Cardinal baseball, from the girls
Monthly Archives: April 2010
Brendan Ryan is a fan favorite. A spectacular shortstop, he also has a fun-loving personality. He’s goofy, chatty, seems to genuinely enjoy interacting with fans and loves to entertain. Brendan doesn’t mind his life being an open book as was evident during Spring Training this year when he shared his home movieswith the FSMW audience – everything from his toe surgery to what he cooked for dinner. He’s not stingy with his interviews either, and seems to enjoy chatting with the reporters, joking around and giving them plenty to write about. It is no wonder we feel like we ‘know’ Brendan – and maybe that is why we are so troubled by his current ‘issue.’
We’ve been politely avoiding the elephant in the room for almost a month now. Our favorite shoulder-licker, Brendan Ryan, is really struggling at the plate. I’ve heard it described as his “Sophomore Slump.” Whatever it is, it isn’t pretty. His batting average was slowly recovering from an unspeakable low of 0.067 on April 9th to a meager 0.167 on Apr 27th, then falling again to 0.159 after striking out twice and flying out once on Apr 28th. But his presence in the box speaks volumes. Brendan is uncomfortable at the plate. His swing is awkward. He’s frustrated. Not a frustration that involves throwing bats or smashing Gatorade dispensers in the dugout, but more of a disappointment, the stuff that just eats at you on the inside. And that kind of internal dialogue is probably making it more difficult to overcome the mechanical issues. Lately every time Brendan steps up to the plate, Cardinals fans everywhere hold their breath…. will he finally break out of the slump?
What happened to the ‘new and improved’ batting stance that Mark McGwire helped him retool? Brendan was so proud of showing it off in Spring Training. Why now? Brendan had unexpected but successful wrist surgery in February (Derrick Goold wrote about it here). With the chronic pain cured, Brendan should be improving at the plate. However, as of today, we are 22 games into the season (about 14%) and our beloved shortstop is a virtual black hole of offensive production. So…when should we really start to worry?
I completely understand that 1) “It is still early” 2) “Everyone has slumps” and 3) “He will figure it out.” But, watching him battle through it is HARD. Luckily we are winning games and Brendan’s defense has been solid. So everyone is just waiting this out… and confidently repeating the mantra “Brendan will be ok.”
On Tuesday, for the first time this season, Tony LaRussa put Brendan at the 9th spot in the lineup (pitcher hitting eighth) in an effort to spark some team offense. While he was only 1 for 3 that night, Brendan did start off the 6th inning rally with a lead-off hit, and scored on Ryan Ludwick’s double. Looking back at how Brendan did in various lineup positions for 2009, there’s a slight advantage for him in the 9th spot. Could this be what spurs him out of his rut?
BJ Rains of Globe-Democrat.com has audio from his interview with Brendan about moving to the 9th spot in the order. Brendan is excited by the opportunity and the challenge of it, saying he “loves hitting in the 9 hole,” adding that “from the team standpoint it might be another opportunity to get some ducks on the pond in front of the big guys.”
Brendan needs his confidence back. It’s obviously eating at him, and it’s giving me an ulcer. Knowing Brendan’s tendency toward quirkiness, he’s probably trying just about everything he can to find his swing again. This gal’s just hoping the ‘fix’ doesn’t involve a comeback of last season’s crazy mustache.
It is no secret that Brendan is one of my favorites and I really dig watching his amazing talent for defensive acrobatics. But I am hoping soon we can all relax and celebrate his offense too. I’ve got no magic solutions to offer. I’m sure he’s heard it all: “Don’t worry. Don’t get frustrated. Be patient. Clear your head. Focus on the fundamentals….”
So, what do we do as fans while anxiously awaiting the recovery of Brendan’s bat?…… Blame? Pray? Drink?
If you need a further break from the worrying, check out these links from some of Ryan’s lighter moments:
Hopefully this write-up will be obsolete very soon. Until then, I’ll be nervously cheering on Brendan from my couch. GO CARDS!
Brendan makes a diving stop. We could watch him do this alllllll day.
Easy Albert. It wasn’t a great call. We know.
Thankful Albert. We’re thankful for the home run too.
I gotta get me some of them shades, man. Brad Penny admiring Carp’s fashion.
I’ma get you. Brendan didn’t have to work too hard to chase down Bengie Molina. Bengie is a big boy.
Signs of a good night. RBI base hit? Check. Dirty jersey? Check. We love Yadi!
Welcome to the majors, Jon Jay. Don’t worry, this won’t be your last at bat.
This picture is just sweet. Matt Holliday connects for a broken bat base hit in the rain.
Happy birthday! Which present was better: Yadi’s hit or Motte’s save?
Speaking of saves, this one was pretty good too.
Can’t forget Luddy. He came through when needed too.
Because it’s his birthday, Carp gets two pics. This is our all-time fav! If we had to, we would nominate this as the official photo of the CDD.
Getting dirty. The high socks were a hit for Skip Schumaker, who broke out of a slump and got on base 4 times last night.
Final stamp of approval on this week: We approve of Skip’s socks from last night. Well done, Skippy.
|Still love ya, Jimmy, but it was hard to watch you out there.|
- Brewer fans love them some Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder. I was under the impression that they were decently appreciative of Jim Edmonds as well, but those were Cardinal fans cheering for him a few weeks ago. Tonight? I was probably cheering louder than any Brewer fan there. Also, he’s lost several steps in the outfield. Balls he used to pull in bounced in front of the warning track tonight. Sad. After that, the loudest sounds in the park begin when Trevor Hoffman comes in. Bring earplugs for that, because that was the loudest I’ve ever heard Hell’s Bells. Hoffman’s looked awful this year too. If you think boo’s were raining down on Izzy in his rough patches… you didn’t hear 28,000 people chewing out Trevor Hoffman tonight. They’re screaming his name all the way in from the bullpen, and 2 minutes later the boo birds were out in full force. That was ugly.
- If you’re interested in watching warm-ups and batting practice but not looking to score autographs you probably won’t get, get to the gates just before the park opens 90 min before gametime. They let you in as long as you’re going to TGIFriday’s. To me – that’s genius, because the food is actually priced normally, and if you sit outside you’re hanging out right above left field. Bonus to this is you’re right over the top of the (visiting) pitchers who come out to left to stretch and warm up their arms. You’ve also got a pretty decent shot at a bp ball, and the boys toss quite a few up in the stands/seating area for Fridays. A few weeks ago Holliday tossed us a ball that was just a shade too high, so it hit off the facade and bounced down behind the wall. It happens.
- There are usually a pretty good number of Cardinal fans there. Not quite the number that head to KC for the Royals’ series, but you’re not alone by any stretch.
- Brewer fans are nice until they’re intoxicated, and they’re willing to have a conversation with you as long as you’re ‘not as rude as those awful Cubs fans.’ Many of them will tell you they trade in their Cubs tickets because the fans are so awful to deal with. I hear more horror stories about Brewer/Cub games with every passing game I attend. They really are that bad. But Brewer fans are pretty okay with Cardinal fans. Even last night, as I was the only person in the stadium wearing Cardinals apparel, no one said a word to me about it.
- If you’re going for upper deck, go for row 8, which is the front row of the upper deck. I found this out by chance a few weeks ago, and it was nice being in the ‘front row.’
- Second deck seats in Miller Park are awesome. Sitting behind 5 rows entirely filled with the Madden family reunion is not quite as awesome, but the view is still really good. I’ve yet to find a horrible seat at the park, although looking through a bar that went horizontally right through the pitcher’s mound one night wasn’t fun.
- Buy tickets off stub-hub. That’s a given, but most of the people in our section one night snagged tickets for 8 bucks each. You’re not going to find that in St. Louis for sure. Last year’s Labor Day game (Carpenter pitched a 1 hitter!) I had 10th row tickets for under 30 bucks.
- Vendors are decent, security is tight, bathrooms are clean. Seat jumping does not go over well, but it’s easier than Kansas City.
- The next time you think about complaining/talking/commenting on the annoyance of the wave at Busch, just stop. I saw THIS guy (sitting completely alone – as in, his whole section of seats was empty) start the wave in the first inning last night. He then proceeded to start it every half inning through the bottom of the 5th, no matter what was happening in the game. During the top of the 5th inning alone, he attempted to start the wave over 9 times. How many was it? I don’t know – I got bored after 9. Needless to say, St. Louis is not the worst city in the world on annoying wave starters.
- Either get out of the stadium ASAP, or just hang out after the game for an hour, because the parking lot situation is a disaster, as well as being completely trashed. If you managed not to run over a can, bottle, grill, bean bag, baseball, or other piece of trash, kudos.
- Also, Milwaukee is a disaster area of a city in terms of highway construction. Take GPS and Google Maps and cross your fingers you don’t get lost or detoured. If you St. Louis drivers thought 40 construction was bad, try doing the same thing to 70 and 270 – all at the same time. People that have lived there for 15 years are getting lost.
Just a mention on the TV broadcast that Ryan Franklin is warming up in the bullpen seems to send my Twitter feed into a frenzy. Once he’s in the game, there are many dread-filled tweets with each batter he faces. But the facts speak for themselves: after last night, Franklin is now seven for seven in save opportunities. He’s second in the National League at the moment, tied with Francisco Cordero of the Reds and one behind Matt Capps of the Nationals.
No position player or other pitcher is held under closer scrutiny than a closer, and no one else is blamed more when he doesn’t get his job done. I remember reading once that a closer needs to have a short memory. Maybe the same needs to hold true for fans, since many seem to hold grudges for an extremely long time when it comes to blowing games.
And that’s Franklin’s “sin” this season, and the reason for the doom-and-gloom tweets: what he did at the end of 2009. He had three blown saves in September, although he did end up as the winning pitcher on Sept. 19 against the Cubs. Then there’s October, game two of the division series against the Dodgers, when he blew the save and was the losing pitcher. Had Matt Holliday caught that infamous fly ball by James Loney, would Franklin have received praise for getting the job done? My guess is no.
Of course, Franklin was not stellar on opening day this year, which just fed the carryover panic from 2009. It was a not save situation when Franklin entered the game for the bottom of the ninth on April 5, since the Cardinals were leading 11-4 at the time. He allowed three hits and two runs (both scoring with two outs) to give him an 18.00 ERA to start the season. But, three weeks later, it’s down to 3.60.
Ryan Franklin is not the type of closer who will instill fear in batters when he comes into the game, because he’s not a strikeout pitcher. He’s not Mariano Rivera, he’s not Brian Wilson, he’s not Trevor Hoffman. (Although the Cardinals don’t seem to have any fear of the all-time saves leader.) And Monday night’s save was probably typical, with giving up two hits (although the hit by Matt Diaz, rolling along the third base line, was a fluke) yet getting a double play and another ground out. Job done, seventh consecutive save.
Is Franklin going to blow a game sometime? Chances are, yes. It’s not often a closer doesn’t at some point during the season, Brad Lidge in 2008 notwithstanding. And, if it happens, I’m sure I’ll read tweet after tweet about how everyone knew all along how terrible Franklin is. But why not forget about 2009 for now – everyone seems to have forgiven Matt Holliday for game 2 against the Dodgers, so why not Ryan Franklin?
I’m going to keep following the advice Erika gave last night in the form of a Twitter hashtag: #FaithInFranklin. Why not? He’s earned my support.
Photo: Yahoo! Sports
Really, doesn’t the title say it all? Oh, elaborate a bit? Alright then…
|No offense California friends. I just don’t like your time zone.|
When I was little, road trips to the West coast were the worst. San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego games didn’t start until almost bedtime, which means I could listen to or (on one of those rare occasions when the game was on TV) watch, at most, around 3 innings of baseball. Trust me, my parents knew when I’d try to stay up for the later innings (they’re smart like that). The local paper never had the late game scores in (not even for the playoffs!), and, before the days of internet fast enough that I could check scores online, I often went to school without knowing who won the night before. Frustrating for a die-hard little kid.
Now that I’m an adult, I still hate games on the coast. 9:15 starts are just too late, especially after a full day of work. Times like these I act like an absolute baseball purist and wish that all games were day games. But I digress…
To sum up the trip… our starting rotation is something fierce. Right now the only one I’m not impressed with is Kyle Lohse. Jaime Garcia and Adam Wainwright deserved better fates in their starts on the trip. In fact, Chris mentioned to me during Saturday night’s game that these were the kind of tough luck losses I had alluded to in our Cy Young post, and she wasn’t wrong. Our rock solid defense had a couple of rough patches as well in those two games. Over the course of the season, these games happen. Trips like this one happen as well.
Believe it or not, we actually pulled three wins out of these two series, even though (to me at least) it didn’t feel like the Cardinals were playing all that well in a couple of the games. As in, they’re a really good club that just wasn’t getting the job done. Part of that might be because of the fact that they’re west coast games too, and my brain scrambles the details. To be fair, the pitching duels were amazing in the San Francisco series, and seeing a little small ball on Sunday was a welcome sight as well. My dad likes to remind me that winning half your games on the road and taking two of three from every home series will probably get you to the playoffs, so we’re on our way!
Albert does not look like he is at all comfortable at the plate, which means by the time you read this he will have hit 3 home runs and told the media that everybody has rough stretches, but he’s been swinging the bat well and just not getting anything out of it. That’s what usually seems to happen when we the fans start talking about Albert in a slump. (Case in point – I wrote this paragraph Saturday night, then watched – amused – as Albert went 3-4 on Sunday with a home run and several well hit balls.) So here’s the plan, whenever Albert looks bad, just talk about it all the time (as the media is wont to do), make him mad, and watch the results. It seems to work every time.
The whole team is striking out at a rate I don’t want to teach my math students about – especially since they’re all Brewer fans, with one random Cub fan thrown in just to irritate me. It’s not a great stretch… we have yet to ‘miss an ace’ in any series we’ve been in (unless you count Houston… do they even have an ace?), and we’ve faced several tough lefties (plus
Chuck Bud Norris) that the team hasn’t been able to figure out in years.
Rest easy Cardinal fans. No more late night games for awhile. The boys are heading back to St. Louis, where the Braves await…
Playing against the Giants this weekend (and Tim Lincecum last night) seemed like as good a time as any for Chris and I to ponder what could have been in last year’s Cy Young race. As a surprise to no one, Chris was pulling for Chris Carpenter, while I was gunning for my favorite trade pick-up that no one paid attention to at the time – Adam Wainwright.
|Photo Credit – stltoday.com|
For me, it was a tough battle. I’m not going to throw a bunch of numbers at you, because let’s face it, I’m a math teacher and play with numbers all week. Today is Saturday. I get a day off from numbers too. But I’ve been watching Waino pitch since we picked him up from Atlanta before the 2004 season. If you watched the 2006 postseason, you know that Wainwright can buckle the knees of any batter in the league with his curveball. He’s a confident, bulldog-type innings eater who carried the Cardinals through some of the weaker months of last season (AKA, before we traded for Matt Holliday, Mark DeRosa, etc.).
Who knew what was going to happen last year when Carpenter went down? I’m not knocking on Chris Carpenter here – the guy’s a beast. But he was injured for part of the year, and at the time we were spinning a rotation that included Wainwright, Kyle Lohse, Joel Pinero, Todd Wellemeyer (shudders) and…..? The fact that losing Carpenter for those few weeks put Wellemeyer in the 4th spot in the rotation was not a good thing, but we had Adam Wainwright taking the ball every chance he got, and very rarely leaving the game without a good chance for the Cardinals to win.
Okay, I lied. I couldn’t not look at numbers. Adam had the ball in some of the biggest games of the season: opening day, the division clincher, and some games against other teams’ aces. He also had this nice little 26 start string where he had all quality starts (averaging a tidy 7 innings per), kept it under 4 pitches per at bat (3.77), and survived the entire brutal St. Louis summer while going 15-7 (and in 5 of those losses he allowed 2 runs or less – our offense had some really anemic spurts last year!). There’s a reason he had the most 1st place votes – he deserved the Cy.
Chris? Whatcha got?
|Photo Credit – stltoday.com|
Well, Ang, interesting that you mentioned Carp being hurt last year! Yes, it’s true that a torn left oblique muscle sent him to the disabled list and kept him from making a start between April 14 and May 20. And I heard that reason – he missed time the other top contenders did not – as one of the reasons why he shouldn’t win. He still made 28 starts (to Wainwright’s 34 and Lincecum’s 32).
And the fact he did miss a month makes the final numbers all the more impressive. Yes, despite not being a math teacher (sorry!), I have to use his numbers to paint the picture of how good – and Cy-worthy – Chris Carpenter was.
He finished with the second-most wins in the National League with 17 (to Wainwright’s 19). He had the league’s best ERA, 2.24. With a 17-4 record, his winning percentage of .810 led the majors. He was second in WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched, and perhaps my new favorite stat) with 1.007. (Dan Haren was first with 1.003.) He had an 11-game winning streak from July 5 to Sept. 7.
Though it rightly has no bearing on awards voting, how effective Carp would be in 2009 was definitely a question mark to start the season. He was coming back from making one start in 2007, having Tommy John surgery that July, making only four appearances (three starts) in 2008 before developing shoulder trouble and then more elbow surgery in November 2008. Yet he returned to the dominant starter he’d been in 2005 – when he won the Cy – and 2006 (plus earned a second Comeback Player of the Year award).
Intangibles-wise, Carp is an intense competitor and every bit the bulldog that Adam Wainwright is. He’s the leader of the pitching staff, and even was side-by-side with Dave Duncan watching first-round draft pick Shelby Miller throw at Busch Stadium last summer. He sets the tone for the entire rotation.
As we all know, the final Cy Young voting was very close. Yes, Wainwright had the most first place votes with 12. Lincecum was second with 11, Carp third with nine. Carp also had the most second-place votes, 14. (Lincecum had 12, Wainwright five.) Interestingly, Wainwright had the most third-place votes with 14 to Lincecum’s nine and Carp’s seven.
And, truthfully, I could just as easily have written a post defending Adam Wainwright and why he deserved the award. He is definitely all those things Angela already mentioned, plus has the numbers to prove it, and I’m greatly looking forward to seeing him pitch tonight. But Chris Carpenter deserved to win the 2009 Cy Young Award.
Anyone else remember this commercial from around 12 years ago?
Now, I’ll admit, this commercial makes me smile, partially out of nostalgia, and partially because it’s a funny commercial. But is it true? Would I be breaking some sort of ‘chick code’ if I told you it wasn’t? In all honesty, I like home runs as much as the next person (I was the happiest girl at Miller Park when Stavinoha silenced the crowd and hit that home run to take the lead a few weeks back), but my smile doesn’t get any bigger than when I’m watching a Cards game and see Brendan, Skip, or Flip swipe a base and make it around to plate the run.
I was in absolute heaven in Milwaukee a couple weeks ago when I saw a hit-and-run that involved Jaime Garcia going first to third on a Skip Schumaker hit, then watch him dance around the 3rd base line and frustrate Brewer pitcher Yovani Gallardo to no end until Albert Pujols singled him home. First of all, Garcia is quickly becoming a favorite of mine to watch, and will definitely be the rookie I follow this year (last year, for those interested, it was Blake Hawksworth). Second, Garcia is a pitcher. Pitchers don’t do hit-and-runs, they don’t distract the other pitcher with their basepath antics, and they don’t (as rookies anyway) go up against multiple teams’ aces and come out without a loss or two.
But I’m off topic (happens a lot). The point is – small ball rocks. It’s often said that the quickest way to kill a rally is to hit a home run, and I completely agree. A glance at Sunday night’s game against the Mets shows a Cardinal 5th looking a bit like this:
I’m supposed to say, ‘Yay! Colby blasted one to tie the game!’ but look at what happened afterward. Two flyball outs later and the inning is over with the score still tied. Bummer. What would have happened if Colby had hit a double? We might have only scored two at the time, but it would probably have changed how John Maine pitched to Yadier Molina and David Freese as well. From that vantage point, I’d rather see a double and take my chances with the hits continuing and a bigger inning.
I dig small ball. Give me some stolen bases and string a rally together with solid contact and base hits up the middle, and I am a happy girl!
Normally on Thursdays I think we’re going to run a weekly photo dump, with all the week’s chick comment worthy photos (okay, guys might like some of them too) in a nice tidy bow. This week I would’ve given you this shot of Joe Mather’s great sneak attack play against the Mets when he snagged the runner at second after faking that the ball wasn’t coming. But you’ll just have to wait for next week for the fun to begin.
After four starts, Chris Carpenter is 2-0 with 27 strikeouts and a 3.60 ERA. He’s also allowed 22 hits in 25 innings, walked seven, given up five homeruns and had back-to-back games of striking out 10 each time. Very good numbers (the strikeout total is tied for second in the National League) but none of his games so far have really seemed “Carp-like” – that dominant Cy Young winner we’ve grown accustomed to seeing.
The last two games in particular, he’s relied on his breaking pitches a lot and not used his fastball much. Nothing wrong with that – I even rewound the DVR in the first inning last night just to watch again the curveball he threw to strike out Justin Upton. And obviously Carp’s been successful, since he’s never before had double-digit strikeouts in consecutive games. But what’s wrong with his fastball? Why can’t he throw it consistently?
It’s rare that I appreciate anything Al Hrabosky says, but he made a great point in last Friday’s game (which I’m paraphrasing here): our expectations for him are so high that we wonder what’s wrong with him, even though he was then in the midst of striking out 10 and allowing no earned runs in seven innings pitched. We think there must be something wrong because he’s not throwing his fastball well. (Of course, Hrabosky also said at the beginning of last night’s game that Carp’s 3.50 ERA was a little high. Do you think any Cubs pitchers would love to trade ERAs with Carp?)
But about that fastball – where has it gone? How can he now not throw well something that’s the backbone for every pitcher from the time he first stands on the mound in Little League? Those questions are part of the reason pitching, and pitchers, fascinate me. There’s so much involved with what they do, both physically and mentally. Will he have his “stuff” when he goes out there today? And, as Chris Carpenter has shown these past two games, sometimes having just some of your stuff working is all it takes to be successful (even if it’s not typical Carp dominant). With the work ethic and high expectations he has for himself, it’s easy to assume his fastball will soon return and continue to be one of the National League’s top pitchers.
Fastball or no, there is one thing I learned from watching him last night. After seeing those glares at Edwin Jackson, and hearing/reading his lips at what he was saying, I would never want Chris Carpenter mad at me.