2013 St. Louis Cardinals Should Hit the Pitcher Eighth Like in 2011

Photo Credit: Chris Lee/St. Louis Post Dispatch

Photo Credit: Chris Lee/St. Louis Post Dispatch

With just 24 games remaining in the 2013 regular season, the St. Louis Cardinals should imitate some of Tony La Russa’s 2011 lineups by having the pitcher hit eighth.

Now, before you shake your head in disagreement and close your browser, please let me at least explain myself here.

Disregarding what happens tonight considering the Cardinals have had past success against Bronson Arroyo, the current lineup is broken. The Cardinals have been shut out in three of their last 10 games. The offense is averaging just 2.9 runs scored per game during that span.

A lineup that consists of Matt Carpenter, Yadier Molina, Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran, and Allen Craig should be scoring much more than 2.9 runs per game no matter how good the pitching has been. Sadly, this low average of 2.9 is inflated by four games in which they scored six, six, seven, and eight. The other six were either shutouts or two runs or less. Thus, it would be much nicer for the team to score four to six runs per game instead of scoring them in bunches or not many at all.

Well, one thing that is not broken is M. Carpenter’s bat. He has a .318 batting average with two doubles in the last seven days. However, during this same time frame, he has just one RBI–one measly RBI. As a lead-off hitter, this is not really his fault so what can the Cardinals do?

I propose moving the pitcher to the eighth spot and putting a batter that is more capable of getting on-base in the ninth spot. Sure, the team’s hitters that have occupied the eighth spot have been Pete Kozma and Daniel Descalso, and they have not been getting on-base much lately either.

Thus, I propose putting Jon Jay or Kolten Wong in the 9th spot instead. Both Jay and Wong are in funks of their own, but I feel like Cardinal Nation would think that these two have a better chance at getting on base than Kozma, Descalso, or the pitcher at this time. If the 9th spot is getting on base more often, M. Carpenter will have more chances to knock in runners–he won’t go a full week of games with just one RBI.

Upon proposing the idea on Twitter, Bob Netherton of @CardinalTales gave me a solid idea of his own. Why not move M. Carpenter to the two-spot and have Wong bat lead-off? Like Bob, I am a huge fan of K. Wong, and with his speed, I see him as the lead-off hitter of the future for the Cardinals.

However, like I said earlier in this blog post, one of the few things that is not broken right now is M. Carpenter’s bat. Because of this, I would not mess with it. The approach a batter takes to the lead-off spot is vastly different than the approach taken from the two-spot. Would Carp be able to handle the difference? Sure he could, but like I said, I don’t really want to mess with something that has had an All-Star performance all season.

Will Mike Matheny do something this drastic? Most likely not. He is a traditional manager that is relatively new to the role. However, it is definitely something worth considering. Will tweaking the lineup the way I proposed magically fix everything? Maybe not, but with the way the team has been performing on offense, I say it is worth a shot.

In the meantime, Let’s Go Cards!

Until next time…

Joe

For more updates, follow me on Twitter: @stlCupofJoe

Official member of the STLSportsMinute Network

Advertisements

St. Louis Cardinals Deadline DEALS: Joe Kelly, Daniel Descalso, Jon Jay

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Disregarding the injury to Yadier Molina since it happened so close to the deadline and the catching market was extremely thin, what were considered the three major areas of need for the Cardinals at the trade deadline?

In no certain order:

a. Starting Pitcher

b. Shortstop

c. Center Fielder

Well the trade deadline passed, and externally, the Cardinals did not make a move to “improve” in any of these three areas. In fact, the only move the team made was sending embattled lefty, Marc Rzepczynski, to the Cleveland Indians for minor league infielder, Juan Herrera.

Some fans on social media as well as sports talk show hosts raised their respective eyebrows at the lack of moves, especially given the way the team was performing in Atlanta and Pittsburgh.

Well, as shown by the past two games, the Cardinals did make some “moves” after all, and they can truly be considered deadline DEALS.

a. They improved the starting rotation by inserting Joe Kelly into the 5th spot.

But what about Jake Peavy? Or Cliff Lee? Or even Bud Norris?

Well, since the start of June, Kelly has a 1.49 earned run average. In other words, in 42 and one-third innings pitched, Kelly has allowed just seven earned runs. His control has not been the best (1.73 K: BB ratio), but opponents just cannot make solid contact against him. Since June, opponents are hitting around .200 against Kelly. Also, since the All-Star Break, Kelly is 1-0 in two starts. He has 12 and one-third innings pitched and has yet to allow an earned run.

It would have been nice to add a pitcher like Peavy or Lee, but the asking price was just too high. As one team executive said on trading for Lee, “You’d have to give up your first born, second and third born, too.”

b. They improved at shortstop by going to a Daniel DescalsoPete Kozma platoon at the position.

Sure, Descalso is not a shortstop by trade, and after the season, the Cardinals really need to address this position. However, at this time, he is the team’s best option overall.

Kozma is better on defense, but Descalso is leaps and bounds ahead of Kozma on offense. Descalso’s on-base percentage is .321 while Kozma’s is .282. Get ready for this next point. Seriously, get ready. In 134 LESS at-bats, Descalso has just one less double than Kozma with 16, has four more home runs with five, and has just three less RBI with 29. 

Based on that alone, who should be playing shortstop more often? I guess if you are more of a fan of defense you will pick Kozma, but I have to go with Descalso. His offense more than makes up for what he is lacking in defense.

Thus, once again, the Cardinals did not have to sacrifice the future by dishing out top prospects for a marginal improvement at shortstop. Alexei Ramirez is a good player, but his value to the Cardinals compared to what the team already has at the position was not worth the asking price.

Is Descalso the future at shortstop? No, but he can fill a current need for the Cardinals at a much cheaper price. If Descalso’s defense really takes a tumble, then Kozma can take over. Plus, by having a platoon, it will motivate both players to work harder, and if one is struggling then the other can get more starts.

c. They improved in center by trusting that Jon Jay, a career .290 hitter, would start turning it around at the plate.

Post All-Star break, Jay is hitting .311 and has a .367 on-base percentage. There is only ONE player on the team with better numbers than that right now, and it is Matt Holliday. During that time, Jay has three doubles, one triple, and six RBI.

On the season, Jay may be hitting just .258, but this is definitely on the rise–he is hitting .300 since the start of July. Sure, he has a poor throwing arm and below-average range, but that takes a backseat if he is hitting like he has been. Also, as a past player, I am a firm believer in the notion that when a player starts hitting again, his defense often follows suit. Will this magically make his arm better? No. However, in my opinion, it will help him get better jumps on fly balls.

Sure, the team could have went out there and made a move for a center fielder, but in order to substantially improve at the position, Mozeliak would have had to relinquish one of the farm’s top prospects–something that just could not be done.

Thus, let’s start giving Jay some credit. He is not an All-Star by any means, but that is not needed on a team full of All-Stars. As long as he hits around .280 or higher and gets on base at least 33% of the time, he is getting the job done. Once Oscar Taveras is healthy, he will probably take over, but until then, Jay is our best option. Deal with it.

Conclusion

By filling needs internally and standing pat in center, the Cardinals not only improved for the rest of this season, but for years to come. Under the guidance of Jeff Luhnow and now Dan Kantrovitz, John Mozeliak, has carefully built a top-tier farm system–full of future impact players like Kolten Wong, Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez, Taveras, etc.

Giving up Colby Rasmus in 2011 would look really bad right now if the team did not win the World Series. However, they did win so who can complain? Was there a deal out there that the Cardinals could have made that guaranteed them a better shot at winning the World Series? In my opinion, I do not think there was, so I am glad the Cardinals kept their prospects while improving the team in a much more cost-effective manner.

Until next time…

Joe

Follow me on Twitter: @stlCupofJoe

Official Member of the STLSportsMinute Network

Future of the St. Louis Cardinals: An Interview with Carson Kelly

Photo Credit: milb.com

Photo Credit: milb.com

Background

Carson Kelly is an 18 year old prospect that some scouts project as the St. Louis Cardinals third baseman of the future. He was drafted in the second round of the 2012 MLB draft by St. Louis.

He played his prep ball at Westview High School in Portland, Oregon. After the draft, he was torn between going pro or attending his home-state school, the University of Oregon. Ultimately, he decided on joining the Cardinals organization after agreeing to a $1.6 million signing bonus.

Prior to the draft, ESPN analyst, Keith Law, rated Kelly as the 27th best prospect in the entire draft. Before this season, Baseball America ranked him as the ninth-best prospect in the Cardinals organization.

Skill Set

At Westview HS, Kelly was both a pitcher and a third baseman. He was able to bring it in the low- to mid-nineties from the mound, but in pre-draft workouts, he was seen as such a natural fielder and pure hitter that most scouts projected him as a position player in the future. Thus, the Cardinals decided to draft him as a third baseman.

According to Law’s pre-draft scouting report, Kelly has “strong hands and good swing mechanics” which results in “plus bat speed.” He has a short, line-drive swing as you can see in this amateur video.

Kelly, as a good athlete and former pitcher, has the range and arm strength to be a plus fielder at third base. However, if third base is log-jammed in the future for the Cardinals, his arm and bat could fill in at one of the corner outfield spots as well.

Statistics

2012 at Johnson City (Short-Season Rookie): .225 with nine home runs, 10 doubles, 25 runs batted in, and 24 runs scored in 56 games

2013 at Peoria (A): .219 with two home runs, six doubles, 13 runs batted in, and 18 runs scored in 43 games

2013 at State College (Short-Season A): .228 with one home run, five doubles, 11 runs batted in, and 12 runs scored in 21 games

Analysis

Thus, his statistics may not wow anybody at this point, but one must not forget he is still 18 years old and is in just his first full season of professional baseball. He has such a sweet, compact swing that will lead to high average and gap-to-gap power as he grows and develops as a player. I would not be surprised to his power numbers increase very soon for the State College Spikes as he gets more comfortable with playing at that level.

He is such a highly touted prospect for a reason–he has the skills, just needs to get acclimated to the speed of the professional game. He is a great student of the game who absorbs any baseball knowledge he can get to help improve his overall game.

And now…

The Interview

Me: What was your first thoughts when you found out that the Cardinals drafted you in the 2nd round?
Kelly: My first thoughts were how much of a blessing it was to be drafted by a tremendous organization.

Me: I know you are just a young guy and are experiencing something that not many people get to experience. What is your favorite part of pro ball so far?
Kelly: Getting to play the game I love every single day. Its an awesome feeling going to park knowing you get to have a great time playing baseball

Me: What was the experience like in Peoria this year?
Kelly: My time in Peoria was a good learning experience on what I need to do to stay there. Making adjustments is a big thing. Making adjustments and developing a plan.

Me: What do you consider your biggest strength? I know you have a lot of tools, but what part of your game do you see as your biggest strength?
Kelly: My biggest strength would be my gap to gap power. Staying towards the middle of the field is what helps me stay consistent.

Me:  You’re just an 18 and far away from home, do you ever get homesick and if so, what do you do to help?
Kelly: I do at times but usually a phone call or Skype session with my family always helps cope with that

Me: Is there a current MLB player that you like to model your game after?
Kelly: I would say Evan Longoria because of his body type, and I feel that we have similar actions on the field.

Me: As you said, the Cardinals have a tremendous organization, who has been your favorite(s) to talk to/learn from so far in your pro career?
Kelly: I would say Jon Jay and Daniel Descalso. Those guys gave me some great tips that helped them as they moved up the system.

Me: Last one, what is one goal you want to reach by the end of the season?
Kelly:  A goal of mine is to continue to learn and develop my toolbox (knowledge). Anything else you need feel free to ask.

Until next time…

Joe (@stlCupOfJoe)

Seventh Heaven

20130513-235453.jpg
Photo Credit: ESPN (screenshot taken of their highlight video)

Through just 2 innings, Lance Lynn had 54 pitches, and due to the early start time (to be on ESPN) leading to sun in Carlos Beltran’s eyes, he had allowed 3 runs. That was not the start the then 5-game winner needed to improve to a 6-game winner in just 8 starts.

However, Lynn showed his maturity over last season and bore down for the long-haul. Post 2nd inning, he did not allow another hit until there were 2 outs in the top of the 7th. He averaged 27 pitches per inning the first 2 innings which could have been disastrous for the bullpen, but he dialed in to average just 14 pitches per inning for the next 5 (final pitch count: 124). Last year’s Lynn would not have been able to recover like this, so it is a terrific sign for the Cardinals if he is able to keep this up throughout the season.

This performance was reminiscent of an outing by a past starter (and hopefully future reliever) that wears #29, the great Chris Carpenter. The Cardinals’ front office along with the fans would gladly welcome Lynn developing into a pitcher like Carpenter (Yes, I understand that there will never be another Carp, which is why I explicitly stated “like Carpenter”).

The team took note of the bulldog performance by Lynn, and the offense felt obligated to do what it could to provide some runs to give Lynn the win. That is exactly what they did in the bottom of the 7th. The inning most likely amounts to nothing if Rick Ankiel’s glove had made the trip from Houston along with him. However, he was forced into borrowing a glove from a teammate–left-handed pitcher, Jonathon Niese.

With 1 out already recorded in the 7th, Ty Wigginton hit a jam-shot to center that fell out of the outstretched glove being worn by Ankiel. With his own glove, this most likely would have been the 2nd out with no runners on; instead, it was 1 out with a runner in scoring position at second base.

The very next pitch, Matt Carpenter smashed a line drive off the leg of pitcher Scott Rice which caused the ball to ricochet into foul territory. Heads-up base running by Wigginton combined with a frazzled pitcher forgetting to cover home plate gave the Cardinals the lead at 4-3. Please see the picture above for visual proof that Wigginton indeed made a game-changing play for the Cardinals. Shocking, I know (sorry to any Wigginton fans out there reading this…if there even are any).

The Mets brought in a reliever (Scott Atchison) in attempt to keep the game at just a 1 run deficit. This attempt ended in about 1.5 seconds: the amount of time it took the rocket off Matt Holliday’s bat to reach the bleachers in left-center. Thus, the Cardinals were now up 6-3 and were able to shut down the Mets in the 8th and 9th to give Lynn his 6th win of the season.

Until next time…

Joe
@stlCupOfJoe