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Cardinal Talk: KXnO FOX Sports Radio: Just nine games remaining

Weekly St. Louis Cardinals-focused chat on KXnO FOX Sports Radio 1460 in Des Moines.

Late Friday afternoon, I joined Ken Miller and Jim Brinson on KXnO FOX Sports Radio 1460 in Des Moines in our weekly series to discuss the St. Louis Cardinals, “Cardinal Talk.”

As usual, we focused on the National League Central race. We of course discussed the Cardinals, but also put focus on the remaining six contests between the Pirates and Reds. In addition, we talked about the advantage of having the best record in the league – which is very much within reach for the Cards.

Cardinals followers in central Iowa can again catch St. Louis Cardinals radio broadcasts on KXnO as well as my regular segment each week throughout the season, either over the air or via streaming. Or, if you miss it live, you can always catch the replay right here at The Cardinal Nation blog.

Click here for audio: Brian Walton with Ken Miller and Jim Brinson (7:36)

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78 Responses to “Cardinal Talk: KXnO FOX Sports Radio: Just nine games remaining”

  1. JumboShrimp says:

    Pleasant big win last night. We are almost qualified for the second season.
    There was a game in Denver when Siegrist was pitching the bottom of the 9th, despite being up 7 runs. He was pitching again last night up 5. This sums up Mike Matheny’. There is no sane reason to have your best pitchers throwing garbage innings, when we are well up or well behind.

    Mike achieved something unusual last year, when Motte saved every game. Mike does not spread out the work and responsibility, but clings to his favorites until they break down. He is at it again. After Motte broke down, Boggs became the only allowed saver, until he buckled, and Mujica became the only guy allowed to close out a win. Now Mujica seems predictably exhausted or injured from excess use, what does Mike do now? He has no one but himself to blame, but the fans have to suffer for his absence of thought. TLR was a fine tactician, Mike is no TLR.

    • JumboShrimp says:

      Mo looks smart to have traded for Axford. With Motte out and Boggs having had problems, and with Salas having faded since 2011, Axford give us an experienced closer to back up Mujica, with 3 years of control. If Mujica leaves to free agency, Axford could close for us in 2014.

      The trade should help both teams. Blazek gives the Brewers a guy who should grow into a decent ML set up man. Also the Brewers will save $4.5MM/yr by offloading Axford. No reason to spend a lot on a closer when you are near last place. Cutting Axford helps the Brew Crew pay Kyle Lohse.

      • Brian Walton says:

        You seem to be making a lot of assumptions about Axford – that he is the back up closer this year, that the Cards will keep him next year, that Motte won’t be ready to take his job back, that Axford could close next year, etc.

        • JumboShrimp says:

          Mo and I are flexible. Axford can help in different ways. He could split closing with Motte in 14, while we find out if Jason can return better than did Swagerty. Axford might be main closer or serve as a set up man like Mike Timlin or Braden Looper. Axford provides maturity and his salary is not outlandish by the standards of baseball.

          Looper faded as closer for the Mets before signing with us for 2006-8. Axford reminds me of Looper. Its too bad Daddy Dunc is retired, because he would want to make Axford into a starter.

          • Brian Walton says:

            There are several major differences between 2006-08 and today. One is that the farm system is far more productive, minimizing the need to bring in other teams’ failures and hope for the best. Another is that La Russa and Duncan are gone.

            Axford could stay for next season, but I could just as easily see him being non-tendered, as the Brewers were rumored to be planning. Perhaps the Cards will make a below arb value offer to him and he would accept before the tender deadline, just to stay around. If not, no big deal, as right-handed relievers are plentiful.

            • Bw52 says:

              I still like the thought of having Axford around for 2014.There is no guarantee that Motte will be able to come back and take the closers role in 2014.Making a assumption here Brian that Westbrook,Mujica,Marte and maybe Salas are gone one way or another.So RH side of the pen; Butler,Maness,Rosenthal, Axford .Motte(if healthy)

              LH side bullpen; Choate,Freeman,Siegrist

              Starters;Wainwright,Miller,Lynn,C. Martinez,Wacha,Lyons,Kelly,Garcia(if healthy)

              Then you have Gast who might be back some time 2014,so bringing Axford back would be a good depth signing.Maybe Salas also if he has options left..

              As you mentioned in your article earlier the Cards have choices to make with Fornataro,Rondon and some other 40-man guys.So RH relievers might be plentiful as you say but Cards are only a bad elbow or shoulder or tear away from having to find one or two.

              • Brian Walton says:

                You also have to consider the financial ramifications. If Axford cost the same as Salas, for example, it would be an easy decision. The last two years, Axford has been a below-average reliever. There are plenty of guys like that in the free agent market who are not arbitration-eligible.

                • Bw52 says:

                  Axford has done better than Salas IMHO.Salas has failed to step up and Axford for the most part has done the job.I would think Cards and Axford will be able to come to a agreement.
                  Plus Cards have Chris Carpenter,Westbrook probably gone ,Furcal and I think Beltran says bye for playing time and that frees up money .Some will go to raises and arbitration but Cards should have some play money for needs.

    • Brian Walton says:

      One more example why the whole idea of deploying just one guy to get all of the saves is a bad, bad idea.

  2. crdswmn says:

    A lot of assumptions that Axford is now “fixed” and will become an effective closer again after only a handful of appearances. The concept of small sample size still continues to elude people.

  3. Bw52 says:

    Axford has pitched better since coming to STlouis.Nobody said he was fixed.I say he has done the job most of the time and I see no problem having a veteran arm with closing experience in a bullpen dominated by young guys.That fact apparently eludes people also.Also nobody knows if Motte comes back with velocity and control.Same with Marshmallow man Garcia.Its not like the Cards are making a major money outlay on this.If Axford gets 4 or 5 million its still less than Furcal money and I see it as a insurance policy.

    • crdswmn says:

      Not if he isn’t any good. Veteran experience means squat if you can’t get people out.

      Sure Axford has pitched better since coming to St. Louis. Doesn’t mean he will continue to pitch better, because small sample size. Random variations happen all the time.

      If I had the time or the inclination to do the research, I could come up with any number of examples of players who have had short term success, only to eventually tank. Pete Kozma is the most glaring example, but there are so many others.

      I will make no assumptions about Axford until baseball season is over and we see how it ended. And even then would be too small a sample size, as we learned all too well with Kozma.

      • Brian Walton says:

        We are talking about 8 1/3 innings for Axford as a Cardinal so far – 8 1/3 innings!

        But if you want to focus on his incredibly-small body of work with St. Louis, here you go. As I posted on the TCN message board, Axford has been less below league average as a Cardinal than he was as a Brewer in terms of walks and baserunners allowed. I don’t get the excitement about the guy. He pitched well in 2010 and 2011, but that was then and this is now. My focus is 2014.

        • crdswmn says:

          Like I said, the concept of small sample size eludes people. I guess it is because math is hard.

          If you look at Axford’s entire career, you can make the argument that his 2010 and 2011 were outliers. He didn’t pitch that well before 2010 and he hasn’t pitched well after 2011.

          If Axford can manage to pitch like his 2010 and 2011 seasons, fine and dandy. I’ll even pop the cork on the champagne. But I ain’t holding my breath.

          • JumboShrimp says:

            People who follow statistics are often followers, gazing at the past, though the future may be different.

            In baseball, GMs have to predict the future and sometimes base their decisions on small sample sizes.

    • JumboShrimp says:

      Bingo, you know what’s going on, Bw. Axford is controllable for 3 more years. That’s helpful.

      What sometimes happens is a guy with a great arm rockets to the top. But then he is with a crummy team like the Brewers and is worked hard. Its a team game and one reliever cannot do it all himself. After a while, he loses a little or loses a little confidence. Then fans turn, as they predictably will, in every town not just St Louis, the cheers turn to jeers. It happens all around the league, every year.
      Axford still is a big guy who can throw hard. He has led the league in saves, so is experienced, but there are still three years of control remaining. We don’t know if Motte will be able to even pitch next year. We don’t know what kind of funny money might be offered to Mujica. Axford is perfect for the Cards, amid all the uncertainties. Adding him is like our adding former Mets closer Looper in 2006. Axford may have slipped as a closer, but can provide stability, around all the kid relievers. He takes pressure off Siegrist, Rosenthal, and Maness.
      We are in a pennant race. Adding Axford has already worked. He has kept us in some ball games recently. Great move by Mo to look ahead at candidates for being let go this winter by small-market teams like Milwaukee and using our financial muscle to add somebody when we need him, right now.

      • Brian Walton says:

        Exactly how much would you offer Axford next year? Bw52 would spend $4-5 million and justifies it based on a bad Furcal decision. I would not go there at that price.

        I do agree with you that Axford has been an ok addition so far this year. My concern is about next. There will be plenty of Axfords on the market that should come more cheaply if the Cards want a veteran right-handed reliever.

        • Bw52 says:

          Okay Brian how do you feel about David Freese getting 4 million next season after a poor season and declining range at 3B?

          • Brian Walton says:

            I wonder if Freese might get even more in arbitration. I would consider trading him in a deal to improve the club, perhaps at shortstop. His value is not at its peak, however.

            • crdswmn says:

              As much as I appreciate Freese (more than the average Cardinal fan does apparently) I would trade him for a GOOD SS. I would not trade him for Stephen Drew or any number of so or average shortstops.

              • Bw52 says:

                Who do you consider a GOOD SS?

                • crdswmn says:

                  JJ Hardy, Elvis Andrus, Yunel Escobar.

                  I might even consider Alexi Ramirez in that list if he could stay healthy.

                  Tulo is too much of injury risk.

                  You have to understand that I am talking about good in the defensive sense. Offense is of no concern to me. I didn’t want Brendan Ryan traded. I would take him back now. I want a good glove at shortstop, whether he hits or not is immaterial to me.

                  • JumboShrimp says:

                    Alexi Ramirez is post peak and is unlikely to rebound.

                  • Bw52 says:

                    Cards already have Brendan Ryan#2 in Kozma.Don`t need another one.

                  • Bw52 says:

                    Good call on JJ Hardy.Good bat.Little below average range but still decent glove. Will make 7 million next year.Main problem is Baltimore has no SS to replace Hardy.Orioles always want more pitching so who do you give up? Lynn ? I won`t do that deal for a guy only under contract for a year.

                    • crdswmn says:

                      The Orioles want to move Machado to SS, which is his natural position.

                      I’d give them Martinez or Lyons in addition to Freese. I’m not real comfortable with trying to assess value in a trade.

                  • Bw52 says:

                    Andrus salary jumps to 15 million a year starting in 2015 and stays like that for 4 years then has option.Way too pricey for Cards I would think.I think Cards will trade for a Dee Gordon or Andrew Romine and see what happens next spring.

                    • crdswmn says:

                      The Cardinals can afford the contract and he is younger and much less injury prone than Tulo. Dee Gordon is nowhere close to being good enough and neither is Romines.

        • JumboShrimp says:

          The Cards have analysts who will figure out a salary offer for Axford and the arbitrator. If our calculation is too low, the team could elect to let him go into free agency. However, given Axford is doing ok during his September audition, that will probably not happen.
          In 2011, we chose to offer Berkman $8MM to play RF, when a lot of others around the league believed he was washed up. Lance helped to a WS win. There have to be plenty of stars who slip a bit, but still teams have to make pricey decisions about them. Its a gamble and will backfire, as Lance did in 2012, Furcal in 2013, and Chris Carpenter in 12-13. Mo is used to high stakes gambles.

          • Brian Walton says:

            I don’t think you understand the process, Jumbo. Once it gets to the arbitrator, the Cards are locked in.

            Gambling on aging stars is one thing. Gambling on inconsistent right-handed set up men is dumb.

          • crdswmn says:

            You are comparing Axford to Lance Berkman? A two season wonder to a potential HOFer?

            There was way more upside to Berkman than there will EVER be for Axford.

            You do your buddy Mo a disservice by suggesting he would make a high stakes gamble on flimsy evidence.
            Berkman had a high upside and so did Chris Carpenter. Furcal was a necessary move because Theriot was killing us. Axford is lukewarm pea soup.

            • JumboShrimp says:

              To introduce some actual evidence about Axford…..
              24 saves during 2010
              46 saves, ERA under 2, 2011
              35 saves in 2012, with 93Ks in 69 innings. (Hint: 2012 was last season.)
              Axford was a stud closer for a 3 year span. He has a nice track-record.

              Since the Cards like to buy low and sell high, I can see us gambling on Axford having something left in the tank at age 31.

              • crdswmn says:

                That’s funny, Jumbo.

                Axford had a 4.04 FIP in 2012 (Hint: that’s bad) compared to 2.13 in 2010 and 2.41 in 2011 (Hint: those are good). The only think Axford had going for him in 2012 was a high strikeout rate. He walked over 5 batters per 9 innings (Hint: that’s bad) He had a 1.30 HR/9 (Hint: that’s also bad)

                Saves is a stupid stat that needs to go away.

                • Bw52 says:

                  I think the rules should be tightened on getting a save.Calling for dropping the Save stat is funny coming from someone who trots out FIBIP Sabr stat stuff.What do you want ?Selective stats only?

                  • crdswmn says:

                    You can scorn sabermetrics all you want BW. But they are used by all MLB teams and will eventually supplant all the old time fringy stats that you are used to that have been proven to be not worth much. Some of the old stats will stay that still have some use, but I think you will see stats like saves and holds and fielding stats like fielding percentage will go the way of the dinosaur.

                    • Bw52 says:

                      I still think the eye test is most important.A talent scout watching the guy play.Passing the “eye” test.
                      I don`t scorn saber stats.I wonder if there isn`t too much of a reliance on them.I still think the “eye ” test is the most important.Baseball is the most stat-important sport and has the most wide variety of stats and as long as therte are agents and GMs they will be trotted out to prove or disprove opposing views.
                      You said JJ Hardy was one of your choices as a good gloved SS.Yet looking at stats he has below league average range………………………yet he has a fielding percentage of .982 with 11 errors in 619 chances.A pretty good glove SS.That tells me Hardy is sure handed at what he gets to.But he doesn`t get to as much as some other SS.I can live with that.Maybe the Cards can.
                      Escobar `s mouth has gotten him in trouble and Andrus has the monster salary in 2015 so Hardy might be the SS to target.

                    • crdswmn says:

                      I don’t know what stats you are looking at. His UZR is 8.8, 12.4 and 5.5 for 2011, 2012 and 2013 respectively. Averaged out (which is what you have to do with defensive metrics, average them out over 3 seasons) his UZR is over 8. Average UZR is 0. His range is excellent.

              • Brian Walton says:

                Jumbo is really blowing the smoke today. Axford lost his job as closer last season (hint: that was 2012) and again this year.

                • JumboShrimp says:

                  Something Brian did not care to volunteer, but Mo will not have missed, was the Brewers added Frankie Rodriguez and his much bigger salary. Axford did not so much lose his job, but was superseded because the Brewers took on a more famous closer in a desperate attempt to win now, before the authorities caught up to Ryan Braun.

  4. Bw52 says:

    Here is a list of RH FA BULLPEN GUYS
    games E.R.A. WHIP\ 2013 salary
    David Aardsma 40 4.58 1.47 500,000
    Matt Albers 52 3.32 1.31 1.75 million
    Scott Atchison 46 4.07 1.23 700,000
    luis Ayala 36 2.90 1.42 1 million
    Joba Chamberlain 44 4.97 1.68 1.9 million
    Jesse Crain 38 0.74 1.14 4.3 million
    Matt Guerrier 49 4.01 1.40 4 million
    Brandon lyon 37 4.98 1.63 750,000
    Carlos Marmol 50 4.60 1.66 7 million
    Nick masset 75 3.71 1.52 2.8 million
    Chad Qualls 63 2.72 1.24 1.2 million
    Joe Smith 67 2.37 1.24 3.15 million
    Tim Stauffer 41 3.63 1.11 3.2 million
    Jamey Wright 62 2.86 1.16 900,000

  5. Bw52 says:

    Crain has been out injured since July 29th.Has been unable to return so far due to shoulder injury.BIG RED FLAG just went up on Crain.

  6. Bw52 says:

    Crdwmn I used Baseball reference stats.

    • crdswmn says:

      Baseball Reference has a lot of excellent stats, but some of their defensive stats leave a lot to be desired. Range factor is one of them. All it measures is the quantity of putouts and assists. UZR is a better stat.

      And Hardy has a positive dWAR on BRef, so I don’t know where the “below average” is coming from.

      • Bw52 says:

        They list his RF4.06 league average 4.14.
        FWIW I like the Hardy as a trade target.It would be another bat and defense.Not the black hole Kozma has become .

        • crdswmn says:

          Yes, but that is a flawed stat imo. It only measures quantity and doesn’t factor in opportunity. It doesn’t account for the pitching staff involved so it penalizes a shortstop on a fly ball pitching staff, for instance. It also doesn’t measure a shortstop’s movement within his zone to account for getting to balls no other shortstops can get to but that don’t result in a putout or assist (say the 2B drops the ball). UZR is a better stat.

  7. Bw52 says:

    Reds pound Pirates .

  8. Brian Walton says:

    In case you all are interested, I wrote an article about the group of sabermetric defensive stats that will be used as part of the Gold Glove Award voting starting this year. (UZR is included; range factor is not.)

    • crdswmn says:

      I think that it’s a good thing overall but it could screw Yadi out of a gold glove this year. Defensive metrics are notoriously bad for catchers and the flawed methods are causing Russell Martin to be overrated on defense. He is essentially getting extra credit on runs saved because of twice as many stolen base attempts on him as on Yadi.

      It makes no sense to me that the defensive metrics factor in player reputation for outfield assists for outfielders but they do not factor in reputation for catchers.

      • blingboy says:

        They probably came up with the new rules when Martin was a Yankee.

        • Brian Walton says:

          Until we see the measures and how they come together in the SDI, we won’t know how it will shake out. Remember that the traditional manager/coach voting is still weighted 75 percent.

          • crdswmn says:

            Yes, but if the managers/coaches see those numbers, how much will they be swayed?

            There are no UZR numbers for catchers, so I’m guessing they are going to go with DRS and rSB, both of which are heavily skewed toward Martin because of his high number of stolen base attempts. Molina’s CS% is higher than Martin’s, 44% to 40%, but that doesn’t translate into higher metrics because Martin gets credit for more caught stealings, 36 to Molina’s 20, of course because of twice as many opportunities.

            Those numbers can be adjusted for reputation, Fielding Bible does it for outfielders, so why they don’t do it for catchers is a mystery to me.

            • Brian Walton says:

              I guess it will depend on how progressive the voters are.

              • crdswmn says:

                Well, if Martin get the gold glove, I think we’ll know why.

                • Brian Walton says:

                  I don’t think you can draw that conclusion. Just yesterday, Rick Hummel put forward a case for Martin without ever mentioning a saber stat. The context was MVP, but the positive data points were traditional ones used to consider GG catchers – runners thrown out and pitching ERA improvement.

                  • crdswmn says:

                    Yes, I read it, but he was making a case for MVP by pointing out how he has contributed to the team’s improvement. It doesn’t address a head to head comparison between Martin and Molina. Helping a below .500 team get to the playoffs is an accomplishment that is valuable to his team. It doesn’t necessarily make him better defensively than Molina; it’s an apple and oranges comparison.

                    I suspect I am getting annoying with this so I will drop it. I would just hate to see Molina lose the gold glove because sabermetrics has yet to figure out how to evaluate catcher defense.

                    • Brian Walton says:

                      My only point is that smart people can draw a conclusion that Martin is worthy of serious Gold Glove consideration without reference to SDI or any other saber stats.

                      So, in the event that Martin wins, I don’t think we can blame SDI as the reason, as I thought you were suggesting. That is all I am trying to say. My point had nothing to do with Molina specifically.

                    • blingboy says:

                      Maetin has let 49 wild pitches get past him. Yadi only 22.

                    • crdswmn says:

                      I am suggesting that if a voter is swayed to pick Martin over Molina because of the sabermetric numbers when they wouldn’t have without them, then that is unfair. Because the catcher defense sabermetric numbers are seriously flawed.

                      Now if the voter thinks Martin deserves the award without reference to the sabermetric numbers, well then that’s different.

                    • Brian Walton says:

                      bb, if they are deemed to be the catcher’s fault, they are scored as passed balls.

                      If the staff has a bunch of wild youngsters, how do we know if he didn’t save them from many more wild pitches?

                    • Brian Walton says:

                      crdswmn, I think we agree. When one player wins over another, we will be unable to ascertain the reason the voters voted the way they did.

                    • crdswmn says:

                      Not specifically, no. But the inference will be there because Molina’s defense has not declined over previous years when he won, and it is not glaringly obvious that Martin has been better. So the only difference this year would be the addition of the sabermetric numbers.

                      It seems weird to me to be knocking the use of sabermetrics, but in this specific case, where there are clearly deficiencies in catcher defense metrics that nearly all saber people agree exist, I can’t help but be a little concerned.

                    • blingboy says:

                      I guess the Cards have the fewest wild pitches in MLB because our staff has great ability to never let one get away. Remarkable for a bunch of youngsters.

                      The Pirates have the 2nd most WPs in MLB, I guess their staff has slippery fingers.

                    • crdswmn says:

                      Well, Brian is technically correct that wild pitches don’t count against a catcher.

                      But whether a pitch that gets away is called a wild pitch or a passed ball is up to the official scorer, who if you ask me are generally bad. So, just because a pitch is officially called a wild pitch doesn’t necessarily mean it wasn’t the catcher’s fault.

                    • Brian Walton says:

                      A lot of inferring going on around here…. ;-)

                      bb, the Pirates pitchers also have more walks, more hit batters (#1 in MLB), etc. than STL. Those are other catcher-independent indications to me that they are more wild as a staff.

                      I cannot draw any conclusions from that (or the number of wild pitches) about Martin as a catcher.

                    • crdswmn says:

                      I’m a lawyer, that is what I was trained to do. ;)

  9. blingboy says:

    The objective is to not let them get away at all.

  10. blingboy says:

    My comment is “awaiting moderation”. I guess that means you win. :)

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