Category Archives: Cardinals

Travis Wood is officially broken

Barring an improbable run from 14.5 back from the second Wild Card spot, the wins and losses don’t matter for the Cubs the rest of this season. So the Cubs 9-6 loss to the Cardinals yesterday is disheartening but not devastating.

What does matter are signs that the foundation pieces are doing well. And when you look at yesterday’s game from that perspective you get a mixed bag. Good on Antony Rizzo (2-4, 3-run HR) and Starlin Castro, and bad on Travis Wood.

The good: Castro has been miserable during July, hitting .222/.267/.370. He’s seen his average dip down into the low .280’s, which as strange as it sounds is odd to see. But maybe yesterday will be a jumping off point for him to get hot again. He went 3-4 with a triple. Being aggressive is in Castro’s baseball DNA and considering what he’s already accomplished in the majors he shouldn’t completely change it. But developing some more plate discipline would be huge, and it wouldn’t hurt to see his OBP not mirror his average.

That being said, in the “incredibly small, positive signs” category falls his first at bat yesterday. With a man on third and no out (a situation the Cubs seemingly always squander) Castro took five straight pitches to put himself in a 3-2 count. He then fouled off two Lance Lynn pitches and  hit a RBI single on the eighth pitch of the at bat. That kind of patience in an important, run-scoring situation is encouraging. And yes, I realize how pathetic it is to fixate on a first inning at bat of a loss, but that’s what we have to work with right now.

The bad: Wood, on the other hand, continued a downward spiral, allowing 8 earned runs over five innings. I’m not going to claim to be a pitching expert, but I can point out that according to Fangraphs, Wood has been throwing his slider much less, and his fastball much more during this bad streak (for whatever that is worth). He’s allowing more balls to leave the park, as he’s given up 9 home runs over his last three starts (including 5 yesterday).

He’s definitely looked the part of at worst a five starter thus far, especially since he’s left-handed. But that great four start stretch from the middle of June to the beginning of July has me wanting more. It’ll be something to follow as the season drones on.

 

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Cubs-Cardinals weekend preview

Game 1 (Friday, 1:20 p.m.): Lance Lynn (12-4, 3.10) v. Travis Wood (4-5, 4.33)

Game 2 (Saturday, 12:05 p.m.): Joe Kelly (1-3, 2.78) v. Jeff Samardzija (7-8, 4.25)

Game 3 (Sunday, 1:05 p.m.): Adam Wainwright (8-10, 4.31) v. Paul Maholm (9-6, 3.88)

Season series: Cardinals lead 7-4, outscoring the Cubs 63 to 33 in the process.

Overall: It’s odd to have two Cub-Cardinal weekend series in a row with no Sunday night game. But such is life when the Cubs aren’t holding up their end of the competitive bargain.

The Cubs recent string of good play at home has vaulted them above .500 at Wrigley (24-21). But should they repeat the 23-1 shellacking they took last weekend in St. Louis they’ll find themselves right back at .500.

It’s interesting that the Cardinals have outscored the Cubs by 30 this year, yet have “only” won 7 of the 11 games. With a run differential like that you’d figure they’d have won nearly all the games. But the 12-0 and 7-0 blowouts last weekend amount to a good chunk of that differential.

The Cardinals offense has been their strength this year, as they lead the majors in  team OBP (.342) and are second in BA (.274). The strength of their pitching staff has been the All-Star and former Ole Miss Rebel Lynn, who has rebounded from a rough stretch. From the middle to end of June he had three starts in which he gave up 5, 6, and 6 runs, and didn’t go more than 5 innings in any of those games.

Wood needs to rebound. Image courtesy zimbio.com.

But unfortunately for the Cubs he has bounced back nicely. In his past three games he has gone 19 innings giving up only one run (including 6 shutout innings against the Cubs last Sunday). In fact this season Lynn is 3-0 with a 0.94 ERA against the Cubs. He’ll be opposed by Wood, who is taking Matt Garza‘s spot in the rotation. Wood has had two bad outings in a row, and this will be a big start to see if he can stabilize and continue what otherwise has been a fine first year in Chicago.

Samardzija has been better at home this season (3-3, 3.68 ERA, 3.29 K/BB as opposed to 4-5, 4.71, 2.42 K/BB on the road), so it’ll be nice to see him back at Wrigley. He’ll be opposed by Kelly, who has been very effective in the first eight starts of his career. Of course the Cardinals have a call-up contributing immediately, right? No matter how much their system gets slammed they always pull productive players out of thin air. It’s infuriating.

Anthony Rizzo is my player to watch for the Cubs (but isn’t he always?). This will be the second team he’s seen for the second time (the Mets were the first), and he did okay in St. Louis last weekend, going 3-12 with a walk. He’d been in a power slump since the break, but broke out of that with a home run on Wednesday in Pittsburgh. I’ll be interested in this series, and the rest of the year, to see how he fares as teams see him more and more. Can he stay one step ahead of the league, so that he adjusts to it before it adjusts to him?

For the Cardinals my player to watch is Allen CraigMatt HollidayYadier Molina, and Carlos Beltran are big names, and so is David Freese after last October. All are having good seasons, but so is the semi-unheralded Craig. Mike Matheny has had trouble getting him in the lineup, because he’s basically a corner outfield/first base guy, and thus a challenge is presented with Holliday, Beltran and Lance Berkman on the roster.

But when Craig has gotten in games he has hit, and hit well (.299/.365/.570). He’s also hit it hard with 14 HR’s and 18 2B’s in 249 plate appearances. His .936 OPS is tied with Holliday for the team lead. Matheny will need to channel some of that maddening Tony La Russa creativity to get Craig more playing time.

Yadier Molina: The 15 million dollar man

This past week the Cardinals locked Yadier Molina into a contract that will keep him in St. Louis through 2017, and that makes him the second-highest paid catcher in major league baseball.

Why am I smiling? Well I did just get guaranteed a boatload of money. Image courtesy zimbio.com.

The yearly dollar amount fluctuates, but basically hovers around $15 million for the life of the deal. When I sat down to write this post I had it in my mind that I’d be gladly pointing out why this a big mistake for the Cardinals. But as I did a little bit of research my opinion changed.

While living in Cardinal territory for six years has soured me to everything St. Louis baseball-related, I tried to keep a level-head while looking into this.

My first thought was that unless you are a once-in-a-generation catcher (like Mike Piazza or Joe Maurer), you simply don’t get that type of money playing that position. In 2011, only three catchers made over $12 million. One of them, Jorge Posada, is now retired. That leaves Maurer, Victor Martinez and now Molina as the only catchers making that much money. Martinez is hardly a catcher anymore (only 26 starts there last year) and Maurer may be headed in that direction too. So it is conceivable that in a couple years Molina will be the only actual catcher making that kind of money.

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