Breaking the Tape by Bob Ryan

For the majority of the MLB teams….the race to the finish line never existed….or many faded …or… never were in the race to the finish line….that leads to some usual …and unusual responses..

….first of all, the Cardinals despite some struggling times during the 2019 season, break the tape on the final day of the regular season. With the Cubs as the opponent….Joe Madden already fired….the 3 best players on their roster injured…and with Jack Flaherty on the mound…I felt that if the Cards jumped to an early lead of a couple runs or more that the Cubbies would fold… and they did. The outcome of game wasn’t in doubt after 4 innings. The bottom of the 8th …with the Cards coasting easily….saw a genuinely “neat” moment. Long time MLB player, 38 year old Ben Zobrist pitched the bottom of the 8th.   His 70ish MPH fastball was sometimes in the strike zone,  and sometimes had movement (seemed to drop from lack of speed), but he apparently was fulfilling a life-time dream. He was known as a player who played every IF and OF positions. The Cubs missed all of his contributions this year as he went to a prolonged marital issue. When he struck out Yadi to end the game, the two of them realized that he was a professional but living out a childhood dream.

…why did we not go “all out” to reach the finish line first? Did anyone else find it strange that in the last week, in the heat of a tight pennant race, that the day after the upteen hour game that lasted until 3:30am against Arizona…the Cards played only one regular starter (Tommy Edman)?  I realize that they’d be tired….but wouldn’t their opponents be the same way?  Btw…the Cards lost this game 9-7….with every game being  extremely important in this very, very tight pennant race. Why give one away …with a day off the next day and only 3 games remaining? Rest up all winterJ

…as long as we’re talking Cardinals….in the 2nd last game of the year, trailing by 2 runs, closer Carlos Martinez was brought into the game to pitch the 9th inning. He struggled to get through the inning and threw 26 pitches. There are only 2 other times that Martinez has thrown that many pitches as a reliever since July 1. On both those occasions, he did NOT pitch the next day! Why would you take the chance of weakening him or not be able to use him for the crucial final game of the year. We were already behind by 2 runs on Saturday!!

…talking about going wire to wire…..Paul Goldschmidt will play in 161 games this year! WOW!   Sure….some wanted a higher average….I would too….but he is a typical #3 or #4 batter in the lineup—has power and avg is secondary. His defensive play at 1B can not be understated. Our 1B defensive play last year between Crap…oops…Carp…and Jose Martinez was almost amateurish in nature. 161 games in this era is phenomenal…..the last Cardinal to play 160 games was Albert Pujols in 2009. Prior to 2009, the next year that a Cardinal played in 160 or more games was 1989 (30 years ago) when Pedro Guerrero, Jose Oquendo and Terry Pendleton ALL played in 160 or more games. Also in 89, Ozzie played in 155, Milt Thompson 155 and Tom Brunasky played 158 games…never were Bob Dylan’s words more true, “ the times…they are a changing” btw…the Cards were 86-76 in 1989.

…now we look ahead to the next “tape”….the division series against the Braves…taking it one area at a time…the Braves have been more productive at the plate in 2019. To me the most important stat isn’t Home runs, hits, on base…it’s simply –who scores the most runs.  The Braves are #7 in the MLB while the Cards are #21. In the OPS (on base+ slugging %), Atlanta was #7 in the MLB @ .791 while the Cards were #22 with a .735 mark. To some experts…far above my pay grade…the lineup is said to be “thin”. They could site these reasons—only one healthy regular is above .275 (Tommy Edman—Wong is injured); 4 of the starting 8 players have more strikeouts than hits;  the Cards have scored 4 runs or less in 86 of their games while Atlanta average 5.27 runs per game. On the other side……the Cards are a different team than many…the Cards are statistically the #1 defensive team in the MLB….the Cards have been aggressive and successful running the bases (outside of pure steals)..the Cards bullpen was steller in September. The Braves have stayed healthy throughout 2019. Four very important players (Ronald Acuna Jr, Freddie Freeman, Josh Donaldson and Ozzie Albies have all played in 150+ games this year. All four of them have an OPS over .800! Nick Markakis contributes significantly in key situations.  In many games, this foursome bats #1-2-3-4 in the lineup. The starting pitching as a young ace (just like the Cards) 21 year old Mike Sorotka was 13-4 with a 2.60 ERA in 164 innings.  Seasoned vet, Dallas Keuchel was acquired just for this purpose—post season experience. He’s a lot like the Cub pitchers that we’ve seen in 7 games in the last 10 days. He was rocky in his first few outings in mid-season but has found his niche of late. Julio Tehran seems to really struggle against the Cardinals. Mike Foltynewicz was down and then back up later in the season with better control. Young Max Fried..may or may not get a start…hope he does…we’ll hit him.   The bullpen has struggled on and off throughout much of the season. Mark Melancon was acquired to nail down games. Cards starters…..Ride Flaherty as often as you can….he’s our man! Get 2 starts out of him! I’m worried about Dakota Hudson in this series. He’s given up 22 HR and Atlanta is a HR ball-park. Hudson has thrown 174 innings already this year…hope he still has some gas in the tank.  As much as I admire Adam Wainwright…you can tell almost immediately if he “has his stuff”.  If he doesn’t, take him out earlier rather than later.

….soooo…what should you watch for…..which team has to go early to the bullpen…the Cards seem to be better set for the 8th & 9th but the mid-innings could be a struggle for both teams…so whichever team calls for bullpen help early…they’re in trouble;  I think that the Cards have the advantage in the 8th-9th innings with their pen; the Braves bat the “big” guys at the top of the order—Cards can not allow the bottom of the Brave order to get on base early in an inning and set up these guys with men on base; Cards have speed now (Edman, Bader, Wong—maybe?, Fowler to a point)….I don’t think that the Braves catchers, Tyler Flowers & Brian McCann, are real good at throwing out runners—advantage Cards; Cards defense MUST stay steller despite the “pressure” of the game; the Cardinals must make the Braves hurlers throw strikes…too many times this season, the Cards batters went after low breaking sliders outside the strike zone and came up empty. If the Cards swing at those pitches, we’re in trouble. The Cards really need Goldie or Ozuna to have a big series….they can’t get by without those big bats.

….In the world of NCAA-Football….…the finish line for the Heisman Trophy race puzzles me….how can Oklahoma QB Jalen Hurts be considered as a Heisman candidate when he left Alabama because he had lost the #1 job? He wasn’t the best QB @ Bama yet now some think that he’s the best player in the entire NCAA?

…A team that most fans thought would make a run to the finish line…fell short….way short….the most disappointing MLB team this year was the Philadelphia Phillies. All the hoopla about signing Bryce Harper has led to nothing except an enormous salary…the first year of contract was amazing low..only $11m….next year it jumps up $27m and stays at that scale for 8 more years! It drops to $23m for his last 3 years of the contract. 2019 saw Harper hit a mediocre .258 with 34 HR and an OPS of .877. Harper did lead the team in RBI’s -109 and runs scored-96. Another key acquisition,  JT Realmuto, carried a .275 batting mark with 83 RBI’s (high for a catcher) and OPS .820….anything over .800 is good… and played in 145 games. Juan Segura was signed prior to 2019 season fr a $14.9m salary. Pitcher Juan Nicasio was grossly overpaid…at least from my eyes…for $9.5m. Pitcher Jason Vargas got $8m from the Phils and Inf Ceasar Hernandez $7.75m. Total team salary over $174m….this club isn’t at .500 as I write it on Friday afternoon!

…Can he help us get to the finish line first? I must admit that I really LOVE Harrison Baders’ style—tremendous CF with unbelievable range, cannon of an arm; speedy baserunner who challenges other teams but…..it’s the hitting. When he returned from the Minors after 3 weeks from Aug 20 to Aug 31 , he batted .313 while chalking up 8 walks and only 5 strikeouts. At that time, I thought “YES…that’s all he needed—a brief refresher”. However, since Sept 1, Bader has regressed..and big time.  In the 25 games of September until today, he’s 17 of 88, a .193 average, with 8 walks and 37 strikeouts. His OPS for this time frame is a weak .618. Randy Arosarena may not have the pretty boy looks of Bader, or the cannon arm but he can play good D in CF, covers ground and …most importantly….he’s come up swinging in the MLB. Or…maybe …it’s Tommy Edman who in 300+ AB in the MLB has demonstrated the ability to hit pitching at this level. I hope I’m wrong….but….to this point, Bader is swinging at too many pitches outside the strike zone and not making contact to remain a starting regular CF. Maybe, he could be a defensive replacement in the last few innings?

….has the finish line changed for our expectations?  Veteran Rangers pitcher Mike Minor reached his finish line of 200 strikeouts in a season. But…it was accomplished in a shady manner. With only 3 games remaining in the season and Minor, a starting pitcher, not scheduled to start another game. His last appearance was his last chance for 200 K’s. So a foul pop up that should have been caught easily, was dropped by a teammate (apparently intentionally). This was done so Minor could strike out this batter and reach his 200 K’s plateau. My ol’ baseball style says, “it stinks”.  A MLB player should never try less than his best. So what if this big league player doesn’t’ get  his 200 strikeouts. Who cares other than him? Why downgrade the performance level for personal reasons?   It makes me wonder…who else is dropping balls, throwing balls away, striking out or any other play without their best effort.  Your thoughts? 

….its extremely difficult for NCAA football schedule makers to have appropriate schedules since they are done years in advance. We’re going into October now and most NCAA-F teams have played….maybe 1… or on occasion.. 2 teams… appropriate to their level.  Here’s a suggestion… why don’t all the Power 5 conferences help solve this matter.  Make each of their schools keep their second weekend open. Then schedule on that weekend…. For example…the Pac 12 schools play  the ACC schools; same weekend  SEC schools vs Big 10; Big 12 vs best independents or Mtn west.  Using the standings from the previous season,  Let the #1 of each conference  play the #1 of the other conference and #2 vs #2’s …all the way down to #12 vs #12. Ideally, you could do it on a 3rd also weekend on all their schedules…only mix up the conference matchups.  If that’s too “tough” on the #1 Teams…just draw their opponents out of hat in this conference v conference matchup. At least, they’d be playing other power 5 conference teams.  No more…. D-II’s, or extremely low level D-1 AA schools. Currently, all these silly one-sided games , that really benefit no one except giving an easy “W” to the host team are an insult to the fan and the sacrificial lamb’s who walk away with some cash but no dignity, less recruiting ability for the “good” players, and the ultimate put-down of being recognized as what they really are….no one like to look at the mirror that closely J

Comments

  1. some comments says:

    Be careful! The Rays made the playoffs with a 96-66 record, lowest allowed ERA, fewest allowed HRs, lowest payroll, and second fewest attendance in MLB. If we lose this Manager to the Cubs, they might beat you again next year! JN
    ——————————————————————————————————–
    Well, I’m very pleased with the seasons final result/ somewhat surprised, after a lackluster 1st half of the season.
    I’m not a Cubs lover, but their injuries to key players, combined with a “ sketchy” pitching staff was a factor in the club’s collapse. A lame duck mgr had to also be a factor. Hats off to the Brewers, who made the Redbirds EARN the division.
    The playoffs are a coin toss. Pitching will be key!The Cards are underdogs for sure, but in a short Series, it’s anybody’s to win! Wong’s return combined with Goldy & Ozuna Hitting as they should, may be the formula for success! JP1
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    Enjoyed your blog again today Bob. Go Cards! KL

  2. some more comments says:

    As always, good stuff. To succeed, the Cards will need as much Jack Flaherty as possible. JM
    —————————————————————————————————————–
    Great article! I only have one thing to offer about playing D-1AA schools! This year maybe the exception but there were a few upsets by these teams and Mizzou had their biggest crowd for SEMO so far this year! I think you actually need these games because you don’t play any preseason games like the NFL! But I think your point is valid but right now the only one that agrees with you is Nick Saban!!! AC

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