Sunday, November 24, 2013
New Cardinals Jhonny Peralta and Peter Bourjos
The Cardinals won a NL best 97 games this past season and came up short against the Red Sox in the World Series. It was a bitter defeat and it exposed some of the Cardinals weaknesses. Mainly, some defensive issues and the lack of offense from a few different positions. Still, this club is set up to be even better next season with it's wealth of great young pitching. In the past couple of days, GM John Mozeliak has made some moves to improve the club for next season. On Friday, Mozeliak traded 2011 World Series MVP David Freese and reliever Fernando Salas to the Angels for center fielder Peter Bourjos and prospect Randal Gruchuk. On Sunday, the Cardinals agreed to a four year deal with shortstop Jhonny Peralta.
What does all this mean for the Cardinals? This impacts several different positions for the team. Matt Carpenter will move from second base to third base to replace Freese. Kolten Wong is the leading contender for the second base job, although he will be challenged by Daniel Descalso in spring training. Pete Kozma started a majority of games at shortstop last year, but will either be on the bench or minors next season. Bourjos is a elite defender and this likely spells the end of Jon Jay's days as the Card's center fielder. Jay could start in right field, or be relegated to a 4th outfielder role. The acquisition of Bourjos likely means that Carlos Beltran isn't coming back. The Cardinals would receive a compensation pick in next year's draft if Beltran signs elsewhere. He will likely receive several multi-year offers and probably will be with an American League team next year.
Freese has fallen off from his moment of greatness during the 2011 postseason. He did go on to have his best season in 2012, making the 2011 All Star team. However, Freese's performance dramatically fell during 2013. His power dropped and his defense suffered as well. Freese is also injury prone and will be 31 next season. Perhaps, a change of scenery could help him and he will be re-united with Albert Pujols in Anaheim. Infield defense improves quite a bit by Carpenter moving to his natural position at third base and Wong taking over second. Bourjos started in center field over Mike Trout, which says something. Bourjos runs like a deer and has a cannon for a arm. Jay's defense fell off in 2013, as he often took bad routes to balls and has a below average arm. Jay could excel in a fourth outfielder role. He did very well in that role before the Colby Rasmus trade opened up the center field job for Jay.
Bourjos isn't risk free. Like Freese, Bourjos has a injury history. He missed much of last season after breaking his wrist after getting hit by a pitch. Bourjos will be 27 next year and still has time to develop. Some baseball people feel like Bourjos wasn't given a good opportunity with the Angels, and could benefit from a change in scenery. In 2011, Bourjos played his only full season as a starter. He led the AL in triples, hit 12 homers, stole 22 bases, and hit .271. Gruchuk was one of the Angels top prospects and is a power hitting corner outfielder. He will likely start the season in Triple A. The Cardinals got the better end of this deal. Salas didn't make the postseason roster and didn't figure to be in the club's future plans. If Wong develops into a good player, the team won't miss Freese.
Shortstop was the biggest weak spot on the Cardinals last year. Rafael Furcal was unable to play last year, leaving Kozma and Descalso to hold down short. Offensively, the Cardinals were among the worst teams in the majors at the shortstop position. Mozeliak explored trades for JJ Hardy and Erick Aybar, but the asking price of Shelby Miller was way too high. There were some rumors about Troy Tulowitzki, but the asking price and his future salary was too steep. The Rangers traded Ian Kinsler for Prince Fielder, meaning that Jurickson Profar would take over at second base; ruling out a trade for Profar or Elvis Andrus. The team then looked to the free agent market. Stephen Drew and Jhonny Peralta were the top two options available.
The Cardinals ended up choosing Peralta. Peralta's first choice was the Cardinals and he was willing to take less to sign with them. Drew would of cost the Cardinals their first round pick to Boston. Drew is a little better defensively than Peralta, but Peralta has a big advantage offensively. St. Louis ended up signing Peralta to a four year, $ 52 million contract. Peralta is 31 years old and is capable of playing other positions than short. For shortstops, Peralta ranks among the best offensive shorstops after Tulowitzki and Jose Reyes. However, Peralta served a 50 game suspension for PED's in 2013 for his connection in 2012 to Biogenesis. Peralta said he made a mistake and was sorry. His teammates in Detroit considered him to be a good clubhouse guy, though, and accepted him back for the postseason. Peralta hit .333 for the Tigers in 10 postseason games.
I think the Cardinals will be a better team next season. Their defense should be much improved at second, third, and center field. Kozma is a better defender than Peralta, but Peralta's bat makes up for that difference. The potential loss of Beltran will hurt, but Oscar Taveras will be ready soon. Taveras would have to have a really good spring to make the opening day roster, but will certainly be up at some point. Taveras missed the second half of the season due to injury. In right field, the Cardinals could shift Allen Craig there and play Matt Adams at first. They also have Jay and Shane Robinson as options. The Cardinals led the NL in runs last year, despite not hitting a lot of home runs or stealing bases. I'm not sure if the power will improve, but the team's base running has improved with Bourjos and Wong.
As with last season, the club's young pitching should carry this team. Miller won 15 games as a rookie and barely was used in the postseason. Adam Wainwright finished 2nd in the Cy Young balloting and is the leader of the staff. Michael Wacha, Joe Kelly, Lance Lynn, Tyler Lyons, and Carlos Martinez will all return next year since they weren't used as trade bait for a shortstop. Jaime Garcia will also be back from a shoulder injury, giving the team another option in the rotation. For the bullpen, Trevor Rosenthal has taken over the role as the team's closer last September. Edward Mujica will not be back next year. However, Kevin Siegrist and Seth Maness will return, and some of the arms that don't make the rotation could be used in the bullpen. Jason Motte will also return from Tommy John surgery. An improved defense should help out the Cardinals pitching next year.
The last time the Cardinals made a deal with the Angels for an injury prone extra outfielder they acquired Jim Edmonds. The Cards only gave up Adam Kennedy and Kent Bottenfield to get the best center fielder in team history. Edmonds would win several Gold Gloves, make 3 All Star teams, and help the Cards to two World Series, winning the 2006 World Series. A year later, Edmonds was traded to the Padres for an A ball prospect named David Freese, who grew up a Cardinals fan. Freese debuted in the majors in 2009, but injuries kept him off the field much of the next couple of seasons. Freese would then have the month of his life, winning the NLCS MVP, the World Series MVP, and setting a single postseason record of 24 RBI's. Now it comes full circle with Freese being traded with fellow 2011 champion Salas for Bourjos and Gruchuk. Time will tell how this deal will work out, but many baseball commentators are saying this is a win for the Cardinals.
Sunday, October 20, 2013
Carlos Beltran Celebrates his first trip to the World Series
The Cardinals have clinched their 4th National League pennant in the last decade with last Friday's NLCS clinching win against the Dodgers. Rookie pitcher Michael Wacha won two games against the Dodgers and earned the NLCS MVP for his dominant performance. Carlos Beltran made several big plays with his bat and glove to help his team make their 19th World Series appearance. They will face the Boston Red Sox, who went from worst to first this season, finishing tied with the Cardinals for the best record in baseball. This marks the first time since 1999 where both leagues top records advanced to the World Series. This will be the Red Sox's 12th appearance in the World Series. It will be a rematch of the 2004 World Series, in which Boston broke their 86 year title less drought. These two teams also met in 1946 and 1967, when the Cardinals defeated Boston in 7 games both times.
While these two teams met in the 2004 World Series, only David Ortiz and Yadier Molina remain. The Red Sox also won the 2007 World Series, but only Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Jon Lester remain from that club. The Cardinals won the 2006 and 2011 World Series. Only Molina, Adam Wainwright, and the injured Chris Carpenter remain from that club. This is also a vastly different Cardinals team than the 2011 version. On the active roster, only 8 players remain from the 2011 World Series roster. Wainwright was injured that season and the team still has 6 other players from that team who are injured or not on the roster this year. Both teams are looking for their third championship of the 21st century. The Cardinals are seeking their 12th title and the Red Sox are seeking their 8th title. The Cardinals have relied on rookies this season, and the Red Sox signed a bunch of veterans to rebound this year. Here's a position by position comparison.
Molina is the best catcher in baseball and a 6 time Gold Glove winner. Boston was third in the AL with 123 steals this year and will test Molina. Jacoby Ellsbury led the AL with 52 steals and it will be a showdown between a great base stealer and a great arm behind the plate. Yadi is also a force with the bat and drove in a career high 82 runs this season. Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit 14 homers and 40 doubles this year. Salty is a solid catcher, but clearly inferior to Yadi
Matt Adams has filled in for Allen Craig since Craig sprained his ankle in early September. Craig led the team with 97 RBI's and had the best RISP in the league. Still, St. Louis hasn't had much of a dropoff with Adams. Adams has tremendous power and hit 17 homers in around 300 at bats. The Red Sox added former Rangers catcher Mike Napoli to be their first baseman in the offseason and he had a good year for them. If Craig was healthy, this would be an advantage for the Redbirds, but I'll give the Sox a slight advantage with Napoli over Craig. David Ortiz could possibly play some first base in games at Busch Stadium.
Both teams feature All Star second sackers in Matt Carpenter and Pedroia. Carpenter had a season worthy of MVP votes in his first year as a starter in a different position. Carp led the NL in hits, runs, and doubles this season. Pedroia has been a big part of Boston's renaissance this year. This will be Pedroia's second World Series. The 2008 MVP is a better defensive player than Carpenter, but Carp had a slightly better offensive year. I would say this is a push.
Former Diamondback Stephen Drew was one of Boston's many additions in the offseason. He is clearly a better offensive player than either Pete Kozma or Daniel Descalso. Mike Matheny has mixed and matched Kozma and Descalso on matchups this postseason, and it's worked so far. Kozma is the superior defensive player of the two, and better than Boston's Drew. Still, Drew's offense is much better than either Cardinals option at short.
David Freese has taken a step back this season after being a 2011 postseason hero and a 2012 All Star. Freese hasn't hit for the opposite field power like he did in year's past. He has showed some flashes of his old self, like when he hit a home run in Game 5 of the NLDS vs. the Pirates. Wil Middlebrooks had a sophomore slump this season, although he played better after Boston traded away Jose Iglesias. John Farrell started rookie Xander Boegarts in the last game of the ALCS after he delivered in other opportunities. He may go with Boegarts more than the struggling Middlebrooks in the World Series. I'm going with a slight edge for St. Louis on this since this is Freese's time of year.
Matt Holliday turned it on big time in the second half this season after a slow start. Holliday has a propensity for grounding into double plays and occasional lapses on defense, but he does put up the offensive numbers every year. The Red Sox have been going with a lefty/righty platoon of Jonny Gomes and Daniel Nava this year. It's been solid for them this year.
Jon Jay has had a up and down season this year. He was dropped down from the leadoff spot early in the year, but went on a hot streak late in the year. Jay's defense has been one of his strengths in the past, but he was uncharacteristically shaky during the NLCS. Matheny used Shane Robinson in Game 6 when Clayton Kershaw pitched and may do the same when Lester starts. Robinson had a pinch hit home run in Game 4. Ellsbury had a rebound season from an injury plagued 2012. Ellsbury steals a lot of bases, plays good defense, and is a solid hitter.
It took Beltran 15 seasons, but he will finally make the World Series this year. The Cardinals denied him in 2004 as an Astro, in 2006 as a Met, and fell a game short his first season with St. Louis in 2012. Beltran made his 8th All Star team this year and led the Redbirds with 24 homers this year. Beltran tied Babe Ruth on the all-time postseason home run list this year. The Red Sox signed former Phillie Shane Victorino this past offseason. The Flyin' Hawii'an answered critics who thought he was washed up with a vintage season. Having Victorino in right field is like having two center fielders for the Red Sox.
David Ortiz is the only remaining member of the 2004 curse breaking Red Sox. He's not a 40 or 50 homer guy anymore, but at age 37 had a big year. Big Papi hit .309 with 30 homers and 103 ribbies this year. Boston also will have Middlebrooks, David Ross, Mike Carp, Quentin Berry, an either Gomes or Nava on their bench. Craig has said he will be able to play in the World Series. He will likely DH in Fenway Park and be available for pinch hitting in NL games. It's doubtful he will play any games in the field. Craig's return likely means that either Adron Chambers or Kolten Wong are taken off the roster. Both are speedy players, and the team will need to decide if it needs an extra outfielder or infielder. Tony Cruz, Descalso, and Robinson will also be on the Redbirds bench. I think that Boston has the edge here.
Adam Wainwright and Wacha have been a powerful combo this postseason. They have won 4 games for the team so far in the playoffs. Wainwright won 19 games in the regular season this year and will likely be matched up against Red Sox lefty Jon Lester in Game 1. In Game 2, rookie phenom Wacha will likely be matched up against former Angel John Lackey. I would imagine that Joe Kelly would start Game 3 at home against Clay Buchholz. Buchholz was 12-1 with a 1.74 ERA this year, but was limited to 16 starts due to injury. Matheny has went with Lance Lynn over Shelby Miller as the team's fourth starter and I would assume that Lynn would start Game 4 against former Cy Young winner Jake Peavy.
Even if Miller doesn't start, I would expect him to have a bigger role in the World Series. He was arguably the Cards second best starter in the regular season, and his workload and struggles in the second half might have something to do with Miller being limited to one relief appearance against Pittsburgh. Matheny has said that Miller didn't matchup well against Pittsburgh or Los Angeles. It's quite a luxury to have a 15 game winner waiting in the wings if needed.
These two teams approach to building the bullpen were drastically different. The Cards have relied on mostly youngsters, while the Sox have relied on veterans. Still, both teams have had to adjust at closer due to injury and poor performance. Going into the year, Jason Motte was expected to be the Cardinals closer. He was shelved before the season started and had season ending Tommy John surgery in May. Mitchell Boggs filled in, but was ineffective at the closing role and eventually traded. Edward Mujica took over and made the All Star team. However, Mujica faded late in the season and was replaced by hard throwing Trevor Rosenthal. Boston opened the season with Joel Hanrahan as closer, and later Andrew Bailey after Hanrahan was injured. Both pitchers were former All Stars, but 38 year old Koji Uehara moved into the role and thrived. Uehara finished the season with 21 saves, a 1.09 ERA, and a 0.57 WHIP.
Besides Rosenthal, the Cardinals have relied on rookies Seth Maness, Carlos Martinez, and lefty Kevin Siegrist in the late innings. Martinez looks like a younger Pedro Martinez and was really impressive in the NLCS. Randy Choate does a good job getting lefties out and the team also has Tyler Lyons and Sam Freeman should it decide it needs another lefty. Mujica and John Axford are also on the roster, but shouldn't be used in tight games. Boston moved starter Ryan Dempster to the bullpen for the postseason. Dempster joins righties Brandon Workman, Junichi Tazawa, Uehara, lefties Felix Doubront, Franklin Morales, and Craig Breslow in the bullpen. Breslow has had a terrific postseason.
Mike Matheny is in the World Series in only his second season as manager. He has made the playoffs in his first two seasons after taking over for Tony La Russa. John Farrell came over from Toronto to replace Bobby Valentine last offseason. Farrell was the Sox pitching coach under Terry Francona and returned the club to the postseason. Both teams are well coached and have plenty of players with a winning background. So far, both managers moves have worked out for the two teams.
Prediction: Cardinals in 6
Friday, October 11, 2013
Molina and Wainwright Celebrate Division Series Clincher
This weekend, the Championship Series will begin in both leagues. The Dodgers will head to St. Louis Friday to kick off the NLCS, and the Tigers will head to Boston for the ALCS starting Saturday. The Dodgers dispatched the Braves in 4 games as did the Red Sox with the Rays, but it took the Tigers and Cardinals five games to knock off the Athletics and Pirates. Justin Verlander and Adam Wainwright pitched gems to propel their teams to victory. This was the second year in a row that the Tigers defeated Oakland in Game 5 with Verlander winning. The Cardinals have also won three straight Game 5 Division Series clinchers. I'll preview both series below.
American League Championship Series
Tigers vs. Red Sox
Previous Playoff Meetings: None
Season Record: Det 4, Bos 3
I think it is pretty clear that the Tigers and the Red Sox were the two best teams in the American League this year. Nothing against the A's or Rays, but neither team was as talented or deep as Detroit or Boston. Oakland came close to upsetting the Tigers, but lost the final two games after being up 2-1. The Tigers have one of the best starting pitching staffs in the game and have a strong offense led by Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, and Torii Hunter. The Tigers are looking for another shot at a championship after being swept in last year's World Series. One concern for Detroit is their bullpen, which is the weakest of any of the four teams left playing.
Boston went worst to first this season after a couple of disappointing and embarrassing seasons. John Farrell became the third manager in the last three years after he replaced the unpopular Bobby Valentine. There is no more talk of chicken and beer, nor is there any distractions about their manager. The team added veterans Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, Stephen Drew, Jonny Gomes, Koji Uehara, and Ryan Dempster in the offseason. Jacoby Ellsbury and John Lackey had big seasons after being hurt last year. Team fixtures like Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, and Jon Lester also had good years; helping the Red Sox turn it around this year. They finished the year with the American League's best record and led the league in runs scored.
There should be some good pitching matchups in this series. Game 1 will feature Lester vs. Anibal Sanchez(who led the AL in ERA this year). Game 2 will pit All Stars Max Scherzer and Clay Buchholz. In Game 3, Lackey will face Verlander, and in Game 4 Doug Fister will face Jake Peavy.
It's tough to say who will win this series. Boston has homefield advantage, but lost the season series to Detroit. Cabrera has been banged up, and it's affected his hitting. The Cardinals have played a World Series against both teams in the last 10 years.
National League Championship Series
Dodgers vs. Cardinals
Previous Playoff Matchups: 1985, 2004, 2009
Season Record: LA 4, StL 3
The philosophy of building a team is vastly different with the Dodgers and Cardinals. The Cardinals have relied on home grown talent and have 10 rookies on their postseason roster. The Dodgers have acquired big name stars such as Zack Greinke, Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, and Carl Crawford. Dodgers ownership and team president Magic Johnson are committed to winning a championship. So is Bill DeWitt, John Mozeliak, and the Redbirds brass. Mozeliak has prioritized the farm system and player development since he became the team's GM. This philosophy has allowed the Cardinals to continue winning after deciding not to match the Angels offer to Albert Pujols.
The Cardinals led the National League in runs scored, despite not hitting a lot of home runs and not stealing many bases. Clutch hitting, hitting good with runners in scoring position, and getting on base has been the recipe for run scoring for St. Louis. Leadoff hitter Matt Carpenter personifies this approach. He had one of the best seasons ever by a Cardinals leadoff hitter, and broke Stan Musial's single season record for doubles by a left handed hitter. The Cardinals also had big years from Yadier Molina, Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran, and Allen Craig. Craig is still out for the NLCS, although he could be available for a pinch hitting and DH role if the Cardinals advance to the World Series. Matt Adams has filled in for Craig, and the Cardinals haven't missed a beat. Adams hit a monster home run in Game 5 of the Division Series off Mark Melancon.
The Dodgers started off very slow this year, and it nearly cost Don Mattingly his job. They were in last place entering June, but caught fire when summer hit. At one point, the Dodgers won 42 out of 50 games. Rookie phenom Yasiel Puig played a big role in this surge, filling in for injured outfielders Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier. Kemp will miss the entire postseason, while Ethier has been limited to a pinch hitting role. Dodgers management also went out and acquired Ricky Nolasco, Brian Wilson, and Michael Young for the playoff push. Pitching was also key to the Dodgers success. Clayton Kershaw will likely win his second Cy Young Award this year after finishing the season with a 1.83 ERA.
Mattingly has announced that Greinke will start Game 1, Kershaw will start Game 2, and Hyun-Jin Ryu Game 3. A starter hasn't been announced for Game 4, but it could be Nolasco, who has struggled lately. The Cardinals will counter with Joe Kelly in Game 1, Michael Wacha in Game 2, Adam Wainwright in Game 3, and Shelby Miller in Game 4. Miller has taken Lance Lynn's spot after Lynn imploded in Game 2 of the NLDS. Wacha was particularly impressive in Game 4, throwing 7 plus innings of no hit ball. Wacha has been a fast riser, starting postseason games a year after he was drafted. Mozeliak drafted Wacha in the first round with the Angels pick they forfeited for signing Pujols.
Wainwright and Kershaw both won 2 games during the Division Series, and both pitchers will have a big say in who wins the NLCS. The Cardinals actually beat Kershaw twice during the regular season. This should be an exciting matchup against two teams both seeking their 19th National League pennant. I think the Redbirds have a good chance in winning this series and have homefield advantage. They'll need big performances from their starting pitchers to win because the Dodgers have two of the best pitchers in the league going for them.
Sunday, September 29, 2013
The MLB postseason will start on Tuesday with the Reds going to Pittsburgh to play the Pirates in the NL wild card game. In the American League, the Indians have clinched the first wild card spot. The second spot has yet to be decided. The Rays and Rangers finished with identical 91-71 records and will play a pre-playoff tiebreaker in Texas to break the tie. The Division Series starts on Thursday. The League Championship Series will open up 2 weeks from now, and the World Series will start on Wednesday, October 23rd in the city of the American League champion.
NL Wild Card Game: Cincinnati at Pittsburgh
Season Record: Pit 11, Cin 8
Previous Playoff Meetings: 1970, 1972, 1975, 1979, 1990
The Pirates will be appearing in their first postseason in 21 years Tuesday. Pittsburgh hopes that it isn't a one and done. Andrew McCutchen had a MVP type season, and new additions like Russell Martin, Francisco Liriano, Mark Melancon, and Marlon Byrd have helped with the team's improvement this year. The Reds had big years from Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Brandon Phillips, and Shin Soo Choo. Liriano will take the start for Pittsburgh, and the lefty has given the Reds fits this year. Rookie Gerrit Cole will back him up if Liriano falters. Mat Latos has been the Reds ace this year, but is dealing with injuries right now. Dusty Baker has announced that Johnny Cueto will tow the rubber for Cincinnati Tuesday. Should be an interesting NL Central battle in the wild card game.
AL Wild Card Game: Tampa Bay/Texas at Cleveland
Season Record: Cle 4, TB 2/ Cle 5, Tex 1
Previous Playoff Matchups: None for either potential matchup
Monday, the Rays and Rangers will play a tiebreaker in Texas to see who will advance to the wild card game. The Rangers knocked the Rays out of the playoffs in 2010 and 2011. Nelson Cruz has been activated for Game 163 after serving his Biogenesis suspension. Texas will start rookie lefty Martin Perez and Tampa Bay will counter with 2012 Cy Young Award winner David Price. Yu Darvish started on Sunday's crucial game for Texas and will be unavailable until the Division Series. If Texas advances to the wild card game, Derek Holland or Matt Garza will likely start it. For Tampa Bay, Alex Cobb would likely start the wild card game if they advance.
The Indians made a dramatic turnaround this year under new manager Terry Francona. This will be Cleveland's first playoff appearance since 2007. They lost 96 games last year and improved their record 26 games this year. Scott Kazmir resurrected his career this season and would likely start the wild card game. Justin Masterson wore down late in the year, but will pitch out of the bullpen in the postseason. Masterson could be a Tim Lincecum type weapon for Cleveland. The Indians won the season series vs. both the Rays and Rangers. Cleveland is also riding a 10 game winning streak coming into the playoffs, so they are hot right now.
National League Division Series
Pittsburgh/Cincinnati vs. St. Louis
Season Record: Pit 10, StL 9, StL 11, Cin 8
Previous Playoff Matchups: None for either matchup
For the first time ever, 3 teams from the same division made the postseason. The Cardinals will host the winner of Tuesday's Pirates/Reds game. The Cardinals have played deep into the postseason the last two years and won the 2011 World Series. Not bad for a team that went in as a wild card both times. This year, the Cardinals won the NL Central title for the first time since 2009. The Redbirds have had major contributions from rookie this year, especially from Matt Adams, Shelby Miller, Kevin Siegrist, Trevor Rosenthal, and Michael Wacha. Allen Craig is not available for the Division Series, but should be back if the Cardinals advance further. However, the Cardinals haven't missed a beat with Adams filling in. Adams has hit 17 home runs in limited playing time, 3rd most on the Cardinals.
Liriano has dominated the Cardinals this year, beating them 3 times. However, Liriano is starting the wild card game and will only start 1 time in the NLDS. AJ Burnett has also pitched well against the Cardinals. The Reds would likely open up with Homer Bailey since Cueto starts the wild card game and Latos is hurt. Adam Wainwright will start the opener for St. Louis, with Miller, Joe Kelly, Lance Lynn, and possibly Wacha in the conversation for the rest of the starting spots. Edward Mujica has struggled in September and it looks like flamethrowing Rosenthal will be the closer in the postseason.
Los Angeles vs. Atlanta
Season Series: Atl 5, LAD 2
Previous Playoff Matchups: 1996
The Dodgers will travel to Atlanta to play the Braves this Thursday. The Braves won the season series, but they played before the Dodgers caught fire. The Dodgers will be without Matt Kemp for the entire postseason and Andre Ethier is also banged up. They still have plenty of offense with Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez, and Yasiel Puig. That been said, the Dodgers strength is pitching. Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Hyun-Jin Ryu will be tough to beat in a short series.
The Braves hit for a lot of power, but led the NL in strikeouts this year. BJ Upton and Dan Uggla both batted under the Mendoza line this year. They will likely open the series with Kris Medlen starting. Mike Minor, Paul Maholm, Freddy Garcia, and Julio Teheran will vie for the other spots. Closer Craig Kimbrel had another dominant year for Atlanta and is one of the best in the business. The Braves are a way better team at home than the road, so it's a good thing they have home field advantage.
American League Division Series
Texas/Tampa Bay/Cleveland vs. Boston
Season Series: Tex 4, Bos 2/Bos 12, TB 7/Bos 6, Cle 1
Previous Playoff Matchups: Tex/Bos-none, TB/Bos-2008, Cle/Bos-1995, 1998, 1999, 2007
Boston can't plan for Friday's opponent just quite yet. It could be one of three different teams, Texas, Tampa Bay, or Cleveland. The Red Sox finished with the best record in the American League this season after two straight disappointing years. The Sox re-tooled last offseason, adding Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, Stephen Drew, Jonny Gomes, and Ryan Dempster. 2007 championship holdovers Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, David Ortiz, and Jon Lester had big years this season for Boston. New manager John Farrell has done a great job this season, with Boston going worst to first in the AL East.
The most intriguing matchup for the Red Sox would be facing former manager Francona's Indians ballclub. Francona was let go as manager after the 2011 collapse and replaced by Bobby Valentine, who was disastrous in his one season as manager. Tampa Bay and Texas would have burned their best starters by the opening game of the Division Series, since they are playing a tiebreaker Monday. The Sox will have an advantage in being able to set up their ALDS rotation with their best starters. Farrell hasn't decided if Lester, Clay Buchholz, or Jake Peavy will start Game 1. Boston had suffered numerous injuries in the bullpen with former All Stars Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey going down for the season. Luckily, Koji Uehara has filled to void and has been dominant in the closer role.
Detroit vs. Oakland
Season Series: Oak 4, Det 3
Previous Playoff Matchups: 1972, 2006, 2012
Bob Melvin and the Athletics proved they were not a fluke this year, winning their second straight AL West title. Oakland was able to beat out their big spending division rivals, like the Angels and Rangers. The A's will have homefield advantage in the first round, but will have to play the team that eliminated them last season, Detroit. The Tigers will be tough to beat and are favored in this series. Still, the A's are a hard team to play despite the lack of star power. Josh Donaldson, Coco Crisp, Brandon Moss, and Jed Lowrie had big years for Oakland this year, and their pitching has been good.
The Tigers have arguably the best rotation of all playoff teams, although the Dodgers might argue about that. Detroit will open with 21 game winner Max Scherzer, followed by Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez, and Doug Fister. Joaquin Benoit settled in as Detroit's closer after early season uncertainty in the bullpen. Oakland will counter with 40 year old Bartolo Colon, followed by youngsters like Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, and AJ Griffin. The A's have one of the league's best bullpens with Grant Balfour, Ryan Cook, and Sean Doolittle. Last year, these two teams went the full five games in the ALDS; and this year's matchup should be hard fought as well.
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Clayton Kershaw: Likely to Win 2nd CYA in 3 Years
The season is winding down in it's final week, and the playoffs will start next week. There should be some interesting discussions on who wins the MVP, Cy Young, and Rookie of the Year. The awards won't be announced until after the season in November, but the writers vote on them at the season's end before the playoffs. Today, I will predict who will win these awards and how I would vote.
AL Manager of the Year
1) John Farrell, Red Sox
2) Terry Francona, Indians
3) Bob Melvin, Athletics
The Red Sox were a mess last year in Bobby Valentine's only season as manager and finished in last place. The year before, they collapsed in the final week and missed the postseason, leading to Francona's demise. Boston hired Farrell to be their 3rd manager in 3 years and overhauled their roster. It worked out and the Sox have the best record in the AL. Francona took over the Tribe this year and has the team in position to make the final wild card spot. The A's weren't expected to repeat last year's success, but have won the AL West again with one of the league's lowest payrolls. The Yankees Joe Girardi might get some votes for keeping them in contention despite numerous injuries.
NL Manager of the Year
1) Clint Hurdle, Pirates
2) Don Mattingly, Dodgers
3) Mike Matheny, Cardinals
After two straight second half collapses, the Pirates have changed their luck this year. Hurdle has led the club to their first postseason appearance since 1992. Mattingly's job was thought to be in danger in May, but the Dodgers went on a tear this summer. At one point, they went 42-8 in a 50 game stretch. The Cardinals have played 20 rookies this season, but have the lead in the NL Central.
AL Comeback Player of the Year
Mariano Rivera, Yankees
Even with Rivera retiring after the season, he still had a deserved All Star selection this year. He fully came back from tearing his ACL in Kansas City last season. The Yankees will miss the postseason this year, but at least Rivera was able to go out in his own terms.
NL Comeback Player of the Year
Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies
Last season, Tulo was limited to 47 games due to injury. He's missed some time this year, but has played in 122 games so far and put up his usual big numbers. He's batting .315 with 25 home runs, and playing terrific defense.
AL Rookie of the Year
1) Wil Myers, Rays
2) Chris Archer, Rays
3) Martin Perez, Rangers
4) Leonys Martin, Rangers
5) Matt Dominguez, Astros
Myers was the big piece in the James Shields trade with the Royals last year. The trade helped both teams and Myers has been a big bat for Tampa Bay. Archer has also been a solid starter for the Rays. Lefty starter Perez and center fielder Martin have helped out the Rangers quite a bit this year.
NL Rookie of the Year
1) Jose Fernandez, Marlins
2) Shelby Miller, Cardinals
3) Yasiel Puig, Dodgers
4) Julio Teheran, Braves
5) Hyun-Ji Ryu, Dodgers
The NL rookie class is deep, and I left out the Pirates Jeff Locke and Gerrit Cole, the Diamondbacks AJ Pollock and Didi Gregorius, the Cardinals Matt Adams, Trevor Rosenthal, Kevin Siegrist, and Michael Wacha, and the Padres Jedd Gyorko. Matt Harvey, Patrick Corbin, and Jean Segura just missed being rookies this year. I think the most impressive rookie is the Marlins Jose Fernandez. Fernandez went 12-6 with a 2.19 ERA and 187 strikeouts on a 100 loss team.
AL Cy Young Award
1) Max Scherzer, Tigers
2) Yu Darvish, Rangers
3) Bartolo Colon, Athletics
4) Anibal Sanchez, Tigers
5) Felix Hernandez, Mariners
Scherzer has had a career year with Detroit and is the AL's only 20 game winner. He also is second in strikeouts and first in WHIP. Sanchez has also had a great season, with Justin Verlander having a relative off year(although most pitchers would love to have that kind of off-year). 40 year old Colon has been the A's ace this year. Chris Sale, Hisashi Iwakuma, and CJ Wilson will probably also get a few votes.
NL Cy Young Award
1) Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
2) Adam Wainwright, Cardinals
3) Jordan Zimmermann, Nationals
4) Cliff Lee, Phillies
5) Jose Fernandez, Marlins
Kershaw has had a dominant season, leading the NL in ERA, WHIP, and strikeouts. Kershaw has a 1.88 ERA. There were a lot of good pitching performances in the NL this year. Wainwright and Zimmermann should get some 2nd and 3rd place votes, but I think Kershaw will be a unaminous winner. Other pitchers who will get votes should include Madison Bumgarner, Patrick Corbin, Zack Greinke, Matt Harvey, and Francisco Liriano.
1) Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
2) Chris Davis, Orioles
3) Mike Trout, Angels
4) Robinson Cano, Yankees
5) Adrian Beltre, Rangers
6) Josh Donaldson, Athletics
7) Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox
8) Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays
9) Manny Machado, Orioles
10) Evan Longoria, Rays
Cabrera won't win the Triple Crown again this year, but he should win the MVP. The sabermetrics crowd was upset that Cabrera beat out Trout last year, and might be upset again this year. Trout does have the advantage in defense and baserunning, but not hitting. Plus, Trout's Angels are below .500 at a distant third place this season. Davis became the first player since Jose Bautista in 2010 to hit 50 home runs in a season this year. I think Cano deserves some votes for keeping the Yankees in contention while surrounded by castoffs this year.
1) Andrew McCutchen, Pirates
2) Yadier Molina, Cardinals
3) Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks
4) Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
5) Matt Carpenter, Cardinals
6) Freddie Freeman, Braves
7) Joey Votto, Reds
8) Michael Cuddyer, Rockies
9) Jayson Werth, Nationals
10) Shin-Soo Choo, Reds
I think McCutchen is the obvious pick for NL MVP. He is a five tool player who's having a terrific season, and the Pirates wouldn't sniff the playoffs without him. The Cardinals have Molina, Carpenter, and Allen Craig as possible candidates, but I left Craig off because of time missed. Goldschmidt has had a monster year, leading the NL in home runs and RBI's. There are a few other players who will receive votes that I didn't mention, including Carlos Gomez, Chris Johnson, and Adrian Gonzalez.
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
A couple of big names will be playing their final games this September, and I'm not talking about Mark Kotsay(who recently announced his retirement). Mariano Rivera had said before the season that this year will be his last. The Yankees are still fighting for a wild card spot, so Rivera may be able to stretch it out until October. Todd Helton announced that he is going to retire at the end of the season at age 40. The Rockies won't be playing in October, so Helton's career will end in a couple of weeks. Both Rivera and Helton have spent their entire careers with the same organization, a rarity in today's game. Rivera is still on top of his game, making the All Star team this year, deservedly. Joe Girardi has tried to get him to come back one more year, but the 43 year old Rivera said his mind is made up about retiring.
Rivera will certainly be a Hall of Famer come 2019. There is no doubt that Rivera is the best closer of all time. He has surpassed great closers like Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage, Bruce Sutter, Dennis Eckersley, and Trevor Hoffman. Mo's cutter broke many of bats throughout the years and has been his signature pitch like the split finger was Sutter's and the change up was Hoffman's. A lot of closers in today's game only have a run of dominance for 3-4 seasons, but Rivera has been dominant every season. He holds the all time saves lead with 651, which is almost twice as much as the next active player, Joe Nathan. Rivera has made 13 All Star teams in 19 seasons with the Yankees. He never won a Cy Young Award, but received votes in 6 different seasons.
In the postseason, Rivera was even better. His regular season ERA and WHIP was 2.22 and 1.00, while his postseason ERA and WHIP was 0.70 and 0.76. That is through 141 innings pitched in 96 games during 16 different postseasons. Mo is 8-1 and has only blown 4 postseason saves. Rivera has a MLB record 42 saves, which matches his uniform number. When the Sandman enters, the game is almost always over. With his retirement at season's end, Rivera will be the last player in MLB history to wear #42; which was retired league wide in 1997 to honor Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier.
The Yankees have won 5 World Series championships during Rivera's tenure with the club. In 1996, he was the set up man to then closer John Wetteland. Wetteland left as a free agent after that season, and Joe Torre put Mo in as closer. He would soon make Yankee fans forget about Wetteland. In fact, Rivera was one of the most important players(if, not the most important) of the Yankees dynasty during 1996-2001. Rivera is one of the last links of that dynasty still with New York. With Rivera retiring, Derek Jeter's status uncertain because of injury, and Andy Pettitte's career in his twilight, the Yankees will soon enter a new era.
Todd Helton played baseball and football at the University of Tennessee, and was once Peyton Manning's backup quarterback. He made his debut with the Rockies in 1997, and became the team's regular first baseman in 1998 after Andres Gallaraga left as a free agent. He would finish 2nd in Rookie of the Year voting in 1998. Helton has been on the Rockies for so long that he was once teammates with manager Walt Weiss. The Rockies have never retired a number, but Helton's #17 will likely be their first. Helton played his first 10 seasons without making the postseason, but in 2007 he finally got a taste of it. The Rockies caught fire that September and catapulted themselves to the World Series, which they would lose to Boston. He returned to the postseason in 2009, but the Rockies lost in the Division Series.
Helton had his finest season in 2000, when he won the batting title with a .372 average. It would be the first of five consecutive All Star appearances. Helton was also a very good defensive player, winning 3 Gold Gloves. He ranked among the best first baseman in the league for a ten year period, but Helton would never finish higher than fifth in MVP voting. Some people say that Helton padded his numbers in the pre-humidor Coors Field. It's true that his power numbers went down after the humidor and he hasn't hit over 20 home runs since 2005. However, Helton was always a good hitter throughout his career, as his .317 career average and .415 career OBP can attest.
At age 40, Helton's skills aren't what they used to be and haven't in several seasons. In his prime, he was a similar hitter to Joey Votto. Helton finished in the top ten in batting average in the NL 9 different occasions. He has compiled over 2,500 hits, 367 home runs, and 1397 RBI's. Still, Helton's chances at the Hall of Fame are slim and he is a borderline candidate. That's considering the backlog of really good first baseman who haven't made it. The list includes Jeff Bagwell, Fred McGriff, John Olerud, Keith Hernandez, Steve Garvey, and Don Mattingly. The list also includes PED users Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro. Helton has had a terrific career and might be the best Rockies player ever, but will have a tough chance at making the Hall anytime soon. Maybe, a Veteran's Committee case.
Mariano Rivera's career stats; http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/r/riverma01.shtml
Todd Helton's career stats: http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/h/heltoto01.shtml
Friday, September 13, 2013
Matt Carpenter has had a breakout season in his first season as a starter. Last year, in Carpenter's solid rookie campaign, he was a utilityman. Carpenter played first base, third base, left field, and right field. He even played a couple games at second base last year. The Cardinals management decided to try Carpenter out at second for the 2013 season. Jose Oquendo worked with Carpenter in the offseason and spring training to help him adapt to the second base position. Carpenter is a natural third baseman. in 2009, the Cardinals made a similar move with Skip Schumaker, moving him from the outfield to second. In spring training, Carpenter beat out Daniel Descalso to win the second base job.
Carpenter has been solid defensively, although he's not going to be in the Gold Glove conversation. He has turned out to be better defensively than Schumaker was. Carpenter has made 8 errors at second, but leads NL second baseman with 91 double plays turned. Carpenter is also 5th in the NL with 326 assists at second base, despite making 23 starts at third, with 40 games total at third. He doesn't embarrass himself on defense.
Early in the season, Jon Jay was slumping, so Mike Matheny moved Carpenter to the leadoff spot. Carpenter lacks the speed of a prototypical leadoff hitter, but gets on base frequently. The move worked and the Cardinals offense ignited with Carpenter at the top. The Redbirds lead the National League with 700 runs scored. Carpenter leads the NL in runs(114), hits(178), doubles(48), and in multi hit games. Carpenter is sixth in average, 8th in on base pct., and 5th in total bases. He also has 70 RBI's this season, mostly as a leadoff hitter. Only Lou Brock in 1967 and Pepper Martin in 1936 have more RBI's in a season, both having 76.
Here's a list of great leadoff seasons by a Cardinals hitters and were Carpenter ranks:
Player Year AVG OBP SLG R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB TB
Pepper Martin 1933 .316 .387 .456 122 189 36 12 8 57 26 277
Pepper Martin 1936 .309 .373 .469 121 177 36 11 11 76 23 268
Curt Flood 1963 .302 .345 .403 112 200 34 9 5 63 17 267
Lou Brock 1967 .299 .327 .472 113 206 32 12 21 76 52 325
Lou Brock 1970 .313 .361 .422 114 202 29 5 13 57 51 280
Lou Brock 1971 .313 .385 .425 126 200 37 7 7 61 64 272
Lou Brock 1974 .306 .368 .381 105 194 25 7 3 48 118 242
Garry Templeton 1979 .314 .331 .458 105 211 32 11 9 62 25 308
Lonnie Smith 1982 .307 .381 .434 120 182 35 8 8 69 68 257
Vince Coleman 1987 .289 .363 .358 121 180 14 10 3 43 109 223
Fernando Vina 2001 .303 .357 .418 95 191 30 8 9 56 17 264
Matt Carpenter 2013 .317 .386 .480 114 178 48 7 10 70 3 270
I probably could of put up several more of Brock's seasons, as he was the best leadoff hitter in Cardinals history. Despite the lack of stolen bases, Carpenter's 2013 season ranks up there with any season of any leadoff hitter in Cardinals history. Carpenter is not a player like Brock or Coleman. He does have the highest average of all these players in a single season. His on base pct. for this season is only behind Martin's 1933 season. Carpenter's slugging pct. out of the leadoff spot is the highest in team history. With one more double, Carpenter will tie Scott Rolen's 2004 season of 49 doubles for 10th place in team history. That's a pretty prestigious list that includes Stan Musial, Joe Medwick, Enos Slaughter, and Albert Pujols. Carpenter has already broke Pujols record of most hits at the new Busch Stadium in a season last Sunday.
I would still say that Yadier Molina is the team's MVP this season because of his all around play and his great defense at catcher. That been said, Carpenter has a solid case as the team's most important player this season. Without Carpenter being the sparkplug out of the leadoff spot, this team wouldn't be as good this year. I doubt Carpenter wins the NL MVP, but I think he will get plenty of votes this fall. He has exceeded the wildest of expectations for this season. I thought he would be pretty good as an everyday player, but I didn't expect him to be a MVP candidate. Carpenter made his first All Star team this year as well. If the Cardinals win another championship this October, Carpenter will be a big reason why.
Thursday, September 5, 2013
Monday, August 26, 2013
Allen Craig and Matt Carpenter Celebrate After Craig's Grand Slam
Starting this Monday, the Cardinals started a 13 game, 14 day stretch against division rivals Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. The Cardinals will play these two teams at home and on the road. This stretch of games will have a big say in which team wins the division. The division race is tight with 3 games separating the teams as of Monday. It's very likely that the Cardinals, Pirates, and Reds will all make the postseason, unless the D-Backs or Nats go on a miracle run. Winning the division is the main goal for all three teams to avoid a one game wild card playoff.
The Cardinals schedule eases up after the run of games vs. the Reds and Pirates. In the remaining 18 games after that, the only team they play above .500 is against Washington(and they are barely). Even better for the club, the Pirates and Reds close the season out against each other, while the Cards play the bottom feeding Cubs. The Cardinals still can't lose ground against the good teams and need to at least split the Pirates/Reds games. They got off to a good start with a win against the Reds on Monday night. They have sole possession of first place for the first time in almost a month.
Standings as of Monday night
St. Louis 77-54 -
Pittsburgh 76-54 0.5
Cincinnati 74-58 3
I did a similar post earlier in the year and ranked the teams position by position, so I won't repeat myself again on that. But, I will discuss each teams chances of winning the division and who will be a factor in it. The NL Central is one of baseball's best divisions this year and this is one of the most exciting races in baseball. Certainly, one of the best division races the NL Central has seen in several years. With all their postseason success the last couple of seasons, the Cardinals haven't won the division since 2009.
Cincinnati won the division last year by a wide margin and is currently 3 games out of first this year. Dusty Baker's club has a strong offense led by Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, and Shin Soo Choo. Choo has been a terrific leadoff hitter for the team, although he is playing out of position in center field. Choo is second in the NL in walks to his teammate Votto. Phillips and Jay Bruce have been solid run producers this year, but could use some help. Help could arrive from former Cardinal Ryan Ludwick has just returned from an opening day injury that kept him out all year. Todd Frazier took over third base for the retired Scott Rolen, but has had sort of a sophomore slump this year.
Another strength for the Reds is their starting pitching. Even with Johnny Cueto out, the Reds are 4th in the NL in ERA. Rookie lefty Tony Cingrani has done a great job filling in for Cueto. Mat Latos has been the Reds ace this year, but they have a deep rotation. Bronson Arroyo, Homer Bailey, and Mike Leake have all had solid years. Bailey threw his second career no-hitter this year. The Reds still have flamethrowing lefty Aroldis Chapman closing games for them. He was the first Reds reliever since Rob Dibble to make consecutive All Star teams. The Reds bullpen has been weakened by injuries to Jonathon Broxton and Sean Marshall.
The Pirates have shown no signs of fading like they had the previous two seasons. One reason why is that they have a deeper team. Another reason is that the team's core has more experience and Pittsburgh has added some veterans like Russell Martin, Francisco Liriano, and AJ Burnett in recent years. The Pirates only rank 11th in the NL in runs, but have really good pitching, play good defense, and win close games. Their offense is led by MVP candidate Andrew McCutchen. Speedster Sterling Marte has been a good leadoff hitter, and slugger Pedro Alvarez leads the league in home runs. Martin and Neil Walker are solid hitters. They are fast on the bases and are 4th in steals as a team.
One of the reasons the Pirates have been so good is because they lead the NL with a 3.21 ERA. They had several injuries in the starting rotation, but have settled on Burnett, Liriano, Jeff Locke, Charlie Morton, and Gerrit Cole as their starters. Liriano has been a key pickup and could get Cy Young votes this year. The bullpen has been electric this year. Journeyman Jason Grilli took over as closer and had 30 saves before straining his forearm last month. He will likely come back in September. Mark Melancon has done well closing in his absence and has a 0.91 ERA for the season. Melancon was also a All Star as a setup guy. Lefties Justin Wilson and Tony Watson have been nasty this year and the Pirates have one of the game's best(and deepest) bullpens.
The team struggled for a few weeks in late July and early August, but are showing signs of breaking out of that. They recently took 3 of 4 against the Braves, a team that swept them a few weeks earlier. The offense has turned it on again, after a team wide slump earlier. Yadier Molina has also came back healthy from knee issues. Yadi is a force on defense and offense, not to mention a team leader. Matt Carpenter and Allen Craig have had great seasons and made their first All Star teams this year. Matt Holliday has been on fire lately after a slow start earlier in the year. The club has a deep bench and few holes outside of shortstop. Daniel Descalso has been taking more of Pete Kozma's playing time at short because of Kozma's struggles at the plate. Descalso doesn't have the range of Kozma, though. There is not a lot of speed on the team, although recent callup Kolten Wong brings that element.
The Cardinals have used 19 rookies this year, the most they have used since 1997. Most of these rookies have been pitchers. Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal, Seth Maness, Kevin Siegrist, Tyler Lyons, Michael Wacha, and Carlos Martinez are all currently on the pitching staff. That's makes 7 out of the 12 Cardinals current pitchers rookies. Lance Lynn and Joe Kelly are both in their second full seasons in the big leagues. All Star Adam Wainwright has been the leader of the staff and has had a terrific year. He leads the NL with 15 wins and also leads in innings pitched. Edward Mujica, "The Chief", has solidified the closer spot after some early season uncertainty.
It's conceivable that either of these three teams could win the division. One could make a case for the Reds, Pirates, or Cardinals, and have a solid case. I may sound like a homer, but I still think the Cardinals win the division this year. I think the Pirates have a better chance to win it than the Reds. I think the Pirates are the Cardinals biggest threat for the division over the Reds. St. Louis has played well against Cincinnati, going 9-4 so far. They have struggled against Pittsburgh, going 5-8. I would be shocked if either the Reds or Pirates missed the playoffs. I don't expect either team to fade away. I expect them to play in the wild card game.
Sunday, August 18, 2013
Back in May, things looked real bad for the Los Angeles Dodgers. They entered the season with the game's highest payroll with big expectations. Part owner Magic Johnson said he expected to contend for a championship this year. Manager Don Mattingly's job was in danger in the first couple of months. The team was hampered with many injuries to key players. They were involved in a couple of brawls vs. the Padres and Diamondbacks, both involving Zack Greinke. On June 21st, the team sat at 30-42, dead last in the National League West. It was looking like a failed season.
After that game, something changed. The team's offense was stagnant early on, partly due to injuries to Hanley Ramirez and Matt Kemp. The club called up Cuban rookie sensation Yasiel Puig on June 3rd, after the second time Kemp was put on the DL. Carl Crawford and Ramirez got healthy soon after that. Greinke recovered early from his shoulder injury and Clayton Kershaw has been his usual dominant self. The Dodgers worked out a trade for Marlins Ricky Nolasco to stabilize their rotation ravaged from injuries to Josh Beckett, Chad Billingsley, and others. Mattingly replaced the ineffective Brandon League with hard throwing Kenley Jansen as the team's closer.
There have been many other factors in the team's turnaround. Hyun-Jin Ryu has had a very good rookie campaign after coming over from Korea. He brings a second lefty for the rotation. Paco Rodriguez has been a very good lefty out of the bullpen, and the team signed former Giants closer Brian Wilson to give the team a late season boost out of the bullpen. Third base had been a revolving door early in the year, but Juan Uribe has solidified that position. Andre Ethier has picked up his play after a slow start. Ethier has played center in Kemp's absence, although Puig might of claimed his right field spot when Kemp comes back. Role players like AJ Ellis, Mark Ellis, Nick Punto, Jerry Hairston Jr., and Skip Schumaker have been solid contributors as well.
Since June 21st, the club is 42-9. They lost today against the Phillies, but just came off one of the best 50 game streaks in baseball history. They went 42-8, matching the 1941 Yankees and 1942 Dodgers. They have been on a historic run of winning. As late as the All Star break, the club was an even .500 at 47-47 in second place in a weak division. Now they are 72-51 with a 8.5 game lead on the second place Diamondbacks. Even better for the club, they only have 10 games out of their remaining 39 against teams with a winning record. Earlier in the season, it looked like Mattingly's job was in danger. Now, he could be a manager of the year candidate.
The Dodgers look like a scary team to meet in a postseason series. Facing Kershaw, Greinke, Ryu, and Nolasco will be no fun for opposing teams. Kemp will soon be back from injury, giving them a healthy lineup with a deep bench. Maybe all this team needed was to be healthy. It's uncertain what was the catalyst for the turnaround, and it has been a team effort. I would say Puig's callup added a spark to the club it could of been lacking. I also think getting Greinke, Ramirez, and others healthy played a big role in their 50 game surge.
Thursday, August 15, 2013
It's the Right Time to be Wong
The Cardinals have announced that they have called up second base prospect Kolten Wong and sent Adron Chambers back down to Memphis. Wong will likely make his debut this weekend vs. the Cubs in Chicago. Wong has had a strong season in Triple A and was played in the All Star Futures Game last month in New York. Wong has been a fast riser in the Cardinals system after being drafted 2 years ago out of the University of Hawaii. Only 22 years old, he looks to be a big part of the Cardinals future plans.
How much Wong plays and how it effects other players remains to be seen. Wong has only played second base in the minor leagues. He did play some shortstop in college and some scouts speculated he could play in the outfield. Right now, it's unclear what Wong's role on the team will be. Will Mike Matheny use him off the bench as a weapon later in the game? Or will Wong have a bigger role than that? Could it be similar to the spark that Manny Machado gave the Orioles last year during the stretch run. The Cardinals don't really have any player with Wong's skill set. Wong was 20 for 21 in stolen base attempts for Memphis this year. The Cardinals only have 29 steals as a team this year, dead last in the National League.
One thing for sure, Matt Carpenter will not be setting on the bench. Carpenter has had a breakout season in his second full big league campaign. Carpenter won the starting second base job over Daniel Descalso in spring training this year. The Cardinals have been rewarded with an All Star season. Carpenter has been a sparkplug in the leadoff spot this year. He is currently batting .315 with a on base pct. of .385. He works the pitcher into deep counts and plays hard nosed baseball. He leads the National League with 40 doubles and 90 runs scored. Carpenter also has an amazing 58 RBI's out of the leadoff spot.
The weakest spot in the Cardinals lineup is at shortstop. Pete Kozma is currently batting a moribund .225, slugging an anemic .284, and has a .273 on base pct. It's almost as bad as having a second pitcher in the lineup. The Cardinals hide Kozma in the eight hole and still lead the NL with 584 runs scored. Daniel Descalso has been playing more short lately and is a better hitter than Kozma. Descalso lacks Kozma's range though, leaving Kozma's weak bat in the lineup more often than not. Wong hasn't played short in the minors and it's highly unlikely the Cardinals would throw him into the fire during a pennant race. It's still possible Matheny might experiment with Wong at short or third on occasion.
The player who most likely to lose playing time is third baseman and 2011 World Series MVP David Freese. Freese's heroics helped the Cardinals win it all in 2011 and he set a postseason record with 21 RBI's. He followed up his brilliant postseason with a All Star campaign in 2012. This season Freese hasn't hit for the opposite field power he did the prior two seasons. He only has 6 home runs, and has a lower slugging pct. than Descalso. at .386. Freese hasn't been terrible offensively, batting .273 with a . 348 OBP. Freese is only 6th on the team with 43 RBI's, but 3rd in strikeouts with 77 and 2nd to Matt Holliday with 21 double plays. Double plays are a huge problem for the team in general and the Cardinals have grounded into 119 double plays this season. The club has a lot of slow runners and is a station to station club.
With good play, I think Wong will work himself into the starting lineup. Wong's speed would add a new(and exciting) dimension to the Cardinal's offense. I mentioned earlier that Wong had 20 steals this year, and he also has 8 triples. Wong has some pop in his bat as well, with 21 doubles, 10 home runs, and 45 RBI's. Wong batted .303, slugged .466, and had a .369 OBP in 107 games in Memphis this year. I think Matheny will be creative trying to get him into the lineup. Carpenter is a versatile player who came up as a third baseman, and he can also play first and the corner outfield spots.
Freese can still play a valuable role with the club this season. I doubt that he would be traded this late in the season. This could light a fire under Freese and motivate him(Kozma could use similar motivation). For the future, the writing is on the wall. The Cardinals declined to offer Freese a contract extension this offseason. The team gave Allen Craig a five year extension prior to the season. Freese is 30 years old and is two more seasons away from free agency. It would be sad to see a hometown guy and a postseason hero get traded, but that very well could happen this offseason. The Cardinals would be a better club with Wong at second and Carpenter at third. It would improve both their offense and defense, and add a element of speed to the lineup.
Kolten Wong's minor league career
Friday, August 9, 2013
The Cardinals are fortunate to have a endless supply of young power arms coming up through their system. They have played a big role on the Cardinals pitching staff the last couple of seasons, especially this one. There are many questions on what the team will do with all of these talented pitchers, but it's never a bad thing to have surplus pitching. This week, due to unexpected circumstances, the Cardinals brought up Carlos Martinez to start Thursday's game and called up Michael Wacha to start Saturday's game.
John Mozeliak and Mike Matheny decided that Adam Wainwright needed some more rest. Wainwright hasn't been as sharp lately and has pitched the most innings on the staff. In fact, Waino leads the National League with 175.2 innings pitched. Secondly, Shelby Miller was struck in the elbow with a wicked line drive and could use some extra rest. The club has said that Miller will make his next scheduled start, likely vs. the Pirates. Jake Westbrook pitched 4.2 innings in relief and gave up 9 runs! Westbrook's ERA jumped from 3.48 to 4.11. More concerning, Westbrook is 2-3 with a 7.39 ERA and 1.82 WHIP since the All Star break. On a good note, starting Martinez and Wacha will allow Matheny to start Wainwright, Miller, and possibly Lance Lynn against Pittsburgh next week.
Martinez was brought up for just one start and was sent down in favor of Wacha, who will start Saturday. Martinez made his first major league start Thursday and had mixed results. Martinez has dynamite stuff and can reach 99 mph. He gave up several dinky hits, but pitched fairly well until he made a mistake pitch that AJ Ellis hit over the fence. He then left the game after 4.2 innings pitched with a finger cramp. Martinez is nicknamed "Baby Pedro" because of his likeness to 3-time Cy Young Award winner Pedro Martinez. He looks similar to Pedro and pitches with a flair. Carlos Martinez isn't fully polished yet, but has a bright future ahead of him.
Wacha started 3 games for the Cardinals earlier in the season, but was sent back down when Westbrook came off the DL. In those three starts, Wacha was 1-0 with a 4.58 ERA in 17.2 innings pitched with 14 strikeouts. Wacha was the Cardinals #1 draft pick in 2012 and was the Angels draft pick they forfeited for signing Albert Pujols. He is a tall right handed pitcher from who went to college at Texas A & M. Both Wacha and Martinez have pitched well in the minor leagues this year. They still both need some seasoning, but they are both incredibly talented. Below is a look at their minor league seasons.
W-L ERA WHIP IP K
Wacha 5-3 2.65 0.99 85.0 73
Martinez 5-2 1.87 1.18 62.2 54
Wacha has pitched most of the season in Triple A Memphis, except for his 3 starts in June. Martinez missed most of spring training due to visa problems and started the season off in Double A Springfield. Martinez made his major league debut in May as a reliever, and had another stint in the majors as a reliever. The organization considers him to be a starter, though. Between stints in the big leagues, Martinez has dominated in Memphis.
It's possible that Wacha and Martinez could be competing for the fifth starter job in spring training next year. The Cardinals aren't likely to pick up Westbrook's $ 9.5 million option for 2014. Chris Carpenter has given up on pitching again this season and is an extreme longshot to pitch again in the future. Jaime Garcia will be coming off surgery and might not be ready to start the season. That would leave Wainwright, Lynn, Miller, and Joe Kelly for the first four spots. Kelly has pitched well since joining the rotation. Both Wacha and Martinez have big upsides. Wacha might be more ready for the big leagues, but Martinez probably has more raw talent. The Cardinals will be in very good shape in the future on starting pitching.
The Cardinals have hit their biggest skid of the season in the last couple of weeks. They played the Braves, Pirates, Reds, and Dodgers in four straight seasons. These are all likely playoff teams this year. The Cardinals went 4-11 in this 15 game stretch(plus a loss on Friday to the lowly Cubs). That's not a good sign, although every team has down stretched during a long 162 game season. Yadier Molina was hurt for much of this stretch. The Cardinals offense went into a deep slump, outside of three wins were they scored 13 plus runs. I think the Cardinals will come out of the slump, but there are some concerns.
I don't think the Cardinals pitching is a concern. I think Wainwright will come back strong after given a couple extra days rest. Luckily, Miller wasn't injured too badly on his elbow. He will make his next start, and we'll see how that goes. The Cardinals have a lot of talent in their rotation and bullpen, with phenom arms like Wacha and Martinez in reserve. The Cardinals are 1st in the National League with 561 runs scored. They lead the NL in hits, average, and on base pct. They don't hit for many home runs or steal bases. They are 13th in the NL with 91 home runs and 15th(dead last) in the NL with 28 stolen bases. The team has also hit into 110 double plays, nearly one a game.
The Cardinals will need David Freese and Matt Holliday to pick it up. Holliday is starting to hit better and has gotten his average up to the low .280's. The Cardinals could use more power out of Holliday. Freese hasn't played bad this year, but hasn't hit for much power at all. The Cardinals could really use Freese's opposite field power that has disappeared this year. The Redbirds are also missing Yadi right now and Matt Carpenter and Allen Craig have went through slumps. Carpenter and Craig are good patient hitters who will soon break out of it. Jon Jay has also hit very well since the All Star break after struggling in the first half.
The weakest link is shortstop Pete Kozma, who's in their for his defense. Daniel Descalso has been spotting Kozma more often, although he isn't as good of a hitter. When everybody else is hitting, the Cardinals can live with the weak hitting Kozma in the 8 hole. When their not, he sticks out like a sore thumb. This isn't a home run hitting club, but the team needs to return to the timely hitting it had most of the season. The Cardinals can win again if they keep doing the things that worked for them earlier, getting a lot of hits and walks. Matheny has tried some different lineup combinations, but might need to consider more hit and runs to avoid double plays. This isn't an ideal team to steal bases with so many slower runners, but it could be a better baserunning team. I think this is why Mozeliak held on to prospect Kolten Wong. Wong is 19 for 20 in steals with a .303 average, 8 homers, 20 doubles, and 8 triples in Memphis. Wong will likely be called up in September. He is blocked right now at the major league level, but I think the team will find a spot for him in 2014.
Wednesday, August 7, 2013
Leyland and Francona: Two Managers in the Playoff Race
The season has entered into the dog days of August, a stretch where teams sometimes either make it or break it. With about 50 games to go in the season, the races are tightening up. In the National League, there isn't much of a race. The Braves and Dodgers have big leads in their divisions. The Pirates, Cardinals, and Reds are in a fight for the Central, but it is likely that all three teams will get to the postseason. Arizona is the only other team with a winning record in the National League. The American League's playoff picture is much more unclear with 9 teams having realistic playoff chances. The Tigers have gained a 5 game lead on the Indians with recent wins over the club, but the East and West races have tightened up. The wild card picture is muddled as well, with 6 teams within 6 games of a spot.
Here's a look at the AL standings as of Wednesday morning:
Red Sox 69-46 -
Rays 66-46 1.5
Orioles 62-51 6
Tigers 66-45 -
Indians 62-51 5
Athletics 64-48 -
Rangers 64-50 1
AL Wild Card
Rays 66-46 -
Rangers 64-48 -
Indians 62-51 1.5
Orioles 62-51 1.5
Royals 57-53 5
Yankees 57-55 6
Off all those teams, the defending AL champion Tigers look like the best bet to make the playoffs. They have a 5 game lead on the AL Central and are 29-16 against their division rivals. They are 11-3 against second place Cleveland, but are 3-5 against the Royals. The Royals still have 11 games remaining against Detroit, and have been playing much better as of late. Still, KC is 8.5 games back from the Tigers and 5 games back of the final wild card spot. While they have some promising players for the future, there is no telling how they will fare in a pennant race(especially as a longshot team). The Indians will have a tough time winning the division because of their struggles against the Tigers. They still have 5 games remaining against Detroit this year.
In the West, there is a tight one game race between the Athletics and Rangers. The Angels were widely expected to be in the thick of the race, but have been a huge disappointment this year. Josh Hamilton has been a flop in his first season in Anaheim and Albert Pujols' plantar fasciitis has put him on the DL. The Angels are actually in fourth place, behind the Mariners. The Rangers have moved on without Hamilton, and their pitching has been better this year. Texas' pitching will have to keep it up, because Nelson Cruz was suspended for 50 games for his ties to Biogenesis. The A's have proven last year's division title was no fluke. They also got lucky that All Star pitcher Bartolo Colon was not suspended since he was suspended last year. Oakland relies on timely hitting and has one of the best bullpen's in the majors. Should be just as an exciting race between these two teams as it was last year.
The East is the most unpredictable division. The Red Sox have held on to the lead most of the season, although they've been challenged by the Rays and Orioles. Boston is a much different team than the drama-filled versions of 2011 and 2012. John Farrell has done a good job in his first season as Boston's manager, replacing controversy lightning rod Bobby Valentine. Led by Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, and David Ortiz, the Sox lead the AL in runs scored. Their pitching has performed better this year, and they just acquired Jake Peavy for the stretch run. That been said, Joe Maddon's Rays are right on their tail. Tampa Bay has a young dominant rotation and a good offense led by Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist. Wil Nieves, acquired in the James Shields deal, has also been very good since being called up. The Orioles are a powerhouse offensive club and one of the best defensive teams in the league. Baltimore's pitching is up to par with Tampa Bay or Boston, though.
The AL wild card race looks like a free for all. I would expect this race to go down to the season's final days(if not the final day). Right now, the Rays and Rangers hold on to the two wild card spots with Cleveland and Baltimore only 1.5 games back of the last spot. The resurgent Royals are only 5 games back. They have a young club, but Eric Hosmer has started to heat up along with some of the other hitters. Shields and Ervin Santana have been a big help to the Royals rotation. Kansas City leads the AL in ERA. The Yankees are also in the wild card hunt, being 6 games back. The Yankees are the opposite of the young Royals, they have an aging veteran-laden club. They have been slowly fading, although they remain 2 games above .500. This will be Mariano Rivera's final season, so I'm sure Joe Girardi's club is eager to make the postseason. It will be hard to do with all the key injuries to players like Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, and Curtis Granderson. The stretch run in the American League looks like it will be interesting this season.
Thursday, August 1, 2013
Peavy's Changing Sox
There wasn't much action during this year's trading deadline or in the weeks before it. More teams feel like they have a shot with the second wild card and there has been some changes in draft pick compensation for traded players. There were very few sellers at the deadline, absent of the bottom feeding Marlins, Astros, Cubs, and White Sox. Other teams like the Royals, Phillies, Blue Jays, and others decided not to sell. Many teams, including the Cardinals, stood pat this year. Division rivals Pittsburgh and Cincinnati were unable to work anything out, either.
The biggest deal of the deadline was a three player trade headlined by Jake Peavy. This deal involved 7 players and included the White Sox, Red Sox, and Tigers. Peavy was sent from the White Sox to the Red Sox for three Class A prospects. The Tigers traded outfield prospect Avasial Garcia(who appeared in last year's World Series) to Chicago and sent reliever Brayan Villareal to Boston. In return Detroit received slick fielding shortstop Jose Iglesias from the Red Sox. Iglesias is batting .330 in his rookie year with Boston, but was a .257 career minor league hitter. Still, this could be a sneaky good move for Detroit. All Star SS Jhonny Peralta is facing a likely suspension due to his Biogenesis connection. The White Sox earlier traded All Star reliever Jessie Crain to the Rays.
The Red Sox felt like they needed another starter for the stretch run. Clay Buchholz was an All Star this year, but has dealt with some lingering injuries. Jon Lester, Ryan Dempster, and John Lackey have pitched solid, but not spectacular. Peavy adds depth to the rotation. In 13 starts with the Pale Hose this year, Peavy is 8-4 with a 4.28 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP. A trade to a contender could revitalize Peavy, considering he was an All Star in 2012. The Bosox will have Peavy for 2014 with a $15 million option for 2015. One down side is that Peavy is a injury risk. 2012 was the first season Peavy pitched in enough innings to qualify for the ERA title since 2008.
Besides adding Iglesias, the Tigers also traded for Astros closer Jose Veras. Veras is a journeyman and having his career best season. The Tigers gave up an A ball outfield prospect for him. The Astros also traded outfielder Jason Maxwell to the Royals for a A ball pitching prospect. In their biggest deal, the Astros sent Bud Norris to the Orioles for a couple of mid-level prospects and a competitive balance draft pick. The Astros are mired in another miserable losing season and are looking towards the future. The Orioles needed another starter to go along with Wei-Yei Chen, Miguel Gonzalez, and Chris Tillman. Baltimore also traded for Scott Feldman earlier this year, but Norris is a superior pitcher to Feldman. Norris isn't anything spectacular, but is an innings eater and a good option for the back end of the rotation.
The Cubs also unloaded Alfonso Soriano and Matt Garza in the last two weeks. Garza went to Texas for Justin Grimm, Mike Olt, and CJ Edwards. Grimm pitched some in the big leagues with the Rangers this year, Olt is a top 3B prospect, and Edwards is a A ball pitcher. The Cubs got a pretty good haul for Garza. The Rangers got a pitcher who can help them win this year. Garza has been really good since he came back in late May. He is 7-1 with a 2.95 ERA in 13 starts with Chicago and Texas this year. Soriano was dealt back to his original team, the Yankees, for a pitching prospect and salary relief. The Cubs still had to eat some of the contract, but the 37 year old Soriano doesn't fit in the Cubs rebuilding plans. Soriano still has some pop in his bat and joins a veteran laden Yankees club. The Yankees are in fourth place in the AL East, but are in the thick of the wild card hunt. This is the farewell season for Mariano Rivera and many other Yankees are towards the end of their careers.
There were rumors of Cliff Lee getting dealt, but the Phillies held on to him. It's not likely the Phillies will make it to October this year, though. Lee is owed quite a bit of money, but is still very productive. There's still a chance of him clearing waivers and getting dealt in August, but I think it is more likely to happen in the offseason. The Diamondbacks did trade away Ian Kennedy to the Padres for lefty reliever Joe Thatcher and a prospect. Kennedy was the D-Backs opening day starter, but has really struggled this year. Kennedy is 3-8 with a 5.23 ERA in 21 games started this year. Kennedy was a 21 game winner in 2011 and Padres manager Bud Black is a good renovator of pitchers. Arizona needed a solid lefty reliever and have a surplus of young starting pitching.
Last year, the Dodgers made several high profile trades during the season. This year, they only made one move for starter Ricky Nolasco. LA traded away three prospects to Miami to get Nolasco. The Dodgers thought to have a surplus of starting pitching in spring training, but Chad Billingsley, Chris Capuano, and Josh Beckett went down to injuries. Zack Greinke is healthy again, and the Dodgers have a potentially dominant postseason rotation of Clayton Kershaw, Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and Nolasco. The Dodgers biggest additions were from within. Calling up Yasiel Puig and Hanley Ramirez coming off the DL have kick started what was a stagnant offense. The Dodgers have gained the lead in the NL West after a rough early season.
Most teams decided to stick with what they had, instead of giving up top prospects for rentals. The Braves didn't make any moves, even though they were rumored to be in the Peavy/Lee sweepstakes after Tim Hudson's season ending injury. In the NL Central, neither the Pirates, Cardinals, or Reds made any moves. The AL West leading Athletics were rumored to be on the market for starting pitching, but ended up staying pat. They didn't feel the need to answer the Rangers move for Garza. The Rangers were rumored to be in the market for a bat, but failed to make any deals. Nelson Cruz is facing a possible suspension because of his Biogenesis connections. Should be some good races going forward.
Monday, July 29, 2013
Despite getting swept by the Braves this weekend, the Cardinals still retain the best record in the National League. The team doesn't have many holes outside of shortstop and middle relief. The NL Central is a strong division this year and the Pirates and Reds are right on the Redbirds heels. Many games remain against these two teams and the Cardinals will need to play well in those games to win the division. The Cardinals possess many top prospects for a potential trade and have been linked to several players. At this time of year, it's hard to tell how much stock to put in these rumors.
John Mozeliak said recently that he doesn't expect to make any major moves at the deadline. Mozeliak usually does his work under the radar, though. Last year's trade for Edward Mujica is a good example of that. Mozeliak has also stated that he doesn't want to trade Oscar Taveras, Kolten Wong, Carlos Martinez, or Michael Wacha. The team has several other prospects it could trade, but teams are going to inquire about those four players in any trade talks.
It was rumored that the Cardinals inquired the White Sox about shortstop Alexei Ramirez. Ramirez has a solid glove and is batting .282 with 21 steals this year. He would be an upgrade over Pete Kozma and bring some much needed speed to the team. Ramirez is 31 years old and has another year on his contract. However, it was rumored that the White Sox turned down a deal involving Martinez. I find that highly unlikely, though. It's hard to believe the Sox GM would not want an electric young pitcher like Martinez. It's also hard to believe that Mozeliak would offer Martinez for Ramirez.
The Cardinals have also been rumored to be in the starting pitching market. Cliff Lee, Jake Peavy, Ervin Santana, and Bud Norris are names that have been mentioned. Norris wouldn't be much of an upgrade, although he is a Cardinal killer. The Royals are asking a lot for Santana, who's a free agent at the season's end. The Sox are asking a lot for Peavy, who's having an off-year with a 4.28 ERA. Lee might be available with the Phillies struggles, but is he worth the price? Lee is due $25 million a year for the next two years, and his contract includes a $27.5 million vesting option for 2016 if he reaches innings incentives.
The Phillies don't want to eat his contract and will want a big haul of prospects for Lee. Lee is 7-3 with a 2.52 ERA in the postseason. A rotation of Adam Wainwright, Lee, Lance Lynn, and Shelby Miller would be formidable in October. Still, it doesn't guarantee a World Series championship. Lee's 2011 Phillies had him, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels, and fell short to the Cardinals in the Division Series. The 2009 Phillies and 2010 Rangers fell short in the World Series after acquiring Lee mid-season. Any trade will likely have to include a player or two on Mozeliak's no trade list of Taveras, Wong, Wacha, and Martinez. Mozeliak's past indicates that he isn't likely to risk the future at the deadline.
If the Cardinals do make a move, it will most likely be for a reliever. The Padres Luke Gregerson could be a target after the Padres indicated they are shopping their relievers. Gregerson was once a Cardinals farmhand who was traded away for Khalil Greene. Mozeliak has also indicated he could stand pat. Mujica, Trevor Rosenthal, Seth Maness, and Kevin Siegrist have been solid this year. The Cardinals still have plenty of arms in the minors. I'm not sure if the Cardinals feel good about Fernando Salas or Marc Rzepcynski. The Cardinals could also make a move for a right handed bat off the bench. Mozeliak doesn't have the reputation for big trades like his predecessor Walt Jocketty, but he has made some big moves at the deadline. Here's a look back at some of his deals.
The Cardinals finished a respectable 86-76 in 2008, but that was only good for a fourth place finish. Mozeliak decided that the team wasn't good enough in 2008 and decided to hold on to his top prospects, much to the chagrin of then-manager Tony La Russa. The Cubs added Rich Harden and the Brewers added CC Sabathia at the deadline. The Cardinals had several weak spots on the club in 2008 and Mozeliak ultimately held on to Colby Rasmus, Allen Craig, Chris Perez, Jason Motte, and other top prospects of that time.
Chris Carpenter pitched his first healthy season since 2006 in the 2009 season. Carpenter and Adam Wainwright finished 2-3 in the Cy Young voting in 2009. Albert Pujols was off to his 3rd MVP season, but needed some help offensively. Besides Yadier Molina and Ryan Ludwick, Pujols didn't have much protection in the lineup. In June, the Cardinals acquired Mark De Rosa from the Indians for Perez and Jess Todd. Todd never panned out, but Perez turned into an All Star closer with Cleveland. De Rosa took over at third, which had been in flux because of Troy Glaus' injury. De Rosa injured his wrist soon after joining the Cardinals and wasn't productive during his Cardinals tenure. He left as a free agent after the season.
A week before the trading deadline, the Cardinals made a major move, one of the biggest trades in Mozeliak's tenure. They inquired the Rockies about Matt Holliday the prior offseason, but Holliday ended up getting traded to Oakland. He was a free agent at the season's end and the Cardinals were worried he might be a rental. They went ahead and traded 2008 top draft pick Brett Wallace, Clayton Mortensen, and Shane Peterson to the A's for Holliday. Holliday hit .353 with 13 home runs after getting traded to the Cards and helped take them to the postseason. It was a brief stay and Holliday made a critical error in the NLDS.
Holliday ended up staying in St. Louis, signing a club record 7 year, $120 million contract. Holliday has been a 3-time All Star with the Redbirds and has batted .302 with 103 home runs and 382 RBIs with the club. Holliday does take some criticism for his contract, defensive struggles, lack of clutch hitting, and knack for hitting into double plays. Still, this was a good deal for St. Louis. Wallace has yet to do much in his 4 seasons with the Astros and neither Mortensen or Peterson has panned out.
Big things were expected from the Cardinals in 2010, but this club faded down the stretch and missed the playoffs. Brad Penny was signed as a reclamation project for Dave Duncan, but didn't pitch after June. Kyle Lohse was also injured during parts of this season. Lefty Jaime Garcia finished 3rd in Rookie of the Year voting in 2010, but was limited down the stretch. Mozeliak felt that the team needed more pitching depth after Carpenter and Wainwright. Jon Jay was hitting nearly .400 after his callup mid-season 2010 as a fourth outfielder. Mozeliak had decided that Ludwick was expendable and traded him in a three way deal involving the Indians and Padres. Ludwick was sent to the Padres and the Indians sent Jake Westbrook to the Cardinals. Westbrook was billed as an innings-eating sinkerballer. He has had moderate success in St. Louis, but wore down the stretch in both 2011 and 2012. Ludwick struggled for the next year and a half, but had a good season with the Reds in 2012. This year, Ludwick has been hurt all season.
Colby Rasmus was billed as a five tool player when he was drafted in the first round in 2005. Rasmus was ranked the number 3 prospect in all of MLB prior to his 2009 rookie campaign. He had a up and down rookie season, finishing 8th in NL Rookie of the Year voting. Rasmus was one of the few Cardinals that hit during the 2009 NLDS, going 4 for 9 with two walks. In 2010, Rasmus hit .276, had a .361 OBP, 23 homers, 66 RBI's, and 12 steals. Big things were expected in 2011 and Rasmus played well the first two months. He then fell into a deep slump in June and his relationship with La Russa hit an all time low. Mozeliak was still hesistant to trade Rasmus, turning down a deal prior to the season involving Rasmus to Boston for Jacoby Ellsbury.
Tony La Russa would manage his final season in 2011 and Albert Pujols would leave as a free agent after the season. That was not known in July 2011. The Cardinals were 10 games behind the Brewers and needed some pitching help. They traded Rasmus to the Blue Jays along with Brian Tallet, Trever Miller, and PJ Walters for Edwin Jackson, Octavio Dotel, Scrabble, and Corey Patterson. I hated the trade at the time and thought it was a mistake to trade Rasmus for rentals(I especially questioned the Patterson acquisition. Dotel and Jackson both left at the end of the season, but along with Scrabble helped the Cardinals out in their miracle turnaround and eventual World Series title. Rasmus has had some struggles, but is showing glimpses of his potential in Toronto. He has played very good defense and is batting .272 with 17 home runs and 52 RBI's this year. He still strikes out too much and hasn't developed into a base stealer as predicted. Still, the Jays seem to be happy about their part of the deal considering that none of those players could of gotten the weaker Jays over the hump.
The trade of Rasmus also eliminated the La Russa/Rasmus feud from the clubhouse. Mozeliak decided to go the route he did in early 2008 when he traded Scott Rolen to Toronto for Troy Glaus. Rolen had feuded with La Russa over playing time and his injuries. The Rasmus trade wasn't the only big move in 2011, though. The most important move was acquiring Rafael Furcal for minor leaguer Alex Castellanos. Ryan Theriot had been the starting shortstop and had very little range. Theriot was brought in the improve the offense over weak hitting, good glove Brendan Ryan. Furcal greatly improved the Cardinals defense. I'm not sure if the Cardinals would of made the playoffs if they kept Theriot at short that year, considering they didn't get in until the season's final day.
The move to get Edward Mujica made very little headlines last year. Mozeliak traded 2010 top draft pick Zack Cox to the Marlins to get Mujica. Mujica had moderate success in parts of 7 seasons with the Indians, Padres, and Marlins. With the Cardinals, he took it to another level. In 71 innings, Mujica has a 1.65 ERA and a 0.82 WHIP. Nicknamed the Chief, Mujica took over as the Cardinals closer early in the season after Jason Motte's season ending surgery and Mitchell Boggs' struggles. He has saved 30 games and made the All Star team this year. Cox is in Double A in the Marlins organization. Cox may be a Brett Wallace type player who doesn't pan out.