Tag Archives: Lance Lynn

2012 Previews: Starting Pitching

With just six posting days left before the beginning of the 2012 season, I don’t have much time to get things going in the whole preview department. So the hope is to hit several topics over the next few days to round it all up.

Last season the Cardinals starting pitching took a big hit in spring training when Adam Wainwright was lost in February to Tommy John surgery. The injury advanced Kyle McClellan into the rotation. Lance Lynn made two starts when McClellan missed a couple due to an injury in June before Edwin Jackson was acquired near the deadline to replace McClellan in the rotation.

Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia, Kyle Lohse, and Jake Westbrook all made over 30 starts for the Cardinals. They hadn’t had that many starters make more than 30 starts since all 5 starting pitchers did it in 2005.
Continue reading

Carpenter shut down

Just as St. Louis Cardinals fans thought we were going to get our twin aces back, they’re gone just like that. Last year it was Adam Wainwright needing Tommy John surgery. This time, it’s Chris Carpenter who has been shut down indefinitely with no current timetable for a return.

A couple weeks ago Carpenter was diagnosed with a bulging cervical disc. That’s in the neck and it can cause stiffness, pain, and numbness in your arms. For a pitcher, that’s problematic. As soon as I heard, I expected it would easily set him back at least a month in his preparations for the season. Since then he has been being treated by the team and had a limited throwing schedule. It appears that today the team decided he wasn’t making enough progress and shut him down. He has now returned to St. Louis for further tests, including potential nerve damage.

What’s scary for Cardinals’ fans is that Carpenter dealt with nerve issues before, during the 2007 and 2008 seasons where he made a total of 5 starts between the two years. Is this a major issue that will take the entire season to rectify or will he be back in April or May? We hope to find that out over the next week or two.

What will this mean for the Cardinals going forward?
Continue reading

On Oswalt and McClellan

Unless you’re a Cardinals fan that lives under a rock, you’ve heard the recent rumors relating to Roy Oswalt and Kyle McClellan. To catch you up, the Cardinals and Oswalt were reportedly very close to an agreement this past weekend, with a couple reporters calling the signing “imminent.” Of course, since the St. Louis scene wasn’t all over the rumor, I questioned it’s accuracy. And now, just over the last days or so, the St. Louis Cardinals are actively shopping Kyle McClellan, purportedly to get a roster spot and an extra $2.5 million of salary room so that they can increase their offer to Oswalt.

Now, Oswalt’s agent said within the last couple weeks that he would not be a reliever this year. That means he likely has more than one team interested in him to pitch out of the rotation. That’s where he’s been successful in the past, and I wouldn’t want to sign him as a reliever anyway, there is no guarantee a successful starter can adjust to the differences coming out of the bullpen. Which is also another reason against moving Westbrook to the bullpen.

As I sat and thought about these moves last night I’m confused. I cannot for the life of me figure out the cost-to-benefit analysis on this move. You’re trading away 27-year-old Kyle McClellan, who was one of the best middle relievers in major league baseball in 2010, his last season pitching solely out of the bullpen, to add a 34-year-old sixth starter who has had back problems off-and-on for the last few years, culminating last year where he only made 23 starts.

It seems like the 2012 Cardinals are banking hard on injury prone players and praying they remain healthy. They gave $14 million to Rafael Furcal, $26 million to Carlos Beltran, and now seem to be on the verge of giving Roy Oswalt somewhere in the $7-10 million range. These signings all sound great… if it were 2004.

Here are three reasons against signing Roy Oswalt.

First, the cost-to-benefit analysis doesn’t work out for the Cardinals. There was an excellent post at Viva El Birdos yesterday talking about Oswalt replacing Westbrook in the rotation or the use of a six man rotation. If you don’t feel like reading all of that, what his analysis eventually showed is that replacing Jake Westbrook with Roy Oswalt would theoretically result in a net gain of 13 fewer runs allowed, basically what ultimately boils down to just about 1 win over the course of a season. So basically the Cardinals look to be trying to spend $7-10 million for 1 more win.

Many Cardinals’ fans aren’t happy with Westbrook and would be happy to trade him for a bucket of balls. Westbrook, for some reason, had the worst season of his career, posting a 4.66 ERA but still 12 wins. However, in the second half he posted a 3.89 ERA. He struggled most of the season for sure. For what reason, we don’t know, but it’s safe to say that most fans were expecting the 3.48 ERA Jake Westbrook we saw at the end of 2010 when we traded for him. So to get the Westbrook we got was a shock. Something to remember is that Westbrook is likely to be better this year.

And I’m back to my statements of last offseason where we got rid of a couple players who failed to perform in 2010 but had previously had success for a couple of players who failed to perform in 2010 but had previously had success. If we’re going to be crossing our fingers that someone suddenly becomes productive again why all the shake up?

But that doesn’t stop many of us fans from going all googly-eyed about the idea of Roy Oswalt in the rotation. He has the sexy name that everyone wants, but it doesn’t seem worth it.

Second, you have to ask yourself: Is Roy Oswalt better than Jake Westbrook?

If you’re asking for 32 starts from both and they give them to you, Oswalt is going to be the better pitcher. However, when you look at the whole of the situation: Oswalt’s back, Westbrook’s no trade clause, a full rotation already… I’ll take Westbrook because it’s a better use of the organization’s money.

Many fans defend the idea saying Roy Oswalt could be the Lance Berkman of 2012. How many times does lightning strike the same place? How many times do you win on two consecutive pulls of the slot machine? How often will a roulette wheel turn up 17 twice in a row? To expect someone to come out of a perceived nowhere and put up a season like Lance Berkman did last year is naive. Could it happen? Yes, but it is exceptionally unlikely.

And third, it’s easy to sit here and say sign Oswalt, move Westbrook to the bullpen or trade him. However, you have to ask yourself what is the impact of the move on the locker room’s makeup? What if Westbrook isn’t happy about his demotion out of the rotation? He was willing to move to the bullpen in the playoffs for the team, and appropriately so because he was the team’s least successful starter in 2011. I think he understands that, but he’ll want the chance to show he can still be a successful starting pitcher. An unhappy player can easily poison a locker room and a poisoned locker room won’t be winning many championships.

And in summary, the question that we should be asking about the Cardinals’ interest in Roy Oswalt is what it means for the current rotation? The Cardinals have apparently also checked in on Edwin Jackson recently as well. That has me wondering why you’re looking for another starting pitcher when you already have five locked in under contract and a young Lance Lynn getting his starter’s arm back at Memphis (or that’s the plan anyway). Remember the news that Chris Carpenter might not be able to make his start in Game 1 of the World Series due to an elbow issue? Could there be injury concerns about one of the Cardinals’ starters that haven’t been made public?

That is a much larger concern.

Reports are now that Oswalt is visiting with Texas early this week. Personally, I think that’d be a great home for him to finish out his career and they could use a veteran pitcher to lead that rotation.

One thing is certain. After this offseason, I don’t know how anyone can call Bill DeWitt “cheap” anymore.

McClellan avoids Arbitration

The Cardinals announced today that they have agreed to a 1 year deal worth $2.5 million with pitcher Kyle McClellan. The Cardinals and McClellan will avoid arbitration in his second arbitration eligible year.

McClellan, 27, started the season in the rotation after the injury to staff ace Adam Wainwright. McClellan had come through the minor league system as a starter, only to switch to relief after his Tommy John surgery. In 17 starts for the Cardinals, McClellan was 6-6 with a 4.21 ERA. After the acquisition of Edwin Jackson, McClellan made 26 more appearances out of the bullpen posting a 6-1 record and a 4.14 ERA.

He only made just 1 appearance in the playoffs for the Cardinals though after struggling with arm fatigue issues late in the season. There doesn’t appear to be any concern in the organization that those issues will continue into this season.

Many, including myself, have speculated that McClellan might be traded this offseason because of his desire to be a starting pitcher. With Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia, Kyle Lohse, and Jake Westbrook already in the rotation, Wainwright back from injury, and Lance Lynn slated to start the season in the Memphis rotation, the odds of that happening in a Cardinals’ uniform are slim. He’s also well liked, so I think if he made his desire known to the Cardinals’ brass, that it wouldn’t come out negatively.

That leaves the Cardinals with only Jason Motte‘s contract situation to sort out. Motte, 29, is in his first arbitration year and asked for $2.4 million. The Cardinals have offered $1.5 million.

Notebook: November 21, 2011

Something I’m going to try to do every Monday morning through the offseason is come through and just recap what I think the top Cardinals stories, rumors, and notes of the previous week were and a quick take on them. There were some interesting things said in the last week that I’ve been itching to address but they aren’t juicy enough to give a full fledged take on them. And with that we will get going.

Pujols to re-sign with Cardinals on Friday?

Well, Friday came and went and the tweet by St. Louis radio personality J.C. Corcoran was proven to be false. But this is a guy that has inside connections and called the LaRussa retirement from his sources. I have also heard that things are really close to happening. Corcoran speculated Saturday that he will likely sign soon after returning from his two week vacation in Hawaii.

The day it came out, Wednesday, I’d just said that I doubted by previous assessment of Pujols re-signing with the Cardinals sometime after New Years. With the lack of a market developing for his services, delay was only going to frustrate Cardinals fans more. Miami made a lackluster offer that proved to be a simple PR move, leaving the Cardinals as the only viable offer on the table. I felt with this new information, Albert would make a quick decision to get it out of the way. The first week of December makes a lot of sense. I certainly think it will be well before Christmas now.

The advantage for the Cardinals is that they are the only franchise for whom it makes sense to offer a long-term contract to a player who will be 32 when the season starts. I can’t be the only team to have run the statistical analyses that I have to determine that an All Star caliber player usually peaks at age 30 before beginning to decline. With Pujols already looking like he’s trending downward, that’s a concern for teams who don’t want to be on the hook for 9 years of him. That keeps many teams away.

Mozeliak envisions Descalso, Greene starting in middle infield

Talking about 2012, John Mozeliak said that he envisions Daniel Descalso starting at second base for the Cardinals and “would have no problem” with Tyler Greene starting at short stop.

Descalso made 343 of his 425 minor league appearances at second base, so you know he can handle the position. However, he’s played just 18 games there in the major leagues under Tony LaRussa. He ended the season hitting .264/.334/.353 which is very good on average. However, as a left handed hitter, he has a huge split as he hits just .190 against left handed pitchers and .280 against right handed pitchers. So the team might be looking to pick up a right handed second baseman to spell Descalso until he proves himself against left handed pitching.

Tyler Greene might break out underneath someone other than Tony LaRussa. But I have to think that this will be his final opportunity with the Cardinals. His 3 option years are up, meaning he’d be exposed to waivers if he doesn’t make the roster. In his major league career he has struggled to find his stroke, hitting .218/.307/.313 in 150 games over the last 3 years. Despite playing in just 58 games this season, he did lead the Cardinals with 11 stolen bases, making up 20% of the team’s total.

This provides me some hope that Rafael Furcal isn’t going to be returning to the Cardinals. Furcal has 8 teams in on him, 4 of them as a second baseman. He also wants a multi-year deal, so with that many potential suitors he is likely to find it. Furcal is an injury risk and hit very poorly down the stretch. I’d wager that if Greene was given a full year he could outperform Furcal’s .255/.316/.418 numbers next season. (Still, I’d like Clint Barmes, but he’s close to a deal with Pittsburgh)

Three players added to Cardinals’ 40 man roster

With the Rule 5 Draft approaching, the Cardinals protected three additional players and brought the total number of players on their 40 man roster to 36. On Saturday the Cardinals revealed that they had added Sam Freeman, Chuck Fick, and Adam Ottavino to the roster.

Freeman, 24, posted a 3.16 ERA over 68 1/3 relief innings between Palm Beach and Springfield this season and was a mid-season Texas League All Star, posting a 3.03 ERA in 59 innings in Springfield. Freeman missed the 2010 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He is playing this winter in the Venezuelan Winter League and has posted a 0.82 ERA over 11 relief innings there. He has been a reliever all the way through the minor leagues and depending on what the Cardinals do with the bullpen, could be considered for the opportunity to be the big league club’s second left handed reliever.

Fick, 26, posted a 2.30 ERA over 70 1/3 relief innings for Memphis last season. I don’t know much about Fick, but from what I’ve read he’s supposed to be a better version of Brad Thompson, a name familiar to Cardinals fans over the last few years.

Ottavino, who will be 26 tomorrow, was a first round pick for the Cardinals in 2006. He was 7-8 with a 4.85 ERA for Memphis this season as a starter. He made his MLB debut last year for the Cardinals making 3 starts and 2 relief appearances and posting an 8.46 ERA. As a first round draft pick, Ottavino will be protected and should be given at least one more opportunity in St. Louis. However, will guys like Shelby Miller and Carlos Martinez behind him and Lance Lynn ahead of him, his window of opportunity to claim a spot with the Cardinals is closing.

That leaves the team’s roster at 36 as they still need to sign Albert Pujols. They have left room to sign players or make a claim in December 8th’s Rule 5 draft if they need to. If they do claim a player in the major league portion of the draft, they will need to keep him on the team’s major league roster all season.

Happy Birthday, Stan Musial

And finally, a happy 91st birthday to Stan Musial.

Happy Trails, Tony La Russa

What a way to go out. For Tony LaRussa, it was probably the best managing job he’s ever done. Over 10 games out in August, rallying to make the playoffs on the final day of the season, beating Philadelphia in 5 games, beating Milwaukee in 6, and then playing what is very likely the best World Series game in history, before clinching his third World Series Championship in Game 7 against the Texas Rangers.

To top it all off, the Monday morning after celebrating the World Series Championship, he decided to call it a career.

33 years

2,728 career wins

3 American League Championships

3 National League Championships

3 World Series Championships

Oh, and 7 NL Central Championships in the last 16 years as the Cardinals’ manager. It’s safe to say that it has been the most successful run in franchise history where the Cardinals were never far from the front.

I wasn’t quick to write this post because I really wanted to take a different angle on it, but I had no idea what I wanted to write. Sure, anyone can reiterate statistics of what the man has done. This year will go down as his greatest managerial performance ever. Perhaps he deserves some credit for it, but I think his desire to retire changed his perspective and I think that had a great impact on exactly how the team developed this season.

In previous seasons it was a complaint of mine and many others that the team played tight. This year, it was the Rangers that looked tight when crunch time came. The Cardinals on the other hand, they were having a good time and enjoying themselves. It was accompanied by performance on the field.

It was an attitude that we saw in the Cardinals down the stretch. And to Tony’s credit, he embraced it.

This team was different than any other team and performed unlike many other teams would have.

In Spring Training the Cardinals lost their ace. Rather than working out away from the team, Adam Wainwright was a fixture on the Cardinals’ bench during home games. He traveled with the team in the playoffs. He became the team’s cheerleader. His job was easy, keep the guys up on the rail cheering their teammates on. Certainly a difference from other teams who failed down the stretch who had allegations of guys hanging out in the clubhouse rather than cheering their teams on.

Injuries slowed the team. The team that ranked near the bottom of minor league farm systems found themselves in great need of it. Guys like Allen Craig, Jon Jay, and Fernando Salas, who Cardinals fans knew of, stepped up big when given their opportunity to play. Then there were new guys like Daniel Descalso, Tony Cruz, Lance Lynn, and Eduardo Sanchez who played big roles.

The team had weaknesses. By the end of April, the Cardinals had no closer and no left handed relievers capable of getting reliable outs. By the end of May, we began to wonder if we needed a better defensive short stop and another starting pitcher. At the trade deadline, John Mozeliak went and got them everything they needed.

The team’s persona changed. The addition of Lance Berkman was the big move, in my opinion. He gave the Cardinals a veteran with clout who is the type of leader people think of when they think about a good leader. It was a figure this team had really been missing since Jim Edmonds was traded. When you watched games, he talked it up on the bench with veterans and rookies alike. While Albert Pujols keeps mostly to himself and only a few, Berkman did what was was needed, making some of the younger players feel accepted and relaxed.

If this season doesn’t illustrate that it’s a total organizational effort to create a winning team, I don’t know what does.

To me, the move to retire wasn’t a surprise. He changed through the course of the year. It’s funny how your perspective changes when there’s an end date in mind. And I saw his wife on the post-game coverage on the MLB Network. I can’t remember ever seeing his wife before. He seemed relaxed and enjoying the moment.

LaRussa embraced the change in the team persona and because of that the team excelled. That’s reason enough to give him the credit for it.

I’m not the biggest Tony LaRussa fan, but I sure hope he enjoys retirement. That elephant keeper job sounded like fun.