Wednesday, October 30, 2013

World Series victory not in the Cards

OK, so the Cardinals didn't have what it takes to win the World Series this year.  Although I'm older and not as deeply invested in the Cards like I was as a kid, it still stings a little.

With that said, here are some quick closing thoughts on the World Series and the Cardinals in general, as their season comes to an end:

Michael Wacha is human
Despite such heroic efforts throughout the postseason, Wacha couldn't keep the Red Sox at bay tonight, giving up 6 runs in 3.2 innings, although two of those runs came around to score after Wacha had left the game.

Still, it was a pretty good postseason for the youngster, with a 4-1 record and a 2.64 ERA.  If you include the regular season, Wacha went 8-2 with a 2.74 ERA in 95.1 innings.

He should be a lock for the starting rotation next season and for years to come.

The Cardinals bats went silent

Although the Cardinals managed 9 hits on the night, they were only able to score 1 run in the game.  They hit a paltry .224 for the series with just 14 runs in the 6 games (2.3 per game).

In the last 3 games, the Cardinals managed only 4 runs.  You aren't going to win many games that way, no matter who is pitching.

Trevor Rosenthal will be the Cardinals closer in 2014

 Rosenthal had a dominant postseason, allowing zero runs in 10.2 innings while striking out 17.  He was 1-0 with 4 saves and has pretty much locked up the closer job for 2014.

Jason Motte will still be recovering from Tommy John surgery to start next season and Edward Mujica probably earned himself a big paycheck elsewhere, so the job is Rosenthal's to lose.

He could become the right handed version of the Reds' Aroldis Chapman.

Will Carlos Martinez be a starter or a reliever?

After spending the entire postseason in the pen, it remains to be seen what the long term plan is for Carlos Martinez.

It would be a shame to waste a talent like his in a bullpen role, as he could add much more value as a starter in the Pedro Martinez mold.

However, with so many starters vying for the top 5 spots, it may require a trade or an injury for him to crack the rotation.

Good News/Bad News

The good news is that the Cardinals will have a young and formidable nucleus to build around for years to come.

Headlined by youngsters Wacha, Rosenthal, Shelby Miller, Joe Kelly, Matt Carpenter, Carlos Martinez, Kevin Siegrist and Seth Maness, along with veterans Wainwright, Yadier Molina, Matt Holliday and Jon Jay, the Cardinals should once again be a championship caliber team next year.

The bad news is that the Red Sox will still have David Ortiz and Jon Lester (if they pick up his option) next year.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

What have we learned so far from the 2013 World Series?

Thanks to FOX and the World Series, I have finally gotten a chance to regularly watch the Cardinals up here in Chicagoland.

Here is what I've learned about them, so far:

1.  The Cardinals cannot hit left handers

With the exception of Craig Breslow, who gave up 3 runs (2 earned) in 0.1 innings in his lone appearance of the Series, the Cardinals have struggled against the Red Sox lefties.

Jon Lester has limited the Cardinals to just one run in 15.1 IP, to earn the win in games 1 and 5, while Felix Doubront has pitched 4.2 innings allowing just 1 run in two games, earning the win in game 4.

With right handers John Lackey and Jake Peavy scheduled to start games 6 and 7, if necessary, don't be surprised to see Doubront come out of the pen to spell Lackey, should he falter, and Lester may be an option for Sox manager John Farrell in game 7.

Bottom line, the Cardinals need to score some runs against these two righties early and often, because they might not get much of a chance after that.

2.  The Cardinals should not pitch to David Ortiz EVER

Ortiz is hitting an incredible .733 for the series and is the likely MVP no matter the outcome.  He has two homers and 6 rbis so far and has shown no signs of slowing up.

The Cardinals inexplicably pitched to Ortiz in the first inning last night with a base open and a runner in scoring position and he made them pay with an rbi double.

If the Cards do not throw another strike to Ortiz for the remainder of the series and still lose, I will be happy knowing that at least "Big Papi" didn't beat us (again).

3.  Adam Wainwright is human

Cardinals ace, Adam Wainwright, has had a series to forget, allowing 8 runs (6 earned) in his two starts and earning the loss in both games. 

Most of that damage came in game one, when Wainwright gave up 5 runs in the first two innings.  He was much better last night, giving up just one run through 6 innings.  However, he came unglued in the 7th, giving up two more runs and the Cardinals offense could not do anything against Lester, thus sealing their fate.

4.  The Cardinals have been sloppy

Whether it be the errors by Pete Kozma that opened the flood gates in game one, the dropped pop up between Yadier Molina and Wainwright (also in game one) or the pick off of Kolten Wong to end game 4 (with Carlos Beltran at the plate), the Cardinals have been sloppy.

On the flip side, the Cardinals won game two due to a throwing error by catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and won game 3 thanks to an obstruction call.

Overall, it has kinda evened out, but it makes you wonder what might have been if Kozma had made that play in the first in game one.  Would it have changed the outlook of the whole series?

5.  Michael Wacha

All eyes will be on rookie Michael Wacha tomorrow night.

Wacha has been excellent this postseason, winning all four of his starts, but a win tomorrow night could elevate Wacha into legendary status.

Wacha has a chance to be the hero and lead the Cardinals to a decisive game 7.  If he shuts down the Red Sox and the Cards manage to win game 7, he will become the stuff of legend.  People will talk about him in the same way they remember David Freese and game 6 of the 2011 World Series.

The series isn't over yet, but the Cardinals certainly have their backs against the wall.  If they somehow manage to win two straight in Boston, people will talk about their amazing comeback for years to come.  But it has to start tomorrow night with Wacha.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Cardinals need Michael Wacha to come through again tonight

After game one of the World Series, in which the Cardinals seemed to sleep walk through the game, making several mental (and physical) errors, the Cards need a wake-up call.

Things came unraveled in the bottom of the first when Pete Kozma dropped a flip from second baseman Matt Carpenter in what could have been a double play.  The umpire, Dana DeMuth originally called the runner, Dustin Pedroia, out at second, saying Kozma dropped the ball in transition.  However, the umpires convened and overturned the call.

Although it was the right call, it begs the following questions: (1) Are the umpires going to convene everytime there's a close call and let the majority decide and (2) I don't recall the umpires convening to overturn Don Denkinger's blown call in 1985?

In any case, a double by Mike Napoli put the Cardinals in a 3-0 hole right after that play and the Cards could not muster any offense against lefty Jon Lester.

Now, the Cardinals need Michael Wacha to step up again and try to even the series.  Like it or not, the Red Sox have the home field advantage in this series (thanks Bud Selig) and, after last night's game, Sox fans are probably thinking sweep.  The Cards need a big outing from Wacha to silence the crowd and give the team some momentum before heading home to St. Louis.

Lose tonight's game and the Cardinals face a two-game deficit and the pressure will be on them to win all their home games.  Win tonight and they will have taken home field advantage away from the Red Sox.

Wacha has been up to the task so far this postseason, allowing just one run in 21 innings, including 13.2 straight scoreless.   He seems to thrive under pressure and in hostile environments--he nearly no-hit the Pirates on the road in an elimination game in the NLDS.

The Red Sox smell blood, but if Wacha shuts them down it will take some of the wind out of their sails.  In the 2004 World Series, the Red Sox scored a run in the first in each of the 4 games and put the pressure on the Cardinals.  The Cards were always in a hole that they never could climb out of.

So tonight, pay close attention to the bottom of the first inning.  If Wacha can keep the Red Sox scoreless, the Cardinals will have a chance to shift the momentum back in their favor.  But if the Sox put the Cardinals in the hole again, it could be another long night.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

World Series Preview: St. Louis Cardinals vs Boston Red Sox

With the World Series set to start tomorrow in Boston, its time for the obligatory World Series Preview and Predictions.  So far I'm 2-0 in my predictions (or maybe its 1.5-0.5, since I predicted the Cardinals to win the NLCS in 7), primarily because I'm a homer and would never predict against the Cards.

Here is how I see these two teams stacking up:

Catcher:  Yadier Molina vs Jarrod Saltalamacchia

Molina is a superior player to Saltalamacchia both offensively and defensively, but the real question here is whether Molina can shut down Boston's running game--the Red Sox stole 123 bases this season, while only being caught 19 times (87%).

Molina threw out 43% of would be base stealers this season and will need to hold the Red Sox in check.


First Base:  Matt Adams vs Mike Napoli

This is a pretty close matchup with Napoli's .842 OPS just slightly better than Adams' .839.  Throw in the fact that Napoli has more experience, including playing against the Cardinals in the 2011 World Series (with the Rangers) and you have to give him the nod.


Second Base:  Matt Carpenter vs Dustin Pedroia

While Pedroia is no slouch, Carpenter had a breakout year for the Cardinals, with a .873 OPS compared to Dustin's .787 OPS.

After going just 1 for 19 in the NLDS, Carpenter heated up in the NLCS, hitting .261 for the series.  If he can keep that going in the World Series, the Cardinals will put a lot of crooked numbers on the board.


Shortstop:  Pete Kozma/Daniel Descalso vs Stephen Drew

Kozma is a good field/no-hit type shortstop who is sometimes replaced by Descalso when the Cardinals are looking for more offense.  Drew had a resurgent year in 2013, hitting .253 with 13 homers after hitting just .223 in 2012.

Kozma is probably the better defender of the two, but Drew is not incompetent with the glove and his offense is definitely better than Kozma's.


Third Base:  David Freese vs Will Middlebrooks

While Freese had a down year, compared to his 2012 season, his OPS of .721 is still better than Middlebrooks' .696 OPS.  Xander Bogaerts might also be used at third by the Red Sox, but the rookie only posted a .684 OPS in 44 at bats in the majors.

Middlebrooks showed more power during the season, hitting 17 homers to Freese's 9, but Freese has more World Series experience, winning the MVP in 2011.


Left Field:  Matt Holliday vs Jonny Gomes

Holliday just keeps putting up quality stats year-in and year-out.  His .879 OPS led the Cardinals and is over 100 points better than Gomes' .771.

Holliday has the postseason experience to go with it and about the only thing Gomes may have going for him is being better defensively.


Center Field:  Jon Jay vs Jacoby Ellsbury

Ellsbury is the offensive catalyst for the Red Sox, leading off and wreaking havoc on the base paths.  He led the majors with 52 stolen bases while only getting caught 4 times (93%).

Jay bounced back from a slow start to put up decent numbers this year (.721 OPS), but he just doesn't stack up against Ellsbury.


Right Field:  Carlos Beltran vs. Shane Victorino

Beltran is having another great postseason, with 12 rbi's in 11 postseason games.  While Victorino had the big hit, a grand slam in game 6 to win the series, he hit just .125 against Detroit.

Beltran owns the better OPS for the season (.830 to Victorino's .801) and has more power.


DH:  Allen Craig vs David Ortiz

After missing the NLDS and NLCS, Craig is expected to return to the Cardinals lineup for the World Series.  If he can shake off the rust, his presence will give the Cards a big lift offensively, as his 97 rbi's led the Cardinals and his .454 average with RISP led the majors.

Ortiz is one of the best right handed power hitters of all time and is one of the few Red Sox players with significant World Series experience, having been there in 2004 and 2007.

Had Craig been healthy, this would be a close call, but given that he is coming off an injury and Ortiz is a monster at the plate, I have to go with Ortiz.


Starting Pitching

The Cardinals will go with the foursome of Adam Wainwright (19-9, 2.94), Michael Wacha (4-1, 2.78), Joe Kelly (10-5, 2.69) and Lance Lynn (15-10, 3.97), while the Red Sox will likely counter with John Lester (15-8, 3.75), Clay Buchholz (12-1, 1.74), John Lackey (10-13, 3.52) and Jake Peavy (12-5, 4.17).

Its hard to make comparisons between the two staffs and they pitch in different leagues and they have not faced each other this season.  However, there are some intriguing matchups.

Wainwright will square off against Lester in game one.  Given the Cardinals struggles against lefties this season, one could give the advantage to the Red Sox here, but the Cards also managed to beat the best lefty in the game, Clayton Kershaw, twice in the NLCS, so its not a given.

Wacha against Buchholz is also an intriguing matchup in game 2, as Buchholz had a stellar season, while Wacha has been dominating in the postseason.  I would have to give the edge here to the Cardinals.

Beyond that, Kelly and Lynn matchup well against Lackey and Peavy, so it will just be a case of who pitches better on that given day.

Overall, I would give the Cardinals the edge here, as they have posted a 2.57 ERA compared to the Red Sox starters' 4.29 ERA in the postseason.



The Cardinals have been relying heavily on rookies Trevor Rosenthal (2-4, 3 saves, 2.65 ERA), Carlos Martinez (2-1, 5.08), Kevin Siegrist (3-1, 0.45) and Seth Maness (5-2, 2.32) in the postseason, while the Red Sox have a veteran trio of Koji Uehara (4-1, 21 saves, 1.09 ERA), Junichi Tazawa (5-4, 3.16) and Craig Breslow (5-2, 1.81) leading the way.

While the Cardinals bullpen has been good this postseason (1.80 ERA in 30 innings), the Red Sox bullpen has been outstanding (0.84 ERA in 32 innings).



The Cardinals bench will likely feature Allen Craig, when he's not DH-ing, along with seldom used Shane Robinson, Daniel Descalso and Tony Cruz.  Other than Craig, there's no one that will strike fear in opposing pitchers.

The Red Sox will likely have either Ortiz or Napoli, when they're in St. Louis, along with Daniel Nava (.831 OPS), Mike Carp (.885 OPS) and the aforementioned Bogaerts.  They're deeper and pack more punch than what the Cards have to offer.



This is the Cardinals second appearance in the World Series in the last 3 years, while the Red Sox are making their first WS appearance since 2007.

This is the first World Series appearance for both Cardinals manager Mike Matheny and Red Sox manager John Farrell.

Finally, the Red Sox have the home field advantage, thanks to the stupid All-Star game rule and did not lose a home game in either the 2004 or 2007 World Series.

Overall, the Cardinals experience is offset by the Red Sox home field advantage.



Based on the above, you would expect a close series, with the teams evenly matched at 6-6-1.  I think the Cardinals have the better lineup and starting pitching, but the Red Sox have the better bullpen and bench.  If the games are close heading into the late innings, it could give the Red Sox the advantage.  However, I think the Cardinals will jump on the Red Sox starters early and often, taking the bullpen and bench out of the equation.


Monday, October 21, 2013

What would the Cardinals look like if they had resigned Albert Pujols?

With the Cardinals in the World Series and the Los Angeles Angels not even making the playoffs, its easy to say that the Cards made the right decision in letting Pujols walk after the 2011 season.  Scott Miller of CBS Sports basically says that the Cardinals are better off without Pujols, and I tend to agree with him.

But it makes one wonder what would have happened had the Cardinals beaten the Angels 10-year, $240 million offer and re-signed Pujols to a 10-year, say $245 million contract.  What might the Cardinals look like today?

Carlos Beltran

First off, we would say adios to Carlos Beltran.  Shortly after the Cardinals lost Pujols to the Angels, they signed Beltran to a two-year, $26 million contract.  Its unlikely this signing would have occurred if Pujols had stayed.

Beltran has done well with the Cards, hitting .282/.343/.493 in his two seasons with the team.  He has also hit .308 the last two years in the Playoffs, including 18 rbi's in 23 games.

Without him, Pujols would be at first and Craig would have been in right field.  However, with Craig injured for the NLDS and NLCS and Matt Adams (and Pujols, for that matter) unable to play outfield, the Cardinals offense would have had a huge hole.

Michael Wacha/Stephen Piscotty

If the Cardinals had kept Pujols, they would have lost first round pick Michael Wacha and supplemental pick Stephen Piscotty in the 2012 draft.

While Wacha did not have much impact on the regular season the last two years, he has obviously been outstanding this postseason, earning the MVP award in the NLCS.

However, even without Wacha, the Cardinals still might not have missed a beat.  Shelby Miller, who was effectively replaced in the rotation by Wacha, did win 15 games this year with a 3.06, but has been used sparingly in the postseason.  Or he could have been used in relief, while current postseason setup man, Carlos Martinez, could have been placed in the rotation.  The point being, the Cardinals still would have options.

As for Stephen Piscotty, he is often the forgotten man in the life without Pujols discussions, but he is an intriguing prospect.  He has hit .295/.362/.458 in 167 minor league games and could be an outfield fixture in the not-so-distant-future.  If the Cardinals had resigned Pujols, he would not even be in the picture.

Yadier Molina, Adam Wainwright and Allen Craig extensions

The final impact that Pujols signing with the Angels had was freeing up money for the Cardinals to sign Yadier Molina, Adam Wainwright and Allen Craig to contract extensions.

Molina was the first to sign, agreeing to a 5-year, $75 million extension in March 2012, with Craig (5-year/$31 million) and Wainwright (5-year, $97.5 million) following in March 2013.

With Craig, the Cardinals effectively bought out his arbitration years with a highly backloaded contract, so his signing did not have much impact.  However, both Molina and Wainwright got $7-8 million raises as a result of their extensions, which is roughly equivalent to the difference between Pujols' last Cardinals contract ($16 million) and his Angels deal ($24 million/year).  (Note: I realize that Pujols' Angels contract is backloaded too, but I'm using the average value for simplicity sake).

Its possible that, if the Cardinals had resigned Pujols, either Molina or Wainwright would not have been signed to an extension and, given Molina's value to the team, I think Wainwright would have been left out in the cold.  However, Wainwright would not be a free agent until after this season, so it would not have had an impact on this year's team.

Overall, I think that, if the Cardinals had signed Pujols to an extension, it would not have had a significant impact on this year's team.  Beltran (.836 OPS, 128 OPS+) and Pujols (.823 OPS, 130 OPS+) have put up similar numbers in their two years with their new teams, so that's pretty much a wash.  Sure, the Cardinals  wouldn't have Wacha and may not have reached the World Series as a result.  But, they still would have been a playoff team.

The biggest impact will be on the future Cardinals' teams.  Wacha will be in the Cardinals rotation in 2014 as will Wainwright.  Beltran will need to be replaced, but the Cardinals have Matt Adams and Oscar Taveras as potential replacements.  Plus, the Cardinals will not be paying $24+ million a year to a player who's skills will likely diminish significantly over the course of his contract (think Alfonso Soriano). 

In the end, the Cardinals did just fine without him this year and will come out way ahead in the long run.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Cardinals and Michael Wacha whallop Dodgers to advance to World Series.

Well, so much for the pitchers' duel.

Michael Wacha did his part, shutting out the Dodgers for 7 innings on just 2 hits and a walk.  In the process, he lowered his postseason ERA to an absurd 0.43 while improving to 3-0. He also became just the third rookie to win 2 games in a LCS, along with Tim Belcher (1988) and Tim Wakefield (1992) and was named the NLCS MVP.

Not too shabby for a pitcher in just his second year of professional baseball.

As for his counterpart, Dodgers' ace Clayton Kershaw, well he didn't fare so well.

The Cardinals offense awoke from its postseason slumber to pummel Kershaw to the tune of 7 runs on 10 hits in 4 plus innings.  The Cards ended up with 9 runs on the night, scoring 4 in the third and 5 in the 5th.

The Cards may have gotten the benefit of a questionable ball four call to Matt Adams in the third, that led to a couple more runs, but they were already up 2-0 and didn't really need any help.  Not the way Wacha was pitching.

Now the Cardinals move on to the World Series while the "Mickey Mouse" Dodgers head back to Disneyland.  

There will be a bit of a layoff for the Cards--the World Series does not start until Wednesday, October 23rd.  While that will allow Mike Matheny to set up his rotation, likely with Adam Wainwright starting game one and Wacha starting game two, I'm sure the hitters would rather get right back out there after finally breaking out tonight.

The Cardinals will await the winner of the Tigers and Red Sox in what could be a rematch of the 2006 or 2004 World Series (or 1968 or 1967 for that matter).

At the same time, Cardinals' fans everywhere will wait to see what Wacha can do next.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Can Michael Wacha finish off the Dodgers?

So far this postseason, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny has leaned heavily on his rookie starter, Michael Wacha, and Wacha has come through both times.

The first time was in the NLDS, when the Cardinals were facing elimination against the Pirates.  All Wacha proceeded to do was to throw 7.1 no-hit innings, before giving up a homer in the 8th in the Cardinals 2-1 win.

Then, in game two on the NLCS, Wacha had to square off against Dodgers ace and likely Cy Young winner, Clayton Kershaw.  Wacha was again up to the task and out-dueled the Dodgers' lefty in a 1-0 Cardinals win.

Tomorrow night in St. Louis, those two pitchers will square off again, as the Cardinals and Wacha look to clinch the NL pennant.

The pressure should not be as great on Wacha as it was in game 4 of the NLDS, as the Cards are up 3 games to 2 and have Adam Wainwright waiting in the wings should game 7 become necessary.

However, I'm sure the Cardinals (and all their fans) would prefer to wrap this up tomorrow night and save Wainwright for game one of the World Series.

It won't be an easy task, as its difficult enough to beat Kershaw, let alone beat him twice in one series.  Kershaw is 1-1 this postseason, with a miniscule 0.47 ERA.  However, he's also given up 3 unearned runs, including the deciding run in game 2 against the Cards.

For his part, Wacha has been just as impressive this postseason, going 2-0 with a 0.64 ERA.  Having now faced him once, the Dodgers will have a better idea of what to expect from the Cardinals' youngster.  That doesn't necessarily mean they'll be able to hit it.

In any case, tomorrow's game is shaping up to be another pitcher's duel, so break out the Rolaids.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Cardinals one game away from World Series

The Cardinals are one game away from heading to the World Series after last night's 4-2 triumph over the Dodgers.

However, the team needs to stay focused and continue to do what they're doing in order to succeed in their ultimate goal, lest we forget what happened last year.

As you recall, the Cardinals were in the same position last year, up 3-1 against the San Francisco Giants, before losing 3 straight against Barry Zito, Ryan Vogelsong and Matt Cain.

The good news is that, unlike last year, the Cardinals have home field advantage and will play games 6 and 7 at home, if necessary.  The bad news is that the threesome of Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu are more imposing than the Zito/Vogelson/Cain trio from last year.

My hope is that the Cardinals find a way to close out the NLCS today, as, given the Cards struggles against lefties this season, I do not feel comfortable having to win a game against either Kershaw or Ryu.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Cardinals (lack of) offense is troubling

Despite holding a 2-1 lead in the NLCS, the lack of offense from the Cardinals, especially after tonight's 3-0 loss, is becoming a concern.  For the series, the Cardinals have scored only 4 runs while hitting just .134.  This follows a NLDS series in which they hit only .209 as a team.

In addition, the team that led the major in hitting with RISP with a .330 average is hitting only .194 with RISP this postseason.

I understand that the pitching in the postseason is much better than that of the regular season, but the drop off has been precipitous.

Taking the first two games against the Dodgers pair of aces, Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw, was fortuitous, given that the Cardinals did so while scoring only 4 runs, but the Cards offense will have to pick it up if they want to win this series.

I also understand that the Cardinals have struggled all year against lefties, hitting only .238 as a team, so getting shut out by lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu does not come as a big surprise.

However, call me a pessimist, but I do not have a warm and fuzzy feeling about this series.

This series is starting to remind me of the 1985 World Seires against the Kansas City Royals.  The Cardinals took a 3-1 lead in the series before losing the last 3 games.  Part of the blame for losing that series can be placed on Don Denkinger, but it did not help that the Cardinals could only manage 2 runs over the last 3 games, including a 13-0 whitewash in the 7th game.  They hit only .185 for the series.

The good news is that the Cardinals have excellent pitching of their own and a couple wins under their belt.  The way both teams are pitching, it may only take one or two runs to win a game.

However, I would feel a lot more comfortable if the Cardinals could break out with a big game or two. 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Cardinals pitchers flaunt their age

The Cardinals pitchers are showing their age and that's a good thing.  In the first two games of the NLCS, 7 of the 9 pitchers the Cards have used were 26 or under.  The list includes game one starter Joe Kelly (25), game two starter Michael Wacha (21), relievers Lance Lynn (26), Seth Maness (24), Kevin Siegrist (23), Carlos Martinez (21) and closer Trevor Rosenthal (23).

Combined, they have thrown 20.1 innings, allowing just 13 hits and 6 walks while striking out 22.  They have garnered 2 wins so far while posting an incredible 0.89 ERA. 

The only "veterans" of this group are Lynn and Kelly, while the other 5 are completing their rookie season.

Its amazing to think about what these pitchers have accomplished at such a young age.  In the NLDS, the Cardinals also used Shelby Miller (22), making 8 of their 12 pitchers 26 or under.  Those 8 pitchers combined to throw 25 innings, allowing 20 hits, 11 walks, 25 K's and a 3.96 ERA. 

Adam Wainwright is still the leader of this pitching staff, as his two wins in the NLDS attest, but the Cardinals certainly have a nice stable of young pitchers to build around for the future.

The Cardinals are going to have to make some difficult decisions this offseason as to who fits where in this pitching staff and who might be expendable to acquire upgrades elsewhere. 

But, for now, its just fun to watch these youngsters pitch and dream of how good they could be with a little more experience.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Did scouts miss the boat on the Cardinals' Michael Wacha?

After yet another stellar performance by Cardinals' rookie Michael Wacha, it got me to thinking that a lot of teams and scouts surely missed the boat on this guy.

Baseball America listed him as the 4th best college pitcher in the 2012 draft and the 11th best pitcher overall.

After he was selected 19th overall by the Cardinals in the 2012 draft, MLB TV's John Hart projected him as a "mid-rotation starter with an elite change". 

Then, despite a stellar minor league debut last year, in which he struck 40 batters in 21 innings, mostly in relief, scouts still weren't convinced.

In their preseason Cardinals Top 10 prospect list, Baseball America said of Wacha: "It’s easy to project him as a mid-rotation starter, and he could turn into something more if he finds a reliable breaking ball."

John Sickels of Minor League Ball in his scouting report stated that Wacha "projects as a number three starter, possibly more".  While most scouts loved he fastball and change, but showed little praise for his curve or slider, Sickels at least felt that that Wacha's breaking pitches were "better than advertised".

Then, after Wacha's impressive spring training in which he hurled 11.2 innings without allowing an earned run, CBS Sports' Danny Knobler relayed one scout's impression of Wacha.  According to that scout Wacha "might be a No. 2.  He's at least a 3."  He went on to say that Wacha's very good, but he's no Matt Harvey or Stephen Strasburg.

So, the consensus was that Wacha was a mid-rotation starter, perhaps as high as a number 2 starter, yet here he is pitching like an ace.  In his last 3 games, including 2 starts in the postseason, he has thrown 22.2 innings, giving up only 7 hits, 5 walks and 1 earned run while striking out 26.

Could all the scouts have been wrong or will the league eventually catch up with Wacha and his stuff?

I, for one, am on the Wacha bandwagon and I'm sure many scouts are starting to jump on board too.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

NLCS Preview: St. Louis Cardinals vs Los Angeles Dodgers

The Cardinals finished off the Pirates last night in game 5 of the NLDS, thanks in large part to the strong pitching of Adam Wainwright.  Now, as their reward, they get to face the Dodgers in the NLCS.

After sputtering along to a 47-47 record in the first half of the season, the Dodgers turned it on in the second half, going 45-23 to win the NL West by 11 games.  They dispatched the Atlanta Braves in their NLDS in 4 games and should be well rested for tomorrow's first game.

The Cardinals had their ups-and-downs during the season, but won the games that mattered while winning the Central by 3 games.  They then proceeded to eliminate the pesky Pirates in a 5-game NLDS.

Here's how I see these two teams matching up.

Catcher:  Yadier Molina vs. A.J. Ellis

Do we really even need to discuss this?  Ellis, while a decent catcher, hit only .238/.318/.364 on the season.  Molina hit .319/.359/.477 and is considered a MVP candidate.


First Base:  Matt Adams vs Adrian Gonzalez

Although Allen Craig is hoping to play in the NLCS, its seems unlikely at this point, leaving the Cardinals with Adams.   Although Adams is no slouch (.839 OPS, 131 OPS+), Gonzalez (.801 OPS, 126 OPS+) has been around longer as is considered a much better defender.


Second Base:  Matt Carpenter vs Mark Ellis

Carpenter (.873 OPS, 143 OPS+) is another MVP candidate for the Cardinals, while Ellis (.674 OPS, 92 OPS+), like his catching namesake, is solid, but unspectacular.


Shortstop:  Pete Kozma/Daniel Descalso vs Hanley Ramirez

While Kozma may be the better defender vs Ramirez, the combo of Kozma and Descalso cannot match Ramirez' offensive firepower.


Third Base:  David Freese vs Juan Uribe

This is a tough call.  Freese (.721 OPS) had a down year and was nearly replaced in the lineup by Kolten Wong.  Uribe had a bit of a resurgence, but still only managed a .769 OPS.  However, since Uribe showed a little more power than Freese, I have to give him the edge.


Left Field:  Matt Holliday vs Carl Crawford

Holliday may be getting older, but its not showing in his offense.  His .879 OPS and 144 OPS+ led the Cardinals.  Crawford battled injuries this year and managed only a .736 OPS and 108 OPS+.


Center Field:  John Jay vs Andre Ethier

It was a down year for Jay, who posted the lowest OPS (.721) and OPS+ (102) of his career.  Ethier is coming back from an injury, but is expected to be ready for game one.  His 122 OPS+ is right in line with his career average (123).


Right Field:  Carlos Beltran vs Yasiel Puig

This is the opposite situation to first base, where you have an upstart rookie in Puig, who put up solid numbers vs a veteran in Beltran who has more experience and has put up huge numbers in October.


Starting Pitching

The Cardinals will likely go with Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Joe Kelly and Lance Lynn as their 4 starters for the series.  Kelly (1-0, 3.24 ERA vs the Dodgers) will get the start in game 1.  Lynn, who is 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA against the Dodgers this year, will likely get the start in game 4.  Wacha (no record) is slated to get the start in game 2 in St. Louis. That would set up Wainwright to pitch game 3 and game 7, if necessary. 

Wainwright has proven to be a big game pitcher, Wacha is showing that he thrives in pressure situations and Kelly has been pretty consistent all year.  The X factor is Lynn.  If he's "on", the Cardinals staff can match up with any team.  If not, they're in trouble.

The Dodgers will trot out a foursome of Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw, Ricky Nolasco and Hyun-jin Ryu.  Greinke (1-0, 2.84 ERA vs the Cards in 2013) gets the nod in game one, with Kershaw (0-2, 4.15 ERA) set for game 2.  Its unclear who will pitch games 3 and 4, but both Nolasco (2-0, 0.75 ERA) and Ryu (1-0, 0.00 ERA) have fared well against the Cardinals.

The good news for Cardinal fans is that they likely won't have to face Kershaw, the likely Cy Young winner, more than twice.  The bad news is that he is the one pitcher of the four that they have fared the best against.

With questions surrounding Lynn for the Cardinals, its hard for them to match up well against the Dodgers loaded staff.



Trevor Rosenthal has been successful in all 4 save attempts since taking over for the worn out Edward Mujica.  However, Mujica's uncertainty has forced Mike Matheny to shift bullpen roles late in the season, pushing rookies Carlos Martinez and Kevin Siegrist into setup roles, along with double-play specialist Seth Maness.

The Dodgers feature their own flamethrower in Kenley Jansen, who replace Brandon League as closer in June.  Rookie Chris Withrow has filled a setup role, along with lefties Paco Rodriguez and J.P. Howell. 

Overall, the Cardinals have a slightly better bullpen ERA than the Dodgers (3.45 vs 3.49), but neither one distinguishes themselves from the other.



Injuries to stars Allen Craig and Matt Kemp, have forced others into more prominent roles, leaving each bench somewhat depleted.  The Dodgers bench features former Cardinal Skip Schumaker (.655 OPS) and utility guy Nick Punto (.655 OPS), while the Cardinals counter with Shane Robinson (.664 OPS) and Descalso (.656 OPS).

Neither bench should see much action nor have much impact on the outcome of the series.



This is the Dodgers first postseason appearance since 2009, while the Cardinals are appearing in their 3rd straight postseason.

Dodgers manager, Don Mattingly, is in just his third season at the helm and this is his first postseason experience.  Cardinals manager, Mike Matheny is in his second season and second postseason.

Finally, the Cardinals have home field advantage, where they are 54-27.



This projects to be another close series, as the 5-5-2 breakdown above shows.  The Cardinals need their bats to wake up after hitting just .209 in the NLDS, while the Dodgers hit .333, and it all starts with Matt Carpenter.  Carpenter had just 1 hit in 19 at bats in the NLDS.  If he gets in going in the NLCS, the Cardinals have a chance.  If not, the series will be over quickly.

With that said and being the homer that I am, I have to go with my heart on this one.


Monday, October 7, 2013

Rookie pitchers help Cardinals stave of elimination

Led by Michael Wacha, who threw 7.1 no-hit innings before allowing a homerun to Pedro Alvarez, the Cardinals avoided elimination by beating the Pirates 2-1 this afternoon.  Rookies Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal finished off the Pirates from there to send the teams back to St. Louis for game 5.

This is the second straight game where Wacha has flirted with a no-hitter, after pitching 8.2 innings of no-hit ball in his last regular season start.  He will almost assuredly be given a start should the Cardinals advance to the NLCS.

Matt Holliday provided the only Cardinals offense with a two-run homer in the 6th and the rookies made it stand up, limiting the Pirates to the lone hit while walking three and striking out 11.

If you haven't figured it out by now, Wacha has a chance to be a special pitcher.  His changeup is downright nasty and he backs that up with a 95+ mph fastball.  If he ever develops a consistent third pitch, he could be a perennial Cy Young contender.

The Cardinals and Pirates will now square off one last time on Wednesday to decide the series.

Adam Wainwright will get the ball for the Cards, while A.J. Burnett seemed like the likely choice for the Pirates.  However, after his struggles in game one and Gerrit Cole's dominance in game 2, Clint Hurdle elected to go with Cole in game 5.

It should be another barn burner for the Cardinals and Pirates.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Pressure is on Michael Wacha with Cardinals on brink of elimination

Despite Carlos Beltran's best efforts to be a one-man wrecking crew, the Cardinals couldn't overcome the Pirate in game three and now find themselves in a 1-2 hole.  Twice the Cards came back from deficits to tie the game, the first time on a two-run single by Beltran in the 5th and the second time on a solo homer by Beltran in the 8th, but the Pirates had all the answers in a 5-3 victory.

Now the Cardinals face elimination and now turn to Michael Wacha to save the team from elimination.

That's a lot of pressure to put on a rookie, especially one with just 64.2 innings of major league experience.

The Cardinals are hoping that Wacha can come through, just as Pirates rookie Gerrit Cole did in game 2.  

I was afraid that the Cardinals would find themselves in a hole heading into game 4 after losing game two.  Francisco Liriano has been a Cardinal killer all year and I just did not have a good feeling about this game.

The Cards certainly put up a fight and made things interesting, but couldn't finish the job.

Now we get to see what Wacha is made of.  He seems capable of shutting down the Pirates, as he was outstanding down the stretch, including 8.2 no-hit innings in his last start of the regular season, but this will be the biggest stage of his young career.

Not the most ideal situation for the Cardinals, but if anyone can do it, Wacha can.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Did Mike Matheny make a mistake in starting Lance Lynn in game two?

Yes, I know that hindsight is 20/20 and everyone questions a manager after things go wrong, but when Mike Matheny announced that Lance Lynn would start game 2 of the NLDS earlier this week, my first thought was, why Lance Lynn?

Why not Shelby Miller or Joe Kelly or even Michael Wacha?

Joe Kelly would seem to be the logical choice, given that he was the Cardinals best starter in the second half, going 9-2 with a 1.91 ERA, even outperforming Adam Wainwright (7-4, 3.69).  However, when you look at his splits, Kelly is the only of those 3 who actually fared better on the road (5-1, 2.07) versus at home (5-4, 3.29), so it makes sense to save him for the first road game of the series.

Which leaves us with either Miller or Wacha as an alternative to Lynn.  Miller has pitched very well at home, with a 10-3 record and 1.75 ERA, but his drawback is that he is 0-4 with a 5.32 ERA against the Pirates this year.  This likely explains why Matheny decided to go with Lynn over Miller and also why Miller is unlikely to get a start this series. 

As for Wacha, he might have been preferable to Lynn in game two.  However, he has yet to face the Pirates and Lynn at least went 2-1 against them, despite a 5.60 ERA.  Wacha, as it turns out, will start game 4 of the series.  This might end up putting a lot of pressure on the youngster, especially if the Cardinals are unable to solve Pedro Liriano in game 3, putting them in a 1-2 hole.

Thus, while some, like myself, would have liked to see how Miller would have done against the Pirates, especially in light of Lynn's struggles in game 2, we can certainly understand the reasoning behind the decision to start Lynn. 

Let's just hope Kelly can outduel Liriano on Sunday.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

CFCL NLDS Preview - Cardinals vs Pirates

After dispatching Dusty Baker and the Reds last night, the Pirates head into St. Louis to take on the Cardinals in the NLDS.  I won't lie, the Pirates make me nervous, as the Cards were only 9-10 against them this season.  However, the Cardinals do have home field advantage and were 6-3 at home against the Buccos.  In addition, the Cards have some momentum, having won 4 out of the last 5 games.

Here's a look at the matchups between the two teams:

Catcher:  Yadier Molina vs Russ Martin

Molina hit .319/.359/.477 on the year with 12 homers and 89 rbis.  He is also considered one of, if not the, best defensive catcher in baseball.

Martin hit .226/.327/.377 with 15 homers and 55 rbis.  He is no slouch defensively, throwing out 40% of basestealers (Molina threw out 43%), but he is no Molina either.

Molina is an MVP candidate and is by far the better player.


First Base:  Matt Adams vs Justin Morneau

Adams has been on fire since Allen Craig went down with an injury.  He hit .283/.335/.503 on the year with 17 homers in just 296 at bats, and turned up the heat in September to the tune of .315/.344/.609 with 8 homers.  If he can carryover the late season success into October, he can be a valuable cog in the Cardinals offense.

Morneau is entering the twilight of his career.  At 32, he MVP caliber days are gone, but he should not be overlooked either.  He hit .259/.323/.411 on the season with 17 homers, but just .260/.370/.312 with no homers after being acquired by the Pirates. 

This is a tough call.  Adams had a better season, in limited action, but Morneau has more experience in playoff situations.  I'll just go with my heart here.


Second Base:  Matt Carpenter vs Neil Walker

Carpenter had a stellar year in his first full season with the Cardinals, hitting .318/.392/.481.  He led the league with 199 hits, 55 doubles and 126 runs scored.  He may not be the best fielding second baseman in the league, but he's at least above average.

Walker had an average season with the Pirates, hitting .251/.339/.418 with 16 homers.  He flashed some power in September, hitting 7 homers, but his average suffered (.207 for the month). 

This is a pretty easy call, Carpenter is also in the MVP discussion.  Walker, while better than average, just doesn't match up.


Shortstop:  Daniel Descalso/Pete Kozma vs Jordy Mercer/Clint Barmes

While Kozma and Barmes started off as the starting shortstops for their respective teams, Descalso and Mercer got more starts down the stretch.  Kozma (.217/.275/.273) and Barmes (.211/.249/.309) are known more for their defense, while Descalso (.238/.290/.366) and Mercer (.285/.336/.435) were used when their teams were looking for a little more offense.

Neither tandem is very inspiring, but I think the Bucs have a better platoon pair.


Third Base:  David Freese vs Pedro Alvarez

Freese is a World Series hero and local boy made good, but his mediocre season (.262/.340/.381) nearly cost him his job.  His 9 homers on the year, after hitting 20 last season, also were a disappointment.

Alvarez, on the other hand, set a career mark with 36 home runs, leading the NL, while also driving in 100.  However, he strikes out a ton, leading the league with 186 K's, leading to just a .233 average.

Alvarez' power gives him an advantage over hometown hero Freese.


Left Field:  Matt Holliday vs Starling Marte

He may be on the wrong side of 30, but Holliday keeps putting up impressive numbers, hitting .300/.389/.490 on the year with 22 homers and 94 rbis.

Marte does not have your typical power for a corner outfielder, hitting just 12 home runs on the year, but he does have a lot of speed, stealing 41 bases. He also hit pretty well in his first full season, with a .280/.343/.441 slash line.

Holliday's bat outweighs Marte's speed and defense, giving him the slight edge.


Center Field:  John Jay vs Andrew McCutchen

Jay bounced back from a slow start to finish the season with a .276/.351/.370 line.  He doesn't offer much power or speed, but plays solid defense and is a good all around player.

McCutchen is the Pirates MVP candidate, with a .317/.404/.508 line to go along with 21 home runs and 27 stolen bases.  He is arguably the best all around player on either team.


Right Field:  Carlos Beltran vs Marlon Byrd

Beltran season is a tale of two halves.  He hit .309/.346/.533 with 19 home runs in the first half, but just .277/.329/.429 with 5 home runs in the second half, including a .217/.320/.313 line in September.  However, he thrives in the postseason, with a career .363/.470/.782 line in the playoffs, including a .357/.440/.714 line last year with the Cardinals.

Byrd had a nice comeback year, hitting .291/.336/.511, including .318/.357/.486 after being acquired from the Mets.  His 24 home runs this year are a career high.  However, this will be the first postseason of his career.

Beltran experience and reputation for taking it up a notch in October gives him the edge over the likely NL comeback player of the year.


Starting Pitching

Cardinals projected starters Adam Wainwright (1-0, 3.00 ERA), Lance Lynn (2-1, 5.60), Shelby Miller (0-4, 5.32) and Joe Kelly (3-1, 2.53) have had mixed results against the Pirates.  Michael Wacha (1-0, 0.00 ERA in 9 IP) is another option for the Cards.  Wainwright and Lynn are scheduled to pitch the first two games against the Bucs, beyond that its anyone's guess as to who goes.

The Pirates have A.J. Burnett (3-1, 3.67 ERA against the Cards) lined up for the first game of the series, with Pedro Liriano (3-0, 0.75 ERA), likely to pitch the third game, after shutting down the Reds last night.  Beyond those two, Charlie Morton (0-2, 7.90 ERA), Jeff Locke (1-1, 3.38) and Gerritt Cole (no record) are the other options against the Redbirds.

The good news for Cardinals fans is that the team will only have to face Liriano, who has dominated the Cards this year, once this series.  It will also be interesting to see if Clint Hurdle will use Locke against the Cards, who have struggled against lefties all year. Locke has struggled in the second half (2-5, 6.00 ERA) and Hurdle may not trust him in the playoffs.

Another factor may be each team's rookie starters, Wacha and Cole.  Both performed well down the stretch and could be given a start.  However, managers tend to shy away from rookies in pressure situations.

Overall, this is almost too close to call, but I think I have to give the edge to the Pirates, mainly due to their top 2 starters Liriano and Burnett.



Edward Mujica, who was the Cardinals closer for the majority of the season, was removed from that role in September, due to "general fatigue" (and, as a result, general ineffectiveness).  Trevor Rosenthal stepped up and earned 3 saves during the last couple weeks of the season and will likely fill the closer role in the postseason.

Mujica uncertain status, puts pressure on a bullpen that has already seen its share of ups-and-downs this season.  Seth Maness has done well in a setup role and the Cardinals have two quality lefties in Randy Choate and Kevin Siegrist.  Carlos Martinez could be pushed into a setup role as well.

The Pirates had their own injury concerns with their closer, Jason Grilli, after he missed a little over a month with a forearm strain.  Mark Melancon filled in admirably in his absence, but their bullpen is much better with Grilli manning the closing duties. The Pirates bullpen also has a couple quality lefties in Justin Wilson and Tony Watson to counter the Cards lefty combo.

Overall, the Pirates bullpen fared better than the Cardinals during the season, posting a 2.89 ERA versus 3.45 for the Cards.  That, combined with the uncertainty surrounding Mujica gives the Pirates the edge.



With Allen Craig out, the Cardinals biggest bat off the bench, Matt Adams, has shifted to a starting role, leaving the Cards bench pretty barren.  Shane Robinson provides some speed and the Cardinals will also have either Kozma or Descalso on the bench, depending on who's starting.  But after that, its unclear who will even make the roster, let alone provide some sort of offense.

The Pirates actually strengthened their bench by acquiring Morneau and Byrd, pushing former starters Garrett Jones and Jose Tabata to reserve roles.  Add in Gabby Sanchez and Travis Snider and the Pirates have a good mix of power and speed, as well as lefty/righty on their bench.



The Cardinals will be appearing in their 3rd straight postseason, while the Pirates will be making their first appearance since 1992.

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny will be making his second straight postseason appearance, but this is just his second year as a major league manager.  Pirates manager Clint Hurdle made the postseason twice with the Rockies and this is his first appearance with the Pirates.  Hurdle has 11 years of managerial experience.

Finally, the Cardinals have home field advantage, where they have gone 54-27 this season. 



Based on the above, the teams are tied 6-6, indicating that I believe this will be a close series.  Basically, I believe the Pirates have a better pitching staff, while the Cards have a better offense.  Generally they say that good pitching beats good hitting, but I think that the Cardinals postseason experience and home field advantage will help them edge the Pirates in the end.


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Sorting out the Cardinals NLDS Roster

Tonight we will find out who the Cardinals play in the NLDS as the Reds and Pirates square off in their Wild Card game.  But, before the Cards square off against the winner on Thursday, Mike Matheny and company need to set the roster.  To help him out, I've put together my own analysis of who should be included on the postseason roster.

The Locks

These guys are definitely on the roster.

Adam Wainwright
Shelby Miller
Lance Lynn
Joe Kelly
Trevor Rosenthal
Kevin Siegrist
Randy Choate
John Axford
Edward Mujica
Michael Wacha
Seth Maness

Yadier Molina
Tony Cruz
Matt Adams
Matt Carpenter
Daniel Descalso
David Freese
Pete Kozma
Carlos Beltran
Matt Holliday
Jon Jay
Shane Robinson

Note:  Allen Craig's injury will keep him out of the NLDS

That's 22 players, which brings us to...

The Decisions

First, the team needs to fill one more bullpen spot.  The candidates are Sam Freeman, Carlos Martinez, Fernando Salas and Jake Westbrook.

I think Westbrook is probably out.  Matheny gave him the start on Sunday, out of respect for all he's done for the team, but he doesn't do well out of the pen.  Freeman, Martinez and Salas all have their merits, but I think that, based on how he was used in high leverage situations down the stretch, Martinez is Matheny's man.

Finally, the team needs two more bench players.  The choices are Brock Peterson, Adron Chambers, Ryan Jackson or Kolten Wong.  Jackson is likely out, as he was seldom used down the stretch and the combo of Descalso and Kozma should be adequate enough for short and utility.  So, it basically comes down to Peterson, who provides right handed power, Chambers, a lefty outfielder who can play all 3 spots, and Wong, who provides the Cards with some speed.

I think the Cards will go with Peterson and Wong, as it would give them a good combo of right/left and power/speed.  Chambers would give the Cardinals another outfielder, in case Beltran or Holliday is banged up, but Peterson is capable of playing a corner outfield spot and the Cards will already have Robinson, who is capable of playing all 3 spots.  In any case, I don't see these guys seeing much action than the usual pinch hitting/pinch running situations.

Tomorrow, I will take a look at the matchups versus tonight's Reds/Pirates winner.