All posts by Jon Doble

April Approval Ratings

This year’s monthly project continues with April’s Cardinals’ Approval Ratings. Once again I questioned Cardinals’ fans on their satisfaction with current Cardinals’ players on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most satisfied and 1 being the least satisfied. Response was about equal with the preseason approval ratings, however I did lose some and gain others.

There was very little that surprised me with the way trends went. The biggest gain by a position player was Lance Berkman who went from a 6.0 to a 9.4 which was an increase of 3.4 points. The biggest gain by a pitcher would be Kyle Lohse who went from a 7.2 to a 9.3 to become the highest rated pitcher on the staff. With Lohse being the highest rated pitcher, the highest rated position player continued to be Matt Holliday who moved from a 9.3 to a 9.8 after the month of April.

The biggest losers? Albert Pujols fell from his 9.0 in the preseason to a 7.3 rating, a loss of 1.7 points. Obviously, his slow start impacted the results of fans’ opinions on how happy they were with his play. Meanwhile, no surprise who the lowest rated pitcher was, none other than the pariah of the bullpen, Mr. Ryan Franklin. Franklin fell from 6.8 to a 2.2 to be the lowest ranked player on the list.

Check out the other gainers and losers, movers and shakers.

On the bench, Gerald Laird is the highest rated position player with his 7.3 rating, up 1.7 from his preseason number. He’s joined at the top by Daniel Descalso who scored a 7.1 which was up 0.9 from his preseason number. There were also two new members of the bench list, Nick Punto debuted with a 6.2 and Mark Hamilton with a 6.4.

In the bullpen, the most exciting new member of the Cardinals bullpen is the highest rated reliever, that would be Eduardo Sanchez, who scored an 8.8 in his debut on the charts. The other reliever that began the season in Memphis, Fernando Salas, joins Sanchez at the top with his 8.0, up 1.2 and the highest gain by a bullpen arm. The only player to remain constant was in the bullpen too. That would be Brian Tallet who once again scored a 5.9.

It also seems as if out of sight is out of mind for Cardinals prospects. Shelby Miller, Zack Cox, and Matt Carpenter each experienced a drop from their preseason positions. Miller lost 0.9 points, Cox lost 0.8, and Carpenter fell a whole 2 points.

Back to the lineup and things that have me a little confused. Yadier Molina, despite the fact he was hitting .289 at the end of April, lost 1.3 points as he fell from 8.0 to 6.7 as he joined Pujols as the only starting players to decline in their ratings in April. Molina’s drop confused me, I guess many fans still had the echoes of his slow start in their heads when filling out the form. Should be interesting to see if and how he jumps in the May rankings.

Mr. Error, Ryan Theriot surprisingly was the position player with the second highest jump. While some of this jump can be assumed was a result of a heavy rating of 5 because they hadn’t seen him play, I was surprised that he managed to be rated as high as poorly as his defense has been. Maybe I’m mistiming my discussion of his defense, but he was not that effective in the month of April and nearly record settingly bad. With his 1.8 jump to a solid 6.7 that was a surprise.

The final piece that interested me was my ranking for how competitive do you feel this Cardinals team to be. Before the season began, that question scored a 6.9. Now? It got a 7.3, so it seems that fans think that this current Cardinals team is better than they originally thought. This is also reflected in the rating for John Mozeliak, which jumped 0.8 as the memory of no Pujols extension faded from memory. Tony LaRussa‘s also jumped 0.6 as I think he’s getting some love for allowing some of the baby birds to get solid playing time.

But speaking of that Albert Pujols extension. The one question that I’ve gone back and forth on whether to include. While the general view of the competitiveness of this Cardinals team has increased, the opinion that we will resign Albert Pujols has declined from a 7.4 to a 6.8. That was the one that really had me scratching my head.

Kozma up, Punto to DL

Somehow I missed this news today. I heard rumblings of Pete Kozma getting the call, but hadn’t seen anything on it. However, here it is.

Nick Punto is headed to the DL for the second time this season. This time for what the Post-Dispatch describes as a “strain near his right elbow.” That’s trouble for the infield defense because Punto is the best fielding infielder this team has.

In his place, the Cardinals have recalled 2007′s first round draft pick Pete Kozma up from Memphis. Kozma, 23, is a shortstop by trade and has played there pretty much his entire minor league career. He was one of the last picks under the Cardinals’ old system where drafting was a mix of signability and talent.

Four years into his professional career and he is still searching for sustained success. Many saw glimpses last year of what Kozma could do in Springfield when he hit .243 with 13 HR and 72 RBI, doubling his previous power outputs.  However, he has not had an easy go of it in Memphis where he is hitting just .220 and has yet to hit a home run. If you want a bright side to his start in Memphis, he may just be off to the best defensive season of his pro career.

Many are already calling this callup a function of the Cardinals having their hands tied by the 40 man roster. Otherwise, it would likely be spring training phenom Matt Carpenter getting the call.

How much will we see Kozma? I doubt it will be very often, though I would hope that Tony would at least give him one game to show what he’s got (who am I kidding right?). I expect this call-up to only remain for just a few days until Skip Schumaker gets a few rehabilitation games under his belt and returns to the major league club. Punto’s injury just delays the roster calisthenics that the Cardinals will have to do once everyone gets back to healthy.

Game 43 Notes: Cardinals 2, Phillies 1

Jaime Garcia picks up no decision for the fourth time this season as he baffled the Phillies and held them to just 5 runs. Meanwhile Lance Berkman provided the walk off hit as I turned to my brother and said, “If we don’t score in this inning (that started with bases loaded, none out) we deserve to lose.” Luckily, we didn’t deserve to lose.
  • Jaime Garcia is having an incredible run. In his last three starts he has thrown 24 innings and allowed just 2 runs, only one of which was earned. That puts his ERA at 0.38 over his last three starts and 1.20 in May. Needless to say, he is in the zone right now and hopefully he can keep it up. What’s more impressive than Garcia’s 5-0 record and his sparkly ERA? The fact that he left two of those four no-decisions with the lead and has left no game while being behind this season. Tonight was also the first game that Garcia scored a no-decision in that the team won.
  • Albert Pujols‘ streak now at 22 games since his last home run. Or 21 if you don’t count the game he pinch hit and was walked in. However you put it, 22 is his career high mark set in 2007. During that “slump” he hit .327 with a .475 OBP. This one? Just .289 with a .357 OBP. The good news, if you can say that it is, is that Pujols hit .351 with 8 HR in the 20 games after his career high homerless streak. So we’re waiting for that point, I guess. He did go 3-for-5 tonight.
  • Fernando Salas picked up another perfect inning of relief tonight, quietly getting the job done. He came away with the win for his troubles. Salas has allowed runs in just two of his relief appearances this season and has had 4 appearances with a total of 4.1 innings since he last allowed a run.
  • Brian Tallet made his first relief appearance tonight for Quad Cities. He struck out 5 over 2 innings. Roster decisions will need to be made shortly as he looks like he’s sharp, which he’s been able to throw so it’s really no surprise. With Skip Schumaker about to head out for his rehab assignments, it will be interesting to see what massaging management tries to do with the roster. Do we carry 13 pitchers and send two position players to Memphis?

Hero of the Game: Is there really a debate here? Jaime Garcia. (8.0 IP, 5 H, 1 BB, 1 R, 0 ER, 5 K)

Zero of the Game: I would have to go with Matt Holliday tonight. Why? He had his chance in the 9th to win the game and dribbled a double play chance at the short stop. The reason it wasn’t is that Philadelphia decided not to get fancy and just took the lead runner. (0-for-5, 5 LOB)

Game 42 Notes: Cardinals 3, Phillies 1

The Cardinals successfully christened by new television as Jake Westbrook out-dueled Cliff Lee in a surprising pitcher’s duel against Philadelphia tonight on ESPN.
  • After his worst start of the season, Jake Westbrook turned in one of his best. He went 7 innings and allowed just 4 hits and 3 walks while holding Philadelphia to just the one run in the top of the second. Westbrook, who moves to 3-3 on the season, has not had much to write home about this season as he has struggled in general. His ERA is now down to 6.07, much more respectable than the 6.92 he began the game tonight with.
  • Albert Pujols made his first start at third base since October 13, 2002, in the NLCS against the Giants. Apparently Pujols volunteered to play the position to give Tony LaRussa more lineup versatility against the left handed Cliff Lee. That allowed LaRussa to shuffle the lineup and play Nick Punto, potentially the best defensive infielder the Cardinals have, at second and Allen Craig in right field.
  • With another 0-for-4 performance, Albert Pujols posted his 14th game without a hit this season. He also extended his homer-less drought to 20 games, just two shy of tying his career high.
  • Fernando Salas, according to Derrick Goold on Twitter, turned in the first perfect inning for a save by a Cardinals reliever so far this season. That says something about our bullpen, I think. Also why the Cardinals are second in the major leagues in blown saves. 
  • Last note, is it just me or did Tony LaRussa look a ton better today. The week off did him well.

Hero of the Game: Jake Westbrook. (7.0 IP, 4 H, 3 BB, 1 ER, 1 K)

Zero of the Game: Allen Craig. Despite the shuffle to put him in the lineup, he goes 0-for-4 and left 6 guys on base tonight. I’m high on Craig, but that’s just bad. (0-for-4, 1 K, 6 LOB)

Game Notes: Games 29 through 41

It’s been a 6-6 run for the Cardinals while I’ve been gone and it’s been quite the busy one for the Cardinals. For one, Joe Pettini is the acting manager on this road trip while Tony LaRussa has been out dealing with his viral issues. I know I’ve been heavily critical of Tony in the past, but I wish him a speedy recovery so he can be back on the bench so I can continue to be critical of him.

Some of my thoughts on the last two weeks of Cardinals’ baseball.

  1. The Cardinals will definitely have a major decision on their hands when Brian Tallet and Skip Schumaker are ready for their return to the lineup. Likely both will take a quick trip through the minor leagues while the team decides what to do. Do you send Fernando Salas or Eduardo Sanchez down the minors because they are the junior members of the bullpen, or do you consider doing something with Ryan Franklin?

    While many Cardinals fans will instantly say that we need to DFA Franklin as soon as possible, I highly doubt the team will do that. However, I will be the first to admit that I’ve been wrong about a few things. Tony and Mo have surprised me with their moves, and just as I thought I was successfully getting into their heads.

    Salas and Sanchez have options. Obviously the coaches’ like Sanchez. Salas has pitched well too. So where does that leave Ryan Franklin, his $3.5 million salary, and his 9.88 ERA? Who knows. While I realize what Franklin has done for us, I give him the opportunity to pitch in the minors for the Cardinals to see if he can’t get it back, but also the opportunity to walk and potentially find another opportunity. Tough call, and I am glad that I’m not the one that has to make it.
    .

  2. Swept by the Reds? Say it ain’t so. Chris Carpenter got slaughtered today as he allowed 7 earned runs over 6 and a third innings. Three errors in the series by the Cardinals as poor defensive play was once again the team’s hallmark. Ironically, the Reds committed four errors, which reminds me that the Reds’ offense was much more efficient last year on capitalizing on mistakes. The Cardinals’ offense has lacked this in recent years.

    While some of my Cardinals fan brethren are ready to pack it in after one bad series, claiming the Cardinals did a good job masquerading as contenders, these are really the same issues that the team has had all year. Nothing new is popping up. I think it was in the movie Glory Road where the coach says that the best players make the routine plays over and over and over again. That’s where this team needs to get. Don’t be flashy, don’t be fancy, just get the job done. 9 times out of 10, that’s enough.
    .

  3. Jaime Garcia is a beast. One start he’s perfect through 4 innings, and the next he’s perfect through 8 and a third. I had some worry about a sophomore slump as the league caught up to him, but Jaime is proving that he has the potential to be one of the premiere left handed pitchers in the major leagues. The thoughts of pairing him up with Adam Wainwright as twin-aces again is highly tantalizing.
    .
  4. Allen Craig played second base? That’s what I see and read about. I found it interesting to note that Craig was drafted a short stop. While he only played three games at the position in 2006 before being moved to third base, he at least has a capable glove. Which pretty much translates around the infield. If he doesn’t have the arm for third base, second base would be a good solution. Obviously, though, he’ll need innings at the position to truly be ready to play it. Inexperience reared it’s head, but not as badly as I expected. Could he potentially make a play to play more games at second base? I’d actually like to see that. He has the biggest bat of anyone on that bench or currently playing second base. It’d be a way to get it in the lineup.
    .
  5. Albert Pujols is still hitting just .266 after today’s game. That’s not too far off the magic .300 number though. What is concerning to me is that, now at 19 games he is in the fourth longest homeless drought of his career. In 2007 he had droughts of 22 (his longest) and 20 games. In 2009 he added one that was 21 games long. In each of those three instances, he had a hot streak right after he broke out of the streak. So is a power slump signaling his getting closer to being right? Who knows. I guess we’ll find out.

Where have I gone?

Fear not Cardinals fans, I will be back. Over the last couple weeks I have gone through examinations and relocation. In Cubs-fan speak, I took tests and moved (Yeah, that was sort of harsh, Reds fans maybe?). Anyway, I will be back shortly for a few weeks with my typical Cardinals discussion and thoughts shared here. Then I will get married and miss about a week. I am, however, working on getting a third member of our beloved Redbird Dugout team who can help me shoulder the load that week and perhaps in the future.

Thank you to all who participated in April’s Cardinals Approval Ratings. I will get those posts up as soon as I can. There were some interesting and not all too surprising changes that I am excited to discuss.

I apparently have the hosting duties of Wednesday night’s UCB Radio Hour. That means I need to put a show together and some co-hosts. I need to work on that. But you can also check it out at 9:30 Cardinals time at Blog Talk Radio on Wednesday nights, where the best of the UCB (and me from time to time) tackle Cardinals baseball and any related topics.

I’ve got some notes over the last two weeks that I will likely share in a big recap post as well as I try to get back into the swing of things in my recapping and commentating. I’m going to be renaming “Game Recap” to “Game Notes” where I simply share my three thoughts on things that I saw in the game or trends I see developing with the team. All other news outlets give game recaps, and I think Game Notes better describes what I am trying to do. Share those things that I saw.

Just thought I would give everyone an update as the blog has gone silent for the last week and a half, about my absence and what I have planned in the future. As always, thank you for reading.