When last we spoke, the Cardinals had turned a corner. They were on a 5 game win streak. They swept the Pirates, and they were headed into 5 games against AL teams who wouldn’t have the advantage of the DH. Things looked promising, but whatever corner they turned, they found a way to turn back, losing all 5 of those games at home and finding themselves almost right back at .500.
But as luck would have it, the Cardinals were able to stop the skid against the team everyone wants to beat the most, the Cubs. Not just because they’re the Cubs like every other year, but because they are leading the division, too. With a little bit of talent and a little bit of luck, they made it out of Wrigley with a W last night.
The talent came in the way of 3 runs from a 3 different players, most notably Moss’ absolute bomb that he hit out to right. The luck came in the 9th. Rosenthal putting 2 on and 1 out only to throw a wild pitch off the foot of the ump, the backstop, and the foot of the batter so that Yadi could get the guy out running to 3rd by about 6 inches. Lucky bounce.
I don’t know how much longer Rosenthal will be the closer. Some of the few saves he is managing to pull out have been by the skin of his teeth. Many people are calling for Oh to close, which I don’t think would be a bad thing, but something does need to shake the bullpen out of the funk that they’re in because they are the main reason for the recent skid that hopefully they started to pull out of last night.
Ahh, the Astros. Every time we play them I’m reminded of the 2004 NLCS. Biggio, Berkman, Beltran vs. Pujols, Edmonds, Rolen. Ahh. Those were the times. We won’t talk about what happened after that series…
Now that the Astros have shifted over to the AL, it’s a rare sight to see the teams play each other, and it’s definitely fun to reminisce, but now it’s Altuve, Correa, and Rasmus going up against Carpenter, Piscotty, and Diaz. Times sure have changed.
The Cardinals sure have changed, too. I don’t think just about anyone could have predicted that the Cardinals would be anywhere near the top of the leaderboards when it comes to home runs, but they are tied for most in the NL with the Nationals so far this year. (we won’t count the AL teams anyway because they get an extra position player in their lineups. Cheaters.) Last night was no exception. Moss and Adams both sent baseballs over the outfield wall, but it was to no avail.
The rotation seemed to turn a corner, going through one full turn and not having lost a game, but I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you there were still some kinks in the armor. While I think everyone enjoyed the sweep of the Pirates that put the Cards in second place and a wild card spot, I am not convinced that the Cardinals are ready to be a winning team yet. They may still get there, but I’m sure that the best the Cardinals can reach is a wild card spot unless the Cubs still find a way to Cub their way out of first place.
The last of my quick hits is to speak about the depth of the team. There is a little gap of prospects in the system where there are still more coming, but none ready to make the jump to the majors. Depth was a real concern coming into the year because of that, but now there are players in Memphis that could be on the roster. Pham isn’t hitting well there right now (.222/.330/.323), but with what Hazelbaker did early in the season (even though he’s cooled off), Pham doesn’t have a spot right now. Wong is lighting it up in Memphis, hitting 2 homers just last night, but doesn’t have a spot in the lineup because Diaz has been good enough to move Peralta to 3rd and Carpenter to 2nd to make room for him in the lineup and Wong needs consistent playing time right now.
I’m not as confident on the pitching depth, as Reyes is just beginning to get into the swing of things after his suspension, Gonzales is gone for the year, and Cooney still has yet to make his debut. Here’s to hoping the major league arms hold up this year!
I was just reading through my Twitter feed of last night’s game (since I was asleep for most of it) and ran across this tweet:
It’s interesting that is how we’re referring to Mike Leake already. He signed what I would consider a middle-of-the road contract with the Cardinals this offseason: 5 years and $80 million. Not too hefty, but not a cheap contract. A good amount of controlled years, but not too long to be tied up in one player. That said, it was the largest contract the Cardinals have ever offered to a free-agent pitcher from outside the organization. That just goes to show how good the farm system has been for the Cards and the way that the market is trending for players as well.
But the thing about any new player is that they have to earn the trust of the fan base to an extent. Rookies usually get a little bit of leeway. They are in their first year in the majors or they have very little experience there, so they are given some time to adjust. Free agents or players that the Cardinals trade for are expected to contribute almost immediately and when they don’t, fans start becoming leery of them. They start wondering if the signing was a good one or not. I mean, this is a results-oriented business.
Leake is now 7 starts into his time as a Cardinal, and this is the first win he’s gotten. In his first 6 starts, he gave up at least 3 earned runs, while if you add in the unearned ones, the opposing teams scored either 4 or 5 runs each time he stepped on the rubber. None of those times, did the offense pick him up enough to get him the W. Last night, he could have given up 4 or 5 runs and been fine, but on any given night that might not be good enough.
After last night’s game, Leake said that his approach is to “Make good pitches. Get bad contact.” That and a defense that will make the plays behind him is all he should need to do well. I hope that maybe he figured out how to best get that to happen and we will see this Mike Leake going forward.
I found some fun new tools on Baseball Prospectus that I was just messing around with the other day, when I decided to look at how the average time of game has evolved over the last 50 years. Here’s a graph of length of an average MLB game in hours each year.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been expecting a game to last about 3 hours. I was born in 1989, and ever since then, the average length of game has been about 2.9 hours or longer except for a small dip in the mid-2000s. That was just after the steroid era had just ended, and the dip might be associated with that. I can’t imagine watching baseball before the 80s when a game only took an average of around 2 and a half hours. Wow.
In the last few years, though, the rise has been astronomical, such as the rise that happened in the 80s, but with games starting to average well over 3 hours, it’s getting too long for many people’s tastes. I am one of the people who wouldn’t mind a game going over 3 hours occasionally, but I would definitely prefer most games to be at or below 3 hours. Others may disagree or have their own opinions, but what I wanted to do is look at what they’re doing in the Arizona Fall League to help the pace of play go a little quicker.
Some of these I’m a fan of. The first of which is the fact that pitchers don’t have to throw 4 intentional balls to walk someone. The manager just has to tell the ump to send the player to first. That’s how it’s always worked in the co-ed softball leagues that I’ve played in. Makes sense to me. It won’t help the overall pace of play much, but I’m a big fan of the rule. Just makes too much sense to not have that in there.
Another rule that I like is the three “time out” limit. This means that there can be only 3 meetings a game (including extras) that the game can be stopped for a meeting, whether that is just the catcher and the pitcher or a pitching coach to the mound, and this is also includes coaches meeting with hitters as well. Meetings for injuries and taking pitchers/players won’t count towards the limit. I know that people have been complaining about this in the AFL because the pitchers and catchers don’t really know each other at all, but this will be easier in the regular season when players know each other much better. I do think it needs to be changed a little. For example, I think that there should be more allowed in extras. Maybe you gain an extra meeting every 3 extra innings. So, you get a fourth when the game reaches the 10th inning, a fifth in the 13th inning, etc. that can be used at any time. That only seems fair.
Another rule that I like is the players having to keep one foot in the batter’s box unless there is an exception, such as a foul ball or foul tip, pitch inside that moves the batter out of the box, time is called, etc. This will help along the pace of play quite a bit, too. I’m looking at you, Skip Schumaker. You do not need to step out and adjust your batting gloves after every pitch. This is another one that players say is disrupting their rhythm, but this is actually a old rule that’s just no longer enforced. I’m good with enforcing it.
The last thing that I have to mention is this pitch clock nonsense and the in-between innings clock. First, the in-between innings problem is caused by TV. Make them cut out a commercial or two between innings and then move the game along appropriately. That’ll solve that problem. As for a pitch clock, I’m not a fan. If a pitcher is trying to throw a specific pitch and the catcher can’t figure that out in time, then what will happen? He can’t come to the mound and discuss it. Hope he calls time and is granted it in time? If they can just enforce the other rules, then the pace of play will hopefully be improved enough that a pitch clock and in-between innings clock won’t be necessary.
Hope that at least a couple of these things will be implemented in the majors in a short time, and I hope the pitch clock is sent to die a slow painful death in a deep, deep hole.
I heard the news last night, and I just couldn’t think of the words to say. I thought that sleeping on it might help, but I’m still at a loss this morning. There is no poem or song that I can think of that could make this better. There is no bit of wit or wisdom deep in the recesses of my mind that I can come up with to give understanding.
These are the things in life that are hard to deal with. There is nothing more sure in life than death. It comes for us all, but it comes much too early for some. We all hope to live long and rewarding lives, and it is impossible to keep from grieving such a young and talented person being taken from this world.
We’ll never know what his potential could have been. We’ll never see the years of production that we’d been hoping for since first hearing his name, but we’ll always have the memories. Memories of when he brought the rain in his debut. Memories of the home run in the NLCS. Memories of that great big smile.
But more than what we’ll miss as fans, there are so many more that will miss him as their friend. We only get to see one aspect of a player’s life. We don’t get to see the impact he had on teammates or family, those who were family by blood and those who became like family. These things are impossible to measure, but based on the outpouring of love over the last 24 hours, it was larger than anyone could have anticipated.
It’s times like these that everything is brought into perspective. It allows us to remember that baseball players are human, just like the rest of us. It reminds us that life is fleeting and to spend every moment cherishing those we love. Rest in peace, Oscar.