Tag Archives: Colby Rasmus

Rangers steal Game 2

As I said after the game on Twitter, I expected the Cardinals to lose this one. Just not the way they did.

By all accounts Jaime Garcia should have been lit up by the Texas Rangers offense that can be easily considered to be the best offensively producing team against left handed pitchers in the entire major leagues this season. Instead, Garcia turned in what was probably his best pitching performance since a two-hit complete game shutout that he threw on May 6th against Milwaukee. It was probably in the top-3 of his pitching performances of the year, and if you consider the circumstances around it, quite possibly the best.

In his 7 innings on the mound, Garcia held the Rangers at bay with just 3 hits and a walk, along with 7 strikeouts.

He issued a leadoff walk to Ian Kinsler in the top of the fourth that nearly came around to bite him, but he caught Adrian Beltre swinging on strike 3. In fact, Kinsler, who walked and then made it to third on a single by Michael Young, was the only Rangers player to make it past first base until the 9th inning.

Cardinals fans felt like they had to be watching a replay when in the bottom of the 7th of a tie game, Tony LaRussa brought out Allen Craig to pinch hit. Ron Washington, going with the definition of insanity (repeating the same process and expecting a different outcome), brought out Alexi Ogando who Craig singled off of to drive home the go-ahead run in Game 1. With Freese on third this time and Punto on first after a pair of singles, Craig singled to right field again, scoring Freese for a 1-0 Cardinals lead.

At that moment, I felt like Craig had virtually clinched a shot at World Series MVP, if the Cardinals won the series, in just two at bats. It was going to be tough to beat a guy who was 2-for-2 with 2 game winning RBI.

Fernando Salas struck out Mike Napoli in the Rangers half of the 8th. Then Marc Rzepczynski came out and struck out Yorvit Torrealba (potentially ending the talk that he was the better option in Game 1?) and then faced Esteban German again, who grounded out to Albert Pujols.

In the bottom of the 8th, the Cardinals threatened to add an insurance run to the board. Mike Adams got Jon Jay and Albert Pujols to fly out to start the inning, but Lance Berkman followed that up with a single before Matt Holliday walked. Up to the plate came Daniel Descalso, who had been one of the Cardinals’ best clutch hitters earlier in the season, but Adams got Descalso to ground out to second base.

With the 1-0 game, Tony LaRussa went to Jason Motte once again. Once again back in the no-doubles defense (a throwback to the 2009 NLDS Game 2 where Holliday misplayed a ball that resulted in a Dodgers rally and victory), Ian Kinsler popped one up. It was just out of the reach of Furcal as he ranged back and Holliday was a few steps short of catching it. Had he been playing regular depth, Holliday catches the ball without an issue and we have 1 out in the 9th. Instead, Kinsler is standing on first base.

While the next batter Elvis Andrus looked at bunting, Kinsler took off and stole second base. That took the bunt off and Andrus wasted no time in hitting a line drive to Jon Jay for his own single that put the tying run in Kinsler at third base with no out.

On the same play, Andrus was able to advance to second on the throw after a couple miscues by the Cardinals that have resulted in a bit of a furor about it. Jon Jay’s throw was wide of the plate and Pujols had a chance to cut off the play and keep Kinsler at third and Andrus at first, but he missed the ball and it ended up rolling the rest of the way to Molina. More on the furor later.

That misplay ended up being the key ingredient in the Rangers win.

LaRussa went out to the mound to bring in Arthur Rhodes to replace Motte to face the left handed Josh Hamilton. Hamilton hit a sacrifice fly to Schumaker in right field that scored Kinsler and advanced Andrus. 1-1, tie game.

LaRussa went back to the mound to bring in Lance Lynn for his first World Series appearance. It was a good move considering that Lynn is far more of a strikeout threat than Rhodes and you don’t want them hitting the ball and scoring the go-ahead run. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what Michael Young did. He hit a sacrifice fly to Jon Jay that allowed Andrus to score on the tag up.

Lynn then got Beltre to ground out to third base, but the damage was done and the Rangers were up 2-1 with Molina, Punto, and Schumaker due up in the bottom of the 9th with Berkman and Freese already out of the game.

With Rangers closer Neftali Feliz entering the game with his 100 mph fastball, the Cardinals spent the entire inning struggling. He initially struggled to find his command though, walking Yadier Molina. Watching the inning, I felt that Feliz never really regained his command, but despite that, struck out Nick Punto (who failed twice to bunt) and Skip Schumaker. Feliz would then get Rafael Furcal to fly out to right field to end the game and let the Rangers notch one of their own in the win column.

According to MLB.com, Feliz threw all fastballs in that 9th inning, none slower than 97 miles per hour. He is a true flamethrower.

After two games, the series will head to Texas and the Ballpark in Arlington where it’s now become a Best of 5 and the Rangers have home field advantage. The Rangers are the second best home team in baseball and the Cardinals are the second best road team in baseball. Arlington also happens to be an extremely hitter friendly park, so it’s safe to say that we’ll probably see more offense over the next three games than we have.

Finally, to discuss the aftermath of the play in the top of the 9th. This morning Jeff Passan wrote a piece about Pujols’ leadership after the loss, or lack thereof. Apparently by the time the St. Louis Cardinals’ clubhouse opened up to the media, Pujols had showered and left. So had Berkman, Holliday, and Molina. The four of them leaving their younger teammates to answer questions about what went wrong in a heartbreaking ninth inning collapse.

This experience illustrates exactly what I’ve been saying about Pujols and the Cardinals for the last few years, really since the 2009 season. Pujols is not a leader, well maybe a (9, 1) leader on the managerial grid. He is very much let’s his work ethic and on field performance speak for him. He’s not the type of leader who will help motivate the players around him. There are stars in sports who are great players, and then there are stars in sports who elevate those around them. Pujols is the former. A guy like Peyton Manning is the latter.

But the issue becomes as well, that as long as Pujols is a Cardinal and as long as he is the highest paid and longest tenured player on the roster, nobody is going to potentially step on his toes and step up to take that role. As we heard during the 2006 run to the playoffs, it was Jim Edmonds who stepped up to motivate the team. Edmonds was the veteran, he had the paycheck and the tenure to do it.

The second thing is that there is a seeming divide between the veterans and the younger players. Colby Rasmus was a big illustration of this to me. Pujols was quoted as saying that he’d talked to him maybe 2-3 times the entire time they played together. So basically, what Pujols just said is that he spends at least 162 days a year with 12 guys, they played together for two and a half years (almost 450 games) and they only talked 2-3 times? I know Rasmus keeps to himself, but really?

I have zero problem with Pujols snubbing the media. As many have said as we’ve had fan forum debates on it that the players owe the media nothing unless outlined in Major League Baseball rules.

Where my problem lies is that he left his teammates holding the bag, and it’s not the first time we’ve heard this story about Pujols.

My problem is that you can bet your tail that if Pujols had hit a walk off grand slam that he would have stayed to make sure every reporter’s questions about it got answered while he basked in the glow of success with that trademark grin on his face. On the other hand, when he fails and a misplay by him ultimately costs the Cardinals the game, he cuts out early and leaves his teammates to answer questions about the tough loss.

When you don’t have players who have each other’s backs, you create poison in the locker room. This sort of thing is the #1 reason why I feel the Cardinals have underperformed over the last three years. Team psychology during the season, and even more so the playoffs, is a critical thing. Passan asked a remaining Cardinals’ player about why Pujols left and he shrugged his shoulders and dodged the question about how he felt about it. I have a feeling his response would have been something to the effect of, “It is what it is.”

This kind of thing can be the catalyst that breaks a team. And if it does, that is all on Albert Pujols for hanging his teammates out when he should have been the one to accept his failures and man up to them to set the example for the rest of his teammates. That’s what being a leader and a man is all about.

I hope the team proves me wrong on Saturday night by going out and getting another win.

Looking at 2012: Part 3

It’s tomorrow! Well, maybe not. I’m continuing the “Looking at 2012″ series that I began nearly three weeks ago before life got crazy for me. In part one, I overviewed the Cardinals biggest question and some of the decisions that they’ll have to make in the offseason. In part two, I talked about players with contract options and what I think the Cardinals will do and ought to do with them. Now in part three, I will talk about some of the young talent that we expect to contribute to the 2012 Cardinals.

We can start with the two that we already expect to be starting everyday for the 2012 St. Louis Cardinals. Those would be David Freese and Jon Jay.

Despite a couple injuries as a result of being hit by pitches, Freese stayed healthy this season. Freese has surpassed last year’s appearances and he has managed to duplicate his batting average, small drop in his on base percentage, but he is hitting for more power which provides some interest for the Cardinals going into next season if he can continue developing. It’s very possible that Freese turns into a guy who will flirt with .300 and hit 20 home runs a season. In today’s MLB that’s a pretty good player. Only 24 players in the majors have hit more than 20 home runs this season. Only one of which is a third baseman. Looking at the stats, Freese could potentially slot in as one of the top-5 third basemen in the major leagues next season.

Meanwhile Jon Jay has proved himself capable of playing everyday for the Cardinals. After going into a slump immediately following the trade of Colby Rasmus, much like he’d done in 2010 when the Cardinals dealt Ryan Ludwick to play him everyday. There was question whether he could handle that. He has, as he has hit .309 with 3 HR and 10 RBI. A decrease in his OBP has me a little concerned, but he’s gotten over the initial hump of the pressure and has become the player in that position we expected him to be when the Cardinals decided they could trade Colby Rasmus.

The other two guys that deserve consideration are Allen Craig and Daniel Descalso.

Allen Craig has been a polarizing player for Cardinals fans. Many look at his minor league statistics and see a guy who consistently hit .300 with 20 HRs over the last few years. He’s a hitter without a position, but provides solid enough defense in the outfield or at first base. Originally drafted as a short stop, he could also become an interesting candidate at second base going into next season. This season, though missing a large part of the season thanks to a broken knee cap, he played a pivotal role through the first injury to Matt Holliday and was poised to do it again before he got injured. Now he’s looking like the regular left fielder until Holliday returns from his hand injury, if he even does. His stats show a capable player, and I don’t think there’s any reason that he can’t turn into that .300, 25 HR guy that he’s been in the minor leagues. He just needs a place to play and that’s easier said than done.

The other is Daniel Descalso who has played a key role through the season. “Mr. Late & Close” became his nickname as he hits .373 with a .413 on base percentage in Late & Close situations. With a man on 3rd and 2 outs, Descalso hits .357. He has a laser gun for an arm too and has proven himself the perfect guy to spell David Freese at third base and is a solid utility guy around the infield for the team. Personally, I think Descalso could be the solution at short stop for the future. While it’s true that he has a handful of errors there during his small number of chances this season, to me, those seem more like errors that are simply due to inexperience at the position rather than actual inability. He has the potential to be just as good, if not better, than Brendan Ryan, and those who know me know that I am a huge Brendan Ryan supporter.

After looking at the offense, the bullpen is full of young contributors. Fernando Salas, Eduardo Sanchez, Marc Rzepczynski and Lance Lynn lead the field there.

Fernando Salas closed in 2008 in Springfield, closed in 2010 in Memphis, and earned the closer’s role in St. Louis in 2011. He continued to prove himself a solid closer, but got a little homer happy during the summer which led Tony LaRussa to experiment with Jason Motte in the closer’s role in September. However, that likely has more to do with Motte’s hot streak than Salas’ troubles. While many fans talked about bringing in an established closer through the summer, Salas’ numbers were better than all considered for most of it. He has shown that he is a one inning pitcher though. When I looked the other day, he had roughly a 1.80 ERA in his first inning of an appearance but beyond that he had a nearly 8.00 ERA. Certainly not pretty.

Eduardo Sanchez was another pitcher that provided Cardinals fans with excitement earlier this season while the team was struggling to find reliable bullpen arms. With his wicked slider, Sanchez was fooling major league hitters for two months before going down with what was initially termed shoulder fatigue. After an abbreviated rehab assignment, he hit the disabled list again. He’s rejoined the Cardinals now, but it’s unlikely that he will get a chance down the stretch. The issue with Sanchez was that eventually major league hitters realized that he couldn’t consistently throw the slider for a called strike, so they laid off it and got him into some trouble near the end of his time. With a chance to hit spring training as an expected contender for the 2012 bullpen, Sanchez should be able to work on that slider and figure out what he needs to do. He’s probably the most exciting pitcher the Cardinals have and I think many agree with me that he has the best pure stuff in the bullpen.

Marc¬†Rzepczynski¬†was acquired in the Colby Rasmus trade and provides something that the Cardinals haven’t been able to produce: a quality left handed reliever. However, there is also the potential that he could jump to the rotation eventually as both the Blue Jays and the Cardinals consider him starting material. However, the rotation is set for next year and that means that Rzepczynski is back in the ‘pen for 2012. While Zep has been good this season for the Cardinals, he hasn’t been as dominating, but that could be attributed to being used more often as a regular reliever under LaRussa than he was in Toronto.

Finally, Lance Lynn was a starter for Memphis and Tony LaRussa has said that he has the stuff to be a starter in the major leagues. However, when he was called up to fill a spot in the bullpen he made it his own. He quickly became one of the best pitchers that the Cardinals had in the bullpen and solidified an 8th inning role. That was until an apparent oblique injury. There is no reason to expect that Lance Lynn cannot assume a major role in the 2012 bullpen again.

Now the lesser known guys.

Tony Cruz is definitely someone I can see being a contributor to the 2012 team. He spent a lot of time in St. Louis over the summer, and could be the guy that takes the backup catcher job and potentially position himself to be the successor to Yadier Molina. It’s big that he and Carpenter were paired together a few times over the summer too, with Cruz behind the plate. It would be a cheap way to fill that role and save a few bucks as they attempt to spend to keep some of the starting level talent on the team.

Adron Chambers and Andrew Brown should be putting their names in the hat as a fourth or fifth outfielder. Chambers’ advantage is that he can play all three outfield positions. Brown’s advantage is that he is right handed and has more power. So it really depends which average the Cardinals would like to go, defense and speed with Chambers or right handed and power with Brown. Both are on the cusp of being ready and if we’re looking at a Holliday/Jay/Craig outfield next season, you know that there will be some at bats available in the outfield.

There aren’t a huge number of young guys who I expect to contribute next season. Just those who really made a small mark this season. There is a little bit of a talent gap in the Cardinals minor league system, in my opinion, for about the next year or so. This creates a fairly large question for the Cardinals as they potentially have to deal with injury questions in 2012. Who gets the call to absorb the impact?

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Jackson making his case

Cue the Edwin Jackson stories, it seems. Had all my notes out to write this and in the last 24 hours I’ve seen three or four stories on him and his impending free agent status.

Since coming to the Cardinals as part of the 8 player trade with the the Toronto Blue Jays that involved Colby Rasmus, Edwin Jackson has blinked once and been phenomenal the rest of the time. In his 8 starts, he has a 3.44 ERA, a 4-2 record and averages 6.54 innings per start. If you take out the one start in Milwaukee where he got bombed for 8 earned runs over 7 innings, that ERA drops to 2.36. That’s a sparkly small ERA.

It also makes him the Cardinals’ best starting pitcher in those last 8 starts.

Jackson: 4-2, 3.44 ERA, 6.54 IP/GS
Westbrook: 3-3, 3.99 ERA, 6.21 IP/GS
Carpenter: 2-2, 4.44 ERA, 6.58 IP/GS
Lohse: 4-2, 4.95 ERA, 5.00 IP/GS
Garcia: 2-3, 5.12 ERA, 5.70 IP/GS

However you stack it up, Jackson has done exactly what the Cardinals needed him to do.

So he gives the Cardinals an interesting question going into 2012. The typical idea is that the Cardinals will need to acquire another starting pitcher, whether that is retaining Chris Carpenter or Edwin Jackson, giving a young guy a shot in the rotation, or finding someone in free agent to fill the slot.

Over the last month, Jackson has pitches his way into the 2012 plans, in my opinion. He is making $8.3 million on a two-year contract that bought out his final two years of arbitration. This is his first splash in free agency and has Scott Boras as his agent. Because of that, I doubt we get any action on him before the start of free agency. Unless Jackson directs Boras to make him a Cardinal, he’s likely going elsewhere because a player doesn’t keep Scott Boras as his agent unless he wants big money.

Just a few days from his 28th birthday, Jackson could command decent money, especially with his strong finish to the season. However, I’d be willing to offer him about a 3 year, $35 million deal. It’s a raise and locks him in. If he turns into the pitcher Dave Duncan thinks he can be, it will be a heckuva deal for the Cardinals.

Look around the league at the best teams. They all have great starting pitching. The Cardinals need to solidify that rotation, even if it is at the expense of their offense, in order to contend.

Cardinals’ GM John Mozeliak recently told the Post-Dispatch’s Joe Strauss that they hope to retain Rafael Furcal next season. Is there similar interest in retaining Edwin Jackson? Personally, I’m not sure the Cardinals can afford to let him go. I know, I led the “Just say No to Edwin Jackson” campaign when the trade rumors came up. His performance has changed my mind.

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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After the dust has settled

The MLB non-waiver trade deadline came and went at 4 p.m. eastern time yesterday afternoon. It seemed like every contender added pieces from non-contenders as they attempted to solidify their position on top, or as a challenger of, a division. After the dust has settled and the moves have had a chance to percolate, who made the best moves in the NL Central? Certainly the Cardinals were active, but so were the other teams in the NL Central. Each one making a trade over the last week. Let’s take a look at their moves and determine who was the big winner. We’ll start at the bottom, just to build up the suspense.

Houston Astros (24.5 games back)

The Astros were one of the busiest teams on deadline day, but they weren’t buyers. The NL Central’s cellar dwellars made big moves, dealing both Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn over the last three days. The Astros made out like an arms dealer selling to both sides, sending Pence to NL East leading Philadelphia and Bourn to NL East runner-up Atlanta. The two trades will bring the Astros a total of eight prospects, seven of them named and one other that will be named later.

They were even very close to dealing their #1 starter, Wandy Rodriguez, to the Indians at the deadline before that deal fell apart. However, many expect that Rodriguez could still be moved during the waiver trade deadline. However, with that contract, I’m thinking he will have a hard time reaching a division leader. He has a very club friendly contract and may not be heading anywhere this year because of that. A pitcher with his history, talent, and contract will be very attractive to a handful of clubs, some of which may not even be in contention.

For the Astros, this won’t help them this year, but there is hope that it will help them in the years to come. Houston is clearly rebuilding right now and 3 years down the road, this trade could pay off big time. The question will be, will Ed Wade and Brad Mills be around to reap the benefits? Continue reading

Rasmus dealt to Blue Jays

The news has hit the major media outlets. Colby Rasmus is no longer a St. Louis Cardinal. Neither is Trever Miller or P.J. Walters either.

It’s a trade that’s not getting a lot of love from any fans that I know of. And those who are somewhat positive about the deal, still think we didn’t get enough in return for the 24 year old former first round draft pick.

The trade that will send Rasmus, Miller, and Walters to Toronto will bring in four players to the St. Louis Cardinals. Those players are Edwin Jackson, Octavio Dotel, Marc Rzepczynski, and Corey Patterson.

Not very exciting at all to fans, especially after rumors of Tampa Bay’s offering of Jeff Niemann, Wade Davis, or Alex Cobb in return for Rasmus.

Edwin Jackson, 27, is the centerpiece of the return parts, if you can call him that. He has a 3.92 ERA and a 7-7 record this season in 19 starts for the White Sox. Toronto finalized a deal to acquire Jackson this morning with the hopes of flipping him to the Cardinals. Jackson is in the final year of a two year, $12.55 million contract and profiles to be a Type-B free agent this offseason.

My concerns on Jackson are that he struggled mightily in 2010 as a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks, posting a 5.10 ERA with a 6-10 record in 21 starts before being traded to the White Sox. Can he pitch in the National League? That remains to be seen. Continue reading