A new home…

I’ve joined the Cards Conclave, and just slapped up my first post there, go take a look.

The Utility Player

I’ll still post stuff here for a little while, as it’ll take some time for people to transfer over, and I’ll keep this site up forever, using it to serve as a home for my archives.

That’s all for now, more stuff to come in the near future.

Whispers: Randall Grichuk And The Voices In The Shadows That Will Haunt Him

After the tragic loss of Oscar Taveras, I noticed that some bloggers turned their gaze upon Randal Grichuk, someone who was considered an elite prospect not that long ago, and immediately said (and yes, I’m paraphrasing a little) “He’s not Oscar, we’re in trouble!”

This made me wonder if the ghost of Oscar will haunt Grichuk throughout the season: If he doesn’t make a timely hit to drive in a run, someone might say emphatically “Oscar would’ve gotten that hit!” or if he misses a catch, we might hear “Oscar would’ve caught that!”

The pressure to perform at the big league level is intense, something Oscar himself felt alot of, being a home grown uber-talent.

Grichuk didn’t quite have that, as he was acquired in a trade as a throw-in, a secondary addition designed to sweeten the pot and make the trade work. The primary pressure burden of that trade lay on Peter Bourjos.

Grichuk did have a little presure, as does every high end prospect. Now, however, I fear that the ghost of Oscar will increase that pressure at least ten-fold, especially in the online community.

As I said, Grichuk was an elite prospect not that long ago, and was on the roster, battling Oscar for playing time as recently as the playoffs. Randal had earned that playing time. He did struggle some, but so had Oscar during much of the season, to the point that his manager had called him out in public, a rare tactic for Mike Matheny to use. Grichuk obviously wasn’t alone in his struggles.

Grichuk has his strengths, he’s a thumper. With development and patience, he could turn into a 25 to 30 home run hitter. He’s at least an average fielder, and can get better over time. The plate discipline and successful contact will some things to keep an eye on, but I think given time, and mentorship from the likes of Matt Carpenter and others, he’ll get better in those areas as well.

All in all, Grichuk is an above average prospect, a seperate entity from Oscar who just might succeed if we give him a chance.

As such, I have a simple request: When Randall makes an error, or strikes out or does any other negative thing, instead of saying “Oscar would’ve done that” simply say Grichuk should’ve done that.” Also, when Randal does something well, celebrate, instead of saying: “Big deal, Oscar would’ve done that too.” Small things, but I think we need to encourage the right fielder of our future, not dwell on what might have been.

As always, thanks for reading.

World Series Game Seven: Fantasy Meets Reality In One At-Bat

The brave, injured warrior steps into the field of battle with everything on the line, and comes through and either secures the victory or sets things in motion for the victory.

This is one of the most beloved storylines in every sport, including baseball. Kirk Gibson, the bloody sock, etc. You know why it’s so beloved? BECAUSE IT’S SO UNFREAKIN’ LIKELY TO HAPPEN!

So when Ned Yost sent his injured catcher Salvador Perez, a guy who swings at pitches five feet outside of the plate when he’s healthy, to the plate with the game on the line, I pretty much knew the game was over.

The perfect narrative, which happens a microscopic amount of the time, met reality in the form of Madison Bumgarner and the game was over.

Now, I’m not trying to take anything away from the Giants, they played a great game, but Ned Yost, given an unexpected chance to tie things up when Alex Gordon got to third on a single and an error, gift wrapped the game to the Giants by sending Perez up to bat. Perez acquiesced by fouling out, and the Giants had their third championship in five years. yay.

I know the Royals backup catcher hadn’t played in eons and that would have been something to watch if the game went to extra innings, but you have to get there first!

In any other situation, Perez likely would have been replaced far earlier. Plus it’s not like he was setting the world on fire as he was 0 for 2 up to that point.

No, I don’t know which pinch hitter to use, I just know that Perez shouldn’t have been batting.

Ned Yost actually managed this series pretty decently, better than anyone expected. In this case however, Royals fans got Yosted.

As always, thanks for reading.

World Series Thoughts…

Just a few random thoughts as I watch this years World Series…

1) Which is better, quality or quantity?

Five of the six WS games played so far have been won by five or more runs, killing quite a bit of the drama. In some cases, I kept watching, like last night, but that was because I enjoy watching Ventura pitch. I stopped watching after he left. Plus, I didn’t really watch the Royals bat after Posey hit into his bases loaded double play. I knew the Giants were going to lose after that. If Ventura wasn’t pitching, I’d have switched over to Netflix or something else. I would’ve much rather had a four game sweep where the score in each game was 1 to 0 as that would’ve kept me glued to my seat each game.

2) If he stays on his career path, the Royals should keep Yordano Ventura.

The Royals once had a young ace (Zack Greinke)  who they traded rather than eventually pay his eventual ginormous salary. They netted two key peices of this years team in that trade in Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar, so when Ventura gets near free agency, I’m afraid Dayton Moore will develop an itchy trigger finger. If Ventura stays on his current path, doesn’t need five million Tommy John Surgeries (the dude is 5 ft 10 and skinny as a pole, yet his reaches 100 MPH every start. that’s gotta create quite a bit of stress on that arm) and one of my revolutions listed below doesn’t come to pass and teams still use standard starting pitchers, Ventura will be an ace. KC fans already love this kid, and if Dayton is smart, he’ll talk the owner into signing him for life when the time comes. Ventura could be a franchise icon if things break right. He’s certainly off to a good start.

3) Let the Two Renaissances Begin!

This years’ WS may inspire two movements, both directly inspired by the Royals.

Renaissance Number One: Walks are overrated.

I personally disagree with this one, but KC’s contact heavy approach got them to the WS, and many executives. may point to the Royals when they’re asked why they signed a contact heavy hitter who swings at pitches within a foot of the strike zone (Hello Salvador Perez!). Walks *are* valuable, in my opinion, because good pitchers can often take advantage of hitters’ aggresiveness. The Royals just got lucky and only really faced two true aces this entire post-season. One was cruising until he got tired in the seventh (Jon Lester, who had also lost his catcher who was good against the run in Geovany Soto) and the other, Madison Bumgarner, has absolutely owned the Royals in the World Series.

Rennaisance Number Two: The Second Inning Closer.

The Royals basically have three closers, one for each of the last three innings. Well, all it takes is one GM to take that innovation one step further, sign a bunch of power arms or pitchers with one clear wipeout pitch, and assign each one to an inning. Basically your pitching staff would consist of 12 relievers. Not only could it work, it would save your team some money. No more Kershaw/Zito type contracts. Plus, if one of your relievers gets greedy, it’s easier to find a guy who can pitch one inning than a guy who can pitch five to nine. You may laugh, but I think this could actually work. There’s plenty of failed starters like Wade Davis out there who can crank things up kowing they only have to pitch an inning.

Just some food for thought. Al always, thanks for reading.

Fallen…

Don’t really know what I’m going for here, so let’s just start with a story…

I’m the eighth and last kid in my family. There was also the largest gap between me and my sister, the second last, at five years. The rest were closer bunched together. I was kind of the “last hurrah” if you will.

In my mind, all of this meant that, as I got older, me and my dad would do things together. Baseball trips, road trips in general, heck, I might even join him on his hunting trips down to our family property in a town called St. Genevieve.

He often took those trips by himself, whether just to get away, or that he just found it easier to hunt alone, I never knew.

On one of those solo trips, he was apparently either on his way in or on his way out, and he dropped his gun, which went off. I was thirteen at the time.

We don’t know why the safety wasn’t on, but that’s not really the point. The point is someobody was taken from us prematurely, at I time where I was expecting things from him, whether I knew it or not.

Now my dad was in his 50’s, he’d lived a full life, had eight kids, done a lot. Only thing he didn’t get was retirement and the chance to live the relaxed, laid back retirement life.

Also, by that time, everyone knew who my dad was, his persona had fully developed. Dad was a relatively quiet and humble guy who enjoyed the occasional cigar and liked to BBQ on the weekends.

By contrast, Oscar Taveras, who died in a car accident, hadn’t really begun to live. As fans, we were all looking forward to seeing Oscar in his prime, both as a player and as a person. Would he develop a humble personality? Would he have a little flair like Carlos Gomez, would he become a diehard fundraiser like Jason Motte? Would he? Would he? Would he? That’s what we should miss the most, the development and growth of Oscar as a person, and getting to see it before our eyes.

He also never really got the chance to live, at least not live the life a baseball salary would allow him to.

As a Christian, I truly believe Oscar is in heaven now, a better place, where, as someone said, he’s playing baseball and Jack Buck is calling the game.

So long Oscar, keep hitting homers in heaven.

Does Matheny need a new bench coach?

One of the things we covered Wednesday night on our podcast was whether Mike Matheny could be a good playoff manager as he currently is, or whether he needs a mentor/guru/tactician on his bench to help him do better in the playoffs. Basically, we were considering whether to replace Mike Aldrete with a former manager to be ala Dale Sveum to Ned Yost, or Don Zimmer to Joe Torre.

Matheny, as we discussed, basically manages *every* game like it’s the regular season. This is not ideal in the post-season, and makes it appear like Mike can’t adapt to the higher pressure situation that is the playoffs

Given that the Cards (we hope) are going to continue being regulars in the playoffs, either Matheny needs to recogize the difference, or he’ll continue to struggle in the post season, and he’ll be shown the door despite making the playoffs regularly ala Dusty Baker.

.Since it’s unlikely Matheny will instantly correct this, and given that management has commited to Matheny for at least another year, we turn to the bench coach idea.

Now, I have nothing against Mike Aldrete, but he’s not a former major league manager.

But here’s another question: Does just hiring a former manager work, or does it have to be a former manager with playoff experience, someone who knows how to react under playoff pressure? And if so, where would we find such an animal? I’m not sure, many former managers with such experience are probably enjoying their retirement, and the ones itching to get back in the game would probably prefer to do it at the management level or higher (see La Russa, Tony).

However, what if you took a manager, one who managed for a penny pinching team in the past, one with very little chance of winning, but still did ok (but didn’t make the playoffs) what about a guy like that? Said guy may not have any playoff experience, but that doesn’t mean he’s not smart tactically. Plus many of these managers were merely placeholders. Of course, some of the placeholders may have been secretly good, but others may have been as bad as their won/loss record indicates.

For example, how good of a manager was Bo Porter? Nobody knows, because he wasn’t given the chance to win anything, he was merely a placeholder. But what if, among those placeholders, was a bona fide manager who could provide tactical wisdom to a guy like Mike? And wouldn’t some of those former managers/placeholders jump at a chance to work for a team with a roster designed to win now, after having to put up with all that losing? Wouldn’t that be a great way for a former manager to rebuild his value, so that he could in the future, possibly get another managing gig where he *would* have a chance to win?

Now, I’m not sure which former manager to choose, I’ll leave that determination up to the Cardinals’ upper management, they’re a little smarter than me. I do, however, think it’s an idea worth pursuing.

As always, thanks for reading.

Pilfering World Series Players Part Two

Today’s Question: If I could steal one offensive player from each team, who would it be and why? Yesterday I did The Giants, today I’m doing the Royals.

Yesterday I tried to look at this realistically, well today, I’m going to have fun with it, and say, “well, that’d be cool!”

And yes, this idea might be very stupid, but so what, I’m just playing around and having fun. Still, you’ve been warned.

One rule, I can’t steal the same position from each team, Matt Adams can only have one platoon partner, after all, and I already stole Brandon Belt, so who are we going to steal from the Kansas City Royals?

Another rule, I have to be able to do something with the player or players replaced, so if I have an untradable player, then I can’t just outright replace that position.

To make my idea work, I’m going to need to steal not one, but two players.

You know how KC has the ulitmate defensive outfield, well I got to wondering, do we have two good defenders to add one of KC’s outfielders to? The answer is no. We do, however, have one, in Peter Bourjos.

So for my pipe dream outfield that won’t make sense in real life, I’m going to steal both Lorenzo Cain and Jarrod Dyson. We’ll trade off two of the Jay/Grichuk/Taveras contingent for an elite pitcher starter to make our rotation even deeper, or perhaps a flamethrowing reliever or two to make our pen a bit scarier.

The problem here is Matt Holliday. In theory, I’d start Cain, then sub Dyson in late, and taking out Holliday, giving the Cards three center fielders. But Holliday has a slightly better bat than Nori Aoki, as well as a bigger contract. Even if he was in decline, he probably wouldn’t agree to sit his butt down late in the game. Plus his contract isn’t tradable, otherwise I’d have traded him and put one of our youngsters in his place. (And yes, I know in KC, Cain slides over to left, but he’s good enough to slide over to right too)

Like I said, stupid, but man it’d be fun to watch an outfield of Cain, Bourjos and Dyson, which is the point.

As always, thanks for reading.

Pilfering World Series Players Part One

Today’s Question: If I could steal one offensive player from each team, who would it be and why?

I’m going to try and look at this realistically, What do we need, and who do the other teams have that fill that need? For example, since we have Yadi, we don’t really need Buster Posey.

One rule, I can’t steal the same position from each team, Matt Adams can only have one platoon partner, after all….

And that leads perfectly into who I’d steal from the Giants: Brandon Belt.

Year Batting Average On Base Percentage Slugging Percentage
2011 .225 .306 .412
2012 .275 .360 .421
2013 .289 .360 .481
2014 .243 .306 .449

In addition to being a decent bat, Belt holds his own at 1B and against lefties, Matt Adams big weakness. Even this year, in a down year where he missed a decent chunk of time due to injuries, he had a reverse split and hit better against lefties with about a .260 average, which was quit a bit higher than Adams, who hit .190 against lefties.

He has exceeded his rookie contract and was in his first year of arbitration this year, making 2.9 million. Still, even with a raise, the combo of him and Adams at first would be worth the money in my mind. And given that he had a down a year, even if it was due to injuries, a big raise is not guaranteed.

So that’s who I’d steal from the Giants.

As always, thanks for reading.

What Other Position Could Yadi play besides Catcher

One thing I read about Buster Posey recently was how he might soon be moved out of the catcher position to make sure they could keep his bat around as long as possible. This got me thinking about Yadier Molina, as he’s gotten to be a pretty good hitter himself the last few years.

I searched for someone who was similar physically to Yadi and found Carlos Santana.

Both are 5 Foot 11, Yadi weighs 220, while Santana is at 210, so not a huge difference there.

Santana started out as primarily a catcher, in recent years he has played Catcher, First Base, Third Base, Left Field and been a DH. DH is out, and we’re full of Outfielders, but First or Third? Hmmmm…

Now as to whether he has no value at a position beyond the plate, consider these numbers from 2011 to 2013…

Year Batting Average On Base Percentage Slugging Percentage
2011 .305 .349 .465
2012 .315 .373 .501
2013 .319 .359 .477
2014 .282 .333 .386

Not bad eh? Certainly above average. That might’ve been average on, say, Harvey’s Wallbangers, but certainly isn’t nowadays. Yadi’s 2014 numbers may have been a little lower, but he was injured part of the year, as well as the fact that catchers is the most draining position on the diamond. Sure, it may not have appeared that way from 2011 to 2013, but he’s getting older, so his body isn’t as durable as it used to be. Plus, I remember a shot of Yadi in the dugout during the middle of season, when summer is it’s hottest, he looked the skinniest I’d ever seen him, like he had sweated off all of his fat and muscle. Why do you think Posey will probably move to another position or that Santana has caught increasingly less games?

Now, I know we’ll miss him on defense. We’ll miss his arm, his psychic link with the pitchers, and all of his other skills, but I keep hearing everyone call Tony Cruz Yadi jr. Let’s find out if that’s warranted. Plus, if Yadi’s in the infield, I guarantee he’ll still be like a coach out there. Yes, I know Tony’s bat needs work, but I never said this plan was flawless.

Plus, Yadi doesn’t have to play out there full time. In addition to days off, he can platoon at First Base with Matt Adams, or spell Matt Carpenter at Third Base. He certainly has the arm for it. First and Third are less demanding positions while still allowing us to keep his above average bat in the lineup.

Just some food for thought.

As always, thanks for reading.

Ten Things To Watch For In The World Series

I thought I’d take a brief look at some things to watch for in the World Series.

1) The MadBum/Shields Death Matches

Madison Bumgarner and James Shields are the aces of their respective teams, so they’ll be squaring off multiple times in this series. Bumgarner is the NL’s overlooked ace, with other starters like Clayton Kershaw, Adam Wainwright and Johnny Cueto, among others, dominating the NL spotlight. Bumgarner has been quietly steady though, and has shined in the postseason, leading SF to it’s third WS trip in five years.

Meanwhile, James Shields, who was acquired specifically to lead KC to the playoffs, has done that. His numbers aren’t as good as Bumgarner’s though, and seem to represent the stats of an above average starter than a true ace, but he has the ability to rise to the occasion, so it’s possible he’ll match Bumgarner blow for blow.

2) Yordano Ventura

Many would say that this 22 year old from the Dominican Republic is KC’s true ace, and there’s some merit to that argument. His regular season stats were only a tiny bit worse than Shields, and given that he’s only 22 and this was his first full season, there’s a chance he’s just getting started and in the ensuing years will emerge as a real ace for KC. If that does happen, it’ll be interesting to see if KC will be able to hang on to him once free agency rolls around. That’s a long time down the road though. For now, let’s enjoy his coming out on the national spotlight that is the World Series.

3) The Entire Kansas City Bullpen

There’s been plenty been written already about the trio of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland, so I won’t go into much detail about them here. They’ll be worth watching though, partly to see if Yost sticks to his regimented routine and only uses them in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings respectively, or if he adapts and is more flexible with them. In addition to those guys, Yost has other effective releivers to use, notably Brandon Finnegan, Jason Frasor and Tim Collins. Finnegan is a rookie lefthander who was promoted at the end of the season who has shined in the post-season. He’s a Sinker/Slider/Changeup pitcher with solid velocity.Frasor is a veteran releiver acquired by KC from the Rangers in July who has done a good job for the Royals since his acquisition. He’s a Four Seam/Slider/Splitter pitcher who generates quite a few groundball outs. Collins hasn’t seen much action in the playoffs, but he’s a solid option. He uses a solid Four Seam/Curve/Changeup combo. These are just three options, there are others, including whichever starters get assigned to the bullpen for the series. Yost has plenty of options beyond the Cerberus.

4) That’s What Speed Do vs. Buster Posey

Buster Posey’s caught stealing percentage is one of the lowest of his career, at 30 percent. Given that KC is loaded with speedsters, it’ll be interesting to see if they test his arm. The Royals have three guys with 28 or more stolen bases in Jarrod Dyson, Alcides Escobar, and Lorenzo Cain. In addition, Alex Gordon has 12 stolen bases and Nori Aoki has 17. Then of course there’s designated pinch runner rookie Terrance Gore, who’s on the team strictly for his speed. KC’s speed will make this series much more interesting if Yost takes advantage of it often.

Another thing that’ll factor into this is how quick SF’s pitchers are in delivering the ball. A quick delivery will slow the KC running game a bit, and I know MadBum has a reputation for having a quick delivery, so watch that as well, for him, and the other SF starting pitchers too.

5) Joe Panik

Until Panik arrived, second base was pretty much a black hole for the Giants, to the point where they even tried out Dan Uggla. Afer that predictable failure, the rookie Panik arrived and stabilized the position by hitting .305 and providing at least average defense at the position. This is consistent with his minor league stats, which also suggest a guy who’ll get on at a good clip. Panik’s minor league OBP was typically 60 points higher than his batting average, which is pretty solid.

6) Bruce Bochy‘s Flexibility vs. Ned Yost‘s Routine

This has been covered a bit, so all I’ll say is it’ll be interesting to see if Yost realizes he’s going to have to adapt if he wants a shiny ring on his finger. He did in the ALCS, we’ll see if that continues in the WS.

7) Little Ball

Neither team is known as an offensive powerhouse, so it’ll be their ability to manufacture runs that will likely win the series. Bunting, taking the extra base, stolen bases and other small ball tactics. KC has the advantage here in regard to speed, but Bochy is the better tactician.

8) KC’s Other Defenders

Much has been made of KC’s outfield, but the rest of the team is pretty good with the glove too.Catcher Salvador Perez and Third Baseman Mike Moustakas are also Gold Glove winners and the rest of the infield (1B Eric Hosmer, 2B Omar Infante and SS Alcides Escobar) are also good fielders as well.

9 Yusmeiro Petit

The Giants also have their share of good relievers, one of which has been Petit. A swingman who’s alternated between the rotation and the bullpen, he’s been a key figure in SF’s playoff run, earning two wins in nine innings without allowing a run. His ability to pitch long stretches of effective relief while SF tries to make a comeback or take a lead in a tie game might be a big factor in SF winning the series.

10) Salvador Perez

Perez is perhaps the best catcher in the American League, combining solid offensive skills with a good arm. He led the AL with a 42 percent caught stealing rate. Posey may be the better offensive catcher, but Perez is perhaps the better all around catcher.

So there’s a few things to keep an eye on in what will be a very interesting World Series.

Thanks for reading.

Posts about baseball in general, the cardinals specifically, and anything else that comes to mind.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 234 other followers