September 2010

Note of the night/Stat of the day, Sept. 28

Note of the night: Don’t look now, but Matt Holliday is having, well, a Matt Holliday kind of season. 

His slash lines:
2008: 321/409/538
2009: 313/394/515
2010: 313/389/539
That’s almost eerily consistent. Of course, he didn’t just hit 310/390/540 every week of the season. He’s come on extremely strong lately, including a 378/486/633 line in September. It started a bit ugly, but the end result is going to be exactly what the Cardinals signed up for.
Somewhat like Albert Pujols, Holliday is a bit reluctant to talk about trends. But he acknowledged that things are going well lately.
“I’ve had a pretty good month,” he said. “I don’t know what the numbers are. I feel like I’ve driven some runs in. It’s so day-to-day to me that I don’t really look at periods. But I feel good.”
Rather than the numbers, Holliday pointed to how he’s getting them.
“I feel like I’m seeing the ball well and hitting the fastball up the middle and pulling the offspeed,” he said. “Those are my points, trying to hit hard balls through the middle of the field, and if an offspeed pitch hangs, pull it.”
Stat of the day: After a 1-for-19 start to his big league career, Allen Craig has hit. Since the All-Star break, he’s at 286/333/468 in the Major Leagues (and, of course, crushing when he’s been down at AAA). 

I remain a Craig believer. I think he can hit, and I think he will hit at the big league level.

Fun with double situational splits: When Albert Pujols leads off an inning at home this year, he’s 20-for-42 (.476) with six walks, five strikeouts and eight extra-base hits, for a .542 on-base percentage and a .905 slugging percentage.

And, finally, the playlist:
I’ve been listening to the Drive-By Truckers pretty much incessantly lately, but an all-DBT playlist will have to wait until Saturday or Sunday in honor of their upcoming show at the Pageant. So instead, y’all get to take the reins tonight. Five suggestions from Twitter followers (@MatthewHLeach) are listed below:
Pearl Jam, “Do the Evolution”
Otis Redding, “Dock of the Bay”
Avett Brothers, “Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise”
Mike Doughty, “I Hear the Bells”
The National, “Available”
-M.

Molina likely done for the year

Yadier Molina has likely played his last game of 2010.
Molina was examined in St. Louis on Thursday for continuing soreness in his right knee. General manager John Mozeliak said that no major issues were found, but that the inflammation in Molina’s knee was enough that the club expects to shut down its two-time Gold Glove catcher for the rest of the season.
“There was no structural damage,” Mozeliak said. “A little inflammation under the patella, so at this point we just plan on resting him. At this point he probably won’t play [again this year].
“The most important thing is just making sure he’s OK, and rest is probably the best treatment for this.”
Mozeliak said there is no reason to think that Molina will require surgery to correct the problem.
“Another way to think about it is, if we were playing two weeks from now, he could be ready,” he said.
Molina has been dealing with soreness in his knee since late August, when he suffered an injury in a game against the Nationals. Matt Pagnozzi has started the last two games in his stead, but Bryan Anderson will see some time behind the plate as well.

Molina heads home

Yadier Molina is traveling back to St. Louis to receive an MRI exam on his troublesome right knee.
Molina has been dealing with soreness in his knee since late August, when he suffered an injury in a game against the Nationals. He sat out two games immediately after the injury, but has played more often than not in the days since. He sat out Sunday’s game at home, then played Monday and Tuesday before the persistent pain led the club to send him home to be checked out.
Molina has consistently downplayed the seriousness of the issue, but it has lasted long enough to be of some concern.
“We’ve been watching it closely,” manager Tony La Russa said. “For him to agree to get it checked, there’s more soreness in it.”
-M.

Franklin reconsiders

Ryan Franklin may not be ready for that farewell tour just yet.
Franklin told reporters on Friday afternoon that he has reconsidered his plan to retire following the 2011 season. Franklin has said for quite some time now that he expected to hang it up when his current contract ends, after the ’11 season. But after consulting with a number of people, including Hall of Famer Bruce Sutter, he re-opened the door to playing in 2012 and possibly beyond. It’s not a given that he will play after next year, but it’s no longer a given that he won’t, either.
“Re-thinking means it’s still going to be a family decision,” Franklin said. “If they say, ‘No daddy, we want you to stay home…’”
Franklin said the choice was unrelated to his trip home this week. The right-hander spent two days at his home in Oklahoma to tend to a personal matter. He was back in the clubhouse on Friday and is available to pitch.

Chess Match: Six was enough

The situation: Tie game, 2-2, in the middle of the seventh inning. The 2-3-4 hitters in the Braves order coming to the plate, two of them left-handers (No. 2 hitter Jason Heyward and No. 4 hitter Brian McCann).

The decision: TLR lifts Jake Westbrook in favor of Dennys Reyes
The outcome: Reyes allows a homer to the first batter he faces before retiring the next two men.
The analysis: This looks like a platoon play, but there really weren’t a lot of platoon advantages to be gained here. Westbrook has very little left-right split this year. Same goes for the second lefty hitter in the inning, McCann. And Reyes actually has a reverse split this year, though that definitely hasn’t been the story for his career.
Heyward, though, does have quite a split. And while Westbrook had kept him under wraps for the most part, he’d had a tough time with No. 3 hitter Martin Prado and McCann. He was at 105 pitches, though he was also coming off a reasonably effective sixth inning.
Yet it’s worth noting that the momentum Westbrook had seemed to build in the third and fourth was perhaps waning in the fifth and sixth. He wasn’t cruising. He was pitching pretty well, but not really on a roll.
The comment, 1: “I thought he’d had enough. They pay you to evaluate what you’re seeing. And when a guy is done, you get him out of there before somebody makes him pay, makes us pay. He had done a terrific job.” – TLR
The comment, 2: “I felt good. that’s still a lot of pitches. the way I labored in the first two, it’s kind of tough to throw me back out there. after the first two, I told myself get through six.” – Westbrook
My verdict: I’m on the fence on it now, though at the time I thought it was an odd move. But the more I look, the more I see the argument. It’s the seventh, not the sixth, so chances are you won’t see those two lefties again before the ninth. So it’s not like you’re using your one left-handed bullet too soon.
And while Westbrook only allowed one baserunner in his last inning, it was against the bottom of the order. Through the full last time through the order, he had some trouble.
So this will come across as a bit of a reverse second guess. At the time, I thought I would have stayed with Westbrook. But in retrospect, I think the decision was entirely defensible, even given the outcome. I might not let Reyes face Heyward AGAIN, though.
-M.

Note of the night/Stat of the day, Sept. 9

Note of the night: Matt Holliday was ejected in the fourth inning on Thursday night after he argued a called third strike, making a bit of a show of it in the process.


Holliday flipped his bat away, walked away demonstratively and took his helmet off before finally flipping his helmet away as well — and that was the final straw that drew the ejection from home plate umpire Mike DiMuro.

I went back and forth on this a little with some people on Twitter, and here’s the truth of the matter: it almost doesn’t matter what Holliday said to DiMuro. You have a better chance of staying in the game if you stand still or walk away demurely while dropping a string of obscenities than you do with theatrical actions like Holliday’s.
In fact, if you watch the video (see the link here), you can clearly read Holliday’s lips as he says, “I didn’t say anything!” after he’s been tossed. But it’s just a truth of the game: making a show of things is a bigger transgression than salty language.
We didn’t get a chance to talk to Holliday after the game, but TLR did address the matter, and he didn’t seem too shocked by the decision.
“There’s a rule that allows you to keep a player in the game, and just [fine] him for the equipment. But DiMuro, he’s a good umpire. That was his good call. I know Matt didn’t curse him. He just questioned the call. But then he walked away and threw it. I think there’s an argument that that’s why that rule is in place. You can just fine him and keep him in the game.”
This really isn’t to pick on Holliday, although it may seem that way. Rather it’s to make a point that players know the rules, and fair or not, they are the rules. Personally, I saw the ejection coming, and I guarantee you that TLR and folks in the Cardinals dugout did too. Doesn’t mean it was the right call, but it wasn’t a surprising call at all — and therefore it would seem that it was avoidable.
Stat of the day: On May 14, Skip Schumaker was at 219/296/273. Since then, he’s batting an even .300 with a .353 on-base percentage and a .396 slugging percentage.
Now, those first six weeks did in fact happen. But that’s more than a half season, 90 team games, in which Schumaker is hitting exactly like you would have expected him to hit based on the previous two seasons.
Stat of the day, 2: Since injuring his knee in Washington, Yadier Molina is 8-for-38 (.211) with no walks, three strikeouts and one extra-base hit (admittedly a very big extra-base hit). Over the previous 35 games he had been at .339/.388/427.
Fun with double situational splits: Albert Pujols is batting .387 with a .441 OBP and slugging .759 in night games since the All-Star break.

And, finally, the playlist:
There’s so ridiculously much good music with Georgia connections, I don’t even know where to start. So let’s just kind of go all over the map.
R.E.M., “Pretty Persuasion”
Outkast, “Ms. Jackson”
Drive-By Truckers, “Wednesday”
Gnarls Barkley, “Smiley Faces”
B-52s, “Give Me Back My Man”
-M.

Thursday lineups

Cardinals

1. Schumake r2B
2. Winn RF
3. Pujols 1B
4. Holliday LF
5. Rasmus CF
6. Molina C
7. Feliz 3B
8. Wainwright P
9. Ryan SS
Braves
1. Infante 2B
2. Heyward RF
3. Prado 3B
4. McCann C
5. Lee 1B
6. Hinske LF
7. Gonzalez SS
8. Cabrera CF
9. Jurrjens P
-M.
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