On Jon Jay Versus Shane Robinson (by Jared Simmons)

Photo Credit: fantasycpr.com

Photo Credit: fantasycpr.com

This is a guest post written by Jared of @McGeeTriples. Thus, please read the post accordingly. Considering this topic can lead to heated debates, feel free to include your thoughts in the comments section below or by contacting either of us on Twitter.

It says a lot about your organization when one of the biggest questions you have about your team on December 31st is which solid bench guy should be the 4th or possibly 5th outfielder on the roster. But that’s the position the St. Louis Cardinals and their fans find themselves in as 2014 beckons. With the bulk of the roster written in blood and holes in its construct harder to find than Tim Tebow at a key party–there’s little left for Cardinal diehards to deliberate.

Be that as it may, St. Louis is a town where baseball sits ever on the conscious, and thus a debate rages among the more far gone addicts about who the better player and fit will be for the Cardinals in 2014: Jon Jay or Shane Robinson.

There is a strong contingent among us running the flag up the pole in support of Shane Robinson. Among that group there are two sub-groups: those with intelligent, well-reasoned and valid arguments for backing Robinson, and a second group racing to be first in line to support any diminutive, “gritty” player who gives them warm fuzzy feelings, and makes them believe that THEY TOO can become great.

You can count me out of both groups.

While I acknowledge that Robinson was a better defender than Jay in 2013 (and by a wide margin), it is clear to me that Jay is the better baseball player and the better fit for the Cardinals’ roster as presently constructed. This argument is built on analytics, advanced baseball metrics, and old-school eye test reasoning. I fully respect Robinson and what he has accomplished in life. Most of us would be lucky to get out of our gifts what Shane has produced from all 5 feet, 5 inches of his body.

That said, Major League Baseball and professional sports, in general, are a zero sum game. There are no points for being the best pound-for-pound and no moral victories. Feel-good stories are made for TV only. ESPN will nauseate you to death with heart-wrenchers and baby-mama drama. Yet, the fact remains that in the business of baseball, the sole measure of success is winning and losing.

So let’s get into it…

Jay’s defense drew much ire in 2013 and rightfully so. He had a UZR of negative 7.3 (beyond terrible). By contrast, Robinson’s UZR was a positive 4.0. While defensive numbers can be hard to quantify–the stark contrast in those zone ratings is hard to ignore.

The questions that all concerned parties must answer is whether or not at the age of 28 (generally considered to be a prime year in a player’s career), has Jay completely lost the ability to play defense? After all, in the prior year he played a solid CF, and his UZR was a respectable 3.7 (nearly identical to Robinson’s 3.6). I tend to think that the awfulness that was Jay’s defense in 2013 was an outlier and that given playing time in 2014, he would be more slightly below average and less albatross than he was in 2013.

Robinson also has a decent arm; while Jay terrifies no one with his wet noodle. I won’t offer you any numbers here, but ask yourself this question, how often does an averaged-armed starting outfielder impact a game with a throw? The answer is rarely. And if that guy isn’t playing very much, this impact is almost nonexistent. And let’s not kid ourselves, Robinson is an averaged-armed outfielder. Rick Ankiel, he is not.

The best fit for this team is going to be the player that hits the most. Matt Holliday, Peter Bourjos, and Allen Craig are going to patrol the outfield for the Cardinals for the most part in 2014. If one of those three (or Matt Adams) suffers a long-term injury, then the bulk of the playing time created will likely fall into the lap of Oscar Taveras. As a result, the opportunities for either Robinson or Jay to impact games are going to be few and far between, and they are also going to come in the form of pinch-hits.

There’s a reason a player (Robinson) makes it to age 29 and has amassed only 386 plate appearances for his career. Robinson’s career slash line is .246/.316/.327. Robinson has also posted a career RC+ (runs created plus) of 80 (100 is average).  Three leading projection sites project Robinson’s 2014 numbers to be:

Rotochamp: .255/.349/.355 (OPS: .704)
Steamer: .264/.337/.381 (.718)
CAIRO: .241/.312/.355 (.647)

I tend to favor CAIRO’s projection for Robinson as I believe that given full-time at bats, he would struggle to post a .700 OPS. Obviously, this is just one man’s opinion.

In contrast to Robinson, Jay is 28 (younger than Robinson) and has compiled 1956 plate appearances throughout his career. His career slash line of .293/.356/.400 completely dwarfs Robinson’s. He also has a career RC+ of 112. Jay’s projection:

Rotochamp: .294/.366/.388 (.754)
Steamer: .281/.349/.397 (.746)
CAIRO: .274/.340/.374 (.714)

I like the middle ground here with Steamer’s projection for Jay in 2014. In case you haven’t noticed, Jay is also left-handed and the Cards’ entire projected starting OF is full of RH hitters. Coveting a roster composition of diverse skill sets is another feather in Jay’s cap.

But perhaps the most decisive reason for Jay over Robinson is potential value. In short, Robinson has none and is never going to have any. Perhaps, only Jeff Luhnow in Houston would covet Robinson’s services. After all, he also wanted Tyler Greene.

Jay on the other hand, has established value in the major leagues. Even last year, as his defense completely tanked, Jay was basically a league average player. According to Fangraphs, he had a WAR of 1.9. Robinson posted a WAR of just 0.9 in limited playing time and would likely have seen that number decreased had he seen extensive exposure. Jay’s bat, and likely defensive rebound offer the most upside both in terms of tangible value to the Cardinals and speculative value as a trade chip mid-season.

Jay is a fringe starter and solid 4th outfield option. Robinson is a AAAA player. We all want to cheer for the little guy and pull for the underdog, but the Cardinals are best served by making calculated decisions. Not emotional ones. John Mozeliak has wreaked havoc on professional baseball by remaining steadfast in this approach (buh-bye David Freese), and we can only hope that he continues to do so by maximizing the assets at his disposal. Jon Jay is an asset.

Feel free to cheer on the best story if you like, but I’ll be rooting for the best team and hopefully…

…A World Series championship.

-Jared

Like I said before the post, feel free to include your opinions in the comments section below. Both Jared and I would love to see conversation result from this this post.

You can follow Jared on Twitter: @McGeeTriples

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

Advertisements

NLCS Game 6 Preview: My Book on Clayton Kershaw

Photo Credit: Ed Zurga/Getty Images

Photo Credit: Ed Zurga/Getty Images

Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher on the planet right now. He is the clear front-runner for his second NL Cy Young Award in just three seasons.

He led the MLB in numerous categories–most notably pitcher WAR (6.5) and ERA (1.83).

Well, with the St. Louis Cardinals’ NLCS lead down to just one game going into the pivotal Game 6, I decided to look deeper into Kershaw’s numbers to see if I could find any possible trends that the Cardinal offense could exploit on Friday night at Busch Stadium.

Repertoire and Tendencies:

1. Fastball: avg: 93.4 MPH, thrown 60.3% of the time
-average tail: 0.89 inches

2. Slider: avg: 85.7 MPH, thrown 24.6% of the time
-average break: 3.35 inches

3. Curveball: avg: 74.4 MPH, thrown 12.6% of the time
-average drop: 8.35 inches (Wainwright’s? 9.36 inches)

4. Changeup: avg: 86.0 MPH, thrown 2.4% of the time
-average tail: 7.00 inches

Data from BrooksBaseball.net

My own table; Data from BrooksBaseball.net

As you can see, regardless of what side of the plate the hitter is on, Kershaw likes to start out at-bats with his fastball. If he falls behind in the count, he throws his fastball. When the count is even, he still throws his fastball the majority of the time. In short, it is safe to say that he is predominantly a fastball pitcher. His fastball is not overpowering anymore (93.4 MPH on average) and is of the four-seam variety so it does not have very much movement. Thus, he relies on his pinpoint control to get hitters out.

Well, if you are constructing a lineup to best succeed against a fastball pitcher like Kershaw, wouldn’t you want your best fastball hitters in the lineup? I know that he is a left-handed pitcher, but a four-seam fastball is a four-seam fastball no matter which arm throws it since it has very little movement to it–his moves on average just 0.89 inches horizontally.

A quick side note for the Cardinals, if they have two strikes against Kershaw, there is really no need to be worried about his changeup. Based on the numbers, he did not throw a single changeup with two strikes in all of 2013. Thus, if the ball looks straight out of his hand, it will likely be a fastball. Sure, he probably knows this and could pull a changeup out of his back pocket, but the Cardinals have to to look for whatever advantage they can possibly get when facing a future Hall-of-Fame pitcher like Kershaw.

My own table; Date from BrooksBaseball.net

My own table; Date from BrooksBaseball.net

Well, the fact that he is fastball pitcher is good news for the Cardinals. Their lineup is full of fastball hitters. To be honest, this is likely why the Cardinals have had some success against him so far in 2013 and throughout his career. He is 4-5 with a 3.75 ERA against St. Louis–his highest ERA against any team in the National League. At Busch Stadium in particular, he is 2-3 with a 3.65 ERA.

Matt Adams and Yadier Molina have “torn the cover off the ball” against fastballs in 2013–hitting .361 and 357 respectively. Matt Carpenter and David Freese aren’t too shabby themselves–Carpenter at .316 and Freese at .311. Carpenter will obviously be in the lineup batting leadoff, and I think Freese should be, too, regardless of his recent struggles at the plate. Descalso has had most of his success (.297) against the fastball this year as well, but his defense at shortstop is just not good enough to warrant a start in Game 6. Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday have not been the best against fastballs this season, but their veteran presence combined with their ability to hit the long ball makes them locks for every game in the playoffs.

Finally, the Jon Jay versus Shane Robinson argument that has been all over social media since Jay’s costly defensive lapses in Game 3 of the NLCS. Well, as the data shows, Jay is a much better fastball hitter than Robinson–.286 to .232 in 2013 and .321 to .273 in their careers. But, what about Jay’s arm? Yeah, Jay’s arm is weak, but I broke down the numbers to see just how bad it was compared to Robinson’s, and this is where it got a little interesting. Jay gets one outfield assist every 258 innings. This is not very good at all. However, Robinson is not that much better–recording one outfield assist every 243 innings. Thus, Jay’s arm is not very good, but statistically-speaking, Robinson’s is not much of an improvement. What about range? Clearly, Robinson has more range than Jay, but is this enough to start him over Jay when his offense, especially against the fastball, is inferior? In my opinion, it is not.

UPDATE (5:00 PM 10-18): Shane Robinson will be starting in center for the Cardinals and will be batting seventh. Even though I am quite the Jay supporter, I can understand this move. If it helps the Cardinals reach the World Series tonight, then I am all for it.

Should Matheny shuffle the order around against Kershaw? Sure, it couldn’t hurt, but should he replace proven fastball hitters with unproven hitters in attempt to ignite the team? No. In my opinion, based on the numbers, the players highlighted in yellow should be in the starting lineup for the Cardinals. The order in which they hit? I will leave that up to Matheny to decide. In the NLCS, the overall problem for the Cardinals has been the offense (2.4 runs per game), not the defense. This is why it is in the team’s best interest to have their best fastball hitters in the lineup versus Kershaw.

Home Runs Allowed by Kershaw in 2013:

Kershaw has allowed only 11 home runs in all of 2013 and has not allowed one since September 8th (40 days ago)–when Jay Bruce crushed two against him–both on hanging sliders up and over the middle of the plate. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, the only player with a home run against Kershaw is Allen Craig, but this just means the rest of them are due for one, right?

Well, of the 11 homeruns he allowed, eight of them came against right-handed hitters, two against left-handed hitters, and one against a switch hitter (who obviously batted right-handed against the left-handed Kershaw). Seven of them came off his fastball and four off his slider. The most common sequence that resulted in a home run was a four-pitch sequence–fastball, fastball, slider, fastball–occurring on four of the 11 (36.4%) home runs.

Finally, only one of the 11 homeruns came on a pitch low in the zone. I do not advocate swinging for the fences–especially with the type of offense St. Louis has and the pitcher Kershaw is–but if they truly feel the need, they should probably only do so on pitches in the middle or upper parts of the zone.

Swing Percentages against Kershaw:

For 2013, hitters are swinging at 33.1% of Kershaw’s pitches that are out of the strike zone. The Cardinals need this swing percentage to be much lower if they want to have continued success against him and move on to the World Series. What I am basically saying is that when he does throw a ball–he does not throw many–do not swing at it. If the pitch looks nasty out of his hand, you are better off not swinging because it will likely dip out of the strike zone, and if it doesn’t, you likely had no chance of making solid contact anyways. Why is this a big deal? The table below explains why. He is nearly un-hittable when ahead in the count; while he is much more hittable when behind in the count.

Data from Baseball-Reference.com

My own table; Data from Baseball-Reference.com

Sure, Kershaw is the type of pitcher that dictates the count, especially when he is in a groove, but the Cardinals cannot make it easy on him and must avoid expanded their zones early in counts and early in the game.

Probably Just Anomalies But Still Worth Noting:

In 2013, opponents are hitting .373 (22 hits in 59 ABs) with two doubles and one homerun on a 1-1 count. Opponents are hitting .364 (12 hits in 33 ABs) with a triple and four home runs on a 2-1 count.

Concluding Thoughts:

The Cardinal offense is in for a late-October treat on Friday night (pending the weather obviously). Beating a Cy Young and future Hall-of-Fame pitcher four times in a row in one season would be quite the feat. The fact that the game is being played in St. Louis will be a huge advantage–they are hitting .274 at Busch Stadium while only .221 at Dodger Stadium. I really do hope the weather holds off or they wait until Saturday to play the game because it would be a shame to waste a pitching match-up like this one for a possible series-clinching game.

Kershaw could very well dictate the pace by pumping in strike after strike after strike in Game 6. However, until he proves that he will throw pitches in the strike zone, the offense needs to bring an approach similar to the one they used in Game 3 of the NLDS against Francisco Liriano–working the count by not expanding their zone. Also, unless there are two strikes in the count, I would likely lay off all of his breaking pitches considering opponents are hitting a combined .150 on his curveball and slider in 2013.

Until next time…

Joe

For more updates, follow me on Twitter: @stlCupofJoe

Make sure to also check out @hardballnews and @KSDKSports for more baseball news as well!

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

St. Louis Cardinals: Statistical Snippets for 2013

Photo Credit: Jeff Lewis Photography

Photo Credit: Jeff Lewis Photography

Struggling to find a quality topic for a full blog post, I decided to compose a post of 13 random statistical snippets regarding the 2013 St. Louis Cardinals. The snippets are numbered, but they are in no particular order.

Here we go…

1. As of today (August 25th), Pete Kozma has not had a hit in 23 at-bats. Yet, somehow, this is not his longest slump of the season. From June 26th through his first at-bat on July 14th, Kozma had a zero for 28 slump.

2. Kozma’s on-base percentage currently sits at .275. To put this in perspective, the Cardinals have seven players with batting averages higher than Kozma’s OBP.

3. According to Fangraphs.com, Matt Carpenter has the 4th highest WAR (wins above replacement) in the National League with 5.3. He is making just $504,000 this season. Like I stated on Twitter, he is putting value back in Most Valuable Player.

4. Also according to Fangraphs, the Cardinals have five players in the top 37 in National League WAR. Carpenter is 4th with 5.3, Yadier Molina is 7th with 5.1, Matt Holliday is 28th with 2.6, Allen Craig is 33rd with 2.5, and Carlos Beltran is 37th with 2.3.

5. Adam Wainwright has fewer walks than starts this season. In 27 starts, Wainwright has just 25 walks. With 182 strikeouts, his strikeout-to-walk ratio is an incredible 7.28. #BuenoWaino

6. Molina leads the National League in hitting with a .335 batting average. He has put the ball in play on the first pitch 78 times this season. In those 78 at-bats, he has 29 hits (.372 batting average) with two of them being home runs.

7. Jon Jay‘s current batting average is .270. Thus, in order to get to .300, he will need to catch fire. He is projected to get 108 more at-bats this season and will need 46 hits (.426 average) to reach the .300 mark. Not likely, but it would go a long way for the success of the team down the stretch.

8. Lance Lynn actually has some pretty decent numbers this season. Lynn has 15 quality starts–24th in the National League. He is also averaging 6+ innings pitched per start–second on the team behind Wainwright. He seems to always have one “blow-up” inning, but his overall performance has not been as bad as what people think.

9. Since the All-Star Break, Joe Kelly has the 4th lowest ERA in the National League at 1.80. Clayton Kershaw is first (1.02), Jose Fernandez is second (1.31), and Mat Latos is third (1.47). The highest ERA since the break is 7.55, and it belongs to Jake Westbrook. (these ERA’s were based off a minimum of 30 innings pitched)

10. The league average against left-handed pitchers is .250 this season. The Cardinals are 25th in the league in this category–hitting just .239 against left-handers this season. With the lineup set to be more left-handed next year (Kolten Wong, Matt Adams), look for the Cardinals to make some sort of move this off-season. As I have pointed out on numerous occasions, I would like to see the Cardinals deal Adams (and some pitching) for an upgrade at shortstop (Jonathan Schoop, anyone?) while his value is still high.

11. Next is an obvious and largely overstated one, but I will bring it up anyways. The Cardinals lead the MLB in batting average with runners in scoring position. The team leads the way at .328, and the next closest team is Detroit–43 points lower at .285.

12. The Cardinals are tied for second in the MLB in home runs over the last seven days with 11. The team had just 9 home runs in all of July, so obviously the ball is flying better in the warmer air.

13. For the “Tweeps” out there, the Cardinals have 11 players that are regularly active on Twitter. Not surprisingly, @Yadimolina04 has the most followers with 151,818. @carlosbeltran15 comes in second with 118,228, and @jonjayU is in third place with 102,233 followers. The player with the fewest followers is recent call-up, @Tsunamy27, with 5,881.

I hope you enjoyed my 13 snippets for 2013. If you have any of your own, feel free to share them in the comments section below!

Until next time…

Joe

For more updates, follow me on Twitter: @stlCupofJoe

Official member of the STLSportsMinute Network

St. Louis Cardinals: What Has Been Different for Jon Jay?

Photo Credit: David Banks/Getty Images

Photo Credit: David Banks/Getty Images

At the start of August, Jon Jay‘s batting average was .253. Now, 18 games into August, it is up to .273, and he appears to be climbing towards that coveted .300 mark. Needless to say, Jay has been one of the hottest, most consistent hitters for the Cardinals of late.

Jay has the most hits (27) and most RBI (17) in the National League for the month of August. He is second in doubles with eight. His batting average is .370, his on-base percentage is .420, and his slugging percentage is .562–over 50 points higher than Cardinals’ slugger, Matt Holliday.

So, what is different then?

It does not appear that his batting stance is drastically different than what it has been. His hands may be a little higher, but nothing too obvious to the fan’s eye. If anything, it looks like it is closer to what his stance was at the beginning of the season when he was slumping–at one point in April, his average dipped all the way down to .197. Yikes!

Hmm…

Well, let’s take a look at his (hitting) spray chart for the month of August. This may show that he is using a different approach at the plate.

jayhits

Thus, it looks like the difference is that he is finally consistently hitting the ball to the opposite field. Sure, he has pulled a couple singles to right field, but the majority of his power has been the opposite way to left–including both of his home runs.

In April, he struggled with a .213 batting average, and his spray chart looked much different (shown below):

jayApril

As you can see, he did not have a single extra base hit to left field in April. Sure, he had a couple up the middle, but nothing truly to left field. This is vastly different than his performance in August in which he has already hit two home runs out to left and has had multiple doubles down the left field line.

I won’t bore you with another spray chart, but if you look at his chart from 2012, a year in which he hit .305, he was hitting the ball to the opposite field on a regular basis, just like he has been in August thus far.

In short, Jay is not a “pull” hitter. To be honest, he is at his worst when he is pulling the baseball. We all have seen him roll over on pitches and hit slow ground balls to the first or second basemen many times throughout his career. Well, those are a direct result of him not allowing the pitch to get deeper in the zone.

His stance may not be much different, but his approach at the plate has most definitely changed. He is letting pitches get deeper in the zone and is looking to shoot them out the other way, a la Matt Carpenter.

I know that opposing pitchers and pitching coaches will notice that he is taking a lot of pitches out to left field because they have access to more in-depth scouting reports than I do. As a result, they will start pitching inside to Jay more and more. Thus, if he has a little cold streak for a while, give him time to adjust. Jay has a .293 career average for a reason–he will figure it out. Jay has proven to be an integral bat for the St. Louis lineup (notice, this post has nothing to do with his defense).

Final point. It is in Mike Matheny‘s best interest to keep Jay in the 6th spot of the lineup. It is where he has enjoyed the most success this season. In 91 at-bats in the 6th spot, he has 28 hits and 21 runs batted in. Of those 28 hits, seven have gone for doubles and three have been hit over the fence for home runs.

Until next time…

Joe

For more updates, follow me on Twitter: @stlCupofJoe

Official Member of the STLSportsMinute Network

P.S. It did not take a rocket scientist to figure out what Jay has been doing differently during his recent hot streak, but I figured I would make it easier for my readers to compare his different spray charts in one post.

Wainwright and Maness and Chambers, Oh My! St. Louis Cardinals Walk-off a Winner

AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

Quick Game Recap:

The first game of the crucial series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Pirates was truly a spectacle, and this time, the good guys came out on top.

It was the bottom of the 14th inning. The clock struck 12:15 AM at Busch Stadium as Jon Jay slid around Russell Martin‘s tag for the game winning run on an RBI slap single by none other than Adron Chambers.

Prior to this walk-off win, the Cardinals were 0-40 in games they were trailing after the eighth inning. Well, they are now 1-40, and frankly, it could not have come at a better time.

Breaking Down the Key Players:

Adam Wainwright:
Final Line: 7.0 innings pitched, 5 hits, 3 earned runs, 3 walks, 6 strikeouts, 2 home runs, 122 pitches (71 strikes)

Despite Wainwright’s less-than-ace-like start to the game, he was able to settle in after the first two innings–pitching five scoreless innings to keep his team in the game. He allowed a first inning two-run home run to Andrew McCutchen and then a solo homer to Jordy Mercer in the second.

He had racked up 81 pitches through just four innings, leading to many questioning Matheny’s decision of pushing him back. Yet, he was able to constantly battle out of jams to pitch seven full innings–largely due to the fact that he was more efficient in the 5th, 6th, and 7th (just 41 pitches).

Thus, unlike I had predicted in my post before the game, Wainwright was not dominant like I had thought he would be. However, he did what ace pitchers need to do by keeping his team in the game even though he did not have his best stuff.

Thank you, Wainwright. I am glad the offense and the bullpen was able to pick you up in this one. For all the negative fans out there, Waino may not have been dominant in the game, but he definitely pitched like an ace out there.

Seth Maness:
Final Line: 2.1 innings pitched, 2 hits, 0 earned runs, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts, 2 double plays (1 as a hitter and 1 as a pitcher)

Maness did what Maness does best. He got the job done, even though it wasn’t that pretty. In the top of the 13th, it looked like yet another loss was coming for the Cardinals. Runners on 1st and 3rd and no outs, not to mention that one of the fastest runners in the league was on 3rd in McCutchen. A diving stop by Kozma got the first out of the inning. After an intentional walk, Maness was able to induce yet another double play to get out of the jam he had created for himself.

Oh, and I also have to mention that Maness had two chances to end the game at the plate, but he came up empty both times. In the first at-bat, he grounded into an unconventional 6-9c-3 double play, and in his second, he struck out looking. However, I am glad he didn’t end it because it was nice to see Chambers get it done.

Adron Chambers:
Game Stats: 1-2, 1 single, 1 walk, 1 strikeout, 1 RBI (the game-winner), 1 ripped jersey

To be honest, Chambers looked lost at times during his at-bats tonight. However, that is what makes the game of baseball so great. He looked bad, swinging at pitches that were either in the dirt or already in the catchers mitt, yet was able to center one just enough to slap it the other way for the game-winning hit.

Jon Jay:
Game Stats: 4-6, 3 singles, 1 double, 1 RBI, 1 stolen base (HUGE steal), 1 run scored (the game-winner), and 1 sac bunt

Great game at the plate once again for Jay. Four more hits to raise his season average to .271. He now has a .344 on-base percentage as well–good enough for 27th in the National League. Since the All-Star Break, Jay is hitting .325 with seven doubles, one triple, and ten runs batted in. He is easily the second hottest hitter on the team behind Matt Holliday. Also, for the sabermetricians, he is finally increasing his WAR rating. He is up to 0.7, and it does not look like he is stopping there.

He had probably the most controversial sac bunt ever, at least according to Twitter anyways. Who would have ever thought that St. Louis fans would be mad at him for bunting and wanting him to swing the bat? Not me, I have been one of his biggest fans since his University of Miami days, but many fans have been making up players to take his spot in center all season.

I agree that he should not have been bunting there, either. It is just funny to see how a few good weeks at the plate can change fans’ entire outlook on a player. Thus, Jonny, keep doing what you’re doing. You’ll be back .300 in no time.

The Bullpen:
Final Line: 7.0 innings pitched, 5 hits, 3 walks, 8 strikeouts, 0 earned runs

5 pitchers used (Rosenthal: 1 inning, Mujica: 2 innings, Siegrist: 0.2 innings, Maness: 2.1 innings, Freeman 1 inning)

Concluding Thoughts:

I fully realize that Matheny needs to manage his bench better. However, it is not my place to dog him for his decisions. He is getting paid to do what he does, while I am paying in order to watch what he does. Don’t think that his mis-management of the bench went unnoticed by me, it is just not my job to call him out, and I wanted to savor all the good moments from this game for this post.

The Cardinals cannot have a walk-off “hangover” tomorrow. They are up against their lefty nemesis, Francisco Liriano. He carved Cardinals’ hitters up last game, but is coming off arguably one of the worst outing of his career–allowing 10 earned runs in two and one-third innings pitched in Colorado.

Let’s hope he is shell-shocked from that start, and Cardinals’ hitter are able to capitalize early in the game because once Liriano is settled in, there are no hitters that will be able to hit him.

With the win, they are now just 2.0 games behind the Pirates, but it would be nice to make that just 1.0 after tomorrow night. I will be in attendance, and I am looking forward to another electric, playoff-like atmosphere at Busch.

Oh, and huge thanks goes out to Starling Marte for being flashy out there in left field on that lazy fly off the bat of Descalso. Maybe next time you will use two hands and not cost your team the game.

GO CARDS!

I apologize for the scattered set-up of this post. However, after a game like I just witnessed, and the time that it was when I completed it, I figured it was only fitting. I honestly believe I just witnessed one of the most entertaining baseball games of my life. Hope this blog was able to do it at least a little bit of justice.

Until next time…

Joe

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter: @stlCupofJoe

Official Member of the STLSportsMinute Blog Network

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