Notes on my Scorecard:
1. We discussed this with Derrick Goold on the latest "Best Podcast in Baseball," which you can check out by clicking here. But I wanted to talk about it here, too. I'm irritated over the constant stereotyping of Cardinals' first baseman Matt Adams.
I heard more of it this week when the Reds were in town. Listening to Reds' radio, and Jeff Brantley said this about Adams: "He was born to hit. He may not have been born to play first base, but he can hit." Brantley paused to chuckle after saying that Adams wasn't born to play first.
In the Cardinals' previous series I listened to one of the Padres' broadcasters disparage Adams' defensive work. The guy said that Adams was "OK" down there but couldn't compare to some of the better glove men at first. He mentioned Padres first' baseman Yonder Alonso and said that Adams "wasn't even close" to being as good defensively. (Adams in fact is rated better than Alonso, across the board.)
I've heard similar snipes of Adams this season.
Wrong, wrong, wrong.
Do these people actually watch the game? Or are they spending the three-hour broadcast trying to come up with clever one-liners?
Do they know how to click on a statistical site to spend five minutes to enlighten themselves?
Does the concept of doing homework mean anything?
Through hard work, and with soft hands and a quick first step, Matt Adams has distinguished himself defensively this season. He's played very well down there, and all of the defensive metrics back that up. Let's take a look:
• Adams leads all MLB first basemen with 11 Defensive Runs Saved this season.
• Adams leads all MLB first basemen with a +14 rating in the Fielding Bible's plus-minus grading system. Adams has been superb on balls hit to his left, with a +7 on balls hit between him and the line. And he's also a +2 on balls hit in the air.
• Adams is also ranked first in the majors at his position with an Ultimate Zone Rating (actually UZR/150).
The big man has been outstanding with the glove. But don't expect him to receive the credit he deserves. If he keeps it up, Adams should be the frontrunner for the NL's Gold Glove award at first base, but I don't expect that to happen either.
When people look at a big guy, they just automatically assume that he must be a slow, or klutzy, fielder. He plays only because of his bat, right? Big men aren't smooth fielders; they're big donkeys out there. That's the silly thinking, and this unfortunately applies to baseball managers and coaches who should know better. And the managers and coaches vote on the Gold Glove awards and I predict they'll ignore Adams. I'll apologize if I'm wrong. The voters are given advanced-stats breakdowns at each position, so they should be able to cast an intelligent vote. And that's the only chance Adams has ... that professional baseball men will take a few minutes to look at something more meaningful than fielding percentage.
It's been a lot of fun to watch Adams do his thing at first base. He also deserves credit for wanting to be good, and putting in the effort to improve. In St. Louis, where people actually watch the game, fans are well aware of Adams' strong play defensively. Sooner or later, the others will catch on ... provided that they're capable of breaking away from relying on lazy stereotyping.
2. Don't look now, but Lance Lynn is now seventh among NL starting pitchers with 3.0 Wins Above Replacement. The only NL starters that have provided more WAR value so far are Clayton Kershaw (5.5 WAR), Adam Wainwright (3.8), Jordan Zimmermann (3.6), Johnny Cueto (3.4), Stephen Strasburg (3.3) and Cole Hamels (3.1.) Earlier this season I drew Twitter fire for suggesting that Lynn was in the same class of pitchers as Homer Bailey, who signed a $100 million contract extension with Cincinnati this spring. Yeah, what was I possibly thinking?
3. Matt Holliday's offensive performance is such a mixed bag in 2014. He's batting .262, which isn't good. And it isn't as important as some make it out to be — not when a guy is drawing a solid number of walks. Holliday has a fine .366 onbase percentage, and his walk rate of 12 percent is his highest in a season since 2008. On one hand, Holliday has a batting average of .296 on batted balls in play. His career average on balls in play coming into this season was .343, so we can surmise that Holliday has been victimized by bad luck. But on the other side, Holliday's current line-drive rate of 16.1 percent would be the worst of his career in a season. So that basically knocks down the argument that Holliday still stings the ball as hard as ever. There's no question that Holliday's power numbers are down. Holliday's current slugging percentage of .408 would be his lowest — by a considerable amount — in a season.
4. Holliday has commented that Busch Stadium "plays big" but that doesn't account for his power drop. This season he has a .440 SLG at home, and a .397 slugging percentage on the road. He's hit a homer every 32 at-bats at Busch this season — and a homer every 44 at-bats on the road.
5. Peter Bourjos has played well for a couple of months now. Let me rephrase that: he's played well defensively since the beginning of the season, and his speed is an asset. But Bourjos has done much better with the bat since June 24. In his last 70 plate appearances, Bourjos is batting .290 with a .343 onbase percentage and a .468 SLG. That's nice work.
6. Jon Jay isn't going to launch a flurry of homers, and at the beginning of the year I certainly questioned whether he deserved to play every day. Jay's defense in CF was bad in 2013, and he was rather ordinary on offense. That's why GM John Mozeliak made the trade for Bourjos. But Jay deserves praise for bouncing back this season. He's better defensively. And in a season where many Cardinals have tailed off offensively, Jay has been a consistent hitter in reaching his established career standards. In 126 plate appearances since early July, Jay is batting .355 with a .444 onbase percentage and a .467 SLG. I don't understand how anyone could possibly have an issue with Jay receiving regular playing time right now.
7. I'm a honk for Oscar Taveras, but I'll repeat something I wrote recently: given how late it's getting in the season, I have no beef with manager Mike Matheny going with his best hitters — his hottest hitters — down the stretch. If that means Bourjos starting in center field, and Jay stationed in RF, then so be it. It doesn't mean that Taveras is a failure, or that he's getting buried forever on the STL bench, or that he shouldn't figure in the rotation. Intelligent people realize that OT's best is yet to come. But when the schedule gets tight, it makes sense to live in the moment and go with the guys that give you the best shot of winning right now. My gripe was Matheny sticking with a broken-down Allen Craig instead of trying to cultivate Taveras' considerable upside. But Jay and Bourjos are performing well, so why wouldn't they play more? It was much different to sit Taveras in favor of Craig.
8. Since Aug. 9, Daniel Descalso is 8 for 17 with five walks and four RBIs. So a round of applause for Descalso, Bourjos and the Cardinals' bench. The STL bench has been a liability for much of the season — but the results have been there lately. A positive development.
9. The Cardinals can afford to have Shelby Miller or Justin Masterson struggle. They can't afford to have both starters struggle. So something has to give. And the team had better hope that Michael Wacha can make a successful comeback next month. Among the 118 MLB starting pitchers that have worked a minimum of 100 innings this season, Miller ranks 115th with a WAR of minus 0.2, and Masterson ranks 100th with a WAR of 0.6. W
10. The Cardinals are 19-15 since catcher Yadier Molina went down. And all things considered, that's good. But mostly because of a slightly improved offense that has hit the magic "4" number more often as of late. When the Cardinals score at least four runs in a game this season they're 54-17. The Cards have averaged 4.1 runs per game since Molina went on the DL. But during that time their starting pitchers have a 4.58 ERA, and their relievers have a 4.30 ERA.
It is my pleasure to write for you.
Thanks for reading ...