Diamond Diaries

Cardinal baseball, from the girls

Brendan on the Bench

Brendan Ryan being one of our absolute favorites here at Diamond Diaries, we have blogged about him before. I dedicated an entire post to the then uncharacteristic drought he was suffering back on April 30th, and Chris followed up on May 14th.  Sadly, we are still talking about our dear Brendan, and the ‘situation’ has gotten worse.
On Sunday Tony La Russa announced Brendan Ryan’s demotion of sorts.  The Cardinals’ shortstop will be ‘taking a break’ from the starting lineup, at least until he has recovered from whatever mystery illness has infected his bat (and temporarily spread to his glove).  Evidently Tony thinks that continuing Brendan as an everyday player when he is so obviously struggling may be compounding the problem.  The mental stress may indeed be taking its toll on Brendan’s entire game.
Fan reaction to Brendan’s slump has ranged from sympathetic encouragement to demands to ‘bench him’.   Personally, my mood has gone from patient optimism to disbelief to concern for long-term effects on his baseball confidence.  And I do agree with Tony:  Brendan needs a break. 
Brendan’s stand-in at shortstop will most likely be Felipe Lopez returning from the DL.  Tyler Greene has been filling the role of middle infield sub since Lopez left for the DL on April 26th.  Felipe’s right elbow had been reportedly bothering him since April 11th and may have been worsened during his one-inning of relief pitching during the Cardinals’ marathon 20-inning game on April 17th.


Below are some comparisons among Brendan (current and 2009), Lopez and Greene – both at the plate and on the field to take a little deeper look into what we are giving up & getting in return by removing Brendan from the game. 
Offensive comparisons  (data compiled from Baseball-reference.com)
Plate
appearances
Batting
HR
RBI
Brendan Ryan 2009
429
.292
3
37
Brendan Ryan 2010
120
.162
0
6
Felipe Lopez 2010
50
.273
1
4
Tyler Greene
28
.231
1
3
Defensive comparisons:  (data compiled from Baseball-reference.com)
Games played
Errors
Chances
Dble plays
Fielding %
B Ryan 2009
105 (at SS)
19 ( at 2B)
8
1
507
53
71
9
.984
.981
B Ryan 2010
33 (at SS)
7
143
22
.951
Felipe Lopez
5 (SS)
5 (2B)
4 (3B)
0
0
0
21
9
13
1
2
1
1.000
1.000
1.000
Tyler Greene
6 (at SS)
3 (at 2B)
2
0
17
7
2
1
.882
1.000
In my opinion, we do need Brendan back at shortstop, but we need him back healthy. (And it should be noted that 5 of those 7 errors this season occurred in the recent span from May 9 – May 13.) 
Is it merely bad luck?  A lagging effect from his February wrist surgery?  Or something more fundamental? Whatever the reason, even a true Brendan fan as myself has to admit that the cycle must be broken.  For his own mental well-being and for the good of the team, Brendan must step back and breathe.
If not for the carryover into Brendan’s defense, I would still be preaching the irreplaceable value of his glove.  Afterall, our pitch-to-contact style of hurling demands an impenetrable defense to back it up.  With the Cardinals’ current lack of run support, every error on the field is magnified.  
Does Felipe Lopez have the range and the ability?  Only time will tell.  So far, I am hopefully optimistic.  However, Lopez’ returning from the DL with a recovering elbow injury does give me pause for concern.
I miss seeing the joyful energy and confident defensive production we had come to expect from Brendan.  Games have been (and will be) different without it.  While the mental burden of this prolonged slump may have stolen his spark, I am confident Brendan will be back to claim his rightful role as infield ball-hog very soon.

Until then, let’s hope Lopez continues to impress and the Cardinal offense has some luck with RISP.  It’s time to wake up and regain our lead!  GO CARDS!!
PS – We love you Brendan!   

One response to “Brendan on the Bench

  1. netherton May 18, 2010 at 4:17 PM

    >I would recommend a return to the patient optimism. Ryan is just going through a sophomore slump, perhaps more put on him by the delayed start of his spring training. Add to that a nervous eagerness to succeed, which has largely served him well.As for the errors, 3 of the 4 that happened in the bunch were hard luck plays or where his teammates should have picked him up (not naming names, but Albert Pujols let him down).Is Felipe Lopez good enough ? Absolutely. Should his bat be in the Cardinals order more times than not ? Without question. Is this team better with Brendan Ryan at shortstop ? Most certainly.The short term break was to get him separated from the defensive black cloud that seems to have hovered overhead. More patience and some time with the hitting coach will eventually work out his offense.I suspect we will start seeing Brendan Ryan as a late inning defensive substitution for a while without an at bat. Then get worked back in. Before long he'll be starting again, dazzling all of us with his gifted defensive ability. And the hitting will come.

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