Also, keep your hands and feet inside the ride at all times until the bandwagon comes to a complete stop. Make sure you seats and tray tables are in the fully upright and locked positions. In the unlikely event of a water landing, Logan Morrison‘s ego may be used as a flotation device.
It may be a bit too early for people to start jumping off the bandwagon of a team leading its division by 4 games in spite of losing player after player to a varied list of ailments. Heck, it’s probably a bit too early to start jockeying for a seat closer to the door/exit of the bandwagon since the Cardinals are only about 10% of the way through the regular season.
- However, Cardinals fans could be legitimately worried about Matt Holliday at this point, and you don’t need to dig deep into the numbers to determine why. He doesn’t look completely comfortable at the plate, and many of his swings lack balance. That explains why even some of his harder hit balls have ended up falling into gloves around the warning track. It’s not a power outage or a slow start, though. Holliday simply does not have his timing down yet, and he hasn’t reached a comfortable point in terms of seeing the ball, either. Just 4 walks in 75 plate appearances tells you a lot about a guy who averages 64 walks per 162 games. Don’t be fooled by anybody telling you that Holliday is just a notoriously slow starter, though. He hit .408/.511/.618/1.129 in April and March combined last season. A lot of credit is due the pitchers who are collectively working at keeping him off-balance.
- With no firm timetable set for Chris Carpenter to do anything other than spectate, it should be noted that his replacement in the lineup is doing just fine. Every week that the Cardinals can get by the with the starting 5 that they have is another week closer to more help becoming available. If Carpenter doesn’t make it back by mid-summer, then it’s possible that Shelby Miller will be ready if needed. If Carpenter does make it back a bit earlier and the rotation is solid, then maybe he can start in the bullpen to work on his stamina.
- As bad as the numbers are for Adam Wainwright now, he’s just 2 solid starts from getting the numbers in line with what people have come to expect or at least with what is expected this season. His current BB/9 rate is exactly even with his career rate, and his SO/9 is significantly higher than normal. The problem is that he is making pitches that are intended to be lower in the zone than they end up, and those pitches are getting hammered. It would be oversimplifying things to just suggest that he needs to improve his location, but until he gets his legs under him completely, he may simply need to make an adjustment in his pitch selection. Wainwright tends to throw his cutter/sinker pitch in fastball counts, and a lot of hitters are looking for the pitch more and more. With his velocity slightly down, he might try switching to a 4-seam fastball to change the eye line for the hitter and tempt them to swing at something 93-94 mpg and slight up out of the zone. Despite the temptation to blame his bad start on mechanics, it’s worth noting that he hasn’t been fighting his release point, and the movement on his pitches has been fairly consistent to really good so far.
- I’m still not convinced that the Tyler Greene experiment does not have value, and that evaluation comes in spite of his .226/.314/.355/.669 slash line. The fact is that Greene has been relatively productive in his 35 plate appearances (before yesterday), and his 1 hr and 4 rbi have shown that the he isn’t completely over-matched by big league pitching. He just hasn’t found the right balance of hitting for some pop and just getting the ball into play. Every time I see him hit, I’m reminded of the scene with Willie Mays Hayes in Major League and think Greene should do pushups every time he hits the ball in the air.
- While it’s too early to start popping the corks for a division winner, a few more series wins could certainly put the pressure on some division rivals to get moving in a hurry. It’s not so much about having a 4 game lead at this point as it is about holding a head-to-head edge over important rivals. The Cardinals are already at a 2-1 advantage over the Cubs, Pirates, and Brewers and 4-2 over the Reds. The fact that most of these advantages have been built on road trips is even more significant, so watch these next 3 series to see if the Cardinals can really create some distance.
- With the injuries still piling up and precautions being taken, don’t be surprised to see some interesting lineup configurations from Matheny, especially when the Cardinals face a lefty. One way to get more right-handed hitters in the game is to move Yadier Molina to first base and put Tony Cruz behind the plate. The rest of the infield could be rounded out with Tyler Greene, Furcal, and David Freese to limit the number of lefty on lefty match ups.
- With the exception of 1 bad outing against Milwaukee, Kyle McClellan has been pretty tough out of the pen this season. After seeing Boggs, Rzepczynski, Salas, and Motte pitch, I’m confident that this year’s relief staff can be just as good as what they had at the end of the last year. The key is that they could be that good all year long, especially if they get anything significant from JC Romero or Scott Linebrink.
- Understand that the sample size is relatively small, but just note that the Cardinals are on pace to hit about 200 home runs this season with 5 players on pace to hit 20 or more. In 2011, the team his 162 home runs, and only 3 players reached the 20 home run plateau. I’m not sure that 200 is reasonable, but when you consider that Allen Craig hasn’t played, Berkman has missed some games, and Holliday isn’t on top of his game yet, it’s not unrealistic to think in terms of topping at least the 162 from last season.
- 3 Cardinal pitchers have ERAs below 1.50, and Garcia is pulling his own weight at 3.06. If Wainwright can eventually get down below 4.00, the starting 5 has the potential to be the strength of this team. If I would have told you before the season that Wainwright would start 0-3 but that the Cardinals would be 11-5 at this point, I probably would have been sent off for mandatory substance abuse testing. A starting 5 group ERA of 3.50 or below would be much better than the starters managed last season.
- On this day in 2011, the Cardinals were tied atop the NL Central with the Reds at 11-10 with the Cubs and Brewers just each a half game back. It’s amazing what a difference a year can make.
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