Tag Archives: Lance Berkman

Cards take Game 1

What elbow problems? Chris Carpenter silenced the doubters who suggested that his elbow injury might limit his ability to shut down the high powered Texas Rangers offense on Wednesday night. When it was all said and done, Carpenter allowed just 5 hits and walked 1 over 6 innings. Two runs were all that the Rangers managed to put on the board, those on a one runner on mistake that Mike Napoli crushed in the top of the 5th.

The tone of the night was set early. Ian Kinsler singled to lead off the game. Kinsler, one of the two 30-30 guys this season, was caught by Yadier Molina after Elvis Andrus whiffed on an attempted hit-and-run. And it didn’t even look like Molina tried. It seemed effortless.

The Cardinals offense got the action going in the bottom of the 4th. Rangers starter C.J. Wilson had his moments, but was mostly inconsistent from the mound. That was illustrated by a pitch that bounced well before the plate and hit Albert Pujols in the shin. Then Matt Holliday doubled to give Lance Berkman an RBI opportunity in his second plate appearance of the World Series. With men on second and third, Berkman singled to right field allowing Pujols and Holliday to score easily. 2-0 Cardinals.

The Rangers answered quickly in the top of the 5th. Adrian Beltre singled to right field himself. Then a mistake to Mike Napoli was parked in the right field bleachers. That quickly evened it up, 2-2.

It was Allen Craig, pinch hitting for Chris Carpenter with two out in the bottom of the 6th, that broke up the tie game. David Freese hit a one-out double and then Nick Punto was walked to put men on first and second with the pitcher’s spot due up. This was to make Tony LaRussa pull Carpenter and go to the bullpen. The gamble is, of course, that the pinch hitter does nothing.

Tony LaRussa went with the hook and sent Allen Craig up to the plate with two outs in a tie game in the World Series. No problem with pinch hitting or coming off the bench or the pressure situation, Craig hit a line drive down the line that Nelson Cruz nearly caught with a slide. The ball bounced out of Cruz’s glove, allowing Freese to come around to score the go-ahead run. The Cardinals were now up 3-2 with 9 outs remaining, as us UCBers on Twitter have taken to tracking games by.

With Carpenter out of the game, LaRussa called upon Fernando Salas for his first choice out of the bullpen. While Adrian Beltre grounded out to start the inning off, Salas quickly found himself in trouble with a Nelson Cruz single and a Mike Napoli walk. Was the bullpen starting to show it’s first cracks from it’s heavy use in the National League Championship Series? That was the question at the forefront of Cardinals’ fans minds as LaRussa made the walk out to the mound to bring in left hander Marc Rzepczynski to face the left handed David Murphy.

In a counter move, Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington went to his bench with Craig Gentry, a right handed hitter to eliminate the lefty-lefty matchup. It didn’t matter. Rzepczynski would use 7 pitches and strike out Gentry and Esteban German who pinch hit for Rangers pitcher Alexi Ogando.

To start the 8th inning, in came Octavio Dotel. He got Ian Kinsler to ground out and then struck out Elvis Andrus before Tony trotted back out to the mound with another change. In came left hander Arthur Rhodes, in his first World Series (ironically matched up between the two teams he played for this year), to face Josh Hamilton. He got Hamilton to fly out to center field and we were on to the 9th. Three outs remained between the Cardinals and a Game 1 win and early lead in the World Series.

In came the pitcher who just happens to typically come in in the 9th inning of games when it’s a save situation, Jason Motte. Some teams would call him the closer. Motte slammed the door shut on the Rangers, keeping his impressive streak of playoff performance alive. Motte has faced 25 batters over 8 innings of work this post-season and has allowed just 1 base runner.

Carpenter becomes the first Cardinals pitcher to earn a quality start in the playoffs since himself. That would be that complete game shutout that he hurled in Game 5 of the National League Divisional Series against Philadelphia.

There was some debate about whether Ron Washington managed his game properly or whether he was trying to out-manage LaRussa. Personally, I think Washington managed the game well. The worst part of it was really that he took a few gambles that didn’t pay off.

First, running on Molina in the top of the first was a huge gamble. It can be a huge momentum turner but, while Kinsler has some speed and steals bases at a better than 86% clip, if you mess the play up you end up turning the tables. In the end, Chris Carpenter gets out of lead off hit and the St. Louis crowd explodes.

Second, walking Nick Punto in the 6th was designed to get Chris Carpenter out of the game. Now, granted Punto did hit .350 with 2 outs and runners in scoring position this season, but I think you need to go after him. For one, you can be sure you’re getting only a base-hit if he gets a hit, after all he’s only hit 14 home runs in 11 major league seasons. Making the Cardinals bullpen work is one of the keys to the series for me for the Rangers, but with Allen Craig being the first man off the bench in those situations, I don’t (intentionally) walk Punto to force that. Especially when Carpenter wasn’t all that sharp tonight. Plus, you may have seen a pinch hitter anyway if Punto had reached.

The third is one that many others have questioned, using Esteban German to pinch hit with two on and two out in the 7th rather than Yorvit Torrealba. While Torrealba hit just .256 against left handed pitchers like Rzepczynski, German (who has hit .292 against left handed pitchers in his career) hadn’t taken at at bat since September 25th. I think Washington made the right decision there. You have to expect that each player on your bench can equally perform to their averages whenever you want to use them.

Trying to take the crowd out of it early and trying to get the Cardinals to use their bullpen, both are things that you’ve got to do to win while on the road. You hope you can catch a reliever on a bad night and capitalize on a mistake. Unfortunately for the Rangers, it didn’t work out for them.

Winning Game 1 puts the Cardinals at a huge advantage as far as history shows. In 13 of the 16 World Series’ in the Wild Card era, the winner of Game 1 has gone on to win the series. When the home team wins Game 1, they’ve won the series every year since 1993. Good news for the Cardinals, but while history shows it will be a difficult road for the Rangers, it’s never over until it’s over.

Game 2 will matchup the Rangers’ Colby Lewis against the Cardinals’ Jaime Garcia.

Lewis is 1-1 in two postseason starts for the Rangers this season. He threw six one-hit innings against the Tampa Bay Rays in a 4-3 win, unfortunately that hit was a solo home run. Against the Detroit Tigers just over a week ago, he allowed 8 hits and 4 earned runs in 5.2 innings in a 5-2 loss. In the final two months of the season, Lewis was 4-2 with a 5.23 ERA, which could bode well for the Cardinals.

Only 5 current Cardinals have faced Lewis before. Lance Berkman has 13 plate appearances against him, hitting just twice. Gerald Laird is 3-for-8, Nick Punto is 0-for-1, Ryan Theriot is 2-for-2, and Albert Pujols is 1-for-1.

Garcia is 0-2 in three starts for the Cardinals in the playoffs. He allowed just 1 run in 4.2 innings in Game 5 of the NLCS, a game the Cardinals won, but was given a quick hook when the fifth inning began shaping up like that of Game 1 where Prince Fielder hit a go-ahead home run off of him. The advantage for Garcia is that he will be pitching at home, where he is a much more confident pitcher. Garcia finished the season off going 3-2 with a 4.58 ERA in the final two months of the season.

Only 2 current Rangers have faced Garcia before. Coincidentally, their two backup catchers. Matt Treanor, who was just added to the roster for the World Series is 1-for-4 against Garcia with 3 strikeouts. Yorvit Torrealba is 0-for-2.

The question for Garcia and the Cardinals is how will he handle the Rangers. According to ESPN’s Team Stats, the Rangers led the league with a .282 batting average against left handed pitchers and were second in slugging percentage at .459. Garcia also struggles against left handed hitters, allowing them to hit .308 with a .418 slugging percentage. The Rangers have a premier left handed hitter in Josh Hamilton. They also have David Murphy who has had a great postseason so far.

This is the game that I predicted to be a slugfest. Unfortunately, I think the Rangers are better suited for that type of game and will win Game 2, taking us to Arlington tied up at 1 game a piece.

The game is once again scheduled for an 8:05 pm Eastern start on FOX.

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Looking at 2012: Part 1

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 case you haven’t been paying attention, Albert Pujols is question #1 for the Cardinals entering the offseason. He is playing this year on the option year of the 7 year, $100 million contract he signed before the 2004 season. His impending free agency has been offseason topic #1 for all of baseball. It’s not every day that the best player of the last decade becomes available on the market. Because of that, it’s a topic that everyone has covered deeply, not just myself.

Manager Tony LaRussa also finds himself at the end of a contract this season. He does have an option for next year, but there always has to be the uncertainty until he says that he’s picking up that option.

Chris Carpenter is in the final year of his contract, but has a $15 million option for 2012. Adam Wainwright, who underwent Tommy John surgery in February, has missed this season and probably won’t make it back. That means his $21 million option that keeps him a Cardinal for the next two years doesn’t automatically vest, however the team has indicated they plan to pick up the option regardless.

Their catcher, Yadier Molina is in the final year of his last contract as well. He has an option for next season that could net him $7 million. However, there are rumors that they might renegotiate for more years and reduce that salary number for next year.

Lance Berkman, who is probably the best signing of the last offseason, will also be a free agent after his 1 year, $8 million contract expires. Berkman currently has the 25th highest batting average in the National League. He is also 3rd in the NL in home runs and 9th in runs batted in.

You also have a handful of guys that we traded for that are also eligible for free agency. Rafael Furcal has a $12 million team option for next year. Octavio Dotel has a $3.5 million option as well. The final piece would be starting pitcher Edwin Jackson, who many see as having a lot of potential as a pitcher, is also a free agent at the end of the year.

There’s also the arbitration question. Do you try to trade Skip Schumaker or Ryan Theriot before their final arbitration year? Do you non-tender them? Do you keep them around?

John Mozeliak will definitely earn his paycheck this winter with all the work he has ahead of him. It is the most busy that I can remember any offseason being.

The Cardinals officially enter next season with $41 million committed to Matt Holliday, Kyle Lohse, Jake Westbrook, and Jaime Garcia. I think it’s safe to assume that the Cardinals will pick up the options of Wainwright and Molina, which pushes the number up to a cool $57 million.

In part two, I will discuss the contract options that are on the table for the Cardinals and what internal talent can we expect to contribute in 2012.

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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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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. Continue reading

Cardinals’ Approval Ratings: June

After missing May due to life circumstances (it was mid-June before I even thought about them), the Cardinals’ Approval Ratings are back with the June numbers.

The Cardinals’ June swoon leaves me really wishing I had results from May so that I could really have an accurate look at how badly it hurt peoples’ numbers.

The Cardinals wrapped up the month of June having gone 11-15. The offense scored 114 runs in 26 games in the month of June. That’s an average of 4.4 runs per game and that puts them in a tie with the Dodgers for 9th in the major leagues. On the other hand, the Cardinals had the worst pitching staff in the majors, allowing 132 runs in those 26 games, that’s 5.1 runs per game. Their team ERA of 4.72 was 29th of 30 teams, only beating out Toronto.

On the offensive side of the baseball, Lance Berkman took over the role of the highest rated Cardinal, though he dropped from a 9.4 to a 9.3 rating. Matt Holliday dropped from a 9.8 in April to an 8.6 at the end of June. The biggest drop in the starting lineup was Colby Rasmus tumbling 1.4 points to a 6.8, reflecting his struggles over the last two months. The biggest jump was Yadier Molina who recovered his losses over the first month to receive an 8.1 rating at the end of June. Skip Schumaker jumped 1.3 points himself, vaulting himself to a 7.4 rating.
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The MLB’s Most Popular Game

Or as it’s referred to more officially, the MLB All Star Game. After reading the voting updates, I wonder why they even attempt to hide the fact that it’s really a popularity contest and not an All Star Game.

To me, an All Star Game is a celebration of that season’s best players. It should be filled with deserving players, not players making it because they’ve had a few good years. However, year after year that’s what we see. Players who have already made a name for themselves get voted into the starting lineup by fans and some deserving players are left to hope they get named to the team by the managers.

On top of that, they give you 25 votes. It’s the fact they give people multiple votes per person that I have trouble wanting to vote for All Star Games or anything like that. I’m not going to take the time to vote several times over and over again, so my one vote is worthless. It also artificially inflates the vote numbers to make it appear like far more people are voting.

Looking just at the NL votes, Braves fans seem to be stuffing the ballot boxes better than any other team as they have a representative in the top-5 of every position, except for the outfield where Jason Heyward is eighth and Martin Prado is 12th.

Looking at this season’s voting and I sigh. Albert Pujols leads the field at first base. His fellow NL Central first baggers Joey Votto and Prince Fielder are following him. I’ll be the first to tell you that Albert Pujols probably doesn’t deserve to start the All Star Game, regardless he has about a 300,000 more votes than Votto. Both Votto and Fielder are more deserving of receiving the starting job in the NL.

Pujols: .275, 16 HR, 43 RBI, a 136 OPS+, and a 2.1 WAR.
Votto: .331, 9 HR, 43 RBI, a 167 OPS+, a 3.0 WAR
Fielder: .297, 19 HR, 59 RBI (first in MLB), a 177 OPS+, and a 2.8 WAR.

At second base, Brandon Phillips is leading when Rickie Weeks is far more deserving. At short stop, I can see why Troy Tulowitzki is leading, but you can also make an argument for Jose Reyes who leads the majors in batting average right now.

When we get to the National League outfield, we reach the real issue with the voting. Right now Ryan Braun, Lance Berkman, and Matt Holliday are the starting outfielders. Matt Kemp is currently 5th in the voting, but he has been the best player in the major leagues so far this year. He leads the league with 20 HR, has the highest OPS+ in the league at 196 and has a 4.4 WAR. Yet he still trails his teammate, Andre Ethier in the voting. Ethier’s numbers are nowhere near Kemp’s either.

If the game “counts” by giving the winner home field advantage in the World Series, the best players in each league at that moment should start the game. If not, the chances of that league winning home field advantage is hurt. Teams advertise that you should just vote for your favorite team’s starters down the line, no excpetions.

If you are the fan of a playoff contending team, you should be voting for the best players in the league, regardless of whether they play for your team or not, to give your team the best chance at winning home field advantage for a potential World Series run. Most fans aren’t going to realize that and will just vote for their favorite players or their favorite team’s players.

Maybe Major League Baseball should consider allowing the fans to vote the roster instead of the starting lineup. Figure two or three players for each position and then let the game’s managers select the starting lineup. That allows the fans to pick the team and see the players they want, but the managers to use the players the best way possible in order to win the game. The fact that an exhibition game affects the outcome of the World Series is ridiculous.

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