Tag Archives: Lance Lynn

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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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

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

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

The lefty-lefty matchup

I don’t like playing armchair manager the next morning after a game and saying how I would have done things differently in order to bring my team to victory. Though, I’m sure we’ve all done it at some point. However, there are times where the manager makes decisions that the statistics dispute and should you really be surprised when it goes bad?

I’d say that over the last year, I have been heavily critical of Tony LaRussa. Last year, I felt that he spent a lot of time managing the Cardinals out of games while he tried to make something happen. However, praise is definitely in order for the job he did in the first half of the season as we balanced injuries and underperforming players and pitchers who just lost their ability to pitch. Then we came back from the All Star Break.

Fans have been quick to call out Fernando Salas for his blown save and his two losses over the last few games, the one in Cincinnati and the one last night. I don’t think the entire blame needs to be put on Salas, because it never should have been a tie game or a one-run lead in the first place. I read one Cardinals’ writer who claims that LaRussa doesn’t have faith in his left handed relievers. But can you have faith in their handling after seeing how he has handled them over the last few days?

Let’s take a look at the situations.

Against Cincinnati, LaRussa brought in Raul Valdes to face Joey Votto in a lefty-lefty matchup in the 6th inning. Votto would single off of Valdes and was standing on third base when P.J. Walters got out of a bases loaded jam. The next time Votto came up to the plate, LaRussa brought in Trever Miller to face him. Votto would rip a ball for a ground-rule double and plate the go-ahead run of the inning. Continue reading