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What Were They Thinking?!

What Were They Thinking?!: It’s the Bullpen, Stupid!

Better late than never, eh? Well…too bad, ’cause that’s what we’re goin’ with this week. If you haven’t listened to the UCB Radio Hour this week, CLICK HERE…otherwise, let’s get into it:

It was good to hear Manager Mike Matheny blow his cool over the ridiculous pitching from the Cardinals’ staff lately. If reports are accurate, Matheny had not one but two meetings with Lilliquist (Cards’ pitching coach) after the loss Wednesday. The topic of discussion…approach. Here’s my question: Has Lilliquist really allowed the Cardinals’ pitching philosophy stray so much from Duncan’s “low in the zone/ground ball hungry” approach in just two months of baseball that we need a “come to Jesus” meeting to correct it? And if so, can we really trust him to guide this staff for years to come? Oh…and where was Matheny during all of this shift in approach? Concerning.

I said it before and I’ll say it again…Rzepcynski needs to be used in lefty on lefty situations primarily until he can get his feet underneath him again. Future starter or not, the guy is disoriented. He’s being used much more differently than he anticipated being used…and much more often since the release of Romero. I think the guys said it best on the show when one of them said that Scrabble is being used so often that at this point, “he’s just another reliever.” He’s not a lefty specialist anymore – a role we really saw him thrive in – but is, instead, just another guy out of the ‘pen. I think that speaks to his ability to get both righties and lefties out, but it speaks more to the struggles of the ‘pen as a whole. The right-handers in the ‘pen have struggled SO much that the best option out of the bullpen to throw an inning is often the only lefty specialist on the squad. That’s sad.

Let’s be clear…the primary issue with the bullpen is how they’re being used by Mike Matheny. He’s attempting to throw guys out there for full innings or more when they should be used surgically to cut an opposition’s lineup into tiny, manageable pieces. Look, I get it. Mike believes in a guy’s stuff and his ability as a pitcher over match-ups in many cases. That’s great. But it’s not working right now. I think several people believed Matheny was being handed a World Championship ‘pen that was outstanding last season and would continue to be at least good enough while Matheny figured out how to use a ‘pen from the dugout. Unfortunately, key pieces like Dotel were no longer available to the Cardinals, and the masters of the ‘pen in La Russa and Duncan were no longer in charge. Let’s not forget, Tony’s greatest strength was getting a lot out of a little, and that’s what he did with the ‘pen last season. It’s just not the same bullpen without ‘ol TLR at the helm.

Jon Jay’s absence is much more significant than perhaps many around baseball realize, but Skip Schumaker in center helped out quite a bit. Now, with Schumaker on the DL…this team could be in trouble. Adron Chambers and Shane Robinson are not at the same level as either player, and with Craig coming back today, the Cards are really going to miss the on-base potential in the two hole. One possible way to fill the hole…bump Tyler Greene to the two spot ahead of Holliday, Beltran, and Craig. Hitting in front of those guys, and with Furcal wearing out the bases, Greene could flash some serious numbers for about a week. Of course, Bernie’s mention of Oscar Taveras in center for a while sure is intriguing 😉

I sure wish Mo had listened to me and signed Roy Oswalt. I was in favor of signing the guy, putting Lynn in the ‘pen to stabilize it, and also saving Lynn’s arm for a spot start here and there if needed. Now, Carpenter is still a long ways off, Westbrook is just plain bad right now, and Garcia is potentially injured. And we have no options. Oh, sure, the popular notion is to bring Miller up and give him a shot…but take a look at his numbers in AAA. I don’t care if he’s working on putting things together or not…those just aren’t good. Mark my words! The Cardinals will regret refusing to bring in more depth in the rotation like Oswalt.

More on Lynn from the guys…but I’ll just say this: Now that we have a “situation” with Garcia, Westbrook, etc., pulling Lynn from the rotation is not a possibility. We’ve put our money down on this horse and it’s just time to ride it out. But this is a huge gamble. Everyone keeps shrugging off the idea that Lynn could buckle under the strain of close to 200 innings…and he may very well be fine…but it’s not exactly a smart gamble. I don’t care if Lynn has a history of being a starter or not…his history includes NOTHING like what he’s going to endure this season. This intensity level, the type of adjustments to be made post-ASG, and the sheer innings load increase…all of it will be unfamiliar to Lynn. And let’s be clear on this as well…he wasn’t exactly a sub-3.00 ERA, 8-inning pitcher in the minors. I’m telling you, this is a huge gamble.

Matt Adams is not going to be the starting first baseman over Allen Craig when Craig is completely healthy. Adams is going to be a stud, but he’s vulnerable against left-handed pitching, and as poised as he is at the plate, he’s still shown – by his own admission – a tendency to get a bit anxious and worked up in big spots at the plate. That’s normal. He’s a rookie in his first month at this level. But that also means Matheny will limit his exposure when he has an RBI bat like Craig available. When Beltran needs a breather in RF, Craig will play there and Adams will get a go at 1B. When Holliday needs a break in LF, Craig will play there and Adams will play 1B then. But Beltran’s knees, Craig’s leg issues, and Adams’ build will not allow Beltran, Craig, Holliday, and Adams to all be in the lineup at the same time. UPDATE! Good lord…within seconds of posting this, the lineup for tonight now includes Holliday in LF, Beltran in CF, and Craig in RF with Adams playing 1B. Wow. Is Fredbird patrolling CF with a dolly to tote Beltran and his knees around the outfield? I never thought I would see the Intergalactic Injury Corps patrolling CF and RF simultaneously. 

Having said all of that… The Cardinals will play 6 games in American League ballparks (KC and Detroit) later this month. With the DH rule in play at that point, the lineup likely looks like this: 1. Furcal 2. Schumaker (if back) 3. Holliday 4. Beltran 5. Craig 6. Freese 7. Adams 8. Molina 9. Greene. Whew…now THAT’S a lineup.

Wrap-Up!

Okay…we’re gonna’ call it a day there. Headin’ to Springfield for a game Friday night in Hammons Field. Let’s hope the St. Louis squad can get things going in New York.

GO CARDS!!!

P.S. Anyone notice Descalso is 8 for his last 25 with a home run and 3 walks? Hmmm…is it time to give him a bit more playing time in the right platoon scenario with a struggling Greene?

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