Early Wednesday morning the San Francisco Giants defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers. In doing so, the knocked the Dodgers out of the playoffs and clinched the second Wild Card for the St. Louis Cardinals. What that meant is that tonight’s game because the first meaningless game that the Cardinals have played since the 2010 season finale.
Adam Wainwright was supposed to start this game, however, with it being a meaningless game he was held out. Instead, he is penciled in to start Game 1 of the National League Divisional Series against the Washington Nationals.
In his place, the organization’s #1 prospect Shelby Miller got the nod and the opportunity to make an impact out of the rotation.
Last night Mike Matheny was left with a choice. Do you leave in Daniel Descalso to face Pittsburgh Pirates’ closer Joel Hanrahan? Or do you pinch hit using Skip Schumaker.
We all know the outcome. With Carlos Beltran on first with two outs, Matheny elected to leave Descalso out there and he hit a line drive to center field to end the Cardinals’ 21st loss in 1-run games.
Normally things like this may not make much news. However, when you have Skip Schumaker on the bench, hitting .314 on the season and finally playing slightly plus defense at second base, why aren’t you playing him? Why is Descalso out there? There are many reasons why Schumaker would have been the better choice over Descalso. Continue reading
Who will stay and who will go is probably the question on a few players’ minds right now. The St. Louis Cardinals are due to activate Lance Berkman before tonight’s game against the Atlanta Braves, which means that they need to open up a spot on the 25 man roster. Any of the team’s bench players could find themselves on the block. Even pitchers may not be safe according to a few things I’ve read that claim the team is considering going with 11 pitchers for a little bit.
To lead off, I think going with 11 pitchers would be a really bad idea. The way Mike Matheny has utilized the pitching staff, we could probably exist that way for awhile. However, one or two bad starts by the rotation in a row, or a long extra innings game, and you’ll find yourself chasing your tail making roster moves for the next couple weeks (as once you demote a player he has to stay in the minors for at least 10 days).
The Cardinals are hitting the meat of their schedule with a 3 game set against the Braves (my preseason pick for World Series Champions) and then next week with the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers. All three teams are quality opponents who will provide the Cardinals tough challenges. Going undermanned in the pitching staff could end up being a costly mistake.
Yesterday I tackled my April Grades for the Cardinals’ position players and today I will tackle the grades for the Cardinals’ pitching staff and the manager. Chris Carpenter is still out and we’ve kind of forgotten that he even exists with how great the staff has been so far in 2012.
Manager Mike Matheny – Matheny was my #1 choice to take over for Tony La Russa after he announced his retirement. We’ve long heard about his potential as a manager. However, I didn’t really like that he had zero managerial experience. It’s something I held heavily against Jose Oquendo. But I felt that Matheny always had the ability to be a good manager, and so far he has been.
It’s hard to take over for a probable future Hall of Fame manager, but he has and he’s done it by making it into his own team. Over the last few years, I felt that the Cardinals had strayed from that “Play Like a Cardinal” ideal and become flat with their on field play. This year, I see some excitement. I see some of that baseball that I recall seeing earlier in La Russa’s tenure coming back. It’s a fun time to be a Cardinals’ fan. Grade: A.
Right field. It’s a position that many expected to be handed to Allen Craig after his outstanding 2011 season coming off the bench and providing crucial hits for the Cardinals in the World Series. Not so fast though. With Craig potentially spending time on the disabled list to start the season, the Cardinals went big and signed Carlos Beltran to a two year contract.
Last year Lance Berkman primarily played the position. He played it quite well too, posting what was the best season of his career by OPS+. He made the All Star team and finished 7th in National League MVP voting (Personally, I felt he should have won the award). He surprised as many feared he couldn’t handle the outfield anymore. However his influence, in my opinion, had a great deal to do with the Cardinals putting the run together that they did.
Allen Craig broke out as the Cardinals’ fourth outfielder last season too, putting up MVP quality numbers over his 200 at bats. Good enough that if you extrapolate his WAR out to a 600 at bat season, he led the league. Not too shabby. However, a June collision with an outfield wall in Houston put a big gap in his season and led to offseason surgery which could delay the start to his 2012 season. It was enough of a question that the Cardinals seized the opportunity to make a big move to show fans that they weren’t just going to stand pat after parting ways with Albert Pujols.
One of three 2011 Opening Day starters expected to take the field in the same position in this year’s Opening Day game, Matt Holliday already has his name penciled onto the lineup card. The team’s new #3 hitter after the departure of Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday will have some big shoes to fill in the eyes of the fans.
They are shoes he is already filling, in my opinion. Myself and others have complained about the lack of visible leadership on the team. Holliday seems to have done just that this offseason, becoming more involved with other players on the team and even inviting a few of the Cardinals’ recent draft picks out to St. Louis on his own dime to work out with them during the winter. He does it under the radar, but it is there.
Last year was a freak year for Holliday. From injuring his back lifting weights to a moth flying into his ear, odd things were the name of the game. He played just 124 games, the fewest since his rookie season, as a result. It’s also the first time since his rookie season that he hit below .300, with his line of .296/.388/.525. He added 22 home runs and 75 RBI. Despite the abbreviated season, Holliday’s performance helped him post a career high in OPS+ at 153, better than the 150 he put up in 2007, when he finished second in the MVP voting.