Results tagged ‘ Albert Pujols ’

Note of the night/Stat of the day, July 7

Note of the night, 1: Quite a few things contributed to Evan MacLane pitching in the ninth inning on Wednesday, but one of them was that Dennys Reyes was unavailable due to illness.

TLR said after the game that Reyes might well not have pitched in that situation anyway, but that nonetheless Reyes was ill. Reyes confirmed shortly thereafter that he is dealing with an infection and not feeling well.
He said he’s been dealing with it for a couple of days, and that it’s not necessarily worse today than yesterday. Of course, Reyes pitched yesterday, so it’s not entirely clear what exactly the situation is. 
Note of the night, 2: Going back to last night (so skip this if you so desire), we had the chance to ask TLR this afternoon about a few of the ninth-inning decisions from Tuesday night.
He stood by the decision to play no-doubles with Carlos Gonzalez at the plate. His argument was that since Gonzalez was the tying run, you wanted to make sure that he didn’t get into scoring position. To my mind, it’s still the opposite — even first base is scoring position with Gonzalez on base and Giambi at the plate, and if you get the out, the game ends. But that’s the manager’s stance, and I figured I ought to pass it along.
He also stood by the decision not to remove Franklin, though I got the impression he was less certain of that in retrospect. He was frustrated (and he wasn’t the only one) with the strike zone for Chris Iannetta, feeling that Iannetta should have been struck out before he ever went deep. He essentially argued that for a good bit of that inning, Franklin hadn’t really done that much wrong.
“The only reason I would have gotten him was just the number of pitches and the game was tied. Just to preserve him for tonight.”
I still believe, and he didn’t dismiss this (though he didn’t confirm it, either) that if Motte or McClellan had been available, the hook would have been quicker. Usually when TLR is really convinced that a decision was right, he’s happy to defend it and present his case — as he did with the positioning on Randy Winn. In this case, there was less of a clear argument. I’m not sure he’s sure it was the right move.
Stat of the day: LeBron James has sco Whoops, sorry about that. Matt Holliday has eight extra-base hits in his last eight games. His slugging percentage has climbed from .488 to .527 in those games.
Fun with double situational splits: Albert Pujols is hitting .260 with a .370 on-base percentage and a .488 slugging percentage against right-handers on the road this year.
And, finally, the playlist:
Nina Gordon, “Tonight and the Rest of My Life”
Kings Of Leon, “Slow Night, So Long”
Rolling Stones, “Time Waits For No One”
Tanya Donelly, “World On Fire”
Pearl Jam, “Corduroy”
-M.

Note of the night/Stat of the day, July 1

Note of the night: It shouldn’t come as any surprise that TLR is pleased that Albert Pujols is skipping the Home Run Derby. He saw Jim Edmonds come down with an injury in the Derby some years back, and the perception at least is that the Derby has sapped Pujols’ performance in past years.

“He’s a smart guy,” La Russa said. “He’s paid his dues for Major League Baseball several times, and last year was a prime example. He was so beat up when that All-Star break came, and he did everything. He showed up early, stayed late. Let somebody else carry the torch. 
“I definitely agree with Albert. He’s a smart guy, he’s doing the right thing and he’s paid his dues.”
But you may or may not know that that’s not the only reason. La Russa is simply no fan of the Derby. He feels it overshadows the All-Star Game far too much, and he doesn’t like for players to try to hit homers anyway.
“The other thing is, I’m irritated with the attention the home run contest gets,” he said. “It’s like a big show, and the game is an afterthought, which is totally ESPN [folly]. 
“They make it a three- or four-hour deal. There’s a lot wrong with it. Have one or two rounds so nobody gets real tired, a nice competition. Why don’t they just have who can hit more line drives to left center or right center?”
Stat of the day: Since May 29, Mitchell Boggs has made 13 appearances. In those games, he’s pitched 13 2/3 innings, allowing one run on six hits for a 0.66 ERA. He’s struck out 10 against five walks and not given up a home run.
Fun with double situational splits: Against left-handers at home, Colby Rasmus is batting .324 with a .410 on-base percentage and a .647 slugging percentage.

And, finally, the playlist:
With the Brewers in town, tonight’s playlist consists entirely of bands who are playing or have already played Milwaukee’s Summerfest this year…
Neon Trees, “Animal”
The Hold Steady, “The Weekenders”
The Heavy, “How You Like Me Now”
Modest Mouse, “Dashboard”
Against Me!, “Baby, I’m An Anarchist”
-M.

Note of the night/Stat of the day, June 2

Note of the night: If you bring up patience or drawing walks or even on-base percentage to Tony La Russa, there’s a decent chance you’re going to get a somewhat dismissive answer. It’s not that he devalues OBP — though he values it less than, say, I do. It’s that he feels that in at least some cases, an emphasis on patience and walks can put hitters in a bad spot.

He doesn’t want hitters going up thinking “walk” any more than he wants them going up thinking “home run.” I think his reaction to the idea is overly strong, but I see where he’s coming from.
Instead, the manager’s mantra is a simple one: swing at strikes. He wants his hitters to have a good strike zone, to lay off pitches out of the zone and be aggressive with good, hittable strikes.
For once, that’s what the Cardinals did on Wednesday. The outcome may not have reflected it, as four runs is not a total that jumps off the page. But if you watched the game, you saw hitters laying off pitches out of the zone, forcing Sam LeCure to come over the plate and taking good swings when he did.
As far as the approach, and the swings, and the contact it was one of the better games I’ve seen this team have this year. And it came in a situation that sometimes befuddles the Cards: facing a rookie with only one previous Major League game.
You may look at a box score, see four runs, and be unimpressed. But I think that’s misleading.
“We did a nice job, but he [LeCure] did a good job,” La Russa said. “He really made a lot of pitches behind in the count that were quality. … He did a good job. The catcher worked him really well. So we didn’t get much from him, three runs. He did a good job. But we were working.”
Stat of the day: Albert Pujols has reached base at least twice in each of the last four games, and 13 times total in those four games, bringing his on-base percentage up from .409 to .431.
Fun with double situational splits: Both of Felipe Lopez’s home runs this year have come at home against left-handed pitchers.

And, finally, the playlist:
Sleigh Bells, “Kids”
LCD Soundsystem, “Disco Infiltrator”
Bloc Party, “Helicopter”
Tame Impala, “Solitude Is Bliss”
M.I.A., “Born Free”

-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.

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.

Note of the night/Stat of the day, May 16

Note of the night: There was a really cool atmosphere at Great American Ball Park all weekend. It’s clear that Cincinnati is excited about the Reds, and as a baseball fan, that’s great to see. This has, at times, been a great baseball town, and the game is IMO better when historic franchises like the Reds are good and relevant.

It was somewhat striking to me, though, that in talking to Cardinals players and staff, there was almost an air of something like “that’s so cute” about the whole thing. Nobody explicitly said that, or even came close to saying it. But it was very clear that the Cardinals perspective on the weekend was, “win this series, just like every other series.”
That’s a very La Russa mindset, and I’m not even suggesting it’s the wrong one. But it did seem to be the context of the weekend. Bronson Arroyo said as much postgame today, when he said “It’s not a big deal to them. It’s definitely a bigger deal on this side.”
Asked about the standings, here’s what a couple of Cardinals had to say.
Albert Pujols, asked if it was a big deal to fall out of first place, said:
“It’s a big deal losing a series. We came here to try to win the series, and we had a pretty good chance. That chance slipped out of our way. W don’t care about first place right now, because first place is a long way from now. You still have a long season. I think the idea is to try to win series, and that’s what we focus and concentrate on every day. 
“We were in first place until they won, and that [didn't] guarantee us the playoffs automatically. Until the last game of the season, that’s when you want to be there. If this would have been the last game of the season and we would have fallen out of first place, it would be a big deal. but we’ve still got a lot of games against that ballclub, and we’ve still got a lot of games against great ballclubs in the Central division.”
And here’s Brad Penny, asked a very similar question:
“I’m not really concerned right now. … It’s exciting for them. Not many years they’ve been where they are now. It’s better than not being there at all. I can definitely understand their excitement. They’ve definitely got a better team this year. If their pitching holds up, they’re going to be pretty tough.”
Take it for what it’s worth, but I thought it was interesting.
Stat of the day: After allowing nine home runs in the season’s first 33 games, and at one point going 21 straight games without giving up even a single homer, Cardinals starters have now allowed a home run in five straight games.
For all the talk about how the Cardinals offense has leaned too much on the home run, the simple truth is this: teams that hit home runs win more often. If you hit a lot of them, you’re going to score runs and win. If you give up a lot of them, you’re going to allow runs and lose. The homer rate that this staff had earlier in the year was unsustainable. It will be interesting to see how the rotation fares as that number normalizes a little bit.
Fun with double situational splits: Colby Rasmus is 0-for-16 at home in May.
And, finally, the playlist:
Today, it’s culled from things we heard at GABP this weekend. This is one of the best ballparks around for music.
The Bar-Kays, “Soul Finger”
Dire Straits, “Skateaway”
The Rolling Stones, “Waiting On a Friend”
Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, “I Second That Emotion”
R.E.M., “These Days”
-M.

Monday afternoon tidbits: Garcia, Hawksworth, Pujols

Happy Opening Day to all of you. It’s a warm, hazy day in Cincinnati, and it was a treat to walk across the river from my hotel this morning. Great to be back at the ballpark, seeing the familiar faces, feeling the buzz. Everybody is happy to be here today. Life is good.

* I addressed this in a story on the site today, but in case you missed it: Jaime Garcia will start Sunday night against the Brewers, rather than Saturday afternoon. Chris Carpenter will pitch on Saturday on regular rest, instead of with the extra day on Sunday. TLR said it has to do with matchups as the month goes on.
* They would prefer not to use Blake Hawksworth today. Hawksworth pitched on Saturday and is still recuperating from a right groin injury.
* TLR was asked about Pujols’ health this morning, and this was his response: “He’s actually in good health. Back’s a little stiff. Just need to be careful with it.”
Today’s playlist all comes from songs we’ve heard at the park this morning/afternoon:
Pixies, “Here Comes Your Man”
Clash, “Train In Vain”
Breeders, “Cannonball”
Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Higher Ground”
Beatles, “She Loves You”
-M.

Pujols scratched due to tight lower back

Albert Pujols was initially slated to play in the Cardinals’ Monday afternoon game at home against the Red Sox, but instead has been scratched due to a recurrence of tightness in his lower back. 

Manager Tony La Russa confirmed on Monday morning that Pujols has been scratched as a result of the issue. La Russa had said on Sunday that Pujols would play in Monday’s game, and Pujols came back with the team following a Sunday contest on the road against the Braves — a game that was rained out in the second inning.
Pujols reported to the park on Monday morning but was not in the lineup on a rainy day as a result of the tightness. In his absence, scheduled third-base starter Ruben Gotay moved to first base and Donovan Solano started at third base.
-M.

Monday camp tidbits: Back in the saddle

Hello, all. Took a couple of days to go home and square away some various matters, but I’m back on the beat as of this morning. You can tell I played catchup today by the fact that this post is going up after 6 p.m. ET, rather than early afternoon.

It was a gorgeous day down here, a little breezy but warm and mostly clear. 
Most of the day’s news is covered over on the site: Pujols’ reaction to the weekend’s trade “rumor,” Brad Penny talking about how he feels after getting hit by a line drive, and the six cuts this afternoon.
That leaves, well, tidbits, so here we go:
* TLR said that they have not yet settled on how travel and the like will work for Orlando/Kissimmee, now that the second day of that trip is split-squad with a day at home. He did say, though, that Kyle Lohse will pitch the home game against the Red Sox on March 22, rather than making the trip, and that he (TLR) will likely be in Kissimmee rather than at home.
* Per TLR, there’s not a lot to report about Julio Lugo, who has a groin strain, or Matt Holliday and his injured intercostal muscle. I hope to talk to both tomorrow and have some updates on both.
* A couple of Pujols quotes that didn’t get into the story. 
He discussed some of the clubs he’d accept a trade to, if it came to that, and was asked about going to the AL. His response:
“I don’t know. I don’t even want to talk about it because this is where I belong right now. I belong here hopefully for a couple more years, and then from there hopefully I can finish my career.”
And one more generally on his situation: 
“I told you guys already and that’s the reality. There’s things that I’m able to control but there’s other things that are out of my reach, I don’t have no control. But there are things that I can control. I can say, you know what, I want this, I want that. but there’s other things that, that’s their side.”

Today’s playlist comes from XM’s “Alt Nation” channel, on the drive up to PSL this morning:
Mark Hoppus and Pete Wentz, “In Transit” (I know, but honestly, I dig the song)
Cold War Kids, “Audience” (love this band)
Franz Ferdinand, “The Fallen”
Hives, “Two-Timing Touch And Broken Bones”
Paramore, “Brick By Boring Brick” (Again, maybe uncool, but I dig the song)
-M.

Tuesday camp tidbits: Whither the weather

The skies were very threatening early this morning (see the photo gallery for an idea of how threatening), but the Cards were able to get the bulk of their workout in. 

* Speaking of the weather, it did in fact affect the schedule today. The Cardinals started work one hour early, and compressed all of the live batting practice into a very short span. Pitchers were done throwing by 10 a.m. ET, which was good because some pretty heavy rain landed in Jupiter not long after that.
* Still, there were definitely some things to see while the workout went on. Kyle McClellan looked pretty sharp once again, while Rich Hill’s command wasn’t very sharp. They alternated simulated innings, and they should pitch on the same day going forward — starting with Sunday’s game against the Marlins. I’ve written this before, but it’s pretty clearly a two-horse race for the fifth starter spot unless they both really just implode.
* This morning brought the best play I’ve seen in camp so far, and most of my colleagues appeared to agree. On a double-play drill, Julio Lugo was playing shortstop. He ranged to his left, picked up the ball almost in front of the second-base bag, and flipped it between his legs to Skip Schumaker, who turned the double play. Terrific stuff, fun to see.
* Another from the fun-in-the-cage department, following yesterday’s jawing. Today, Albert Pujols was batting against McClellan. The right-hander threw him two fastballs, and Yadier Molina called them like a pitcher’s umpire — both strikes. Pujols took exception, and when McClellan threw him another fastball, Pujols scorched it up the middle for a sizzling liner.
I wish I could tell you exactly what he then said to Molina, but by Spanish is unfortunately still almost nonexistant. He definitely jabbed him verbally, though, and even gave him a playful poke in the chest with his bat. 
* ESPN’s Eduardo Perez made an appearance at camp today. Perez remains one of my favorite people I’ve ever covered as well as one of the most popular people in baseball. He got big hugs from everybody from the security personnel at the field to media members to players to coaches. Perez, a former Cardinal, is serving as the manager of the Puerto Rican national baseball team and also signed on for another year on Baseball Tonight.
* I was chided in the clubhouse today by Kyle Lohse, who disputed my account of his back-and-forth with Albert Pujols yesterday. Lohse is of the opinion that Pujols’ deep drive off of him yesterday was not, in fact, a home run — that it bounced on the warning track before clearing the fence. All I’ll say is, that’s a dusty, gravelly warning track — and I didn’t see one bit of dust kick up when the ball bounced.
* The Cardinals announced today that Spring Training radio broadcasts will begin on Saturday. Every Saturday and Sunday game, all spring, will be on KTRS and the Cardinals Radio Network. So will every Thursday game except this week’s Grapefruit League opener, and every Tuesday game except for March 9. It’s a total of 17 games.
Today’s playlist:
New Order, “Sub-Culture”
The Postal Service, “Nothing Better”
Joe Jackson, “Nineteen Forever”
Thomas Dolby, “She Blinded Me With Science”
INXS, “Need You Tonight/Mediate”
-M.
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