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Tag:Jon Jay
Posted on: December 22, 2011 10:57 am
 

Homegrown Team: St. Louis Cardinals

Albert Pujols

By C. Trent Rosecrans


What if players were only permitted to stay with the team that originally made them a professional? No trades, no Rule-5 Draft, no minor or major league free agency ... once you are a professional baseball player, you stay in that organization. This series shows how all 30 teams would look. We give you: Homegrown teams. To view the schedule/past entries of this feature, click here.

While most of the teams on our list would love a do-over for 2011 -- or at least part of it, the season somehow worked out pretty well for the St. Louis Cardinals, a team that took advantage of an epic collapse and capitalized upon its chance by winning the World Series. The moves made by both the current management team and former executives, all worked out for one glorious season in St. Louis, so it's another example of why the exercise is for fun only. But there's one thing our Homegrown Cardinals have that the 2012 version doesn't -- Albert Pujols

Lineup

1. Jon Jay, RF
2. Placido Polanco, 3B
3. Albert Pujols, 1B
4. Allen Craig, LF
5. Colby Rasmus, CF
6. Yadier Molina, C
7. Brendan Ryan, SS
8. Skip Schumaker, 2B

Starting Rotation

1. Dan Haren
2. Jaime Garcia
3. Kyle McClellan
4. Chris Narveson
5. Lance Lynn

Bullpen

Closer - Chris Perez
Set up - Mitchell Boggs, Fernando Salas, Luke Gregerson, Blake Hawksworth, Eduardo Sanchez

Notable Bench Players

The bench has some interesting players -- you have defensive replacements in Jack Wilson and Coco Crisp, some pop in Brett Wallace, J.D. Drew and Rick Ankiel, as well as some versatility in Daniel Descalso. Daric Barton's there, too, but not sure where or when he'd ever play considering Pujols is still a Cardinal here.

What's Good?

Any lineup with Pujols is not bad -- but it's not overwhelming, either. While lacking some of the firepower from Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman, there are still some passable players. While there's no Chris Carpenter or Adam Wainwright, there is Dan Haren and the top two of the rotation are good. The strength of this team -- and Tony La Russa would certainly love this -- is the bullpen. Not only are their Cardinals holdovers of Motte, Boggs, Salas and Sanchez, you also add Perez, Gergerson and Hawksowrth, giving this team plenty of relief options. 

What's Not?

After the top two in the rotation, the rest are pretty pedestrian. McClellan is not only in the rotation -- where he started in 2011 -- but he's also going to be either a No. 3 or No. 4. The outfield isn't terrible, but when you take away Berkman and Holliday, it's going to pale in comparison.

Comparison to real 2011

Let's just get to the point, the margin for error for the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals was razor thin, but they stayed on the right side of it just enough to go on to one of the most exciting, improbable runs of all time to capture the World Series title. There is no way this hypothetical team could do anything close to what the real Cardinals did. The offensive firepower isn't the same and there's no Chris Carpenter. No, this team doesn't just fail to win the World Series or make the playoffs, it fails to reach .500 and probably finishes in the bottom half of our made-up NL Central.

Next: Ranking the Homegrown teams.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 29, 2011 12:55 am
 

2011 World Champs: St. Louis Cardinals



By Matt Snyder


Another season gone, another disappointment for 29 teams as one is immortalized forever -- this time around it's the St. Louis Cardinals. Let’s take a look back at 2011 and forward in Eye on Baseball’s R.I.P. series...

Team name: St. Louis Cardinals
Record: 90-72, 2nd place in NL Central, NL wild card winner. Won NLDS 3-2 over Phillies, won NLCS 4-2 over Brewers, won World Series over Rangers 4-3.
Manager: Tony La Russa
Best hitter: Albert Pujols -- .299/.366/.541, 37 HR, 99 RBI, 105 R, 9 SB
Best pitcher: Chris Carpenter -- 11-9, 3.45 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 191 K, 237.1 IP

2011 SEASON RECAP

The Cardinals entered the spring as the favorite in the wide-open NL Central, but nearly immediately lost ace Adam Wainwright to a torn ulnar-collateral ligament. So he underwent Tommy John surgery and the Cardinals were largely written off as a serious threat to the Brewers and the defending division champion Reds. A 2-6 start didn't help matters, especially with Matt Holliday having to undergo an appendectomy. Oh, and Pujols was struggling out of the gate. But a change at the back-end of the bullpen and Lance Berkman's re-emergence as a big-time slugger helped straighten things out. By the end of April, the Cardinals were 16-11 and in first place. A bad June and mediocre July weren't enough to bury the Cardinals, but the Brewers huge surge in August seemed to end the postseason hopes for St. Louis. There was no catching Milwaukee. The Cardinals finished 23-9 and ran down the Braves in the wild card, advancing into the playoffs when the Braves lost in extra innings on the final day of the regular season. The fun times extended all the way until the World Series, as the Cardinals took down by the Phillies and Brewers en route to their 18th NL championship. An insane comeback in Game 6 of the World Series paved the way for the Cardinals 11th World Championship.

FREE AGENTS

Yadier Molina, C (club option)
Gerald Laird, C
Albert Pujols, 1B
Rafael Furcal, SS (club option)
Nick Punto, IF utility
Corey Patterson, OF
Edwin Jackson, SP
Arthur Rhodes (club option)
Octavio Dotel (club option)

2012 AUDIT

Everything boils down to what happens with Pujols. If the Cardinals can re-sign him, they'll have essentially the same team in 2012 as they had in 2011, but with a healthy Adam Wainwright taking Edwin Jackson's vacated spot in the rotation -- there's no way they'll have enough money to keep Jackson after extending Berkman and Carpenter while keeping Pujols, Wainwright and Molina. Obviously, if the Cardinals do come back with a similar team and Wainwright is healthy you can expect them to once again be a big-time playoff contender. 

OFFSEASON FOCUS

The biggest focus will be to retain Pujols and I firmly believe they will. What they have to do in order to get him to stay dictates flexibility elsewhere, but most of the biggest questions have already been answered. Carpenter, Berkman and Wainwright are locked up. Holliday already was. It actually seems like a sound strategy. Instead of taking maybe a few months to get Pujols' deal done and then trying to pick up the spare parts, the Cardinals know their budget and what their roster will look like around Pujols. It's one of the many reasons I believe they'll get him. There's obviously a plan in place.
  • Molina's option should and will be picked up.
  • There's not going to be enough money left to do much in the middle infield. They likely can't afford to pick up Furcal's option, so it's going to be some combination of Ryan Theriot, Skip Schumaker and Daniel Descalso, which is serviceable considering the strength of the rest of the lineup. Maybe they get Furcal to come back on a cheap one-year deal? He reportedly wants to stay and it's not like his value is sky-high.
  • David Freese (3B) and Jon Jay (CF) are going to be the everyday players all season, and both are plenty adequate in their current roles -- especially postseason hero Freese. Jason Motte will also be the full-time closer all season after showing he can do the job down the stretch. These are all full-season upgrades.
  • Keep an eye on Shelby Miller. Jake Westbrook is only going to be a bridge to when Miller can join the rotation. The 20-year-old right-hander was 9-3 with a 2.70 ERA and 89 strikeouts in 86 2/3 Double-A innings this season. It's very possible he's ready to get a shot by June or July. And maybe the Cardinals even plug Lance Lynn in the rotation instead of Westbrook at some point anyway. Expect Lynn to be used as insurance for injury issues -- or even to save Wainwright's arm a bit -- early in the season.
  • If Pujols doesn't re-sign, the possibilities are nearly endless. They'll have a chunk of money to play with an a desperate need to upgrade the offense. Maybe go after Jose Reyes to set the table for Holliday, Berkman and Freese? The non-signing of Pujols is a bridge we'll cross if it actually happens, because at this point I just don't see him not going back to St. Louis.
For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 25, 2011 7:09 pm
Edited on: October 27, 2011 3:13 pm
 

World Series Game 6: Something's gotta give



By Matt Snyder


Rangers at Cardinals, 7:05 p.m. CT, Busch Stadium, St. Louis. Rangers lead series, 3-2.

ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals are in a familiar position: Their backs are against the wall. For pretty much all of September the Cardinals were in "win every game" mode and then also trailed the Phillies two games to one in the NLDS. Thus far, they've come through every single time when they've had to. Will the magic happen again? If so, they'll win Games 6 and 7 in front of their hometown fans and bring home an 11th World Series title. And Game 6 starter Jaime Garcia has been here before.

"It feels the same way that it did the first playoff game that I pitched this year, same exact feeling," Garcia said, when asked about pitching in a do-or-die game. "Obviously this is the World Series, a little different, but to me personally, I try not to put extra pressure on myself or extra expectations. I'm just going to basically go out there and do my thing."

"Going through that process in the month of September, the last five or six starts that I made in the season, I kind of had the same mentality that I've had since the playoffs started."

World Series Coverage
But, in order to avoid elimination one more time, the Cardinals will have to beat the Rangers in two consecutive games -- something that hasn't happened to Texas since August. And they'll also have to beat Colby Lewis, who is 4-1 with a 2.22 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in seven career postseason starts. Of course, he was outdueled by Garcia in Game 2, which was eventually decided with a Cardinals' blown save.

Rangers Game 6 starter Colby Lewis has been here before, kind of. He was the pitcher for the clinching game against the Yankees in last season's ALCS.

"Well, you definitely think when you're in a kid you want to be in this position, be on this stage to go to the World Series," Lewis said. "I think just being in the situation that we were last year throughout the playoffs, you know, gives you more of an edge, more relaxation, that's for sure, because knowing what's expected or you know how to react to certain things."

Also, which series star will carry the offensive load? Mike Napoli and Albert Pujols are the obvious MVP candidates for the series right now; it only depends on which team wins.

Something has to give. Either the Rangers are going to lose two in a row or the Cardinals are going to finally be defeated. Whichever team survives will be the champion.

PITCHING MATCHUP

Garcia vs. Rangers:
Garcia thoroughly dominated the Rangers in Game 2, working seven shutout innings while giving up just three hits and one walk. He struck out seven. He looked every bit as masterful as the stat line suggests. That's the only time he's ever seen the Rangers, so no regular has more than three at-bats against him. Not surprisingly, no one has more than one hit against Garcia, either.

Lewis vs. Cardinals: Lewis went 6 2/3 innings in Game 2, allowing just four hits and one earned run. And remember, that one run scored after he was out of the game -- as Alexi Ogando had entered to face Allen Craig and gave up an RBI single for the second straight night. No expected Cardinals starters have seen Lewis more than four times except Lance Berkman, who is just 2-for-15 against Lewis.

LINEUPS

Rangers Cardinals
No. Name Pos No. Name Pos
1 Ian Kinsler 2B 1 Rafael Furcal SS
2 Elvis Andrus SS 2 Skip Schumaker CF
3 Josh Hamilton LF 3 Albert Pujols 1B
4 Michael Young 1B 4 Lance Berkman RF
5 Adrian Beltre 3B 5 Matt Holliday LF
6 Nelson Cruz RF 6 David Freese 3B
7 Mike Napoli C 7 Yadier Molina C
8 Craig Gentry CF 8 Nick Punto 2B
9 Colby Lewis RHP 9 Jaime Garcia LHP


NOTES

• The following starting pitchers will be available in relief for Game 6, per their managers' statements Wednesday: Derek Holland, C.J. Wilson (maybe, but if it goes to Game 7, "he certainly will be available for the seventh one," said Washington.), Edwin Jackson, Kyle Lohse and Jake Westbrook (who had already been pitching out of the bullpen). Also, in an answer that was met with laughter, La Russa said the following when asked if Chris Carpenter was available in relief in Game 6: "No chance ... little chance."

• Nick Punto is 2-for-4 with a walk against Lewis.

Jon Jay has struggled mightily at the plate this postseason, as he's hitting just .157/.246/.196. In the World Series, he's 0-for-14. Thus, Skip Schumaker is getting the start in center.

• The World Series has been a 3-2 margin 61 previous times, and in 41 of those, the team with the 3-2 lead has gone on to win it all.

• Napoli has nine RBI so far in the series. The record for an entire World Series is 12, set by Bobby Richardson in the 1960 Fall Classic. With one more RBI, Napoli will tie Sandy Alomar Jr. and Yogi Berra for the most RBI by a catcher in the World Series. Also, no one has driven home at least nine since Alomar Jr. and Moises Alou both did so in 1997.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 23, 2011 2:22 am
Edited on: October 23, 2011 2:49 am
 

Grading Game 3 of the World Series



By Matt Snyder


ARLINGTON, Texas -- It's grading time once again, as the Cardinals won 16-7 in Game 3 of the 2011 World Series. They now hold a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7. Let's give out some grades.

The Cardinals offense pounded out 15 hits -- including four home runs and three doubles -- while also drawing six walks. That means they hit .357 with a .438 on-base percentage and a .714 slugging percentage in the game. There's going to be a lot of attention on Albert Pujols -- and with damn good reason -- but it wasn't just him. Yadier Molina had two doubles and four RBI while Lance Berkman and David Freese both had multi-hit games. Jon Jay was the only starter who failed to gather a hit. And let us not forget Allen Craig got the scoring started with a home run in the first. By the way, this is an A+. Maybe even an A++ (do they still give those in elementary school?).

You can't give an A to a player from the losing team, so we'll throw Adrian Beltre here. His day was lost in the shuffle because he didn't hit a home run or make an awful defensive play, but Beltre had a great game. He went 4-for-5 with a double, an RBI, two runs and his usual silky-smooth defense.

We can't exactly say Lance Lynn was great, because he wasn't. In just 2 1/3 innings, Lynn gave up three hits, two walks, one run and allowed an inherited runner to score. But following Kyle Lohse and Fernando Salas meltdowns, Lynn needed to get some outs. At least he did the job of holding down the mighty Rangers offense just enough through the middle innings, giving the Cardinals' offense the chance to put this game out of reach. So, hey, we'll throw Lynn a C.

You can't give an F to a player on the winning team, but c'mon Jon Jay. Your teammates pound out 15 hits, 16 runs, three doubles and four home runs and you can't even manage a measly single? Jay went 0-for-5 with a strikeout, and is surely being roundly mocked by his teammates for his lackluster day on such an opportune night to fatten the stat line.

The Rangers take pride in their defense. They like the fact that they make things easier on their pitchers. Several players in the locker room told me as much after the defense probably won Game 2 for them. A great argument could be made that it cost them Game 3, or at least cost them a chance to keep up with Pujols and Co. Whine about the bad call all you want, Rangers fans, but Ian Kinsler's throw made it possible. Kinsler also had an error earlier in the game, just as Elvis Andrus did later in the contest. Mike Napoli's awful throw home, meanwhile, is what broke the game wide open for St. Louis.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 22, 2011 9:35 pm
Edited on: October 23, 2011 4:04 am
 

Bad call, defense open door to huge inning



By Matt Snyder


ARLINGTON, Texas -- It all started so innocently. Albert Pujols hit a rocket single to left field, but that isn't really surprising. Then Matt Holliday hit what should have been a double play. Had it been completed, the Rangers would have been facing Lance Berkman with the bases empty and two outs, trailing by just one.

But Ian Kinsler made an errant throw and Mike Napoli was ruled to have not tagged Holliday. Replays showed Napoli was correct, and that it was a blown call by first base umpire Ron Kulpa. Also note that Holliday was knocked off balance by the tag, and fell down as he crossed the bag. He doesn't usually just fall down when running through first base.

Here's a good GIF, courtesy of SB Nation:



And everything came unraveled from there.

World Series, Game 3
Berkman singled. David Freese doubled in one. The Rangers intentionally walked Yadier Molina. It was 2-0 at the time, and a decent deficit could have been salvaged. And then the defense faltered.

Mike Napoli, a catcher by trade, was playing first base. Cardinals center fielder Jon Jay hit a weak grounder to Napoli, who made an off-balanced, errant throw to the plate, allowing two runs to score. Ryan Theriot then followed with an RBI single.

Just like that, it was 5-0 Cardinals through 3 1/2 innings.

There were three mistakes in the Cardinals' half of the inning. Two by the Rangers' defense and one by the first base umpire. It's likely the home fans will mainly remember the one by the umpire, but should realize their defense needed to have a better inning, too. It's also worth mention that Kulpa was the umpire at second who made the great safe call on Kinsler's big ninth-inning Game 2 stolen base.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Posted on: October 16, 2011 11:50 pm
Edited on: October 17, 2011 1:24 pm
 

World Series preview: Rangers vs. Cardinals



By Matt Snyder


Talk about your clashes in historical pedigree.

The St. Louis Cardinals franchise began all the way back in 1882 (as the St. Louis Brown Stockings). After having just won the 2011 NL pennant, the Cardinals now have 18 NL titles and 10 World Series championships -- looking to add No. 11 in the next week and a half or so. The history of the franchise is loaded with Hall of Famers and transcendent personalities, and the city is often said to be one of the best baseball towns in the country. Manager Tony La Russa has been playing bullpen matchups since before Al Gore invented the Internet.

The Rangers' franchise, on the other hand, has only been around since 1961 (as the Washington Senators -- they moved to Texas and became the Rangers in 1972). Prior to 1996, the Rangers/Senators had never been to the playoffs. Prior to last season, they'd only won one playoff game in franchise history. The only individual Hall of Fame plaque with a Texas Rangers cap is Nolan Ryan's. Sitting right in the middle of die-hard football country, Arlington hasn't exactly been romanticized as a baseball hot spot. Manager Ron Washington took his first managing job in 2007.

Full playoff coverage
Of course, history has absolutely nothing to do with this series. The players are the ones who will win this series, not the uniforms or any flags in the respective stadiums honoring the past.

The Rangers are now making their second consecutive trip to the World Series and there's no doubt they're a current baseball powerhouse. Anyone who watched Game 6 of the ALCS can attest that the fans are as great as anywhere, too, because Rangers Ballpark was rocking.

These two teams have lots of similarities, too.

Both lost an ace before the season even began. The Rangers lost Cliff Lee to free agency while the Cardinals lost Adam Wainwright to a torn UCL in his throwing elbow -- requiring season-ending Tommy John surgery. Both offenses feature several power hitters while the bullpens got stronger down the stretch on the strength of midseason acquisitions and some roster/role tinkering. And both teams have been scorching hot for the past six or so weeks.

Sure, the Cardinals late surge got lots of attention and rightfully so. It's because they were running down the Braves from a double-digit deficit in the NL wild-card race. But check this out:

Rangers' September record: 19-6
Cardinals' September record: 18-8

Rangers' October record: 7-3
Cardinals' October record: 7-4

So if you're going to argue for the hotter team winning the series, you're picking the Rangers -- not the Cardinals. Since a Sept. 10 loss to the A's, the Rangers are 21-5. To put that in perspective, that's a 162-game pace of 131 wins. To reiterate, the Cardinals are playing exceptional baseball right now and deserve all the credit they've gotten for the huge comeback in the regular season and run in the playoffs, but let's not be fooled into thinking they come in hotter than their Texas-sized opponent.

TEAM INFORMATION

Texas Rangers (host Games 3, 4, 5*)
96-66, AL West winner.
ALDS: Beat Tampa Bay three games to one.
ALCS: Beat Detroit four games to two.
Manager: Ron Washington
Offensive ranks: 3rd in R, 2nd in HR, 1st in AVG, 5th in OBP, 2nd in SLG
Pitching ranks: 13th in ERA, 12th in K, 5th in WHIP

St. Louis Cardinals (host Game 1, 2, 6*, 7*)
90-72, NL wild card winner.
NLDS: Beat Philadelphia three games to two.
NLCS: Beat Milwaukee four games to two.
Manager: Tony La Russa
Offensive ranks: 5th in R, 13th in HR, 5th in AVG, 3rd in OBP, 6th in SLG
Pitching ranks: 12th in ERA, 21st in K, 15th in WHIP

*if necessary
[Note: All rankings were regular season and for the entire MLB]

POSITIONAL BREAKDOWN -- WHO HAS THE EDGE?

Catcher: Mike Napoli vs. Yadier Molina


Big offensive advantage to Napoli here, but Molina can hit, too. Big defensive advantage to Molina here, but we've seen what Napoli can do behind the plate this postseason. This is a tough call for many reasons. We're weighing Napoli's power stroke (30 HR in 369 at-bats this season) against Molina's ability to completely eliminate the opposing running game. Ultimately, it's a toss up between two really good players.

First base: Michael Young vs. Albert Pujols


Young is a very good hitter. A great one at times, including most of the 2011 season. He just became the first player in LCS history to record two extra-base hits in one inning. He's gotten some noise in the AL MVP argument. It's just that he's not Albert Pujols in any aspect of the game.

Second base: Ian Kinsler vs. Ryan Theriot


Theriot's a scrappy singles hitter who makes lots of baserunning mistakes. He's not a defensive liability at second like he was at short, but he's still not much more than just an average player. Even if Skip Schumaker can return at full health, the upgrade is pretty minor. Kinsler had 32 homers and 30 stolen bases in the regular season and is far superior with the glove. 

Shortstop: Elvis Andrus vs. Rafael Furcal


Andrus is a solid defender and base stealer, but not a very good hitter. Furcal has provided St. Louis a bit of a power-speed combo atop the order since his acquisition. It's a really close call here, but Furcal seems to be providing his team more of a spark at this point in time. Things could easily change by the second inning of Game 1, but we're going Furcal by a nose for now.

Third base: Adrian Beltre vs. David Freese


A healthy Freese has been a monumental boost for the Cardinals' offense, especially as Matt Holliday has dealt with some injuries. Freese was a really good hitter in the regular season and absolutely exploded in the NLCS. Beltre can match and exceed his firepower, though. Beltre had 32 regular-season homers and then went yard three times in the clinching ALDS Game 4 at Tampa Bay. He's also a great defender. Before the NLCS, Freese was underrated, but let's not overcorrect based upon six games. He closed the gap, but is still slightly behind Beltre overall.

Left field: David Murphy vs. Matt Holliday


When healthy, Holliday is an elite player. He's starting to look healthy based upon the last few games, too, so this is an easy call.

Center field: Josh Hamilton vs. Jon Jay


Jay isn't a bad player by any stretch, but he's out of his league here. When Hamilton can keep himself on the field, he's one of the most feared sluggers in the league, and will also sell out his body to make a big defensive play (see Game 6, for example).

Right field: Nelson Cruz vs. Lance Berkman


We cannot discount the season that Berkman, the NL Comeback Player of the Year, put together. He was great, and especially valuable early in the season when Holliday was hurt and Pujols was struggling. But Cruz still almost matched his power production despite playing 21 fewer games in the regular season. In the playoffs, Cruz has been the best hitter in baseball, not to mention that he's a much better defender than Berkman. This one would be a toss up, but Cruz's hot hand pushes him over the top. Put it this way, Cardinals fans: What if you could trade Berkman for Cruz straight up for the series? You'd do it. Don't lie.

Designated hitter


The designated hitter for the Rangers is a mix and match thing. Young or Napoli can be used there, which would get Mitch Moreland or Yorvit Torrealba into the lineup. It's also possible Washington goes with Endy Chavez or Craig Gentry in the outfield and uses Murphy at DH. So, essentially, we're judging the bench here. For the Cardinals, the smart money is on Berkman being used as the DH, which then puts Allen Craig in the outfield. So what we're really judging here is which offense benefits more from being able to use a DH and, oddly enough, the NL team here does. Craig is a much better offensive player than Moreland, Torrealba, Chavez or Gentry. So the three games in Texas will actually favor the Cardinals in this one aspect of the game, however small it is.

Starting rotation: C.J. Wilson, Colby Lewis, Matt Harrison, Derek Holland vs. Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia, Edwin Jackson, Kyle Lohse


Both rotations have good ability yet have been shaky at times. Holland and Garcia particularly struggled in their respective LCS'. Wilson and Carpenter both pitched like aces at several points throughout the regular season, but the deciding factor here is that Carpenter has shown he can carry his team in a big game. Wilson, meanwhile, is 1-4 with a 5.40 ERA and 1.40 WHIP in seven career postseason starts.

Bullpen: Neftali Feliz et al vs. Jason Motte et al


The fact that both teams won four of six games against their respective LCS opponents with zero quality starts tells you all you need to know about how good the bullpens are right now. The Cardinals' bullpen has significantly improved down the stretch, as Motte has stepped in as the closer -- despite not being "officially" named as such. Marc Rzepczynski has been a solid left-handed addition just as right-hander Octavio Dotel has gotten some really big outs. Especially after the NLCS, you have to say the Cardinals have a very strong bullpen right now. The way things have gone for Texas of late, though, it's even better. Scott Feldman and Alexi Ogando have proven to be an exceptional duo to bridge the gap from the starters to the potentially dominant Mike Adams and Neftali Feliz at the back-end.

Defense


Getting Furcal helped the Cardinals, as will being able to use Craig in right instead of Berkman when the games are played in Texas, but this isn't really a match. The two teams had virtually identical fielding percentages during the regular season, but that doesn't measure range. The advanced metrics that do measure range pretty heavily side with the Rangers here. If you just go by position, only at catcher and first base are the Cardinals clearly better. Everywhere else it's either debatable or definitely the Rangers.

PREDICTION

First of all, keep in mind all categories above aren't created equal. Having a slight edge at shortstop, for example, isn't near as important as having an edge in the bullpen. The position-by-position breakdown is just a snapshot at the different strengths and weaknesses of each team. Adding everything together, including the momentum and swagger heading into the World Series, the Rangers have a better offense, defense and bullpen. And while the Cardinals have been having all their happy flights, the Rangers haven't lost consecutive games since August 23-25. The Cardinals' run has been a great story and nothing would surprise us here, but we'll go with the St. Louis run ending when it runs into a more talented buzzsaw. Rangers in six.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 16, 2011 8:54 pm
 

Marcum exits early in Game 6

Shaun Marcum

By C. Trent Rosecrans

MILWAUKEE -- Before Game 6 of the NLCS on Sunday, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said the decision to start a struggling Shaun Marcum was "the right decision."

And it was. For the Cardinals.

Marcum was booed as he walked off the mound in the first inning, giving up four runs before his team took a single swing of the bat.

Even before David Freese hit a three-run homer, Roenicke had LaTroy Hawkins warming up in the bullpen. It took two very good defensive plays (and a questionable call by home plate umpire Mike Winters) to get the first two outs of the inning, as Marcum gave up a single to Jon Jay, a walk to Albert Pujols, an RBI single to Lance Berkman and Freese's homer in a four-run first. Marcum needed 27 pitches to get out of the inning.

Yuniesky Betancourt made a good running play on a popup by leadoff man Rafael Furcal in short left to start the inning before giving up a single to Jay. Jay stole second, and then after Pujols walked, Berkman singled and took second when Brewers center fielder Nyjer Morgan overthrew his cutoff man in a futile attempt to get Pujols at third.

The Brewers seemed to get the break they needed when Holliday hit a weak grounder back to the mound and Marcum scooped the ball to catcher Jonathan Lucroy to get Pujols at the plate. While the throw beat Pujols (barely), Lucroy tagged his back leg after his front leg had crossed the plate.

There wasn't much time to dwell on that, as Freese hit the first pitch he saw from Marcum over the fence in left. To give St. Louis a 4-0 lead.

Left-hander Chris Narveson started the second with the Brewers trailing 4-1 (Milwaukee's run came on a Corey Hart leadoff homer).

In three postseason starts, Marcum is on the hook for his third loss and pitched 9 2/3 innings, allowing 17 hits and 16 earned runs, good for a 14.90 ERA. 

"I really feel good about this decision," Roenicke said before the game. "Whether he pitches well tonight or whether he gets hit a little bit, this is the right decision. For this ball club, it's the right decision. And I've had many conversations with a lot of people in this organization that have been with us all year. This is definitely the right decision.

"It doesn't mean that he's going to go out and have a great game. I expect him to. I think he's definitely capable of doing it. He has not liked the way he's pitched the last couple of games. And I think he's going to have a good game today."

Roenicke was wrong, but his reasoning in sticking with Marcum was that he didn't want to go with Yovani Gallardo on short rest, and if he did, he had few other choices for a starter in Game 7.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 14, 2011 9:21 pm
 

Brewers defense comes up short early in Game 5

Corey Hart

By C. Trent Rosecrans

ST. LOUIS -- For the second time in three games, a ball went just off Corey Hart's glove, leading to runs for the Cardinals. Neither the ball hit by David Freese in the first inning of Game 3 on Wednesday, nor the double off the bat of Yadier Molina in the second inning of Game 5 on Friday were ruled an error -- nor should they have been. But both showed the small difference between scoring runs and preventing them.

With two on and one out in the second inning, the Cardinals catcher drove a ball deep to right off of Brewers starter Zack Greinke and Hart jumped near the fence, but the ball ticked off his glove, allowing one run to score and Molina to motor into second with a double. Molina and Freese would both score on an error by Jerry Hairston Jr. later in the inning, give St. Louis an early 3-0 lead.

On Wednesday, Hart had a shot at Freese's liner, but missed that one as well, allowing the fourth run of the first inning to score in an eventual 4-3 Cardinals victory.

The Brewers are not a very good defensive team and that could come back to hurt them in this series. Game 3 turned not only on Hart's play, but also Mark Kotsay's inability to catch Jon Jay's liner that started the first-inning rally.

After Molina's double, Hairston made a nice diving play to temporarily save two runs on Nick Punto's liner, but he then let Jaime Garcia's ground ball go between his legs, scoring two more.

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