May 2010

Note of the night/Stat of the day, May 31

Note of the night: David Freese arrived in St. Louis with a deserved reputation for opposite-field power. It’s where he likes to hit, and it’s where he usually does his best hitting. In the early going in 2010, it’s where he was hitting.

But this is the Major Leagues, and when a player has success doing one particular thing, opponents will adjust. Pitchers began to see that Freese was hitting the ball hard to right field, so they started challenging him inside.
He has responded, and quite nicely.
On Monday, Freese doubled to left and drilled a hard liner to the track in left. It’s part of a continuing pattern lately, as he’s pulled the ball more. He’s not looking to do it, but he’s willing to do it.
“Some teams are trying to come in a little more, but that’s just the kind of adjustment I have to make,” he said. “If they’re going to come in, I’ve got to start pulling the ball. that’s how it’s got to go.
“You’ve still got to have an approach. When you start seeing teams over and over again, you’ve got to have a pretty good game plan.”
His willingness to be adaptable has caught his manager’s eye too.
“One reason he’s got a chance to be really tough is he uses [all fields],” TLR said. “You pitch him one way he goes that way. You may get him in there once, but you go back away he goes away. He is legit.”
Stat of the day, 1: As of 9 p.m. CT on Monday night, the Cardinals have the best run differential in the National League at plus-51.
Stat of the day, 2: St. Louis ranks third in the National League in walks with 195, and second in doubles with 105.
Fun with double situational splits: In home games in May, Freese batted .375 with a .434 on-base percentage and a .646 slugging percentage.
And, finally, the playlist:
New Order, “Round and Round”
Soul Coughing, “White Girl”
Stone Roses, “This Is The One”
Garbage, “Push It”
Radiohead, “Let Down”
-M.

Cards make move, confirm weekend starters

The Cardinals returned to a 12-man pitching staff on Monday, optioning left-hander Evan MacLane to Triple-A Memphis and recalling outfielder Allen Craig from Memphis. 

Craig, 25, made the Cardinals’ Opening Day roster but scuffled at the plate in part-time duty, going 1-for-18. He was optioned in late April, but is now back for a second stint in the Majors. Craig hit .275 with a .345 on-base percentage and .382 slugging percentage in 28 games at Memphis.
MacLane was summoned from Memphis to provide depth over the weekend for the Cardinals’ bullpen, but did not appear in a game. He will rejoin the Triple-A starting rotation.
In a noteworthy non-move, meanwhile, the Cards kept Adam Ottavino on the Major League roster. Manager Tony La Russa confirmed that Ottavino is scheduled to start on Saturday against Milwaukee. Adam Wainwright will pitch Friday against the Brewers, with Jaime Garcia getting the series finale on Sunday.
-M.

Monday lineups

Cardinals

1. Lopez SS
2. Ludwick RF
3. Pujols 1B
4. Holliday LF
5. Freese 3B
6. Rasmus CF
7. Molina C
8. Schumaker 2B
9. Garcia LHP
Reds
1. Cabrera SS
2. Cairo 1B
3. Phillips 2B
4. Rolen 3B
5. Gomes LF
6. Bruce RF
7. Stubbs CF
8. Hernandez C
9. Arroyo RHP
-M.

Note of the night/Stat of the day, May 30

Note of the night: You’ve got a game story centered on Albert Pujols. You’ve got a sidebar story on Albert Pujols. How about a note of the night on Albert Pujols?

When Pujols goes deep three times, then talks for 15 minutes afterward, you better believe you’re going to get a lot of Pujols on this blog and site, and from everyone else who covered it. And this afternoon, Pujols was engaging, thoughtful, funny — one of the better interviews he’s given in recent memory.
Even though Pujols was frustrated by the questions and speculation about his less-productive May, he acknowledged that by his own standards he’s been struggling. But he said he’s feeling good physically, and strongly downplayed any issues regarding his right knee, which he tweaked a few weeks ago. 
“I’m still in the lineup and playing every day,” he said, when asked if he was healthy. “I told you guys in Spring Training, I told you guys early in the year. You never play this game 100 percent. Every day something bothers you. it could be a hamstring, it could be a shoulder, anything. It’s hard to play this game 100 percent. Not even the first game of Spring Training.
“I just don’t like when people try to figure out what’s going on with me. Maybe I’m struggling at the plate and hitting .305. Maybe because I haven’t hit a home run in so many at-bats, people try to figure out that.”
It’s worth noting that I haven’t seen any kind of wrap on Pujols’ knee in recent days, and that’s something he would have if he’d been getting treatment on it.
As for whether he was worried about his production, the answer is pretty much a no.
“This is my 11th season as a professional athlete, and I know what I’m capable of doing,” he said. “I believe that [God] has blessed me with this great career, and all of a sudden it’s not going to go away just because you struggle. You figure out. You find yourself out.
But, again, he didn’t deny that the production hasn’t been there.
“You obviously know when you’re chasing balls out of the strike zone and you’re not patient,” he said. “You feel that. Maybe sometimes you want to push it a little, because you think it’s not going too good. But I don’t think I have felt that this year. Believe it or not.”
Stat of the day 1: Eleven of Pujols’ 12 home runs have come on the road.
Stat of the day 2: From June 1 of last year through the end of May this year, Adam Wainwright has made 34 starts, going 21-8 with a 2.29 ERA. He has 230 strikeouts and 59 walks in that span. In 23 of those 34 starts, he’s gone at least seven innings with no more than two earned runs.
Fun with double situational splits: Skip Schumaker is batting .289 with a .372 on-base percentage at home in May.

And, finally, the playlist:
The Donnas, “Hot Pants”
Van Halen, “Eruption”
Kings of Leon, “Molly’s Chambers”
Rolling Stones, “Respectable”
Nirvana, “Sliver”

-M.

Saturday lineups

Cardinals:

1. Lopez SS
2. Ludwick RF
3. Pujols 1B
4. Holliday LF
5. Rasmus CF
6. Freese 3B
7. Molina C
8. Schumaker 2B
9. Ottavino P
Cubs:
1. Fukudome RF
2. Theriot 2B
3. Lee 1B
4. Soriano LF
5. Byrd CF
6. Fontenot 3B
7. Castro SS
8. Hill C
9. Silva RHP
-M.

Cardinals make two moves

CHICAGO — The Cardinals made a pair of roster moves on Saturday, going to 13 pitchers for the time being.

St. Louis officially recalled right-hander Adam Ottavino from Triple-A Memphis, formalizing a move that had been in the offing for two days. Ottavino is the club’s scheduled starter for Saturday afternoon’s game against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.
Additionally, the Cardinals purchased the contract of lefty Evan MacLane from Memphis, giving them an eighth relief pitcher to protect a bullpen that manager Tony La Russa fears could be short-staffed in the coming days. MacLane provides a long reliever, since he has been starting at Memphis.
To make room for the two additions, the Cardinals optioned right-handed reliever Fernando Salas and outfielder Joe Mather to Memphis.
La Russa said he does not expect the Cardinals to stay with 13 pitchers beyond their upcoming off day on Thursday.
-M. 

Chess Match: Quick hook for K-Mac

The situation: Bottom of the eighth inning, no outs, runners on first and second, Cardinals lead 5-1. Middle of the Cubs order coming to bat against Kyle McClellan, who hit a batter and allowed a single in his first two batters faced.

The decision: TLR immediately goes to Jason Motte, letting McClellan face only the two batters.

The outcome: Motte mows them down, getting a fly out from Aramis Ramirez and strikeouts of Alfonso Soriano and Marlon Byrd.

The analysis: This was a very aggressive move, especially in a four-run game. TLR made the assessment quickly that McClellan wasn’t right and wasn’t about to get right, and the 4-5-6 spots in the order were the wrong guys to try it against. This would have been a very, very bad game for the Cardinals to lose, with Carpenter having pitched so well and the offense having knocked out a good pitcher in the first inning.
It was too early to go to Ryan Franklin, and the Cubs had a run of right-handed hitters coming up. The only real alternative was Motte, who has been pitching very well — and who can get a strikeout even if he’s not your guy to get a double play.

The comment: “First of all, McClellan has been outstanding. The first two pitches he threw to get strike two [against Ryan Theriot] were both up — breaking ball, fastball. Then he tried to throw the sinker [and hit Theriot].”
“He got really bothered by that hit-by guy. You could tell. He kept looking over there. … So we saw he was not right, and he wasn’t going to get right.”

My verdict: I like it. I liked it at the time and I still do. One of my personal beliefs is that you should roll with a reliever who’s going well; I’m a big believer in the value of a 100-inning, 60-appearance reliever if you can find one. But the flipside of that is not riding a guy who doesn’t have it.
You have an alternative. You have enough of a lead that extra innings are not a concern. Your closer can come in within a couple of outs if you need him. And those are some dangerous hitters coming to the plate. So make the move. Get the outs.
TLR is often accused of overmanaging, but I don’t think this was a case of that. It wasn’t obsessively playing the percentages or matchups. He saw his guy was off, and he made the move.
-M.

Stats of the day, May 28

No note of the night today, so I apologize for that. As usual, to make it up, let’s squeeze in a few different stats of the day.

Stat of the Day 1: The Cardinals are 95-41 when Chris Carpenter starts for them, a .698 winning percentage — equivalent to a 113-49 regular season. Over that same span, since the start of the 2004 season, they’re 476-408 when anyone else starts for them — a .538 winning percentage, equivalent to an 87-75 regular season.
Stat of the Day 2: Ryan Ludwick is 3-for-33 with four walks, 11 strikeouts and no extra-base hits when he leads off an inning this year: a line of .091/.189/.091. In all bases-empty situations, he’s at a better but still dismal .208/.270/.358. With runners in scoring position, though, he’s at .417/.512/.778. 

Stat of the Day 3: Jason Motte has 15 strikeouts and one walk over his last 12 appearances, spanning 11 innings.

Fun with double situational splits: Brendan Ryan is batting .353 with a .450 on-base percentage and a .529 slugging percentage in day games against left-handed pitchers.

And, finally, the playlist:
It’s a Chicago special, leading with Kanye’s outstanding new track.
Kanye West, “Power”
Ministry, “N.W.O.”
Rise Against, “Long Forgotten Sons”
Smashing Pumpkins, “Bodies”
My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult, “After The Flesh”
-M.

Saturday starter still undetermined

As of Friday morning, the Cardinals still have yet to settle on a starting pitcher for Saturday’s game against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

Adam Ottavino remains with the club, but has yet to be activated. The most likely scenario remains that Ottavino will be added to the 25-man roster, someone will be optioned to the Minor Leagues, and Ottavino will make the start. The turn would normally be Kyle Lohse’s, but Lohse has been placed on the disabled list due to a forearm injury.
However, it remains a possibility that the Cards could go with a “bullpen game,” depending on how Friday’s game unfolds. If, for example, Chris Carpenter were to pitch a complete game, St. Louis could use all relievers on Saturday and avoid having to send anyone out.
Manager Tony La Russa said that the decision will be made, and Ottavino will be notified, before the team leaves the ballpark Friday afternoon. La Russa did not divulge who would be sent down when and if Ottavino is activated, or which reliever would pitch first in a potential bullpen game.
-M.

Note of the night/Stat of the day, May 23

Note of the night: As TLR went through his postgame news conference on Sunday, fielding questions and singling out heroes, he responded to a question about his relief corps and started to add an answer to a question that hadn’t been asked yet. Then he decided to wait.

The next question was mine, about his starting pitcher on the afternoon. It turns out, that was the question that the manager was waiting for. What’s odd is that he was waiting to sing Chris Carpenter’s praises, when I was asking because I didn’t think Carpenter didn’t look sharp at all.
To my eye, and according to Gameday, Carpenter’s location just wasn’t very good. He was consistently in the top half of the strike zone, and that simply isn’t where he operates. That’s not Carpenter’s style. So it was strange to hear both manager and pitcher with such a different take.
“I really felt that the ball was coming out of his hand outstanding,” La Russa said. “He had a couple 0-2 misses and they capitalized. And their catcher takes the ball on the outside black and hits it out, that’s great hitting. He pitched around a couple errors. I really thought that Carp had good stuff and located, made a lot of pitches, kept us in the game.
“Overall, I really thought the ball was coming out of his hand very well.”
And here’s what Carpenter said, a comment I also noted in the game story: “Interesting enough, it really was the best I’ve felt all year. I made a couple bad pitches for the homers, but I felt like my stuff was good. I felt like my cutter was better. my command was better. it was a nice win for us and I was happy with the way I felt. … I felt like I was locating well.”
So, honestly, what do you do with that? If the Cardinals had lost the game, I was committed to a story all about how they need Carpenter and Wainwright more than ever, and Carpenter just didn’t have his command on Sunday. Would have been a tough story to write, given the quotes.
What did y’all think, then? Was he overall sharp and just hurt by a couple mistakes? Or was he missing his spots on a consistent basis?
This is one of the challenges all of us sometimes face. Our own observations sometimes clash with those of the players/coaches/managers. Sometimes I re-assess after hearing the comments. Sometimes I soften it a little bit, because someone’s comment casts something in a different light that I hadn’t thought of.
But sometimes, like today, I come back up and I still disagree. I just didn’t find Carpenter to have looked all that sharp. His velocity was good. His stuff was good. But his location did not look good.
Stat of the day: The Cardinals lead the league in bullpen ERA at 2.92 and are tied for the fewest blown saves with three.
Fun with double situational splits: Six of Albert Pujols’ eight home runs this year have come against right-handers on the road.
And, finally, the playlist:
Ride, “Vapour Trail”
Stone Roses, “I Wanna Be Adored”
Charlatans UK, “The Only One I Know”
Catherine Wheel, “Black Metallic”
Jesus and Mary Chain, “Just Like Honey”
-M.
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