Tagged: Michael Wacha

Tired Yet?

Michael Wacha is one of the young arms to keep an eye on in September.

Michael Wacha is one of the young arms to keep an eye on in September.

The final month of the 2015 season is upon us and I can’t believe it’s here already.

I’ve frequently written about a young pitcher who has struggled down the stretch and wondered if it didn’t have something to do with them hitting new career highs in terms of the number of innings they’ve pitched in any given professional season.

Here’s a look at some young arms who may be taxed in these last four weeks, not to mention the playoffs.

All Innings Pitched totals are rounded off and include totals from all professional leagues – Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball, and International Leagues.

St. Louis Cardinals

86-47, 6.5 Games Ahead, 29 Games Remaining

Name Age 2015 IP 2014 IP High IP
Michael Wacha 23 157 109 150 (2013)
Carlos Martinez 23 155 112 114 (2013)
Jaime Garcia 28 107 51 195 (2011)

The Cardinals, it seems, might want to consider pumping the breaks a bit here. With 29 games left in their schedule, they have an 11 game lead on the #2 team in the National League, the Los Angeles Dodgers.

ELEVEN GAMES!!!

Even if the Cards go 14-15 in their final 29 games – and there’s little reason to believe they won’t do better than that – the Dodgers would need to go 25-4 to tie them.

Let that sink in.

Marinating…

Okay, now look at those innings pitched totals again.

Why would you put Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez or Jaime Garcia out there? It’s always a tricky thing, of course. You don’t want to use them so infrequently that they head into the playoffs rusty. But it’s also hard to justify putting them out there for long starts.

If I’m the Cardinals, I’m considering something like a 6- or 7-man rotation in this final month of the season. Rosters are expanded. There’s just no call for using those three guys named above in more than, say, 5 or 6 innings per week.

Keep an eye on them, for sure.

Pittsburgh Pirates

79-53, 6.5 GB, 4.0 Games Ahead for #1 Wild Card, 30 Games Remaining

Name Age 2015 IP 2014 IP High IP
Gerrit Cole 24 174 160 185 (2013)
Jeff Locke 27 145 187 187 (2014)

For the Bucs and Cubs, things are a bit different. They don’t have anything locked up yet. But they also have pretty nice leads and are pretty much fighting it out only to see who gets home field advantage in the NL Wild Card game. Which, of course, accounts for a swing of no more than 2% in your chance of winning, such is home field “advantage” in professional baseball…

Gerrit Cole has had less on his stuff, overall, in the second half. He’s 11 innings shy of his professional high (185), set in 2014. And he’s already 14 over his mark from last season. Again, this is tough, but I think you ease off on the 24-year old. He’s a power pitcher and I want to see that gas in the Wild Card game.

I admit I was surprised to see that Jeff Locke had thrown 187 last year. He’s been a bit up and down this season, having stretches of awful and stretches of really good.

Chicago Cubs

75-57, 10.5 GB, 4.0 GB #1 Wild Card, 7.0 GA for #2 Wild Card, 30 Games Remaining

Name Age 2015 IP 2014 IP High IP
Jake Arrieta 29 183 177 177 (2014)
Kyle Hendricks 25 147 183 183 (2014)

In Chicago, Jake Arrieta has hit his career high, with 6 more innings thrown than he did combined last season between the Majors and Minors. He’s obviously showing no signs of a tired arm yet, after a brilliant August. I know he’s also really gone crazy with conditioning this season and seemed headed into 2015 with a goal of proving that last season was no fluke. So who knows… Still, another guy worth keeping an eye on.

Kyle Hendricks is a bit like Locke, above, in that I was surprised to see how many innings he had put up last season at various levels of pro ball. He’s still 36 innings shy of last year’s total, so he should have plenty left in the tank. How much value he brings to the team is questionable right now, as he’s had an overall down year. But the Cubs need some help from the back end of their rotation if they’re going to hold on to the Wild Card spot.

* * * * * * * * *

Big Series this weekend between the Cardinals and Pirates.

Looking forward to that!

Game One Friday, 7:15 PM CT
(PIT) Happ: 7-7, 4.10
(STL) Martinez: 13-6, 2.91

Game Two Saturday, 3:05 PM CT
(PIT) Morton: 8-6, 4.22
(STL) Garcia: 7-4, 2.03

Game Three Sunday, 7:05 PM CT
(PIT) Cole: 15-8, 2.64
(STL) Lackey: 11-8, 2.87

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Cards Lose Grichuk, Win Game

Brandons : Crawford of the Giants makes a bad decision as Moss slides into second

Brandons : Crawford of the Giants makes a bad decision as Moss slides into second

As first reported yesterday, the St. Louis Cardinals did end up placing rookie center fielder Randal Grichuk on the 15-day disabled list.

Grichuk, leading the team with a 141 OPS+ while batting .284 with 43 extra-base hits in 85 games, was diagnosed with a “low-grade sprained ligament in the (throwing) elbow” as well as a “low-grade muscle strain”.

Jason Heyward was moved from right to center field with Brandon Moss and Stephen Piscotty getting the starts at the corner outfield positions last evening.

But Heyward, too, was injured, leaving the game with a hamstring injury in the 3rd inning.

If he’s out for considerable time, that could mean Peter Bourjos and Tommy Pham splitting time in center.

It’s a patchwork situation for now, though Grichuk, LF Matt Holliday, 1B Matt Adams and OF Jon Jay are all possibilities to return from the DL by mid-September.

So don’t panic yet, Cardinals fans.

Oh, also, you just gained a game on the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Baseball Prospectus has the Red Birds at 99.7% locks to make the playoffs with an 80.4% chance to win the Central. Those are good odds.

* * * * * * * * *

Piscotty tripled and scored in the 8th inning last night, breaking a tie to give the Cardinals a 2-1 win over the San Francisco Giants.

With one out and Piscotty on 3rd base, the Giants elected to give Moss a free pass, setting up the inning-ending double play.

They appeared to have gotten just that when the slow-footed Mark Reynolds hit a grounder to shortstop Brandon Crawford.

Though the second baseman was there waiting for the flip to start a 6-4-3 DP, Crawford instead motioned as though he would flip the ball, pulled his arm back, ran to second for the force, pirouetted around to throw to first, and had his throw go wide of first and allowing Piscotty to score.

Trevor Rosenthal notched his 37th save of the year, ending the game by retiring pinch-hitter Buster Posey on a long fly out to Bourjos at the wall in right-center.

Michael Wacha took the ND, but went 7 innings and allowed just 1 run on 6 hits and a walk, striking out 6.

Heyward, by the way, is hitting .333 in his last 29 games.

Highlights

* * * * * * * * *

The Pirates were 4-1 losers at home to the Arizona Diamondbacks as Gerrit Cole continued to struggle in the second half, ending Pittsburgh’s 4-game winning streak.

Cole went 6.2 innings, allowing 4 runs on 9 hits and a walk, striking out 5. He fell to 14-7 with the loss.

He has yet to post a Game Score above 54 in his 4 August starts, posting a 4.70 ERA while allowing 27 hits in 23 innings.

Cole threw 160.1 innings last season between AAA and the Majors. He’s at 155.1 this season and keeps appearing as though he could really use a breather.

With the Bucs in the midst of a playoff race and with A.J. Burnett currently unavailable, it’s hard to see how they can squeeze that in, but Cole certainly seems off right now.

Highlights

* * * * * * * * *

Jake Arrieta of the Chicago Cubs has pitched 11 straight games with a Game Score north of 50, going at least 6 innings in each start.

Your division leader in ERA has posted a 9-2, 1.35 mark across that time span, allowing just 46 hits in 80 innings of work.

* * * * * * * * *

Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds has a modest 6-game hitting streak and is batting .403 across his last 24 games.

* * * * * * * * *

Division Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 76 42 W1
Pittsburgh Pirates 69 47 6.0 L1
Chicago Cubs 67 49 8.0 L1
Cincinnati Reds 51 65 24.0 L3
Milwaukee Brewers 51 69 26.0 L1

Wild Card Standings

W L GB
Pittsburgh Pirates 69 47 +2.0
Chicago Cubs 67 49
San Francisco Giants 64 54 4.0

* * * * * * * * *

Schedule

58-59 Diamondbacks Anderson (5-5, 4.31)
69-47 PIRATES Liriano (8-6, 3.19)
6:05 PM CT
71-46 Royals Volquez (11-7, 3.27)
51-65 REDS Iglesias (3-4, 4.70)
6:10 PM CT
56-61 Tigers Sanchez (10-10, 4.95)
67-49 CUBS Hammel (6-5, 3.10)
7:05 PM CT
48-70 Marlins Conley (1-0, 5.00)
51-69 BREWERS Cravy (0-4, 5.92)
7:10 PM CT
64-54 Giants Vogelsong (8-8, 4.15)
76-42 CARDINALS Lynn (9-7, 2.95)
7:15 PM CT

* * * * * * * * *

NL Central Leaders

AVG
Joey Votto (CIN) .310
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) .296
Andrew McCutchen (PIT) .292
Jason Heyward (STL) .287
Brandon Phillips (CIN) .285
ERA
Jake Arrieta (CHC) 2.39
Carlos Martinez (STL) 2.59
Gerrit Cole (PIT) 2.61
Michael Wacha (STL) 2.85
John Lackey (STL) 2.87

Bad Day for Bucs

This is what Yadi looks like after breaking a tie score with an RBI triple.

This is what Yadi looks like after breaking a tie score with an RBI triple.

There was quite a list of things that didn’t go well for the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday night.

First off, they lost to the division-leading St. Louis Cardinals for a second straight day, pushing them 7 games back in the division.

Secondly, outfielder Starling Marte left the game with a hand injury after being plunked for the 3rd time in his last 4 games. He’s hitting .285 with 13 HR and 22 SB this season.

Third, the Chicago Cubs won for the 12th time in their last 13 games to close to within a game and a half of them for the top Wild Card spot.

Pedro Alvarez‘s brick glove at first base cost the Pirates two runs early on.

In the bottom of the 3rd, with the game still scoreless, the Cards had the bases loaded and one out. Jason Heyward hit a bouncer up the middle that looked to be an inning-ending 4-3 double play, but Neil Walker‘s throw to 1st was in the dirt and not only couldn’t Alvarez scoop it, but he also let the ball bounce well enough away from him to allow two Cardinal runners to score.

This play, by the way, came after one in which Alvarez failed to get back to first base in time to cover the bag on a ground ball.

Yadier Molina‘s RBI triple in the 6th inning snapped a 2-2 tie and held up to be the game-winner in a 4-2 St. Louis victory.  Molina’s low liner into center field got past a diving Gregory Polanco, giving the Pirates’ their second questionable defensive play of the night.

Meanwhile, Michael Wacha (W 14-4) struck out 7 Pirates in 6 innings of work, somehow scattering 12 base runners to allow just a pair of runs.

Andrew McCutchen homered (18th) and tripled (3rd) in the Pittsburgh loss.

This is the largest lead St. Louis has had in the division since July 25th. With another win today, it would be their largest lead since June 30th.

Highlights

* * * * * * * * *

Meanwhile, in Chicago, close Hector Rondon again tried to play “Houdini” by putting men at 2nd & 3rd with nobody out and a 1-run lead in the 9th. After striking out the next two batters, however, he bounced a pitch in the dirt that catcher Miguel Montero couldn’t handle, allowing it to get away and giving the Milwaukee Brewers a run to make it a 2-2 tie.

Miggy atoned in the 10th, with a solo home run (11th).

Kris Bryant poked his 16th homer of the year for the Cubs and first baseman Anthony Rizzo made an unbelievable play on a foul ball, jumping up onto the tarp and then stepping out into the crowd to make a catch and retire the much-despised Ryan Braun.

Braun had a nice day at the plate, actually, going 3-for-4 with his 20th homer of the year.

It was the Cubs’ 6th straight win and 12th in their last 13. Amazingly, they’ve only made up 3 games on the Cardinals during this stretch.

Highlights

* * * * * * * * *

Fielding metrics are a tricky thing and (at this point, anyhow) largely subjective and prone to stringers.

I just want to throw that caveat out there before pointing out some numbers about the Cubs’ shortstop situation.

Much has been made of Addison Russell being the more “natural” or “gifted” shortstop and Starlin Castro being more of a hack.

Well, this is an admittedly small sample size for Russell, but take a look at the numbers so far at short.

Castro: 103 games, 4.43 range factor per 9 innings, .962 fielding percentage
Russell: 14 games, 3.07 range factor per 9 innings, .917 fielding percentage

The subjective data from Baseball Info Solutions has Russell as the better fielder, with a +3 in defensive runs saved already, compared to -7 for Castro.

So the numbers say one thing but the eyes say another.

* * * * * * * * *

In his last 28 games, Cincinnati Reds‘ first baseman Joey Votto has a .563 OBP. He’s also hit .382 with 8 doubles and 5 home runs.

* * * * * * * * *

Division Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 73 40 W2
Pittsburgh Pirates 65 46 7.0 L2
Chicago Cubs 64 48 8.5 W6
Cincinnati Reds 50 62 22.5 W1
Milwaukee Brewers 48 67 26.0 L2

Wild Card Standings

W L GB
Pittsburgh Pirates 65 46 +1.5
Chicago Cubs 64 48
San Francisco Giants 60 53 4.5
Washington Nationals 58 55 6.5

* * * * * * * * *

Schedule

48-67 BREWERS Cravy (0-3, 5.40)
64-48 CUBS Lester (7-8, 3.227)
1:20 PM CT
65-46 PIRATES Liriano (7-6, 3.13)
73-40 CARDINALS Lynn (9-6, 2.76)
6:15 PM CT
50-62 REDS Sampson (1-1, 3.00)
64-50 Dodgers Latos (4-8, 4.67)
9:10 PM CT

* * * * * * * * *

NL Central Leaders

On-Base Percentage
Joey Votto (CIN) .434
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) .405
Andrew McCutchen (PIT) .395
Jung-Ho Hang (PIT) .371
Matt Carpenter (STL) .367
WHIP
Johnny Cueto (CIN) 0.93
Jake Arrieta (CHC) 0.99
Jason Hammel (CHC) 1.04
Francisco Liriano (PIT) 1.11
Dan Haren (CHC) 1.12

Caught Red-Handed; Cardinals Hack Into Astros Systems

GETTY_N_121311_HackedCodeYesterday afternoon, it was revealed that the St. Louis Cardinals are under investigation by the F.B.I. for having hacked into the Houston Astros‘ network.

Last June, the Astros admitted that somebody had hacked into their internal systems, compromising their scouting database which went under the nickname “Ground Control”.

At the time, it was not revealed who had broken into their systems; only that somebody had done it and it was under investigation.

Yesterday, the criminals were identified as members of the Cardinals.

The story goes that employees of the Cardinals were able to access the Astros’ systems by using old passwords that belonged to then-Cardinals scout and now-Astros GM Jeff Luhnow. Luhnow left his role in the St. Louis scouting department after the 2011 season, taking over as Houston GM that December.

Since then, the Houston Astros have taken off as a team whose scouting department is considered top notch, right up there with the likes of the Chicago Cubs, Pittsburgh Pirates and Minnesota Twins. True, Houston’s farm system currently ranks “only” 14th by Baseball America. Also true – they had three years in a row where they had the #1 pick overall in the draft, though 2014 top pick Brady Aiken didn’t end up signing with them.

But the fact remains that the Houston franchise is considered by many to be a paradigm for how to put an organization together. Last season, Sports Illustrated did a feature story on the ‘stros system, calling this out.

I offer those facts up as rebuttal to trolls who say “big deal, it’s just the Astros”. Well, not only does Houston’s major league team have the best record in the American League right now (38-28, .576), but the information from their scouting department is the kind of thing must teams would absolutely love to have access to.

Really, the larger point here is that this is corporate espionage and breaks laws set forth in the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Whether or not the information they received is useful or helped the Cardinals win games (either directly or indirectly), it’s still against the law to go into a rival’s computer system and nose around. Any argument that this was no big deal is a bad argument. It’s illegal. Plain and simple.

A lot of people reduced the seminal book “Moneyball” to being a game-changer for how it elevated On Base Percentage as an important statistic.

Moneyball = OBP.

For me, that’s really simplifying things. What I think you were meant to take away from that book was something else.

It was about how teams (like the Oakland Athletics) who don’t have deep pockets need to find some other way to get a step ahead on their opponent. Yes, in the case of that book, it was how they believed the other 29 franchises were overlooking OBP as an important yardstick to measure a player’s worth. They jumped on that and rode it to success for a few years there.

But in the post-Moneyball years, we’ve gotten more and more into advanced statistics and analytics, still coupling all of that with scouting.

What I’m really driving at here is that the team with the best data wins.

It’s not necessarily who has all the money. (Where are all those New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers World Series rings from the past decade?) It’s who has the best data.

And that’s why this story is important.

This is theoretical, yes, but it explains why this is important.

Let’s say the Cardinals had been scouting a player as a potential trade target, and their scouting department’s feelings on the guy were that he would be a great asset to the team.

Now let’s say the Cardinals look into the Astros’ scouting department and find that they have spoken to somebody who knows that same player and identified that he has some sort of nagging injury that is getting progressively worse.

All of a sudden that trade target looks a whole lot less desirable.

More data = better informed decisions.

Conversely, let’s say the Cardinals were scouting a pitcher for the draft and ended up feeling just “meh” about him. He moves down on their list.

They then see the Astros’ internal system and find that they actually think that pitcher has plus stuff, great make-up, etc.

Well, geez. Maybe the Cardinals’ scouts caught him on a few bad days. Maybe something was just going on with him when they scouted him and he’s worth another look. After all, this other team’s opinion of him is totally different from theirs. They’d better get to the bottom of this.

Again, more data leads to better decision-making.

Exactly what information was gotten, who got it, what they did with it, and who knew about it… all of that is still up in the air at this point.

What punishments will be handed down – loss of draft picks, firings, financial penalties meted out by Major League Baseball… all of that is also still up in the air until the investigation concludes.

No, this isn’t life and death. It’s stealing secrets from other teams. Not well-protected secrets, mind you, particularly if Luhnow is using the same password as he used to. The Cardinals’ franchise has certainly committed other, larger sins in the recent past. They seem to have an alcohol-related incident every few years, with players endangering (and occasionally ending) the lives of others with blood alcohol content levels ranging from twice the legal limit (see Josh Hancock, Tony LaRussa) to FIVE times the legal limit (see Oscar Tavares and the spouse that he murdered as a result of bad decision-making).

Those things somehow keep getting swept away and people say “I can’t believe the Cardinals would do something like this! There’s such a wholesome franchise! They do things the right way – ‘The Cardinal Way'”.

Sorry to burst your bubble. That self-righteous thing plays well in the press if you’re a Cardinals’ fan. But the rest of the sporting world shouldn’t be fooled. Not anymore.

Sadly, much like the drunk-driving deaths that resulted in practical parades at Busch Stadium celebrating players who jeopardized the lives of other road travelers, Cardinals Nation will likely flip the script on this as well, and say things like “every team does this”, “the Cardinals are only being investigated because other teams are jealous of their success”, yada yada yada.

Jeff Gordon, at the Post-Dispatch, writes:

Industrial espionage would be conduct unbecoming America’s Model Baseball Franchise. If the FBI finds merit in these allegations, the Cardinals’ previously pristine image would be soiled.

Again, I ask, what “pristine image” are we talking about here? Sharing porn on your Twitter feed (see Carlos Martinez). Drunk driving. Murder. Those aren’t exactly “pristine”, are they?

Don’t buy and of that mid-American wholesomeness for a second.

More from Gordon:

There was nothing to gain by hacking the Astros… Any idiot can order wholesale tanking and conduct a perpetual fire sale. The much greater challenge is contending season after season after season — as the Cardinals have done…

Again, Gordon is missing a pretty large point here. The Cardinals have been riding a decade-plus stretch of success based largely on scouting that was done while Luhnow was with them as their scouting director. Of course they’d still love to see what he thinks of players!

From a separate Gordon article:

People are tired of the Cardinals winning all the time because people don’t enjoy seeing the same people succeed over and over again. Maybe it reminds them too much of their high school days when they never sat at the popular table.

See, this is what I knew would come out of the Post-Dispatch. No, it’s not that other teams are jealous and want to see you fail. It’s your franchise’s fake “aw shucks”, mock humility and self-righteousness that gets under people’s skin. Don’t deflect it as “y’all are just jealous of us”.

People from your organization have done bad things.  In some cases, really bad things.

In another bit of delusional sports-writing, the usually steady Tim Brown from Yahoo! Sports:

Before Tuesday morning, about the worst one might have said about the Cardinals was they had figured out Clayton Kershaw – Were they filching signs? Had they picked up tendencies? Was he tipping pitches in a way only they could see? – and they were mostly lauded for it. That’s not cheating. That’s the game.

That was the worst?  Really?

Again: A pattern of drunk driving in the organization, capped off with last year’s off-season murder of an innocent young woman.

Don’t be stupid. Or, at the very least, don’t be lazy. There are plenty of bad things you could have said about the Cardinals before this hacking story broke.

Rant aside, as a fan of baseball history, I find this all extremely interesting. It’s completely unprecedented, though not entirely surprising that it happened. My gut feeling is that this has happened before but the Astros were the first team to actually realize who they were being hacked by. Even if hadn’t happened before, it was bound to happen at some point.

What MLB does about it is what I’m most interested in.

* * *

The Pittsburgh Pirates won their sixth straight as they continue to play amazing baseball.

And they did it the way they’ve been doing it throughout this streak, behind amazing starting pitching.

This time it was Charlie Morton, who improved to 5-0 with a 1.62 ERA after firing 7 shutout innings in a 3-0 win for the Bucs. Since returning from a season-opening stint on the DL, Morton has 5 starts, all of them for wins.

In the last 6 games, the Pirates have fired 5 shutouts! In that stretch, here are the starting pitcher lines:

June 10th – Morton: 7.1 IP, 0 ER
June 12th – Jeff Locke: 6 IP, 0 ER
June 13th – Gerrit Cole: 6 IP, 1 ER
June 14th – A.J. Burnett: 9 IP, 0 ER
June 15th – Francisco Liriano: 8 IP, 0 ER
June 16th – Morton: 7 IP, 0 ER

That’s a total of 6 GS, 43.1 IP, 1 ER for a 0.21 ERA.

Mark Melancon picked up his 21st save with a perfect 9th inning.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

* * *

The Cardinals shook off all the talk about this data hacking scandal with a 3-2 win over the Minnesota Twins.

Michael Wacha was the winner again, improving to 9-2 with a 2.48 ERA.

Wacha went 6.1 innings, allowing 2 runs on 3 hits and a walk while striking out 5. He was pulled after 86 pitches after a second rain delay kicked in. That works well anyhow as the Cardinals would prefer to balance using a guy who is pretty much pitching lights out right while avoiding overusing a young kid and running him into the ground before the post-season.

Kevin Siegrist stepped in once again to notch the save while usual closer Trevor Rosenthal sits out with some arm stiffness.

That’s five straight wins for the Cards.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

Wondering what Adam Wainwright has been up to while he sits out the remainder of the season with that Achilles injury?

I’m gardening my face off. I’ve got cucumbers, zucchinis, pumpkins, five different kinds of tomatoes, all the herbs. I’ve got blueberries, apples, grapes. Once I can start moving around, I can start weeding stuff.

* * *

The battle between Sports Illustrated’s pick for the World Series and the Sporting News’ pick turned into a dud, as the Cleveland Indians (SI) pounded the Chicago Cubs (SN) 6-0.

By the way, I’m not sure either publication picked well there. Nor am I thinking that either magazine made those picks for any reason other than trying to appeal to championship-starved markets from the Midwest who will buy those magazines just because of those predictions.

Kyle Schwarber made his pro debut for the Cubs striking out looking on three pitches. Schwarber, rated the #19 prospect in baseball by Baseball America, was supposed to have the night off but got plugged in at catcher when Miguel Montero was ejected for arguing balls and strikes in the bottom of the 8th inning.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

Owen Watson at Fangraphs.com took a look at Anthony Rizzo’s improved plate discipline thus far through the 2015 campaign. Check it out over there.

* * *

The Cincinnati Reds were 5-2 winners against the Detroit Tigers.

Todd Frazier hit a pair of homers, upping his season total to 20, good for 3rd best in the National League. And tops in the division – check out the Leaders below.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

* * *

The Milwaukee Brewers fell 20 games back in the division on the night of June 16th, losing 7-2 to the Kansas City Royals.

They allowed 7 straight runs before putting a few runs on the board in garbage time.

Game Highlights from MLB.com

* * *

NL Central Leaders

Home Runs
Todd Frazier (CIN) 20
Joey Votto (CIN) 14
Ryan Braun (MIL) 13
Starling Marte (PIT) 12
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) 11
Strikeouts
Francisco Liriano (PIT) 99
Gerrit Cole (PIT) 93
Jake Arrieta (CHC) 89
Johnny Cueto (CIN) 82
2-way tie 80

* * *

Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 43 21 W5
Pittsburgh Pirates 37 27 6.0 W6
Chicago Cubs 34 28 8.0 L1
Cincinnati Reds 29 35 14.0 W1
Milwaukee Brewers 24 42 20.0 L4

* * *

Schedule

34-28 CUBS Wada (0-1, 4.84)
30-33 Indians Marcum (3-1, 4.09)
6:10 PM CT
34-31 Tigers Price (6-2, 2.44)
29-35 REDS Cueto (4-4, 2.85)
6:10 PM CT
24-42 BREWERS Fiers (3-6, 4.04)
36-25 Royals Blanton (0-0, 1.80)
7:10 PM CT
37-27 PIRATES Locke (3-3, 4.90)
28-35 White Sox Danks (3-6, 5.29)
7:10 PM CT
43-21 CARDINALS Martinez (7-2, 2.93)
34-30 Twins Milone (2-1, 4.15)
7:10 PM CT

Grichuk, Cards Rebound

Randal Grichuk shook off Monday's performance and led the Cardinals Tuesday evening.

Randal Grichuk shook off Monday’s performance and led the Cardinals Tuesday evening.

Randal Grichuk shook off his 0-for-6, 5 strikeouts performance in a 14-inning loss to the New York Mets on Monday and followed through with a 3-hit, 3-RBI game Tuesday night.

The St. Louis Cardinals pounded the Mets, 10-2, behind Grichuk (3B, 2 2B) and Mark Reynolds (3-for-5, HR).

Michael Wacha won again, improving to 6-0 after going 7 innings and allowing 2 runs and 4 hits and a pair of walks. Wacha struck out 5.

The Redbirds blew the game open in the top of the 6th inning, improving on a 4-2 lead by sending 10 men to the plate in a 6-run outburst.

In other news, OF Jon Jay is on target to return from the DL on May 26th. Jay has been out with thumb and wrist injuries.

* * *

The Chicago Cubs couldn’t hold on to a 2-0 lead and let the San Diego Padres come back for a 4-3 win.

Actually, the Cubs’ fielders couldn’t hold on to anything either.

After having had a pretty nice run of error-free games – eight, to be exact – the Baby Bears committed three of them last night and that led to three unearned runs.

In the bottom of the 5th, Justin Upton led off by reaching on a throwing error by 3B Kris Bryant that sailed high over 1B Anthony Rizzo‘s head. He later scored.

In the bottom of the 6th, Matt Kemp also led off by reaching on an error, this time on a grounder that ate up SS Starlin Castro. A 2-out RBI single by Will Venable tied the game by bringing home another unearned run.

And in the bottom of the 8th, with the score tied 2-2, Clint Barmes – yes, this happened three times – led off and reached base on an error. This one was a dropped pop up in shallow center field by 2B Addison Russell. Both Barmes and Cory Spangenberg scored on a 2-RBI double off the bat of Derek Norris. That lead run – unearned.

Jason Hammel had a nice start for the Cubs, going 7 innings and allowing no earned runs on 3 hits and no walks to go along with 8 strikeouts. We’ve been seeing his name pop up on the NL Central Leaderboards under WHIP and ERA, which fell to 2.70 after this start. The Cubs did well to bring him back.

There’s been some talk of Chris Coghlan‘s roster security, but he had a 2-homer night for the Cubs. (He also struck out twice.) Coghlan, who is hitting .205 this year, said he isn’t worried. The former NL Rookie of the Year actually had a pretty decent season for the Cubs last year and there’s still some time to turn things around as we head towards the end of the end of May.

Aside from the costly error, Castro had a rough night at the plate, going 0-for-4 with 3 strikeouts.

In light of this Cubs/Padres series, Carlos Portocarrero at Sports on Earth took a look at how the Rizzo-for-Andrew Cashner trade. Read the article here.

* * *

The Cincinnati Reds managed just 4 hits in a 3-0 shutout at the hands of Yordano Ventura (7 IP, 6 SO) and the Kansas City Royals.

It was the 4th straight loss for the Redlegs.

Future trade-bait, Johnny Cueto, fell to 3-4 on the year despite a 3.03 ERA. He continues to get miserable run support when he’s on the mound, further pointing out the ludicrous nature of the Win-Loss statistic for pitchers. You can throw phenomenally, but if you’re team can’t hit a lick, you get hung with the “L”.

* * *

The Minnesota Twins scored 6 in the 2nd inning en route to an 8-5 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Although this highlight of Pedro Alvarez hitting a ball into a boat on the Allegheny River is pretty damned awesome.

Francisco Liriano went just 2 innings for Pittsburgh, watching his ERA climb from 2.96 to 4.15 in 2015.

Both Gregory Polanco (2 SO) and Andrew McCutchen (1 SO) went 0-for-5 at the plate for the Bucs. I die a little inside every time I point out another bad game for McCutchen.

Pittsburgh has lost 5 of their last 6 games.

On a bright note, Josh Harrison has been heating up. In the last 7 games, he’s hitting .517 with 6 extra-base hits.

* * *

The Milwaukee Brewers unpredictably went up 2-0 on the Detroit Tigers in this series with a dominant 8-1 win on the road.

6 continued to be the magic number of the day as the Brew Crew put up a 6-spot of their own in the top of the 3rd inning. The highlight came with 2 outs in the inning when Ryan Braun (9th), Adam Lind (7th) and Aramis Ramirez (5th) hit homers on three consecutive at bats.

Braun also doubled in a 4-RBI night.

Jimmy Nelson (W 2-4) went 8 innings, allowing 1 run on 3 hits and 4 walks. His ERA dropped to 3.73 for the season.

Martin Maldonado went back to being a blight in the lineup, going 0-for-4 and committing an error. He’s putting up a slash line of .154/.204/.220, which is not too far removed from his .215/.279/.339 career slash line. He’s 1-for-25 in his last 7 games.

I get that catchers offer value in ways other than their performance at the plate, but the Brewers have to be dying for Jonathan Lucroy to get back from the DL.

* * *

NL Central Leaders

Home Runs
Todd Frazier (CIN) 12
Ryan Braun (MIL) 9
Marlon Byrd (CIN) 8
Starling Marte (PIT) 8
Anthony Rizzo (CHC) 8
Strikeouts
Johnny Cueto (CIN) 60
Lance Lynn (STL) 58
Jake Arrieta (CHC) 55
Gerrit Cole (PIT) 53
2-way tie 52

* * *

Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 26 13 W1
Chicago Cubs 21 17 4.5 L2
Cincinnati Reds 18 21 8.0 L4
Pittsburgh Pirates 18 21 8.0 L1
Milwaukee Brewers 15 25 11.5 W2

* * *

Schedule

22-17 Twins Pelfrey (3-1, 3.23)
18-21 PIRATES Locke (2-2, 5.40)
6:05 PM CT
15-25 BREWERS Lohse (3-4, 5.85)
23-17 Tigers Greene (4-2, 4.21)
6:08 PM CT
26-13 CARDINALS Martinez, C (3-2, 4.73)
23-17 Mets Colon, B (6-2, 3.86)
6:10 PM CT
18-21 REDS Marquis (3-3, 6.63)
25-14 Royals Guthrie (3-2, 5.44)
7:10 PM CT
21-17 CUBS Wada (NR)
20-20 Padres Ross, T (2-3, 3.94)
9:10 PM CT

Carpenter Homer Leads Cards Over Tribe

Matt Carpenter's two-run shot gave the Redbirds a win in Cleveland.

Matt Carpenter’s two-run shot gave the Redbirds a win in Cleveland.

Left-handed reliever Marc Rzepczynski was brought in to face the left-handed hitting Matt Carpenter in the top of the 8th inning with the Cleveland Indians staked to a 1-0 lead over the St. Louis Cardinals.

It didn’t work out.

Carpenter hit a high fly ball to right-center that carried, carried, carried just to the edge of the wall where center fielder Michael Bourn lept, only to have the ball hit his glove, the glove hit the wall, the ball fall out of his glove, the glove fall off his hand, the ball bounce on top of the yellow line that runs along the length of the wall.

Carp’s two-run homer in the 8th inning put the Cardinals up for good and they held on to win 2-1.

Michael Wacha went 5 innings and got the ND, allowing 1 run on 5 hits and 2 walks, striking out 7. His ERA fell to 2.06 on the year.

Matt Adams (.236) went 0-for-4 with 3 strikeouts and is now in a 1-for-30 slump. Actually, “slump” might not be a strong enough word. That’s pretty horrible.

Jason Heyward‘s nightmare season continued, going 0-for-4 with a strikeout and GIDP, dropping him .236 this year.

Mark Reynolds, Kolten Wong and Yadier Molina had a pair of hits each out of the 5-7 spots in the lineup. Wong is hitting .320 now.

Down in the minors, Marco Gonzales‘ bid to get into the rotation hit a setback. He allowed 7 runs last night thanks in part to 3 homers allowed in 4 innings of work. That’s not getting it done.

Jaime Garcia, another potential replacement, gets a start down in the minors this evening.

By the way, Fangraphs had a really nice article on Lance Lynn yesterday. Read it over here.

OF Jon Jay went on the DL yesterday. 1B/OF Xavier Scruggs was recalled. LF Matt Holliday was originally out of yesterday’s lineup but petitioned to play DH shortly before game time. He had taken a low-90s fastball from Corey Kluber on the left elbow in the 1st inning of Wednesday’s game.

* * *

The Chicago Cubs kept getting one hit after another in a 4-run 5th inning, coming back from a 5-1 deficit to tie the game up, then taking the lead in the 7th inning on a passed ball. Pedro Strop threw nothing but strikes, striking out a pair in the 8th inning and Hector Rondon struck out Dilson Herrera with a man on 3rd to notch his 8th save.

The 6-5 win over the New York Mets gave the Cubs a 4-game sweep of the top team in the NL East. New York entered the series 20-11.

Dexter Fowler had a solo homer in the 4th and scored the go-ahead run in the 7th. He finished 2-for-3 with a walk.

* * *

Marlon Byrd‘s solo homer in the bottom of the 8th inning snapped a 3-3 tie and help up to lead the Cincinnati Reds in a 4-3 win over the San Francisco Giants.

Aroldis Chapman pitched a perfect 9th, striking out the first two men he faced and recording his 7th save.

Byrd finished 2-for-2 with 3 RBI (see division leaders below) and a pair of walks.

Johnny Cueto struck out 9, going 7 innings and allowing a pair of runs.

Jay Bruce‘s struggles continued – since April 14 he’s hitting .141 with 30 strikeouts.

* * *

The Pittsburgh Pirates lost to the Philadelphia Phillies, 4-2, leaving them with a split of their 4-game series.

The Bucs trailed 4-0 heading into the 9th, scoring a pair of runs that final inning thanks to Starling Marte – he drove in a run with a double and then scored on a ground out.

Andrew McCutchen stepped to the plate as a pinch-hitter with two outs and a man on, but popped out to Ryan Howard off of first base in foul ground.

Pittsburgh was done in by a pair of unearned runs, with Neil Walker (0-for-4, GIDP) and Jordy Mercer (0-for-3, K) committing the fielding gaffes while simultaneously having bad days in the field.

Marte finished 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles.

Josh Harrison had another nice game as he shows signs of busting out of his slump. He had three base hits while receiving his first start this year in the outfield. Harrison had been a regular in the lineup last season, but was moved around at multiple infield and outfield positions. In essence, an “everyday utility” player. The Pirates had tried to make him a regular third baseman this season, but fielding problems coupled with a sub-.200 batting average and inability to draw walks have led to some shuffling around. He’s had a couple nice games this week against Philly, so we’ll see where he goes from here.

Things aren’t going good for the Pirates so far. As I wrote in the pre-season, I had a wide margin for this team. I could see them winning 92 games, but I could see them winning 75. I couldn’t figure them out in March and I still can’t figure them out in May.

* * *

SS Jean Segura heads to the DL for the Milwaukee Brewers. Segura was hitting .262 with 2 HR, 12 RBI and 6 SB.

Hooray for Brewers baseball. (sigh…)

* * *

NL Central Leaders

RBI
Starling Marte (PIT) 25
Matt Carpenter (STL) 23
Todd Frazier (CIN) 23
Marlon Byrd(CIN) 22
2-way tie 21
Wins
Michael Wacha (STL) 5-0
Gerrit Cole (PIT) 5-1
Jake Arrieta (CHC) 4-3
4-way tie 3-1

* * *

Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 24 10 W1
Chicago Cubs 19 15 5.0 W4
Cincinnati Reds 18 17 6.5 W3
Pittsburgh Pirates 17 18 7.5 L2
Milwaukee Brewers 12 23 12.5 L2

* * *

Schedule

17-18 PIRATES Locke (2-2, 4.71)
19-15 CUBS Hendricks (0-1, 4.65)
1:20 PM CT
12-23 BREWERS Lohse (2-4, 7.03)
20-15 Mets Colon, B (6-1, 3.30)
6:10 PM CT
17-18 Giants Bumgarner (3-2, 3.30)
18-17 REDS Marquis (3-2, 5.66)
6:10 PM CT
21-14 Tigers Greene (3-2, 4.71)
24-10 CARDINALS Martinez, C (3-1, 4.89)
7:15 PM CT

Where Do The Brewers Go From Here?

The Cubs won their 4th straight Tuesday night

The Cubs won their 4th straight Tuesday night

Been thinking about the train wreck that is the Milwaukee Brewers and how hopeless the future seems to be.

They lost again last night, falling to 4-17 on the season and are 10 games back (again) of the St. Louis Cardinals.

A friend of mine from New York was on a trip to Milwaukee for a pair of ballgames last weekend and recently quipped on Facebook “I have seen 25% of all Brewers wins this year.”

What’s truly disheartening is how they don’t have the ability to go anywhere and didn’t seem to have planned for it.

They came into the season by most pre-season picks as maybe the 3rd best team in the division (at best) but were picked by most as 4th or last. The number 2% came up quite a bit as their chance of making the playoffs.

But they don’t have pieces to move, so far as I can see. There’s no veteran talent that you could deal off in return for prospects. They seem to be built with this belief that they had everything they needed to win now.

I listen to Milwaukee sports radio some times and the things I heard during the off-season were borderline delusional.

As for their more immediate future, here are some rankings of the NL Central’s Minor League Organization Talent Ratings per Baseball America (BA) and Baseball Prospectus (BP).

BA BP
Chicago Cubs 1 1
Pittsburgh Pirates 7 8
St. Louis Cardinals 16 13
Cincinnati Reds 17 15
Milwaukee Brewers 19 26

You’d be hard pressed to find anybody who doesn’t think that the Cubs and Pirates are the future of the division. The Brewers are already well behind at the Major League level and don’t have anything coming down the pipeline. The time to rebuild is now, but how? What’s on that team that you can get value in return for?

* * *

The Chicago Cubs won their 4th straight, beating the Pittsburgh Pirates soundly at home, 6-2.

Travis Wood (W 2-1) went 7 innings, striking out 9 while allowing 2 runs on 5 hits and no walks.

I was surprised to notice yesterday afternoon how many stolen bases the Cubs had in 2015, and last night they added five more and now lead the National League with 25 in total. They’ve been successful on 81% of their attempts, which is well above what most Sabermetric analysts will say is an acceptable rate.

Last night they had a pair of successful double steals, while Dexter Fowler and Anthony Rizzo (!) each swiped their 6th of the year. On the bad side, they were caught stealing twice and picked off once. There was also plenty of taking extra bases on hits last night, so this is definitely an aggressive team.

Top play by Kris Bryant wasn’t even at bat (though he did have an RBI single). With the Bucs staging a rally and Corey Hart on 2nd, Starling Marte roped a single into left field. Junior Lake (with his first start of the year after a recent call-up) fielded the ball cleanly. Hart rounded 3rd and the 3rd base coach put up his hands to signal for Hart to hold. Hart had rounded too far, but not too far. Bryant took the cut off throw from Lake and immediately went on an all-out sprint towards Hart to try to tag him. Hart fairly casually jogged towards 3rd – he was only about 10 feet away and Bryant about 20 feet away. While the ump called Hart safe getting back to 3rd, the play was reviewed by Cubs manager Joe Maddon and video replay confirmed that Bryant tagged him just a beat before Hart’s left foot tapped the bag. Heads-up play by the rookie who, while he occasionally lets one go over the head of Rizzo at first, is still playing really smart baseball. It’s only two weeks, but he’s been the real deal.

Josh Harrison had a rough night for Pitt, going 0-for-3 with a strikeout and error.

The Pirates get a good chance to avoid the sweep tonight with Gerrit Cole (3-0, 2.19) taken to the mound.

* * *

The Cardinals rebounded to torch the Philadelphia Phillies, 11-5, roughing up Severino Gonzalez in his first career start.

Michael Wacha improved to 4-0 with less than dominant stuff, going 5.2 IP and allowing 4 runs on 6 hits and a pair of walks, striking out 4.

Randy Choate, Mitch Harris, and Carlos Villaneuva combined for 3.1 innings out of the pen, allowing 1 unearned run.

It was all Matts, as Holliday (.383) and Adams (.267) had 3 hits each and Carpenter (.380) had a pair, including his 12th double of the season.

Mike Matheny shook things up with the lineup, with Carp hitting out of #2 spot in the lineup while Jason Heyward (.213) moved down to 6th. Jon Jay batted 1st. It was the first time this year that any of those 3 batted in that spot in the order. Given the results, let’s see if the Cards stick with that.

* * *

As mentioned previously, the Brewers were 4-2 losers to the Cincinnati Reds.

All 6 runs scored on homers. The Brew Crew got solo shots from Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez – it was the 2nd of the year for each. The Redlegs got a solo homer from Joey Votto (7th) in the 1st, then back-to-back homers with 2 outs in the 4th that put them ahead 4-0. The first was a 2-run tater for Brandon Phillips (1st) followed by a solo homer for Marlon Byrd (2nd). All 3 homers were surrendered by Kyle Lohse, whose ERA is 7.28 this year.

Johnny Cueto (W 2-2) went 8 innings with 6 strikeouts, allowing just 3 hits and no walks. Reds manager Bryan Price did the right thing coming off of Cueto’s last start, when he racked up 124 pitches. This time, at just 85 pitches but cruising along and holding a 2-run lead, Price moved to shutdown closer Aroldis Chapman to save both the game and Cueto’s arm.

Chapman struck out 2 in the 9th for his 5th save.

The game was completed in 2 hours and 11 minutes.

With Homer Bailey out for the year with an arm injury, the Reds called up Mike Lorenzen from AAA to join the rotation. He’ll get the start this afternoon with Mike Leake’s turn getting pushed back a day. Lorenzen, a 23-year old righthander who was a 1st round draft pick, had gone 2-1 with a 2.84 ERA at AAA Louisville this year.

Fangraphs’ scouting report gives Lorenzen some pretty high marks on his 99 mph fastball (a 60 with a 65 potential) and low-80s slider (50/60). Check out their scouting report on Lorenzen here. And here’s a scouting report from MLB Pipeline last fall.

The thought of putting Tony Cingrani back into the rotation with Bailey’s injury was shut down. After a month working out of the pen, he’d have to get stretched back out to work longer.

The Reds are .500 again, but are just 5-9 against teams not named the Brewers.

* * *

Schedule

4-17 MILWAUKEE Garza, M (1-3, 5.16)
10-10 CINCINNATI Lorenzen (NR)
11:35 AM CT
11-10 PITTSBURGH Cole (3-0, 2.19)
12-7 CHICAGO Hendricks (0-0, 5.74)
7:05 PM CT
8-13 Philadelphia Harang (2-1, 1.37)
13-6 ST. LOUIS Martinez, C (2-0, 1.35)
7:15 PM CT

* * *

Standings

W L GB Strk
St. Louis Cardinals 13 6 W1
Chicago Cubs 12 7 1.0 W4
Pittsburgh Pirates 11 10 3.0 L2
Cincinnati Reds 10 10 3.5 W2
Milwaukee Brewers 4 17 10.0 L2