What I Have Heard and What I Think

Quick, blunt and straight to the point…otherwise what am I doing here?  Talking.  Here is what I have heard and what I know and believe.

The Cards lost last night to the Braves and here is why.  
-Adam Wainwright allowed a 2 out RBI single to the opposing pitcher.
-The Bats went silent with the exception of Yadi’s homer.  It was the first home run for the Cards since before the AS break and Yadi hit that one at Wrigley.  
-The defense threw the ball around in the 7th inning. 
-Mike Minor was in shutdown mode.  
Chalk it up and move on.   Here is the important part.  We are 62-38 and lead the Pirates by 2.5 games in the central.   Why?  
Let me run down a quick list.
-The Cards are getting tons of timely hits.  With RISP, the team is hitting .338.  Ridiculous and just as strong with 2 outs.  Yes, I do believe there is such a thing as clutch hitting.  Some hitters flunk in the big spotlight and others shine.  Allen Craig is hitting nearly .500 with guys in scoring position.  Put the stakes at the ceiling and Craig delivers.  
-With Ty Wiggington gone and the bench a little more young, they are producing.  Shane Robinson is pitching in with a platoon effort with Jon Jay.  Shane isn’t flashy and a 4th OF for his life but plays good defense and is speedy on the basepaths.  Brock Petersen was a brief power bench bat option.
-The rotation is sharp again.  Jake Westbrook has recaptured his efficiency and found a bat.  Lance Lynn set himself straight against the Phillies, as did Shelby Miller.  You don’t get anywhere without good pitching.  In our April-May surge, it was there.  In our June swoon, it wasn’t.  In our 13-6 July, it has returned for the most part.  Few leaks and bruises exist but better.
-The Bullpen is getting stronger.  Seth Maness and Kevin Siegrist are new talents.  Randy Choate is doing his job.  Trevor Rosenthal is a lights out setup guy.  Edward Mujica is the biggest surprise of the season(bigger than Matt Carpenter bc Matt hit very well last year all over the field).  The bullpen is so good Mike Matheny brought back over the hill vets Marc Rzepcynzski and Fernando Salas.  
-The offensive attack has been built on singles.  RBI single galore.  No home runs.  Just small ball killers minus the stolen base.
-Our pitching staff doesn’t give up home runs.  
-Matt Carpenter is a legit leadoff hitter.
-Edward Mujica is 30-32 in saves.   
-Allen Craig is a cyborg RBI producing bat ripping machine.  
Do we need a trade?  Take the NEED away and it’s more like John Mozelaik can walk through the grocery store at the deadline and just glance at the options.  Shortstop is a need but Kozma/Descalso combo works and there isn’t a good option on the market.  Starting pitching is a need but you have 5 guys in there now battling and Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha and Tyler Lyons(starting 1st game of the PITT doubleheader on Tuesday) await in the wings.  We don’t need Jake Peavy.  Bench bat?  Matt Adams and Brock Petersen say no but I wouldn’t mind a veteran presence who can hit better than .190.  
Can Lance Lynn improve and hold up…in the rotation?   No telling.  True toss up.  He is an enigma because this year he is in shape and has a full arsenal of pitches yet gets trapped in mind games.  He can at least be an effective 4th or 5th guy but that means Miller must rise up.  
Is Pete Kozma really good enough to play SS for a whole season?  First thing is, he will platoon with Daniel Descalso and that will prevent him from being over..over…over exposed at the plate.  He is a .230-.240 hitter but plays a very good shortstop.  He will make errors but not often and makes a lot of tough plays look easy with his little baby angel hands.  If there was an option that didn’t cost us an arm and a future leg and was a big upgrade over our current set, I’d say go for it but it doesn’t exist  Alexei Rameriz isn’t it!!!
Is Allen Craig an alien from Clutcheonton?  I know, bad planet name but this guy is insanely productive and the team couldn’t have a better cleanup guy right now.  He has an ability to work the count, not be fooled, and stretch out and poke singles in big spots.  He loves the pressure and thrives in it.  With Albert Pujols heading for surgery and Craig thriving, there should be dry eyes in Cardinal Nation at the 1B spot.
Can Edward Mujica keep this up? Yes, but I wouldn’t bet your mortgage on it.  Simply put, Mujica doesn’t have a devastating fastball and also has a splitter that isn’t impossible to hit. In other words, he pitches to contact.  This isn’t bad but we got a whiff of this nightmare with Ryan Franklin years ago.  Soon enough, hitters will get better hold of Mujica and that may cause dicier 9th innings, like we have seen lately.  On Wednesday, Mujica was very good, struck out 2 and slammed the door on the Phillies.  He does have 30 saves and that can’t be forgotten.  I am telling you he has never closed in August/September and his pitches will need more life to hold up.  
Let’s roll on with quick takes.
Fruitvale Station is the best movie I’ve seen in 2013 and it opened wide yesterday.  It’s a true story and worth watching because of the hole it leaves in your stomach and the lasting image. Forget Trayvon Martin and the comparisons.  The tale of Oscar Grant is more powerful and speaks to a whole range of topics that has nothing to do with a court or jury.  It bought up real estate in my soul and hasn’t left yet.  Remember the name Michael B. Jordan at Oscar time. My review.
Jake Allen signed a two year deal and that’s great news.  This guy rescued the team in February when Halak was hurt and Brian Elliot went into no man’s land.  Allen is the future and the #1 goalie my mind that the other two have to worry about.  Halak can do all the workouts he wants but still sits behind Allen.  The kid.  
The Rams opened minicamp and it doesn’t mean anything just like previous seasons but there is an obvious buzz this year.  Sam Bradford with the same offensive coordinator for a 2nd season.  Tavon Austin bringing new fire to the return game.  Jared Cook giving us a legit tight end.  The departure of Steven Jackson opening up a frenzy at the RB position.  Jake Long protecting Bradford.  The Jeff Fisher ball producing a 7-8-1 season in 2012.  The lighter schedule.  Explosive offensive capabilities.  Big things could happen this year.  For the first time, expectations could be set going into the preseason.  A lot happens in a year.
Joe Kelly with 6 productive innings today in Atlanta.  Starting pitching need?  Yes and as seen today, NO.  Kelly was vital in 2012 and received zero credit in 2013.  He is back in the rotation again and just froze Dan Uggla with a 96 mph fastball on his 76th pitch.  Book it.  Cliff Lee would be nice but the Phillies will want a boatload of prospects.  Do you make that move?  Lee’s contract is ridiculous.  I know he would make the rotation aces but I have hesitation there.
The Wolverine is a big improvement on Wolverine: Origins and adds spice to Marvel’s most badass character of Logan/Wolverine.  Hugh Jackman is the reason this film works.  I wrote about him for my site this week.  Check it out.
Albert Pujols is taking time off to get his left foot looked at.  Plantar fascitis is no joke and doesn’t get better until you rest it.  Pujols is a tough bastard.  The toughest.  But he needs to sit, get surgery and get well.  Again, he has 8 years to go on that contract.  A contract I still don’t think he will complete.
I’m wrapping this up early.  Kid is asleep and I need to get a couple things done before he awakes.  Thanks for reading.  
Until next time,
Dan L. Buffa

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