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Bleed Cardinal Red With Me--For St. Louis Cardinals Fans http://bleedcardinalredwithme.com Sat, 08 Jun 2013 18:30:11 +0000 en hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.3.2 Thoughts on the MLB draft and the Reds http://bleedcardinalredwithme.com/2013/06/thoughts-on-the-mlb-draft-and-the-reds/ http://bleedcardinalredwithme.com/2013/06/thoughts-on-the-mlb-draft-and-the-reds/#comments Sat, 08 Jun 2013 18:28:11 +0000 JD http://bleedcardinalredwithme.com/?p=3516 Continue reading ]]> Baseball America ranked the Cardinals farm system #1 in baseball on March 27th, 2013.  When the rankings come out next year, it’s highly unlikely the Cards will even be among the top 5 farm clubs in MLB.  Because of the unusual amount of injuries, the Cards have had to dig deep and make some tough decisions about promoting young pitchers.  If the Cards didn’t have the depth they’ve stockpiled, the team might already be looking to 2014, or they may have traded Oscar Taveras and/or Kolten Wong to try and weather the storm.

The Cards went right to work in this year’s draft on restocking some of that pitching, selecting two LHP’s in the first round in Marco Gonzales and Rob Kaminsky.  Taking a LHP was something the Cards hadn’t done in the first round since 1994.  The Cards Director of Scouting Dan Kantrovitz said the Cards ran through 5 or 6 different mock drafts, trying to anticipate who other teams would draft and who that might leave them with.  Kantrovitz said the Cards never ran through the scenario that played out, because they didn’t think it was possible the Cards would land Gonzales and Kaminsky, as well as their 2nd round pick, shortstop Oscar MercadoHere’s a clip from ESPN with Cards GM John Mozeliak and Kantrovitz about these picks.

Gonzales, the 19th overall pick, is a 6’1”, 185 pound lefty from Gonzaga.  He was said to have the best changeup in this year’s draft, which scouts graded as a 70 on the 20-80 scale.  Gonzales lives on the corners with his fastball that’s 89-91 MPH, and also mixes in a curveball and cutter that are pitches he needs to work on.  Polished and poised are the words for Gonzales.  The Cards expect Gonzales to move quickly through the system and hope is ETA is 2015.

Kaminsky, the 28th overall pick, is another lefty listed at 6’0”, 190 pounds.  Kaminsky can run the fastball up to 94 MPH, but his out pitch is the curveball.  Kaminsky has a commitment to North Carolina, but seems pretty excited to be picked by the Cardinals and looks like he’ll be signing soon.  In this piece by Kevin Kernan of the NY Post, Kaminsky said “This is a dream becoming a reality.”  Asked if he was sweating it out, Kaminsky admitted “To an extent, but I had an idea from my family advisor that I was going late in the first round, so it was going to be the Yankees or the Cardinals.  Thank God it’s the Cardinals because they definitely develop.”

Merchado is an interesting pick.  The Cardinals seem more than happy with it, and most scouts seem to think he was one of the best high school defensive players in the draft.  It seems to be a consensus that he’ll never hit for a high average or with power, but they say he’s one of the few players that can project to stay at shortstop all the way to MLB.  Both Kaminsky and Merchado are probably 3 or 4 years away from MLB, so patience will be the plan with them.

The Cards came into Cincy with a 3 game lead over the Reds.  Adam Wainwright and the offense extended it to 4 games last night, making sure the Cards will leave town up at least 2 games on the Reds in a worst case scenario.  The Cards stayed patient against Mike Leake, making him throw 97 pitches through 5 IP, and continued their trend of hitting with 2 outs and RISP.  Yadier Molina answered the boo birds with 2 hits and ran his league leading BA to .352.  Matt Carpenter worked a full count in his first 3 AB’s, and continues to set the table and be among the lead leaders in P/PA at 4.05.  Tyler Lyons takes the mound tonight against Mat Latos, who is 5-0 with a 2.90 ERA in 12 starts.

The thing on my mind is if Dusty Baker is going to order someone to be hit in this series.  With Mike Matheny replacing Tony LaRussa, it appears that the feud between the Cards and Reds may have died down some since LaRussa left.  It’s not just the Cardinals though.  In 3 of the last 4 series the Reds have played in, players from other teams have had problems with the way the Reds pitchers are going about their business.  Matt Garza of the Cubs, Nick Swisher of the Indians and several players on the Pirates feel that balls are more than just getting away from Reds pitchers these days.  This is something Matheny hasn’t had to deal with yet, and it will be interesting to see how he does if it does happen tonight or tomorrow.  When it comes to Baker, well, you just never know.

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Moving to BleedCardinalRed.net http://bleedcardinalredwithme.com/2013/06/moving-to-bleedcardinalred-net/ http://bleedcardinalredwithme.com/2013/06/moving-to-bleedcardinalred-net/#comments Mon, 03 Jun 2013 17:12:42 +0000 JD http://bleedcardinalredwithme.com/?p=3511 Continue reading ]]> In the next few months, I will be moving to bleedcardinalred.net.  I will continue to post here until then, although not as much, and the site will be under construction from time to time and you may not be available to login for comments.  Thanks to all of those who follow me and will continue to do so….JD

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Cards #1 farm system continues to be tested http://bleedcardinalredwithme.com/2013/05/cards-1-farm-system-continues-to-be-tested/ http://bleedcardinalredwithme.com/2013/05/cards-1-farm-system-continues-to-be-tested/#comments Mon, 27 May 2013 16:47:38 +0000 JD http://bleedcardinalredwithme.com/?p=3498 Continue reading ]]> The Cards made an interesting roster move this morning, calling up Victor Marte and sending down Carlos Martinez.  Marte is probably only up until Thursday, and then the Cards have to move someone into the rotation to start for John Gast.  We all know that Marte is the true definition of a 4A player, but it’s only for a few days, at least I think.  Martinez going down makes sense.  With the loss of Jaime Garcia, Jake Westbrook, Gast and the recent setback once again of Chris Carpenter, the Cards need to stretch Martinez out and bring him back as a starter.  It looks like Westbrook’s injury may be more serious than originally thought, so the Cards need to prepare for the worst.

Michael Blazek got the call up from AA after the Gast injury.  I’m curious to see what he can do from the BP.  Blazek is another one of those diamonds in the rough, a 35th round pick from the 2007 draft.  The Cards tried him as a starter for his first 6 years in the minors, but recently moved him into the BP this year.  The results are hard to ignore.  As the closer in Memphis, Blazek has a 0.92 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP.  He has 25 K’s in 19.2 IP and 7 saves.  I think we’ll see Blazek in close games right away, mixing him in with Seth Maness in close situations in the middle innings.

Tyler Lyons was impressive in his first start with the big club.  Completely off the radar, Lyons came up currently ranked somewhere between the 30th-36th best prospect in the Cards farm system at the time, depending on which prospect list you pick from.  Lyons was a 9th round pick in 2010.  At the time, it appeared he would make a spot start or two, but as the Westbrook injury appears to worsen, Lyons might be here for a while.  Another SP that lives on location, I actually like what I’ve seen from Lyons more than I have from Gast.  Lyons provides a bit more deception and uses his 6’4” frame to get maximum effort without appearing to do so.  He sets up his pitches well with his 4-seam fastball, even though he maxes out at 91 MPH.

The Cards have a decision to make on Thursday as to who will start for Gast.  I think it will be Joe Kelly as the team doesn’t want to start the clock on Michael Wacha yet.  What should be noted though is that Wacha was scratched from his start in Memphis yesterday, so the possibility is there.  If the Cards can tread water without rushing Wacha for the injured Gast, I would be on board.  Rushing someone as talented as Wacha when he’s still learning to pitch in a 5 man rotation could be a costly mistake, but sending Martinez back to the minors might mean he is on the way, with Martinez being down as the extra insurance for a future injury. 

The Cards clearly won’t have the #1 farm system in 2014.  They’ll fall out of the top 10 with all of the promotions and we’re not even out of the month of May yet.  This is what the minors are for though.  Gone are the days when Tony LaRussa and Walt Jocketty saw these kids as nothing more than trade chips.  This system is deeper than any that Tony and Walt ever had, but I still don’t think we would see these kinds of promotions from within under the old regime.  John Mozeliak and Mike Matheny are on the same page, which is to exhaust all internal options before looking to make a trade using these youngsters.  This is how the Cards will contend for years to come going forward, and it’s why they made the cover of Sports Illustrated as the best organization in baseball now and for the future.

The Cardinals are a MLB best 32-17 and have lost 2 series this year.  Without the stockpiling of young talent in recent years, this season would be over.  I hate to say something as cliché as it’s as simple as that, but it is.  The Cards will be tested, and are sure to go through some rough stretches as the season wears on, but I’m looking forward to the young kids getting a chance to take their lumps and learn from it rather than dumpster diving for has been or never had been veterans.  The Cards are doing things the right way and are now the model organization for every team in MLB when it comes to planning ahead.  With the right key veterans surrounding the kids, the transition is all that much easier for them.  I’m not saying the Cards should never trade for a Matt Holliday type player ever again, I’m not saying that at all.  What I am saying and have been saying for years now is that you make sure you trade the kids for the right players like Holliday, sign a few key veterans here and there, and keep a good balance.

No team in MLB is going to win without a good mix of talent, grinders, veterans, rookies and everything in between.  The Cards have a great mix of that.  What the Cards do have that no other team does is a player like Yadier Molina, who makes these young pitchers feel at ease by calling a good game every night and getting the most out of guys who have a limited arsenal of weapons.  I’m not sure there’s another team in baseball that has a player they absolutely can’t lose as the Cards do with Molina.  He’s the foundation for this team, and he alone allows the Cards to make some of the decisions they’re making with the farm system.  Mozeliak and Matheny know this, and they won’t be hesitant to try anybody at any time on the mound from the minors.

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Tyler Lyons, Michael Wacha and Pitcher Abuse Points (PAP) http://bleedcardinalredwithme.com/2013/05/tyler-lyons-michael-wacha-and-pitcher-abuse-points-pap/ http://bleedcardinalredwithme.com/2013/05/tyler-lyons-michael-wacha-and-pitcher-abuse-points-pap/#comments Mon, 20 May 2013 15:55:18 +0000 JD http://bleedcardinalredwithme.com/?p=3479 Continue reading ]]> Originally thought of as just a quick fix for the injured Jake Westbrook, John Gast may end up being in the Cards rotation for quite a while with the recent news of Jaime Garcia.  I’m surprised Garcia lasted as long as he did with a partial tear of the labrum in his shoulder.  I understand wanting to try and avoid surgery and make it a last option, but I’m expecting Dr. James Andrews to give Garcia the news that he needs to go under the knife.  Tyler Lyons will step in for Garcia on Wednesday in San Diego, but I’m not sure he’ll be a long term answer. 

Wednesday will also bring an answer as to who will be sent down from the BP.  My guess is it will be between Joe Kelly and Mitchell Boggs.  I was surprised to hear that Boggs got the call back up so soon.  His problems have followed him to Memphis, and there doesn’t appear to be a quick fix as he’s staying with his new stance on the mound.

If either Boggs or Kelly aren’t one of the choices to go down and it’s Carlos Martinez instead, I’ll be a little confused to say the least.  I know the Cards want to stretch him out as a starter, but I’m not sure how many games you can expect to be in late when your only reliable arms are Randy ChoateSeth Maness, Trevor Rosenthal and Edward Mujica.

Getting back to the starting rotation, right now all eyes are on Westbrook.  He had a setback with his elbow which prompted another cortisone injection, and that elbow may determine the arrival date of Michael Wacha.  Lyons may get away with a few good starts…hopefully anyway, but he hasn’t done anything in the minors nor does he have the pitches to stay in MLB for long as a starter.  If he can end up being a decent LOOGY down the road I’ll take it.  Cardinal Nation wants Wacha now, but we need to temper those feelings and remember that this kid was pitching for Texas A&M at this point last year.  I watched him pitch a few games in ST, and Yadier Molina made the comment that he was “ready now” at that time, but this is a dangerous situation for the Cards.

When the Cards drafted Wacha, the experts covering the draft compared him to Jon Garland.  Because of his success so far in the minors and how he impressed during ST, he’s now being talked about like the next Chris Carpenter.  It’s not fair to him or his development as a SP.  It’s a tough situation for the Cards, and a lot of factors come into play.  If the Cards really feel he is going to be the steal of the 2012 draft and a front of the rotation starter for years to come, they’ll want to have him under team control as long as possible.  Calling him up too early cuts into that time of team control, and here’s a good article from FanGraphs which explains some of that.  The Cards 28-15 record also helps the delay of Wacha’s arrival.  They have the wiggle room to take chances right now.  If the Cards were 4 or 5 games below Cincy in the standings, Wacha might be here instead of Lyons.  Rushing Wacha could be dangerous in a number of ways, and it isn’t necessary until the Westbrook situation is clearer.

The Cards are still leading all of MLB in pitching with a 3.16 ERA, led by the SP’s ERA of 2.63.  Because of how bad the BP was for the first month, the BP ERA is still only down to 4.55, which is 13th in the NL.  The offense is coming alive, ranking 3rd in both AVG (.266) and OBP (.329).  The Cards are doing it without the power of the HR, as their 33 HR’s rank 13th in the NL.

Matt Carpenter is solidifying his place as the leadoff hitter for the rest of the year and in the future.  He continues to take pitches (4.04 P/PA) and set the table (.378 OBP).  Jon Jay has really turned the corner with his new stance, hitting the ball with more authority to all fields.  I’m really surprised anyone who has been doing something so long can make such as drastic change and see results as quick as Jay has.  I want to tip my cap to him, I just don’t want to hear anymore about him winning or even being in the running for a Gold Glove Award from Al Hrabosky.  Jay has a -4.1 UZR and a -17.7 UZR/150 on defense, which means his range is just awful, and 17th out of 21 qualifying MLB CF’ers.  It’s no secret why, which is because he gets awful jumps on most balls.  So please Al, just stop.  Pete Kozma keeps on getting it done in the 8 hole and Yadier Molina is tied for 5th in the league with a BA of .333.

The only change I want to see is with Daniel Descalso.  He’s just not getting it done on offense or defense.  Ryan Jackson is tearing up AAA, hitting .385.  The only reasons the Cards must have for not swapping the two are because they think Descalso will turn it around and that Jackson might not be as good getting the sporadic AB’s in his place.  Another reason could be to use Jackson as a trade chip later on, or keeping him playing on an everyday basis in case of an injury to Kozma.  It’s hard to imagine Jackson looking as lost at the plate as Descalso does, but in John Mozeliak we trust.  Even with that trust, I wouldn’t mind giving Jackson a month or two to see what he can do and letting Descalso get everyday playing time back in the minors.  I don’t see how it can hurt.

It’s important for the Cards to win the games started by Shelby Miller, Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn.  While Gast has been good, the uncertainties of him along with Lyons aren’t something to take lightly.  What will make it tough is watching the pitch counts of the big 3, but also making sure they go deep enough into games to have plenty of BP arms ready for the games started by Gast and Lyons.  There are no easy decisions for Mike Matheny to try and keep a good balance. 

Right now, Miller, Lynn and Wainwright are all in the top 22 on the PAP (Pitcher Abuse Points) list, which is not a list you want to be on.  It’s not an exact science, but I think it does make some good points about extending SP’s in this day and age where pitch count is everything.  It’s simple really….SP’s are conditioned throughout their pro career to save wear and tear on their arms and when you go above that, you’re risking injury.  The fine balance Matheny must use just became more complicated with the loss of Garcia, but extending your big 3 too many times too early is asking for trouble.  All 3 were cut short in their last start because of the high pitch counts in their previous ones.  None of them were as sharp in those last outings, and you only hope it doesn’t carry over into the next one or further.  Westbrook was also in the top 20 on that list before he went down with an injury.  Coincidence…maybe, but it’s not something Matheny should mess with.

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Looking back and then ahead to the Mets series http://bleedcardinalredwithme.com/2013/05/looking-back-and-then-ahead-to-the-mets-series/ http://bleedcardinalredwithme.com/2013/05/looking-back-and-then-ahead-to-the-mets-series/#comments Mon, 13 May 2013 01:59:48 +0000 JD http://bleedcardinalredwithme.com/?p=3458 Continue reading ]]> The Cardinals were due for a bad game.  It happens.  Jaime Garcia pitched like he was on the road today, getting in trouble with 2 outs and no one on base.  Other than that, there’s not much to complain about except for the use of Carlos Martinez in a game when you’re down 5-0.  If the Cards have a couple of close ones the next few games where Martinez is needed, Mike Matheny might regret that decision.  I say this because of the Cards talking about limiting the action Martinez sees out of the BP early on until he gets used to it.  I know Matheny wants to get the BP some work because of the lack of opportunities this week from the two off days the Cards had this week as well as the two complete games by Shelby Miller and Adam Wainwright.  However, today’s game had Joe Kelly and Fernando Salas only written all over it.  I would have liked to have seen Kelly stretched out a bit to try and get back on track instead of the use of Martinez.  Anyway, before looking ahead, let’s look back a bit.

What more can be said of Miller?  After giving up a leadoff hit to start the game, he put down 27 straight Rockies Friday night.  His 4-seam fastball seems to confuse hitters on both location and late explosiveness.  When it explodes into the spot Yadier Molina wants it, it’s not only a thing of beauty, but it leaves hitters guessing, which is odd considering Miller is a fastball/curveball pitcher mainly.  You know you’re going good when Troy Tulowitzki is baffled twice looking at strike three.  Miller is the real deal, but it will be interesting to see how teams (especially the NL Central teams) make adjustments to him over a long season.

Adam Wainwright tried to one up Miller Saturday, and a one out hit in the 8th inning ended the chance for a no-hitter for Waino.  If the playoffs started today, Wainwright would obviously be your game one starter, followed by Miller IMO.  What I like about what Wainwright, Miller and Lance Lynn are doing is that they’re all throwing the 4-seamer up in the zone.  I never disagreed with Dave Duncan’s philosophy, especially with most of the pitchers he had that lacked pure stuff, but I like that the Cards are letting some of the power arms experiment with the power pitching up in the zone.  The groundball on the 2-seamer is still there as a first course of action, but putting hitters away with 2 strikes with a different look is something I’m enjoying.

Defensive metrics say the Cards aren’t very good as far as Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR), but they’re getting to the balls they can and making the routine plays as good as anyone in baseball.  They have the second fewest errors (14) in the NL to Arizona (8).  The Cards have a UZR of -5.8, which ranks them 10th in the NL.  To put it in perspective, the Cards had a team UZR of -34.7 in 2011, which was next to last in the NL and they won it all. Could this be something that the coaching staff realized might be the case before the season started which is why Wainwright, Miller and Lynn are going for the K more often?  That might be a stretch, but power pitching in the playoffs is something all teams long for.

I know there’s a lot of talk about the offense, but I’ll continue to say that’s the least of my worries with this team.  Even with the season long struggles of David Freese as well as the early struggles for Jon Jay and Allen Craig’s power outage, the Cards as a team are 4th in the NL with a .263 AVG, 4th in OBP at .326 and tied for 8th in SLG at .390.  The Cards are also keeping the K’s down on offense, only striking out 18.4% of the time, good for the 4th lowest rate.  Jay is making harder and more consistent contact with his new stance and approach, and Freese doesn’t look as completely lost as he did 2 weeks ago.  I feel I must also say again that I hope Matheny doesn’t move Matt Carpenter out of the leadoff spot.  He works the count every AB, and his 4.13 of pitches per plate appearance (P/PA) is something no one else on the team has come close to in the past except for Matt Holliday

Even with the struggles of the BP until the last week or so, the Cards have the best team ERA in all of MLB at 3.03.  Where it gets almost unbelievable is the SP’s ERA of 2.25, which is almost a full run better than the Nationals SP’s who are second at 3.22. 

As the Mets come to town with their 14-20 record, all signs point to the Cards taking at least 3 of 4 in the series.  The Mets have one SP with an ERA under 4.63 in Matt Harvey (1.44), and we don’t have to face him as he pitched today.

Here are the SP matchups:

Game 1:  Jeremy Hefner (0-4, 4.63 ERA) vs. Lance Lynn (5-1, 2.72 ERA)

Game 2:  Dillon Gee (2-4, 5.55 ERA) vs. John Gast (MLB debut)

Game 3:  Shaun Marcum (0-3, 8.59 ERA) vs. Shelby Miller (5-2, 1.58 ERA)

Game 4:  Jon Niese (2-4, 5.93 ERA) vs. Adam Wainwright (5-2, 2.30 ERA)

I hate having to say the Cards need to win 3 of 4 in a series in May, but when you’re playing at home against SP’s with numbers like the Mets have, I feel you almost have to.  Due to the injury to Jake Westbrook, John Gast will make his first MLB start.  Gast is 3-1 with a 1.16 ERA at Memphis in 7 starts in 2013.  He’s a lefty that lives with location.  He has a fastball around 89-91, a plus change-up and a better than average curveball.  Chalk another one up to the great Cards farm system, the gift that keeps on giving.

There’s not much to say about the Mets.  David Wright (.297 AVG, .417 OBP, 5 HR’s), Lucas Duda (.368 OBP, 8 HR’s) and John Buck (10 HR’s, 29 RBI’s) are having decent years, the Cards just can’t let those guys beat them.  The Mets are lucky to be at 14-20 with the numbers they have across the board.  They’re 14th in UZR at -9.9, 13th in AVG at .234, 11th in OBP at .306 and have the 4th highest K rate as an offense at 22.1%.  They have a 4.39 ERA as a team, which is next to last (Brewers, 4.70).  In other words, they’re awful.  The only bright spot on this team aside from Harvey is closer Bobby Parnell and his 1.10 ERA and 0.73 WHIP, but he’s just 3 for 5 in save opportunities. 

The only thing that will keep the Mets out of the cellar in the NL East are the Marlins, and it will be a coin flip to determine which club, either the Marlins or the Astros will have the worst record in all of MLB in 2013, with the Mets and Cubs close behind.  The Mets have also had the luxury of playing 21 games at home (9-12) and only 13 on the road (5-8).

Like I said, winning less than 3 of 4 in this series for the Cards would be a head scratcher.  The Cards have everything going for them right now…a fresh BP, dominant SP and an offense that can put up 6 with ease when they’re in sync.  Then again, these are exactly the types of teams I think some of us worry about playing.

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Young arms help Cards streak to 6 in a row http://bleedcardinalredwithme.com/2013/05/young-arms-help-cards-streak-to-6-in-a-row/ http://bleedcardinalredwithme.com/2013/05/young-arms-help-cards-streak-to-6-in-a-row/#comments Mon, 06 May 2013 17:17:54 +0000 JD http://bleedcardinalredwithme.com/?p=3448 Continue reading ]]> Like I had said after the Q and A with Cards GM John Mozeliak, he wasn’t going to let a few bad BP arms destroy the Cards 2013 season.  The Cards have plenty of depth in the minors with their #1 ranked farm system and aren’t afraid to use it, and use it early.  When Mo talked about Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha at that time, he was more than confident they could step in and get the job done right away.  After watching Martinez pitch a couple of times against the Brewers after replacing Mitchell Boggs in the BP, we now know why he was tabbed with having the most electric arm in the Cards farm system.

Seth Maness, the Cards 2012 minor league POY, also made his presence known.  Maness pitched in two games over the weekend against the Brewers and got his first win as well as the first win for a Cardinal pitcher that didn’t come from one of the SP’s.  What seemed to be a weakness a week ago is now a strength.  Many may think I’m jumping the gun with that statement, but it’s hard to imagine that opposing hitters are going to get good wood on Martinez with regularity.  Manager Mike Matheny now has innings 7-9 covered with Martinez, Trevor Rosenthal and Edward Mujica.

It will be interesting to see how Maness is used.  He doesn’t have overpowering stuff, but he is a control freak.  In over 250 IP in the minors, he had 18 walks.  He gets weak swings on balls on the corners, and he’ll live or die there.  So far, I like what I see.  Matheny put him in a crucial spot on Saturday and he came through unharmed.

These moves help the club in more than one way.  They also allow Joe Kelly and Fernando Salas to try and work out their issues in situations in which the Cards are way ahead or way behind.  I’m not sure how long the leash will be for either one, but they both still have options and can be shipped down for replacements if need be.  Eric Fornataro or John Gast may be next in line if they continue to struggle.  I’m not sure if Wacha will be used before September, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he was brought up earlier based on needs.

After sweeping 4 games in Milwaukee, the Cards now are tied for the best record in baseball.  The SP’s continue to lead the way.  Adam Wainwright ran into a bit of trouble Saturday, but the BP and offense picked him up.  Right now, the Cards SP’s are easily alone at the top as the best starting staff in the NL.  They have the best ERA at 3.09 and have given up the fewest HR’s at 20.  The Reds have played one more game than the Cards and lead them in K’s by only 11 amongst SP’s.

If case you hadn’t noticed, Jon Jay changed his stance and swing.  After sitting out a few days last week and working with John Mabry, Bengie Molina and Carlos Beltran, Jay looks like a different hitter.  I can’t imagine doing something your entire career, making changes in a few days and then seeing results right away.  Not only is Jay driving the ball, he’s no longer pulling his front leg to first base on every swing.  The helicopter hands are gone.  Thumbs up to Jay and all those who helped with the transition.  Hopefully the results continue to be good ones.

Pete Kozma remains a steady force at shortstop.  It’s not just that he’s had only one error, it’s the range he’s showed to his right.  He may have saved the game in the first inning Saturday with the play he made with bases loaded.  Already down 2-0, the game might have gotten away if not for Kozma’s play.  It’s nice to see the Cards sticking with their 2007 1st round draft pick.  He may never be an AS, but the Cards don’t need him to be.  Steady defense and timely hitting will be good enough.

Regardless of how Jay does with the bat, I’d like to see Matt Carpenter remain the leadoff spot.  Little Carp leads the Cards with a 4.05 P/PA and has no fear of hitting with 2 strikes unlike so many players today.

Matt Adams was set to return on Tuesday.  I haven’t heard if that’s going to be pushed back a few days due to the lack of AB’s from a snowed out game in Arkansas.  When he does return, the Cards can get back to getting Adams in there and giving Beltran, Matt Holliday and Allen Craig a few days off here and there. 

For all the talk about the Cards offense, it was only a matter of time before they broke out.  The offense is the last thing any of us should be worried about, and I don’t understand why it’s a constant source of conversation.  They haven’t all hit full stride yet, but that’s the least of my worries.

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Q and A with Cards GM John Mozeliak and Bill DeWitt III http://bleedcardinalredwithme.com/2013/04/q-and-a-with-cards-gm-john-mozeliak-and-bill-dewitt-iii/ http://bleedcardinalredwithme.com/2013/04/q-and-a-with-cards-gm-john-mozeliak-and-bill-dewitt-iii/#comments Tue, 30 Apr 2013 18:35:03 +0000 JD http://bleedcardinalredwithme.com/?p=3428 Continue reading ]]> Before the game with the Pirates on Sunday, I was treated to a Q and A session with Cards GM John Mozeliak and Bill DeWitt III in the Cards conference room along with other members of the United Cardinal Bloggers.  First, I want to give thanks to Daniel Shoptaw who writes for C70 At The Bat, and also does a great job leading the UCB.  I also want to thank Lindsey Weber, who is the Cards Public Relations Specialist.  And of course, I want to thank Mo and DeWitt III for giving us a great 45 minutes.  I also want to thank them for taking the time and providing a great experience for all of us, and allowing each of us to bring a guest.  Here’s a link to the pics gallery on the Cards website from the event.  I’m the guy sitting by my friend Jack with the red hair and his hat on his knee.

Mo took the first 30 minutes and started by giving us an update about how he felt about the Cards BP problems, certain players in the minors and things to expect with the Cardinals organization going forward.  Here are a few of the questions and answers:

One of the questions asked was more of a statement with a question mixed in about the DH.  Mo was asked if the DH was inevitable because it seems to be gaining ground on a national level.  The reply from Mo was that he doesn’t feel that it is inevitable at all.  He doesn’t see it on the horizon, and it hasn’t gained the traction among other GM’s in the NL at this point.  Mo mentioned that he’s not concerned at all about it happening anytime soon and he hopes that it doesn’t.

My question for Mo was directed at how much time he spends talking with Mike Matheny, specifically in terms of looking at the minor leagues. I asked if we could read anything into him going and watching Michael Wacha pitch in Memphis last week and the comments Matheny made about Carlos Martinez recently.  Mo responded by saying that he and Matheny get together very often, almost daily.  While impressed with Wacha and Martinez, at this point there is no hurry to rush either one, but it’s something they will revisit from time to time based on needs.  Mo emphasized the limited innings that Wacha has pitched in the minors, but did talk about how impressed the Cards were with him, as well as saying that he could see him doing what Adam Wainwright did by getting worked into the BP to start his career.  Mo is also very encouraged about Martinez and called his stuff “electric.”  Mo did seem to be fired up about the potential of both of them.

When asked about Shelby Miller and his great start, Mo literally knocked on wood (the podium) and said he has a special arm and thinks he’ll be a front of the rotation starter for years to come.

When asked about the lack of depth at shortstop and the draft, Mo said they’ll continue to draft the best player available based on their own analytics and scouts, and reminded all of us that they will jump on the opportunity to address the need long term either through the MLB draft or the international market when someone is there that makes sense.

When asked about Oscar Taveras and his comparisons to Vladimir Guerrero, Mo said that he understood the comparison, but cautioned that other than both being from the Dominican Republic and being free swingers, he thinks Taveras has better plate discipline.  Mo made sure to point out that the only players in his 18 years as a Cardinal he can compare Taveras to at this time are Albert Pujols and J.D. Drew, but made sure to point out Taveras is younger than both of them while playing in AAA.

When Mo was done, the one feeling I took away from the Q and A was that the Cardinals are not going to let a few weak links in the BP completely destroy the 2013 season.  Matheny and Mo are on the same page and not afraid or hesitant to promote within.  If the BP continues to struggle, players will be sent down and others will get a chance to prove themselves.  My next question would have been how long will they wait to get guys to get straightened out, but after seeing Seth Maness come up from AAA to replace Scrabble yesterday, I think you have your answer.  I also wanted to ask about Mitchell Boggs and why he decided to change his stance after coming off such a great year and who was behind the change, but again, time was short.

DeWitt III took the podium after Mo, and most of the questions were about the red vs. blue road hats, Ballpark Village and the future of Memphis as the Cards AAA club.  The answer to the red vs. blue hats was the Cards would wear the red hats on the road if the other team wasn’t in red, otherwise blue will be worn.  A vote was taken in the room as well, and just like in online polls, it was split.  DeWitt said the Cards plan to stay in Memphis a long time and it’s nothing to worry about.  In regards to Ballpark Village, here’s a good link to the exact words.  Daniel over at C70 will have a good post regarding the event in the next day or two as well I’m sure.

Thanks for reading….J.D.

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Cards SP leads the way http://bleedcardinalredwithme.com/2013/04/cards-sp-leads-the-way/ http://bleedcardinalredwithme.com/2013/04/cards-sp-leads-the-way/#comments Thu, 25 Apr 2013 17:09:03 +0000 JD http://bleedcardinalredwithme.com/?p=3419 Continue reading ]]> The Cardinals swept the Nationals in Washington with the things that define championship teams, leading with dominant starting pitching.  In a time in which the BP is having some problems in the middle innings, the Cards SP’s are stepping up in a big way, and leading all of MLB with a 2.35 ERA.  They’re also second in the NL in K’s with 121.  Shelby Miller and Adam Wainwright turned in dominating performances, and Jaime Garcia did just enough to get a road win.  Edward Mujica looks like he’s going to be closing out games for quite a while, and Joe Kelly looks he may have found himself again.  Trevor Rosenthal is still having a few problems with control on his fastball, but he looks close.

It’s early in the year, but if the Cards go down to the wire with the Reds and come out on top, this is one of those series they can look back on as a reason why.  Losing close games was something that appeared to carry over from last year up until the first game in Washington.  After winning that game 3-2, the Cards followed it up with 2-0 and 4-2 wins in games 2 and 3. 

Wainwright has an amazing stat line of 4-1, a 1.93 ERA, 37 K’s in 37.1 IP, a 1.05 WHIP and only 1 walk. If he didn’t get hit in his throwing shoulder with a line drive in the first game of the year at Arizona, he may be 5-0.  All of his pitches are working.  His cutter is cutting in hard to LHB’s, staying out of the middle of the plate unlike in 2012, and his curveball has a nasty bite on it.  Who out there really doubted the performances being delivered from Waino?

Miller is getting it done with the 4-seam fastball.  He’s locating it very well, and Yadier Molina is calling for Miller’s breaking balls at the right time.  So far, Miller is more than living up to the hype.  Garcia did a good job yesterday with keeping the ball down until the 6th inning.  Mike Matheny did the right thing by pulling him at a time when the game could have got out of hand.

The good news about where the Cards stand right now is that the team still isn’t firing on all cylinders on offense.  The Cards are getting timely hits, leading the league in hitting with RISP and also leading the league in RISP with 2 outs at .308, but Allen Craig, David Freese and Matt Holliday aren’t in full stride yet.  Craig has no HR’s on an OBP of .284.  Freese also has no HR’s and is hitting .211.  Holliday only has 2 HR’s in 68 AB’s, but he’s the last guy I’m worried about. 

Jon Jay is hitting .205, and I’m sure he’ll improve, but I’m still not sold on him being as a long term answer in CF.  His defense has been as bad as his offense, constantly taking bad routes to balls and runners always taking an extra base because of his weak arm.  I welcome the idea of Shane Robinson getting a good share of the playing time in CF.  The Cards are a -9 on runs saved, and Jay makes up for -6 of that.

I like Matt Carpenter being the leadoff hitter.  He works the counts with his incredible plate discipline, and is among the best in baseball in pitches per plate appearance (P/PA) at 4.06.  I think Matheny should leave him there, and I think he will.  In his new role as the 2B, Carpenter is a +1 on defense in runs saved.

It was great that the Cards didn’t have to risk using Matt Adams in Washington.  Hopefully, his oblique strain is not something serious, and we should know the extent of it by Sunday if not sooner.  Having him on the bench is going to be critical as far as resting Carlos Beltran, Holliday and Craig, as well as always having a thunderous bat late in the game regardless of who sits.

The NL Central has 4 teams playing great baseball right now, and the Cards aren’t going to catch a break with the Pirates coming to town.  Once again they have it going right to start the year and we can no longer look at them as an easy series.  The Pirates will be fired up to play the Cardinals, and Jake Westbrook will need to step up his performance in game 2 and try to reverse his trend against Pittsburgh.

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Cards still in good position despite BP problems http://bleedcardinalredwithme.com/2013/04/cards-still-in-good-position-despite-bp-problems/ http://bleedcardinalredwithme.com/2013/04/cards-still-in-good-position-despite-bp-problems/#comments Mon, 22 Apr 2013 16:53:59 +0000 JD http://bleedcardinalredwithme.com/?p=3408 Continue reading ]]> The Cardinals officially have a problem with the BP, but I don’t think it’s time to panic just yet.  Mike Matheny is in a tough position.  You can add John Mozeliak to that list as well.  One thing that sticks out is that Joe Kelly has only been used twice since April 7th.  I’m not sure what to make of that, but I feel that he’s an option that isn’t being used enough.  Matheny seems like he’s trying to force Mitchell Boggs right now, and I understand why, but I think it’s time for Boggs and Kelly to switch roles.  Give Boggs some low stress situations and see how he responds.  I have no idea why the Cardinals and Boggs agreed to have him change his stance from last year, but it’s just not working.  Opposing hitters are squaring the ball off him like they know what pitch is coming.  His stuff is too good for that to happen.

Because of struggles by BP, the Cardinals have dropped a lot of close games, but it’s not all Boggs.  Trevor Rosenthal and Fernando Salas aren’t the same, but they are making progress.  I think most fans would think that Salas has an ERA higher than what it is at 4.70.  His WHIP is 1.17.  Rosenthal has a 4.22 ERA and a 1.41 WHIP, and does have 13 K’s in 10.2 IP. 

The Cards are 10-8 but have only played 6 games at home.  As a worst case scenario, they’re going to come home 10-11.  I know the Nationals will be out for blood because of the way they lost the NLDS to us last year, but I don’t think the Cards get swept with Shelby Miller, Adam Wainwright and Jaime Garcia starting the 3 games.  If Garcia has another bad road start, I think you have to give serious consideration in giving spot starts for him on the road in the future.  Whatever it is, Jaime just seems to unravel on the road, and compounds it when errors are made behind him by walking guys and leaving balls up in the zone.  Many are calling him a mental midget.  That’s a bit harsh, but something isn’t right with his road and home splits over the last couple of years.

The Cards have had a brutal schedule to open the year.  Beating up on the Cubs and Marlins isn’t something they’ve had a chance to do yet.  For those who think the Reds are just going to completely run away with the division, keep in mind the Reds just had 4 games at home with the Marlins and will now have 3 at home with the Cubs.  Also, while the Cards have been on the road for all but 6 games, the opposite is true for the Reds, who’ve had just 6 road games.

When I looked at the schedule to start the year, I thought if the Cards could come out of April with a .500 record they would be in good shape.  I still feel that way.

Getting back to the BP, the Cardinals do have options.  Matheny has to let things play out for a while still, but if the struggles continue, I think we will see some radical changes.  I don’t think Mo is going to let 2013 get away without giving a chance to Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez.  The Cards don’t want to rush either one, but Mo isn’t going to sit on his hands either.  Eric Fornataro may get a call soon, as well as Keith Butler.  I don’t think the Cards will trade for help without giving the kids a shot, that’s just not the way it’s going to work from now on.  If they do make a trade, you can be sure names like Wacha, Martinez, Kolten Wong and other high upside players won’t be involved.

Going into the Philly series and looking at facing Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Kyle Kendrick, most fans would have been happy for a series split.  Because of the way Garcia pitched on the road and because we blew a chance to take 3 of 4 when facing Kendrick in the final game leaves fans with a sour taste though.  I understand that and feel the same way.

One thing we know with this group of guys is that they’re resilient.  The offense doesn’t ever seem to let a bad game carry over to the next one. 

As long as the SP and offense continues to stay a step ahead, the BP will eventually work itself out.  Boggs needs to change his stance back to what worked in 2012 and watch a lot of video, and Rosenthal needs to locate his fastball better.  As bad as the BP has been, the Cards are still 10-8.  I’m not worried yet, but my pulse is starting to skip a beat in close games.

The other thing to note is that Matt Holliday, Allen Craig and David Freese haven’t caught fire yet.  The Cardinals are scoring runs by leading the league with RISP.  I expect these things to equal out, so again, no worries.  Stay calm Cardinal Nation, this is a good to potentially great team going through a rough patch in a few areas.

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Cards take 2 of 3 from Brewers but let one get away http://bleedcardinalredwithme.com/2013/04/cards-take-2-of-3-from-brewers-but-let-one-get-away/ http://bleedcardinalredwithme.com/2013/04/cards-take-2-of-3-from-brewers-but-let-one-get-away/#comments Mon, 15 Apr 2013 17:17:30 +0000 JD http://bleedcardinalredwithme.com/?p=3401 Continue reading ]]> Right now, Mitchell Boggs must feel the weight of the world on his shoulders.  He didn’t make a bad pitch to Carlos Gomez, Gomez just stuck his bat out and hit a blooper to shallow RF.  Even after going 7-5 in the first 12 games, many fans are still inching closer to the edge of the cliff.  What was thought to be a major strength heading into 2013, the BP has had their tough moments.  Mike Matheny is in a tough position.  Because of Trevor Rosenthal’s early struggles, Boggs has been in a couple of one-run games that haven’t gone the Cards way.

Help from the minors is not looking as good as it was when the season started.  Michael Wacha is having a hard time adjusting in AAA, but it’s still early.  Eduardo Sanchez, who looked great in ST and was off to a great start at Memphis, was put on the DL yesterday with a forearm strain.  The other options are Sam Freeman, Victor Marte and Maikel Cleto, and none of them are doing well in Memphis either.

I’m not sure what Matheny is going to do in the next save situation, but I’m not sure that pulling Boggs from the closers role is the right thing to do right now.  Rosenthal is having some control problems and Edward Mujica seems to be a better fit in the 7th or 8th inning. If you throw Mujica into the fire and he doesn’t get it done, you have your main 3 guys with confidence issues.   Joe Kelly has been hit hard but hasn’t pitched much.  Fernando Salas just isn’t the same as he was in 2011, but again, it’s still early.

What’s really going to be difficult is when the Cards SP’s start having trouble.  So far, they’re leading MLB in ERA.  The Cards BP is last in ERA.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the Cardinals kicked the tires on K-Rod at some point soon if the struggles continue, as he’s still unsigned.  Right now though, I think you have to let it play out until the end of April to see how both Boggs and Rosenthal respond.

After a 1-3 start, the Cards have taken 2 of 3 in each series.  Most of the time most fans would be happy with that, but because of the way the Cards lost their last 2 games I understand the frustration.  The Reds have dropped 5 in a row and Johnny Cueto is heading to the DL with a lat strain.  The Cards beat Yovani Gallardo and Kyle Lohse in the Brewers series.  There’s a lot to look forward to with this team, but most don’t want to hear about that right now.

Another option that might be on the horizon is Keith Butler.  He was just promoted from AA to AAA yesterday after Sanchez went on the DL.

The bottom line for me is I think you let it play out over at least the 10 game road trip the Cards start tonight and see what happens.  We all know that Boggs and Rosenthal have great stuff.  Right now, Rosenthal is just having trouble locating his fastball, and Boggs hasn’t caught a couple of key breaks.  He hasn’t helped himself after a couple of junk hits, but I still think he’s the best option until Rosenthal gains control.  You can call me an apologist if you want, but I’m not sure pulling the plug and switching roles 12 games in is the right thing to do.

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