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St. Louis Cardinals checkup: April 2012

As we flip our calendars from April to May, there is disappointment among some St. Louis Cardinals fans. Despite generally good play by the club, there is a feeling they should have been better. The team has been unable to secure any multi-game series sweeps and have lost some close contests they seemingly could have won.

On the other hand, wouldn’t anyone have been happy to make a deal in March for the team to end April at 14-8 and with a three-game National League Central Division lead?

As the data below indicates, the offense and pitching have been equally impressive in the early going, with the last item, run differential, pulling it together.

Cards: April 2012 # NL rank of 16 Comment
Team ERA 2.61 #2 WAS #1 at 2.33
Starters ERA 2.57 #2 WAS #1 at 1.78
Relievers ERA 2.70 #2 SD #1 at 2.54
Runs scored 113 Tied #1 ATL also with 113
Batting average 0.280 #1 #2 is NYM at .269
Run differential plus 53 #1 next closest is 27 (ATL)

There are some interesting parallels to 2011. The respective situations of Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter are more unclear this season than last, but the bottom line in terms of April wins from the co-aces each year is identical – zero.

Further, in both Aprils, the number five starter performed at an unexpectedly high level. Last year, Kyle McClellan was a perfect 4-0. This year, it is Lance Lynn (4-0, 1.33). Like McClellan in 2011, the unexpected current level of success by Lynn, Kyle Lohse (4-0, 1.62) and Jake Westbrook (3-1, 1.30) will not be sustained for the entire season.

Starters going deep into games, backed by high levels of run support, meant less pressure applied to a relatively-inexperienced bullpen. Performance in close games remains an open question.

Cardinals thru April 2011 2012
Record 16-11 (.593) 14-8 (.636)
NL Central lead plus 2 plus 3
Wins from Carp/Waino 0 0
Wins from #5 starter McClellan 4 Lynn 4

All is not perfect. The Cardinals are just 5-5 in their most recent 10 contests, though in all fairness, for most of that time, the offense was missing two of eight position player starters in Lance Berkman and since-returned Jon Jay. Further, in 2012 there has been greater exposure with starters out since top reserve Allen Craig has been unavailable as well. Skip Schumaker also missed considerable time.

The concerned point to the easier first-month schedule for St. Louis, primarily made up of NL Central opponents. That is a fair question, in my opinion.

May should offer a better cross-NL test for the Cardinals. After Pittsburgh and Houston, St. Louis will face Arizona, Atlanta (twice), San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego and Philadelphia. Of that group, only the Padres and Phillies have losing records. In contrast, the Cardinals are currently the only NL Central team with a winning slate.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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48 Responses to “St. Louis Cardinals checkup: April 2012”

    • blingboy says:

      Will Craig out hit whoever he replaces in the lineup? Maybe he will improve our clutch hitting.

    • blingboy says:

      I enjoyed your redbird rant article, but I believe your explaination of options is incorrect. My understanding is that however many times a player is optioned out in one season exhausts a total of one option. In other words, optioning a player three times in one season does not exhaust three options. So it takes three seasons to exhaust three options, if he is sent down at least once each of those years. If this is not right, maybe somebody can clarify.

      Also, not to split hairs, but just to mention it, some players get four arb eligible years, I believe.

      • crdswmn says:

        I did not specifically state that more than one option can be used in a season, nor do I think that it reads that way, but to clarify so that there is no confusion, I rewrote the sentence a little.

        As to the arbitration eligibility, 3 years is the general rule, and I don’t see any reason to confuse people with exceptions to a rule that isn’t applicable in the situation I am writing about.

        • blingboy says:

          Didn’t mean to be picking. The more I read about last night’s game the worse my mood gets. And it was bad to start with due to the pathetic loss.

          I really don’t know what to think about the looming roster move. Moving out Komatsu or Greene would be permanent as you point out. And I agree Robinson seems to make the most sense, but damn, he’s earned a spot IMO, outplaying both of the above.

          Greene would leave too few middle infielders so I’d think it is between Komatsu and Robinson. Komatsu offers more versatility since he plays corner outfield as well as serviceable CF. But with Craig back, that is less of an issue since Craig plays corners. So why not keep a better defensive CF who is also hot woth the bat (for now) and say goodbye to Eric? Alas, I doubt that will happen. They will want to safely park someone in Memphis and get a better look at Komatsu I think.

          There is aslo the small chance that a reliever with options could be sent down for a little while to give a little chance to see how things develop.

          Another possibility is moving Carp to the 60DL and putting a guy on the 40 man. That could open some more choices for the active roster move.

          • crdswmn says:

            I think it is a case of small sample size with Komatsu, and Robinson can always be brought back up later.

            • JumboShrimp says:

              I said Sayonara to Komatsu.

              • JumboShrimp says:

                Robinson is a good platoon partner for Jay.
                Robinson is one of ours. We like to elevate our signees.
                We have Jay, Skip, and behind them Chambers and budding star Oscar, for left swinging CFs. No need for Komatsu too.
                Komatsu was drafted before Skip signed a deal. Maybe he was leverage for getting Schumaker to accept a lower price.
                Komatsu was able to serve as 25th man owing to injuries, but should be playing everyday in the minors for his career development.

        • CariocaCardinal says:

          I agree the option rule is a little confusing as explained. Also, the option is technically burned when the player is sent down, not when he is recalled.

        • CariocaCardinal says:

          There is also another factor that is a consideration that is not mentioned. That is a player’s future potential. It specifically comes in to play with Komatsu and Greene. Greene’s potential upside gives him a huge advantage when looking at who you might let go. If Komatsu had a huge upside I could see the idea of making a point of keeping him around (and not losing him to another team). But I fail to see his upside. I don’t see why we would sacrifice potential wins this year (when we are definitely competitive) for a player who seems like a 4th OF at best to me.

          Another consideration not mention in the article is who bats LH and who bats RH. We have plenty of LH bats, less so from the right side. That is another point in Robinson’s favor.

          • crdswmn says:

            I don’t have a dog in the fight between Komatsu and Robinson and my article states that Greene should remain.

            My only observation is that there is a small sample size for Komatsu and if he doesn’t work out, Robinson could be brought back up where as once Komatsu is gone, that’s it. I didn’t address every factor because the article was too long as it was. But I appreciate your comments.

          • Brian Walton says:

            It’s not close for me. Shane would go down.

            • crdswmn says:

              The Cardinals apparently disagree. Bye Bye Komatsu.

            • Brian Walton says:

              I was wrong. Komatsu DFAed. I sure hope Craig or Skip aren’t re-injured soon. OF is thin in minors.

              • crdswmn says:

                Still have Chambers. Thinner in the MI don’t you think?

                • Brian Walton says:

                  It all depends on where the next injuries fall. Chambers has played better of late after a very slow start. However, right now, the OF seems more vulnerable to me.

                  Current healthy IF depth on 40-man (assumes Skip is starting 2B): Greene, Descalso, Carpenter, Kozma and Cox.

                  Current healthy OF depth on 40-man (assumes Craig is starting 1B): Robinson and Chambers.

                  • crdswmn says:

                    Have Schumaker, Craig, Robinson and/or Carpenter on the bench and Adron Chambers in Memphis. Are you planning on the whole starting OF getting injured at the same time? 🙂

                    Who else in the MI? Is there someone else besides Kozma?

                    • Brian Walton says:

                      I updated the above post to be more clear. Granted Carpenter is only an emergency option at MIF and Cox isn’t, but I listed all names for completeness.

                      Carpenter and Greene could play some OF but again it would be more an emergency I suspect.

                    • Brian Walton says:

                      If Holliday or Beltran go down before Berkman is ready, I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw Adams. A by-product of Komatsu being DFAed is freeing up a 40-man spot. I touched on that in my article on the main site.

                    • crdswmn says:

                      Can Adams play the OF?

                    • Brian Walton says:

                      No. Adams is exclusively a 1B. As CC noted the other day, Mark Hamilton missed a golden opportunity by being injured.

                    • crdswmn says:

                      Then how would bringing Adams up if Holliday and Beltran go down help?

                      I don’t include Greene as an OF option except as an emergency, but Carpenter has already played there and pretty decently. I still say the OF list is a little better than MIF with Schumaker, Craig, Robinson, Chambers and Carpenter. I still think you are basing your assessment on the unlikely event of multiple OF starters going down at the same time. 🙂

                    • Brian Walton says:

                      Has nothing to do with MIF obviously. Just commenting that if a COF is needed before Berkman is ready, then I could see a scenario where Craig moves out there and Adams is given a shot at 1B.

                    • crdswmn says:

                      Well I’m certainly no expert, and my opinion counts for naught, but I am far more worried about our MIF depth than I am in the OF or CIF.

                  • crdswmn says:

                    Berkman will be back very soon and Craig will go to OF

                    Since when does Carpenter play middle infield? I am not concerned about the corners. We have Carpenter, Descalso (and possibly Greene) who can play the corners and Cox can be called up in an emergency. Only have Schumaker, Greene and Descalso for two positions and Kozma if one of them gets hurt.

                    • Brian Walton says:

                      Well, Berkman isn’t able to run yet, so it all depends on how one defines “very soon”. Hopefully, none of this will matter.

                      There is also a chance that they will be able to keep Komatsu, but I don’t give that very high odds.

                    • crdswmn says:

                      The way I see it, If Furcal gets hurt it takes two people out of middle infield reserve because one of the second base options has to move to SS. That leaves only the starting 2B and a reserve (Kozma in an emergency) to cover both positions. Unless both 1B and 3B go down, you have 3 or 4 reserve options at 3B (Descalso, Carpenter, Greene, and Cox ) and 3 reserve options at 1B (Craig, Carpenter, Descalso, 4 if you count Yadi).

                      I don’t see Carpenter as a viable option at either SS or 2b. JMO

                    • Brian Walton says:

                      Agree that Carpenter is about as much of an emergency MIF as Craig. 😉

                    • Nutlaw says:

                      Correct or not, I see any middle infielder as capable of manning the outfield if need be, at least to play LF. I assume that any SS can handle CF. TLR did it for years. They never looked too bad out there.

  1. blingboy says:

    Ryan Jackson started at 2B for Memphis yesterday. He’s made appearances there a couple times this year, having played nowhere but SS previously as a pro.

    Its probably normal to give somebody destined for the bigs a bit of versatility, and last December’s two year deal for Furcal is also likely a factor.

    • T8Ball says:

      I think Jackson played all over the infield in AFL last fall.

      • blingboy says:

        I must admit I didn’t think about AFL. Good catch. I can’t say I remember if he did or didn’t so I take your word for it. It strikes me as odd the Cards would allow him to be played in unfamiliar positions due to risk of injury. Normally that it a consideration for sombody not trained to avaoid injury making the DP relay at second being put in at middle infield, but still, why would the Cards want to allow that. Odd.

        If the Cards allowed it so he could get a bit of versatility exposure, that would have been before Furcal’s December 10th contract, so weakens that part of my theory.

      • Brian Walton says:

        Yes, Jackson played multiple infield positions in the AFL. In fact, I interviewed him about it.

        It isn’t odd at all. The Cardinals need to do a lot more of that, playing guys around the diamond in the minors, so they are ready to break in the majors as reserves.

  2. blingboy says:

    I read where Holliday threw his helmet down when Garcia failed to tag and score on Matt’s sac fly. Then wasn’t available to the media after the game.

    Not a good sign, especially from a supposed team leader.

    Matt Holliday reality check:

    When you’re a middle of the order guy, and you’re hitting your weight, you’ve got nothing to say about somebody else not doing their job on one play, since you haven’t done yours all season. Try getting a hit with a runner in scoring position, then tagging up isn’t an issue.

    Not to mention Garcia’s out-hitting you by more than 100 points.

    • crdswmn says:

      First of all, know that Joe Strauss exaggerates everything to stir the pot. While I don’t doubt that Holliday was frustrated, as I am sure a lot of other people were too, I do doubt that a permanent rift between Holliday and Garcia will be the result. Garcia knows he screwed up royally (which he did) and I am sure will be more attentive in the future.

      I’d say something about your judgmental attitude towards Holliday, but I wouldn’t want it to appear like I was miffed at your comments about my blog post. 🙂

      • blingboy says:

        Judgemental would have been mentioning Matt’s belly-ball vs the Dodgers in post season beating Jaime’s failure to tag hands down.

        I can just tell how miffed you are. 🙂 Being questioned by a baseball know-it-all such as myself.

    • Brian Walton says:

      I guess they both had helmet frustrations as Garcia beat on his in the dugout after he coughed up the lead. For all we know, Holliday could have been mad at himself for batting .215 during the first month. Irregardless, I doubt it is news in most cities when a player is visibly frustrated.

      • blingboy says:

        Matt’s had plenty of chances to show frustration with himself when a teammate didn’t just screw up, so I’m not buying that.

        I do think his frustration level could have caused him to lose his composure and excersize bad judgement, as well as forget about his own failings. But publicly showing annoyance with a teammate’s failure is so Schmalbert-like. As far as I know, nobody has shown their frustration at any of Matt’s many failings at the plate this season.

        I hope the Cards don’t continue their failure to score for Wainy, or the helmets will really be flying Teusday.

  3. blingboy says:

    Brian, in view of the conversation about the rotation the other day, how are you so sure Lynn is the #5 starter? That does not seem clear at all.

    • Brian Walton says:

      When I wrote that, I expected you to comment. Lynn was the starter added to the rotation when Carpenter was injured. That is fact. There is little doubt in my mind that if Carpenter was well today, the reverse would occur. You don’t agree. That is ok, but it doesn’t change my current view. 2013 is another matter entirely.

  4. blingboy says:

    Off to work soon. No lineup yet, I guess. I hope the team decides to score for Wainy for a change. He looked more like himself last start. Maybe he’ll blow their doors off tonight.

    Good luck to Komatsu. Did a nice job with what little chance he had.

  5. Kansasbirdman says:

    So everybody knew abt Allen Craig coming back, but the Cardinals are retiring LaRussa’s number 10 was the 2nd big announcement on the pregame show. Gotto be some strong opinions. Though kinda saw that coming. But is it usual to do it so soon?

    • blingboy says:

      Nobody even knows if he’s done managing. But I guess being the second losingest manager of all time calls for a knee jerk action by Bill.

  6. blingboy says:

    In the interest of fair and balanced commenting, I wanted to congratulate Schmalbert on driving in a run last night. Not with a hit of course, but it was his 5th RBI of the season. That ties him with Skip, Shane and Joe Mather. Of course, those three combined have fewer ABs than Scmalbert, but I will refrain from pointing that out.

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