Sure, I imagine most Cardinal fans want the team to win just about every game they watch. Heck, they may want them to win every single game they watch. If you expect either to happen, then you are indeed a fool, and a fool and the team’s bandwagon are soon parted. Games like the one against the Reds today help separate the fools from everybody else.
Consider the number of armchair managers who have already panned Mike Matheny’s moves in the bottom of the 9th inning.
- Matheny chose to bring in lefty Marc Rzepczynski to face Joey Votto. Over his career, Votto has a slightly lower batting average, OBP, slugging percentage, and OPS against LHP than he does against RHP. Fine, I hope that we can all agree that facing Rzepczynski represents a slightly more difficult task than facing McClellan in that situation. After all, Rzep yielded only a .163 batting average to lefties last season, and Kyle McClellan allowed a .206 batting average against for left-handers (and had already pitched 2 innings).
- The moment Yadier Molina stuck out his arm to signal an intentional walk to Ryan Ludwick, the armchair managers went through the roof on Twitter. Granted, Ludwick was hitting around half of the Mendoza line, but right-handed hitters worked Rzep over for a batting average of .275 last season. For those of you who insist Rzep can get righties out, you are correct. He just doesn’t do it with great efficiency or regularity compared to most right handed pitchers the Cardinals had available.
- So, the situation at the time was Votto on second base with zero out. All it takes is a decent bunt by Ludwick to advance Votto, and the situation would be Votto on third base with 1 out. It doesn’t even take a hit to score Votto from there. On the other hand, Matheny chose to walk Ludwick to create force out options at 3B, 2B, and 1B. The move also brought up left-handed hitter Jay Bruce to face Rzepczynski. Bruce struck out, and the Cardinals were potentially a ground ball away from getting out of the inning with a double play.
- Chris Heisey was the next batter due up, and Matheny had both Jason Motte and Fernando Salas warming up in the bullpen. Understandably, some sabermetric-minded folks were hoping to see Matheny use Motte in such a high leverage situation. In a paint everyone with the same brush approach, that might be fine. It also might not be the best choice.
Motte and Salas are nearly statistical twins in several ways, especially when you consider things like ERA and WHIP. Salas actually had a slightly better strikeout per 9 innings rate (9.0) than Motte (8.3) did in 2011, and Salas also gave up slightly fewer hits per 9 innings as well (6.0 vs 6.5). Additionally, Salas had a BAbip of .230 in 2011, while Motte’s BAbip was .260. Against righties, Motte again was slightly inferior to Salas (.218 vs .210). Finally, Heisey had faced both pitchers 5 times in his career.. Against Motte, Heisey had gone 1 for 5 with 2 strikeouts, but he had gone 0 for 5 against Salas with 4 strikeouts.
Maybe Matheny did the wrong thing, but hindsight is 20/20 (usually), and there are more than enough numbers to back up Matheny’s decision.
TIDBIT: If you would have told me before the season that the Cardinals would start 5-2 with series wins over the Marlins, Brewers, and Reds, I would have been thrilled with the prospect. I’m still not sure why anybody would expect anything more from a team outside the top 10 of ESPN’s worthless power rankings.
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