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: 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 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

Why the Cardinals Should Stay Put as Deadline Nears

Cardinals Walk-off Against Miami

Cardinals Walk-off Against Miami

Background

The Cardinals enter the last two series before the All-Star Break one-half of a game ahead of the Pirates with an MLB-best record of 53-34. The Cardinals start a two game series with the Astros at Busch tonight, and then the team travels to Chicago to take on the lowly Cubs for a four game set. With the Pirates facing off against the AL West-leading Athletics for two more games and then having to face Matt Harvey and the Mets, look for the Cardinals to extend their lead in the Central before the break.

Thus, if you are Cardinals General Manager, John Mozeliak, are you really that interested in making a trade at this time? The team is playing some of its best baseball in years, and the future is extremely bright with the stockpile of prospects (both pitchers and position players) down on the farm. Would you be willing to part with some young talent in order to fill a present need with what may end up being just a “rental” player?

Well, at the Matt Holliday Celebrity Golf Classic yesterday, Mozeliak was quoted in saying, “Hopefully, if we can find something that makes us better, we’ll pursue it.” Thus, he left the door open to possible moves which I will discuss next.

Possible Areas to be Explored by Mozeliak

#5 Starter:

Joe Kelly is filling in right now, and he is doing a decent job. However, is he really the answer for the stretch run? Will John Gast be able to return this season? Will the team call up Carlos Martinez to fill the void? These are all valid questions that have left fans beckoning for Mozeliak to pull off a deal for another starter. After all, the national media keeps bringing up big names that may be on the trade block–Cliff Lee, Matt Garza, Bud Norris, Jake Peavy (if healthy), etc.

Well, in my opinion, I do not think Mozeliak should make a deal for a starter. Why? Because of Chris Carpenter and his recent progress. Just the other day, he pitched an extended bullpen in which he threw 106 pitches. When asked about the session, Matheny said it was the best he has seen Carpenter look all season. If all goes as planned, a rehab session will follow, and then he will be set to return to the Cardinals sometime in August. Thus, why deal one of your coveted prospects for an expensive pitcher like Lee when there is a chance you can get one of the best pitchers in team history back in the rotation?

Shortstop:

Pete Kozma is in the midst of yet another hitting slump–0 for his last 19 at-bats. He is hitting just .234 on the season. Both his on-base percentage and slugging percentage are below .300 which is also less than desirable. However, he is hitting over .300 with runners in scoring position–allowing him to compile 27 RBI this season. He may not be getting it done at the plate, but he is flat-out getting the job done in the field. In 685 innings played this year, he has just four errors. Also, for the sabermetrics folks, he has a 5.9 UZR which basically quantifies how many runs a player saves with his fielding.

Thus, Kozma is not wowing anybody with his overall performance this year, but he is doing his job in the field, and any offensive production he can provide is a bonus. Shortstops that may be available would include Jimmy Rollins and Alexei Ramirez. To be honest, at this point in their careers, I do not know if they would provide much more than a Kozma/Daniel Descalso platoon at short. Also, one cannot forget that the bat of Ryan Jackson also awaits in Triple-A Memphis if necessary.

Center Field:

Jon Jay has had his struggles this year–both at the plate and in the field. However, he may be starting to turn it around at the plate, as shown by his current 5-game hitting streak. Also, the All-Star break may prove to be just what he needed considering he has played in 85 of the team’s 87 games this season. Thus, considering he is a career .289 hitter, I can only think that his bat will get hot during the second half. If not, then more innings can be shared with Shane Robinson or the Cardinals can explore other options like Tommy Pham from Memphis or even Oscar Taveras if he can ever get healthy. Either way, center field is not a big enough need for the Cardinals to get desperate and deal a young prospect just to get one. The organization has faith that Jay will turn it around, and if he does not, they have internal options they can explore instead.

Bullpen:

Despite its struggles earlier in the season, this has actually been a strong point for St. Louis. Rookie Seth Maness has been a double play machine in the seventh inning. Left-handed rookie, Kevin Siegrist, has proven to be a strikeout machine and just refuses to give up an earned run. Flame-throwing righty, Trevor Rosenthal, has been rock solid in the set-up man role all season. Lastly, Edward Mujica has been nearly perfect as the closer (23/24 on saves). If the team feels like a change needs to be made later in the year or in the playoffs, Rosenthal would be the guy to take over in that spot. Thus, sorry Ken Rosenthal, but the Cardinals do not need Jonathan Papelbon.

Conclusion

There are the four spots that Mozeliak may explore when looking at possible deals before the deadline. However, after reading this article, I hope that you now understand the point I was trying to get across–the Cardinals do not need to make a deadline deal. The team is playing incredible baseball right now, and the future is even brighter with the prospects it has developing in the minors. Thus, as the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Until next time…

Joe (@stlCupOfJoe)