Cardinals-Marlins: Joel Pineiro Returns to Early Season Form in Win

Posted by Ben Weixlmann | 10:16 PM | 0 comments »

The St. Louis Cardinals' fans can now breath a sigh of relief. Starter Joel Pineiro pitched a solid seven innings to give the Cardinals a much-needed win.

After a shaky first couple of innings, Pineiro settle down to toss the Redbirds to victory.

Looking at Albert Pujols' portion of the box score, any Cardinals fan would have realized that this wasn't the most offensive-oriented game. Pujols did the unthinkable: he struck at three times in the same game. Not to mention looking absolutely ridiculous in doing so on two occasions, including tossing his bat down the third base line on one instance.

The Florida Marlins, who boast one of the NL's top offenses, were limited to just eight hits by the visiting Cardinals.

Additionally, the Marlins failed to capitalize on three Redbird errors, scoring just one unearned run.

The night was pretty bizarre, but in some ways it saw the Cardinals get back to ordinary. Centerfielder Rick Ankiel was inserted into the starting lineup for tonight's ballgame, something that hadn't happened in two weeks. He provided some nice offense, going 2-for-3 with an RBI.

The Cardinals were fortunate enough to win this game via the home run ball, and the two jacks were hit by some unlikely players: minor-league callup Joe Mather and catcher Yadier Molina.

Mather's home run proved rather crucial as it gave the Cardinals a 4-2 cushion heading into the bottom of the ninth, where Chris Perez recorded his second career save.

With the Milwaukee Brewers winning their sixth straight game, the Cardinals remain three games back in the NL Wild Card and 6.5 games back in the NL Central against the idle Chicago Cubs.

Cardinals-Cubs: Error Ruin Cards' Chance to Win Series

Posted by Ben Weixlmann | 9:35 PM | 0 comments »

The St. Louis Cardinals have displayed some of the National League's best defense all year long. Tonight, however, they left it all at the hotel in downtown Chicago.

The Redbirds committed two costly errors, and lost the game 6-2. The first error was a missed catch by outfielder Ryan Ludwick. The second, though, may have been the most important as second baseman Adam Kennedy booted what would have been an inning-ending double play.

Instead of getting out of the inning down 2-0, the Cardinals found themselves on life support down 6-0 heading into the seventh inning.

Starting pitcher Chris Carpenter looked Cy Young-esque early, but faltered late in his 5.1 IP to surrender four runs, two of them earned.

The significance of any game these days is apparent, but now the Cards find themselves seven games back of the Cubbies for the NL Central lead and 3.5 back of the red-hot Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Wild Card race.

What can be done, you ask? Well, Adam Wainwright should be coming back pretty soon to bolster either the starting rotation or fill in as the closer, and with Chris Perez coming around, the bullpen actually might be stable for once.

The problem lies within, though. The Birds are seven games out with just over fifty games remaining, but the future looks bright for at least a Wild Card chase.

Many Cardinals fans have been tempted to look forward to the prospects of the 2009 season, but I am not giving up on the team just yet.

We may suck at times, but when we are on, we are awfully good.

Still though, we couldn't crack the ML's best home team, and we are falling so fast, we might even beat the Road Runner down the cliff.

Sitting ten games above .500 isn't going to cut it in the extraordinarily tough NL Central this year.

That said, if the Cards can pummel the Florida Marlins in their four-game set, who knows what will happen with the other two NL Central powers.


Should Adam Wainwright Be a Closer or Starter?

Posted by Ben Weixlmann | 2:20 PM | 0 comments »

BleacherReport.com's Joel Koch graciously returns as a guest columnist on CardinalTwist.com!


Adam Wainwright is currently on a rehab assignment at Class AAA Memphis. What is he doing?

Being groomed as a reliever.

Why?

I wish I could say.

Let's break down the current rotation of Chris Caprenter, Kyle Lohse, Todd Wellemeyer, Braden Looper, and Joel Pineiro.

I am going to apply innings to each starter. Carpenter is the ace of the staff and should give you, theoritically, seven innings. Kyle Lohse is the number three, and he too should give you seven. Wellemeyer and Looper are your number four starters, so they should each give six innings. Pineiro is the fifth starter and will give you five innings.

Wait a minute? Where's the number two?

He's being groomed for the bullpen.

Let's really look at the numbers.

In a perfect world, a pitching staff will throw 45 innings every five days (otherwise, a full turn through the rotation). A bullpen should throw no more than 12 innings every five days.

Your closer should throw three innings, lefty specialist throws an inning, and the righty specialist should throw one and one-third inning. That's five and one-third innings from three pitchers, leaving six and two-thirds for four pitchers (assuming you have a seven man bullpen).

Now, let's configure that number to the current rotation:

45 - 7 - 7 - 6 - 6 - 5 = 14
14 - 3 - 1 - 1 1/3 = 8 2/3

That's a difference right there. The perfect world is in shambles with a rotation that throws 31 innings over five days. With having those two less innings from the rotation, the bullpen has to throw two extra innings (obviously).

The problem is, those four remaining bullpen pitchers have to throw 2, 2 1/3, 2, 2 1/3 respectively. That wears down your bullpen.

That's the problem the Cardinals have had all year. Their rotation has been averaging 31 innings every five days. That's why the bullpen is so worn and torn.

So why is Wainwright going to the bullpen? Wainwright is the number two and throws seven innings. Replace Pineiro with Wainwright, and the rotation's innings go up to 33.

Oh, the magic number: 33 innings.

Suddenly, the bullpen is throwing two less innings. Add in that one of the four remaining pitchers is the long man in the bullpen (Brad Thompson), he'll eat four of those innings every five days.

Maybe the best way for the bullpen to rebound and stay sharp is to throw Wainwright every fifth day, eating innings.

Who has the NL Experience Edge?

Posted by Ben Weixlmann | 2:19 PM | 0 comments »

BleacherReport.com's Joel Koch returns as a guest columnist on CardinalTwist.com!

Phew, what a win by the St. Louis Cardinals. They won 12-3 over the Chicago Cubs, in impressive fashion too.

I look at that game and wonder to myself how in the world the Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers can stay in contention. I mean, they don’t have more postseason experience than the Cardinals.

Ding.

The buzzer went off and I thought of the perfect article: comparing the teams’ postseason experience.

You will be somewhat surprised by my findings, I assure you. I was, after all.

So, here we go. I copied down the 25 man roster of each team, as of 8/9. Then, thanks to MLB.com, looked at each player’s postseason experience. I tallied down each season (2002, 1993, etc) and the total number of games the player has appeared in his postseason career.

St. Louis Cardinals: 38 seasons and 218 games
Chicago Cubs: 46 seasons and 220 games
Milwaukee Brewers: 23 seasons and 124 games

I have been saying all year long that I am not afraid of the Brewers. They have little to no experience when it comes down to the wire. In fact, out of their starting nine (with CC Sabathia being the pitcher), the Brewers have seven seasons and 34 games of experience…and that’s only three players.

Mike Cameron, Eric Gagne, Sabathia, Jason Kendall, Guillermo Mota, David Riske, Jeff Suppan, Russell Branyan, Craig Counsell (and his two World Series rings), Ray Durham, and Gabe Kapler are the only players with postseason experience.

Just some interesting facts there.

The Cubs total experience surprised me. I know Jim Edmonds and Alfonso Soriano have a lot of experience between them, but I thought for sure the Cubs would be lacking elsewhere.

Not the case.

Mark DeRosa, Derrek Lee, and Aramis Ramirez have 51 games of postseason experience between them. They don’t match up to the Cardinals three through five, as they have them beat hands down (67 for the Cardinals compared to 51).

It’s the Edmonds and Soriano thing that gets you. These two could lead a team of 23 rookies to a postseason berth. Edmonds has 61 games of postseason experience; while Soriano boasts 41 (102 if you’re keeping count).

The Cardinals top two? None other than stalwarts Albert Pujols (53) and Yadier Molina (29). The two have combined for 82 games, 20 games shy of the Cubs duo.

That could make a difference down the stretch. It’s all about experience. The Cubs have only four players on their active roster that have never appeared in a playoff game. The Cardinals? Their current number sits at ten.

Sorry for the short article. I hope I didn’t leave you hanging. Let me sum it all up for you readers: the Cubs might change their acronym to “Completely Useful By September.”

The Cardinals have a real shot at the Wild Card. They currently sit two games back of the Brewers with 43 games (45 for the Brewers) left in the season. They also command more experience, which really adds to the likelihood that the Cardinals will climb up the standings.

And the Brewers? Well, they may be missing their 26th straight postseason. Better luck next season.

As always, I have created a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet with this information. If you’d like a copy, leave your email in your comment and I’ll me more than happy to email it to you.

Sunday Summary: Cardinals face last tough test

Posted by Ben Weixlmann | 2:15 PM | 0 comments »

Peter Fleischer from BleacherReport.com was nice enough to let me borrow one of his articles for my blog!

-Just like Skip Schumaker,
I'll start this off with a bang. I loved watching Carlos Zambrano tantrum yesterday. What a f'ing baby. Big Z is one of the best hurlers in baseball, but you wonder if he will ever grow the hell up. Imagine Jake Peavy scream like that on the field. Come on.

-I didn't think that the Cards stood a chance yesterday. After hearing during the pre-game that the Cards hadn't beaten Zambrano since 2005, and that he hadn't lost at Wrigley this year, I looked at my friend and said, "we have no chance". Boy was I wrong. But we all watched the game, so I won't recap.

-Kudos to Braden Looper and Todd Wellemeyer. While Joel PiƱero has done nothing to keep his rotation spot, Looper and Wellemeyer have really stepped up. The two have allowed only 15 ER in their last eight starts (49.2 IP), good for a 2.71 ERA. That's darn good for four and five starters if Wainwright returned to the rotation.

-With Chris Carpenter returning to form, Adam Wainwright next in line to plug the closer gap, and Rick Ankiel due back sooner then later, the Cardinals might actually have a real team for the stretch run. It's nice to see the team almost completely healthy.

-On a minor note, I really like the Felipe Lopez signing. This guy is noticeably more talented then Brendan Ryan, Caesar Izturis, and Adam Kennedy. Plus, playing in St. Louis is a day-and-night difference from Washington. Maybe that will help him elevate his game. Three hits in his first ten Cardinal ABs isn't too shabby.

-Don't count out Chris Perez. After losing command of his slider during his first big leage stint, Perez went down to Memphis, had a terrible first outing, and hasn't given up a run since, striking out 15 in seven IP down in Triple-A. He's looked great since his recall.

-This ten-game road trip is the last tough stretch. After this, the most difficult venture for the Cards is a six-game trip to Houston and Arizona. The 'Birds play 15 of their final 25 games against Central foes, and they play only six road games against foes with winning records after the Marlins series.

This week was pretty basic. The Birds fought through the Dodgers series, and won. They have also put themselves in place to win the Cubs series, before facing the Marlins and Reds on the road this week. If they can win every series on the road trip, they'll be in great position for the stretch run, where they will be the healthiest they have been all season.

Troy Glaus Lights up Zambrano in a Big Way

Posted by Ben Weixlmann | 9:48 PM | 0 comments »

One of the BleacherReport.com's best baseball writers, Derek Coffelt, stopped in to help me on my blog, check it out!


He wasn't supposed to do this against one of the better pitchers in the league. He was hit-less against the Cubs for all of the 2008 season.

Yet, Troy Glaus exploded against Chicago's ace Carlos Zambrano as the Cardinals defeated their arch rivals 12-3 on Saturday.

Glaus snapped an 0-for-30 recession against the Cubs, a bad slump for any major league slugger. He arguably had one of his best games of his career going 3-for-5 with five RBI with two runs scored coupled with a pair of home runs.

The six-foot-five-inch slugger didn't even know that he was hit-less against the Cubs, but he knew that he would eventually fight his way out of it.

"I honestly had no idea until you guys all told me," Glaus told reporters. "I really had no idea. As long as I'm having good at-bats and going up there and not making early-in-the-count bad outs, then I'm OK. It'll turn around. Obviously 0-for-29, it didn't turn around for a while."

He picked a great time to come out of his hit-less streak as he helped down one of the more dominant pitchers in the majors, not to mention to move up a notch in the NL Central.

Even outfielder Skip Schumaker (who hit a solo home run of his own) admitted that Zambrano is probably one of the best pitchers in the league for a reason.

"I think Zambrano is one of the best pitchers, if not the best pitcher, in the National League," Schumaker said. "Especially here at Wrigley. I wanted to be aggressive and try not to spot him strike one, because he can do so many things to put you away. So I tried to be aggressive and got lucky."

The entire ball game for "Big Z" entailed possibly his worst outing of his career, the Redbirds were only so helpful as to do the damage. Zambrano allowed career highs in homers with four and nine earned runs tied his career worst.

A truly magnificent sight to see.

Even Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa couldn't have seen this coming.

"Unexpected," La Russa said of the outburst. "Hard to believe. If we win that game, you would think it would have been 3-2, 2-1. He's pitched as well against us as anybody. It's baseball. You can never figure anything."

As big of a day Glaus had, the offense was not limited to him. Skip Schumaker, Albert Pujols, Ryan Ludwick, Felipe Lopez, and Yadier Molina all had multi-hit games. The new "Big Red Machine" went for a combined 10-for-21 with seven RBI and eight runs scored.

Perhaps even more important for the Cardinals was that their offense was not needed to bail out their pitching. Starter Todd Wellemeyer held the Cubs to only three runs and after giving up solo shots to Mark DeRosa and to the pitcher Zambrano, he settled down nicely.

Going nearly seven innings with five strikeouts with only one walk, Wellemeyer pitched an extremely effective outing in one of the biggest hitters ballparks in the majors.

To me, besides Glaus' historic day, was the shutout pitching by the Redbirds bullpen. Ron Villone, Russ Springer, and Brad Thompson only allowed two hits the rest of the game while striking out four more batters.

A truly team dominating effort by St. Louis to help vanquish their long time rivals on a hot Saturday afternoon.

Cardinals look good for 2009

Posted by Ben Weixlmann | 6:37 PM | 0 comments »

BleacherReport.com Columnist Joel Koch fills in for me today, giving a nice preview of next year's Cardinals bunch!


The St. Louis Cardinals are trying desperately to stay in the 2008 Playoff chase. I believe they still have a chance, but I’m looking at 2009 anyway. After all, the entire purpose of 2008 was to see what the Cardinals had for 2009.

Now, let me add my disclaimer here. None of the trades or signings I am going to say will happen. Though some may, they probably will not go down as I say. All of this is my ideas and what I would do if I were the Cardinals General Manager.

Ok, now on with the show.

The Cardinals will have a lot of free agents at the end of the year. Here’s the list of them:

LHP Randy Flores, RHP Jason Isringhausen, RHP Kyle Lohse, RHP Braden Looper, RHP Russ Springer, LHP Mark Mulder (via contract option buyout), LHP Ron Villone, RHP Todd Wellemeyer, C Jason LaRue, INF Cesar Izturis, INF/OF Felipe Lopez, OF Juan Encarnacion.

I told you there were a lot of names.

Cardinal Nation will not be disappointed by the departures of Villone, Izturis, and Lopez. Some will be sad to see Mulder go, as his fall was devastating. Wellemeyer, Flores, Isringhausen, Looper, Springer, and LaRue take with them the heart of Cardinals Nation. I know I enjoyed having them here, but it’s time to move on and get younger.

Encarnacion is another story. The man has been staying in the Boston area getting treatment for his eye. Remember him? He was the one who took a foul ball from Aaron Miles off of the eye in the batter’s box, and hasn’t been on a baseball field since that faithful day. He has been getting paid $6.5 million as a get well present and will probably retire from baseball at the end of the year.

Let’s get to the good news though, shall we?

Here are the offseason moves I would make, with explanations attached.

St. Louis Cardinals trade 2B Adam Kennedy to the Kansas City Royalsfor Class AA RHP Daniel Cortes

The Royals are going to lose Mark Grudzielanek to free agency in the off-season. They don’t have any true second base answer within the organization. Mike Aviles is a shortstop (and a darn good one at that), and Esteban German is a utility player. Kennedy can provide another year of veteran leadership from the second base position and allow the Royals to find another answer.

Cortes doesn’t project to be much. He’s a starter at Double A right now, but who knows what will happen in the future. The Cardinals really need to dump Kennedy’s salary and will take pretty much anyone to do it. Cortes is 21 and he may be something, or he may not.

St. Louis Cardinalstrade RHP Joel Pineiro and Class AAA OF Shane Robinson to the San Diego Padresfor LHP Justin Hampson

Well, the Padres need another starting pitcher. Their organizational depth is lacking, so Pineiro could become a good asset to them in a pitcher’s park. The Cardinals would pick up $4 million that is owed to Pineiro in 2009 to make this deal work. So, for $3.5 million, Pineiro could be a bargain as a fifth starter.

In Robinson, the Padres land a speedy outfielder with a little pop to leadoff their lineup. Robinson will need a full year at Triple A before he plays in the Majors, but should be a good all around player. In Petco, Robinson will lace close to 40 doubles and hit possibly 10 home runs between Petco and the road.

The Cardinals receive two benefits. They lose Pineiro from their rotation so they can add a rookie to the mix, plus they add a new left handed reliever to make up for the loss of Flores. It’s a big upside on both parts.

St. Louis Cardinalstrade Class AA 3B Allen Craig, RHP Adam Ottavino, and OF Daryl Jones to the Oakland Athletics for SS Bobby Crosby

The A’s love drafted players with little or no service time. They get the best of both worlds here. Ottavino was a 2006 first round draft pick by the Cardinals. He has struggled thus far at Double A Springfield, but his potential and talent is still exceptionally high.

Allen Craig has been tearing up Double A and could be a 2010 call-up to The Show. With Eric Chavez not up for free agency until 2011 (with a buyout of his club option), Craig could be blocked. If Chavez is healthy, though, he could bat at DH and allow Craig to play third base every day.

Jones is another story. Draft out of high school in the third round of 2005, he hasn’t fully made a name for himself yet. He tore apart High Class A before being promoted to Springfield. He has struggled a little since the jump, but his talent is still there. He hits for a .300 average and a .400 on-base percentage, while stealing 20+ bases a year. He’s only 21 years old, and his stats should only grow.

The Cardinals lose three good prospects. Craig is sandwiched between Brett Wallace and David Freese, making him expandable. Ottavino and Jones are in the middle of a long tunnel of pitching and outfield prospects, so they too are expandable. You always hate losing three premium prospects, but for Crosby, you’ll overlook it.

Crosby is signed through 2009 and will probably land a one year extension. His current contract is affordable ($5.25 million) and he puts up good numbers. He was the 2004 American League Rookie of the Year. He’s not much of an average hitter, but he has a lot of pop in his bat. His defense is a little shaudy, but with the proper work with Jose Oquendo, his errors should lower a little. He would be a good stopgap for the Cardinals as they wait for the appearance of Pete Kozma in 2011.

Ok, so that’s it on trades. The Cardinals, surprisingly, do well on cash after these trades. They actually free up $2 million dollars by dumping off Pineiro and Kennedy.

Now, onto signings.

The Cardinals don’t really need much on the free agent market. Just a starting pitcher and possibly a second baseman. So, let’s get to it.

St. Louis Cardinals sign RHP Kyle Lohse to a 3 yr/$25.5 million contract, with a $12.5 million club option for 2012
2009: $7 million; 2010: $8.5 million; 2011: $10 million; 2012: $12.5 million ($1.5 million buyout)

Not a bad contract, really. Lohse wants to stay with the Cardinals and the Cardinals want him to stay. With this contract, Lohse would be making number two money to slot in as the number three in the rotation. Plus, it’s tradable too if the Cardinals get to that point.

St. Louis Cardinals sign 2B Orland Hudson to a 4 yr/$41 million contract
2009: $9 million; 2010: $9.5 million; 2011: $10.5 million; 2012: $12 million

Another good contract. Hudson will need a lot of money to stay away from all of the high market clubs, and not to resign with the Arizona Diamondbacks. With an average salary of $10.25 million, that’s an average salary for someone of Hudson’s caliber in today’s market. He’s turning himself into a great hitter. He’s hitting over .300 for the year (a career average of .282) and can hit 10-15 home runs a season. Plus, he’s a switch hitter who hits well from both sides.

So, that’s it for the offseason moves. Why? The Cardinals have a lot of internal options for the holes. With all of these moves, the new payroll number is $91,978,000. That’s where the Cardinals have been in payroll for the past four seasons. It’s a good number to be at. With a $105 million budget, the Cardinals have about $14 million to spend on a mid-season acquisition, if needed.

Now, I know you’re wondering what the new roster will look like. Well, I have that answer too.

Pitching Staff

SP: Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Kyle Lohse, Kyle McClellan, Jaime Garcia

RP: Mark Worrell, Jason Motte, Brad Thompson
LP: Justin Hampson, Tyler Johnson
SU: Ryan Franklin
CL: Chris Perez

Offense

2B Orlando Hudson
LF Colby Rasmus
1B Albert Pujols
CF Rick Ankiel
RF Ryan Ludwick
3B Troy Glaus
C Yadier Molina
SS Bobby Crosby
Pitcher spot

Bench: C Bryan Anderson, INF Brendan Ryan, INF Aaron Miles, OF Brian Barton, OF Skip Schumaker

I like that roster. Perez is going to be one of the best closers of all-time, and slotting in as the closer at 24 will put him on the fast track to that accolade. Franklin is signed through 2010 and is a good setup man. Thompson and Johnson have proven to be very valuable out of the bullpen in the past, and should be again. Motte is blowing out Pacific Coast League batters this year and could be a very good setup man down the line.

McClellan could be the 2009 Wainwright. He started 2008 in the bullpen and gained valuable experience. He could be a future number three or two for this staff. Garcia has also gained valuable experience and pitched well in his only big league start this year. The future is bright indeed.

The offense will take off. Hudson at the top of the lineup will make this lineup move. Rasmus could be a future MVP and has a sweet swing. He fits Tony La Russa’s mold as power guy in the two hole. Pujols, Ankiel, and Ludwick make up a very potent 3-5 in the lineup, as they do now. Glaus and Molina can anchor the bottom part of the lineup and provide deeper protection for the middle of the lineup. Crosby can be the speedy guy in front of the pitcher to make sacrifices easier.

The bench is also improved. Anderson is a good hitter and will make for a cheap option for a backup. Schumaker and Barton will make for a good twosome on outfield backup, as they can play all three outfield spots well. Miles and Ryan are two good bats that can play three positions each. The bench will have depth.

So, there you have it folks. This is what I would do as the Cardinals General Manager. This team will be good and will compete. It could take a slight downfall due to a lot of inexperience on the younglings parts, but they will bounce back. Every aspect of the team will be improved: pitching, defense, and offense.

Remember my disclaimer. None of this may happen. If any of it does, it won’t be anything close to what I said. So keep your negative thoughts and opinions to yourself, as they provide no creative thinking. Positive comments only, with some tips on what you think or on what you would do differently. Let’s keep this friendly. Thanks.

All contract and payroll information was taken from Cot’s Baseball Contracts. All stats were taken from MLB.com. All player names were taken from MLB.com and MiLB.com. All of this can be found on a Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet I have created. If you’d like a copy, feel free to leave your email in your comment and I’ll be more than happy to email you a copy.

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