Is It Time To Worry About The Cardinals Bullpen?

Spring training games don’t count, but spring performances are what determine the final St. Louis Cardinals roster that will take the field on Opening Day in Cincinnati March 31. And some spring pitching performances have been awfully unpleasant.

collage318Now it’s true that pitchers sometimes work on specific pitches and take risks they wouldn’t otherwise do when the games count — Adam Wainwright focused just on his curveball in Sunday’s game against the Mets, for example. But is it time to get concerned about the bullpen — or at least some components of it?

Looking at all 30 MLB teams this spring, the Cardinals team ERA through yesterday is 6.27 — tied for last in baseball with the Texas Rangers. Cardinals pitchers have given up 105 earned runs (108 runs total) in 150 2/3 spring innings.

Break that down to starters vs. relievers and the picture changes considerably. The ERA for Cards starters is 3.63, which is fourth-best in the National League and ninth-best in MLB. And for the relievers, it’s 7.66 — not surprisingly last, but more than a full run worse than the team directly ahead of them, the Rangers at 6.18, and two runs worse than the NL team ahead of them, the Padres at 5.42.

Since we need a little good news after that, let’s look at those who are excelling — beginning with closer Trevor Rosenthal. Nothing to worry about with him. After being slowed by a strained groin in late February that kept him from appearing in a game until March 8, he’s now pitched five total innings and allowed one earned run on a homer while striking out five and walking three for an ERA of 1.80. No saves, but no save opportunities yet either.

Having nearly identical stats — same number of games, innings, earned run on a homer, ERA and strikeouts — although with two saves in two opportunities is Kevin Siegrist. No worries there.

Randy Choate has pitched 5 2/3 innings over six games and allowed just two hits while striking out six and walking two. Hard to improve on an ERA of 0.00.

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Let The (Spring) Games Begin!

We move one step closer to the 2014 St. Louis Cardinals regular season today, with the beginning of spring training games. The Cards take on their Roger Dean Stadium partners, the Miami Marlins, starting at noon Central Time.

Roger_Dean_StadiumNot that the outcome of the game matters, of course. Still, it’s an interesting pitching match-up for the first couple of innings: Carlos Martinez against NL Rookie of the Year Jose Fernandez.

But it’s baseball and — even better — it’s on television and radio so you have a choice of how to keep up. It’s the first game on FOX Sports Midwest of the year, plus MLB Network will be carrying it and it’s online at MLB.TV. And, of course, Mike Shannon and John Rooney will be back on KMOX and the Cardinals Radio Network.

Ah … when you ignore the temperature outside and the weather forecast, it really does feel like spring!

Here’s the Cards lineup for today, from Brian Stull on Twitter.

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What Could Keep The Cardinals From Winning The NL Central?

It’s a good week ahead, right? Spring training games begin on Friday — just the final step before real baseball games — and the outlook is good for the talented and deep 2014 St. Louis Cardinals.

united-cardinal-bloggers-lgYet yesterday morning, I couldn’t help but feel pessimistic as I thought about what to ask my fellow United Cardinal Bloggers members for our spring training roundtables. Blame it on Monday, blame it on the post I’d just finished at the time, blame it on the rain (for those of you who’ve even heard of Milli Vanilli …)

My question to them: what could keep the Cardinals from winning the NL Central in 2014?

Here are the responses.

Daniel Shoptaw, C70 At The Bat

Your post this morning pointed out the main possibility — Yadier Molina missing a significant portion of the season. Most anything else I think the Cards can survive, but Molina going down would be rough.

Bill Ivie, I-70 Baseball

I’m taking two shots … Health and inexperience …

The Cardinals have depth, but it is young and unproven at a lot of spots. An injury to a key player with little depth behind him could disrupt this team fairly quickly. An injury to a veteran starter and the young arms that have yet to pitch a full season are suddenly going to have to shoulder (pun intended) a lot of the inning load.

The team has the depth in various places to sustain an injury. But young players will have to play up to expectations for the Cards to be able to chug along without a key component. The pitching looks great on paper, but I wonder how hard they will push the young bucks. Time will tell.

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My Cardinals 2014 Wish List

As most everyone else does between Christmas and New Year’s Day, I’ve been thinking much about what I want to see in 2014. As the snow falls and the temps waver from low to high single digits, it’s only natural to think about spring … and baseball … and what I want to see from the Cardinals as the weather warms (both the temperature and my spirits!).

2014Taking a look back at last year’s New Year Wish List makes me wonder how much will change between now and October, but it’s fun to look ahead and wish, nonetheless.

So, as I watch the end of the college football season and look ahead to 365 days of new opportunities, here are 14 things I’m hoping to see from the 2014 Cardinals.

14. Visits to Busch, complete with a tour of Ballpark Village

We’ve been hearing about BPV for so long. This winter, watching the progress as it becomes a reality, has me yearning for the first opportunity to see it in person. (Like I need another excuse to visit the happiest place on earth!) The legacy that is St. Louis Cardinals baseball deserves a showplace worthy of its history, and here’s hoping the city does it up just right!

13. Chris Carpenter’s developing role

I know “front office guys” don’t usually show up in game recaps or headlines. But, I hope to hear what Carp is up to throughout the year. I mean, don’t you? Continue reading

Mariano Rivera, Skip Schumaker and Michael Wacha — Oh My!

What do the just-retired greatest closer of all time, a Cardinal-turned-Dodger-now-turned Red and the Cardinals rookie sensation all have in common? Nothing, it would seem — yet posts we wrote about those three were what you read the most at Aaron Miles’ Fastball in 2013.

12-31 collageAfter looking at our picks for the top five stories of the year yesterday, we close out the year today with a look at the most-read posts. And, as you can already see, it’s certainly not a Cardinals only list — although of course they dominate the list. Just not at the top.

No, our No. 1 post of the year (in terms of readership numbers) is one about the man who is used to ending things instead of starting them, Mariano Rivera. Watching the All-Star Game tribute to Mo on July 16 reminded me of the time my Yankees friend Kat and I went to Busch Stadium in 2005 for the Yankees-Cardinals series. We had the opportunity to see something very few people probably even noticed before that Sunday’s game, which I wrote about in The Tale of Mariano Rivera and The Ball Thrown Out of Busch Stadium. It was a fun, entertaining post — and it ended up in Deadspin (which was a surreal moment, and one I had to capture via screenshot). So lots and lots and lots of people ended up reading about what Mo did that day, and it was by far our most read post of the year.

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MVP: Making The Case For Molina

Tonight and tomorrow, the Baseball Writers Association of America will be able to announce the winners of the two most prestigious post-season awards, and the Cardinals are well represented in both categories. Though Adam Wainwright is not expected to win the Cy Young Award (Clayton Kershaw seems to have it all but locked up), the battle for MVP is developing into quite the hot topic.

DSC_0332Most “experts” seem to believe Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen, who led his team to its first winning season in over 20 years, will land at the top of the ballots. An award that generally follows the path the numbers create favors the center fielder whose .317 average in 583 at bats, complete with 97 runs, 21 homers, 84 RBI, 27 stolen bases, an 8.2 WAR (not to mention his fielding percentage, runs saved, etc.) — especially as a center fielder — make him an easy favorite.

Now, I know my perspective is dripping in bias, but I don’t think it has to be in order to make a convincing argument in favor of Yadier Molina. It does, though, require a willingness to look beyond just the numbers to what “value” really means. Continue reading

One Week Later – Time To Reflect

A week ago this morning, the butterflies were already building. I was nervous. The reality of winning two games in Boston with the Red Sox on the verge of a history-making win seemed slim. But hoping beyond reasonable hope is what sports fans do. Michael Wacha gave the Cardinals as good a chance as any, and the law of averages seemed to imply that the offense was “due,” as they say.

It could happen. Crazier things had.

That was then.

looking backNow, I’m finding it gradually easier to look back. Just as fans hold out hope until the bitter end, they also feel the hurt when the fairytale ends. It’s not technically our loss, but it stings like it is. Our summer is invested in the success or failure of our team; we inhale and exhale — quite literally! —  based on what our players do; attitudes and emotions can be swayed because our team is up … or down.

As I watched Game 6, as our team’s World Series hopes slipped further and further out of reach, I said aloud to my dad, “Sometimes I wish I didn’t care so much.”

Admittedly, I have a tendency to care too deeply about pretty much everything. Cardinals baseball is no exception. When they’re up, I’m up. When they’re down, I’m down. When they are confident (a la Adam Wainwright’s comments before heading back to Boston), I can be confident. When they’re disappointed, I’m devastated.  Continue reading

So, This Is It.

Fenway awaits. Bring it on, Boston.

Fenway awaits. Bring it on, Boston.

“It starts with Game 6…” Adam Wainwright said, after predicting a “legendary” comeback for his Cardinals.

The team ace and Game 5 starter was certainly not satisfied with his performance in the final game at Busch Stadium. He knew that his leadership could have shifted the series in favor of the Birds. Instead, the offense that has been sputtering came nearly to a stop. (Kind of like the plane the team sat on for roughly six hours yesterday awaiting their takeoff to Boston…)

And with that, it all comes down to this.

…no pressure or anything, guys.

As a Cardinals fan, October baseball is almost expected these days. As a baseball fan, it’s never taken for granted. Continue reading

Bottom Line On Game Three: A Win Is A Win

We know the final score of last night’s Game Three of the World Series: Cardinals 5, Red Sox 4.

And, by now, we do believe what we just saw in the bottom of the ninth — we’ve all watched replay after replay after replay.

The bottom line: this …

10-26-1was obstruction, since it illustrated the very example given in the MLB rule book:

BXjm3GDCAAA_SSB.jpg largeWe as Cardinals fans are thrilled.

Baseball fans who understand the rules — and appreciate the umpires not only making correct calls but also having a press conference with Joe Torre after the game to further explain, by reading the rule book, how the correct call was in fact made — are pleased with the outcome, even if the ending was something none of us have ever seen in a World Series game.

Everyone else? Not happy, to put it mildly. Red Sox fans (and players) in particular.

Plus those furious it’s the Cardinals benefiting from this call — Cubs fans, Reds fans, Pirates fans, probably Dodgers fans. Especially Braves fans, remembering last year’s wild card game and the infield fly call.

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Good, Better, Best Of Another Cardinals Classic Game Six

Six is storied number for the St. Louis Cardinals. The retired number of the greatest Cardinal Stan Musial, of course. A serious number, as we all know from the commercials. And October Games Sixes are pretty special as well.

3914_st_louis_cardinals-champion-2013Yes, “Game Six” immediately calls to mind the 2011 World Series — rightly so, as it’s one of the best World Series games in history with the majestic ninth and 10th inning comebacks and walk-off “we will see you tomorrow night!” 11th-inning moment.

But we can’t forget Game Six of the 1985 NLCS — against the Dodgers, no less — was another classic thanks to a ninth-inning game-winning pennant-clinching home run from Jack Clark. Or Jim Edmonds and his 12th-inning walk-off homer in 2004’s NLCS Game Six against the Astros.

Now we have another classic Game Six victory to remember fondly — and no home runs were necessary.

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