On Sunday afternoon the St. Louis Cardinals put the finishing touches on their 2013 campaign that saw them finish with a 97-65 record, good for best in the National League. For a team that spent most of the first half of the season in that position before floundering through the midsummer, it was a happy ending.
The team, however, will enter postseason play for the tenth time in the last fourteen seasons with about as many questions as answers. Here are three important questions that the team will need to find answers to if the franchise’s 12th World Series title is in the cards.
Who will be the postseason closer?
After the preseason injury to closer Jason Motte who led the league with 42 saves in 2012, the team began looking for a new one this spring. Last year’s setup man Mitchell Boggs was unable to settle into the role which opened up the competition. Then last year’s trade deadline acquisition and seventh inning man, Edward Mujica stepped into the role and made it his own, posting a 1.72 ERA, a 0.78 WHIP, and 35 saves in 37 chances from when he took over the position until the end of August. He even got an All Star nod of his own for his work.
But some late season struggles that included being shut down for a week in September for elbow fatigue has opened the door to questions about his health and who will close for the team. Mujica struggled to the finish in 2013 with an 11.05 ERA in his 7 1/3 innings of work and the league hitting over .500 against him. Continue reading
Over the weekend the Cardinals indicated that Tyler Lyons would join the team to take Jaime Garcia‘s place in the rotation on Wednesday. What we didn’t know was what the team would do to fit him onto the 40 man roster. Now we do.
Right handed reliever Eduardo Sanchez was placed on waivers to remove him from the 40 man roster and was claimed today by the Chicago Cubs. He will reportedly start his Cubs career with Triple-A Iowa.
Sanchez, 24, was signed as an amateur free agent and is known for his wicked slider. It was that slider that made him a favorite in 2011 as the Cardinals hunted for a closer. Unfortunately, Sanchez’s inability to throw strikes has re-emerged in recent years. Last year in 15 innings in St. Louis, he walked 12 batters. So far he’s done a better job this season preventing walks, but he is still allowing too many. Continue reading
The Cardinals announced yesterday that they had avoided arbitration with their closer Jason Motte. The deal, a two-year deal buying out his final arbitration year, is worth $12 million plus incentives.
After making just $1.95 million last year, Motte filed for $5.5 million in arbitration while the Cardinals filed at $4.5 million. But everyone knew that while this year would be a relative bargain at either of those prices, next year was going to be a big question mark. If Motte duplicated his 2012 season in 2013, the sky was the limit as far as potential earnings ability next year. So for an extra $500,000 this year, they locked him up at a discount rate for 2014 as well.
Motte, 30, led the National League last year with 42 saves, tied with Atlanta’s Craig Kimbrel. Over the last three seasons, Motte has been fantastic out of the bullpen for the Cardinals. He’s made 201 relief appearances with a 2.43 ERA and a 0.988 WHIP. Among the 92 relievers who have thrown over 150 innings over the last two years, Motte’s WHIP is 6th. Continue reading
As my Dad told me last night, “I was expecting a Wild Card Game, not a wild Cards’ game.” Major League Baseball’s first Wild Card Game, certainly lived up to the wild factor. The 94 win Atlanta Braves were facing off against the 88 game St. Louis Cardinals at Turner Field on Friday evening with a National League Divisional Series berth on the line.
Facing off for the game was the Braves’ Kris Medlen (10-1, 1.57) and the Cardinals’ Kyle Lohse (16-3, 2.86).
Medlen was the starter of note, because the Braves had won 23 consecutive games that Medlen had started, dating back to May 29, 2010. The streak was interrupted by Tommy John surgery and he started this season in the bullpen for the Braves.
Lohse was the quieter of the pair, despite being one of the top pitchers in the National League all season. He led the Cardinals’ rotation in ERA this year. A rotation that was the fourth best in baseball. He had also never won a playoff start going into this game, having a career postseason ERA of 5.12 in 31 2/3 innings. Last year during the Cardinals’ playoff run, he allowed 11 runs in 12 2/3 innings.
The St. Louis Cardinals announced today that they have signed Jake Westbrook to a new deal. The deal is essentially a 1 year deal that gives Westbrook $250,000 more than he would have made on his 2013 option and gives both parties a mutual option worth $9.5 million for 2014.
Westbrook, 34, said earlier this month that he intended to exercise his half of his $8.5 million option for 2013 but admitted he wasn’t sure what the team was going to do. He got his answer.
He is certainly pitching worth it right now too. With a 12-9 record and a 3.50 ERA in 24 starts, he is enjoying the second best season of his career by ERA+. His best was 2004 where he got his only career All Star nod and finished at 14-9 with a 3.38 ERA. Continue reading
On a Tuesday afternoon where it seemed the like the St. Louis Cardinals were going to quietly let the deadline pass them by without doing anything to shore up the team, they didn’t. The Cardinals announced that they acquired RHP Edward Mujica for minor league 3B Zack Cox.
My knee-jerk reaction to the trade was “Is that all they could get for Cox?” After all, I saw a Mujica who had a 4.38 ERA in nearly 40 innings this season.
However, when I dug into Mujica’s numbers further, I found a pitcher that has me thinking this could really be the trade that solidifies that bullpen and helps stabilize this team going forward. Something to realize is that the new Marlins Ballpark in Miami is quite the hitter’s park. According to Baseball References’ Park Factor, Marlins Ballpark scores a 106 for hitters and a 107 for pitchers this year. Over 100 favors the hitter. Meanwhile, Mujica will move into a Busch Stadium that has multi-year Park Factors of 99 for hitters and 98 for pitchers. A far more neutral stadium. That should help greatly. Continue reading