Jon Jay, Lead Off Hitter

Jon Jay

No debate sparks more argument among Cardinals fans than the center field debate. I wrote about it preseason, in which I voted for Peter Bourjos to start in center.

Here’s that link: https://gatewaysc.wordpress.com/2014/02/17/pb-jay/

I still like Bourjos, and think he is a really nice piece to have on the roster, but the debate is over. Jon Jay has up and run away with the centerfield job, and frankly has become criminally underrated. Let us not forget that Jay was the leadoff man for the Cardinals not long ago, and possesses a career OBP of .358.

Fans turned on Jay last year because of a career low .276 average. Amazingly, Jay still maintained a .351 OBP which was higher than the .344 OBP he carried while hitting .297 in 2011. However, the Cardinal Centerfielder also posted career lows in slugging, and had a horrendous year defensively.

That is all in the past. Jon Jay is back, and better than ever. Jay’s average sits at .302, creeping up on his career high .305. His OBP of .372 is one point lower than his career high, and he is carrying the second highest SLG% of his career. Shockingly, Jay’s OPS sits at .772, higher than Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina.

People will say what they will about Jay’s average being fueled by BABIP, and they aren’t wrong. Jay posts a ridiculously high .355 BABIP this year, .056 higher than the league average. I hear all the time on twitter “once Jay stops BABIPing, he will decline.” That would absolutely be true, but frankly, there is no sign that Jay will stop having an insanely high BABIP. In 2010 Jay had a .350 BABIP, and people called in unsustainable. In 2011, that number dipped to .340, and again it seemed unsustainable. Last year, Jay’s career low average was caused by a career low .325 BABIP, which was still good for .028 above the league average. That was the only year of Jay’s career in which he did not post a BABIP of .340 or better. It’s hard to say that Jay is going to decline once his BABIP does, because for the last five years, BABIP has been no issue for the Miami native.

In the offense’s current state, I would love to see Jay moved to the leadoff spot. Many, including myself, believe that Matt Carpenter makes for the ideal number two hitter. The only thing hindering that is that the Cardinals haven’t had anyone else to hit leadoff, now they do. This works for many reasons. Number one, Kolten Wong’s .292 OBP belongs nowhere near the top of the lineup. Secondly, the Cardinal offense has been crippled this year by double plays from the two hole. Four players have taken 40+ AB’s from the two hole this year, Jhonny Peralta, Matt Holliday, Kolten Wong, and Jon Jay. Those four also happen to carry the four highest double play percentages on the roster. I have grown weary watching Matt Carpenter lead off the game by getting on base, only to be erased seconds later.

Moving Jay to lead off, and Carpenter down to second almost completely erases this issue. Jay’s OBP is only .007 lower than Carpenter’s and would be a .81 improvement over Kolten Wong. Simply put, the top two spots in the order would be getting on base 8% more often than they currently are. As far as the double play situation, Matt Carpenter holds the lowest double play percentage on the roster, so that issue would be relieved as well.

For an offense struggling as mightily as the Cardinals have, a little lineup reconstruction certainly wouldn’t hurt. The point being, is that Jon Jay can provide a healthy boost to the offense if used correctly. It’s time to stop with BABIP argument, and start appreciating the offensive weapon that Jay is becoming.

It’s not crazy, it’s sports

AJ

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Discordance Ruling the Cardinals

This has been a strange year for the Cardinals, as strange as any that I can remember. It has left fans scratching their heads on a daily basis, and for the first time that I can remember, I’m questioning the front office.

There is an obvious discordance between Mozeliak and Matheny on a few things, particularly the Oscar Taveras situation. Mo has stated time and time again that if Taveras is going to be in the major leagues, he needs to play. Matheny obviously hasn’t gotten that message. “Matheny’s guys” (Craig, Jay, Cruz) continue to get the bulk of the playing time, and I’m not sure Mo is thrilled about it. This past week he practically called out the skipper in front of the media, threatening to send OT back to AAA if he didn’t start seeing the field more. Tony La Russa didn’t always see eye to eye with the front office, but I can’t really remember there being this obvious of a disagreement.

Besides that, there seems to be more confusion than ever on what exactly needs to be done to help this team. Mo has always been the type of GM to have a very precise plan on what to do, and when to do it. That hasn’t been the case this year. Wong and Taveras have both ridden the bus back and forth from St. Louis to Memphis, and injuries have caused disarray within the pitching staff. Most recently, Yadier Molina’s thumb injury has caused the greatest confusion yet. It’s very unlike Mozeliak to sign a George Kottaras only to release him five plate appearances later. It is even more unlike Mozeliak to sign a guy like AJ Pierzynski.

I’m sure people are sick of hearing the term “The Cardinal Way,” but if there is one player in baseball that doesn’t fit it, it’s Pierzynski. Hated anywhere he goes, this is a signing that I believe wouldn’t happen in years past. But Mo’s hand has

Credit: SI.com

Credit: SI.com

been forced by injuries, the incompetence of his manager, and the underachievement of his veteran players.

This team just hasn’t been fun to watch at times this year, more so than most. Perhaps bringing in a polarizing figure like Pierzynski could change that, but a 37 year old catcher isn’t going to fix all of this team’s problems. For the first time in my fandom, I don’t think Mo knows how to fix all of the teams problems. Pitching and offense are both a need, but an unwillingness to part with prospects will probably prevent the Cardinals from acquiring both.

A lot can change between now and July 31st, but on the needs to happen first. The GM and the manager need to get on the same page, it will be very difficult for a team to achieve full potential otherwise. Whatever happens, I’m going to sit back (attempt to) relax, and enjoy the potentially bumpy ride that lies ahead.

It’s not crazy, it’s sports

AJ

Question of the Day Pt. 2: Off Season Free Agent Signing

The question Doug presented to me in our questionnaire project, was what free agent I thought the Cardinals should sign in the off season if money was no object.

Here is Doug’s answer: http://baseballgeekingalveston.wordpress.com/2014/07/17/free-agent-id-sign-in-the-offseason-for-the-st-louis-cardinals/

I like the Shields idea, a lot actually. Big game James is an innings eater with top of the rotation stuff, that’s tough to come by. The biggest issue I had with this question is that this year’s class of unrestricted free agents (UFA) is bad. Mix that with a Cardinal team that doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses, and you’ve got quite the pickle. The position player class is certainly weaker than the pitching class, so I decided to stick with a pitcher. Especially given that I’m sure a couple young pitchers will be deal to acquire Giancarlo Stanton (it’s a joke people).

My guy: Jon Lester
There are quite a few rumors swirling that the bottom dwelling BoSox might be looking to part ways with Lester at the deadline. I would be perfectly fine with the Cardinals acquiring him in some sort of deal, a cheaper alternative to David Price. If not, he would be my first free agent target. First of all, he is left handed, and the Cardinals could desperately use an effective left handed starter. Lester is also a little younger than other pitchers on the market like James Shields and Hisashi Iwakuma. Like Shields, Lester will eat plenty of innings. He has surpassed the 200 innings plateau five times, and is on pace to do it again this year.

The Cardinals experienced firsthand what Lester is capable of as a postseason performer, a trait I believe John Mozeliak values in a veteran free agent signing.

Credit: YawkeyWayReport.com

Credit: YawkeyWayReport.com

The price will be high, as it always is for free agent pitching, but the Cardinals can afford it. A rotation of Wainwright, Lester, Wacha, Lynn, and whoever else looks awfully good.

So thanks to Doug for this fun project, perhaps more will come in the future. Don’t forget to check out his blog over at baseballgeekingalveston.wordpress.com and as always, thanks for reading.

It’s not crazy, it’s sports

AJ

Question of the Day Pt. 1: Most Overrated/Underrated Player in MLB

This is part of a questionnaire I did with fellow blogger of mine, Doug V. We asked each other a question and both did a post answering our own question, and the other person’s question. My question to Doug was who he thought the most overrated and underrated players in baseball were.

Here were his takes: http://baseballgeekingalveston.wordpress.com/2014/07/16/question-of-the-day-most-underratedoverrated-players/

A year ago, naming the most underrated player would have been easy, Will Venable. Venable was a 20/20 guy last year, and a name hardly anyone knew. It has been a whole different story in 2014, Venable is failing to hit his own weight, and seemingly both his power and speed have disappeared. This leads me to my new most underrated player.

Most Underrated: Lonnie Chisenhall
The Indians 3rd baseman was once considered one of the top prospects in baseball, but failed to do much of anything in his first three years. Miraculously, Chisenhall is still only 25 years old, and it’s all starting to come together. Chisenhall is top 10 in the AL in OPS, posting a .908, fueled primarily by his ability to get on base at a .392 clip. He has only hit nine home runs, three of which came in one game, but still has enough pop for a .515 slugging percentage. Miguel Cabrera, Robinson Cano, and David Ortiz are amongst the names with lower OPS than Chisenhall this year. While I would primarily wait until someone posted multiple years of unappreciated success to call them underrated, it was hard to ignore the lack of attention Chisenhall has gotten for his incredibly hot start this season.

Most Overrated: Andrelton Simmons
This was a little tougher choice given the vast array of overrated players in MLB. I was tempted to go with Jeter, because of the All Star Game hype machine, but decided not to ride down that controversial path. Instead I went with a national league shortstop. In fairness, Simmons hasn’t been talked about in near as high regards this year compared to last, and for good reason, he has been terrible. Known for his defense, Simmons is starting to give off one year wonder concerns. There were scouts and media types last year legitimately crowning Simmons as the best defensive shortstop since Ozzie Smith. Keep in mind; this is the guy that unseated Yadier Molina as the platinum glove winner.

41 defensive runs saved were through the roof last year for the Braves’ shortstop, but this year he has only saved nine. That is still third among shortstops (trailing Jhonny Peralta and Zack Cozart) but if Simmons isn’t going to hit, he better be elite defensively. Given his position, Simmons is a middle of the road hitter, but doesn’t possess any true tool. He lacks power, doesn’t get on base, and has no real speed to speak of. I’m sure many will disagree with me here, arguing about those elite defensive numbers. Frankly, I’m still not convinced Simmons deserved the platinum glove last year, and probably isn’t even destined for gold in 2014.

It’s not crazy, it’s sports

AJ

Disappointing Series Finds Cards in 3rd Place

It certainly wasn’t the first disappointing series of the year for the Cardinals, but perhaps the toughest to swallow. The Cardinals edged out a nail biting victory on Friday to capture the first of three games against Miami. Saturday started with a feeling of exuberance as Allen Craig and Jhonny Peralta hit back to back jacks to put the Cardinals up 5-1 and in full control of the series.
How quickly things change in the game of baseball. The Cardinals found themselves with their first pair of back to back home runs of the year, a four run lead, and four innings away from being eight games over .500 for the first time all year. Then some offense from the Marlins fused with mismanaging from the Cardinals’ skipper changed it all. Trevor Rosenthal struggled Friday night throwing over 30 pitches, and nearly blowing game one of the series. Pat Neshek had only thrown nine pitches in the 8th inning and seemed like the perfect candidate to finish the game. However, Mike Matheny elected to go back to his closer.

Matt Holliday was lifted from the one run game for Shane Robinson due to an apparent “knee issue” that failed to keep him out of the line-up on Sunday. Rosenthal struggled all the way through the ninth, and the bullpen remained bare because “we want him to feel like a king in the ninth,” said Matheny. While I understand wanting to keep a closer’s morale high, not being willing to take him out of a game before the lead is blown is stubborn. You are costing the team victories at the expense of one player not getting his feelings hurt for a day. It was another one that got away, not the first time this year. It has seemed all year

Credit: Post-Dispatch

Credit: Post-Dispatch

long that every time the Cardinals seem close to getting over that hump, something devastating like Saturday’s loss happens.

Sunday was perhaps more mismanaged than Saturday, and the Cardinals now find themselves in 3rd place with the 2nd place Pirates coming to town. Whenever the lineup card reads Daniel Descalso’s name, Mike Matheny has already done the team a disservice that day (the Cardinals are 28-8 when Descalso does not see the field). In this particular instance, he was starting over Jhonny Peralta who had two hits including a home run the day before. The offense wasn’t able to muster a lot without Peralta, not to say they would have with him, but it wouldn’t have hurt.

Marco Gonzales put together his “best” start of the year if you want to call it that. Gonzales allowed only 1 run on 7 hits, and 5 walks in his 4.2 innings of work. Seth Maness was brought in to get out of a jam in the fifth, and in true Seth Maness fashion, induced an inning ending ground ball. Skipper struck again, letting Maness hit for himself, but then pulling him for Nick Greenwood. Maness was only out there for three pitches before Greenwood took over. The lefthander gave up 3 runs, letting the game get away from the Cardinals. Kolten Wong homered in his return for one of the only Cardinal highlight of the day, on the way to an 8-4 defeat.

The Pirates are as hot as any team in baseball, defeating the Phillies 6-2 on Sunday. Pittsburgh has won 12 of their last 15, and closed quite a bit of ground to surpass the Cardinals in the standings. With a four game sweep in this upcoming series, the Bucs could essentially bury the Cardinals in the standings before the All-Star Break.

The Cardinals have been devastated all season by lack of consistency not only from their offense, but from their manager. Mozeliak and Matheny need to sit down and have a long talk about what needs to be done going forward. Matheny simply has to start putting the best lineup possible on the field every day; anything else is crippling the team. If a roster move needs to be made, it is Mo’s job to make it, but the reality is that this roster is good enough to win if utilized properly. This upcoming Pirates series very well could define where the Cardinals go from here, but for now they find themselves in 3rd, looking up at the pack.

UCB Weekend Through the Eyes of a 1st Timer

This weekend I was blessed with the opportunity to join many of my fellow bloggers and members of the United Cardinal Bloggers at Busch Stadium for a wonderful weekend of baseball. The weekend began with a dinner at J Buck’s downtown on Saturday night where we were treated to great good and I was first introduced to many people I had previously known only through twitter conversations.

Sunday morning we reported to Busch Stadium and the bright and early hour of 11 AM. My fellow bloggers and I were given some time to have a Q&A session with Cardinals’ GM John Mozeliak as well as team president Bill Dewitt III. Mozeliak answered questions ranging from the Oscar Taveras situation, to the Darryl Kile death, and even shared with us a humorous story about Scott Rolen’s departure. After that we were shown to our suite where the stadium chefs accommodated us with more food than one could ever hope to eat.

Overall it was a truly amazing weekend and I feel beyond blessed that I was presented with this opportunity. I can’t say enough for how accommodating the Cardinals organization was for us bloggers. There are some really great people throughout the blogging community, many of whom put in a lot of hard work to make this weekend happen and I can’t thank them enough. It was nice to finally put faces to twitter handles, and if you’re not already I urge you to follow the following people:

  • Dan Buffa  @Buffa82
  • Joe Schwarz @stlcupofjoe
  • Cole Claybourn @highsocks_sunday

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to meet all the bloggers that I have been in touch with via twitter, and I hope that will change. Again, I commend all those who put in the hard work to make this weekend happen, and the Cardinals for being so accommodating to our band of misfits. It was an experience that I will treasure for a long time, and completely exceeded any expectations I may have had. I hope you all will continue to read and support me along my blogging journey.

Thank you!

It’s not crazy, it’s sports

It’s Time to Worry About Kolten Wong

Just a quick post here. Usually this would be just a couple quick stats shared via twitter, but since its 2 AM, and 99% of my followers wouldn’t see it, I’ll make it a post.

Credit: FoxSports.com

Credit: FoxSports.com

Let me start by saying I have never been sold on Kolten Wong as a Major League hitter. That paltry .153 BA from last year still rings in my head, and it was the lack of hard hit balls that really got to me. Wong tore it up in the spring, struggled early, got demoted, came back up, tore it up, and now may be in his worst slump yet. At the time of his demotion the Cardinal 2nd baseman was in a 4-28 funk and hitting .225 on the season. Currently, Wong is in a 4-45 slump and batting only .228 on the season.

After the demotion, Wong “got his head right” down in Memphis and came back up hot as a fire cracker. From May 16th through May 28th the speedy prospect hit .363 capped by a 4-5 day against the Yankees on the 28th. On the 29th, Wong went 0-3 against the Giants and now, three weeks later, has only four hits since. There was a shoulder problem thrown in there which I suppose could still be nagging. However, aside from a 12 day stretch of hot hitting, what has he shown to make me, or anyone else believe that we are going to get substantial offense from him.

I don’t want to come across as a Wong hater. I’m as excited about his potential as anybody, but potential is a scary word. The reality is that over 213 Major League AB’s, Kolten Wong is a .211 lifetime hitter. The only basis behind any belief that Wong can hit at the highest level is his .303 average as a minor leaguer.  A line drive percentage hovering around 16% sits approximately 4% below the league average, showing an inability to hit the ball hard, making his .257 BABIP no excuse. Take away the fact that Wong is 3-8 on bunts this year and his average drops eight more points down to .220.

213 AB’s is still a relatively small sample, and Wong is still very young, so the panic button can wait for now. It is curious though that after panic at the beginning of the season, not much has been made of Wong’s recent struggles. For an offense that as a whole is struggling, this team really can’t afford to not get production from any spot in the lineup. I mentioned in my Matt Carpenter post the possibility of trading for a power bat at 3rd base and moving Carpenter back to 2nd. I’m not willing to give up on Wong now, or at any point this season, but its worth looking into. If come late July, Wong is still hovering around .220 change has to be made if the team expects to contend. It isn’t time to panic, but it is time to worry about Kolten Wong.

It’s not crazy, it’s sports.

Follow me on twitter: @GSC_AJ

*Again I apologize for not having player links, if any fellow bloggers have troubleshooting tips for BBR Linker that would be great!