Praising Neshek

Mention Pat Neshek to a Cardinals fan and you’ll no doubt get a positive reaction. “He’s having a good year.” “He deserved that All Star nod.” The 33 year old veteran relief pitcher that the Cardinals signed on a flier in Spring Training made the team and has put together a great season. However, just how great that season has been has flown under the radar.

As we approach the end of July, roughly 2/3rds of the way through the season, Neshek is sporting a 0.85 ERA and a 0.638 WHIP over just over 42 innings of work, both league leading numbers among relievers with more than 30 innings pitched. He has a 428 ERA+. For those who don’t know what ERA+ is, it’s an attempt to normalize ERA for league and park factors. An even 100 ERA+ means a league average pitcher. For Neshek’s 428, which leads the league as well, it means he is more than 4x as good as the league average pitcher this year.

But Neshek hasn’t just been arguably the best relief pitcher in baseball this season, you can make a case that it is among the best seasons for a reliever in the history of baseball. A couple of weeks ago, wondering just how good Neshek has been, I plugged it into the Baseball Reference Play Index tool (if you’re a stat-head like me, best $36 I ever spent). I asked it how many relief pitchers had thrown more than 30 innings with an ERA below 1.00 and a WHIP below 0.75. There were three. [click to continue…]

Cardinals set to add Pierzynski

The latest news for Cardinal Nation is that A.J. Pierzynski is already in Chicago and an announcement of the signing will be made before tomorrow afternoon’s game. The news came this afternoon that George Kottaras had reportedly cleaned out his locker after less than two weeks with the club after being claimed off waivers by the Cardinals on the 11th of July. Kottaras caught just 11 innings for the team.

The Cardinals are in a hunt for catching help and earlier today were rumored to be  in negotiations to acquire Minnesota’s Kurt Suzuki. I felt he would be the best fit, as I mentioned him a couple weeks ago. Perhaps the price got a little high for the Cardinals as the Orioles were also rumored to be in pursuit.

Tony Cruz, the club’s backup catcher the past three seasons, was given the first opportunity to stake his claim to the lineup spot. However, like most Cardinals’ hitters this season, he wasn’t hitting nearly enough. He has posted a .167 batting average since Yadier Molina went on the disabled list. The pitching staff also has a 4.06 ERA since Molina went down. Combine all that, and the club began seriously searching the catching market. [click to continue…]

Taveras getting plenty of opportunity

There seems to be a common refrain among Cardinals fans and even the media, it seems. Oscar Taveras isn’t getting an opportunity to play in St. Louis. Mike Matheny is showing his loyalty to Allen Craig by giving him most of the playing time. That’d be all well and great. If it were true. Funny how nobody bought the concept that there wasn’t playing time for him in April and May. It was all about Super Two!

Oscar Taveras was called up July 1st. Since that date there have been 17 games played. Taveras has started 10 of them and pinch hit in another 5. Allen Craig has started 11, yes that is one more start, but I expect Taveras to start tomorrow night. After all, we’re talking about a fairly even split in playing time.

If Taveras wants more playing time, the solution is simple because he controls his own destiny. He needs to hit! It shouldn’t surprise anyone that with fairly equal performance, he’s getting an equal split of playing time with Craig. [click to continue…]

Instant Replay needs some camera work

I’m watching tonight’s St. Louis Cardinals game and Matt Holliday ripped a ball right down the line that was called foul. The Cardinals challenged the call, which eventually stood, but it shows a massive problem that I have with the instant replay system in baseball.

If you haven’t noticed, some of the camera angles in baseball are great for watching the game, but horrible for actually determining things with precision. Like, there is no camera shot directly down the foul line to help determine whether the ball was fair or foul on review. Instead, the guy making the decision has to look for chalk being kicked up and distinguish it from grass. A ridiculously difficult judgement call, regardless of how high definition your cameras are.

In order to make the best and most accurate calls on review, Major League Baseball needs to review some camera positioning. We need an overhead shot of home plate and probably every base. We need cameras down each foul line. Hopefully someone at Major League Baseball will be reviewing every call reviewed and find better camera angles to determine whether the call was correct and work to correct it during the offseason. Otherwise most reviews will end up being a farce because there will never be enough evidence to overturn a call because the camera angles are ambiguous.

Bean balls, Rosenthal and a pinch hitter

I hate bean ball battles. Reading quotes from the Dodgers after last night’s game, they seem to be saying that hitting batters accidentally is bad, but hitting batters intentionally is absolutely okay. That makes total sense right?

Anyone who actually watched last night’s game knows that there was only one intentionally hit batter, and the pitcher who hit him was wearing Dodger blue. To me that erodes the moral high ground they are attempting to claim.

Furthermore, why do umpires even bother warning teams after the first intentionally hit batter? Why not immediately eject anyone you think intentionally hit a batter in the first place? Why not eject Kershaw and Mattingly for hitting Matt Holliday? It seems a little unfair that the Dodgers get to start the war, but are protected from being retaliated against. If an umpire feels like a batter was hit intentionally, he should immediately eject the pitcher. Anything less is stupid and makes baseball look like a farce.

Pitching inside is necessary in baseball. As a batter, if you don’t want to be hit you are capable of stepping back in the box. It works both ways. [click to continue…]