Saturday, June 29, 2013
Until the past week, the Cardinals have been rolling this season. They were on fire during May and most of June until hitting a 1-5 skid against AL West teams. The Cardinals had the league's best record until yesterday when the Pirates overtook them for sole possession of first place. Even when the Cardinals were on fire, they were unable to put much distance between them and the Pirates and Reds. The Reds sit 4.5 games out of first place as of today, good for third place. At one point recently, these three teams had the three best records in the league. Right now, the Pirates and Cardinals have the two best records in the National League, and these two teams and the Reds have three of the best seven records in all of baseball.
Pirates 49-30 -
Cardinals 48-31 1
Reds 45-35 4.5
Cubs 33-45 15.5
Brewers 32-46 16.5
Coming into today, that's how the NL Central race looks. The division is stacked at the top and the NL Central has the second best cumulative winning pct. at .525. Only the AL East ranks better. The Cubs and Brewers have poor records, but some of that's do to getting beat up by division rivals. The Cubs are 11-25 against division opponents and 22-20 against other teams. The Brewers are 20-23 against division opponents and 20-23 against other teams. The Cubs are a good defensive team with a strong tandem of Travis Wood and Jeff Samardzija in the rotation. The Brewers have one of the best offensive clubs in the league, but a weak pitching staff.
It's clear that the Reds, Cardinals, and Pirates are not only the most balanced teams in the division, but all of baseball. Each team has strong pitching and play solid defense. I will attempt to rank these three teams by position and see which one looks the strongest from here out. It's very possible that all three of these teams make the postseason this year, with the East and the West being weaker. Should be an exciting race.
1) Molina, STL
2) Martin, PIT
3) Hanigan/Mesoraco, CIN
This one's not even close, Yadi's arguably the best catcher in the game and off to an MVP caliber season. Russell Martin has been a key addition for the Bucs and has helped out the Pirates pitchers. The Reds have been getting sub standard production from their catchers this year.
1) Votto, CIN
2) Craig, STL
3) Sanchez/Jones, PIT
Joey Votto is off to another terrific season and Allen Craig looks to make his first All Star team this year. Craig already has 62 RBI's and it's still in June. Gaby Sanchez and Garrett Jones are average first baseman.
1) Carpenter, STL
2) Phillips, CIN
3) Walker, PIT
All of these second baseman are solid players and among the best in the National League. Matt Carpenter is clearly having the best offensive season of the three in his first season at second. Brandon Phillips is a Gold Glove defender, but his bat hasn't been nearly as good as Carpenter's this year. Neil Walker has had a solid year so far with Pittsburgh.
1) Cozart, CIN
2) Kozma, STL
3) Barmes, PIT
This is the weakest link of all three teams. None of these guys are anything special, although Clint Barmes is especially bad with the bat this year.
1) Freese, STL
2) Alvarez, PIT
3) Frazier, CIN
David Freese gives you the highest average of the three and has made a big improvement with the glove this year. Pedro Alvarez has really come on strong lately, hitting 19 home runs and driving in 52 so far. He has raise his average up to .246, so he may yet turn into the player the Pirates expected when they drafted him. If Alvarez keeps it up, I may have to revise my rankings. Todd Frazier is a solid player as well.
1) Holliday, STL
2) Marte, PIT
3) Robinson/Paul/Heisey, CIN
Matt Holliday has heated up after a slow start to the season. Sterling Marte adds a dimension of power and speed to the Pirates lineup that was lacking last year. Ryan Ludwick was hurt early in the year and the Reds have used a combination of players in his absence.
1) McCutchen, PIT
2) Choo, CIN
3) Jay, STL
Andrew McCutchen is one of the best center fielders in the league and the leader of the Pirates. Shin-Soo Choo has been an on base machine for the Reds this year, posting an OBP of over .400 so far. Jay has slumped with the bat, but is still good with the glove. Choo is a right fielder miscast as a center fielder.
1) Beltran, STL
2) Bruce, CIN
3) Snider/Tabata, PIT
Carlos Beltran is off to another good season and likely to make his 8th All Star team next month. Jay Bruce is a good power hitter with a cannon arm, but strikes out a lot. The Pirates right field situation is unsettled and they could look to upgrade at the trading deadline.
The Cardinals bench has been improved this year with Matt Adams and Daniel Descalso on it. The Reds and Pirates have decent benches.
1) Wainwright, STL
2) Latos, CIN
3) Burnett, PIT
Adam Wainwright is back on top form this year and one of the NL's best pitcher so far. Mat Latos has been the Reds best pitcher this season. AJ Burnett has continued his renaissance in Pittsburgh after struggling in New York.
1) Cueto, CIN
2) Lynn, STL
3) Rodriguez, PIT
Johnny Cueto has had some injuries that cost him some time this year, but has been sharp when healthy. Lance Lynn is off to a 10-2 start this year. Wandy Rodriguez a solid, yet unspectacular innings eater. In time, Locke and Cole will surpass him in the rotation.
1) Miller, STL
2) Locke, PIT
3) Bailey, CIN
Shelby Miller has been dominant so far this year, except for last night's hiccup. He strikes out a lot of batters, but his pitch counts have been his biggest enemy. Fellow rookie Jeff Locke of the Pirates leads the NL in ERA. He is a soft tossing lefty, but has given opposing teams fits. Homer Bailey has been solid so far and threw a no hitter last year.
1) Westbrook, STL
2) Arroyo, CIN
3) Liriano, PIT
Jake Westbrook and Bronson Arroyo are similar types of pitchers, who depend on ground ball outs. Both are finesse sinker ball pitchers and eat up innings. Westbrook has pitched really well this year when healthy. Francisco Liriano has been sharp in his first season with the Pirates.
1) Cole, PIT
2) Leake/Cingriani, CIN
Top prospect Gerrit Cole is off to a 4-0 start in his rookie campaign with the Pirates. Mike Leake and Tony Cingriani have done well with the Reds this season. Joe Kelly has taken over as the Cardinals fifth starter. He did well last year in that role. Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez, and John Gast could also see some time in the Cardinals rotation in the coming months. Wacha and Martinez have high ceilings as pitchers.
The key to the Pirates success this year has been their bullpen. Mark Melancon and lefty Justin Wilson have pitched well in the setup roles to closer Jason Grilli. The Cardinals have a bunch of young arms like Trevor Rosenthal, Seth Maness, and Kevin Seigrist, who have pitched really good in their rookie years. The Reds had a great bullpen last year, but lefty Sean Marshall has been hurt and Jonathon Broxton has struggled so far.
1) Jason Grilli, PIT
2) Edward Mujica, STL
3) Aroldis Chapman, CIN
Never thought I would rank Chapman last of these three coming into the season, but Grilli and Mujica have pitched better so far this year. Chapman still has the best stuff of the three. Grilli has been a journeyman pitcher, but has excelled in his first season as a closer. Mujica is also new to the role, but has filled it admirably. The Cardinals lost Jason Motte for the season and Mitchell Boggs couldn't handle the closer role. Mujica has solved their late inning blues.
1) Matheny, STL
2) Hurdle, PIT
3) Baker, CIN
I think all three of these guys get the best out of their players. The Cardinals havent' skipped a beat with Mike Matheny taking over for Tony La Russa last year. Clint Hurdle looked forward to the challenge of turning the Pirates around and they might of turned the corner this year. Dusty Baker is a player's manager, but sometimes makes odd decision and is unafraid to start any controversies on the field.
Rankings(lower the better)
It's possible for either of these three teams to win the NL Central. All have really good pitching and have some impact bats. I still think the Cardinals have the most talent of the three and are the class of the division. Some people have written off the Pirates since they faded down the stretch the past two seasons, but I think that would be foolish. They are a deeper, stronger team than in year's past. The Reds are also a strong team with little weaknesses. It should be a good race and all three teams might make the playoffs, but I still expect the Cardinals to win the Central this year.
Monday, June 24, 2013
Max Scherzer has always had hit and miss stuff since he was a top prospect with the Diamondbacks. He had some success, but never to this extent. Last season, Scherzer had one of his best seasons, finishing second in the American League with 231 strikeouts. He went 16-7, but had a 3.74 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP. This season, he has improved his ERA to 3.05 and his WHIP has been cut down to 0.91, which ranks among the best in the league. He's now a pitcher, instead of just a hard thrower. He's been going deeper into games and allowing less baserunners. He's off to a better start than ace Justin Verlander this year. Scherzer has a perfect 11-0 record to start the year.
With Tigers manager Jim Leyland managing the American League squad, Scherzer could be the All Star starter. Recently, Leyland suggested that he would make Mariano Rivera a starter to honor him in his last season, but Rivera was lukewarm to the idea, preferring to close out the game. Regardless of who starts, Scherzer will most surely be making his first All Star appearance in New York. With Verlander, Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez, and Doug Fister, the Tigers have one of the best rotations in the league. It's not a team other teams want to play in October, unless they had a week long break before the World Series.
Scherzer grew up in the St. Louis area and went to college at Mizzou. He was drafted out of high school by the Cardinals in the 43rd round, but Scherzer opted for Mizzou instead of his hometown team. Looking back, Scherzer might regret that, but it would be hard to pass up a college scholarship as a 43rd round pick. Three seasons later, Scherzer was drafted in the first round by the Diamondbacks. He was one of the top pitching prospects in baseball at that time, and made his major league debut two years later in 2008.
In 2009, Scherzer played his first full season with Arizona. He had mixed results, going 9-11 with a 4.12 ERA and a 1.34 WHIP. He did strikeout 174 batters in 170.1 innings pitched. 2009 would end up being Scherzer's last season with the D-Backs. He was traded in part of a six player, three team deal involving the Yankees, Tigers, and Diamondbacks. The centerpiece of the deal was Curtis Granderson, who went from the Tigers to Yankees. The Yankees then sent Phil Coke and Austin Jackson to the Tigers, and Ian Kennedy to the Diamondbacks, who sent Daniel Schlereth and Scherzer to Detroit.
This would turn out to be an important deal for the Tigers. They lost Granderson, who had some big years with New York in the following seasons, but gained four young players. Schlereth had some moderate success as a reliever, but was released earlier this year. Coke has been a solid pitcher out of the bullpen for the Tigers since then, but has had some problems this year. Jackson took of Granderson's center field spot. Jackson is a better defender, but doesn't have Granderson's power. Scherzer has been the most valuable player out of the trade, winning 54 games in three and a half seasons with Detroit. Granderson hasn't played much this year due to injuries, but the Tigers have three players to show for the deal four seasons later. Scherzer, Coke, and Jackson were all key member of last year's World Series club.
Scherzer is off to a career year this season and is only 9 wins away from 20 and it's still in June. He is on pace for career highs in ERA, WHIP, innings pitched, and strikeouts. His 3.05 season ERA is much better than his 3.79 career ERA and his 0.91 WHIP is a significant improvement from his 1.25 career WHIP. He's looking like the type of pitcher he was projected to be this season.
Sunday, June 23, 2013
Buster Posey and Yadier Molina have clearly been the best catchers in baseball over the last few seasons. Both catchers have won two championships and are leaders on their teams. Posey won the MVP last season and Molina could win one this year. Posey has a slight lead in the All Star voting despite Yadi having a superior season this year. Both deserve to make the All Star team and will certainly be in New York for the All Star Game next month. Giants fans have made a great effort to put Posey ahead of the voting, but maybe Yadi will have a voting surge to put him over the top.
Last season, Giants fans stuffed the ballot box to put in Posey, Pablo Sandoval, and Melky Cabrera as starters. Matt Cain was the starting pitcher, giving them 4 starters. While there was some controversy about it, all four played a role in the National League's victory last July. The Giants also won the World Series last fall. Sandoval is again leading the vote at third base over David Wright, something as controversial as Posey leading Molina. Wright is having a better season and Sandoval has missed time due to injury. However, it is understandable that a defending World Champion would be popular and it's players are doing well in All Star voting.
This post isn't about degrading Posey's skills or talent. He is a great player, 2-time champion, batting champion, Rookie of the Year, and a MVP. He's done all of that in only 3 and a half seasons in the big leagues. He's a solid defender and calls a good game. Still, Posey's defensive capabilities pale to Molina, who is the best in the game defensively. Molina has won 5 straight Gold Gloves and the Platinum Glove last year as the best defensive player in the National League. Offensively, Molina is having the better year as well. Here's a quick comparison below.
AVG OBP SLG R H 2B HR RBI
Posey .311 .385 .494 30 78 20 8 42
Molina .358 .403 .509 33 95 25 5 41
Last season, Posey had the better offensive season, but it was close. Posey won the batting title and hit 24 home runs and had 103 RBI's. Molina had his best offensive season last year, hitting a career high 22 home runs and batting .315. Posey is considered to have more power, but Yadi has the better slugging pct. this year despite 3 less home runs. Molina is also leading the National League with a .358 batting average. There was a better case for Posey last year, when he won the MVP. It is clear that Molina is having the better season to date, and it's difficult to understand why he is second in voting to Posey.
Molina could challenge for the MVP himself this season. He may not be able to match the 22 home runs from last season, but he is only 3 doubles away from matching last season's total. Molina leads the National League with 25 doubles coming into today's game. Yadi has started an incredible 69 out of 75 games this season. He is the most durable catcher in the game, but the Cardinals might want to rest him more in the second half. It's hard to set down a guy like Molina when he is such a force behind the plate and at the plate. He is also done a great job with the pitching staff, which has used 10 rookie pitchers this season. Molina will certainly make his 5th All Star team, but it should be as a starter this year.
Monday, June 17, 2013
Adam Wainwright has came very close to winning the Cy Young Award on a couple different occasions. In 2009, he finished 3rd in a tight(and controversial) race. Wainwright led the National League with 19 wins that season. He was denied his 20th win when the bullpen blew his last start of the 2009 season. 20 wins might of won it for him. Instead, the Giants Tim Lincecum won the award with teammate Chris Carpenter finishing second. In 2010 Wainwright was in a close battle with the Phillies Roy Halladay for the award, with Halladay having slightly better stats. They were close and Wainwright won 20 games in 2010, but Doc won 21. Halladay won the 2010 Cy Young by a landslide, winning every first place vote, leaving Waino in second.
2011 was supposed to be the year that Wainwright finally broke through and won the Cy Young Award. Unfortunately, he went down in the beginning of spring training that year and had to undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery. It was a bad season to miss out on. The Cardinals came back from 10 games back of the wild card and miracously made the postseason on the final game of the regular season. The Cardinals 11th championship came soon after.
Wainwright had a up and down season in 2012 in his first season back from TJ surgery. He struggled with command and didn't have a good feeling for his curveball. He improved in May after a rough April, but wasn't sharp in June. Wainwright pitched his best in the second half, especially in June and July. For the season, Wainwright was 14-13 with a 3.94 ERA, stats not typical of him. His second half numbers were much better as he went 7-5 with a 3.28 ERA. He also closed out the season on a positive note, winning Game 4 of the NLCS.
Now fully recovered from surgery and his command sharp again, Wainwright has been like the 2009-10 version. Coming into Monday's game, he is third in ERA(2.18), first in wins(10), 5th in strikeouts(97), 2nd in innings pitched(103), and 8th in WHIP(1.01). He also has 2 shutouts and 3 complete games, which lead the NL. Most likely heading for his second career All Star appearance in a month. Waino is making another run at the Cy Young this year. He has plenty of competition in the Dodgers Clayton Kershaw, the Mets Matt Harvey, the Phillies Cliff Lee, the Nats Jordan Zimmermann, the DBacks Patrick Corbin, teammate Shelby Miller, and the Braves Mike Minor.
I think his main competition is Kershaw and Harvey, maybe Lee or Zimmermann. Kershaw and Harvey play on losing teams, which will hurt their record. Lee could get traded this year. Zimmermann's numbers are very good, but doesn't have the strikeouts the other guys do. Corbin allows more runners and strikes out less guys than Harvey does, but both pitchers are only in their second season, and first full years. Miller is in his rookie season. It will be interesting if these guys hold up in the second half or not. Minor has had an impressive start, but doesn't have much of a track record. Wainwright is already halfway to 20 wins and it's a little under a month til the All Star break. Kershaw has the better ERA and WHIP, and a couple more strikeouts. Wainwright is very close to those numbers, and if he wins 20 plus he will have a good chance at the award. Wainwright is in a groove and I doubt he slows down.
Here's a look at the numbers:
Pitcher Record ERA WHIP Innings Strikeouts
Wainwright 10-3 2.18 1.01 102.0 97
Kershaw 5-4 1.84 0.97 107.1 104
Harvey 5-1 2.04 0.91 97.0 102
Lee 8-2 2.55 0.98 102.1 89
Zimmermann 9-3 2.44 0.93 99.2 67
Miller 7-4 2.08 0.96 86.1 96
Corbin 9-0 2.28 1.01 94.2 74
Minor 8-2 2.68 0.97 90.2 85
Right now, Kershaw is his biggest threat, followed by Harvey. Miller is also close, but I think Wainwright's inning advantage should matter just as much as the 2 win difference. Kershaw's sub-2 ERA is pretty impressive, but he only has a slight advantage in WHIP, innings, and strikeouts. If the numbers are that close at the end of the season, I think Waino wins the Cy Young Award.
Thursday, June 13, 2013
I thought the AL East race would be interesting this year and here in June it looks like it will be a hell of a race throughout this season. The Red Sox started out in first early on, then the Yankees overtook them. The Yankees fell off recently and the Red Sox reclaimed the top spot. The Orioles won a walk off last night against the Red Sox to get within 2 and a half games of first. These two teams have 3 more games against each other this weekend. A Orioles sweep would put them in first place. Baltimore's win on Thursday night put them in second place by a half game over the Yankees. The Rays have also been playing good baseball lately and are only 5 games back of first.
The only team not in the picture is the Blue Jays. They were my preseason pick to win the division, but have been a flop so far. Toronto made a big splash in the offseason, acquiring RA Dickey, Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, and Melky Cabrera. They sit at 29-36, ten and a half games out of first. Reyes got hurt early in April and is still out. Dickey has been pitching better after a rough start. Buehrle has struggled, and Johnson suffered through injuries and poor performance. The Jays pitching has been really bad this year, which is a big reason why they are in last place. They've had to resort to starting Chein-Mien Wang, Ramon Ortiz(hard to believe he's still in the league), Aaron Laffey, and many other journeyman pitchers due to injuries and demotions.
The Rays are an intriguing team. They have one of the best managers in baseball with Joe Maddon. He's good at mixing and matching starting lineups and handling the bullpen. The Rays have also gotten good play out of low cost acquisitions Kelly Johnson, James Loney, Yunel Escobar, and others. Evan Longoria and Matt Joyce are having good years for them. David Price has been out for a month and Jeremy Hellickson has struggled, but Matt Moore and Alex Cobb have made up for it. Fernando Rodney has fallen off bigtime from his career season in 2012. The Rays also have a very good farm system and is a team that should stay in the race all season.
I might of predicted the Yankees decline too soon before the season. Still, this is an aging team, one of the oldest in baseball. Curtis Granderson has been out most of the season, and Mark Teixiera has just recently came back, but is batting under .200. Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez have been out all season, both out til at least the All Star break. A-Rod may not even play this year. They've relied on retreads and aging veterans like Travis Hafner, Jayson Nix, Lyle Overbay, Vernon Wells, and Ichiro Suzuki. Robinson Cano has been their only All Star caliber player still in his prime for the Yankees this year. The Yankees have always been more of a veteran club, but this team is less star studded than recent Yankees teams.
Despite all of that, the Yankees are 37-29 and only 3 games out of first. The savior of the Yankees has been their pitching, notably their relief pitching. Mariano Rivera is having another terrific season in his final year. David Robertson, Boone Logan, and rookie Preston Claiborne have pitched well out of the bullpen. Their starting pitching has been solid with Hiroki Kuroda having the best season. CC Sabathia hasn't been as sharp this season, having an ERA slightly over 4. The Yankees have the 4th best ERA in the American League.
The Orioles have been hot lately, creeping into second place. They are second in the AL in runs scored and have standout defenders in Adam Jones, JJ Hardy, Manny Machado, and Matt Wieters. Chris Davis is having a monster year, leading the AL in home runs. Jones and Machado are also having All Star type years. With those players along with Hardy, Wieters, Nate McLouth, and Nick Markakis, the Orioles have a deep lineup. Pitching is a weakness for them, they are 13th in the AL in runs scored.
Jim Johnson has struggled a bit after having a dominant season as closer last year. He has pitched better recently and the Orioles have good setup pitchers with Darren O'Day leading the way. Their rotation isn't very strong, especially without injured Wei-Yei Chen. Miguel Gonzalez and Chris Tillman have had solid, unspectacular years. Jason Hammel, the ageless Freddy Garcia, and others have been liabilities. The Orioles lack an ace and could make a move toward the deadline to improve their pitching.
The Red Sox have had a major turnaround this year with new manager John Farrell. Gone is the zoo from the short-lived Bobby Valentine era. Dustin Pedroia and Clay Buchholz have had standout seasons for the Sox this year. The Sox might be the most balanced team in this division, they lead the AL in runs scored, and are 7th in runs allowed. Still, they don't seem to be significantly better than either the Orioles, Yankees, or Rays. The Sox could win this division, but they will have plenty of competition for it. I would expect the leads to change a few more times this season.
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
New Royals hitting coach George Brett with Eric Hosmer
Coming into the season I thought that the Royals could be a surprise team this year. The Royals improved their pitching in the offseason, trading for James Shields and Ervin Santana. Kansas City finished 10th in the American League in pitching last season. Dayton Moore's moves to acquire more pitching paid off and the Royals are 1st in the American League in ERA coming into today. Shields has a 2.81 ERA with a 1.04 WHIP and Santana has a 2.99 ERA with a 1.03 WHIP. Those are good numbers but their records don't indicate that. Both pitchers are victims of poor run support as Shields is 2-6 and Santana is 4-5. After starting the season off well, the Royals slumped badly in May, going 8-20.
The big problem with the Royals is their putrid offense. They are 13th in the AL with 237 runs scored. They don't hit for much power and are dead last in the AL with a .367 slugging percentage and in home runs with 31. They don't get on base enough either and are 11th with a .312 on base percentage. The Royals have 4 everyday players with a sub-.300 OBP with Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar, Chris Getz, and Jeff Francouer struggling this year. The Royals didn't make any major additions on offense, hoping that some of their younger players would improve.
Dayton Moore drafted Moustakas in 2007(2nd overall) and Eric Hosmer in 2008(3rd) in the first round. A lot of expectations were put on these guys, but they haven't lived up to them yet. Moustakas has really struggled this year. He is batting only .180 for the season and leads the AL with 8 errors at third base. He's lost some playing time to Miguel Tejada, who was out of the league last year. Hosmer is batting .276 this year, but is only slugging .346. He has not developed the power that was expected. Hosmer is one of the weakest run producers at first base in all of baseball. He is in danger of becoming a hitter like James Loney or Casey Kotchman, or even worse Justin Smoak.
Brett's two biggest projects will be trying to get these players to live up to their potential. Moustakas would be thought to be in danger of being demoted to the minor leagues, but the Royals don't have many other options. This organization is concerned that two of their biggest prospects in Moore's rebuilding plan could be busts. A third prospect, second baseman Johnny Giovatella, has been in Triple A this season. This makes me wonder if the organization has a player development problem.
Two other weak spots in the lineup are Frenchy and Getz. These are two guys who are clearly not everyday players. I'm not sure if David Lough or Jarrod Dyson are improvements in right, but Francouer has been one of the worst everyday hitters in the game this year. Getz has also been a major weakness in the lineup. He splits time with Eliot Johnson, who is equally light hitting. Alcides Escobar hasn't hit as well either after hitting .295 last season. Escobar is terrific with the glove and has good speed. Brett will attempt to get Escobar hitting again.
Alex Gordon and Billy Butler were the proven commodities coming into the year, and are two of the Royals best hitters this year. Gordon has cooled off a bit after a hot start, but still is batting over .300. Gordon will likely make his first All Star appearance this year. Butler hasn't hit for as much power this year, but he does have a .381 OBP. Salvador Perez has been a good defensive catcher and leads the team with a .318 average. Lorenzo Cain has played well this year, batting .291 with 8 steals. Cain has hit leadoff on occasion, but they also put Gordon in that spot. The Royals are unsure whether they should use Gordon as a leadoff hitter or a #3 hitter. Gordon gets on base a lot, but also leads the team with a .449 OBP.
Kansas City just had a 6 game winning streak snapped against Detroit today. A six game winning streak was unthinkable in May. However, those wins were against the Twins and Astros. The Royals currently sit at 29-33 in third place, 5.5 games back. The AL Central is the weakest division in baseball, with Detroit being the only good team. Cleveland is a decent team, and the White Sox and Twins are mediocre. Manager Ned Yost is on the hot seat and the team will need to improve to keep his job. In 10 years of being a manager, he only has 2 winning seasons on mostly rebuilding teams. One of those years he was fired with 12 games left to go.
Moore took over as GM in 2006 and has yet to have a winning season under his watch. He has improved the farm system, but some of their top prospects have not produced as expected. Guys like Hosmer, Moustakas, and Luke Hochevar have not turned out to be stars. Hochevar flopped as a starter, but has excelled in the bullpen. Still, the team expected much more when they drafted him. Even Gordon had to be sent back to minors for a stint, before coming back up and excelling. Moore probably has a longer leash than Yost, but could be in trouble if this team finishes below .500 again. Not to many GMs can survive eight straight losing seasons at the helm.
Saturday, June 8, 2013
2013 1st Round Pick Marco Gonzales
The Cardinals had two first round picks for the second straight season, although they didn't have the 3 supplemental picks they had last year. They selected two left handed pitchers in the first round in Marco Gonzales(from Gonzaga) and Rob Kaminksy(high school). The Cardinals also drafted lefties Ian McKinney and Jimmy Reed in the top ten. In the second round they drafted Columbian shortstop Oscar Mercado. They also drafted two other shortstops, getting Canadian Malik Collymore and Chris Rivera. In round three they drafted right handed pitcher Mike Mayers from Ole Miss. The organization stocked up on left handed pitchers and shortstops in the top rounds this year.
When John Mozeliak took over as GM in late 2007, he made it a priority to improve the farm system and player development. The team hasn't hit on all the picks since then, but they have drafted some key contributors to this year's team in those years. The Cardinals were also rated the top farm system in the game coming into this season. Today, we'll take a look back at the Cardinals drafts under Mozeliak.
The Cardinals had two first round picks plus 3 supplementary 1st round picks in this draft. The Angels gave up their first round pick and the Cardinals got a supplementary pick when they signed Albert Pujols in free agency. They used those two picks to select starting pitcher Michael Wacha and third baseman Stephen Piscotty. Wacha is already in the big leagues a little less than a year after being drafted. Piscotty is one of three third baseman chosen by the club in the first two rounds. They also drafted Patrick Wisdom in a supplementary pick for losing Octavio Dotel, and Carson Kelly in the second round. Piscotty is playing the best out of the three with Kelly having the best long term potential. Center fielder James Ramsey was the Cardinals regular first round pick and is currently in Double A Springfield. The Cardinals also drafted catcher Stephen Bean in a supplementary pick for losing Edwin Jackson.
Hawiian second baseman Kolten Wong was selected in the first round of the 2011 draft. He is currently batting .326 with 4 home runs, 20 RBIs, and 8 steals in Triple A Memphis. The Cardinals selected two center fielders in the next two rounds in Charlie Tilson and CJ McElroy. Tilson has played the best out of the two. Seth Maness was the first player from this draft class to make the big leagues and has 4 wins out of the bullpen for the Cardinals this year. Left hander Ryan Sherriff has made it to Triple A and is the most promising pitcher from this draft after Maness.
Third baseman Zack Cox was picked in the first round of this draft. Cox was traded to the Marlins last July for reliever Edward Mujica. Mujica(aka the Chief) has been dominant since joining the team and has taken over as closer, converting 18 out of 18 saves. Seth Blair was a supplementary pick for Mark De Rosa, but has been a dissapointment. The Cardinals selected right handed pitcher Tyrell Jenkins in a supplementary pick for Joel Pineiro. Jenkins is a big right hander with good stuff, but has not been able to harness his potential yet. He is in Single A Peoria and was rated in the top ten of the best Cardinals prospects. Reliever Jordan Swagerty was drafted in the second round, but had Tommy John surgery last year. Lefties John Gast and Tyler Lyons were both drafted in 2010, both making their debuts in the rotation for St. Louis this year. Righty Boone Whiting was promoted to Memphis this year after doing well in Springfield. Shortstop prospect Greg Garcia was also picked in 2010.
Shelby Miller was drafted out of high school with the team's first pick in 2009. Miller has been dominant this year with a sub-2 ERA. Miller is a leading contender for NL Rookie of the Year this season. Joe Kelly, Trevor Rosenthal, and Keith Butler were all drafted in 2009. Rosenthal can reach 100 mph on his fastball and has done a terrific job as the 8th inning setup guy this year. Middle infielder Ryan Jackson was drafted in the 5th round. He is hitting well in Triple A, but hasn't done much at the major league level. Matt Carpenter was drafted in the 13th round and has been a sparkplug at the leadoff spot this year. Matt Adams was also selected in this draft and has great power potential. This draft was one of the best in this team's recent history. Four years later, Miller, Kelly, Carpenter, Rosenthal, and Adams are playing big roles on the major league team. Where would this team be without those guys?
Similar to 2010, the team selected a 1B/3B type in Brett Wallace. Wallace has never lived up to the hype in the big leagues, but was traded in a package for Matt Holliday. Shane Peterson was drafted in the second round and was also part of the Holliday deal. Pitcher Clayton Mortensen was the third player in the deal, and neither of the three have done much in the majors. The Cardinals did draft Lance Lynn in a supplementary pick for Troy Percival. It's hard to even remember Percival pitching for the Cardinals. Lynn has already made an All Star team and is pitching very well this year. Alex Castellanos was drafted in the 10th round, and the significance of him as that he was traded for Rafael Furcal, who played a big role in the 2011 push for the championship. Jermaine Curtis and lefties Sam Freeman and Kevin Siegrist were also picked in this draft. Lynn is the only player from this draft to make a mark on the Cardinals, but two of these players were traded for Holliday
The Cardinals have had 14 players play for them this year in these 5 drafts. Lynn, Adams, Rosenthal, Carpenter, Kelly, Miller, Gast, Lyons, Maness, and Wacha look like they are solid big leaguers. There are a few more that could be. The team has come along way since 2005 when they had one of the worst farm systems.
Monday, June 3, 2013
When looking at the Cardinals lineup, Matt Carpenter isn't the first guy who jumps to mind, or the second, or third. However, Carpenter is off to a great start and has been a unheralded hero for the Cardinals this season. The team is on fire since Carpenter took over the leadoff spot from Jon Jay. Carpenter doesn't have Jay's speed, but is a on-base machine. He ranks 7th in the National League with a .394 on base percentage. Carpenter also ranks 3rd in runs with 43, tied for 3rd in doubles with 17, and is tied for 8th with 65 hits. He has been a catalyst for the Cardinals, getting on base often for Carlos Beltran, Matt Holliday, Allen Craig, and Yadier Molina.
Carpenter made the team out of spring training in 2012 and was a valuable utility man for the team last year. Finishing 6th in the NL Rookie of the Year voting, Carp hit .294 last year.He played first, third, left, and right last year. Problem was Craig was the regular first baseman, 2011 postseason hero David Freese the regular third baseman, Holliday the left fielder, and Beltran the right fielder. Carpenter could sub for any of them, but lacked a regular position. Last season, second base was a weak spot with Tyler Greene, Skip Schumaker, and Daniel Descalso holding the position, with Descalso getting the bulk of the playing time. The team decided to try out Carpenter at second to get him more playing time, and possibly be the starter. Jose Oquendo worked with him in the offseason and spring training to transition to second base. The Cardinals made a similar conversion in 2009 when Schumaker was converted from an outfielder to a second baseman.
So far, it's been a smooth transition as Carpenter has fielded his position fairly well. Unlike Schumaker at second, Carpenter has not been a liability on defense. He has started 35 games at second and only made 1 error at that position this season. In his natural position, third base, Carp has made 3 errors in 15 games started there. Descalso has been moved back to a infield utility role that he thrived in during the 2011 championship season. Descalso has hit much better now that he's not over-exposed as a everyday player.
John Mabry took over as the Cardinals hitting coach this year after Mark McGwire left to be the Dodgers hitting coach. Mabry probably sees a young version of himself in Carpenter. They were both left handed, did not wear batting gloves, and had similar stances. Mabry had a nice career and played 14 seasons in the big leagues. I've compared him both to Mabry and Schumaker, but I think that Carpenter is a better hitter than both of two players. Carpenter has a legitimate case to make the All Star team this year, something those two players never accomplished.
It's not a homerish thing to say that Carpenter belongs on the All Star team this year. He won't get voted in as a starter, that will likely go to Brandon Phillips. He will have to get nominated as a reserve, which managers, coaches, and players vote on. There are a few spots directly picked by Bruce Bochy, and if it got to that point, he would like go with Marco Scutaro, who is having a fine season himself. Like I mentioned earlier, Carpenter ranks in the top ten in the NL in several different categories. Below, I will compare Carpenter to other NL second baseman to see were he ranks.
1) Scutaro, SF .329
2) Carpenter, STL .314
3) Phillips, CIN .296
4) Gyorko, SD .274
On Base Percentage
1) Carpenter, STL .394
2) Scutaro, SF .380
3) Walker, PIT .360
4) Phillips, CIN .347
1) Phillips, CIN .481
2) Utley, PHI .475
3) Carpenter, STL .452
4) Murphy, NYM .441
Carpenter has a very good case to make the All Star team. As an added bonus, he is a versatile player who could be very valuable late in the game. One could make the case that Carpenter is having the best offensive season of any second baseman in the National League. At the very least he is in the top 3 with Phillips and Scutaro. Neil Walker and Daniel Murphy are good second baseman, but clearly rank below Carpenter this year. Chase Utley is injury prone and no longer the same player who used to be. Dan Uggla, Rickie Weeks, and Danny Espinosa are all hitting below the Mendoza line and having terrible seasons so far.
The Cardinals also have top prospect and second baseman Kolten Wong tearing it up in Triple A this year. Wong is hitting .337 in Memphis and has speed and some power. He won't come up until September unless there is an injury, but he will surely be ready for the big leagues next year. Carpenter could be shifted to third to make room for him, but that would leave Freese without a position. Freese has just recently started to heat up after a slow start. That's 3 players for 2 positions. At some point, the team will have to make a decision on that question. Carpenter has played himself into a bigger role with the Cardinals this season, and they will find a way to keep his bat in the lineup in the future.
Special Note: I think it was ridiculous that Yadier Molina received a one game suspension for his actions on Sunday's game. He was thrown out of the game after slamming his helmet down on a close play. Molina did not argue with the umpire before the ejection. He did lose his cool after that, but that umpire had a very short leash on Sunday.