My Take on The Cardinals

I think it is fantastic that my Cardinals are 44-25.   Being 19 games over .500 is an astounding achievement for dealing with the injuries that have fell upon this team inside three months of action.   I don’t need to go over the list of injured starters to allow you to understand the impact that our farm system has had on the big league club.   It’s great and only hints at the success that awaits us when we get fully healthy.  What happens when a healthy Jaime Garcia rejoins the rotation in 2014?  Jason Motte joining a highly formidable late game bullpen cycle of power arms.   It’s cool and long lasting.  However, today’s game against the Marlins just can’t happen.   The best team in baseball, long road and woes to deal with or not, can’t cough up a series to a 21-50 team.   The pitiful Miami Marlins took 2 of 3 from us this weekend and it’s kind of disgusting to think about.  

Hold off on telling me these things happen in a 162 game season and I should take it in stride.  I won’t do such a thing.  We needed to take this series and stomp the Marlins.  Forget sending a message.  Just put some distance between you and the two very hungry team behind you in the division in the Reds and Pirates.  Win as many damn games as you can.   Kill teams and reflect when you are driving off in the team bus.  The Cardinals let a very bad team get past them this weekend.  Why?  Allow me to explain rather quickly with blunt force.  
 
Mike Matheny and his staff made a decision on Friday to send Michael Wacha back down to Memphis and keep the lefthanded Tyler Lyons on the club in the big boy rotation.  In explaining the move, Matheny wanted the kid to work on his curve and the location of his fastball.  There is also a factor in play here when it comes to stopping his big league clock so he isn’t available for free agency sooner.  
 
I didn’t like the decision.  I wanted Wacha to stay and Lyons to go down because you have two solid lefties in the bullpen and you need to keep both of these guys stretched out as starters.   Wacha has shown more consistency here than Lyons.   Tyler(shitty weak boy name) had two very good starts against soft hitting teams and has given up 4 earned runs in his last two starts before today’s debacle.   The clue being that teams were figuring out Lyons while Wacha had gotten punched hard against Arizona but rebounded with an impressive start against the Mets.  Lyons and Wacha’s wins came against inferior teams but Wacha was a guy that you didn’t want to send up and down from Memphis.   Nobody knew who Lyons was a month ago.  Wacha is the next great pitcher in this organization.   Unless he kept getting hammered in NY, you keep him here.  Forget the need to have a lefty in the rotation.  Keep the right pitcher in the rotation.  I think Matheny listened to his coaches too much here.   Watch Wacha’s pitch count.  Keep an eye on his durability.  He was in college a year ago, but so what?  Make sure his facial hair isn’t growing at an alarming rate.  Come on.  Lyons should have went down because he was getting hammered more and more.  Today, he gave up 6 earned runs in 5.1 innings, which is nearly as bad as Lance Lynn on Saturday but Lynn has 9 wins on his record.  
In short, Lyons was trending downward and Wacha was trending up.  All I can look at is the performance and the stats.   
 
The Cards lost to Jose Fernandez on Friday, a very talented righthander who pitches very well at home.  A suspect hit by pitch call where umpire Angel Fernandez awarded a Marlin first base after another umpire saw a little bruise on his hand.  The extremely deadly hitter Giancarlo Stanton(why in the world did he ever call himself MIKE) lined a game deciding 2 run double off a tiring Jake Westbrook.  Game over.  5-4.  
 
Saturday, the bats ripped apart the Marlins pitching staff for a 13-7 assault that bailed out a struggling hot and tired Lynn.  
 
Sunday, Lyons got bombed by the Marlins lineup and Ricky Nolasco shut down the Cards lineup on 5 hits.  7-2.  Unacceptable.  It doesn’t matter if you walk into Marlins park as the best team in baseball in the middle of June.  This team needs to pound Nolasco.  Beat him into the ground like a rogue journeyman soul that he is.  Instead, he shuts us down and Lyons gets beat hard.  Three bad starts in a row for the other kid named Tyler.  I don’t care if he is going through growing pains.  He can do those in the minors.  If Wacha gets hit hard by the Marlins, it’s a step in the process of a future top of the rotation arm.   You see my point?  Wacha is an arm that shouldn’t be messed with and Lyons is a potential innings eater.  I think their locations need to be switched.  Just me.
 
As noted earlier, the Cards can’t afford to lose to the Marlins.  It’s a smack in the face and gives the Birds their first series loss since the end of April.  They rarely get beat so soundly.  Look at their last 5 losses and all have come in fairly close fashion.  Today’s loss was a one sided beatdown.  I just don’t like it.  
 
The bottom of the rotation is looking thin.  Jake Westbrook may have been rushed back to the rotation but looked halfway normal on Friday.   He is a guy that lives and dies by his sinker.  He was getting ground balls and unfortunately a few found the holes and not the gloves.  Stanton’s big blow pushed the knife through but Westbrook looked alright.   That doesn’t spell good things for the future.   Let me describe my cautious outlook.
 
Shelby Miller will run into an inning roadblock.  He won’t be shut down but will show signs of wear and tear.  He has thrown a ton of pitches, leading the league for rookies in strikeouts and has three more months left to go.  He is someone to watch.  I don’t warrant a Nationals/Strasburg kind of overlooking analysis but he may start to drop off.  Lance Lynn has held up better than 2012 but still relies on a lot of run support.  Adam Wainwright is a Cy Young candidate at 10-3 and pitching at the top of his game with 2 complete game shutouts under his belt.  Lyons’ future is uncertain and I am not sure if he will be here in a few weeks.  His stuff is decent but could use more polish at the AAA level.  Kevin Siegrist has turned into a K machine in the bullpen with Randy Choate turning in fine work as the specialist.  Lyons, for now, is a rotation arm.  I think he needs to go down to Memphis but I am not sure the team will make that quick turnaround after sending Wacha down on Friday.  
 
The X-Factor here is Chris Carpenter’s miraculous comeback.  After what seems to be about 40 bullpen sessions, one hopes he is heading down to Springfield or Memphis for a start.  How many simulated games and bullpens can the guy throw?  Is there something we are missing here?  Carpenter is being brought back in a starter mode, throwing 80 pitches per session.  Any talk of a bullpen role is illogical and rather stupid.  No bullpen arm trains with that many pitches.  He is a starter and always will be.  Where does he fit in the bullpen with the crowded arena as we currently see it?  Carpenter needs to go on a rehab and see if he has what it takes to come back or is it time to call this miracle journey a wrap.  This started at the beginning of May and now its June 16th and he still hasn’t thrown in a real game.   His potential impact affects guys like Lyons, Wacha, Carlos Martinez and the need for a starter at the deadline.   Also, this team isn’t going after Cliff Lee and his aging expensive lefthanded arm.  There’s no way that’s happening with this team’s young crop of arms.   When you have Martinez, Lyons, Wacha, and a mending John Gast at your disposal, pulling in Lee for a half season is no way to improve your club.  
 
What else?  Bright spots.  
 
*David Freese has turned his season around and I am not surprised.  The hometown aging kid has always been a clutch bat and was pressing for a couple months after getting a short spring.  He is a quality and relatively cheap third baseman who has also improved his defense this season.  His range to his right is a lot better than previous campaigns.  That could be a result of healthier ankles.  I don’t think we need to shop Freese anytime soon.  Matt Carpenter is a great leadoff hitter and decent 2nd baseman.  That may put Kolten Wong in a slower climb to the major league club or it may not.  Wong is playing other positions at Memphis and has only been in the system for 2 years.  Freese is a proven late inning and postseason hitter.   Carp can also play a number of positions.  I don’t like the notion of shopping Freese.  Another ridiculous and naive topic brought up by Ken Rosenthal.  
 
*Yadi Molina is the most valuable player on the Cards and quite possibly the National League.  Buster Posey isn’t a better player than Yadi.  His catching is average and while his bat is quality, Yadi changes the way opponents play against him.  He brings offensive firepower and a defensive game that can’t be matched.   He deserves the gold glove every season and Posey will always be 2nd in value.  He also happens to be leading the NL in hitting with a .351 average.  Molina is so underrated after becoming a true force in the last three seasons.  
 
*Carlos Beltran has served as a quality pickup and eclipsed the Lance Berkman warnings.  Berk fared well for a season here but dropped off in 2012 due to serious injury.  Beltran is getting more rest and becoming more consistent with his bat and glove.  His legs are improving by the week because he gets at least 2 days off a week and still has 16 home runs and 40+ RBI.  He is worth thinking about when it comes to 2014 but I think he will depart to be a DH in the AL.  Let’s enjoy him while he is here.  He was a superb pickup and wouldn’t have been here without Pujols departing.  
 
*Pujols has managed to help the Cardinals without being a member of the team.  With his services heading west to LA for the next 10 years, the Cards were able to lock up Molina, Waino, and bring in Beltran while maintaining a flexibility for additions at the trade deadline. With Albert staying put, the Cards wouldn’t be able to keep Molina AND Waino.  No way.  Also, Pujols departing allowed the team to get a better look at Allen Craig, who is turning into an RBI machine and a perfect cleanup bat behind Matt Holliday.  Craig won’t slow down any time soon.  He’s a steady .300 hitter with lots of upside and pop.  Pitchers aren’t going to figure anything else out when facing him.  They are at his mercy now.  
 
*Holliday will be alright.  He is a streaky hitter but is still an above average all around player.  He will knock in 100 and crank 25-30 HR and hit .300.  His defense in left field has also improved.  The deep fly ball that went off his glove against Arizona at Busch was his first error of the season.  He is tracking down more balls and is an average fielder.  His bat is explosive at its best.  He hits into so many DP because he hits the ball so damn hard.  Only Stanton hits a ball harder than Holliday.  Smashing a grand slam off the Reds rookie pitcher last Sunday was a very satisfying moment for the former QB from Oklahoma.  Give him time because he is fine.  The haters will hate and still spit out stupid jargon like we should have signed Jayson Werth or Carl Crawford(both making 22 milllion as leadoff hitters).   Holliday and Craig make this lineup dangerous.   Take them away and Beltran and Yadi aren’t as productive.  
 
*Trevor Rosenthal’s upside is ridiculous.  “Rosie” is a big time talent with a right arm that could anchor the Cardinals bullpen for years.  His future as a starter doesn’t seem as strong since his work in the 8th inning has produced such dynamic results.   Rosenthal is starting to spot his propane fastball and use his breaking pitch effectively.  He is a closer type pitching in a setup role. 
 
*Edward Mujica is also turning heads and deserves an All Star look.  He took over the closer role in late April and has 19 saves in 19 opportunities.  He is throwing his split-finger for an out pitch and mixing in his fastball and slider.  The guy has been nicked for 2 harmless home runs and rarely gotten into serious trouble.  He is turning his career around in his 2nd pivotal role on this team.  He came here for Zach Cox, who is playing at the AA level for the worst team in the National League.  Fair swap if you ask me.
 
The Cubs come into town and have played well of late but still a team that a 1st place squad like the Cards should easily beat up.  Don’t waste these opportunities against soft competition to rack up your lead.  Take care of business.  Losing to bad teams isn’t acceptable for a team of this Redbird’s caliber.  
 
I’m done.  Time to catch 30 minutes of Chris Nolan’s superb Dark Knight Rises on HBO before it’s Mad Men time.  
 
Goodnight,
 
Buffa
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Author: D. Buffa

A regular guy who feels a journalistic hunger to tell the news. I blog because its wired into my brain to write what I think in print. I offer an opinion. A solo tour here. Take regular stories and offer my spin on them. Sports, film, television, music, fatherhood, culture, food, and so on. Commentary on everything. A St. Louis native and Little Rock resident who wants to write just to keep the hands fresh and ready.

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