Tag Archives: St. Louis Cardinals

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.

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.

Thursday Morning Musings…

First off, congratulations to the Kansas City Royals for their first World Series appearance since 1985. The Royals have steamrolled their way in, starting with a come from behind victory in the wild card game over the A’s and following that up by sweeping the Angels and Orioles, respectively. KC definitely deserves to be there, and will be a formidable opponent for whoever emerges from the national league.

Now, as to last night’s game between the Giants and the Cardinals, the less said, the better.

Still, some thoughts:

Why is it, when the Cards score four or more runs, our opponent always seems to score more, but when we score three or less, we get a pitching gem? Maybe that’s just the games I managed to catch, but it sure seems like the Cardinals tend to lose when the runs pile up.

Release the LOOGY as soon as the season is over! I don’t think Randy Choate is a bad guy, per se, but if we have him, Mike’ll use him, and probably beyond Choate’s defined role, which often leads to trouble.

Was it me, or were we giving all of San Fran’s players free passes to first base?

Here’s a question for the bloggers with a taste for baseball history:

Has there been any manager who has been fired after making the playoffs? Offhand, I think it happened to Dusty Baker after he guided the Reds there, but I could be wrong. Anybody else?

I ask because, as the evidence mounts, it seems like the Card’s talent will get them to the playoffs, but Mike Matheny won’t be able to get them the World Series trophy unless everything breaks just right (like it has been for the Royals.) Short of a major comeback (and it has been done before, by the Giants two years ago, against the Cards, no less.) Matheny won’r do it this year.

Mike has made the playoffs three years in a row, including three straight NLCS appearances and (so far) one World Series appearance. How much of that is the team’s talent and willpower, and how much of that is Mike? The more I watch, the more I think we’re winning in spite of our manager, not because of him.

That doesn’t mean to say the Cards don’t have flaws. They could use a deeper bullpen, another solid starting pitcher, and more offensive punch. Overall though, the town of St. Louis has a verey talented baseball team, when managed well, is a legit World Series contender. Is it currently managed well though? Something to think about, and comment on if you feel like it,

As always, thanks for reading.

Hey Matheny! Look Up The Word Flexibility!

Last night’s loss, ultimately can be laid at Randy Choate’s feet, or so one would think. In all actuality, the blame lies at the feet of Mike Matheny, due to his bullpen management.

The Cards tied the game in the top of the seventh inning thanks to a Grichuk homer, before any relievers had been used. You’d think, with the score tied, Matheny would manage to the tie, not to the win, because the Cards (and baseball teams in general) never know when or if they’re going to score another run, so it pays to used relievers they can stretch out for more than one inning. Hey, here comes Marco Gonzales! He’s been a swing man this year, so Mike can easily get more than one inning out of him. Marco even set the side down in order, so he’s on form, and you didn’t need to pinch hit for him, so onto the eighth with him right, especially since we’re still tied?

Nope.

The eighth inning is Neshek time, and he admittedly did a good job. In fact, Pat set down the side in order as well. The Cards didn’t score again, and since Neshek’s spot in the order didn’t come up, Mike could have kept Pat in to pitch the ninth right?

Nope.

In comes Maness, and he, too, sets the side down in order. Now in the bottom of the inning, Matheny *does* pinch hit for Maness, sending in Bourjos. (Bourjos? Really? What happened to that Taveras guy, you know, the one who has already hit a pinch hit home run in this series?) And Bourjos goes meekly. Jon Jay does single, but nothing comes of it.

So who do we bring in? The LOOGY! Randy Choate comes in, promptly walks the first guy he faces (Brandon Crawford) and stays in. Then he allows a single to Juan Perez….and stays in! Never mind that I wouldn’t have started the inning with him, either extending Maness or bringing in Carlos Martinez, surely you pull Choate now right? Nope. He gets left in, and disaster ensues.

Now it should be noted that Matheny’s counterpart, Bruce Bochy, managed pretty conservatively himself, using a reliever an inning until the final inning, when Jon Jay singled. Then he pulled Javier Lopez and put in Sergio Romo, a risky move as Romo had struggled previously in the series. In this case though, I agree with the move, as action is better than inaction. Plus the move worked, as Romo retired Matt Holliday.

Heck even Ned Yost managed his bullpen better than Matheny did yesterday. In the sixth inning of KC’s game against Baltimore, the inning Yost usually struggles with, he played it smartly, bringing in Jason Frasor, who set down the side in order. Then he turned things over to his Bullpen Cerberus, each of whom also set down the side in order, finishing up the victory.

So when even Ned Yost outmanages you, you know you screwed up.

As always, thanks for reading.

Admiring Yadi and Waino…

This isn’t my typical post, backed with stats and whatnot…

Rather, I simply wanted to admire the toughness of our two leaders, Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina.

Did you know, that other than in his Tommy John year, Waino has averaged 225.8 Innings pitched in the last five years he’s been active?

Did you know, that until this year, Yadi had not appeared in fewer than 136 games in the past five years? That’s pretty good for a catcher, which is the most demanding position on the field.

Neither of these stats include the playoffs, and given that the Cards have been to at least the NLCS the past four years, they’ve accumulated quite a few innings/appearances. there.

So when Yadi acts like he’s going to play again in this series, regardless of a strained oblique, or when Waino acts like he’s not going to miss a start, despite struggling in his last two outings, not making out of the fifth inning in either one, I just smile and nod, not surprised at all. I fully expect both of them to return in this series. Not only that, I expect them to contribute.

Is that realistic? Probably not. But that’s what we’ve come to expect of those two. They’ve always found a way to contribute, always found a way to be involved.

We have other options, to be sure, but those two are so used to carrying the load, they’re not going to sit idly by. I half expect Mike Matheny to be forced to chain them to the bench to keep them out of the game.

And when they do force their way in, as I expect them to, I’m going to be watching, holding my breath, expecting something special, as they’ve given me no reason to expect anything less.

Thanks for reading.

Four Ourfielders Outfielders For Two Spots

Oscar Taveras, Randall Grichuk and Peter Bourjos all have cases for playing in the outfield right now. The problem is there’s only one spot open, as Jon Jay has been hitting well lately. Assuming Jay continues to hit, who gets the spot? We’re also going to say that consistency equals production, so rotating on a daily basis is out of the question (though defensive replacement in later innings is allowed)

For today, let’s forget the long term situation and decide who starts against Jake Peavy…

Taveras bats left while Grichuk and Bourjos bat right. Peavy allows a higher average to righties .265 vs .249 to lefties) but allowed over twice as many home runs (16 to 7) to lefties.

Given our power struggles during the regular season, I say we take the slight hit in average and slot Taveras in the lineup and have him play right with Jay playing center. Yes we’ve hit some home runs during the off season but who knows if it’s going to last, so my feeling is you take advantage of any power boost you can get.

As for long term…

Since Jon Jay is a lefty, you could technically keep all four and play the platoon split game, with Jay n Taveras pairing up one day and Grichuk and Bourjos the next, with any of the four giving Matt Holliday a rare day off. However, since I doubt management wants to pay five outfielders, the odd man out, to me, seems to be Bourjos. Both Grichuk and Taveras have high upsides management can dream on and Jay has become something of a fan favorite. That leaves Bourjos. While I like Bourjos, if Jay can keep his high OBP (.372 this year) I’m ok with moving Bourjos. Jay has had a .370+ OBP in the past, with a .373 OBP in 2012, so it’s possible. Plus, his career OBP is .359, so it’s not that far off the mark.

As always, thanks for reading.

Five Things To Watch For The NLCS

I did the ALCS yesterday, so it’s time for the NLCS and find out what to watch for in the NLCS.

1) Pitching Duels

We were promised these in the NLDS, but we didn’t get as many as we thought we would, especially in the STL/LA series. Well, depending on whether Madison Bumgarner starts game one or not, and whether Jake Peavy’s resurgence is for real, we might get them here. Adam Wainwright’s health is an issue, but we have three other steady options in Lance Lynn, Shelby Miller and John Lackey.

2) Battle Of The Franchise Catchers

Neither team would be where they are right now without their catcher. Yadier Molina is known more for his defense while Buster Posey is known more for his offense, but the truth is both have all-around games. Posey is an excellent pitch framer, while Yadi’s BA was .282, solid, but also his lowest since 2011, indicating it has a good chance to rebound next year, particularly due to the fact he was injured part of the year.

3) Cluster Bombing

Our top three hitters in our projected lineup (Matt Carpenter, Jon Jay, and Matt Holliday) all have OBP’s of .370 or higher, giving them a good chance to get on base together and create some havoc, especially if the hitters behind them like Matt Adams and Jhonny Peralta are having good days. In contrast, the Giants only have one projected starter with an OBP over 360 and that’s Posey.

4) The Defenses

Both teams have solid defenses, but it’ll be how they use them that matters. For example, the Giants starting the recently returned Michael Morse in LF and absorbing his atrocious glove, or keeping him on the bench as a valuable bench bat. Chances are he’ll be a late inning sub for his bat. The same is true for the Jon Jay / Peter Bourjos, only in reverse as Bourjos would come in for his glove.

5) Bullpen Management

Both teams have versatile bullpens, but while Matheny is pretty rigid in his usage, Bochy is flexible, and as I’ve written before, that could be the key to the series.

So who wins? I like our lineup better, especially our top three, and I think we’ll get on base and score more, and be backed up by our solid pitching staff.

As always, thanks for reading.