June 27, 2008

Redbird Ramblings

Randy Flores went on the 15-day DL due to peroneal tendenitis in his left ankle. He as much as switched places with Albert Pujols yesterday, when Puhols was activated from the 15-day DL from a left calf strain.

Mitchell Boggs more probably will be the starting pitcher for Saturday's game versus the Royals in Kansas City. Mark Mulder had been given serious consideration for the start, however, he had come up with stiffness in his back. If he has overcome the irritation to his back, he might still be considered for the start by manager Tony La Russa and his staff. It is obvious the Cardinals want Mulder to be able to get a chance to pitch, as they are in need of a left-handed hurler on a pitching staff that has none in the current group of starters. Even the Cardinals bullpen is down to one left-hander.

Joel Pineiro will get the start tonight against former Seattle teammate, Gil Meche. Pineiro's 2-3 record does not reflect how effectively he has been pitching for the last six to eight weeks, during which time he has no "paper victory" to show for his work. In his last outing, Pineiro's performance was excellent against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. His opposite tonight, Meche, is 5-8 with a slightly higher ERA.

Rick Ankiel has done somewhat better at the plate since hitting coach Hal McRae worked with him recently. Reportedly, Ankiel was opening up too quickly, especially on off-speed pitches. Of course, that was the rumor-flow to the media. This quick-opening difficulty is faced by hitters in almost every at bat, at least, on any off-speed pitch a batter believes is a fastball. Ankiel's swing suggests he may have been a bit anxious, opening up slightly early on almost every pitch, which can create a mechanical dilemma on all pitches rather than just being fooled on off-speed pitches.
Brendan Ryan had one terrible-looking error that was ruled a double, which is not too hard to believe considering today's inconsistent and forgiving scoring bias. Not that Ryan wouldn't mind one less error on his stats, but surely, if he had his druthers, he would've preferred to field the hard-hopper off the bat of Curtis Granderson. To be noted here was that Ryan was involved in plenty of other plays, routine and challenging, including a field-and-fire play to home plate to assist catcher Jason LaRue with a putout, and a snap-relay from right fielder Ryan Ludwick to Ryan to Aaron Miles at third base to gun down a Tigers' base runner.

Jason LaRue continues to give the Cardinals loads of good innings, throwing out a few base runners attempting steals, handling the pitchers well, and contributing a decent share of hits at the plate, including extra-basehits. Most of this recent play was accomplished without a regular back-up catcher, and some with Yadier Molina as back-up, but not at 100%. It is clear that LaRue plays better when in a regular role, however, with Molina all but recovered from a mild concussion, LaRue will have to adjust to less playing time. It is possible, on the other hand, that La Russa won't hesitate to play LaRue sooner than he might have in the past.

JasonIsringhausen seems to get better with each appearance, with few setbacks and mostly positive performances versus various opposing hitters. He has fallen into a set-up man role of late, but may work back into the closer's role if Ryan Franklin has any significant difficulties. It isn't the worst problem in the world, though, to have two pitchers with good closing capabilities.

The Cardinals bullpen in general is probably the weakest link right now. The biggest problem is not having enough left-handers for various relief needs. In fact, the only left-hander remaining is Ron Villone, who is intended for use against maybe one or two left-handed batters in special circumstances. Of late, Villone has been asked to relieve for several batters, a result of an exhausted bullpen. As more and more relievers are forced into service for too many innings, and if those innings are long, the workload bleeds out over the entire bullpen, forcing the coaching staff and La Russa to utilize more and more relievers in ways for which they are not intended under regular circumstances. Right now, the goal of opponents has to be to make it past the Cardinals starter, whoever it is, and make their push against the reliever, whoever it is.

The Cardinals offense is something like an eight-cylinder engine, having a lot of power and capability. In order for said engine to run efficiently, however, it must run on more than four cylinders. When it does, the Cardinals will normally end up with more than one inning where they score two or more runs. When that offensive machine doesn't run well, it sputters for inning after inning, the symptom easy to spot in high LOB. You don't always notice, however, because the starting pitching keeps them in the game so long.