Saturday, June 13, 2009

Molina's slump continues

Looking at the gamelogs for Yadier Molina in 2009 is like looking at the barometer for the whole Cardinal offense. After a blazing hot start in April, Molina's numbers have been on a steady decline. Lets compare his numbers, month by month:

April: .333/.402/.500 and 12 RBI's
May: .220/.304/.256 and 5 RBI's
June: .188/.278/.313 and 2 RBI's
2009: .258/.338/.360
When you look at his batting average on balls in play, its fair to say part of his April success can be attributed to luck. And you could also say his cold streak since then can be partially attributed to luck as well. Just look at his BAbip, month by month:

April: .344
May: .230
June: .192
2009: .268
2008: .310
Looking at his BAbip for May/June compared to 2008, it is fair to believe that luck has played a part, as he isn't striking out and is still putting the ball in play. So I do believe he is bound to come out of it before long.

Now I don't think anybody honestly expected Molina to continue at his April pace, but I really expected a great year from him. Early on, he seemed to have a real knack for clutch two-out RBI's and he had become a big part of the offense. People have been riding Ankiel, Duncan, and Ludwick for their cold bats, but no blame has been thrown at Molina, which is unjust. I suppose less is expected of Molina on the offensive end than our struggling outfielders, but it isn't unreasonable to expect better from Yadier at this point in his career.

An offensive resurgance by Yadier is as important as anything for the Cardinals to put their offensive woes behing them. I like to think it will turn around soon, because he is still making contact and not striking out.

Khalil Greene eyes return

Khalil Greene is back in St. Louis and will meet with officials in hopes of returning as early as this week. John Mozeliak has been quoted as saying he is "very optimistic" about the return of Greene after his 2 game stint with Memphis. I'm not sure how anybody could be optimistic about Greene's future at this point.

First off, I don't know how a couple weeks away from the team and a couple games with Triple-A Memphis is going to cure his self-defeating thoughts that consumed him before. Second, perhaps I'm not completely aware of what happened, as I wasn't able to watch the game, but he committed two errors in his second game with Memphis and was only 1-4 with a strikeout in the other. So to me, his rehab stint wasn't even all that successful.

There isn't any reason to rush Greene back in my opinion, and Mozeliak has said that returning Greene to his rehab assignment is a real possibility. One might wonder if some more time away from baseball altogether might do more good.

I hope the best for the guy, I think he's a good kid. But to be brutally honest, I don't expect a damn thing from him for the remainder of the season. I just have my fingers crossed that Brendan Ryan continues to swing a consistent bat so we don't have to rely on Greene.

Khalil Greene nears return

Friday, June 12, 2009

Houston not ready for fire sale

Astros GM Ed Wade spoke publicly about the situation in Houston, and made it clear that they are not ready to make any decisions about this season.

Ed Wade:
"If we turn it around, it will probably be with the players we have"
So while it is unlikely they will add anybody via a trade, it does look like they are content to ride it out for awhile and see where the team goes in the coming weeks. As it stands, Houston is in last place in the central but is realistically one small 2008-esque hot streak away from being in the mix of things, as they are only 5 games out of first place.

This is news for Cardinals fans because of our supposed interest in Houston shortstop, Miguel Tejada. Personally, I'm hoping they stay in it just enough to keep from selling, because I DO NOT want to pick up Tejada. As I wrote yesterday, his defense is horrid and would cost us runs, perhaps close to as many as his bat would add. His batting average is great (currently 2nd in the NL at .350), but he brings little else to the offensive end. His power is nowhere near what it used to be, he offers no speed on the basepaths, and he doesn't walk. Oh yeah, and we'd be on hook for somewhere near $8 million for the year if we picked him up now.

So I beg you Houston, do not go into fire sale mode and even give us the chance of making this mistake. Even if Tejada played well for us, does anybody really think he would be enough to make a significant difference? I say no...

Progress Report for Cardinals Top Prospects

Colby Rasmus, OF:

Rasmus has spent the entire 2009 season on the big league roster, and after a slow start has really caught fire in the month of June. He will likely continue to see more steady playing time in the coming months, as he has provided a huge lift as a new cleanup hitter.
.273/.328/.472 with 7 HR's and 24 RBI's in 55 games

Brett Wallace, 3B:
After a solid start in Double-A Springfield, Wallace was promoted to Triple-A and hasn't seen quite the success he is used to. I'm sure he will figure it out soon, but there are grumblings among Cardinals followers that perhaps the Cardinals jumped the gun and promoted Wallace prematurely. Time will tell.
AA- .281/.403/.439 with 5 HR's and 16 RBI's in 32 games
AAA- .227/.274/.309 with 2 HR's and 8 RBI's in 27 games

Chris Perez, RHP:
Perez has been a reasonably solid presence in the Cardinals bullpen in 2009, having already made 25 appearances with a 3.48 ERA. Though hitters are only batting .189 against him, he has been his own worst enemy as his control problems have led to trouble at times (.344 OBP). His control problems are the only thing keeping him from dominating.

1-1 record with 3.48 ERA, .189 BAA, 11.3 K/9, 6.5 BB/9 (25 appearances)

Bryan Anderson, C:
It hasn't been the most productive season thus far for Anderson, showing reduced numbers compared to the past. Anderson has spent the entire year in Triple-A, and not only is showing reduced success at the plate, but has also committed 4 errors already (45 games) and isn't as successful throwing out would be base stealers (23% as opposed to 36% in 2008)

.241/.296/.404 with 4 HR's and 10 RBI's in 45 games

Jess Todd, RHP:
Todd is having great success with Triple-A Memphis in 2009, after being converted to the closer role. Other than one unsuccessful appearance with the big league club, Todd has been spectacular while compiling a 3-1 record with a 2.88 ERA and 11 saves.

AAA- 3-1 record with 2.88 ERA, 11 saves, 12.2 K/9, 2.9 BB/9
MLB- 1 appearance, 10.80 ERA

Clayton Mortensen, RHP:
Clayton has much improved numbers when compared to his Triple-A stint in 2008. He has compiled a 6-3 record with a 3.29 ERA in 11 starts. He is showing improved control and an improved home run rate over last year.

6-3 record with a 3.29 ERA, 6.3 K/9, 3.0 BB/9, .9 HR/9 (11 starts)

Baseball Reference

Colby Rasmus/Rick Ankiel: June (Twin) Bash Brothers

Mr. Rasmus has enjoyed a torrid June thus far, and his current 10 game hit streak has been a big part of the offensive resurgence during the Florida series. He is batting a ridiculous .469 during June with 2 homeruns, 5 RBI's, and only 3 strikeouts. Ankiel has also enjoyed a personal resurgence in the month of June, batting .325 with 2 homeruns, and 6 RBI's.

The thought of these two swinging hot bats is music to the ears of Cardinal fans. However, it does bring an old problem back into focus. These two may be more than just "Bash Brothers," but rather "Twin Bash Brothers."

Rasmus and Ankiel are two extremely similar players at this point in their careers. Both are left-hand batting centerfielders (although capable at the other outfield positions as well). They have been similar batters so far this season, especially in the month of June. Both are long, lean, streaky hitters with power and reasonable speed. On the other hand, they are both prone to strikeouts and neither has shown a great amount of patience or ability to draw walks.

While it isn't as much of a problem now, there needs to be some kind of plan for the future. Having two free-swinging lefties in the outfield, especially with another strikeout prone lefty in the mix (Duncan), isn't the best situation for any lineup.

Unfortunately there isn't much we can do to remedy the situation. Rasmus is off limits for obvious reasons, so that leaves moving Ankiel or Duncan.

If we decide to make a move on an infield bat, such as DeRosa, Tejada, or Atkins, then Ankiel or Duncan could likely be a part of that deal. Some people have their reserves about moving either guy, but we have a logjam in the outfield that we can use to bolster our infield (particularly third base). Both have limited room for growth/improvement as hitters, considering Duncan's tall frame and long swing, and Ankiel's reluctance to show any kind of patience or ability to lay off breaking balls. We must also take into consideration that both are in the last year of their contract, and while both would likely re-sign with the Cards, that is not a given.

Ultimately, if Ankiel or Duncan can help us acquire a solid bat at third base for the second half of the season, then it definitely should be done. Even if it is hard to watch them go (It won't break my heart to watch Duncan go, to be honest!)

Mixed results for Khalil Greene in rehab assignment

Greene started his rehab assignment with Triple-A Memphis this week. For those of you who missed it, Greene was placed on the 15 day DL with social anxiety issues. His first game with Memphis (June 9th), he went 1-4 with a strikeout. In his second game (June 10th), Greene's bat came alive as he went 3-4 at the plate, while scoring 3 runs. However, he committed not one, but two errors in the field. One of which was immediately followed by a two run homer by the next batter.

The "social anxiety" DL stint has become another way for some teams to send down struggling veterans they cannot otherwise send down (*COUGH* Dontrelle Willis *COUGH*.) There are many other examples of shady DL stints so far this years, such as Chien-Ming Wang's trip to the DL for "weakness in the adductor muscles in both hips." First off, what the hell does that even mean? Secondly, doesn't it seem a bit suspicious that this happened the day after Wang was quoted as saying, "'I'm healthy. I want to start tomorrow." As Jayson Stark of puts it, some of these guys are going on the DL or "inflammation of the ERA."

Anyways, back to Greene. Just like Joey Votto (recently DL'ed for the same reason, despite having a great year) and the Zack Greinke of the past, I think Greene has a legit anxiety issue. He is a lot more talented than his numbers show, and you can tell there is something wrong just watching the kid at the plate and interact with teammates. Its easy to see he has no confidence and is just completely uncomfortable at the plate. I'm hoping he turns it around at some point, as he seems like a good guy and he had such a great spring. I really thought he was going to be great for us this year.

I have recently dubbed him as the "Kip Wells" of position players, but I can only hope the end result of his stint here in St. Louis is much more successful than that of the terrorist known as Kip.
On a side note, Brendan Ryan since coming off the DL and taking most of Greene's at bats:

Ryan has raised his average from .256 to .304, all while playing stellar defense I might add, recording zero errors thus far at SS and only one at 2B. Boy oh boy, does he have a cannon, or what? He has made some amazing throws from the hole at SS. Fun to watch...

Boras to seek monster deal for Strasburg

The devil himself, Scott Boras, is at it again, making sure he does his part in ruining baseball. He is seeking a ridiculous deal for the Nationals' number 1 overall pick, Steven Strasburg. Granted he is statistically the best college pitcher ever, but so was Mark Prior and we all know how that turned out (poor Cubbies... HA!).

Boras is seeking a deal that will likely be worth several times the $10.5 million deal given to Prior when he was drafted. Thankfully the Nationals are not too keen on the idea of setting a new rookie salary precedent, even for a talent like Strasburg.

The Nationals have already started their counteroffensive, saying they're not going to throw baseball's salary structure out of whack for one player and that the expectations surrounding Strasburg have reached unrealistic proportions.

I have a feeling that, in the end, the Nationals will lose out and that Strasburg will get a deal near what he and Boras are seeking. I commend the Nationals for wanting to put up a fight, but they really are in a crap situation. Had they chose to not draft him, they would have caught so much flack and lost too many fans (if they have any). But now that they have drafted him, they run a high risk of financially handcuffing the whole organization for one player. A player that hasn't proven anything at the next level and if history is any indicator (which it usually is), has a reasonable chance to fail or get injured. The classic Catch-22 that small market baseball teams are forced to deal with every year in the draft. I really do feel bad for the Nationals, because they are supposed to be awarded the number one pick for enduring such a sorry season, in hopes of improving their team. But in the end, it could likely do the opposite.

This is just another reason for the MLB to go to a structured rookie salary system like the NBA has. I'm not suggesting the MLB necessarily needs to go to a full salary cap system like the other major sports have; nor do I think the rookie pay scale needs to be as stringent as the NBA. I am saying that something needs to be done, as the system is failing us. The draft is designed to give the worst teams the best picks, so they can take the kind of talent that can change a franchise. But instead, every year these smaller market teams are forced to take lesser talent in order to save money, because the big talent kids are demanding ridiculous amounts of money.'s Buster Olney:
This is the problem with baseball's draft, in a nutshell, a problem that many general managers want to fix during the next collective bargaining negotiation. They want the worst teams to be able to take the best players in the draft, rather than the most affordable good players. Or, they want the worst teams to at least be able to have a chance to realize the value of their draft position -- so if the Mariners didn't want to pay Dustin Ackley's demands, expected to be in the range of $6.5 million, they could at least trade that pick to another team for other assets.
"There isn't much margin for error for the small-market teams to win, and the draft is the best way for those teams to get better," one GM said recently. "But if they don't have access to the best players because of the way the draft is messed up, how are they really going to have a chance to compete?"

Olney pretty much sums it up: The draft system is flawed and we can all hope that something is done to change this in the next labor negotiation.

Boras: No. 1 pick 'different breed of cat'
Signability still an MLB draft trump card

Cardinals reportedly interested in Tejada

Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post Dispatch has reported that the Cardinals are supposedly interested in the idea of adding Houston Astro's shortstop Miguel Tejada to bolster the lineup. There are opinions on whether he would play shortstop or third (he has never played a single inning at any position other than SS in his career), or if he is willing to play a different position at all.

There are some concerns as to whether this deal would ever actually go through, as the Astros have a history of unwillingness to give up on a season and unload. It seems to me that they believe they can contend and do not want to concede the season, especially considering their strong finish last year. The other is Tejada's willingness to play third base, as he has a history of not wanting to switch positions (during his tenure in Baltimore). This is in spite of the fact that defensively, he is likely one of the worst regulars at shortstop in baseball.

I personally would not be excited about adding Tejada. Houston will likely command more for him than what he is worth and adding him will make us worse defensively, and he really doesn't put much fear in opposing pitchers. Yeah, he is leading the NL in batting average, but he has drawn a total of 6 walks all season and his power is a far cry from what it once was (granted he is a doubles machine with an NL-leading 21).

Going after Mark DeRosa or even the struggling Garret Atkins makes more sense to me, especially if Atkins can be had at a bargain. I would imagine that Tejada and DeRosa would require a similar package to acquire, while DeRosa adds much more to the team with his ability to play multiple positions effectively and his homerun power. As for Atkins, his numbers have been uncharacteristically bad this year, but if he can be had for cheap, he might be worth the risk in my opinion.

I have faith that the Cardinals will make a move for a bat in due time, I just hope it isn't for Tejada. I would much rather see us pick up somebody to play third base, rather than shortstop or outfield ( such as Matt Holiday). I expect nothing out of Khalil Greene for the remainder of the season, but I think Brendan Ryan can be serviceable there. Instead, I would rather find a replacement for the underwhelming Thurston/Barden/T.Greene platoon at third.

Cardinals interested in Tejada?
Tejada at 3B for Cards?

Top Prospect Brett Wallace continues Triple-A struggles

After a great inaugural professional season in Class A last year, Brett Wallace hasn't seen quite as much success thus far in 2009. Wallace started the season with Double-A Springfield and had reasonable success there, batting .281 five homeruns and 16 RBI's in 32 games. However, since is promotion to Triple-A, Wallace has experienced his first struggles in the professional ranks.

In his first 26 Triple A games, Wallace is batting a paltry .234 with two homeruns and only 8 RBI's. Additionally, the great patience at the plate down in Double-A (18 walks with a .403 OBP) has disappeared, having drawn only 6 walks which gives him a .282 OBP.

None of this should cause much alarm, as it isn't unusual for somebody his age and experience level to struggle at the Triple-A level as opposed to lesser levels. However, it would be promising if he started to show some signs of life soon, as he is one of our best hitting prospects.

Cardinals- Offensive Juggernaut?

Cardinals/Marlins- Series Review

June 9th: Florida Win, 4-3
June 10th: Cardinals Win, 13-4
June 11th: Cardinals Win, 6-5

Whoa, two straight wins and two straight solid offensive performances? Am I reading the right box scores? We win the series 2 games to 1, while hitting a collective .328 with a team era of 4.33

In game one, we managed to squander a solid start by Carpenter (3 earned in 6 innings), as Motte continued his struggles that haunted us in the Colorado series by giving up a walk-off homer to Jeremy Hermida. At this point, things are looking more gloomy than ever before, as I can only expect the offensive woes to continue.

Game two, however, was a much needed surprise and pick-me-up for Cardinals fans. We saw a reasonable start from Wainwright, who continues to not be quite "right." Nonetheless, he scattered 11 hits over 7 innings while giving up 4 earned runs. However, this is not the real news from this game, as the bats come alive during this game, as all 8 position starters record a hit.

Several very strong performances in this game, as Ryan and Rasmus continue to swing hot bats. The most promising line of this box score is, without a doubt, Rick Ankiel's performance. He turns in his second solid offensive performance in as many games, giving hope that his bat has decided to wake up from it's coma.
Side Note: Pujols steals his team leading 8th base of the season in this game.

Game three features another poor start by Wellemeyer (no way!?), but our bats come through enough to earn us another win. Cody Ross, centerfielder, made a costly error in the 8th that eventually allowed for Rasmus to hit a pinch hit, go ahead RBI single.

Pitching was reasonably good all series, minus a poor start by Wellemeyer and Motte's mishap in game one. The pitching gave us a chance to win in each game, at least. Defensively we were solid, committing no errors in the series.

A very promising performance in the series by Ankiel:
.615 BA, 6 runs, 1 HR, 4 RBI's

Hopefully this is something he can build on, because we really need his bat at this point. If he and Rasmus can remain consistent at the plate, as Ludwick and Duncan struggle, it would be a huge asset to the lineup. But in reality, its a little unrealistic for a free swinger like Ankiel and a rookie like Rasmus to be consistent. We can hope...

The series win puts the Cardinals at 33-28 overall, only .5 games back from Milwaukee, and 1 game up on Cincinnati. Tomorrow, June 12th, begins a three game series at Cleveland.