All posts by Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.

Forbes: Busch tenth-best ballpark


Part of the annual series of Forbes articles on the game of baseball is an assessment of what they call “America’s Best Ballparks”. A process was developed to rate all 30 major league baseball stadiums in four primary categories – affordability, accessibility, fan participation and quality of concessions.

The St. Louis Cardinals came in at the end of the top third in MLB in tenth place. The National League Central had a very good showing as the Cards placed just fourth in their division. Pittsburgh’s PNC Bank Park was third overall, Wrigley Field fourth and Milwaukee’s Miller Park came in ninth. Behind Busch are Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati, ranked 14th, with Houston’s tricked up Minute Maid Park at 22nd.

The affordability measure came from the 2009 Fan Cost Index compiled by Team Marketing, which I highlighted here recently. The FCI combines standard prices for a family of four to purchase tickets, concessions, parking and souvenirs at each stadium.

Each ballpark was rated on accessibility based on the number of different types of transportation available for fans. Fan participation is a simple capacity-filled measure – each stadium’s average attendance as a percentage of capacity over the past three years.

The ballparks were assigned to a numerical ranking from one to 30 in each of the four categories and the four were averaged to form the overall list. Rather than stop there, they created a scorecard that looks to be a bit convoluted by changing each ranking into a letter grade from A to D. Rather than try to describe it, you can read the details here.

Here are the scores for Busch, with a fifth measure, called intangibles:

Intangibles: B+
Fan Participation: A-
Accessibility: B+
Affordability: B-
Food: B

Not surprisingly, the fans power Busch’s best ranking while the prices are least competitive, yet they are still viewed to be better than most.

Cardinals Washington Whispers – 05/03/09


To close out the 4-2 road trip, we waited multiple hours for the rain to stop in Washington on Sunday. Here is a rough approximation of the events.

1:00 p.m. Announcement of 1:35 p.m. start, but the tarp wasn’t even off yet. Steady rain.

1:30 p.m. Tarp removed, Kyle Lohse pulled from start in favor of Kyle McClellan, who as the union rep was also a part of the decision. New start announced for 2:00.

2:00 p.m. Tarp back on, no announce time. Rain slows shortly after.

2:30 p.m. Nats president Stan Kasten talks with the press. Still wants to try to get game in.

3:15 p.m. Tarp drained off and put back on.

3:30 p.m. Game finally called with no makeup date yet.

3:45 p.m. Rain stopped – at least for a short while.

Tony La Russa spoke with the press prior to Sunday’s game as always. I will forego the details of the discussion about how he wanted to play the game since it is moot.

I will share one comment. One writer asked Tony if the weather dictated any of his line up choices. His reply: “I should put the guys out there I don’t care about?” Then he answered the question with Pujols as the example. “Albert didn’t start yesterday because his legs were achy, but he’s playing today. These guys just have to play under control.”

It is interesting to note the manager’s comments on P.J. Walters, who tossed two innings on Saturday and was the only reliever not “hot” on Sunday. After these comments, the decision was made to send Walters back to Memphis with Brad Thompson returning to St. Louis. Look for that to be announced on Monday.

“He (P.J.) hasn’t thrown the ball as hard in relief, which is a bit surprising. Normally when you only pitch an inning or two, you can really let it go. I still think he’s probably learning the role. He’s got the weapons to do that job. Try to settle into it. He’s a starting pitcher we’re using as an innings guy…. I don’t want to set him back, either. He’s got a chance to pitch in this league.”

When asked about a swap between Walters and Thompson:

“We’re evaluating the roster all the time. I’m not going to get into that daily thing. Start getting him paranoid and getting Thompson’s hopes up. I think Brad pitched a couple of good games but the last one wasn’t as good. He’s just got to take care of his business.”

When asked about whether he’d rather play the other division clubs more often (balanced schedule) in the context of making reschedule of games like Sunday’s easier:

“I don’t spend any time thinking about it. The guys that make the decisions are the ones thinking about it. What good is there to think about it? It doesn’t change anything. What they give us is what you’ve got to play with.”

On the bullpen:

“They’re all settling in, understand what is expected and what they have to do. They’re making some progress. What I think about the bullpen is what I think about the whole club. If we don’t improve – if this is the best we play all year – it won’t be good enough. We’ve got to improve.

“When we came out of spring training, I had an idea, Dunc had an idea what Chris (Perez) had to do to get better. Every one of those guys. At the beginning of the season, you see what’s working. Keep tweaking it. Pat them on the back when they do well. That stuff never changes.

“It’s a long season and they each have adjustments. They’ve each had enough success, they feel like they could be a contributor. I don’t think anybody is scared to go out there.”

On the aftermath of Rick Ankiel’s crash into the wall Saturday:

“I know he had a whiplash. I didn’t know if he was going to be able to go today, but he said he was good to go.”

On the ideal back up catcher:

“A guy that understands and accepts his role. A guy that takes a lot of interest and pride in working with a staff. To know it’s the responsibility of the catcher to get something out of the pitching staff that day. A guy that is going to work well with the regular catcher – not sitting there eating his heart out that the other guy will go 0-for-4 or 0-for-12 so he can play.

“The only thing that could make Jason (LaRue) a better fit for us is if he hit left-handed. But that’s not really important. Jason LaRue is everything you want to look for. He catches great. He throws well. Between him and Yadi (Molina), they’re tough to run on. He’s a veteran, a winner.

“A dad comes up to me and asks me how his kid should get noticed. I tell him to be a catcher. That’s the way to get to the big leagues,” said the manager.

I like to watch

Every year when I cover the Cardinals in our Nations’ Capital, I stay with my friend Trace Wood and his family. Trace is a good friend and a fine baseball writer and as such, it gives me another reason to anticipate this trip.

 

Yet I feel badly that I head off to the ballpark every day when here while Trace remains home, following a number of games simultaneously on MLB Extra Innings.

 

Even before my laptop’s monitor died on this trip, I suggested to Trace that we attend one of the four-game series as fans. That would allow us to talk more baseball together.

 

The designated day was today, Saturday, made even more appropriate given my machine malfunction made working at the ballpark impossible anyway. (OK, so I did take my camera with me and will share those shots once I am back to equipment normalcy.)

 

As we approached Nationals Park, Trace pointed out an underpass and street where parts of the Peter Sellers movie Being There were filmed. The lead character, Chance the Gardener, a.k.a. Chauncey Gardiner is one of my all-time favorites, hence this post’s title.

 

As it has all three games so far, rain threatened, but stayed away. While warm and humid, the cloudy skies kept the temperature bearable.

 

If only Saturday’s game had been as pleasant.

 

We sat in the third row, between the screen behind home plate and the Nationals dugout – excellent seats. It also afforded me a clear view into the Cardinals dugout.

 

Other than Albert Pujols and injured Khalil Greene, the Cards sent out their best men into battle. Chris Duncan moved to his “natural” position, first base, while Colby Rasmus manned left.

 

It was Hispanic Heritage Day at the park. I found it most coincidentally interesting that the battery was Joel Pineiro and Yadier Molina with Angel Hernandez the home plate umpire. Of course, many more Hispanic players competed in the game.

 

Among those seated in the $375 per person Lexus Champions seats right behind home plate was former Cardinal Bobby Bonilla, now an exec with the MLB Players Association. He shared a long conversation with Nats employee and former Blue Jays outfielder Devon White. White’s Toronto World Series ring was most visible.

 

The story of the game was starting pitcher Shairon Martis of the Nats, who first came into prominence when pitching a no-hitter in the 2006 World Baseball Classic for the Netherlands.

 

This game was all about the fifth inning.

 

Relying almost exclusively on a changeup and a fastball that topped out at 93 mph, Martis had pitched 4 2/3 perfect innings before Yadier Molina shot a clean single up the middle.

 

In the bottom of the inning, Molina made a stellar defensive play on a bunt by Martis. Yadi fired to second, nailing the runner Anderson Hernandez. Shortstop Brian Barden did a great job holding on after the hard, but clean slide.

 

Still in the fifth, Nick Johnson blasted a ball to deep center. Rick Ankiel had trouble adjusting to the slice as he ran full speed toward the track, Catching the ball to his left, then crashing into the wall, Ankiel was almost able to double the runner off first.

 

With two out, Ryan Zimmerman’s easy pop foul was dropped by Duncan. That opened the door for Adam Dunn’s three-run home run launched majestically into the second deck which gave the home team a four-run lead.

 

The Cards got onto the board with Colby Rasmus’ first career home run, a line drive shot that traveled as far as Dunn’s blast, though not as high. Sadly for the Cardinals, the bases were empty. It was on Martis’ first pitch of the seventh.

 

St. Louis had another chance in the eighth. With Joe Thurston on second, Khalil Greene pinch hit for Pineiro. The shortstop’s scorching liner to the left side was stabbed and turned into a double play.

 

Austin Kearns had a triple in the bottom of the inning off P.J. Walters as Ankiel inadvisably dived at a ball he couldn’t have reached. The ball rolled to the wall, giving Kearns another base. The runner on first scored easily. Kearns scored on an Anderson Hernandez single afterward.

 

By my count, the game would have been 2-1 with a better defensive showing. The three runs following Duncan’s drop were unearned and the second of the runs charged to Walters could have been avoided.

 

Still, you have to tip your cap to Martis. Despite only having two pitches working, he tossed the first complete game by a Nats pitcher since August 2006. Martis fanned six and walked no one in his 110-pitch gem.

 

Played in just two hours, seven minutes, despite its outcome, I liked to watch.

Cardinals Washington Whispers – 05/01/09

Sadly, I am running on a borrowed laptop donated very temporarily by an amazingly nice press box compatriot so this may be it in terms of updates this weekend. We shall have to see. However I did have an interesting and productive afternoon speaking with Cardinals players and coaches. I am especially happy to share it with you.

I spoke with P.J. Walters about his successful ninth-inning stint on Thursday. He and Ryan Franklin warmed up with Walters coming in since it is a non-save situation. P.J. says he can warm up quickly and can pitch on consecutive days as he did with State College back in 2006. Yet he is the only reliever shown as not available on Tony La Russa’s Friday lineup card.

Speaking of Franklin, La Russa finally broke down and admitted what we all could see. “At this point, he is the closer…. He was always the guy,” pronounced the skipper.

Spoke with Walters and Jason Motte about eyeglasses. Jason wears his trademark prescription specs on the mound and likes them because he can see all angles. P.J. had LASIK surgery two years ago and is very pleased with it, noting he experienced immediate improvement. Motte said he considered the procedure only for “a split second”. I may be a wimp, but I agree with him.

La Russa had penciled Jason LaRue into the lineup initially because catcher Yadier Molina “had a tough night, threw up” on Thursday. Yet when Yadi reported to the park, he told the skipper he was ok to go.

Thursday night’s home plate ump Jim Reynolds was not as fortunate. Beaned by a Blaine Boyer warmup pitch, he was unable to answer the bell on Friday. Substitute umpire Kevin Causey took over at third.

La Russa noted that his team’s fast start “has to do with what the players put in during spring training“ both in terms of drills and game experience.

TLR on Todd Wellemeyer (pre-game): Not as sharp as he can be. Will get better and better as he goes on.

TLR on Rick Ankiel: Once he is sharp, he is a potent bat. Started out ok but not surging as well as Ryan or Chris. He can be a number four hitter in MLB. Last three game key hits means he gets another start. Really been overtrying. When he relaxes more, he has better focus.

TLR on Khalil Greene: Emergency player in the field only for the remainder of this series. Injury to throwing arm, but no consideration of DL because he is pretty good pinch-hitter.

Khalil spoke about the role of being a pinch-hitter actually requires him to concentrate more over the details of the game from the bench than when he is actually playing. He watches the status of the pitchers on both sides so he is not surprised when he is given the heads-up to get ready. When he is in the game, he is less focused on the opposing pitcher, since he figures he will be hitting either way.

As a result, Tyler Greene is again getting the start in day two of his MLB career. Having been a little busy, he was unaware of the other shortstop moves in the system resulting from his promotion. Tyler concurred that the Double-A step Pete Kozma is making is the toughest due to better control and fewer mistakes by pitchers at that level.

K. Greene told me that in his first impression, he likes the new ballpark in DC. He was injured when the Padres traveled there last season and was not with the team. Khalil also liked the hitting background in the old RFK Stadium despite its large dimensions.

TLR on playing Joe Thurston vs. Brian Barden at third: Jokingly flipped an imaginary coin. Seriously, he mentioned he looks at how the opposing pitchers perform against right-handed batters (like Barden) and left-handed (Thurston). Both will continue to play a lot. Need extra pen man with 35 games in 36 days to start season.

TLR on his emergency catcher: “Probably one of the young, aggressive guys, maybe Thurston.” He said a definitive “no” when I jokingly suggested former catcher Motte.

Thursday’s winning pitcher Chris Perez says his heel still is giving him no problems at all, but expects his spring training shot will wear off soon. When he feels pain again, the plan is to do the injection on an off day.

On all the televisions in the clubhouse was the Marlins-Cubs game. I happened to catch Denise Richards do such a terrible rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” that it made Ozzy seem good.

A team official noted the club has sold about 29,000 full and partial season tickets, which was kept flat by the added attraction of the 2009 All-Star Game. As noted elsewhere, the higher revenue premium tickets and corporate spending are down.

Mitchell Boggs was not surprised by his nine strikeouts Friday as he noted the Nationals are an aggressive team. He was surprised when I told him that he took over the 2009 team single-game lead from Walters, who had seven against the Cubs. Mitchell noted that he expects Adam Wainwright to claim the lead sometime very soon.

Albert Pujols mentioned his wife Deidre is heading to the Dominican Republic later this month to deliver the rest of the 200 beds he is donating to needy families.

I mentioned to Ryan Ludwick Thursday evening that La Russa said he would be starting here on Friday. Ryan said he expected it, but admitted that in the two games in Atlanta, he did not feel good at all.

Forgot to mention that Chris Duncan almost choked on his chewing gum in the dugout before the game. I asked him how many months it has been since he used tobacco. He counted out to nine. Great for him! Duncan took a lot of heat in some quarters for his use, so he deserves kudos for quitting.

Wellemeyer credited Dave Duncan with a mechanical adjustment with his hips that he said helped with his better outing on Friday.

Cardinals Washington Whispers: 04/30/09


Newest Cardinal Tyler Greene arrived in Washington about 11:45 a.m. and taxied over to the team hotel. As evidenced in this photo and about a dozen others I took, the new number 27 can’t stop smiling. Hard to blame him. Other than a handshake and a “congratulations”, I decided to leave him alone before the game. Already enough going on.

Tony La Russa on what he told Greene: “It’s what I tell all the young players when they come up here. Just trust your ability and not try to do too much. Nothing too complicated.”

TLR on why he started Greene on his first day: “You usually bring up a guy when you need him. If he’s a spare part, then I don’t find a way to start him, but I have two shortstops hurt. I think it’s good to get him out there.” No, I didn’t ask him what that says or doesn’t say about how he feels about Brian Barden at short.

We may see Blaine Boyer pitch Thursday evening, as he is one of the “hot” relievers. TLR: “The best laboratory is actual games.”

TLR on Chris Carpenter “feeling better” and his work in the training room: “I’m encouraged…. But no predictions when he can play.” As I was coming off the field before the game, Carp was standing on the stairway watching the pitchers take batting practice in the cage under the stands. I asked the obvious – “Wish you were out there?” The answer was equally predictable.

I am posting up for Scout.com subscribers a discussion I had today with Brendan Ryan about his hamstring injury. He thought he had clearance from the trainer to take batting practice today, but as I was talking with bench coach Joe Pettini, he told Ryan “no”. Khalil Greene concurred with the decision. A former MLB middle infielder himself, Pettini has a lot of experience with this kind of injury. On a side note, Ryan’s brother Paul had to scrap his planned trip to DC for the weekend with “The Boog” placed on the DL.

I asked Colby Rasmus about the outfield turf in Atlanta. Not making an excuse in any manner, he answered the question by holding his hands about a foot apart saying that the ball actually “snakes” to the left and right as it passes through the grass. Rasmus acknowledged that it is not easy to spot on television. He had an estimated 150 friends and family from Russell County, Alabama in Atlanta. Colby exclaimed that fortunately he didn’t have to buy all of the tickets! P.J. Walters also mentioned that he had a contingent up from Pensacola, Florida.

Hitting coach Hal McRae was giving some tips to Joe Thurston before the game. I asked the coach how his recovery from the flu is going and if it is spreading through the team. On the latter question, he said, “Thankfully, not yet.” He just took his fifth daily dose of antibiotics but is expecting a total of seven to ten days with it “no matter what”. Ryan Ludwick’s minor ailment is apparently unconnected.

Did you notice that Yadier Molina is wearing a different style batting helmet than the rest of his teammates? I did, so I asked about it. It is one of the modern-looking Rawlings Cool Vent models with indentations and slots on the sides. Turns out Yadi tried it out during the World Baseball Classic and decided to keep it. Says it keeps his head cooler. Whether real or imagined, it doesn’t matter. The rest of the club opted to stay with the traditional models when asked several years ago when they first came out.

I passed Nats television play-by-play man Bob Carpenter in the tunnel and we exchanged greetings. The former Cardinals broadcaster looks great. His sister Judy Carpenter-Barada is a long-time key member of the Cardinals front office with the official title of Director of Major League Administration.

Cards-focused scribes on this assignment include Joe Strauss from the P-D and locally-based Lisa Winston of USA Today Baseball Weekly and MiLB.com fame covering for Matthew Leach with MLB.com. Look for their articles during this series. The FOX Sports Midwest crew includes producer Tom Mee and his fine crew in the truck as always, along with Dan, Al and Pat Parris. Rick Horton is also with the club along with John Rooney on the airwaves.


Minors matters
: I updated the Roster Matrix with the latest moves, including the activation of outfielder Paul Cruz with Quad Cities. Unfortunately catcher Blake Murphy’s elbow is causing him problems again, so he returned to the DL.

Donovan Solano was promoted from Springfield to Memphis to replace Greene. Pitcher Marco Gonzalez moved in the opposite direction. That keeps Springfield whole, but Memphis would seem to still be one player short. Here’s how that was apparently solved. Outfielder Shane Robinson is shown on the DL by MiLB.com while catcher Brandon Yarbrough and reliever Fernando Salas are now active.

Shortstop Pete Kozma is heading from Palm Beach up to Springfield on Friday, reports Ray Mileur at Scout.com. Kyle Mura is moved onto the Springfield DL with Trey Hearne taking his spot in the rotation. Springfield now has five players on the disabled list and one on the temporary inactive list. Palm Beach’s addition to replace Kozma is not yet known. (Edit: See update below.) I did notice that regular Domnit Bolivar (currently hitting .224) is out of the Quad Cities lineup on Thursday evening, but that could be coincidence (Edit: It wasn’t!).


On a personal and negative note, I am having monitor problems with my laptop and am hoping that far away from home, my machine will be kind to me this weekend. If I do disappear, do not assume foul play is involved!

Cardinals short bench cut in half


The St. Louis Cardinals’ already-short bench has reached a critical stage.

Infielder Brendan Ryan, in the midst of an impressive defensive series in Atlanta, had to leave Wednesday evening’s rubber match against the Atlanta Braves with what was characterized as left hamstring tightness.

The 27-year-old was injured in the fifth inning when running down the first base line after what turned out to be a foul ball. Brian Barden finished the at-bat for Ryan and took over defensively at shortstop. More information about the severity of Ryan’s injury should be made available on Thursday.

Part of the reason for Ryan’s opportunity was that regular starting shortstop Khalil Greene was out of the lineup with a sore right forearm. The veteran, in his first season with St. Louis, is expected to miss a few days.

With the club carrying 13 pitchers, the available bench of position players shrinks from an already-short four down to an unworkable two because of the pair of wounded infielders. The ready reserves are catcher Jason LaRue, always saved for emergency purposes, and the fourth outfielder, who on Wednesday evening was Ryan Ludwick.

If either injury is expected to linger more than one or two days, the club may need to call on Triple-A Memphis for help. Even if neither player is hurt enough to hit the disabled list, a pitcher could be sent down to make room for a position player.

If they go this route, the most likely hurler to be sent out is rookie P.J. Walters, who was given just one start before yielding the turn to Mitchell Boggs. Boggs was impressive in his first start against Chicago and is the scheduled starter in Washington on Thursday.

Another possibility would be to wait until Boggs completes his outing and option him out, despite how well or poorly he performs. Without an injury elsewhere, any player sent down would be required to remain there for at least ten days.

The 2009 Memphis club is off to a very poor start offensively. Their team batting average of .222 is tied for worst in the 16-team Pacific Coast League, while their OBP (.310) and slugging (.315) are dead last. They are last in runs scored with ten fewer than the 15th-best club and a whopping 50 behind league-leader Omaha (72 to 122, each in 19 games).

Still, there are a few offensive standouts on the Redbirds who could be considered candidates for a call up.

Shortstop Tyler Greene has been an underachiever in past years, but received positive reviews in spring training. He is already on the club’s 40-man roster and can play all over the infield. Greene’s current slash stats are .296/.412/.423 with Memphis. The right-handed hitter leads the Redbirds in both strikeouts with 17 and walks with 12.

A longer shot would be corner infielder Allen Craig, who blistered the ball in Florida. He is second on the club in batting (.313), slugging (.453) and OPS (.842). Craig also can play some outfield but is not on the 40-man.

Then there is banished David Freese, who made the big league team out of spring training, but didn’t produce offensively. The third baseman has been struggling through his first 27 Triple-A at-bats this season with a line of .148/.179/.185.

Another option could be to return to a more traditional roster make up with a fifth outfielder. While Joe Mather has a place on the 40-man, he is not hitting well with a .123 average.

Shane Robinson is the Redbirds’ leading hitter across the board this season to date with a .375/.434/.479 line but had not even been invited to major league spring camp. Based on the last three weeks of play, he seems deserving of a chance, but would have to be added to the 40-man first.

Jon Jay may have been the most impressive non-roster outfielder in spring camp other than Colby Rasmus, but he hasn’t carried it over to the regular season. His stat line is .208/.275/.222 and he has fanned 12 times with just five walks in 72 at-bats.

The path of least resistance in the outfield may be Nick Stavinoha. With MLB experience last season, the right-handed hitter’s current line is .246/.359/.385. Stavinoha is the primary run-producer as the only player on the Memphis club to have reached double digits in RBI at 15.

Who takes the Cards-Braves series?


After two low-scoring contests in games one and two of their current series in Atlanta, the St. Louis Cardinals are in a position to take the road series on Wednesday, improving their road record above .500 (4-4 now) and bolstering their overall tally to 15-7. They move on to Washington for a four-game set this weekend, where I’ll be catching up with the club.

In a match-up of a pair of veteran front-liners, Adam Wainwright takes on Javier Vazquez on Wednesday evening at Turner Field.

Vazquez is in his 12th season as a major league hurler, having debuted with the 1998 Montreal Expos at the tender age of 21. The Puerto Rican native pitched in the American League in four of the last five years, so many of the current Cardinals have not faced him extensively. The right-hander was brought in to Atlanta along with Derek Lowe over the winter to bolster an injury-devastated rotation.

Those Cardinals with a history facing Vazquez have decent results, with two of the four having collected home runs against him, Khalil Greene and Albert Pujols. Injured Troy Glaus also has a long ball off Vazquez, likely from their time together in the American League. In addition, the two were teammates in 2005 as each spent a single season with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Vazquez G/Starts IP W-L ERA WHIP BAA
Career vs. StL 9/9 58 1/3 2-6 4.01 1.22 0.237
2008 vs. StL none
Career at Turner Field 12/12 76 1/3 5-5 3.54 1.09 0.225
Start ’em
Khalil Greene 3-for-9 (.333) 1HR, 2K
Jason LaRue 2-for-5 (.400) 1BB, 3K
Albert Pujols 5-for-13 (.385) 1HR, 3K
Yadier Molina 1-for-3 (.333)
Sit ’em
none

A player the Braves wish they had back is Wainwright. The 27-year-old native of Brunswick, Georgia was Atlanta’s first-round pick in the 2000 draft. The right-hander became a Cardinal in the J.D. Drew trade in December, 2003, a deal made by former Cards GM Walt Jocketty with then-GM, now-president of the Braves John Schuerholz.

No matter how you cut the numbers, Wainwright has pitched very well against his former organization. With good-hitting catcher Brian McCann on the disabled list, his replacement David Ross ironically has an identical 2-for-9 history against Wainwright. Ross does have a home run, but also fanned 1/3 of the time. As has been proven many times in the past and reinforced in the first two games of the series, pitching around Chipper Jones seems a worthwhile consideration.

Wainwright G/Starts IP W-L ERA WHIP BAA
Career vs. Atl 6/3 24 3-0 1.13 0.96 0.195
2008 vs. Atl 1/1 6 1-0 1.50 1.00 0.238
Career at Turner Field 2/1 9 1-0 1.00 1.11 0.182
Start ’em
Gregor Blanco 1-for-3 (.333)
Matt Diaz 2-for-3 (.667)
Chipper Jones 3-for-5 (.600) 1BB, 1K
Sit ’em
Yunel Escobar 0-for-5 (.000) 1BB
Jeff Francoeur 1-for-5 (.200) 2BB
David Ross 2-for-9 (.222) 1HR, 3K
Kelly Johnson 0-for-8 (.000) 2K

Why cutting Cardinals errors is important


Coming into Monday’s contest, the St. Louis Cardinals were last in Major League Baseball with 20 errors in their 19 games played. Their fielding percentage was “only” 29th in MLB as their upcoming weekend opponent, the Washington Nationals, had an even lower mark (.971 to .973).

This situation is causing uneasiness in some quarters, while others, including the club’s manager, offer explanations which label the current results as an outlier – an aberration that will apparently soon pass.

Let’s hope so, because if not, it does not bode well for the Cardinals’ 2009 post-season hopes.

Committing an error per game as are the Cardinals is a pace faster than any major league club over a full season since at least 1995. However, the rate is far from unprecedented.

The expansion 1962 and 1963 New York Mets both committed a modern major league record 210 errors, the most since baseball moved to a 162-game schedule. In recent years, the Mets of 1996 were only three errors under making one per game for the season and the 1999 Montreal Expos were just two short.

If carried over the entire season, the Cardinals current fielding percentage of .973 would also be MLB’s worst in at least the last 15 years and probably longer.

The following table shows the MLB team leader in errors in each season along with that club’s fielding percentage. I covered the Tony La Russa era in St. Louis plus one more year.

Only twice in those 14 years did the club with the most errors also not have the worst fielding percentage, but even in those cases, the team finished 29th, or second to last in fielding.

Committing the most errors in MLB generally means that club will be sitting at home in October. Yet, it can be overcome.

The 1995 Los Angeles Dodgers is the most recent team to pull off the rare feat of leading the game in miscues while still making the playoffs. In fact, Tommy Lasorda’s last full-season Dodgers team won their division, albeit in a 144-game strike-shortened year.

Not that I expect the Cardinals will continue in this manner, but even if so, there still would be a glimmer of hope.

Most errors # Errs G E/G Flding % FPct rank Playoffs
2009 St. Louis 20 19 1.05 0.973 29
2008 Texas 132 162 0.81 0.978 30 no
2007 Florida 137 162 0.85 0.977 30 no
2006 Washington 131 162 0.81 0.978 30 no
2005 Kansas City 125 162 0.77 0.979 30 no
2004 Detroit 144 162 0.89 0.977 30 no
2003 Cincinnati 141 162 0.87 0.977 30 no
2002 NY Mets 147 161 0.91 0.976 30 no
2001 San Diego 145 162 0.90 0.976 30 no
2000 Anaheim 134 162 0.83 0.978 29 no
1999 Montreal 160 162 0.99 0.974 30 no
1998 Montreal 155 162 0.96 0.975 30 no
1997 Boston 135 162 0.83 0.978 29 no
1996 NY Mets 159 162 0.98 0.974 30 no
1995 LA Dodgers 130 144 0.90 0.976 30 yes

Next, I looked at the error counts and fielding percentages of La Russa’s Cardinals teams plus one year. His third St. Louis club, the 1998 edition, committed 142 errors and posted a .978 fielding percentage – both La Russa team worsts.

Interestingly, his best defensive club, at least using these metrics, was the 2003 team. Yet betrayed by their pitching, that 85-win club missed out on the post-season. So just being solid defensively is not enough.

After a run of a half dozen years of ranking in the top half of MLB in both stats, the 2007 Cardinals were among the poorest defensive clubs in the league. David Eckstein (20 miscues), Aaron Miles (14), Brendan Ryan (10) and Scott Rolen (10) led the team.

After considerable roster turnover, including the departure of Eckstein along with long-term Gold Glovers Rolen and Jim Edmonds, the 2008 Cardinals bounced back defensively. That group again ranked in the top quarter of MLB teams, but they still missed the post-season for the second consecutive year.

StL errors Error rank StL FPct FPct rank Playoffs
2008 85 T5 0.986 7 no
2007 121 28 0.980 28 no
2006 98 T10 0.984 12 yes
2005 100 13 0.984 13 yes
2004 97 9 0.985 7 yes
2003 77 2 0.987 4 no
2002 103 T13 0.983 15 yes
2001 110 T16 0.982 11 yes
2000 111 15 0.981 17 yes
1999 132 24 0.978 26 no
1998 142 29 0.978 25 no
1997 123 22 0.980 19 no
1996 125 17 0.980 19 yes
1995 113 23 0.980 23 no

Time will tell as whether or not errors continue to be a topic of discussion for Cardinals fans this season, but do note that the team has not made the playoffs under La Russa when finishing in the bottom third of MLB in errors and fielding percentage.

Breaking the early Cardinals-Cubs “tie”


As most who are reading this know, the St. Louis Cardinals invaded Wrigley Field to take on the Chicago Cubs two weekends ago and the two switched roles this past Friday through Sunday. These were the first six of what will be 16 individual battles between the two archrivals this season.

In each of these initial series, the home club took two of three (with the final of the original four-game Chicago series rained out and rescheduled to July 12). As a result, the clubs’ season series against each other is knotted at 3-3.

Not being totally satisfied with that, I decided to take a look at comparative stats over the six contests. Sure, some players have been out due to injuries on both sides, but this is an accurate representation of the results by those able to suit up.

The data is reflected in terms of hitting splits, yet some pitching conclusions are evident in this context, as well.

2009 thru 6G H2H AB RBI BA OBP SLG
StL hitters 203 34 0.271 0.359 0.483
ChC hitters 218 30 0.275 0.342 0.413
StL LH hitters 84 10 0.238 0.323 0.369
ChC LH hitters 91 17 0.297 0.356 0.451
StL RH hitters 119 24 0.294 0.384 0.563
ChC RH hitters 127 13 0.260 0.331 0.386
StL two outs 60 7 0.183 0.269 0.283
ChC two outs 68 14 0.279 0.380 0.426
StL RISP 70 25 0.271 0.338 0.414
ChC RISP 59 22 0.237 0.338 0.390
StL pinch-hitters 9 2 0.444 0.583 0.778
ChC pinch-hitters 8 0 0.125 0.300 0.125
vs. ChC starters 139 22 0.266 0.329 0.475
vs. StL starters 132 18 0.288 0.347 0.386
vs. ChC relievers 64 12 0.281 0.418 0.500
vs. StL relievers 86 12 0.256 0.333 0.453

The Cardinals hitters drove in more runs and accumulated higher on-base and slugging percentages. The Cubs’ left-handed hitters were more productive than were St. Louis’, but the Cardinals’ right-handed batters, who of course saw more at-bats, had a bigger edge in stats.

Though the Cubs two-out hitters were more productive, the Cardinals out-produced them with runners in scoring position. The weakened position of the Cubs’ bench is evident in the pinch-hitting results.

In terms of pitching, the Cubs starters yielded more runs than did the Cardinals starters, despite having better batting average and OBP against. Where the Cubs fell down is in slugging, where the Cardinals hitters had a significant advantage.

Looking at the relievers, the Cardinals group allowed the same number of runs as their Cubs peers, but they registered superior slash stats in all three areas despite facing considerably more opposing hitters.

To bring this point home, here is a summary of the respective pitching staffs’ results through the six games. The Cardinals pitchers clearly come out on top.

2009 thru 6G H2H ERA BB K
StL pitchers 4.77 22 54
ChC pitchers 5.67 25 45

Overall through two series, I would have to give the imaginary stats tiebreaker to the Cardinals. There are ten more regular-season games to go, with the next match ups coming on May 19-21 in St. Louis.

A Decade of Cardinals Grannies


On Saturday afternoon, St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols did it again – slugged his second grand slam home run in just two weeks. This time, his seventh-inning heroics turned a close game against the Chicago Cubs at Busch Stadium into a comfortable and satisfying 8-2 victory.

In a record-breaking career that began in 2001, it became Pujols’ eighth grand slam, the most of any Cardinal player during this decade. Jim Edmonds is next with five. As a team, the Cardinals have 49 over the period.

Saturday’s slam was Pujols’ first against the arch-rival Northsiders, but the team’s eleventh Cub-breaker this decade, the most for the club against any rival, almost doubling their quantity against the next-most common victim, Cincinnati.

As it should be…

Special thanks to Tom Orf for the data pull that follows. Pujols and Cubs slams in bold.

St. Louis Cardinals grand slams: 2000 through 2009

Date Cardinal Versus
4/25/2009 Albert Pujols Chi
4/11/2009 Albert Pujols Hou
9/19/2008 Adam Kennedy @Chi
8/6/2008 Albert Pujols LA
7/20/2008 Aaron Miles SD
6/21/2008 Troy Glaus @Bos
8/31/2007 Rick Ankiel Cin
7/26/2007 Chris Duncan Chi
6/16/2007 Chris Duncan @Oak
8/27/2006 Gary Bennett Chi
8/22/2006 Albert Pujols @NYM
8/9/2006 Jim Edmonds @Cin
4/3/2006 Scott Rolen @Phi
9/30/2005 Albert Pujols Cin
8/7/2005 David Eckstein Atl
6/4/2005 Reggie Sanders @Hou
5/20/2005 John Mabry @KC
8/22/2004 Larry Walker Pit
8/17/2004 Larry Walker Cin
6/9/2004 Edgar Renteria @Chi
4/21/2004 Jim Edmonds @Hou
9/3/2003 J.D. Drew @Chi
8/2/2003 Bo Hart @NYM
6/8/2003 Scott Rolen Bal
5/9/2003 Fernando Vina @Chi
9/17/2002 Tino Martinez @Col
9/4/2002 Edgar Renteria Cin
8/31/2002 Eli Marrero @Chi
8/18/2002 Edgar Renteria @Phi
8/10/2002 Albert Pujols NYM
6/11/2002 Albert Pujols @Sea
5/6/2002 Fernando Vina @Pit
4/17/2002 Jim Edmonds @Arz
9/21/2001 Albert Pujols @Pit
9/9/2001 Jim Edmonds LA
7/7/2001 Mark McGwire @Cle
6/15/2001 Bobby Bonilla ChW
9/24/2000 Will Clark @Chi
9/20/2000 Jim Edmonds Hou
9/16/2000 Fernando Tatis Chi
7/25/2000 Fernando Tatis Arz
7/14/2000 Eduardo Perez @ChW
7/13/2000 Shawon Dunston @ChW
5/30/2000 Shawon Dunston @Arz
5/7/2000 Eric Davis @Cin
4/23/2000 Placido Polanco Col
4/20/2000 Eli Marrero SD
4/11/2000 Thomas Howard @Hou
4/6/2000 J.D. Drew Chi

Forbes: Cardinals revenue, value up slightly in 2009


Forbes has released their yearly assessment of the finances of each of the 30 Major League Baseball clubs. While the average team saw a 1% increase in its value over last year, ten organizations experienced a decline, including the Houston Astros and Pittsburgh Pirates of the National League Central.

The average MLB club is worth $482 million, an all-time high. The St. Louis Cardinals are only $4 million higher at $486 M and yet are ranked number eight. That illustrates a growing gulf between the handful of teams and the top and the others.

Those clubs with high revenue generating ballparks and lucrative cable television deals stand out. Other teams are feeling the economic downturn as evidenced by large numbers of unsold premium seats and canceled corporate sponsorships. This hampers their ability to meet debt obligations, often accumulated due to the construction of expensive new ballparks.

The Cardinals franchise value increased very slightly from last year, from $484 M to $486 M, moving up from ninth to eighth in MLB. The club’s ratio of debt to value declined a bit from an estimated 51% to 50% in the last year, but remains among the highest third in the game.

St. Louis’ estimated revenue was also almost flat at $195 million, up from $194 M the year before. Operating income fell all the way from $21 million to $6.6 M, as 22 other clubs generated higher income than the Cardinals last year.

That $6.6 million represents the club’s lowest income total since 2005, the final year of the old stadium. It was estimated the team had negative income for a run of at least six years prior. (Note that all revenue numbers are from the previous year.)

Here is a snapshot of the recent financial history of the Cardinals, with more details available on the Forbes website.

Cardinals 2009 MLB rank 2008 MLB rank
Team Value $486 M #8 $484 M #9
1-Yr Value Chg 0% T#18 5% #23
Debt/Value 50% #9 51% #8
(Prev Year) Revenue $195 M #10 $194 M #9
(Prev Year) Operating Income $6.6 M #23 $21.5 M #11
(Prev Year) Player Expenses $120 M $109 M
Gate Receipts $92 M $96 M

Cardinals 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000
Team Value $460 M 429 370 314 308 271 243 219
(Prev Year) Revenue $184 M 165 151 131 128 123 110 104
(Prev Year) Operating Income $14 M 8 -4 -11 -2 -5 -3 5
(Prev Year) Player Expenses $105 M 101 102 96 85 85 72 52

In a side point of special interest to those Cardinals fans critical of team ownership, Forbes notes that ten of the 30 MLB clubs are wholly or partially owned by billionaires or individual corporations worth a billion or more. The Cubs and Astros owners are included, but the Cardinals are not.

Cost to attend a Cardinals game down in 2009


It is the time again for the release of the Fan Cost Index (FCI)*, which compares the price for a family of four to attend a major league baseball game across the 30 franchises.

The St. Louis Cardinals just made the top third of the clubs, coming in at number ten. The club’s FCI of $214.72 represents a decline of 1.2 percent compared to 2008, when the Cardinals had the seventh-highest FCI.

Their current ranking of tenth is the Cardinals’ lowest placement in the FCI since at least 2002 and also their first year-to-year decline during that period.

Busch III Busch II
2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003
StL FCI $214.72 $217.28 $209.23 $207.21 $177.66 $170.45 $164.04
StL YTY -1.2% 3.8% 0.8% 10.6% 4.2% 0.9% 6.6%
MLB rank 10 7 7 4 9 9 8
MLB avg. $196.89 $191.75 $176.55 $171.19 $164.43 $155.52 $148.66
MLB YTY 3.2% 8.3% 3.8% 4.1% 5.6% 2.0% 3.3%
#1 FCI $410.88 $320.71 $313.83 $287.84 $276.34 $263.09 $248.44
Team Yankees Boston Boston Boston Boston Boston Boston
#30 FCI $114.24 $136.91 $123.42 $120.35 $119.85 $108.83 $94.62
Team Arizona TB KC KC KC Montreal Montreal

The new ballpark itself is no longer driving increased prices for Cardinals fans. In fact, in 2006, the first year of the new Busch Stadium, the team’s average ticket price was actually slightly higher at $29.78 than this season’s $29.43.

The Cardinals are one of just three of the 12 clubs with an above-average FCI that show an FCI decline year-to-year. The other two are the San Francisco Giants and Washington Nationals.

The average FCI across MLB of $196.89 represents a 3.2 percent increase over last year. The best value in the game is the $114.24 it takes to see the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Not surprisingly, the New York Yankees in their new $1.5 billion new Yankee Stadium palace have the highest FCI at a whopping $410.88. They knocked the long-time leader and their AL East rival, the Boston Red Sox, out of the top spot.

The other teams in the NL Central rank as follows: Chicago Cubs (third), Houston Astros (11th), both with above average FCIs. The other three are clustered near the bottom: Milwaukee Brewers (26th), Cincinnati Reds (27th) and Pittsburgh Pirates (29th).


* The FCI, developed by Team Marketing Report, is made up of the prices of two adult and two child average-price tickets, two small draft beers, four small soft drinks, four regular-size hot dogs, parking for one car, two game programs and two least expensive, adult-size adjustable caps.

Not every group of four are going to spend this much money, but the FCI provides valid and consistent year-to-year comparisons across 30 teams.

Can the Cardinals sweep the Mets?

With a home record of 7-2 in the short season to date, the St. Louis Cardinals are in a position to sweep the visiting New York Mets on Thursday afternoon and in the process, extend their 2009 mark at Busch to eight wins in ten games.

In a match-up of a pair of veterans, Kyle Lohse takes on Livan Hernandez.

Though Livan has an extensive record against the Cardinals, it preceded most of the current St. Louis players. Only Albert Pujols has a decent number of at-bats, but he has struggled at times, with five strikeouts in 31 career ABs facing Livan. Chris Duncan and Brendan Ryan join Pujols with home runs against Hernandez.

Hernandez G/Starts IP W-L ERA WHIP OBA
Career vs. StL 16/16 112 1/3 5-5 4.33 1.42 0.267
2008 vs. StL 0/0
Career at Busch (new) 2/2 14 0-0 1.93 1.21 0.245
Career at Busch (old) 7/7 48 2/3 3-1 4.44 1.46 0.274
Start ’em
Chris Duncan 2-for-3 (.667) 1HR
Ryan Ludwick 1-for-4 (.250) 1K
Albert Pujols 9-for-31 (.290) 1HR, 4BB, 5K
Brendan Ryan 2-for-3 (.667) 1HR
Skip Schumaker 1-for-1 (1.000)
Sit ’em
Khalil Greene 3-for-20 (.150) 1HR, 1BB, 2K
Jason LaRue 2-for-13 (.154) 1BB, 5K
Yadier Molina 2-for-11 (.182)

On the other side, it doesn’t look great at first blush. The Mets have been a problem for Lohse over time, including last season. At least his home record is good. Note that each of the six Mets hitters with nine or more at-bats has at least one home run off Lohse. Carlos Beltran has four.

Lohse G/Starts IP W-L ERA WHIP OBA
Career vs. NYM 6/6 32 1/3 1-2 5.57 1.61 0.307
2008 vs. NYM 2/2 12 1-1 5.25 1.58 0.333
Career at Busch 23/23 154 11-3 3.04 1.09 0.239
Start ’em
Carlos Beltran 18-for-34 (.529) 4HR, 9BB, 5K
Ryan Church 5-for-11 (.455) 1HR, 1BB, 1K
Carlos Delgado 7-for-17 (.412) 1HR, 5BB, 4K
Jose Reyes 4-for-14 (.286) 1HR
Gary Sheffield 3-for-9 (.333) 1HR, 1BB
David Wright 6-for-14 (.429) 1HR, 4K
Sit ’em
none

Hill the Homeless Hitman


As has been already been discussed here, the primary reason the Springfield Cardinals are tied for first place in the North Division of the Texas League is their offense, led by utilityman Steven Hill.

All Hill did on Tuesday night for the Double-A club was go 5-for-5, including three doubles and a final at-bat home run for 11 total bases. The 24-year-old scored three times in a 7-4 Springfield win at Midland. The night before, he slammed a pair of home runs.

For the season, which is now 12 games long for the 7-5 Cardinals, Hill has played in ten. The right-handed hitter hit safely in eight of those games. He is carrying a seven-game hitting streak, with multiple hits in five of those contests.

Through Tuesday, Hill is 18-for-38 at the dish, with half of his safeties having gone for extra bases (five doubles and four home runs). He has scored 11 times and driven in 11. Hill has drawn four walks and fanned eight times, though five of the strikeouts were in his first four games.

Behold the majestic batting line when this is all put together: .474/.523/.921/1.444 (BA/OBP/SLG/OPS).

In terms of the Texas League offensive rankings, Hill is first in batting average, slugging and OPS. He trails only Corpus Christi outfield James Van Ostrand in on-base percentage, .523 to .541.

Taken in the 13th round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft from Stephen F. Austin State University in Texas, Hill came into this season with a career line of .307/.345/.528/.873.

He began 2008 at A-Advanced Palm Beach, but the pitcher-friendly Florida State League was no problem. After hitting .341 in April, he was promoted to Springfield on May 10. Through 26 games, he was hitting .303/.330/.505/.835 with five home runs and nine RBI.

Defensively, Hill is a nomad. He spent most of his Double-A debut at first base (12 games), but also made nine appearances as a corner outfielder. At his most intriguing position defensively, catcher, Hill played in just four games.

Then on June 10, he was hit by a pitch, causing a fracture to the pinkie finger on his left hand. After missing two months, Hill returned for four rehab games in the Gulf Coast League before finishing with Palm Beach.

Hill was sent to the Arizona Fall League where he shined offensively. He hit safely in 11 of his 13 games and his OPS of .991 (in just 46 at-bats) was the best of all Cardinals prospects in the AFL, including top prospect, third baseman Brett Wallace.

The not-so-good includes the fact that Hill played over half his AFL games at designated hitter, not all that useful in St. Louis. He appeared in just four contests behind the plate during the two months, including just one in the final month (November).

There, I spoke with several scouts who like Hill’s bat but feel his release is slow. To wit, in those four AFL games he caught, opponents attempted nine steals against him, and were successful six times.

Coming into the season, his AFL and Springfield manager Pop Warner was quoted as saying that Hill would start behind the plate in 30% of his club’s contests. To date, that is being followed and in fact, slightly exceeded. So far in 2009, Hill has no appearances at first base, three in the outfield, three at designated hitter and four behind the plate.

With two more experienced first baseman on the roster, Mark Hamilton and Andrew Brown, it is not surprising Hill isn’t seeing time at first. Despite the majority of Springfield’s catching load being borne by another converted infielder, Tony Cruz, Hill’s time there has been ample.

The results have been mixed, however. While the Cardinals won all four games, Hill has one passed ball and enemy baserunners are 4-for-4 in stolen base attempts while he has been behind the dish.

Yet it is impossible not to come back to Hill’s hitting.

Through his first 36 games at the Double-A level, 137 at-bats, he has nine home runs and 20 RBI. Over the two partial seasons, Hill’s combined Texas League line is .350/.382/.620/1.002.

It is hard to believe that Triple-A Memphis won’t soon come calling if Hill continues to inflict offensive damage like this.


Programming note
: I will be joining friends and National League Tout Wars competitors Lenny Melnick and Paul Greco on “Talking Baseball Live” on BlogTalkRadio Wednesday evening at 8:10 p.m. Eastern/7:10 p.m. Central. The focus will be fantasy, but the Cardinals will surely come up in the discussion. Call-ins are accepted.

Cardinals minor matters – April 21


Comments by Blaine Boyer post- trade

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reached the new Cardinals reliever following Monday’s trade. The 27-year-old right-hander is expected to be activated on Tuesday.

On a related point, the Post-Dispatch confirms earlier suspicions that David Freese is the odd man out until the Cardinals can sort out the keepers from the eight relievers currently rostered.


Boggs in line to get start

For Game Two of the second consecutive Cubs series on consecutive weekends, the Cardinals apparently plan to start a rookie on the mound. Dave Duncan is hinting strongly that Mitchell Boggs will swap places with P.J. Walters, with the latter moving into long relief and the former getting the Saturday start.

The same article confirms why Adam Wainwright was slipped to Friday, opening the Cubs series at Busch.


Comcast fixes Cardinals problem in Arkansas

The cable provider has announced plans to telecast 120 Cardinals games starting with the Mets series opener Tuesday night. I had earlier written about the dispute at Scout.com that had led to no games being shown to Comcast’s Arkansas customers during the first two weeks of the 2009 season.

Comcast’s change of heart is good news for many, many very good (and formerly frustrated) fans in an important part of Cardinals country. Specifics, including games to be broadcast, are available via the first link above.


New Memphis closer

In case you hadn’t noticed, recently-converted starter-to-reliever Jess Todd has two saves in his last two outings for Triple-A Memphis. The 23-year-old has allowed just two runs over his first five games and eight innings as a reliever. The right-hander has yielded just five hits, walked two and has fanned nine.


Minor change in QC tandems

When the season began, the Quad Cities tandem rotation included these pairings: Scott McGregor/Andres Rosales and Miguel Tapia/Chuckie Fick. Now Rosales and Tapia have changed partners, with McGregor/Tapia scheduled on Thursday and Rosales/Fick on Friday. The other three pairings did not change. As always, details can be found in the Roster Matrix.


Brad Pitt as Billy Beane in “Moneyball: The Movie”

“Show me the money… ball…” Demetri Martin co-stars in the new film by Steven Soderbergh that begins filming in June.


Baseball saved my marriage

According to a University of Denver study publicized by BusinessWeek, couples who live in cities with a Major League Baseball club divorce at a rate 28% lower than ones living in wannabe MLB locations. The report was not broken out by market.


Pedro still wants $5 million

And he apparently thinks he is eventually going to get it. Since he is reportedly disinterested in an incentive-laden deal, the odds that Martinez will become a Cardinal seem low. Then again, let’s see how Boggs pitches this weekend.


Cooper’s bases covered

Astros manager Cecil Cooper, having been swept by the Cardinals in St. Louis and leading his team to a 3-7 record at the time, was granted a contract extension through 2010 by Houston GM Ed Wade and owner Drayton McLane last weekend.

Showing how tricky the prediction business can be, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal not only helped break the news of the extension during Saturday’s regional broadcast but also had said just four days prior that Cooper could be the first manager fired this season.

In all fairness to Rosenthal, the Astros’ move seemed very odd, but they have been doing that a lot of that kind of thing over the recent years. The 4-9 Houston club is currently last in the NL Central.


Cremated Cubs fans have a new home

In the news of the really weird, an area specifically designed for deceased Cubs fans has been opened in a north-side Chicago cemetery. “Beyond the Vines” will be complete with brick, ivy, a stained-glass scoreboard, authentic Cubs seats and even displaced Wrigley turf.

One has to be cremated to take advantage of one of the 288 “eternal skyboxes” for sale. No word on whether discounts are given to those born prior to 1908.

Seriously.

Cards early attendance down more than MLB average


The AP is reporting that attendance at Major League Baseball games is down 6.9% over the first two weeks of the season compared to 2008’s final results.
Average attendance was 30,298 per game for the first 183 games over the opening two weeks of the season, down from last year’s final figure of 32,539.

For the Cardinals, approaching the start of their second homestand, the club is averaging 38,408 through their first seven home games. Opponents were divisional rivals the Pittsburgh Pirates and Houston Astros.

Using the AP methodology, that is down from last season’s 42,382 season-long average per-game ticket sales at Busch. It represents a 9.4% decline year-to-year, larger than the 6.9% cross-MLB drop.

In all fairness, attendance typically does rise in the summer months, but I used the Cardinals 2008 full-season amount to provide an apples-to-apples comparison to the AP numbers.

In my opinion, a more valid analysis would consider relative counts between the first homestands of 2008 and 2009. The Cardinals opened each of the last two seasons at Busch. In those initial six games last year, the club averaged 40,457 against the Colorado Rockies and Washington Nationals.

The 2009 first homestand average represents a 5.1% decline in attendance in St. Louis.

Prior to the season, reports estimated the Cardinals to be projecting 3 million in attendance, which would be down 14% from the 3.43 million achieved in 2008. At least based on the initial series drop of 5.1%, the 14% seems pessimistic.

None of this reflects ticket revenue, which may be down even more. Early indications were that higher-priced seating areas were suffering from the most sluggish demand.

Recent email ticket offers from the club seem to bear this out as All-Inclusive tickets for the Astros and Mets series have been featured as well as All-Inclusive Champions Club deals for the Phillies games on May 4-5.

Unlikely leader Descalso trying to help Springfield


Yesterday, I noted the troubles encountered by the Springfield pitching staff through the first nine games of the 2009 regular season. Game ten was the worst yet as the Cardinals yielded 14 hits, ten walks and a dozen runs to Midland on Sunday.

It was the fourth time in those ten games that Springfield pitchers walked ten or more in a single nine-inning contest. The 12 runs scored were a season high for the Cardinals opposition as Springfield once again dropped into the Texas League ERA cellar at 6.17.

On Sunday, every one of the five hurlers contributed to the Midland hit and walk parade. Starter Tyler Herron couldn’t get out of the first inning as his ERA ballooned to 13.50 in two starts. Trey Hearne slowed the bleeding until the fifth at which time the RockHounds put away the game against him and Pete Parise.

Kenny Maiques continued his disturbing return to wildness, walking four in the seventh after hitting his first batter faced. The final pitcher, Elvis Hernandez, allowed two baserunners, but became the only one of the five to actually keep Midland off the scoreboard.

Despite the pitching woes, the Springfield offense again did its best to try to keep the club close. The Cardinals scored enough times, eight, that a win should have been expected to follow.

Only because the Midland club’s hitters have fattened up their stats via three wins in four games against the Cardinals is Springfield ranked second in the league in most offensive categories.

They include runs scored (67 in ten games), walks (57), batting average (.281), on-base percentage (.401) and OPS (.805). The only area of offensive weakness is in the stolen base category, where the Cards are last with four swipes in eight attempts.

The Cardinals are putting up these impressive results as a team, with a balanced attack.

Their top hitting performance in the early going comes from a most unexpected source. Second baseman Daniel Descalso (pictured), is ranked just 13th in the league despite a team-best .371 batting mark.

The 22-year-old Californian came into 2009 with a pedestrian career .258 average over his two previous professional seasons after having been the Cardinals’ third round draft pick in 2007 from UCal Davis. The left-handed hitter did put up a promising .351/.405/.432 line in his 37 at-bat Springfield debut late last summer.

Currently, Descalso’s nine RBI is tied for fifth-best in the Texas League while third baseman Brett Wallace also cracked the circuit’s top ten with eight driven in. Descalso’s slugging mark of .629 is seventh-highest in the league and his OPS of 1.092 is fifth. All of the second baseman’s marks lead the Springfield club.

Wallace is the only Cardinal with more than one home run (two). He tops the league with 11 walks while his on-base mark of .471 also ranks in the top ten.

Centerfielder Jim Rapoport is tied for third in the circuit with 11 runs scored, with Descalso and outfielder Daryl Jones close behind at nine each. Rapoport (.308), Jones (.333) and catcher Steven Hill (.345) are all batting over .300.

Here’s hoping the 5-5 Cardinals can find a way to stabilize their pitching staff and balance out their contribution levels with a group of hitters that have been doing more than their share for Pop Warner’s third Springfield club.

Wellemeyer vs. Lilly – Start ‘em or sit ‘em?


Following is a look at the Cardinals’ past numbers against Sunday Cubs starting pitcher Ted Lilly and the Cubs’ hitters success facing Cards starter Todd Wellemeyer (pictured). Of course, some of the “start” players may sit and “sit” players may be in the lineups, but this does indicate what occurred previously.

Cards vs. Lilly

Since coming over to the National League, Lilly has been tough on the Cardinals as a team and Ryan Ludwick specifically with nine strikeouts in 20 at-bats. As no surprise, Albert Pujols seems to hit against anyone, any time, including the veteran left-hander Lilly.

Lilly G/Starts IP W-L ERA WHIP OBA
Career vs. StL 11/11 75 1/3 6-2 2.99 1.06 0.223
2008 vs. StL 5/5 35 1/3 3-0 3.06 1.05 0.238
Start ’em
Chris Duncan 2-for-6 (.333)
Rick Ankiel 3-for 12 (.250) 1HR, 5K
Albert Pujols 9-for-28 (.371) 2HR, 5BB, 3K
Sit ’em
Khalil Greene 1-for-10 (.100) 1K
Ryan Ludwick 3-for-20 (.150) 4BB, 9K
Yadier Molina 4-for-23 (.174) 1HR, 2BB, 5K
Skip Schumaker 1-for-12 (.083)
Brendan Ryan 4-for-17 (.235) 1BB, 4K


Cubs vs. Wellemeyer

Since Wellemeyer accrued the majority of his MLB appearances to date as a reliever wearing the Cubs uniform, almost all of his results facing them occurred last season – a very small sample.

Ryan Theriot has reached base in seven of his 12 plate appearances vs. Wellemeyer on three walks and four hits. On the other side of the coin, Friday’s hero Alfonso Soriano has whiffed in five of nine career at-bats against the Cardinals starter.

Wellemeyer G/Starts IP W-L ERA WHIP OBA
Career vs. ChC 5/4 22 2/3 2-2 3.18 1.37 0.256
2008 vs. ChC 4/4 21 2/3 2-2 3.32 1.38 0.256
Career at Wrigley 35/1 61 6-3 5.31 1.48 0.247
Start ’em
Ryan Theriot 4-for-9 (.444) 3BB
Reed Johnson 5-for-12 (.417) 3K
Joey Gathright 2-for-3 (.667)
Mike Fontenot 2-for-5 (.400) 2BB
Aramis Ramirez 3-for-9 (.333)
Sit ’em
Kosuke Fukudome 0-for-4 (.000) 1BB
Derrek Lee 2-for-12 (.167) 2K
Alfonso Soriano 2-for-9 (.222) 5K
Geovany Soto 1-for-8 (.125) 2BB, 1K


Programming note

I have agreed to co-host a live blog during Sunday evening’s game with the folks at Baseball Daily Digest. If you want to participate or just look in, here is the link.

One in a row for Springfield’s green staff


While two members of the 2008 Springfield Cardinals pitching staff, Luis Perdomo and Luke Gregerson, made their major league debuts last week wearing the uniform of the San Diego Padres, the pitchers that remained behind to make up the 2009 version of the Texas League Cardinals’ staff have been struggling.

Over half the staff, seven of the 12, are receiving their initial taste of Double-A ball. Seven of Springfield’s pitchers – the entire bullpen – are making their first career appearances at the level this season, though one, Trey Hearne, pitched in the Mexican League last year. The other six: Tyler Norrick, Kristiam Linares, Elvis Hernandez, Pete Parise, Francisco Samuel (pictured) and Kenny Maiques.

The Double-A Cardinals’ hurlers passed out eight free passes on Friday night and not surprisingly lead the league in walks issued. The alarming total is 58 in just nine games.

It isn’t even close, as the nearest team has issued “just” 46 bases on balls. The number one club, San Antonio, has just given out exactly half the walks of Springfield at 29. Only half of the team’s 12-man staff have more strikeouts than walks.

Too many of those walked batters are crossing the plate too, as the Cardinals pitching staff is carrying an ERA of 5.44. That is sixth in the eight-team Texas League.

While league-leader Corpus Christi’s staff has a solid WHIP of 1.30, the Cardinals are dead last at 1.79. That means Springfield’s pitchers are playing with fire by putting one more runner on base every two innings than are the Hooks.

Springfield’s 4-2 win over Frisco on Saturday indicates a considerable improvement over the previous eight games, for one night at least. Coming into the day, the Cardinals’ ERA of 6.00 was last in the circuit.

Starter Brad Furnish actually saw his 2009 ERA increase to 0.77 despite allowing just one earned run in 6 2/3 innings. The bullpen, specifically Norrick and Samuel, finished up. Norrick allowed an inherited run to cross the plate, but that was it.

One key to the victory was that the three hurlers issued just two bases on balls in total all evening and neither runner scored. Samuel did make things interesting as the game ended with the two Friscans on base as the potential winning runner was retired on a popup.

Despite all the pitching challenges, Springfield has managed a winning record to date by outscoring the opposition. Their 59 runs scored top the Texas League and their 5-4 mark is tied for the lead in the North Division.

One cannot yet consider the corner having been turned based on just a single good evening, however.

Strugglers in the early action are not just limited to the pen. Three of the five members of the rotation, Justin Fiske (8.68), Kyle Mura (11.57) and Tyler Herron (8.44) are pulling high ERAs. To be fair to them, the first two each have just a pair of starts under their belts, while the latter makes his second regular-season start on Sunday at Midland.

Among the new Double-A relievers, only Norrick and Hernandez have WHIPs under 1.74. Norrick (2.57), Linares (2.84) and Parise (3.38) are the only ones with ERAs under 5.50. The latter two may be living on borrowed time however, unless they put fewer runners on base (WHIPs of 1.74 and 1.88 respectively, for Linares and Parise).

Two pen members have ERAs in the double digits, closer Samuel (10.80) and Kenny Maiques (13.50). Maiques leads the walk parade with nine in 2 2/3 innings.

Link to Springfield Cardinals player stats

Link to Texas League team pitching stats


Where are they now?

Check out Cardinals Best News Links for a series on where former Cardinals major and minor leaguers have landed for 2009. So far, US, Mexico and Indy leagues are covered.

Lohse vs. Dempster – Start ‘em or sit ‘em?


I decided to take a look at the Cardinals’ past numbers against Saturday Cubs starting pitcher Ryan Dempster and the Cubs’ hitters success facing Cards starter Kyle Lohse. Since there is a large enough body of work for each, I am sharing them here.

Cards vs. Dempster

At first blush, it looks like the Cardinals should have another good day with the bats, but note Dempster’s considerable improvement last season. It occurred across the board as the right-hander had a career season at age 31, but especially in his three starts against the Cardinals. He spent his most of his three-plus previous seasons as Chicago’s closer.

As far as the offense is concerned, I wonder if Jason LaRue can play in the outfield? With Ryan Ludwick and Chris Duncan both hot at the plate and with good career marks against Dempster, the only serious lineup question for the outfield should be Rick Ankiel vs. Colby Rasmus in center.

Dempster G/Starts IP W-L ERA WHIP OBA
Career vs. StL 37/11 93 6-5 4.65 1.58 0.288
2008 vs. StL 3/3 18 2/3 2-0 2.89 1.29 0.268
Start ’em
Chris Duncan 2-for-4 (.500) 1K
Jason LaRue 5-for-13 (.385) 1HR, 1BB, 2K
Ryan Ludwick 5-for-10 (.500) 1HR, 1K
Yadier Molina 4-for-12 (.333) 2BB
Albert Pujols 8-for-30 (.267) 2HR, 3BB
Skip Schumaker 7-for-18 (.389) 2K
Sit ’em
Khalil Greene 1-for-10 (.100) 4K
Rick Ankiel 1-for-4 (.250) 1K

Cubs vs. Lohse

Unfortunately, the Cubs hitters should be licking their chops. In aggregate, they are batting .303 vs. Lohse. Even the sitters have a decent OBP against him.

Despite improving his results overall in 2008, Lohse actually pitched worse against the Chicagoans last season than previously. The one positive is that the former Cubs prospect has pitched extremely well in his nine career innings at Wrigley.

Lohse G/Starts IP W-L ERA WHIP OBA
Career vs. ChC 7-7 36 2/3 1-2 5.15 1.53 0.303
2008 vs. ChC 3-3 18 1/3 0-1 6.38 1.58 0.303
Career at Wrigley 2-2 9 1-0 1.00 0.89 0.188
Start ’em
Kosuke Fukudome 2-for-7 (.286) 1K
Reed Johnson 3-for-9 (.333) 1BB
Derrek Lee 6-for-15 (.400) 1BB, 5K
Aaron Miles 5-for-10 (.500) 1K
Aramis Ramirez 7-for-11 (.636) 1HR
Alfonso Soriano 13-for-38 (.342) 2HR, 4K
Geovany Soto 3-for-8 (.375) 1BB, 1K
Ryan Theriot 9-for-17 (.529)
Sit ’em
Milton Bradley 3-for-12 (.250) 2BB, 4K
Mike Fontenot 1-for-6 (.167) 1HR, 4BB

Is the Cardinals organizational direction about one guy?


In his Thursday column entitled “St. Louis Cardinals Jeff Luhnow faces an early test”, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Bernie Miklasz notes the loss of Chris Carpenter requires the Cardinals to dip into their farm system for reinforcement.

It reflects the reality of the changes needed to remain competitive in baseball today as accurately acknowledged in this statement:

“Unless you’re demographically matched to have a New York, Boston, Chicago or Los Angeles payroll, smart baseball people have little choice but to prioritize the player-development system,” says the article.

The column then points out that it is now time for that Cardinals’ player development system to come through in terms of results, observing the arrival of top prospect Colby Rasmus, but properly noting the jury is still out on a number of others, including relievers Chris Perez and Jason Motte.

Makes sense to me, as every organization needs to rely on their minor leaguers to plug the inevitable gaps that present themselves during the long season, but then the tone turned personal, which I was less comfortable with.

“Rather than invest in more expensive starting pitching to reinforce the rotation’s depth, (Cardinals chairman Bill) DeWitt chose to invest in Luhnow,” the column concludes.

Vice President of Scouting and Player Development Jeff Luhnow is clearly the man in charge of the draft and the farm system and therefore is accountable. Yet, I don’t see this as being as much of a black-and-white, one-man issue as the column seems to paint it.

I can understand how the performance of first-time major league starter P.J. Walters in Chicago on Friday will reflect on the player development function, but is Luhnow really the one responsible for the Cardinals not re-signing then-free agent starter Braden Looper or comparable as a veteran sixth starter and safety net for Carpenter (putting aside whether that move would have even made sense for the organization)?

That point feels out of sync with an evaluation of the farm system – unless one doubts it is ready to produce. Though it is never said directly, it feels to me like that is the message being delivered.

The ongoing concern over the level of spending the Cardinals have made or not made for veteran players seems too often to permeate and polarize these kinds of discussions. In doing so, one can be left with the feeling it is believed there can be only one possible approach, rather than the more realistic blend of the two.

As it is, the Cardinals have committed 40 percent of their 2009 25-man player payroll to the five members of the rotation – $36.5 million of roughly $90 million. Carpenter represents the biggest slice at $14 million, followed by Kyle Lohse, re-signed for four-years, $41 million last fall and Joel Pineiro, making $7.5 million in the final year of his current contract.

Since it was acknowledged that the player development direction is the right route for the Cardinals to have followed, then why question the lack of signing of a free agent veteran, especially a sixth starting pitcher to cover what is currently expected to be a six-to-eight week outage for Carpenter?

And is that really one to pin on the farm director personally, anyway?

Apparently so. The column makes this assertion:

“DeWitt was assured by (GM John) Mozeliak and Luhnow that the Cardinals had attractive options at the minor-league level.”

That is the only time the responsibility of the club’s general manager, to whom Luhnow reports, is even hinted at.

The choice of words used to reference the farm system and its products were not positive. Three different times, variants of the same term – “hyped”, “hyperventilate” and “hype” – were used, not to mention “Luhnow’s precious Fabergé Eggs”.

This can reinforce the ongoing undercurrent of a lack of confidence, perhaps echoing from somewhere within the organization. Since the general approach is agreed with, the rub would seem to be in its implementation and maybe in those implementing it.

Isn’t the real issue whether or not the right players were drafted and groomed to contribute rather than wondering whether it might be better to have Braden Looper starting instead of P.J. Walters this weekend?

The success or failure of the Cardinals farm system will reflect the efforts of the players themselves supported by several hundred hard-working professionals, scouts, coaches, instructors and the like, all pulling together to try to identify the right prospects and mold them into legitimate major leaguers.

They are the ones who deserve whatever credit might be due, yet as always, if there is heat to be taken, it will be applied to the bosses.

So be it, but why should DeWitt, Mozeliak and Luhnow be separated in their treatment? I imagine they would be the first to say the organization’s directional commitment was made as one.

Cardinals are atop the stat sheets


As I always do before a radio appearance, I pull the most recent stats sheets for the Cardinals and the National League. I was a bit surprised at what I saw.

With 11 games played and eight wins in the bank, the team is one or often two decisions ahead of the other clubs. Still, the Cards have some impressive stats in the average as well as the counting categories.

Here is a very quick run through some of the team highlights.

Offense

Batting average: #1 in the NL at .299. The next closest club, the Mets, are 17 points behind.

Home runs: #1 (tied) with 13.

When is the last time the Cards paced the NL in long balls for an entire season? It was way, way back in 1940. Johnny Mize led the Cardinals, the National League and MLB with 43 home runs, so he gets the photo.

The original “Big Cat” was my personal choice as the #13 Cardinals player of all time. Though Mize came out #18 in the final voting, I offered a case comparing his numbers with those of Albert Pujols. Though he didn’t remain a Cardinal as long, Mize’s stats were Pujolsian.

Though the Cardinals finishing number one in the NL in home runs likely won’t happen in 2009, it is a fine start.

Sacrifices: #1 with 11. A stat that shows a team working together. The next closest team total is seven.

Strikeouts: Fifth fewest at 58. Good to see that with all the offense the club isn’t striking out a lot.

On-base percentage: #1 at .377.

Slugging: #1 at .479. The next closest clubs are 34 points behind.

Pitching

ERA: #5 at 3.34. The pitchers are first at 2.86 while the relievers are in the middle of the pack of their NL peers at 4.28 runs per nine innings. Thursday’s game helped bring the two Cardinals groups closer.

Hits: #2 at 92. A by-product of playing more games.

Runs allowed: Tied for seventh at 41. Not bad at all considering the hits allowed.

Walks: Fifth fewest at 31. Very impressive.

Strikeouts: #4 at 72. Not what the staff will be known for, but the youngsters help.

Opposing batting average: #4 at .241. Keeping the runners off base.

Good Duncan, Bad Duncan, Good Ending


Perhaps never before have the good and bad rolled together into the package that is St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Chris Duncan been more evident than in game one of the Chicago Cubs series on Thursday afternoon.

Bad Duncan

In the initial inning with a runner on first, Duncan, positioned in left field almost on the track, had a long way to run in on a pop fly to short left by Kosuke Fukudome. Khalil Greene, running out from his shortstop position, tried to make the catch with his back to the infield. As Duncan peeled off, the ball bounced off Greene’s glove.

Alfonso Soriano, the runner ahead of Fukudome, scored the Cubs’ first run of the game later in the inning. What was originally correctly called an error was changed by the scorer to a home-field double. FOX Sports Midwest color man Al Hrabosky asserted that Duncan should have gotten to that ball. Gotta’ agree.

Good Duncan

In the fourth, Duncan demonstrated his considerable power when blasting a two-run home run into the screen just over the right-field wall at the 368 foot mark off Cubs left-handed starter Sean Marshall. The pair of runs broke a 1-1 tie.

Good Duncan

Next time up in the sixth, Duncan reached base again on a 3-2 single past second. On an apparent hit-and-run with Greene, Duncan was left unprotected. While he was thrown out at second base, Duncan’s slide was an excellent one, off to the outfield side with only his left hand reachable. Unfortunately later in the at-bat, Greene untied the game with what could have been a two-run home run.

Bad Duncan

With the game again tied, a runner on base and no outs in the sixth, Duncan flat out dropped an easy fly ball to left as it clunked off his glove. For whatever reason, ever since having been converted to the outfield, Duncan has been allowed to try to catch the ball with his glove hand only. Why this has never been corrected continues to amaze me. It almost bit him and the Cardinals once again.

Making matters worse, after picking up the ball, Duncan did a complete spin and fired the ball toward Brendan Ryan covering second base. The runner was likely safe even before Duncan attempted the throw.

Though the ball appeared slightly off line and the runner was standing on second, Ryan seemed glued to the bag. The throw eluded him for the second error on the play, allowing the runners to move up. Amazingly, Cards starter Adam Wainwright escaped what would become a bases-loaded jam with no runs allowed.

Good Duncan

In the top of the next inning, the seventh, the offense rewarded Wainwright with the go-ahead run scoring on Yadier Molina’s single. Duncan gave the Cards a two-run cushion with another 3-2 single up the middle against lefty reliever Neal Cotts, brought in specifically to face him.

Duncan then left the game in favor of Skip Schumaker taking over defensively in left via a double switch with pitcher Kyle McClellan relieving Wainwright.

Good and Bad Duncan

His tally on the day: Duncan extended his hitting streak to ten games with three safeties including a home run, three RBI, a run scored, a strikeout, a caught stealing along with what should have been two fielding errors and a questionable throw.

The bottom line: A 7-4 Cardinals victory at Wrigley Field.

Fewer recent Cards top draft picks made the bigs


The St. Louis Cardinals media notes last week called attention to the fact that Colby Rasmus’ MLB debut marked the first first-round draft pick by the organization to reach the big leagues with the club since J.D. Drew (pictured) in 1998.

That is true, depending on how you classify the supplemental first round. Chris Duncan, taken 46th overall in 1999 in the supplemental first round also has been a major leaguer for the better part of four years.

That got me to thinking about how dry the top end of the Cardinals recent drafts have been. (When you have been following the team as long as I have, even 1998 seems fairly recent!)

In a series of articles called “Doctoring the Numbers” featured at Baseball Prospectus in 2006, writer Rany Jazayerli looked at 16 years of draft output across MLB. He determined that 49.3% of the top 100 players taken in the draft reached the major leagues – with any club.

Another study mentioned at Dugout Central last summer notes that 67% of first-round draft picks make the major leagues. That analysis covered 36 years worth of data, from 1965 until 2001.

With that backdrop, let’s look at how the Cardinals’ picks in the first round and in the top 100 have fared from when Drew was taken 1998 up until Rasmus’ selection in 2005.

First, I present the raw data, with future major leaguers’ names in bold. The highest level of play attained by all 21 players is noted, bookended by Drew on the front end and Rasmus on the back end. Drew and his 1998 class are included in the numbers that follow, but Rasmus and the 2005 draft are not, as the jury is still out on many of those players.

1998
Rd Ov Name Pos High
1 5 J.D. Drew OF MLB
1s 32 Ben Diggins P MLB
2 48 Chad Hutchinson P MLB
2 55 Tim Lemon OF A+
3 78 Gabe Johnson IF AAA
1999
Rd Ov Name Pos High
1 30 Chance Caple P A+
1s 36 Nick Stocks P AAA
1s 46 Chris Duncan IF MLB
2s 82 Josh Pearce P MLB
2000
Rd Ov Name Pos High
1 13 Shaun Boyd IF AAA
1 24 Blake Williams P A+
2 53 Chris Narveson P MLB
3 83 Chase Voshell IF A+
2001
Rd Ov Name Pos High
1 28 Justin Pope P AAA
2 72 Dan Haren P MLB
2002
none
2003
Rd Ov Name Pos High
1 28 Daric Barton C MLB
2 65 Stuart Pomeranz P AA
3 95 Dennis Dove P MLB
2004
Rd Ov Name Pos High
1 19 Chris Lambert P MLB
2 60 Mike Ferris 1B AAA
3 90 Eric Haberer P AA
(2005)
Rd Ov Name Pos High
1 28 Colby Rasmus OF MLB

First round

Rd 1 MLB Rd 1 MLB Rd 1 % Make
with StL Other club Miss MLB MLB
1998 1 0 0
1999 0 0 1
2000 0 0 2
2001 0 0 1
2002 0 0 0
2003 0 1 0
2004 0 1 0
total 1 2 4 43%
MLB avg 67%

As the table shows, during the seven years of 1998 through 2004, the Cardinals had seven picks in the first 30 selections, including two in 2000 and none in 2002. The Cardinals lost their first two picks in the latter year due to the free agent signings of Jason Isringhausen and Tino Martinez.

In addition to Drew, two others from this group of seven eventually made the major leagues, though neither Daric Barton (Oakland) nor Chris Lambert (Detroit) did it while still wearing a Cardinals uniform.

That 43% yield, albeit on a very small sample, is substantially lower than the 67% expected.

Though the study data referenced above does not further delineate the spot in the first round in which the picks are made, it is worth noting that Drew was the only one of the seven Cardinals picks taken in the first dozen in any given year and only three were in the top 20. In other words, four of the seven were in the back third of the first round. Still, 67 percent is 67 percent.

First round including supplemental picks

Rd 1+ MLB Rd 1+ MLB Rd 1+ % Make
with StL Other club Miss MLB MLB
1998 1 1 0
1999 1 0 2
2000 0 0 2
2001 0 0 1
2002 0 0 0
2003 0 1 0
2004 0 1 0
total 2 3 5 50%

I couldn’t locate any historical first round data that clearly delineated when supplemental picks were included. Therefore, I have no point of comparison for the 50% highlighted here, other than to note that while it isn’t all that great, it is slightly higher than the “pure” first round-only results of 43%. That seems counterintuitive, but perhaps it is an indication of the slightly larger population of players.

To go along with the three names mentioned just above plus Duncan, pitcher Ben Diggins, the number 32 pick overall in 1998, debuted with the 2002 Milwaukee Brewers.

Top 100 picks

Top 100 MLB Top 100 MLB Top 100 % Make
with StL Other club Miss MLB MLB
1998 2 1 2
1999 2 0 2
2000 1 0 3
2001 1 0 1
2002 0 0 0
2003 1 1 1
2004 0 1 2
total 7 3 11 47.6%
MLB avg 49.3%

Expanding the aperture to the top 100 players drafted each year adds five more MLB’ers, all of whom debuted with St. Louis. Of the five, only Dan Haren has been an impact player in the bigs, though.

Ten of the Cardinals’ 21 top 100 picks made starting with Drew and ending before the Rasmus selection reached the major leagues. That success rate of 47.6% is only slightly below Jazayerli’s 49.3% cross-MLB expectation.

Quantity vs. quality

Note that this article does not delineate between a “cup of coffee” player and a long-time major league contributor. To assess the longer term value of Cardinals draftees, please reference Dave Spitze’s pair of published articles at Scout.com.

The essence of the conclusion made is that the Cardinals are one of the top two clubs in MLB in terms of total player at-bats and innings pitched as well as key stats accrued by their draftees.

The catch is that many of those players had previously been traded away by the club. That reality was a by-product of the organizational strategy then in place – to swap top prospects for established major leaguers.

Using Woody to estimate Carp’s return


Waiting for official news from injured St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Chris Carpenter’s return to St. Louis for further medical evaluation may take a day or so. In the interim, we can speculate a bit based on early information from the club.

Former Cardinals hurler Woody Williams (pictured in 2002) was mentioned by general manager John Mozeliak as a comparable situation to Carpenter’s left ribcage or oblique injury suffered on Tuesday night in Arizona.

The specifics are this: Williams went onto the disabled list on July 7, 2002 and remained there for 53 days, coming off on August 29. Projecting that timetable into 2009 would have Carp returning on or about June 1, missing approximately eight starts or one-quarter of the season considering a normal five-man rotation.

Looking at Williams’ game logs from 2002, he carried a 2.35 ERA into his DL stint. In his return on August 29, he was touched up for five runs on eight hits in four innings. It was his worst outing of the season by a considerable margin.

However, Woody bounced back quickly, allowing just one run over his next 18 innings and three starts, all wins. Williams finished the 2002 regular season with a 2.53 ERA.

At the time of his injury, Williams was 35 years of age, actually marking his 36th birthday while on the disabled list. Carpenter, now 33, will turn 34 on the 27th of this month, most likely also while on the shelf. In fact, 2009 will mark Carp’s third consecutive birthday “celebrated” from the vantage of the disabled list.

What does all this mean for the oft-injured Carpenter and the 2009 Cardinals? Only time will tell.

Breaking down the Cards bullpen


The words selected for the title might be misinterpreted, especially if I had added a colon between “down” and “the”, so let’s instead choose the less-controversial meaning – a look into the numbers behind the performance of the St. Louis Cardinals relievers through the first nine games of the season.

The timing is certainly not random. As most Cards fans know, starter/ace Chris Carpenter had to leave Tuesday’s game against Arizona after three innings with a ribcage injury. That left 18 outs or six innings for the bullpen to secure, or as it turned out with the game going into the tenth inning, the revised goal became to get 21 outs.

Unfortunately, out number 21 was never made as the tenth batter facing Brad Thompson, Eric Byrnes, stroked the winning hit into the left-field corner to end a very disappointing 7-6 loss.

The most damaging blow prior was a three-run home run served up by Josh Kinney with two outs in the eighth. The right-hander walked the opposing catcher, Miguel Montero and hit Justin Upton with a full-count offering before pinch-hitter Conor Jackson slammed a long ball to left (pictured). That turned a one-run lead into a two-run deficit and became the first blown save of the year for Kinney and the third for the Cardinals against three saves.

As a group, the 2009 Cardinals bullpen was expected to be a younger, more improved relief corps compared to their inconsistent and disappointing 2008 predecessors. As the data below shows, through nine games, the anticipated improvement is not there.

In just about every measurement, the 2009 relievers have started more poorly than the 2008 group, whether you consider won-loss record, save conversion rate or ERA. In the latter case, the 2009 pen is three-quarters of a run per nine innings worse than last season. The only area of improvement shown here is strikeout-to-walk ratio.

I also listed the National League bullpen averages as a secondary point of comparison. Not surprisingly, the 2008 Cardinals pen was worse than the NL average in every one of these categories. Only a low walk rate keeps the same statement from being made about the current crew.

Though the 2009 totals are small, note that the members of the Cardinals pen have thrown more innings than the NL average this season. That is a contrast to their level from last year, a period during which some considered the relievers had become overworked.

2008 relievers W L W % Sv BS Sv % ERA IP BB K K:BB
Cardinals 22 31 0.415 42 31 0.575 4.20 499 230 381 1.66
NL average 26 27 0.493 38 23 0.623 4.09 514 219 432 1.97
2009 relievers W L W % Sv BS Sv % ERA IP BB K K:BB
Cardinals 0 2 0.000 3 3 0.500 5.06 26.2 8 19 2.38
NL average 1 1 0.481 2 1 0.667 4.45 24 12 20 1.63

Following are the current stats from the seven individuals that make up the 2009 Cardinals bullpen. Note at the lower right that the relievers’ ERA is over three runs per nine innings worse than the starters.

2009 W/L Sv Opps Sv % Inh Rnrs Score IRS % 1st Btr Ret 1BR % ERA WHIP OBA OBP
Franklin 0-0 1/1 100 1/0 0 2/2 100 0.00 0.38 0.111 0.111
Kinney 0-0 0/1 0 4/1 25 3/2 66 13.50 2.25 0.200 0.467
McClellan 0-0 1/1 100 3/0 0 3/3 100 2.25 1.00 0.188 0.235
Miller 0-0 0/1 0 3/2 66 3/2 66 0.00 1.00 0.231 0.231
Motte 0-1 0/1 0 0/0 NA 4/1 25 11.25 2.25 0.320 0.455
Reyes 0-0 1/1 100 2/1 50 4/3 75 0.00 0.27 0.083 0.083
Thompson 0-1 0/0 NA 0/0 NA 4/3 75 6.75 1.80 0.345 0.375
Relievers 0-2 3/6 50 13/4 31 23/16 70 5.06
Starters 1.96
Team 2.98

Won/loss: Thompson and Jason Motte have the only bullpen decisions – a pair of ugly bookends. Motte earned the defeat on opening day and Thompson took it on the chin in the most recent contest on Tuesday night.

Save opportunities: On Tuesday, Kinney joined Motte and Trever Miller in the negative category. The three conversions were by Ryan Franklin, Dennys Reyes and Kyle McClellan.

Inherited runners scoring: Miller has the poorest early record here, as two of the three runners on base when he entered the game came around to score. Reyes allowed his first inherited runner to cross the plate on Tuesday night. McClellan has been the best here so far.

First batter retired: Generally, this looks ok with one exception. Tuesday night marked the first time in his four outings this season that Motte kept his initial batter off the bases. His troubles have been of his own making. Each time, Motte has been allowed to come in with the bases empty.

ERA/WHIP: There is no in-between. Kinney, Motte and Thompson aren’t getting the job done in the early going. Way too many baserunners with too many of them crossing the plate. (As a reference point, a WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched) of 1.40 or slightly under is league average.)

Opponent batting average/on-base percentage: Kinney’s lack of control is killing him, Thompson’s problem has been hits while Motte is struggling in both areas.


What to do?

I seriously wondered if Chris Perez was only the eighth-best reliever on the Cardinals this spring and am continuing to ask myself the same question.

Sent to Memphis to open the season, Perez has pitched four innings over three games. He has a win and two saves on no hits and three walks. Perez has fanned four Triple-A batters.

If the Cardinals need to call up a pitcher from Memphis to backfill Carpenter, it may be someone who can start, such as P.J. Walters, but the shaky bullpen appears that it could use a shot of life, too.

All about Albert


It is surprisingly easy to seem to take what Albert Pujols accomplishes on the field of play for granted. It isn’t something I would ever plan to do, but it just seems to happen.

Looking back, since starting this blog in December, I have made almost 200 formal posts. Yet the best player in the game has been the primary subject just five times – two articles relating to the World Baseball Classic, one about his contract status and two concerning steroids.

I haven’t ignored him completely, though. One of my accomplished objectives for spring training this year was to sit down with Pujols to discuss his humanitarian efforts. He is prickly with the press as he can be inundated with requests to discuss baseball, the reaction for which I can hardly blame him, but warms up when the topic is helping others.

Pujols received substantial notice across the baseball world this past weekend as the result of two big home runs and seven RBI in Saturday’s Cardinals 11-2 home win over the Houston Astros.

The reality is that Pujols has been quietly delivering all along.

As I look around the net this morning, the main storylines from Monday evening’s 2-1 Cardinals win over Arizona are Todd Wellemeyer’s sharp seven innings of work, the “revenge” game-winning home run by Brian Barden to sink his former club and the shaky yet ultimately effective ninth inning stint from closer-by-default Ryan Franklin.

All are most valid, yet there seems scant acknowledgment of Pujols’ solo home run in the fourth inning. It was at least as important as his feats on Saturday as it set the tone, putting the Cardinals up in a tight pitching duel in their very first road game of the season.

In salute of Pujols, this post touches on just a few of his many recent feats.

Monday

Albert has reached base safely in 16 of his first 34 plate appearances to begin the regular season. His current line for 2009 is .357/.471/.821.

Pujols leads the Cardinals with 10 RBI. Only one other player (Ryan Ludwick) has even half.

With his RBI Monday, Pujols needs just 13 to reach 1000 for his career.

Since Pujols’ 2001 debut, the Cardinals are now 703-544 (.564) all-time when he appeared in a game.

Albert is one of eight active players to have appeared in 700 or more wins with their original teams.

Pujols has played in 1247 games for St. Louis, one of 13 current players who have played 1000-plus games with one team. Atlanta’s Chipper Jones (2029 games) and the Yankees’ Derek Jeter (1992) top the list.

Chipper is also the active leader in home runs (409) for a player who has played his entire career with one franchise. With his NL-leading four this season, Pujols’ Cardinals and career count is 323. Mike Schmidt is the all-time leader with 548 home runs while playing exclusively for the Philadelphia Phillies.

Among players who have played 60-plus percent of their time at first base this decade, Pujols has taken the positional home run lead over the Mets’ Carlos Delgado 323-321. Oakland’s Jason Giambi is next with 290.

Saturday

Albert’s first two home run game of 2009 included a 431-foot third-deck grand slam into Big Mac Land, and a three run shot. The bases loaded blast was his seventh in his eight-plus year career. It was his 24th career multi-home run game.

The seven RBI matched his career single-game high for a second time. Pujols also tied the Cardinals career record for games with seven-or-more RBIs. Four other Cardinals have a pair of such games since baseball began compiling RBIs officially in 1920. Three are in the Hall of Fame – Jim Bottomley, Enos Slaughter and Stan Musial. The other is Silent George Hendrick, who had seven-RBI games in 1978 and 1982.

Pujols currently leads all players with 200 career RBI at the new Busch Stadium, accrued in 231 games played there.

When Pujols has four or more RBI, the Cardinals have a 39-2 record and are 20-4 all-time in his multi-home run games.

Wednesday

The former Gold Glove Award winner at first base collected seven assists Wednesday against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Five were on groundouts with the pitcher covering first base.

Pujols’ seven assists in one game set the all-time record for Cardinals first basemen and represent the most by any Major League first baseman in a nine inning game since Pittsburgh’s Bob Robertson had eight almost 38 years ago – on June 21, 1971.

Last Monday

Pujols started the season right last Monday against the Pirates with his first-ever three-hit Opening Day game.

Season records

Pujols current run of eight 30-home run and 30-double seasons ties Manny Ramirez for the longest stretch in MLB history. Pujols can own the record alone in 2009.

Most Consecutive Seasons 30 HR-30 2B – MLB

Albert Pujols 8 2001-2008
Manny Ramirez 8 1998-2005
Jeff Bagwell 7 1996-2002
Carlos Delgado 7 1997-2003
Albert Belle 7 1993-99
Todd Helton 6 1999-2004
Lou Gehrig 6 1929-1934

After a two year break, Manny collected his tenth 30-30 season in 2008. Albert is two behind for their careers, but he is just 29 years old while Ramirez turns 37 next month.

Most Seasons 30 HR-30 2B – MLB

Manny Ramirez 10 1996,1998-2005,2008
Carlos Delgado 10 1997-2003, 2005-06,2008
Lou Gehrig 9 1927,1929-1934,1936-37
Jimmie Foxx 9 1930-33,1935-36,1938-40
Albert Pujols 8 2001-2008
Jeff Bagwell 8 1994,1996-2002
Alex Rodriquez 7 1996,1998,2000,2001,2003,2007-2008
Rafael Palmeiro 7 1993,1995-96,1998-99,2001-02
Barry Bonds 7 1990,1992-93,1995,1998,2001-02
Albert Belle 7 1993-99
Ted Williams 6 1939,1941-42,1946-47, 1949
Frank Thomas 6 1991,1993-94,1997,2000,2003
Babe Ruth 6 1920-21,1923-24,1926,1931
Frank Robinson 6 1959-62,1965-66
Stan Musial 6 1948-49,1951,1953-55
Todd Helton 6 1999-2004
Vladimir Guerrero 6 1998-2002,2004,2006
Hank Aaron 6 1958-59,1961,1965,1967,1969

Pujols leads the Cardinals franchise all-time in the number of both consecutive and total 40 and 30 home run seasons and trails Musial by just two in consecutive 20 home run years.

Consecutive 20 HR seasons – StL

Musial 10
Pujols 8
Boyer 7
Edmonds 6
White 5
McGwire 5
Lankford 4
Simmons 4
Mize 4

Consecutive 30 HR seasons – StL

Pujols 8
Musial 3
McGwire 3
Edmonds 2
Lankford 2

Consecutive 40 HR seasons – StL

Pujols 4
McGwire 2

10 HR seasons – StL

21 Musial
11 Boyer
10 Slaughter
9 Lankford
8 Pujols Bottomley Edmonds Simmons
7 White Medwick
6 Renteria Hendrick Torre Mize Brock Hornsby
5 Hafey Drew McGwire Collins Kurowski
4 Jordan Flood Porter Hernandez Shannon Repulski Rolen Zeile Moon
3 Paquette Frisch Gaetti Javier Cepeda Gant McCarver

20 HR seasons – StL

10 Musial
8 Pujols Boyer
6 Edmonds Lankford
5 White McGwire Simmons
4 Mize Hornsby
3 Hafey Bottomley Medwick Collins Rolen Kurowski
2 Jordan Duncan Clark Torre Re Sanders Gant Brunansky

30 HR seasons – StL

8 Pujols
6 Musial
4 Edmonds
3 McGwire
2 Lankford Hornsby

40 HR seasons – StL

4 Pujols
2 Edmonds McGwire
1 Mize Hornsby

Addendum: Since 1954, the Cardinals have only seen two players deliver two different two home run, seven RBI or greater performances. As expected, the two are Pujols and Musial. Among current Cardinals, Rick Ankiel has accomplished the feat once.

Player Date Opp G Reslt PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI
Albert Pujols 4/11/2009 HOU W 11-2 4 4 2 2 0 0 2 7
Albert Pujols 8/22/2006 @NYM L 7-8 4 4 2 2 0 0 2 7
Stan Musial 6/23/1961 SFG W 10-5 5 4 2 2 0 0 2 7
Stan Musial 8/5/1954 @BRO W 13-4 6 4 3 2 0 0 2 7
Mark Whiten 9/07/93(2) @CIN W 15-2 5 5 4 4 0 0 4 12
Mark McGwire 5/18/2000 @PHI W 7-2 5 4 3 3 0 0 3 7
Rick Ankiel 9/6/2007 PIT W 16-4 5 4 4 3 1 0 2 7
Scott Rolen 9/15/2006 SFG W 14-4 4 4 2 3 1 0 2 7
Fernando Tatis 4/23/1999 @LAD W 12-5 5 5 2 2 0 0 2 8
George Hendrick 8/25/1978 @ATL W 11-10 6 5 3 4 1 0 2 7
Ken Reitz 6/28/77(2) PIT W 13-3 5 5 3 3 0 0 2 8
Dick Allen 6/2/1970 SFG W 12-1 5 5 3 3 0 0 2 7


In compiling these factoids, a tip of the cap is made to Lee Sinins’ Complete Baseball Encyclopedia, Tom Orf, Billy-Ball.com and the St. Louis Cardinals media relations department.