Diamond Diaries

Cardinal baseball, from the girls

Tag Archives: errors

In a Perfect World…

It’s been awhile since we went on a field trip here on Diamond Diaries, but Daniel Shoptaw has graciously lent me the keys for the day over at C70 at the Bat, so I would be remiss not to send you over there to see my rambling in two places today!

a perfect worldSo let’s talk perfection today, shall we? In a perfect world, Adam Wainwright would never have needed Tommy John surgery, Matt Holliday would have never tweaked whatever it was in his leg that he tweaked (yes I looked it up… it was referred to as a “thigh ailment”… helpful!), David Freese wouldn’t have gotten himself plunked on the hand, Miguel Batista would be playing for some other team, and Ryan Franklin would be hunting.

Let’s rewind a bit to the opening day roster. Per cardinals.com, this is how it was set:

Pitchers (12)
Bryan Augenstein
Miguel Batista
Mitchell Boggs
Chris Carpenter
Ryan Franklin
Jaime Garcia (L)
Kyle Lohse
Kyle McClellan
Trevor Miller (L)
Jason Motte
Brian Tallet (L)
Adam Wainwright (DL)
Jake Westbrook

Italics indicate starter

Catchers (2)
Gerald Laird
Yadier Molina

Infielders (6)
Daniel Descalso (L)
David Freese
Tyler Greene
Albert Pujols
Nick Punto (S) (DL)
Skip Schumaker (L)
Ryan Theriot

Outfielders (5)
Lance Berkman (S)
Allen Craig
Matt Holliday
Jon Jay (L)
Colby Rasmus (L)

Playing my perfect world scenario, I would have a healthy Waino, McClellan would have been in the pen in place of Augenstein, and Batista would be playing somewhere else so Fernando Salas would have made the cut. In addition, with a healthy Punto, Tyler Greene would be doing what he does best – playing like an All-Star in Memphis.

Since Opening Day, this lineup has been blown to kingdom come, and not just the perfect world that only exists in my head either. It was noted recently that the Cardinals have utilized the disabled list 12 times already this year, when last year they used it 13 times… all season. Holliday has gone down. Craig has gone down. Skippy went down and was brought back too soon. Punto has risen from the dead and gone back down. Freese wasn’t wrapped in enough bubble wrap. Laird is down. McClellan was down. Tallet was down.

in-a-perfect-world-errorAll of that doesn’t even include the mental injuries to Franklin, Theriot’s forgetting how to play the infield on any given night, Batista’s being not very good at baseball, Rasmus’s apparent mental lapses on fly balls, and the fact that Schumaker is still trying to be an infielder. I know, some of this is a little harsh, but I’m living in fantasy land, and there are no errors in my perfect world.

Here’s the thing – even with all the injuries and drama the Cardinals have gone through this year, they’ve been in first place a total of 50 days this year, and currently sit at 38-31, even with a 5 game losing streak suffered over the past week. I agree, there is no reason at all that Livan Hernandez should have looked anything like the relatively good pitcher he did yesterday, but it happened. The bad news train kept on chugging yesterday as it was discovered that Allen Craig had been misdiagnosed, and his original sore knee was actually a fractured patella(!!!!!!!!). I’ll save my “How do you miss that you morons?!?!?!!!!!!!111111111” rant, just know that I was upset about that.

The good news is that the worst is nearing the end. Matt Holliday comes back tonight, and after watching him in batting practice Saturday night in Milwaukee, I can safely say he hasn’t lost anything in his swing. He will be a very welcome addition to a scuffling lineup.

Also, I would like to apologize on behalf of Cardinal Nation. I was in attendance for last Friday night’s game in Milwaukee, the first of the Cardinal’s current losing streak. The good news is that one of my sisters who is working in the DC area this summer will be at tonight’s game, so hopefully she can break the family curse. Just in case, I won’t share her Twitter handle. Direct all your family angst to me please. 😉

Is Defense Overrated?

Sometimes it takes the right baseball question to jumpstart a conversation.  Yesterday on twitter, just such a question popped up.

A very good question, indeed.

First, the glorious numbers:

Matt Holliday is leading (numero UNO) all of baseball in batting average (.398) and Lance Berkman is #2 (.374).  Berkman also sits atop the Major Leagues stats board in runs batted in (32) and is one of the top five players for homeruns so far this season (10).  As a team, the Cardinals lead the Majors in team batting average (.285).

(psssssst….. by the way, those big numbers are primarily from two Cardinals not named Pujols.)

Two Cardinal starting pitchers are in the top five National League pitchers in wins: Kyle McClellan (5) and Kyle Lohse (4). And our lefty with the red-hot glove, Jaime Garcia, is 3rd in the National League in Earned Run Average at 1.99.  Hooya!              (*stats from 5/9 espn.go.com/mlb/statistics)

(psssssst…. those are three of our pitchers not named Wainwright or Carpenter, by the way.)

The flip side -because there’s always a flip side, especially with baseball stats- is that our darling Redbirds also happen to have the 2nd most team errors in all of baseball this year.  (The Texas Rangers have that dubious lead at 32 to our 29.)  Ryan Theriot is tied for the most errors (8) at shortstop, and Albert Pujols currently has more errors (4) than any first baseman.

So, back to that good question:  With our boys smacking away and hurling the ball off the mound as they have in the first 5 or 6 weeks of 2011, do we worry about the nose-dive in defense?  Does this season’s early power surge make all that whining and complaining about the front office trading away superior defense for a little better bang in the bats look, well, kinda silly?

I don’t think so.

Here are my meager sticking points.

  1.  I’m a gal who loves flashy gloves, dirty uniforms, diving catches and gritty double plays (the defense kind, not the kind our Cardinals have been hitting into with reckless abandon this season.)  Sloppy errors aren’t sexy, they’re embarrassing.
  2.  Ask the losing pitcher in a close game what they think about defense/errors.  I’m fairly certain they’d have strong opinions. During the last month, the Cardinals have lost 9 games.  In 6 of those games, we scored 5 or more runs. And in 4 of those games, we lost by only one.)
  3. A few early losses may make a big difference down the road. 
  4. Even if our boys are hitting, it still takes three outs (sometimes four) every inning to shut down the opponent. 
  5. And of course, cue the chorus:  Ground ball pitchers need good infield defense.

Which brings me to another thought-provoking tweet, this time from Aaron Hooks back on May 6th :

Aaron, with his tell-it-like-it-is-no-matter-how-much-it-hurts counterbalance to my optimistic cheerleader-type Cardinal fan personality, may have the perfect response to the question that started this off.  Only time will tell if those errors will continue to haunt the Cardinals.  However, errors alone don’t tell the whole story.  Making the routine (and not-so-routine) plays, being in the right place at the right time and turning efficient outs are all crucial to good baseball.

A truly great team, one built to win a World Series run, should have it all: solid defense to complement strong offense.  Without dependable, steady gloves, a team is left susceptible to unpredictable hitting droughts or arms breaking down through a long season.

If the Cards keep playing as they have in the past month (winning 2 games of every series,) life is good.

If the power dries up over the long season or injuries take a further toll, defense could take center stage.

If Albert powers up and joins Berkman and Holliday in the offense leader boards, 2011 may be a very special year.

Obviously we won’t know how it all shakes out ‘til we’ve played 162. And isn’t that part of what makes baseball so great?  The what if’s.  The numbers can’t tell us what will happen.  The boys must get out there on the field and play the game.  We fans hang on until the last out because anything can happen.  And those late-inning home runs (and errors) may tip the scale.

Hopefully it just keeps tipping in our direction!

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The Cardinals play the first of three games against the Cubs at Wrigley today at 7:05.

Chris Carpenter gets the ball against Carlos Zambrano in what could be called a Clash of the HotHeads.  😉

Go Cards!!

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