Results tagged ‘ Fun With Double Splits ’

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 30

Note of the Night: The Cardinals are playing with a short bench right now. Just how short wasn’t entirely evident until Wednesday afternoon.

With two on and two out in the bottom of the ninth inning, in a two-run game, Ryan Ludwick remained on the bench. The official word earlier in this series was that Ludwick might be available to pinch-hit if needed — and it’s hard to imagine a scenario that set up better than the one at the end of Wednesday’s game.
Yet he stayed on the bench.
“I felt pretty dang good today,” Ludwick said after the game. “I’m just kind of getting rest. The last two days I’ve told people, a couple days of rest.”
It’s understandable not to push Ludwick. But if he’s completely unavailable, even in a two-out, two-on, bottom-of-the-ninth situation, it seems to scream for the addition of another hitter. The Cardinals may do that after Blake Hawksworth’s start on Thursday, but they found themselves in a situation where they could have used it on Wednesday.
Stat of the day: Perception is a funny thing. 
The Cardinals are batting .309 with the bases loaded this year (third-highest in the National League). They have a .582 bases-loaded slugging percentage (second in the league) and a .344 OBP (fourth). 

They’re at 266/369/452 with runners in scoring position on the year, ranking eighth in average, fifth in OBP and third in slugging. That’s as opposed to a 260/334/410 line overall.
The problem is not the timing of the hits. It’s the spots in the lineup that have been entirely unproductive.
Fun with double situational splits: Yadier Molina went 1-for-28 against left-handers in June, though at least the one hit was a homer.
And, finally, the playlist:
Hot Chip, “I Feel Better”
LCD Soundsystem, “Dance Yrself Clean”
Fever Ray, “When I Grow Up”
Gossip, “Dimestore Diamond”
Caribou, “Odessa”
-M.

Stats of the day, June 27

Stat of the Day, 1: The Cardinals are 4-17 when their starting pitcher allows more than three runs.

The thing is, in the early part of the season that wasn’t a problem, because it was never happening. Through May 5, Cards starters only had four games where they allowed more than three runs. Put another way, it happened four times in the season’s first 32 games, and 17 times in the last 43 games.
This speaks to a couple of issues, actually. One, as has been repeated ad nauseam, this team is playing in such a way where, if the starter is anything short of excellent, they’re going to have a tough time winning.
But there’s a second point, which goes hand-in-hand. And that’s that as the rotation is currently constructed, you can’t count on them being excellent nearly as often as you could early in the year. With Garcia regressing to the mean a bit, and Penny still out, lights-out starts are less the norm than they were in April.
So while this team would certainly benefit from getting something going consistently on offense, it would also be a major boost to get Penny back and dealing — so that even if they can’t start winning 7-6 games, they can win a few more by 3-1 scores.
Stat of the day, 2: Brendan Ryan is batting .210 with a .269 on-base percentage in June. 
I like Ryan a lot, both personally and as a defensive player. But with the season six days away from its halfway point, this looks less and less like a slump or two slumps or three slumps, and more like a bad year. Whether the answer is to return Felipe Lopez to being the primary shortstop (though he’s not exactly tearing it up), or to give Tyler Greene a better look (and Greene is RAKING at Memphis), it does look like it’s time to dial Ryan back once again.
Stat of the day, 3: Felipe Lopez is at 194/267/299 for June. Yadier Molina is at 175/246/238. For all the talk about hitting with runners in scoring position, or Pujols and/or Holliday not having the kind of torrid runs that people are used to seeing, this in my opinion remains the biggest issue with this offense.
It’s not timing the hits, and it’s not the sluggers. The issue is the number of spots in the batting order that have been completely unproductive. It’s just extremely difficult to overcome a situation where three lineup spots — as was the case Sunday, with Lopez, Molina and Ryan all starting — are offering so little.
Fun with double situational splits: Against right-handers in road games, Colby Rasmus is batting .368 with a .468 on-base percentage and a .779 slugging percentage.
And, finally, the playlist:
The Black Keys, “Next Girl”
Cold War Kids, “Coffee Spoon”
Them Crooked Vultures, “Mind Eraser, No Chaser”
The Dead Weather, “Die By the Drop”
Sleigh Bells, “Infinity Guitars”
-M.

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

Note of the night: Coming off two starts in which his command was off, his pitch counts ran high and he was done sooner than expected, Jaime Garcia wanted to right the ship. He wasn’t pitching badly, but he wasn’t getting as deep into games as he or the Cardinals wanted.

He succeeded on Wednesday, getting through seven innings on 111 pitches and issuing one walk — the third time this year he’s kept the walk total that low, and the first time since May 14. After the game, Garcia explained the changes he made.
He said that for one, he made some small mechanical tweaks, but that really wasn’t the big deal. It was more a matter of approach. He explained that what was happening was that he’d been aiming his fastball too narrowly.
Garcia was trying to throw pitches right on the black. But with the movement on his fastball, he doesn’t need to do that. Especially when pitching to a left-hander, he can aim more for the heart of the plate and get movement toward the edge.
“You kind of think about, OK, what is my fastball doing?” he said. “My fastball is moving this way [in on a left-handed hitter]. If it’s moving this way, try to use more of the middle of the plate so it will be on the corner. If it’s moving this way, and you go to the corner, it’s going to be a ball every time.”
Once he made that adjustment, Garcia was able to trust his fastball more, throw it earlier in counts, get ahead and work off of it. It’s pitching A-B-Cs, really. Get ahead with your fastball, then finish hitters off with your breaking pitches. When he wasn’t getting ahead with the fastball, hitters were laying off his offspeed stuff, leading to deep counts, walks and long innings.
“The last two starts are the only ones that I changed a little bit, trying to do too much,” he said. “You’ve got to step back and relax a little bit, think about, ‘OK, what is going on? There is something definitely going on.  Why are you walking guys? Trying to be too fine?’ So you look back at the video, realize what you’re doing and go back to where you were. Make adjustments.
“It’s [about] having more confidence in my fastball, and using the plate more. Early in the game, the last couple games, I was trying to be too fine and I ended up walking guys. Tried to be on the corner and the ball was [moving off the plate]. So I try to keep the ball down and use more of the middle of home plate. and then later you can go to the corners a little bit more, you can bounce a curveball. But it was more being able to get ahead with my pitches and then make adjustments as the game goes on.”
It worked very well. This was the Garcia the Cardinals want to see, even if he allowed more runs than he did in his previous game. He can be efficient, he can get groundballs and quick outs. And if he does that, he can not only be effective but help take strain off the bullpen.
Stat of the day: David Freese his hitting .318 with a .441 slugging percentage, which comes out to an isolated slugging percentage of .123. His career ISO in the Minors was .224, and it was never below .187 in any Minor League season.

Fun with double situational splits: Hitters are 3-for-20 with runners in scoring position against Garcia in June.
And, finally, the playlist:
The Gaslight Anthem, “Diamond Church Street Choir”
Beck, “Cellphone’s Dead”
The Asteroids Galaxy Tour, “Around the Bend”
Wilco, “Monday”
Features, “Lions”
-M.

Note of the night/Stats of the day, June 15

Note of the night: Slowly, surely, Colby Rasmus is becoming an everyday player. And with good reason. Rasmus has been one of the best offensive players in the National League this year, ranking third in the league in slugging and fifth in OBP.

More specifically though, as of the end of Tuesday’s game, he’s showing virtually no platoon split. Against right-hander, Rasmus has a line of 300/408/600. Against lefties, it’s 289/372/579. That’s a huge development.
He’s started nine games against left-handed starters this year, including the last five for which he was healthy. Given the frustration in some parts of the fan base at Rasmus’ seeming platoon status, this should be received well. And again, the key is that he’s earned it.
“He’s a hitter,” TLR said. “Against all pitching, he plants himself in the strike zone. When you do that, you’re going to hit. I think the more he sees left-handers, [the more he benefits]. Not just because it’s at-bats, but he sees different guys. Each guy is a little different.”
Rasmus feels that the difference from last year, when he hit 160/219/255 against LHP, and this year is subtle but real. 
“I’ve worked with some things on my swing,” he said. “Staying over in there a little more, which I think is helping me stay on those lefties and those breaking balls away. I’m seeing the ball better, not chasing the balls off the plate, just making them come to me. Not missing the pitches. Most of the time I’d be fouling a lot of balls off against lefties and not hitting pitches that I should. Lately I’ve been hitting them.”
That’s often a key that Rasmus points to as a difference between when he’s going well and when he’s not: whether he’s squaring up hittable pitches, or fouling them away. But he also agreed that increased playing time is helping his mindset.
“I guess being in there every day definitely does make a big difference,” he said. “It’s kind of like, if I struggle a little bit I don’t have to worry about being on the bench the next day. Knowing I’ve got a pretty good chance of being in there again. Just the constant grind against them, getting beat up so much, I finally learned how to get ‘em.”
Stat of the day, 1: Rasmus has three home runs in 44 plate appearances against lefties this year. He had three in 115 plate appearances last year.

Stat of the day, 2: This weird and cool note is courtesy of Chris Tunno from Cardinals media relations: Jeff Suppan has a seven-game hitting streak in Interleague Play. For his career, Suppan has hit .317 (13-for-41) in Interleague games.
Fun with double situational splits: In home games in June, Rasmus is 12-for-25 (.480) with five home runs, a .552 on-base percentage and a 1.120 slugging percentage.
And, finally, the playlist:
Feeling like some classics today.
Three Dog Night, “Never Been to Spain”
Bill Withers, “Ain’t No Sunshine”
Chicago, “25 or 6 to 4″
Blood, Sweat and Tears, “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy”
Temptations, “Just My Imagination”
-M.

Notes of the night/Stat of the day, June 13

Note of the night, 1: I touched on this a couple of places already today, including in the game story and on Twitter, but I just find it really interesting.

When Kyle McClellan came into today’s game, I had a bad feeling about it for the Cardinals because I had a perception that McClellan had struggled in tie games. No data to base it on; it just seemed that way.
Well, the amazing thing about following baseball in 2010 is that you can look up just about anything. So I did. And it’s true: McClellan has been strikingly less effective in tie games than in games where the Cardinals are ahead or behind. For his career, entering Sunday, opposing hitters had an OPS of 810 against McClellan in tie games, including a .476 slugging percentage.
With the Cards ahead, McClellan has allowed a 645 OPS and a .328 slugging percentage. With the Cards behind, the numbers are 623 and .296.
So I asked about it. Asked TLR. Asked McClellan. Honestly, I was expecting to be blown off, to have them dismiss it as statistical noise. But they both acknowledged that there might well be something to it.
“I think it’s something to pay attention to,” TLR said. “He’s probably aware of it. That’s how you learn. Maybe you try to do too much. He made a great curveball to Reynolds, and then he threw another one later. He just overthrew, missed a couple balls high, maybe trying too hard.”
Said McClellan: “I think it’s a tough spot to pitch in. especially on the road. they’re trying to lift something. They’re trying to get the ball in the air. … The hitters are in a lot different mode than when they’re behind in the game or when they’re ahead. For me, it’s one of the tougher situations to pitch under. 
“But it doesn’t mean that you come out and expect to give up runs. You come out and attack everybody the same way. I wish I could pick times to give up my runs. You just can’t do it in tie games.”
I honestly don’t know what to make of it. But it’s real, and although I don’t know how to run the regressions, I’d bet that at this point it’s statistically significant. 
Yet it’s a conundrum, because McClellan is at least arguably the best reliever on the team, or at least the best other than Franklin. And he’s also a pitcher who can get more than three outs on a regular basis, which is an extra valuable commodity in a tie game, since you never know how long you could go in extras.
So the Cardinals can’t run away from him in tie games. But it seems they’d at least be wise to try to pick the matchups and situations carefully.
Note of the night, 2: Dennys Reyes is in a slump. There’s no way around it. He’s faced 12 batters this month, and gotten two outs. After the game, Reyes said the main thing he sees on video is that his sinker is not sinking, and it is cutting. So pitches that should be coming in on the hands of lefties are instead running out over the plate.
“I’m leaving my pitches up, up in the zone,” he said. “I’m usually low in the zone. Most of the hits I’ve been getting are on my sinker. My sinker has been coming back. Instead of sinking, they cut a little bit. I’m frustrated about it, because I don’t think I’ve gone through a stretch like this, so bad.”
Reyes hasn’t figured out what’s causing it to happen. That’s the next step.
“I feel really guilty about this game,” he said. “I haven’t been able to get people out. I need to do something about it. I need to do something to fix that and come back and throw strikes in the low part of the zone.
“I’m doing something. I don’t know. That’s the thing that I’ve got to figure out. I’ll start to do something tomorrow. I’ll talk to Dunc about it and see if he can find something to give me.”
Stat of the day: The Cardinals are 15-19 on the road despite having outscored their opponents, 137-130 in road games.
Fun with double situational splits: Matt Holliday is 2-for-17 with runners on base in June.
And, finally, the playlist:
I went to last night’s Arizona State-Arkansas game to see some Cardinals draftees, and I’ll be writing that up in the next day or two. But on the way home XM First Wave was playing the “Saturday Night Safety Dance,” and it was even better than usual. So, five songs from that program:
Duran Duran, “The Wild Boys”
New Order, “Bizarre Love Triangle”
Camouflage, “The Great Commandment”
The Smiths, “I’m So Sorry”
Depeche Mode, “Policy Of Truth”
-M.

Note of the night/Stat of the day, June 6

Note of the night: When Brewers reliever Zach Braddock walked Albert Pujols in the ninth inning on Sunday night, it looked for all the world like the old unintentional-intentional walk. My read was that the Brewers had chosen to pitch around Pujols in order to face Matt Holliday, which to my mind was a fairly absurd decision — putting the game-ending run in scoring position with two outs and a lifetime 318/387/541 hitter coming to the plate.

It turns out that my read was wrong. Braddock was not, in fact, pitching around Pujols. He told my friend and colleague Adam McCalvy that it was actually more like the opposite. He was so jacked up to try to get the superstar out, that he just missed the strike zone.
“If anything I was trying to be a little more aggressive,” Braddock said. “There was a little more excitement. He’s up there to battle for his team in that situation and I wanted to come in and battle for our team. I ended up walking him, but it ended up working out. I had to go right after Holliday.”
Still, it led to an extended conversation with several people on Twitter (I’m at @MatthewHLeach, come on down if you want) about facing Holliday with runners in scoring position. And it seems that a lot of people still are judging Holliday — not expressing frustration, but actually judging the player he is — based on 31 at-bats in April.
I ask of you, look at the bigger picture. Whether it’s Holliday or any number of other topics, when you’re talking about baseball, look at the bigger picture. Holliday has nearly 1,000 ABs that say he’s a good hitter with RISP. He even has 35 since the start of May that say he’s pretty decent.
This is not a positive-negative thing. I feel the same way about people writing Jaime Garcia in for Rookie of the Year, or justifying the Aaron Miles signing because he started a key rally on Saturday. 
Moreover, it’s not that you don’t have the right to be frustrated — of COURSE you do. It’s not that Holliday has delivered in big situations the way the Cardinals hoped he would — frankly, I think he’d admit that overall, he hasn’t.
These things are true. Holliday is not above criticism, nor should he be. You want to yell and scream, hey, be my guest. That’s part of being a fan. But be very, very careful about making that leap from “I’m SO frustrated that Matt Holliday didn’t drive in that run” to “Matt Holliday is a CHOKER and that’s a TERRIBLE DEAL.” 
More and more, I read tweets and emails and I hear people talking in the park or on the radio or wherever, and it’s just those kinds of black-and-white assessments based on tiny samples. “Holliday’s a choker.” “It’s a terrible contract.” Etc etc etc.
Folks, this is just silly. No 30 at-bats — or 50 at-bats or 150 at-bats — tell you what a baseball player really is. They’re a snapshot. Whether a guy is torrid or icy-cold, if you make up your mind based on that few games and at-bats, you’re probably going to make a mistake.
This is a long-view game. It has to be, or you’ll drive yourself crazy.
Stat of the day: Colby Rasmus ranks fifth in the National League in slugging percentage (.569), sixth in on-base percentage (.405) and third in OPS (.974). 
Stat of the day, 2: Rasmus has grounded into one double play all year. 
Stat of the day, 3: Jaime Garcia ranks third in the National League in ground out/air out ratio at 2.94, behind only Tim Hudson and Derek Lowe.

Fun with double situational splits: In night games on the road, Yadier Molina is batting .345 with a .415 on-base percentage and a .414 slugging percentage.
And, finally, the playlist:
I was given a little grief by a club employee recently for complaining about the music at Busch Stadium. So, in the name of fairness, here are some good tunes that have been played here recently, or are played here regularly:
Cheap Trick, “Surrender”
The Police, “Message In A Bottle”
Pearl Jam, “The Fixer”
Outkast, “Hey Ya”
Beastie Boys, “Brass Monkey”
-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, June 1

Note of the night: You may have noticed that the bulk of the damage done against Cardinals pitching on Tuesday night came at the hands of a familiar hitter: Scott Rolen. The former Cardinal hit two home runs and a double to spearhead the Reds’ attack against P.J. Walters and the St. Louis bullpen.

Asked after the game about Rolen, La Russa had a comment that could be taken a couple of different ways. 
“He’s healthy and we have seen that,” La Russa said. “He’s an outstanding player when he’s healthy. He’s playing outstanding for them. 
“Probably their manager’s getting more out of him than I did. I know people are going to speculate that and it’s probably true. I’m sure it’s true. When he’s healthy — and he’s healthy – he’s an outstanding player.”
Now, you can take that as a really direct shot across Rolen’s bow, essentially accusing him of dogging it. Or you can take it as an attempt at the sort of self-deprecation that TLR does sometimes.
My read on it was that he did not intend the more sinister suggestion. Other people I asked in the press box disagreed. I’m sure some of you saw it on TV, so I’d be curious what you thought.
Stat of the day: The Cardinals lost for only the third time all year in a game where Colby Rasmus scored a run. They’re 19-3 when Rasmus scores. By contrast, they’re 18-6 when Albert Pujols scores, and 17-6 when Matt Holliday scores.
Fun with double situational splits: David Freese is batting .409 and slugging .667 against right-handers at home this year.
And, finally, the playlist:
This is an exact five-song sequence that came up on my iPhone this afternoon. Good stuff.
The Hold Steady, “The Weekenders”
Drive-By Truckers, “Home Field Advantage”
Guns N’ Roses, “Used To Love Her”
U2, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” (live, off “Rattle & Hum”)
Blur, “There’s No Other Way”
-M.

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.
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