Approval Ratings: July

In this series, I poll all the Cardinals fans that I can get to take my Approval Rating survey, utilizing Cardinals’ forums and Twitter. Unfortunately, July’s ratings were much delayed form where they should have been, with the polling taking place in the second week of August. Obviously that will effect some of the results with a week and a half of performance from August. However, I will make every effort to get August’s ratings up at the correct time.

For Cardinals’ fans, they loved some Lance-Squared as I’ve heard them referred to. That would be the combination of Lance Berkman and Lance Lynn. The pair were the highest rated Cardinals of July, receiving an 8.8 rating. For both Berkman and Lynn it is the second straight month that they have maintained their position atop the ratings for hitters and pitchers, respectively.

And who can really blame them? Lance Berkman has been the best free agent signing of last offseason. He’s currently hitting just under .300, nearly 30 home runs, and will have a shot at 100 RBI. I think it’s safe to say that absolutely nobody outside of a psychiatric ward expected that kind of performance out him this season, including himself.

For Lance Lynn, he got two spot starts in St. Louis before being recalled a few weeks later to pitch out of the bullpen. Lynn owned that move. While some pitchers might have been effected by the perceived “demotion” to the bullpen, Lynn took his position and dominated. It wasn’t rare for him to come into games, blazing that upper-90s fastball across the plate, and getting strikeout after strikeout. It really hurt the bullpen when Lynn went on the disabled list.

The three highest rated position players are Berkman, Holliday with an 8.6 and Yadier Molina with an 8.0. The player who moved the needle the most this month? Positively, that would be Albert Pujols who is up 0.4 to a 7.6. On the down side is Ryan Theriot who lost ground for another month, losing 1.5 points to a 5.0.

The three highest rated pitchers were all out of the bullpen. Who really thought they could have said that a month ago? Lynn leads with his 8.8. Fernando Salas received an 8.5 while Jason Motte‘s scoreless streak that extends back into June received him an 8.0. The biggest shift was Motte, who jumped 1.8 points. The big loser on the pitching staff was Kyle Lohse, who fell 2.7 points to a 5.5 after a rough month.

Management took a hit this month. Despite pulling off a trade that moved Colby Rasmus that received a mixed response and bringing in someone to potentially solve all the major problems that faced the 2011 Cardinals, John Mozeliak dropped 0.2 points to a 6.6. Probably close enough that it could be considered a push. However, it was Tony LaRussa whose approval rating plunged 1.1 points to a 5.5, his lowest score of the season.

We also had five debuts on the list this month. Rafael Furcal debuts with an 8.0, Octavio Dotel with a 7.5, Marc Rzepczynski with a 7.3, Corey Patterson with a 5.8, and Edwin Jackson receives a 5.6.

As with every approval ratings, I like to ask some questions to gauge the response of Cardinal Nation. We will start with the trade deadline talk.

The Cardinals made two moves at the deadline. One involved a package headed by Colby Rasmus being traded to the Toronto Blue Jays for Jackson, Rzepczynski, Dotel, and Patterson. The trade is also rumored to include cash or 3 players to be named later. You also have to consider the potential draft picks that the Cardinals will receive in compensation for Jackson. The response on this trade was a complete push with Cardinal Nation split on the idea. For 2012 and beyond, I question it’s value, but for 2011 it was the best option the Cardinals had on the table.

Rafael Furcal’s trade was received much more favorably. The Cardinals dealt minor league outfielder Alex Castellanos (who is killing it in AA for the Dodgers since the trade, by the wya) for the veteran Furcal who was designed to solidify the defense at shortstop. 90% of responders liked the trade with 10% saying that they didn’t.

As the August 31st waiver trade deadline approaches, the question is obviously posed whether the Cardinals will attempt to make another deal to further solidify the team. As the potential double-digit deficit stares the Cardinals in the face, they may not now. 57% of responders think the Cardinals will not make another move, with the remaining 43% expecting at least one more acquisition.

Then, to the question that is on everyone’s mind as the end of the season looms. Are the Cardinals destined for the playoffs? 95% of responders think that the Cardinals will not win the NL Wild Card. However, 62% of responders think that the Cardinals will win the NL Central. Combining the two figures, that gives us 67% of fans who think the Cardinals will still make the playoffs. You gotta believe!

Keep an eye out for the August Approval Ratings survey coming late next week.

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Cardinals Young Pups Report – August

The Cards newest member to the Organization is their 2nd Round Pick Charlie Tilson who signed at the deadline on August 15th for well over two times the recommended slot.  He is one of the more exciting picks we made in the 2011 Draft.  Welcome to the Cards Organization young man!

As the Minor League seasons are coming down the home stretch for 2011 Cards fans have to be very pleased with our system overall.  We have had a very few major disappointments and so many guys that have taken a huge step forward.  For the ranking nerds it is highly likely that the Cards system will be a Top 10 system going into 2012 which is a huge jump forward.  Let’s highlight a few of the guys on both ends of the spectrum.

The Bad:

1)  Seth Blair – RHP – The biggest disappointment in the 2011 season has to be Seth Blair and his inability to show any level of control of his pitches.  As a high draft pick you are have some many eyes on you at all times.  Blair has just over 74IP and a astounding 61BB, 11WP and 14HBP to go along with his over 5 ERA.  If you want to have a glass is half full approach then you will look at his 67K’s and convince yourself that with all the BB, WP and HBP it is remarkable he only has a 5 ERA.  Reality is he has had a TERRIBLE year.

2)  Adam Reifer – RHP – Reifer had a breakthrough 2010 campaign and showing why so many Cards prospect nerds were so high on his stuff.  Unfortunately he only had the opportunity to pitch 6+ innings in 2011 before injuring his knee and having season ending surgery.  In a year our bullpen REALLY needed some help it would have been great to have him as an option mid-year.

3)  Deryk Hooker – RHP – After a dynamite 2010 where Hooker had an ERA of just under 3 and over a K/IP he follows that up with a terrible 2011 season.  He has given up way too many hits and given up too many free passes.  That combine has lead to just under a 5.50 ERA and only 1 win.  To his credit injuries have played a part in his bad season.  I had him as being right behind Shelby Miller in the predictions of the Cards Minor League Pitcher of the Year award for 2011…DOH!

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Rockies @ Cards Notebook

Luckily the Cardinals were able to salvage at least one win out of the three-game series against the NL Central leading Brewers, leaving them just 4 back of the Brewers entering play today. While the Brewers head home to play Pittsburgh, the Colorado Rockies come to town for the Cardinals.

In tonight’s game, Kyle Lohse (9-7, 3.45) will match up against Aaron Cook (2-6, 5.05). Saturday will feature Jaime Garcia (10-5, 3.23) against Jason Hammel (6-11, 5.14). The final game in the series looks to be Edwin Jackson (1-1, 4.95) against Esmil Rogers (6-1, 5.85). The Cardinals took 2 out of 3 the last time these two teams matched up back in May in Colorado.

Holliday day-to-day with back injury. There is still no determination on just when to expect Matt Holliday back in the lineup. So far Holliday has missed two games with the injury. Back injuries are strange beasts. Sometimes they are good to go the next day, sometimes it takes a week or more. From what I’ve read, it seems like he may be back after this series with the Rockies.

The only potential positive out of this is that Allen Craig is back with the big club. While he’s been an ice cold 0-for-7 in two starts since returning, this gives him some playing time to get back on track after an extended amount of time off.  [click to continue…]

Cardinals add veteran Rhodes

The Cardinals announced tonight that they have signed left handed reliever Arthur Rhodes. The 41 year old Rhodes was released by the Texas Rangers earlier this week after compiling a 4.81 ERA in 32 appearances for the Rangers.

The veteran left hander was taking his time to choose because he wanted a team that was in contention with the hopes of a playoff shot.

The Cardinals bullpen has lacked a quality left handed reliever for most of the season. With recent acquisition Marc Rzepczynski capable of being a multiple hitter pitcher, the Cardinals lacked a true LOOGY and a guy that they could use in strategy situations against a quality left handed hitter without wasting Rzepczynski.

When you look at Rhodes’ platoon splits, while he gets lit up by right handed hitters to a tune of a .333 batting average, .365 on base percentage and .633 slugging percentage, he has been pretty good against left handed hitters. Those stats are a .216 batting average, .310 on base percentage, and a .405 slugging percentage. Good enough to fit the role and give Tony LaRussa a layer of strategy in the late innings (if he actually utilizes the lefty-lefty matchup correctly, that is). [click to continue…]

Craig is back, Lynn to the DL

It’s a good news, bad news kind of day for the St. Louis Cardinals. Allen Craig was activated off the disabled list while Lance Lynn will hit the disabled list with an oblique strain.

Since returning to St. Louis after a few spot starts for Kyle McClellan, Lance Lynn has established himself a go-to late innings guy in the bullpen. In the 24 1/3 innings he posted in the St. Louis bullpen since June 24th, Lynn has a 2.22 ERA, has allowed just 8 walks, and has opponents hitting just .176 off of him. In the last 14 days, opponents were hitting just .083 against him in 7 2/3 innings. Dominant.

On Tuesday night in the top of the 9th inning in a 3-3 ballgame, Lynn was closing in on his second 1-2-3 inning of relief. He had faced 5 batters, had three strikeouts and was cruising. Then on a 3-2 pitch to George Kottaras he grabbed his side and the pitch ended up as a ball, walking Kottaras. Octavio Dotel, a Cardinal for just two weeks, came in to close out the inning and keep the game tied.

For the Cardinals it was a stunning loss, but it had the ability to be much worse. Just sit for a moment and consider just where the Cardinals’ bullpen would be if the team hadn’t made the moves at the trade deadline to acquire Edwin Jackson, Octavio Dotel, and Marc Rzepczynski. Nowhere pretty, that’s for sure. [click to continue…]