Proud Mary: a St. Louis Cardinals preview

A vertical leap that would make Bobby Jenks weep with envy.

A brief look at an opponent we play this week.

Offense: Rafael Furcal-SS, Carlos Beltran-RF, Matt Holliday-LF, Allen Craig-1B, David Freese-3B, Yadier Molina-C, Daniel Descalso-2B, Shane Robinson-CF. Bench: C-Tony Cruz, Tyler Greene-INF, Matt Adams-1B.

STL R/G: 5.03. CHW R/G: 4.85. MLB AVG R/G: 4.30.

Remember when Rafael Furcal and Marcus Giles were a dynamic young middle infield combo for the Atlanta Braves? That was almost a decade ago. Marcus Giles hasn't played in the majors since 2007. But Furcal soldiers on. The 34-year-old shortstop has only played one full season in the past five, but is off to a very good start this year. He's not as strong or as fast as he used to be, but who is? ME. That's who. Furcal is still a decent stolen base threat and should reach double digits in homeruns if he stays healthy. His defense is understandably getting worse. The immortal Carlos Beltran is spending the twilight of his career on the other side of the state it began in. Kind of poetic, no? The man signed on to replace Albert Pujols' bat has done just that, hitting 18 homeruns so far with a .411 wOBA. While his days of playing center field and stealing 25+ bases are over, he can play a decent enough right field and still take 10-15 bags depending on opposing catchers. He's having an amazing year and it's nice to watch a Hall of Fame caliber player aging well. It's a bummer he won't go in as a Royal though. George Brett's plaque gets lonely.

Matt Holliday missed the last two games with back stiffness, but is projected to be back for tomorrow's series opener. If he's not, ignore the following few sentences. Or don't. I'm not your boss. While he's still having a pretty good season, his 2012 numbers are down when compared to the production he's put up every year since becoming an established regular. His current .356 wOBA would be a career low. Matt Holliday spoils his fanbases with stellar hitting. If he plays enough games this season, he'll have around 25 homeruns to go with his better than average left field defense. He really should get more media attention. Allen Craig seems to be the go to guy for replacing injured corner outfielders and first basemen in St. Louis. He's sort of keeping prospect Matt Adams on the bench, but I'm not going to question the august wisdom of the venerable Mike Matheny. Craig's off to a ridiculously hot start fueled by his .377 BABIP. If given enough playing time, he could hit 25 or so homeruns, though I expect his at bats to trail off when he cools down.

David Freese is having the exact type of season a player with his skill set should have. He doesn't walk enough to be an elite hitter, but he has enough power to be above average. In seasons where he isn't putting up a BABIP over .350, his OBP is going to hover around the .320 mark. He's not a good runner and has been susceptible to strikeouts so far this year. Yadier Molina has left eldest brother Bengie Molina in the dust in the "Who can be the best catching Molina brother?" contest. Poor Jose never had a chance. Yadier has developed power over the last two seasons, allowing him to be a more complete hitter. He has surprising speed for a catcher and could finish the year with 10 or more steals. He may very well be the best defensive starting catcher in the majors and is a horrible candidate to try and steal against.

Daniel Descalso is one of the main characters from the cult television show Freaks and Geeks, played by James Franco. What? That was Daniel Desario? Who the hell is Daniel Descalso then? I'm glad you (I) asked. Descalso is a light-hitting infielder who doesn't do very much particularly well. Little power, mediocre defense, little speed. He's a filler player on a contending team. Nothing to see here, folks. Shane Robinson sounds like he should be a soccer player. A cursory Wikipedia search confirms my beliefs. Pretty risky of the Cardinals to put a soccer player in center field. Bailey is quick and plays good defense, but there isn't much else to him.

Pitching: Adam Wainwright-RHP, Lance Lynn-RHP, Jake Westbrook-RHP, Jason Motte-CL.

STL RA/G: 4.13. CHW RA/G: 4.27. MLB AVG RA/G: 4.30.

Adam Wainwright is experiencing quite a bit of bad luck this year. Hits are dropping in, he's leaving a career low amount of runners on base, and twice as many flyballs are turning into homeruns than usually do. The peripherals he can actually control are all right around where they should be, so it should only be a matter of time until things even out for the descendent of a wagonmaker. That being said, it sure would be neat if that waited another start or so to happen. Adam throws a sinker in the low-90s, a cutter, a curveball, and a changeup. Lance Lynn, or LaMarr Hoyt 2.0, is enjoying the exact opposite. His BABIP is a wee bit lower than it probably should be and his LOB% a bit higher. Nothing totally unreasonable, but a little bit off from where they should be. His K/BB is right around three which is always a great place to be. A young groundballer with the ability to almost strikeout a hitter per inning is a very valuable commodity, especially for a team that seems to lose one of its aces to injury every season. Lynn throws a low-to-mid-90s four-seamer, a sinker, a changeup, and a curveball.

Jake Westbrook continues to amaze me. The sinkerballer looked all but done in 2008 with the Cleveland Indians, but I'll be damned if he isn't somehow still pitching in the National League. He lives and dies by his sinker and cutter, as he doesn't have the stuff to strike many hitters out. If he can keep the ball down, he can give his offense a chance to win any game though. He also mixes in a changeup and a curveball. Jason Motte is the flamethrowing closer for St. Louis. He is the stereotypical closer: hard-throwing, occasionally spotty control, facial hair. What's a little weird (at least to me) is how little he uses any off-speed pitches. Other than the 3% of the time he's thrown a changeup this season, every other pitch has been over 91 mph. Kind of weird. If he comes in, he's going to be chucking speed.

Outlook: The Cardinals are the better team and we're playing this series by their rules. Unless Holliday's back is still bothering him enough to make him sit out, series loss 1-2.


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