Mike Matheny’s bullpen tomfoolery

Tonight the St. Louis Cardinals found a way to once again snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, courtesy of some late game decisions by manager Mike Matheny. For fear of sounding like a broken record, this is consistently one of the most troubling things about his game management to me. Unfortunately, it seems to be getting worse before it gets better.

Let’s not talk about the double switch that took Kolten Wong out of a tie baseball game when he has been 5-for-11 over the three days since he got the call back up. The same double switch that put Mark Ellis, who doesn’t even have 5 hits over the last two weeks (4-for-26), into the game.

By the point that double switch was made, the writing was already on the wall. The game was already lost. And lose it we did. The double switch was made after Trevor Rosenthal walked the bases loaded and then proceeded to walk the next guy to allow the Braves to tie up the game. After bringing in Carlos Martinez, Martinez put one to the backstop that gave the Braves the lead.

The first problem here is that the Cardinals had Martinez ready to go in the bullpen to back up Rosenthal. Why? Because they were concerned about his pitch count because this was going to be the fourth day in a row that he was going to pitch. Personally, if you have to have someone backing up your closer in the 9th inning, it seems like you already know you shouldn’t be using him in that spot. You aren’t putting him in a position to succeed. [click to continue…]

Free Oscar! Or maybe not…

With the current struggles surrounding the Cardinals’ offense there seems to be a great deal of campaigning going on for the organization to bring up top prospect Oscar Taveras because he’s absolutely killing it in Triple-A. Not as much now, but his slash line is still a very respectable .298/.351/.508 with 5 HR and 25 RBI over 31 games. He’s mixing in playing all three outfield positions to boot.

It’s been a subject of discussion for both bloggers and writers alike. Even this week Bernie Miklasz posted his “New rant on Oscar Taveras.” Bernie goes on to point out several things that make Taveras an attractive call up. I think he defeats himself in point one though.

In his first point I think he describes the exact reasoning why Taveras shouldn’t be called up. When Bernie wrote that article, Oscar’s peripheral stats weren’t all that impressive compared to his Triple-A peers. Sure his baseball card stats look great (he plays in the PCL so they better be), but lets remember that they are minor league baseball card stats. There’s no guarantee he gets close to them upon promotion and I would argue that his sub-par peripheral stats indicate to me that he is unlikely to duplicate that performance in the major leagues. [click to continue…]

Cardinals face a serious pickle

The St. Louis Cardinals fell 3-0 today to the Chicago Cubs. They have now found themselves losers in 10 of their last 16 games and won just one series over that time. While the pitching staff ranks as the fourth best in baseball, the offense has struggled to find its footing this year, enduring a major inability to consistently score runs, stacking up 24th.

At the core, the only problem that the Cardinals face is that there are a number of players on the offense who are in severe droughts at the plate. Everything else stems from that because those droughts have been allowed to become deeper because the manager is unwilling to give them the requisite playing time to let themselves work their way out of it. Kolten Wong and Peter Bourjos are just two specific instances. The organization ultimately sent Wong to Memphis so he could play to get his swing back (though seeing that he’s hitting .286, it seems it never really left it was just sitting on the bench).

Peter Bourjos is really the poster boy of the problem. Starting just a single game in the last week, yielding playing time to Jon Jay and Randal Grichuk, Bourjos doesn’t seem to be getting any opportunity to work through his funk. And after today, when Matheny shut down the potential of sending Bourjos to Memphis to get at bats to sort himself out, that doesn’t appear to be an option either. So it seems that, for the time being, the Cardinals will opt to play with a 24 man roster. [click to continue…]

Shaking up the bag

Cardinals’ GM John Mozeliak made a move last night, shaking up the bag in the hopes of generating some more offense following a rough 10 days where the offense scored very little. Outfielder Shane Robinson was optioned to Memphis in the predictable move for Randal Grichuk. The surprising move, however, was optioning Kolten Wong in favor of his former college teammate Greg Garcia.

Wong, who was the Cardinals’ starting second baseman and the future at the position just a month ago, now finds himself on a plane back to Memphis for another stint in Triple-A. Wong appeared to be turning a slow start around right before the return of Mark Ellis, his highly paid backup, off the disabled list. Ellis began getting more and more of the playing time after his arrival.

Wong is even the best hitter thus far among potential second baseman on the St. Louis roster with his .225 average. Even his last 10-day average of .167 is better than Ellis’ season .111 average and Daniel Descalso‘s .100 average. Wong also owns the last two hits by any of the three. [click to continue…]

Michael Pineda and the mystery of the shiny dark spot

Last night Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda was tossed from a game against the Boston Red Sox after a sticky substance was found on his neck. In his previous start against the Red Sox, Pineda had caught some attention for a similar patch on his palm. After the last start, Major League Baseball even warned the Yankees who then in turn warned Pineda. Apparently it didn’t work. Perhaps surprising everyone was when Boston manager John Farrell actually requested the umpire check him, unlike last time.

Now media members and baseball writers will tell us all that breaking the rules and cheating are two different things, he’s just getting more grip and it’s not an advantage, and that everyone applies something and Pineda’s only crime is doing it blatantly. Pineda says he used it because he couldn’t feel the ball and didn’t want to hit anyone. Many will hold him up as a hero, protecting his fellow players.

But more grip is an advantage for a pitcher. More grip equals more spin. More spin equals a later and tighter breaking pitch. A later breaking pitch equals a harder to hit ball. A harder to hit ball means more strikeouts and more ground balls. More strikeouts and more ground balls mean more outs, which are what the pitcher is trying to get.

I find it funny that as more information comes out about this over the last year, I now watch pitchers perform their routine ticks on the mound to see if I can spot which trick they’re using and where they’re hiding the good stuff. On most pitchers you can spot it if you’re paying attention. And if you get caught, you deserve everything that you get (and probably more).