Tag: 2015 season

10 Takeaways from Game 1

mets-at-royals-in-world-series-game-1-52997330e53a87a9The Kansas City Royals and New York Mets wasted no time in raising the dramatics of a World Series face off and it started before a pitch was thrown.

10. Edinson Volquez, the Game 1 starter, may or may not have found out before first pitch that his father passed away at the age of 63. Talk about the emotions. The kid is at the high point of a World Series start, something every kid dreams of and he experiences the lowest point a kid can face with losing a parent. Volquez would pitch six solid innings, allowing 3 runs on 6 hits before exiting to grieve and deal with an unthinkable loss.

9. Baseball players with softball bodies can be efficient. Bartolo Colon may look like a pitcher you saw at Forest Park in a softball game but he can still pitch. He threw 2.1 innings before finally surrendering the winning run.

8. The postseason home run streak for Daniel Murphy ends at six. The hot hitting Met still collected two hits, but failed to go deep. Somewhere, Reggie Jackson smiled.

7. Who could have guessed Chris Young would be the winning pitcher for KC in Game 1? The Game 4 starter threw three innings with only 53 pitches thrown, shutting the Mets bats down and giving the Royals a chance to win it. Improbable doesn’t even describe it.

6. Jeurys Familia, the untouchable Mets closer, gets torched by Alex Gordon in the 9th inning for one of the longest home runs of the postseason. Right when the super powered pitching of the Mets appeared to be too much for Kansas City, they struck down their most lethal threat. The 8th place hitting Gordon did the job. Improbable.

5. Eric Hosmer goes from goat to hero in one night. After making a crucial error at first base, he hits the sacrifice fly in the 14th to win it. He does that on the same night that David Freese four years earlier went from goat to hero. Freese dropped a popup in Game 6 only to go on and make history. Hosmer didn’t shine as bright but collected his dignity.

4. Ben Zobrist, the player many Cardinals fans wanted, had another great game with 3 hits and an RBI. The durable Phillips screwdriver type tool player is hitting .500 this postseason with an OPS of 1.404.

3. Matt Harvey was good if not great in a start many thought would go to Noah Syndergaard or Jacob deGrom. The Dark Knight arm who many thought may not even pitch this October continued a solid postseason. Remember when he was the only Mets pitching ace?

2. The Royals truly starved off a rough start to the series. With a loss, they would be staring down the barrel at Thor and deGrom and be in bad shape. Now, they have the upper hand and another game at home to stage an upset.

1. Is it just me or if Hosmer’s sac fly travels a little less into right field, Curtis Granderson had a shot at nailing Alcides Escobar at home? His throw didn’t miss Escobar by too much last night and he threw it on a fly. Impressive.

This series will only get better. Sure, the Cards are out but there is still plenty of good baseball to watch this week. There’s the opportunity for the ring to come back to Missouri. There is the chance for the Mets to clinb back into the limelight and win a World Series for the first time in 29 years. For the Royals, it would be the first time in 30 years, as 99 percent of Redbird fans know well.

What part of Game 1 did you find the most interesting?

What Adam Wainwright can offer to Cardinals in return

UPI / Bill Greenblatt
UPI / Bill Greenblatt

I remember where I was when Adam Wainwright got hurt in Milwaukee in April. I was buying a couch and driving a Home Depot truck around Little Rock and afterwards I went to dinner. Throughout the game that the Cardinals eventually won, all I could think about was, how will this team win 80 games without their ace? With the news today that Wainwright has fully recovered from the ruptured Achilles heel and will be active for tomorrow’s game in Pittsburgh, it makes me think about this amazing 2015 Cardinals team. They have 99 wins with five games to go on the season. How did this happen? Sometimes pinching yourself just doesn’t work.

Adam Wainwright made four starts in April before going down and had a record of 2-1. Before the aborted Milwaukee start, Waino had just shut down Cincinnati for 8 innings at Busch. That night, the Cards hosted the bloggers in their suite and it was a great time. It was the second Blogger Night in a row where a huge pitching injury was around the corner. In 2014, Michael Wacha and Jaime Garcia were both announced as new disabled list shareholders the evening of Blogger Day at a June game. This year, it was the last start Wainwright would make this season at Busch Stadium or the last time he’d figure in a box score. Until now.

I haven’t been a huge fan of the Waino rehab renaissance, mostly out of fear. I worry about the Achilles reinjuring or something else going wrong. It’s the human body where nothing goes as planned for a pitcher in his 30’s. I wrote about it for KSDK and still agree with points made in that article with one exception that is pouring out me now. Adam Wainwright did everything by the book, medically, and cleared the hurdles without being rushed. This wasn’t a rush job, because there was simply no need. This is a guy who wanted to prove to himself he could get back and did. Remember when he climbed the mound at his daughter’s game a couple months ago and the net was set ablaze? Seems like a long time from today’s announcement that Wainwright will be coming out of the bullpen this week. His doctors in May said he could come back and they weren’t wrong. Buy them a drink.

Can we expect Waino to be good? Hard to answer that without seeing a pitch. He can pitch in a few simulated game against his teammates and do drills all he wants, but until he steps into a hot contested September ballgame, that answer remains a fill in the blank location. He needs to pitch Wednesday and should with the Tuesday postponement and pending doubleheader. He needs to get in there and go 1-2 innings. He then needs to recover and go back out there 1-2 times this weekend in Atlanta. He needs to get as much action as he can before the playoff start. With Carlos Martinez’s injury, there is a potential roster spot open for an arm and if Waino is even close to the efficient ace St. Louis knows well, he gets that spot.

First, Waino has to prove his worth this year. He can be Han Solo but we first need to see if he can fly the Millennium Falcon before we give him a mission. It’s common sense. Logistics of a comeback. The good thing is he is 100% and ready to pitch and for a team getting hit with injuries on a weekly basis, the addition of Adam Wainwright during crunch time is hard to deny. It’s actually quite exciting.

What do you think?

The Cardinals bring the big sticks to Miller Park

For the past few years, the St. Louis Cardinals lack of power is well known. They rank near the bottom of the National League in home runs. However, if there is one place the Birds love to carry the big sticks to play, it’s Miller Park against the Milwaukee Brewers. At the start of Sunday’s action, the Cards have won 4 of 6 games there this season, scoring 24 runs and cranking 7 home runs. However, let’s look at the last two seasons of play at Miller Park.

While their average at Miller Park since the start of the 2013 season may be decent at best(.282), the manner in which the Cardinals score their runs differs from every other road park they play in. The Cardinals have scored 143 in 27 games, an average of 5.3 runs per game. In those 27 games, the Cards have amassed 412 total bases and 42 doubles.

In 2014, the Cards cranked 14 home runs, more than doubling their total from Wrigley Field and Great American Ballpark. In 2013, they smashed 19 doubles and 15 home runs at Miller Park, slugging .500. Om 2015, the Cardinals have amassed 12 doubles in just 5 games.

There are certain Cardinals who love hitting at Miller, including Jhonny Peralta. In his 15 games there, Peralta is 23-58(.396) with 4 home runs and 13 RBI. There’s a reason Mike Matheny doesn’t rest the guy there. Jhonny likes to rake. The injured Jon Jay found success at Miller Park, collecting 4 hits in 10 at bats in April. Overall, in the last three seasons, Jay has a .353 batting average. Matt Holliday doesn’t find the average but he has hit 6 home runs in his 20 games played. Other Cardinals like Matt Adams and Yadier Molina have also hit well there. Ex-Cards and former RBI machine Allen Craig hit .393 there in 2013. As a team, the Cards have slugged .460 at the park since 2013.

Their lack of power overall may be hard to deny, but when the Birds fly into Milwaukee, the big bats ride with them. It’s a place they have found plenty of comfort the past few years. In 27 games, the Cardinals have amassed a record of 19-8, dominating an opponent that challenged them for the division title just last year. The rivalry between these teams from the red hot battles of 2011 may have died off over the past few seasons, but the ability of the Cards to handle the Brewers in their own house is apparent.

When people think of 2015 and Miller Park, they will probably think about losing Adam Wainwright there on April 25th. They can find some peace in the Birds record and ability to hit for power in Milwaukee.

Leave the power and take the OBP with Matt Holliday

With the new sensations in town in Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk, word on the street is Matt Holliday seems to expendable when it comes to the formation of the St. Louis Cardinals’ outfield this year, next year and beyond. While nobody is asking for the big guy to be traded or sent out, their lineups aren’t highlighting a hitter with some pop and production left in his bat. As Holliday works his way back from his second quad injury in 2015 and an injury plagued season, I’ll warn you. Don’t write off the Stillwater, Oklahoma native just yet.

Piscotty and Grichuk may be the brisket rub of the moment in this town, but they’ve been doing this for less than a season. Their contributions are great and have helped a team carrying an inconsistent offensive attack, but dismissing the idea of Holliday returning is quite humorous considering how this lineup thrives with him in the #3 spot.

It’s true. Matt Holliday doesn’t have the big boom in his stick anymore. It’s doubtful he will reach 30 home runs again. Those days are behind him but that doesn’t render his bat optional. While it’s nice to see Jon Jay making progress and Grichuk starting to do some activities, Holliday is the bat I am looking forward to seeing the most.

The Cards don’t run on power. They run on consistently good at bats and on base percentage. Holliday provides both and has been doing so for years.

People will complain he gets hurt a lot. Wrong. In five of the last six seasons leading up to 2015, Matt Holliday has played in 140 games or more. Holliday is no Tulo. He’s still durable at 35 years of age, and that comes from staying in marvelous physical shape and being smart with his choices.

Leave the power, take the OPS with Holliday. While his slugging percentage has decreased from .525 to .420 this season, his on base percentage still sits near .400. Before he got hurt, Holliday got on base 40 percent of the time. With his healthy .290 average maintaining fuel, Holliday’s OPS is a robust .829 this season. Over the past three seasons, it’s .876, .879 and .811. He isn’t diminishing in overall offensive value, so why hand this man the walker?

I understand transformation and bringing in new players but the kids will have to do more than spark a wire in a hot car during one summer in order to push Holliday to reserve status. He’s going to play when he gets back and he’s going to be here next year and more than likely, the year after that. If that means Matt Adams has to hold off Piscotty at first base, so be it. Competition keeps the kids hungry and the veterans on their toes.

Come postseason time, you’ll want Holliday and his 13 career October home runs. He has a thing for showing up in big moments. The man churns out game deciding hits like John Mozeliak changes bow ties. Sorry he doesn’t make diving catches in the outfield but there’s a guy named J-Hey for that.

Holliday has simply transitioned into a different hitter as his career hits the final strip of pavement. He has went from a power hitting Coors Field resident to an all around Busch Stadium stinger. Holliday still hits the ball harder than most, and his line drive rate is healthy. His plate discipline has never been better than it was this year, with 39 walks to just 44 strikeouts. He’s a smart guy at the plate and in a lineup full of easy 100 strikeout guys this season, that discipline is required.

While it’s normal to talk about the next generation of players, it’s wrong to start writing off Matt Holliday. If he is 100% in September and can contribute, he will play. He’s earned that right. Not to mention the effect he has on this clubhouse as a leader and in the community becoming the face of St. Louis Albert Pujols was before he departed for the West. Holliday can also hold his own in a broadcast booth, but that’s icing on the cake.

Appreciating Matt Holliday in 2015 is a little harder than it used to be, I know. The Baseball Card mafia has to look a little closer and see a guy with some gas left in the tank. Just remember this. Home runs are fascist and Matt Holliday isn’t going anywhere and for good reason.

Jaime Garcia: A great yet breakable investment

By now, Cardinals fans know the drill. When Jaime Garcia is on, he’s as good of a lefthander as you will find in this league. He makes MLB hitters swing awkwardly and ugly at several of his pitches. He doesn’t need a ton of pitches to get through 7 innings of work and he seems to have conquered the maturation on the mound aspect as he nears the ripe age of 30. However, the biggest problem with Garcia has little to do with pitching and everything to do with health. Can he stay healthy and for how long? Should the Cards invest in that going forward?

Garcia will be making his 10th start in Milwaukee tonight and his 2015 season has been impressive, albeit incomplete. While he doesn’t have the win total due to a lack of run support(19 runs in 9 starts), Garcia hasn’t been reached for more than 3 earned runs in his 9 starts, and he’s only needed more than 100 pitches once. He has a 3 to 1 strikeouts to walks ratio and doesn’t allow a lot of clean contact. His WHIP is a rude 0.92 and hitters have only scraped a .199 average against him. How is he doing it? Every Garcia pitch has movement, whether it’s is 91 mph four seam fastball or his devastating sinker and slider. He doesn’t get a ton of swings and misses but he does induce plenty of groundballs.

Garcia is a wicked bowl of talent that seems to slip off the counter far too often. It’s hard to get excited about Garcia because when you do, it seems to be a flicker of greatness.┬áThe southpaw is nearing the end of another season where he won’t make more than 20 starts for the fourth consecutive season. Garcia has an 11.5 million dollar option for 2016 and a 12 million dollar option for 2017, both carrying 500k buyouts. With Marco Gonzales coming up fast and ready to assume a role in this rotation, does Garcia return next year? Do the Cards take that gamble with his health? Let’s answer that question.

If he finishes the season(which is like saying if you finish that 1 pound hamburger inside 5 minutes), The Cardinals should bring back Garcia, as long as it’s just the one year. Until he establishes an ability to stay healthy, the team shouldn’t extend him beyond a year. At the same time, they can’t cut loose a guy who has honestly figured something out. He hasn’t been this sharp in years and whether it’s brief and not long lasting to this point, Garcia is a riddle for Major League hitters. In his weakest outings, his first against the Mets and last against Colorado, he still managed to keep the Cards in the game and pitch well. He hasn’t been beat up once this season and that can’t be discounted.

For now, enjoy the lefty while you can. He’s that traveling rock n’ roll band who may flame out at any moment, cursed by its internal structure and wiring. Garcia is easily one of the best pitchers in the National League…when he’s actually pitching. While a decision on 2016 will loom soon enough, Cardinals fans need to hope, not bet, on Garcia staying healthy the rest of the way.

The Randal Grichuk Experience

31 MAY 2015: St. Louis Cardinals center fielder Randal Grichuk (15) at bat during the game between the Los Angeles Dodgers  and St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri.

A 23 year old well built baseball player steps to the plate. He waggles the bat, digs his feet in around home plate and dips the bat over his shoulder. The bat slowly points back towards the umpire as if to say, “Watch this!” The pitch comes in, and the body engages like a fighter jet. The bat head springs towards the sky and starts to whip around towards the pitch. It may touch the ball or it may miss it completely. If contact is made, the baseball goes an extremely long way and quick.

Welcome to the Randal Grichuk experience, open 7 days a week in this St. Louis Cardinals lineup. All he does is hit extra base hits and strike out. He’s an action film. An experience. His defense in the outfield(he plays all three positions) is not too shabby but it’s his bat that creates the most attention.

Grichuk has 17 doubles, 6 triples and 11 home runs on the season. You won’t find many players in this league with those kind of extra base hit splits. He’s got speed, loads of pop and can spray a ball to any field. Good luck shifting this kid. He hits a ball off the end of the bat and it looks like a solar eclipse running out of the park from a building across the street.

The knock on Grichuk is that his bat has too many holes in it to sustain success in the majors. Yes, his 33 percent strikeout rate(72 in 216 at bats) does leave questions at the door and will make a person look at the directions to this action figurine a few extra times. However, when you carry this much BOOM in your stick, the setbacks can be handled.

Grichuk is fun for all ages. To young kids, he’s the knight with the big sword, slicing juicy fastballs up. To teens, he’s the young stallion making his dream come true. When he comes up to the plate, my wife stops and watches. Now, that may be due to the fact that Randal isn’t terrible looking and is built like a Ford truck, but also there’s a good chance he may launch a baseball towards outer space and you want to be able to tell your friends where you were when it hit the astronaut in the back. Husbands can’t complain about that. Respect, son!

All I know is Grichuk is holding up quite well, and helping the Cardinals in a time of need. Ever since Albert Pujols left, the Cards lacked a potential 30 home run guy. A show stopper. Soon, Grichuk could be that big stick. While he may not be multi-faceted like Pujols, he is once again, only 23 years old.

One thing Randal Grichuk is these days is exciting. Buy a ticket to this ride sometime soon. See it in person. Where it is going, nobody knows. There’s a decent chance it may get better.

Before the action starts against Atlanta Saturday night, Grichuk has 11 home runs, 36 RBI, and hitting .278. His on base percentage is a respectable .326 and he is slugging out of his mind at .551. His WAR(via Baseball Reference) is a solid 2.1 and growing. He has slowly increased his walks(1 for every 5 strikeouts) but fans don’t want to see the kid keep his bat towards the umpire and still. They want action! Baseballs fear Randal so don’t let them off the hook! As a man once said in an M. Night Shyamalan flick, it hurts not to swing.

With Matt Holliday missing time due to injury and Jon Jay on the decline this season, Randal Grichuk has given the outfield a boost. A breath of fresh air! When I think of an outfield of Holliday, Grichuk and Jason Heyward in 2016 and beyond, a smile appears on my face. It’s a pleasant thought and not far fetched.

Extra note. Grichuk is a reason fans should be patient with Stephen Piscotty. When Randal first got here last summer, he struggled. He whiffed once every other at bat. It looked like a kid swinging at wire brush at the plate. Eventually, he improved and found a timing and comfort at the plate. Look at him now.

Randal Grichuk turns 24 on August 13th so he is just getting warmed up folks. Be sure to attend the next show.