Archive for the ‘St. Louis Cardinals’ Category

Pittsburgh Pirates' Cole pitches against Texas Rangers during their MLB interleague baseball game in Arlington

The Pirates made a bold choice when they announced Gerrit Cole as their starter for Game Five of the NLDS in St. Louis. Cole is a rookie and, as such, isn’t a Proven Playoff Performer. A.J. Burnett, the Pirates ace and nominal number one starter, is a Proven Playoff Performer. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, he is “proven” to be “mediocre” when the calender flips to October – Game Two of the 2009 World Series notwithstanding.

Cole isn’t a veteran with dozens of big league starts under his belt, but his a product of the modern baseball development pipeline. It isn’t like the old days, where a kid performed well for his high school team, blowing away future farmers and decent men’s league players. Cole attended a top baseball factory and pitched in the College World Series, pitched in countless showcase games and prospect exhibitions and the Cape Cod league and so on and so forth. He’s pitched under pressure, this isn’t new to him.

What is new is the current edition of Gerrit Cole to the St. Louis Cardinals. They saw him dominant in Game Two of this series, the vastly improved Cole from the top prospect who emerged from the minor leagues this season only to post pedestrian strikeout rates and overall results.

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MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Colorado Rockies

This time of year is all about adjustments. Contending teams are trying to win games, trying to reach the postseason and avoid the coin-flippery of a one game play-in.

When “winning games” because the sole focus, it is easy — and often necessary — for the grand development plan to take a backseat. Managers need to focus on doing what they can to win games. Period.

The St. Louis Cardinals are not yet the official NL Central champions but it gets closer every day. The preseason World Series choice here at theScore are a very, very good team but they are not without their flaws.

Edward Mujica spent most of this season as the Cardinals closer. He made the all star team based on his performance in this crucial role, using his masterful split-fingered fastball to great effect. Until recently, that is.

After struggling and stumbling through the month of September, Mujica kept his job as the Cardinals closer. Manager Mike Matheny‘s stubborn refusal to make a change drawing the ire of local columnists.

But it is a playoff race and adjustments are required – so the Cardinals adjusted. Effective last night, Mujica is out as Cardinals closer as Matheny and the Birds opt for a matchup based approach using their two young fireballers – Kevin Siegrist and Trevor Rosenthal.

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MLB: Cincinnati Reds at Arizona Diamondbacks

I know what you’re thinking – who on earth is Kevin Siegrist? The Cardinals rookie reliever is hardly a household name. Not many 41st round draft picks are. As a testament to the Cardinals incredible scouting and player development model, they plucked Siegrist out of Palm Beach Community College in Wellington, Florida in the 2008 draft and, lo and behold, have themselves a fireballing left-handed reliever some five years later.

Siegrist slowly climbed the minor league ladder, starting from short-season rookie ball all the way to the big leagues in 2013, where the 6’5″ fireballer finds himself logging important innings for the best team in baseball.

Last night, Siegrist checked in for the Cardinals with his team clinging to a 3-1 lead. Manager Mike Matheny presented his young hurler with a very tall task – get through the top of the Reds vaunted lineup. Kevin Siegrist was certainly up to the task.

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Tampa Bay Rays v Houston Astros

Kaboom! Pow! The Angels come back against the Cardinals!

Break up the Angels! The Halos discovered the Cardinals fatal flaw and exploited it for a walkoff victory! No, not their less than spectacular bullpen. I mean Mike Matheny‘s blindspot for Adam Wainwright.

Sure, Wainwright was cruising and had only thrown just 98 pitches headed into the ninth inning. With the “heart” of the Angels lineup due up, Mike Matheny opted to leave Wainwright in to face Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, and Howie Kendrick.

Pujols greeted Wainwright with a slider and that was the end of the night for the Cards ace. Perhaps one batter too late, Matheny went to his closer Edward Mujica, who pitched the night before in mop up duty designed to just get him work, hasn’t been quite as sharp of late, surrendering two home runs and five hits in his last five combined outings.

Josh Hamiton greeted Mujica and his nasty splitter in a very rude way indeed.

Two singles later the Angels were in a very threatening position, with runners on the corners and nobody out. Mujica battled back to retire the next two Angels but Erick Aybar slapped the above walkoff single into left field and the party began. Second guessing is easy but that’s the way it works in this biz, amirite?

The Cardinals don’t have bullpen problems quite as bad as recent years, which isn’t to say they couldn’t stand to upgrade some parts of their pen. As they are the Cardinals, they have myriad options should the choose to bolster their pen.

Trade one of your zillion prospect chips for a proven relief ace or just move one of zillion hyped arms into the bullpen, ala the 2012 playoff pen featuring current 2+ fWAR starter Shelby Miller and setup king Trevor Rosenthal? They’re the Cardinals, they do whatever they please.

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Well, not just ended. But the latest finish in Busch Stadium history is the delightful by-prouduct of the weird and wonderful interleague schedule, a game won the Kansas City Royals 4-2 after more than five hours of rain delays. Turns out the weather in St. Louis was less than cooperative last night. The game began with an hour-plus delay. Then Michael Wacha bamboozled the Royals for a while, then the Cardinals bullpen aired the Cards dirty laundry for all to see (their bullpen is kind of bad) and then the rains came again.

And, because this is the final matchup between these two teams this season, they waited. And waited. And then they finally were able to play but they had to wait for the field to be rendered playable. So they waited some more.

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Kansas City Royals v St. Louis Cardinals

The 35-17 St. Louis Cardinals are currently on top of all of baseball with a .673 winning percentage. They are only one game ahead of their run differential. They lead the National League in runs scored per game. They allow the fewest runs per game. They currently project to end the year as the team with the most wins in baseball. They are tied for first in the National League in wRC+, and are first or tied for first in the NL in ERA-, FIP-, and xFIP-. Just in case this is your first time reading Getting Blanked: the 2013 Cardinals are pretty good.

It certainly isn’t because of their manager, though. Sure, the Cardinals made the playoffs last year and looks like the best team in baseball so far this year, but I’m not sure how much credit should go to Mike Matheny. Even if he wasn’t the successor to the Great Mind of Tony LaRussa, one would have questions about his decisions — particularly his batting order. At least on the surface, exoteric level, it seems, well, blasphemous and heretical.

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Courtesy of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

The Cardinals organization has the greatest collection of talent in the league. There, I said it. Not to suggest they are the perfect team and sure-fire bet to win the World Series, but the talent on their big league roster is enviable and their minor league pipeline is stuff.

If the 2013 Cardinals have a weakness, it is the performance of their bullpen through the first month of the season. Just like last season (in which they lost in the National League Championship Series) and the season before (in which they won the World Series.) Before the Cardinals make their requisite sneaky trade to bolster their relief corps, they first must call up one of their ridiculous arms from the minor leagues.

Today is that day, as the Cardinals announced former fill-in closer Mitchell Boggs was demoted to AAA and 21 year-old pitching prospect Carlos Martinez will take his place, making the jump from double-A to the show.

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