Category Archives: Columns

One game down, blasters on full

Yes it may be just the first game of the season and there are still 161 more to play. And maybe he was just playing around a little bit, seeing how it would work. However, anyone who follows me on this blog, through the Cards Clubhouse, and listens to my takes on UCB Radio knows that my biggest issue with Mike Matheny has been his bullpen management. Of course, I used to complain about Tony La Russa’s too, so he is in good company.

Yesterday evening the Cardinals roll into the 8th inning with a 1-0 lead thanks to a solo shot by Yadier Molina off Johnny Cueto. With Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto, and Jay Bruce coming up to bat.

Matheny brought in Pat Neshek to face Phillips. Neshek, making his first regular season appearance with the Cardinals, made the discussion as a “righty specialist” during spring training. Last year he held right handed hitters to a .219/.282/.362 slash line while getting lit up by left handers. Neshek eventually walked Phillips on 7 pitches. Continue reading

The fifth starter “competition”

Entering this spring, the Cardinals made it out like there was a competition to be had in their starting rotation with Michael Wacha, Shelby Miller, Lance Lynn, Jaime Garcia, Joe Kelly, and Carlos Martinez. Those six pitchers were battling it out for four spots. That was the narrative at Winter Warm-Up anyway. One that I dismissed at the time.

Adam Wainwright is locked in. Shelby Miller? How do you tell a top-3 Rookie of the Year finisher that he’s being demoted to the bullpen. Michael Wacha? The guy took two no-hitters into the ninth inning last year and outdueled the $30 million man twice in the same playoff series. Lance Lynn? He’s only the winningest starting pitcher in the NL since the beginning of the 2012 season. Jaime Garcia? Well, you’re paying him like a starter. He better be a starter.

The rotation was set. Joe Kelly and Carlos Martinez were looking at the St. Louis bullpen or the Memphis rotation if everyone stayed healthy. Continue reading

The 2014 Pittsburgh Pirates

2013 Results: 94-68, 2nd in NL Central (3 games behind)
Key Arrivals: SP Edinson Volquez
Key Departures: SP A.J. Burnett, 1B Justin Morneau, OF Marlon Byrd, 1B Garret Jones, C John Buck, SP Jeff Karstens

The Pirates will be once again depending on the emergence of its young talent to continue its run to the top of the NL Central. They finally broke through, getting into the playoffs as a Wild Card, and then beating Cincinnati in the Wild Card Game. On the arms of their super rookie Gerrit Cole, the Pirates took the Cardinals to five games before Adam Wainwright did them in with the series on the line.

Their pitching staff was their hallmark last season once again, this time reinforced from the minor leagues. Much like the Cardinals did, the Pirates had several pitchers make starts. Their performance is definitely a credit to Russell Martin, the Pirates’ catcher who is known for his ability to handle pitching staffs. But this year they will be lacking AJ Burnett, who has headed that rotation the last two years. They will be hoping that Francisco Liriano and Gerrit Cole create the Pirates’ new 1-2 punch and that Wandy Rodriguez will be able to stay off the DL. Continue reading

The 2014 Cincinnati Reds

Continuing the NL Central Preview series, I am taking a look at each of the NL Central clubs and looking at their additions and figuring out what I project they could do in 2014.

2013 Results: 90-72, 7 games back
Key Arrivals: 2B Skip Schumaker, C Brayan Pena
Key Departures: OF Shin-Soo Choo, RHP Bronson Arroyo, C Ryan Hanigan, SS Cesar Izturis

The Reds were a lucky team in 2013. They managed to stay relatively healthy. Four of their five starters made more than 30 starts. Six of their eight position players started over 150 games. After they lost the Wild Card Game to the Pirates, the Reds decided to fire manager Dusty Baker. In his place, they promoted pitching coach Bryan Price to his first major league management position.

The Reds offense was rolling in 2013 thanks to the .423 by Shin-Soo Choo leading off games for them. Joey Votto struggled though, only racking up 73 RBI despite playing in all 162 games. The Reds also had a very top heavy lineup with Votto, Choo, and Jay Bruce being the only three Reds starters to post an above average OPS+. Replacing Choo in the lineup this year will be base stealing threat Billy Hamilton. Hamilton may be a quality player, but those are big shoes to fill offensively in center field. Continue reading

The 2014 Milwaukee Brewers

Continuing the NL Central Preview series, I am taking a look at each of the NL Central clubs and looking at their additions and figuring out what I project they could do in 2014.

2013 Results: 74-88, 23 games back
Key Arrivals: SP Matt Garza, RP Will Smith, 2B Elian Herrera, 1B Mark Reynolds
Key Departures: RF Norichika Aoki, Mat Gamel

The Milwaukee Brewers are an interesting look for 2014. The 2013 Brewers weren’t really good at anything. They stacked up 19th in hitting and 16th in pitching. None of that really explains why I think the 2014 Brewers are going to be as good as I do.

For starters, let’s begin with the return of Ryan Braun. Hopefully all the steroid controversy is behind him and the team this season and he can stay clean the rest of his career. The upside for Milwaukee was the emergence of Khris Davis who took Braun’s spot in the lineup. Davis hit .279/.353/.596 with 11 HR and 27 RBI over the 56 games. The emergence of Davis also freed up the Brewers to deal Norichika Aoki to the Royals for some pitching help. The Brewers should have both Braun and Davis in the lineup this season and that should be a big addition to a lineup that has lacked punch alongside Ramirez. Continue reading

The 2014 Chicago Cubs

Continuing the NL Central Preview series, I am taking a look at each of the NL Central clubs and looking at their additions and figuring out what I project they could do in 2014.

2013 Results: 66-96, 31 games back
Key Arrivals: C George Kottaras, CF Justin Ruggiano, LHP Wesley Wright, RHP Jose Veras, RHP Jason Hammel, RHP James McDonald, 2B Emilio Bonifacio
Key Departures: RHP Kevin Gregg, RHP Scott Baker, RHP Daniel Bard, 1B Mat Gamel, LF Brian Bogusevic

For the Cubs, 2014 looks like it’ll be another rebuilding season. “Just wait until next year,” continues to be the Cubs’ rallying cry as fans joked that their biggest offseason addition was Clark the Cub, the team’s new official mascot.

After two years as the manager of the Cubs where a team with an incredibly bare cupboard lost, Dale Sveum was let go as manager. The team brought in a first time manager in Rick Renteria. It wasn’t a move I thought highly of. I like Sveum as a manager and it wasn’t his fault that the team was losing. I don’t think there was a person in the world who expected the Cubs to do any better than they did. Continue reading