I’m Back! Let’s Talk Some Baseball Before the Season Gets Going

CupofJoe

Dearest stlCupofJoe readers,

I know it has been a little while since I have written over here, but with Opening Day for the St. Louis Cardinals less than one week away, I figured I should check in with you all and let you know what I have been up to lately in the Cardinals blogosphere.

First and foremost, I have written a ton of posts over at Viva El Birdos since you heard from me last, and I really hope you have been able to check them out. If not, I will include links to five of the posts that I really enjoyed writing, including two that were reference by Bernie Miklasz (scroll to the bottom) of the St. Louis Post Dispatch (also near the bottom).

1. Should We Think Twice About Aledmys Diaz?

2. VEB Knowledge Nest: Cortisone Shots

3. Cardinals Sign Cuban Infielder Aledmys Diaz

4. Allen Craig hitting analysis, including a look at his 2013 “power outage”

5. Adam Wainwright’s curveball usage in 2013

Enough about my writing, let’s talk about something we can participate in together now that the season is about to begin–fantasy baseball. I already participate in a season-long league on Yahoo! with some other Cardinals bloggers, but that can get long and tedious.

Well, I have been seeing ample amounts of FanDuel commercials all over TV the past few weeks, and it really sparked my attention. FanDuel provides fans with a chance to play in one-day fantasy sports leagues which is pretty awesome for someone with a busy schedule like me. Thus, let’s play some one-day fantasy baseball together this season. Email me at stlcupofjoe [at] yahoo [dot] com if you are interested, and we can figure it out together. I look forward to hearing from you.

P.S. Who wouldn’t want to try out a product when they directly respond to you on Twitter without even asking them their opinion?

Until next time…

I really hope all of you are doing well and hope to hear from you over at Viva El Birdos sometime soon!

Joe

For more updates, follow me on Twitter: @stlCupofJoe

About these ads

Viva El Birdos: Interview with St. Louis Cardinals Pitcher Joe Kelly

GIF Credit: MLB GIFS

GIF Credit: MLB GIFS

As most of you already know, I have moved my blogging ability over to SB Nation’s Viva El Birdos.

Don’t worry, I am still known as stlCupofJoe over there as well. That is something I hope I am able to retain for the entirety of my blogging “career.”

I am so grateful for the amount of opportunities I have had since joining Viva El Birdos. I have been able to interview many of the Cardinals top prospects: Lee StoppelmanKurt Heyer, Joe Cuda, Alex Reyes, Carson Kelly, Rob Kaminsky, and Oscar Mercado. I still have interviews set to publish on Marco Gonzales and Randal Grichuk later this week. If you have missed any of the above interviews or just would like to read them again, feel free to check them out by clicking on the player’s name.

Each one of those interviews have been absolutely awesome. However, I am writing this post to bring your attention to the biggest interview I have had in my short blogging career. I was able to exchange questions and answers with St. Louis Cardinals hybrid pitcher, Joe Kelly, and the link to that interview can be found here. I can assure you that this interview is in the “must-read” category for all Cardinals fans because some of his answers are absolutely priceless.

Also, I am in charge of managing the site’s Twitter and Facebook accounts, so if you have accounts on either of those, make sure to give us a follow or a like:

You can follow us on Twitter: @vivaelbirdos or Facebook: Viva El Birdos.

Thank you so much for your continued support, and I hope you have continued to follow me at my new location.

Go Cards!

Local Sports Preview: Lindenwood Men’s Volleyball Takes on Ohio State

68420_10201127926102776_1043643376_n

This is obviously much different than any other post I have ever written on my site. However, my lifelong friend asked if I would be interested in writing a preview for his match against Ohio State on Saturday, January 25th, and of course I agreed to the request. I hope you enjoy it, and if it sparks some interest and you are around the St. Louis/St. Charles area, feel free to check out the match on the campus of Lindenwood University.

The Lindenwood Lions are starting year 2 of their transition to a new conference, the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (MIVA). The conference, comprised of both Division 1 and Division 2 schools, contains many decorated volleyball programs such as No. 2 Loyola-Chicago, No. 11 Lewis, No. 14 IPFW, No. 15 Ohio State, and Ball State, so it’s apparent that the Lions have their work cut out for them this season.

Preseason polls picked the Lions to finish 7th in the eight team conference. According to a few members on the team, they feel this may be a little low for this year’s squad. A team captain was quoted in saying, “For how we finished last year being our first season in the MIVA, we were pretty upset we didn’t get the respect we deserved with a better preseason ranking.” The team competed well to close out 2013, they have the luxury of having all starters returning from last year’s team. Unlike really any other sport, a successful volleyball club relies a lot on continuity and flow among the players on the court. This continuity is something that develops with experience, and two years in a row with the same starting lineup will be largely beneficial for this team as the season grinds along.

Back in the fall, they brought in a new head coach, Kris Dorn, for the 2014 season. He takes over as just the third head coach in the program’s young history. Dorn has 17 years of collegiate coaching experience (seven at the Division 1 level), and according to a press release from the team, he “brings a mix of intensity, determination, and competitive fire to the team and athletic development.” With the tools in place (returning all starters), the athletic department hopes Dorn’s fire and knowledge of the game can bring success to this team and bring it quickly–in his first year as head coach.

The Lions are just two games into their season–losing at Sacred Heart University 3-0 and winning at NJIT 3-1. At 1-1 on the season, the Lions return home (St. Charles, MO) to take on the Ohio State Buckeyes on Saturday, January 25th, at 7 PM CST. The latest rankings have the Buckeyes at No. 15, but with a disappointing 2-3 start of the season, this may change very soon–especially if the Lions are able to take them down in Saturday’s home opener.

The team captains are senior Michael Adams, junior Logan Jarus, and senior Tim Schmidt, and they have high expectations going into the 2014 campaign. According to Adams, they don’t think about the fact that they are predicted to finish seventh in the conference. He states that this year’s team goal is “to win the conference championship.” Beating the Buckeyes in the team’s home opener would be a perfect first step towards achieving this goal. With already three losses on the season (all three were against very good teams, though), the Buckeyes’ confidence may be shaken just a bit–an opportunity the Lions look to pounce on come Saturday night.

Photo Credit: lindenwoodlions.com

Photo Credit: lindenwoodlions.com

Let’s take a quick look at some individual statistics. Through two matches, Adams and Colin Hackworth lead the team in kills with 19 apiece, and Jarus is not too far behind with 14 of his own.

None of these kills could have happened without Schmidt, the team’s setter, who gracefully orchestrates the offense and has 69 assists so far. If service aces are more of your thing, then pay attention when Hackworth and Adams go back to serve because they have some of the best serves in the conference. One thing this team looks to improve upon as the season goes along is receiving. Their current percentage sits at .921–22 points lower (.943) than their opponents.

Match Details:

  • Saturday, January 25th, at 7 PM Central at Lindenwood University
  • Address: 209 S.Kingshighway, St. Charles, MO. 63301
  • Home Opener for the Lindenwood Men’s Volleyball Team
  • Versus The Ohio State University Buckeyes
  • Admission: $5 for adults and free for children
  • “Beat the Buckeyes”

Here’s a link to the match’s Facebook event.

Go Lions!

Until next time…

Joe

Recap: My First Week at Viva El Birdos

CupOfJoe_Opt2b

As most of you already know, I have officially taken my blogging to Viva El Birdos, SB Nation’s Cardinals site. If you have not been able to keep up with my posts from this week, I have provided a comprehensive list (including links) below. Some players I took a look at include Yadier Molina, Matt Holliday, Shelby Miller, Lee Stoppelman, and MLB Draft prospect, Kodi Medeiros.

1. My Introductory Post with Viva El Birdos

2. What should we expect from Yadier Molina’s hitting in 2014?

3. Have Matt Holliday’s hitting zone patterns changed with age?

4. Exclusive at Viva El Birdos: Interview with Kodi Medeiros. 2014 Draft Prospect

5. The numbers behind Shelby Miller’s four-seam fastball

6. Interview with pitching prospect, Lee Stoppelman

For the time being, I will compose pieces like this one as my readers make the transition over to Viva El Birdos along with me.

Thank you so much for your continued support.

Until next time…

Joe

For more updates, follow me on Twitter: @stlCupofJoe

The Resume of Andrew Luck

Photo Credit: IndyStar

Photo Credit: IndyStar

Just two years after being drafted #1 overall by the Indianapolis Colts, Andrew Luck has a regular season record of 22-10 and a playoff record of 1-1.

After completing a monumental, 28-point 2nd-half comeback against the Kansas City Chiefs in the Wild Card round, the Indianapolis Colts will travel to New England to take on the legendary Tom Brady and the #2 seed Patriots.

Thus, he still has at least one more game to add to his playoff record before his sophomore campaign is complete. The Colts organization and fan base doesn’t want him to stop there, though. The end goal is obviously a trip to the Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium. Their last Super Bowl appearance? 2009 with Peyton Manning under center.

2012 Season:

Luck2012

His rookie-season statistics were decent to slightly above-average at best. He set the record for most passing yards in a season by a rookie with 4,374 (7th overall in the NFL that season), but he also threw 18 interceptions–just one less than league-leaders, Drew Brees and Tony Romo.

His quarterback rating of 76.5 was in the bottom five of the league, but his Total QBR (which I personally consider a better measure to use when looking at a quarterback) of 65.2 was 11th best in the NFL in 2012. Don’t know what Total QBR is? ESPN has a pretty lengthy explanation here.

Luck led the Colts to an 11-5 regular season record as a rookie and ultimately lost to the Baltimore Ravens 24-9 in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. His running backs didn’t make it any easier on him–tallying just one 100-yard rushing game Week 15) all season.

Here are eight milestones accomplished by Luck in 2012: (source Colts.com)

  1. First QB drafted #1 overall in NFL Draft to start a playoff game as a rookie
  2. Most wins (11) by a QB selected #1 overall in NFL history
  3. Most 300-yard passing games (6) by a rookie in NFL history
  4. Broke record for most passing yards in a game by a rookie (433)
  5. First rookie to throw two game-winning TDs in last two minutes of 4th quarter
  6. Most 4th-quarter/OT game-winning drives (7) by a rookie since 1970
  7. Six straight weeks (8-13) of out-passing the opposing QB (tied for most as a rookie)
  8. Five rushing touchdowns in 2012 (most by a Colts QB in franchise history)

2013 Season:

Luck2013

Luck’s biggest improvement from 2012 to 2013? He took care of the ball much better–cutting his interception total in half. Both his completion percentage and QB rating improved as well. His QBR may have been slightly less, but it was 9th best in the NFL.

Let’s take a closer look at his 2013 season. Colts starting running back, Vick Ballard, sustained a season-ending freak knee injury in practice after Week 1. Ahmad Bradshaw, signed in the off-season to serve as a quality back-up, took over after Ballard’s injury, but he, too, got injured after just three games (two starts) and 186 rushing yards. Dwayne Allen, one of Luck’s favorite targets from 2012, suffered a season-ending hip injury in Week 1. 

If those three injuries to the offensive unit weren’t enough, the Colts lost #1 receiver, Reggie Wayne, to a devastating ACL tear (video) in the team’s Week 7 victory against the Denver Broncos. When asked about the injury, Luck said it best, “It stinks to the nth degree. I put a lot of blame on myself for missing him. I don’t think there was anybody within a square mile of him. I missed it.” Name another quarterback in the league, let alone a second-year one, that would be as honest and open about the situation as Luck. I am sure you could find a few, but Luck took ownership of the situation without instigation by reporters or instruction from his coaches, immediately after an emotional victory. That’s wisdom and leadership far beyond his years.

When Wayne went down, to just about no one’s surprise, the Colts offense began to struggle. Luck no longer had his primary target, his security blanket, one of the most sure-handed receivers in the last decade. TY Hilton is a terrific young talent, but was he ready to take over as the #1 target that faced other team’s shutdown cornerbacks week in and week out? Some weeks (especially last week agains the Chiefs) he stepped up, but other weeks he was stifled by opposing cornerbacks.

Colts owner, Jim Irsay, recognized a need to add some fire power on offense and did his best by trading a future first-round pick for second-year running back, Trent Richardson. Richardson ended up being a huge disappointment with the Colts this season–averaging a minuscule 33 rushing yards per game and scoring only three touchdowns.

The offensive line was much healthier this season which led to an improvement from last year, but it was still nothing to rave about. The rushing offense produced didn’t produce a single 100-yard rusher in a game all season. In fact, Luck was the team’s third leading rusher (377 yards) with the second highest rush yards per attempt (6.0) on the team. The defense, led by Robert Mathis, was solid–allowing 21.0 points per game–good enough for ninth in the NFL.

Despite all of the issues I listed in the last five paragraphs, the Colts have successfully advanced to the Division Round of the playoffs. Were some wins lucky? Maybe, but when all is said and done, I look at the end-result. At the end of the season, I look at the resumes of each team, and it would be tough to find a better one than the Colts this season. They beat the San Francisco 49ers (12-4), the Seattle Seahawks (13-3), and the Denver Broncos (13-3).

Many people point out his tangibles: his interceptions (27 in two seasons), his completion percentage (57%), and his quarterback rating (76.5 in ’12, 87.0 in ’13). To be honest, I don’t really care about the tangibles at this point. The amount of adversity this team has faced (especially this season) played a limiting factor on Luck’s tangibles. This is not meant to be a knock on the current state of the Colts, but let’s be honest, the team is missing some very key skill players and have room for improvement in many areas this off-season–on both sides of the ball. When this team gets fully healthy and surrounds Luck with even more potent weapons (i.e. more players like Hilton), his tangibles will improve and hopefully his critics will take notice.

Luck’s intangibles–especially his leadership–are what set him apart from most quarterbacks–especially ones his age. Team leaders such as veteran Robert Mathis even rave about Luck’s leadership, and it’s only his second year in the league. Since he entered the league (including the playoffs), Luck has won seven games after trailing by double-digits. Were some of these victories lucky/fortunate? Of course, but disregarding the role of Luck in these comebacks is irresponsible (in my opinion).

That’s enough from me. I am just a baseball writer after all.

Thus, I will leave you with a few tweets about Luck from well-respected NFL experts:

Breer tweeted this after Luck led the successful comeback against the Chiefs:

I asked my favorite NFL insider his opinion of Luck:

Matt Miller, NFL draft scout, had this take as Dalton blew yet another playoff game:

If (and this is a very big if) Luck takes down Brady and the Pats tonight, I hope Luck gains the respect he deserves from around the country. He may just be two years into his NFL career, but I will tell you this, there aren’t many other quarterbacks in the league that I would rather run my offense than Andrew Luck.

Go Colts!

Until next time…

Joe

Twitter: @stlCupofJoe

Luck does not have a Twitter account, but he is one of the brand ambassadors for Klipsch Audio–one of the best audio companies in the business. You can find them on Twitter: @KlipschAudio

Thank You from stlCupofJoe

Photo Credit: SB Nation's Viva El Birdos

Photo Credit: SB Nation’s Viva El Birdos

Beloved readers,

As I write this post, I am feeling a lot of different emotions. I started this blog last May out of love for the game of baseball and especially the St. Louis Cardinals. Given the fact that I had not written anything in four years (since my high school days at SLUH), I was floored by the support I received from each and every one of you. To be honest, I thought I was going to start blogging, write for a few months, and annoy the heck out of my few readers. Then, I would see the “writing on the wall,” quit blogging, and stick to being the “super fan” I’ve been for much of my life.

Thankfully, this did not end up being the case. Daniel Shoptaw, who can be found at C70 At the Bat of The Cards Conclave, welcomed me into the United Cardinal Bloggers community. Here, I gained readers who were not just my family and friends. Thus, I had to actually write good content if I wanted to keep people coming back to read more. This was important to me because I knew my family and friends would say my content was good (even if it wasn’t) just because they cared about me. It was even more meaningful hearing from people I have never met saying they read almost every post I wrote.

During my time with stlCupofJoe, I was able to do many things that I would have never imagined doing. I interviewed Cardinal prospects (James Ramsey, Jordan Swagerty, Kurt Heyer, and Carson Kelly). I interviewed Cardinal scouting director, Dan Kantrovitz, who was extremely thoughtful in his responses and has been an invaluable resource ever since. I interviewed great baseball mind, Dan Szymborski, and MLB insider prodigy, Chris Cotillo.

I thank all the people I worked with and collaborated with along the way, especially John Nagel of CardinalsFarm and Corey Rudd of STL Sports Minute. We have talked Cardinals baseball so much in the past eight months. Probably too much, but who can blame us? Cardinals baseball is a wonderful thing. They gave me topics to explore, critiqued my work, and helped me gain traffic on my site.

All writing/blogging aside, I will be forever grateful for my cousin, Christine Kenney, who was the genius behind the creation of my logo (can be seen at the top of this page). Christine volunteered and created four different choices for me within a few hours. She is absolutely amazing at what she does, and like I said I will be forever thankful. The logo she made has since been turned into t-shirts, business cards, flyers, notebooks, and much much more (thanks to my sister, Julie).

No, I’m not finished writing just yet. You can’t get rid of me that easily. Instead, I have taken my posts to Viva El Birdos, SB Nation’s Cardinals website. I have written two posts so far:

1. What should we expect from Yadier Molina’s hitting in 2014?
2. Have Matt Holliday’s hitting zone patterns changed with age?

This is not good bye. Partially because I hate good byes, and partially because I hope you find yourself checking out my posts in their new location. Feel free to make an SB Nation account and join in the conversation in the comments section.

Finally, as with anything, I have absolutely no idea what the future holds. I will be keeping my domain, http://www.stlcupofjoe.com, open in case I ever have anything non-Cardinal-baseball related to write about–such as the Butler Bulldogs, Indianapolis Colts, Indiana Pacers, St. Louis sports, or life in general. I hope to write at SB Nation for years to come, but if this turns out to not be the case, I will return here to write more Cardinal content.

Thank you so much. Your continued support truly means so much to me.

Until next time…

Joe

To keep up with my posts or if you just to interact, follow me on Twitter: @stlCupofJoe

Trevor Rosenthal Brings the Heat

Photo Credit: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Photo Credit: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

St. Louis, and much of the Midwest, is cold right now. Really cold. With six to twelve inches of snow falling across the area today and below zero temperatures expected tomorrow, I figured it was a perfect time to write about Cardinals’ flame-throwing closer, Trevor Rosenthal.

Have you ever taken the time to look at the raw data of his pitching in 2013? I glanced at it in a previous blog post, but that was mid-season when he was still the set-up man, so let’s see how he progressed as the season went along.

Let’s face it. With the way the weather is outside, our minds are craving baseball. However, unfortunately, it is still over a month away till Spring Training. I will start by taking a look at Rosenthal’s phenomenal outing on October 12th in Game 2 of the NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers and then move on to his numbers from the season as a whole.

Game 2 of the NLCS:

Yasiel Puig At-Bat: Strikeout on 7 straight fastballs (pitch locations below)

RosenthalPuig

Photo Credit: BrooksBaseball.net

Pitch 1: 97.4 MPH fastball
Pitch 2: 98.2 MPH fastball
Pitch 3: 98.8 MPH fastball
Pitch 4: 99.6 MPH fastball
Pitch 5: 99.3 MPH fastball
Pitch 6: 97.8 MPH fastball
Pitch 7: 98.6 MPH fastball
Average: 98.5 MPH

This at-bat consisted of seven straight fastballs which can be damning to some pitchers. However, with pitches ranging from 97.4 MPH to 99.6 MPH, Rosenthal can afford throwing this many in a row, as long as he locates them well. Throughout much of the regular season and especially the playoffs, hitters knew what to expect from Rosenthal–a fastball. To combat this, Rosenthal did exactly what I just noted, changing location consistently–up-down-in-out–throughout the Puig at-bat.

When the seventh pitch rolled around, Puig had a pretty good idea it was going to be a fastball, but he had no clue on its location–leading to a good ole backwards K. Puig had a .315 batting average and a .519 slugging percentage against fastballs this season, but those most definitely weren’t Rosenthal-like fastballs.

Juan Uribe At-Bat: Strikeout on 4 straight fastballs (pitch locations below)

Photo Credit: BrooksBaseball.net

Photo Credit: BrooksBaseball.net

Pitch 1: 99.8 MPH fastball
Pitch 2: 99.0 MPH fastball
Pitch 3: 99.1 MPH fastball
Pitch 4: 99.4 MPH fastball
Average: 99.3 MPH

An average of 99.3 MPH? That’s not even fair. Two of the four pitches (pitches 3 and 4 of the at-bat) resulted in whiffs. Uribe was a .315 hitter against fastballs in 2013, but as I noted, a Rosenthal fastball is in a whole different class–an elite class shared by very few pitchers in the league.

Andre Ethier At-Bat: Strikeout on 3 fastballs (pitch locations below)

Photo Credit: BrooksBaseball.net

Photo Credit: BrooksBaseball.net

Pitch 1: 98.5 MPH fastball
Pitch 2101.2 MPH fastball
Pitch 3: 98.9 MPH fastball
Average: 99.5 MPH

As if the 99.5 MPH average wasn’t enough, Rosenthal changed Ethier’s eye-level on all three pitches–the first pitch being down in the zone, second one up in the zone, and then finished him off with one near the middle of the zone. Ethier swung and missed on all three, and if I remember correctly, he looked pretty foolish on each one. With pitch number two coming in at 101.2 MPH, I wouldn’t be surprised if that was his fastest all season.

2013 As a Whole:

velocities

As you can see in the table to the right, Rosenthal’s velocity was pretty consistent all season. If anything, he ramped it up a little bit as the season went along. The 10 MPH difference between his fastball and changeup will be devastating for years to come, especially as he gains confidence in his secondary pitches.

I know Rosenthal has made it clear he wants a shot in the starting rotation. Mike Matheny and Derek Lilliquist just may give him the opportunity this spring. However, I legitimately believe he will go down as one of the best in the game if he stays in the closer role and is able to stay healthy. He is only 23 years old. His fastball is already elite. We all know this. However, his secondary pitches, especially his changeup, have also shown flashes of brilliance as well. With Rosenthal’s work ethic, I expect him to have these pitches fine-tuned and ready to go next season.

Sorry, Major League hitters. You are in for quite the treat for years to come.

Follow Rosenthal on Twitter: @TrevRosenthal

Stay warm, my friends.

Joe

For more updates, follow me on Twitter: @stlCupofJoe or Facebook: stlCupofJoe’s Sports Page

As usual, all pitching data was received from BrooksBaseball.net. If this is of interest to you, check the site out for yourself. If you have any questions, feel free to ask!