Tag Archives: Daniel Descalso

Cardinals prepare for playoffs

What fans didn’t give up on the Cardinals season? You had a good portion who mailed in the Cardinals’ chances when it was announced that Adam Wainwright was due to have Tommy John surgery. Another portion who called it quits after a sweep by the Dodgers in August left the Cardinals 10 games out of the NL Central race. Yet another who saw the writing on the wall after walking away from a September series with the Brewers 8.5 games out of the Central and 6 games out of the Wild Card.  Then me. Who decided it was all over on September 26th after they lost in extra innings to the Astros.

We all know what happened next.

Injuries plagued the Braves down the stretch as they lost their top two starting pitchers, Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson, for the month of September. Many call it a choke, but just realize how many fans considered the Cardinals’ chances over when Wainwright was injured. Imagine if we lost Carpenter too.

Game 1 is scheduled for tomorrow afternoon at 5 o’clock in Philadelphia. Kyle Lohse will be on the mound and he carries a career record of 3-4 with a 3.43 ERA against the Phillies, but all three wins come at Citizen’s Bank Park. Beyond the Cardinals and the Rays, Lohse is best against the Phillies. This season, he’s 1-1 with a 1.76 ERA against the “other” red team. In his only start at Citizen’s Bank Park this year he threw 7.1 innings and was tagged with just 1 unearned run. That was just about two weeks ago.

Game 2 looks to be Chris Carpenter working on just three days rest from his dominating two-hitter against Houston on the final day of the season. The move would set him up to go in Game 5 if need be.

For the Cardinals, you have to think positive about their chances, or at least I do. This season they’ve gone 6-3 against the Phillies, 9-9 against the Brewers (5-1 in last two series’ against them, and 4-3 against the Diamondbacks. So they are .500 or better against each of the other playoff teams in their league. The only other team in the playoffs who can say that is the Tigers.

The Cardinals have some definite question marks with Matt Holliday and Rafael Furcal. However, you don’t lose much performance with Allen Craig on the field and defense is priority number one for the Cardinals at short stop, Nick Punto and Daniel Descalso can provide that well enough.

The interesting news today was that Kyle McClellan will likely be left off of the NLDS roster for the Cardinals. The club said that he has been suffering from a condition they called “dead arm.” Also the news that both Edwin Jackson and Jake Westbrook will not only make the roster, but be available in relief. Color me surprised.

Now, I didn’t know that McClellan was having arm issues, but he has been struggling with performance lately. I figured Edwin Jackson was going to get a start. Meanwhile Westbrook has struggled a bit lately and I expected him to be the one left off the roster in favor of a position player.

If I had my way, it would be a position player who brought some speed to the table like Tyler Greene or Adron Chambers. And honestly, having them both would be a benefit to this team. And instead of Westbrook, I’d be bringing along Eduardo Sanchez. I’m much more confident in Sanchez’s ability to get the job done out of the bullpen in a high leverage situation than I am about Jake Westbrook, who would be making his first relief appearance since April 19, 2004.

But, I’m not the manager (though I’d love an opportunity, Mr. Mozeliak give me a call!)

Either way, I’ll be glued to my couch and the TV as I root on the St. Louis Cardinals with everything I have over what I hope will be a prolonged playoff run.

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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Looking at 2012: Part 2

As the Cardinals near staring a 10 game deficit the topic of 2012 has once again crept into the minds of their fans. There are some huge questions hanging over the franchise as the season begins to wind down and I don’t know if there is another franchise with as much uncertainty towards next year.

In part 2 of this four now five part series, I will be looking at the players who have contract options for 2012.

The two contract options that I think may as well be considered picked up are those of Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina.

Now, just a week shy of his 30th birthday, Adam Wainwright will be coming off Tommy John surgery next year. It was reported by the Post-Dispatch that Wainwright has recently begun long toss from 120 feet, a big step in his recovery. He is expected to be cleared to throw from a mound at some point in September. A big question posed by fans is why would you take the risk of assuming the option years on Wainwright’s contract that total $21 million over the next two years and not try to renegotiate something with him to be flexible seeing as he’s coming off of injury.

The simple point is that Wainwright has all the power in that process. If the Cardinals choose not to pick up his option for 2012, he becomes a free agent at the end of this season. While many teams will be wary of the injury, there will be teams willing to spend more than the $9 million he’d be due next season to put a man who has won 39 games and posted a 2.53 ERA over his last two seasons.

In my opinion, the talent per dollar drop off for pitchers is much greater for pitchers and with the way that Tommy John surgery is becoming more and more routine these days, you don’t screw around with the potential of turning off a Cy Young caliber pitcher. You would think, at worst he’s a fifth starter pitcher which you’ll spend $9-$11 million on anyway. At best he’s the Cy Young caliber pitcher he’s been the last two years and retakes his place at the top of your rotation next year.

For Yadier Molina, he is coming off of his best season. He’s hitting over .300 and has a career high 11 HR. He has a $7 million option that would put him in the top-3 highest paid catchers in the league next year. To me it would be a no brainer to pick up the option, but there is some talk that he and the Cardinals may talk about an extension that would add years and lessen that 2012 salary number.

In my opinion, I’m nervous about the number of innings on Molina’s knees. He is on pace to put up another 1,130 innings at catcher, that’s less than the previous two years. However, under the 4 years of the last contract he signed, he will have turned in nearly 4,500 innings behind the plate. I’m willing to guess that that is the most in the majors. Can he continue to stay healthy? My guess is that he has probably 3-4 more effective years at catcher before he will need to be dialed back. The sooner you dial him back too, the longer you should be able to use him.

Now onto the question mark options. Chris Carpenter, Rafael Furcal, and Octavio Dotel.

Carpenter, 37, had a slow start this season, but much of that was attributed to a shaky defense behind him. He’s stepped it up through the summer to once again become the staff ace. There are two questions to Carpenter. First, can the Cardinals afford that $15 million option and Albert Pujols? Second, is Carpenter slowing down or can we expect 2-3 more solid years out of him and is he worth extending?

There is a lot of fan talk that the Cardinals should consider with Carpenter what the Reds did with Rolen last year. They threw in a little more money and extended him. A 1 year, $15 million contract for Carpenter makes many fans tense up. However, there is great support putting together a 2 year, $20 million deal with another $10 million option. That would extend Carpenter into his 40s and I think that he’s the type of player who would leave money on the table if he wasn’t playing as well as he should be.

Rafael Furcal is a tougher question. As of right now, the 33 year old short stop has played in 339 games since 2008. The teams that he’s been on have played 614 games. That means he played just 55% of the potential games due to injuries. He received another freak injury over the weekend at Wrigley Field by tripping over a rope in the batting cages there. The team holds a $12 million option on him that seems like a no-brainer to not exercise.

There are large health concerns with Furcal, but there is no doubt that if he’s healthy he could solidify the short stop situation for the next couple years. The pool of quality middle infielders is extremely shallow (if the Nationals have a trade market for Ian Desmond, you know the pool is shallow) so there will definitely be a market for Furcal’s services in the offseason. Ultimately, I think that will be why the Cardinals do not pursue him. If they get matched up against multiple teams wanting him, he will cost more than they are willing to invest in him. Especially when it seems Daniel Descalso can play a pretty good shortstop.

For Octavio Dotel, he is quite a cheaper option for the Cardinals at $3.5 million. It still makes him potentially the most expensive bullpen arm for the Cardinals. Dotel will be 38 next season. He has a 3.71 ERA over 165 innings the last three seasons between the White Sox, Pirates, Dodgers, Rockies, Blue Jays and Cardinals. Yes, that’s right. Six teams in three years. And he spent all of 2009 with the White Sox to boot.

I think Dotel is one of the pitchers you have to bring back for next season. With the way the bullpen is stacking up for next year, he would be one of the only true veteran relievers and that might be worthwhile having out in the bullpen with the young pitchers. Plus, if the team is intending to pull an existing reliever into next year’s rotation I would be more confident with Dotel in the bullpen than someone from Memphis. But, I’ve been surprised in that aspect before.

Since I’ve already written a ton more than I intended to for this article (I shoot for 1000 words, and I’m almost at 1100 at this point), I’m going to extend the series by a part. Tomorrow I will discuss the young, in-house talent that we can expect to contribute to the Cardinals in 2012.

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Why not Mark Buehrle?

The most popular question that seems to be coming out of the Colby Rasmus to the White Sox rumors seems to be:

Why not Mark Buehrle?

Why not Mark Buehrle, indeed. The 32 year old pitcher has 155 wins and a 3.82 ERA over his 12 seasons in the big leagues. He has thrown 200 or more innings in 10 of those, and is on pace to do it again. The fewest games he’s started when he’s been on the roster all year is 30 games. Not to mention he grew up a Cardinals fan and lives near St. Louis.

Buehrle has often spoken of his desire to play for the Cardinals before his playing days are over. He has 10/5 rights as a veteran player for the White Sox, but fans ask, wouldn’t he waive them for the Cardinals?

He probably would, and most Cardinals fans would prefer that option to Edwin Jackson, I know I would. But it ends up being the cost factor that would have the Cardinals backing out of a potential deal for Buehrle.

As it turns out, Buehrle has an option for 2012 that kicks in if he is traded. That option adds up to $16 million total. He gets an extra $1 million this year for being traded and $15 million the next year as his salary.

After the trade of Francisco Rodriguez to the Brewers, John Mozeliak was asked why the Cardinals weren’t in on the player popularly known as “K-Rod.” Mozeliak said that Rodriguez’s $17.5 million option would have handcuffed the team financially next year. So if, Rodriguez’s $17.5 million option will handcuff the team, so will Buehrle $15 million one.

Time for some number crunching to see just how true this statement turns out being. Continue reading

Performance-based play?

Trade rumors are swirling around Colby Rasmus like nothing else. Then comes the bombshell earlier in the week that Tony LaRussa will be going by performance to determine who gets playing time. What that means is that Rasmus is sitting more often and Jon Jayis getting more opportunities.

I supported that idea. I thought it was a good idea. I’d wondered aloud if maybe making Rasmus earn his starting job back would be the catalyst to get him focused.

Rasmus has just one hit since the All Star break and his hitting .133 in July. That follows up a .213 June and a .253 May. It’s been a slow decline for the former first round pick. One that has the rumor mills considering a change of scenery for the 24 year old center fielder.

His counterpart, Jon Jay, on the other hand is hitting .368 since the All Star break and an even .300 in July. Combine that with Jay providing more sound defense than Rasmus has been and you have yourself the makings of a mid-season starter swap, though LaRussa has been hesitant to call Jay the team’s new starting center fielder.

However, I was fine with everything until tonight’s game against the Pirates. It’s the top of the 9th inning and there are two out. Jason Motte came in to get the final two outs of the bottom of the 8th and the pitcher’s spot came up in the Cardinals’ half of the 9th. Up goes Motte to the plate for his fourth major league at bat. Before tonight, he was 0-for-3 with 3 strikeouts. After tonight, he is 0-for-4 with 4 strikeouts. Motte comes out to pitch the 9th, right? Wrong. Continue reading

Garcia’s extension and other notes

The big rumor out of St. Louis right now has nothing to do with potential trades, but rather retaining one of our own. No, not Albert Pujols. It seems that reports are circulating that the Cardinals and 25 year old left handed starter Jaime Garcia are closing on an four year extension.

Garcia was drafted in 2005 by the Cardinals and won the fifth starter’s role in spring training in 2010 after coming back from Tommy John surgery. He posted a 2.70 ERA over 28 starts and 163 innings. He also finished third in rookie of the year voting.

With Garcia being a potential “Super Two” during the offseason, one of a handful of players with more than two but less than three years of MLB service time who become arbitration eligible a year earlier. The four year deal would buy out his four years of arbitration and offer him two option years, according to the rumor. Something I’ve expected to happen this offseason, and very similar to the deal proposed to Adam Wainwright when he hit his arbitration years.

The rumored cost of the contract is a 4 year, $27.5 million deal with two option years. That puts the average annual value of the contract at $6.875 million per year. With the type of pitcher Garcia seems to be evolving into, this looks like a stellar deal for both the Cardinals and Garcia. The Cardinals lock up one of the top young pitchers in the game through the 2015 seasons and Garcia doesn’t have to worry about pitching for his next contract. Continue reading