All posts by Jon Doble

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.

Offense for Defense, good idea?

With April now successfully in the books for the St. Louis Cardinals, we can now try to determine whether our offseason moves were truly a success. Those moves, highly discussed and debated by all Cardinals’ fans as we tried to determine whether the team was better off with Ryan Theriot and Lance Berkman rather than Brendan Ryan and Ryan Ludwick.

The team made the moves during the offseason, saying that they intended to focus on improving the offense and were going to let the defense, more or less, take care of itself. Brendan Ryan was one of the top defensive short stops in the league and Ryan Ludwick was certainly no slouch, with or without the bat, during his time with St. Louis. Meanwhile the team brought in Ryan Theriot, who had been moved to second base by each of his previous two teams, and then Lance Berkman, the former division rival who hadn’t played outfield regularly in a few years.

Ultimately in an analysis of a few different metrics back in December, I ultimately came to the conclusion that based on 2010 performance, we were a draw.

So where do we stand after one month of play?

THE OFFENSE

At the end of April 2011, St. Louis was leading the major leagues in batting average (.295), on base percentage (.362), and runs scored (141). They were first in the national league in slugging percentage (.452) despite being just ninth in home runs (27).

At the end of April 2010, St. Louis was 17th in the majors in batting average (.255), 14th in on base percentage (.335), 13th in slugging percentage (.421), 16th in runs scored (105), and 5th in home runs (28).

We played 27 games in April 2011 (I’m including the one game we played in March) and we played 23 games in April 2010. That means St. Louis averaged 4.6 runs per game in April 2010 while they are now averaging 5.2 runs per game. That’s just over an extra run every two games from that switch. However, we are not hitting home runs at the same pace we had been, averaging just 1.0 HR per game so far this year while averaging 1.2 HR per game last April.

There is no doubt that the offense has been incredibly hot this April, especially on the road where they are currently averaging 6.8 runs per game, while just 3.4 runs per game at home. They’ve scored half as often at home. Certainly this can be attributed some to the stagnant offense during the first home stand of the season. But they were only at 4.3 on their second home stand. It will be interesting to see what the offense can produce during this next home stand that starts this evening against Florida.

After one month, it appears that the offense has improved. At this point, by 0.6 runs per game. However, can the team keep that up after they get a chance to cool down a bit? That remains to be seen.

THE DEFENSE

Defensive metrics are very difficult to interpret. To one scorer it might be an error, to another ruled a hit. It depends whether you’re the home team or the away team. So that does put a bit of a question, but obviously misplayed balls are traditionally errors and so that’s what we’ll go with.

At the end of April 2011, St. Louis had committed 23 errors in 27 games, that’s 0.9 errors per game. In April 2010, they committed just 12 errors in 23 games, that’s 0.5 errors per game.

So as we suspected, the defense has declined. However, there are more to errors than just simply errors. The real key is whether or not those errors led to runs being scored. For that, we need to look at pitching statistics.

At the end of April 2011, St. Louis had allowed 16 unearned runs in 27 games, for 0.6 unearned runs per game. Compare that to April 2010 where St. Louis allowed just 10 unearned runs in 23 games, for 0.4 unearned runs per game.

By looking at just runs as a result of errors, it appears that they are only allowing 0.2 extra unearned runs per game. But one must also note that we had a better pitching staff in April 2010 than we did in April 2011. So let’s dive a little deeper into that, shall we?

THE PITCHING

So the pitching staff. Obviously suffering a bit from the loss of Adam Wainwright to Tommy John surgery, the pitching staff is still a formidable one.

Last April, Wainwright and the rest of the Cardinals pitching staff led the major leagues with a 2.65 ERA despite only having the fifth best opponents batting average (.235). The team was allowing 3.2 runs per game against them.

This year, the Wainwright-less Cardinals staff is 7th in ERA at 3.28 while sporting only the 16th best opponents batting average (.250). When you factor unearned runs, they are allowed 3.9 runs per game against them.

Obviously not having Adam Wainwright hurts the Cardinals pitching staff in this situation. Might they be able to pitch out of more jams if they had him? Probably. Over the last two years, Wainwright was on the mound for just more than 10% of the Cardinals’ unearned runs (13 of 129). That compares to 12.4% for Carpenter and 11.6% for Lohse. Last year, Garcia was on the mound for 23% of the team’s unearned runs.

What does all that mean? I think the conclusion that you can draw from it is that typically, Adam Wainwright is one of the best at pitching around unearned runners on the Cardinals’ pitching staff. However, at just a couple unearned runs better than Carpenter, it’s safe to say that there would be very little effect on the number of unearned runners allowed to score.

THE RESULT

Well, we know that so far the offense has been better by 0.6 runs per game. The defensive errors are resulting in an extra 0.2 runs per game and that provides us a net gain of 0.4 runs per game.

But when you consider that the team is allowing 0.6 runs per game extra, that gives us a push.

It will be very difficult for this team to come out on the positive side of this sort of analysis. You cannot depend on the offense to continue to score over 5 runs a game and hit just under .300 all year long. However, hopefully you can also depend on the defense improving as the players get more comfortable and more into the routine of the season.

It should be very interesting to keep our eyes on as the season rolls along.

Game 28: Braves 6, Cardinals 5

It was a crazy game. A game that saw Jaime Garcia perfect through four innings and fall apart in the fifth. It also saw Albert Pujols playing third base in the major leagues for the first time since 2002.

Most Cardinals fans will see the L by Ryan Franklin‘s name and assume he blew it. Honestly, for once I don’t blame him for this one. With no outs, Alex Gonzalez hit a pop fly that a little leaguer could catch, except Ryan Theriot did not as he picked up his 7th error on the season (that puts him on pace for 40 errors this season, the most for a major leaguer since Jose Offerman had 42 errors in 1992, before that you go to 1978). Say what you will about what Franklin should have done at that point, the fact is if you give most teams a man on first and nobody out, they will most likely score that run. Good teams will, at least. The Braves are a good team.

Defensive issues have plagued this team and currently have them 24th in the league in fielding percentage going into today’s game. This game won’t help as Pujols and Theriot each made an error, which each led to an unearned run being scored and ultimately were the two runs that cost us this game.

In a highly questioned move, Albert Pujols made his first appearance at third base since September of 2002. How did it happen? After David Freese‘s injury (a broken left middle finger, it seems), Tyler Greene came in to play the infield. Later, he was pinch hit for by Jon Jay, leaving Mark Hamilton as the only infielder left on the bench. So what does Tony LaRussa do? In comes Hamilton to play first and Pujols returns to third base in the bottom of the 8th. He was involved in one play, but had Cardinals fans on edge as his elbow is still believed to be a worry.

Hero: Matt Holliday. The only guy with 2 RBI off a first inning double, it was Holliday that was in position to be the game tying run in the top of the 8th and was able to score on a Molina sac fly. (2-for-3, 2 R, 2 RBI)

Zero: Ryan Theriot. I’m giving it to him based on his strikeout in the top of the 8th with Jay on second and his error which unraveled the bottom of the 9th. (0-for-4, 1 K, 4 LOB)

April Approval Ratings

The form to take in the April Approval Ratings is now up and ready to accept responses. You can follow the link here. Any help in getting more responses is appreciated, so please pass this around to your Cardinal fan friends if you’d like. The more takers, the more accurate the responses. Thanks for whatever help you can give. I appreciate it!

Game 27: Cardinals 3, Braves 2

The Comeback Cards are at it again to finish out April. Down 2-0 going into the 8th, they tie it up and then take the lead in the 9th. Later that night while grocery shopping I saw a Braves fan and resisted the urge to rub it in. I know what it’s like to have a closer who doesn’t close.

For the Cardinals, Jake Westbrook proved that he might be back at it. Two earned runs over 6 innings is enough to garner a quality start, though I would have liked to see him go deeper into the ballgame. The 106 pitches he threw, said otherwise. His ERA is now down to 6.53. It’s going to take awhile to rebound it though.

Once again a solid bullpen brought home the game. Mitchell Boggs, Miguel Batista, and Fernando Salas brought home the game, throwing 3 scoreless innings of relief. Batista earned the win while Salas picked up his second save of the season.

For the offense, it was David Freese that provided the 2 RBI single to tie up the game with two outs in the 8th. Then Gerald Laird scored Matt Holliday on a 9th inning triple.

Hero: Tough decision for me between Freese and Laird, both played integral parts. Ultimately, Freese set it up, so he will get it. (2-for-4, 2 RBI, 1 K)

Zero: Tough call between Lance Berkman and Albert Pujols. While Berkman got just 2 at bats as he came in late in the game, he left 5 runners on base. Pujols played the whole game and went hitless, leaving 3. Berkman had the opportunity to blow it wide open, and didn’t. (0-for-2, 1 K, 5 LOB)

Game 26: Cardinals 5, Braves 3

The bullpen has made us the Cardiac Cards, but tonight we were the comeback Cards. A sacrifice fly by Daniel Descalso in the ninth tied up the game and it was a Nick Punto triple in the eleventh that put the Cardinals ahead.

Chris Carpenter once again turned in a quality start, his fifth on the season, and yet he remains winless. He left the game today after 7 innings with the Cardinals down 3-2. He will officially go winless in April, despite having been effective on the mound. Despite the solid start, this was the first game that Carpenter has started and the Cardinals have won. I’m sure that gives Carpenter a little relief in the end.

Mitchell Boggs, Eduardo Sanchez, Jason Motte, and Trevor Miller combined in the bullpen to offer 4 scoreless innings of relief. For Boggs, it was an exit from his typical 9th inning position after he blew the save in Houston. I’m sure Cardinal Nation was questioning the move to bring Trevor Miller in for the final out of the game, relieving Motte. However, Miller finally got the job done.

Hero: Nick Punto. The game winning triple. (1-for-6, 2 RBI, 2 LOB)

Zero: Colby Rasmus. (0-for-4, 2 BB, 1 K, 4 LOB)