July 24, 2014

Carpenter out at home but strategy acceptable

In Wednesday night's 3-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, in the bottom of the sixth inning, Matt Carpenter was thrown at home plate on an infield ground ball. Though Carpenter was thrown out by a healthy margin, the strategy for the situation was common, and acceptable in this case.

Carpenter has doubled to lead off the Cardinals' half of the sixth and was then bunted over to third base by Kolten Wong.

The Cards were behind 1-0 at that point, and the bunting strategy got Carpenter a better chance of scoring, via past ball, wild pitch, balk, sacrifice fly, squeeze bunt, or base hit, for instance. With only one out, the Cards also had two chances to get Carpenter as the potential tying run home.

Commonly, a base runner at third base with no outs will hold until sure the ball clears the infield, as there will be a couple more at-bats to bring him home. That same base runner, with one out, however, is commonly instructed to break for the plate on any ground ball as there are less chances to score him. Although he may be easily thrown out at home, the thinking is that the batter-runner will reach.

Obvious, the trade-off for a batter-runner to reach first base for a base runner on third is not exactly equitable, but consider a ground ball to be fielded with a throw to the plate with the catcher not just having to make a reception but to apply a tag not only requires a defense to be perfect, but that they have added pressure due to the fact that a run is at stake.

As for Carpenter, he was thrown out by several feet, a ground ball by Matt Holliday requiring Rays' third baseman, Evan Longoria, to scramble to field the ball, and to make things more difficult, Longoria was headed toward the third base line, forcing him to hurry a throw home that had to arch over Carpenter as he strode toward the plate.

Throws within the infield, if at all possible, are made via a clear lane, usually to the inside of the diamond, whereby both the fielder/thrower and receiver ensure a clear throwing lane by moving to such a position. The Rays' catcher, Jose Molina, had to step into the base path because Longoria had no other choice but to throw over the top of the base runner (due to his momentum in fielding and with no time to stop and step to create a clear throwing lane). Molina scurried back a few steps and applied a successful tag on Carpenter.

The risk of a base runner heading for home on an infield ground ball with one out almost paid off. It was the excellent play of the Rays that prevented the tying run from crossing home plate.

One additional factor on this particular play was that the ground ball brought Longoria immediately toward the third base line, whereby there was a good chance Carpenter had no path back to the base off his secondary lead. If anything, Carpenter realized he may as well take off for the plate and force the Rays to make the pressure defensive play.

Of course, there are those that would never have a base runner on third base break for the plate unless he was absolutely sure he could make it. Even the play-it-safe types, however, might have to think on this one a minute, as the Cardinals had not yet scored, and versus the shutdown pitching of the Rays' Alex Cobb, there might not have been any more opportunities to get that close.

Remember that game situations and myriad factors can play into this, and many other strategies, including, but not limited to, how your offense is doing against the opposing pitching, how good is the base runner, who is due up that has a good chance of a successful RBI, are the bases behind the base runner at third base open, so that the pitcher doesn't have to give anything good to hit to those following batters, and, you get the idea.

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Cardinals, Bank of America offer $9 tickets for World Series rematch

Fans can purchase tickets to upcoming series with the Boston Red Sox for just $9

ST. LOUIS, MO (July 24, 2014) –The St. Louis Cardinals are teaming up with Bank of America to present a special World Series rematch $9 ticket promotion. During the special ticket sale, fans can purchase $9 tickets to the upcoming three-game series with the Boston Red Sox on August 5-7th.
                The $9 tickets go on sale today, Thursday, July 24th at 10 a.m. CT and will be available while supplies last. Approximately 9,000 total tickets will be available for the three games in various seating categories.
                This is the first time the Cardinals and Red Sox will face off since dueling in the 2013 World Series.
                Tickets are limited to six per customer. For more information, or to purchase tickets, fans can visit cardinals.com/bankofamerica.

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July 23, 2014

Cards activate LHP Kevin Siegrist from D.L.


ST. LOUIS, Mo., July 23, 2014 – The St. Louis Cardinals announced today that they have activated left-handed pitcher Kevin Siegrist (left forearm strain) from the 15-day disabled list and optioned left-handed pitcher Nick Greenwood to Memphis (AAA). 
Siegrist, who went on the disabled list May 24, appeared in five games for Springfield (AA) during an injury rehabilitation assignment, allowing no runs in his 4.2 innings pitched with three strikeouts.  He logged 1.1 scoreless innings in his most recent outing – July 21 vs. Tulsa.
Siegrist, who as a rookie last season set the Cardinals record for lowest ERA (0.45) by a relief pitcher (min. 35.0 IP), fanned 50 batters in 39.2 IP and allowed just 17 hits.
Prior to going on the disabled list, Siegrist had posted a 1-1 mark with a 3.60 ERA in 23 games (20.0 IP) while striking out 27. 
Greenwood debuted with the Cardinals last month and appeared in nine games.  He was 1-1 with a 4.74 ERA and turned in two perfect innings of relief last night.

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Inside-outside routes in the outer gardens

Analysis of baseball using the St. Louis Cardinals is focus of 4thebirds..., and in Tuesday night's 7-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, we get to break down a defensive play in which we catch some Redbirds doing it right.

Before Adam Wainwright got touched up for a significantly crooked number in the middle innings, Cardinals outfielders Matt Holliday (lf) and Jon Jay (cf) and shortstop Jhonny Peralta converged on a pop fly in shallow left field.

First off, Holliday correctly called off Peralta, as such a defensive chance is normally handled much easier by an outfielder moving forward toward the infield than an infielder running back or backpedaling into the outfield. Why? Well, most fielders are more accustomed to making catches on fly balls while moving forward, but also, because backpedaling and/or running sideways while straining to look upward tends to get the fielder landing on his heels, which in turn makes the ball seem to jerk about in his vision. Outfielders (any fielder) running forward has a much easier time staying on their toes, which makes vision on the ball much smoother, hence, more easy to judge.

But the effectiveness of the approach regarding vision solves for individual technique and not the issue of convergence.

Specifically, when outfielders converge, the chances of a collision get higher in a hurry.

Obviously, a misplayed ball is at stake, but the possibility of injury to one or both players becomes the larger concern. Inside-outside routes (by the outfielders) can reduce the odds of a bad outcome on convergence plays.

Inside-outside routes describe the desired outcome of execution, however, it is the execution of fly ball reception which creates the routes. The center fielder, therefore, on fly balls in the gaps or alleys where a collision with a corner outfielder is possible, executes a basket style catch. Either the left or right fielder, in the same situation, attempts a catch at shoulder level. If the outfielders take the prescribed paths to the fly ball, assuming the left and right fielders are never meeting in a gap, they should not end up on a collision course.

Take the play described in the opening of this post for instance. With Peralta backing off the fly ball, Holliday races in, catching the ball at shoulder level while Jay moves through behind Holliday. Jay is seen to be readying for a basket catch. There is a discernible difference in their routes due to the execution of fly ball reception taken by each outfielder.

Inside-outside routes should always put the center fielder on a path that goes behind (outfield wall side) either corner outfielder, depending on which alley the fly ball is falling.

As far as the play chosen for analysis, it is possible Holliday was simply calling for the fly and his teammates were backing off, but it certainly had the appearance of a properly executed inside-outside route. In other words, Holliday may have been just trying to reach the fly ball the best way he could, without regard for his style of reception. And Jay may have simply been approaching for a basket catch because he calculated a collision with an outfielder that would have resulted in something similar of a blindside hit by former NFL star, Dick Butkus.

If the inside-outside routes taken by Holliday and Jay were due to understanding the technique, all the better.

If the inside-outside routes were taken accidentally, than a real train wreck is imminent.

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