5-2 Roadtrip Not Good Enough For Some Fans

by on April 11, 2012 · 14 comments

Mike Matheny - Current Member of #TeamDugoutShots

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.

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Follow gr33nazn on Twitter for more defense of 5-2 roadtrips!

Cardinals fan since I could hold a fishing pole steady. Accidental blogger. Opinionated. I could care less about what you think of me. Constantly confounded, bemused, and confuzzled (ie I'm a pc and a mac). I'm an IT infrastructure analyst with a penchant for breaking tech toys. I ate a sabermetric primer for breakfast. I love playing "All-powerful GM of MLB". The 2010 Cardinals represented a good, practical definition "cognitive dissonance". The 2011 version got by on duct tape and a prayer, and I'm fine with that. They just need new tape for #12 in 12.
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PH8 April 11, 2012

To be fair, Ludwick has an extreme reverse platoon for his career. He’s real bad against LHP.

Dennis April 11, 2012

Irrelevant in my opinion, because the Reds had the option to bunt with nobody out there.

Marilyn Green (@Marilyncolor) April 11, 2012

What are Heisey’s #s against LHP? Could leaving Rzep in to face Heisey have been a better option? I was told by someone that Heisey struggles against lefties.

Dennis April 11, 2012

Depends on how you look at that. Heisey had a lower batting avg split but higher BAbip against LHP than RHP. Comparing Rzep to Salas, I suspect there were slightly better chances of a groundball out with Salas than Rzep, though.

Marilyn Green (@Marilyncolor) April 11, 2012

Not a clear choice to be made obviously. You make your choice and you take your chances. I don’t fault Matheny.

PH8 April 11, 2012


Dennis April 11, 2012

Precisely. That’s why I don’t get people ripping Matheny for making a reasonable baseball decision that could go either way (as most such decisions can).

Zach April 12, 2012

Yea and we faced 4 aces (cueto,grienke, gallardo, and Johnson. Plus we were playin pretty good teams so 5-2 is fine with me

OtherScreen April 12, 2012

Feels like the ’12 Cardinals have two opponents though: the other teams and the injury bug.

– Totally agree that 5-2 is a great start.
– Wish we could have kept it healthy. Strauss’ comments re Berkman are ominous.

Dennis April 15, 2012

Zach- I agree about the pitchers they faced, and doing the job with a patchwork lineup is big.

Dennis April 15, 2012

As for Berkman, I’m just not worried yet. I say this every year, but these things provide critical playing time for the team to learn about guys like Matt Carpenter, Greene, Komatsu, and Descalso. Those guys showed more than singles power and the ability to hit triples is almos as scary as home run power in certain situations.

E.E. RIPPER April 19, 2012

Hi Dennis,
I wish the Cubs had the same problem, namely, a 5-2 record in any given stretch. We are now 3-9. If this Cub team loses less than 95 games it would be a minor miracle. [sigh]
P.S. To the point of the armchair manager, the Cards at least have several good options in place to win a game. The Cubs have none..[sigh].
I hope Cardinal fans will treat Cubs’ fans with great sympathy & kindness…(well maybe not..lol)
P.P.S. I forgot to give props to Dennis for an interesting and technically sound evaluation of the perceived “mistakes” Matheny made. Hindsight is indeed 20/20.

Dennis April 20, 2012

Thanks for dropping by.. Might as well keep on stopping in since the Cubs are in for a long, miserable season. At least there is some light at the end of the tunnel and a plan in action. As a Cards fan, I selfishly want the Cubs to be horrible forever, but the pure baseball fan in me wants them to be good enough to make for a good rivalry.

E.E. RIPPER April 21, 2012

Dennis, Your wishing the Cubs to be horrible is like hoping the sun rises in the east lol..
And secondly, if I were a “pure” baseball fan i’d start rooting for the White Sox (which I find I’m increasingly doing)

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