Tag:Johan Santana
Posted on: May 26, 2010 5:50 pm
Edited on: May 26, 2010 7:20 pm
  •  
 

5/26 - I Just Felt Like Runnin'

I Just Felt Like Runnin'

I am a Colby Rasmus fan, no question.  I'll just be a much bigger fan in a couple years when he's an All-Star.  But at the moment, he's one of the lowest-rated center fielders in the league, defensively.  He's been much better at the plate as far as drawing walks this year, but he still strikes out a ton.  When he swings, he misses a lot and I mean even on pitches right down the middle.  And since day one that I've watched Colby play, I've had this nagging feeling that he's running about 15 Watts through a 75-watt bulb - yeah, it's pretty dim in there.

Case in point, in the Cardinals loss to the Angels this past Saturday David Freese was on third, Rasmus was at first, with Brendan Ryan at the plate with one out.  Ryan hit a chopper that was on the first base side of second that was fielded cleanly by Howie Kendrick.  Colby ran straight into the tag and then Kendrick threw to first to nearly complete the double play.  Luckily Ryan was hustling and was safe so the run scored from third.  This irked me.

Did the play have to be that close?

Now, I didn't get a good look at the replay and I am trying to give Rasmus the benefit of the doubt.  Maybe Colby thought the ball was going through for a hit.  Maybe he thought he could slip past Kendrick to second before the tag.  Maybe he was blinded temporarily by the scorching sun.  But most likely he was just not thinking at all.  The ball was not hit hard.  It was hit right at a defender.  The odds were high there would be a play at second.  If Colby simply stops running, it forces Kendrick to either run to second or throw to the shortstop Aybar at second before they can attempt to complete the double play.  But no, Colby made it as easy on Kendrick as he possibly could by running right...into...the tag.

Rasmus will be a good one, there's little doubt of that, but we are probably going to have to deal with his Forest Gump impersonations for a long time, I'm guessing.

You know what they say: Life (and the MLB Draft) is like a box of chocolates.  And so is...

The Hard Nine


1.  Right-brained...hitting - David Freese did it again Sunday. Facing a tough reliever in the Angel's Fernando Rodney, he hung in there against 97 mph heaters and 85 mph change-ups before driving a hit through the right side of the infield to score two runs and tie the game at 5 setting up the Cardinals' win in the bottom of the 10th.  I looked up Freese's hit chart at Busch this year and it is remarkable:
8 hits to left, 8 to center, 15 to right.  6 of his 7 doubles are to right and right-center.  Awesome.

Conversely, Albert Pujols' Busch hit chart is rather depressing.  He has ONE HIT, period, to right field - a double, near the line and not deep, probably a "blooper".  The cluster of outs made at shortstop is massive and his flyball outs are literally all over short and medium outfield (i.e.: popups).  If this chart is correct, Albert has not hit a grounder to the right side at Busch yet this year.

Until Albert resumes staying with those outside pitches and hitting them to right with authority, he will continue to be "Chopper-Popper".

2.  No Balls to Call Strikes - Poor Wade Davis of the Tampa Bay Rays.  I watched him pitch a couple nights ago against the Red Sox and I can confirm the Sox have officially been added to my Axis of Evil which includes the Cubs, Patriots, and Red Wings.  Davis wasn't sharp but the home plate ump sure didn't help matters.  He threw a low, but clear strike to Kevin Youkilis with two strikes and didn't get the call.

Instead "Youk" walked to load the bases with one out when Davis should have had a far more manageable two on-two out situation.  Eventually, 3 runs came in that inning and that was the game.  Just as the Red Wings are among the least penalized teams year after year, the Red Sox hitters enjoy one of the smallest strike zones in baseball.  (Also, the Patriots are cheaters - period.  Just needed to toss that in there.  I'm not bitter or anything...Rams 2001...)

3.  Your AL Middle Reliever is My NL Cy Young - I think I am ready for the NL to adopt the designated hitter rule just to help mitigate the offensive differences between the NL and AL which will in turn reduce the times I get whiplash doing double-takes looking at the stats of a guy who has switched leagues while simultaneously saying "WHAT THE WHAT!?".

Case in point: Carlos Silva is 6-0 for the Cubs.  Carlos "let- us-take- Milton- Psycho- Bradley- off- your- hands- if- you- take- this- hopeless- batting- practice- pitcher- from- us" Silva is 6 and 0.  Here are some notable (and some not-so notable) pitchers along with their career ERAs by league:

Player                NL ERA    AL ERA    Diff

Silva                  3.76    4.88           1.12
Carl Pavano        4.21    4.93          0.72
Javier Vasquez    4.02    4.61          0.59
Doug Davis         4.15    5.08          0.93
Andy Pettitte       3.38    3.99          0.61
Randy Johnson    2.92    3.60          0.68
Roger Clemens    2.40    3.21          0.81
Jose Lima            4.74    6.17         1.43
Pedro Martinez     2.52    3.32         0.80
Johan Santana     2.87    3.22         0.35
Jeff Weaver         4.17    4.91          0.74

Average difference for this eclectic sample of pitchers is a healthy 0.80 - nearly a full run higher in the AL which is what most would guess, I would think.  Bad pitchers become average and the good become great when moving from the AL to NL - reverse that if going to the AL.  What is interesting to me is that the Hall of Fame-caliber pitchers have less variance between leagues, when I might think the difference would be even greater for them - for example, Randy Johnson had a 3.60 ERA in the AL.  I would expect him to have a 1.80 ERA in the NL or thereabouts.

But the opposite is true.  The mediocre pitchers have the greater variance.  Basically, good pitching "stuff" is effective in any league.  Pedestrian stuff is punished consistently in the AL but not necessarily so in the NL.

4.  Let's Raise a Glass of Molson - The plucky Montreal Canadiens finally succumbed to a tougher foe in the NHL playoffs.  The Stanley Cup playoffs will feature the Philadelphia Flyers and the Chicago Blackahawks.  Let the battery-throwing and drunken brawls begin.

5.  Hitting Into Double Plays Doesn't Reduce Your LOB Total - In the Cardinals 1-0 loss to the Padres on Tuesday night, Colby Rasmus was 0-4 with a double play and two strike outs - 5 runners left on base.  With a kid so prone to strikeouts why put Colby in the 5th slot, Tony?  Why?  Another brilliant outing by a St. Louis starter wasted.

6.  Not Just a River In Egypt - The Associated Press has picked up on my recently-forged nickname for Albert as seen (sorta) in a story from May 24:  "Albert Pujols has no RBIs in nine games and he's just a few more towering pop-ups or infield choppers from having his average drop below .300."  There!  You see it from the nationally respected Associated Press: CHOPPER-POPPER!

I shall continue to bash Albert until he finally admits he is struggling, which of course he has not and, likely, will not admit.  The month of May has been very tough for El Nino: one homer, 10 RBI, a .256 average and .385 slugging percentage.  If you're a three-time MVP who slugs under .400 for a whole month, you either admit you're struggling or continue to swim in denial.

7.  Indecent Exposure While Flashing Your Leather - Ah, I love mixed metaphors.  Anyway, I get the feeling that Ryan Ludwick is not beloved by the baseball world at-large and even among Cardinal fans, he doesn't get enough love.  But I think he is a heart-and-soul Cardinal on par with Albert Pujols or Chris Carpenter.  And he is slowly getting more exposure for his defense and if he's not careful, may end up with a Gold Glove at the end of the year.  While unscientific, he is fifth in baseball in ESPN's Web Gems ratings.  He has been heroic in taking hits away in right field this year and sacrificing the body on numerous occasions.  Last night he ran about 40 yards and crashed into the chain link video scoreboard wall at Petco Park to take extra bases away from Will Venable.

8.  Big Fish, Little Pond - It is a metaphysical law of nature that the NL Central Division champ must beat up on the other teams in the division.  While the Reds and Cardinals are tied for first place, the Reds are a hefty 17-11 within the division while the Cards are only 11-10. 

9.  The All-Phillies All-Star Team - Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina should rest for this year's All-Star game.  Not just because they will both be gassed by the time the break arrives and will need the rest, but also because it will place eight Phillies starting the All-Star game for the National League.  EIGHT!  The entire infield, possibly the battery if Roy Halladay gets picked to start, and two of the three outfielders.  That would be Phunny and Phabulous at the same time.



WG









Posted on: May 10, 2010 7:13 am
Edited on: May 10, 2010 11:51 am
 

5/10 - Back to the Sandbox, Children

Back to the Sandbox, Children

After a sobering trip to Philadelphia, the Cardinals returned to the friendly confines of the NL Central.  Boy is it hostile out there in other divisions.  The Padres appear to be for real.  The Giants can shut out anyone with their arms.  And the Phillies have the NL's only AL-esque lineup.

Kyle Lohse summed up the Phillies best (or whine-iest, depending on how you look at it): "They take advantage of the park," Lohse noted. "The pitch to Werth was off the plate, away. I thought it was going to be caught but it just kept going. It was a good pitch, but he hit it out." 

Did anyone else read, "I'm telling my dad!"?

Hopefully the Phillies (and their rough-and-tumble fans) overlooked Kyle's statement, recognizing the little Redbirds can't play with the big boys, and will allow us to return to the sandbox to beat up on ball clubs smaller than us.

But I have to agree with Lohse.  The Phillies enjoy (what I call) the "Fenway Effect" at home.  The home offense is so intimidating that their pitchers are actually more effective at home than on the road, despite pitching in an offense ballpark.  Take a look at the splits so far this year:

Phillies Batting
               AVG     SLG     OPS
HOME       .276    .485    .824
Away        .266    .414    .756

Phillies Pitching
               ERA      SLG    OPS
HOME       3.66    .367    .668
Away        3.75    .469    .805

The Phillies are outclassed on the road, statistically, with a -49 OPS differential while they are simply ridiculous at home at +156.  And in my mind, that is the Fenway Effect - their pitchers can hurl with confidence knowing their offense is going to get them runs every single game at home.  Philly pitchers are allowing their opponents a pitiful .668 OPS in their home ballpark. 

So yes, Kyle Lohse: the Phillies DO take advantage of that ballpark.  Or, more accurately, they take advantage of their opponents in that ballpark - similar to getting mugged while you're out of town.  The Philly pitchers may get a little bloodied by a cheap homer or two, but the end result is still going to be you, unconscious, and left for dead in an alley.

The other side of the coin is that the Phillies have to spend big bucks to field a talented ballclub to maintain that home field advantage.  Otherwise the pendulum swings the other way (see: Houston Astros).  There are exceptions, of course.  Pre-humidor Coors Field was so obnoxiously offensive, that the Fenway Effect did not apply.  The Rockies attempted to pay through the nose for top pitching, but you can't defeat physics or Mother Nature, as Denny Neagle, Darryl Kile and Mike Hampton found out firsthand.

Back to the Redbirds, order was restored as we took two of three from the Pirates.  The Cards "trounced" the Buckos in game one 4-3, failed to back Jaime Garcia's fine outing in game two as we got shut out, and took advantage of the Pirate's shoddy defense in addition to eight free passes in the rubber match Sunday. 

Can I admit I FEAR the Cards making the playoffs? 

Unfortunately for us, I don't think the Reds or Pirates are winning the wildcard anytime soon.

It's time again for...

The Hard Nine


  1.
"Chopper-Popper" - In Sunday's game, the Pirate's TV broadcast showed a replay of Albert Pujols' first homer his rookie year.  It went out to right-center with the easiest swing you've ever seen.  I almost cried.  Right-center used to be his bread and butter and now, he's so pull-conscious, I feel like Elvis has died all over again or something. 
  So I must call Albert by his new nickname, "Chopper-Popper" because that is all he seems to do anymore (that is, when he actually makes contact with his swings).  He's pulling off everything, hitting weak topped grounders, choppers or pop ups.  And not only is he pull-happy, but I've never seen him give up on pitches on the outside corner like he does now.  This bad habit definitely became obvious last year and now it just seems he's fundamentally changed his approach.  Albert, take your own advice from Young Albert: See ball, hit ball.  Hit it where it's pitched.  Go up the middle.
 
  2.
.292 - How, exactly, did Brendan Ryan bat that high last year?

  3. "Quick"-Change Artist - I heard an interesting discussion between some commentators during a late West Coast game (Giants or Oakland, my memory fails) about En Vogue pitches by decade.  In the 80s it was the split-fingered fastball, featured by Bruce Sutter.  The 90s brought the cut-fastball to the forefront, used famously by Mariano Rivera of the Yankees.  The 2000s has featured the change-up - Trevor Hoffman and Cy Young winner Johan Santana have had huge success with it. 
  And you can add Dallas Braden to the list as he threw the 19th perfect game in history last night against the best team in the majors, the Tampa Bay Rays, using mostly a mid-80s fastball and a 69-mph change up. 

  4. Length Does Matter
- Too many important Cardinal hitters have annoying long swings (at the moment): Joe Mather, Matt Holliday, Colby Rasmus, Ryan Ludwick and Albert is slowly moving in this direction as well.  The short-swingers?  Yadier Molina, David Freese and Nick Stavinoha.  Guess which group is staying hotter, longer.

  5. Payback for 2004
- the Boston Redsox are 16-16.  Ok, not necessarily payback, but they are far behind the Rays and Yankees, not just record-wise, but talent-wise.  But...they would win the NL Central, if they had the opportunity.  But still, it's fun seeing them be irrelevant in their own division.

  6. But Seriously - Yadier Molina is on pace for 121 Ribbies, currently.  Since 1981, the highest RBI total for a Cardinals catcher is 67 by World Series MVP Darrell Porter in 1984 (thanks Fox Sports Midwest).  And of course, this stretches back to my earliest memories of life, but as long as I have walked this Earth, my beloved Cardinals have never had a great offensive catcher.  Todd Ziele came up in 1989 as a catcher and he had legitimate power and RBI potential - which is was why we moved him to 3rd base his second year, I guess.  At any rate, we are seeing a fantastic franchise receiver truly blossoming.  But don't say that to his face - don't want to give Yadi a complex...

  7.
Strange Brew - Milwaukee has the BEST road record in the NL at 11-8 to go along with the WORST record at home (4-8).  I'm having horrible flashbacks of my beloved St. Louis Blues, who were equally Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde-ish this year over in the NHL.  This issue was the primary reason they missed the playoffs this spring.

  8. Twinkies are Good - But so are the fruit pies.  Hmm.  Along with the Rays, my other adopted AL team is Minnesota.  They are similar to the Cards in that they are the class of thier division, they have a balanced club, and they great at the fundamentals.  I look forward to the Twins knocking out whichever big baddie comes out of the AL East.  They are 3rd in batting average in the AL and 2nd in ERA.  Pretty sexy.

  9.
Clean Up in Section 308 - Houston comes to visit starting Tuesday night.  The Astros have ONE....ROAD....HOMER....this year.  Chew on that for a minute and then thank the Lord you're not an Astros fan.



WG











 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com