Game Preview: Cards at Cubs (7/26/14)

After a heartbreaking 7-6 defeat in yesterday’s slugfest, the Cards look to end a four-game losing streak when they face the Cubs at 3:05 CST at Wrigley.

Pitching Matchup: Shelby Miller (7-8, 4.25 ERA) gets the nod on the mound today after a lengthy rest that will hopefully alleviate his recent struggles. Miller’s last start was all the way back on July 10th against the Pirates, and he allowed four earned runs and issued four walks in just five innings of work. Overall, Miller has given up three or more earned runs in his last five starts, but he did pitch a scoreless inning in relief on Sunday against the Dodgers. His last start against the Cubs dates back to June 2013, when he tossed five scoreless innings while notching a win. One encouraging sign is that Miller is 3-2 with a 3.09 ERA in day games this season, so maybe this start will be the one that turns things around for him.

Shelby Miller

Shelby Miller

As for the Cubs, Jake Arrieta (5-2, 2.12 ERA), who has been the lone bright spot of the Cubs pitching rotation, will face off against Miller. In two starts against the Cards this year, Arrieta has been nearly unhittable, as he has conceded just one earned run on eight hits in 9.1 innings of work. To make matters worse for the Cards, Arrieta is deadly at home (1.76 ERA) and during day games (1.86). While the Cards are hitting just .197 against him as a team, Matt Adams (4 for 5) and Jhonny Peralta (5 for 10) are the two players with success against Arrieta, so look for them to power the Cards offense.

The Skinny: Let’s face it, the Cards are due for a win, but the pitching matchup simply does not favor them today. Unless Shelby Miller can return to form or the offense can break through against Arrieta, the Cards will have to rely on a late-inning comeback against the Cubs bullpen

 

if they hope to avoid a five-game skid.

Cardinals Agree to Deal with A.J. Pierzynski

In light of Yadier Molina’s injury and the team’s recent stuggles, the Cardinals agreed to a deal with catcher A.J. Pierzynski Friday night.

Pierzynski, a career .282 hitter, was released by Boston earlier this month, and will hopefully provide the team a much needed jolt as the dog days of summer approach.

He was largely unproductive for Boston, hitting only .254 with 4 HRs on the year, but won a Silver Slugger award as recently as 2012 when he hit .278 with 27 HRs and 77 RBI. With Molina possibly out until September, the catcher position became a question mark for the Cardinals, and the team obviously hopes Pierzynski can partially fill the void left by their star catcher.

Backup catcher George Kottaras was released to clear the roster spot for Pierzynski.

Game Recap 7/25

Once again, the Cardinals lose an embarrassing game. This time, they were defeated by the Cubs.

Although the Cardinals raked in three runs in the first, they could not hold the lead for more than an inning. By the bottom of the second, the Cubs had evened the score and a ping-pong match began.

The Cardinals fell behind in the third and were at a deficit of two by the end of the fourth. Two solo homers by Carpenter and Holliday evened the score at five. They regained the lead in the sixth but lost it in the seventh to a home run by Valbuena.

In the only scoreless inning, the eighth, the Cardinals protected the plate as they squeaked out of a bases-loaded situation.

Overall, the offense was successful, but the defence could not match that success. Hopefully the Cards can win the next two games and not come home embarrassed by the Cubs.480x200_wrigley_field

Game Preview: Cards at Cubs (7/25/2014)

Today the Cards travel to the friendly confines of Wrigley field to take on the Triple A Iowa Chicago Cubs. Currently, the Cards are on a three game losing streak after dropping both games to the hapless Tampa Bay Rays, and they are in danger of dropping to third place in the NL Central. The Cubs however are always a good slumpbuster regardless of how many prospects Theo Epstein is hoarding down in Iowa.

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Joe Kelly (2-1, 2.84 ERA) takes the mound this afternoon for the Redbirds after tossing a gem against the Dodgers last time out. Kelly went 7 innings only giving up one run with four strikeouts in just his second start back from the disabled list. Historically, Kelly has dominated the Cubs with a 2.61 ERA in 31 innings pitched with a paltry .209 average against. Nate Schierholtz is the only Cub to have any sort of success against Kelly, posting a .462 average with three doubles against him. The Cubs most potent bat, Anthony Rizzo, only has 1 hit in 16 career at-bats against Kelly, further giving the Cards starter the advantage in this matchup.

Pitching for the Cubs this afternoon is Travis Wood (7-9, 5.12 ERA) who has struggled with his command of late. In his last start, Wood walked four batters in 5 1/3 innings, while giving up 7 runs, 5 of which were earned. Wood is 0-3 in the month of July, posting a miserable 7.97 ERA in just 4 starts. So far this season, Wood has made two starts against the Cardinals, winning both games despite giving up 8 runs, 6 of which were earned. This Cards’ lineup has had their fair share of success against Wood, as both Matt Holliday and Allen Craig have hit a pair of homers off of him, and Jon Jay has 10 hits in 25 at-bats.

Joe Kelly

The Skinny: It seems that on paper the Cards have the clear advantage in this game with Wood’s recent struggles. However, the Cubs’ pitcher has beat the Cardinals twice this season despite giving up quite a few runs, so anything can happen. Hopefully, the Cards can strike early and end this losing streak before it runs them out of the NL Central race.

 

The Curious Case of Matt Holliday

When Albert Pujols left St. Louis for sunny California three years ago, he passed the mantle of “most feared hitter” in the Cardinals’ lineup to left fielder Matt Holliday. In the first two sans-Prince Albert seasons, Holliday filled his shoes phenomenally, posting a 4.5 and 4.6 oWAR in 2012 and 2013 respectively while Pujols was slumping in Anaheim. Sure, Holliday left much to be desired in the outfield for the Cardinals, but he also provided the club with a career .309 hitter with plenty of power to fill the cleanup spot to an otherwise anemic offense. Without Pujols, this club turned to Holliday to fill the power role and Yadier Molina to provide the average. All of which begs the question: where has the real Matt Holliday been in 2014?

Matt Holliday

As of today, Holliday is hitting .265/.371/.403 which is still a solid line for any Major League player, but also over 40 points lower than Holliday’s career batting average. Not only is his’s average way down, but his power has been noticeably absent all season. Careerwise, Holliday averages 27 home runs a season, but so far in 2014, he has only hit 8 dingers. Also, Holliday has only managed a measly 1.6 oWAR in 2014 which is his lowest total since his rookie season way back in 2004.

So what’s happened to Matt Holliday? While age is always a factor, Holliday is only 34 years old which should put him at the tail end of his peak. While some drop-off in production would be expected, Holliday’s lack of production this year is much more extreme than just natural regression.

And so the facts end and the speculation begins. Matt Holliday hit .300 last year and slugged .490. Currently, those stats sit at .265 and .403 respectively. No injury has been disclosed regarding Holliday, so there is nothing definite to point to as the cause of his decline. It could reasonably be just combination of old age, bad luck, and better pitching across the league, but this drop just seems too extreme for that to be the case.

One similar situation from around the league that can maybe help explain Holliday’s problems is Cincinnati Reds’ right fielder Jay Bruce. Over his first six years in the league, Bruce averaged 31 home runs a season, but has only hit 10 so far this season. Also like Holliday, Bruce’s batting average has dropped 40 points from last season and his slugging percentage has dropped 86 points. Basically, Holliday and Bruce are seeing the exact same decline in numbers, but Jay Bruce is 7 years younger than Matt Holliday.

Jay Bruce

Jay Bruce

One other key difference is Bruce had knee surgery earlier this season likely sapping most of his power. Could Matt Holliday be battling the same knee issues as the Reds’ Bruce? Or is it all just a coincidence and Matt Holliday is experiencing normal decline? Without the front office specifically saying Matt Holliday is injured, all of this is speculation, but the similarities between the two outfielders is disconcerting. Whatever the problem is, this Cardinals team needs Matt Holliday back to his normal self if they want to make a run into October.

 

 

Game Recap: Cards Lose Second Straight Game to Rays in 3-0 Defeat

The Bottom Line: Despite a quality start by Lance Lynn, the Cards offense only mustered five hits against Alex Cobb (6-6, 3.77 ERA) and the Rays in a 3-0 defeat tonight at Busch. Lynn (11-7, 3.05 ERA) only allowed one earned run in 6.1 innings of work, but it wasn’t enough as the Cards offense wasted another solid performance from Lynn. The win gave the Rays a two-game sweep at Busch, where they outscored the Cards 9-2 en route to earning their sixth and seventh straight wins.

Stagnant Offense: Without a doubt, it was a frustrating day for many Cards players, not to mention the 40,000-plus fans in attendance. The Cards struck out a whopping 15 times as a team, and not a single Cards hitter had a multi-hit game. In particular, Kolten Wong and Matt Holliday both struggled immensely at the plate as they struck out three times each.

What’s Next: After a day off tomorrow, the Cards (54-47) begin a three-game series against the cellar-dwelling Cubs (41-58) at Wrigley Field. Joe Kelly (2-1, 2.84 ERA) is set to make his third start since coming of the disabled list against Travis Wood (7-9, 5.12 ERA) as the Cards will look to snap a three-game losing streak.

7/23 Game Preview

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The Cardinals look to end Tampa’s six-game winning streak tonight at Busch after a poor performance from Adam Wainwright last night.

Taking the mound for the Birds is Lance Lynn who has been dominant all season. He has a 11-6 record with a 3.13 ERA. He has been explosive at Busch winning four of five decisions with an ERA that hovers around 1.60 this season.

Alex Cobb will start for Tampa but has struggled a bit this season (5-6, 4.08 ERA). Lucky for the Rays, he is backed by a lineup that has won 15 of its last 20 outings. Cobb has never faced the Cardinals, so thing should be an interesting inter-league matchup. Once again, experience will have to face youth and energy.

One major player to watch tonight is Jhonny Peralta. There is no question that he has improved since being left out of the All Star Game. He has been hitting consistently, but more importantly, he has begun to prove that he deserves the big salary the Cardinals gave him earlier this year. A powerful shortstop could help the Cardinals continue to push for the top record in the National League. Matt Adams is also due for a big night. Look for these two powerhouse hitters to unload on Cobb.

Game-time tonight is 7:15.

Cards, Waino, Wrecked by Suprising Rays

It was a rough night in St. Louis as the Cardinals were man-handled by the Tampa Bay Rays in a 7-2 defeat.

The night was pretty much all bad for the Birds despite Matt Carpenter’s lead-off homer in the first. When your starting All-Star gives up a walked-in run, the game probably will not go your way.

Tonight, Wainwright’s ERA increased by .3 runs per game as he gave up 6 runs in only 4 and 2/3rds innings pitched. To make matters worse, Waino even had a fielding error. Waino’s performance will cost the Birds first place in the NL Central against a foe they should have easily crushed in order to stay tied with the Brewers.

Tampa came into tonight’s game as one of the biggest let downs of the year. The Rays were 47-53 even though almost every power ranking at the beginning of the year ranked them in the top ten, some projections even broke the top five. Tonight, they looked like a team on a mission to prove power rankings wrong.

Even though tonight’s game is a serious let down, the Cardinals have to regain focus on what should definitely be an easy schedule moving forward. They can tie up the series with Tampa tomorrow and come back refreshed against far less talented teams in the weeks to come.

Game Preview: Rays at Cardinals (7/22/2014)

After having an off-day Monday, the Cards return tonight for the start of a two game set with the Tampa Bay Rays that has much bigger implications than just the outcomes of the series. If the Cards are to acquire David Price or Evan Longoria, it would likely happen over the next two days, so Cards’ fans should be watching the trade wire anxiously.

Adam Wainwright

Adam Wainwright

On the field, Cards’ ace Adam Wainwright (12-4, 1.83 ERA) is making his first appearance since last Tuesday’s All-Star Game. Waino so far has posted Cy Young quality numbers and has been worth a ridiculous 5.0 WAR in 2014. To put that in perspective, Wainwright was worth 6.2 WAR last season in which he finished second in the Cy Young voting. Currently, Waino is leading the league in wins, ERA, ERA +, and complete games which is absurd in its own right. However, against these current Rays, Waino hasn’t had much success, giving up a .318 average against them as a team. Two particular hitters that have had sustained success against Waino are David DeJesus and James Loney. DeJesus is 10 for 28 with two homer, three doubles, and a triple in his career against Wainwright however he is currently on the 15-day DL so there is no worry there. Loney is 12 for 26 with a homer and three doubles against Waino.

For the Rays, Jake Odorizzi (5-8, 4.01 ERA) takes the mound against this Cardinals team for the second time this season. Odorizzi threw a gem against the Cardinals earlier this season but took the loss as the Rays’ offense provided zero run support. Over 7 1/3 innings, Odorizzi gave up 1 earned run on three hits with five strikeouts. Outside of one dreadful start against the Royals, Odorizzi has been fairly solid this season never giving up more than four runs in a game. One factor that has led to his disappointing stats though is his high flyball to groundball ratio. Odorizzi gives up nearly twice as many flyballs as he does groundballs which will of course lead to more home runs and a higher ERA.

The Skinny: Overall, Wainwright has the advantage in any game he pitches, but the Rays success against him is worrisome. Jake Odorizzi is a solid pitcher who’s been the recipient of some bad luck, so don’t be surprised if he pitches a quality game tonight. The Cards  need to get Waino some early run support so he can cruise for the rest of the game, and the offense cannot take the night off just because their ace is on the mound.

The Lineup

  1. Matt Carpener 3B
  2. Kolten Wong 2B
  3. Matt Holliday LF
  4. Matt Adams 1B
  5. Jhonny Peralta SS
  6. Allen Craig RF
  7. Jon Jay CF
  8. Tony Cruz C
  9. Wainwright P

Why David Price is Worth Giving up Oscar Taveras

As probably all Cards’ fans know by the now, the Cardinals are pursuing a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays for their ace, David Price. With Tampa Bay in St. Louis for the next three days and the deadline only nine days away, there is no better time for this trade to happen. However, one of the biggest road blocks to this deal is management’s reluctance to give up the star of their farm system, Oscar Taveras. The other road block is Price’s contract but assuming that can be worked out, the Taveras dilemma is certainly problematic.

Oscar Taveras

Oscar Taveras

Oscar Taveras is the top rated prospect in the Cardinals’ farm system and in the top three of prospects in all of the MLB. Taveras is seen widely as a can’t miss prospect who can turn a struggling team around or be the capstone for a contender for years to come. Basically, Taveras is the guy that should be untouchable in any organization, but the Cardinals should give him up and here’s why.

1. Overcrowding

Of the Cardinals’ top 10 prospects, four are outfielders not even considering Charlie Tilson who’s in the top 20. Also, the Cardinals currently have four everyday outfielders on their Major League roster in Matt Holliday, Jon Jay, Allen Craig, and Peter Bourjos. In his limited time at the pro-level so far this year, Taveras has played mostly in right or center at the expense of Jay or Craig. While neither of those guys are of All-Star caliber, both are solid bats in this already weak lineup so taking time away from them for an unproven prospect is risky.

Ultimately, Taveras is expected to be Matt Holliday’s replacement as Craig can move to left and Taveras will play right. However, Holliday shows no signs of slowing down over the next two to three years while Taveras is ready for the pros right now. Thus it makes sense for the Cardinals to alleviate their overcrowding problem in the outfield by jettisoning Taveras to Tampa in favor of a more pressing need. By losing Taveras, Matt Holliday will continue to hold his current job for as long as he’s productive and the Cardinals can continue to groom James Ramsey or Stephen Piscotty to take over for him.

2. Lack of Production

First things first, this is Taveras’ rookie season so his numbers this year have little meaning for the long run. That being said, betting on a prospect to blossom into an All-Star is usually a losing bet. There is too much uncertainty in prospect rankings and long-term estimates of production for too much stock to be invested in them. Taveras could very easily become the next Willy Mays, but he could just as easily turn into Dominic Brown. There’s no telling what Taveras will be in five years so arguing to keep him based on projections is foolhardy.

With projections aside, Taveras is not helping this team in 2014. He’s hitting .190/.226/.266 which is just miserable for a professional baseball player. After the home run he hit in his debut, Taveras has not launched another dinger and has only managed three doubles.

On the other hand, David Price is a proven ace who won the Cy Young last year and would give the Cardinals a fearsome one-two punch to rival that of the Dodgers. For the 2014 season, David Price is vastly more important to the Cardinals than Oscar Taveras.

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The Bottom Line: Oscar Taveras is potentially a franchise-building prospect, but in no way is he the guaranteed thing. For the Cardinals to contend this season, they need more starting pitching, and David Price would instantly put the Cardinals at the top of the National League with the Dodgers. The Cardinals also have potential replacements for Taveras in Stephen Piscotty and James Ramsey.

Overall, giving up Taveras is not going to be as large of a detriment to the Cards as many people are saying. If David Price signs a long-term contract and is dealt to this club, we will be so much better off than having Taveras try to figure out Major League pitching over the next year or so. Hopefully John Mozeliak can get the deal done, and David Price will be holding that trophy high in October wearing Cardinal red.