Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Post-game thoughts

I watched the entire Cards-Brewers game tonight, and I had a few observations:

1. I've seen all of Wainwright's last three starts on TV, and he's been quite impressive. As John mentioned earlier, the lowering of his arm-slot seems to have made all the difference in the world. Tonight, he had a little trouble locating the fastball the first three innings, which caused him to fall behind a few hitters. When he got ahead as he did later in the game, the Brewers had no chance, because the slider and ESPECIALLY the curve were lights-out. In his previous two starts, it actually seemed he didn't quite have the great curve if you can believe it, but he certainly did today. As awesome as it is to have Carp back, this is the guy we can count on every start for the rest of the year.

2. The offense finally woke-up. Albert had two RBIs, but really it was the supporting cast finally stepping-up. Shu and Thurston each had a couple of hits to set the table. Stavinoha, Rasmus, Duncan, and even Wainwright all homered. Stavinoha's was the first of his MLB career. That's nice for him because.......

3. Ludwick should be back Friday. This was probably the best thing I heard all night, and in such a solid overall game by the Cards at that. The ESPN crew seemed to think that Ludwick is close to 100% already, but will return officially against the Giants on Friday. Ankiel hasn't played the last two days despite being off the DL, but is thought to be nearing 100% as well.

All in all, probably the most pleasant experience I've had watching a game this year. A great performance by the team, and lots of other good news to boot.


The strong starts continue

Just a quick note here before I head to bed. First, great job by John and everyone else that participated in the UCB's progressive game blog on Saturday. That was really a lot of fun to read. In hindsight, I'm glad I didn't contribute because I would have only brought the level of quality down! I'm just not witty enough to hang with those guys. Second, how 'bout that starting pitching? In seven games, the pitching staff as a whole has allowed a mere six runs. Sadly, we have lost the last two because the offense is just about as cold as the pitching is hot. Carp's start today was simply dominating. I was surprised to see him go eight in only his second start back, but when he is cruising like that, I guess there are no worries. I had said a while ago we needed the starters to pick things up for the offense, and they have responded big-time. The game is on ESPN tomorrow night, so I'm looking forward to seeing Wainwright keep the ball rolling and hopefully a little better hitting behind him. Ankiel is back, so that should help, and hopefully Luds isn't too far behind. Anyway, it's sleep time, so hopefully I'll dream of that shot Albert hit last Wednesday that knocked-out the "i" in the Big Mac Land sign.


Saturday, May 23, 2009

UCB Progressive Game Blog--7th

Welcome to the 7th inning of this year's version of the UCB Progressive Game Blog! Thanks to Whiteyball for handling the 6th. Let's get started.

The hands-on LaRussa gets back to work and makes a defensive shift moving Skippy out to RF and brings in Ryan to cover 4. I tell you, I'm a big fan of Ryan. Not only has he developed quite a glove, but his overall play is just fun to watch. Plus, I like the ironed-lid. One thing that drives me nuts about him--he watches the ball too much. Don't get me wrong, after you make contact you're gonna watch--but I've seen several occasions where he could have beat out a play if he wasn't watching it all the way and instead put his head down and ran. E.g., watch the 2nd take of the 2nd great play Freel makes. If Ryan puts his head down instead of babysitting it, he beats the throw.

Enough nit-picking. Skippy has hit 3 HR's in 30 AB. I think it's time we start talking about what to do with Kahlil Greene. Although Skippy is a defensive liability, so is K. Greene. Ryan has proved to be outstanding in the field--and his stick is about the same. I'm tired of Greene's sour attitude too. Maybe I'm not being fair. It's tough to be the new guy--still, when you combine poor offense, poor defense, and a bad attitude...

Wow, Debbie Downer. Sorry.

After a sinker misses low, Callaspo harmlessly grounds out to Pujols. Lohse has added to the consecutive high-quality outings by the Card's rotation. One of the biggest reasons: note the BB count during the current 4 game stretch (5 if counting tonight) vs. when we got swept by the Brew-Crew. Simply stunning. Lohse hasn't given up a free pass all night.

After Olivo runs the count full after a steady diet of pitches low and away, Olivo can't get the bat off the shoulder. I think he was expecting another curveball to drop out of the zone--but the fastball paints the corner.

Lohse gets an easy 1-2-3 inning on a mere 9 pitches as Aviles grounds out back to the pitcher.

It's time to stretch, and I'd like to take this opportunity to tell you all to boycott Winnie the Pooh. That's right folks. As I'm putting my daughter to sleep in her Pujols' pjs and singing our traditional night-night song, "Take me Out to the Ballgame," I switched on her mobile which plays "Winnie the Pooh". To my horror I realized what I had been exposing my daughter to. One of the lines of the song describes Winnie as: "a tubby little cubby!" People, I implore you, don't let this evil slip into your home. Now, back to the game.

With the way he has been pitching and that easy last inning, it's no surprise to see Lohse batting here. And he rewards his manager's confidence with a single.

The other Greene lays down a sac bunt and moves Lohse over a base. This seems to be enough for Hillman to pull the plug on Hochevar--you gotta feel for the guy--no matter who you're rooting for. Looks like Hillman will pull a double-switch and put Mahay and Bloomquist in.

Skippy gets his second hit of the night as the Secret Weapon holds Lohse at 3rd. Callaspo makes a filthy play to rob Rasmus of a hit, but Lohse scores anyway--a nice insurance run to make it a 4-0 lead.

There were rumors that Mahay hates the Cardinal Virtue--now it is confirmed. He obviously is attempting to undermine the blog by intentionally walking Pujols during my assigned inning. Jerkface.

Duncan makes Mahay and Hillman look good by flying out to LF.

The Cards add a run and we had some fun. Now on to the Sabermetrically inclined Fungoes with the 8th! I'm always glad to go BEFORE Pip.

Thanks for tuning in,

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

If you would have told me...

...that the Redbirds were going to get 5 hits I woulda said Eeyore style, "Another Cardinals loss." I certainly wouldn't expect a 3-0 win for the Cardinals. PiƱeiro was brilliant. The headline will read 3 hitter complete game shut-out. But almost as impressive--NO WALKS! What a difference that makes compared to the million-man march the Cardinals were getting started!

Rasmus is heating up. 3 HR's in 5 games. For the first time EVER, I am really getting excited about this guy. Now if he can just do something about that OBP .333 and BA .250.


Saturday, May 16, 2009

I Think...

...that the arm slot is fixed. In other news we lost.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

DL starting to take it's toll

Though there was some good news yesterday with Carp throwing a pain-free bullpen session that perhaps puts him on track to return as soon as two weeks from now, there was more bad news. Ludwick is now on the DL with a hamstring injury. He joins fellow power hitters Ankiel and Glaus out of the line-up, leaving little in the way of protection for Albert. There are a couple of silver linings. First, Rasmus is sure to get plenty of time the next couple of weeks, which can only help his development. Second, neither Ludwick or Ankiel is expected to be out long, though there is no definitive date for either's return at this point. As I mentioned before, the upcoming schedule isn't very difficult. The bad news is the offense is certain to take a dip, and we've only had two quality starts in the last nine games (including four rough outings in a row). The bullpen has actually been quite good recently, but we need the rotation to step it back up to help carry what is likely to be a much less explosive offense. We are still in first, so no need to panic, but we the the starters to keep us there over the next few weeks.


Sunday, May 03, 2009

First Month Analysis

With today's rain postponment, the Cards are essentially through the first month of the season. They've played 13 games at home (10-3) and 12 on the road (7-5). They have a 3 1/2 game lead on the Reds and Cubs in the Central. Obviously, you have to be pretty happy with the start to the season, especially with Carp only making two starts Can the rotation hold-up without him? That's probably the big question because the offense has been great, and the bullpen looks much improved. Here's how I grade the team to this point:

Offense: A

Obviously, everything has revolved around Pujols so far, as he looks extremely locked-in. The Cardinals lead in the NL in runs scored and are near the top in about any offensive category you can think of. Ludwick has shown that last year was not a fluke and the rest of the outfield has been productive as well (though Ankiel continues to be the definition of streaky). Barden and Thurston have combined nicely at third, and though Glaus is missed, it's not as badly as I feared. Probably the only negative on offense has been Khalil Greene, who has not been able to carry over his hot spring to the regular season and is now struggling with an arm injury of some kind.

Defense: D

Definitely the major area of concern right now. Only the Reds and Nationals have worse fielding percentages and only the Nationals have allowed more unearned runs. So far, it doesn't seem like the defense is costing us in the most important area: the W-L column, but the team needs to tighten things up or that will come in time. One major positive here: Shumaker has been way better than I expected at 2B and is not a major cause of this issue. In fact, he has only one error while playing second so far, which is excellent.

Starting Pitching: A-

Pineiro, Wainwright, and Lohse are a combined 10-1 so far, and have been great. I'd like to see Waino and Lohse get a little deeper into the game consistently, but that's a small complaint really. Pineiro lost yesterday, but three of the four runs he gave-up were unearned. He's suddenly become a very effective ground-ball pitcher. If the defense tightens-up behind him, he'll be that much better. Boggs looked great his last start and whatever he give us in lieu of Carp is a bonus. The only weak link seems to be Wellenmeyer. He's 2-2, but his 5.28 ERA and 1.76 WHIP show he is not pitching well. We need him to turn it around while Carp is out for sure.

Bullpen: B+

We have 5 blown saves so far, which is not good, but unlike last year, we haven't lost all of those games. I can think of two (Motte's blown save to start the season and one by McClellen) were the bullpen blew it the offense couldn't get it back. Franklin has been absolutely outstanding. Perez has been quite good since being called back-up. Why they sent him down in the first place, I don't know. Motte, after giving up four earned that first game, has yielded only one in 10 innings since. McClellen has been similar, one bad outing, but nails otherwise. Miller's ERA isn't good right now, but I think him and Reyes have been a big upgrade from the left side compared to last year. This area is obviously one we will watch closely all year long after what happened last season, but so far most of the signs are positive.

If you look at the schedule for the next month, it's not too scary. Two series against the Pirates, Reds and Brewers. One with the Cubs. Games against Giants, Rockies and Royals as well. Toughest two games are the next two against the Phillies. It's a good opportunity to pile-up some more wins as we hopefully look forward to Carp's return at the beginning of June.