your top prospect in the minor leagues sitting in AAA for a second year in a row.

Now, some people think that Piscotty needs more time in AAA because he had a “down year” this year in AAA. His average was slightly down this year, but it was a very small dip. It’s not .299 to .288 was a huge drop off. Even then, if you look at his monthly splits, you can easily see that it was July that let him down. Piscotty hit .200 in July and .308 in the rest of the year.

Piscotty is also not a big bat. He is a high contact guy who has gap power. That doesn’t translate into being a great bench bat. You can’t really expect him to come up with a big pinch-hit homer in late inning. Piscotty needs to be a starter, and if you sign Heyward long-term, then you are blocking him from moving up.

Holliday is under contract until 2017. Heyward would be signed through at least then if they make a deal. So if Piscotty wants to make the jump to the majors, something needs to happen there or he’ll be stuck in AAA for 4 years or rotting on the bench in the majors. If they don’t sign Heyward to a long-term deal, then this is all moot, but if they do, then I would advocate trading Holliday after this season.

Holliday isn’t getting any younger, and although the defensive decline due to his age has been steadily creeping downward, until 2014, I didn’t really see any dip offensively. If he has another solid year at the plate, he’ll have some trade value. I know that he has a no-trade clause, but they can ask him to waive it or threaten a move to the bench to make Piscotty the starter and he might waive it with the promise that he’ll be the starter wherever he goes.

Anything that happens with Heyward has to factor Piscotty’s development into the decision. Although I love having Heyward on the team, unless they have a plan to move Holliday in order to make room for Piscotty. Blocking your top prospect and leaving him to rot in AAA or the bench is not ideal by any means.

UCB Roundtable: What to do with the Rotation

It seems like every offseason we have this conversation: too many starters for too few spots in the rotation. It also seems like every year they somehow end up needing most or all of them, proving the old adage that you can’t have too much good pitching.
That said, the starting pitchers currently on the roster are:
Jaime Garcia
Marco Gonzales
John Lackey
Lance Lynn
Tyler Lyons
Carlos Martinez
Shelby Miller
Michael Wacha
Adam Wainwright

Which 5 do you think make the 2015 rotation? In what order? And where do the rest of them end up at least to start the year?

Daniel Shoptaw – C70 at the Bat

Well, Adam Wainwright will be the opening day starter.  I know, I’m going out on a limb here, but I’m pretty confident it is a thick one.

Most likely, Lance Lynn is the next one in line.  That said, Joe Schwarz did point out last night that Lynn’s value might not ever get higher than it is right now.  With this depth, you can perhaps deal him for whatever is needed and know that four of that mix will help cover any shortfalls.  I don’t think they’ll go that way, but it’s an interesting line of speculation.

Wacha’s three, assuming that a winter of rest heals up the stress reaction, at least enough for him to go on Opening Day.  If it doesn’t, there’s going to be a lot of questions about Wacha, questions I don’t want to ask right now.

As attractive as some teams might find his price tag, I’m having trouble thinking that John Mozeliak would deal John Lackey.  One, because he’s cheap and two, because he gives those veteran innings that the team could need, especially if Wacha’s shoulder flares up again.

That leaves a lot of folks for the fifth spot, but it’s difficult to see anyone but Shelby Miller getting it, again assuming he’s not packaged.  Miller flashed brilliance, but wasn’t consistent enough for you to trade him at value, I don’t think.  Teams would be interested, but they’d be interested in getting a deal, not paying market value.

As for the rest, Gonzales and Lyons likely wind up in Memphis, Martinez will wind up in the pen and Garcia will wind up on rehab.  If he’s healthy, they’ll slide him into the rotation somewhere, but they probably won’t make a major move to do it since they can’t trust he’ll be there all year long.

Bill Ivie – I70 Baseball

It is hard to be a fan of a team that always seems to have surplus pitching, isn’t it?

To me, the rotation looks like this:

Adam Wainwright
John Lackey
Lance Lynn
Shelby Miller

From there, it gets interesting, but I see one of two options. Michael Wacha is there if he is healthy. If not, I expect to see Marco Gonzales in the role.

Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal are interesting cases to me on this subject. Both want to start. Neither will in the near future. While they may be successful in their current roles, they are not happy by any means. That could impact the club’s chemistry.

Also, just to throw this out there: we all know that I am not the biggest fan of Lance Lynn. That said, he had a solid year and showed a ton of maturity. In my mind, now is the best time to shop him. His stock is high, he could net a decent return and we have the pitching to replace him if necessary. Don’t be surprised to hear his name come up in rumors soon.

Doug Vollet – Baseball Geek in Galveston

My Opening Day starting 5:

Adam Wainwright
Lance Lynn
Shelby Miller
John Lackey
Marco Gonzales

In the Bullpen:

Michael Wacha: I want to treat him with kid gloves and ease him back into things, so I’ll start him out in the bullpen, eventually working him into the rotation in place of whichever of the trio of Lackey, Miller or Gonzales is having the weakest season.

Carlos Martinez.: Unless we sign somebody like Andrew Miller, I think Carlos slots in as the 8th inning setup man.

Tyler Lyons: Right now I view him as a bullpen arm. Depending on his performance there, maybe he’ll earn a spot start or 3.

Jaime Garcia: I’m not really sure what to do with him. I guess I’ll put him in the ‘pen, but he’s been so fragile, part of me wants to release him and let him earn a spot on another team. Of course, if I did this, he’ll be fully healthy and win 20 games for that team…

Marilyn Green – Red Cleat Diaries

What I want to know is whether there is going to another bogus competition in Spring Training for the 5th starter spot, and if so, who is going to be the guy Carlos Martinez pitches better than and then loses out to?

The first 4 guys in the rotation are easy.  (assuming none of these 4 are traded in the offseason)

1. Waino
2. Lynn
3. Miller
4. Lackey

The number 5 spot depends substantially on health.  The health of Michael Wacha and/or Jaime Garcia.  If both are healthy and pitching effectively, I would go with Wacha.  If it’s Wacha I would move him ahead of Lackey in the order.

I would really like to see Martinez get a rotation spot, but with the guys we have he is going to be low on the list.  I don’t expect Garcia to be a viable long term rotation option, and I think Lyons and Gonzales are bullpen arms for now.  When/if trades or injury take guys off the list, I would put Martinez ahead of both Lyons and Gonzales for the next rotation spot.  While having a lefty in the rotation is nice, I still like Martinez’ stuff better than either of them.

Daniel Solzman – Redbird Rants

Wainwright, Lynn, Miller, and Lackey are all locks.  The 5th spot goes to either Wacha or Gonzales depending on Wacha’s health.

Martinez takes Neshek’s spot and hope there are no issues with control or mechanics.

Lyons can be a long reliver of sorts out of the pen.

As far as Garcia goes, I expect this season will be another bust.

Bob Netherton – On the Outside Corner

Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn are the 1-2 punch that anchor the rotation. Wainwright is pretty obvious, but Lynn has taken the next step and should be a formidable member of the rotation for a long time.  I might have to start a new Kyle Lohse crow thing with Bill since he doesn’t seem to be a believer just yet.

Jaime Garcia is my number 3 starter.  When healthy last year, he was pretty effective.   I see no reason to expect differently this year, except that he will have prolonged good health, which makes this rotation significantly better than it was last year.  He probably made the front office mad by the way he handled his injury, and that might prevent another contract extension, but he should be lights out in 2015 (final year of a contract).

Unless the Cardinals ship out Shelby Miller in a deal for Jason Heyward or Jose Bautista, he should be a very solid number 3 guy pitching in the 4th spot.  I can’t ignore Miller’s performance at the end of the season, though he was pitching against some expanded rosters.  That alone can’t explain a 3 run drop in ERA.  Like Lance Lynn last year, this could be the season where Miller finally puts together all of pieces and gives us 200 solid innings of work. I’m good with that, though I wouldn’t complain too loudly if John Mozeliak decides to do a little high selling on him right now.

My fear is that John Lackey and his club friendly contract and veteran resume will put him high in the rotation over Carlos Martinez.  I see Lackey as a 12-10 guy during the regular season without a lot of long term upside, where Carlos Martinez could put up a lopsided win-loss record.  I would trade Lackey and put Martinez in the rotation, but I just don’t see that happening.

It will be a very unpopular opinion, but Michael Wacha’s injury should make the front office take a long look at his future.  Even though he has been dominating at times, I want to see that happen over a 200 inning season.  Perhaps the easiest way to do that is to spend a year in Memphis, throwing a consistent 7 innings per start.   He was never really given the chance to do that and it could have been a factor in his early breakdown.

Marco Gonzales becomes the lefty ace of the staff in Memphis, developing another breaking pitch to go with his fastball and changeup.  He does not have enough right now to go through a batting order three times.   He also has the upside of a starter, so a full year at AAA working on secondary pitches is the goal here.

Tim Cooney also returns to Memphis, something of the lady in waiting.   He is more complete than Gonzales at the moment and should be a realistic plan B should Garcia break down.

I still remain very high on Tyler Lyons, and consider him one of the best kept secrets in the Cardinals system.   For 2015, I would have him as the Ferrari in the garage, err long reliever.  He can give Mike Matheny some spot starts if needed, and they will be at some point.  He adds another quality lefty to the bullpen, one that can retire lefties as well as righties.  Perhaps with some success, Mike Matheny can return Randy Choate to the role in which he has been most effective – the veteran LOOGY.

Dan Buffa – Cardinals Nerve Center

It’s hard to follow up Bob’s brilliant response but I’ll echo a few of his statements.

Waino
Lynn
Lackey
Miller
Garcia

Those are the guys for a variety of reasons. Michael Wacha is someone I am worried about because of the recurring element of his stress reaction in his throwing shoulder. I would start him out in the bullpen or possibly in Memphis to make sure he has all his strength back. Why not? He is young and too important to run out there with so many viable options.

Garcia can’t pitch out the pen and when healthy he is a very good. He’s a potentially dominating lefthander who pitched 194 innings in a season and a guy who is angling for a big contract. He won’t be in Memphis because he is a 7 million dollar arm and if healthy he has to be utilized right.

Like him or not(I do), Lackey is in there unless you can ship him in a deal. His contract is team friendly so maybe it could happen. I like his abilities but he is clearly heading down the other side of the hill.

Lance Lynn is someone I would lock up. Sure, you can trade him and get high value but why do that and lose a potential #2 anchor who is going to keep getting better and better. He traveled a long way in 2014. He went from back end of the rotation worthy to potential ace in a season.

Miller is there unless you trade him. He also showed a lot in the last month of the season and in the playoffs(to a certain extent), and he is still a young arm. It’s obvious but I would trade Miller before Lynn. Unless he is traded, Miller starts.

Carlos Martinez has tons of potential but is still young and will end up setting Trevor Rosenthal up. Marco Gonzales can join Wacha in Memphis or go the Wainwright route and work his way through the pen. Tim Cooney isn’t far behind. Tyler Lyons is a valuable weapon, a utility harness if you will for the team when a starter is needed right away.

Unless something drastic happens, that’s my rotation and settings starting in 2015.

Daniel Shoptaw – C70 at the Bat

From what I understand (and I freely admit I could well be wrong), this stress reaction isn’t something that is caused by overuse more than by mechanics.  In fact, this article tends to suggest the problem comes from overthrowing, not the number of pitches, but what he puts on them.  Which, if that’s the case, might argue against a bullpen role for Wacha, since he’d be more likely to overthrow knowing that he wouldn’t have to be out there long.

I also don’t know that a trip to Memphis helps him out.  Again, if it’s mechanical, it’s going to be as likely to get him at AAA as it is the bigs.  Maybe if he has to do a large overhaul of his mechanics some ribs and blues could help him out, but I’m just as inclined to let him throw the innings in the bigs if it’s a minor tweak.  We know he can get big league hitters out and I’m not sure he gains a lot pitching in Memphis.

That’s my two cents, though.  I understand why some would feel differently, but my feeling is if he’s healthy enough to pitch, he should be doing it in St. Louis.

Cole Claybourn – High Sock Sunday

My rotation seems to be in line with what John Mozeliak suggested it would be, which is Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn, Michael Wacha, John Lackey and Shelby Miller, with Carlos Martinez and Marco Gonzales as long relievers and guys who would be waiting in the wings if someone is hurt.

I don’t see how you can trust Jaime Garcia at this point. He’s appeared in just 16 games the last two seasons and has been dealing with nagging injuries throughout. When he’s right, his stuff is good but he can’t seem to stay healthy. The Cardinals ought to seek out a way to move him this offseason.

Mark Tomasik – RetroSimba

Starting rotation: Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn, Michael Wacha, Shelby Miller, John Lackey. I think Lackey is the most vulnerable to breakdown or ineffectiveness. I can see Tim Cooney emerging from the minors as a fifth starter at some point.

Tyler Lyons could surprise as an effective long reliever or No. 2 left-handed short reliever. Carlos Martinez and Marco Gonzales are needed for the bullpen. Jaime Garcia gets dealt to the Astros or Marlins near the end of spring training.

My Personal Thoughts…

There are definitely a few locks for the rotation. Namely Wainwright, Lackey, and Lynn. It’s the other two spots where it begins to get a little messy.

Unless Jaime Garcia gets dealt or they just don’t think he’s going to do much and send him to the minors to start the year and call it a rehab, then I don’t see how he’s out of the rotation. If he starts the year on the 25 man roster, he’ll take one of the rotation spots. I wouldn’t mind seeing him go elsewhere, but I’m going to assume that at this point, he’s not.

The last spot really comes down to Wacha and Miller because both of those guys have been starters for St. Louis before. I think Lyons will start out in the Memphis rotation. I’d like Gonzales to join him there, but I think that Matheny and Mo are going to want him in the bullpen, joining fellow could-be starter, Carlos Martinez.

I think Wacha has a higher upside, and while I like Miller, I think if it came down to the two, Wacha would start and Miller would be the long man in the bullpen. I hope that the Cardinals can move on from Garcia and give both of them a spot in the rotation. I also think that shopping Lynn might be a good idea, too. As others have pointed out, Lynn – like Jay – might be at their highest value, and each guy also is in an area of the team where there is a surplus.

Hope you enjoyed this discussion. If you have any thoughts, you can add them in the comments section below.

Are games too long?

I found some fun new tools on Baseball Prospectus that I was just messing around with the other day, when I decided to look at how the average time of game has evolved over the last 50 years. Here’s a graph of length of an average MLB game in hours each year.

ToG_vs_Year

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been expecting a game to last about 3 hours. I was born in 1989, and ever since then, the average length of game has been about 2.9 hours or longer except for a small dip in the mid-2000s. That was just after the steroid era had just ended, and the dip might be associated with that. I can’t imagine watching baseball before the 80s when a game only took an average of around 2 and a half hours. Wow.

In the last few years, though, the rise has been astronomical, such as the rise that happened in the 80s, but with games starting to average well over 3 hours, it’s getting too long for many people’s tastes. I am one of the people who wouldn’t mind a game going over 3 hours occasionally, but I would definitely prefer most games to be at or below 3 hours. Others may disagree or have their own opinions, but what I wanted to do is look at what they’re doing in the Arizona Fall League to help the pace of play go a little quicker.

Some of these I’m a fan of. The first of which is the fact that pitchers don’t have to throw 4 intentional balls to walk someone. The manager just has to tell the ump to send the player to first. That’s how it’s always worked in the co-ed softball leagues that I’ve played in. Makes sense to me. It won’t help the overall pace of play much, but I’m a big fan of the rule. Just makes too much sense to not have that in there.

Another rule that I like is the three “time out” limit. This means that there can be only 3 meetings a game (including extras) that the game can be stopped for a meeting, whether that is just the catcher and the pitcher or a pitching coach to the mound, and this is also includes coaches meeting with hitters as well. Meetings for injuries and taking pitchers/players won’t count towards the limit. I know that people have been complaining about this in the AFL because the pitchers and catchers don’t really know each other at all, but this will be easier in the regular season when players know each other much better. I do think it needs to be changed a little. For example, I think that there should be more allowed in extras. Maybe you gain an extra meeting every 3 extra innings. So, you get a fourth when the game reaches the 10th inning, a fifth in the 13th inning, etc. that can be used at any time. That only seems fair.

Another rule that I like is the players having to keep one foot in the batter’s box unless there is an exception, such as a foul ball or foul tip, pitch inside that moves the batter out of the box, time is called, etc. This will help along the pace of play quite a bit, too. I’m looking at you, Skip Schumaker. You do not need to step out and adjust your batting gloves after every pitch. This is another one that players say is disrupting their rhythm, but this is actually a old rule that’s just no longer enforced. I’m good with enforcing it.

The last thing that I have to mention is this pitch clock nonsense and the in-between innings clock. First, the in-between innings problem is caused by TV. Make them cut out a commercial or two between innings and then move the game along appropriately. That’ll solve that problem. As for a pitch clock, I’m not a fan. If a pitcher is trying to throw a specific pitch and the catcher can’t figure that out in time, then what will happen? He can’t come to the mound and discuss it. Hope he calls time and is granted it in time? If they can just enforce the other rules, then the pace of play will hopefully be improved enough that a pitch clock and in-between innings clock won’t be necessary.

Hope that at least a couple of these things will be implemented in the majors in a short time, and I hope the pitch clock is sent to die a slow painful death in a deep, deep hole.

Rest in Peace, Oscar.

I heard the news last night, and I just couldn’t think of the words to say. I thought that sleeping on it might help, but I’m still at a loss this morning. There is no poem or song that I can think of that could make this better. There is no bit of wit or wisdom deep in the recesses of my mind that I can come up with to give understanding.

These are the things in life that are hard to deal with. There is nothing more sure in life than death. It comes for us all, but it comes much too early for some. We all hope to live long and rewarding lives, and it is impossible to keep from grieving such a young and talented person being taken from this world.

We’ll never know what his potential could have been. We’ll never see the years of production that we’d been hoping for since first hearing his name, but we’ll always have the memories. Memories of when he brought the rain in his debut. Memories of the home run in the NLCS. Memories of that great big smile.

But more than what we’ll miss as fans, there are so many more that will miss him as their friend. We only get to see one aspect of a player’s life. We don’t get to see the impact he had on teammates or family, those who were family by blood and those who became like family. These things are impossible to measure, but based on the outpouring of love over the last 24 hours, it was larger than anyone could have anticipated.

It’s times like these that everything is brought into perspective. It allows us to remember that baseball players are human, just like the rest of us. It reminds us that life is fleeting and to spend every moment cherishing those we love. Rest in peace, Oscar.

Is Jon Jay Streaky?

First, let me again apologize for my absence from writing for a while. I have been way, way busier than one person should be. It also took me a little while to get this work together. That said, I read a post over on Viva El Birdos by Joe Schwarz about Jon Jay a while ago. I might need to specify since he writes about Jon Jay about as much as I write about Peter Bourjos, if not more. In this particular one, titled “Appreciating Jon Jay”, he talks about whether or not Jay is a streaky hitter in one of the sections and he tells us his methodology for this:

“To get this information, I manually sifted through Jay’s game logs from 2010 through 2014, available on Baseball-Reference, and broke each season down into consecutive ~50 PA chunks.”

Ok. But what if Jon Jay has a hot streak in career PAs 25-75? or a cold streak in career PAs 620-685? Joe’s methodology would cut that right in the middle of it, essentially eliminating the streak, because it would even itself out in his calculations. Also, what if the season ended in the middle of one of the chunks? You can’t simply add together how a player was hitting at the end of one season to the beginning of the next with any kind of continuity.  Joe told me on Twitter that was his way of eliminating selection bias, and although that formulation is easily calculated, there are other, better ways to go about this, that in reality don’t have any selection bias.

So, what I did was went to the same site, the same game logs for Jon Jay and went through them manually as well, but I started each season with the first ~50 PAs of the year, and went through the entire season looking at what his batting average was for the past ~50 PAs. It wasn’t perfect, and it fluctuated between the last 48-52 PAs for the most part depending on how many he got in a game, but this will give you a much more accurate picture of how streaky he is.

I graphed this out over the year, and I even gave him more leeway than Joe did. Joe said a cold streak was .240 or lower, and a hot streak was .350 or higher. I decided that .225 would be a cold streak and .375 would be a hot one, and here’s what I got (these graphs are in order from 2011 at the top to 2014 at the bottom). I put reference lines in the graphs for basically his career average (.300) and the two numbers I said above (.225 and .375). If you assume above the top blue line is hot, and below the bottom blue line is cold, then in the middle would be “normal”.

Jay_2011_jpg

Jay_2012_jpg

Jay_2013_jpg

Jay_2014_jpg

In 2011 and 2012, it looked like Jay was nearly always on a hot streak or a cold streak. There was little to no consistency, because the times where he was in the  middle of the graphs was basically just the transition period between the hot streaks and the cold streaks where the two would even each other out for a time. In the last two years, however, he’s been a little more consistent, but I emphasize that little. He still had very hot streaks and very cold streaks (he nearly went .500 for 50 PAs recently, and in 2013, he was under .100 for over 50 PAs), which are more extreme than his hot and cold streaks in the first two years, but he was able to be consistently in the middle just a little bit more.

Now, I hear you saying in the back of my head, “But Ben, aren’t most hitters hot and cold hitters. Nobody just sits at their average all year long.” Well, for that, I did two more graphs. Both were from last year, and let’s start with Matt Holliday. Holliday is considered one of the more consistent hitters on this team, and his average last year, .300 was right at where Jay’s career average basically sits. Now. we do also know that he had a good second half last year, so look for that as well.

Holliday_2013_jpg

Now, as you can see, he only really has one really cold streak, one that dipped pretty low, but was short, and one that barely edged below the line. And if you look at the second half of the graph, we do see that he had a real hot streak around just after the all-star break and one at the end of the year, but he was right in the middle most of the year. He was in the “normal” zone of the graph much more than Jay was, and stays there, especially at the beginning of the year.

Finally, let’s look at last year’s Matt Carpenter. I choose this one because he all generally thought he was a hot hitter last year. I did adjust his graph because his average last year was .318, so that makes hot .393, and cold .243 for him.

Carp_2013_jpg

As you can see, he had one very hot streak, one very cold streak, and other than a few outliers, he was right in the middle most of the time.  Again, much more consistent than Jay was.

You can look for yourself and make your own conclusions, but I can say without a shadow of a doubt in my mind that Jay is a streaky hitter, and he is much more streaky than the other guys I looked at, and I would suppose he could be more streaky than others as well.

Schveep! Schveep!

I have to say that when the winter olympics come along every 4 years, I get encapsulated within the world of curling. It has little to nothing to do with the fact that the Cardinals swept the Reds, except that when I hear “sweep”, I just think of the guys and gals yelling it down the ice.

Monday (6-5  W/10)

Hero: Jhonny Peralta. 3-5 with 2 RBIs and a run scored. Matt Adams had nearly the same line, but Adams only hit 1 in. It also helps the the second one that he hit in just happened to be the walk-off winner.

Zero: Kolten Wong. Only starter without a hit. 0-5.

Notes: Justin Masterson has been looking a bit better recently, and it looks like AJ Pierzynski might be helping him. 4 runs in 5 innings doesn’t seem great, but compared to what it had been his first couple of starts, I’ll take it, I guess. Still doesn’t mean that I necessarily like it, but since he had that one really good start, I’m giving him a chance.

Rosenthal blew a 1-run lead in the top of the 9th, and he has been so close to the edge so many times that it’s starting to bring out the boos from the crowd. I think he’s been ok, but give a guy a very slim margin, even the best of guys aren’t going to be perfect every time.

Tuesday (5-4 W)

Hero: Jon Jay. Only Jay and Lackey were the two that multiple hits. Jay went 2-3 with an RBI and scored twice. Add to that the fact that he was in the right spot at the right time to get a walk-off HBP, it’s his.

Zero: Tony Cruz. Like Wong the night before, only starter without a hit. I’ve been all for guys getting off days, but AJ has been getting too many recently. Cruz is a decent backup, but he shouldn’t play nearly as much as he is when AJ’s been around .300 since he’s been with the Cards.

Notes: John Lackey seemed to be on cruise control…until he wasn’t. Only 2 of his 4 runs were earned, but I’m still hoping that it doesn’t take late inning heroic to get him off the hook every time.

Wednesday (7-3 W)

Hero: Lance Lynn. If it wasn’t for the rain, he might have gone 8, but 7 scoreless innings was one heck of a night.

Zero: Let’s also go to the pitching side for the zero: Carlos Martinez. He came into the game after the rain delay, and gave up 3 runs. could have given up more, except that Mike brought in Rosenthal, who walked the bases loaded, but got his 2 outs for a crazy save.

Notes: If it’s a night of quantity vs. quality, Jay had the quantity: 3-4 with 2 runs and an RBI. Peralta had the quality: a bases-clearing double. Even Bourjos got in on the fun with a double that he turned into a triple on a throw home to score Descalso and Jay brought Bourjos in.

The Brewers went 1-1 to the Toronto Blue Jays. That halves it from 3 games back to just 1.5. Hopefully the Cardinals can continue to gain ground as I’m not completely sold on the fact that they won’t win this division. Let’s see how the weekend in Philly goes while the Brewers spend their time at home against the Pirates. The Pirates have been scuffling, and they have fallen so far out of first that either this weekend will sink them completely, or they’ll fight through and they might just help the Cardinals out. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Jon Jay’s Stats Lie.

There’s a number of people who have come out gushing on Jon Jay again. Someone have been there all along. I’ve made it no secret that I am a fan of Peter Bourjos. Partly because he is good enough to play every day. His bat isn’t as weak as some people think, and his defense is stellar in a position that defense is a premium. You can stick bad defenders on the corners of both the infield and outfield, but up the middle (SS, CF, C) is where you want good defense. Now, people say that numbers don’t lie, but sometimes they can.

I feel like I have to write disclaimers because these are the things that can get a firestorm on Twitter. I don’t write this because of a personal vendetta towards Jon Jay. He’s a decent guy from what I’ve heard, and I have never had a bad experience with him. I am writing this piece solely because I want to give people context to all the great pieces that others are writing about him. That said, let’s dig in.

First, the numbers that people are pushing out now are very highly pumped up due to his recent hitting. We’ve all known for a while that Jon Jay is a streaky hitter. He’ll go through hot and cold streaks and there’s no real way to tell when those things will happen, but he’s on a very, very hot streak right now. If you would have asked about Jon Jay’s numbers before he hurt his wrist, he’s hitting .289/.347/.368. In the 13 games since he came back, he’s hit .417/.532/.639, which has pushed his average up 15 points, his on-base up 26 points, and his slugging up 33 points. That means his OPS (which most look at for hitting) has gone up 59 points in just two weeks. That’s a huge jump. It’s now 4th highest on the team, jumping two spots from 6th place.

He’s been hitting more doubles and homers recently as well. In these 13 games, he’s hit 2 of his 3 home runs this year as well as 2 of his 15 doubles. Within the slugging percentage, there is an inherent batting average as well. If you take that out, you get ISO, and Jay’s is 0.97. ISO is used to just look at how good a player is at hitting extra bases, and Jay’s ISO has jumped, but he’s still 3 points below the “poor” range according to Fangraphs. And it’s also nearly 20 points lower than any other player that’s currently on the Cardinals roster. Basically, anyone else on the roster is going to hit extra bases more often, but Jay gets more singles.

Finally, Jon Jay has a knack for getting hit with baseballs. This is partly because he has no idea how to move out of the way of a pitch. If you want to move out of the way, you scoot back or lean back depending whether it’s going at your upper or lower half. Instead, Jay, along with many other people in baseball turn their backs to the pitch to try and get hit in a better location like the back or the rear end. Now, Jay is tied for being hit by a pitch the most times in the major leagues at 14. If you were to take that down to a much lower number, let’s just say 4 or so (which seems to be about middle of the pack this year), his on-base percentage drops by 30 points to .343. That’s still good, but it makes a stark difference, including taking him from safely in second on the team to 2 points above 4th (Yadi) and 6 points above 5th (Peralta) on the team.

I’m hoping that gives you some context on Jon Jay’s inflated numbers right now. If you were to poll me a couple weeks ago and ask what I though of him, and poll me again, my opinion hasn’t changed. He’s had a great couple of weeks, and I appreciate that, but you can’t use his batting stats now without the disclaimer that he hasn’t been this good all year. He’s been fine for most of the year and just had a fantastic couple of weeks. I have a theory that these weeks are because of the rest that he got when he hurt his wrist, but even then, if the law of averages is correct, he’ll come back down to earth eventually.

The Friars.

That’s what the Cardinals twitter page was calling the Padres all weekend. Let me assure you, there wasn’t anyone named “Tuck” that made it to the field.

Thursday (4-3 W)

Hero: Jon Jay. 2-RBI double to break the tie in the bottom of the 8th inning, a pinch-hit appearance.

Zero: Matt Holliday. He hasn’t been doing great recently, and it was finally enough to be able to sit him on Sunday. Little did it help his 0-4 appearance Thursday.

Notes: Lackey wasn’t bad either. Gave up 2 runs early, but settled in very nicely to get through the 7th. Peralta had a 2-run bomb as well.

Friday (4-2 W)

Hero: Lance Lynn. Since none of the hitting games really stick out to me, I’m going to go with Lynn for going 6 innings of 1-run ball.

Zero: Shane Robinson. With Taveras in the doghouse, Robinson got another start, going 0-4.

Notes: If Lynn wasn’t the hero it would have been Peralta or Adams, both who went 2-4 on the day. Neshek got the save, and it wasn’t easy, either, as he gave up a homer.

Saturday (9-5 L)

Hero: Matt Adams. Again, not any one that’s really sticking out to me. Three players each went 2-4 with a run scored and an RBI. I’m giving it to Adams because he’s the only one that didn’t strikeout in his other two ABs.

Zero: Kevin Siegrist. Matheny didn’t give him much of a chance to not be the zero. After Siegrist loaded the bases, possibly when he gave up the first two. But giving up the grand slam that broke the camel’s back, that’s zero-worthy.

Notes: Shelby Miller wasn’t very good either. 4 runs given up, but he did manage to get through 6 innings. There were other people that could have been zeroes as well: Wong’s 0-5, AJ Pierzynski 0-4. That’s some bad performances.

Sunday (7-6 W)

Hero: Matt Carpenter. 3-4 on the day with 3 RBIs and 2 runs scored, including a home run. If it wasn’t for him, this game probably doesn’t go the Cardinals’ way.

Zero: Oscar Taveras. 0-4. He’s not been getting any better recently. I was hoping to see some improvement from him, but he’s just not. I don’t know exactly why, but I think that maybe sending him to Memphis for just a couple of weeks might help. I think sending him down will get his confidence up, and let him get some good coaching from people that has helped him succeed before. Bring up Pham and let him have a shot, then just before it’s necessary to make the postseason roster (the 30th or 31st) bring Taveras back up for Shane Robinson.

Notes: Wainwright wasn’t as good as I was hoping him to be. He got a quality start because one of his runs was unearned, but I have just come to expect more from our ace. Not a terrible game by any means, though. Rosenthal was actually pulled from a save situation when he loaded the bases. Maness let two of the runs score, but then again, he’d already thrown about 3 innings in the bullpen with how much Matheny had him up and down, up and down, and then up and in the game. That can’t be good for his arm. In the end, they got the W and that’s all that really matters, right?

At the time that I’m writing this, the Brewers are up 7-0 against the Dodgers, going for a sweep, meaning that the Cardinals will still drop one game in the division over the last 4 days, which I didn’t expect when the weekend started. I think it’s less of the Brewers being “for real” but more about the fact that the Dodgers don’t have Uribe and Ramirez. Kershaw gave up 3 runs in 9 innings without giving up a walk and struck out 11, but lost the game 3-2 because they couldn’t score themselves. Let’s hope that the Brewers don’t have the same kind of luck when they start playing all these games within the division.

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