Diamond Diaries

Cardinal baseball, from the girls

Tag Archives: Kyle McClellan

Summer Baseball Book GiveAway

We have a new giveaway!  Details below!

But first things first, our Redbirds are again #1 in the National League Central! woohoo!!!  *or at least they are right now as I write this before leaving on a family camping trip. 😉

Also, belated congratulations to Cardinals pitcher Kyle McClellan and his wife Bridget on the birth of their baby girl, Olivia Grace McClellan, born Sunday May 15th!

Now, in honor of the end of school and good summertime reads, we are excited to be able to give away another great baseball book to one of our loyal Diamond Diaries readers!

I recently met another Cardinal fan on Twitter (@KentStock) and learned he is an author with an amazing true story to tell.  His story.  However, the crazy thing I learned from talking with Kent was that I sort of already knew him.  You see, one cold afternoon this past winter, my family settled in to watch a baseball movie called The Final Season.  As it turns out, the movie’s main character was Kent Stock, played by Sean Astin.

If you love a good baseball book, one of faith, tradition and the journey of a life gifted by the game, then Kent Stock’s tale will capture your attention.

Like many American boys, Stock grew up chasing the dream of playing in the Majors. However his book is much more than just another version of a ballplayer’s progression from little league to college ball and beyond.  It’s his “beyond” where a truly remarkable baseball adventure unfolds.

In Hollywood’s charming production, The Final Season, a legendary small town baseball program faces extinction and a young assistant coach signs up for the momentous task of captaining the team in its swan song season.

Stock’s book, Heading for Home is a fitting tribute to coaches who not only teach, but inspire something special in their players and team.  A refreshingly fun read, it is a reflection on life, love, hard work and taking chances – wrapped up in baseball.

… and being a lifelong Cardinals fan (bonus points), Kent also weaves a bit of Cardinal baseball history into the book.  Brilliant!  😉

Special thanks to Kent Stock for offering the freebies!

You can find out more about the book or movie (and order copies for yourself!) at KentStock.com.

To win your free copies of both the book Heading for Home and the movie The Final Season, give us your name (a valid email is required) and pick a number between 1 and 100.  If your number matches the lucky number chosen by my kiddos, you win!

It really is that easy!

In the odd chance that duplicate guesses are received and win…. oh, we’ll cross that bridge if we get there 😉

Winner will be notified by email and the winning name will be posted below in the comments section by Monday, May 30th.

Good Luck!!

and Go Cards!!

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!

—————————————-

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!!

Want To Be An On-Site Reporter?

Okay, here’s the deal – there are five of us running around here on Diamond Diaries. Five fanatic female Cardinal fans. We love our baseball and we love our boys. When the Cardinals come to us and say, “Hey, we’re having a social media night and you all have two free tickets,” we do a little happy dance.

Then we looked at the date. Tuesday, May 17. For the most part we’re all an out of town group, and it’s tough to sneak in to St. Louis on a weeknight (at least during the school year). None of us can use the tickets. Cue the sad trombone.

The good news? Our loss is your gain!

That’s right, we’re giving you a chance to be our representatives for social media night in St. Louis! You will receive…

  • Field Box ticket to the game
  • “Tweet Me In St. Louis” T-Shirt (at left)
  • Access to a Pre-Game Social Hour
  • Bill Ivie will be wandering around with free stuff, but you have to tell him I sent you.
  • You get to touch Matt Sebek’s hair. No really – he said so.

All we ask of you is this…

  • Take a couple pictures! We’re jealous that you can be there, and want to see what we’re missing out on.
  • Be willing to write up a few paragraphs on what you experienced. Did you seriously touch Matt Sebek’s hair (and did you take a picture – this really intrigues me)? Did John Mozeliak come out to give a little talk? Say so! Did you get to shake hands with Matthew Leach or Derrick Goold? Tells us about what you talked about with them! Did a foul ball land three rows in front of you? So close! All we ask is that you email us some thoughts and pictures that we can use here on the site.

How do you get these tickets? I thought you’d never ask…

Give me a story. Some story about someone that had an influence on you as a baseball fan. Maybe you got an autograph from a player after a game. Maybe your dad bought you a foam finger and taught you about how to bunt over a pretzel and nachos. Maybe the bullpen guys tossed you a ball during warmups. Maybe you just met a fellow Cardinals fan on vacation somewhere and stopped to chat for a minute about the team. These things interest me.

Leave your story in the comments section and check back Monday morning to find out if you won! Good luck!

As a more current thoughts of the team type thing to leave you with, I have two little gems. The first is from Emily, who dropped this on Twitter last night –

Also, if you missed it last night, Erika, Emily and I were on the UCB Radio Hour with Bill Ivie last night to talk a little baseball with him. Topics included the ever popular #chickcomments, a possible resurgence of the MV3 from 6-7 years ago, and me telling a story about a mean trick I pulled on Erika last summer. Check it out!

Listen to
internet radio with Ivie League Prod on Blog Talk Radio

Signs of Life

Nine games in the early 2011 season have left our Cardinals floundering.  Some fans have already thrown in the towel in disgust, heading off in search of less painful entertainment options.  But yesterday, others who donned their “true fan” label as a badge of courage were rewarded to what we can only hope will be more typical (winning) Cardinal baseball.

The record is not pretty at 3 wins and 6 losses, but the Cards have had some strikes against them.  The most obvious has been lack of run support coupled with costly fielding errors.  Leading the league in double plays (not the defensive kind) hasn’t helped much either.  And then there’s Albert…. With a string of unAlbertlike games and a batting average of  .143,  is it any wonder that Cardinal fans are wondering if we all fell down the rabbit hole?
There are, however, signs of life.  Slugger Matt Holliday returned yesterday, 9 days after his emergency appendectomy, showing he was back and ready for action.  David Freese belted his first homerun and collected his first 3 rbi of the season, helping the Cardinals score their inaugural “6 serious runs.”  Kyle Lohse, showing strength and command, went 8 full innings with no walks, 5 strikeouts and only 5 hits.  He threw 96 pitches, 65 for strikes.  Couple that with previous stellar early outings by Jaime Garcia and Chris Carpenter (whose records are unfortunately tarnished by lack of run support) and a strong showing from Kyle McClellan – and we have reason to hope this is just an unlucky/slow start.
Two of my favorite bloggers have taken the high road from all the grumblings and cussing about the comedy of errors we have witnessed lately from our hobbling redbirds.  If you need to be nudged away from the ledge, I highly recommend stopping by their sites for a positive reality check.

Bob at On the Outside Corner posts “There Must Be A Pony In There Somewhere”

And Mark at Retrosimba reminds us of the many, many years that our “Cards Turned Bad Starts Into Great Seasons.”

Sure, one good game does not a rally make.  But the Cardinals are not dead and buried.  So chin up, Cardinal Nation.  There are signs of life!  😉

The boys continue their western road trip tonight against the Diamondbacks with Kyle McClellan on the mound at 8:40 CT.  You never know what baseball magic you may see.  So tune in with us and watch the rally continue!

Go Cards!!

Starting to Mean Something

Those of you that know me a bit know that I get really excited about the beginning of the baseball season. First day of Spring Training? Check (I wore red). First spring game? I found ways to watch that silly little Gameday box from my desk at work (and I wore red). First televised game? I again snuck peaks at the game (despite being unable to listen to most of it) from work (and wore more red).


Each and every first made me smile, caused me to comment, and gave me reason to talk about baseball a little more than usual. But when the game ended and the final score was posted, I shut it down. I didn’t fuss that too many men were left on base or get irritated at why Tony used this reliever instead of that one. Because it didn’t matter. Spring records mean nothing (although I imagine being incredibly bad or blowing everyone out would turn heads). I have no idea what the standings look like for the Grapefruit League, nor will I be looking them up anytime soon.


It’s not that I don’t care. I’m trying to guess my way through those last few roster spots just like everyone else. I have been looking at various names/faces/statistics, but every time I start to get wrapped up in it I remember: Never fall in love too early in spring. Two weeks ago I was pulling for Lance Lynn for the rotation, Daniel Descalso to be the last bench player, was genuinely concerned about Lance Berkman, and still found little reason to trust Kyle Lohse. Since then I changed my mind… on all of those. But let’s look at one at a time…

Pitchers: I am a huge Kyle McClellan fan. Really. I want him to succeed in whatever role he finally lands in. However, it seems that every year he gets put into the rotation mix during Spring Training, I pull for someone else. Why is that? It’s because I constantly fall into the belief that while fifth starters can be found through any number of ways (and the Cardinals have a history of… interesting… fifth starter names over the past few years), strong and reliable workhorse bullpen arms are a little tougher to come by. I don’t doubt Boggs and Motte. I love those goobers and the flaming fastballs they shoot out of their arms like cannons. I do at the same time love that McClellan can use an assortment of pitches and be the kind of setup man that TLR loves to have and use.


I was pulling for Lance Lynn to have the kind of spring that Jaime Garcia did last year. After watching him today, I’m still unconvinced that he absolutely couldn’t do it. His outing was okay, 4 innings, 3 hits, 2 runs and 4 strikeouts is nothing to be super critical of, but not eye opening either. McClellan has done nothing but mow ’em down. I want it to be McClellan. I suppose I’m pulling for Fernando Salas to get that last spot in the pen, but as Derrick Goold noted this afternoon, the team hasn’t decided yet. I’m not sold, but I feel better about this all now than I did a couple of weeks ago, that’s for sure.


The other pitcher discussion has to be the combination of Jake Westbrook, Garcia, and Lohse. Quick, if you would have picked one of those three to have a strong spring, which would it have been? I would seriously laugh if you had said Lohse. NO ONE saw it coming. Will it last into the regular season? I certainly hope so. I don’t expect him, Westbrook or Garcia to take the place of Adam Wainwright (*sniff*… I’m okay, it’s dust or something), but feeling like we could rely on him to be more like the pitcher we saw in 2008 would be fantastic! Is it time to get concerned about Westbrook feeling like he hasn’t really been able to get his pitches under control or Garcia not feeling worried about his not great start or not working counts well? I suppose that time is getting close. The games are starting to mean something (even if the final scores still do not).


Outfield: Color me not really worried about the outfield. Holliday and Rasmus are obviously just fine, and I think Berkman will be too. He probably cannot and really should not be playing every game like he thinks he can, but I feel confident enough in Jay and Craig being the other two outfielders that it should work out nicely. Should Berkman go down, it would not be the end of the world. I just hope he doesn’t. That’s all.

AP Photo

Infield: The four starters are clear – Pujols, Skip, Theriot, and Freese. No questions there. The two bench spots are the trick. Most assume that Tyler Greene will take one of them, but then it comes down to Daniel Descalso or Matt Carpenter. At the beginning of spring I would have said Descalso, no question. I fell in love too early, then felt Carpenter sweep Cardinal Nation collectively off our feet. He’s not on the 40 man roster, but man, he could be. The fans like him. The front office likes him. Tony likes him (and his work ethic… so… he’s the anti-Brendan?).


But.


Dang. There had to be a ‘but.’


Carpenter plays third. In reality, he only plays third. We have a third baseman by the name of David Freese. Freese has obviously had his share of boo-boos and injury mishaps, and the team is taking care of those and shielding him from doing too much too soon, but really, do you want two players on your team that only play third base? Greene can play second and short, but Descalso can play second, short, and third. Versatility will get you everywhere on a Tony team, just ask Aaron Miles.


Is there a right or wrong answer as to who to take north? I’m not sure there is. The point will most likely be moot anyway whenever Nick Punto (Yeah, I forgot about him too) comes off the disabled list. Both players have played well. Carpenter has gotten more print, but both have averages over .300, both have played solid defense. If you want to argue logistics, then fine – Descalso has experience at the big league level, although very limited (11 games and 37 plate appearances), while Carpenter hasn’t played a game above AA. That is definitely a factor.


Don’t sell either short. However, just because the games are starting to mean something doesn’t mean it’s been long enough to fall for either player.


That’s why they play the games. 🙂

July in Review: Good Cards, Mediocre Cards

Well, how about that month of July? Wow. It’s like the Cardinals were two different teams – playing, as Bernie Miklasz described it on Twitter during that 13-inning game against the Mets, bipolar baseball. The Good Cards were definitely more fun to watch, while the Mediocre Cards were just frustrating.

Record-wise, the Cards definitely were good: 15-11. A big part of that win total was the Good Cards 8-game streak, the longest since winning 9 straight in 2004, which began the Sunday before the All-Star break and continued through July 21. Before the All-Star break, the Mediocre Cards were definitely taking the field nightly. We don’t want to remember much of that, given that the sweep at Colorado was part of it. And right after the 8-game streak ended, the Mediocre Cards reappeared again – and even were shut out in back-to-back games for the first time since 1995.

And it’s interesting when the Good Cards and the Mediocre Cards tended to appear in July. The Cards record at home for the month was 11-3 – including 7 of the 8 wins of the streak. On the road – traveling to Colorado, Houston, Chicago and New York – they were 4-8. Ouch.

It wasn’t necessarily only the team that was Good and Mediocre – Chris Carpenter exemplified that trend perfectly in July. He had his worst start of the year July 3, allowing 7 earned runs in the 3 innings pitched. The start after that, he gave up 4 earned runs in 6 innings. Then he headed to Anaheim as an All-Star and, though he didn’t pitch during the game, he’s certainly pitched like an All-Star ever since: two 8-inning outings where he allowed only 1 run, a 7-inning outing against the Cubs where he allowed 3 runs and his start Friday night where he pitched 8 scoreless innings. Thankfully, though, Mediocre Carp seems to have faded away. Let’s hope the same can be said for the Mediocre Cards.

The Cardinals started July 1 1/2 games behind the Reds and ended the month a half-game ahead of them and in first place. Let’s hope the Good Cards continue what they started this weekend, with the offense being so productive.

So who helped make the Good Cards and Mediocre Cards have the kind of July we went through?

Biggest surprise
Jon Jay
We knew he was having a terrific month, and he hit .431 in July with a .500 on-base percentage and .647 slugging percentage. He’s hitting .383 overall. And he’ll continue to play regularly now, thanks to the (unfortunate) trade of Ryan Ludwick to the Padres at the trading deadline. So, yay for Jay!

Other surprises
Kyle McClellan
Although he was the losing pitcher in the 11-inning loss to the Phillies to end the 8-game winning streak, Kyle actually had a great month. He allowed only that one run – via a homer by Placido Polanco – in 14.1 innings pitched over 12 games. His ERA for the month was 0.64.

Jason LaRue
Although he gets mentioned more for the clean-cut look we all approve of, the back-up catcher hit well during his limited playing time in July. He had a .385 batting average with a home run in 7 total games.

Biggest disappointment
Trading Ryan Ludwick
Yes, it still stings. Luddy, we already miss you!

Other disappointments
Albert Pujols
While his numbers aren’t bad, they aren’t Albert-like and he began August with a .299 batting average. His average for July was .267, his worst for any month this season, and he also had a season-low 11 walks for an on-base percentage of .333 (also a season-low).

Ryan Franklin
Although he had 4 saves, he allowed 6 earned runs in 10.1 innings pitched for the month. Yes, those runs all came in one particular game we’re all trying to forget … but Ryan still had a 5.23 ERA for July.

Welcome
Mike MacDougal
He made his Cardinals debut against the Mets on July 28, picking up the win in the 13-inning game with a scoreless inning. He pitched 3 scoreless innings in 3 games at the end of July, allowing only 1 hit. And, based on Twitter, there are plenty of us who are willing to take him out for some pasta and help him gain a few pounds!

Best game
July 18
Cardinals 5, Dodgers 4
When the lineup was announced, everyone basically wrote this off as a loss – no Albert, no Yadi, Jeff Suppan pitching. And the Dodgers had a 4-0 lead in the seventh inning, but that’s why they play the games. The Cards came back and won, thanks to birthday boy Allen Craig – picking a fantastic way to celebrate turning 26 – and All-Star Matt Holliday, who drove in the walk-off winning run in the bottom of the 9th.

Worst game
July 6
Rockies 12, Cardinals 9

Does anything more need to be said? (If you somehow need to refresh your memory, here you go.)

Pitcher of the month
Adam Wainwright
Even with his worst game of the season against the Mets on July 28, Adam still finished the month with a 3-1 record and a 1.85 ERA – and with a scoreless inning pitched during the All-Star Game. His 14 overall wins at the end of July were second in the National League, his ERA of 2.23 was third and his WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) was fourth with 1.03.

Player of the month
Jon Jay
One more time: yay for Jay!

Although there’s only been one game in August so far, it was definitely a great showing by both the offense and the continued stellar pitching of Adam Wainwright. And now tonight will bring the Cardinals debut of Jake Westbrook – as well as the first of two Cardinals Diamond Diaries nights at Busch Stadium! (You mean that’s not listed on your schedule?) It’s a road trip for the three of us and the chance to watch the next two games together, which we are all highly anticipating! So we’ll be taking a little break from posting until later in the week. In the meantime, GO CARDINALS!!

Photo of the game of the month by Chris Lee, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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