2013 Reds / Reds - General / Series Preview / Whiny Little B******

Series Preview: St. Louis Cardinals

The Reds’ (4-2) next opponents are the St. Louis Cardinals (3-3). After beginning the season with a West Coast trip to Arizona and San Francisco, the Cardinals return to the banks of the Mississippi River for their home Opening Day. Plenty of pre-game ceremonies are scheduled, including parading the team’s last four World Series trophies (1967, 1982, 2006, 2011) through Busch Stadium via motorcade. Bleh.

It’s another tough task for the Reds. After facing possibly the two best teams in baseball in its first six games, the Cardinals present the Reds with an even more important and high-energy series. Not only have the two teams recently shared a heated rivalry, but virtually every forecast has them battling for the NL Central title.

Welcome to Act I of the 2013 fight for the division championship.

In 2012, the Cardinals showed they were more than simply Albert Pujols, who had departed via a messy free agency, by competing to within one game of the World Series. Curiously, the organization followed up their encouraging season with an extremely conservative off-season. St. Louis signed only three free agents to major league contracts: a lefty-specialist relief pitcher, a utility player and a player who has already been released. Via trade, they acquired Jake Lammerman (that’s what I said, too).

Lammerman, Choate, Cedeno and Wigginton. That’s it. That’s their list of new acquisitions.

Compare that to the losses of Kyle Lohse and Reds-killer Lance Berkman to free agency, and father-of-the-year Chris Carpenter and Rafael Furcal to injuries. And although St. Louis did spend big to extend Adam Wainwright ($97.5 million/5 years) and Allen Craig ($31 million/5 years), you have to wonder if they can be anywhere near as good in 2013 as they were in 2012.

The Cardinals still have their share of veteran players. Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran, Yadier Molina, Adam Wainwright and Jake Westbrook are all-too-familiar names to Reds’ fans. At the same time, St.Louis has been incorporating valuable younger players like Allen Craig, Jon Jay and David Freese. And they also have a bounty of baseball’s elite up-and-comers. For example, you’ll find four players from the Cardinals’ franchise in Baseball America’s Top 40 prospects.

No longer, however, can Reds fans complain about being outspent by the Cardinals. The recent growth in Team Castellini’s payroll has substantially closed the gap between the two clubs. In 2012, St. Louis outspent the Reds by $28 million, but in 2013 the difference is only $8 million. Carpenter and Furcal, who are done for the year, account for nearly $20 million of that.

CARDINALS’ LIKELY LINEUP

The Cardinals lineup is built around on-base-percentage. They finished 2012 with the highest OBP (.338) in the major leagues, including the DH-aided American League clubs. The Reds, by comparison had a team OBP (.315) that plopped them 21st out of 30 teams. You don’t have to look much further for an explanation for why the Cardinals scored almost 100 more runs than the Reds did last season (765 to 669). Enter Shin-Soo Choo.

Here is the Cardinals’ expected lineup for this series. Third baseman David Freese begins the season on the DL.

1. Jon Jay (L) CF
2. Matt Carpenter (L) 3B
3. Matt Holliday (R) LF
4. Allen Craig (R) 1B
5. Carlos Beltran (S) RF
6. Yadier Molina (R) C
7. Daniel Descalso (L) 2B
8. Pete Kozma (R) SS

Last season, only a handful of center fielders earned a higher WAR than Jon Jay. Yet, some view Jay as just keeping CF warm until star prospect Oscar Taveras (20) is called up. But Jay is versatile, gets on base (.373 OBP), runs well and plays excellent defense.

The middle of the lineup, even without Freese, remains highly potent. Matt Holliday has hit .308/.389/.528 since joining the Cardinals in 2009, Allen Craig is emerging as an elite power hitter, and Carlos Beltran had 32 home runs in 2012 and largely filled the presumed hole created by Pujols’ departure. Beltran may not be at full strength this series, as he is hampered by a fractured toe.

Not only is Yadier Molina the best defensive catcher in baseball — he’s won five consecutive Gold Gloves — but he experienced a breakout year at the plate in 2012. And yes, he’s still public enemy #1 in GABP because of this. Molina is certainly in the discussion for the best defensive catcher of all time. A recent article by ESPN’s Dave Schoenfield discussed Molina in comparison to Johnny Bench and Ivan Rodriguez. From the article: “Here’s my favorite Johnny Bench stat: From 1970 to 1979, the Reds played 45 postseason games. They stole 54 bases and got caught 17 times. Reds opponents stole — get this — six bases, and were caught 13 times. Four of those steals came in 1979, by which time Bench’s arm had started to go.”

PROBABLE STARTING PITCHERS

The Reds will miss Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright and über-prospect Shelby Miller in this series. The Cardinals rotation is solid considering their loss of Carpenter and Lohse. 

Jaime Garcia (26) is coming off a strained rotator cuff injury. He opted against surgery, choosing a rehab course instead, so the jury is still out on exactly how durable and healthy his shoulder is. Garcia pitched well in his first start, although he did walk four Diamondbacks. He owns an 8-2 career record against the Reds in his 11 starts.

Lance Lynn (25) was 18-7 in a year of transition from the bullpen to the starting rotation. He threw 176 innings of 3.78 ERA and despite a rocky month of August, finished the year with a strong September. Lynn gave up six hits and three walks in four innings in his first start last week. Regarding his match-up against Arroyo, it’s worth mentioning that this will be Bronson’s 32nd start against the Cardinals (8-13).

Jake Westbrook (35) is a reasonably dependable #4 starter. In his first start of the season against San Francisco, he struck out one and walked six while giving up just one unearned run in a loss to the Giants. Westbrook has a career record of 3-2 against the Reds.

CARDINALS’ BULLPEN

The Cardinals bullpen plans suffered a setback a couple weeks ago when closer Jason Motte was diagnosed with a mild right elbow strain. Mitchell Boggs (29), who registered a 2.21 ERA and 7.1 K/9 across 78 relief appearances last season, is filling in. Motte converted 42 of 49 (86%) save opportunities last year, stepping into the closer role for the first time.

Setting up Boggs will be Fernando Salas (27), Edward Mujica and top prospect Trevor Rosenthal (22). Their lefty specialists are veteran Randy Choate (37) and Marc Rzepczynski (27).

63 thoughts on “Series Preview: St. Louis Cardinals

    • @per14: cool. Thanks for posting. Can someone who understands WAR explain how Strasburg’s is higher than Cueto’s, even after yesterday?

      • @Eric the Red:

        WAR is a controversial stat, and even people who swear by it will admit it is flawed. Baseball Reference and Fangraphs, the two big sources for WAR, don’t even use the same system to arrive at their ratings and you will find they often have disreprencies.

        Bottom line: It’s fun to consider, but don’t take it for gospel until people can settle on a consistant method of applying it.

        • @CI3J: The fact that fWAR is different that bWAR doesn’t make the stat any less accurate. They’re telling slightly different stories, that’s all. You just have to know what stories they tell, and why…

        • @CI3J: Baseball reference and Fangraphs have recently reconciled their differences and there is only one WAR now. You can find an explanation on Fangraphs as to what has been changed.

        • @al: Actually, Baseball reference and Fangraphs still compute WAR differently. What they reconciled was the definition of replacement level. A lot of the difference in the two numbers came from them using different baselines for replacement level. They got together and decided on a single standard, so that makes their WAR calculations a lot closer to each other, but they do still compute it differently.

      • @Eric the Red: Pitcher’s WAR is based on FIP. FIP tracks things that under the pitcher’s control, like walks, HBP, strikeouts, and homeruns.

        Strasburg hasn’t given up any HRs yet, and Cueto has given up 2. HRs have the biggest weight in the equation, so it makes sense that Strasburg will have the lower FIP, and the higher WAR.

        • @CP: thanks for the explanation. In this case, after only two games, the stat clearly isn’t telling us much useful. I’ll wait for larger sample sizes…

        • @Eric the Red: Yeah, the biggest factor is the SSS, but Strasburg will almost assuredly finish with a higher WAR than Cueto anyway, as long as he stays healthy. Strikeout pitchers are favored in the equation, and Strasburg & Cueto have similar walk rates. Cueto has typically out performed his FIP so his WAR will be understated if this holds up.

          There are a couple different schools of thought on this, Cueto has either been lucky or he has a skill set that FIP can’t take into account, principally that he induces lots of weak contact (the flip side of this argument can be someone like Aaron Harang, who was often viewed as “unlucky”, gave up a lot of unusually hard hits).

        • @CP: Fangraphs also did a piece on Cueto last year on how much he shuts down the running game, which is another thing WAR doesn’t account for.

          Between his 8 pickoffs, very few stolen bases, and few runners taking big leads and scoring from first or going first to third, Crueto ends up being able to strand a lot more runners than average.

        • @al: That’s true, and I was thinking about that the other day, as Hanigan benefits from this as well.

          I was reading a fantasy baseball post about how Hanigan is impossible to run on. Um, since he catches Cueto and coaches for some reason will still try to run, Hanigan reaps all the awards, basically free CS. Which is great for the Reds, but doesn’t paint an accurate picture of what’s going on. It’s not like runners are suddenly only 50% successful running on Latos when Hanigan is behind the plate.

        • @CP:

          So the bottom line is, WAR isn’t very useful as it doesn’t accurately represent players’ contributions, which is supposed to be its whole reason for existing.

        • @CI3J: No. WAR wasn’t designed so that you can turn off your brain. You still need to think about what the tool is telling you.

          Go grab a stud finder and tell me it isn’t useful. Now tell me if it will sometimes give imprecise results. I don’t want to get into the difference between accuracy and precision, but the difference is important…

    • @BearcatNation: Actually, I rather enjoyed the article. Not sure what you mean.

      You guys know me, so you know I’m not a Cardinal troll. I’ve always been a fan of the Cardinal fans. They are great when then visit GABP. Unlike Cubs fans, you can actually talk to them without wanting to spanking them and having them stand in the corner. And other than Molina, I have no problems with the Cardinal organization. LaRussa, Duncan, Carpenter… all gone. I don’t care if Wainwright gave someone the finger. Childish, but whatever. He’s still a great pitcher.

      Let the past go and enjoy two great teams playing baseball at its highest level.

  1. That Cards lineup just doesn’t look as imposing without Albert Pujols in the middle of it. Molina. I hate that guy. I hope Latos puts some high cheese in his earhole tonight.

  2. One of the pre-game ceremonies worth noting, is the tribute to Stan “the Man” Musial, who passed away this offseason.

    Also, I’ve read that Freese is being activated from the DL for today’s game.

  3. I said this before the season began, and I stand by it: the Angels are nothing special. I think there is a good chance they finish 2nd or 3rd in their own division. So it’s really not a big deal the Reds beat them, the Reds are SUPPOSED to beat inferior teams.

    As for the Cards, their pitching doesn’t scare me nor does their offense. Tonight’s game should be a battle, tomorrow should be a win if good Bronson shows up, and so too should the Bailey/Westbrook matchup. Of course, still have to play the games, but a sweep isn’t out of the question.

    1-2 minimum, 2-1 likely, 3-0 possible.

  4. Hi guys, long time lurker here, made an account to reply and whatnot. It’s going to be another fun year to be a Reds Fan.

    I actually wanted to make a post about how weak it is that ESPN moved the Reds down in the power rankings, even though they won a series against two solid teams. But I’m not going to make that post, because: Who Cares. All that matters is on field results, and I’m pretty sure ESPN and all the other media outlets will be praising the Reds soon enough.

    So, lets go Redlegs, win another series against St. Loouie.

  5. Glad we are going in with some momentum. Also glad we have a manager who is as solid as the roster he is managing. Many on here dislike him and his ways but he is consistent and very well respected by his players. Saw someone bash him for using Marshall, Broxton, and Chapman yesterday after loosing a bullpen battle the night before. Really!? You play for keeps in the Bigs and you don’t give teams chances to come back. Chapman may not be available but Dusty wont hesitate to put Broxton in tonight if he needs him.

    • @RisingRed: I’m the person who brought this up yesterday, but I didn’t “bash” Dusty Baker. In fact, I explicitly said that most major league managers would have done the same thing. What I was bashing was the way strategy has become dictated by the save statistic. Even assuming Chapman in the bullpen, the Reds would be better off using him more often and longer in close games than trotting him out for three-run saves that any competent bullpen pitcher can accomplish.

      • @Steve Mancuso: That topic came up on yesterday’s game thread as well, why not try to save at least one “closer” for today’s game. There was at least an equal number, maybe a greater number, of commenters who believed it was best to use Dusty’s “A lineup” in the bullpen to make sure Sunday’s game didn’t get away.

        But Simon, who was also warming up, should have been capable of getting three outs with a three-run lead, and then Chapman lurks to silence the Cardinals in a closer game. But “the closer protocol” says otherwise, and I doubt many other managers would have done differently than Dusty did.

        • @Brian Van Hook:
          I think Dusty did the right thing. I really don’t have alot of confidence in Simon(1.4 whip last year), Hoover needed a day off, Lecure would have been ok but im pleased with the way it ended. Yeah it would of been nice to have Chapman today but they have options should they find themselves in a close game.

    • @RisingRed: Also, the Reds lost that bullpen battle because of the manager you’re trying to praise.

      In the 9th inning of Saturday’s game, Broxton got Bernadina, Span, and Werth 1-2-3 with no long ABs. Then in the 10th he was taken down in favor of Chapman, even though it was very possible that the pitcher’s spot would come up in the bottom of the 10th.

      If Broxton is left in for the 10th, then you’ve saved Chapman for the 11th. Instead, by sticking to his one inning only philosophy, we had to pinch hit for Chapman and then compounded that by brining in the shakiest man in the pen, who promptly got his second relief loss of the season.

      It would be hard for me to come up with a worse way to handle that situation. And yet somehow you’re praising him for that?

      • @al:

        and then compounded that by brining in the shakiest man in the pen

        Not to mention that the reason he is the ‘shakiest’ is because he was misused and overextended by the same manager.

  6. I’ll be at the game on Tuesday and am looking forward to it. I’m taking clients (I live in NY). It seems like every time I get to see the Reds, Arroyo is pitching. I’ll be the guy in the 4th row above the Cardinals dugout in a reds hat.

  7. Speaking of Chapman, did anyone notice something interesting in the game yesterday?

    Before and during Suzuki’s at-bat, Chapman seemed to be sitting in the mid-90’s and seemed to be mixing up his pitches a bit more. But after Suzuki hit that double, suddenly Chapman added a good 5-7MPH to his pitches and was hitting triple digits.

    I wonder what the implications of this were. I came to two conclusions, one good, one bad:

    The good: Chapman was told, when he was preparing for a starter, that he didn’t need to show his best stuff all the time and that he could get a lot of hitters out throwing at 90% effort and mixing his pitches. However, once a runner gets on, he could reach back and show his full velocity to get out of the jam.

    The bad: Chapman was trying to pitch like a starter, throwing with less effort to see if he could get hitters out while not fully exerting himself. After Suzuki hit that double, Chapman concluded that mixing pitches and using good location doesn’t work, and decided to just go back to blowing people away with pure heat, essentially becoming a one pitch pitcher again.

    It bears watching next time Chapman pitches. If he comes out throwing in the mid-90’s again, it probably is a good sign. If he comes out throwing triple digits, it’s probably a bad sign.

    Or maybe Chapman is never going to start anyway and it doesn’t matter.

    • @CI3J:

      If you hear a knock on your front door today, it might be the Animal Cops. You just had to beat that dead horse one more time. Just kidding and I couldn’t resist.

      • @WVRedlegs:

        Nice one!

        But to be truthful, I’m not really revisiting the “Chapman as a starter” debate, it’s more of “What just happened last night?”

        I noticed other times he’s pitched this year he seemed to be holding back, sitting in the mid-90’s, and I wondered what was up with that. Well, last night might have given me the answer. Someone got a hit off him when he pitched against the Angels too, but I didn’t catch that game so I’m not sure if the same thing happened.

        However, from looking at this chart on FanGraphs:

        http://www.fangraphs.com/pitchfxo.aspx?playerid=10233&position=P&pitch=FA

        It confirms what I said that he’s sitting at a lower velocity, but reaches back for something more when someone gets a hit off him.

        He was hit in his 3rd game pitched and 5th game pitched (last night), and you can see those spikes in he velocity in those games.

        Very interesting.

    • I think it was more a case of the classic Chapman Warmup. He was doing it last year too, he starts off in the lower 90’s then heats up a after a random number of pitches. I was much less impressed with his pitching yesterday than the previous appearance. No sliders makes me a sad panda.

      • @Mwv: Agreed about the sliders. Bryce Harper must have had nightmares about those two sliders Saturday. Chapman may just start out a little more cautiously so he doesn’t walk the house. Once he sets his arm slot, he turns up the gas.

    • @CI3J: From my vantage point, Chapman was tapping the brakes a little when he got behind in counts as a way to increase his accuracy. That, plus adrenaline, explains his mph progression. While I’ve never personally been in that situation, it must be a little less exciting to pitch with a three-run lead than if the game is immediately on the line.

      • @Steve Mancuso:

        Actually, look at that Fangraphs chart I posted.

        It’s remarkable how CONSISTANT Chapman has been at sitting at that lower velocity as long as no one gets a hit off him. As soon as someone gets a hit, suddenly the gloves come off and he unleashes his full power.

        It’s intriguing, and personally I think it’s a good sign. Maybe he’s learning that he doesn’t have to try to throw the ball through a brick wall to get people out. This is the same lesson Cueto and Homer had to learn to become the better pitchers they are today.

      • @WedgieSanders:

        But again, in that first chart I posted, you can see his velocity is all over the place last year. So far this year, he has been very consistent in his approach.

        It’s early, and this could all be a coincidence, but if this trend continues throughout this month, I think it’s definitely an encouraging sign.

  8. The idea that Mesoraco may catch Latos today has been shot down. Here’s the Reds’ lineup:

    Choo 8
    Heisey 7
    Votto 3
    Phillips 4
    Bruce 9
    Frazier 5
    Cozart 6
    Hanigan 2
    Latos 1

      • @jas_428: It’s hard to say, really. The little bit that Baker has talked about this publicly, his comments have been sort of incoherent (or at least reported that way). The way I look at it, last year – pre-concussion – is a baseline. Mesoraco catches *at least* two out of five games. Baker trusted Mesoraco to do that much last year. So the question is, why is Mesoraco’s time below that baseline. Caveat: it has only been once through the rotation, so maybe this is nothing at all, really. (Although Baker has had a couple opportunities to offer simple explanations and he hasn’t.)

        Here are some theories for why Mesoraco is getting less playing time than the baseline:

        (1) Mesoraco has still not rebuilt Baker’s trust from last season. Something beyond the concussion issue caused Mesoraco’s role to vanish last September. This may not necessarily be related to on-the-field stuff, (2) Baker is being very veteran-oriented with the tough stretch of games to start the season, or (3) Baker is being very defense-oriented with the tough stretch of games to start.

        Outside chance: Maybe the pitchers went to Baker and asked to throw more to Hanigan. I can see where Baker wouldn’t want to repeat that publicly.

        • @Steve Mancuso:

          If (1) or the “outside chance” are the reasons, why don’t they just trade Mesoraco and be done with it? You can’t keep running Hanigan out there 4 times for every 1 game Mesoraco catches.

          Again, something else that bears watching going forward.

        • @Steve Mancuso: Assuming for a moment that Baker is unhappy he got Mes instead of Olivo, what can Walt actually do about it? I don’t mean fire Baker or trade Mes, I mean realistically: what’s the process by which a GM influences the field manager on something like this? Anybody with any knowledge?

    • The idea that Mesoraco may catch Latos today has been shot down. Here’s the Reds’ lineup: Choo 8Heisey 7Votto 3Phillips 4Bruce 9Frazier 5Cozart 6Hanigan 2Latos 1

      Just wondering how often does the backup catcher start? I think as a whole over a complete season Devin will get on average the same number of starts as other backup catchers.

  9. Has Frazier earned a promotion to the #4 hole in the lineup?? I think so. And move BP back to #2 hole?? Yes. Heisey hitting .150 has to be a concern. Cozart only hitting .125 and Hanigan at .063. Will that facilitate more playing time for Mesoraco?? These 3 have to be of concern, especially if Heisey is moved from #2 to #6. That would mean the #6, #7 and #8 hitters coming up with BA’s of .150, .125, and .063 and then the pitcher. Yuck.

    • Has Frazier earned a promotion to the #4 hole in the lineup?? I think so. And move BP back to #2 hole?? Yes. Heisey hitting .150 has to be a concern. Cozart only hitting .125 and Hanigan at .063. Will that facilitate more playing time for Mesoraco?? These 3 have to be of concern, especially if Heisey is moved from #2 to #6. That would mean the #6, #7 and #8 hitters coming up with BA’s of .150, .125, and .063 and then the pitcher. Yuck.

      Right now why mess with what is working?

    • Has Frazier earned a promotion to the #4 hole in the lineup?? I think so.And move BP back to #2 hole?? Yes. Heisey hitting .150 has to be a concern.Cozart only hitting .125 and Hanigan at .063.Will that facilitate more playing time for Mesoraco?? These 3 have to be of concern, especially if Heisey is moved from #2 to #6.That would mean the #6, #7 and #8 hitters coming up with BA’s of .150, .125, and .063 and then the pitcher.Yuck.

      It might be a tad early for those averages to mean a thing.

  10. Amazes me how much more dangerous our lineup feels with Choo and Frazier in there every day. I know they’re both on fire right now but I don’t just mean all the hits, Frazier took some nice walks yesterday as well. Both guys just seem to be seeing the ball well and trying hard to make the most of their at bats.

  11. One thing about the current lineup…you won’t see a lot of “resting the veterans” this year. Since there is no Rolen or Ludwick, the regulars can and should play almost every day.

  12. Here is the Cardinals lineup for today. Freese is back, batting sixth. Beltran up in the #2 spot. Carpenter out, at least for this game. I expect he’ll play some 2B if Freese is going to play everyday now.

    Remember, early game today: 4:15 eastern.

    1. Jon Jay (L) CF
    2. Carlos Beltran (S) RF
    3. Matt Holliday (R) LF
    4. Allen Craig (R) 1B
    5. Yadier Molina (R) C
    6. David Freese (R) 3B
    7. Daniel Descalso (L) 2B
    8. Pete Kozma (R) SS
    9. Jaime Garcia (L) P

    • @Steve Mancuso: Beltran was briefly a 1 man Mat Latos wrecking crew.

      I remember Latos going in and getting shelled versus the Cards in his first start. Beltran came in 2 for 2, with 2 homeruns lifetime against Latos. Boom, hit another homer to make his career line 3/3, 3 HRs versus Latos. 8O

      Thankfully, Latos must have figured something out, because he held Beltran to 1/8 over the next couple games versus the Cards.

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