May 2006

Tactics

We’re having a friendly disagreement in the press box tonight. Friendly, I reiterate — we enjoy talking ball up here, and, well, sometimes some trash is talked, but it’s all in good fun, I assure you all.

Anyway, here was the crux of it:

One Post-Dispatch writer — whom I shall not name here because I believe he expects to write on the topic for tomorrow and I don’t want to TOTALLY steal his thunder — felt that Phil Garner made absolutely the right move by walking Albert Pujols intentionally in the fifth inning. Personally, I believe it was the wrong move.

The Cards had a runner on second with two outs and Pujols at the plate. Scott Rolen was on deck. Rolen, as of that exact moment, was 7-for-20 against Andy Pettitte in his career, with two home runs and two doubles. More to the point, he had already homered and doubled in this game. Pujols, as of that exact moment, was 2-for-17 against Pettitte, without so much as an extra-base hit or a walk. Counting postseason games, it was still 7-for-20 for Rolen, but 3-for-22 (.136) for Pujols.

Of course, Pujols is Albert Pujols. But Rolen isn’t exactly Craig Paquette. Pujols is hitting .535 with runners in scoring position.

If it’s me, I pitch to Pujols. Garner walked him, and obviously it worked.

What would you have done?

-M.

A name to know

OK, so I’m far from the first one to mention Quad Cities left-hander Jaime Garcia. But in case you haven’t been following his exploits, here’s the scoop. It’s time to start watching.

I recently received an email from a reader asking me about Garcia, and up until that point I actually didn’t know much about him. I had heard his name, but I couldn’t even have told you whether he was right- or left-handed. But having been asked, I looked up his performance from this year. It’s pretty doggone good.

Garcia is still 19, and he is left-handed. That’s a good start. In 55 1/3 innings this year, he’s struck out 59 batters — and K rate is probably the single best indicator of future success. He’s walked 14, for a K/BB ratio of better than 4:1 — another of those numbers you look at. And as for one other area that can tell you a lot, Garcia has yet to allow a home run in those 55 1/3 innings. People are  starting to take notice.

So I went to a representative of the Cardinals’ player development system and asked him about Garcia. And I was told that he was a guy who they like quite a lot. And then I asked an acquaintance of mine, a reasonably well-known Minor Leagues expert, what he thought about Garcia. And he also had some very positive things to say, summed up with, "he’s young, he’s lefthanded, he’s big and he has two plus pitches." (said plus pitches are his fastball, which sits around 91 and touches 93-94 according to various sources, and his curveball).

Garcia is a long way from the Majors, but he’s an exciting prospect. And he’s an exciting prospect who was drafted in the 22nd round, quite a coup in a 2006 Draft that so far looks quite good.

-M.

Across this line, YOU DO NOT…

Can we talk about throwing punches for a moment?

There are certain things that you just don’t do. For example, you don’t bet on baseball games when you’re involved in the outcome. Also, you don’t punch people. You just don’t. It’s not OK.

I don’t care how bad things are going for the Cubs. I don’t care how much A.J. Pierzynski may be loathed by ballplayers around both leagues. I don’t care if Pierzynski showed up the Cubs by pounding on home plate, or if he danced on the star at midfield of Texas Stadium. It’s not OK to coldcock him.

Ergo, this is simply unbelievable to me. Ten games? For absolutely clocking another player who didn’t hit you first? And moreover, Barrett is saying he wishes it had been LESS and he is appealing?

I’m almost wihtout comment. I’m overwhelmed. First, I’m disgusted that Barrett only got 10 games. I would have started at 25. If you’d told me 50, I would have been perfectly OK with that. You want to talk about setting examples for kids when it comes to drug suspensions? How about violence?

You get 10 games for a corked bat or doctoring a baseball. This is worse. If the names had been reversed, and it were Pierzynski punching Barrett, my feelings would be the same. It’s simply not OK, and Barrett is almost unfathomably fortunate that he’s going to be out for such a short period of time.

-M.

Carp scratched, Thompson starting — UPDATE

Chris Carpenter has been scratched from today’s scheduled start. According to Carpenter himself, he’s dealing with an inflamed bursa sac on the right side, below his shoulder. He doesn’t seem overly concerned, for what that’s worth. It appears to be a wait-and-see kind of deal.

Brad Thompson will be the first pitcher in a "bullpen game."

Also, for those interested, Bonds is not in today’s lineup for the Giants. Cards lineup is all righties and one switch-hitter — Spiezio in left and batting second, Luna at second and batting sixth, Molina catchin, Taguchi in center and batting eighth.

-M.

Ankiel update from Florida

Eric Pfahler, whom I met this spring when he covered Spring Training for a group of newspapers in Southeast Florida, had an update on Rick Ankiel recently. It’s a well-done story, and the upshot is this: They don’t think Anks will need surgery, but he’s progressing very slowly. He can run, but he can’t cut or do much laterally.

Check out the full story here.

-M

Thank you!

I don’t know how else to put it but this:

Thank you, Mom. And happy Mother’s Day. I appreciate everything you’ve done for me, and I love you. And a big happy Mother’s Day to my mother-in-law as well. Y’all are both pretty great, and I’m lucky to have both of you.

For everybody else who may be reading this: you better call your mom today. Please. It’s important.

-M.

I Yam What I Yam

I haven’t seen Anthony Reyes pitch lately, so maybe he’s throwing lots of sinkers, just like the Cardinals want him to. But I look at Reyes’ lines, and they look a lot like a guy who’s throwing just like Reyes always has.

Last night: seven innings, nine hits, 5 Ks, no walks, one home run.
Previous start: 6 5 2 2 1 7, with a home run.
Start before that: 6 5 3 3 2 8, one home run allowed.

He’s not getting a lot of groundballs, and he’s allowing the occasional home run. But he’s striking guys out by the bushel, and he’s not walking anybody.

Just out of curiosity, does this remind you of any successful Major League pitchers? I’m thinking Curt Schilling succeeds pretty well with a profile like that.

Obviously there’s NO guarantee Reyes turns into Schilling. But you can succeed without getting a lot of groundballs, if you can strike batters out and avoid walks. I think Reyes is what he is, and what he is is a terrific pitcher.

-M.

Magic Ticket

No game from yesterday to discuss. So I’m going to throw something else out there to
mess around with.

When I lived in Seattle, one conversation we’d often have in the office was this: If you were given an all-expenses-paid trip to see any sporting event in the world, what would it be? You get to go to the place and take in the event.

Let’s give it this one qualification: you have to know it’s going to happen. So you can say World Series, but not a Cardinals-Yankees World Series. You can say World Cup, even specifically the World Cup in Germany this year, but not "I’d love to see the World Cup if they ever held it in Brazil." Got it?

My choice, the same one we always used to come back to when I was in Seattle — the Grand Prix of Monaco.

What about y’all?

-M.

Shameless plug/more on theme songs

This is as shameless as I’ll get when it comes to plugs, so here goes…

I’ll be on a roundtable on KFNS (590 AM) in St. Louis on Thursday, from 10 am CT until about 11:30 or 11:40. The hosts are Bryan Burwell and Frank Cusumano, and I believe KFNS’ John Marecek will also be participating. It should be fun, and if you generally think I have some idea what I’m talking about, then please do listen in.

One thing we’ll be doing — Frank, Bryan and I, and hopefully John, will be playing our chosen theme music. I have picked something out, and I’m looking forward to unveiling it. Also, I’m just looking forward to hearing it on the radio, since obviously whatever it is, it’s one of my favorite songs.


Thanks to everybody for the responses to the theme music post. Some excellent choices.


Now playing on the iPod: Seventeen Seconds, The Cure.

-M.

Batter-Pitcher matchups

This is just a hunch, but bear with me…

Something tells me that if the game is on the line in the late innings tomorrow, with Juan Encarnacion and Albert Pujols coming to the plate, Jose Mesa won’t be the guy pitching for Colorado. Encarnacion is now 9-for-14 (.643) lifetime against Mesa, and Pujols is 7-for-11 (.636).

It probably didn’t determine the outcome of the game, but it’s telling to me that La Russa made the move to get Encarnacion in the game because of that matchup — even taking a LHH out of the game in favor of a RHH, against a RHP — while Clint Hurdle didn’t do anything to avoid the matchups.

I know Mesa is your guy in that situation, he’s the eighth-inning right-hander, but sometimes the game calls for creativity, and calls for seeing a few moves ahead. TLR has his flaws, and sometimes I definitely disagree with him — but he got the matchups he wanted tonight, and Hurdle didn’t.

-M.

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