All posts by Jon Doble

Game 2: Padres 11, Cardinals 3

If you thought Thursday’s game was bad, Saturday’s was worse. Ugly is about the only word I have to describe what happened.

Thanks to Allen Craig, who picked up where Holliday left off, the Cardinals scored a pair of runs on his two-out double in the bottom of the first. But Padres worked Jake Westbrook hard all afternoon. He had thrown 51 pitches by the end of the second inning. In the second inning, Chase Headley tripled in a pair of runs to tie up the game.

Albert Pujols said no, when he led off the bottom of the third with his first hit of the season. A solo shot. But that could be all the Cardinals could muster while the Padres continued to dominate Westbrook.

The Padres added another in the top of the fourth and then broke it open for what LaRussa would call a crooked number in the top of the 5th. In the end, the Cardinals pitchers had trouble throwing strikes and a fielding error by Theriot, his second error in as many games, cost the Cardinals.

If one game with a severe lack of fundamentals wasn’t enough to panic, is two? Two games into this season and the Cardinals are still showing all the same issues we point out as things that killed their chances last season.

We can only hope that Jaime Garcia has put his Spring Training struggles behind him tomorrow and can pitch a gem. Because that’s what we’ll need to win, but if you ask Chris Carpenter, even that’s not a guarantee.

Boxscore

Hero of the Game: Tough to call this one, but it’s between Albert Pujols and Allen Craig. I will give Albert Pujols some love for breakout out of his 0-for-6 to start the season in style. So it goes to Albert Pujols (2-for-4, 1 HR, 1 RBI)

Zero of the Game: This one was pretty easy. Jake Westbrook gets it. (4.1 IP, 6 H, 5 BB, 3 K, 8 ER)

Preseason Approval Ratings: Position Players

Many readers are familiar with the Approval Ratings that Daniel at C70 at the Bat does over the course of the Spring. With his permission, I’m taking them to the next level (cue cool voice voicer).

I’m a little late, but real life has kept me away from writing much for the blog the last couple days. Today though, the Redbird Dugout Approval Ratings make their debut as I talk about our position players.

As mentioned during Wednesday’s UCB Radio Hour, the man who is now without his appendix is the highest rated Cardinal. That would be Matt Holliday. Holliday, who is entering his second full season, scored a 9.3 with Cardinals fans. Out of all the fans surveyed, he scored just one 7 and one 8 and the rest were 9s and 10s. Personally, I gave him a 10 because I he has far surpassed my expectations. When he came in, I expected him to be a .300, 20 HR guy because those were his career averages outside of Coors Field. Then he had his 2010 season and that all changed.

The second highest rated position player is none other than Albert Pujols. He scored a 9.0 from Cardinals fans. I find it interesting that he slots in behind Holliday, and also did on C70′s approval ratings. There are two potential reasons that Pujols falls, in my mind. First would be last season where his 7.3 WAR was the lowest WAR he’s had since his sophomore season in the majors and combine that where he slumped while the Cardinals kept falling farther and farther behind the Reds near the end of last season. Second would be with his contract situation. I know that I knocked him a point for it to just an 8. It takes two to tango and if they really wanted to come to an agreement over this offseason, Pujols and the Cardinals could have.

Moving on, we come to Yadier Molina, who came in third with an 8.0. Molina has been one of the most durable catchers in the major leagues. I know he caught the most innings in 2009, and I suspect he did the same in 2010 even with his removal from the lineup in the closing weeks to rest his knees. The knees and high innings are an issue to me, but that’s got nothing to do with my approval for Molina. Rather that rests on the guy who pencils him onto the lineup card everyday. I gave him a 9.

Colby Rasmus will be entering his third year in the majors, and most will tell you that it will be the make-or-break year for him. Mental maturity has impacted his success to this point, but he definitely has the physical tools. Despite some lack in his play last year on the defensive side of the ball, Rasmus still scored a 7.3 with the fans. In his third year and getting the opportunity to hit in front of Albert Pujols, Rasmus is poised to have a breakout year. Can he overcome the mental aspects of the game and put it all together? I’m excited to find out, I gave him a 7.

After spending the last half of last year on the disabled list, David Freese makes his return this season to the lineup. Despite the injury, Freese is probably riding high on his quick return from the injury and the performance he put on last season, when he was one of the top rookies when he went down with injury. Freese ended up with a 7.0 from the fans, and he got a 9 from me. Hopefully he can stay healthy this year and can become the player we all hoped.

A little surprising to me, but the next three guys on the list are expected to be bench players. Jon Jay scored a 6.9 from the fans and a 7 from me. Last season he proved himself a solid defender and solid with the bat. Coming off the bench, he’s going to do all we need him to do.

Allen Craig scored a 6.6 from the fans and got a 7 from me. I was a little surprised that he got relatively high marks. Many fans that I know think that he is nothing more than the AAAA player who is great in AAA, but below average in the majors. Personally, I think he can turn into a successful major leaguer if he gets a chance. With Holliday’s appendectomy, he seems to be ready to get that chance. Hopefully he takes it and runs with it.

Meanwhile, Daniel Descalso is riding his successful September as he scored a 6.2 from the fans and got a 7 from me. It’s no secret that I’ve called shotgun on the Descalso bandwagon and feel that he’s ready to start at second base. I’d love to see him take the starting role at second base away from Skip Schumaker this season, but he will hopefully get his chance there next season at least as Schumaker’s in the final season of his contract.

Back to the starters with Lance Berkman who scored a 6.0 with the fans. I gave him a 7, which wasn’t too far off. He suffered the case of getting a lot of 5s from people who didn’t want to make early judgements on new players.

Skip Schumaker comes in with a 5.7 from the fans. Schumaker had the largest disparity, as he was the only player to get a 1 and a 10 on his card. On the UCB Radio Hour, Mike Metzger of Stan Musial’s Stance said he would have given Schumaker high marks because he accepted the move from outfield to second base. I can understand that, but I gave him a 3. With experience, he should be improving at second base, but he’s not. And his bat fell off last year with the defensive struggles. To me, he’s just got more to show me before I can give him anything higher than a 5.

After Schumaker, comes Gerald Laird who scored a 5.6 with the fans. As the backup catcher, he doesn’t have much to do. I gave him an 8, but a lot of guys were reluctant to move him above a 5 because he’s new.

Then we have Tyler Greene who scored a 5.3 in the ratings. I gave him a 6 and was honestly surprised I had rated him that high. I’ve not been very impressed with Greene at any time. Well, except maybe that one diving catch in the outfield during spring training. But in general, I’ve not thought of him as a special player. I do hope he can prove me wrong though.

And the final player of our major league run is the new Ryan Theriot. Theriot scored a 4.9 in the ratings, and I had given him a 4. I’m not expecting much out of him and the slow start in spring training didn’t help that any. He was bouyed up with the 5s that a lot of guys gave new players. I think he is the player that is poised to vary the most this season.

I also had two minor league position players on the list. Last season’s first round draft pick, Zack Cox scored a 7.3 riding high on the way he finished the Arizona Fall League and the stories of him showing up early and working hard in the spring. Then Matt Carpenter is riding his strong spring to an 8.1 rating. I expect that to fall over the course of the season as people stop paying as close attention to him. Freese will likely have to get hurt before Carpenter is given an opportunity in the majors this year, and I don’t think anyone is wishing for that.

Look for the breakdown on pitchers on Monday morning. I’m about to dig in for game 2 of the 2011 season. Hopefully this one is better and the guys just had some Opening Day nerves on Thursday.

Game 1: Padres 5, Cardinals 3

It was a game that the Cardinals had every opportunity to win. Chris Carpenter turned in 7 stellar innings for the Cards, but that wasn’t enough for the bullpen to hold on. Or the offense to secure the win.

The same issues that plagued the Cardinals last season reared their ugly heads once again. Base running miscues and defensive mistakes cost the Cards this one. During the first seven innings, Skip Schumaker had a defensive mistake that was not credited as an error. Arguably it could have been, giving Carpenter 7 innings allowing just a single run.

Ryan Theriot miss the ball on a routine throw into the infield. In the ensuing play, his throw home was errant allowing the Padres to ultimately put two runs on the board in the top of the 11th.

But it wasn’t just the middle infield, Albert Pujols became the 100th player in major league baseball history, and the first on opening day, to ground into 3 double plays in one game. There was some thought that this was the major league record, but apparently Joe Torre had 4 in a game during his career. Obviously some fans will wonder if he’s lacking motivation due to the contract situation, but the motivation is exactly the opposite. He’ll want to put up big numbers this year because it will play into more dollars at the end of the season. However, trying too hard is something that he may have to worry about. I can’t have been the only one that sees him swinging at things he didn’t before since Holliday showed up.

While Matt Holliday nearly played hero with his solo shot in the bottom of the eighth to put the Cardinals up 3-2. He was still caught stealing and picked off, making two outs on the basepaths. Then Ryan Franklin could not hold onto the lead as he allowed a game tying home run to Cameron Maybin in the top of the ninth.

In the end, the Padres were just more efficient on offense. They scored 5 runs on 11 baserunners. Meanwhile the Cardinals just managed 3 runs on 15.

Seeing the 2011 Cardinals for the first time in action that counts, they have a long way to go. You might say that it’s only April and there’s 161 more games to play. While that’s true, every win you can get in April is one less you’ll need in September. Lots of work for this team to do. If they plan on playing baseball in October.

Boxscore

Hero of the Game: I’m going to give it to Chris Carpenter (7 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K). It was all set to go to Matt Holliday until Franklin blew the save. At that point, Holliday’s HR was just another homer and the fact that it wasn’t the game winning run

Zero of the Game: This one was a tossup because I felt Ryan Franklin was also deserving. However, after much consideration I felt that if Pujols had had a better day, we wouldn’t have needed Franklin. Plus, is it Franklin’s fault the offense failed to put more runs on the board with the number of hits they got? So the Zero of the Game goes to Albert Pujols (0-for-5, 3 GIDP, 5 LOB).

Opening Day Lineup Revealed!

The Post-Dispatch has posted the Cardinals’ planned Opening Day lineup for tomorrow’s afternoon game against the San Diego Padres. You can catch the game at 3:15 pm Cardinals time (central time zone) on ESPN.

The Cardinals will be facing the Padres’ Tim Stauffer tomorrow. Stauffer, 28, has racked up some service time on the major league roster, but has been unable to stick. However, last season he posted a 1.85 ERA between 25 relief appearances and 7 starts.

As a starter, he’s struggled in his career with an ERA of 4.54 and a record of 11-16 in his 38 starts. But last season he was 3-2 in his 7 starts with a 1.83 ERA. The downside was, that he averaged only around six innings a start, meaning that they will likely have to rely on the bullpen. Which isn’t a totally bad thing for the Padres, who had one of the best bullpens of 2010. But let’s get down to the action.

1. Ryan Theriot, SS
The decision to put Theriot at the top of the lineup surprises me, but signals that Theriot is expected to be the leadoff hitter everyday. I had speculated that Tony LaRussa would use Skip Schumaker to leadoff against RHP, while Theriot took the spot against LHP. The reason? Schumaker hits .307 with a .364 OBP against right handed starters while Theriot hits just .277 with a .338 OBP. Both are relatively good options, but for a manager who likes to play the stats and matchups, it wasn’t what I expected.

2. Colby Rasmus, CF
This move could be a big one for Rasmus. Instead of being in a run producing role deeper in the lineup, as he has usually been, he will be in an on base role. Hitting in front of the best hitter in the game should help him get good pitches to hit. If he can work on the strikeouts and work on hitting to all fields, Rasmus could have a monster year hitting in the #2 spot.

3. Albert Pujols, 1B
Was there really any doubt as to his location in the lineup? Potentially the best player in baseball and a free agent. Pujols’ season could go one of two ways. He’ll obviously be trying to put up big numbers, which should be a boon for the Cardinals offense this year. But there’s always the fear that you try too hard and you fail. Part of me wonders if that’s what’s led to his diminished numbers since Holliday arrived. There’s protection now and no excuse, so he’s trying things he wouldn’t otherwise try because of Holliday behind him. Pujols hits the Padres pretty well. Hitting .353, 18 HR, and 61 RBI in 65 games against them.

4. Matt Holliday, LF
After all the talk of him moving to right field to let Berkman have the easier to play left field, he returns to his customary home. I’ll admit that I heavily underestimated Holliday’s impact to the Cardinals last season, but he proved me wrong. I would love for him to keep proving me wrong. His homer rate at Busch Stadium is almost as good as it was at Coors Field, too. He averages a homer for every 4.5 games at Busch, while it was every 4.2 games at Coors.

5. Lance Berkman, RF
The Lance Berkman experiment begins. After being handled with care through most of spring training, Berkman will make his first outfield start since August 25, 2007. He’s obviously hoping to do better than the 0-for-4 he went in that game against Pittsburgh. But has hit .316 with 56 HR in 252 games as a right fielder, by far his best stats at any position he’s played.

6. David Freese, 3B
The man whose injury exposed the lack of depth in 2010 has returned. Freese will start at third base for the first time since June 27th of last year. The former Padres prospect was having a phenomenal rookie season when he went down, too. The Cardinals are hoping that he can recapture some of that magic and once again give them that RBI machine down in the lineup. Oh, and his glove would be the best third base glove we’ve had since he went down.

7. Yadier Molina, C
Fans will be relieved that Molina is once again hitting down in the order. With the injuries to the Cardinals last year, he had been hitting in the six hole. Right where his ability to ground into double plays with the league leaders would be to stifle many rallies. He gets credit for his difficulty to strike out, but he needs to work on that this year as he posted a career high in strikeouts last season. Of all the teams who he’s played more than 30 games against, he hits San Diego the best. However, he has yet to hit a home run off a Padres pitcher in his 128 plate appearances.

8. Skip Schumaker, 2B
Schumaker will hit eighth on Thursday afternoon, a surprise to many considering the ability to essentially have two leadoff men with Schumaker and Theriot who both hit right handed pitchers well enough to leadoff. Yet another phenomenon. Schumaker hits the Padres better than anyone else with his .338 average against them in 22 games, but still has no homers against them. Yeah, he doesn’t have much power to begin with, but only two other teams who he has played more than 20 games against have no home runs against them, and they’ve got much worse batting averages.

9. Chris Carpenter, P
A much bemoaned move by the guys over at Pitcher’s Hit 8th, Tony LaRussa has said that he plans on batting the pitcher in the ninth position this season. Me, and many other fans, thought this year would be the perfect year for the plan to hit the pitcher 8th, at least against right handed pitchers, because both Theriot and Schumaker have numbers capable of leading off against right handers. With Schumaker in the 9 hole to lead the lineup back around, it was thought to be a great move. It seems that the genius that is Tony LaRussa does not agree.

That is your look at the Cardinals’ Opening Day lineup for tomorrow. You can check me out tonight on the United Cardinal Bloggers Radio Hour tonight at 9:30 pm Cardinals time as I will be hosting. We will be doing a bit of previewing of the Cardinals/Padres series as well as getting in some final notes on Spring Training action, including the final cuts. And if we have some time, we might discuss some of the Cardinals’ Approval Ratings that we should be seeing tomorrow here at Redbird Dugout as well.

So check that out, Like us on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter.

Opening Day Roster Set

According to Derrick Goold, the final two players have been sent out of major league camp to set the Cardinals’ Opening Day roster. Those two players would be Fernando Salas and Nick Stavinoha.

Salas, 25, was heavily expected to get the final bullpen spot after Miguel Batista secured the first open bullpen spot. In Spring Training, Salas posted a 0.73 ERA over his 12.1 innings and a 0.89 WHIP with 4 hits and 7 walks. Ultimately, the walks could have been what did him in.

Stavinoha, 28, was not expected to make the team at all. He had been hanging around as an outfielder and emergency catcher should the need be. While Stavinoha has shown improvement in each of his trips to St. Louis, I don’t think there is much of a major league career in his future.

The move should mean that Bryan Augenstein will score the final bullpen spot. Augenstein, 24, has to be hoping that his stint with the Cardinals this year will be more successful than his time with the Diamondbacks last year where he posted a 7.94 ERA in 7 games. Despite that lack of success in 2010, Augenstein had a great spring with the Cardinals boasting a 0.77 ERA in his 11.2 innings. He allowed just 5 hits, 3 walks and had 13 strikeouts.

In fact, he was the only Cardinal pitcher this spring who had more strikeouts than innings pitched. The power plus the lack of walks is probably what secured his spot over Salas.

Presumed Cardinals 2011 Opening Day Roster

Starting Pitching
RHP Chris Carpenter
LHP Jaime Garcia
RHP Kyle Lohse
RHP Kyle McClellan
RHP Jake Westbrook

Relief Pitching
RHP Bryan Augenstein
RHP Miguel Batista
RHP Mitchell Boggs
RHP Ryan Franklin
LHP Trever Miller
RHP Jason Motte
LHP Brian Tallett

Catchers
C Gerald Laird
C Yadier Molina

Infielders
IF Daniel Descalso
3B David Freese
IF Tyler Greene
1B Albert Pujols
2B Skip Schumaker
SS Ryan Theriot

Outfielders
RF Lance Berkman
OF Allen Craig
LF Matt Holliday
OF Jon Jay
CF Colby Rasmus

Cardinals’ Approval Ratings: Preseason

I am now ready to begin taking entries for the Cardinals’ Approval Ratings for the Preseason Ratings. You can choose to answer just one, two, or all the ratings and questions. The players are divided based on management, position player, pitchers, minor leaguers, and then some questions about the Cardinals.

The form will take entries until next Thursday evening around 9 pm eastern time. At that point I’ll compile the results and you will likely see a post about it on Friday morning before the season opener against San Diego.

Here you go: Link