Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Mitchell Boggs does not suck

"Everyone is a genius.  But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it's stupid."     - Albert Einstein

Mitchell Boggs may not be much of a tree-climber, but dude can swim.

Remember last year's infallible trio of Mujica, Boggs, & Motte?  I think it's a good example of how guys fit into certain roles.  Once placed in a position to succeed, they either sink or swim, but I think it's key knowing which players can, will, and don't fit in certain situations.

Yadi Molina?  Not a leadoff hitter.  For a variety of reasons, you wouldn't want this, but  for a guy who excels at hitting behind the runner to bat leadoff would not make a lot of sense.  Matt Holliday?  Probably don't want him batting 8th in the order.  Descalso?  I'll bet we never ever see him hitting cleanup.  I mean, you wouldn't hit the pitcher anywhere know what, nevermind on that last one.

My point is that if you put players in a position where they can have success, and avoid putting them in situations where they just don't fit, you're more likely to have positive outcomes.

The Mitchell Boggs we saw last year had a career year, it's true.  Career bests in:

  • ERA (2.21)
  • W & W% (4 & .800)
  • G (78)
  • IP (73.1)
  • R (20)
  • ER (18)
  • BB (21, also had 21 in 2011)
  • K (58)
  • BF (296)
  • ERA+ (174)
  • WHIP (1.050)
  • H/9 (6.9)
  • K/9 (7.1, also had 7.1 in '11, '09)
  • K/BB (2.76)
Dude.   That's nearly every basic category that he set or tied career bests in during last year's campaign.

So, why the dramatic drop off so far this year?

There are (at least) two sides to this argument.  One camp may point to career highs in IP, G, & BF, and say he was overworked, and put too much on his arm, and that this year is showing the impact of that.  Another side of the story is that this is who Mitchell Boggs is.  While he did reach career highs and lows in numerous categories, for the most part, he wasn't blowing the old number away.  There are a few exceptions to that, such as ERA, ERA+, and maybe WHIP.  But for the most part, these are Mitchell Boggs' numbers.

He's not a lousy pitcher.  In fact, he's been a very effective 8th inning guy.  But a closer, he is (apparently) not.  One must now hope that his confidence in his ability hasn't been shaken too much to recover and pitch well again.  I don't suspect that's the case, personally.

Maybe there's another combination of bullpen guys in roles that can work in Motte's absence.  The Mujica thing seems to be off to a good start, anyway.  In any event, as long as Matheny is able to find a way to put guys in a position to succeed, that's the foundation for success.  If the players don't perform, that's on them.  Sometimes knowing the difference can be a pretty tough challenge in and of itself.

"Mitchell Boggs is a good bullpen pitcher.  But if you judge him by his ability to close games and earn saves, you will convince yourself that he sucks."      - Me

Friday, April 19, 2013

Coming soon: A 26th man on the Cards' roster

Jake Westbrook's less-than-stellar outing was washed away along with the rest of the game when the rains came down in Pittsburgh on Tuesday night.  The makeup date hasn't been officially scheduled yet, but according to my somewhat certain memory of a source that I think I might've seen on twitter, the makeup will occur during the Cards' next series at PNC Park.

The four-game set against the Bucs will be July 29th through August 1st, a Monday through Thursday series.  All four of these games are scheduled for 6:05 St. Louis time, with the before/after games being Sunday @ ATL at 1:35 (CDT) and Friday @CIN at 7:10pm Central.  I'd guess Tuesday or Wednesday would be the twinbill.

Last year, Major League Baseball made a slight modification to the rules for situations just like this.  When a double-header is scheduled at least 48 hours ahead of time, teams are now allowed to expand the roster to 26, to allow for an extra starting pitcher for that game.  In the past, managers had to deal with starting rotations that weren't getting their normal rest, and had to juggle rotation spots, burn a long man out of the 'pen, or some other creative solution to try to keep the team's arms in a good situation, and keep the team out of trouble.

When these two teams square off at PNC again this summer, it won't be Clint Hurdle's first time with "the 26th man" on the roster.  Last year, there was a rainout between these Pirates and the Colorado Rockies (who were snowed out earlier this week!), and both teams took advantage of the new rule.  About last year's situation, Pirates GM, Neal Huntington was quoted as saying, "If it's a one-day stay, you can bring them up and (send them) back."  He added, "Having an extra arm gives you the flexibility to cover 18 innings in one day."

No matter how it shakes out, it might be an opportunity to see one of the young arms we've heard so much about recently from the Cardinals minor league system.  Let your imagination run wild:  Martinez?  Gast?  Wacha??

Only time, Mo, and Matheny will tell.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

He who shall remain [nick]nameless

Maybe it's just me.  Plenty of the things I write about here are, and maybe it's just because of all the youth coming up to the major-league level in such a short span that has taken things over the top.  But, for the love of "Pete (Kozmania, Koztastic, Wizard of Koz, Kozmo, Kozzy Kozbourne, Koz of death, Kozts too much, Koz I said so) Kozma", can we PLEASE, PLEASE lay off the infatuation with every single player having to have a clever nickname?

Please?  I'm begging you.  I'll give you a dollar.

See, when Uncle Walt was at the helm, he had an affinity for the veteran guys.  Woody Williams, Eric Davis (you might have forgotten he played in St. Louis), Larry Walker, Will Clark...etc.  Don't get me wrong, it was great seeing those guys in a Cards uni, and their contributions here won't soon be forgotten.  (and I know, "The thrill" was a nickname)  The advantage to bringing over a veteran guy is that, if he's going to have a nickname, he's probably already got it by now.  Cardinal nation on the whole need not scramble (not "scrabble") to come up with some clever something-or-other that everyone starts using all the time.  But, then Walt left.

The reason we didn't see a rush of newbies and their sure-to-follow horrible nicknames was because, even though Mo wasn't quite as keen on old blood as his former boss, he has dabbled here & there (you hadn't already forgotten about Smoltz, have you?).  Overall, the Cards current GM is a bit more favorable when it comes to younger guys than his predecessor.  The manager is the reason we didn't generally see a lot of opportunity to butcher & contort some kid's name into a not-actually-funny nickname that doesn't fit.  It's no secret, TLR liked his established players, and his veterans--some would (figuratively) say he "hated the kids".  It's awful that I truly felt it necessary to insert "figuratively" into that last sentence.  Some people.

But now, all of that has changed.  Now we've got Mo (er, John Mozeliak, that is) & Matheny running the show, and younger players can be found all over the diamond at Busch Stadium.

Some of the nicknames, however lame they may be, are at least somewhat recognizable as to why that nickname might 've been chosen for that player.  I think of "Applesauce" for Jason Motte.  Are you kidding me?  "Applesauce"?  ...for a CLOSER?  ...who throws 100mph??  Why not just play the theme song from Care Bears when he comes in from the bullpen?  What batter is EVER going to be rattled/thrown off their game in fear from some dude who is supposedly a badass, but his nickname is Applesauce?  Nobody, that's who.

Ever seen Mariano come in, and hear "Enter Sandman" over the loudspeakers?  Ever seen Trevor Hoffman come in, and hear "Hells Bells" booming throughout the stadium?  I have.  It's a little bit different than encountering some applesauce.

I get the um, "connection": Jason Motte - Mott's Applesauce - Applesauce.  But a 4oz snack cup that your 4 year-old takes to daycare for their snack before they go lay down on their little cot for a nappy-poo isn't exactly intimidating.  As a matter of fact, just sitting here typing this, I'm gaining confidence that I could take a guy deep if his nickname is "applesauce", and could probably hit .360, .370 off him.  I would friggin' OWN "applesauce".  And I'm 5'3" on a good day.  Dude.  It's the opposite of intimidating.  You see, no one would fear the 'dread pirate applesauce', so there should be (have been) a better nickname for him (that is, if he MUST have one) this whole time.

Almost as bad?  Allen Craig - Allen Wrench - "The wrench".   You ever watch GSN?  Game Show Network?  Chuck Woolery used to host this show were you had to connect two completely unrelated words with 4 or 5 other words that were related to the other words, until you "complete the chain", and connect the two original words.  I'm not explaining it very well, but it's a lot like 6 degrees of Bacon.    Mmmmmmm, bacon.

Anyway, It's almost as if it's a race to see who can be the first to come up with a nickname that sticks, so they can point to the timestamp on their tweet at some point in the future, and claim all the glory for having come up with it.  You know, all that glory everybody always gives for coming up with nicknames?  Nevermind that it gets buried among the other suggestions they also threw out there (or worse, acted like everyone should already know about) when they tweeted/posted/said/texted (yes, I say "texted", not "text") to their friends.  The result?  An awful lot of horrible, horrible nicknames that, occasionally sick stick.

All the good nicknames are gone, anyway.  Every now & then a good one comes around, but when it does, it's natural, not forced.  Back in the day, dudes earned their nickname because of a way they went about the game, or a memorable play they were involved in.  Maybe a broadcaster came up with something on the spot.  Or maybe, a crowd at Ebbets Field was so overcome by one's ability to hit, they provided the greatest nickname in the history of baseball nicknames.  But THAT'S how nicknames should be born, not by an online social media frenzy.

Just to be clear, I'm not talking about names like "Waino" or "Yadi", I'm talking about manufactured nicknames, where fans take a square nickname and try to fit it into a round player.  Um, figuratively, of course.  #Awkward

"Scrabble?"  Ok, whatever.  I get it.
"Wizard of Koz"?  No.  Just, no.
"The Wrench"?
"Wolf Pup"?
"Disco Dirty Danny Double D"?
"Big City Mayonnaise" or whatever it is?  What in the eff is going ON here?!?

So, please stop trying to force nicknames on every player that pops out of that dugout.

That concludes my rant on nicknames.  Thank you for reading, have a nice weekend.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Nobody call 9-1-1 (or 9-1-2)


Nine runs.


In one inning.

It's SO MUCH more fun when the Cardinals are the ones scoring those 9 in one inning, like in the 4th on Sunday in SF, than when they're being scored on in the 9th on Monday's home opener against the visiting Reds.  (Still think the DH needs to come to the NL?)

9-1-2:  9 runs, in 1 inning, twice in 2 days.

But it's not a reason to go off the deep end (off either edge).  One of the many cliches you hear in baseball is not to get too high or too low.  There are plenty of good reasons for that.

Take Sunday, for instance.  Matt Cain pitched 2 2/3 innings, and surrendered 9 earned runs.  But, it's one start.  One of probably 33 starts he'll make this year, and we all know who Matt Cain is.  He's a Cy Young-award caliber pitcher who is the number one starter for the reigning world champions.  Opening Day, all he did was throw 6 innings, scattering four hits and striking out eight Dodgers, in what is a pretty potent Los Angeles lineup.  He's pretty good.

A wise man once said, "These are men, not machines."

Cain had an off day Sunday, and the redbirds happened to be lucky enough to be the ones with the bats when that day came around.  I hope it made for as much chaos, fun, and trash-talking in your fantasy leagues as it did mine.

Ah, but those who live by the inverted serious number, die by the inverted serious number.  Those nine runs would come back and be scored at the Cards home opener the next day.  Unfortunately for the Cardinals (and any fantasy owners who had Mitchell Boggs), those 9 runs came against the the ninth inning...of a tied game.  Those, my friends, are difficult circumstances to recover from.  And, in case you'd not heard, the Cardinals did not recover from those circumstances, thus dropping the home opener 13-4.

But, these are the 11-time world champs, and this is a deep pitching staff.

A few hours ago (as I type this), Motte's elbow ligament appears to have taken a turn that would make the bullpen, and staff as a whole, a bit more shallow.  Couple that with the fluky performance Boggs turned in the day before that kind of news breaks, and half of Cardinal nation thinks the sky is falling.  To help comfort any of you who may be feeling that way, I just checked the calendar, and found some good news: There are 155 more games to be played this year--more games than several decades of full seasons of the game's history.

I always sort of think there are going to be about 10 games a year where you win a blowout, and ten or so games a year where you're going to lose a blowout.  Baseball reference even has categories for things like this.  The important thing in my mind, in those games, is not to screw yourself for the next day or two or series by burning a bullpen or bench.  Let guys get  their work in, if needed, and just move on the next day.  Which is what the Cards need to do, and as I look up over the screen of this laptop right now, seem to be doing just fine.  Arroyo perfect through 5, and it's now 5-1 good guys, bottom of the 8th.

Can't wait to see who comes in to close this one out.   (c:

Friday, April 5, 2013

Cards rattled by snakes, lose opening series

As I'm sitting down to write this, I can almost audibly hear Beavis in my ear John Kerry-ing back and forth about the series the Cards just wrapped up with the DBacks. "That was cool.  No, no, wait, it sucked.  That sucked.  Um, except for, like, that part that was cool.  That part was cool.  The rest of it sucked, though.  It sucked.  FIRE!!!!"

Aaaaand now I've just lost the 7 readers I had by mentioning Beavis in my first paragraph.

If I'm going to take a few things away from this opening series, it is true, some of those things are cool, and some of them...well, some of them suck.  Let me be clear about the whole starting-a-game-at-like-9pm-then-playing-til-almost-two-thirty-in-the-morning-on-a-weeknight-to-BEGIN-the-season thing?  As a fan, it most definitely sucks.  It's tough enough getting through the week when they take a 6-game road trip out west in mid-season.  Kicking off April that way?  I've not worked up to that just yet.  Color me exhausted.

I'll tell you what was cool, though, Jamie Garcia's performance, that's what.  5 2/3 IP, surrendering 1ER on 2 hits?  I'll take it!  Not to mention he did it in a place not called Busch Stadium.  That 1:1 K/BB ratio (4ea) isn't great, but it's easy enough to overlook for now.  I really like how after Montero left the yard in the 2nd, Garcia didn't lose his mind & fall apart.  Instead, he came back, went after (and retired) the next three batters he faced.  I didn't do the research to find out exactly how long it's been, but it's been quite a while since I can recall Jamie giving up a bomb, then retiring the next three he faced.  Jamie's 6th got off to a good start when he induced back-to-back groundball outs.  Unfortunately, he couldn't finish the job, walking the next three to load the bases to punch his ticket to the showers.  Mujica came in and ended the threat, stranding the bases full of snakes.  So, while not the greatest performance you'll ever see Garcia make, there were plenty of positives to take away from his outing.  There are no shortage of things to work on, but the things you can't teach, like what's between his ears, seemed to look good night on Tuesday.

Wainwright was cruising on Monday, until that comebacker hit him in the arm.  He was leaving a lot of stuff up after that, and it caught up to him.  A throwing error by Descalso proved costly in the home half of the 5th, and a couple of baserunning blunders were responsible for taking the redbirds out of a couple of opportunities that seemed to be unfolding.  It just sort of felt like things weren't clicking on Monday night's opener, like the team was covered in funk, and just couldn't shake it.  Probably LaRussa's fault somehow--I saw where he was in the building that night.

Then, there was the marathon 16-inning game.


The longest game I've ever been to was a 20-inning affair vs. the Mets a few years ago.  It's a great story to tell, and maybe I will another time, but now isn't the time or place.  But, I can tell you first-hand that I didn't miss one pitch of that game, and somehow the 6:53 it took to play seemed like a good amount of live baseball to watch.  But that game started at 3:10 on a Saturday afternoon, and as I told my (now) wife as we left that night, "I can't even begin to tell you how many time I've been to a 7:10 game that ended earlier than this one did.".  (It was our first baseball game date, and she didn't complain one bit while sitting through 20 innings.  How could I NOT marry her?!)  True story.

But this 16-inning game was, if nothing else, a decent opportunity to get bullpen guys some chances to throw.  Matheny sent 7 different Cardinals pitchers to the bump Wednesday night/Thursday morning, and there was no shortage of opportunities for hitters coming off the bench.  In a cruel twist of fate, the Cards came out on the wrong end of a 10-9 ballgame.  It was a decent chance for guys who might have otherwise not seen action for another couple of days to get a little work in, which never hurts.

Don't misunderstand me for being cavalier about the loss, though.  I've long said that every game you win in April is one you don't have to worry about in August or September.  Once the tallies start piling up in the loss column, there's nothing you can do about it.  I'm merely pointing out that at least some good came from the extra-long game.

Also good?  Having Thursday off!  The official time of the game was 5:32, the longest game in Chase Field history.  Rather fortuitous that the team didn't have to shower, and get on the bus to head straight to the airport and fly to San Francisco right away.  They would've been fortunate to travel, land, get to the team hotel, and get settled in and to sleep much before the sun came up.  Realistically, this might have been how it went down anyway.  But, at least they didn't have to do so, only to get up after a few hours of sleep and go start a series against the Zito and the Giants.

After all, last time we faced Zito and the Giants, we had a 3-1 NLCS lead, and were playing on a Friday night in our home ballpark and couldn't win.