May 2008

If you will it, Dude, it is no dream

It was around this time last year that Adam Wainwright got turned around. It’s hard to remember now, but in mid-May of 2007, I was receiving emails from fans suggesting that Wainwright was a failure as a starter, that the “experiment” should end and that he should be returned to the bullpen.

The chorus grew loudest after a brutal start in Los Angeles, when Wainwright got knocked around. After the game — May 15, 2007, to be exact — Wainwright gave one of his more interesting postgame interviews. He said he felt fine physically — but that in some PREVIOUS starts, he’d had some arm soreness. That it was the first time all season he’d really felt right.

After that game, he took off. For the remainder of the year, Wainwright was the pitcher that his believers expected him to be, and frankly maybe even better. He repeatedly pointed to that game — and, in fact, still does point to that game — as the moment when the season turned around for him. It was the kick in the behind he needed.

Fast-forward to tonight, when he was as good as I’ve seen him. For the complete package, his entire repertoire, I can’t think of a night when it’s ALL been this good. Fastball down in the zone and for strikes. Slider in the strike zone and as a chase pitch. Curveball getting ugly swings as well as freezing hitters. Changeup effective and in the mix. It was beautiful.

And so I got to thinking — just how good has this guy been? And thanks to the amazing day-by-day database at BaseballMusings.com, I found the following:

Since that Dodger Stadium start, Wainwright has made 35 starts. He’s pitched 236 1/3 innings, more than 6 2/3 per start. He has a 2.93 ERA, 164 strikeouts, 65 walks, and 18 home runs allowed. That’s more than a full season of full-on ace-caliber pitching.

Then I decided to look at it another way. Let’s make it exactly a season. And so I took a look at where Wainwright stands over the last 12 months — since May 28, 2007.

During that span, basically the past full season of baseball, Wainwright has the second-best ERA of any starting pitcher in all the Major Leagues (minimum 150 innings). His ERA in that time is 2.93, behind only Brandon Webb (2.77 — dude is pretty good) and ranking just ahead of Scott Kazmir, Jake Peavy and Carlos Zambrano. Perhaps just as striking, over his past full season, Wainwright has thrown 224 1/3 innings.

The hope was that Wainwright would become a front-of-the-rotation type. The scouting reports, for the most part, suggested No. 2 starter type. Over the past year, though, he’s as ace as ace gets. Pretty remarkable stuff.

-M.

Tuesday afternoon tidbits: Pineiro looks likely to miss next start

Greetings to all. The weather forecast has been dicey, but as of right now there’s no tarp on the field and I am maintaining optimism.

Also, a personal note to friends/family — I was without a phone for a couple days, but I have one again. If you tried to reach me to no avail, that’s why. Sorry.

* If I had to guess, I would definitely guess that Joel Pineiro will not start Saturday. He said he was still too sore today to throw off a mound if he needed to, and tomorrow would be his bullpen day. Pineiro maintains strong optimism, but it’s very hard to envision him making that start. The good thing is that they could DL him, use either Parisi or call up Reyes for that start, and have him eligible to come off the DL for the next time through the rotation.

* Ludwick is not in the lineup tonight, but TLR said he’ll be in there pretty much the rest of the homestand. He basically said, for now Ludwick is playing the best, so he’ll play the most. But everybody is going to play, and with Chacon having a dramatic L-R split, this was the good night to get all the other guys in there.

-M.

Sunday tidbits: Glaus cleared

A warm hello to all on the best day of the year for us gearheads (though I’m bummed about this morning’s result in Monaco).

* Troy Glaus was checked out and is in the lineup. He said he was feeling better by about 12:30 last night, and they didn’t find anything.

* It’s Joel Pineiro’s right groin that’s sore, and he injured it shagging in the outfield on Wednesday. He expects to be OK to make his start in 6 days.

* Per TLR, there’s no question as to who’s the closer. It’s Franklin as long as he’s available. He said it’s not time to hand those reins to Perez.

* All the LA natives are in the lineup today. STL lineup: Schumaker CF, Barton LF, Pujols 1B, Ludwick RF, Glaus 3B, LaRue C, Izturis SS, Wellemeyer P, Ryan 2B.

-M, hoping to catch the second half of the 600 tonight.

Saturday afternoon tidbits: Pineiro to be skipped

Another gray day in SoCal. Here’s hoping we don’t get another rain delay.

* Joel Pineiro will be skipped on Tuesday. Looper will pitch that game, with Wainwright Wednesday, Lohse Thursday, Wellemeyer Friday and then Pineiro slotted back in on Saturday. According to TLR, Pineiro has some groin discomfort.

* Franklin is not available tonight after last night’s work. TLR seemed to indicate that Perez would be the choice to close if it’s not a heavily left-handed part of the order.

* Mgr indicated that from his perspective, there’s no rush to get Mather up. He said he’s having a hard enough time getting ABs for Barton, so another OF doesn’t make sense — and dismissed the notions of sending out a middle infielder or going to 11 pitchers.

* Izturis and Ryan tomorrow up the middle. Today, a very lefty-heavy lineup against Penny.

* STL lineup: Schumaker RF, Duncan LF, Pujols 1B, Ankiel CF, Glaus 3B, Miles SS, Molina C, Lohse P, Kennedy 2B.

-M.

Friday evening tidbits: Ank's back

It’s another bizarre weather night in SoCal, with chilly temps (low 50s) and dark gray skies. Very odd. Anyway, tonight’s tidbits…

* As you probably guessed after his pinch-hit appearance the other night, Rick Ankiel is back in the lineup today.

* The odd man out is Schumaker, with Ludwick and Duncan getting the other two starts in the OF. Adam Kennedy leading off. He’s 11-for-25 (.440) against Lowe and a .291 lifetime hitter at Dodger Stadium.

* TLR still has not divulged what they will do with the rotation after the off day. It’s Pineiro’s turn, but the have the option bump Looper up to five days and give Pineiro a little extra time.

-M.

Wednesday evening tidbits: Ankiel gets closer

Spectacular night here in SD. Wish y’all were here.

* Rick Ankiel took BP on the field for the second day in a row. TLR expects him to play in LA.

* The rotation after Monday’s off day is a bit up in the air. They still haven’t decided whether to roll everybody over and give some guys six days rest, or do it differently.

* Down on the farm, Joe Mather continues absolutely raking. Mather homered and drew two walks this afternoon, bringing him up to 318/425/664 with 9 HR in 107 ABs. He has 16 walks against just 14 Ks.

-M.

Tuesday afternoon tidbits: Skip sits

Very strange sight here — gray skies over downtown San Diego. I don’t think the game is in any jeopardy, but it’s definitely a bit jarring. Anyway, here are this afternoon’s tidbits:

* The starting outfield is Duncan LF, Ludwick CF, Barton RF. H’s going with a mostly righty-heavy lineup because Maddux has a pronounced reverse split this year. Also, Schumaker is dealing with a minor left heel problem. He insists it’s nothing.

* Ankiel is again not playing; TLR said probably the weekend for him.

* I saw some speculation in places about Carpenter. According to Barry Weinberg (via Brian Bartow), Carp threw a bullpen yesterday and felt good, and will throw a sim game on Monday (i.e., 6 days from now).

* Ryker Kile, Darryl Kile’s son, paid a visit to the park today and particularly sought out Pujols, who was of course glad to welcome him.

* STL lineup: Barton RF, Duncan LF, Pujols 1B, Ludwick CF, Glaus 3B, Molina C, Kennedy 2B, Pineiro P, Izturis SS.

* SD lineup: Gerut CF, Iguchi 2B, Giles RF, Gonzalez 1B, Kouzmanoff 3B, Greene SS, Hairston LF, Carlin C, Maddux P.

-M.

Monday afternoon tidbits: Anks still out

Greetings from “America’s Finest City” — though I really don’t need to put it in quotes. Not only is it a nickname, it’s a true description. And it sounds like lots of you see it that way, since my flight this morning was filled with folks coming out from STL for these games.

* Rick Ankiel is making progress but still not playing. He’s hopeful that we’re only talking about a couple more days.

* Troy Glaus and Chris Duncan were outside PETCO Park, signing autographs, when the explosion took place at the Hilton construction site a couple of blocks away. They said it was very loud and very jarring, even from the players’ entrance to the ballpark. Both said they could feel a concussion blast hit them as well as hearing the explosion. Thankfully it sounds like everyone survived, although some of the injuries were pretty significant. Best wishes to everyone who was hurt. No Cardinals personnel were injured in the blast.

* I’ll have something on Mike Parisi’s adjustment to relief and to big league life later this evening.

* STL lineup: Schumaker CF, Barton LF, Pujols 1B, Ludwick RF, Glaus 3B, Molina C, Kennedy 2B, Wellemeyer P, Izturis SS.

* Toot-my-own-horn dept.: I actually have copies of my book in hand. It really does exist. Not in stores yet, and Amazon still lists it as a pre-order, but it does exist. Very exciting stuff.

* Shameless plug dept.: I’ll be on “the Press Box” with Frank Cusumano tomorrow morning at I believe noon CT (that’s morning out here).

-M.

Tuesday afternoon tidbits: Johnson to have surgery

Lotta stuff going on. Lotta ins, lotta outs, lotta what-have-yous.

* Tyler Johnson is going to have arthroscopic surgery on his shoulder, likely before the week is out.

* Mark Mulder threw a bullpen today — about 40 pitches, all sinkers.

* The Cardinals haven’t heard anything from the league about Yadier Molina’s outburst yesterday.

And in other stuff…

* Please welcome Lee Hurwitz, the new associate reporter at StLCardinals.com. He’ll be filing some stuff for the site starting immediately, and I’m confident he’ll follow well in the footsteps of Conor Nicholl and Daniel Berk.

* I’ll be doing a chat tomorrow at 12 p.m. CT. I assume it’ll be linked from the main STL site. So come on down.

* In the new music category, loving M83′s album, and digging the new NIN.

-M.

Minors Monday

I’d like to try to do this a little more often. Not that I’ll outdo the fine work over at Future Redbirds, but let’s at least get a little prospect talk going now and then, what say?

Memphis:
The Official Prospect of StLCardinals.com, or at least of OYNAG, is still raking even after a promotion. Bryan Anderson is at 324/343/500 since coming up to Memphis, and 368/392/518 on the year. I’d like to see more walks and more power, but a lefty-swinging catcher who hits .300 is a pretty nice player. And five XBH in 34 ABs at Memphis is a very good start.

Another guy in the same boat, somewhat, is Nick Stavinoha. The former LSU Tiger (hi, Derrick!) is batting a ridiculous .377 and he’s not striking out much. But as an outfielder, he’ll need more secondary contributions than Anderson will at catcher.

At this point, the guy who really catches my eye at Memphis is Joe Mather, who is having a huge year at 315/432/562. That’s batting average AND secondary skills, and it’s extremely encouraging. One big year can be a fluke. Do it twice in a row and you’re onto something. Mather passes the eyeball test, too — you watch him play, and you think ballplayer.

On the pitching side, the guy who jumps out most to me is Jason Motte, who’s blowing guys away AND walking fewer than Chris Perez or Mark Worrell. A lot to like there, though. We’ll check in with Jaime Garcia after another start or two, but boy the first one was encouraging.

Springfield:
Florida State product Shane Robinson is still well over .400 — .434 to be exact. And best of all, he’s got an ISO of .195. A guy who entered the year with 21 XBH in 429 career Minor League ABs has 15 in 113 ABs this year.

After a slow start, Allen Craig is hot right now. He’s slugging .714 over his past 10 games, though he hasn’t walked in that span. On the year he’s at 274/329/466.

The bad news at SPFD is that some of the aggressively promoted pitchers are having a tough time, especially Adam Ottavino (7.04 ERA, 4 1/3 innings per start, 18 K, 14 BB, 4 HR in 21 2/3 innings). Clayton Mortensen’s superficial numbers aren’t a lot better (1-3, 5.61), but his peripherals are much better — 27 K, 13 BB, 4 HR in 33 2/3 innings.

Palm Beach:
As usual, it’s about the pitchers at PB. Jess Todd, a guy that lots of people seem to like quite a lot, is having a huge year thus far. 1.65 ERA, 35 K, 7 BB, 0 HR in 27 1/3 innings.

Mark McCormick is taking the ball regularly, which is good news in itself, and he’s striking out nearly a batter per inning. He’s also walking a lot of guys, nearly six per nine innings.

The guy who stands out with the bat at PB is a guy shaping up as one of the best pieces of news in the entire system this year — Daryl Jones. Kevin Goldstein, you may have been right all along. Jones is striking out a TON, but he’s also walking at a decent clip, hitting .323, slugging .462 and has five steals in six tries.

Tyler Henley, a guy who’s intrigued me since they drafted him, is at 313/370/531. He’s a guy to keep an eye on, a LHH from a major college program (Rice) with good OBP skills. He’s considered an outstanding defensive player as well.

Quad Cities:
Pete Kozma has cooled off a bit but is still having a terrific year at 293/382/457. I’m eager to see him play.

-M.

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